Wednesday 10 November 2021

Cat Grows Up

 by Jane Carter

hot chocolate

“No! “shouted Cat. “Stop right there, I don’t want to talk about it”.

Her mother May sat opposite her at the kitchen table.

“Come on darling girl, we have to talk about this. For my sake. Please.” She reached across for Cat’s hands.

Cat, a married woman with two small children, snatched her hands away and averted her gaze. She refused to look at her mother. No child, no matter how old, should be having this conversation with their parent.

May sighed. She knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but she had to get it sorted. It was about time that she and Cat had a grown-up conversation.

Cat had always been, and still was, the baby of the family, even at thirty-five. When May had discovered she was pregnant again it had been a real shock. With two teenage sons already, she and Pete had thought their family was complete.

They had always been protective of her.

May took a deep breath and started again. “Cat, I need to discuss what I’d like to happen after I die.”

“But why Mum?” Cat asked. This really didn’t make sense. Why talk about something that wasn’t likely to happen for years? Unless there was something her mum wasn’t telling her. Searching her mother’s face for clues Cat cried, “You’re not sick, are you?” Panic made her voice shrill.

“No, I’m fine, but I’m not getting any younger. I just want to get things sorted. With your brothers working abroad, you’ll be the one organising everything.”

May stood up and walked into the hall. She was back a moment later with her handbag. After a quick rummage inside it, she produced a shiny A5 brochure, folded in half. She flattened it out and held it up for Cat to see.

“I requested this a couple of weeks ago. It’s really good for guiding you through the whole process. I’ve been on-line and I think I’ve found the burial package I like.”

Cat rolled her eyes. Her mother was treating her like an equal and it felt a bit scary. This seemed like the time to grow up and she wasn’t sure she was ready to.

“Mum, for God’s sake!! My friends’ mums are going on-line to buy clothes and you’re on there buying bloody coffins.”

May swallowed a smile and sitting down, placed the brochure on the table between them. “I haven’t bought anything yet, I’ve just been looking, you can only arrange things in person. That’s why I’m going to see them next Thursday morning. Please Cat, come with me”.

Cat leaned across and picked up the brochure. With a sour face she flicked through it before placing it face down in front of her. “This is so morbid,” she said. “I’m not sure I want to get involved. It’s too weird”.

Her mother nodded. “I agree, it is a bit morbid but it’s important to me that we get it sorted. When Daddy died you were only little, so you won’t remember, but having to plan a funeral, when my life felt like it was unravelling, made a bad situation worse. Please Cat, I’m doing this to make things easier for you. I need you to be my friend now, not just my child”.

Cat glanced at her mother. Welcome to adulthood she thought grimly. She pushed the brochure aside.

“OK, I’ll come,” she said, “if you need me to be there, of course I will, but don’t expect me to be happy about it, and let’s not just go to the funeral directors and home. l’ll take some annual leave and we can go for a nice pub lunch afterwards. I’ll need a stiff drink after that, and I’m sure you will too,” she said smiling. “My treat”.

“Bloody hell Cat, if I knew there’d be a free meal in it, I’d have done this years ago,” said May chuckling. “OK, and let’s go shopping after lunch, I’ll buy you a new dress as a thank you.”

“For God’s sake Mum, don’t buy me a dress, I’m not five!!” cried Cat and with that the two women laughed.

“Fair enough,” said May. “Let me make you a nice cup of tea before you go to pick up the kids and I don’t know about you, but I fancy something to eat. I’ve got ‘jammy dodgers’, custard creams or chocolate florentines. Which one do you fancy?”

In light of her newfound maturity, Cat made the obvious selection. “Florentines please Mum, and instead of tea can I have hot chocolate with squirty cream, marshmallows and sprinkles please?”

“Of course you can,” said May.

May stood up and put the kettle on. As her mother busied herself making the drinks and routing in the cupboard for the florentines, Cat picked up the brochure. Folding it back in two she furtively placed it inside her mum’s bag. If I spend one more moment looking at that damn thing, she thought, I’ll choke on my ruddy biscuit.

About the author 

Jane retired from a 30 year career in the civil service in 2019 and joined Newport Writers Group in January the following year.
During lockdown she was inspired to write her first poem since o'level English Literature (in 1978!!) and has recently graduated to writing short pieces of fiction.


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