Short Story – Mum – Part Seven
“Come on, girl, you knew this would be hard…” Audrey whispered, as her hands shook.
She unfolded and placed all the letters in a pile, not daring to look at the contents. The world could wait, to shift on its axis. The same handwriting, the same salutations… My dear Naomi…. Darling Derek …the brief, to the point and unambiguous style Audrey recognized.
Without even needing to read, Audrey understood, of course. How could she not, with the affectionate writing clearly before her to give substance to snippets and snatches of conversation down the years, to telephone calls abbreviated. She had never been stupid, exactly, but always the last person to know. She had always taken what she saw at face value.
Facing her now, was the reason for the suitcase, Derek’s suitcase; the reason for the blue dress hanging at the back of Naomi’s wardrobe, that Audrey had given her when Naomi was first pregnant. The reason for the man’s grey flannel suit found in the suitcase: hidden for so many years because there was no way that Derek could come home wearing a suit that Audrey would not recognize. It was there on her husband, in the photos that she had not remembered snapping. Pamela. It was so obvious, now. How could Audrey not have seen it. Had she been blind?
At first Audrey had thought her sister was ill, pining for fresh air and good food. She laughed her out of despondency and they went away, taking the bus to the seaside or to the matinee at the Palais cinema. Audrey looked after her younger sister, always had done; and she had believed they shared all their secrets.
Audrey had bought that dress for Naomi to cheer her up. Thinking of it hanging wistfully at the back of her bedroom door, for some obscure reason, Audrey was comforted. Naomi liked that dress enough to keep it. Had she loved her sister, after all?
Then Naomi had become fatter, more tearful and frightened. Audrey watched, horrified, then a bit relieved, when her sister whisperingly asked her if she might take the baby? After all, Derek and she were trying for a family, weren’t they? Who would know, except the three of them? It could be kept quiet if the two sisters acted together…. But who was the father?
Audrey hadn’t pressed. What was the use of knowing which useless layabout it had been? She asked Derek whether he would be willing to take the baby.
He had been delighted. Of course. Now, Audrey could see that she had been a bit blind there. Which man would take on someone else’s baby without asking at least some questions? Derek hadn’t asked, he had just nodded and started crying, saying he would be pleased to help.
Yes, he had helped. He had got very involved with Naomi’s child, with Pamela. He had taken her off for weekends. Obvious now. It had been the three of them.