This little piece was written as a guest post for Esther Chilton’s blog. Esther, among her many other talents, is my editor for all my books. If you’ve read any of my books and been delighted not to be distracted by plot holes, typos, non sequiturs and similar, then that’s Esther. If you ever need an editor, you really should use her.
So near and… Lindsay Martins smiled at her son, not that he was about to reciprocate. The thunder in his expression was a few shades beyond furious. She was about to tell him to take some deep breaths, that he shouldn’t strain his heart but what was the point.
‘It’s not something to laugh about, Mum.’ Toby Martins sounded, to his mother, like he wanted to be the grown up. That made a nice change.
‘I know, darling. I realise this must be…’ she paused as another storm began to brew in his features.
His face twisted into something unpleasant. ‘What? A shock? Surprising? What about utterly devastating.’
She wanted to suggest that was going a little far. Perhaps she should change the subject. ‘We need to think about your father.’
Now he looked frankly incredulous. ‘That’s exactly what we haven’t been thinking about.’ His voice was barely a squeak.
‘Gerry needs to be our priority.’
‘Yours, maybe. I don’t see why he’s mine.’
‘He’s spent his life caring for you, loving you. Doesn’t that count?’
‘That’s not the point. That’s a…’
‘Right now it’s all that matters. We both know a bone marrow transplant is his only realistic hope.’
‘Would you have told me? Would you?’
‘As we know, there was little point. Don’t we?’ Lindsay hadn’t wanted to sound bitter but the last few hours had been emotionally shattering. ‘We have to rely on finding a match from their donors. If there is one.’
Lindsay watched as Toby slumped into a plastic chair on the far side of the waiting room. He held his head in his hands, as if he had to, to stop it falling. Everything about him made it seem as if he was weighed down, beyond endurance. She was thinking about the moment he’d been born, that painful ecstasy, when she realised he was staring at her with rheumy red rimmed eyes.
‘I’m forty seven. I suppose you never planned to say, did you?’
She couldn’t. It would have broken Gerry’s heart. Maybe Toby realised because he added, ‘It was his… dad’s decision?’
She looked up quickly. He’d said dad. Had he meant to or was it just conditioning?
‘You mustn’t think that…’
‘But it was because of him, wasn’t it?’
‘It doesn’t really matter…’
The laugh was bitter. ‘Oh, I’m not exonerating you. Even if it was his machismo that was behind this secrecy, you were complicit.’
‘It wasn’t like that. The world was different back then…’
‘Seriously? For as long as I’ve been alive I’ve looked up to that man. My father. The hero. All I’ve ever wanted to do was make him proud…’
‘You did. You do.’
Toby appeared to ignore her. ‘And at last, here’s the one big opportunity for me to do something for him. Be a match for bone marrow. Be the hero. And it takes some doctor to tell me that not only am I not a match but that’s because I’m not his son.’
‘You are! In every real sense.’
‘You know, mum, if you’d told me I’d been adopted, back when I could have first understood it, I’d have gone along with it. But no, you’re my mother so you couldn’t do that, could you? It’s just that little twist of DNA. A sperm donor, I suppose. Some total stranger. I…’
The door opened and the doctor put his head inside. ‘Ah you’re both here. I thought I’d let you know that Mr Martins is alert. He’s tired but if you want to have a few minutes with him I think that will be fine.’
Lindsay stood quickly, hastening to the door. ‘We mustn’t stress him, must we, Doctor?’
‘No, that wouldn’t be a good idea. I’ll leave you to it.’
Lindsay breathed a sigh of relief. Toby had moved next to her side. ‘I’m angry, mum but I’m not heartless. I’ll not make a scene, not now. I’ll wait until his stronger.’
Lindsay Martins watched her son head for her husband’s room. She loved them both and couldn’t be without either of them. But if Gerry survived and got strong enough for Toby to berate him, how would he react? After all, Toby wasn’t the only one in this family who didn’t realise Gerry wasn’t his father.