| A Mother's Painful Duty
The two sisters went out to the kitchen where a pizza and freshly poured
glasses of wine awaited them on the scrubbed pine table. Although
Jennifer Armstrong was twenty-seven and Emily twenty-two, they were only
permitted a single glass of wine each on special occasions. Their had retired early, saying she was not in the mood for conversation and, as
she would be watching television in bed, they should be careful to make no
noise to disturb her. "Oh Mother, - sometimes I really do hate
her," Emily said. She had auburn hair and pleasantly freckled skin and
wore no makeup.. Jennifer had her hair pulled back in a severe bun and she
also wore neither lipstick nor eye shadow, although Emily knew she could
look quite glamorous when she got the chance. "I told you she'd win,"
Jennifer said, frowning slightly and blinking as she moved position on one
of the kitchen stools. "I had all the arguments," Emily said. "I'd even
spoken to Dr Mappamundi about it. It was she that urged me to give it a
whirl. I mean, this is the twenty-first century, isn't it?" "Your
Philosophy professor, right?" Jennifer said. "Still got a crush on her?"
Emily blushed. "Oh no. Well, not really. I do like her, though. There's
this guy I'm seeing...was seeing, I suppose. I sort of... sort of though
I might persuade to let me ..." "Sort of.... go out with him?"
Jennifer said mockingly. "Don't make me laugh." "What's wrong with that?"
Emily said indignantly. "There's nothing wrong with it. You'll just have
to do it behind her back, is all," Jennifer said. "It's time I moved out,"
Emily said. "But she won't hear of it. You're so lucky." "You think so?
Jennifer said, getting painfully to her feet. She lifted her dress at the
back and, below her sensible cotton pants, Emily could see her buttocks and
upper legs looked angry and raw. " Jennifer!" she said. "Why?" "Jeff
heard that I was looking at another man. It's true, but I was only
looking... we were at a church barbecue last week. It seems his isn't allowed do even that. "And then," she dropped her voice, "the
bastard... he rang Mommy." "Oh my God. That's terrible. I thought...
when you got married." "No. Almost every time I've been here. I've been
here for a reason. I was.. summoned here to-day for one of Mommy's
"discussions"." "Was it bad?" Emily asked. "Bad enough," Jennifer said.
"I tried to argue my case, but you know how she is. She turned those
blasted big eyes of hers on me and started talking in that low, very
pleasant voice, demolishing all my arguments. I didn't know what had
happened until I was already over her knees. I can never make out whether
I'm over her knees because she's won the argument, or if it's the other way
around. To-day she..she used the b..b..brush on me," Jennifer began to
weep and Emily got off her stool and went to her, holding her in her arms.
"How has she such power over us?" Jennifer said. "Why can't we just walk
away from her..She even chose my husband for me." "She's so
strong-minded,"Emily said. " Is she not, well.... weird?" "Hush, we
shouldn't say that. She is our mother. Hey, I'd love another glass of
wine," Emily said. "Don't even think about it," Jennifer replied,
sniffling, beginning to laugh through her tears. "Tell me about you."
"Well, I've been involved in student campaigns with Dr Mappamundi." "Oh,
you have eh? My, my, little Emily." "Yeah, Dr Mappamundi's pretty liberal.
She's lived with a string of over the years, but she's also a militant
feminist. Mommy's not a feminist, is she?" "Don't make me laugh," Jennifer
said. "Mom hates feminists. She says the only freedom they've won is the
freedom to be exploited by men. Now women have to go out to work as well
as raise kids." "Isn't that a good thing?" "Depends on your point of view,"
Jennifer said. "Mom never went out to work and she's worth twenty
million." Their late father, during a hard-working lifetime in the
engineering industry, had patented a couple of valve devices, which
continued to deliver a substantial income. This money would come to the
girls in due course - If their believed them to have been dutiful
daughters. "At the moment," Emily said, we're organising a demonstration
to gain admittance to a small men-only squash club." "What do you want to
do that for?" Jennifer asked. "We don't," Emily laughed. "Dr Mappamundi
says women will have to be admitted to membership. The faculty will bend
over backwards to be seen as politically correct. They'll have to spend
plenty to put in women's showers and rest rooms." "And..?" "Then we'll
refuse to use the place anyway, because it's too scruffy." "Brilliant,"
Jennifer said scornfully. "Anyway, what's this Dr Mappamundi like - apart
from a bit nutty, by the sound of her?""" "Oh, about thirty-five. Madly
attractive, dresses beautifully, blonde, Takes no shit from anybody." "So,
if she's so marvellous, how come your arguments went down like a lead
balloon with Mommy?" "Well, did most of the talking, of course. But
I thought I had everything sort of worked out - Dr Mappamundi even
rehearsed me in a sort of mock debate - she called it a Socratic Dialogue -
and it worked all right with her, no matter what objections she threw at
me. Dr Mappamundi said she was convinced.!" "I'll bet she was - listening
to her own arguments." Jennifer laughed. "Oh,do shut up, Jenny ," Emily
said. Jennifer laughed again and shook her head "I knew I was getting
nowhere with after only a few minutes," Emily said ruefully "and
then, when she said we'd finish the discussion with me across her knees, I
knew I was finished. In about three minutes she had me undressed and I was
jack-knifed across her knees, staring at the bloody carpet." "I can imagine
the rest," Jennifer said, standing up painfully "Hell, I don't even have to
imagine it." She carried their glasses and empty plates to the dishwasher.
