FLASH FICTION: Mrs Garibaldi & The Helter Skelter
My husband told me not to bother going to see her. Said it wasn’t worth the hassle of a confrontation, that I should let it go.
But I was seething, still. Just boiling over with the shame of it, the spectacle she’d made of us in the playground. I had to go; had to look her in the eye and tell her what she’d done. It wouldn’t be right to let it lie.
“What’s wrong with the girl?” she’d shouted, when Freya had started crying and I’d climbed on my knees to the top of the helter-skelter to get her down - Elena bloody Garibaldi and her elocution lesson-vowels that made everything sound like an accusation. “Why’s she not moving? There are other kids waiting to go on, you know.”
And there had been, by the time she’d finished yelling - a cluster of them, mums and dads in sunglasses and sweat-stained t-shirts, staring up at us and tutting, clicking their tongues in passive-aggressive judgement.
“I’m scared, mummy,” Freya had said, clinging to me, her elbows scraping along the rusted paintwork of the railings. “I don’t want to go down the slide.”
“It’s alright, baby,” I’d told her. “Hold on to me and we’ll go down together.”
“What’s the hold up?” Elena Garibaldi had yelled from the tarmac. “Just move!”
I’d wedged myself between the metal jaws of the slide, pulled Freya onto my lap and whispered to her to close her eyes - then, knees bent, I’d dragged us down the helter-skelter by the balls of my feet, inch by cramp-inducing inch.
“See?” Elena Garibaldi sneered at us, when we’d made it to the bottom. “Not so difficult, was it? Honestly,” she’d added to one of the dads behind her in a stage-whisper she must have known we’d hear, “some of these mothers make such a meal out of everything. And if you ask me, that little girl shouldn’t need any help getting down from there at her age. My Ben was doing it on his own by two and a half.”
Freya had gone bright red, and ducked her head, and pulled me by the hand out of the park.
All that night she’d cried; embarrassed, humiliated. And all that night I’d had Elena Garibaldi’s voice ringing in my ears.
“See?” I’d hear her say, whenever I closed my eyes to sleep. “Not so difficult, was it?”
So I couldn’t not go. I had to see her; had to give her a piece of my mind, make sure she knew how she’d made me feel. How she’d made Freya feel.
I like to think she was surprised, when she saw the carving knife slip out of my sleeve; that she felt something like remorse when the serrated edge of it dug through the muscle of her throat all the way to the windpipe and she got to choking on the blood that fountained out.
My husband won’t be happy when he sees what’s left of her, seeping out through the bin bags onto the back seat of the Volvo. And he was probably right - I probably shouldn’t have gone to see her. Truth be told, I should have let it go.
But he owes me one, after that business with the man who stole the seat he'd reserved on the train last week. And there’s still a bit of room left at the bottom of the garden.