Shocked at seeing her mother standing at her front door, Chloe knew her excuse of wanting to spend quality time with her daughter wasn't the real reason she had turned up. Despite her mother’s seemingly cheerfulness, Chloe sensed something was wrong…
“Mum! What are you doing here?”
“Oh hello mum, how are you? Lovely to see you…!” Chloe’s mother, Catherine, jokingly responded to her daughter as she took off her huge sunglasses, placed them on top of her head and leaned up against her suitcase.
Shocked at seeing her mother standing at her front door, hundred miles or so from her home, Chloe thought it was odd for her to turn up completely out of the blue, with no word to say she was planning to visit.
Despite her mother’s seemingly cheerfulness, Chloe sensed something was wrong…
it was Friday evening and Chloe had just finished a rather challenging twelve hour shift at the hospital where she worked as a nurse.
Glad it was her weekend off, she couldn’t wait to get home, kick off her shoes and spend the evening relaxing with a glass of wine and listening to chilled music on the radio.
It had been hours since she had eaten, so determined not to order a takeaway, she had been rummaging around her cupboards to see what she could rustle up with what little ingredients she had.
Chloe wasn’t a great cook, but since leaving home for university several years ago, she had learnt how to cook fairly delicious menus from the small budget she often had.
Feeling hot from the rays of the bright late sun, gleaming through the kitchen window and weary from a long busy day on her ward, Chloe was fighting to resist the ever increasing temptation to order a Chinese, when unexpectedly, her doorbell rang.
Taken aback by her mother’s unannounced visit, Chloe studied her up and down, she looked almost unrecognisable; her light brown, slightly greying hair now sported flattering highlights and was several inches shorter than it was since Chloe had last seen her. With her wide brimmed sunhat, long floral summer dress and high heeled strappy sandals, she looked very much younger than her 50 something years!
“You look great mum!” Chloe mused, observing how positively radiant her mother looked. “where’s dad?” She enquired, glancing at the small suitcase, before peering around to see if he was with her too.
“He’s not here love, he’s a bit busy. I thought I would pop down to see you and have a painting retreat at the same time”
“Painting? Since when have you taken up painting?”
“Darling, I painted a lot before you were born. I stopped when I had you kids as I couldn’t bring up three children and paint! Are you going to let me in then, or do I have to find a hotel? ”
Chloe never recalled her mother mentioning being an artist, and had certainly not seen any of her work. She stepped forward and picked up the case and brought it in.
“Hungry? Have you eaten?” her mother hurriedly asked, clearly preventing her daughter to probe further. “I’m starving! Let’s find a nice restaurant and get something to eat, my treat. Where do sophisticated ladies like ourselves go out to eat around here?”
“I know just the place mum” a ravenous Chloe grinned, relieved she didn’t have to cook after all. The evening was still young; plenty of time to get to the bottom of her mother’s unannounced visit.
The dimly lit restaurant was busy as they were shown a table near the window. They ordered steaks and a bottle of their finest house wine.
“What we don’t drink now we can take back home and finish off tomorrow”. Catherine declared.
“Sounds good to me!” Chloe smiled, consumed by a surge of excitement at being able to spend time with her mum again, appreciating how much she had missed the ‘mum and daughter’ times they used to share before she left home.
“So how are you?” Chloe felt guilty for not calling home regularly; aware that since her younger brothers had both moved out; Jake was studying at university and Ben had recently moved in with his girlfriend, her mother would certainly have missed having them all home.
Catherine had hinted several times over the months that life at home had ‘changed’ since they all flew the nest, prompting Chloe to wonder if there was more to her sudden visit than just a ‘painting retreat’, as her mother called it. Maybe she would find out this evening if her instincts were right?
“Sorry I’ve not called you and dad” Chloe began, determined to get to the bottom of why her mother had unexpectedly turned up. “work has been so hectic lately. How have you both been?”
“We’re both fine” Catherine answered, a little too hasty. “how is your job going?” changing the subject, Chloe knew she was not going to get anything out of her mother that evening…
The next day, after they both decided the evening before what to do, was a well deserved girlie shopping day in the city.
“Just like old times!” Catherine reminded Chloe of the shopping trips they often had together; “ it was great just the two of us, catching the train, browsing round the shops, buying things we never really actually needed.”
“I miss those days out too!” Chloe had admitted, reminiscing those special momentous day trips, which they had often shared several years ago.
Laden with purchases, later that afternoon, they caught the packed train back to Chloe’s house for a well earned and very much needed pot of freshly brewed tea, after a long, but fun day of trawling around the shops.
Chloe took out the green dress from the bag and held it up.
“I still think I should have bought the black one too. Don’t you mum? You can never have too many dresses…”
Later that evening Catherine was sat in the shade from the setting warm sun in the garden. The table easel she had packed was firmly in place and inspired by a photograph she produced from her bag, Catherine was engrossed in the watercolour she was creating.
Chloe was in the kitchen fetching wine glasses and the bottle to polish off from last night’s meal.
Thinking about earlier events, she surveyed her mother through the kitchen window. Something wasn’t right, she could tell. Her mother didn’t seem to have her normal sparkle. She was much less chatty than usual and Chloe had the impression that she was hiding something behind her smiles.
Picking up her phone, she scrolled through the contacts, found her dad and called him. David answered almost immediately.
“Hi Dad! How are you?”
