A Shoebox – the sequel

Posted: August 12, 2010 in #fridayflash, A Shoebox, Short stories

The 24hour off licence was like a sweet shop to a child, as Gemma fingered the shelves eager to get a fix of her favourite tipple. Oblivion is what she longed for, after the revelation of her evening’s findings in the shoeboxes. She was trying to forget the glaring fact that her life was now even more upside down than it had been just hours before, as her insides were being squeezed, like a 1940’s washerwoman, wringing out every fibre in her sodden laundry.

As she walked down the street she began to question her entire life, her parents divorce and her brothers existence. She had never wanted to see her dad as much as she did at this very moment. She opened a beer, the twinges in her stomach strummed like a solo rock guitarist in her abdomen.

The shoeboxes were sprawled across her mum’s bedroom just as she’d left them. She sat and starred at them enviously. They had complicated her life like a road map drawn by a toddler. She blamed the shoeboxes for leading her back to the drink and for disclosing the fact her mum was not the person she had thought. She felt nauseous, but she wasn’t sure if it was from the alcohol hitting her system or from the nerves of what had to be done.

She awoke the next morning with a foggy haze around her head, but her stomach was no longer being a menace with its aches and throbbing. The discarded cans and bottle lay at her feet and as if an appalling practical joke had been played on her during the night, her brothers birth certificate was stuck to the side of her cheek as she lifted her head from her mum’s bed. She starred at it, longing it to have changed during her inebriated sleep.

Desperate to sit and drink all day, she was using all her mental strength to fight against it and bargain with her head to carry on her mission. She could drink later tonight as a reward. She had found an address from a letter her dad had sent to her mum, a few days after he had left. She needed to get washed and dressed, and try her hardest to look presentable before the fretful drive.

***

She tapped the door almost too quietly, in the hope he never answered.

Realising her fear, she knocked the door harder, with the small brass knocker to the right of the door. She heard footsteps, each one penetrating her heart and stomach. She took a deep breath as the door opened.

“Gemma!” the man gasped and a tear trickled down his soft bristly face.

She remembered the tall towering hunk, with piercing blue eyes, who was able to pick up two daughters at a time and swing them around in the air.

He’d shrunk, she could have sworn by it and now stood as a fragile old man, with skinny arms and sombre grey eyes. But his smile hadn’t diminished. His teeth gleamed at her, like they had on her first day of school and the time she fell off of the bouncy castle on her 8th birthday party. It warmed and saddened her heart at the same time.

He gestured her in with his less-than hunky arm.

Gemma sat on the sofa and her dad in the armchair. She’d always had an image of him having another family, his life filled with children, pets and a big family car. Instead his living room was sparse, with half a dozen photo frames containing pictures of her, her sisters and her mum. He hadn’t re-married and his car was parked outside the house. A small-dilapidated Volkswagen, with faded red paint.

She told him about her mum, uneasily, as she could see he had never forgotten them or stopped loving them. He cried, a soft shallow sob, like a child who was lost in the park. He’d lost his love once, but now he had lost her forever.

They talked over glasses of whiskey. Gemma’s shakes and apprehension slowly dying as the alcohol hit her system and let free all her tightened muscles. She narrated to him the findings from the shoeboxes and wanted answers.

“Sweetheart. I never meant to leave, but I couldn’t stay. And to remain in contact with you girls would have meant seeing and explaining things to your brother and every time I see his tiny innocent face, I see …’him’. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I loved you and your mum more than life itself. But it was all a horrible mess.”

“Who is this William Brown?” Gemma said sternly.

“My father died young and my mother re-married to ‘Pops’, your grandfather as you know him. My sister and me carried our father’s surname. Then Pops and your grandmother had a son, Bill. Formally known as William Brown. My Brother!”

Totally astonished, appalled and speechless, Gemma felt her internal organs collapse for a brief second. A small breath managed the words, “But Uncle Bill…he moved to Australia?”

He sighed and held his head in his hands, “No, that’s what we told you. We had to tell you something and try to carry on as a family. But it had destroyed your mother, which in turn destroyed me.”

