Vanity

Reads: 62  | Likes: 3  | Shelves: 3  | Comments: 2

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Featured Review on this writing by AdamCarlton

‘Think I’m vain, don’t you Mum?’
‘I don’t think you’re vain, poppet. You had a thick vein. It needed to be cut out. I paid for you. He cut it out.’

Painting of Vanity - an original commissioned for me!

Vanity

‘Think I’m vain, don’t you Mum?’

‘I don’t think you’re vain, poppet. You had a thick vein. It needed to be cut out. I paid for you. He cut it out.’

‘Mother?’ I say, at my most arch.

‘Yes, poppet?’

‘Don’t call me poppet?!’

I’m sitting hunched on the crumpled bedsheet, my cute little backside resting against the pillow, half-on, half-off my towel. I look exhausted. My eyes are still red from crying, lined with dark furrows from where I haven’t slept all night. I am, how do ladies say it, perspiring? Dripping with sweat. My chest, greyed-silver with the muck. My shoulders and arms are red. I scalded myself in the hot shower. Damp strands of oak brown hair drizzle down my arms and back. I push my tablet away and sit bolt upright, clutching my swollen right leg, as if it were my lover. I should be so lucky! My lips are pursed with intense frustration. And I am not a happy bunny.

She wrings her hands in anguish, reddening in the cheeks, suffuse with inner turmoil, angry at my ingratitude. I get that. Get how she must feel. Her sweet, little baby daughter, 26, still living at home, without a clue as to what I want to do with my life. Other than read Jung. I’m devoted to Jung. Can’t she see that? I miss Dad, since he died. I loved Dad much more than Mum, and now he’s dead, from the thick veins in his right leg. He died of a coronary at 49. Jung is my new Dad. I pick up a yellow pamphlet lying by my ankle and decide which talk to attend next:

The Body as an Alchemical Vessel with Cathy.

A Journey through the Tarot from the Jungian Perspective featuring Juliet.

Goethe’s Faust: From a Magician to a Property Developer – a journey with Eve.

Goddess or Whore? Kylie Moat and the Crushing Weight of Anima Projections - by Judith.

Think I’ll do Judith next. I fancy Judith. I peep at Mum who looks as if she’s about to explode,

‘Mummy?’ I plead, longingly, mesmerizing her with my steely blue eyes.

She sounds flustered, ‘Yes?’

‘Please can I go to hear ‘Goddess or Whore? Kylie Moat and the Crushing Weight of Anima Projections’ with Judith on Thursday night. It’s only £15. Please?’

Mother huffs, ‘Put some clothes on! I’ll wait for you downstairs!’

*****

I lie back on the wet bath towel on my bed, roll the black stocking up my smooth leg, and pull on a comfortable pair of soft cotton briefs. Once I’ve finished dressing, I stagger downstairs to find her waiting impatiently for me in the hall, radiant in her plain white dress, gold locket, and ballet pumps. Her features are softer nowadays, her face is more mellow, but she still looks as lovely as the day we met.

Her black Mini is standing on our buff gravel drive. Mum drives, taking me on the scenic route through beautiful countryside. We follow a narrow winding leafy lane until we reach the place. She pulls in beside the gently babbling brook. A sign on the gate reads Private! Keep Out!  The sun warms my face. I clamber out of the car and savour the intoxicating scent of Spring. Mum takes my hand, smiles reassuringly, then leads me through the gate into the trees. She kisses me! Life begins anew! Bluebells carpet the woods. Sticky-caramel chestnut buds burst into leaf. Pink primroses smatter the border. She stares at me blankly, and points at the strange light.

Oh, my God! The sky has turned pure, brilliant white. Oh, my God!

We reach the Pub. I flinch when I ease my leg out of the car. As I hobble across the car park, I see a pretty girl struggling on crutches, an ugly woman coping with her limp.

Must be Bad Leg Day!

