She needed to know
She stared out through the muggy train window looking across at St Mawes castle in the distance. There wasn’t long to go before she would disembark onto the station. And though the train journey and views were familiar she felt no relation to the person that she had been when she had lived in St Mawes. But now she was returning and returning to solve a very personal mystery.
Jane Young had been a brought up in a typical family environment up to the age of 7 years old when her father decided to find a new direction in his life that didn’t include her or her mother. She had been an only child, loved to the extreme by her mother, tolerated by her father.
Harry Young had been a strict disciplinarian in the house, and his wife and daughter had been obedient servants to his pedantic whims. Her mother, Becky as everyone knew her, was a bright and bubbly character that had been worn down by the possessiveness of her husband. But once Harry decided to leave she grasped the opportunity with both arms. She possessed an inner strength and resolve that ensured Harry Young would not be missed.
The next few years became a childhood filled with happy days, bracing walks along the sea shore and laughter, lots of laughter.
Her mother was determined to pay her own way in the world and not ask for any help from her former husband so she often had various jobs on the go. These would include working at the local old age complex, cleaning jobs for those who could afford it, and helping out at the local shops. Both Becky and Jane enjoyed her stint at the local craft shop because it allowed her contact with local artists and potters. Her delight was painting, mainly seascapes and her dream was to own a small cottage and studio to paint these wonderful landscapes. And so it was after 7 years struggling as an artist, her works became popular and she was able to purchase a house with wooden balconies overlooking the sea in the tiny village of St Mawes.
Mother and daughter loved St Mawes, for the village catered for both their personalities. Becky enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the summer months while Jane preferred the winter months for she enjoyed the solitude.
However tragedy struck a week after Jane sat her A levels. It was a stormy night and Jane was lying on her bed reading the latest gossip from Heat magazine when there was loud knock on the door. Her bedroom faced the front of the house and as she looked out through her small square window to see two police officers, one male, one female standing in the doorway. She ran down quickly but her heart sank when the officer started to say
‘I am very sorry to tell you but............................................
The funeral took place four days later, huge crowds lined up outside the local church but all this passed Jane by. In the midst of the throng Jane stood numb. She was joined on the front pew by Louise Brown, Becky’s best friend, and Louise’s husband.
Her father came to the funeral but he stayed at the back of the church. When he visited the house later he was told by Louise that Jane did not want to see him. He told Louise to tell Jane that he would get in touch.
That was seven years ago.
At first she ignored his calls but he was persistent insisting that it was vital for her happiness to meet him so she eventually she agreed. She decided to meet him in a familiar coffee chain restaurant in a busy part of town. She arrived early, her recollections of him at the funeral were hazy but as soon as he walked in she recognized his familiar high walking style, chest out stomach in. He seemed to have lost weight, he had certainly lost hair: he was bald. He was bronzed and giving that it was mid-winter it was either from a tanning salon or he had been abroad recently.
They said hello but both felt awkward so he came straight to the point.
‘Jane, I have something really important I have to tell you. Leave me finish and then you can have your say’.
‘Three years ago I met a really beautiful and fun loving woman called Patricia and I fell in love with her. ‘You would really like she is about 5 years older than you. A month ago I went to my GP because Patricia and I wanted to have a baby to cement our relationship.’
Jane squirmed uneasily on her seat
Harry continued ‘I had some tests and they told me that I was unfertile, it was genetic and I had been like this for ever’.
Slowly the words sunk in. Her dad was unfertile. NO! Who she thought was her dad was unfertile.
Jane burst out saying
‘But who is my dad?’
Harry replied’ I have no idea but as you can see both you and I were betrayed by your mother.’
As he delivered those words she began to remember how tyrannical he had been as a father and realized she had nothing in common with this bronzed coloured, no orange coloured middle aged man.
