Estelle Hughes came into my life one Wednesday. It was the way she nibbled her sandwich. She laughed, commenting on the size of mine. We talked then and after, when we were in the Rialto café. I was between everything, depressed and, frankly unlikely to come up if I took another blow. How she told me she was a medium, I don’t remember. What I do recall was what she said next, ‘It’s your mother, Grace,’ I’m sure I hadn’t mentioned mum’s name, ‘she’s all about you.’
‘All about me? She’s been dead two years.’
‘You know she’s not gone, don’t you?’
Bullshit, of course. But insidious BS nonetheless. It wouldn’t make sense to anyone else – being haunted – it’s hardly likely to help your credibility. But it did to me. Mum never settled when dad died. Something about his death, the lack of a body, the way she gradually stayed indoors, then upstairs. And her final fall. Unexplained. Some wanted suicide but it was ambiguous, why she fell. No one was there, no evidence of foul play.
When I took Estelle home she became sombre. Introspective. Fascinated by dad’s study, running her hands along the walls. She suggested exorcizing mum… and dad. I thought her nuts. But I’d lost two stone already; I’d try anything. It was a blur, really, but I remember her holding these splinters to her forehead – titian wood, she said – and them drawing in this vapour while she moaned something awful.
Whatever she did, it worked. After she left, I slept for two days. When I woke, I knew they’d gone. The house felt like it had been aired, a smell I didn’t realise was there had been cleared.
I looked for Estelle, without luck. The café owners said she’d only ever come in on the days I was there. They knew nothing about her beyond she talked to me. They said she looked like me – they thought she was my sister.
That made me start. See, I have, had a twin sister, died in childbirth. Looking back, I’m not sure either of my parents really got over that loss either.
I wrote this from a prompt on the Flash Frenzy website, here