Words for International Women’s Day 2021
Carmel put the last bag in the skip then walked back into the house to wash her hands. She looked at her list. The furniture had gone into the skip or to the charity shop. Clothes went mostly in the skip, with some winter coats in a bag to be dropped to a homeless shelter. The small box with a couple of books and her great grandma’s porcelain figures was already in the boot of her car. The cleaners were booked for later that day. “Skip being collected today, and I’m done,” she said, screwing up the list and shoving it in her pocket.
Carmel took one last walk around the house. She had spent hours removing belongings, but the house still had evidence of her family’s life there. The yellow stain on the ceiling above where her father sat and smoked. The melted mark in the lino in the kitchen from when her mother dropped a hot frying pan. The crack in the bedroom window made by the neighbour’s football. Every scar their home had endured, still on display. They were not a family of fixers.
Carmel went upstairs to her old bedroom.
“That’s everything, Holly,” Carmel said. “Just you and me left in the old place.”
Holly was sitting in a corner of the empty room.
“Did I tell you that I named you in this room?” asked Carmel, sitting on the floor beside her. “Mam brought you home the day before Christmas Eve. I asked her what your name was, and she said I could pick it, but it had to be something Christmassy. Like Ivy or Carol. But I didn’t like either of those. I hated Mrs Ivy in school, and you know well what a bully Carol Henshaw was. How could I call you after her? When mam came up later to say good night and tuck me in, I told her your name was Holly.”
Carmel didn’t wait for a response.
“We’ve been through so much together in this room. I’ve told you things I will never tell anyone else in the world.” Carmel fought back tears. “Do you remember the night I said we should run away; the first time Uncle Fred… did what he did? It was a great plan. I’m not sure why we didn’t do it. Fear I suppose. And the day he died? Do you remember how I swung you around the room like we were at a barn dance? Dad shouted up the stairs to be quiet, that we were a family in mourning. I wasn’t mourning.”
A heavy vehicle rumbled, and a shout came from outside.
“That’s the skip man. I better move the car. Coming,” Carmel shouted out the window. She got up from the floor and turned to Holly. “I hope you understand why I can’t take you with me. Rob says I should chuck you in the skip, but he doesn’t know you saved my life.” Carmel picked up the teddy bear, hugged it and swayed. “Thank you,” she whispered. She sat Holly back in the corner and left.
Annmarie Miles was born in Dublin Ireland and now lives in Pontypool, in South Wales. She writes fiction and non-fiction, and loves to write with a twist in the tale. Her fiction lives at www.annmariemiles.co.uk She writes about faith at www.auntyamo.com