Excerpt – Amee (Mother)

I look out into the garden, at the soft beams of warm afternoon sunlight breaking through the branches of tall fir trees. I used to play there when I could, daydreaming at the foot of that long line of tree trunks, gazing up into dizzying green heights. Often I would find the eyes of King Tiger the cat staring down at me. What a wise old thing he was, always watching over us and offering comfort to those he knew needed it the most that day. Kahlia was already gone. Buried under the nettle bush that grew beside the patch of herbs to the left of the trees. Amee always took care of her herbs, more than she did the flower bed, which was strewn now with weeds, although the odd red or orange splash of a tulip still flourished here and there. I used to have to pick handfuls of mint and coriander from the earth and prepare them to add to the pot. When I had grown I used to joke that she  drugged us with her cooking, so good did the taste of those dishes make me feel.

The memory of her, hazy now like those summer sunbeams. I miss her with the passing high-pitched notes of old Indian movie songs and in the smell of jasmine oil sold by the Sri Lankan family in their shop around the corner. She used to rub it through her hair before setting it into one long plait that reached the small of her back. She never wore it any other way. I visit Southall sometimes in search of that perfect mix of spices that tastes closest to the flavours that she used to conjure up, shedding tears when I think I’ve found it. But nothing ever tastes exactly the same.

The first time I went round to the house after we’d left, aided by police, social workers, solicitors and an interdict, I found her in that room, sat on the bed staring out of the window. The same glowing sunlight shone on the steady, silent flow of tears that streamed down her face as she dragged her eyes up towards me. Her hands had fallen by her side. Heartbreak defeated her.

Years have passed since we last spoke and I am untethered now, free, as they say, to do as I please. Or am I just lost?

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