A Shoebox VIII

Posted: October 12, 2010 in #tuesdayserial, A Shoebox

Her emotions and findings over such a small period of time and not long after the death of her mum, had all built up around her.  Gemma felt like she was in her own prison, people and events each adding their own bricks to her isolation.  She hit the bottle hard that evening when she and her sister Kim had returned to their mum’s house from their visit to their dad’s.  Kim had left Gemma to her own devices, simply telling her that she was her own worst enemy and getting drunk wasn’t helping anyone.  It helped her.

Gemma’s emotions were too much for her to handle and getting upset in front of her dad had sent her mind on over load.  For some reason she felt angry for him seeing her cry.  He doesn’t deserve to see my emotions so raw she thought to herself.  If he’d of been a man and a father, he would have put his own fears and worries to one side and stuck by his wife and children.  Instead he ran away and even now when the past was unravelling around them, he still chose to stay away.  The whole family were in on this sordid secret.  Her Gran, was protecting the beast she called a son and now Ryan would have to know the truth about his existence.

The more she thought about it, the more emotional she became.  Like a changing of seasons she was hot and angry and then turned cold and felt alone.  She drank to escape; she escaped to be free; her mind was churning.  The anger gremlin didn’t even know what colour he was supposed to be anymore, changing his skin like a chameleon, wanting to punch out at the world one minute and then turn on her the next.  The emotional ups and downs were worse than any rollercoaster ride to someone who suffered from Acrophobia. 

So many thoughts running through her head, she felt life was on automatic spin on a washing machine, rotating so fast she couldn’t keep hold of one thought without jumping to another, then another.  

The panic; the stress; the feeling of utter worthlessness; all contributing to her fragile and exhausted state of mind.

She longed for her mum’s arms around her, their heads interlocking as they had done so often over the years, each other’s head on the others shoulder.  Nature programmes often show the baby chimp clinging to the mother as she climbs and swings from tree to tree.  The trust and comfort of feeling safe in her arms was an instinctive feeling.

She went upstairs with her bottle of vodka clasped in her hand and sat on the edge of her mum’s bed, the very room where she passed away; peacefully.  The room that also held the dreadful secret that contributed to her agonising  heartache.

The shoebox.  A deep dark secret held in a cardboard container at the back of her wardrobe.  An insignificant object.

*   *   *

She woke the next day, around noon, the day looking hazier than ever.  The knock at the door was continuous and the doorbell was ringing incessantly.  She clambered onto all fours, like a toddler unable to balance upright and made her way to the front porch.  The silhouette was familiar but she was too dazed to fully appreciate its form.

She opened the door slowly to find her dad standing in front of her.

“Go away dad,” she whispered, “I’m really not in the mood today!”

He shook his head, “I’ve been here Gemma.  Its not a good place to be.”

“Where here” she scolded, “yes we know you’ve been here dad, but not for nearly 15 years hey!”

“That’s not fair Gem.  Let me come in.  We can talk and I’ll make you a coffee.”


She sat curled up in a throw from the back of the settee and the mug of fresh black coffee her dad had just made her cupped in her hands, like this was the only warmth she had felt from being outside in the cold all night.

“What are you doing here?” she said blowing the top of the liquid to cool it.

“I’ve come to help.  Help sort out this sorry mess.”

“You should’ve done that years ago.  Fifteen years you’ve been gone and fifteen years every adult we’ve known has lied or hidden this from us.  And how do we tell Ryan? No, we’ve come this far without you, we can manage it from here…” she slurped her coffee burning the roof of her mouth slightly, making her guilt even more apparent in her head.  “Who else knows you’re here? Does Kim and Gran know you’re coming?”

He shook his head.  “No I came here first.  I half expected you all to be here, well you girls anyway.”

“Jess doesn’t want to see you, so you’ll only upset her more by being here.  And as for Ryan, well, he doesn’t even know who you are, not that you are actually anything to him I suppose.”

“Gem I loved him as much as I loved you girls.  I still do.  I just couldn’t bring myself to raise him or see your mother so distraught.  By me leaving she had to pull herself out of despair and make it work.  She wouldn’t of done it if I was around.  She’d be forever blaming me and I did enough of that for the both of us anyway.”

“You make it sound like you were doing her a favour.  You were only out for yourself dad.  Don’t twist this to make you look like the good guy here.  You left your family because you were a coward!”  Her head was banging, like a heartbeat in her head and across her eyes, pulsating and flickering uncontrollably.  “I love you but I’m not close with you.  You left her when she needed you the most.  It wasn’t about you and your guilt.”

She looked over at him, hoping for a reaction.  But the tears streaming down his face and the words “You’re right!” was enough to make her headache disappear and her heart take over the pain.


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