House Clearing

Polly paused to wipe the hair away from her face. It was dusty, heart-breaking work clearing out her mum and dad’s house to prepare it for sale. Nothing had been touched since her dad died whilst her mum was in the nursing home.

Perhaps part of her had thought that sometime she would return and want to have her things around her, even though most of her knew that was never going to happen. ‘Do we ever really grow up around our parents?’ she thought as she sifted through another section of the shelves that surrounded the fireplace that had once radiated warmth throughout the house. The black bags designated ‘throw’ filled with momentos; happy meal toys saved for grandchildren now taking their own children to Mcdonalds, a chipped cup from a seaside town, a small shell still sounding its longing for the sea inside, endless videos and dvds, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Hello Dolly, Pygmalion, once loved and now dusty with lack of use. A reminder of family life long gone and barely remembered now.

She sighed as she stripped out the first layer, reaching to the back of the shelf, her fingertips connecting with well worn dust jackets that revealed videos of a more adult nature. Deep Throat Nurse tumbled to the floor, followed by Naughty Nancy, and Barbara goes Hostelling, as she pulled her hand away quickly. A sharp intake of breath indicating her shock as the nature of these videos became apparent.

Unbidden, unwanted, images of women in various states of undress were paraded in front of her as she scrambled to pick them up. Once in her hands she became aware that now she had a decision to make, ‘can you donate porn videos to a charity shop?’ she thought about googling before shaking herself into clarity. No, of course you couldn’t, but then, what could you do with them?

Part of her groaned ‘Oh dad’, she thought, ‘did you have to leave this for me to sort out?’. Almost immediately an image popped into her mind from the photographs she had been sorting yesterday. Her mum, smiling a smile worthy of the Mona Lisa, close-mouthed, secretive, her eyes alight with life, as she gazed at the photographer, lying in a field, her back to sheltering bramble hedge, her legs lifted so that a glimpse of knickers, suspenders, stockings, and that vulnerable flesh between them displayed for him.

Almost immediately the reminders flooded her memory; her mum, head in her dad’s lap, laughing at Morecombe and Wise on the TV, the sound freer than anything she heard from her during the day. Then at night, bed springs moving, slowly at first, then gathering speed, stopping suddenly and followed by the sound of murmurs from her mum and dad’s room. The sight of her dad making his way to the bathroom, long legged and muscular, setting the template for the men she would find attractive with his slightly bandy walk.

As the videos tumbled to the floor she cleared them into another black bag which joined the others filled with much less intimate material. She had realised that her dad had not left this for her to sort out, but, in the same way that a part of her had imagined that her mother might return home in-spite of her Dementia, her father had imagined that some day he would recover from his stroke, and one last time would take his love in his arms and kiss her passionately. One last time, but in the meantime, late at night, there was a video in a dark room lit by a television and his hand to remind him of being taken into her sweet wet mouth.

Later, as she climbed into bed in the no longer hers bedroom that still had the wallpaper she chose when she turned thirteen, fresh out of a bath and still fragrant with the bath salts and oils she had brought with her, she moved to clear her head in the way she had when she had heard the bed springs moving. She pushed her hand down and into herself, seeking comfort in a practiced movement that she knew would lead to a moment of oblivion and a return to life.

One last time, she thought.


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