After meeting her father she knew that had to find out the truth. She had kept in contact with Louise and she was hoping that Louise might provide some answers. When her mother had died she had sold the seaside house to Louise, who had decided to rent it out for a summer let. She had been able to cancel her supply work and fortunately for her, her former home was available to rent for the week. It was being refurbished at the moment but when she explained that she needed to sort out some of her mother’s stuff Louise was more than willing to help out. The cottage attic was full of Becky’s art stuff and boxes and Louise was overjoyed that Jane seemed at last to be coming to terms with her mother’s death.
Her first night in her old bedroom brought back many memories and she found it difficult to sleep. She was up early the next morning and carried the six boxes down to the sunlit conservatory at the back of the house. She had worked out that she had been conceived in the summer of 1985 and was hoping that perhaps there were clues to what her mother had been doing at this time. Her mother and father had married in 1982 and had lived for a short period in Devon, but didn’t know whether that period coincided with her conception. She immediately put three boxes to the side for it contained her mother’s art equipment, sketch books and paints. The fourth box contained the ornaments and trophies that she had won as a runner in school. This left two boxes that contained papers and photographs. She emptied the first one on the floor and gradually began to sift through it. After an hour or so she had found no clues, the box had contained old photographs of her as a baby, her first day in primary school and old certificates., faded paintings and drawings she had done.
The next box was not much better, this contained more official papers, letters to the bank, old bank statements, electricity and gas invoices, but nothing dated anywhere near 1985. She was about to call it a day and give Louise a call when a faded newspaper cutting caught her eye. She felt her heart pump faster when she noticed that it was dated September 1985.
She gently opened the newspaper cutting from the local newspaper to reveal an old group photograph with an article underneath announcing the beginning of a post bus in rural Devon. The article said that for the last 9 months Devon County Council had set up a task and finish group to look into the feasibility of setting up a post bus scheme in the Tiverton area. The article went on to say that after considerable research it had been decided to set up a pilot scheme. She looked at the photograph in the article and though it was quite faded she immediately recognized her mother. The photograph showed a group of six people, her mother, five men and one female.
Even though it didn’t mean anything to her, Jane felt that because of the date and the fact her mother had kept the article that this was an important clue.
Her stomach began to rumble and when she looked at her watch she realised that it was now three o’clock in the afternoon and she hadn’t eaten since breakfast. She folded the article carefully and put it in her handbag. She went out to get some bread and milk but her thoughts were firmly on finding more information about the group photograph.
Louise had invited her over for dinner and once they had finished the meal she confided in Louis the real reason she had come home. Louise fell silent but confessed that she had no idea that Harry was not her dad. Nevertheless Jane showed her the photograph.
As she scanned the photograph she saw a sign of recognition which she took it to be that Louise had recognized her mother. But Louise turned to her and said
‘I think I recognize someone in the photograph apart from your mother’.
She pointed to one of the men in the photograph and said that he looked like Daniel Morris who was the new owner of a local coffee shop in Falmouth.
‘I can take you to see him tomorrow if you want’
They agreed to leave tomorrow for Truro.
The coffee shop was situated in the old part of town next to the town church and library. As they entered the cafe they could smell bacon and fried eggs, this was an old traditional cafe; Jane doubted that she would be able to order her normal vegetarian meal.
A young teenage girl with bright red hair and a nose stud came over to their table. Jane asked for two milky coffees and enquired if it was possible to speak to Daniel Morris.
The girl replied ‘He’s just gone out for five minutes. Can I help?’
Jane and Louise had decided that they had to be delicate and careful with their enquiries so they had invented a story that wouldn’t arise any suspicions.
Jane said ’We are researching a newspaper story on the post bus and your father has been mentioned as someone who worked on the scheme back in the 1980s’.
The girl laughed and said ‘I don’t think I can help you there, but as soon as dad comes back. I ‘ll tell him to come and see you’.
Half an hour later man of average height with jet black hair entered the cafe and though the newspaper article was over 25 years old she recognized him immediately. He went up to the counter and his daughter said something to him and pointed in their direction.