We enter The White Rabbits. Everything has changed. Dad’s favourite dish, the Homemade Steak and Kidney Pudding has been struck off the menu. The musty saloon with its lucky brass horseshoes, roaring fire and skittles, has been transformed into a contemporary family room with built-in conservatory and kid’s play area. Three old boys watch us force our way through the gushing throng of weekend piss artists - behind frothing pints of bitter.

Full of mischief, I give them an eyeful they won’t forget. I lean forward, ‘Well, hello, boys!’

‘Vanity! Stop it!’ Mum shrieks.

Ah, I really love it that she’s smiling at me. We’re over the silly row. Best friends, really. You see, Helen isn’t my real mum. My real mum abandoned me. Beside the gently babbling brook? I’ve no idea who my dad is – bastard.

I wish I hadn’t crawled up the high street to buy antiseptic. The chemist was closed. I complain,

‘Helen, why don’t corner shops stock antiseptic? What am I supposed to do if I bleed? Lie back and think of the NHS?’

She puts an arm round my shoulder and comforts me,

‘There are far less fortunate souls in the world than you, darling.’

Helen always reminds me how lucky I am.

Maybe I’ll get lucky. Maybe my pain will go away.

The staff are wearing silver name badges, black letters. The jolly obese landlady, Jill Hoopoe, tips me a wink and tells the sullen blonde floorwalker, Bunty Fleiss, to take good care of me. We are rounded up like sheep and herded into the conservatory. I’m left to pull out my own chair. Our table is the one furthest from the toilets. My stocking has slid down my shaven leg and gathered round my knee. Blossoming carnation pink with embarrassment, I unzip my tight skinny jeans and grope about inside them, trying to haul my nylons up.

‘No room at the inn,’ Helen observes sagely.

‘Ha bloody ha!’ I grimace, forcing my aching leg under the low table.

Jill interrupts us, barking like a rabid poodle, ‘Not that table, Bunty! Table 9!’

‘It’s alright, love. You can sit there.’

Our server Niki Trainer, is slim with shaggy black hair, faded navy velvet jumpsuit, and a huge diamante pendant which swings over her flat chest. She emits a snarly grin, reminiscent of the predatory alien. Slaps two tatty burgundy menus on our table.

There’s a Soul Sunday poster on the wall featuring The Real Barry White who is due to make a miraculous reappearance over lunch. Mummy’s voice cracks up as she suggests his possible reincarnation. I tell her it’s probably a hologram, like The Real Roy Orbison. Her face lights up as ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ belts out of the crackly sound system. She reaches over the oak table, takes my hand in hers, gets all emotional, rubs my big ring with the ball of her thumb.

‘It hurts me inside when you take your stocking off,’ she purrs, her poppy red lips drooped in sympathy.

What a wonderful thing to say!

I tell Helen I adore her. I promise to love Mummy in Heaven.

Niki butts in, ‘What can I get you girls to drink?’

I look at Helen. Her hands are clasped. Her eyes are closed. My lovely mother is praying.

Niki shouts in her ear, waking her out of her reverie, ‘What do you want to drink?’

Helen jerks her head to one side, quickly unclasping her hands,

‘Err, do you have a ginger beer?’

Niki announces to the world, ‘I do!’

‘I shall drink ginger beer then.’

Two larger families arrive with their withered elderly parents in tow. Niki grows impatient.

‘You?’ she asks me, accusingly.

‘Malbec.’

‘Small?’ 

‘Large.’

Niki returns ten minutes later with a baby bottle of ginger ale and petit Malbec.

‘What can you guys eat?’ she asks.

I carefully unroll my sellotaped black napkin, clean the food off the dirty cutlery and stare out of the window at two white rabbits playing tag in the nearby corn field, as Helen rears up in her chair,

‘Sorry, what did you just say?’

A hush descends on the conservatory. A young mother covers her baby’s ears. The three wise men watch us with renewed interest. A sombre-looking man in a black robe fingers his sweaty dog collar uneasily, clutching his crucifix. There’s a clatter of cutlery onto plates and the mob resumes dining; a dreadful sucking, slurping, burping noise of wind forced from greedy mouths on Paris goblets.

