(Please be aware this story contains adult sexual content.)
The week went by like lightening and the normal days were only broken up by me putting up gran’s house for sale. I felt a strange sense as I pulled up outside on Friday morning and saw the for sale sign in the garden. Getting myself and Freddie out of the car I walked up the house.
‘We won’t be able to do this for much longer,’ I told Freddie.
‘What?’ he demanded, his four year old mind not gasping my words.
I kissed him instead of trying to explain and unlocked the front door. Going in, the familiar smells had vanished under the heavy odors of cleaning chemicals. The estate agents had suggested we paint and varnish, but that would have been another few weeks and as a family we’d had enough. Gran’s house, the home I’d grown up in, had become an albatross around our necks and it was time to cut it loose.
‘We could move in,’ Dan had suggest the first time we had walked through together.
‘It needs a lot of work,’ I had added, ‘and up dating.’
‘There’s no wifi!’ Ty had shouted.
‘The bathroom sink tap still won’t turn off,’ Darla told us.
‘I think…it’s best we sell it,’ I had concluded.
And now it was happening. I walked from room to room, double checking that what we were leaving behind – old furniture and such- was fine to be left. In the kitchen, I got Freddie a glass of water and began opening the cupboards. They were all pretty much empty. I collected the mugs and drink making stuff we had brought with us.
At the door, I turned and looked back. How many hours had I spent in this kitchen whilst gran had cooked? How many birthday parties had there been a cake on that table? How many times had she sat and talked with her friends about my mum’s pregnancy and disappearance?
Something on top of one of the cupboards caught my eyes. It was a black box file. I put Freddie and the bag of stuff down and went over. I had to drag a chair from the table to stand upon to reach it. The file was heavy. I placed it on the table and opened it.
‘What’s this?’ I said aloud.
‘Don’t know, mummy. Let me see!’ Freddie spoke out.
I went and picked him up, swinging the file around the table to save me walking back to it. One handed, I looked through the mount of paper inside. There was a mixture of newspaper and cheap women magazine pages, handwritten letters, cards, notes and at the bottom….
My heart skipped a beat. The torn pages from the 1979 diary!
I gasped and tipped the box upside down.
‘Oops!’ Freddie squeaked then reached out for the scattering of papers.
‘No, darling,’ I told him gently and tried to hold him out of the way.
‘No,’ I said firmly.
I pulled back the chair and sit down with him on my lap. Trying to keep both his hands in mine was tricky. But I snuggled him against me and hummed softly. I sorted the journal pages out then setting them aside, even though it was hard to do, I looked through the newspaper clippings.
‘Missing twenty-two year old woman,’ I read one of the headlines, ‘police are searching and asking for information about Mary Winacott. Who was last seen at home by her mother the morning of Monday 23rd April. Mary went to work but never arrived. Her mother said Mary was spending the night at a friend’s, but she didn’t turn up. Mary has a young daughter. If you have any information connect the police.’
Below was a grainy black and white photo of my mother. She was smiling and her hair was pinned up. It was just her face, but I could make out a necklace around her neck and the collar of a dress. The photo had been blown up from one I had seen always on the mantle in the living room.
Freddie started wiggling and wailing to get down.
‘Okay. Okay. We’re going,’ I told him.
I packed all the papers back into the box and got up. I scanned the kitchen on last time, collected the bag I’d left by the door and turned to go. Juggling everything in my arms, I opened the door with my foot and walked out.
Freddie burst into tears, crying out words that I didn’t understand. I took him outside and set anything down.
‘What’s wrong, Freddie?’ I asked.
He sobbed, wiping his nose and face.
‘We’re going now. Say goodbye house. Goodbye granny,’ I told him.
‘No,’ he sniffed.
I dug a tissue out and wiped his face.
‘There. That’s better. You okay now?’ I asked.
He nodded, but didn’t seem so sure.
‘Let’s go and get lunch,’ I spoke.
I picked him up then reached for the box and bag.
‘No, bye bye granny,’ Freddie said.
‘Huh?’ I stopped.
‘No,’ he wailed into my ear.
‘It’s okay, Freddie,’ I soothed, ‘let’s go.’
Clutching everything, I went to the car. Freddie was still sniffing as I put him into his car seat. I put the box and bag in the boot and got in myself. With a last look at the house, I drove off wondering why I had asked Freddie to say goodbye to the house and granny when I had never asked him before.
It wasn’t until the next day I had a chance to go through the box. Darla was at the shopping mall with friends and I had talked Dan into giving her a lift and taking the boys there for the afternoon too. I had been craving some me time for awhile now and after I had done a few things I wanted, the box started to call to me.
Curling up on the sofa, some animal document on TV and a cup of green tea on the coffee table, I opened the box for the second time. I split the papers into piles; newspaper clippings, magazine cut outs, letters, cards, notes, photographs and the journal pages. Starting with them, the true story about my birth and my mother’s disappearance reveled itself.
All the questions and answers I had been asking and searching years for, came to light. Gran had known all along who my father was, she just hadn’t been able to fully prove it. The police had looked closely at everything they could, but they had been unable to prove it too or fully connect him to my mum’s disappearance. A body had never been found, but gran knew she was dead.
She wrote; I can feel it. My Mary is gone. I’m not sure how I know, but I just know. I keep praying they find her body, I want to bury her next to Jim –gran’s husband and my mum’s dad, he had died when my mum was about ten, an accident at work in a factory.- I need closure and so does Maya. She’ll want to know what happened when she’s older. I’m going to gather everything for her and keep it safe till the time comes.
The writing ended. I moved on and looked at other pages and the other things. As soon as I heard the front door open, I scrambled up and flew into the hallway, the papers scattering in my wake. My family stood by the closing front door, weighed down by their shopping.
‘Mr. Bradwell is my father and he murdered my mother!’ I shouted cutting through their conversations, ‘gran proved it, but the police didn’t believe her as there wasn’t enough evidence! But now we can do it.’
I dragged in deep breaths whilst looking at the shocked faces of my children and husband. Then Dan broke the silence, ‘what do you need us to do?’ he asked gently.