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Clement's Corner: Only Yesterday

John has an important secret, something he should have told his wife. Owen Clement tells an intriguing domestic tale.

‘Who was that, John?” Margo asked half consciously as she sat working out the daily newspaper’s cryptic crossword.

“It was Roger.”

“It’s a long time since you’ve heard from him, is he coming over?”

John, deep in thought, did not reply.

Aware that her remark had not registered, she looked over to him; alarmed by his distracted expression she asked, “What is it, bad news?”

“Oh, no, no. he’s heard from an old friend that he wants me to meet, that’s all. I might go over tomorrow sometime.’’

Margo, her curiosity now fully aroused, followed him. She found him in the carport perched on the bonnet of the car, hunched over with his arms folded. She sat beside him.

“You know,’’ he said turning to her with a sigh, “I was thinking only yesterday how my life has been free of dramas lately and bang, all of a sudden, everything’s changed.’’.

She put her hand on his arm, “Whatever it is darling; we’ll sort it out.’’

He smiled and uttering a single syllable laugh looked steadily at his wife of almost twenty years,” I remember Roger saying to me at the time, ‘One day the truth will out.’ That ‘one day’ has finally arrived.’’

Margo now deeply concerned said, “Is it that terrible?”

After a long pause he said, “I have never lied to you Margo, apart from the odd white lie that is. This is different. It’s something I have never mentioned to you or to anyone else. Something I have continuously thought about though over the years. Let’s go back inside.’’

She jumped down and gripped his arms before he could move, “You’ve had an affair?”

He smiled and shook his head, “No, I have never touched anyone since I’ve known you.’’ With another deep sigh he hopped down. ” ome on, I need a drink.’’

He led her by the hand to the dining room where he took out a bottle of Scotch from the sideboard. “Want one?” He held up the bottle. She shook her head and sat down on a chair, waiting for him to begin.

He fumbled his way through a tale of a boy in his final year at High School, an only child who carried the hopes and wishes of his ambitious parents. They saw him going on to college and ending up as a successful lawyer like his father.
To his dismay his girlfriend Anna became pregnant. He tried to convince her to have an abortion, the only solution to his mind. He, with his closest friend Roger, discussed the best course of action with Anna and her parents.

The upshot was that Anna and her parents decided that she should have the child. She had given birth to a son.

John ended his narrative by saying ”That was all I knew until Roger rang today. He also told me just now that within a year she had married an older man who adopted the boy, Andrew, as his own. Due to complications in the birth, Anna was unable to have any more children. She’s back in Australia with Andrew, as he desperately wants to meet his natural father.’’

While he is talking, Margo stayed silent.

Not knowing what to expect, he put his barely-touched drink on the table.

In a rage she began crying and then started pounding his chest with her fists.

Trying to defend himself, he raised his voice, “I was only eighteen, for God’s sake. Her family gave me no choice.’’

She stepped back and in breathless burst said, “All those years you’ve known about your son and you did nothing.’’ Her voice rose. “Not even sending him and his mother any financial support. I can’t imagine you, of all people, abandoning your own child. And not to tell me or Phillip about him is…is unforgivable.’’

“You know Margo with those words and your violent reaction you said a hell of a lot. You couldn’t give a damn about how I feel or have been feeling all these years. I have never forgotten the boy. When our Phillip was born and every time he’s had a birthday I’ve thought about him. He has never been far from my thoughts. As to not trying to find him, even with Roger’s help I had no idea where to look. With an unpronounceable Polish surname, it was an impossible task.”

Phillip, who had been watching television, hearing his parent’s strident argument, arrived at the door and peered nervously in.

Antagonized even more by John’s aggressive reaction Margo was about to continue her attack when she saw Phillip. With tears running down her face she pushed past him on her way to the bedroom.

John put his face in his hands.

The doorbell rang and Phillip, happy to escape, went to answer it.

A woman and a young man stood there. The young man looked Phillip up and down and said, “Is this where John Hampton lives?”

Phillip nodded.

“Can I see him, please?”

“I - I’m sorry it’s a -”

John moved beside him, “Thank you Phillip.’’ He walked out to them, “Hello Anna. My son Phillip is right. It is rather awkward at the moment. Tomorrow would be better. I really am very sorry”.

Margo appeared at the door, her face blotchy from weeping, brushing her tears off her cheeks. She pulled the door wide open and held out her hand, “Hello, I’m Margo, John’s wife; I can’t imagine what you must think of us. Coming all this way and then being told to wait until tomorrow. I can think of no better time for you to meet the family. I should say your family, Andrew!”

She moved up to him and taking his arm led him inside. ”And when did you arrive?”

“Yesterday.’’

“Only yesterday! Goodness”. The rest followed her inside.


© Clement 2006


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