I stood on the edge, staring out at the crashing waves amongst the dappled rocks. A callous step would push me over the edge, down into the dark expanse below me. A rock trickled as my foot shuddered against the earth. I drew back fast, heart beating as fear crashed against me like the waves that crashed below. I turned before I had a chance to consider looking over again, my steps pacing fast as I sped through the trees. Soon the road had reached my view, my waiting bike leaning against the tree. I plodded down the road, listening as cars flew past me, each one threatening to hit me. With each one I almost spurred onto the road, but each time the fear of the unknown held me in its grasp. Fear was one of my many prisons.
Darkness became to release its grasp, casting shadows over the road. Cars turned their lights on, their pale colours signalling me as I rode. My breath came in short gasps, shivering as the cold closed in, despite my moving body. But as I yanked my jacket closed, I knew I would not be long in reaching home, and all that waited there.
I veered off, turning to the suburban streets. Placid houses lined the manicured curbs, lights shining from the living rooms inside. I pulled into one, its light shining like a welcoming beacon. Inside, I could imagine a chicken roasting in the oven, a table laid for three; one for me, one for my mother and one for a stranger. I left my bike leaning against the garage door, the handle threatening to scrap its paint. I pushed open the door easily, the lock clicking into its open space.
“Margaret, go move that bicycle of yours.” The voice came high from the kitchen, the demand obvious.
“Mother, my name isn’t Margaret, it’s Avalon.” I went and leant against the doorway, finding a back to me as the body dropped over the oven. The name that has always been mine rang out in the air, the one thing left by my Father. One of the many things my mother demanded to change about me.
“Darling.” She turned, “Margaret is your middle name, it does well enough. I thought we passed this issues seven years ago, don’t linger on the past darling, there’s nothing there for you.”
For so many years I had protested against my name, but still, when we moved, I let people come to know me by my middle name. “But I don’t like it.” I was starting to whine, and we both knew it.
“Margaret, how many men are going to want to introduce their wife as Avalon? You’ll never get a husband with a name like that.”
The sole worry of my mother flew into the air, the worry that I would end up unmarried, left to reap from anyone I could find.
“A man shouldn’t care about my name,” I mumbled. I didn’t let her reply, stamping my way up the stairs to my room.
“Jeremy is coming tonight, I got a new dress for you, it’s lying on your bed. And put that bicycle away.” The voice came loud, and I wondered if I could pretend not to hear.
The dappled blue dress lay draped over my bed, lace fringing the sleeves, a white ribbon tying round the middle. Everything about it screamed for me to rip it up. I glanced around my room; the white table, the cream dolls sitting on a shelf, the bookcase laden with books on literature and etiquette. None picked by me, all by the over consuming mother. I delved under my bed, reaching for the one thing that could always bring me peace. The book was scrawny, the cover torn, but each word still lied on the page, just as it had done so many years ago. Opening it, I entered the world of fairies and dragons, witches and wizards, where all my worries were free.
“Margaret, are you ready?”
I snapped the book shut, hearing the footsteps plodding up the stairs. With hastened hands, I threw my clothes to the floor, dragging the new dress over my head.
“Margaret?” She was at the door.
I ran to the table, picking up the nearest box.
The door opened.
I glanced at her in the mirror as I pretended to cover my face.
She looked in, satisfied that I was grooming myself.
“Jeremy will be here soon.” She left, leaving me staring at the girl in the mirror.
I dared not glance at myself as I finished getting ready. Fearful of what I would see. I didn’t mind others seeing me messy and covered in sweat, but I could not bear to see the girl hidden beneath.
Covered in powder, eyes lined with gold, hair curled to perfect attention, I found a well-cultured girl staring back. And although I did not like fussing over myself so, I still felt satisfied at the final product.
“Ah Jeremy.” The muffled noise came from the door, where my waiting suitor must have arrived.
I waited for when my mother would come to tell me that he is here, not breaking the unwritten rule of appearing before asked for. With taps of the foot I continued to wait, knowing that a few more minutes of polite chatting were still to come.
How many suitors had my mother now pushed before me? And each one I had rejected, for I knew that none would love me.
“Margaret, Jeremy’s here.” My mother stood at the door, just as primped as I. She left instantaneously, giving me the last few final moments to adorn my neck in a diamond jewel.
I took a final look, and slowly made my way down the stairs, finding Jeremy waiting at the bottom.
“You look very beautiful.”
“Thank you.” Accepting the flowers he gave me I bowed my head, as if embarrassed that a man would present such a wonderful gift. No different from the last, I lead him to the table, showing him to the head. Placing the flowers the water I took my seat and waited, obediently letting him speak first.
“You have a lovely house here.”
At least he didn’t start with the weather. “Thank you. Mother and I do all we can to make it look just right. A dirty house can never suffice.”
“No, it cannot.”
A pause between us.
“It’s dreary weather isn’t it?”
And now comes the weather. “Oh, it can be quite annoying sometimes, but I don’t mind the rain so much.”
“Really?” He seemed surprised; shocked that someone could like what was branded inconvenient. “Why is that?”
“Because no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop it falling.”
“Dinners ready.” My Mother walked in, carrying the chicken surrounded by vegetables. Bread and gravy already on the table, she placed the chicken close to Jeremy, enticing him with her cooking.
“It’s look wonderful Mrs Rendall.”
Well he pleases my mother at least.
“Thank you Jeremy.” She cut the chicken, serving plentiful helpings onto his plate, then passed him the bread and gravy. As he took both, she served a small amount onto mine, careful not to load too much. I placed a few vegetables on my plate, declined the gravy (for it’s very fattening) and took the smallest piece of bread. So much smaller than the others, I knew that my mother had cut it for me to take.
