Tuesdays were always difficult. A problem day. A nothing day. All the things wrong in her life seemed to have occurred on that second day of the week. Second for her at least, some people she knew classed Sunday as the first day. What did they know she always thought? She could always gauge how one Tuesday was to unfold anyway, the motivation of Monday dripped away by the evening, making way for another mediocre book-end of days that collected on the shelf of her life. But this Tuesday was different. Different in a similar sort of way, like driving down a road that you’ve never been down before, yet knowing there will be a dead end.
The rain had done it’s best to encourage her to stay at home that day, the wind whipping up a sizeable storm outside her windowpane to keep her safely tucked inside watching the world come to a watery end. The promise of a good book by her small cosy fire was not enough of a lure it seemed, to keep her from going over to see her mother. She lived on the other side of town, which in itself was not a large body of houses, you could cross to the other side in about ten minutes by car. However, Jackie didn’t own a car and she didn’t drive. She was much too anxious to be let loose in a world where maniacs were given licenses to speed along invisible racetracks.
So that day, the Tuesday day; she braved the weather and made her way to her mother’s house. She was prepared for the storm, and had dispensed on the cumbersome umbrella that would no doubt pick her up and whisk her away to Oz. Instead, she was bundled up so tight and so well she looked like a yeti wading through the small streets, caring not to the cars that splashed by her on their own personal adventures.
She’d had the ominous feeling since breakfast, that something was out of sync that day. The weather was the first warning, the second being her hands which had been shaking since she had tried to spoon the cornflakes into her mouth for breakfast. The tiny pieces of cereal had fallen all around her bowl like tiny bits of cardboard on a craft mat. She’d taken a pill and all had seemed fine, though she couldn’t shake the feeling. It stuck to her like the film of milk left on an emptied glass.
She thought more of it now, watching a black cat dart out from under someone’s parked car on the side of the street. Unaccustomed to being out in the wet weather, it glared at her as it made its way to the safety of a porch of the house she passed. The feeling was itching away at her insides now, and she quickened the pace towards her mother’s house.
“Mum, it’s me” She called into the small little cottage. Her mother never locked her doors, refusing to believe she was living in the 21st century, still half expecting friendly neighbours to pop in to see how she was doing and borrow sugar. She closed the door and locked it firmly behind. “Mum?”. But there was no reply. The house wasn’t quiet though. It groaned and shunted in the storm, and in the rooms away some pipes gurgled into their own orchestral concert. She took off her jacket, hanging it up on the coat hook by the front door. She passed by the picture of her father, nestled into a neatly polished silver frame, greeting anyone who entered her mother’s kingdom with a smile and a look of knowing.
At her feet she felt Apollo brush past her, gliding through the hallway like a streak of fur. Her mother had had her since she was a kitten, given to her by one of the ladies she played bingo with down at the village hall. She’d always said she was more of dog person, but she secretly, Jackie suspected, adored that cat; who took great pride of place throughout her mother’s well organised life. Apollo meowed noisily and scuttled off towards the conservatory.
“Mum, you about?” she called out again. Holding back the alarm now that had convened on her feeling of ill and dreed since the morning. She followed the cat to the back of the house, the rain thundering hard down onto the conservatory roof, tining and thundering through the back room.
There she saw her mother, slumped on the side of her high backed chair. A stranger would have guessed she was sleeping, but Jackie knew her better than that, and though she couldn’t help it, she hung back for a moment, bracing her emotions for the tidal of grieve that was to come.
There was a slow rumble of thunder coming from outside, the ferociousness of the storm was waiting in the wings still, about to set forth it’s lasered dance of lightning and noise. She brushed the loose hair that had fallen over her mother’s face, the greying sight of age that hung loose and lifeless. Her eyes were closed she noticed, and a huge part of her was relieved to think that she had felt no pain.
She was sat in the centre of the conservatory just by her huge astromic telescope that she had bought herself a few years ago. Anyone who came to the house always thought it was decorative. The type of thing high end department stores sell for obscure aesthetics to those with more taste than knowledgeable inclination. One look around to spot the kitschy frog ornaments and dusty fake flowers would be enough to tell you it wasn’t one of those. This was an actual telescope, and her mother simply adored star gazing. She would sit out here, and sometimes in the garden on the warmer nights, and gaze up into the heavens. She knew all of the constellations of course, and would set Jackie’s niece Angela on her lap when she came over and try to find the planets for her, even in the day.
Her mother sat there now, an empty shell in that high back chair, her hand on her notepad with some scribblings of her night’s recent gazing. Apollo jumped up and sat on her lap, wafting the smell of her perfume up into Jackie’s nostrils, flaring up memories and loss. She cried there then, for about twenty minutes, her hand in her mother’s as she said her goodbyes. She wondered what to do after, going over to her mother’s phone in the kitchen to ring her brother to tell him what had happened. Seeing in her mind’s eye the next 24hrs unfolding in a terrible depressive snapshot of time.
She put the phone back in its cradle and instead went to the kettle and made herself a cup of tea. She sat with her mother for the rest of the day, until the sun slipped out of the sky and darkness descended. The storm had long ago blown itself into oblivion, making way for the tranquil stillness that comes after a hurricane. Jackie had done the same, allowing the moments and thoughts of despair to be swept away in the stormy waters.
She looked up through the telescope to see the stars dancing above in their diamond beauty, and then she got to work.
She reached up through the telescope and grabbed the black duvet of space. Some stardust sprinkled her hands like glitter off a birthday card. She heaved and pulled and dragged the galaxy down to earth where she and her mother sat in that conservatory on that infamous Tuesday. She tugged and dragged, scaring poor Apollo with her grunts and sighs, who dived behind her mother’s cardigan which she had wrapped around her body, stiffening slowly as she slipped into rigor mortis. When she had what she needed, she drew it around her mother, blanketing her in the sea of stars. The ones she had longed for all her life. Wrapping her tightly like a swaddled child, in a stars and space. Keeping her safe forever in the place she loved.