By Paul Jamison
Chapter – 11
The email opened and Craig and I leaned forward to read the message.
It’s hard to know where to begin when over six years have passed since I last saw you before you headed off to your weekend swimming meet back at the age of ten. I will try to put right, if I can, all the hurt that my leaving suddenly like that must have caused you. It was never ever intended in any way as a slight to you. The problems, such as they were, were entirely between your mother and me. I did try to stay in touch, but after your mother began returning my letters, I’m sorry, but I stopped trying. I really regret this and am so very sorry that it all happened the way it did back then. You must have many questions and I will do my best to answer them for you honestly.
I’ll begin by
saying I was totally gobsmacked when I saw the picture of you and me at the
Blackpool Pleasure Beach that summer, staring at me from our local paper here
in Christchurch, New Zealand, where I now live. I am the senior partner of an
accountancy firm here and we handle a lot of important local businesses’
accountancy as well as some international work, which is how it happened that I
was offered a position here in the first instance. Your mother, entirely for
good reasons of her own, did not wish to uproot her own career or your schooling
and as our marriage was in all but name finished, despite her religious
convictions, she divorced me and I left for a new start here in
“Yeah, he’s right there,” said Craig interrupting my train of thought and pointing to that statement.
I laughed and said “Wait till he sees the pictures of the two of us on the canals then.” We continued to read quietly.
I have built a new life here and the only real regret about my failed marriage to your mother is that I have not been able to stay in touch with you and be involved in your growing up during the years after your mother and I parted. I have to be very honest now and say that there are things about how you came to be that you should know, but not in this email. Once you had become the reality of a living person I loved you as much as any father could and should. Your mother and I were not made to be together. You may recall from your childhood memories that your mother and I strove to get on top of our careers and you spent a lot of time in the care of your grandparents. Your grandfather Russell left you a reasonable sum for your further education that I hope is still in safe hands. He tied up the funds with his bank as trustee because, as you may have been aware, Granddad did not get along at all well with your mother.
“Did he? Do you still have it?” Craig asked, pointing again at the screen.
“Yes, and yes. I grabbed the books as I left. Rick has them safe until I’m eighteen,” I explained.
“Right,” Craig said and we continued to read.
Which brings me to some of the questions I have for you? How is it that you are no longer living at home with your mother? What caused you to leave your home suddenly and who exactly are the ‘friends’ you are living with? Is it the family of a school friend? You mentioned that you are staying with one of your school friends in your email.
I do not at present have a partner and have not had for the time I have been here. I now am ‘seeing someone’ and hope to tell you more about him in my next email.
“More about HIM,” Craig shouted, pointing excitedly at the screen. “Look, he must be GAY!!”
I read the paragraph again trying to hold in my rising excitement, but there it was in black and white… well blue and white actually, but what the hell… I was instantly elated and turned to Craig and said
“Unless it’s a typo,” I glanced at my keyboard at the relative positions of E and R and I and M. “But I don’t think it could be. I think you’re right,” I replied grabbing on to Craig and hugging him tightly. My dad’s GAY!” I said rather more loudly than intended.
“Makes all your explanations in your reply an awful lot easier too,” Craig remarked.
“No… Yes, I know, but it’s so much more than that. Don’t you see what it means? I’ve got a parent back.”
“I think you might have,” Craig said quietly as we released each other and sat back down to read on.
Craig was uncomfortably perching on the arm of my computer chair to read and so I pulled him into my lap and held him as we continued to read together.
I also hope that we may become friends at the very least and that perhaps you will in time consider me once more to be your father in more than just the biological manner.
I also want to totally assure you that whatever the reasons were that caused you to leave home as you have done, I will always be your father and come what may, nothing will change that and I will always support you as best I can.
“I hope so too,” I said out loud and Craig turned on my lap and kissed me again gently on the lips. We stayed in the embrace for a few moments before continuing to read.
Please tell me about yourself and what you are doing and studying at school. Also about any career plans you might have. I would dearly love to be involved with your life once again in any way that you want me to be. I never stopped loving you, Liam.
