Mallorcan Magic – Episode 22

MY father must have spent at least two decades deceiving my mother,” Helen said.

Eira watched her friend fidgeting with her charm bracelet.

“Take your time, love,” she murmured.

Helen nodded.

“I’m OK. It’s just that he and Mum always seemed happy when I was a child. I was quite a bookish little girl but with cousins my own age living close by, I never felt lonely or bored for long.” She smiled at Eira. “Then you and I became friends when we both went to the grammar school and life changed a lot.”

“That was such a happy time, in and out of each other’s houses,” Eira said.

“Yes, but as I became older, I noticed my father working late more often than he used to. Some evenings I didn’t see him at all but weekends were different.”

“He didn’t need to go to the office?”

“No.” Helen scowled. “Looking back, I remember how lovely it was on the Saturdays he’d take Mum and me to the West End to look round the big shops. He’d buy us a nice lunch in a store restaurant and take us to a theatre or cinema matinee.”

Eira remembered her friend turning up at school on a Monday, talking about what the family had seen and done. Her own parents weren’t as well off as Helen’s but she had plenty of fun in different ways.

“It was only after I turned sixteen that I started noticing Mum becoming quieter and quieter.”

“Did she ever confide in you?”

“Never. Whether she ever said anything to my Auntie Val, I haven’t a clue. It must’ve been awful for Mum though. I’ll never forget the day it happened. Would you believe one of his lady friends turned up at the house on a Sunday teatime! The doorbell made me jump and Mum went to see who was there while my father and I went on watching ‘Robin Hood’ on TV.

“Mum came back, her face all tight and pale. At first I thought someone must have died because she looked like she’d heard bad news. But when she stood aside, this strange woman appeared in the doorway and said, ‘Hello, Tommy. I expect you’re surprised to see me.’”

“Oh, good heavens!” Eira exclaimed, clapping her hands to her mouth.

“Quick as lightning, Dad jumped up and said, ‘Mrs Clark!’ Then he turned to Mum and told her he’d better take Mrs Clark, a colleague from the bank, into the drawing-room. He thought she must have something very important to discuss, if she’d come to the house instead of waiting until Monday morning.”

“Did this person say anything?” Helen shook her head.

“Not a word, just followed him out of the room. You know that blonde film actress, Diana Dors?”

“I do,” Eira said.

“Well, the woman reminded me of her. Even though she was only in the room for moments, her perfume hung around all evening.” Helen’s smile was grim.

“Mum shut the door after them. She looked at me and the words came tumbling out as if she could no longer stand bottling everything up. She said the woman introduced herself as Cathy Lewis and explained her husband worked with Dad. So, when my father jumped up and introduced this Lewis woman by a different name, Mum knew something was going on.”

“I can’t imagine how horrible it must’ve been for your mum and you.”

“It was awful. Dad must have bundled the woman out of the house quickly because he came back and asked if I’d mind going up to my room, as there was something fraudulent happening at the bank and he needed to speak privately to Mum. Such a load of codswallop!”

“It sounds as if he was determined to brazen it out. Did you go upstairs?”

“Of course. I ran upstairs, slammed my bedroom door, then crept halfway down the stairs again to see if I could hear anything.”

“And you did?” Helen nodded.

“Too much. Mum’s voice became louder and louder and though I could hear my dad trying to coax her to stop shouting so he could explain everything, she was having none of it.

“She accused him of seeing so many different women over the years that she doubted he could remember all their names. She said she was leaving him and I was old enough to go with her so he could stew in his own juice.”

“You and your mum never moved away so how on earth did he succeed in changing her mind?”

“I never found out how, but he must have sweet-talked her like he must have sweet-talked all those women. There was always plenty of housekeeping money and cash for treats so I guess she decided to make the best of a bad job.”

“I think she must have done it for you, love. Like so many women,” Eira said. “It’s so sad.”

“My mother had no qualifications, no money of her own, no driving licence and probably not enough courage to strike out alone. In one way, I suppose the whole incident did me good, because from then on, I decided never to let myself get into such a vulnerable position. I’d have given anything for nice, ordinary parents like yours and I mean that as a compliment, Eira.”

“I know you do. Is your father still on his own?”

“Yes, ironic, isn’t it? He seemed truly cut up after Mum died but knowing him, he has some gullible woman waiting in the wings and he’ll move her in after a decent interval’s gone by. I’ve no wish to see him again, believe me.”

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”.