Authors: Teresa Driscoll
RECIPES FOR MELISSA
THE HEARTBREAKING STORY OF A MOTHER’S GOODBYE TO HER DAUGHTER
Published by Bookouture
An imprint of StoryFire Ltd.
23 Sussex Road, Ickenham, UB10 8PN
Copyright © Teresa Driscoll 2015
has asserted her
right to be identified as the author of this work.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publishers.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events other than those clearly in the public domain, are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
For my mother…
MELISSA - 2011
Melissa Dance had two tics.
When under extreme pressure her right eyelid would flicker. This would then kick-start the second tic, which was an involuntary movement of the head – a sort of chin twitch, which she fancied,
on a good day
, distracted people from the eyelid nonsense.
But this was not a good day. Not good at all.
‘Are you all right, Miss Dance?’
It was the handwriting. Working on her other muscles like an anaesthetic now so that while her eyelid and chin continued in the infuriating world of their own, her mouth – in sharp contrast – was completely frozen.
would come out.
Melissa pulled her hair up into a ponytail, using a band from her pocket, while across the desk the tall and now clearly awkward man, who had introduced himself as James Hall, poured a glass of water and pushed the drink along with the book to the edge of the splendid stretch of mahogany in front of her.
He seemed to be staring at her eye. Or was she imagining that? And then suddenly he plunged onward, speaking much too quickly, about his client’s instructions. About how very specific they were.
That the client had specified an expectation of some discomfort but that his duty, under the terms of the agreement, you understand, were to persuade her – Ms Melissa Dance – to take the book. And to consider it, please, in her own time. Yes?
Those were his very specific instructions.
Still Melissa’s right eyelid flickered. Still she could not speak.
Mr Hall cleared his throat to add that his client had urged that Melissa
should be reassured at this initial meeting that the purpose of the book was to be a comfort. A guiding hand. Not so much recipes, per se, as recipes for life. There were letters in the book. Also photographs. Did she understand this?
Melissa stared again at the cover. She stared so hard that both her eyes – the twitching and the non-twitching – were now beginning to water.
It was the handwriting. The black ink.
The main title
was pre-printed in bold but her name had been added by hand – and Melissa knew the handwriting instantly. She glanced to the corner of Mr Hall’s office and could see her sitting right there. At the old desk in the corner of her bedroom with the fountain pen in her hand. Beautiful, sloping writing in shiny, black ink.
Mr Hall shuffled in his seat and asked if she would like the book back in its envelope?
In her head Melissa replied that she did not mind either way, but whether the words came out of her mouth she had no idea. Whatever the case, Mr Hall placed the book back in its padded envelope and held it out to her.
He clearly knew who the book was from. And Melissa did too.
It was the sloping, haunting hand of her mother.
The mother she had not seen for 17 years…
4 oz self-raising flour
4 oz butter
4 oz caster sugar
2 beaten eggs
Zest of one orange (crucial…remember?)
Preheat oven to 180. Cream butter and sugar. Slowly add eggs (room temperature or it will all split!). Fold in flour gently then mix in orange zest. Pop into bun cases. 15-20 mins in oven. Great-gran recipe… sorry for old money!
(Lovely topped with cream cheese goo + a chunk of strawberry or more orange zest. For the goo – mix equal quantities of cream cheese and soft butter, then add icing sugar until the right thickness and sweetness. Sorry to be so vague.)
Oh, my darling girl. You will be shocked. Yes? Even as I begin to paste this first recipe and photograph into the book, I can feel it. Your shock.
I have paced and paced and there is a waste basket full of screwed up paper. Starting this over and over. So worried about getting it right. Putting it right.
I have worked myself into such a state – truth be told – that I feel worried this is not the right day to start at all. But what else to do? Try tomorrow? The day after that?
When I get wound up like this, I have this really annoying thing. My eyelid twitches. Yes I know. Embarrassing and completely weird. It’s doing it right now. Bloody, stupid thing. I keep meaning to see an optician or something. Your father insists he can’t see it; that no one else notices either, but I find that hard to believe and the whole business makes me feel like some kind of freak. You see. This is precisely the kind of stuff I would have lain on a bed and talked to you about, grown-up to grown-up, if I had just got the chance. The very reason I am doing this.
I have given up throwing pieces of paper into the bin. Decided – no more editing. I am just going … to keep going. To write what I am thinking – exactly as it comes into my head. So all I can do as I sit here, worrying that I am starting this on the wrong day, is to hope and pray and plead with you, my darling, to
, take a deep breath. To forgive me for the shock and to go with this – with an open mind – and try to understand why I have waited so long to talk to you in this way.
I simply don’t know what to say to comfort you except that, to me at least, there feels a good reason that I have done this.
Waited, I mean.
The date as I start here is August 1994. You will know better than me what that means, timing-wise, and I must tell you, in fairness, that your father and I are not at all in agreement over this. I don’t mean this book because he
doesn’t know about this book
. I mean about the rest of it.
By now you will not need me to tell you what a magnificent man he is. That is why I have not the slightest fear leaving you in his wonderful hands. But he is in shock too, poor darling, right now and does not realise yet that he is going to manage so very beautifully without me.
He wants us to do the whole ‘memory box’ thing. He wants us to see some counsellor woman. Some charity which has bears and balloons. And though I know that they are the experts and they all mean terribly well and they have studied
and all of the rest of it, I just know that is not the way for me. And you will understand by the end of this book how very stubborn I can be.
What I have decided is that I do not want you to know a thing about all the shit that has become my life. As I write now, you are eight years old – asleep in the bed next door in princess pyjamas, with a fairy costume discarded on the floor. I am sorry but I cannot do it to you.
I want to have some time with my darling girl – just one beautiful corner of my life and yours in which I can pretend that everything is going to be completely all right.
Is this selfish? Possibly. Probably. I have no idea what you will think. But would it really have been any less painful for you to have known? To have been warned?
Max thinks so. Maybe you will too.
In which case ‘sorry’ will not help.
All I can tell you is I have a very strong instinct that this is the right way for me to do this. I cannot speak for others and I do not want to criticise the charities and the people who advise otherwise. Maybe they are right. Maybe not.
So if I got it wrong and you are very cross with me then will you please just give me the benefit of the doubt and at least walk with me through these pictures and these thoughts? If not now, then some time very soon?
I did wonder about telling you. Trying to prepare you just a bit, but last night I looked at you when you were sleeping – so very beautiful and so very calm and I thought – what’s the point? You will be shocked and sad and angry, whether you are prepared or not. The way I see it, telling you will just start the sadness sooner.
Anyway. It’s done now. Too late.
So I am putting this book together instead. My original idea was just recipes which were handed down to me by my own mother and grandmother and which I wish very much to pass on to you. They are not so very special or rare. Just simple, solid recipes I cooked with my own mother and she with hers – and which I hope, one day, you may get to cook with your own children. You will need to jot down the conversions. It always felt rather sweet to me to leave them in ‘old money’. Then later I decided that it would be nice with each recipe to put in a picture of you and I cooking – and to share a few thoughts. Just stuff which may help you now that you are all grown-up. OK. Deep breath.