Mother Tongue by Alison Lock
The orange fell apart with a single push of the thumb; the segments, juicy and firm, their pungency piercing the air. She let the aroma envelop her in a sweet embrace. Even the cicadas in the long grass were music to her chambered ear.
How she had missed them on those cold silent nights when the snow had smothered her world. How she had yearned for the rhythmic clicks that rose to meet the stars with orchestral inclination.
It wasn’t her idea, or even her wish. Decisions like that were never made by children.
‘We are no longer a family,’ he’d declared. ‘It is time to go and you are coming with me.’
She opened her mouth to argue but only howls of pain emerged.
Of the journey, she remembers only the dark hull on a black sea, waking up to the sound of the ship’s horn echoing against the walls of a foreign harbour.
The new home was a place as harsh as the marram was razor sharp, as unforgiving as the barren dunes that were set like concrete in the constant freeze.
She always knew she would return but had never known how or when. Ushered into the corners of her mind, old memories pervaded her deepest dreams.
Now, she was back amongst the groves of olives, nuts, the vineyards. But she was unable to speak – her tongue’s memory was lost, swallowed by a language of juddering syllables, guttural utterances, sounds that petered.
Until one evening, oiled with rich wine, the old words began to rise from a place deep inside her. Released, little by little through the gateway of her throat, cradled for a moment on her palate, released in mellow chords; the words.
She had arrived home.
Previously published in Deep Water Literary Review, 2014