She cries in the shower most mornings, before the baby is awake. Once out, she dries her tears off, buttons smart clothes over her sadness, and paints a love-filled marriage over her gaunt, bruised features. Taking a deep breath, she breezes through the chaotic opening scene of her day as a mother, barely noticing any subtle, undoubtedly precious differences in her growing child from one day to the next. A cry or a smile halts her momentarily, and she knows that she should be more happy than this, that she is trapped within a showcase life that most detached observers probably envy. If they only knew.
A perfunctory kiss, a harsh ‘make sure you get your story straight’ hissed in her ear, and under the jealous gaze of her neighbour, she cheerily waves her husband off to work. “What is my story this time?” she frantically asks herself as she bundles her wee girl into her buggy. Then, forcing a pleasant expression, she briskly marches down the road, glossy blond pigtail swinging nonchalantly, heels clipping confidently. To people looking out from coffee shop window-seats she looks like her life is as co-ordinated as her outfit, and as smooth as her hair. Inside, she is broken. She walks with a sense of purpose, but inside she is lost. She steps in to the parent and toddler group, heart pounding, face serene. Her strategy is working. Nobody dares to break through her unapproachable exterior. She doesn’t need a story. The part she plays so well conceals the violent truth she endures behind the scenes.