As another day turned to evening, she sat on the balcony in the sagging old armchair, her heart and soul weary. In the first few weeks after it happened she had wept every single day. Not a minute would go by when she wouldn’t wonder where things had gone wrong, what she could have said or done differently. As the weeks turned to months the sadness became a knot in her stomach. Occasionally she would laugh, at a joke or something Martha said. Then the sadness would overtake her, combined with a guilt for almost forgetting what had gone before. Martha would see the darkness overshadow her smile and her face would fall. “Everything we do will always be about her.” Martha, the One Who Had Stayed, had spat the words at her the other day. It had been a slap in the face when already the pain of was unbearable. She slowly pulled herself out of the chair, it seemed her body had grown old fast. Soul pain did that. She walked to the railings, squinting into the twilight, hoping that this would be the day things changed. By the time she walked indoors, the twilight had turned to thick darkness.
She undressed slowly, her limbs heavy with grief. Once in her nightclothes she looked in the mirror, the woman in front of her no longer familiar. Her lined face and silvery hair, once proudly held high a crown of wisdom now left her feeling old and lost. Her shoulders slumped slightly and the energy she had lived her life with was lost in the pain of the day things changed.
The sheets cold against her skin, as, the silence shouted louder than the busyness of the day. Nothing to distract her from the memories, an onslaught of pain that never stopped.
“I want it now.” Evelyn had said. Her face hard, her words cold. “There’s a whole world waiting for me and I want to explore it. You’ve always said we shouldn’t be ruled by the traditions. Let me go, give me my share.” Martha’s mouth had hung open. Shocked by her sister’s audacity.
As their mother, she had always offered them freedom. Never holding to the old ways of control, she wanted her daughters to know their worth and value. To have choices, make decisions, live in freedom not duty. Never once had it occurred to her that freedom would break her heart.
She had heard them arguing later that night. Martha’s voice hissing words while Evelyn’s voice had rung out loud and clear, “It’s my choice, you stay here if you like, but the world is waiting.”
As she lay in bed, heart aching, tears slowly trailing down her face, she wondered whether she should regret giving her daughters the power to choose for themselves, to have freedom. She heard the whispered comments of the others; the neighbours, so-called friends and the employees. Her own mother’s words came back to her, “You mark my words Sophia, you’ll regret giving them freedom. Discipline and duty is the only way.” Yet, even in the midst of the screaming memories and darkness, she couldn’t muster any regret.
The darkness and shame overwhelmed Evelyn. Regret sat like poison in her stomach, no amount of vomiting able to purge it. She thought back to her dreams, when she thought the world was waiting. The way her money, her mother’s money had opened the doors. The parties, the film crews, her name in the credits, her conviction had grown with every success. She had been right; Martha wrong. Rich girl, famous girl, star of the reality show, living the dream.
But the dream is just that, one day you wake up. To find your private sex tape watched by the world. She didn’t know exactly when the regret had taken hold. The topless shots sliding into soft porn movies, if the world wanted to watch her, well at least they could pay her. Her FU to the world was to show she could still make it. Yet here she was sore and degraded, shame filling her head with thoughts of destruction.
She’d been given some powder to fix it; so they had told her, “It’ll make it better. It’s no big deal.” Yet, the tiny bags had laid in a drawer, the line she had yet to cross. She wondered whether now was the time. She walked over to the cabinet, took one out and stared at it. Could this take away the terrible poison within? Her mother’s face came into her head. Perhaps, maybe, she could go home. She could offer to work for the business. Find herself a bedsit. It could be better than this porn hell.
Sophia awoke, the state of half-awake providing blissful ignorance from the loss of her precious oldest child. The feelings of grief flooded in as consciousness overtook her. She sat up, squashing the ache in her soul. Before That Day she had regularly read the newspaper over breakfast, but with the first sight of Evelyn in the pages, she had avoided it like the plague, as the sickness took hold in her heart.
She completed each day on automatic pilot. Meetings, conversations, projects, reports; all of them completed by her body, while her soul wept. She knew Martha struggled. So many times they had gone round the same circle, “Evelyn has chosen her path; you’ve got to move on. Not least because I’m still here. I need you Mum.” Sophia had tried to awaken from the nightmare, for her younger daughter’s sake. But it was so hard. She lived for the evenings where she could sit in the chair on the balcony and hope that would be the day.
It had been months since that first night Evelyn considering returning, succumbing instead to the comforting powder. Her soul eviscerated by the photo and video shoots. Man after man, woman upon women. The irony of it being called a shoot. If only someone would shoot her.
