Sunday, 16 November 2014

Caught in the Web - Chapter 49

An excerpt from Caught in the Web.  New download version now on Kindle.

Chapter Forty-nine
The cobbles were warm beneath Evelyn’s toes.
Sitting on the kitchen chair outside her childhood home, she’d slipped off her shoes. Her mother came out of the back door with a plate of home-made cake and offered her a slice. Evelyn smiled as she took a chunk of the moist, rich fruit cake in her hand.
‘I should have given you a plate,’ said her mother. ‘But we won’t have to worry about the crumbs out here. It’s so nice to sit in the garden, don’t you think?’
Evelyn looked up at the older woman. She felt something thawing inside as the sun warmed her skin. The cake crumbled as she took a bite, the sweet fruit soft on her tongue, the spices bringing memories flooding of her childhood, sitting in this very spot, watching her brother playing in the dirt amongst the vegetables. She sighed, remembering the happier times before....
‘How’s the cake?‘ Her mother sat down beside her, bringing her thoughts back to the present.
‘It’s lovely. Just like you always used to make.’ She finished the cake slowly, savouring each mouthful before washing it down with the strong tea that Grace had left on the garden wall beside her.
Two weeks had passed since her mother’s visit to her and she’d been home three times now. Home. How easily that thought had tripped from her mind. How hard it had been at first. That nurse, Sheila, had stayed with her the first time but for the past two visits she’d been left alone for the afternoon. At last Evelyn was beginning to feel more relaxed with her mother and even though she knew that it would take time to forget the past, she wondered if one day she could forgive what had happened. She thought about Joe, her little brother, lost to her since she’d been taken to Highclere.
‘What’s Joe doing now?’ she asked.
‘He did an apprenticeship in engineering.’ There was pride in her mother’s voice. ‘Then he emigrated to Australia fifteen years ago. He’s married with two sons. Wait a minute.’ She got up and went indoors, quickly returning with a photo album.
‘I’ve never met his wife or the two little boys but they write to me.’ She opened the album. ‘This is his wedding photo.’ She pointed to a photograph of a grown-up Joe standing beside a young woman in white, smiling at the camera across the years. She turned the page.
‘These are their two boys. That one is Michael. He’s nine now and this is Andrew. He’s six.’
Evelyn gazed at the photographs of her brother and his family, feelings of regret welling up. She felt an echo of pain before pushing it away again.
She felt her mother’s hand on her arm. ‘I’m glad you’re here,’ she said.
Evelyn handed the photo album back to her and smiled.
‘I’m glad, too,’ she said. Each visit had been turbulent, painful at times but also seemed like a step forward to a future which was rooted in the past.
The older woman took a deep breath.
‘I wanted to talk to you about what happened all those years ago,’ she began.
Evelyn recoiled inside. She sat for a moment, then consciously made herself relax. ‘I tried to forget it all,’ she said. ‘It doesn’t matter any more.’
‘I suppose not. Not really,’ said her mother. ‘But it would make me feel better if I could only understand more about what happened.’ She paused and looked sideways at Evelyn. ‘I sensed that something bad had happened to you. Was it something that Bob said to you?’
Evelyn said nothing, wishing that her mother would stop.
‘I remember you two being so good with each other, then it seemed to change.’ She paused again. ‘I think it was difficult for him knowing that you were pregnant and not yet married.’
‘Don’t Mum,’ Evelyn interrupted.
‘No, let me finish. I still can’t understand what happened.’ She stopped, seeing the distress on Evelyn’s face.
‘Oh, my dear, I’m sorry. You don’t have to talk about this if you really don’t want to. I just thought it would help you as well.’
Evelyn took a deep breath.
‘I’ll tell you but you won’t like it and you probably won’t believe me.’ She felt her mother squeezing her hand in encouragement.
Evelyn sat in silence. She felt the sun on her skin and felt the welcome breeze gently brush against her face whilst she thought about how to say it.
‘It was him.’ The words were spoken clearly and quietly. ‘Uncle Bob was the father of my child.’
‘What do you mean?’ The question was asked but her mother’s face revealed that she was half expecting this.
‘Uncle Bob. He was the one. I was a good girl - never went with any boy. He came to my room at night. He hurt me Mum. I couldn’t tell you and I couldn’t make him stop. He did it to me over and over again. When the baby came, he took it away. He took away my baby girl. He took away my life. I just wanted to die then. I’m sorry Mum.’ The tears were flowing from her eyes but she couldn’t look at her mother, afraid that she’d said too much.
Suddenly she was in the older woman’s arms.
‘My poor, poor girl,’ her mother sobbed. ‘I knew something awful must be happening to you but I had no idea. I had no idea that Bob was like that. I thought he was such a good father to you, stepping into your real Dad’s shoes like that. I should have known. You should have told me. I would have stopped it.’
‘You must have known,’ Evelyn accused. ‘How could you not have known?’ She could feel the anger burning again.
'I didn’t - really.' Her mother faltered.
'I couldn’t tell you. I thought you’d be angry with me. Like it was my fault. He said you wouldn’t believe me. Then he said other horrible things, like I’d led him on, thrown myself at him. I didn’t lead him on. You do believe me, don’t you?’
‘Of course I do,’ her mother said. ‘He wasn’t a good man.’ She stopped speaking and turned to look at Evelyn.
‘I found out things after you went into hospital,’ she said. ‘I found out he was already married to a woman in Southampton. He went back to her in the end. I suppose he only stayed with me to get at you.’
‘Well, it’s in the past now.’ Evelyn felt sorry for her mother for the first time in her life. She sighed. ‘I’m glad you came to see me,’ she went on. ‘I’m glad I can visit you.’
They sat in silence, each enveloped in their own thoughts and private regrets. Eventually it was Evelyn who spoke.
‘I love you Mum,’ she whispered. She smiled through her tears.
‘I’m sorry,’ was all her mother could say. She paused before going on. ‘I love you too. I always have loved you. I don’t know how I can make up for all the lost years but I would be so happy if you could come and live here again. I don’t suppose you’d want that?’
Evelyn swallowed down her feelings of alarm.
‘I would. But I’m scared,’ she finally replied.
‘I understand. But we could do it gradually if you want to. You could come home for a night first, then see how it goes. What do you think? I’ve talked to the Charge Nurse and he said that’s what usually happens.’
‘Alright.’ Evelyn smiled.
She lay on her bed allowing these unwelcome thoughts to intrude into the calm hopefulness she’d been feeling the previous evening as she’d slipped into sleep. It was a relief when the nurse opened her door some time later and called for her to get up. It was Linda.
‘Come on Evelyn, breakfast’s here. Up you get,’ she said briskly before she tu

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