Sunday Serial #14

mum

I’m following a nineteenth century tradition and publishing some of “Leefdale” by Michael Murray in weekly instalments.
You can find the links to previous instalments on this page.
So, if you like the Dickensian idea of reading your novels in weekly instalments,
read on …..

They’d only just entered the cottage when Louise burst out, ‘Well? What did he say?’

Sharon didn’t reply immediately. She was moving around the room switching on the lamps. When she’d finished she went back to the light switch by the front door, turned the overhead light off and started taking off her fleece.

‘Come on, mum. What did he say?’

Louise gazed at her mother beseechingly. Her whole being was animated. Her hazel eyes radiated optimism. Her expression overflowed with the prospect of good news. She looked supremely happy and sure of herself, confident of the anticipated happiness her mother was about to deliver. This visible evidence of her daughter’s blind, innocent trust hurt Sharon more than anything. More than her own weakness; more than her cowardly and cruel betrayal.

‘I didn’t tell him,’ she said.

For Louise this had never been a possibility. For several seconds there was complete silence.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I didn’t tell him we were leaving.’

The significance of what her mother had said began to spread across Louise’s features. ‘You didn’t tell him?’

Sharon flung her fleece on to the sofa. Casually, she said, ‘No. There wasn’t time.’

Louise’s face was a rictus of incredulity. ‘But you promised!’

‘I know. But there wasn’t time. He had to get to his meeting.’

Sharon set off for the kitchen. Louise immediately followed her. She had a strong suspicion she was being lied to. ‘You had loads of time. His meeting wasn’t until eight o’clock.’

Sharon began filling the electric kettle. ‘He had to be there early to talk to Major Roberts.’

‘What about?’

Sharon returned the kettle to its stand and switched it on. ‘I don’t know.’

Louise was now sure her mother was lying. ‘You could have told him. It would only have taken a minute. “We’re leaving Leefdale and we’re not coming back”. See! You could have told him. You only needed a couple of seconds.’

‘Don’t be silly, Lou. I couldn’t just say it like that.’

‘Why not? I just showed you. It’s easy.’

‘That’s because you’re a child. You don’t understand. It’s hard to tell people things like that. It takes more than a few seconds. For Christ’s sake, he’s not a stranger. He’s your father. Now, what do you want for your supper?’

Louise was standing stiff and sullen. ‘You’re changing the subject.’

‘No, I’m not. I’m asking you what you want for supper.’

The child’s voice swooped in sudden insight. ‘You were never going to tell him, were you?’

‘Of course I was.’

‘No, you weren’t.’

‘It wasn’t the right time, Lou.’

‘But you promised!’

‘I know. I’m sorry. There wasn’t time. Really, there wasn’t.’ Sharon felt the need to offer Louise some hope. ‘But when there’s time, I’ll tell him.’

‘You’re a liar!’ screamed Louise. She looked around wildly. On one of the kitchen surfaces was a round biscuit tin. She picked it up and hurled it at Sharon.

Sharon was so astonished she had no time to react. The tin caught her on the shoulder and ricocheted. When it hit the floor the lid flew off and several biscuits spilled out.

‘I hate you!’ cried Louise.

She ran past Sharon and up the stairs to her room.

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The beautiful English village of Leefdale seems reassuringly tranquil. But appearances can be deceptive.