‘Addicted to Love’ comes on. Some semblance of order is restored. Kids scream as they pelt each other with hard red, yellow, and green balls in the play area. At least they’re not playing violent video games online… yet.

Niki flushes, ‘I said what can I get you guys to eat?

I have two pepper pots, no salt cellar and a conflict on our table.

I soothe her, ‘Leave it, Mum.’

‘No starter!’ she hisses: smarting, squinting, ‘Just Aberdeenshire Prime Roast Beef.’

Niki looks up from her triplicate bill pad and cocks her head,

‘How do you want it?’

‘Well done.’

The server feasts her coal black eyes on me, ‘And you?’

‘I’ll have Cumbrian Crayfish Tail and Prawn Platter followed by Beef.’

An hour later, Niki serves up Chef’s culinary apology for Crayfish Tail and Prawn Platter. The translucent shrimps have an insipid off efflorescence which boasts ‘Our Chef defrosted us in warm water!’ There are no crays hiding in there. Helen picks up my fish fork and plays mum.

‘Here, let me cut it up for you,’ she offers, forking the disgusting pink gloop into her starving beak.  

I’m very hungry. I wave my arms at her in protest, ‘No! Mum! Stop it! Put it back!’

‘Forgive me, darling, for I have sinned!’

Helen removes the macerated mixture from her drooling mouth and slops it back on my plate. By now, I am in agony. I massage my thigh, flex my knee, waggle my toes under the table, in a vain bid to alleviate the excruciating pain.

Helen’s face folds with polite concern, ‘Does it hurt? Please tell me it doesn’t hurt.’

‘Course it bloody hurts!’ I yell, thumping the table so hard that my wine spurts over my blouse.

‘There’s no need to swear,’ she says glumly dabbing her red cheeks, ‘I hate it when you swear.’

‘Helen!’ I retort, ‘I’m only feigning swearing, okay?’

Before she can kick my leg, Niki Trainer wades in with two plates of bloody rare roast beef served up with saucer-sized crucified Yorkshire Puddings.

‘Mint sauce?’ she suggests, uncertainly.

Helen gives up caring, ‘Go on then! Spoil me!’

Jill Hoopoe chortles away in the background, ‘Not Mint, Nick! Horseradish!’

We drive home in silence. I despair as we pass the woods, carpeted in burnt black litter. Bugs smudge the car windscreen oily olive brown. Helen applies the wipers. Cruel thorns invade the border. I hurt more than I have ever hurt in my life. Mother consoles me with gory tales of childbirth,

‘Lord, seal my girl’s lips on her aches and pains,’ she says, ‘her aches and pains, her aches…’

My eyelids sag: the effect of too much Malbec. I doze off in my soft leather seat, recalling my initial consultation with Mr Raj...

*****

‘It is far better to eat and drink before you come in for the procedure,’ Raj waffled, leering, ‘The treatment is done under local anaesthetic. There will be no pain. At least one nurse will be on hand at all times to ensure you are comfortable. You will need a taxi to take you home.’

Helen hated driving in London. I made a mental note to book one.  My consultant, a petite, dark-haired Indian beauty, outlined the major risks: bruises, aches, pains, thermal injury, red skin, pins, needles, deep vein thrombosis. Raj assured me that I would suffer from phlebitis. I signed the buff consent form anyway then asked if he could possibly remind me of the benefits?

Six weeks later, I strolled into the plush clinic’s operating theatre. I was warmly greeted by a pretty nurse who gave me a flimsy green surgical tunic, white felt slippers, and a baby-hug disposable nappy to wear. She waited for me outside the door while I got changed. Raj breezed in without knocking. I stood naked in front of a white emulsion wall while nurse photographed my leg from various angles on her I-phone. I shivered as Raj read out my legal rights, last rites? It was time for my op.

I lay on the operating table in my tight-fitting nappy, legs apart, nurse between my legs, and joked,

‘I guess you get to meet a lot of women in my position.’

