Remorse - Excerpt

Why am I here, you ask.

It’s a long story and normally I wouldn’t tell anyone. But, seeing as it’s you and you’ve asked so nicely… Let’s see.  Perhaps a little background will be enough…

 

Like everyone, I don’t really know the beginning of my story.  It happened before I was born.  You see, there was this bloke and this broad – he was about 17 and she was 15.  Jailbait, really, but her mother was known as the town bike and his dad never really recovered from the war, or to be more precise, his mother didn’t recover from what he’d become because of the war, and so they hooked up and … yada, yada, yada,  some months later I was born.

(What??!!!!  I beg your pardon, young man!  I don’t want to bore you with those details … you cheeky monkey!)

Ahem … As I was saying, not long before I was born, they married, and not long after I was born, he passed away and left my mother alone.  Nearly 17 she was and already a widow.

 

She was a pretty young thing then, or so I am told, and after a suitable period of mourning, had a long list of suitors.  One of these turned out to be a very unsavoury character, who even served time for paedophilia, I understand, and one was a cripple.  Not that I have anything against people with disabilities, and really, look at me!  Who am I to talk?

 

Anyway, apparently, and this is only hearsay as I have no recollection of this, he used to get me to fetch and carry for him all the time.  My mother felt that she didn’t want me to be used as a slave (rather ironic, as you will later see) and so she called that one off.  I can’t believe she nearly married him!

 

I was about four, I suppose, when she finally found someone she thought she could marry.

 

He was a handsome Irishman.  At least, his father was Irish and his mother was German, and to my mother, he appeared to be the answer to all her dreams.  We became a ‘happy family’ and I had a new daddy.  Since I never knew the first one, I accepted the second one as the only one, and even took on his name. 

 

He was a hard worker, and my mother enjoyed playing house while he was out working all day, looking after me and the other children who eventually came along.  He’d come home to an immaculate house and dinner ready, although this perfection slipped a little the more children they had. 

 

I’ve jumped ahead here. Sorry.

 

In the early days, when it was just me, my new daddy would take my mother and me for drives in the country.  We’d drive for miles, just taking in the scenery, and stopping somewhere for a picnic.  Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?  On one of these days, we were driving through a valley alongside a winding river and ‘daddy’ decided we should stop off at the dam further up the river to have a look.  I was excited to see the dam.  It was like a swear word that I was allowed to say:  Dam, Dam, Dam, I’d chant, over and over. 

 

It was beautiful.  The lake side was gorgeous and lined with the bush. Giant eucalyptus gums towered above me and the quicker growing pines gave off their scent in the warm air.

 

‘Let’s walk along the dam wall!’ he said, and so we did

 

It was cold concrete, wide enough to feel safe, until you went to the edge and looked over. It was so far down and I was so scared.  And then on the other side, there were these dark, gaping holes with flimsy grates over them, and, coming up from them, I could hear the roar of the water being let out of the chute.  The dam doubles as a hydro-electric power plant.  I remember clinging to my mother’s hand and then, horror of horrors, my daddy wanted us to pose for a photo!

 

‘Over there!’ he said, pointing to the gaping mouth of the giant with the grizzly monstrous roar. 

(What! You think I’m exaggerating?  Please bear in mind I was only a little over four and very tiny.)

 I remember screaming, begging him not to make me stand there.

 

‘The monsters will get me!’ I cried, but my tears had no effect on the monster that stood in front of me.  I was trapped. Monsters behind and a monster in front, nowhere was safe, but I had to choose. 

 

‘Smile, dammit!’ my stepfather ordered.

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© 2015 by Phoebe Wilby.