By Jessica Murdoch


‘Can’t you see that everything I do is for you?’

Lily muttered under her breath. Her mother wouldn’t hear her. It seemed the skin irritation that’d been spreading across her back and shoulders was conveniently hurting her ears today.

‘Lily, you don’t mind if I leave out my hearing aids do you, darling?’ Victoria had asked as she greeted her at the door. ‘They’ve been such a bother.’

Just last week she’d been talking about how much better these newer versions were, how fancy the update had been. Now she was complaining that they hurt and were more difficult to put on.

‘Sure Mum, it’s ok.’ Lily carefully moved past her and put down the shopping bags before she washed her hands in the kitchen sink.

She walked back over to the island bench and started fiddling with her mother’s medication. She looked up at her mum and raised her voice, ‘Did you take your morning tablets yet?’

Victoria bristled, a wave crossing her face. ‘Of course, I have. I’m not a child.’

Lily backed off; hands raised.

The piles of old plastic containers and bags Victoria refused to throw away cluttered the bench. Her current medications mixed up with old boxes and scraps of old lists. Lily lifted the empty packets.

‘Can I throw these away?’ She had long ago learned that throwing away anything without checking first was a sure-fire way to start a fight.

‘Of course,’ scoffed Victoria. ‘Those are just rubbish.’

The new pill sorter that Lily had bought sat unused under the rubble. Pursing her lips and pushing it to the side, she wondered whether that fight was worth having again. Lily surreptitiously pulled out the most recently-used sheet of pills and did a quick calculation. Her mother had missed at least one dose of the heart tablets she was supposed to take.

‘Hmm, Mum?’ She started lightly. Of course, Victoria couldn’t hear her. Lily sucked her teeth. Giving someone information they didn’t want to hear is difficult enough when they can hear you. How do you give someone gentle advice when you need to shout it at them?

Lily tried again to convince her mother that the case could be helpful in keeping track of which medication she’d taken.

‘No darling,’ Victoria said. ‘It’s much better for me to keep track by taking them out of the packet as I need them. It helps keep my memory active when I have to do it this way. I don’t want to become over-reliant on a crutch.’

‘But Mum…’ Lily hesitated briefly. ‘I think you have actually missed…’

‘No.’ Victoria closed her eyes and held up her hand. ‘I don’t need that ridiculous thing. I’ve been taking care of myself for long enough. What makes you think I can’t do it now?’ Her movements became more agitated.

But before Lily could make it clear she was ready to drop it, Victoria stormed off to her room. Left behind in the kitchen, Lily felt two battling urges inside her: to follow behind to make sure Victoria didn’t fall, or to follow behind to shake her into taking this seriously.

Instead, Lily took a shuddering breath and turned to start the dishes. She bit the inside of her cheek as she made the decision that she would not cry.

Everything I do is for you.



Can’t you see that everything I do is for you, my girl?

Victoria collapsed onto her bed. This ageing thing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Some days she felt every minute of her 93 years. She shuffled off her slippers and hoisted her legs up onto the bed.

The hot flash of her temper was already cooling, and a familiar wave of guilt came to replace it. Victoria pulled at her shirt, filmy with the lotion that she’d had to strain to layer over her back and neck. That flaming rash made it impossible for her to think straight. She had planned on asking her daughter to reapply before she left. She hated asking for help.

With her irritated skin, she’d stopped wearing her locket. Victoria reached out under her pillow to hold it gently. She smiled as she remembered how, as a little girl, Lily used to snuggle into bed with her. It became something of a magical ritual, telling her the story of each item on the chain, culminating in the photos tucked into the locket: Victoria’s parents on their wedding day on one side, Lily as a newborn baby on the other. Lily used to ask why Daddy wasn’t in the locket, until Daddy was gone, and she learned not to ask anymore.

‘Mum?’ Lily hovered in the doorway, hesitant to step over the threshold into the room. ‘I’m just about finished in the kitchen, is there anything else you’d like me to do before I go?’

Victoria felt a sudden rush of love for her daughter. ‘No darling, I’m sure I’m all set. You’re a good girl. I’m all settled for the night.’

Lily sighed, pausing for a moment with a tight smile, before turning to leave.

Victoria had protected Lily in many ways. She’d never told her how her father used to decide what his wife would wear. What her days should look like. About how he scolded her like a child when she got it wrong. Or asked for help.

Victoria lay awake uncomfortably for a long time that night, still gripping her locket. The freedom of being able to have complete control over her own life had been bitterly won. And it was a freedom that she could feel slipping away.



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