Saving Grace – Part 2
by Holly Gibson
Granddad always seemed sad to me, he had a picture from his wedding day on the little shelf above his bed. I never met my grandmother; she disappeared years ago – went to buy some bread one day and never came back, vanished just like that. That was just before Mum left. Mum and Doreen argued for years, they still do now after a few drinks.
I put the boxes back under the bed and went to open the curtains. I could see from the window that Doreen had gone outside to talk to Mum, they were arguing again. I went back downstairs and into the kitchen to get another drink. Sam was still cornered and looked over at me pleading to be rescued. I ignored him, poured a large gin and went back to talk to Gladys. I had Granddad’s photo album with me; I thought it might trigger her memory.
Gladys was still slumped in her chair but somebody had given her a sherry and she was sipping it. I pulled a chair over and sat next to her. She turned to me and recognising me or so it seemed, gave me a smile and raised her glass. I opened the photo album, on the first page there was a photo of a large family. I held it in front of Gladys and asked her if she knew who they all were. She looked surprised and happy at the same time. After a while she pointed at a little girl aged around ten, “That’s me,” she said, then she pointed out her mother and father. There were eight children on the photo, four girls, three boys and a baby. Gladys wasn’t the oldest she said, pointing out Elizabeth who was three years older than she, but had died when she was twenty. Mary and Margaret, twins and the youngest of the girls, Mary died when she was just eleven and Margaret entered a convent. I couldn’t believe the change in Gladys, she was almost animated. I asked about the boys, the oldest Samuel had emigrated to Canada and they never heard from him again. William had got in trouble with the police and had ‘moved’ to Australia and Graham she said was out in the garden. I asked about Granddad, she pointed to her father. I said no, and pointed to the baby, “Your father,” she said, tracing the outline with her finger. Her smile faded and once again she glazed over. Great I thought, she thinks I’m my mother.
I left the album with Gladys and went outside to see if Dad had turned up yet. He hadn’t. Mum was talking to an old man.
“You must be Graham,” I said. Mum glared at me. “Gladys just told me.”
“No, I’m Gordon, Graham’s son,” he said.
I blushed. Mum looked smug.
“Well, I suppose that makes some sense, seeing as she told me Granddad was my dad,” I said, “she must think I’m you.” I said turning to Mum. I knew this would wind her up but the look on her face made me feel really bad. Why couldn’t I just hold my tongue for one day?
Doreen pushed past me, put her arm around Mum and led her back inside. I felt like everyone was watching me, waiting to see who I would upset next. Gordon made his excuses, said it was good to finally meet his father’s side of the family and asked me to pass on his goodbyes. He couldn’t get away quick enough.
I needed an ally so I went back into the kitchen. Sam looked relieved. I whispered in his captor’s ear, she looked embarrassed and without a word to either of us went outside and lit a cigarette.
“About bloody time,” he said, “what did you say?”
“I told her you were gay.”
Sam did not look impressed.
“Do you know all of these people?” I asked him.
“Some,” he replied, “The two blokes out on the patio were in the army with Granddad, they still drink down the club. I’ve no idea who they are.” he said nodding towards a small of group of people who were loitering near the buffet. “There was an old woman at the church who I couldn’t place but I don’t think she’s come to the house, not seen her anyway. You know Gladys, and one of Granddad’s brothers was here apparently but I can’t see him.”
“No, it was his son. I think Gladys was just confused,” I said, “he’s just left.”
“Gladys is a cracker,” he said, “told me some right stories in the church, did you know we have a great uncle who owns half of Adelaide?”
“No we don’t,” I said, “he was arrested and sent to Australia.”
“Who told you that? Your mum?” Sam asked.
“No, she never tells me anything,” I said, “I don’t know anyone here.”
“You knew Granddad,” he said, putting an arm round my shoulders.
I told him about the photos and all the junk in Granddad’s room, he said he wanted to have a look so we got some more drinks and crept upstairs.
“Do you miss him?” I asked.
“To be honest, not really,” he said, “what’s to miss, he spent most of his time in this room when I lived here and I’ve not been back as often as I should have.”
I sat on Granddad’s bed. I could see myself in the mirror on the opposite wall.
“Do you think I look like my mum?” I asked.
“Not really,” he replied, “why?”
“Gladys thought I was her earlier,” I said, “People have thought we were sisters before, but I always thought that was just because Mum had me young.”
Sam was trying to get an old suitcase down from the top of the wardrobe. I took down the photograph from the little shelf above the bed. The silver frame was tarnished and it was really dusty. I cleaned the glass and saw that the picture was yellowing and fading at the edges. Granddad looked really young; he had a lot of dark hair. Like me. My Grandmother looked so small next to him, her dress was very modest, a veil covered most of her fair hair and she had no bouquet. I showed the picture to Sam.
“My mum looks like her mum,” I said.
“I suppose,” Sam said. “Give us a hand with this case,” he said.
“I don’t look like her at all,” I said. I didn’t move from the bed.
“Gladys was probably confused,” he said, “there were a lot of people here today, a lot of names for her to remember.”
“No, she didn’t get my name wrong,” I said, “She said Granddad was my dad.”
“So, you don’t look like your mum. I don’t look like mine either,” he said.
“No, you look like your dad. I don’t,” I said, “I don’t look like either of them.”
“Look, you’re probably right,” Sam said, “Gladys is losing her marbles. Like you said, she’s confused.”
Sam had finally got the suitcase down, it was locked.
“Then how did she remember everything else?” I asked.
Sam didn’t answer me. He looked annoyed. He thumped at the top of the suitcase above the locks.
“Maybe it’s full of Granddad’s secrets,” I said, “There must be a key in here somewhere.”
Sam looked at me, “Maybe we should leave it be.”
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