A little bit of fiction on a grey afternoon in London.
Three o’clock in the afternoon, Nira stood outside the Holloway prison waiting for her to come out, she had had to park a least a mile away, the 30 or so visitor parking spaces had been taken, 30 spaces! What a joke, the prison had probably been built in a time when no one had cars! She read the plaque on the wall, built in 1852 as a correction facility for women of disrepute and then rebuilt in 1971, surely they had cars then.
Harry and Rabi had refused to come, Rabi mentioned something about a bad hair day and Harry said he had to study for his exams, as if one day away from his books would diminish his chances of getting an A * in whatever subjects he was studying. Nira had lost track of who was doing what, it wasn’t easy paying the bills and making sure her siblings were fed and watered.
Muma – as they all called their mother – had been in lock-up for four years, aunty Sheila had moved in with them for two years – then on her 18th birthday, she declared:
“Nira, it’s time for you to step up, your useless father is nowhere to be seen, but your mother has taught you well, it’s time for me to go.”
And with that she handed everything over, made sure they had enough money for the next three months and said good bye – and that is how 18 year old Nira became the lady in charge of a household with two sulky teenagers, it seemed great at first, but then reality began to bite.
Nira checked her grey suit again, as she knew Muma’s first comment would be about her clothes.
Muma was always done up, Papa used to joke that when she was expecting and her ‘water’ broke, the first thing she asked for was her lipstick and then the hospital bag, “One must look good no matter what the situation is!” Yes oh, Muma always looked good, it was her reason for being, looking good, but never actually doing any good, or caring about the 3 children she left behind in her quest for fast money and a fast life.
She was supposed to be let out at 15:30, thirty minutes more to wait, people were looking around but not at each other, it seemed that everybody was trying to avoid looking at the other person, who wants to run into an old friend at the prison gates and admit that you’re here to pick your mum up. The whole neighbourhood probably knew what she was in for, people had often asked what her parents did for a living, some kind of business she would say, something in import and export she’d quickly add when she got a funny look.
“You’re a bit young to be a solicitor, said the lady at the reception.
“She’s not, this is my daughter”
“Hi Muma, you look well”
“What are you wearing? How many times have I told you to wear more colour?
“Grey on a grey rainy afternoon is just too much, let’s go shopping”.