Forgiveness and Sin
I was looking forward to settling in front of a film for the evening, a soppy love story as usual, trying to decide between Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’ Diary when I heard the doorbell. I dried my hands and went to the door, but I couldn’t see who it was in the dark.
I opened the door on the chain to find what resembled my daughter.
She mumbled something I couldn’t catch.
‘Are those bruises on your face and why is mascara running down your cheek?’
‘Nothing mum, I just fell down the stairs.’
‘Don’t know, he’s disappeared.’
I finally realised I hadn’t asked her to come in.
I sat her down on the sofa in front of the roaring fire, which was on every evening in the cold months. I put my arms around her. Chloe sank down into the sofa and closed her eyes.
‘Why isn’t Justin looking after you? You should be out with him on a Friday night, enjoying yourself in Soho as usual.’
I had my suspicions about what had happened but dare not ask until I was certain. I did not want her to think I was coming between them and alienate her. Perhaps I subconsciously did not want to know the worst, not wanting to see her hurt.
‘Stay here for as long as you like, perhaps you should see a doctor’
I don’t want to see a doctor, you’re mothering me, anyway, where’s dad?’
‘He’s on a business trip to Aberdeen, selling shares to new clients.’
‘Poor you, you don’t even need the money,’ and she opened her eyes for a second and looked at me.
‘I’ll keep you company.’
She began staring at a framed picture on the table beside her of her and Justin taken that summer at the beach, holding each other and smiling into the camera. I instinctively turned it face down. She closed her eyes again.
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We were talking in metalanguage, and she was trying to change the conversation. She knew that I knew and I could see the fear in her shaking hands. She didn’t deserve this, she was 26,beautiful, with long blond hair, high cheekbones and cornflower blue eyes. In contrast Jonathan was short and stout, with a shaved head, tattoos on his arms, and older, at 45. He was a successful business man in the city and could support her financially, but otherwise I didn’t know what she saw in him. He didn’t even have a sense of humour.
I wanted to call the police but had no evidence. There is no excuse for domestic violence but what could I do until she admitted it. Love is a strong bond, I felt frustrated.
I went upstairs, got cotton wool and tcp out of the bathroom cupboard and cleaned up the cuts and dried blood. I made Chloe a hot chocolate just the way she liked it, with lots of milk and sugar and sent her up to the spare room to rest.
After she went to bed I called Jonathan, my husband, on his mobile, He was often away and I always wished I could see more of him, we discussed the situation.
‘Emma,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to alienate our daughter by taking matters in our own hands.
‘Keep her there as long as possible, and through nurturing and improved self-confidence she might admit the truth.’ He said. ‘You should drop hints about the perils of domestic violence and that it is not the victim’s fault. You need to gain her trust, I’ll stay in Aberdeen’.
After the conversation I had a brainwave; to hire a private detective to stalk Justin. Perhaps he could come up with some dirt on him, enough evidence to get him out of my daughter’s life. I thought if he was violent there were other illegal things he would be doing. At least I hoped so. I mean, where was he now? At least I could find out if he was cheating on her.
I wanted to protect her from what I had witnessed my mother suffering when I was a child. My father had abused alcohol and they had violent fights with my mother coming out worst, one time she had even been unconscious. I never understood why she stayed with him, I suppose she didn’t have the self-confidence to leave, perhaps it was her genes, picking this sort of man.
I slowly trudged up to bed and could hardly find the energy to get ready as usual. The next morning, as Chloe liked to sleep late, I would go on the internet.
Waking at eight the next morning as always with a groan as the previous night’s events came back to me, I hurried into my clothes as the first thing to do was find a private detective. Forgetting about breakfast, I Googled private detective + West London. I wrote down ten numbers, and then had breakfast, having to wait for office hours.
The first detective I called didn’t seem interested; he said he only did corporate work and that this was a matter for the police. The second one was a company and the secretary seemed very helpful once I explained the situation. She said I could meet Mr Marlowe that afternoon in a cafe called Beanscene on the Oxford Road. She asked me to bring pictures of everyone, Justin, Chloe and my husband. ‘
Sam Khan-Mcintyre B4842235
‘Why my husband?’ I said.
‘Mr Marlow likes to cover all possibilities. You would also discuss the fee.’
I woke Chloe before lunch and said she’d had a nightmare about someone stealing her clothes from her and running away. I reassured her that this wouldn’t happen and that nobody would steal her privacy. She followed me slowly downstairs, in my faded pyjamas, complaining her head hurt. Over lunch I tried again.
