Leave Me Alone!
‘Mummy, why don’t you laugh anymore?’
The words still pulsated in my head. Of course I laugh! I had wanted to yell at her, You’ve heard me laugh. Give me something that’s actually funny and you’ll hear me laugh. But I hadn’t said that. Instead I’d shrugged my shoulders, made a face that I hoped would pass as a smile and picked another soapy plate out of the water, resisting the urge to smash it down on the draining board.
She’d hugged me then, her warm chubby arms wrapping around my waist in one of her ‘everything will be all right, mum,’ hugs. I’d wanted to shake her off. My body had tensed, the words had formed in my throat, but I’d just stood there. Waiting. Waiting for my five year old daughter to stop hugging me.
That had been a week ago, but still the memory hadn’t gone. It kept appearing, haunting me, replaying whenever it got the chance. Even now, in the supposed serenity of the beach, the words repeated. Louder and louder they grew with every step, each one refusing to be ignored. Even alone, surrounded only by the sea breeze and seagulls, the requests, the needs and the voices still nagged at me.
Leave me alone, I wanted to yell. Stop making such a fuss. Just go away and leave me alone! But of course, I didn’t. Instead I turned, grabbed the wire fence in front of me and stared out to sea, trying desperately to lose myself in its vastness.
‘Wonderful view, isn’t it?’ The words were unexpected. I hadn’t heard anyone approach and for a moment wondered how much time had passed.
I continued to stare out to sea. There was something happening along the distant blue horizon. I didn’t know what it was – perhaps a frolicking black whale, a long white, weathered fishing boat or maybe just waves crashing against an obscured reef. But whatever it was, one thing was certain, it held more interest for me than anything else that was happening here on shore.
‘Wonderful view, isn’t it?’
Again the words intruded. And this time the well-ingrained lessons on etiquette insisted on a response.
Murmuring something unintelligible, I inclined my head just far enough to get a quick glimpse of the woman. Petite, well-groomed, mature. Obviously she’s no wandering stray, I thought, as the now familiar burning red heat rose up inside me.
Moving forward, the intruder casually rested her forearms on the fence post next to me.
I’d met no one on the stroll up here from the carpark. In fact, I hadn’t seen anyone. Why did she have to choose to spoil it now? The strained voice inside my head screamed at her to leave me alone. It willed her to remember she should be somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else. A Country Women’s Association meeting, a whist drive, or a Cake Bake perhaps, absolutely anything that left me here – alone. But as she stood beside me, almost as well rooted to the ground as the fence posts, it seemed she was oblivious to everything I could mentally and emotionally throw at her.
The strong sea breeze in my face made my eyes sting. I snorted gruffly as the water welled in my eyes. The tears were her fault too! I’d been fine before she’d turned up. Gritting my teeth, I dug deep in my pocket for a hanky.
‘Oh, my dear, I am sorry,’ she said, resting her hand momentarily on my arm. ‘I should have realised that you wanted to be alone.’
I wanted to spit out some smart retort. But, as I tried to phrase my biting response, a wave of emotion flowed over me. I stopped and stared at her, my mind whirring. Surely that had been a note of concern in her voice? My eyes were transfixed on the woman’s face, but she stared out to sea seeming, once again, to be totally oblivious to my emotions. The stranger’s apology and her mere recognition of my feelings had caused a rip tide within me that I’d never expected. Instantly I found my attitude towards her changing. Maybe she’s just lonely, I thought fleetingly. Maybe she only wants someone, anyone, to talk to. My gaze was still on her as, taking a long breath of salty air, my companion straightened up and loosened her grip on the fence post.
This was the signal that only two minutes ago I’d been wishing and praying for. The sign that she had thought of somewhere else she’d rather be, someone else she’d rather be talking to. I should have felt happy, but from somewhere deep inside, from a place long forgotten, I felt something else.
‘You don’t have to go because of me,’ I said. ‘My thoughts weren’t that important.’ Hardly able to believe what I’d said, I struggled against the urge to turn around to see where the words had really come from.
‘Come now,’ the woman said, a softly curved smile on her face. ‘No thought is ever unimportant. Overlooked, ridiculous, mundane or just plain shocking, but never unimportant.’
Without expecting it my face returned her smile, even though mentally I didn’t want to. The stranger’s eyes lit up as she chuckled.
‘Now that’s better. I had an aunt who was always saying, looking at the world through sad eyes never made anything better.’
I looked over at this woman, her soft face brimming with love and peace. Her deep blue eyes mesmerised mine. My body seemed paralysed as I felt her feelings cascade over me. I wanted to fight against her control, to rebel against the emotions, but couldn’t. Instead I felt her warmth and serenity washing away at the layers of despising and loathing that I’d felt, not just towards her, but towards everything around me.
Eventually released, I turned giddily away. Staggering and grateful for the diversion, I let my glazed eyes rest on the expansive Indian Ocean that stretched out before us.
What had just happened? The tension that had contorted my body and mind for so long seemed to have all but withered and died. I still felt the pain and resentment that had ruled my mind, but the deep-rooted intensity that held it there had lessened. And with every second that passed I could feel it diminishing more, as if the tides that wash at the roots of a tree growing on a cliff were also washing at my ill-placed and disfiguring emotions.
The air will filled with the sounds of waves crashing against the cliffs, splashing with nature’s predictable rhythm. And I could hear nothing but its gentle pulse engulfing me as if it were my own. Thirstily I breathed in its serenity.
Suddenly my companion let go of the metal fence. The vibrating metal strands against my hands brought my out of my thoughts, reminding me that I was not alone.
‘Well, my dear,’ the woman said. ‘I’m off for a cup of tea. Would you care to join me?’
‘I… I…’ were the only words my confused mind would let me utter.
‘It’s all right, I’m only down at the caravan park.’ Her slender arm waved vaguely back in the direction from which I’d come. ‘I usually have a cuppa on the beach around this time day. Join me, I’m no threat, honestly.’
I looked at my watch, her words reminding me of my daily routine. I had another hour before the children needed collecting from school.
‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘I’d like that.’ Not surprised by the words leaving my mouth this time, but at the fact that I really was looking forward to spending more time with this woman who, up until a few moment ago, had held no more interest to me than a pebble on the beach.