He smiled and came over
Suzie said you wanted to have a word with me about the old post bus scheme. I doubt I would be able to help it is such a long time ago. Jane felt that she had to be honest and ignoring Louise’s protest to keep to their story she blurted out that she was Becky’s daughter and wanted to know more about her life. She unfolded the photograph and asked if he knew anything about the other people in the photograph.
Daniel was taken aback but quickly recovered his composure. He knew the names of everyone in the group but had lost contact with all of them apart from David Collins who he had played soccer with. Daniel had married Karen, the other female in the photograph. He said that he and Jane’s mother, Becky had been great friends but at the end of the project he had gone travelling around the world and Becky had moved away when Harry got promotion within his company. He had always wondered what had happened to Becky and he was delighted to meet Becky’s daughter but so sorry that Becky had passed away so young.
He said that the group had been very close and for nine months most weekends were spent drinking and eating together. He pointed to the photograph . This is David and Karen, David was the project manager. David was quite laid back and enjoyed the occasional smoke of weed, but Karen kept him on a short leach. Becky and Karen tended to clash because Becky enjoyed chatting with everyone and Karen sometimes felt threatened. There’s Josh, he was the archetypical hippie, and he was great fun but enjoyed getting David in trouble. He and Becky had the same sense of humour and would often wind up Karen by sneaking off early or arriving late for work. Then we’ve got Pete. Now Pete was a lovely bloke, a bit younger than the rest of us and quite naive. He would believe anything we told him and we would often get him drunk and make him do silly things. I feel quite ashamed when I look back at what we made him do. But he had one person in his corner and that was Lizzie.
Daniel stopped a minute and said ‘I have just remembered that the old man in the picture is George Teals, the local councillor. He was very supportive of the scheme and would sometimes come over to our offices to see how things were progressing. Unfortunately he died a few years ago’.
‘What about you? ’asked Jane
I was a bit wild and enjoyed the social scene. I was going out with a local girl, Debbie at the time and she often joined in with the group. Later after splitting up and getting back together Debbie and I got married and had Suzie about 6 years later.
‘What about Harry, asked Jane, ‘Did you do much with him’.
Daniel replied candidly’, If truth be known, Harry did not get on with any of us. He kept his distance and didn’t mix with us at all. I only met him two or three times and we never hit it off. Fortunately he was away a lot on business and Becky was able to join in with the group’.
‘It was a really fun time for all us. I had forgotten all about it so if you want any help in finding the rest don’t hesitate to call me. Here’s my mobile number’.
Jane and Louise left the cafe quite overwhelmed. Daniel had been a great help. They now knew the names of all the people in the photograph. The question of whether Jane’s father was one of those people was another matter.
When she got home she took out a copy of the photograph that she copied the day before in the local post office and wrote down their names by the side of their picture.
Daniel had given her David and Karen’s phone number. He said that they were now living in Barnstaple; David still worked for the local authority but in a more senior role while Karen was now a social worker. When Jane phoned the following morning, Karen couldn’t understand why Jane needed to see her or her husband. She told her husband was away on business and she was much too busy. She explained that she and Becky had not been the best of friends. She apologized to Jane but said that she felt that Becky flirted with the men in the group and had a tendency to go too far. She told her that she and David had a few arguments about his behaviour with Becky while Daniel and Josh enjoyed the attention. Pete was the only person she felt sorry for she felt that he didn’t know how to handle Becky. Jane was surprised at what Karen was saying because her mother had never shown this flirtatious side to her. She had seen that she was wonderful company and people had commented on her as a generous friend but from Jane’s perspective this was new side to her mother, a side she felt uncomfortable with.
When Jane asked Karen whether she knew about the whereabouts of any of the others, she said that they had lost all contact with the entire group except Daniel.
The quest for her father was getting harder because from the account that Karen was regaling any of the four men in the project could be her father and if she was flirting with her work colleagues who else had she been flirting with. She was beginning to have some sympathy with her father.
