by Cath Barton
I opened my eyes. They felt sticky and my mouth was dry. Someone on the radio was talking about a place that had been in my dream. Somewhere called Monemvasia. They were talking about wine. I’d been drinking it in my dream. And there was something about Shakespeare. They drank that wine in some play of his. Apparently. I stretched, wriggled my toes and indulged in a brief fantasy. Souvlaki and rich red wine to cut the fat, served to me on a vine-covered terrace. It was never going to happen. Not in real life. Ma brought me back from my stupid reverie with her usual morning cry from the other end of the landing:
“Chriis! Chriiiss! Chriiiiissss!”
“Ok, Ma, I’m coming.” I knew my voice sounded weary and pissed-off. I was weary and pissed-off. It was just another day. Another day in the endless succession. I had to face it. I snapped off the radio and levered my legs over the side of the bed. There was something wet under my left foot. Wet and slightly slimy. I bent down for my specs and had a sniff while I was down there. Not pee. That was a relief. The cat had probably just been trying to sick up a fur ball. She was crouching at the top of the stairs, looking frightened.
“Don’t worry my lovely,” I said to her as I stroked her bony back. The old cat purred and pushed her head into my hand.
Ma was calling again. “Who you talking to?” she yelled.
I pushed open her bedroom room, bracing myself for the usual morning tussle. My mother was sitting up in bed. Her mouth was opening and shutting but her words were coming out mangled and the side of her face had dropped. I knew straight away what it was. The ambulance came very quickly. They said she had a good chance. The next few hours involved a lot of sitting about in A&E. I felt pretty murderous towards the people who patently only had sprained ankles. I wanted to scream in their faces. My Mother was a pain in the backside but I didn’t want her to die.
There was a magazine with pictures of some holiday place, people sitting on a vine-covered terrace with fatuous smiles on their faces. I wanted to rip the thing up and fling it on the floor. More than anything, I wanted to cry. But I didn’t, not then, not when the doctor took me into his room to speak in a consoling voice, not when they let me see her and it didn’t seem real, not even when it was all over and I walked home the long way through the park. I kicked at the fallen conkers, I kicked them till they smashed into tiny pieces but I didn’t cry.
When I finally got home again there was post behind the front door. It looked like junk mail. It was junk mail. I ripped one envelope open at random.
“Mr Christopher Jones,” it screamed. “You are the lucky winner of £50,000. Ring this number now.”
I was so tired and bewildered that, for one brief moment, I thought of ringing the number. Then I shook myself. It was a scam to make you spend money on premium-rate phone calls. Winning money like this could never happen for real. The cat padded up to me. Her purr was as loud as a car engine. I bent down to her.
“It’s just you and me now, sweet pie.” I said. My tears were dropping on her fur as she nuzzled me but she didn’t flinch. The touch of her cheek against mine was the most comforting thing in the world. I didn’t need foreign holidays. I didn’t need money. I needed just one other heart beating in the house, to get me through.
Cath Barton loves to write, she loves some people and she loves nearly all cats.