Danielle Merchant heard her heavy metal knocker reverberate on the front door as it slammed shut. This was shortly followed by the familiar jingle of her mothers set of keys hitting the glass 'key' bowl and the dull thud as her bag hit the restored original floor of the long narrow hallway.
"Hi Mum." She called from her horizontal position on the couch. She heard the quizzical pitter patter of her mothers feet approach the living room door and felt the cool air of the hall drift into her cosy duvet haven on the sofa, as the heavy pine door was tentatively pushed open.
"Hello?" replied a puzzled voice "I wasn't expecting you to be in darling, are you o.k?" Danielle felt immediately better at the genuine note of concern in her mothers voice. It didn't matter that she was in her late twenties now, if she felt under the weather just knowing her mother was near helped. Danielle mustered the energy to push herself into a sitting position to see the familiar grey bobbed hair poking through the crack between the door and the frame.
"Just feel really rubbish." she sighed "I've felt like it for a couple of days." She lowered herself back down as her mother came into the room and sat on the end of the stylish beige three-seater sofa. "I went to work Monday and Tuesday but just couldn't stand the thought of feeling like this at my desk all day again. I don't know what it is, feel a bit like I have the worst hangover of my life without the pleasure of having the night out."
"Oh dear. You don't think it is food poisoning again do you?" Her mother looked concerned. Danielle had only suffered a severe dose recently. Her mother put it down to one of the many 'fancy' restaurants she frequented with her job. Her mother was unsure, if in the years that her daughter had lived at the house, the kitchen had ever been used at all. It was an area of beauty she had to admit. It was a kitchen that even the top interior designers would drool over. Everything was white gloss and chrome. Every conceivable gadget resided on the marble worktops. When it had been installed her mother thought that she might need a whole day just to clean the finger prints off of everything once a week. But it certainly never really needed cleaning. Other than the crumbs around the toaster. Of course, it had cost a small fortune - like most things in the house.
When her mother had joked about it never being used Marc had scoffed "We want it kept stunning, not covered in Danielles useless attempts at home-making!" and laughed heartily at his own humour. Danielle had laughed too and mimed using a fire extinguisher on the oven. Although Marc sometimes wasn't always to her mothers taste, she had to admit the couple did seem on the same wavelength and that was all that mattered.
Danielle shook her head confidently "Oh god no, certainly it isn't that again." She shuddered at the mere memory of the two day hospital stay she had been forced to endure. Danielle had a huge fear of hospitals, even private ones. The plush rooms did not mask the fact that medical procedures would take place.
"Has Marc had anything?" Her mother asked spying the crushed articles that usually resembled cushions on the adjacent two-seater sofa. Marc's trademark. If it infuriated her mother as much as it did her, she didn't let it show. Her mother flapped and pounded the squares back into shape as Danielle answered.
"No. He doesn't really ever get sick does he. Mind you, he is back in the States for three weeks on Friday so if he does he will be furious." Marc was a much sought after Architect and spent at least half the year dealing with Clients across the Atlantic. The other half he spent putting in 16 hours days at his London base. Even Saturdays were generally spent in the home office. Her friends all commented that they didn't know how they managed it, but for Danielle it had allowed her to be able to throw herself whole-heartedly into her high profile PA role. She had spent years laying the groundwork to make herself indispensable and achieved it. Once the head-hunting had started she had been in a position to command a salary increase that she had only ever dreamt about.
The job required a ridiculous amount of hours but she thrived on it. She was pleased to have met a man that was fully accepting of her work ethic rather than threatened. So many of her previous boyfriends had been unable to understand her committment to her job. But it was different with Marc. They loved each other, but they also loved their careers and the affluent lifestyle if afforded them. She felt content that they both had clear ideas about the life they wanted together. Unlike many of her friends who flew into romances with the unrealistic notion of it all being about love and lust whom, she was sure, would come to a cross roads that they would struggle with.
Her mother came to 19 Camomile Crescent, twice a week during the day when she was normally at work. Once to do the ironing and once to do the cleaning. Danielle had insisted that she didn't have to give up her time to do it, that they could hire someone, but her mother was insistent claiming it would be a complete waste of money when she had plenty of time on her hands. Marc said it was because Danielle was an only child. That she liked to continue to spoil her in anyway she could. Danielle liked this idea. She also knew that since her father had retired early her mother liked having reasons to get out of the house.
"This had better pass by Friday anyway." Danielle stated brushing her auburn fringe back off of her face "I've got to go Milan with Juliette." Juliette was her boss and it was sheer good luck that she was forced to be at a close family members funeral in Ireland today or she wouldn't have been afforded the luxury of laying on the sofa feeling like she had been on a bender with a rugby team - she would have been feeling it whilst being at the beck and call of the company MD. She had only just recovered her reputation and curbed the digs from her colleagues about being a 'sick-note' from the two day hospital stay. She should not have returned to work on her release from hospital, she was signed off for a further week, but Danielle knew there would be no job to return too.
Employment legislation did not fit in with the reality of her role. She had not even called in sick today. She had diarised that she was researching venues for the next Client Retreat. Juliette wanted 'Country Chic'. Danielle calculated that with Juliette forcibly occupied with the funeral she could claim 'no mobile signal' for the majority of day to the rest of her colleagues on this basis.
