Melanie cowered in the corner as her mother raged through the dingy flat. Every cupboard tipped out, their contents thrown at any target. Tins of Spaghetti Hoops rolled around the floor, their journey slowed by the sticky, dirty lino. Doors hung from their hinges, swinging like a hangman’s noose, and she moved into the living room. Sweeping her arm across a scratched table, her mother sent empty cans and pizza boxes with mouldy old dough remnants flying.
‘What the feck have you done, you useless child?’ She screamed. ‘Tell me where you put it, or I’ll kill you. I swear.’ Her mother grabbed at the patched sofa, once cream and now grey with dirt and grime, ripping at the cushions, shoving her hand down the back.
Melanie knew her mother would do just that. Kill her. In a moment of madness, she’d searched out every one of her mother’s vodka stash and tipped it down the sink. The vodka she mixed with orange in a pint glass from the moment she woke to the moment she fell into a drunken stupor, unable to do anything for herself. Melanie had lost count of the times she had dragged her mother’s thin body, as heavy as a stone in its unconscious state, to the sofa or her bed. Turning her into the recovery position as she’d learnt at school, wiping up the vomit the next morning.
Melanie missed school but didn’t miss the whispers behind hands held over mouths. Whispers about her mother, the drunk, the woman who invited strange men to her house to fund her addiction. And now those men were turning to her, as she matured into a young woman, uninterested in the old hag her mother had become. So far, she had escaped their advances, but how long would that last? And as far as talking to her mother . . .
‘Ha! You stupid girl. Knew you wouldn’t find them all.’ Her mother’s voice drifted through from the toilet and she staggered through, triumphant with a full bottle in hand, dripping with water from the tank. She had never imagined looking there.
An hour later, her mother lay next to Melanie, stroking her hair and talking babble. She ran a finger down Melanie’s cheek. ‘Like sisters, me and you. They always say we look like sister’s, don’t they?’ Melanie held still, she’d been fooled so many times. ‘I don’t mean what I say. Not really.’ Her mother hiccoughed. ‘I’ll give it up, I promise. Tomorrow will be a better day.’
Melanie had heard these empty promises before. They never came true. These moments of motherly love would be swallowed by the demons feasting on her mother from the inside out. She hoped that her mother’s mobile, left on voice record, had captured everything. All she needed to do was call Effie, the social worker, and they would sort it. All for the best. Melanie bit on what was left of her fingernail as her mother leant her head into her shoulder and began to snore.