‘You know your grandma got physically abused by grandpa, he was an alcoholic. I never felt it was grandma’s fault.’
‘You think Justin hurt me, why would he if he loves me?’I don’t want to talk about it anymore.’
‘I’m sure he loves you, I’m going shopping now for groceries and I’ll get you some pyjamas. You stay here as long as you like.’
‘Thanks mum’ and she gave me a hug, I was surprised because she wasn’t usually so affectionate.
Arriving at the cafe, which was noisy with people, I recognised the detective from the secretary’s description, tall, slim, not yet middle aged, with blue eyes and dark hair, a full head. Like the stereotype detective, he was wearing a pale brown trench coat and trilby. He greeted me with a handshake then ordered two coffees. Once he had taken off his coat I couldn’t stop staring at his chest under his shirt; he had been working out.
I told him the story and he uploaded the photographs onto his laptop, along with names and addresses and details such as hobbies, so he could go to particular places such as the golf course. The fee would depend on how long it took but was 35 pounds an hour, which I thought was reasonable.
‘I will call you in a week to give you an update, he said. Often people find out things that upset them, which they would rather not have known and so be prepared for this.’
‘I am ready, I don’t mind what you find on Justin, and I want to protect my daughter. My husband’s away working. He’s staying away so I can use it as an excuse to keep my daughter with me.’
‘Don’t you get lonely? ‘
‘Incredibly, my daughter is the only person that understands that, I mean we have enough money saved up for our retirement, I want to enjoy life more.’
‘It must be hell.’
Afterwards he shook my hand as he got up to go and I fancied his hand lingered on for just a second too long.
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I went home humming along to Beethoven in the car while my fingers tapped out the beat on the steering wheel. Despite the problems I had met someone I could dream about, there was no harm in that was there? Also my daughter was waiting for me and I looked forward to taking care of her once again, I did some shopping, as an alibi.
‘Mum. Justin’s phone’s switched off. ’Chloe said as I walked in.
‘It’s probably a bad signal, have you tried the flat?’
‘No answer, he’s vanished’.
‘Good, he won’t bother you anymore.’
‘I love him. Mum, what if he’s cheating on me?’
‘Don’t be silly’. I thought he was too ugly but I said, ‘He probably feels guilty for hurting you.’
‘How many times?’
And with that she ran off and I heard the bedroom door slamming.
To win her back I prepared her favourite meal, Spanish omelette with chips and a green salad with apple crumble to follow.
The smells compelled her to investigate.
‘Thanks mum, and after I was so beastly to you’, she said and she brushed my cheek with her mouth.
‘When’s dad coming back?’ she asked later.
Awkward question I thought, ‘He’ll be back in a week, it’s just me and you.’
‘I’ll stay until then, now you won’t be lonely’ and she snuggled up next to me on the sofa as we watched an old episode of Friends.
Derek Marlow called two days later; ‘I have some news but there is a lot of stuff going on that I haven’t unearthed yet.’
‘Tell me what you have found out.’
I checked all the hospitals and prisons, and I learned the Justin is in rehab at the Priory, it sounds like he’s doing the right thing because he must have been ashamed of himself.’
‘Sounds like my only daughter’s partner is an alcoholic, which makes him dangerous. Anything else?’
‘Not yet, what are you planning to do?’
Once I have proof I will protect her by keeping them apart, perhaps through a restraining order.’
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‘Surely that’s up to her, plus he is trying to reform. Your daughter will love him for it.’
‘That’s why we need to find out about any misdemeanours, you need to check company records, criminal records, if he has any children. Anything that might put her off.’
‘I’ll try, I like your attitude girl’. He laughed and put the phone down.
Derek called again the next day;
‘Can I meet you? I have some bad news’.
‘I’d love to see you, but can’t you tell me over the phone? My husband’s coming home in two days and I want to be alone with my daughter.’
‘You can bring her along, she needs to know.’
I wanted to see Derek, I had been dreaming about him, things like him rescuing me from fires and finding water for us in the desert. Also, Chloe needed to know Justin was a dangerous alcoholic, there must be some dirt on him, and so I said yes.
Derek hadn’t finished yet;
‘We must meet at the Priory, ward 4, 6pm, when visiting starts.’
‘Do you want Justin to find out we have been spying on him? and Chloe will be pleased about the rehab, that’s not what I want.’
