‘My mother’s coming,’ said Yvonne. ‘Be careful what you say. She’s very perceptive.’
Mrs Morelli walked in. ‘Hello Ben,’ she said. She lit a cigarette with the large flip-top lighter on the mantelpiece. She clamped the cigarette in her mouth, looked in the mirror, and fixed her hair. Ben watched her discreetly without turning his head. When she was finished, she took the cigarette from her lips, said, ‘There,’ and smiled at him in the mirror, so that he almost jumped.
She sat on the arm of the sofa and crossed her legs. ‘Tell me about school today,’ she said. He’d been expecting a question. She was sitting very close – her lemon perfume was sharp and he heard the tobacco burn as she dragged on the cigarette. It all had a rather disarming effect. He looked over at Yvonne. She’d folded her arms and was frowning at the television. The program was jarring and noisy, and he had no idea what it was about.
He turned back. Mrs Morelli was staring at him. She smiled. Her eyes were dark and loaded with makeup. ‘Well, perhaps it wasn’t a very stimulating day,’ she said. She placed a cool dry hand onto his knee. ‘I must get back to my baking,’ she said. ‘I’m making a sponge cake. It’s surprisingly difficult to make a good one.’
She squeezed his leg and left the room.
‘You idiot,’ said Yvonne.
© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2013.
2 thoughts on “Mrs Morelli”
Hi Barry, Firstly — sorry this has picked up your formatting, which I can’t change. Secondly I’m replying to email rather than the blog as I don’t like to say anything in public that could seem ‘critical’ — which in one sense is crazy — what are blogs for? It’s a wonderful picture of Mrs Morelli — I can see her very clearly, her lips clamped down on the cigarette. I love the word disarming — but do you need to use it? From your descriptions (and perhaps more) we know how disarming it is for Ben. Great to see you doing all this writing. I was in Foyles today and thought of you — of course, it’s not the Foyles you worked in, i presume — i was in Foyles on Southbank just near Royal Festival Hall. seeya, Jenny
Hi Jenny, Thanks for reading the blog whiie you’re away.
I’m not sure what you mean about formatting or email – your comment’s appeared on the blog. I don’t mind! Comment away. I’m happy to get your feedback, whether it’s good, bad, indifferent, or anything else.
I love the word ‘disarming’ too. I wanted to be very clear that Ben is trying, and failing, to hide something, and that Mrs M’s suspicions are being confirmed. So ‘disarming’ is an ambiguity reducer. It’s a delicate balance, though, isn’t it? Like seasoning a sauce.
Did you buy anything in Foyles?