"I have to be off early in the morning to get to work from here," she said
."What are you going to tell Dr Mappamundi?" "I don't really want to tell
her anything, the way things have turned out," Emily said.I suppose I'll
just tell her that won the argument." "Well, that's the way we
usually describe it," Jennifer said.
They knew their would be turning her light off at ten o'clock.
Mrs Adams was a still handsome woman in her early fifties with short grey
hair and a beautiful olive skin, which set off her deep brown eyes. She
wore a pale blue nightdress with bootlace straps over her attractive
shoulders and although Emily had never seen her naked, it was
obvious through the thin nightdress that her were softly full and
beautiful. Mrs Armstrong had made it clear that she could have had affairs
or been a hundred times over if she had wished, but she decided to
give all her attention to the upbringing of her two daughters. Jennifer
bent to kiss her mother, nuzzling into her soft neck. "Good night. I'm
sorry, Mummy." "Good night, Jennifer, dear." "Good night, Mummy, I want to
apologise for my behaviour," Emily said, bending to kiss her, her arms
resting gently on her mother's beautiful shoulders. She would have loved
to melt into her mother's arms, but the only contact she ever had now with
her mother's body was when she was being punished. Her touched her
lightly on the back and this was as near to an embrace as Emily could
expect. "Good night, Emily dear."
Before turning into the driveway to her own house a couple of days
later, Emily noticed where, two houses along, a removal van stood against
the kerb and a table and washstand and a couple of kids' bikes had been
left on the lawn. This house was always rented and people came and went
every few years. It was here her friend Bonny had once lived. A
well-brought up child of impeccable who had moved in while their
own house was being built, Bonny was allowed call to play with Emily when
she was around twelve and Emily occasionally allowed to visit at Bonny's
house. Bonny was more boisterous than Emily and was just starting to go a
little bit wild. Emily, who was feeling the first stirrings of rebellion,
encouraged her. Later, Emily in her innocence let slip to her something that Bonny had told her with much giggling about snooping on the
sex-life of her parents, a concept that had never even occurred to either
Emily or, indeed, Jennifer. Mrs Armstrong acted decisively. Emily was
punished, but not too severely. A phone call was made to Bonny's who called for a long discussion, after which Bonny was handed over to Mrs
Armstrong for punishment.. It was even suspected, between Emily and
Jennifer, that Bonny's pretty received a practical
demonstration of a spanking from Mrs Armstrong, who certainly felt that the
girl's was at least to some degree at fault for Bonny's behaviour.
When Bonny was eventually allowed to come again to play with Emily her
demeanour was much less natural and her conversation as bland and guarded
as that of a Stepford wife. One July day, when Mrs Armstrong was admiring
Bonny's patent leather shoes and beautifully starched cotton dress, Emily
was unwise enough to say: "I'll bet your even puts starch in your
underpants.!" Bonny was immediately requested to return home and Emily was
instructed to follow her to her bedroom. After that day she and
Bonny saw little of each other and a few months later Bonny's moved
The entrance hall of the Armstrong house was large and cold and full of
dark, highly-polished furniture, brass urns and oil paintings that faded
into the gloomy corners. Against the wall stood four carved ivory
elephants, the colour of stained teeth. Emily always thought of it as the
sort of place where the remains of an archbishop might suitably lie in
state. The maid, who was arranging chilly-looking waxy lilies on one of
the hall tables told Emily, with a slight smile on her face, that she was
wanted immediately in her mother's bedroom. Emily's mouth was dry as she
climbed the stairs and knocked politely on the door.
After she received permission to come into the room, her said
"Please face the wall Emily until I am ready." Emily's throat constricted
and her tongue flicked her dry lips. She was frightened. What could have
happened? Beside her Emily could see a plain, beautifully cut green dress
lying on the bed. On top of the dress was a pale cream-coloured bra and a
tiny pair of cream-colored panties, Black knee-length leather boots lay on
the floor. She knew that dress, those elegant boots. Then she heard Dr.
Mappamundi's voice. It sounded broken and hoarse as though she had been
crying. "Emily," a deep sob. Then Dr Mappamundi's voice, still slightly
veiled, but clear enough. "Emily, you...you must know the position I'm
in." "Mother, what have you done?" Emily almost screamed, horrified,
attempting to will herself to turn around, to confront her mother. "Keep
facing the wall, Emily," her ordered in an dry voice. "Dr
Mappamundi," Emily said. "Oh, Dr Mappamundi, I'm so sorry.I'm so ashamed."