When Mother died I got together with Shauna and she was everything Mother was but possibly better.
She didn’t need face creams, nor a forearm when going down steps, and she didn’t doze off in front of Crimewatch. Unlike Mother, she’d mollify when I said sentimental things, which was about once a week. I’d say Love is not what you say, it’s what you do, and really I’d borrowed it from somewhere, but Shauna wasn’t to know that, like she wasn’t to know Mother had died either because if she had, she’d have asked me questions and would’ve probably put two and two together. Instead, she said, aw, you’re a good man, you.
Shauna had that look Mother had, you see. Cruel enough to mince your insides. A look that has a hold over you, makes you feel titchy. Maybe that’s what drew me to Shauna in the first place. Familiarity.
Anyway, Shauna and I were seriously thinking about committing to each other and investing in a pet. She is more dog and I am more cat, so we both agreed on a rabbit that we would keep in a cage where the fireplace is, which is great because Mother adored rabbits, she called them the Lord of all the animals.
My brother used to revere rabbits too although I think he revered them because Mother did, and anyway, my brother sabotages everything. He pulled a moony at our aunt Esmerelda’s wedding when Esmerelda was walking down the aisle with our grandfather, and another time, when one of my girlfriends who wasn’t my girlfriend phoned the house, my brother pretended to be me, and whispered all sorts of filth I will never repeat. At Mother’s funeral he was on Zoom.
When am I going to meet your mum? Shauna came out with one day, and because I had this planned, I drove her to the Autumn Smiles retirement home where one of Mother’s friends Janet who’s losing her mind is, and the three of us sat and dipped Bourbon biscuits in tea for 13 minutes and that was sufficient.
Aw, Shauna said, bless.
I had only a vague idea where my brother was – he’d been in Spain and now he was somewhere north – which was both a relief and perfectly disarming. I often woke in the middle of the night with images of my brother looming over a scale model version of me.
Ssh, Shauna would say, back you come.
Shauna was so thrilled when she received the Catalogue of Pedigree Rabbits that she opened a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate. This was inappropriate because Mother and Prosecco didn’t mix, cheap man’s champagne she called it, neuron-destroyer.
I reluctantly toasted our future rabbit and convinced Shauna that no, I was fine, just a bit sleepy, and that was enough. No cold stare.
That night in my dream my brother was standing over me on a childhood beach – no doubt triggered by the rabbit breeder’s postcode which was similar to his – and he was laughing his head off at my skimmers. His had reached as far as the horizon. Thirteen ricochets.
Sure it’s not over-doing it? Shauna asked from the passenger seat on our way to the breeder’s house in the Lakes, inside a pale pink chiffon dress, just like Mother’s.
Don’t be daft, I said, drawing hearts on her knee-cap.
It was a pleasant-looking farmhouse with a Skoda in the drive like mine, though it did lack the shine you only get from carnauba wax. I parked up next to it and opened the door for Shauna.
Ooh, get this!, she said, which felt a little vulgar.
She patted down her dress, slipped into her salmon heels and started taking photos to narrate our rabbit’s story, “from birth to her new home”.
Aw, we’ve got the same dress! Shauna squeaked when she saw the breeder lady coming towards her. I found this over the top, as did – would you believe it – my brother, the other child of my mother, who was standing next to her, his chest puffed-out, looking imperial.
Delia, she said, pleased to meet you. Dignified, her right hand outstretched, she was the spitting image of Mother in the photo on Bournemouth pier
But Shauna didn’t shake Delia’s hand, she pulled Delia’s pink shoulders towards her and kissed each cheek, and as Delia’s eyes sliced through her like a butcher’s cleaver, my brother knew damn well he’d found a better version of Mother.
Biography: Kik Lodge writes short fiction in France. Her work has featured in The Moth, Tiny Molecules, The Cabinet of Heed, Milk Candy Review, Reflex Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, Splonk, Bending Genres, Janus Literary and Litro. Follow @KikLodge.