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A Mother's Painful Duty

by Cate 11/02/01

To Katie who read parts 1 & 2 and gently insisted she wanted more, this story is dedicated with love. Her word is my command.

* * * * *

The two sisters went out to the kitchen where a pizza and freshly poured glasses of red wine awaited them on the scrubbed pine table. Although Jennifer Armstrong was twenty-seven and Emily twenty-two, they were only permitted a single glass of wine each on special occasions. Their mother had retired early, saying she was not in the mood for smalltalk and, as she would be watching television in bed, they should be careful to make no noise to disturb her.

"Oh Mother, Mother - sometimes I really do hate her," Emily said. She had auburn hair and pleasantly freckled skin and wore no makeup.. Jennifer had her hair pulled back in a severe bun and she also wore neither lipstick nor eye shadow, although Emily knew she could look quite glamorous when she got the chance.

"I told you she'd win," Jennifer said, frowning slightly and blinking as she moved position on one of the kitchen stools.

"I had all the arguments," Emily said. "I'd even spoken to Dr Mappamundi about it. It was she that urged me to give it a whirl. I mean, this is the twenty-first century, isn't it?"

"Your Philosophy professor, right?" Jennifer said. "Still got a crush on her?"

Emily blushed.

"Oh no. Well, not really. I do like her, though. There's this guy I'm seeing...was seeing, I suppose. I sort of... sort of though I might persuade Mommy to let me ..."

"Sort of.... go out with him?" Jennifer said mockingly. "Don't make me laugh."

"What's wrong with that?" Emily said indignantly.

"There's nothing wrong with it. You'll just have to do it behind her back, is all," Jennifer said.

"It's time I moved out," Emily said. "But she won't hear of it. You're so lucky."

"You think so? Jennifer said, getting painfully to her feet.

She lifted her dress at the back and, below her sensible cotton pants, Emily could see her buttocks and upper legs looked angry and raw.

" Jennifer!" she said. "Why?"

"Jeff heard that I was looking at another man. It's true, but I was only looking... we were at a church barbecue last week. It seems his wife isn't allowed do even that. "And then," she dropped her voice, "the bastard... he rang Mommy."

"Oh my God. That's terrible. I thought… when you got married."

"No. Almost every time I've been here. I've been here for a reason. I was.. summoned here to-day for one of Mommy's "discussions"."

"Was it bad?" Emily asked.

"Bad enough," Jennifer said. "I tried to argue my case, but you know how she is. She turned those blasted big eyes of hers on me and started talking in that low, very pleasant voice, demolishing all my arguments. I didn't know what had happened until I was already over her knees. I can never make out whether I'm over her knees because she's won the argument, or if it's the other way around. To-day she..she used the b..b..brush on me,"

Jennifer began to weep and Emily got off her stool and went to her, holding her in her arms.

"How has she such power over us?" Jennifer said. "Why can't we just walk away from her..She even chose my husband for me."

"She's so strong-minded,"Emily said.

" Is she not, well.... weird?"

"Hush, we shouldn't say that. She is our mother. Hey, I'd love another glass of wine," Emily said.

"Don't even think about it," Jennifer replied, sniffling, beginning to laugh through her tears. "Tell me about you."

"Well, I've been involved in student campaigns with Dr Mappamundi."

"Oh, you have eh? My, my, little Emily."

"Yeah, Dr Mappamundi's pretty liberal. She's lived with a string of men over the years, but she's also a militant feminist. Mommy's not a feminist, is she?"

"Don't make me laugh," Jennifer said. "Mom hates feminists. She says the only freedom they've won is the freedom to be exploited by men. Now women have to go out to work as well as raise kids."

"Isn't that a good thing?"

"Depends on your point of view," Jennifer said. "Mom never went out to work and she's worth twenty million."

Their late father, during a hard-working lifetime in the engineering industry, had patented a couple of valve devices, which continued to deliver a substantial income.

This money would come to the girls in due course - If their mother believed them to have been dutiful daughters.

"At the moment," Emily said, we're organising a demonstration to gain admittance to a small men-only squash club."

"What do you want to do that for?" Jennifer asked.

"We don't," Emily laughed. "Dr Mappamundi says women will have to be admitted to membership. The faculty will bend over backwards to be seen as politically correct.

They'll have to spend plenty to put in women's showers and rest rooms."


"Then we'll refuse to use the place anyway, because it's too scruffy."

"Brilliant," Jennifer said scornfully. "Anyway, what's this Dr Mappamundi like - apart from a bit nutty, by the sound of her?"""

