This flash fiction has been selected by Wordweavers as a featured piece for their upcoming anthology.
It had been a dull day, with Ms Reid’s passing. Angela Reid was my silver-haired neighbour and friend, who baked the crunchiest tarts. This morning, she lost her ongoing battle with a malignant liver.
A sexagenarian spinster, Ms Reid had once quipped during a quiet Thanksgiving dinner she hosted, “Noel, there’s an old photo album kept in the mahogany chiffonier in there,” pointing to her bedroom, “which, I want, interred with me in the coffin, when the time comes. Can I count on you to do it? Can’t risk it falling into the wrong hands,” she added with a chuckle.
My curiosity was piqued; I had often wondered why she never discussed her family, why her living room had eclectic knick-knacks but no photographs. However, I was struck by the earnest underlying her candour and spontaneously gave her my word. Now the time had come to honour it. While her brightly painted house was bequeathed to her nephews, I retrieved the album for Ms Reid’s funeral, the following day.
I settled down on my plush couch with the fat, leather-bound album. Its dog-eared, matte pages and translucent sheets spoke of decline. As the couch drew me into its warmth, I gently leafed through the pages. Endearing snippets of Ms Reid’s childhood and youth came alive before my eyes. The same twinkling eyes, the dark tresses, the thousand-watt smile lighting up her chiselled face – Angela Reid was decidedly a stunner in her prime! After some more cursory browsing, I paused to examine what appeared to be a romantic click. And froze! Entwined in a happy embrace were Angela and a man I knew as my departed father! Followed by another image…and then, scores of them. On the beach, amidst the hills, in a quaint countryside villa – a picture-perfect couple ensconced in a secure, passionate bond. I screwed up my eyes to take a closer look…my heart racing, my fingers clammy, till it became difficult to turn the wafer-thin separators. It was Daddy. Period.
I flung the album away. Mom’s words buzzed in my ears:
Honey, Daddy was a brave man…he went down with the ship.
Daddy can’t come, Sonny…he is with God, in a beautiful place.
Don’t cry, Noel, I’m going to meet your Daddy, do pray for us.
Mom never wanted me to know the ugly truth — she portrayed him as a loving father and dutiful sailor who died in a shipwreck. And Angela could never make public her clandestine relationship with a married man. The irony of it all!
My mind was a whirlwind of emotions — anger, betrayal, grief — impulsively I decided to reveal all to Angela’s family. I had nothing more to lose. I could, at least, avenge my mother’s abandonment.
And then I remembered Mom and her infinite grace…would this make her happy? In her snag-ridden life, she had remained compassionate humane, poised – would I choose to upend that?
I picked up the album and carefully encased it, preparing myself to face the funeral with equanimity.
PC: Lieuwe Terpstra on Unsplash