So today I thought I would share with you my new writing project. It’s a Women’s Literature Novel (well, that’s my intention but sometimes things change) and it centres on woman called Jo who has fibromyalgia (well, I may as well use my illness – it uses me :)) and she has a mother called Helena who is less than sympathetic to Jo’s illness. In fact, Helena has her own issues as she has narcissistic tendencies. Narcissism is something that really intrigues me.
The mother in my trilogy, Bones, Ashes and Dust also has narcissism. I use the narcissistic motif because I’m intrigued by the motherhood myth that plagues society, that is, the idea that it doesn’t matter how much she abuses you, you should always honour thy mother. I disagree with this and I find it an interesting topic to delve in to.
This is the first part of my next novel called (for the moment anyway), The Narcissist’s Daughter. Tell me what you think!! Bold writing indicates where I’ve put my thoughts in because I’m not sure of the details yet. This is very rough, there will be many errors :).
Background – Jo has been living in Ibiza with her husband. She’s come home to the UK after the failure of her marriage and, more importantly, because her father is dying. This scene is where she goes to visit her dad in the hospital after a few years of no contact with her family at all.
The Narcissist’s Daughter – Rough Draft – Chapter One
The smell of old age, of sickness, and death, hung heavy in the air like a thick black cloud. The stench of urine and faeces was still detectable under the smell of disinfectant. Jo wretched as she entered the ward. And then she saw him, lying amongst it all, looking breakable and fragile and not how she remembered.
She stopped in the middle of the ward. His bed was in the corner, by the window. He looked so…small, so…not like her father.
She took a deep breath and went over to him.
His face was gaunt, his skin so paper thin that the blood vessels were visible like deathly flowers blossoming beneath it. His head was tilted back, his mouth wide open, false teeth protruding from under his hairy top lip.
She didn’t recognise him. But then, she hadn’t for a long time.
Jo looked at him. His hair was all wrong, not how it should be, not how she remembered it. She reached out to move his fringe, then stopped. Her hand quivered mid-air. Do I dare touch him, she thought, I can’t remember the last time I touched him. In fact, I don’t remember a time I ever threw my arms around him. But a part of her really wanted to hug him now, to hold him tight and never let him go, even though that would be so alien to who they were. They weren’t that type of family. She let her hand drop back to her side. Better to keep things as they were, how they always had been.
Instead, Jo sat down on the plastic seat next to the bed and looked out of the window. Rain was splattering on the dirty glass. Dark clouds rolled across the sky as Storm Brian battered the UK. She hadn’t missed the weather. Not one little bit.
She looked back to her father. My father? How strange that sounded to her. Father. It was foreign and bitter on her tongue like love turned to ash.
‘What the hell are you doing here?’
Jo jumped, startled by the harsh tone of Christina’s voice. Fuck, she thought, I’m not ready for this. Jo took a deep breath and turned in her seat. Her sister was standing in the aisle, coffee in one hand, leather purse in the other.
‘I came to see Dad,’ she replied, aware of how her words seemed so redundant. What else would I be doing here?
‘Came to see Dad? Yeah, that’d be right now the time for actually doing something has gone. Now that he’s at death’s door.’
Christina pushed passed Jo and placed her coffee cup on the cupboard at the side of the bed. ‘What have you really come for?’ she asked, reaching down to pull her bag out from under the bed.
‘You want to see what you can get out of him, what’s in the will,’ she said, dropping her purse in her bag before pushing it back under the bed with her foot.
‘I…No,’ said Jo, swivelling in her chair to face her father again. She could feel her face burning. Why was she embarrassed? That wasn’t why she’d come home.
Christina grabbed her coffee and sat on the end of the bed.
‘So?’ she asked, playing with the white plastic lid on her coffee. Her red nail polish was chipped.
‘So what?’ asked Jo, knowing full well what she meant.
Christina huffed. ‘So, what ARE you doing here?’
‘I wanted to see dad, before…. I heard he was in hospital and…’ My therapist said maybe it was a good idea to say goodbye.
‘And you have, so why don’t you piss off again?’
Jo didn’t reply.
‘What? You thought you’d come back, play the doting daughter again after all these years?’
‘It’s not like that.’
‘Really? What is it like?’
‘Why don’t you just go?’ She looked at me, her hazel eyes on fire.
‘I’m not going anywhere. Not yet.’ Not until I get what I came for.
‘No, you’ll wait for him to be put in the ground first, then take his money. Well, I’ve got news for you, there is no money, so if that’s what you came for…’
‘I haven’t come here for money.’ Why had I come? ‘I wanted to say goodbye.’
‘And you have, so I say again, why don’t you just piss off?’
‘I know I haven’t been here, but –‘
‘No. No you haven’t been here, have you?’ Christina jumped off the bed, her coffee sploshing out from the hole in the lid. It trickled across her fake-tanned fingers. ‘Whilst you’ve been poncing around in Ibiza, Mom and I have been stuck here looking after him. Do you know how hard it’s been?’
Jo opened her mouth to speak but didn’t get a chance to respond.
