Creative Writing – 'Your Mother Never Did a Lot of Things'steemCreated with Sketch.

in creativewriting •  3 months ago

Today I am returning to the narrative around two characters named Derek and Emma that I have gradually been building up on Steemit. If you would like some more context around this post, you can read previous instalments of Derek's story using any of these links: Is That ... Your Man?I WillDo What You Need to DoThe Try. To learn more about Emma's story, go to You Promised You Would Be There at Eight or I Can't Relax.

Your Mother Never Did a Lot of Things

The kids have been sniping at each other ever since they got home and Derek is nearly at his wits’ end with them. At dinner time, Sophie asked him why he couldn’t have made the pasta a bit softer for her, while Luke had moaned over the fact that he didn’t put in enough celery, and declared ‘the beef looks like poo.’ Now he is trying to get through a pile of administrative work and he still can’t concentrate.

‘But … I want to be Wario.’ Luke’s voice drifts over to him from the living room.

I’m being Wario.’

‘That’s not fair, Sophie, I’ve been stuck as Luigi for five games in a row. He’s crap.’

‘You’re not losing ‘cause Luigi’s crap, Luke. It’s ‘cause you’re crap.’

‘I am NOT! You’re way crapper than me. You’re only winning ‘cause you keep on cheating.’

There is the sound of a brief scuffle.

‘Daaaaad! Sophie punched me!’

‘Yeah well, Luke kicked me and broke my arm and gave me a Chinese burn.’

‘I didn’t break your arm…’

‘Yeah, you did, it’s all floppy, see?’

Derek rises from his desk and strides towards the living room.

‘Right. That’s it. No more Wii. And Sophie – go and do your homework. Now!’

‘But Daaad…’

‘No buts. I’m fed up of this carry-on.’

They grumble and whine and stare at him as though he were the Antichrist.

‘Mammy never shouted at us like that…’ Luke mumbles, staring down at the floor. Derek shuts his eyes for a second, trying to ignore the stab of pain that has just ripped through him. ‘Your mother never did a lot of things,’ he says shortly. ‘Now get your school bags and do some work.’

‘What do you mean, Mammy never did a lot of things?’ Sophie demands. She folds her arms and glares at him, her chin jutting defiantly. Luke pauses in the midst of picking up his bag to stare at Derek, his eyes wide.

‘It’s…’ Derek searches for something suitably vague to say, but can think of nothing. ‘Never mind, Sophie. It doesn’t matter. I’m just a bit tired, I’m not making any sense at the moment. Forget about it.’

‘Dad? What did she not do?’ Sophie yells.

‘Nothing.’

‘But Dad…’

‘Go and do your homework!’

For a moment, his daughter stands there, glaring at him – tears begin to form in her eyes, much to Derek’s horror – before storming past him and running upstairs, where she slams her bedroom door behind her. The noise of it seems to make the entire house shake. Derek’s heart sinks. He shouldn’t have made that comment about Anne-Marie. He shouldn’t have confused them. He feels terrible for bringing his personal feelings about her into his relationship with his children. It was the one thing he vowed never to do: to turn them against her, or cause them any confusion in that regard.

‘I’m sorry, Lukey,’ he says softly. ‘I didn’t mean anything by it.’

‘’Kay,’ Luke responds, now chewing at his fingernails. Derek knows that this is a nervous habit of his. He feels like kicking himself right now.

‘Daddy?’

‘Yes?’

‘My Irish homework … please don’t be cross with me, but … I only got two out of ten words right in our quiz today. Ms. Donovan told me that I should tell you. I’m sorry, Dad.’

‘There’s no need to apologise, Lukey. And I’m sure Ms. Donovan isn’t cross either. She just wants to make sure you’re getting help.’

‘’Kay,’ Luke mutters disconsolately.

‘Tell you what Lukey, why don’t we do it together today? Let’s go to the kitchen, come on…’

In the kitchen, a flash of white catches Derek’s eye. It’s the card that Moira left for him when she was last here. The card for that Orla Fallon woman. Derek moved it from the kitchen table to the shelf on top of the bread bin, and it has remained there ever since, occasionally drawing his attention. The thought of calling Orla Fallon has crossed his mind, but after this incident, he definitely should.

