Keeping Mum #shortstory

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.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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12 Responses to Keeping Mum #shortstory

  1. A splendid, meaningful, story

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bridgette says:

    Lovely dialogue.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Geoff. It really is a pleasure to work with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. arlingwoman says:

    Oh, she is in a fine pickle.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. ThingsHelenLoves says:

    Poor old Mum. What a burden to carry over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jennie says:

    Well done, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. wow! powerful indeed

    Liked by 1 person

  8. noelleg44 says:

    A profound story about secrets kept. My son knew he was adopted from the beginning – not the same, but no secretes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I remember someone at school finding out. They’d have been mid tees. Not sure how it came out but it upset them and became a taboo topic for a year or so.

      Liked by 1 person

      • noelleg44 says:

        It can be really traumatic for a teen, which is why we opened the conversation early. There were still some difficulties when he was a teen but we were open and gave him all the information we had about his birth parents, including offering to help him find them. He never looked for them.

        Liked by 1 person

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