‘No. Of course, you don’t,’ continued Christina.
‘You weren’t the once scraping shit off him, or taking him to A&E when he had funny turns, or scrubbing the piss from the carper because he couldn’t get to the toilet quick enough.’
‘I know, I –‘
‘NO. No you don’t know. You’re not the one who’s had to clean the crap of his legs and re-do the bandages every single pissing day because his lymph nodes are packing in.’
They’ve actually had carers in. Haven’t really done much.
‘His lymph nodes?’
‘He’s got cancer, Jo, cancer.’
Cancer? I didn’t know he had cancer.
‘Can you keep it down, please? We have some very sick patients in here,’ said a small nurse who’d appeared from behind the curtain drawn around the bed opposite.
‘Sorry,’ mumbled Jo.
Christina glared at the nurse but didn’t say a word.
‘Causing trouble again?’
Jo knew the voice. It was hard, cold and unforgiving. Her stomach began doing somersaults inside her. Suddenly she felt sick. She could feel it stinging at the back of her throat.
‘Mom.’ Jo stood up and turned slowly to face her mother. How long had it been?
Her mother looked the same as she remembered; willowy, golden brown skin and perfectly coiffured hair.
‘Joanne,’ she said, sidling passed her and perching herself on the chair.
Jo stepped back.
‘How is he?’ Jo’s mother asked Christina.
‘He’s the same. The doctor came this morning and he said he doesn’t think it will be long now.’
A lump caught in the back of Jo’s throat. She wanted to cry.
‘How are you feeling today, Mom?’
Helena put a manicured hand on her chest. ‘I feel so worn out.’ She ran her hand through her blond bob, and then said to Christina, ‘When did Lady Muck get here?’
‘I don’t know. I found her here when I got back from taking a break.’
Wow, thought Jo, just Wow.
‘So, why have you come back now?’ Helena looked up at Jo, her face looking like thunder,
‘I’ve come to say goodbye.’
‘I suppose you want to stay?’
‘If that’s okay?’ No, thought Jo, I don’t want to stay, but I suppose I should.
‘Well, don’t expect me to run around after you, I’ve got enough to do.’
‘I hope you haven’t brought much. I don’t want you clogging the house up.’
No, thought Jo, I don’t have much to bring with me anyway.
‘Spit it out.’
‘It finalised in Novem-‘
‘And yet, you’re only telling me now?’
‘Nevermind. Take these,’ she said, pulling out a ring of keys, ‘take the spare room, at the back.’
Jo took the keys from her mother’s hand. They were cold to the touch, just like mother.
‘Well, what are you waiting for?’
‘I wanted -‘
‘Joanne dear, we don’t care what you -‘
‘Hello, Mrs. Black.’ A doctor had appeared behind us. ‘How are you today?’
Jo’s mother turned in her seat. ‘Oh, hello Ravinder, I’m fine, thank you. You haven’t met my daughter, Joanne, have you?’
Jo felt herself burning with embarrassment.
‘No, I haven’t. Please to meet you,’ he said, extending his hand.
Jo took it despite her embarrassment. His grip was firm. She looked up at his face and immediately regretted it as she felt herself glowing red. ‘Hi.’
‘Joanna here has just got back from Ibiza, She’s been running her own Yoga retreat. I wish I could have gone out to see her more but, with Robert…’
Really? Thought Jo. She hadn’t ever been to see her in Ibiza in the whole of the time she’d been in Ibiza. That was how many years?
‘I understand. Sometimes, life gets in the way,’ he said, with a shrug. ‘But at least she’s here now.’
‘Oh yes. I’m so proud of her, going out to a foreign country and making a go of it.’
‘I’m sure you are.’ Ravinder looked at Jo. Jo looked at his badge. Dr. Ravinder Singh. ‘Anyway,’ he said, ‘must go. I’ve got to complete my rounds.’
‘Well, thank you for coming to see us. I do appreciate all you’re doing for my Robert.’
‘I’d do the same for anyone,’ he said, with a smile that looked uncomfortable to Jo. ‘Nice to meet you, Joanne.’ He nodded in her direction.
‘It’s Jo, actually,’ she replied, ‘nice to meet you too.’
They watched the doctor disappear down the aisle and out of sight.
‘Your name is Joanne,’ snapped Helena.
‘Well, I like Jo and no one has called me Joanna for years, so…’
Helena’s face turned to thunder. ‘I christened you Joanne. NOT Jo. And as I’m your mother, I think I know what your name is.’
Jo sighed inwardly. Now was not the time for an argument.
‘I’ll go home now. Do you want a lift?’ she asked Helena.
‘What do you think? I’ve only just got here. I can’t be swanning off, not like some of us.’
‘See you later, then?’
Jo turned and walked away without another word. When she turned the corner to exit the ward she caught sight of Dr. Singh at the nurse’s station. ‘Bye,’ said Jo, although she didn’t know why.
Ravinder looked up, ‘Bye,’ he said, with a warm smile.
With thanks to pippalou at morguefile.com for the featured image of a Narcissus.