I was folding a sheet with my mother.
We held our arms wide with the sheet
stretched flat between us and brought our
arms together, left to right. Then we took the
folded edge hanging down, brought it up till it
was horizontal and shook the sheet.

Pull it tight, she said.

We walked towards each other. She took the
sheet from me, folded it again and put it on a
pile. She picked up another sheet and said,
Take the other end.

We pulled the sheet flat between us, then we
brought the edges together so the folded
sheet hung down.

She said, I’m leaving your father. I finally

She picked up the bottom of the folded sheet
and brought it horizontal.

He’s still carrying on with that woman from
work. Pick up the sheet. Don’t just stand
there. Says he isn’t, but he is. Have you
decided what you're going to do?

I picked up the bottom of the sheet and held
it up. The sheet was white, flat, like a
highway across the dining room.

Pull it tight, she said, and pulled it.

A corner slipped out of my hand and the
sheet hung down, twisted. I grabbed it up,
and she pulled and I held on tight. She
flipped the folded sheet so a ripple came from
her to me. Then she walked towards me and
took my end of the sheet, shook it and folded
it again and put it on the pile.

Well? she asked, looking at me.

I don’t know.

She took another sheet and I took one end. It
was twisted and I had to change it round to
make it straight.

You'll have to decide who you want to live
with: him or me? Well hold the sheet out. I'm
going to stay with your Aunty Betty, till I get
on my feet. It's all arranged.

We held the sheet out tight and flat and she
walked towards me, took the sheet, folded it,
and put it on the pile.

That's all the sheets, she said.

I picked up one of Dad's shirts.

Leave that. Let him do his own ironing. Well,
what do you want to do? I won't cook and
clean for a man who’s sleeping in someone
else's bed. I've packed my stuff. I'll take these
sheets; they're what my mother gave us. I
don't imagine Betty's got more than enough
sheets for herself. Don't just stand there
crying girl. Crying never did any good.

When are you going? I asked.

Right now. Your Aunty Betty’s expecting me.
It's not what I wanted. When I married your
father I hoped it would be for good, but he's
broke my heart. I won't put up with it. I don't
deserve this. I worked hard for that man. I
know he worked hard for me too, and he
didn't drink, which was a blessing. But my
mother always said once a man cheats on you
he'll do it again. I'm just going to pack the
sheets then I'm going to ask Mrs. Prendergast
if I can borrow her phone to call a taxi. If I
don't do it like that I'll have to walk all the
way to Betty's which is too far on my bad legs.

She picked up the pile of sheets and looked at
me, the sheets held out like an offering.

I'm sorry. I can't think what else to do. If you
want to come I'd like you to. But you're old
enough now to decide for yourself.

She left and clumped up the stairs. I looked
at my dad’s shirts, washed, dry and crumpled.
If she didn't want to iron them why had she
washed them? Upstairs I heard her clomping
around, banging cupboard doors. She came
down again, her case bumping on each step.
The front door opened and closed.

I heard her footsteps in the hall. She came
into the dining room. I'll say goodbye then.

She came over with her arms open. My
mother’s embrace always sucked the life from
me. Her arms enfolded me, gripping me tight,
her wet lips on my cheek. I love you, she
said. Always remember that.

She let me go and moved away, stroking my
hair and looking at me with her shallow eyes.
Bye, take care of yourself. If there's anything
you need, you know where I am.

Then she left, plonking down the hall,
opening the door again, her case banging as
she pulled it down the step. The door closed.

I listened, but there was nothing.

I imagined her pulling her old case down the
path and into the street. Looking at the cars
and buses, crossing at the crossing and
smiling at the drivers.

She would say to Mrs. Prendergast, Hello, I'm
sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if I
could borrow your phone. I need a taxi. And
Mrs. Prendergast would ask where she was
going and Mum would make up an excuse.

I went to get the ironing board. I had to be
careful not to squash my fingers as I unfolded
the legs. I ran my hand over the smooth
cotton top, padded and soft. I picked up my
dad's blue and white striped shirt and
stretched it over the board. I picked up the
iron, heavy and solid, and spat on its flat
surface. It sizzled. The shirt was slightly
damp and hissed as I smoothed the iron over
it. I propped the iron on its stand and moved
the shirt, smoothing it flat like Mum had
shown me. Outside it started to rain. I was
glad we’d got the washing in.

Samantha Memi is the author of the short fiction collection,
Kate Moss & Other Heroines (Black Scat Books, 2012). Her
writing can be found at
by Samantha Memi