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Open Features: Great'ma - Part 11

...Great'ma just laughed... “Are you ready for some rather difficult news? Well difficult for me to tell you."...

Jackie Wearing continues her intriguing tale concerning a family with secrets. At the centre of the story is an old, frail lady in a wheelchair - Great'ma.

To read earlier chapters of this intriguing novel please type the author’s name in the search box on this page.

Margaret arrived, sometime later, to find Great'ma asleep in her chair. She roused and looked up at her granddaughter who smiled at her and said, "Now come clean. What is all this about - and don't tell me my flowers were drooping. I've just seen them in Hilda's room. I looked on the compost heap and they were not there, so I did a bit of a search. Why did you want to see me?."

Great'ma just laughed. "Obviously Hilda could not throw your perfectly good flower arrangement away. It is just like her. Are you ready for some rather difficult news? Well difficult for me to tell you."

Margaret frowned and said, "This is very serious. You had better just tell me what is on your mind."

"Well it is not about me or anything to do with me really..."
There was a short pause. "The only way is, to tell you straight out. The man in the garden is – was - your father." Great'ma continued quickly, as Margaret looked away down the garden to where the man had been found.

"Hilda knew who he was. Dotty told her years ago, but made her promise not to tell anyone. He had got in touch, asking her to arrange for you to meet him. She didn't know what to do and left it in the air, so we presume he came to see her to find out if she had done anything about it."

There was a long pause.

"I see," was the only response.

"It's a shock, I know..." But Margaret cut in, "Not really. I'm just trying to feel something and nothing is happening. I would like to be dramatic, but there we are."

They both let the silence continue. Sitting together and not needing to communicate.

After quite some time Margaret began to talk. It was as if she was back in to the early days with Judith and Albert.
"My Mother had taught me a phrase - 'I'm Mummy's little bastard'. I used to sing it to her. One day I sang it in front of Albert and he went so mad I was frightened. Then he picked me up and said in a voice of great tenderness, 'You are my princess.' Not like his usual voice. I never forgot it. Auntie Judith was crying - she didn't cry very often. When I was a bit older, I asked Uncle Albert if I could call him Daddy and we came to an arrangement that when alone together I could do that.

“When I was older still I tried to get him to make love to me. I knew what I was doing. He told me to wait until I was twenty and we would see then. Of course by that time I was more sensible, but I always loved him. I never found anyone to match him as an adult. He was larger than life. He was just wonderful to me. I didn't need another father. Though I never thought about it much, I know the man in the garden couldn't leave his children, so whose child was I?"

At that point she took hold of her grandmother's hand and again they sat in silence, each now with her own thoughts.
Great'ma was trying to come to terms with the knowledge of just how distructive Dotty had become. She knew that she herself had often been in the firing line, but had had no inkling of the extent to which the nastiness had spread.

As if she read the other's thoughts, Margaret told her of how the experience gained from Jeffrey's father of his treatment of alcoholics had made her understand what had driven her mother.

She continued, "Auntie Judith often, after she had been out of control, held her while she cried and said sorry. She would shout out and say she wasn't worth anything. Uncle Albert was more impatient with her, but I couldn't have had a better childhood. Everything was made easy for me. I know some children want to find out more about where they come from, I just didn't and don't now. My only difficulty is whether I tell Jeffrey or not."

She now looked up and saw a very old lady and stroked the frail hand. "Have I upset you?" she asked.

"No, I was just remembering how it all was. Will you give yourself a bit of time before you decide on telling Jeffrey, or not?"

"Well I think I will have to make up my mind quickly, as the funeral will take place soon, no doubt. He will need to know before that, if he is to know at all."

At that moment Hilda appeared and asked if they would like some tea brought out. She looked from one to the other and they both together informed her that the great secret was now out and all was well, adding that tea was a good idea. She looked very relieved and quickly went off to get a tray ready for them.

Margaret then said, "Auntie Judith used to say I was like you as a child. Just accepting everything as it was. She said I had the same look in my eyes that she used to see in yours. Summing up the world when anything happened and then going on with whatever you had been doing. I liked the fact that she thought that, though I'm not so sure now that she was right."

"I think everyone thought you took after me. I was always pleased that that was the case. You were a honey of a child."
"Yes, I know some in the family said 'love children' were very often beautiful. Uncle David's wife always called me princess. You see, everyone seemed to love me."

Hilda, now happy and looking jolly, arrived back with a loaded tray.

"Do stay and have some tea with us," Great'ma said.

"Oh yes... now... I need to take the meat out of the oven... yes, I will. Just a minute," was the answer.

The two women looked at each other, both surprised at this response.

"This must have been on her mind for some time." Margaret said. "We all just thought she was rather busy in the house, without time for anything else. She was probably afraid of saying anything that she shouldn't."

They waited for her to come back and then, in a relaxed manner, idly chatted the rest of the afternoon away. Hilda was smiling all the time, nodding and enthusing over the comments about the garden in summertime, much to the delight of her two companions.

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