‘There is a lot I have to tell you and Chloe and it has to be there.’
‘You know best, see you there’. I said.
The next day when we arrived, Derek was waiting at reception and greeted me with a kiss on the cheek. ‘You look nice’ he said. ‘
‘Thanks, so do you, shall we go in?’
‘I think it’s time’, and we opened the door to the ward and headed for room 6. Even before Derek opened the door I thought I saw my husband through the glass sitting beside the bed with Derek in it.
The room was basic, with a small TV, a bed and a chest of drawers.
‘Is that Jonathan? I said. Isn’t he supposed to be in Aberdeen?’
‘That’s what I want to talk to you about, let’s go in.’
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‘Jonathan turned red as soon as he saw me, as Chloe let out a screech and got enveloped by Justin’s arms.
There was a pause as I looked at Jonathan who wouldn’t meet my eye.
‘I’m just visiting’, he said.
‘Why didn’t you tell me?
‘I know you don’t like him.’
‘That’s not the reason is it? Said Derek, you have been pestering this man for weeks to go out with you. Just because you saw him in a gay club, you think he will like you. You have been infatuated.
‘What makes you say that?’
‘I have been talking to the staff. There are no secrets here, it’s been frightening and upsetting for Justin, he may have to put a restraining order on you.’
How could you? I said, after all these years’.
‘Emma’, Derek said to me, Justin has been dealing with his problems in the right way, and you can see how much Chloe loves him, I looked at them deep in conversation. You must give him a chance.’
‘You’ve got through to me, I understand.’
‘However Jonathan has betrayed you.’
‘I thought I knew him’.
‘I love you, said Jonathan.’
‘You love Justin, I said, you have been lying to me for weeks, and other times that I don’t know of, I don’t think I can trust you. Plus you are never there’.
‘I’ll make it up to you.’
‘I’ll listen, I won’t be away so much’.
However it was too late as Derek jumped in:
‘I love you’, he said.
‘I love you too Derek’, I said, he took my face in his hands, and I felt his hot lips against mine.
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The themes of my story are moral issues of abuse, alcoholism, adultery and same sex relationships. The programme Hollyoaks inspired me, also the novels of Joel Lane: which tackles such contemporary issues . I think it’s enlightening to bring these things to the wider public sphere and put them up for discussion. I also got inspired from life eg watching how my friend treats her daughter. I also used my imagination. The story belongs to the genres of romance and detective non-fiction.
I decided to write in the first person because it makes the reader feel closer to the narrator and shows the intimacy of the relationship between mother and daughter. The viewpoint creates intrigue ,as we have a limited point of view and can’t read anyone else’s mind. It also helps the story develop gradually. I wanted to try it as previously I had only written in third person omniscient. Intrigue was important as a course email said it can be a major component of a short story.
Foreshadowing was used to give clues about the ending, which is a twist. The dramatic present is at the beginning where the mother opens the door and then we go forward, it also backwards trying to discover the immediate hidden past. The detective is the tool and establishes ‘depth structure’.
I wrote it before Christmas, in two spurts, leaving a cooling off period of a week, before editing it. This helped me see the story afresh and more objectively. I wrote down any changes to make straightaway; using the tools we learnt, thus drafting.
The beginning was in narrative and using lots of short sentences. However I wanted more show and tell, especially as this was a major scene, requiring more impact. Therefore I added dialogue. This also helped develop the characters. I did a lot of deleting, adding and rewriting here.
I added to the setting, this and adding dialogue and character action eg the narrator turning the picture over, enabled me to move away from a plot based story to one more character driven to make it more convincing. I also added some sensory perceptions and habitual time actions.
I cut words which did not contribute, eg, I had used ward 4, for rehab, room 6, at 5 but this did not read well so I shortened it. I knew from a friend that dinner would be at 5. This was research, as was utilising the internet to find out how much a private detective cost.
I gave the narrator a character arc; change and gain insight: she finally accepts her daughter’s relationship. After reading the assessment booklet I decided to make this clearer, by making her say she understood. This also gives her a certain complexity, especially as she loves Derek and therefore listens to him.
Putting drafts on the OU forum, I received feedback which I incorporated; someone pointed out that the relationship between the narrator and Derek developed too quickly, in my first draft I’d implied that they were getting together forever, I changed it to just them having a kiss and left the rest to the reader’s imagination.