“Hello love!” he sounded surprised yet pleased to hear her voice. “I’m catching up with work emails. Had a meeting yesterday afternoon with a client so a bit behind now. How have you been?”
“I’m fine. Mums here… “
“Oh, yes, I meant to call.. ” he suddenly sounded awkward. “She ok?”
“Why wouldn’t she be? Dad, what’s wrong? She says she’s here for a painting retreat, since when has mum painted?”
“She used to years ago. She’s taken it up again… ” he trailed off
“Dad! I know there is more to it than that. Have you two had a row?“
“OK, your mum and I haven’t been seeing eye to eye lately, she just needs a break away for a bit..” he spoke quietly. “we’ll be fine..” he didn’t sound convinced. “anyway, how have things been with you? Sorry I’ve not called or messaged, what with work and everything ….”
Walking out with the tray, Chloe placed it on the table and stood behind her mother. She wrapped her arms around her shoulders, hugged her whilst she peered at the painting she was doing.
“Wow! That’s amazing!” stunned at how talented her mother was, this was the first artwork of her mums she had ever seen. “I really never knew you could paint!”
“Well, like I said, I stopped when I had you three. Didn’t have time.”
“How come I’ve never seen your work?”
“It’s all stored in the attic, out of the way. Not much up there I don’t think. Most of it is at your gran and grandads house, in a cupboard in my old bedroom.”
Chloe studied the photo propped up on the table. It depicted a scene of a beautiful glassy lake, framed by serrated blue and purple mountains, lit up by the glorious rays of sunshine.
“Wales, Its where your dad and I had our honeymoon. ” Picking up her bag, she pulled out a photograph folder. “I’ve got more photos here if you want to take a look.”
Pulling out the garden chair, Chloe seated herself next to her mother and took the glossy photographs out of the folder.
“Our honeymoon photos” Catherine enlightened her. “we were so lucky with the weather that week, we couldn’t afford to go abroad, we were broke, so we had to make do in this country. We don’t appreciate how beautiful England can be you know. Everyone wants to jet off far away to a hot sunny place, when here can actually be much more appealing and perfect for holidays when the weather is right, just like your dad and I had …”
Catherine recollected to her daughter the good times she and David had in their early days and the family holidays they had when Chloe, Jack and Ben were growing up.
“I called dad just now” Chloe owned up.
“How is he? Did he seem OK?” Catherine’s voice had a nervous edge to it.
“He said you and him hadn’t been getting on very well. He, um, he says he misses you…”
Catherine stared at the photos in her daughters hands.
“Thirty years is a long time you know. People change, grow up, sometimes they gradually grow apart… “ she trailed off.
Chloe glanced at her mother, she couldn’t see her eyes for sunglasses, but she knew she had tears in them. She took her hand and squeezed it in hers.
“You can stay here for as long as you need to mum”
Smiling up at her daughter, Chloe knew the photos had conjured up happy memories of her with her dad and the great times they had shared together.
Was she really thinking about turning her back on him and walking away?
The next morning Chloe got up and went downstairs. Her mother was already up and in the kitchen making breakfast.
“I’m famished!” Catherine informed her without looking up. “I hope you are too as I’m cooking us both full English!”
“Oh yes please!” as she picked up a plate and took it to the table. Another day of not having to cook, she could get used to this!
“What shall we do today?” Chloe noted another blue cloudless sky “visit the beach?”
“Yes, why not. Although we can’t be out too long as I need time to pack later…”
“Pack?” to her astonishment, Chloe’s heart sunk. “you going back home? To dad?”
“Yes, I’ve enjoyed it here, spending time with you. Maybe I just needed to get away for a couple of days, think things through. Look at old photos and remember how great we were and still are together!”
Chloe stood up and walked over to her mum. She held out her arms and hugged her.
“Love you mum!”
“Love you too darling! Which beach shall we visit this morning?” Catherine enquired as she served up the best breakfast Chloe had eaten in years.
“Right, I think that’s everything” Catherine looked around the spare room before making her way to the car “if I’ve left anything, I shall be down to pick it up. It will be a good excuse to spend time with my favourite daughter!” as she put her arm around Chloe, hugging her.
“Your only daughter!” Chloe grinned. “You should definitely come and visit more often. It’s been great having you here mum. You don’t need to wait until you need a break from normality to visit me you know ”
“I’ll call you next time, to warn you I’m on my way. Maybe I’ll bring your dad with me next time, I know he would love to come and see you”
“That would be perfect! Actually, like you said, this country is a beautiful place to holiday, why don’t you and dad come down for a week or two?”
“Sounds good to me, I know he will agree to that too. Just like old times!“ As she slammed the car boot shut she turned to hug her daughter.
Chloe felt sad to say goodbye, but pleased that her mother seemed genuinely happy to go back home and catching a trace of the familiar sparkle her mother always had, brought tears in her eyes.
“Love you mum!” she choked
“Love you too!” she kissed her daughter’s head, opened the car door, slid in the drivers seat and started the engine.
“Better get going, your dad’s booked a table for two this evening, better not keep him waiting… ”
About the Creator
..Suddenly I crash back down to earth with a big almighty bump!
...when not in a dolly daydream, creative me is at home in the UK doing the normal everyday mundane jobs, that seem to go on forever...until the daydreaming kicks in again...
Sweet story Well written. 🥰