Big Girls Don’t Cry Ch. 02

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Many thanks to Firefly, and to Mriceman1964 for their help, criticism, sense of reality, and honesty in getting this far, sorry for the delay, real life has a habit of intruding! It helps if you read part 1 before this, to give you the full back story to what’s going on here.

As always, I welcome criticism that makes sense, is relevant, and is not self-evidently barking mad! If you like this segment, please vote for it, if you didn’t please tell me why, and all gratuitously nasty, plain weird or downright scary comments will get deleted, so if you want to be nasty of rude, be my guest, I enjoy the funny ones as much as the next person!

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I staggered out of bed, still half-asleep, to answer the knock at my door. I wasn’t expecting anyone, but I thought it might be a friend from St George’s, just around the corner. I managed to slip on a pair of shorts in my partially asleep state and weave my way over to the front door. I pulled it open fully expecting to see one of my friends, and winding-up to give them a mouthful, but there outside the door, looking apprehensive and somehow smaller than I remembered, almost huddled, was mum.

I came awake immediately.

“What are you doing here…mum?” I asked flatly, trying not to respond to the instinctual rush of remembered feeling as I saw her, wanting and needing her, but the need overshadowed by the memory of how she and dad had excised me from their family with just a few words; I didn’t hate her, but I was still hurting, and I didn’t want to let that go, not yet.

She started when I said that, and her eyes filled, and I immediately dropped my eyes; I didn’t want her to see my need for her in my eyes, all I wanted was for her to feel as lost as I did, just share what it felt like for a few seconds, but I couldn’t…

I stepped aside.

“You’d better come in. Lena’s asleep; I’ll get her if you want…?”

She sat down and looked at me as I sat opposite her, her lip quivering.

“Darryl, please come home, both of you. Your father misses you dreadfully, he has so much to say, to tell you…”

I cut her short.

“But he’s not my father, is he? And you’re not my mother, and apparently that’s not my home. I am home, here, mum, this is the reality for me now!”

Now she was crying, and I had to put an end to this; I didn’t want to make her cry, just make her understand how far she’d cast me adrift; it didn’t work though, all I could see was my mum crying, and it wrenched at my heart. I thought we’d said all there was to say, and I was still too angry and hurt to let the feeling of being in free-fall go just yet, much as I hated it; she’d done that to me, she was nothing to me, she wasn’t even a part of my family, no relation at all, I told myself, not believing a word of it. I tried to believe that letting her in had been a mistake, yet why did I feel so glad to see her, and so bad about trying to let her go?

“You shouldn’t have come here, I can’t have you here. All you’re doing is reminding me that everything I thought was mine is gone; can’t you see that? Please go, just leave me alone. That’s what I am now, and all you’re doing is reminding me of that. I’ll wake Lena now, and you can ask her to go back with you; I’m not keeping her here against her will, but I won’t ask her to go, either.”

With that I got up and walked into the bedroom, intending to waken Lena and tell her that her mother was here. She was already awake, sitting up in bed with the covers pulled up around her, her eyes big and concerned.

“Darryl, I heard what you said; I will never leave you alone, ever; you need to know that!”

I smiled and sat down to hug her, then hauled her bag up on the bed and rummaged through her stuff until I found a long T-shirt like the one she’d slept in that first night.

“Here, put this on, princess, and come out and talk to her, she’s come a long way to see you!”

Lena took the shirt from me and hugged me, before tugging it over her head and pulling it down.

“There, that’s as dressed as I’m getting; she can see me like this!” she grinned, pulling me close for a quick, heartfelt kiss before sliding off the bed.

I grinned back at her expression and took her hand to lead her out into the living room.

Mum went to hug Lena when she came out behind me, but Lena pulled back and away from her, instead pulling herself close to me with her arm around my waist. Mum looked hurt at that, but Lena had that expression on her face, the ‘stay away’ look she had when she was angry, one that mum knew only too well.

“Lena, your father and I, we…we miss you both, we waited so long for you to come home, both of you! Please, why don’t you and Darryl come home, now, with me?”

Lena looked scornfully at her.

“Why would we do that? So you can tell Darryl all over again how his mother abandoned him, how you didn’t want him enough to make him yours, that he was just bursa escort ‘Left-Luggage’?”

