Mrs Bernicle

10 août 2010



Mrs Benicle sat on her stool moodily  while staring at her glass of sherry. Andrew, the pub owner had been quite charming when serving her, yet she always felt uncomfortable under his frank, direct, piercing eyes. As if he could see things in her, the very things she so meticulously hid that even she had forgotten all about them. 

Melissa was late again. Five minutes, but still. Her daughter was so unreliable, so carefree and happy. It wasn’t normal. She was probably going to burst in, all charming and lively, smelling like fresh Ivy and with a funny anecdote to share. It was so annoying, the way she always became the centre of attention…

Mrs Bernicle checked her sad blond hair with her fat little fingers, putting everything properly back in place in her bun with small pins. Each finger on her hand adorned a ring with big semi-precious stones. They were heavy flashy rings, and she liked the statement she made while waving her hand.

– And what statement would that me Mum, had laughed Melissa one day.

Yes, her daughter was so different from her, and from her precious son. Tom. Tom was only two years older than Melissa, but he was definitely made from another kind of wood, or timber, whatever the expression was. Tom was so talented, yet he had been as unlucky in love as he’s been with his jobs. Girlfriends would never stay  long and employers just didn’t understand how Tom was different from others. More sensitive, with an artistic soul… The first few weeks always went well. Tom would come home enthusiastic.

– Mum, it’s the best job ever, he would say.

Mrs Bernicle’s heart would swell in pride. 

– Maybe he can move out then, she would think, somewhat hopeful. 

Even in his own flat, Tom would always need her. There would be the everyday details to oversee. Maybe he would settle down, have a proper girlfriend. They would sit for tea on Sunday afternoons, everything would be so lovely… But after these first few weeks, Tom would come home looking sombre and preoccupied. Problems would differ from one job to the other. Once it had been a jealous co-worker, then a new unforgiving boss, or Tom had had the flue, there would always be something… Until the one evening when she would sit in her kitchen, waiting for her son to come home drunk and angry.

– I’ve been given the sack again Mum!

Mrs Bernicle would be brave and loving then. She would pat Tom’s arm, assuring him that he was her wonderful boy, that things would work out. Next time… She would brush aside the bitter sadness in her fat little heart, her son should come first, and he needed her.

That’s what was wrong with Melissa : Mrs Bernicle’s daughter didn’t need her. Early on in school, she was one of the brightest student, always top of her class, and with ambitions. She did her homework eagerly and sat for hours in front of the kitchen table, learning her tables and lessons. She did so well with her A-Levels, the church’s educational fund committee had been impressed and had granted her a scholarship so that she could go on to Uni. And she had, the ungrateful thing! She’s left her mother and brother, she’d gone to the other side of the country to pursue her studies. Mrs Bernicle never bothered to ask her what it was that she was learning. Today, Melissa worked for a big American firm in London, probably doing important things and earning loads. She came back now and then, but never stayed home. 

– I don’t want to be a burden Mum, and besides, staying in a B&B is so much fun.

Fun. Melissa had fun. She was independent and pretty and successful, and she had fun. She didn’t have a drunk for a husband, who would eventually die in a gutter, thrown by a car in the dead of the night. She didn’t have to worry about her jobless son who moped home all day and asked for pub money in the evening. Melissa had it easy, didn’t she. 

Where was she, anyway? She was ten minutes late now. She was probably busy taking her time parking her car, or having a lively chat with some blokes. 

Mrs Bernicle took a sip of sherry. Better drink it now, Melissa was sure bound to laugh when she arrived :

– You always drink pink Mum, c’mon, let’s have a proper pint, and why sit at the bar? There’s a nice corner over there, we can sit on the couch and chat. We have so much catching up to do. 

What’s a mother to do? Mrs Bernicle will probably begrudgingly oblige and have a Hoegaarden. After all, what’s the point in fighting, better be polite. Besides, Melissa always buys the drinks… After a pint of two, she will probably laugh at Melissa’s jokes and even be chatty with Andrew the pub owner. Yes, maybe it will be fun after all, to have a carefree evening with her daughter. To forget her worries and her burdens, just for one night…

Fifteen minutes now… And there she is, all dressed up for her mother. Ah, my daughter, she is a pretty thing, isn’t she?


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