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Lucy was at her most provocative. Her mother snatched up a knife and began slicing it through the stems of rhubarb that lay on the chopping board.

There was silence between them for a few seconds, just the rap, rap, rap of the knife and the little scrunch as her mother pressed on, sliding the blade to sever the fibrous skin. Everything about her was brisk and organised.

Lucy took another cherry, slowly and deliberately.

'When's Daddy coming home?' Rap, rap, rap went the knife.

'When's Daddy coming home?' She repeated it slowly as if her mother was deaf. She watched her stop chopping and straighten up.

'I don't know, tomorrow sometime.' 'Tomorrow?' Lucy said the word as if she'd never heard it before. She knew by the way that her mother turned back to the board and crunched the knife through the rhubarb stems that she'd touched her on the raw.

'Where's he gone?' 'Where's who gone, dear?' Lucy opened the pedal bin with her foot and spat the cherry stone in.

'Daddy, of course!' 'Oh, he's at a conference. About allergies.' Her mother lifted the rhubarb into another colander - it matched the one that held the lettuce - and rinsed it under the tap. For a moment the water coming through was stained pink from the skins. Lucy's father was Dr Ainsley and they lived in a large house near the park. Her mother was the health visitor at the local Health Centre. The household was run with medical precision.

Lucy ran her finger across the working surface. She was bored. Her mother began to untie her kitchen apron and put on a housecoat. Lucy moved towards the door, anticipating a request for help. She was too late.

'Would you like to dust the lounge?' 'I was just going out.' 'Were you? It didn't look like it to me. Come on, it won't take you long.' Lucy refused to put on an apron just to dust the lounge. She flicked the duster over the cocktail cabinet, her father's cricket trophies, the ghastly wedding photograph and the one she hated of herself in school uniform.

* The short story collection The Great Master of Ecstasy by Glenda Beagan is published by Seren, price pounds 7.99, available from > CONTINUES TOMORROW
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 16, 2011
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