My father was an honest upstanding man. At least, I’d always thought so, until the day that my mother told me differently.
It was going up to midnight when I got the phone call. My mother—incoherent and crying.
“Mum? What’s wrong?” I asked.
“It’s your father,” she sobbed. “He’s…he’s…left me!”
The line was dead. She ignored my ring-back. I scrambled out of bed and into the clothes I’d discarded an hour before.
Fifteen minutes later, my car screeched to a halt at the gate. Every light in the house was on.
House key at the ready, I ran up the path, but the door was ajar. “Mum?” I called.
She was in the lounge, standing next to a small table cluttered with holiday souvenirs. Her pasty-white face was tearstained and her hair stood on end as if she’d been out in a force ten gale. This wasn’t the well-groomed woman I was used to. Dad had evidently upset her, big time.
“Mum?” I said, holding my arms out. “What’s this about Dad leaving?”
She didn’t run into my arms, just stood there, looking at me appraisingly.
I began to feel uneasy. What did she want me to take the blame for this time so she would stay perfect in his eyes? Had she thrown a piece of his cherished Lalique collection at him? Over the years, I’d covered for the breakage of wine glasses and missing bottles of wine, a smashed Moorcroft vase, one of a pair, plus a dent in the family car…
“It’s your father…he told me he… had another woman… I was so angry…”
“Now that does surprise me! Him having another woman, I mean, not you losing your temper. So you chucked something at him? Nothing expensive, I hope?”
“This isn’t the time for jesting, Jeremy,” she said stonily.
“Sorry. Want me to have a word? Do you know where he’s gone?”
She nodded and pointed to the door. “Kitchen,” she whispered.
“So he’s not exactly gone gone?” I said, striding to the door.
“Dad? What’s all this about walking out on Mum?”
Shock jolted me to a halt in the kitchen doorway.
There was an enticing smell of freshly baked bread. The loaf was on the counter top, but the bread knife was buried to the hilt in Dad’s chest. He was on the floor. Blood pooled round him, soaking into his white shirt.
I sank on my knees but stopped short of tugging the knife out. That would make matters worse, cause blood to spurt. I rested my hand on his blood soaked chest, but couldn’t feel a flicker of a heart beat. I realised blood was no longer oozing from the wound. Dad’s heart wasn’t beating. Dad was dead.
“Is he…?” my mother said, from behind me.
“You crazy cow!” I yelled, twisting to look up at her. “You’ve killed him!”
“He was going to leave me,” she whispered, as if she didn’t want anyone to hear. “Jeremy, promise me you’ll back me up, like always.”
“Back you up! How exactly?”
“This is wrong.” She gestured at Dad. “Not right. I’ve notified the police…”
“You’ve what? I mean, what are you going to tell them?”
As if on cue, the doorbell rang. “They’re here now,” she said. “Follow my lead, Jeremy…”
I stood and backed away from my father’s body. My mind was whirling. How the hell was she going to explain her actions? I wished I’d taken longer to get here, and arrived after the police…
“He must have disturbed a burglar,” my mother was saying earnestly to the two police officers accompanying her. “We found him like this, didn’t we, Jeremy?”
“When was that, sir?”
“A few minutes ago—” I broke off, wondering when my mother had rung them. “I mean, it seems like only minutes ago, but it must have been longer—”
“Shock,” my mother said. “He’s in shock, that’s why he’s confused.”
She was right. I was in shock, but I wasn’t confused. This was different from a broken vase or a dented car. I wasn’t going to help her out and take the blame.
“I tried to help him,” I said to the police officers, indicting the blood on my jeans and hands. I took a deep shuddering breath. “But I was too late…”
“Jeremy…” My other Mum put her hand on my arm. “I know you’ll help me…”
“Dad once told me to look after you if anything happened to him. I’ll get you a good lawyer,” I said, wrenching my arm free. “She’s all yours, officer.”
Copyright © Betty Woodcock 2015
Photo by courtesy of zela rgbstock.com
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