Juliet opened her eyes to find herself standing in the hallway looking at her reflection in the mirror. The clock showed a quarter to four prompting Juliet to turn to the front door in anticipation of a quiet entrance and wonder what was going to be different this time. She was ready for answers, not more questions.
The girl that flung the door open and marched through looked much older than Juliet had seen before on any of the previous visits. She was tall with long limbs which she hadn’t quite got used to, making them appear uncoordinated and gangly. She wore a dark school uniform of black skirt and dark red blazer with a white shirt and dark red tie, it looked unkempt and her general appearance was scruffy, as if she had been in a fight.
Her hair, usually untamed anyway, was wild and stuck up in all directions. There was dirt on her face and Juliet noticed that the blazer breast pocket was missing. Socks, that could be seen bunched up as they were around her bulky school shoes, were more grey than white and a small streak of blood ran down from one knee. She looked as if she might explode if she didn’t find a way of venting her emotion soon.
The girl stood at the front door for a moment, glanced in the mirror and grimaced, she was breathing heavily as if she had run a good part of the way home. Throwing her bag onto the floor, the girl, who Juliet estimated must be about 16, marched down the corridor and into her mother’s bedroom.
“Where are you?” screamed young Juliet as loudly as she could, directing the exhalation of air containing the question into her mother’s ear.
“Why are you never here? I’m sick of being here all the time on my own. I’m sick of having to do everything. I’m telling you now, I’m not going to look after you any more. All you do is lie here in bed, that’s why Dad left. Everyone in the village knows what a waste of breath you are and they tell me I’m going to go the same way. Well, I’m not. I’m not.” The stream of emotion coming from this grubby child sounded perfectly appropriate and Juliet felt strangely proud of herself to be fighting back.
“I’ve spent my last minute shut in that cupboard, you only started it so that I’d be like you, but I’m not like you and I never will be.” Rage was building rather than dissipating in the teenager and it looked like it was not going to be something that was easily quelled. Juliet watched silently from the bedroom door ready to swiftly move out of the way in case young Juliet decided to exit in a hurry. “You’ve never been any kind of mother and I hate you. I’m old enough to leave now so I am going. You can lie here by yourself for the rest of your life until you starve to death.”
The screaming ended abruptly as if the sudden thought of what she had suggested was too horrible to even wish on her mother. It appeared to Juliet that her younger self had just had an idea. Calmly and in a low quiet voice that was now full of hatred and menace she lowered her head to beside her mother’s ear and whispered “No, actually, that is not what I wish for you. I wish for you to go permanently to wherever it is you’ve chosen to go all of my life.”
The dishevelled, exhausted girl picked up one of the pillows that lay at the top of the bed on the side not occupied by her mother’s body. “With you gone I can stay here and begin to live my life. I won’t have to worry about you when I go to college. I won’t ever have to go back into the cupboard again.
Juliet knew what was about to happen but she was powerless to intervene, overwhelming memories started to flood back into her head and she clutched the door frame to steady herself. The girl grasped the pillow tightly and held it over her mother’s face, standing up and leaning against the pillow so that no scrap of air could find its way through to her mother’s nose or mouth and sustain her for any longer. The girls face creased with the effort of holding the position on top of her mother and beads of sweat started to gather on her face, forcing the dirt out of her pores, causing clean streaks to run down her cheeks. The girl held the pillow over her mother’s face until every ounce of emotion had drained from her body and she crumpled into a heap on the bedroom floor. The pillow fell away with her and Juliet could see that her mother was dead.
Small sobs started to emanate from the ragged school uniform slumped on the bedroom floor. Juliet could offer no comfort and could only watch events as they unfolded. Her mother was beginning to turn blue, her eyelids had now fallen open, she stared upwards at the ceiling, leaving everyone in the room in no doubt that she had gone.
“What have you done?” The scream made both Juliet’s jump and look towards the corner of the room as the spectre of Juliet’s mother entered the room. Juliet could see her clearly, she wasn’t translucent as television often depicted ghosts, just rather fuzzy around the edges. She was obviously angry instead of upset. She could also see both Juliet’s. “Do you realise what you’ve done?” the fury in her voice was instinctively directed at the older Juliet who still stood, dazed and immobile in the bedroom doorway. Young Juliet raised herself from the bedroom floor and stood up straight, wiping tears and dirt from her eyes.
“Well, I got your attention.”
“Attention?” wailed her mother with hatred in her voice “You’ve taken my body. I can’t get back into it.”
“What difference will that make? You are never here in it anyway.” For someone so young, Juliet was impressed at how brave she was being, faced with the furious ghost of her mother. “Now you can go wherever it is you always went for good and I won’t feel obliged to look after your useless body. Did it even move anymore or had your muscles finally atrophied?”
