A Shoebox XI

Posted: October 11, 2011 in #tuesdayserial, A Shoebox

Gemma had spent a few minutes calming down her Gran.  She made them both a cup of tea, whilst pouring herself another brandy, this was going to be a long night.  She still had to find Ryan.  His head must have been doing a thousand somersaults and digesting this information, she knew first hand, was more than one person could take at once. 

She led her Gran and Pops into the living room, sitting them down comfortably and handing her Gran a tissue.  As she passed her the tissue, her Gran clasped Gemma’s hand in between both of her own, her tired but soft skin slightly dappled with age spots.  Her Gran squeezed Gemma’s hand tenderly, “You’re a gem Gemma.  You really are.”

She sat back in the armchair and listened to her Grandparents as they spilled their hearts out to her.  She was so glad she had brought the bottle of Brandy into the living room with her.  Like a comfort blanket she held the bottle’s neck as it sat by her side in the armchair.

She felt like she was eavesdropping on this awful tale through a bubble.  Their voices slightly muffled and her eye beginning to glaze over faintly, from more of the family’s twisted past.  She hadn’t envisaged this when she came round for the family meeting.  Her Gran began, tears a given remedy for divulging the sordid foundation of Uncle Bill’s life.  Gemma tried to recall the number of times she had seen her Gran cry, besides when she wept at her mother’s funeral.  She couldn’t remember any really.  She was a together lady, soft and gentle with her grandchildren, but firm when needed.  Respect was her middle name, well it should have been.

Gemma could feel the tension of decades being stripped off of her Grandparents, like kebab meat on a spit, as they explained how Uncle Bill had been a twin.  Gran had lost his identical sister in the womb, at six months old, but had no choice but to continue with the pregnancy, until full term, giving birth to William and his sister Winnie, naturally.  Winnie had been put to rest, the day after she was brought into the world and Pops and Gran had tried to compensate William for the loss, ever since. 

The Doctors said that William suffered from depression from as young as a few days old, a loneliness that could only be put down to missing his twin.  Even from a foetus of a few weeks old the doctors had explained that the twins had a bond and William might feel the loss of his sister for his entire lifetime.

Gemma’s Grandparents sat and explained how as young as three-years-old, William had developed almost two different personalities and two contrasting sides of himself.  He could be a loving calm child one minute and turn into animated and rowdy little boy the next, getting the attention of both his parents day in and day out.

“The strangest thing was, he had also made two sets of completely different friends,” Pops explained as he looked down at the floor, as if the worn patch in the carpet near his feet, was about to magically open up and give him the  answers he so desired.  “Boisterous and mischievous group of boys, with whom he was always getting into scrapes and bother with.  And then a quiet and studious set of friends, who were mainly girls.”

 “William often pretended he was a pirate, hopping around on his left leg, explaining his right foot was broken and he couldn’t walk on it.  You could say it was coincidence, but that is more than coincidental in my opinion.”  Gran looked up at Gemma, for the first time since they had sat down to explain their uncharacteristic outburst.   “Winnie had been born with a club foot; the doctors said this was a result of her lying in the womb awkwardly and therefore making the foot grow slightly inwards.  Winnie’s club foot was her right one!”

“It’s got to be coincidence Pops.  That’s impossible, he couldn’t of known at that age or understand” Gemma said amazed and slightly inebriated from her 4th glass of brandy.

“He had no idea.  We didn’t tell him until he was much older.  But deep down, we are convinced he knew.  Imagine lying within a few centimeters apart from your sisters in a sleeping bag, not for nine weeks, but nine months. Every movement they make, every emotion they feel, you know about it. Add to this the fact that William and Winnie were identical twins, who came from the same egg, the same, you know,” Pops looking slightly embarrassed to use the word ‘sperm’ to his adult granddaughter, “they had the same genetic stuff.”

Gemma nodded.  It was as if she could see the burden of her grandparents past lifting from their shoulders with every second of information they disclosed.  It was starting to make sense why Uncle Bill, William, was so messed up, confused and a loner.  It would seem he was born into a dilemma from the day he was conceived. 

A text message from Ryan came through on Gemma’s phone.  “Sorry for runnin off.  Head is a mess.  Stayin wiv Kim 2nite.  Love Ry x”

A small sense of relief filled Gemma’s stomach, like a kettle gently boiling and warming through her body slowly, she could stay here and get to the bottom of all this.  She thought the final jig-saw puzzle pieces would fall into place once Ryan had been told and the family members could individually find a way to repair the past.  However, it would seem the puzzle had suddenly been extended by a hundred pieces. 

The past had obviously taken its toll on her Grandparents, more than she had given them credit.  Pops in particular, a calm and gentle giant, must have been simmering at the surface only to find today’s revelations to Ryan, a vent of fresh air, which he needed to inhale.

“Does dad know all of this?” Gemma quizzed.

“He knows what he needed to,” Pops said almost dismissing his eldest son.

Gemma was getting the impression Pops had been hiding his feelings for her Dad too, with the sharp undertones of his reply.


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