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At the age of 25 he had left the little island to move to New York City to continue his career as a forensic accountant. There he had met Nadean, a 23 year old brunette, who worked at Starbucks. After a couple months of ordering coffee and trying to pluck up the courage to ask her out, she suddenly asked him. He said yes, and a year later they got married. 3 years passed, and life was good. Then, Nadean got pregnant. Charles was overjoyed – and just short of 9 months later baby Christina was born. About a year later Charles received a phone call from his estranged sister – his father was in hospital, and was not likely to leave. When he asked what had happened the phone went silent for a long while, followed by the whispered response of ‘I don’t know’. Later that day he kissed his wife and little daughter goodbye at the airport – on his first trip back to Guernsey since he had left almost 6 years ago. *** His father was the reason he had left. After almost 20 years of marriage he left his mother for another woman and kicked her out of the house. Charles – being 21 then, had moved out with his mother to a small flat in the town of St Peter Port. His sister, Louise, stayed with his father. His mother, Karen, had been destroyed. For months she would not speak to anyone, not even Charles. She never got out of bed, and although Charles would make her meals she would never accept them and after talking at her he would get disheartened and leave. He would return later to find her asleep and the meals hardly touched. He never liked leaving the flat, but he had to work to pay the rent. He came back one day after work to find his father outside. He asked him to go away, and had got angry and started shouting. He had then punched his father, knocking him to the ground. His anger quickly faded and guilt took over. He asked him inside for a tea, but warned him to be quiet and not even to try and approach Karen. His father had agreed and taken Charles’ hand as he lifted him off the ground. Once in his father had pushed past Charles, making straight for Karen’s room. When his father pushed past him Charles had been knocked to the floor, hitting his head on the door frame, and was plunged into darkness. His next memory was of lying in hospital – a Police Sergeant standing next to his bed. The Sergeant explained that the police had been called after the neighbours reported shouting, male and female voices. They had arrived to find Charles lying on the floor, and his mother dead in the lounge. After that he heard nothing the Sergeant had said, until he said ‘it appeared to be suicide’. When he enquired if his father was still there when the police arrived the Sergeant said ‘No’, scribbled something in his notebook and then said goodbye. The funereal was 2 weeks later. His father and sister sat at the front of the Chruch – he stood alone at the back.
A short time later he left Guernsey, never speaking to his father or sister again. Never asking his father what had happened. *** He arrived at the hospital at around 10pm one evening, to be met by an old battle axe of a nurse telling him that visiting hours were over and he could not come in. When he explained who he was her face changed from one of hostility to compassion, and she silently escorted him to his father’s room. The nurse halted at his door, turned and said. “Now, please – his wounds are, um, well – just...please prepare yourself” said the nurse, a slight look of horror visible in her eyes. She opened the door and beckoned Charles past. When Charles was in the room she closed the door behind him – she did not come in. The hospital room was dark – silvery moon light coming in through the window. In silhouette he could see the bed, a body – hardly breathing – lying there, presumably asleep at this late hour. He moved to sit in the chair just to the left of the door, to wait until his father awoke. “Who is there?” said a timid voice from the blackness of the bed. “It is Charles, your son” came the weak reply “Charles? Really? Please, turn on the light won’t you?” Charles looked around for the light switch, all the while dismayed at how weak his father’s voice sounded. After a moment of searching he found the light switch and reached to turn it on. He paused before he did so, allowing himself a moment to compose himself before he bathed the room in light, the nurses warning of his father’s wounds repeating in his mind, and for some reason sounding so familiar. What would he see when he flicked the light on? He flicked the light on – but he stayed staring at the wall. The repressed memories of his mother’s death, the almost forgotten feelings that it was this man’s fault. His blood started to boil. “Please – come and sit son, it has been so long.” A question flicked up in his mind. Was he glad his father was dying? Just as quickly as he thought the question came the feeling of guilt. His shoulders slumped, and he slowly turned to look at his father. What he saw shocked him. *** He had been asked to identify his mother’s body. His father would not, and his sister was off the island. He had been wheeled down from his hospital room to the morgue 3 floors down, where a nurse had left him with the Police Sergeant from the night before.
“Mr Smith, I am sorry for asking you to do this – but we do need to identify the body. My name is Sergeant Tostevin, but please, call me Colin” Charles looked at Colin. He was a middle aged man with black hair starting to grey at the edges. Old muscles and an athletic frame had just started to lose their fight to flab. His eyes shone with both compassion and intelligence. “Thank you Colin” “Now – please take your time. We will only go in when you are ready. Now, I must warn you that the wounds are, well – disturbing. Prepare yourself as best you can” Charles didn’t know what to make of that – and decided it best not to dwell on the warning. He silently built himself up until he was ready. He raised himself from the wheelchair, looked at Colin and nodded his head – signifying he was ready to go in. Colin looked at the young man, could see the look of a man holding back tears but steeled to do what he must. He couldn’t help but commend the man. “Follow me Mr Smith” Charles followed Colin through the big double doors into the morgue. His attention was immediately drawn to the single body lay in the middle of the room, covered by a green plastic blanket. His first thought was how tiny and frail the body looked under the blanket, and that surely this could not be his mother! Colin moved to the head of the table and grabbed the blanket on both sides. He looked at Charles and said “Now Mr Smith this will not be easy – and you do not need to say anything. Just give me a positive or negative indication in whatever way you can. You only need to look for a second and please – feel free to leave the room at anytime. And again, just before I remove the blanket please be warned – the wounds are disturbing” Colin rolled down the blanket to reveal the face of corpse. In seconds Charles had nodded to confirm it was his mother, vomited into his hands and ran out of the room. *** Looking at his father now he saw his mother. The bloody bandage on the left side of his face hiding the fact all the skin had been cut from that side. He also knew the worst was hidden beneath the blanket, and he was thankful for that. He sat down, all feelings of anger toward his father forgotten. He felt only sadness and compassion. He could feel the gentle prick of tears forming behind his eyes. “It has been too long son, I have been hanging on hoping I could see you one last time”
His father formed a grotesque half smile on the good side of his face, which both sickened and touched Charles. He thought to say that his father would be fine – but they both knew that to be a lie. He tried to think of anything of say – but he could think of nothing. “Don’t worry son, I don’t know what to say either. How is America?” At the mention of America he thought of his wife and child, of two people his father knew nothing about. Of two people who would never meet this man. So he launched into an animated one way conversation about his life since he moved, his father asking the odd question or giving the odd chuckle. It was early in the morning when Charles finally stopped talking, and he looked at his father. He was starting to struggle breathing, and he had that look of final acceptance in his eyes. Charles stood up and grabbed his father’s arm through the blanket. Through laboured breath his father uttered his final words “I need you to....know son....that I did...did not kill your....your mother” He was gone. Charles collapsed into the chair and started crying. End of Part One
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