There followed a full address and a list of personal, business and mobile telephone numbers.
I scrolled down and the picture appeared.
“Wow! If you’re going to look as fit as that at thirty something that’ll be amazing,” Craig said as he looked at the picture my dad had attached of a fit, tanned, thirty something, red headed guy in polo shirt and khaki shorts with the same smile I always remembered him as having for me when I was young.
“We need a family discussion about this,” I said. “Could you stay to supper and we’ll all talk now?” I asked Craig.
“I don’t know. I really should go. I’ve been here half an hour already and Gran’ll send Jamie up to get me in a minute if I’m not there for her supper time. I’ll call and try to explain and she might not mind too much,” he said grinning.
“Okay, call her now,” I said, as I clicked the mouse to print off a few copies of the email we had just read. The printer sprang to life and churned out the copies as Craig was making his call and then as he turned off his phone I asked “Is it okay?
“Yes, I can stay to supper only and I’ve not to waste the time till then either as I’ve homework to do as well,” he explained.
I grabbed the copies of the email and I headed for the door with them and downstairs to the kitchen to find Will and Rick grinning at me from their seats at the kitchen table.
“May we assume you have some news and that it’s not all bad?” Rick enquired smiling.
I laughed and hardly able to conceal my elation mustered a dead pan voice and said
“You may assume there has been a communication and I would like a family discussion over supper,” I said, hopping about the room hardly able to conceal my excitement.
“Is that the email there in your hand?” Rick asked.
Just then Paul came in through the back door and noticing my good mood and the print-offs said.
“You’ve had a reply then?”
“Yes, and now everyone’s home, here it is,” I said as I handed round copies.
“Have a read and then we can talk about how I should reply over supper and as Craig’s here may he stay to eat with us please?”
“Yes, of course,” Paul began, smiling at me and Craig. “We’re very happy to make suggestions, but we can only advise with a few possibilities. The reply will have to be what you want to say,” he added.
“I know. I just want to know what everyone thinks,” I replied. “I mean I think of you guys as my family now, you see,” I said as I sat back down.
“Thank you for that,” Rick said. “We’ve tried to be here for you. Can’t really claim to have ‘replaced’ your real parents, but hope we’ve managed to provide somewhere safe for you to be yourself.”
“Oh, you’ve done so much more than that, I think,” I said and continued “So what do you all think then?”
Craig who’d followed me down into the kitchen and was sitting next to me smiling away when
“He’s gay!” Will suddenly exclaimed.
“Craig spotted that too,” I grinned. “Before I did as well. I don’t reckon it’s a typo either. letters I M and E R are at different ends of the keyboard. I checked.”
“He’s certainly living up to his promise of being as honest with you as he can, if this is all to be taken at face value,” Paul said.
“He’s asking a lot of questions, not unreasonably so, about how and why you’re no longer at home and who exactly you’re living with now,” Rick observed.
“I thought that too which is why I need to know how you all feel about me telling him all about you lot and how I got to be living here,” I explained. “I mean, can I say I am living with a committed gay couple and you are already looking after Will whose dad is in the Royal Navy and how Will came to be here as well? I mean it’s all tied in to how I came to be here ’cos if Will’d not been here first, I definitely wouldn’t have ended up here,” I gushed out.
“Yes, unless you’d thought you had somewhere to run to, I guess you’d have just made the best of it at home till you got to uni,” Paul said from the cooker where he’d been preparing supper.
“I think I’d’ve had to really. I mean, I wouldn’t have had the courage to go it alone and run away, I don’t think,” I said. “Not without knowing where I was going and I certainly didn’t want to leave school or anything like that. Going to uni was my definite planned way out of living at home with my mum’s religious pressure all the time anyway. It’s just that coming out to my mum during the summer holidays was a big mistake and… well you all know what happened next,” I added.
“Why did you?” Rick asked. “I often wondered that, given you knew where your mum stood on this,” he added.