"You can't help being unwell darling." Her mother offered once again. She had said the same thing at hospital. She was proud of her daughter but worried about the demanding schedule she always seemed to be trying to keep up with. She understood that she was from a different generation but was concerned that both Danielle and Marc's unwavering determination within their career paths would mean they would come to a point, too late in their lives, to realise that there was more to life than work.
She had only asked about children once, Marc had baulked "That's not for us." Danielle had laughed "Having children makes you unstable - look at all the crazy people buying up the houses in this street at extortionate prices just to get their kids into that school!" Marc agreed "That's right. We want to work hard now so we can enjoy the pleasures in life," he paused and looked at Danielle taking her hand "and each other, further down the line." Her mother had smiled at the gesture of affection but refrained from saying that children were a pleasure of life.
"No, I can't help being unwell, but I do just have to get on with it." Danielle exhaled deeply. "It's just frustrating that I don't seem to be feeling any better. My job is exhausting enough when I am able to do it feeling completely on the ball. I could do without having the added burden of having to 'act' like I am feeling great when I'm not."
Her mother looked at her sympathetically "Maybe it's just your bodies way of telling you to slow down and catch up on some sleep?" Danielle looked like her little girl again lying, hair unbrushed and without her usual immaculate make up.
"Maybe. Better make the most of it anyway and work on my mind over matter techniques in case I still feel like it tomorrow." She pulled the duvet up to her chin, allowing herself some self indulgent pity.
"I'll make us a cup of coffee shall I?" Her mother asked picking up dirty glasses from the coffee table and heading to the door.
"Ugh no thank you. I don't think I can face anything." Danielle replied burying her head in the pillow "I think I am just going to try and sleep it off." With her general lack of enthusiasm for any type of medicine, even as a child Danielle had always maintained that she could get through most illnesses by sleeping.
"Well if you need anything just give me a shout. I'm going to start with cleaning the upstairs bathroom." She moved to the door "Do the bins need emptying?"
"Ah yes, sorry." Danielle squinted apologetically. She didn't mind her mother cleaning but she didn't think that she should have to literally pick up after them. Marc didn't seem to have the same thought process, but then again, Danielle was unsure if any man did when it came to tidying up after themselves.
"No problem." Her mother said waving her hand dismissively to Danielle's guilt "I'll take some bags up that's all."
"Thanks mum." Danielle mustered and flopped back onto the pillow. She really couldn't seem to do anything to alleviate the drained, motion sickness feeling that was pulsing throughout her body. She literally felt as if she had been out on a choppy sea for a month. Maybe her mother was right and she needed some time to chill out and relax. She would mention the idea of a holiday to Marc before he left for the States so they could try and match up some potential dates. Although, Lord knows, that was never easy. The most either of them could ever offer was a long weekend. Despite this she smiled as she recalled their last break. Although they may not have been able to get away as much as they might like due to their jobs, it was that very thing that allowed them to holiday in true luxury. Yes, she decided, it was time to speak to her travel guru and get something amazing booked up.
Her mother gently closed the door on her daughter and made her way to the utility room to gather the cleaning box. It was always exactly as she had left it. When she was running low on something she wrote what she needed on the expensive board on the wall and Danielle added it to the weekly Internet order. Her mother struggled with the fact that despite them being out of the house so much, they ordered the same things week by week, which she invariably ended up either taking home to use or throwing away. She collected the new bathroom cleaner, rubber gloves and cloths out of the cupboard and made her way up the stairs. The one room in the house that was always used and in need of attention was the bathroom. As it was usually the biggest job she liked to start with it first.
Her daughter and Marc had made the fourth, smaller, bedroom into a magnificent, decedent bathroom. With multiple upright towel rails, sunken double 'his and hers' sinks in an amazing vanity unit, a wall length shower cubicle with rain forest head and a huge freestanding bath. Not a single personal affect needed to be on display, there was a place for everything. That was how it looked after her mother had finished with it. A show bathroom. However, that was not the case now.
Damp towels were strewn haphazardly over the side of the bath and shower door. An array of lid-less bottles adorned most surfaces. She could tell Marc had been home for a few days. She wondered how someone with so much intelligence did not have the ability to close the cap on the shower gel that had since spent the morning dripping down the glass door and black, glitter flecked tiles.
Opening up a rubbish bag she pulled open the cabinet door with the hidden waste bin. It was overflowing with as many articles chucked around it as in it. She began collecting the items up. Multiple empty contact lens packs, used cotton buds, make up remover wipes, three empty contraceptive pill foils. She paused. Three? She sighed. She was all for the contraceptive pill - her daughter was in a long term relationship - but Danielle seemed used them to control her cycle according to her work schedule. She had mentioned how wonderful it was to be able to just continue the pill and not have to deal with periods whilst on work trips or busy weeks. Her mother had been horrified but as usual only aired it with her husband. She didn't like the idea of her daughter confusing her body, how easy would it be to 'unconfuse' it she had asked him.
Her mother placed them in the rubbish bag. No doubt having that much, well whatever it was, pumped into her body wasn't helping how she was feeling. Maybe she would mention it? No, Danielle would be feeling enough pressure with not being at work and feeling under par without her adding to it. She decided to just go about her business as she normally would and make sure Danielle had everything she needed before she left. She stood, knotting the rubbish bag and placing it by the door. Picking up the cleaning spray and cloths she turned and faced the shower, her nemesis. She took a deep breath "I'm going in..." she muttered to herself.
This is part 2 of a series. You can find all installments to 'Camomile Crescent' here.