Making Mem­o­ries

A fam­ily is re­united in this ten­der com­plete story by Re­becca Mansell.

The People's Friend Special - - EMOTIONAL STORY -

IHAD been gaz­ing out of the kitchen win­dow when the phone rang. It was strange, be­cause it rang a couple of times, stopped, then rang again. I frowned. Was some­one play­ing a game? Caleb had a mis­chievous sense of hu­mour and fre­quently liked to sur­prise me with his boy­ish be­hav­iour, even though he was twenty-one now. They do say that men never grow up! It couldn’t be him, though. He was home from univer­sity, along with his dirty laun­dry and end­less tales of stu­dent nightlife – with a lit­tle bit of study­ing thrown in for good mea­sure. To re­as­sure me, of course.

The phone stopped. Per­haps some­one had the wrong num­ber and had ac­ci­den­tally rung it again.

Min­utes passed and then it shrilled out once more, making me jump. “Honey, are you go­ing to get that?” My hus­band’s voice from the study was muf­fled. No doubt he was still rum­mag­ing through the pa­per­work in the boxes he’d re­trieved from the loft the day be­fore.

He was in­tent upon fin­ish­ing the novel he’d be­gun 30 years ago. It felt like the right time, he said.

He was be­ing very se­cre­tive as he wouldn’t let on what it was about. I’d find out when it was pub­lished, he said con­fi­dently.

I didn’t want to dampen his en­thu­si­asm by re­mind­ing him how com­pet­i­tive the pub­lish­ing world was. “Honey?” The phone was prop­erly ring­ing this time, so I picked it up. There was si­lence. “Hello?” I wasn’t even sure if there was some­one at the other end of the line. “Hello?” I said again. Per­haps the phone was play­ing up be­cause I couldn’t hear any­thing at all.

Just as I was about to put it down, a quiet voice spoke. “Um, hello. It’s me . . .” There is a part in films where, for ef­fect, the char­ac­ters be­gin to move in slow mo­tion. The world slowed down like that for me in that pre­cise mo­ment. I found a chair and slumped on to it. I al­ways knew I’d recog­nise her voice. That no mat­ter how much time had passed, how many ex­pe­ri­ences she might have had or changes that might have taken place, her voice would cre­ate emo­tions in me that I would per­haps strug­gle to con­tain.

“Mary Jane?” I whis­pered. “Mum?” a voice said. I cov­ered my mouth with my hand so she wouldn’t hear me gasp.

“It’s been a long time,” she stut­tered, “but I wanted to hear your voice. Are you there?” Tears had be­gun to well up in my eyes. I swal­lowed. “I’m here,” I replied hoarsely. “Mary Jane, how are you?” There was a pause and I heard a small sob. “Mary Jane?” “I’ve missed you, Mum. I’ve missed you so much.” At this, the tears rolled down my cheeks. “Oh, dar­ling, I’ve missed you, too.” “I’ve wanted to con­tact you for so long, but Dad . . .”

“I understand. You re­spected his wishes. How is your fa­ther?” An­other long pause. “He died last month, Mum. Sud­denly.” I was shocked into stunned si­lence. I’d known Mary Jane’s fa­ther when I was just six­teen years old. We were child­hood sweethearts. My par­ents never took to him be­cause he re­belled at school, but for me that only added to his ir­re­sistible charm.

Even­tu­ally we’d run away to­gether, got jobs work­ing on a farm, and when I turned eigh­teen we mar­ried. I thought we’d be to­gether for ever. “I’m so sorry, Mary Jane,” I even­tu­ally man­aged. “I really am.” “I found your let­ters,” she said softly. “Did you?” I an­swered tremu­lously. “You hadn’t read them be­fore?”

“No,” she replied, a catch to her voice. “Not un­til the other day.” I sighed, feel­ing the sad­ness in my heart. That ex­plained so much to me. Ed­ward and I had had Mary Jane when I was just nine­teen, but straight away there were prob­lems. I be­came very ill and found it so hard to take care of a cry­ing baby.

It wasn’t long be­fore Ed­ward grew weary of my moods and anx­i­ety. I wanted to con­tact my par­ents for help, but he stopped me, say­ing we had to make it on our own.

He knew how much they dis­liked

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