Hunger 4


Head hidden in the fridge, she dips her finger into the jar, takes a second to appreciate the deep ruby colour of the plum conserve and then the finger is in her mouth, sweetness explodes on her tongue and she sighs with pleasure.

She feels, rather than hears, her mothers’ intake a breath, a sharp shhh and then she dips her finger in again, plum skin catches on her finger nail and she worries at it with her teeth and only then, finger still in her mouth, does she turn and face her mother.

She is sitting at the kitchen table.
The table she spent a whole week sanding, oiling and painting with farrow & ball paints – mouse back, the colour is called, part of the shabby chic range. She took an entire day to painstakingly age the brand new painted surface and it is where she sits each morning and eats her breakfast.

For as long as the girl can remember, her mother has kept to the same breakfast ritual.
2 cigarettes, a cup of black, sugarless coffee and an apple, cut into 4 equal slices.

As a child, the girl would sit at the table and beg her mother her mother to slice her an apple too and they would sit in companionable silence, crunching on their fruit.

But now, now that food is their battleground, the girl prefers to free range around the kitchen, easier access to the cupboards and fridge, more opportunity to force her mother to register exactly what she is putting into her mouth.

She stubs out her second cigarette, stands up, smooths out an invisible crease on her dress and the daughter knows that she is also checking the feel of hip bones under fabric.

The daughter is still in pajamas, she loves the feel of fuzzy fabric against her soft flesh, she would wear them all day if she could, the elastic waist bands are forgiving, ensure that there is no opportunity to monitor weight gain or loss.

The breakfast time ballet continues, now the mother steps towards the fridge and the girl steps away, moves nearer the breadboard, focused on the slices of bread she will cut into doorsteps and smother in the remainder of the plum conserve.

The mother reaches into the fridge, picks up a small plastic container, into which, she has, as she does every night, sliced tomatoes, cucumber and baby leaves.

There is a pause and then she pulls out the second little box and places it on the granite work surface.
The girl knows that it too will contain a small naked salad and knows that it is designed to be her lunch.

And then in a flurry of keys and gym bag and over-sized tote, her mother is gone and the girl is left in the kitchen.

She sighs, picks up the plate on which 3 slices of bread and jam lean untidily and she sits, finally, at the table and bites into the first piece.
The bread, doughy, sweet, comforting, fills her mouth with pleasure.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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