About The Hollow Ground – Episode 33

“How long have you known?” Nan asked in tones that trembled on the brink of distaste.

“For some time. I went to visit Candice. I could hardly call her Mama, when the person I knew and loved as my mama was so deserving of the title. Papa is not aware that his secret is out and neither is Mama.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Nan asked woodenly.

“I knew you would not see it my way. You and I have a very different approach to life, Nan. I am all for grasping what is offered. You are more reticent, and by far the better person for it.

“Then Uncle Henry met with that tragic accident, with all it entailed afterwards, and you had enough to cope with without resurrecting the past.”

There was a short silence as Nan digested the words.

“We are sisters,” she said through her bewilderment.

“Half sisters,” Charlotte corrected. “If you look hard you will see the family resemblance. You favour the Vessey side, the dark colouring and serious nature. I favour the Lowes. Blonde and frivolous.”

“But Uncle James. Doesn’t it bother you that he should have behaved so?”

“No. He did his best to address matters. Papa cares deeply for Mama and he loves me to distraction. I could not have wished for better parents. My only concern was the rift between our two houses.”

“I always thought there was more to that than met the eye,” Nan said harshly.

Candice cleared her throat.

“I’m so very sorry . . .”

“Sorry does not begin to cover the distress that’s been caused here.”

“Nan, there has been suffering on both sides,” Charlotte pointed out. “It was a bitter price to pay to be deprived of both one’s children.”

“Ah, yes,” Candice agreed. “Do not suppose that not a day has gone by that I did not think of you both. Henry, too.

“When I learned of his death, something in me snapped. I had terrible regrets. I had to come. At the funeral service I kept to the rear lest I was spotted.”

“I saw you,” Nan said. “I mentioned it to Charlotte. She fobbed me off. It was the same when you kept appearing at the grave.”

“I could not keep away. It was too far to travel daily, so I took lodgings at Peckforton, at the Red Lion tavern. I had to be near him.”

Candice’s face crumpled. She began weeping, deep sobs of such anguish that Nan’s heart was pierced and she paused for thought, her attitude changing a little.

Perhaps Charlotte was right to draw a line under the past. Old wrongs could not be righted. It was the future that counted.

It was not forgiveness, but it was a start until she found herself better able to understand. And for that she needed the space to think matters over in peace and solitude.

Silently she handed Candice her kerchief to replace the tear-soaked scrap the distressed woman was sobbing into.

“Please don’t. What’s needed now is time, and maybe we can come to an understanding.”

The gentle words were soothing and, gradually, the weeping abated then ceased altogether.

Charlotte pulled herself to her feet.

“What now?” Nan enquired wearily.

“The tea is cold and I’m sure we could all do with a cup. I’m going to ring for fresh,” Charlotte said, and went to pull the bell.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.