To My Daughter

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Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about mother-daughter relationships by Judith Wilson.

Judith is a London-based writer and journalist. She won 1st Prize for the London Short Story Prize 2019, and 3rd Prize for the Brick Lane Bookshop Short Story Prize 2019. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London, and graduated with Distinction in 2019. Judith is currently writing a novel.

Judith was the typical child-with-her-nose-in-a-book and dreamed of being a writer. After studying English Literature, as an interiors journalist she wrote for national magazines as well as publishing fourteen books on design. Then she turned her gaze to fiction and did the Faber Academy Writing a Novel six-month course, followed by an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has won several short story competitions including First Prize for the London Short Story Prize 2019, Second Prize for the Exeter Story Prize 2018 and Third Prize for the Brick Lane Bookshop Short Story Competition 2019. She has been shortlisted variously for the Yeovil Literary Prize 2022, the London Short Story Prize 2018 and the Bath Short Story Award 2017. Her fiction has been published in The Fairlight Book of Short Stories Vol 1 and numerous short story prize anthologies.

‘To My Daughter’ follows a family Christmas when a woman receives a strange present.

Enjoy!

 

It was my mother’s last Christmas, though we didn’t know it then. She was slower, I recall; less stately, less loquacious, less of her all round. The fierce pince-nez on the end of her nose, yet still, her summer rose blush dusted on sharp cheekbones, a black dress, that diamond brooch of twin flowers, pinned above her left breast. The nude stockings, the shiny shoes she could barely walk in, heels too high. And what a smile!

A festive smile so dazzling we couldn’t deny her childlike joy in everything the celebration brought, from early morning until bed. At midnight, no less. Despite her ninety-nine years, she wouldn’t dream of turning in early like a kid. It was her 100th Christmas, she wouldn’t miss it for the world. And it was her refusal to entertain the idea of oblivion that was so exhilarating. Her suggestion that Next Year we might have more expensive crackers, for example. She said this, squeezing a paper hat over lilac-tinted hair, tossing her cracker gift with disdain. ‘Cheap and nasty,’ she’d said, passing it to a grandchild ‘But next year …’

We put together a stocking, me and the kids. No matter that they’re in their twenties now, Suzy and Ollie both love the notion and the process. I see they’ve inherited her joy. My gorgeous boy and beautiful girl went shopping together one wintry afternoon, they returned with w-a-y too much, too expensive, though of course it was I who paid. A dish of stilton that would give her indigestion; a hardback book too heavy, her frail, knobbly hands wouldn’t support it; a silk scarf in neon orange, at odds with her whisper-white complexion. A sugar mouse, for nostalgia’s sake, and a candle she’d forget to blow out.

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