She was still really angry, so I wisely decided to say nothing.

“You should go now, mum; Darryl needs his family, and right now, that’s me. You and dad never wanted him; if you had, you’d have adopted him when he was a child, or let him know who he really was, or just kept quiet forever and let him be your son. You could have told him the truth long ago, when he was still just a little boy, let him know who he really was, who you really were, but you didn’t, you kept him around, you let him believe he was your son, and then you took it all away just like that!” She punctuated her sentence with a snap of her fingers.

“He thought you were his parents and he loved you with all his heart; why didn’t you have at least that much for him? Go away, mum, I need my brother, and he needs me, and neither of us needs you!”

She slid her arms even tighter around me, and her head rested in the hollow of my neck. Mum could see that she was wearing only that thin cotton tee shirt, and I could see the suspicion forming in her eyes.

She cast around, her eyes lighting on the open door to the second bedroom, where she could see a jumble of exercise equipment and a desk and large bureau, but no bed. There was no sign that the couch had been used to sleep on, only the rumpled bed visible through the part-open door to the bedroom.

Her eyes narrowed.

“Lena, where did you sleep last night? And the night before?” she asked, her voice sharp with suspicion.

Lena looked at her, smiled sweetly, and answered “None of your damned business! What are you implying…mother?”

That tone was back in her voice; she was angry again, the sweet smile on her face falling away as the anger blazed through.

Mum recoiled from that, her eyes suddenly almost afraid.

“Please Lena, please don’t tell me you…and Darryl…no, you didn’t..!”

Lena smiled acidly at her.

“And if I did? For the record, I’m not admitting anything, but so what if I did? What’s it to you? After all, I’m over 18, and it’s not like he’s my brother, you told me he’s not my brother, in fact you made it quite clear he’s not my brother at all…!”

Mum looked shocked, and a little sick.

“Don’t say that! He is your brother…Oh Lena, what have you done, both of you? Darryl’s your brother…!” she whispered, her voice shocked and horrified.

Lena smiled maliciously at her.

“Darryl, go make some coffee, there’s a darling. Mum, sit down, you’ve got some listening to do, so pin back your ears. Darryl, go!”

I wanted to hear this, if only to hear Lena in full flow, she did it so well…

I wasn’t interested in seeing mum squirm; to tell the truth, now that the shock and loss had eased a little, I missed her, desperately, and seeing her this morning had stirred up all the feelings I’d had for her before this…thing had dropped on me. But my mum was gone, and this person was left behind; she still looked just like my mum, though; the only thing that had changed was that now I knew she was nothing to me, but that didn’t stop me desperately wanting her back, for none of this to have happened, for my mum and dad to be my mum and dad again, for this nightmare to be erased, to have never happened…

But I knew well that tone in Lena’s voice, so I went. While I pottered around in the tiny kitchen, trying to find reasons to stay in there and not face mum or hear what Lena had to say, I nevertheless strained to listen to every word; it was the classic ‘attraction/repulsion’ thing I’d studied during long boring nights on-call.

“Sit, mum!” I heard her say, the anger even more evident in her voice now I couldn’t see her face.

“You are going to tell me one thing, that’s all. Why? Why did you have to destroy Darryl’s life so completely? Why can’t you understand what you’ve done? Why did you have to tell him I wasn’t his sister, that I’m some kind of aunt? I loved being his little sister, he was my big brother and I was his best friend. Now I’m not his sister any more, how is he supposed to think of me; as his ‘auntie’? What did we ever do to you that you had to do this to us? I know how easy it is to hurt him, I’ve always known, that’s why I never did, and I never will; all he ever had was you and dad and me, and you took that away from him without hesitation; his family was the most important thing in his life, didn’t you know that? Now you’ve gone and broken it up, and I don’t know how to put it right, so I’ve had to put him back together a different way!”

“I suppose I should thank you, but it was only possible because you broke his heart, and all that loss and pain is still in there, all jumbled about! Do you remember when he was a boy, and he thought he’d lost us? He nearly died, he tried to kill himself because he thought he’d lost everything, and now he really has! I’m here so I can keep him safe, but why are you bursa escort bayan here? Why did you need to hurt him so? Answer me, mum!”

