Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 40

Summer 1976 

“YOU’RE filthy, I know, but I can’t wash you, not with all this talk of drought!”
Julia looked over the fence to where their new neighbour was addressing his car – a Series 3 E-Type Jaguar which she knew was his pride and joy.

“When I had to move here to Derbyshire for my work,” he continued, “I thought it would always be raining, but I’ve hardly seen a drop.”

“Don’t worry, you will!” This was the woman from across the road. “Not all summers are like this.”

They chatted on. Normally Julia would have joined in, but today she was too preoccupied. As she adjusted the sun canopy on Jessica’s pram she glanced again anxiously towards the house. Through the window, she could see Marco and the man who had turned up stating he was Marco’s father . . . his dead father!

They both remained standing, and after a few minutes the man came out. He looked upset, but he smiled at the baby and gently touched her cheek. Then, with a little bow in Julia’s direction, he was gone.

Julia hurried inside.

“He is your father?” she asked, though the startling resemblance made the question unnecessary.

Marco nodded. She waited for him to say more.

“What’s going on?” she asked finally.

“Nothing to do with our lives now.” His voice was dismissive. “It’s the past – history. Forget it. He’s not coming back here again.”

Retreating into his study, he closed the door, shutting her out – at least, that was how it felt. Not just from the room, but from what was going on in his head. She felt a deep unhappiness. This was the old Marco, rarely seen these days. Their life together, his career as a popular GP, their beautiful baby girl and lovely home all seemed to have largely healed his past pain.

But had she just been kidding herself? Was it still lurking inside? And as for forgetting it, Julia didn’t know if she could. Love Marco though she did, she was very different from him. She was like her mum, Evie, open and communicative. When Jessica was in bed, she tried again, and lost her temper when he pushed the subject aside.

“Marco, you told me your father was dead. You lied to me.”

“I didn’t!” He looked distraught. “I never would – surely you know that? My mother told me he was dead.”

And, at last, they sat down and talked. Or, mostly, she listened as Marco repeated to her what his father – Luigi – had told him.

He and Marco’s mother had been neighbours in the remote hilltop village in Italy, playing together as children. Then, as they grew older, his feelings for her had grown, too. But she’d become involved with another village boy. In the end, the other boy had married someone else, and Marco’s mum had turned to Luigi. After a short courtship, and with them both still very young, they married.

Marco frowned.

“But according to him it was a rebound job on my mother’s part. She still loved this other chap, and eventually admitted as much. So he left the village, never to return, without even knowing she was pregnant.”

“When did he find out?”

“Just recently, he says. He was in Rome when he bumped into another ex-neighbour from the village, a woman called Maria. Maria had been to London years before and had bumped into my mum in the street!”

Julia nodded.

“You said, when she first came here, she worked as a housekeeper in London.”

“Right. So Maria learned about me, and when they chanced to meet in Rome, she told my father. He pressed her for anything she could remember about my mum and contacted a private investigator to trace me. He got this address last week, and came over from Italy right away.” Marco paused. “But it’s nonsense. He left before I was born.”

“You’ve said you’ve no memories of your father, Marco. Did your mum specifically say that?”

“Yes . . .”

For a moment he sounded uncertain. But before she could say anything, he was speaking again, angry.

“Are you saying I should believe him over my mother?”

“No. But she did tell you he was dead, and he isn’t,” Julia pointed out.

“Perhaps that’s what she understood to be the case,” he said coldly. “And in a way it was true. He was dead to us.” He stood up. “I’m off to bed.”

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”.