Beware dear reader. From this point forward you will notice some matters that will jar unless you read this Note. If you’ve been following this story since Chapter One, you may remember that, at one stage I changed the narrator’s forename to Paddy. Since then, until yesterday morning, when I completed the final chapter in first draft, I just carried on writing. Last night I began taking a log, hard look at it and decided that there were things that I really didn’t like. I’m not talking about typos and so on. The writing itself read as having been written in a hurry; Helen’s departure was unbelievably terse; There was much too much technical detail – some of it still remains, but only as a skeleton on which to provide flesh for the group’s venture. The job at the Print factory was both unnecessary for the story and unbelievable in its content. That chapter and anything that hung from it has been deleted. Such is the nature of creative writing, isn’t it?
The only other significant change has been that Cliff, the usurper, is no longer an estate agent without a background or purpose. He is now a detective sergeant in the police – widowed and with a daughter Tanya who is the same age as Paul. Paul admires Cliff and a close friendship forms between Paul and Tanya. I didn’t want Helen to be unhappy in her new life and I wanted Paul to settle quickly. Helen now has a man who will give her the affection, attention and social life she craved. The background to her attachment to Cliff is explained by her mother to Paddy. Jayne keeps Paddy in the fold.
I don’t intend to re-post the early chapters, but some of what is to come you should now find easier to understand. If anyone should wish a copy of the Word file as it stands in its current state of proof-reading, please email me.
When I got home and checked my emails, I was amazed to find one from Susie. She must have sent it while I was on my way back from her house. She’d hoped that I wouldn’t think she was interfering in my life, but she’d picked up on some of the bitterness in my voice. She included two quotations that she said had helped her, in a similar situation to mine.
“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being victim — letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.”– C. R. Strahan
“Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you are.”– Cherie Carter-Scott
As I read them, I felt the tears pricking my eye at Susie’s thoughtfulness. I printed off the email and stuck it to my fridge with one of those little magnets.
I replied, thanking her and saying that I’d enjoyed her company and was looking forward to our next meeting on Monday.
Getting on with life – or not.
Sunday, my morning for having Paul. It would be his birthday on the Wednesday coming. Seven years old already; where have the years gone? I thought back to when Helen had been in hospital giving birth to him and the look of unbelieving joy on her face as she’d held him to her; I still remembered clearly the strength of the love that we’d felt for each other and for our child. Time itself had seemed to change with Paul’s birth: there was before Paul and after Paul.
Certainly, before Paul, I’d been much more selfish and, even during Helen’s pregnancy, I’d had no idea how one small baby would, or could, change my whole outlook on life so much. Everything now centred upon him – for both of us. Things that I would never have thought that I could do – like changing nappies and mopping up sick, if not a pleasure, were now a totally accepted part of my life. Getting up to warm feed-bottles in the middle of the night; packing the car with his pram and all the things that we’d need for him while we were out; all these and so many other things weren’t seen as chores – because they were for him. His well-being was at the centre of both our lives – and still was.
After breakfast this morning, I’d cleaned around and made sure that everything was ready for his arrival. I’d wrapped his present – a computer game and some toys – and then I’d spent an hour looking back through some photos of how he’d changed over time. Photos of him in his cot; him crawling; taking his first steps; in his pram; at four years old – some of him playing in the garden and others taken on the beach; Paul in his first school uniform – these and others brought back vivid memories that I replayed as movies in my head as I looked at them. I wondered how having his mum and Dad living in separate houses would affect him. I worried how this new man in his mum’s life would treat him. How soon would it be before this new adult – Cliff – supplanted me as a father figure? Would Cliff be buying Paul expensive presents and giving him treats to win his affection? How long would it be before the times we’d spent together would fade forever from his memory? I wondered too, how Helen had explained the separation to Paul – had she made me out to be a bogeyman?
I was upset, tearful, but I couldn’t let Paul see that side of how I was feeling. I looked through the window at the weather: a cold but dry, late February day: not long now before Spring. I wondered whether Paul would like to go to the beach. I’m sure that I’d have loved it at his age, but kids now all seemed to want nothing but screen time in their rooms.
Another possibility I’d considered was the Trafford Centre – toyshops, cinema, lunch in that great open area. If we went there, we could look for some clothing for him that I could keep at ‘my’ house, as I was coming to think of it. It would be useful to have some spare things on one side for him, ready for the possibility of an overnight stay – or in case the clothes that he came in got muddy or something.
I was keeping one eye on the window – on the lookout for Helen arriving. Would she be on her own with Paul or might she come with Cliff? It would be interesting to see what he looked like.
I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye as a car stopped outside my house – a newish black BMW with the previous year’s registration. I could guess whose car that would be: Helen showing off how well-off she was now in her new life. Sure enough, it was her, but a man was the driver, looking straight at me as I was at him. Helen remained in the passenger seat, ignoring me, as he got out of the car, walked around it and opened the rear door to let Paul out. Cliff was tall, well-built and wearing designer casual wear. He passed Paul’s bag out to him and bent to Paul’s eye level, in front of him, to say goodbye.
It would have been nice if Paul had run from the car, excited to see me, but he turned to wave goodbye to Cliff and Helen before walking to me, past my five years old, secondhand Ford Fiesta, down my driveway, and looking at the bag of stuff he was bringing with him. The car drove away: no one waved to me, ‘Mr Cellophane Man’ as the song from the film ‘Chicago’ goes.
As Paul arrived in front of me, he looked up, passed me his bag and said, “Hi Daddy, can I play on my iPad in my room?”
I was obviously history already: yesterday’s dad.
Today my featured photos leave London. This photo is one that I took some time back the Royal Albert Dock of the Ferris Wheel situated opposite the Beatles Museum.
The Exif data are as follows: Samsung Smartphone shot. Shutter speed was 1/8000 secs @ f/1.7 and the focal length 4.2.The shot was handheld and post processed in Lightroom Classic.