“My body is my anchor, you stupid child, I can’t go anywhere without it.” Anger and hatred flowed from the older woman and it struck Juliet as odd that her mother knew all about what would happen if her body was damaged while she was away.
With all the new memories swirling in her head, Juliet wondered if her whole life had been about the protection of her mother’s body and she began to see clearly how the unfolding events were going to effect the next years of her life.
“Good, so now you can stay here and be with it.” Young Juliet moved towards the door, forcing Juliet to take a step back.
There was a pause. “So, when are you from?” Juliet looked at her and decided that her mother looked ugly when she was being sarcastic and chose not to answer, instead following her younger self out of the room. In the kitchen, the teenager had picked up the telephone and was calling the police.
“Hello, it’s my mother, I’ve just come home from school and found her in bed, she’s not breathing” Tears started to fall again as the enormity of what she had done began to sink into the young girl, she began to shake uncontrollably and hugged her own body. Watching her carefully put the telephone down, Juliet knew what she was about to do. Unable to help herself, Juliet shouted at the girl knowing that she couldn’t hear her.
“No, no, don’t do that.” Juliet instinctively knew that stepping inside the cupboard would give her mother the advantage she needed, and she couldn’t allow that to happen to her past self again.
Not knowing whether she should first go back to the coffee shop, Juliet decided that it was too risky, all she could do was to wait for the girl to go into the hall cupboard and sit down. As she did, Juliet closed her eyes and willed herself into the wardrobe. It was remarkably easy to occupy her own body as soon as the young girl left and she was aware that she had just narrowly beaten her mother into it. Juliet opened her eyes and jumped out of the small dark space just as the doorbell rang.
The police officer’s questioning was interminable. No, she didn’t have anywhere else to go. No, she didn’t have any relatives in the area. No, there were no friends she could stay with. She was more than capable of staying here. The officers looked around the house, noting the empty fridge, the layer of dust and the lack of fingerprints in it that might have pointed to a family actually living in this house. The body was eventually removed from the house and the police left, leaving Juliet with a direct number to call if she was at all worried. The house was now quiet but Juliet could sense that her mother was near.
Sitting upright in the café armchair, Victor was momentarily bewildered as a dishevelled teenager appeared in the armchair opposite him. “Hello Juliet.”
“What’s going on? Where am I?”
“This is a rather long story but you are safe here. Probably best not to go back for a little while” Juliet looked scared, suddenly showing her age, immature years and lack of female role model. Sarah bustled over and perched on the arm of the sofa next to her.
“You’re safe here dear” Sarah patted Juliet’s hand in what she hoped was a grandmotherly fashion in an effort to put the girl at ease.
Victor looked at his watch and cleared his throat “Would you like a drink?” He couldn’t help Juliet, all he could do was wait and watch.
“For how long do you think you are going to be able to protect her?” Juliet was amazed at how cruel her mother’s voice sounded.
“As long as it takes.”
“You don’t know what you’re doing, do you?
“I know that I need to stop you from hurting her or using her”
“Using you, you mean.” her mother sneered.
“So you know who I am?” Juliet was strangely relieved by this.
“How old are you?”
“29.” Juliet was getting the feeling that the less information she gave her mother the safer it would be, but realised that this tactic would probably anger the older woman.
“Why are you even here? Surely you’ve been through this before? Needed to see me again did you?” The smirking face of this uncompassionate woman was causing Juliet to lose patience with her. She didn’t want to admit that the reason she was here was because she couldn’t remember any of it. Juliet was now aware that the first time this had happened, she had been alone. This was the trauma her memory had blocked out and in doing so, it had necessitated the removal of a large chunk of her life’s memories.
“You know all about this don’t you?” it made sense to Juliet that she should be the one asking questions.
“I inherited the ability from my mother and you’ve inherited it from me although you have never been particularly good at it and never had the skill to explore to its potential. You also did such a good job of caring for me.”
“What is it you want?” Juliet was becoming angry, her memories had been fully revealed and they were frightening. Juliet couldn’t let it happen again.
“Obviously, I now need my daughter’s body.”
“And what will happen to Juliet?”
The sneer returned, her mother’s lips curled cruelly, “She will remain wherever she is now.”
Juliet thought for a moment and searched her memory. Her mother’s statement wasn’t right, Juliet didn’t have any memories of being anywhere else. “What happens if she is occupying her body when you enter it?”
Her mother was clearly enjoying the unusual request to share the knowledge of her ability. “That’s very difficult to do, I could have done it with my daughter in there but you’re stronger.”
Juliet pushed the point “So what would happen to Juliet?”
“She will be suppressed. I can live for ten years in her body before I die, then she’ll get her miserable life back.”
Juliet felt anger rising within her. “Her life will only be miserable because you will have made it that way.” This is what had happened. Juliet at sixteen had just killed her mother and had nowhere to go, she had been unable to resist.
