IN RETURN • by Lydia S Gray

When my mother died, I would have given anything to have her back. But now she’s here I really don’t know what to think. She sits in her chair by the fire as she always did; but it’s just not the same any more.

Every morning I take her a cup of tea. I know she wants one, she always used to have one at this time of day. She won’t drink it, of course, but I do it for her anyway. A proper cup with a saucer. No mug for Mum, she was always very particular like that.

I really don’t know what to do. We can’t have visitors anymore and I miss having Mary round for coffee in the afternoon. I can’t keep going round to her house, it wouldn’t be fair to Mary, but it would be nice to have someone to talk to. It’s not fair to Jamie either. He can’t have his friends round to play, and I worry that he will say something to the teachers at school, or tell one of his friends that his grandma has come home. Then where would we be?


Jamie doesn’t like to sit in the same room as Mum. I think he’s afraid of her. He says the house smells funny now and it’s always cold. I’ve put a portable TV in his bedroom for now; the reception isn’t as good as the big set downstairs, but I don’t know what else we can do.

I spray air-freshener, but I’m worried about turning the heating up: in case it makes the smell worse.

When Mum first came back I thought everything would be normal and she’d go to bed at night and come downstairs in the morning, like she used to. But she doesn’t, she just sits there and stares at the television. The worst thing is that at night, when the lights and the TV are off, I know she is still sitting there, watching it.

Jamie has his meals in his bedroom now, but I don’t think he’s eating them, he looks so pale. Mum looks like she always did, comfortable in her favourite chair. I tried putting her knitting onto her lap, I even placed the needles in her hands, but they just fell out onto the floor.

I can’t be the only one, surely I can’t. This must have happened before. I’d get in touch with someone, but I don’t know who. Am I supposed to phone the police? Or an ambulance? Would I be in trouble for not calling them when she first came back? And there’s Jamie to think of. It’s bad enough for him now. It would be worse if everyone knew.

Children can be cruel. Everyone knows that.


I went into Jamie’s room today to get the washing. He should have been at school, but he was just sitting there, staring at the TV. He didn’t even notice that I’d come in until I said his name. He told me that he didn’t want to go to school, that he didn’t feel well. I didn’t argue, things are difficult for him right now and it might do him good to have a rest.

I’ll bring him up some soup, he’ll like that.

I told Mum about Jamie, and about how worried I am. She didn’t answer me, but I think she listened. I know she would have cared because they used to be so close; he cried his heart out at her funeral. I feel better after talking to her. It seems to have got something off my chest.

Perhaps I’ll go round to Mary’s for coffee, it seems like ages since I saw her.


Jamie left his soup; he said he wasn’t hungry. It’s a shame because it was tomato, with brown bread, just how he likes it. It was so cold in his room, the soup would have warmed him up. I’ll cover it and put it in the fridge, I can heat it up later if he changes his mind.

It was nice seeing Mary again, but I didn’t have much to say to her. I couldn’t talk to her about Mum or Jamie. I just listened while she talked about her life. She’s got a new boyfriend and she wasn’t interested in me. I suppose that’s a good thing really.

When I got home I made a cup of tea and sat down with Mum. I could have sworn that she’d moved her hands, and her head was tilted to the side, as though she wanted me to talk to her.


Jamie didn’t go to school today either. He looked small and grey, like a flower that’s withering. I thought that smell was starting to fade, but it seems to have got into Jamie’s room now, sort of dry and musty. He didn’t answer when I spoke to him, so I left him to his cartoons and went down to watch daytime soaps with Mum.

It was just like old times really. It’s nice to have someone to talk to, someone who listens. I’ve put her knitting back on her lap. I think she likes it there. I like it there.


An odd thing happened today. I’m sure I took Mum a proper cup of tea this morning, just like I always do. But later, I noticed that it was only half full, like she’d drunk some. I must have forgotten to fill it up properly; I’ve had so much on my mind recently, what with Jamie being ill. He never gets up now, just sits in bed watching TV.

I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I think I’ll make a cup of tea and talk to Mum again.

She’ll understand.

Lydia S Gray writes in Llanelli, UK.

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