Flan would like her name, and even her namesake Flannery O’Connor, if it weren’t for the disdain she has for her mother.
Mother. The thought of this one name sent Flan into a silent self-torment. She thought distance would ease her contempt, but even the minute differences became a barrier of hostility.
Flan fled from any resemblance to her mother; from the Catholic Church to a brie and cranberry sandwich. Everything paled in comparison to her defiant rebellion.
Flan put the phone down after 30 minutes of her mother talking at her. The only words Flan uttered were ‘Hello’, ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Fine’ to the solitary question of ‘How are you?’ Even then, her mother didn’t wait before listing everything in her life that would consequently add to Flans list of never-to-dos. Flan sat in her silent rage thinking of what her mother had just said; she was visiting in three days’ time.
‘Shit. Shit, shit, shit.’ Flan hardly swore, associating it with her mother’s hypocritical beliefs, but she was a teakettle of bitterness at the boiling point, allowing her only this vocabulary for such an occasion. ‘Shit!’
She closed her eyes to clear her mind, only to be swept away in the memories of her mother’s self-promotion and false positivity.
There was no benefit in hate, Flan knew this, but there was a dark satisfaction that came from it. And she lived in that for the next two days. The house was spotless, and as she sat on her bed, she reveled the fact that she would be sharing it with the devil incarnate.
It was a miracle she managed to get any work done, as her mind filled with how she was going to finally let her mom have it. After all these years, sweet vengeance of the tongue was going to be hers.
The elevator gave away her mother’s entrance, as Flan sat with an evil smirk and an eye to the door. The lift stopped, opened and as the footsteps grew near, Flan wheeled to put the kettle on. Any second the knock would come. Any second. Keys rattled, as the neighbor went in next door. She noticed her hands shaking and her heart racing. It was getting late, and still no sign. Usually, Flan would be relieved, but this angered her all the more.
She ate dinner in silence, her mind brewing with the injustice of her mother’s no show. Flan went to open the window and saw Darcy playing with empty wrappers in the park. Quickly, she wheeled to the bag of food in the kitchen cabinet near the front door, when the knock finally came.
It startled Flan, nearly knocking her out of her chair as she was reaching for the cat food. She sat up and took a deep breath, forgetting the prearranged grilling she was going to give her mom, and opened the door.
‘Hello honey!’ her mother exclaimed, with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. ‘What a small place. Where are all the rooms? Oh here’s one. It’s just a bathroom? Where is your bed, honey? Don’t tell me that’s a fold down bed? Oh, honey, I didn’t know it was this bad.’
‘Hello to you too, Mary,” Flan said in clear aggravation. “I’ll make some tea.’
‘Oh great. I guess we’ll be sharing this bed? We can make it work. Anyway, I have some big news I had to tell you in person. I know it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other and we’ve had our differences, but I have some exciting news… I’m getting married!’ Mary said, finally looking to Flan for a response.
‘Ok…’ Flan said deadpanned, feeling a sense of vindication with her response. “Why didn’t you just tell me this on the phone?’
‘Flannery, sweety! I want you to come! I want you to be in the wedding! A few girls are getting together next weekend to throw a…’
‘I think this will be a pass for me,’ Flan said with her back to Mary, staring only at the kettle as it boiled. She detested herself immediately for who she became around her mother. Guilt rose like the water in the kettle, yet she was determined.
‘Why are you being like this?’ Mary asked with a lump in her throat. It was the weakest she’d ever heard her mother sound. When her dad ran off, Mary never cried in front of Flan, and likely never alone. She was turned into a stone of positivity, and that always bothered Flan.
Flan never answered, and Mary spoke for hours about the man who won her heart. How for two years he stuck around while she broke down.
That weekend, Flan never got a chance to share her sweet revenge. In fact, she never wanted to. She began to see her mother’s transformation, noticing her last call and visit weren’t false positivity or self-promotion, but nervousness.
Flan saw the impossible, her mother asking endless questions about her. She took notice of the small things and even heard mention of Darcy. Flan wasn’t ready to mention Roy, or love at all, nor was she able to share about her loneliness. But, it was the first time she felt she had a mother again. Someone she could talk to, not only a protectorate. Like before her father left.
‘I’m only a call away,’ Mary said, as she was walking out the door. ‘And let me know what time you’re going to be coming in next weekend for this old hag’s hen party!’
Mary hugged her daughter, and this time Flan couldn’t help but hug back. ‘Bye mom, see you soon.’ The first time she called her that since she was a teenager.
Flan went to the window to see her mom off in the taxi, and for the first time felt at home in her dingy apartment.