I could hear the tears in Lena’s voice, but I could also hear mum crying softly, and a huge part of me wanted to rush out there and just hold her, to beg her pardon on bended knee for being such a petulant prick, but I had to know what was so all-fired important that they had to drive a wrecking ball right through Lena’s life, and mine.

Eventually mum stopped crying.

“Lena, we told Darryl because he needs to know; your dad and I are planning on going away soon, and we’re not coming back. Dad is not well, he’s not well at all, and his doctors want him to leave England, the cold and damp are just making him worse…”

A cold hand stroked my spine, and I forgot all about my anger and loss and hurt feelings as I rushed back into the room, my need to know greater than all that now.

“Mum, what’s wrong with dad, why do you have to go away? Please, tell me, mum, what’s wrong with him!” I whispered, a chill rush of fear making my spine tingle and cold sweat collect in the small of my back and between my shoulder blades. The thought ‘cancer’ was rushing around in my head, but I was afraid to hear the words from her, afraid to turn and look the Gorgon in the face.

Mum looked ready to cry again.

“Your father has a condition something like pneumoconiosis, it’s been caused by years of inhaling metallic dust. It was that job of his, all the time it was doing this to him. His lungs are badly damaged, so is his heart, and his doctors are afraid it will develop into acute COPD if he remains in a cold, damp climate. They think somewhere hot and dry might help hold it off a little longer. We’ve decided to move to Cyprus; your father has old friends there, and he was stationed there in the 1960’s, so he knows the place. The hot, dry climate may be what he needs.”

“We told you because we didn’t want this to remain hidden any longer. Your dad wanted to make everything right before we left, he didn’t want to leave you with any loose ends and he didn’t want to take any secrets with him or leave anything unfinished. Can you understand that, both of you? Please try and forgive him, forgive both of us, he just wanted you to know the truth while there was still someone to tell it to you.”

Lena was looking shocked and confused, emotions warring on her face, until her lip quivered, and two big tears ran down her cheeks. Suddenly she was that little girl who’d tagged along to school with me every day, the annoying little sister I loved so much and had nearly lost.

“He…he’s sick? How long have you known, mum? When were you going to tell me? Mum…mummy, is daddy dying? oh God, no, please…!” she whispered, her face crumpling as she cried.

The strength drained away from my legs and I sat down heavily as Lena’s grief and fear communicated itself to me; dad, my dad, was seriously ill, there was no cure for what he had, and it was going to kill him; not now, not tomorrow, but soon, far too soon, and I’d wasted precious time being a prick, being angry with him. I knew exactly what pneumoconiosis was, and all its variants, what an insidious slow killer it was, and what was in store for my dad. Going to Cyprus was a desperation move dreamed up by his doctor; there was nothing that could help him now…

I felt stupid and disloyal, a complete bastard, venting anger and childish spite on a sick man. I suddenly realised just how petty and thoughtless I’d been; he and mum had spent my whole life being my parents; they’d never made any difference between Lena and me, and the fact they’d never adopted me was inconsequential, a mere detail. My dad was dying, and I was here, 150 miles away, sulking like a spoiled child after a stupid, thoughtless outburst.

My heart lurched and turned over in my chest as I remembered all the times he’d been there for me, and those times I’d not listened to him, or silently cursed him, or ignored him, or just plain disobeyed him, and a part of me yearned desperately for the chance to go back and undo each and every one of them. If God, the universe, whatever would just let me do that, perhaps this present wouldn’t have happened, and he’d still be hale and healthy. Foolish, I know, but right then I’d have given my soul and every breath in my body for the chance to have him back as he should be, growing old peacefully, here, with us around him, not choking his life out in a foreign country.

I managed to find my way to mum, to kneel by her side and take her hand. She hugged me close and held me as she cried, and what was left of my self-control evaporated as I realised she was as frightened as I was. The tears spilled out of me as I cried for my dad, for the hole in my life that should have been filled by him for years to come. Lena took my hand, and slid down next to me, her head in my neck as she hugged me, silent sobs wracking her body.

Eventually escort bursa the tears stopped, as they must, and mum, Lena and I sat motionless, each of us busy with our own thoughts and memories. A thought occurred to me.

