Just a short story I made up for local newspaper. It's about a man who forgives his father for betraying him as a child.
It had happened only in the distant past. I walked towards my parent’s house after work; I hadn’t seen her since August when my mother came back from Australia. We only live a mile apart and I like to save money where I can, so walking instead of driving was fine for me. It was raining today; I had to wear my duffel coat to keep the chill of the October rain off my body. It was too windy for an umbrella. The street I had to walk down was just a long stretch of road. Each house was identical; same square freshly mown gardens, white windows and blue doors. It felt like an estate. My parent’s house was just on the end of the street, which was a bit of a pain in the ass if you ask me. It was on the corner of the crossroads; the left road led to the town centre, right led to the motorway, and if you carried on straight ahead you would reach the countryside, and the forest where in endless summers I used to play as a child.
How I could relive those happy moments! My mother and father were together at the time, I can recall a picnic where we all sat on the field. Buttercups and daisies waved in the yellow grass. My parents were sat together, lovingly feeding each other strawberries dipped in chocolate. My sister was making a daisy chain not far away. My parents had bought me a balloon that day. It was a windy day, kind of like today, though the sun was shining on our heads and the birds were singing heavenly tunes I could not place.
But that was the past. A couple of months after that memorable day, my father went away on a business trip to New York. He met a woman, and unexpectedly he went and had an affair. It was just the one time, but my mother’s feelings towards him changed completely. It was his colleague, one of his closest friends, who told my mother what he had done. As soon as he returned home, she kicked him out, and we never heard from him again. Or so we thought…
I eventually reached my mother’s house. The elm tree that I used to climb had been chopped down, only a stump remained. I felt a little sad that she had taken a part of my past away. Then again my dad used to climb that tree too. I opened the gate and walked through. The door was green rather than the mass of blue doors I had walked passed. I knocked on the golden lion (still not changed) and waited. Why did I get this sudden feeling in the pit of my stomach? It was as though the nostalgia came rushing through me like bile, I nearly threw up my office lunch. The door opened and there stood my mother.
Getting older hadn’t made her look any less beautiful. Her hair was an elegant white, which she had styled into a bob. Her child-like blue eyes glittered with eternal youth. Her figure was still great, if not a little thinner than I last recall. Her makeup was delicate, a sure sign that she had to go out soon, which was odd for a Wednesday. She was wearing a smooth black dress and heels.
“Oh hello, James. Come in,” she said, opening the door further.
I entered silently. The hallway hadn’t changed at all. Maybe she was trying to cling on to dad’s memories too. But she was dating some guy who worked at ITV as a cameraman. I’d have thought the house would be totally different. My mum interrupted my thoughts and I fell out of my trance.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” she asked in her sweet, frail voice. It was a lot quieter then I remembered too.
“No, I’m alright thanks,” I replied making my way to the living room after placing my coat on the rail. Nothing changed in here either, apart from the new TV and some souvenirs from her holiday sitting on the cabinet. She poured herself a brandy from the bottle that lay on the table and drank it in one gulp. I hadn’t known her to do that before.
“Mum, is everything alright? I’m sorry I haven’t been to see you in a while, I’ve been a little busy with the kids.”
She seemed uncomfortable, fidgeting in her cushy leather couch. “You don’t need to worry or apologise. Maybe I should come round to help out a little with Toby and Louise; it’s been a little lonely here.”
“What happened to Derek? Have you two split up?”’ I asked, shocked.
“Unfortunately, Yes. We broke up about a month ago, it was too difficult…”
“Difficult? What was so difficult, I thought you two were happy! I was happy for you, after what happened to Dad and all…”
“Oh… I thought you knew already…”
“About your father.”
“What about him? Has he gone and jumped off a cliff at last?” I mocked.
“James, he’s got cancer!” She cried. She grabbed a tissue and began to cry softly. I crept out of the arm chair and sat next to her, watching her as she sobbed. Eventually, she calmed down.
“I’m sorry you have to see me like this, James. I know you haven’t forgiven him for what he did to me all those years ago. But I have, and I’m going to see him today. He’s on life-support you see, and I’m all he’s got. Will you come with me to the hospital?”
I nodded, but I was only doing it for my mother’s sake. We left the house and went to the hospital in my mother’s car. It was just off the town centre, about fifteen minutes away from her house. She led me to my father’s room. His company has probably been paying his medical bills as he was in private accommodation. Machines were strapped all over his body, it was revolting. An abundance of presents were heaped in piles everywhere. Teddies, card, flowers, you name it, it was here. His deathly pallor hung like clouds above our heads. His skin was pale and sunken; his eyes hollow like a ghost. His skeletal frame was barely covered with the thin bed sheets. There were balloons hanging on either side of his bed. Mother hiccupped with a sob and crept towards the chair next to his bed. She placed her hand on top of his and fell silent. I had to get out. I left her in the room for a moment, to collect my thoughts.
