Martin was having trouble deciding which bottle of wine to open. His gut reaction was to be extravagant and go for the expensive bottle of Bordeaux. Only thing is, it was Wednesday and this seemed excessive. All he wanted to do was anaethsatise his brain before going to bed. No point going for something too good.
Common sense overruled Martin’s desire. Instead of the expensive bottle, he opened a bottle of cheap Carbanet Sauvignon and poured a glass, which he quickly finished.
Rarely did he have the house to himself. When it happened he relished the solitude. Mary, Martin’s wife, was away on a work-related training course overnight. Andrew, his son, had recently started university so only lived with the family during the holidays while eighteen year old Rebecca, the baby of the family, was at her boyfriend’s house. She was unlikely to make it home before midnight.
Though a committed family man, he hankered after these occasional moments of peace when he could walk around naked, belch, watch awful television programmes and waste time on YouTube. It was nice to simply have time to himself. He hadn’t realised when he became a father just how little of this he would get.
It had been a tough day made up of meetings with accountants, solicitors and business advisers. Unbeknown to the 25 staff that worked for Martin’s computer software company, he had agreed to sell the firm to a larger rival.
Secret negotiations had gone very well indeed. A sale price had been agreed that would enable Martin to take a year or two of voluntary unemployment. In fact, he may only ever need to do the occasional bit of consultancy work for the rest of his life.
He and Mary would also buy a holiday home in Italy, something they had wanted to do for years. The legal papers would be ready to sign in the next couple of days. Until then life would involve yet more important conversations with men, and even a few women, in suits.
Realising he hadn’t checked his personal email for a couple of days, Martin wandered over to the bureau-style desk in the corner off the living room and turned on the PC. While Windows fired up, he gulped the dregs from his wine glass and poured another drink.
Once logged-on, he sifted through 58 emails one by one. Much of it was spam offering him the chance to “consolidate his debt,” “find love,” or “make a successful PPI claim.” One email made him laugh out loud. It was a message offering him a “free trial of Pornosaurus.”
There was also a message from Andrew. Although the kid had almost word perfect English, when he sent emails or text messages he reverted to what Martin called “some awful kind of pidgin English.” Deep inside a small part of Martin died every time he received one of these messages but he knew it was just part of the modern world and, with some reluctance, made peace with the fact his son wrote this way.
Hi Dad, how r u? Studies r going well. Hope mum good.
The message went on and on. Towards the end Martin found the bit he was looking for.
Made some gr8 friends. We’re going to Amsterdam for a long weekend but money is tight. Any chance you can loan me 150 quid?
Martin let out a small chuckle. “Cheeky sod. Only hear from him when he wants something.” He quickly wrote a reply.
Good to hear from you. I’ll transfer SEVENTY FIVE quid to your bank account tomorrow. Just make sure it doesn’t all go up in smoke (I visited Amsterdam when I was your age you know).
Oh, and when are you going to get a job?
The subject line of one further email caught his eye. It said simply “12 November, 1978” and it was from someone he didn’t recognise.
Martin was a little apprehensive about opening this message. It had been a turbulent period of his young life and a number of people could be contacting him, some of whom he might not want to speak to.
Does the date 12 November, 1978 mean anything to you? If so, please open the attachment to this message. Otherwise I am sorry to have bothered you.
Pippa McRae X
Martin knew what this was. He opened the attachment, hit the print key and poured another drink while the printer did its thing.
He took a large gulp of the wine, sat down and began to read. Sure enough, Martin’s past had caught up with him.
I have sent you this message because I am trying to find my biological dad. I am more keen than ever to find him (you?) because I recently became a mother myself (yes….you are a grandfather! Perhaps you already have some grandchildren?). Hopefully the date 12 November, 1978 is significant to you as it was the date I was born.
The adoption authorities did what they could for me but drew a blank. I found your details on Facebook and crossed checked them with some other sources. I am just hoping I have found the correct Martin Buckley.
Martin took a pause from reading. “At least you can write properly,” he said out loud, “unlike your half-brother.”
He was quite surprised he could look at this situation with some humour. This was, after all, going to be quite a shock for Andrew and Rebecca to deal with. It would be tough on Mary too, but at least she knew of Martin’s past and that he had fathered a child before they got together.
Martin went back to reading the letter. It was quite lengthy and explained Pippa had been adopted by a nice family who had treated her very well. They had moved around a lot because her adoptive father was an oil engineer so Pippa had spent many years living overseas or in boarding schools.
She’d eventually settled in the West Country, a couple of hundred miles away from where Martin and his family lived. Pippa wasn’t looking for a dad, she said she already had one. Ideally she’d like to meet one day but would understand if Martin didn’t. If he never wanted to hear from her again, she would understand this also, but would he do her the courtesy of replying just so she could end her search?
Martin leaned back in the chair and stared at the ceiling for several minutes. Hardly a day went by when he didn’t think of Pippa.
Most times it had simply been a passing thought; would he recognise her in the street? Had she been treated well? Was she married? He always hoped she’d made a success of her life.
He had been a rebellious 16 year old when he had a fling with Sarah Turner, the daughter of a wealthy, landed, farming family. A perfectly charming young man in many other respects, drugs and women were his vices and Sarah was one of several conquests.
Her family reacted with horror at the news she was pregnant, especially by Martin who was a rung or two down the social ladder. While the families had little in common, the grandparents agreed adoption was the only answer.
A Polaroid picture of Sarah, Martin and Pippa were taken a couple of hours after the birth. This was the only memento Martin had of either Pippa or his former lover. A couple of weeks after the birth, Sarah was dispatched to Canada to live with an aunt. Some years later Martin received a formal card devoid of warmth from Sarah’s parents informing him she had died in road traffic accident.
Martin thought about this for a moment. Pippa’s letter made no mention of Sarah. Maybe she had already discovered what had happened to her natural mother.
Martin needed to think. Strictly speaking he had given up smoking a couple of years ago, but the occasion called for a cigarette. “Well you’ve had a drink, may as well have a smoke too,” he muttered.
Martin didn’t have any cigarettes, but he knew where Rebecca hid hers. Martin pretended he didn’t know Rebecca smoked. He disapproved but thought it best not to make a big thing of it.
He went up to her bedroom with his glass of wine and rooted through the draw where she hid her cigarettes. Sure enough, there was a pack of Malboro reds. There were well over ten in the pack, she’d probably not notice if one went missing. He took one and threw the box back in the draw.
He then went to the bathroom, opened the window, leaned out and lit the cigarette. It was the one room with no carpets of curtains where he could smoke without making the house smell.
“Fifty two years old and I’m behaving like a teenager again,” he said to himself.
For several minutes he smoked, sipped wine and thought about what to do. With the cigarette finished, he went back downstairs and sat at the computer.
Thanks for your message. It was really great to hear from you. Yes, I am the Martin Buckley you are looking for. . .
Copyright John Adams, London, November 2014.
The above story is an abridged version of something I wrote several years ago when I did a creative writing class. It has been added to the following linkies. Do go take a look and check out some other fiction and prose.