The meagre food on my plate looked dismal, but I put a pleased expression on my face. Jeremy began to eat and so I began to, slicing the food so the smallest amount went into my mouth.
“Can you cook as well as your mother can Margaret?” The best way to find a wife was to make their mother like you.
“Oh she can, and better than me even,” my mother put in hurriedly, before words had escaped my lips.
“I like cooking,” I stated when I had swallowed, though the truth was far from it.
“Yes, I’m sure you do.”
I buried my face into my food, hoping to hide behind the scanty morsel on my fork. Temptation almost pushed it all into my mouth, knowing that if I did, my voice would be trapped for moments and conversation would not have to come from me.
Polite conversation passed between the three of us, leading onto dessert. I answered each question with the words I had been taught, as if a script had been prepared. But as each word came from my mouth, I felt trapped, caged, like each word was my prison. And I didn’t want it to always be like this.
“Jeremy.” The name came thick in my throat, and for once, I spoke before I had time to think. “Do you believe in fate?”
“Margaret!” The name came soft, but full of force. “We really needn’t discuss such matters.”
“No, no, it’s interesting.” Jeremy softened my mother, her apprehension shutting her mouth.
“So do I?” I knew how impolite I was, but for once, I did not care.
“Well, fate is a tricky thing. I think it exists, but you can always change it to best supplement your position.” He smiled, satisfied.
“But don’t you just want to let fate decide your course?”
“No, then you don’t know where you would end up. It could be horrible.”
“Or it could be wonderful.” Though I dared speak these words, I did not dare speak the ones that stayed in my mind what about true love?
“Really, we needn’t discuss this now.” My mother’s voice came high, as it always did when she was nervous.
I remained silent, fear once again striking into me, all control relented to my mother. I shrunk in my seat, embarrassed at my outburst.
The topic once again turned to pointless talk, continuing until Jeremy announced that he must leave. Inwardly I side, outwardly I pretended to place a disappointed smile on my face.
“It was wonderful sharing dinner with you Margaret. Thank Mrs Rendall.”
“It was a delight to meet you Jeremy.” My mother spoke before I did, repeating to words I had heard so many times.
“It was a charm Jeremy, thank you.” I smiled, putting on my prettiest face.
The oiled door closed noiselessly behind me, leaving my mother and I standing together.
“Your decorum really was not acceptable Margaret.”
I waited for more, expecting the worst.
She sighed. “You know I try don’t you, and you don’t seem to put in any effort at all.”
I stared at my polished buckles.
“You don’t want to end up unmarried.”
They shined with effort.
“Trust me, I know.”
“You were married mother, for fifteen years.”
“And I enjoyed those fifteen years, I don’t want you to miss out.”
No, she didn’t want to see me working, earning my own living, owning my own home.
Another sigh came. “Don’t you want children, a good house, nice clothes.”
Children, house, clothes. I cared for none of those things. “I don’t mind living without.”
“No, you’re too much like your father.”
“My father, my father.” Anger rose up in me, and for the second time that day, I spoke before I thought. “My father was good, he wouldn’t make me do any of this. At least he was better than you.” My voice was screaming, raging into a tangled mess.
My mother looked shocked, was shocked, for my words escaped her lips. “Margaret...”
“My name is not Margaret!” My back was to the door, my hand already reaching for the handle as I flung it open, letting the night air flit through the room.
I was out in a second, finding my bike, jumping on, easily peddling away. I shut my ears to my mother’s shouts behind me.
No cars travelled the road as I did, light coming from the stars above and the moon shining down in its glory.
My breath became ragged, but my feet did not slow. Eventually I came to the small tree, telling me I had reached where I had been earlier. I didn’t bother leaning the bike against the tree, leaving it to drop down onto the ground. It skidded against the dirt, scuffing the scarred body.
Once again I stood on the edge, staring out at the crashing waves amongst the dappled rocks. Though night had come they still paved their outlines in the water, the noises coming louder in the dark. But this time, I felt no fear. Not the tiniest trickle coursed through my body. It was as if as fear had already been felt. I didn’t breath, I didn’t pause, I just let my foot begin to slip over the edge, feeling as the ground began to give way to what it held.
“Avalon!” I felt myself ripped back, my foot coming back to the earth. My name, my actual name, rung in my ears. “Avalon, what are you doing?”
My mother held me in her arms, clutching me tight as she tried to pull my back from the edge. But I remained still, forcing led into my body as I refused to budge.
“Avalon?” Fear etched through her voice, but unlike before, it did not share in me.
She was crying now, tears flowing from her eyes. “I’m sorry.” The words came for the first time from her mouth, her admittance finding its place.
But it wasn’t the right place.
Every thing that she had done, every moment where she had forced me came flooding back, overwhelmingly bearing. And I realised that maybe I did not need to step off that edge today.
My body numb, my mind wild with rage, I found myself stepping closer to the edge, my mother still holding her grasp. The rocks trickled under my feet, falling to the sea below.
“Avalon, don’t.” The final command eased through me, and for the first time, I no longer feared my mother. For the first time, I was in control.
We balanced on the edge, each heart precariously placed. I felt no fear, I felt no pain, I felt nothing but the wind against my arms, my mother’s grip around me. I thought before I acted, but my thoughts were guided by rage, by the fear that had left me.
I slipped from my mother’s arms, ducking beneath her as she began to lose her balance, grasping at the air around her. I stepped back, watching as she toppled, her screams swallowing in the waves. I felt no pain, I felt no regret. I only felt happiness, that finally I was free; free of everything that had once held me. Free of my mother, free of expectations, and finally, I was free of fear.