“Going to get some coffee,” I told her, and quietly closed the door.
Outside the hospital I took out my mobile and called Lucy, my sister.
“Hello?” said Lucy, with a myriad of ringing telephones in the background. It was hard to hear her.
“Lucy, its James. Did you know that Dad had cancer?” I asked louder than usual over the din.
“I was with mum when I found out he was diagnosed with it. I’ve visited him a couple of times before now. You only just found out?”
Oh yeah, Lucy was only four when he had an affair, she wouldn’t remember it. Mum never told her and neither did I…
“Yeah, I was so busy with the kids I didn’t get round to visit, Mum must have been devastated.”
“She took it a lot better than I thought. I think she’s forgiven him for going with another woman…”
“Wait, you know about that?!”
“I’ve known since I was like fifteen. Mum felt I was old enough to know… I was a bit shocked but I can understand why he did it. He told me on one of my visits that this woman looked just like mother when he first saw her, and it was hard for him to turn away.”
“Well, mum’s going to shut him down today. Do you want to say any last words?
“You make it sound like he’s a computer… you always hated him, didn’t you?”
“He treated me badly, you wouldn’t remember, you was too young…”
“Well, maybe it’s time you forgave him for the past. Before he dies. Otherwise you’ll have to live with hating him for the rest of your life.”
Her words stung me, but I have to admit she was right about something there. I mean, how would I feel if Toby hated my guts? But I already knew the answer to that…
I walked back into the hospital and bought two coffees from the vending machine. When I entered the room, there was a middle-aged man talking to my mother. She had a box of tissues next to her, and held dry tissue close to her face, as though preparing for a downpour.
“We’re ready to begin. Would you like a moment, Sir?” the tanned doctor asked.
“Yes. Mum, do you want to drink your coffee outside?” I asked, turning to my frail creature.
“Mm…? Yeah, I shall, I need a little air anyway…”
She swiftly walked out the door without another word. The doctor left not long after. I sat down on the chair that previously held my mum. Her perfume still lingered in the air. It was the same as Melissa’s. He hadn’t moved an inch since I first saw him. His chest moved ever so slightly up and down, up and down, his breath sounded raspy and tight. I shivered, thinking of what I was going to say. His purple eyes and delicate eyelashes looked dull. I can remember the bright, shining blue eyes he used to have. I rested my hand on his and began;
“I think you know why I’m here today. After all these years of not seeing you, I thought you abandoned me after running off with the American slut. But Lucy told me about what she was like, and I guess I could understand. It would be difficult to turn away if they looked just like your wife, and because you were always away for weeks, even months, I can’t blame you for missing her. I know I would. And… I just wanted you to know that… I forgive you for doing what you did. You were sorry but we rejected you so callously, and I never heard from you again. But I guess you’ve still been talking to Mum, so I guess she forgave you long before Lucy did too. I’m so sorry…”
I lay my head down on the bed and let my heart out for the first time in years. My mum came in and leant over me soothingly. This seemed to go on forever; it felt like my soul was finally being cleansed with my tears of forgiveness, and all the darkness was seeping out of my heart and dying. The silence was broken when the doctor came in. I got up and grabbed one of the tissues. It was mother’s turn to hold dad’s hand, as the doctor switched off the machines and ending my father’s life. I could have sworn just before his passed away that there was a small smile on his face, just a flicker of a smile, and then he left us forever.
I stood with my wife on Toby and Lizzie’s school playground waiting for them to come out of lesson. It was almost Christmas, and I was planning in the back of my mind what to buy my beloved children. I saw a beautiful doll in Harrods that was on sale. I’m sure Lizzie would love it. At that moment, the schoolchildren were herded out of the school to meet us. It suddenly began to snow.
“Oh, look at that, James! It might just be a white Christmas this year!” exclaimed Melissa, holding my hand.
Toby and Lizzie came running up to us in their neat little uniforms. Toby was holding a balloon.
“Look, Dad! It’s snowing! This is the best day ever!” Toby cried with glee.
Lizzie shivered; “Mummy, I’m cold…”
Melissa delicately picked her up and cuddled her daughter; “How about some hot chocolate when we get home?”
I picked up Toby as he screamed with delight for a sweet treat, in his excitement he accidently let go of his balloon but he didn’t seem to care. I watched the balloon escape into the clouds and I thanked the heavens for this glorious day.