#FF Prompt: The Story – Make Mine a Mystery!

The sweet smell of Mum

Millie didn’t know how to explain it, but she was certain she heard echoes of her Mum’s voice and smelt her scent. She’d know it anywhere ‘cos she was the only person who continued wearing it despite knowing it caused Millie to feel sick. At family gatherings when Millie didn’t eat much and kept her distance, she’d ask her what was up, always insisted she’d “forgotten about Millie’s little aversion to her scent!” when she was reminded. Millie’s brothers used to try and step in, but Mum always rolled her eyes as if Millie was the one being difficult.

She’d talked to Trev about it and he said something rather odd “sounds like it only happens in rooms where you’ve got her photos displayed.” Now my Mum, she liked having her photo taken for she was a right beauty. People said she resembled Liz Taylor – not the old fat version, but the young beauty. She did have those gorgeous curves, plus long chestnut locks and beautiful big eyes – even if they weren’t violet ones like Liz had. She regularly had portraits done, gifting big black & white prints in fancy frames to each of the children for their birthdays or Christmas. Not anything they wanted or needed you understand, but more pictures of Mum to find places for, ‘cos yes, she’d check they were all on display each time she visited.

After she’d died, Trev had waited a decent period for her to grieve – then he’d insisted they get put away. “It’s like living in a bleedin’ shrine” he’d complained – and he was right. She’d packed them away in a lovely trunk, filled with Mum’s silk scarves which she’d been given, as well as her fancy cashmere cardigans and beaded tops. They weren’t anything Millie would – could – ever wear, but she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of them. So, into plenty of white tissue paper everything went, and into the trunk in the guest bedroom.

Hmmm…. maybe there was something in what Trev said, she got that smell of her scent strongest in the guest bedroom. Initially she put it down to Mum’s clothes being in there, but everything had been properly cleaned before being put away, and she was sure they hadn’t smelt of her scent then. Weird.

One day, Janet came over in tears. It took a while to get to the bottom of it, but it seems like she kept hearing Mum’s criticisms as she was cooking, and every time she laid the table for one of Bob’s business dinner parties. “And it’s just the sort of thing she used to say too” she’d sniffed through the tissue Millie had offered. “She be telling me off using a tissue instead of a lace handkerchief if she were here now” Millie had laughed, before looking guiltily at Mum’s silver framed photo. Surely not, she must be imagining things, but there was that whiff of scent….

Then her other brother came round. Now Bob had been Mum’s favourite, so she and Malc had been a lot closer. “You heard about Janet then?” he asked and Millie nodded while handing the biscuit tin. Sitting across the kitchen table from each other with their big mugs of tea and a mouthful of biscuit each, she’d waited. He got round to it eventually – he and ‘Chelle been noticing something similar. They’d first moved her photo out of the bedroom when they’d been having rows as ‘Chelle was absolutely convinced she was watching and judging her. Malc had just humoured her, but things had certainly got better in the bedroom, he admitted with a wink. But they continued to have rows in the rooms where they still had pictures of Mum displayed. On a whim, he took them all down and packed them into the garage. “It absolutely bloody stinks in there now – of that scent of hers that made you feel sick, you remember. I know you’ll think I’ve gone mad, but….”

Millie told him of her experiences and of Trev’s suggestion. “Sounds bloody weird, but I think he’s right” agreed Malc. “Might be time I get rid, not only of those pictures and the frames, but all her fancy clothes in that trunk too” and as Millie spoke, she felt the scent overwhelm her, even though she had no pictures in the kitchen. Malc took one look at her face and shut the kitchen door firmly. “I’ll do it” he said, “you give Trev a call to come help me, and we’ll go do Bob and Janet’s place too.”

They’d all six of them made the trip to local charity shops in the area, handing over the rich pickings of Mum’s stuff and her fancy photo frames. Then they repaired to Janet and Bob’s back garden, where Bob’s teenage boys had got the fire pit blazing nicely. Each and every one of Mum’s photos were dropped into it, and the boys kept poking at the ashes to make sure they burnt all the way through. “Handy skills they learn at Scouts!” Bob had laughed, hugging them both to him.

Looking up from her phone, Janet said “I’ve found this site which suggests that old adage of photographs stealing a bit of your soul may have some truth to it. Apparently spirits can use those photos to travel between to stay away from whatever’s waiting for them in the hereafter.” “Sounds about right love” Bob said as he gave her a hug, before popping another champagne cork.

It was exactly the sort of party Mum loved being at the centre of. And she was – in a way – just not how she’d have chosen to be. Bob raised his glass before draining it in one go “Bye Mum” and we each of us followed suit.

© Debra Carey, 2022


Author: debscarey

Tweets @debsdespatches My personal blog is Debs Despatches, where I ramble on a variety of topics. I write fiction on co-hosted site Fiction Can Be Fun, where my #IWSG reflections can be found; and my Life Coaching business can be found on DebsCarey.com.

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