“Your own brother had an affair with your wife, my mum! How could they? And why should it destroy her? Is she a cheat or not?” Gemma’s voice began to rise and her body was tense from the years of anger she had towards her dad, now spilling out into resentment for her mum.

“Uncle Bill went to prison, not Australia.” He took a deep breath, let out an unforgiving sigh and looked her in the eyes with deep sorrow. “Your mother wasn’t having an affair and hadn’t consented to anything sweetheart. Nor had the other 6 girls in our town, which Bill had forced himself upon. Do you understand what I’m telling you? She was not to blame Gemma!”

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Comments
  1. Rebecca says:

    I am so glad that you wrote a sequel to your story from last week.

    Such a sad reveal at the end there. It makes it even more of a tragedy, especially for the Mum.

    Well done – it is fun to bring characters back for another story isn’t it.

  2. J Dane Tyler says:

    Oh, man! What a crushing reveal at the end, and what a horrible experience for her! To have lost her marriage for something she couldn’t help — MAN. OUCH.

    A nice job on the two-parter. Well done!

  3. Vandamir says:

    Are you going to turn this into a serial or a novel? There are so many implications and a lot of places you could take this. Poor Gemma and her father, whom I was beginning to have sympathy for lost it by leaving his wife because she had a child who was the product of rape. It’s good they kept the secret from the children but now that it’s out what is Gemma going to do with it? So many questions and no answers. I want answers. Great job!

  4. yearzerowriters says:

    Wow that ending hit me straight between the eyes as I never saw it coming. Powerful stuff. Did you have it in mind when you wrote the first piece last week, if not you did a hell of a job coming up with that so it fitted seamlessly in with where last week’ s flash ended.

    marc nash

    • brainhaze says:

      No I didn’t plan a sequel at all, but thought I’d give it a go as so many comments on the 1st one wanted answers and thought I’d rise to the challenge. It just sort of happened 🙂

  5. Maria Kelly says:

    Wow…sad finding out her mother was raped. Still it’s closure and better than her own painted image of her mom as a cheater. On a happy note, connecting with the dad again.

  6. Marisa Birns says:

    What an unexpected reveal! So sad to be a victim of violence. When it comes from one’s own family member, it’s even worse betrayal.

  7. adampb says:

    Such a punch to the gut. Awesome writing.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  8. sueperfluous says:

    Well written, very strong story line & excellent following on from previous story. I would like to read more about the father’s side, and how he could leave the mother when she needed him most. A Shoebox III?

  9. peggy says:

    you have created characters with flaws and more secrets. These people lend themselves to more stories. Satisfying sequel to Shoebox, but also, another challenge for you (if you want).

  10. Man, talk about messed up lives. That would be enough to drive anyone crazy, with guilt, rage, misplaced shame… Really intense.
    ~jon

  11. antisocialbutterflie says:

    Wow! Quite a twist on this one, though it didn’t feel like an ending. I actually feel like I have more questions at the end of this one than the last. Like any good author you leave us wanting more. Great Job.

  12. Blackbirdsong says:

    I’m glad you did a sequel, but really you could do another one as well? Very interesting story here, but I want to know what happens next. It doesn’t feel like it’s over yet or maybe I’m just greedy.

  13. Brian, I’m glad you stepped up to the challenge, man… Great ending, indeed.

  14. Tim Remp says:

    Oooo. Sad ending. Wonderful writing. I hope you continue with these characters.

    -Tim

  15. Tony Noland says:

    Tragedy laced on tragedy. What a horrible family you’ve constructed here. Well done.

  16. Wow, the aftermath of this death reaches far and tears up raw ground galore. Nice work. Your descriptions really lend realism to the whole scene.

  17. Whew! Like everyone else said – great work here. Well drawn characters and mystery galore.

  18. Wow, that was certainly a big reveal. That poor family. This was an excellent story–both parts.

  19. PJ Kaiser says:

    Excellent writing again in this episode – wow, what a devastating event to happen to a family.

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