It was with a heavy heart that she returned to the cottage. Would she continue her quest? There was phone message from Louise and she sounded excited. Louise answered the phone as if she had been sitting waiting for it to ring. Louise told her that she had received a message from Daniel and that he had got hold of an old friend of Josh. Josh apparently was not in the best of health. He was out of work and living in a small bedsit in Barnstaple. Daniel had told Louise that if Jane wanted company to visit Josh he would be happy to come with her,
Daniel picked her up about 10 o’clock the next morning and on the journey to Barnstaple she found out more about his life. He had travelled extensively for about a year after the project but it would be another 4 years before he would get together with Debbie again. Daniel openly admitted that Debbie had an unplanned pregnancy which turned out to be Suzy and they were married within the year. They were totally unsuited and became divorced after five years. Suzy lived with her mother but began working in the cafe on her 16th birthday and she has been there ever since. Jane could feel his love shining through as he talked about Suzy. She hoped that her new father would feel the same way but after talking to Karen her hopes of finding her father were not high.
When they arrived at the bedsit they were greeted by a group of teenagers hanging outside the flats drinking cans of strong lager. She was glad that Daniel was with her as they rang the bell on the ground floor flat. They rang a couple of times before a small bearded man appeared smoking a cigarette and smelling of stale alcohol. Daniel immediately shouted
‘Josh, well I never how are you?
Josh’s eyes blinked and he spluttered
‘Who the hell are you?’
‘It’s me Daniel, I know it’s been a long time, Come on. Invite us in’.
He turned his back and Daniel and Jane followed him into his living room. The carpet was filthy, the armchairs dusty and newspapers were strewn on the floor. Last night’s readymade meal was still on the dining table and there were two empty wine bottles by its side.
‘Sorry about the mess. I haven’t been well recently’. He told them that he had lost his job recently and that he was struggling to survive on income support. He owed three months rent and was scared he would get evicted and having to sleep rough. He said he didn’t want sympathy and not to feel sorry for him. Daniel shared some of his news with him and both of them were surprised when he told them that he often saw David and Karen in town.
‘They don’t say hello or anything, I think they are ashamed of being seen with me.’ He told us sadly.
Daniel retorted’ don’t worry, about Karen, she always thought she was better than us. Just pity David ,he’s married to her.
Josh laughed and nearly choked on his cigarette
Daniel then introduced her as Becky’s daughter. Josh’s eyes seemed to brighten at the mention of her mum’s name.
‘You look exactly like your mother’, he said, she was really lovely and great fun. We had the best time ever’. ‘Your mother broke my heart, he beamed, and I think she broke every man’s heart’.
Surprisingly Jane felt comfortable in this squalid bedsit with two people she hardly knew and so she decided that it was time to share with Daniel and Josh the real reason for her visit. Both Daniel and Josh looked closely at each other when she announced that she was looking for my father.
Daniel was stunned, ‘I didn’t even know Becky was pregnant’.
Josh said, ‘ It was a long time ago and things were different then’.
We carried on talking for another half an hour and I heard Daniel promise Josh that he would call over again in a week’s time.
Daniel didn’t say a word on the way back to the car. Daniel put on a CD and he tried to relax. This proved difficult and questions remained unanswered
Why did she think that this would be an easy task and if she did find out that her father was would he want to know her?
Why did Josh say things were different then, did he know something ?.
Why didn’t Karen say that she knew that Josh still lived in Haverfordwest?
Where was Peter?
The next morning Jane decided to visit Daniel and see how he was feeling. As she opened the cafe door she saw Daniel and Suzy sitting together having a cup of coffee. Both turned towards her and smiled, ‘Come on over, your ears must burning because we were just talking about you’ teased Daniel ‘Suzy has just had a brilliant idea how to find Peter’.
His dad was from Leeds and his middle name is Lorimar, not a common name so Suzy suggested we do a search on Google.