Will had set the table while everyone’d been talking and we were all getting stuff out and talking away at the same time. I was just so excited that I could hardly stand still for a second, but I answered
“I mistakenly thought that as I was her son she might just realise that being gay couldn’t be all bad. I got that so very wrong,” I explained. “Plus, I didn’t really know you guys back then and so had no way out when the rows started. If it had not been for that swimmers’ lifesaving course, and getting to meet you all I don’t know what I’d’ve done really.”
Everyone went quiet for what seemed like an age as they re-read the email then Craig spoke.
“Um… how about you just drop a hint like he did to you in your reply and then suggest he phones here? You can have a proper chat on the phone and see how he is about stuff. I mean, if we’re all here and he wants to talk to Rick and Paul, then that’d work out, wouldn’t it?” he quietly suggested to us all.
“That’s a very sensible suggestion Craig, thank you,” Paul said smiling.
“Yes, ask him to phone early on a Sunday morning their time as that will be Saturday evening here and we can all be here for the call,” Rick suggested.
“That’d be good, as I’d be home from work and we’d prolly’ve had supper by then?” I replied.
“We can make supper anytime to fit in with the call,” Paul quickly said.
“Would that mean waiting till we ate?” Will asked plaintively.
“Oh, I’m sure we can find something to keep you alive with in the meantime,” Rick joked back to Will whose miffed expression said it all.
We all laughed and as usual Will coloured up and looked sheepish.
“So send him a reply, drop a hint that you’ve been in a relationship since the beginning of term with a new boy from school, or something like that. Then suggest he calls us here. Give him the full address and phone numbers as he has to you and then the explanations can all be made on the phone if you feel comfortable with the way the conversation is going and his reaction to your news too,” Paul summarised for us all.
“Sounds like a plan,” I said to nods from everyone. “Okay, thanks for giving me your opinions,” I added as we all started to get up and clean up the kitchen after the meal and to make drinks. Paul and Rick went into the sitting room to watch the news on TV, Will went to his room to do his homework and Craig and I stayed at the kitchen table chatting for a few more minutes before he said
“I’d best be off… We’ve more spot tests tomorrow. I’ve loads more work to finish and I do want to get some sleep tonight. But it’s brilliant news. See you tomorrow, okay?”
I saw Craig out through the back door and after a quick kiss good night he trotted off down the drive and off up the road to his place. I went in through the kitchen door and locked up before heading back to my room as I too had homework to get done and I thought an earlier night would be sensible after I’d overslept that morning.
* * *
Vanessa Sutherland was coming to the end of a long, at least that’s how it felt, shift as theatre sister with the A&E trauma team. They had just managed to save the life of the last patient who’d nearly died as a result of a bleeding artery in a leg wound and she was keen to go off duty and head for home.
As she crossed the waiting room she caught sight of a face she recognised. A young teen about Jamie’s age sat in the waiting area looking very much the worse for wear in torn school uniform and showing a considerable number of bandaged cuts and some nasty bruising to his face and arms. Then it suddenly dawned on her that it was Jamie’s friend Christopher. He’d been round to their house on several occasions as Jamie had been to his home also. Vanessa approached and said
“Chris?... It is Chris, isn’t it?”
“Err… hi, Yes it is. Hello, Mrs Sutherland,” Chris replied, looking mournfully back to Vanessa as he spoke.
“How on earth did you get into this state? Looks like you’ve been though a glass window or something?” she asked.
“Well, I sorta did actually. My mum and I were on our way home from the theatre and we were in the bus queue outside the theatre…”
“Oh, what did you go to see?” Vanessa interrupted, then continued. “Sorry Chris, that doesn’t matter now. How come you’re in this state?”
“A car crashed into the queue and I got thrown into the glass panel and covered with the stuff. The cuts were from the sharp metal frame that broke. I got a gash on my arm and glass all over my head and hurt all over,” he smiled weakly.
“Are you on your own here right now?” Vanessa asked. “Where’s your mother? Was she hurt as well?”