She used all her pay to buy the escapism powder, living on the sofas of the men who filmed her. In one of her only recent lucid moments she remembered that time, how she considered going Home; after so long, that’s still what she called it. Home. This was the day things had to change, she was better off there as a worker, no matter how menial, than on the sofa of a pornographer. She had no belongings, nothing to pack. She walked out the door and started out Home.
Sophia was curled on the chair, the evening air cool. She had almost given up hope. She stood, her joints almost audibly creaking, shuffling to the balcony railings. Staring at the horizon she waited. In those moments she allowed herself to hope.
In the distance a speck emerged from nothing, gradually becoming the shape of a person. She gripped the railings and squinted. It was a person. She held her breath, willing herself to stay calm. To keep the hope in check. Yet as the person drew closer, she saw it was her lost daughter. In that moment the heaviness disappeared along with the joint pain and the soul ache. She turned and lunged for the door, leaping down the stairs she shouted through the house, her daughter had come home!
She ran down the path, her bare feet thudding on the ground. She needed to reach her daughter; to hold her. She stopped.
Ahead of her was her beloved daughter, thinner, older, eyes cast down, trudging forward, she hadn’t seen her mother running. Sophia held her breath for a long moment, tears dripping off her chin, she dared not move in case it was just a dream. Out of her mouth a groan of agonised hope escaped, causing her daughter to look up. As their eyes met Sophia knew it was real. This was it. She ran to her daughter, scooping her thin frame up into her arms, holding her tight as she wept.
Evelyn froze. This was not the plan. Her mother shouldn’t be here. And yet she was. Evelyn forced herself to recite the words she had been saying over and over, “I’m sorry. I’ve hurt you so much. I’m no longer your daughter, if you’d let me work for you, that is more than I deserve.” Her muffled words were spoken into her mother’s hair as she dangled in the tight bear hug her mother had enveloped her into.
Her mother loosened her grip, stepping back and attempting to look her in the eye. Evelyn kept her eyes on the ground. The shame twisted, squeezing her insides and leaving her wishing she hadn’t come. The silence was thick as she felt her mother’s eyes boring into her. Suddenly her mother grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the house. She allowed herself to be pulled along. They reached the door and her mother bellowed up the stairs, “Evelyn is home everyone, we must have a party to celebrate! She has been lost, dead and yet here she is, we’ve found her, she’s alive!”
Evelyn’s heart sank, she didn’t deserve this. She shouldn’t have come.
As if her mother knew how she felt, she felt arms surrounding her. Evelyn began to weep, raw pain escaping from her every pore. She had messed up. Yet here was her mother, still loving her. She collapsed into her mother’s arms and sobbed.
The people were everywhere, the “Welcome Home” banner declaring to the world that she was indeed Home. Evelyn sat at the edge of the room, not quite knowing what to do. How many of these people had seen the movies/photos she had been in? How many knew what she had done? Yet her mother was smiling, telling the room how wonderful it was to have her home. Every so often her mum would come to Evelyn, telling her how happy she was.
Martha was nowhere to be seen.
Martha sat on her bed crying bitter tears. How dare Evelyn waltz back into their lives? How dare their mother just throw her a party, after all she had done? Didn’t her mother know how much it had hurt, the jibes and comments? “Sister of the whore!” That’s what they’d called her. The calls from journalists, the way people looked at her. The shame and humiliation. How dare she? How dare Evelyn just walk back into their lives? Then the party! That had been the last straw. She had waited, kept working hard for the family business, been obedient and not so much as a celebration! She could have been out, partying, having the time of her life like Evelyn and yet she had been the dutiful daughter. And where had it got her? Nowhere.
The knock on her door brought her up short. Who was bothering with her when the precious lost daughter had returned? Slowly someone pushed the door open and her mother crept into the room. She refused to look at her, watching as her mum’s feet stepped towards the bed. She felt the bed move as her mum sat down. “Aren’t you joining us for the party?” Her mother gently asked.
“Join you?! I never left you! And that whore who abandoned you, wasted all you gave her and brought shame on our family’s name is being thrown a party! You never gave me anything.” Her mother recoiled at her bitter tone and harsh words.
Her mother smiled sadly, reached out and took her hand. “Martha, you are always with me and all I have is yours. Your sister will live with the consequences of her decisions and the decisions of those who hurt her for the rest of her life, but she has been found and for that we can celebrate.” Martha’s eye filled with the tears, the feelings of unfairness overtaken by a desperate need to feel her mother’s love. She stared at the bed covers, tears overflowing, great drops falling onto the sheets. Her mother moved closer and held her. Martha clung to her mother, great sobs escaping from her mouth. Her mother stroked her hair whispering over and over, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”