‘Let’s go for it’, Jane replied excitedly.
Daniel got up and put the closed sign on the cafe door. As Suzy went to fetch her I pad from her handbag Jane told Daniel about her telephone conversation with Karen. He didn’t look surprised when she told him Karen’s feelings towards her mother.
He said’ Karen was a good friend and forgive me for my language but a right jealous bitch.’ ‘Lizzie didn’t flirt with any of us she was just fun to be around and Karen didn’t like her for that reason’.
Daniel was so embarrassed about swearing that Jane laughed out aloud.
‘Share the joke, you two’, Suzy shouted from the back of the cafe
Don’t tell her I swore’ Daniel whispered
Suzy came back to sit down and took out her I pad and googled Peter Lorimar Withey. Three matches came up, two in America while the other one had a Face book page in UK. Suzy immediately got on to Face book and as his picture came up, Daniel burst out laughing ‘ It’s him, that’s Peter.
Suzy said ‘He’s not very good at protecting himself, look you get all his information. He works for Cornwall County Council and lives in Penzance.
‘What else does it say’, asked Daniel
Suzy sighed ‘He isn’t in a relationship and has only had 89 friends. Saddo. He is a member of the local tennis club and his hobbies include photography and football. His last entry was a year ago when he commented on somebody’s wedding.’
Here’s his e mail address PLWithey firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel looked at Jane and asked ‘What’s your next step?’
‘I am going to e mail him and be totally honest.’ replied Jane
‘Go girl!’, exclaimed Suzy
Jane was warming to Suzy.
Daniel turned to face Jane and told her ’ You know I told we are all good friends, what I didn’t tell you that Peter left under a bit of a cloud. The last few weeks were very difficult for all of us because we were having such a fun time and we didn’t want it to end. We had arranged a leaving do on our last Friday together. But Peter never turned up, Becky told us that he received a phone call in the evening from his family and had to go home. We later found out that he had packed up that night and just left. He did phone Josh later on the next week to say sorry about having to rush off and that as soon as he sorted out the family problem he would get back in touch. But he never did. I was quite annoyed because I thought we were really good mates.
Jane touched his shoulder and said ‘ I promise as soon or if I hear anything I will come and tell you everything. ‘
She was sad to leave the comfy atmosphere of the cafe but wanted to send the e mail as soon as possible. She had only a few days left of her leave. At 3 o’clock that afternoon she clicked send on her computer. All she could do now was wait.
Three days passed and there was no reply. She couldn’t help wondering if the reason he left was because he was her father.
It was seven o’clock on Thursday evening that the e mail arrived. It was short but succinct.
Willing to meet. Can you make Saturday morning at 11 am Carlton Hotel, Western Promenade.
Her mother had often taken her to Penzance. Was the fact he was living in Penzance a coincidence? Did her mum know that he lived in Penzance? Was he her father?
She took a couple of deep breaths and replied
‘Would love to meet, see you there.’
The journey to Penzance didn’t take long and she arrived early. Not surprisingly she had been unable to sleep that night. She dreamt that she was running towards Peter shouting daddy but every time she went near him he disappeared.
She sat on one of the worn wooden seats looking at to sea. It was a lovely sunny morning but she was well wrapped up for the wind was bitter. She felt a soft touch on her shoulder and there stood Peter, wearing a thick winter coat and scarf.
You’ll get cold ,sitting her young girl, he said with a lovely spark in his eyes.
‘I knew this time would come, it is so nice to meet you again ’
He turned to her and said ‘ Are you sure you want to know who your father is?
Jane was taken aback ‘ I’m sure’.
As they walked slowly up the prom Peter started telling his story
’Becky and I were great friends. She would confide in me about everything and I would enjoy telling her about what was happening with me, she was a great listener. She was bubbly, energetic, an extrovert, everything I wasn’t but that didn’t make any difference. I genuinely loved her.
