Title: The Memory
Author: Judith Barrow
Genre: Family Life Fiction/ Family Saga
Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.
I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.
Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother's side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.
Rose was Irene's little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.
"...A book that is both powerful and moving, exquisitely penetrating. I am drawn in, empathising so intensely with Irene that I feel every twinge of her frustration, resentment, utter weariness and abiding love." Thorne Moore "Judith Barrow's greatest strength is her understanding of her characters and the times in which they live; The Memory is a poignant tale of love and hate in which you will feel every emotion experienced by Irene." Terry Tyler
The new novel from the bestselling author of the Howarth family saga.
Chapter Fifty-One 2001: The Day: 11.00 a.m.
Holding her around her waist, we shuffle into the shower. I aim for the plastic chair in the middle of the tray to plonk her in it. She slips through my arms like a huge, pink lump of soap. Trying to stop her falling I find myself face down in her naked lap. The thought flashes through my mind that Mum and me have never been this close in all my life and the bubbles up until it explode in a great hysterical hoot of mirth. I extricate myself from the mounds of flesh that’s her stomach and look up at her. She looks down at me, startled. The shock that stretches her mouth open is replaced by a softening of her features and her lips puff out with a sudden titter. I sit back, legs sprawled out on either side of the chair. She clings onto the arms of it, still giggling. We stare at one another. I have the sudden image of how we must look; two plump women, both blinking against the water pouring down on us, both pink in the heat, both with flattened wet hair, both laughing. Ridiculous. I’m laughing and I can’t stop.
Nanna’s room smelled of lavender. I tried to ward off what I thought of as the stench of illness by using the soap and talcum powder she’d always been fond of.
I gazed at her dressing table where the only photograph of Rose and me was propped up against the mirror.
I sat down in the chair next to her bed. ‘You awake, Nanna?’
She slowly opened her eyes. ‘Hello, love.’
‘Do you feel like a wash?’ I lifted the bowl.
‘Eee, I do that,’ she whispered. ‘And a comb of my hair, I feel like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards.’
Her skin was loose folds over her bones. Seeing the wasted muscles made me want to cry.
Although small she’d been a strong woman in the past. Even though I tried to be as gentle as I could, she still winced as I smoothed the soapy flannel over her.
When I’d finished I changed the top sheet for a clean one, and folded the duvet over so it covered her feet. However warm she got they were always freezing to touch. I sat forward in the chair resting her thin fingers in mine. I thought she’d gone to sleep but, when Mum started to bang around, Nanna’s eyelids flickered and opened. ‘Stop with me a bit Irene; I want to talk to you.’
The air crackled inside her chest and was puffed out in short bursts.
‘Let the tablets do their work, Nanna. Wait until you’ve had another sleep.’
‘No. It won’t wait.’ Her fingers plucked at the top sheet. ‘I wrote it down… I put it in—'
‘It’ll wait, love.’ I covered her fingers with mine. ‘Hush, now.’
‘I need to—’
‘You need to rest,’ I said, firmly. I stood up and pulled the sheet higher under her chin. ‘Have a little nap and I’ll come back in half an hour.’
‘Irene…’ But her voice faltered.
‘Rest,’ I said. ‘I promise I’ll be back soon.’
Chapter Fifty-Two 2001: The Day: 11.00 a.m.
She holds out her hand to me. Unable to believe that she understands I need help, I grab hold of it and scrabble to get leverage on the slippery floor, twisting to get onto my knees. I stay like that for a moment, my backside up in the air, still tittering. I hear her grunt above the splash of the water. The next thing I feel is the slap on my bum. It stings but I carry on sniggering as I grip the legs of the chair and try to straighten up. The chair slides and I collapse again.
She shouts, ‘Whoops!’
I echo her. ‘Whoops!’
We’re watching one another, cackling uncontrollably while I reach out through the shower curtain and feel for the mat on the bathroom floor. When I find it I drag it in with us and shuffle onto it. With the rough material under me I manage to stand, holding on to the arms of the chair, my breath coming in short spluttering gasps.
She’s still laughing, her eyes never leaving my face.
‘Right, Mother, ‘I say, ‘Let’s get on with what we’re here for.’ I run my hand across my heads, flattening my hair and do the same for her. The hysteria still bubbles up in silly cackles and she copies me. Knees against hers for balance; I take the old soft loofah off the corner shelf and rub soap on it.
The laughter dies in her eyes.
From the yells you’d think I was scraping her skin off with a scouring pad.
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Although I was born and brought up in a small village on the edge of the Pennine moors in Yorkshire, England. for the last forty years I’ve lived with my husband and family near the coast in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK, a gloriously beautiful place. I’ve written all my life and have had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. I had the first of my trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, published in 2010, the sequel, Changing Patterns, in 2013 and the last, Living in the Shadows in 2015. The prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads was published in 2017. The Memory was published in March 2020. My next book, The Heart Stone is due to be published in February 2021. I have an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing. I work as an interviewer of authors for an online TV company; Showboat tv. I am also a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council’s Lifelong Learning Programme and give talks and run private workshops on all genres.
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