‘Lukey? I’m just going to make a quick phone call, alright? I’ll be back in here in a minute. Just start getting your books out.’

‘’Kay.’ That same nervous stare at the floor. The fingers in his mouth again. Derek sighs. He will have to reassure his son when he comes back.

Back out in the hall, phone and card in hand, he nearly loses his nerve before dialling the counsellor’s number – but shakes himself and proceeds, nevertheless. He needs to do this. The kids are counting on him.

‘Hello?’

‘Hello. Is … is this Orla Fallon?’

‘Yes. How may I help you?’

‘Ms Fallon, hello.’ He clears his throat awkwardly. ‘My name is Derek Fitzmaurice and I’m calling about, eh …’ His voice is a little hoarse. He clears his throat again and wets his lips. ‘I’m calling to book an appointment with you. Whenever you next have one available, that is. My sister gave me your phone number…’

‘I understand. Well, would you like me to talk you through the consultation process?’

‘Yes. Please. Thanks.’

‘The first appointment is just a quick consultation. Payment can be arranged on a sliding scale, according to each client’s individual needs and means. I’m a strong believer that financial difficulty should never be a barrier to any of my clients accessing the assistance they may need. So if you need to discuss this with me –’

‘Payment won’t be a problem,’ Derek assures her quickly.

‘Okay. However, if you make the decision to start arranging regular appointments and it ever does become an issue, don’t hesitate to let me know. You need not commit to any future sessions after the first consultation: The purpose of our first session is to simply discuss any concerns you may have and to assess whether we can work together successfully in the future.’

‘I suppose I just want to know how to help my kids. My wife is gone, and I … I’m struggling a bit.’

‘I understand. Well, I have a slot available on Thursday the 12th of October at 3p.m. We can see how things go then. Does that suit you?’

‘Yes, I … I think so. That’s a couple of weeks away, isn’t it? It’s just – is there anything that could be done before then? Sorry. I don’t … I don’t want to come across as pushy, I just want to start getting a handle on things as soon as possible.’

‘That is understandable, of course. There is a support group for single parents meeting next week. A colleague of mine leads it – it may be helpful for you.’

‘Wednesday…’ Derek says slowly. ‘Alright. I’ll think about it.’

‘If you would like to know more, perhaps I could email you the details?’

‘Yes. Thank you.’

A minute later, he walks back into the kitchen to find Luke chewing ferociously on his fingernails.

‘Don’t do that, Lukey,’ he says wearily. His son’s face instantly drops. Derek forces himself to smile – he needs to make an effort to brighten up a bit. ‘Now. Let’s see about this Irish homework, hm?’

✮ ✮ ✮

Later that afternoon, he stands outside Sophie’s bedroom door feeling somewhat nervous. He carries a mug of hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream and colourful sprinkles. It is exactly the kind of drink that Sophie loves. She is only allowed to have it on weekend nights or very special occasions.

You know I try but I don’t do too well with apologies…

Those lyrics have blared from Sophie’s bedroom many times before. Derek recognises them well. Justin Bieber’s Sorry. An apt title, he thinks to himself, smiling ruefully at his peace offering.

‘Sophie?’

The music instantly stops. ‘Okay, fine,’ he hears her shout. ‘I turned it off. Happy?’

‘I didn’t come here to make you turn off your music, Soph.’

‘Fine, then my homework is finished. Alright? Now leave me alone!’

‘I’m not here to ask about that either, Soph. I made you some hot chocolate.’

Silence for a moment.

‘The type with the sprinkles,’ he adds cheerily.

‘Really?’

‘Really.’

Cautious footsteps approach. Sophie doesn’t open the door fully: she leaves it slightly ajar and stands there, peering suspiciously at him. Derek fleetingly remembers the suspicious face of that Price Watchers manager – the pressed blue suit, the guarded stance, the thick red hair – before brushing the image to one side and holding out his hot chocolate.

