It Becomes You
by Laura-Marie Steele
I hadn't seen Thomas in almost a year. As I sat propped up by pillows, struggling against the
muscle tremors that would soon rob me of the ability to speak and swallow, memories vanished
like scenery outside a speeding car window. I needed to remember, to tell the truth.
Mum was sitting beside me. She'd been talking about her next door neighbour's
grandchildren and other things that didn't interest me, so I'd stopped listening. Then she started
crying. I realised Thomas had infiltrated my thoughts and that she must have been talking about
"Please, Archie, before it's too late. Tell me where he is." Mum's hand touched mine.
I didn't answer. Despite speech therapy twice a week, speaking was a chore, and we had
discussed this the last time I saw her. How long ago had that been? A year, two?
"You know what I mean by 'too late' don't you?" she said, as if I didn't know I was
I changed the subject. "Are you staying in town?"
"A bed and breakfast right on the seafront."
"It's cheap around here." Margate used to be famous for its invigorating air, but the days
were long gone since Londoners arrived in droves, swarming over the beach to take their turns in
the sea. Now it was a shabby town, with beautiful buildings buried beneath flaking paint. The
care home wasn't the best. It was a Victorian town house with high ceilings and everything a
dusty grey that wouldn't wash off.
She tilted her head, trying to catch the meaning of my loosely formed words. "I was
surprised to find you in a place like this. Dad provided money for your healthcare needs, separate
to what he left you in trust. If you need money. . . "
"But there are better places. I thought maybe you would consider coming home with
"I spoke to Carly the other day. She was concerned about you. She told me where you
were." She smoothed out the bed sheet with both hands, avoiding my eye.
"We're not together anymore. Don't bring her."
"I would never do something like that without asking you first."
I stared at her and then laughed. I hadn't laughed in a while. It sounded more like an
engine puttering to a stop and hurt my chest. Mum turned to the window, which overlooked the
"It's early for daffodils." She got up, walked to the window and opened it. "Don't they
have air conditioning? It's so stuffy in here. You should at least have a room with electric
windows, so you can open them from bed."
"Carly told me about the argument the night you and Thomas disappeared. She
explained everything, poor girl. I should have realised how much strain he would put on your
marriage. If you had let me take care of him. . . "
A tremor wriggled through my face, shaking my head on the pillow. Maybe she saw that
as indecision, because she took a deep breath and said, "Don't be ashamed to change your mind
now. After all, your dad worked hard to--"
Maybe she realised she went too far in mentioning Dad, because she started rattling off
information about her neighbours again. I didn't know why I'd agreed to see her, maybe a
mixture of guilt and hope that she might be different, maybe because she was a last link to a past
I feared forgetting. I couldn't let that happen. Not yet.