Rage now completely consumed Juliet, she had spent ten years of her formative life suppressed inside herself while her mother continued with her life. Instinctively, Juliet knew that there was only one way that she was going to be able to deal with her mother and she knew it would be dangerous. “Why don’t we fight for it?” Juliet stepped towards the hall cupboard, she felt strong in there, she would feel stronger in the dark.
“You’re sure you want to do this?” Her mother sneered again as if she expected her victory to be easy.
Juliet sat in the dark and waited for her mother. She hoped that there would be advantage for her in the fact that this body didn’t belong to either of them. Her mother didn’t know that her daughter had been growing stronger for over two years since she had died, Juliet needed this to work.
Suddenly she felt a pushing sensation near by and a sharp pain deep in the side of her head. Juliet focused on pushing back hard and made the decision to concentrate on a scenario in her mind. Juliet’s mind picked up her woolly scarf and pictured her mother close beside her, focusing hard on the image, she wrapped the scarf tightly around her mother’s neck and grasped both ends. Juliet stopped the pushing her mind was doing and started to pull.
Juliet’s mother momentarily had the advantage and pushed her mind deep inside Juliet’s head making her groan with the pain. Juliet kept pulling the scarf, increasing the tension slightly with each breath and using all her force to picture her mother’s mind being starved of oxygen. She felt the pushing weaken and knew it was working, Something surged through Juliet’s mind and she pulled tighter.
“Stop, stop, please.” Her Mother clutched against the scarf with bony claw like hands as terror gripped her.
“I’m sorry, I can’t let you do this to me again, I killed you when I was sixteen and now I need to finish the job.” Juliet knew she was changing her life by completing what her younger self had been unable to.
Juliet’s mother started making grotesque gurgling noises and completely released the pressure on Juliet’s mind. It didn’t even cross Juliet’s mind to relinquish her grip. Determination to kill her mother, not just suppress her, focused every scrap of energy that she had on holding the scarf tightly. Seconds later, she knew that her mother had finally gone. Juliet waited patiently in the dark cupboard sobbing quietly and searching her mind for any last remnant of her mother’s consciousness but there was nothing. Her mother was dead.
On realising that she had succeeded, Juliet guessed that her arrival back at the coffee shop would result in a flood of new memories which would leave her totally disorientated. Juliet was reluctant to leave her younger self alone but she was safe from her mother now and Juliet felt the familiar uncomfortable-ness of the coffee shop armchair.
“Welcome back, you had us all very worried.”
It was good to see Victor and she was surprised to see Sarah sitting on the sofa arm beside her. “I got all the answers I needed, although I think that there might be some changes in my life as a result.”
“Juliet was here” Victor wanted to make sure she knew that her younger self was safe.
“Thank you. I think she will be OK and has a chance to have a life now.”
“You mean you do.” Victor smiled and looked at his watch. “It’s time for you to go. You’ve got a lot of catching up to do and people to meet.”
Juliet knew what was about to happen. “Thank you Victor for being here for me.”
Julia took a breath, opened her eyes and looked at the ceiling of the Intensive Care Unit. Her body ached from being immobile for so many days and she couldn’t help but draw parallels with her mother’s chosen lifestyle.
“Welcome back, you had us all very worried.” The nurse stood over Juliet and looked at the watch that hung upside down on her breast pocket. “I’ll get the doctor to come and talk to you but I think you’re going to be fine.” Juliet nodded and the nurse turned to leave.
“And I’ve been asked to tell you that your baby is doing really well.”
“Your daughter, you delivered her just before your heart failed so she has been staying in the baby unit. You can see her later.”
Juliet had been watching Marcia closely for the last few days, at six months old she was a chubby contented baby who slept well and ate with gusto. Juliet had achieved a routine of putting her down for a sleep at four o’clock so that she could be awake for some time with her father. The new life had come as a shock to Juliet, the memories filtered through slowly. It had all been overwhelming at times but Juliet had made an effort to take it all in steadily and try not to panic. She had been relieved to find that she did not still live in her parents house and the wardrobe had gone. The proceeds from the sale of the property had been split between herself and her brother, Juliet had been surprised to learn that her parents had been divorced before her mother had died, but she discovered that she had rekindled her relationship with her father and brother while at college and her father had been very supportive when she moved away to university. Juliet now had a career in child psychology, a husband who was clearly passionate about her, and now, a family.
Today, the four o’clock nap was a cause for concern. Marcia had been fractious and drowsy all day and Juliet worried that she was coming down with a cold. She didn’t relish the nights ahead of sleeplessness, a blocked nose and endless coughing. Juliet lay her baby in her cot so that she could gaze at the mobile of stylised flowers and bees that hung above her head. Marcia gurgled and smiled for the first time that day.
Juliet then watched in dismay as her daughter closed her eyes and left her body…