Lies and Life Of Bella Hatherley

 

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Another extract from our unpublished novel. Bella has yet another problem to deal with when her mother Pixi falls under the influence of the  self-styled guru Dahabara and brings her for a visit:  When I came home from school a few days later there was a beaten-up Kombi van parked in our drive with a lot of string bags on top full of vegetables. Surely this couldn’t be Mummy and Dahabara?  Mummy would die rather than go in a Kombi van. But when I ran inside I could smell her beautiful flowery perfume in the hallway. I ran upstairs to her room and as I got closer I could hear a rather loud voice sort of singing. 

   ‘Mummy, mummy,’ I called out, and ran full pelt and pushed open her door to run in.  There was a thumping noise, the voice stopped and I ran into the door with my head because something was stopping it from opening. I stepped back and put my hands up to my nose to see if it was squashed, and then I saw Mummy’s face come round the door.  She looked thin and her skin seemed less rosy than usual, but she was still my beautiful Pixi Mummy.

   ‘Oh, darling, are you hurt?’ she said and said to someone behind her, ‘I am sorry, Dahabara, Bella didn’t mean it, I’m sure.’ There was a scrabbling noise behind her and then another face appeared round the door, a big face with a beaky nose and hair dragged back so that her eyebrows looked surprised.

   ‘Blessings,’ she said, and then something in a language I didn’t understand.

   ‘Dahabara was just doing a cleansing,’ said Mummy.  ‘She’ll do your room next.’ She could open the door by now and she ran out and gave me one of her lovely long Mummy hugs. ‘What a tall enormous girl,’ she said. ‘Have you been putting your sunscreen on, darling? Oh, I don’t think that blue shirt will do. Emerald green, I think, with your auburn hair.’

   ‘But it’s the school uniform, Mummy,’ I said, ‘everyone has to wear it.’

   ‘Oh, I don’t think so. Now Mummy’s back we’ll have everything the way it should be.’

   Dahabara was listening to us and nodding her head slowly up and down with a smile, as if she knew something wonderful that we didn’t know. She was very tall and bony, dressed in crumpled white pyjama things and her feet were bare, with no nail polish. I thought maybe she hadn’t put on enough deodorant. ‘Ah, yes,’ she said and kept on nodding. She put her hands out and made a kind of shape in the air around me and then she put her hands together and closed her eyes. Mummy was looking anxious. Dahabara opened her eyes again and frowned.

   ‘Carcasses,’ she said, ‘carcasses and the spirits of suffering birds.’

   ‘Oh, no,’ said Mummy, ‘Bella hardly eats any meat, do you darling?’

   ‘Yes I do, Mummy. Kitty read about a healthy diet where you have to eat meat every day, so we’ve been having pork and lamb and veal and beef and ham and bacon and…’

   Dahabara gave a loud hiss.

   ‘Oh dear,’ said Mummy, and her voice sounded faint and worried. ‘Oh, dear, I’ll have to speak to Kitty.’

   ‘I will speak to Kitty,’ said Dahabara.

  It was just as well Roger was still in Sydney because Kitty said there would have been hell to pay if that great galoot had been clumping round the kitchen interfering with her cooking when she had Mr. Brewster-Shrove to consider. Actually it was a bit funny to see Dahabara trying to control Kitty.  The first night she came into the kitchen when Kitty was taking the roast out of the oven and plonked a string bag full of vegetables on the bench exactly where Kitty was going to put down the hot roasting dish. Under her other arm she was carrying a grey steel thing that she started to screw to the bench. 

   ‘Excuse me, miss,’ said Kitty, but Dahabara just kept screwing away until the steel thing was standing up on the bench.  It had a funnel at the top and a spout coming out the side. Kitty stood with the roasting dish in her hands for a minute and then she came over to the bench and used the dish to push the bag of vegetables off. Dahabara picked them up and tried to put them back, and Kitty just kept pushing with the roasting dish.  They stared at each other like Sumo wrestlers.

   ‘If you don’t mind,’ said Kitty, ‘I am trying to prepare dinner for the family.  If you want to prepare your own food then you can do it out there.’ She waved her hand towards the little alcove where the fridge was.  There was a sink there that Kitty used for soaking the dirty pans.

   ‘Kitty,’ said Dahabara, ‘I do so want us to be friends and I deeply feel we can be…’

   ‘No doubt,’ said Kitty, ‘but I have work to do, if you don’t mind.’ She stuck the carving fork into the side of lamb and heaved it out of the roasting dish spitting fat all over Dahabara’s mincer thing. ‘Do get that thing out of my way,’ she said. ‘And it looks as if it could do with a good wash.  You don’t want to be getting pottermain poisoning, miss.’

   Dahabara took some deep breaths with her eyes closed.  Then she unscrewed the mincer and took it into the alcove and began to mince up her vegetables so they came glopping out of the spout.  Kitty made a face at me with her mouth turned right down and her eyes popping out and pointed her finger at her forehead.

 That was the way it went on for days and days, with Dahabara trying to get into the kitchen and Kitty trying to keep her out.  I could tell Mummy really wanted Dahabara to go away only she wasn’t brave enough to tell her. She even ate the same slushy food instead of all the things Kitty cooked.  The more Dahabara talked about cleansing diets and dead animals, the more Kitty roasted and baked and barbecued. Jim Carter said he wouldn’t put it past her to turn on a whole sucking pig. And the worst thing was that Mummy had gone away to refresh herself and she came back like the Ancient Mariner who had an albatross hanging round his neck.

 

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