The story of a stain

Veronica’s mother had always been house-proud, to a fault. As a child she recalled the laborious sessions with her mother vigorously polished the vast array of ornamental brass until they gleamed like Aladdin’s lamp. Veronica occasionally helped with the ritual, finger tips turning black with Brasso but, always having better things to do, her attempts to wriggle out of that tedious chore and many others, became more frequent when she morphed into an adolescent. Daily, before her parent’s acrimonious divorce when she was a teenager, her mother religiously devoted herself to maintaining their large, granite home opposite the beach on the east coast of Jersey. Perhaps her prodigious domestic efforts were undertaken to divert her mind from her adulterous bully of a husband.
Once divorced and ensconced with Veronica and her younger daughter, Jane, in another, more modern, smaller house, three miles from the old house, the recent divorcee continued to polish, dust, bleach, vacuum, scour, scrub daily, despite also working as an accountant’s secretary. Her son lived at the old house with her husband and his mistress, until, a few years later and very much taller, he argued badly with his father and turned up on his mother’s doorstep, asking to live with her and his two sisters again.
‘Lift your legs up! I need to vacuum under there,’ Veronica’s mother ordered, tetchily bashing her daughter’s feet with the noisy machine.
‘Nobody ever visits us. Why do you insist on this never ending house work palaver?’ she asked her mother, feeling guilty for appearing indolent revising for A-levels on the sage green, velour sofa. The housework fanatic always made Veronica feel lazy in contrast to the martyred, constant domestic over activity. Her mother was the living embodiment of an illustrated 1950s Good Housekeeping manual. Veronica should have been more grateful, but was hampered by adolescent hormones coursing through her tall, skinny body. It was her job to be an ingrate and the martyred air that hovered round her mother like ectoplasm irritated her.
As her mother drove off to the shops in St Helier in her cute, canary yellow VW Beetle, an unusually philanthropic sensation descended upon her. To appease guilt, she had removed herself from having to endure watching her mother cleaning and shifted from the sofa to revise on a sun bed in the beautifully manicured, sun drenched garden. Mentally drained from reading ‘L’Etranger’ by Camus for A-Level French, deciding to take a break, she moved back indoors.
She thought of how extra hard her mother had been working lately and decided, uncharacteristically, to help. Everything seemed spotless, but the windows in the living room had not been cleaned for days, displaying a few, scattered blobs that flies had maliciously deposited on the glass. With part of a pair of her mother’s old, ripped up knickers grabbed from the rag bag in one hand, Windowlene in the other, she nobly set about the task of making the large, picture windows pristine. She soon lost herself in the task, enjoying the John Peel tracks she had taped on her mother’s light-oak, sound system, her heart warmed to think of how pleased her mother would be by her random act of kindness.
Veronica’s warm heart jolted as she looked down on completing her good deed. Half a dozen, large, brown, oily stains were smeared over the light green carpet. Nauseating fear invaded her body. She carefully removed her flip flops, gingerly turned them over to discover the offending, unidentifiable blob of grease buttered on the sole of one shoe. How it had lodged there was forever a mystery, but the damage was undeniable. Running barefoot to the kitchen, she grabbed the washing up liquid bottle and dampened a rag. Icy terror worsened on hearing her mother’s car. She was vigourously rubbing the carpet, to no avail, when her mother entered the room.
Fearing verbal and physical injury, possibly death at the hand of her house proud mother, she was surprised to be greeted with unexpected calmness, perhaps brought about by shock at the damage and also pity at seeing the apologetic distress on her daughter’s face.
‘What on earth’s happened here? Don’t cry, you were only trying to help. I’ll get it professionally cleaned. Don’t scrub it any more, you’re making it worse,’ her mother said. Why her mother remained so serene remained a puzzlement, but was a testament to the woman’s big heart.

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