Noor, a pretty middle eastern nurse, didn’t appreciate my sense of humour. Neither did Raj who slapped my inner right thigh and pinched a fistful of fat. Ouch! My leg was slooshed clean with disinfectant and covered with a rubber sheet. I poured with sweat as my surgeon injected local anaesthetic into thirty-six different parts of my anatomy. My face contorted in a death mask. I bared my teeth. Flared my nostrils. Noor threw me a wicked, smug, smile. I cringed, holding my breath, as Raj inserted several small wires into the tiny incisions in the thick vein in my thigh.

‘Goggles, Doctor?’ I heard Noor ask.

‘Thank you.’

I watched him slot them onto his hooked nose.

‘Laser?’

‘Please.’

He looked so funny in shades! The lights went out. I lay back and dreamed of Judith sunbathing in her snow-white bikini on a sunny beach, as I waded out of the surf dressed in only my thong and a blush. Showing her my new leg. Mr Raj transmitted a laser heat into my vein and sealed me closed. I tasted smoke in my mouth as I burned. Expertly, my surgeon extracted my vein through miniature cuts or avulsions using his long steel hook. My cuts were closed with steri-slips half the width of plasters, yet twice as uncomfortable.  I was instructed to lie back on the bloody couch for half an hour before I took my new leg for a gentle stroll around their sterile treatment room. I recuperated on a grey-studded leather sofa in their refurbished reception area, drinking hot milky tea, scoffing rich chocolate bourbons. Until my taxi arrived - fifteen minutes early.

*****

Helen waits for me on our bed, radiant in her white shroud and gold locket, as alluring as she must have looked in her black lacy underwear on the night of her honeymoon. I sprawl across the bed and groan. Slowly, she rolls the stocking down my leg. Then, tenderly, Mummy peels out my twenty-two skin closures. My skin is a living rainbow of violet, indigo, yellow and red bruises. My wounds are sore and inflamed. My face turns pure brilliant white. I cry with pain.

‘Lie on your back, legs akimbo. Keep still!’ Helen insists, pulling her locket off over her head.

She dangles it over my eyes. Her gold glows! It changes colour: crimson, yellow, indigo, violet. Mummy takes the gold in the palm of her hand and gently rubs out every bruise, wound, and puncture hole in my leg. She heals me! All my bruises, aches and pains disappear! I spring off the bed and run to the built-in wardrobe. I raise her gift up in my hands.

‘I bought a present for you at the corner shop,’ I tell her, excitedly ‘It’s not much I’m afraid.’

‘It is the giving that matters,’ she says in a much-holier-than-my voice, ‘Not the gift.’

I hand my wonderful mother the gift,

‘Happy Mothers’ Day, Helen!’

‘A chocolate mini egg, Vanity, how lovely!’ she exclaims, hiding her disappointment.

‘I really love you Mummy,’ I tell her, feeling pretty bad about how I spoke to her this morning.

She beams at me from ear to ear, ‘And I love you, darling, with all my heart.’

Her face shines for me in the half-light. Her beacon of love. Of giving.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention: I gave up Jung! Judith and I are dating! I start a new job today! And I’ll never shout at Mum again!

Lots of Love,

Vanity xxx


Submitted: October 10, 2021

© Copyright 2021 HJ FURL. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Comments

Rob73

A wonderful fantasy story HJ.
Helen is my favorite character.

Sun, October 10th, 2021 9:54pm

Author
Reply

Thank you Rob! She's mine, too!

Sun, October 10th, 2021 2:59pm

AdamCarlton

This sounds close to home HJ. Culinary and surgical horror: don't know what's worse. A corrosively-readable little tale you've spun out here.

Mon, October 11th, 2021 7:19pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much, Adam,
I had this, um, operation, to, err remove a fat vein from my thigh. The rest, as they say, is mystery!
HJx

Tue, October 12th, 2021 12:10pm

Facebook Comments

More Fantasy Short Stories

Other Content by HJ FURL

Short Story / Mystery and Crime

Short Story / Romance

Poem / Poetry