It was not just the frost that numbed his mind as he trudged home; his heart froze long ago, finding expression only in his writing.
The cleaner was singing again, he noted as he hung his coat. “Can you be quiet? I’m trying to work!” He growled, pulling the chair up to his desk. Typewriter posed, a cup of coffee slid silently beside his elbow. He nodded. Phrases squeezed out onto the page.
She was humming confound her! It was the Latin background. “Let’s face it,” he thought, “I can’t afford anyone else.” He paused watching her smile as she placed his wet shoes by the fire. He didn’t pay her to do that, or make coffee. She was just a natural mother, not like his had been… He recalled the time she’d brought her little daughter, how they’d cleaned and laughed together. He’d got no work done that day but he’d secretly enjoyed watching them.
Words seemed to swim into pictures, mothers, children, en-wrapped, smiling teasingly. He’d never felt the warmth of his mother’s arms… he’d learned to cope with her rejection, to numb himself, but Maria’s warmth felt threatening sometimes. She was like a fire and he longed to warm his hands, but there would be pain, he was sure, like the pins and needles of frozen fingers.
She looked up smiling. “Is everything alright sir? You look so sad sometimes. I wish there was something I could do.”
“Do Woman! What in Heaven’s name are you talking about?” His voice was harsh, eyes flashing. She recoiled for a moment then a spark appeared in her eye, a hot flush burning up her cheeks.
“You pretend you’re fine! But you’re not! Anyone can see that!” she flamed at him. Surprised he crumpled for just a moment, but that moment was enough. Ignoring his protests she grabbed him in her arms cradling him like he’d seen her do her daughter.
“I’m sorry, so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” she whispered. He stopped protesting unable to strive against overwhelming warmth enveloping him. As her fire melted his ice, looking up into her eyes he realized it was not a mother he wanted any more. He needed love desperately and he saw it in this young widow