This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 790 words.
My mum met my dad when he came to fix the land line phone at the big house where she lived with her mother and her older sister, Jean. She already had a good job, working at the Inland Revenue in London. He was only a phone engineer, but she had never had a boyfriend. So when he asked her out, she said yes. He was twenty, and she was eighteen. They got married the following year, then moved near Basildon and bought a house. And when she was twenty-four, she had my brother, Terry.
Not long after Terry was born, my grandmother died. Mum did a deal with her sister. Jean would keep the big family house near Danbury, and my mum would get the money. There was quite a lot of money. My grandmother had good life insurance, and still had a big stash from when her husband had died ten years earlier. Jean also kept the family car, a classic Jaguar. That made sense, as my mum had never learned to drive.
They doted on Terry, and he turned out to be a good kid, by all accounts. The years went by, and they were happy. Mum got promoted twice at work, and dad came off the vans and went to work inside, in the telephone exchange in Basildon. Then they got a shock. Mum was pregnant. Certainly not planned, as she was thirty-eight years old. According to Auntie Jean, there was some talk of an abortion. Mum didn’t want to take time out of work, and Terry was nearly fourteen. But that didn’t happen, and I was born when she was thirty-nine.
I don’t remember my dad, or my older brother. They were both killed in an accident, on the day of my first birthday.
It was some years before I even found out about them, and only then because Auntie Jean insisted on telling me some things. But not everything.
So I was brought up living with two women. Or it seemed like that anyway, as my aunt was at the house a lot of the time, or I was at her house in Danbury, being looked after. I was never sure what my aunt did. Ten years older than mum, she was very different. A heavy smoker, liked a gin and tonic, and was always dressed up and made up. She played records instead of watching telly, and never seemed to go to work. Compared to my mum, she was great company. She was fun.
The way my mum dealt with her grief was to never talk about my dad, or Terry. I wasn’t allowed to ask anything about them, and Jean never spoke about them in front of mum when I was in the room. There were no photos, and none of their stuff around the house. Mum looked after me, but I never once felt she loved me, and she found it impossible to show me any affection. There were no birthday celebrations for me either, not one.
Because my birthday was the same day she had lost her beloved husband, and her first born.
By the time I was almost ten, Jean was looking after me more and more. Although she was fifty-nine by then, she looked years younger than mum, who had already let her hair go grey, and spent her days in a joyless trance. For my tenth birthday, it was Auntie Jean who took me out. She picked me up in the lovely old Jaguar, and took me into Chelmsford, to the cinema. After the film, we went to a burger place, and I could choose what I wanted, plus ice cream after.
Then that night when I was staying over at her house, she took me into her bed, and interfered with me.
The law would call that child abuse, and would have put my aunt in prison. She told me that would happen if I ever told anyone. But she needn’t have worried. The truth was, I enjoyed it. The attention, the affection, and feeling grown up. And the presents were great too. She started to buy me really expensive gifts, not just for special occasions, but randomly. If my mum noticed, she certainly didn’t care. And Jean took me off her hands most weekends, leaving her to think about my dad, and Terry.
That lasted until I was thirteen. Weekends in bed with my aunt, and some occasional holidays too. Then mum decided I was old enough to not need looking after when she was out, and it stopped. I never mentioned it again, and neither did Jean. But now mum had asked me to go and see her, I was wondering.
Had Jean said something?