Franny and june, p.1
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       Franny and June, p.1

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Franny and June
Franny and June

  Edgar Million

  Franny and June

  Copyright 2017 Edgar Million


  ‘Daughter (in Mum’s body): I'm old!

  Mum (in Daughter’s body): I beg your pardon!

  Daughter (in Mum’s body): Oh, I'm like the Cryptkeeper!’

  Freaky Friday


  I hate my Mum. Or I don’t, but, she is just so stupid and thoughtless. And I love my Mum, or I don't, but either way I wouldn’t say it anymore.

  There’s a taste on my lips when I speak to her now, a vague memory of telling her I loved her and meaning it so much that I couldn’t believe I could love anything more than that, not even Dad, but I was wrong.

  I was a small, stupid child with no idea how big the world was. I thought the monsters hid under the bed, I never knew they could wear a business suit and sing nursery rhymes. I didn't understand back then, but I do now.

  She’s just a mean old cow and I hate her.


  They are so small, so perfect, and so kind when they are little.

  So without side or malice.

  She would wrap her arms around my neck and seem to smell of fresh air, or flowers, and I would melt at being so unconditionally adored. We are the centre of their everything; omnipotent, funny, brave.

  Children at that age are filled with so much hope, so much possibility.

  Then, when they hit seven their brains begin to re-wire themselves; new selfish data overwriting the innocence and joy which you once knew, until they explode in a rage of hatred and ingratitude, until all you are left with is a monster, shaped out of stale sweat and crackling hormones.

  Sometimes, before I wake her now, or, before I try to wake her, preparing the battering ram to rouse her from near deathly slumber, I can still see her.

  My little girl.

  The dream born in my imagination when I was no more than a little girl myself.

  Do little boys dream of being dad's? Is that just a girl thing?


  When she’s asleep, there’s a glimpse of her, the dream, hiding in the darkness at the back of her red playhouse in the garden, giggling because she thinks I can't see her submerged in the ball pool. Back, when we lived in the big house on Watton Road, where I'd stand and watch her, awestruck.

  Our little girl.

  The miracle.

  We were on our third round of IVF and on the edge of just giving up all together.

  "What about adoption?" Jack had asked me.

  “What about never even having kids and staying young and free forever?” I should have responded, but I didn't.

  We were on the edge of taking a different path, childless and free.

  Would that have been so awful? Getting up whenever you want, eating out every night and living life just for you? For each other?

  But that was a different journey. The life lived by a shadow me.

  Then one day it was there: a drumbeat, growing louder in the dark pit of my stomach, a rapid, staccato sound which Jack never grew weary of listening to, the sandpaper spray of his stubble scraping the enormous mountain my stomach became.

  He made a recording of the tiny drumbeat on a dictaphone, pressed into me, into my stomach the drum, I suppose, as my beautiful flat tummy stretched into a shape from which it would never quite escape, streaked by silver and red scars which Jack said he loved, but which he kissed less and less, once the contents of the egg spilled from the shell.

  My once beautiful flat stomach became a map of the time she'd spent in there, and whilst she was she, my baby, so little, so beautiful, so kind; it was worth it.

  When I see her now, scowling at me, scornful and filled with hate, those lines of silver and red are barbed wired tied round my gut.


  She’s on at me to tidy my room.

  Honestly, what’s it even got to do with her? I know where things are.

  I have a system. It’s called remembering where things are and using my eyes. Not my fault if she’s more obsessed with being tidy than with being happy.

  I’ve noticed a thing.

  The tidier a woman’s house, because it’s always down to the woman right, even if it shouldn’t be; well, the tidier a woman’s house, the emptier her brain. It’s like the first thing they clear out is the books, because they don’t have time to read the books anymore, or maybe because those books, dusty little beasts, yellowing in the corner, are just even more dirt in the corners of their eyes.

  Not I. My house will be cluttered and glorious. A sedimentary tale of my imaginative life. The famous writers brain made corporeal.

  My bookshelves will be thirty feet high and when I have kids, a long, long time from now, I will not tell them to tidy their rooms.

  They will be little artists and creators, encouraged to dream.


  I keep seeing those things on Facebook.

  The timeline of a little girl which goes from love-mum to hate-mum then back to love-mum as the delightful woman realises how much she adores the soon-to-be-dead parent, just before spending the next twenty years posting mawkish rubbish about how much they miss the dearly departed.


  I didn’t cry when my Mum died last year.

  I haven’t cried since. My mother and I; we were Russia and America in their prime. We couldn’t have been further apart, couldn't have been more filled with contempt for each other, and although I didn’t welcome her passing, I didn’t much mourn it.

  It wasn’t right, I knew it.

  The sharp looks my chilly countenance garnered from my red-faced sibling was enough to tell me I should be weeping and wailing with the rest of them, but Am-Dram was never my thing. It wasn’t there.

  I didn't care for her; nor she for I. I don't recall this ever being different.

  Was there a time, I wonder, when she watched me and knew I was her universe, her everything? Did I disappoint her the same way…

  … I shouldn’t say that. Shouldn’t think it. One Franny will come back to me and we will, reconnect.