‘Well, Soph? Can I come in?’

‘I guess so,’ she harrumphs grudgingly, stepping back from the door. As always when he catches a glimpse of Sophie’s room – she rarely allows anyone into it – Derek finds himself taken aback by the sheer volume of glittery items. Her walls are bedecked with various boyband posters and fairy lights. He gingerly takes a seat on a squashy pink chair opposite Sophie’s bed, where Sophie has now perched herself, hot chocolate in hand and an air of slight belligerence still lingering in her eyes.

‘Sophie, listen. I’m very sorry about what I said. I never meant to upset you.’

‘Well, you did upset me.’

‘Oh, Soph –’

‘You hate her, don’t you?’

‘No, no, no, Sophie, of course not! Your mother and I … well, things weren’t easy. You know that. But of course I never hated her. I can’t hate her.’

Sophie stares into her lap. ‘Did she … did she go because of us? Me and Luke?’

‘Oh God, Soph, absolutely not. None of this is your fault. Please know that.’

‘Yeah, I know,’ she looks up again, and her eyes are filled with tears. ‘But even before … she was always so angry … you were always fighting…’

‘Well, we –’

‘She’s not coming back.’

‘Well…’

‘She’s not, Dad.’

Derek wishes there was something he could say to her. Some words of comfort or reassurance. She is old enough now not to be fooled by blithe words or promises that he cannot possibly keep. She begins to sob. All Derek can do is go to her side and gently hug her. It tears him apart to see her suffering like this.

‘I miss her so much,’ she wails.

‘I know you do, Soph,’ he says hoarsely. ‘I miss her too.’

He allows her to cry for as long as she needs to – until the tears have finally stopped raining down onto his chest, until she is no longer shaking. He doesn’t mind her doing this: in recent months, she has become too aloof, too independent – too much of a pre-adolescent, in other words – to display the slightest sign of needing him like this. After what seems like an eternity, she settles into silence, pushes herself away, and wipes her eyes.

‘Thanks for the hot chocolate.’

‘No problem.’

‘Soph, if you ever need me in future, know that I’ll always be here for you, okay? There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you.’

‘Yeah … thanks, Dad.’

‘How are things with Jessie White?’

‘Oh … fine.’

‘Didn’t you tell me that she was a bitch not so long ago?’

‘I thought that kind of language was banned, Dad,’ his daughter replies archly. ‘Anyway, everything is fine now. Rob Farrell is a loser and us women have to stick together. Sisterhood is important. Everyone knows that.’

‘I see. Well, I’m glad things are better.’ He rises from the bed and begins to walk out of the room, before remembering. ‘Did you actually do your homework, Soph?’

‘Um … some of it.’

Derek raises an eyebrow.

‘Okay, okay, I haven’t done it yet. But I will now, I swear.’

He shakes his head, somewhat amused, and extends his hand. ’Give me your phone. You can have it back when your homework is done.’

Sophie lets out a groan, but hands it over without too much protest. She is not as furious with him as she was before.

Image Source: Daily Record

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So amazing writing.

Hi aislingcronin,

This post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Have a great day :)

Visit curiesteem.com or join the Curie Discord community to learn more.

It's catchy! <3

The story is exactly what many parents are confronting with, nowadays. Many things to deal with after losing not only his soulmate but also the mother of their children. This applies in the cases when the parents divorce, too.

I see the biggest challenge is for Derek who needs to be both a mother and a father for his children. And I like that.

I also like the fact that it's very easy to be read, not an eccentric way of writing or too many characters making you lose the essence of the story.

English is not my native language but I understood the story really well, I even stopped to make some hot chocolate for myself too after Derek made one for her daughter, Sophie.

I'm curious to see how things will keep going and how the realationship between children and father will evolve.

