Jackie Morris is running a competition on her blog – anyone can enter – you just have to know what’s in the bottle… I knew as soon as I saw it…
The bottle was bought from a Singapore market, on a heat drenched street hung with laundry that fluttered high above like bunting.
The money that paid for it was intended for light cotton clothes, for sweet smelling pineapple, for chest easing Tiger Balm, but the bottle winked its ruby eye in the brilliant sun and my Mother could not resist it. Nestled between soft white towels, she picked it up.
The orb warmed her palm, the chain trailed heavily over her pale fingers and briefly took her mind off the pulsing headache that clouded her thoughts. A pink-cheeked child, in a white bonnet, tugged at her skirt. Me. My brother lay sleeping in his pram, shaded by a duck scattered parasol. Postcards of exotic birds tucked beside him, waiting to be sent home to Granma and Grandad.
‘What do you think Kate? Will Daddy like it?’
Light bounced from the bottle.
I shook my head, hot and cross.
‘Oh you monkey, aren’t you excited that Daddy’s coming home?’
She pressed a finger on my nose. In minutes we were walking again, pushing my brother ahead, the silver bottle tucked beside him.
We were all hot when we got home. She filled the paddling pool but the pain in her head was blinding now and drove her, stiffly, into the shade. I splashed for a while on my own. When bedtime came she could barely talk. The bottle swung from her neck as she kissed us goodnight and stumbled from the room.
In the morning, my brother was crying in his cot. She was not there. I pushed open the door to her room and crossed to where she lay on the bed, coiled for sleep but too still. The bottle was clasped in her hand. I took it, dropped it around my own neck, the chill of it shocking my skin. I clambered up next to her, pressed my downy cheek next to hers.
All my cries would not wake her. All my hugs and kisses.
All my tears.
She left us the bottle.
In it are all the I-love-yous she never got to say. All the happy-birthdays and good-lucks, all the I’ll-miss-yous. Every well-done and I’m-proud-of-you that should have been ours.