“Yes, I think so, but I don’t know how much though. Three ambulances arrived, I went in one with people who could walk okay, my mum went in one of the others,” he replied anxiously.
“What’s your mum’s full name, Chris?” Vanessa asked, a feeling of unease coming over her as she did so. “And how old is she, roughly?”
“Marilyn Griffin,” Chris replied. “She’s thirty-nine,” he added.
“Do you know her date of birth, Chris?” Vanessa asked kindly.
“29th of August, 1971,” he replied. “I know that as I’m planning a nice surprise for her fortieth next summer,” he added with a half smile.
Vanessa had scribbled down the info as Chris had been speaking and then looked at him and said “I’m going to find out what’s going on and how things are. I might be a few minutes talking to doctors, if I can find them.” She smiled back at Chris.
“Okay,thanks, no-one’s told me anything so far,” he replied. “I’ve only just got out of being patched up myself,” he admitted wryly, looking at his bandaged arm as he spoke.
“You’re the only other one at home, aren’t you? I remember you telling us, Chris?” Vanessa asked.
“Yeah, there’s just my mum and me,” he replied. “Dad went off after I was born. I never ever saw him,” he explained.
“Just stay there. I’ll be back soon, okay?” Vanessa said, as she turned and headed towards the co-ordination area of the Accident & Emergency department.
Chris nodded as Mrs Sutherland headed off and sat back in his chair wincing with the stinging pain the cuts were giving him.
As soon as Vanessa got to the desk she quickly checked out the admissions board and turning to the receptionist asked
“Marilyn Griffin… has she been admitted from that RTA?”
“She went to theatre, but died,” was the reply.
“Which surgeon?” Vanessa asked.
“Doctor Jellicoe,” the reception nurse replied, checking the computer screen on her desk.
“Do they know her son’s out in reception? He’s
just come out of minors.”
“No, how old is he?” the receptionist asked
“About thirteen, same age as my Jamie.”
“We’ll need a counsellor or the chaplain, I guess,” the receptionist replied.
“Well, wait a few moments. I’ll get my lads in to be with him. He lives alone with his mum, and as she’s gone, arrangements’ll have to be made for him for tonight,” she replied.
Vanessa picked up the phone and made a call home, then as an afterthought made a further call as well. Once she’d rung off Vanessa considered going in search of Dr Jellicoe. A few seconds later she saw him heading towards the co-ordination desk. After a brief discussion together on one side, the doctor nodded to Vanessa in agreement and headed off to a cubicle to attend to a patient.
* * *
Rick and I sat together watching the TV news and then collecting up our coffee mugs returned to the kitchen, did a little washing and cleaning up, loaded the dishwasher and, as it was near enough full set it going. We both sat at the table and I was just about to talk through what Liam had told as and shown us in the email he’d had that day when the house phone rang. I glanced at the clock a little surprised to get a call at that time of night as it was, by then pretty much eleven fifteen and late for a call.
Rick being nearest got up and answered the call.
“Hello, Rick Masters,” he began.
Rick’s face took on a shocked expression as he listened to the other side of the conversation. After a few moments he replied
“Consider it done, Vanessa. I’ll ask Paul to come in directly with the bigger car, okay.”
I looked enquiringly over at him mouthing what’s up? Rick held up a hand, listened a little more then said into the receiver
“Don’t worry. You can count on us for any help you need, bye for now and thanks for letting us know,” and then he put the handset down and said
“Well, obviously that’s Vanessa Sutherland; she’s just come off shift at the hospital. It seems Chris Griffin is there… Um… Jamie’s best friend, he was out in town at the theatre with his mother and they were in a bus queue when a car skidded and careered towards them and they both got hit by it as it went out of control and ploughed into the waiting passengers. There’re several casualties and Vanessa’s just explained that Chris’s mum hasn’t made it and died in the operating theatre. They’ve not told Chris who’s got only minor cuts and bruises as yet and would one of us grab Jamie and Craig and go down to the hospital to be with Chris when he’s told and also to see if we can support him tonight as he can’t really go back to an empty house on his own,” Rick explained.