“Mum, if you’re here, who’s with dad?”

Lena’s head snapped up at that, as the same thought echoed in her.

Mum smiled gently, her bottom lip still quivering slightly.

“Your Auntie Min’s with him, she’ll keep him entertained and occupied until I get home. Will you come back home, kids? Please?”

For answer, I went into the bedroom and started stuffing clean clothes into a holdall, signalling Lena to do the same. While I was packing I asked her how she’d come down from Bristol, as I couldn’t see her car, and she told me she’d been brought down by Aunt Min’s son, who’d taken his mother up to Bristol to see dad.

Once I’d finished packing, Lena began rummaging around for her clothes and knick-knacks, mum watching her and noting that we were both using the same bedroom, same closets, and the same bed. Lena and I finished by making the bed and switching off the fridge, putting all the perishables in a carrier bag to take with us rather than throw them away. Mum forbore to comment on any of this, her suspicions obviously confirmed, but also recognising that there were other, more important things to deal with right now.

The drive back was subdued. We drove non-stop, mum at the wheel of my Golf while Lena and I held hands in the back seat, too numb to talk and only dimly aware of the other’s presence as the fear galloped around inside us, getting bigger with every mile closer to home.

When we arrived back at the house, Aunt Min let us in, holding her finger to her lips to tell us to be quiet. She looked drawn and pale, and also looked smaller, as though what was unfolding here was somehow diminishing her. Min was Dad’s older sister, larger than life and usually the life of the party, always the first to arrive and the last to leave, loud, brash, and fun, her chubby fingers banging away at the piano, her arms festooned with expensive gold bangles and cheap clanking costume jewellery, swilling down gin now, to see her subdued like this made my heart leap into my mouth; had something happened while mum was away? A movement caught my eye, and there in the doorway to the dining room was Aunt Doreen, dad’s oldest sister.

She was a spinster who lived a few miles away and she was the complete opposite of Min; slender, quiet, reserved, plainly dressed, with no jewellery or make-up. She was a calm, elegant, empathic, quietly witty lady, a retired Headmistress, but in her own way as fun and comforting to have around as Min; when I was a boy, she’d always been my refuge when mum wasn’t around, and I loved her dearly. Now she came to us as we came in the front door, and took my face in her hands, kissing my forehead briefly before hugging me.

“Darryl, we heard what happened, what was said, and I want you to know, you are loved, we all love you, and we need you to be here, with us. Your dad needs you, go and see him, please.”

I broke down then, Doreen holding me close as I turned into a scared five year-old again, only this time I was scared for my dad, for what he was going to tell me, so afraid I was going to hear something that would destroy me completely. My anger at my parents was gone; it was foolish, childish and wrong; now I really had something to worry about, and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Doreen seemed to understand all this, her soft hand on my face as she comforted me the way she had when I was a small child. I looked up and there was Lena holding Min, her face buried in Min’s shoulder.

Doreen ruffled my hair, a gesture from my boyhood.

“Come on, Darryl, go and talk to your dad; he knows you’re here, he’s in the sitting room; go on now!”

I looked fearfully at Lena, and she wiped her eyes and took my hand, letting me lead her to the sitting room door. I knocked, and cracked the door open, and there was dad snoozing in his old recliner chair, looking for all the world as though there was nothing wrong whatsoever.

As we looked in on him, he opened one eye and looked right at us.

“So you came back, then!” he grinned, taking any sting out of it. “Come in, don’t stand there hovering, both of you, come on in; I’m not dead yet!”

He looked so normal, for a second a wild hope flared in me; this was just a nightmare, he looked so…dad…how could he be so sick?

Lena gulped, biting back more tears, and pushed past me to cross over to him and hug him tightly. I was just a second behind her, biting my lip desperately so I didn’t start bawling like a three year-old.

Dad sat up (with a certain amount of difficulty, I noted) and hugged her properly, holding my arm as he did so. His grip still seemed strong, confident, but his chest…

I could hear the churning, undersea sound as he breathed in and out, my heart sinking as I realised how serious his condition really was; all this time he’d kept it from us, obviously masking his condition with his meds, and now it was only a matter of time, and probably not much of that…

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