It was the last Friday before the end of project party, we had been allowed to finish early and I was just getting changed when there was a knock on the door. It was Becky and she looked dreadful, she had been crying and the mascara had made her face look like a Halloween mask. Normally I would have pulled her leg about her appearance but not today. She went straight to the point and told me that she was pregnant.
I asked her how and she asked me if I remembered when the gang had been out drinking in the White Ball in Tiverton about a month ago and had decided to drink only shorts. I said I did remember and reminded her that I went home early that night but the rest had a sleep over in David and Karen’s house.
Becky said that she awoke the following morning naked and lying next to Daniel. She couldn’t remember a thing from the time she left the pub at about 11 o’clock. She said that she got dressed immediately and went quietly downstairs. She was the first one up and she made herself a cup of coffee. Josh got up about an hour later, followed by Daniel, Caron and David. She said that Daniel came up to her later and whispered if anything had happened between them because the last thing he remembered was giving her a kiss’. She remembers laughing and telling him ‘in your dreams’.
Jane took an intake of breath and thought Daniel is my dad.
Becky confessed that she was worried that something had happened and when she went to the chemist yesterday morning it just confirmed her suspicions. She said I can’t tell Daniel because he is happy with Debbie and I am married to Harry. What am I going to do?
I asked ‘Couldn’t Harry be the father’
But she gave me an emphatic No
I became annoyed and told her that she had to tell Daniel but she was adamant that Daniel should be kept in the dark. I told her that Daniel was a good friend and I couldn’t face him in the leaving party knowing that he was a father.
Becky starting sobbing again and turned to me and said she was so sorry that she had ruined everything. I told her that we would have to convince Harry that he was the father and that we would both have to make up excuses to leave Pembrokeshire and start somewhere else. Both of us knew that if we kept in contact with Daniel, Josh and the rest the secret would eventually come to light. We hatched our plan and I packed my stuff and went home.
I kept in contact with Becky two or three times a year, the usual things letters, Christmas cards. At the beginning she would often send me photos of you growing up. She would often visit Penzance and when you were really little I would often join you and your mother on the prom walk.
Peter’s voice changed
He said. ‘The last letter I received from Becky was seven years ago. She said that she had found out that Daniel was divorced from Debbie and that he was working in a restaurant bar in Falmouth. She said that she was going to tell you about your father on your 18th birthday. I am so sorry I didn’t know she had passed away within weeks of her sending me the letter
The raw emotions began affecting both of them and Peter asked if she wanted to get some coffee. Jane hugged him and thanked him from the bottom of her heart but she needed to see Daniel. He understood. As soon as she got back to her car parked discreetly in one of the side streets, she put the music on and allowed the tears to flow.
She arrived in Falmouth just as the shops were closing, there was a light inside the cafe and she could see Daniel and Suzy, putting up the chairs on the tables. How was she going to tell them? How would Suzy feel about having an older step sister? She pushed the door open, the last week had drained her completely. She sank to her knees.
Daniel ran over and grabbed her’ what’s wrong? Jane. What’s happened?
She turned to him and whispered
‘You’re my dad’.
Daniel looked at Suzy and then back at Jane and the three of them started crying with joy.
Daniel went to visit Josh a couple of weeks after seeing him for the first time and invited him to rent out the flat above the cafe. Josh accepted the offer and is now working a couple days of week in the Louise’s market stall selling local paintings and crafts.
Peter contacted Daniel and arranged to meet. Daniel didn’t find it hard to forgive Peter and they have resumed their friendship and their love of football. Peter has introduced Daniel to his partner Richard.
David and Karen are now divorced. Karen found out David had a six year affair with his secretary and threw him out of the house. When Josh saw David a few months ago he confessed that Karen had guessed that Becky was pregnant and had accused him of being the father.
Jane has carried on living in Bristol but she often visits Falmouth, occasionally helping in the cafe. Suzy has gone back to college and is looking forward to applying to go to university. Daniel and Jane are happy with their life.