  Won’t she?


  They say the kids always blame themselves for the divorce, but I’m a little more, sophisticated.

  If I can’t bear to be around It, the Mum Monster, why would he? The craggy faced old hag. Doesn’t matter how much cream she cakes onto her tight skinned face, the skin will be no less jagged and carved. Statuesque is meant to be a compliment right? But she’s just hard.

  I can’t believe I ever looked at her and saw anything other than cruelty staring out of those eyes. I can’t remember ever seeing her…


  ...sometimes, I think I do remember.

  There's this memory I have.

  I am flying.

  In this vision her eyes are wider and more open than seems possible. Her hands enormous and they contain me. I recall clinging onto her long fingers, which seemed so warm, not so hard as now, as she spins me in circles and whizzes me round through the air until we collapse, giggling on the floor, the sweet scent of some perfume cocooning me.

  When she touches me now, shaking me from slumber, (which I don’t even understand - just leave me alone - I’ll wake up when I’m ready - go and dust something already), it is like I am being prodded with sticks, scraped with claws.

  But I wonder.

  Did that vision really happen?

  Maybe I misremember.

  Maybe Dad did it. Maybe it was him who taught me to fly.


  I can’t believe I am fifty.

  Or nearly fifty.

  My idiot baby sister, who keeps digging at me with jibes about how she’s not fifty for another four yea
rs, keeps insisting we have a big party to celebrate the day. Although I’ve relented to the request, I can’t help thinking a wake might be more appropriate. And not one of those fun Irish ones where everyone gets drunk and remembers days they would like to relive. This wake should be a sullen, silent affair, mourning the girl who should have been everything but who is now just, what? A fat old cow, waiting for the butcher’s hook.

  Not that I’m fat, but I feel fat, like I’m waiting to be fat, bloated and enormous, even on the Stairmaster at the gym, climbing a million imaginary stairs, I still feel like I’m growing into her. Into the meaty template of Mommy Dearest.

  But there won’t be a wake.

  Instead there are going to be balloons and a caterer, presiding over a buffet of Mexican delicacies which will be nowhere as nice as the chicken drumsticks, sausage rolls and pineapple with cheese on a cocktail stick which we used to enjoy at the parties of my youth.

  To add insult to injury I’m paying for the bloody thing. Along with fancy dressed Mexicans wearing traditional Mexican dress, which for some reason doesn’t even include sombre rose because they are inauthentic.

  I told my sister, “I don’t care if it’s inauthentic, why can’t they wear the bloody hats?” but she pursed her lips and called me a racist.

  “Do you want to get some people to come in, in golliwog costumes,” she asked, her already razor thin lips almost invisible as she purses them, “blackface it so de rigueur this season. Or,” and here she puts a borderline Irish accent, “some drunk Irishmen in lovely green leprechaun suits? How about some Romanians dressed as pickpockets? Maybe we could hide some refugees in the boot of a car?”

  I thought her Irish accent sounded a bit racist, but I didn’t say anything. I just thought the hats might be fun. Though I’ve no idea how an Romanian pick-pocket would even dress. The same as any other pickpocket, you’d think. Who knows?

  Franny took her side, of course, wrinkling her nose and acting as though I’d just called black people coloured, defending me in her way, by pretending to defend me, saying sometimes old people use the wrong words, calling upon the inappropriate vocalisations of their youth, so it wasn’t really my fault.

  Well, sod her, although I’m honestly not even certain I’m meant to use the phrase black people anymore, so maybe she has a bit of a point.


  It really wasn’t her fault.

  Auntie Jacqui’s a bit over the top sometimes and I didn’t really mean to call her old; she’s not even that old really, but I was trying to make a joke, carve a smile from the stone, but I don’t think there are smiles in there anymore. Everything we, everything I, do is wrong.

  Lucy and Harper, my best friend's Mum’s, they’re not like her, not like us, I mean. They laugh and they hug and they kiss. Harper’s mum Debbie calls her, her ‘Bestie’ which makes me want to vomit, but at the same time makes me long for what they have. I’m jealous and disgusted at the same time.

  Debbie tries to pull the same trick with Jonas, Harper’s big brother, but he just shakes her off, far too rock star for that sort of thing, but still she tries.

  I can’t imagine hugging my mum now. I may as well try to hug Christ the Redeemer, that big statue in Brazil, although no, that’s wrong; Christ the Redeemer looks like he’s offering hugs. She’s more like hugging one of those monster statues from Doctor Who, the fang toothed angels looking to steal your life if they touch you.

  Jacqui gave me fifty pounds to buy Mum a present and a card, but I’ve literally no idea what to get her. A new mop? Some dusters? Firstly, I bought her a card which featured fun facts from the year she was born. It turns out she was born in the year of the Goat, surprise, surprise, the same year something called a moog was invented and Lenny Kravitz was born.

  Lenny Kravitz was on that thing with Katy Perry last year, with the sharks and the, stuff, but he’s looking a damn sight better than Mommy Dearest. Healthy living maybe.

  Aunty Jacs always says Mum drinks too much vodka.


  I tried my dress on today. For the party.

