The Sister

Josie was on her knees scrubbing the toilet floor when the doorbell rang. She pulled off her rubber gloves as she walked along the hallway wondering who it might be. Through the opaque glass, she made out the shape of two people, one upright and slender, the other smaller. Outside on the step stood her mother supported by a young turbaned taxi driver.

‘Here you are Madam, I will bring your bag.’ He smiled kindly and turned back to his car.

‘Mum, what are you doing here?’

Tania frowned, anxiety creeping in at the corners of her eyes.

‘I’ve come to stay?’

‘Okay, Mum, let’s get you inside.’ Taking her Mothers elbow, Josie guided her to a chair in the lounge.

The taxi driver was back with a huge suitcase. He hefted it over the lintel and deposited on the tiled floor.

‘That will be $238.50.’

‘Oh right, yes, hang on…’ her mind whirling, she turned to the hall table and rummaged in her handbag. Speaking quietly Josie asked, ‘Do you take credit cards? I’m afraid I wasn’t expecting this, so I haven’t any cash.’

‘Yes, Madam I do.’ Anxiety clouded his gentle brown eyes. ‘The lady at the other end said you would pay.’ His shoulders lifted and he looked away.

‘Did she say anything else?’

‘ Just to make sure I helped the lady, your mother, into the house.’

‘Well thank you.’ Josie handed over her credit card and waited for the receipt.

As she shut the door, her mind was a vortex of questions.

What’s with sending Mum in a taxi and without letting me know? Where is she? What if I hadn’t been here? What the hell is going on?

The sound of Tania crying softly in the lounge brought Josie back to the present. For the moment, questions could wait. Kneeling in front of Tania, she put her arms around her and stroked her back. The boniness of her mother’s frame was a shock.

‘It’s alright Mum.’

‘I don’t want to be a nuisance.’

‘You’re not a nuisance, its lovely to see you,’ she held Tania until the tears stopped. ‘Shall we make a cup of tea?’

‘Michelle said I was coming for a holiday.’

Michelle, Josie’s sister, had moved in with their mother after their father died the year before. Josie offered to have Tania, but she had a husband, and four teenage boys and Michelle rightly pointed out that she could provide the care Tania needed. She was single and worked behind the bar of the local RSL club. It seemed like the ideal solution. Michelle had given up her rented flat and moved home.

Tania got to her feet.

‘It’ll be lovely. The boys will be thrilled, a nice surprise when they come in from school. Do you want to come through in the kitchen while I boil the kettle or would you rather stay here?’

‘I need to go to the toilet.’

‘Come on then, up you come,’ she held out her hands to her mother.

While Tania was in the bathroom, Josie tried Michelle’s mobile.

The number you have dialled has been disconnected.

Then she tried the home phone.

The number you have dialled has been disconnected.

Several days would pass before they understood. Josie found the note when she emptied the suitcase into a hastily cleared wardrobe in her youngest son’s room. Steve, Josie’s husband, took a day off work and drove to Bridgetown. There he found the family home now belonged to a new family. Finally, they would discover that the proceeds of the sale had not been put into Tania’s bank account, that in fact, the account was empty. The note resting on top of Tania’s clothes had simply said,

‘Your turn.’

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