Momma always sings as she hangs the washing: praises for the sky stretching never-endingly above us; the sun warming our skin, sinking into our flesh, nourishing. I’m the eldest, so I get to help – solemnly passing pegs, basking in her melody.
The best task is bringing in the bedding. Sheets envelop me, clean and billowy, so that I feel I might disappear inside them like a ring inside a magician’s scarf.
The nicest are Momma’s rosebud sheets: white, with a sprinkling of tiny posies, as if dropped by a fairy. She loves those sheets too, and as soon as they’re dry, together we put them on the bed she shares with Daddy, carefully tucking in corners, stopping for sips of cold, sweet tea, and shooing my brothers away when they take it as an invitation to bounce.
Now and then she says, “Not this week, Honeybee,” as we take them down, and we fold them, putting them to bed in the linen basket. Resting them, I guess. Too special for every week. Instead we use the ‘spare sheets’ – rougher, bobbled, smudged with something faded. Then next Sheet Wash Day we bring out the rosebuds again.
Now, though, Momma isn’t singing, and she snatches a peg from me, making tears pinprick my eyes.
Last week, Momma sang. Loudly, ‘til I thought the clouds would swell, heavy with her joy, raining it back down on us so we could dance in her happiness. “No spare sheets?” I couldn’t remember when we’d used them last.
“No, Honeybee, we have months of rosebuds ahead!”
Now, though, as I lift my eyes to those little flowers, never blossoming, but always looking like they’re about to, I notice a stain: a brown-red bloom, and I understand. Momma is sad she’s spilled something on her precious sheets.
Katie Holloway is (among other things) a writer, mum, wife, employee and UEA Creative Writing graduate. She is fueled by strong tea and can’t help herself writing flash fiction over breakfast. You can find her stories (now or soon) in Reflex Press, Gastropoda, The Birdseed and Funny Pearls. She’s also on Twitter @KatieLHWrites.