"Oh, about thirty-five. Madly attractive, dresses beautifully, blonde, Takes no shit from anybody."

"So, if she's so marvellous, how come your arguments went down like a lead balloon with Mommy?"

"Well, Mommy did most of the talking, of course. But I thought I had everything sort of worked out - Dr Mappamundi even rehearsed me in a sort of mock debate - she called it a Socratic Dialogue - and it worked all right with her, no matter what objections she threw at me. Dr Mappamundi said she was convinced.!"

"I'll bet she was - listening to her own arguments." Jennifer laughed.

"Oh,do shut up, Jenny ," Emily said.

Jennifer laughed again and shook her head

"I knew I was getting nowhere with Mommy after only a few minutes," Emily said ruefully "and then, when she said we'd finish the discussion with me across her knees, I knew I was finished. In about three minutes she had me undressed and I was jack-knifed across her knees, staring at the bloody carpet."

"I can imagine the rest," Jennifer said, standing up painfully "Hell, I don't even have to imagine it."

She carried their glasses and empty plates to the dishwasher.

"I have to be off early in the morning to get to work from here," she said ."What are you going to tell Dr Mappamundi?"

"I don't really want to tell her anything, the way things have turned out," Emily said.I suppose I'll just tell her that Mommy won the argument."

"Well, that's the way we usually describe it," Jennifer said.

They knew their mother would be turning her light off at ten o'clock. Mrs Adams was a still handsome woman in her early fifties with short grey hair and a beautiful olive skin, which set off her deep brown eyes. She wore a pale blue nightdress with bootlace straps over her attractive shoulders and although Emily had never seen her mother naked, it was obvious through the thin nightdress that her breasts were softly full and beautiful. Mrs Armstrong had made it clear that she could have had affairs or been married a hundred times over if she had wished, but she decided to give all her attention to the upbringing of her two daughters.

Jennifer bent to kiss her mother, nuzzling into her soft neck.

"Good night. I'm sorry, Mummy."

"Good night, Jennifer, dear."

"Good night, Mummy, I want to apologise for my behaviour," Emily said, bending to kiss her, her arms resting gently on her mother's beautiful shoulders.

She would have loved to melt into her mother's arms, but the only contact she ever had now with her mother's body was when she was being punished. Her mother touched her lightly on the back and this was as near to an embrace as Emily could expect.

"Good night, Emily dear."

Before turning into the driveway to her own house a couple of days later, Emily noticed where, two houses along, a removal van stood against the kerb and a table and washstand and a couple of kids' bikes had been left on the lawn. This house was always rented and people came and went every few years. It was here her friend Bonny had once lived. A well-brought up child of impeccable parents who had moved in while their own house was being built, Bonny was allowed call to play with Emily when she was around twelve and Emily occasionally allowed to visit at Bonny's house. Bonny was more boisterous than Emily and was just starting to go a little bit wild. Emily, who was feeling the first stirrings of rebellion, encouraged her. Later, Emily in her innocence let slip to her mother something that Bonny had told her with much giggling about snooping on the sex-life of her parents, a concept that had never even occurred to either Emily or, indeed, Jennifer. Mrs Armstrong acted decisively. Emily was punished, but not too severely. A phone call was made to Bonny's mother who called for a long discussion, after which Bonny was handed over to Mrs Armstrong for punishment.. It was even suspected, between Emily and Jennifer, that Bonny's pretty young mother received a practical demonstration of a spanking from Mrs Armstrong, who certainly felt that the girl's mother was at least to some degree at fault for Bonny's behaviour. When Bonny was eventually allowed to come again to play with Emily her demeanour was much less natural and her conversation as bland and guarded as that of a Stepford wife. One July day, when Mrs Armstrong was admiring Bonny's patent leather shoes and beautifully starched cotton dress, Emily was unwise enough to say: "I'll bet your Mom even puts starch in your underpants.!" Bonny was immediately requested to return home and Emily was instructed to follow her mother to her bedroom. After that day she and Bonny saw little of each other and a few months later Bonny's family moved away.

The entrance hall of the Armstrong house was large and cold and full of dark, highly-polished furniture, brass urns and oil paintings that faded into the gloomy corners.

Against the wall stood four carved ivory elephants, the colour of stained teeth. Emily always thought of it as the sort of place where the remains of an archbishop might suitably lie in state. The maid, who was arranging chilly-looking waxy lilies on one of the hall tables told Emily, with a slight smile on her face, that she was wanted immediately in her mother's bedroom. Emily's mouth was dry as she climbed the stairs and knocked politely on the door.

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