The day of my birthday was a big one: I was fifty. My daughters and I would go shopping, our new baby too. Married Daughter with the baby strapped in her car, called for Laura and brought her to my house. A big bunch of flowers my girls gave to me. Laura sat in front of the car next to her sister. I sat in the back with my darling grandson for our customary birthday treat: a trip to the shopping centre. Laura chirped up, ‘I was locked in a cell when I was picked up for drink driving.’
Me: ‘I don’t want to hear this.’
Laura: ‘The policeman was flirting with me.’ Laura started laughing. We did not.
Married Daughter: ‘Laura! Mum doesn’t want to hear this. Shut up.’
We shopped in different department stores. We picked up this, we put back that. Married Daughter tried on a pair of shoes. Laura and I sat close to each other and waited. I could smell stale alcohol leak from her skin, a stink I was familiar with: The aroma of an alcoholic. I chastised Laura about her alcohol consumption, a lecture she again ignored. Married Daughter queued to pay for chosen shoes. Laura took her chance, she had me alone, ‘Mum, I’m in debt. I have no money.’
‘Why’re you telling me?’ She shrugged her shoulders, a sulk on her face. Another stone dropped in my stomach, sat on top of previous ones. We moved on through the open stores, to look at sunglasses set out in a glass case. Laura saw a pair she liked, a pair she could not live without. I bought them for her, to make her happy. To ease the sickness in my heart. It was my birthday and she had ruined it.