It's Mothering Sunday in the UK on 14th March...so here's something fitting... ;-P
Caitlin’s mum was one of those people who didn’t care much for life. That was partly what made it easier for the six-year-old, to watch when she drank the poison.
Caitlin knew that poison made mummy happy. And when mummy drank enough, she would sing - loud and raucous, at the top of her voice… Caitlin liked that! They would have parties, she and mummy, and Caitlin would sing too, staying up way past her bedtime. It was lovely to be so happy with mummy. When mummy drank the poison, she loved everyone – especially Caitlin – and she would tell her, over and over again.
Mummy liked poison so much that sometimes, she would spend her money for food, on poison instead. Caitlin was always hungry when she did that, but it didn’t matter. Mummy said life was very sad without the poison…and Caitlin didn’t want her to be sad. When mummy was feeling happy, that made Caitlin happy too.
Mummy kept her poison under the sink, or under the mattress…or sometimes under the sofa cushions when she watched telly. Caitlin had tried the poison once, when she felt sad, but it wasn’t a bit like the potions in Alice in Wonderland as she’d expected. Caitlin didn’t grow taller, or instantly start to laugh – the poison just tasted funny, like it would burn the skin off the back of her throat, and it made her cough until she was sick.
Mummy said poison made Caitlin ill because, it was just for grown-ups. One day, she said, Caitlin would grow to like poison as much as she did…maybe even as much as grandma had. Caitlin had never met grandma, but she’d seen poison make mummy sick too, and she knew she would never like it.
When mummy had too much poison, or worse, no poison at all, she would fall asleep for years, like Sleeping Beauty. When that happened, mummy would always be too tired to take Caitlin to school. Caitlin had tried waking mummy to remind her, but then she got very angry, which always meant getting smacked. So Caitlin would go to school on her own…because if she didn’t, her teachers shouted too. Sometimes Caitlin had dirty clothes, or put them on inside out. The other children laughed at her then, and called her horrid names, and mummy was right - life was hard and sad when she didn’t drink any poison.
Mummy hadn’t had any poison today. Or yesterday…and she’d been crying, a lot. There would be no money for poison until Wednesday, and that made mummy very sad, and very cross. The only time she wasn’t shouting at Caitlin was when she was sleeping. Then she seemed almost peaceful, just a little restless - like the princess from that fairytale…the one who could feel the pea under her mattress…
“Caitlin?” Miss Barratt’s voice drew the little girl back into the empty classroom. “You’re last again…” The teacher smiled. “Isn’t your mummy here yet?”
Caitlin broke her daydream, shoved her homework into her backpack and shook her head. Mummy had been asleep when she left for school, and she would still be asleep when Caitlin got home.
“Is your mummy coming to collect you?” Miss Barratt said, with concern. She’d been a little worried about Caitlin lately…the child seemed, well, neglected…but it wasn’t polite to pry.
Caitlin shook her head again, and Miss Barratt frowned.
“Is someone else coming to collect you?” The teacher crouched beside the little girl’s desk when she didn’t respond to the question. “Caitlin,” she said softly, “where is your mum?”
“She’s sleeping,” Caitlin whispered. “She’s always happy when she’s sleeping.” Miss Barratt looked puzzled.
“How do you know she’s sleeping, Caity? Is she sick?” Caitlin nodded.
“She was,” the little girl’s wide, blue eyes met her teacher’s. “And she was sad…but she won’t be anymore. I helped her.”
“That was very nice of you,” Miss Barratt smiled. “How did you help her?”
“Like the woodcutter helped the wolf,” Caitlin suddenly grinned, her milk teeth displayed in a sickly proud sneer. “She fell asleep then…so I’ve got a hundred years now to find her a prince and…” Caitlin caught herself abruptly, and looked a little panicked. “Miss Barratt?” she said, somewhat urgently. “Did I get muddled? Does a kiss still wake the princess if she hasn’t got a head?!”