“Of course. Should we tell Liam or Will?” I asked as I got up from the table, picked up my keys and started to pull on my coat.
“No, not yet, neither of them’re directly Chris’s friends, so it can wait till morning and we’ll know more of what might need to be arranged.”
“Yeah, good thought,” I agreed and set off to get the car out.
“Vanessa’s already called Craig and Jamie so they should be ready for you.” Rick called after me as I went out though the kitchen to the garage.
“Okay,” I called back as I shut the door and got going. A minute or two later I pulled up outside the Sutherlands and tooted the horn gently. Within seconds Craig and Jamie appeared and hurried across to my car and got in.
“Seat belts, please lads,” I said, as they closed the door and got comfortable on the back seat.
They both belted up and Craig said
“Mum’s told us what’s happened, but we’ve to say nothing at all till Chris’s been told.”
“Okay. Try not to look too miserable when we get there and see Chris, all right?” I suggested. As we drove to the hospital we all sat mostly in silence. When I pulled into and parked up into the visitors’ bays, we all made our way into the A&E reception.
As we entered the reception and waiting area we saw Chris sat with Vanessa towards one side of the seating area. We all made our way over to join them and left the boys to talk to Chris as I and Vanessa moved away out of earshot to have a few words.
“Hello, Vanessa. Sorry we meet again under such a sad cloud,” I said.
“Yes, it was pure chance I saw him sitting on his own, obviously waiting for news of or from his mother. That’s not going to happen as he hoped at all,” she sighed as she spoke the words.
“No. Has Chris been told yet?” I asked.
“No. I spoke to Dr Jellicoe and he agreed we should hold off until you lot got here and then he’d take us to a quiet relatives’ room and tell Chris, perhaps just with Jamie and me with him?” Vanessa suggested.
I nodded in agreement and replied “We’ve a guest room if he needs somewhere to stay for a bit. I mean, until some arrangements can be made or he goes to live with other family?”
“I don’t think it’s that simple,” Vanessa replied. “It appears there’s no trace of a dad within his memory. According to what his mother’s told him he went before he was born. There’re no aunts or uncles either. I didn’t enquire any further, or he might have become suspicious as to why I was asking him for so much information,” she added.
“True,” I replied, just as a white coated doctor approached us both.
“Ready, sister?” he said to Vanessa.
“Certainly, Doctor,” she replied. “I’ll bring him down to the relatives’ room with his friend, my younger son,” she replied.
Vanessa made her way back to where the boys were sitting and then Chris, Jamie and herself walked away down the corridor to a private waiting room.
I took a seat next to Craig and asked “Does Chris suspect anything or know yet?”
“No.he thinks his mum is in surgery or something. He’s no idea as far as we could gather,” Craig said. “They went to see The History Boys by Alan Bennett you know. Chris told Jamie and me at lunch today that they were going tonight after school. I would so much like to see that. Have you seen it?” Craig asked.
“Yes, both Rick and I saw it when it came out in 2004 or 5 can’t be sure which,” I replied.
“Oh! You saw the original
“It was certainly brilliant and had amazing rave reviews too,” I replied. “Leave that with me. It might be possible to go this week. I have some contacts and they are sometimes good for tickets,” I said. “But it all depends on tonight’s outcome… We can hardly all go off to the same show that Chris lost his mum after… if he’s staying with you guys or us,” I ventured.
“Mmm,” Craig mused. “I never thought of it that way. I see what you mean though… it’s a bit off to do that isn’t it?” he asked.
“Yes, if it’s obvious, but let’s see what happens, okay?” I replied.
We all sat there in silent thought for the others to return from the relatives’ room after Chris had been told by the doctor about his mother’s death.
End of Chapter Eleven
Many thanks for your emails and comments. I very much enjoy receiving your mails and do try to reply as soon as I can. I think I'm fully up to date with that now.
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