“Push yourself,” her widowed mother had urged, not wanting her daughter to make the same mistakes she had—pregnant and alone at 18.
Her daughter, dutiful as ever, did as she was told. She excelled in school, then in secretarial college and work. She smoked like all the pretty girls on the big screen but, unlike them, she kept her legs crossed when the young men with slicked back hair and combs in their pockets came prowling.
She pushed herself on until a man came along. His hair was not slick and when he laughed that lightning bolt of laugher, strands would flop into his face. She would push them out of his eyes and kiss him.
A short time later, she found herself pushing and panting. Sharps pains she tried to exhale away and then, in one large push, she broke in two and had a daughter, perfect and fragile. She could hardly believe it was hers.
The wonder soon began to tarnish into drudgery. Tired from the daily feeding and cleaning and waiting, oh the waiting for him to return, she used the last drop of energy she had left to push once more. This time she pushed the pram, huge and shell-like, as though their child were a crustacean. She pushed up the street, to the park, willing the unhappy babe to sleep. She considered pushing on, beyond the horizon of her known neighbourhood. She wished to escape the even larger shell that held her captive. But, eventually she pushed home.
With all that jostling for love, and food and bodily comforts, she forgot to push herself. Eventually, she let herself be pushed around by others.
Her mother, long-since dead, was no longer around to remind her of her wise words. The story stopped being hers and she became as mute as a photo. And, in the rare moments when she broke her silent vow, she would quietly urge her daughter, now an adolescent, “to push” herself.
Jess Bauldry is a journalist who also likes to create fictional worlds by writing short stories, plays and novellas in her spare time.
A UK national, she lives in Luxembourg with her partner.