  If I am going to be forced to do this thing, then I plan to look magnificent. Hand embroidered by half blind Bangladeshi orphans, probably. Made to measure, and paid for, if only he knew it, by my child’s wastrel, but much adored (by her – not me) father. The cut is dramatic, deadly and so entirely me.

  It’s so much more difficult to look good than it used to be. Once was the time I could have worn a clapperboard and been the belle of the ball, the fairest of them all, but now, drained of life as I am, now it’s like trying to decorate month old Christmas tree.

  No matter what I do it makes no odds. Past my best, drained of who I once was; but if I am drained, then we all know who drained me.

  Motherhood, is a vampiric experience, with everything which was once special about you siphoned out into them. Until they own your face, your body, until you are left at home, the cruel painting discarded in the attic.

  Cast your eyes away from the horror.

  Don't look.

  This dress is me though. I don’t care what anyone says.

  The dress is a chariot, and like Boudicca I shall slay all in my path.


  Mum’s going to the party dressed like a witch at a funeral. She stood in the entrance to her en-suite bathroom (installed with Dad’s money), almost blending in with the perylene black tiles behind her. The dress was covered with these minute ebony beads, looking like tiny pupils and probably sewn on by half blind, claw fingered children in Bangladesh.

  We tried to talk her out of it. It was just too much. We tried to get her to think of wearing something prettier, or warmer, tonally warmer I mean, not a sweater or something, but I don’t know why I bother.

  The dress is the physical embodiment of how much she hates us all. Why would she listen to us?

  Jacqui muttered something about the Mexican Day of the Dead, but Mum doesn’t care what we think.

  We were in the canteen today and when I told Harper about it, she regaled me with tales of how she and her Mum spend hours helping each other choose their clothes and brush each other’s hair. The only conversations Mum and I have about clothes end with her shouting at me for leaving them on my floor: don’t I know how much work it is to do all this washing, followed by screaming and crying. It’s all very dramatic, but she makes such a big fuss about little things. It’s my room after all, my clothes, my things and my life.

  I’m going to the party full Rock Chick. Faded denim jacket and cute little white dress. Gorgeous. For a moment, I wonder if Jonas will like it, but then I chase the thought away.


  "Maybe this bus won't stop," she thinks, "and I'll stay on it until I'm old enough to go into pubs on my own.

  Or it could drive me to a town where people with black hair drink

  Special Brew and I can make lots of money by charging fat old men five pounds a time to look up my skirt.”

  Pulp. Inside Susan.


  I don’t know half of these people.

  Jac’s has invited all these faces off Facebook, but I have little idea who most of them are or even were. Or I do, vaguely, but most of whom I haven’t physically spoken to for thirty or even forty years.

  Martin Harrison is clinging to me with sweat covered hands so wet I might be trying to rescue him from drowning, but he's all flirtatious and chatty, for some reason finding a place in his head where it is acceptable to describe me as ‘handsome’.

  As in, you’re still such a handsome woman, June. I gazed at his yellowish bloated face, rings of psoriasis just visible beneath his grey cuffs and collar, then tried to make out the beautiful blond boy who’d once made me stammer and stumble, physically stumble, at how gorgeous he was.

  We’re all getting so old now.

  Franny’s little boyfriend, or not her boyfriend she always snaps at me, is sitting next to her with her fatuous friends looking almost edible, if young me
n were your thing, I mean, and I wonder if one day he too will be red and flabby with teeth like tombstones.

  Compared to Martin, I reckon I’m not doing half bad, but as I peer down at him, thinking ‘I can do better than you darling,’ I suddenly feel uncertain if this is still true. Maybe, the Martin’s of the world are all I have left; will I never again find myself in the arms of a beautiful man? It’s been a while, but I always harboured the expectation I would find someone again.

  There’s a dreadful cliché that men get better looking as they age, maturing like fine wines, whereas woman grow grey, gaunt and fade. My ex reckoned this was because as men get older they become more male, more jagged and masculine, then he’d say with a wink, “unfortunately so do most women.”


  He'd tell you he was joking, but was he right though? The new model he traded me in for certainly has some way before their brand new little vampires drain the life out of her.

  Why did this little fat man think it was okay to call me handsome?

  Did he think we were equals?


  Were we equals?


  She did look stunning in the dress. Almost armoured. Predatory. Lips a blood red slash across her angular face.

  Harper reckoned she looked like the Wicked Witch in Snow White. Jonas said all she needed was a crown and an apple, but said he meant it in a good way. Then he said something about Milfs, so me and Harper made a vomit-in-a-bucket gesture with our fingers, then Jonas started going on about how he always thought the wicked witch was hotter than Snow White anyway.

  Then kicked I him and said, “ew, that’s disgusting, that’s my mum.”

  But I knew where he was coming from.

  She did look stunning in the dress.

  There’s a medium sized pile of presents on the table next to all this Mexican food covered in clingfilm with loads of banners with Happy Fiftieth scrawled across them in Idiot Sans and most of the men are wearing sombreros.

  Mum pointed at them and said to me and Jacs, “see, are they are racist too?”

  Jacqui peered across the room at them over a glass of prosecco, considering, before responding.

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