Vivette (extract), by Andree

A hundred other mornings echoed, as my feet touched the kitchen floor. Moving from memory, I dumped cigarette ashes and washed empty wine bottles. The mess was easy to clean; it was the remnants of shallow conversations from fleeting relations that wouldn’t wash off. I opened the balcony doors for fresh air and fed the neighbor’s cat a small bowl of milk.

“Vivette, make coffee,” she grumbled from her bedroom.

I listened to them laughing. Little was missed through the thin walls of our small apartment. Moments later my mother staggered in wearing only a slip. “Pour me some of that” she said as she sat down at the table. It was hard not to admire the symmetry of her bold features. Her full lips came naturally in a deep red most women had to pay for. Her large brown eyes stared somewhere in the distance, as she ran her hand through her short thick auburn hair, it fell framing her face, as if it knew its job. Despite her beauty, it was bitterness that defined her. Life’s disappointments had left her hard. I regarded her disapprovingly, but like the wall that kept her detached, I was invisible. The toilet flushed.

“You’re up early.” I wasn’t used to seeing her on a Saturday morning.

She motioned her head towards the bathroom, “He has to work today,” she said lighting a cigarette. I didn’t want to know his name or what he did for a living; relationships were like jobs to my mother, frequent and self-defeating.

The smell of sour milk arrived before he did. “How about some of that coffee?” He seemed to think I was the regular waitress at the local café. I tried not to notice him sitting there immodestly in a worn t-shirt and pants he hadn’t bothered to fasten. The hairs from his armpits blended with the ones on his shoulders and chest. Like the primitives we’d been studying in biology, he hadn’t evolved far from his ancestors. He lit a cigarette with one hand and slid the other between my mother’s thighs.

“You have errands to do, no?” It wasn’t a question.
“I need some money.”

My mother looked at the man. “Give her money.”

“Why the hell do I have to give her …?” The look on my mother’s face was enough to stop Cro-Magnon from questioning any further.

I turned my head towards the windows, as if the warm rays offered an escape. I could hear my grandmother’s voice, “smile to the sun if your spirt ever needs lifting, of all the darkness we create, the sun never stops shining.”

“Yah all right, here.” He said throwing some money on the table “Bring back the change …”

“And don’t forget my pills,” she added.

As I left the apartment, she was leading him back to her bedroom.

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