Thanks to Gail on the Web for the great photo
She is afraid. Many years before, she drove down this same road to bring news that would rend the carefully laid foundations of her mother’s home. Little of the passing streetscape has changed since that other time. But everything changed with that last drive and everything would change again with this one.
Her home growing up was not the peaceful refuge described in the novels she read in her childhood or romanticized in films she watched every Sunday night on The World of Disney. On the surface, and to most observers, home of then looked warm and inviting – a carefully cultivated façade, created for the benefit of church friends and members of the Baptist Ladies Auxiliary. But home hid many secrets and skeletons. She was about to rip open the family closet and reveal a specimen long forgot.
She spends only a few minutes in the car, driving home. In literal terms, it isn’t far away from where she now lives. In another sense, the drive covers many years, many changes, much pain and not a little joy. This drive represents a life path between the then and now, the what was, what could have been and what now is.
She could not have imagined how, 18 years before, a chance meeting in a nearby C-Train station would radically alter her life, or how, 16 years after than meeting, the same person would again, unintentionally and unknowingly cause another seismic shift in her life.
It is fall in
“Sorry?” she says
He speaks again and his brow begins to crease in frustration.
“I’m sorry,” she says again, “I can’t understand you. What did you say?” she asks, sheepishly. She thinks perhaps she’s having a momentary lapse. Perhaps her ear is still adjusting to English after so long hearing only French.
“A-R-E Y-O-U- E-N-G-L-I-S-H,” he says slowly, deliberately, in a thick, British accent.
“English? Yes, no, not British, I’m from here,” she says in a rush, laughing nervously. Who is this weirdo, she wonders.
“Oi, I thought you were English,” he says, pointing rudely to the blond streak in her hair. “Your hair is all the fashion in
She laughs, forgets about her job interview and in a handful of minutes, they become friends and agree to meet for beer later that night.
They become fast friends, she because he is interesting and exotic and he, because his accent is so thick – he has only arrived from
More friendships are forged and an invitation to visit
In the spring, she travels to
Hastily unpacking only the essentials – makeup and some fancy clothes, she and her friend rush to get ready. She is buzzing with excitement and impatient to see her English friends and to introduce her companion, Vicki. The pub owner knocks at the door of their rented room, admonishing them to get along; she is busy, patrons are waiting for their pints and wouldn’t the girls please go out.
“You’re welcome back any time after 6:00 tonight, but not before,” she states in a voice that stops any question.
They don’t care. They are more impatient that she to be out and about. Flinging their partially closed suitcases in the general direction of the room’s two sagging single beds, they rush out into the gray English afternoon and flag a cab.
Rackstraws. The local pub. The home base, center of the world, location of every friend that ever was and ever would be. Dragging her companion by one arm, she bursts into the dim, crowded warmth, eyes searching and finding familiar faces. Towering above the group, she sees the curly, ginger-haired head of the only quiet one among them. She doesn’t know him well – he rarely speaks – but she remembers the slow smile that is spreading across his features now.
At six feet, one inch, he sees the girls first, over the heads of the group members, whose heads turn to follow his gaze towards the door. She and Vicki are shortly engulfed in shouts of welcome and hugs. He stands back, watching, maybe waiting, not inclined to move or speak. She is surprised later, when his long legs carry him to their crowded table and even more surprised when he speaks, asking where they are staying.
“We’re at the pub down the road, which is to say, we’re there to 9:00 in the morning and not again till 6:00 at night, but not in between. And,” she adds, “We’re paying 16 quid a night for that privilege.”
“That’s very dear for a B&B,” he comments. “Will you stay on there?”
“We don’t have any plans except to travel around and see as much as we can.” She replies. “We’ll probably be out most of the time and up in
“It is too dear, he comments, scuffing the floor with his worn loafers. “Why don’t you and Vicki come stay in my place? It’s only up the road. You’ll only have groceries to pay, right?”
Sitting on the double bed in his room six weeks later, holding her working visa and passport with shaky hands, she is crying.
“Michael, I’m pregnant.”
His already pale English skin blanches to alabaster, She hears his breathing become ragged and rough. She watches him, his back to her, his shoulders rising slowly, knotted with tension.
“You know a lot of people here….”
“Maybe, but I’m been sleeping with you, she retorts harshly.
“Are you sure? Have you seen a doctor?
“Positive! Yes! No, I haven’t seen a doctor. I know I’m pregnant.”
She hears her voice rising, becoming thin and strident with panic.
“You find out for sure. Go to the doctor,” he says, quietly, striding from the room. She sits, shocked, listening to the muffled but rapid thumps of his feet running down the carpeted stairs. Downstairs, The kitchen door slams and his grandmother, startled, croaks “Micky!” frightened by his haste.
It had taken her weeks to find the courage to tell her mother about why she had left
Fifteen years after that first meeting in the C-Train station, the blond Englishman returned to
After receiving the letter from the daughter he has never known, Michael travels across time and the unknown to meet her and her family.
It was a wonderful week. A stranger no longer, he provided a precious missing piece of their daughter’s life. He has given himself as a father, when he could easily have continued in silent anonymity.
She is terrified. As she travels along towards her childhood home, she wonders how she will tell her mother that the unwritten chapter had now been completed and a lifetime of stories would now be written? Her mother has spent years hating the stranger who is the father of her grandchild. Would this opening of a book closed and lost bring on weeks of anger and oceans of tears?