Tomorrow is officially Bellyful of Art‘s 1st birthday!! To celebrate, I was planning on reblogging my first ever post, but I’ve been doing a lot of reblogging recently and I thought it was only fair that as a big fat present to my lovely readers (and to myself) I would publish a brand new story – Rules to Live By. This new Tiny Tale comes in multiple parts so it should keep us going for a while! Thanks again for all of your support over the last year, hearing your wonderful feedback is really encouraging.
Rules to Live By (Part 1)
When I was a child my mother handed me a list:
‘They’re rules to live by. Everyone needs rules or the world would be chaos.’
My mother’s handwriting, neat and concise, looped steadily across the crisp, white page and I strained my eyes in a bid to understand her complicated sentences, the words too advanced for a six-year-old brain.
‘Follow those rules and you’ll be a good person.’ She stroked my hair and I nodded enthusiastically, pleased to have earned the trust of someone so frugal in her affections.
As my eyes grew tired, I tentatively rested my head on her shoulder and The Rules crumpled beneath me as I curled myself into her angular body.
“A car accident in the city centre has today claimed the lives of two children…” My mother’s shoulder stiffened. As the imposing voice of the news reporter filled our tiny living room, I watched as her gaze shifted to an ornately-framed photograph on the mantelpiece.
She stood abruptly. ‘Time for bed, Susie.’
I flinched, glancing at my rules one last time before the television was silenced and the room sank into darkness.
I followed those rules to the letter throughout my early childhood, wholly believing – as youngsters so often do – that nobody was more right than my mother.
‘What kind of rules?’ asked my friend Janine, when I confided in her a few years later.
I stood, mimicking the pompous stance of our teacher. ‘Rule number one, “Never gloat at people of inferior academic or social standing.”’
Janine looked puzzled. ‘What does ‘gloat’ mean?’
‘Duh, Janine! It’s like, y’know pulling faces at people and stuff.’
‘Oh. What’s number two?’
‘Number two, “Always sandwich criticism with a compliment.” That’s like me saying to you, “Your hair is a lovely length, Janine. It’s not as nice as mine, but it really does suit you.” Get it?’
‘That just sounds like you’re being nasty.’ She frowned, picking up the list. ‘And it goes against number four, doesn’t it? “Never be cruel or horrible to another person.”’
I snatched the paper from her hand, its edge slicing a small cut into her little finger. ‘You’re the horrible one, Janine!’ I cried, storming off in a ten-year-old huff.
As I moved slowly and awkwardly into my teens I began to test The Rules, pushing the boundaries that seemed so futile when I was that age.
‘It’s only natural that you would want to explore,’ said my mother one morning after a misdemeanour had afforded my sixteen-year-old-self a night at the local police station. ‘But this,’ she gestured wildly to the dingy cell, one hand gripping the golden crucifix around her neck, ‘this is too much.’
‘The Rules are there to protect you, Susie, not to hurt you. If you want to live a good life, if you want to be a good person, then follow The Rules.’ She picked up the now yellowing paper and read aloud the line of writing I had circled in red pen. ‘Rule seven, “Never fornicate in public.”’
I opened my mouth to explain, but was interrupted by the emergence of a willowy figure from the cell next to mine. My mother’s eyes slid across my cohort as he grunted a hasty goodbye and I watched with a deepening redness in my cheeks as comprehension slowly dawned on my mother’s face.
- Part 2 to follow next week!!