Congratulations! :)

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Thank you so much, @gabrielatravels. You really seem to have understood the heart of this story so well, and I'm grateful for that. After writing about Derek and his situation for quite a while, I've gotten to "know" him and empathise with him, just as I do with real people who are in these circumstances... I look forward to writing the next instalment of his story.


This post was shared in the Curation Collective Discord community for curators, and upvoted and resteemed by the @c-squared community account after manual review.

Oh my heart aches for these children, and the Dad is just doing his best to help them, but sometimes our best only seems to traumatize more...

This was very real to me, your writing and the emotions. I haven't read the previous episodes, so I don't know what happened to the mom, but your writing really drew me into the emotions of growing up in this type of home, separated, angry, resentful.

Steem on! I love the chapter at a time type writing here ;)

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Hi @ecoinstant. I am so thankful that you understand the message I was attempting to convey. I do believe that with these types of family situations becoming more and more common these days, it is important to explore how parents cope, and how they try their best to make things as easy as possible for their kids - sometimes not doing as well as they would like.

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If you don't mind me asking, do you personally know of this type of experience? I do have memories of certain things when I thought one parent or another (I had 4) was a monster, and thinking back I can see that they were just working hard trying to do their best....

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Well, I haven't experienced the exact situation that Derek and his kids are in. My parents are still together and happy (they've had arguments from time to time over the years, of course, but nothing major) and I don't have kids myself, so when I write about the general theme of parenthood, or what it's like to be a parent, I really have to dig into the reserves of my imagination. It's a strange thing: even though I don't have kids, I don't find it difficult to tap into the emotions that might be associated with having them. Sometimes, when I reflect on why that is, I have a sense of moments and experiences that have nothing to do with my current life, but that seem to be linked with me nevertheless. They're just vague impressions of having been a mother or a father at some point in time: nothing clear enough for me to describe in great detail. Not everyone believes in the whole concept of reincarnation, of course - that's a whole other subject! Anyway, I believe that no matter what the truth behind that is, the most important thing we can ever focus on is the here and now.

To summarise: I think that regardless of whether it's all in my head, or whether I do have some subconscious memories of having been a parent, there is something in me that can deeply relate to the emotions associated with it: struggling to know what is best for your kids, doing the very best you can with that knowledge, and learning how to own up to your mistakes and improve the way you communicate with them. I'm glad my writing gives me an outlet for all that. 😊

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What a fantastic story! Thank you for sharing that all with me, I do tend to think that there is some connection with the 'universal spirit', whether it is a strict reincarnation of a discreet soul or a 'mixing' of energies, so to speak, or something else or in the middle, I (of course) cannot say, but connect we can do!

Parenting is a powerful part of life, and important, and its very interesting and very promising that you connect so strongly with it in your writing! May you help us all be better!

Now this family is a funny one.
The way Luke and Sophie play it, no one says am wrong, complaining on dinner, oh!

Kids can be a nonsense with only a dad. He can't handle them easily.

The story is a real life situation in many families.

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Luke and Sophie definitely are a little bit spoiled. It's a part of their charm ... or not, as the case may be!

This is really beautifully written- I was sucked straight into the story, and felt so much for these two kiddies, as well as their dad. It's quite an art to be able to write a piece that hooks a new reader right into the centre of a story like this (I haven't read the back-story posts yet) but you managed it fantastically.

Looking forward to reading more of your work- and massive congratulations on the Curie vote- so well deserved.
E x

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Thank you, @eveningart! It's a part of a wider narrative around Derek's character that I've been building up in my head for a while, and I think that is a key ingredient when telling any story: know your characters well, and that will come across to the reader. A pet peeve of mine is when I read a story with characters who seem undeveloped or one dimensional. Thank you again for your kind words. Oh yes, when Curie comes along and upvotes a post, I feel as though I've won the lottery! Haha

Love this story how it pulls you right into the characters lives, feeling their pain and witnessing their struggles , a struggle that is all to common in the modern families where divorce and single parenting is becoming the majority. Thanks for sharing!

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Thank you very much, @porters.

Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your creativity...

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Following and upvoting!

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Thank you very much, @stirling 😃