Just as the older freckled hand centered the smooth cheek of the younger woman, seconds after the satisfyingly clean sound of the slap and right before the redness began radiating across her cheek, another crisp smack resounded. Only this time it was delivered by the younger woman.
So perfectly timed was the end of one movement and the beginning of the next that it seemed choreographed.
Startled by both actions and sounds all arms and hands fell limp to the side.
In complete contrast to the dimness and black mood in the kitchen where this was unfolding, outside the kitchen window, brilliant sunshine bounced off the snow covered garden creating a shimmery, magical and wholesome scene. So bright in fact was the light, when staring at it, that it stung the eyes and made them water. The daughter averted her gaze from the window, not wanting to seem to be crying.
Like two cats, mother and daughter waited, motionless, for the slightest move of an iris or imperceptible vibration of a hair, as they stared hard into each other’s eyes. They stood only centimeters apart, but the void that had been created between them was infinite. This black hole had swallowed up a lifetime: pony tails, bicycles, homework, boys, graduations. All events from the silly to the momentous…gone.
Each woman no longer existed as before in the memory of the other.
The daughter was the first to move and she moved fast, grabbing her coat and hat from the floor where they had landed during the ambush and without a word, she raced out the door, across the garden, through the gate and down the street. The cold wind cut into her face as she ran towards freedom and understanding; her pounding feet keeping time with her pounding heart.
Her mothers voice, raised to an hysterical pitch, trailed behind her, furiously spewing brutal and castrating words from where she stood on the back porch.
Faster and faster she ran, kicking up snow behind her. And upon turning the corner at the end of the street she was, at last, met by blissful silence.
Standing in minus four degree temperature, with her daughter’s figure disappearing around the corner, the older woman interrupted her deranged monologue. Pulling her sweater tightly around her, she opened the screen door and went back inside. So thick and palpable was the air indoors that she felt as though she couldn’t breathe. She had been denied gratification, her authority usurped, she had been disrespected and disobeyed and when she thought about the slap her daughter had given her…well…she began to shake uncontrollably her throat tightening and her mind racing. Dropping into a chair, she lay her head in her arms and gave herself up to unrestrained wrenching sobs.
For her part, her daughter was sick and tired of the heaping portions of expectations, opinions and guilt trips doled out daily and incessantly by a controlling mother. This final episode had forced her hand.
In the bracing cleansing cold, as she ran, her resolve grew and with it came increased strength and courage. Kicking up the snow she headed for the bus stop, hopped on the number 12, took the last seat at the back, rested her head on the cold window and with a thrill in her heart, made her plans.