Some lovely, quality writing, Bella.
I do agree with the others that I didn’t need quite so much information about the Bert back story. That did slow it down.
I liked this bit. ‘The conversation could go either way. She held her breath’ It really had me thinking uh-oh, what is this mother going to be like? Is she mentally unstable and going to be really difficult to handle? Although she bulldozes over Bethany’s objections, and there’s the undertones of Bethany being treated as a disappointment, for me, what she says doesn’t quite live up to that really ominous opening. She reminded me a little of Bridget Jones’ mother. Maybe you could push her a little further? Or I might just be over analysing!
I did like the way the mother had an answer to everyone of Bethany’s objections. I could really feel Bethany’s desperation and how she was slowly smothered into compliance. That was beautifully done.
Small nit picks that may not be what you’re looking for, in which case ignore:
There are two ‘she said’ close together at the beginning.
‘She hoped the relief…’ I’m not a filtering fan so that jumped out at me.
‘After that, like Job, Bethany would be cursing the day she was born.’ – This bit feels as if you’d moved out of Bethany’s head, and jarred for me.
‘She was sweating, desperately hoping…’ I thought the ‘desperately hoping’ was unnecessary and over explaining as you’ve already made it clear with the sweating and the rest of the conversation.
‘Crap. Crap, crap, crap.’ – love that bit!
‘The familiar pit of self-loathing opened up in her belly.’ – I might be over analysing again, but I felt you inferred that with everything around it, so maybe didn’t need to actually state it.
‘She finished her soup…’ I couldn’t see that you’d mentioned she was eating previously, so this came from nowhere.
‘Always look forward, never back.’ I’m intrigued.
You end on a real tear jerker. Poor Bethany! A character with problems who we can empathise with, but I do wonder a little where it’s going next. The September trip feels a bit too far in the future for real jeopardy. Do you jump straight forward to then? If there’s more to happen in between can you leave us with a hint of what that instability might be? This is an element of personal taste but I wonder if you need a stronger hook to end on.
Hope some of that is helpful.