I know, I know, I’m late! But after you read this I’m sure you will forgive me. I was sitting at my desk yesterday blogging away but I just couldn’t get inspired. I kept thinking, Do they really want to hear about my non-matching socks?. Well, just as I was cursing my boring life Hank spoke and my day was never the same again.
“Natalie, isn’t that your mum?”
“What?” I look up at Hank.
“Your mum.” Hank is pointing over to the reception area. “I think that’s her…”
Oh, God. Please, no.
I’m afraid to look where Hank is pointing, but unfortunately I don’t have to as I hear the shriek, “Natalie! You who!”
I look up as my mother is waving frantically at me as though I can’t see her, though she can only be thirty yards away. I try to wave back to stop my mother from yelling, but instead she knocks over Claire’s roses that were delivered this morning from her new boyfriend. I walk over to reception as my mother is trying to help Claire pick up the flowers. Claire does not look happy, to say the least.
“So sorry about that dear. Luckily they were almost dead.” Mum picks up the last rose and looks at it. “I would have felt just awful if they were fresh.”
Claire takes a quick intake of breath and looks about ready to kill my mother. She bundles her limp flowers together and storms off.
“Mum, what are you doing here?” I say.
“I’m here to see you darling.” My mother is now rearranging the items on Claire’s desk.
“No, I mean what are you doing in London?”
“I was in London for a doctor’s appointment, so I thought I would stop in to see if you would like to get a cup of tea.”
I look up to see Claire coming back around the corner and still looking quite angry. Before she can see my mum rearranging her desk, I grab mum’s hand and lead her over to my office. Thankfully, Hank and Rachel seem to have disappeared.
“Why are you coming to the doctor’s in London? What’s wrong with Dr. Archie?”
Mum has been going to Dr. Archie for as long as I can remember. I asked her once if she could marry him so I could have a doctor for a dad; but, unfortunately, he has about ten children with his ultra thin Spanish wife.
“Oh, Ira is fine… I still see him. I just had to go to this special doctor in London for something.” Mum waves her hand as if to dismiss the subject and then looks around my office. “Natalie, this place is a pig sty- don’t you ever tidy it up?”
“It’s mainly Hank’s stuff and he doesn’t like people moving things.”
Truthfully, it’s mainly my stuff and Hank and Rachel are always telling me I need to sort it out. Though, the second I throw out that pile of House and Home magazines I just know I will be redecorating something and need them. “And what kind of something did you have to get checked out?”
“Oh nothing serious.” My mum has picked up my collection of broken pencils from the filing cabinet. “You know, if you just sharpened one, you wouldn’t have so many broken at once.”
“It’s alright Mum,” I take the cup with the pencils out of her hand, “I have a system.”
Actually, my system is I lost my sharpener about three months ago, so I have been using the pencils and storing them in the cup for when I find it. I know it sounds odd but, if I throw them out and then find the sharpener, it’s like throwing money in the bin.
“So, how about it then?” Mum asks.
“How about what?”
“Tea, darling. Or coffee- there’s a great little bistro round the corner where they do an excellent java.” Mum has picked up my copy of Lasso and is flipping through it.
“Java?” I take the magazine out of her hands. Oh God, I have to get her out of here before she touches anything else.
“Yes darling, you can have a cappuccino, or an espresso… whatever you like.”
“How do you know what a cappuccino is?” I know for a fact Mum only keeps Tetley in the pantry.
“Really darling, this caffeine craze has been around for years.” She looks at my overflowing garbage and frowns.
“Well, I would love to but I’m a bit snowed under here I’m afraid.” I pick up my folder I carry and tap it. “Deadlines and all.”
“Oh, well, alright then…” Mum picks up her shawl off the chair. “It’s just… I wanted to run something by you… but if you’re busy…”
My mum is fussing with her shawl now and looking a little panicky.
What could she possible need to tell me? I only spoke to her a few days ago and she told me she didn’t have any news-
She’s been to the doctor. To a specialist.
She’s dying. My only mother is dying.
“Oh, Mum. Of course I will have coffee with you.” I take her hand and raise it to my chest and desperately try and fight off the tears- she will need me to be strong. “Whatever you’d like. Do you need to sit down?”
“No, I’m fine thanks.” Mum reaches for her handbag.
“Let me get that for you!” I take the bag and put it on my shoulder. “And, here, let’s put this shawl round you. It’s pretty cold out there.”
I lead my mum out of my office by the hand with my arm wrapped around her other shoulder. We pass Claire’s desk on the way out and she is still giving my mother a nasty look. I give her my severest stare in return and lead my mum through the doors. Honestly, she doesn’t need to put up with that on her last days.
I am trying not to shake from fear of what I am about to hear. I know my mum is overbearing and can be a lot to handle sometimes- but she’s still my mum. I feel the tears well in my eyes again, but I remind myself that my mother will need all the strength she can get at a time like this. And, maybe she went to the specialist and has good news. It’s a nasty illness, but there’s hope. A special treatment- probably from India.
My mum leads me to the bistro round the corner from work called Javinis and we pick a quiet table in the back to sit. After we sit down, Mum takes off her shawl and picks up the menu to look at.
The waiter comes to our table and sets down two napkins. “Hello ladies, what will it be?”
“Hmm… there’s a lot to choose from here… what are you going to have Natalie?”
“Anything,” I wave my hand, “it doesn’t matter.”
“Well,” the waiter points to the menu, “we have a lot of different lattes to choose from.”
“Yep, that’s great. I’ll have one of those.”
“Or,” the waiter flips over the menu, “we have a large selection of flavoured teas.”
“Okay, that’s fine.”
“Well, which one would you like?” Mum asks.
“Anything, I’ll have whatever.”
“Well, you have to pick something love.”
“I’ll have anything. Surprise me,” I tell the waiter.
“Well, I will have the grande, non-fat, light foam, moccachino, gracias.” Mum hands her menu to the waiter and smiles.
“Okay, so one moccachino and one… surprise?”
“Yep,” I reply, “fab, thanks.”
As the waiter walks away I stare at Mum to try and see what is wrong with her. Maybe it’s that swine flu- she does look pretty pale. Or it could be that outbreak from Africa- the one you get from the monkeys… but where would she have been in contact with a monkey?
“Natalie, what are you staring at me like that for?” Mum asks.
I jump in my seat a little and quickly look down. I wanted to try and play it cool- I don’t want her to be alarmed that I know.
“Nothing, I was just looking at your hair,” I lie, “I like the new cut.”
“Oh, thank you darling. Geraldine tried a new technique- it’s where you take the scissors…”
I can’t let her know that I know she’s sick. I have to be strong. She’ll tell me when she’s ready.
“Why did you go and see that doctor?” I interrupt.
“What?” My mother stops and looks at me.
“The doctor that you went to see today, why did you have to see him?”
“Oh that,” Mum waves her hand, “nothing to worry about.”
“Mum,” I reach across the table and place my hand on top of hers, “it’s alright. You don’t have to be strong for me- let me be strong for you.”
“Natalie, are you feeling alright?”
Mothers, always more concerned for their children.
“Of course I am,” I squeeze her hand, “I’m worried about how you’re feeling.”
“I’m fine love.”
Denial… it’s always the first stage.
“Of course you’re fine, were going to beat this together.” My eyes start tearing up again. “But you have to be honest with yourself first and let me help you.”
“Natalie, what on earth are you on about?”
“Mum, tell me why you were at the doctor’s today,” I press.
“Er…” Mum starts fiddling with her handbag. “I’d rather not.”
“Mum, I have a right to know.”
“Really, Natalie it’s nothing.” She looks around the restaurant for a distraction.
“If it’s nothing then why can’t you tell me?”
“Well… the truth is, I am not sure you would approve.”
At that moment, the waiter comes to the table with our drinks. As he is placing them in front of us my mind begins to work it all out.
She’s doing something illegal. Some experimental treatment that she could do hard time for if she was caught- and she doesn’t want to tell me in case they try and make me testify at the trial. Well, they can forget it. If they think I would testify against my ill mother they have another thing coming.
“Mum, we are not leaving this coffee shop until I know what we are dealing with.” I take a sip of what looks like a cappuccino, but turns out to be the strongest coffee I have ever tasted. My eyes water as I try to catch my breath in a fit of coughs.
Once I have regained control I take a deep breath, “I can handle it.”
“Really Natalie, you’re making such a fuss over nothing. Your Aunty Beryl and I are just trying to make a little money for our holidays, so we thought we would try something new.”
Something new? Oh God, please tell me she didn’t sell her body to science.
“And Dot from down the lane made a fortune last year at one of her Tupperware parties, but she’s having another one this year- so inconsiderate that woman.” Mum takes a sip of her coffee. “So we decided to have a party of our own, but obviously we couldn’t do Tupperware-”
“Mum what are you talking about?”
“So we decided to have a Botox party instead.”
“A Botox party,” Mum leans forward, “it’s where you inject fat into different areas of your body to… freshen things up a bit.”
“I know what Botox is mother.”
“Well, we heard on Oprah that people can make a fortune having these parties- Beryl and I might even go to Tunisia if we make enough!”
“So, you are having a Botox party… in the Cotswolds?” I can’t believe this. “And you have this doctor going there to do this for you?”
“Oh no dear,” Mum waves her hand, “that’s the best part. I came down this morning to learn how to do it myself and pick up the… er… fat.”
“Wait- you’re injecting these women yourself?”
“Oh yes, we save quite a bit of money doing it ourselves. And now I can teach Beryl- it’s all on the up and up. I just had to take a quick course this morning and now I’m certified- would you like to see my card?” Mum excitedly reaches for her purse.
“No, that’s alright thanks.” This is way too much for a Thursday morning.
I’m not sure what actually bothers me more; the fact my mother is injecting sixty year old women with someone’s leftover fat, or the fact I live in London, probably the trendiest place in England, and I have never been invited to a bloody Botox party.
**To read more of Natalie’s adventures please click here.
Photo: Injection Needle