Short Story – 4 – A Christmas Present

I really like this one, it was an attempt to write a whole story in conversations

Christmas 2013

“And this one’s for you Dad”

“Oh, you shouldn’t have.  What is it?”

“Open it and see, Dad.”

“Oh. It’s a computer, is it?  You know I know nothing about computer’s, I’m not sure I will ever get the hang of it.  Sorry to disappoint you Laura.”

“John and I have thought of that already.  It’s an i-pad and it’s really easy. John will set it up for you later.  We have also bought you a mobile router so you can use the internet – and we have paid the first year’s subscription too.  And if you need help we have spoken to young Andy in the village.  He says he will help you if you get stuck.  You only have to ask him.”

“That’s very good of you, but I don’t expect I will really use it that much.”

“Look Dad.  It’s been two years since Mum died, you barely go anywhere or do anything.  You’re becoming something of a hermit, you know.  I know we are busy in London and only see you every couple of months but you can facetime us now.”

“Facetime?  What’s that?”

“John will show you later.  It’s like a phone call, but you can see people.  And it doesn’t even cost anything. You’ll be able to chat with Charlotte and Jason too, even though Charlotte is in Hong Kong and Jason at Uni.  It really will open up a new world for you Dad.”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe I am just too old for all this malarkey”

“You are only 75, Dad.  That’s not even old these days.”

Christmas 2014

“So Dad, how are you getting on with the i-pad?  You still don’t really facetime us.  Only when we ring you first and remind you to switch it on.”

“Oh, not so bad.  I can check my bank account on it – not that there is much to check really.  And I have found a site for old friends of Stowmarket.  Quite a lot of people I went to school with are on it.  After all these years.  Some are dead of course, but a few were even in my class.  They look a bit different now though, I can tell you.”

“Well done Dad.  I knew you’d find something you liked.  You should get out and meet some of these people.  Ever since Mum was wheelchair-bound you hardly went anywhere.”

“It was too difficult getting it in and out of the car.  Nearly ten years she was in that bloody thing too.  You know, I hated pushing it.  First thing I did when she died.  Took it down the dump and threw it in a skip.  Good riddance too.”

 “Well, those days are long gone now.  I know how devoted you were to her.”

“Devoted?  I had no bloody choice.  I was married to her, wasn’t I.  I couldn’t turn my back on your mother when she was too poorly to walk anymore. You youngsters don’t understand what marriage means.  Look at you, getting divorced as soon as things got difficult.  If you want to know what difficult is, you should have been married to your mother. She was practically an invalid for the last fifteen years.  I was her nurse-maid really.  Devoted?  I wouldn’t have chosen the life we had I can tell you, but I had no choice.”

“Okay Dad, don’t get aireated.  And – you have no idea what my marriage was like.  So, don’t be giving me any sermons either.  Anyway, I’m happy now with John.  He’s a better father to your grandchildren than Geoff ever was.”

“Well, I suppose it’s all in the past really.  Sorry girl, I didn’t mean to lash out, but nobody knows how tough it was all those years pushing your mother everywhere, running up and down stairs for her all day long – and barely a thank-you either.  It was just expected.  Oh well, I suppose it is all in the past really.”

Christmas 2015

“I’ve got to tell you Laura, we have a guest for Christmas lunch today.”

“Oh?  Who is that then?”

“An old school friend actually.  You know I told you about that website for old schoolfriends.  Well, Sheila was in the year below me.  I hadn’t seen her in nearly Sixty years.  Turns out she only lives a few miles away.  Now, don’t get worried.  There’s nothing in it.  But we go out for a meal occasionally, she’s good company.”

“Well, that is a turn-up for the books I must say.  As long as you are happy Dad.”

Christmas 2016

“So, this Sheila and you are an item, are you Dad?”

“An item?  What is that supposed to mean?  We are going out and well… if that’s what you are getting at?  I don’t know if we’ll ever get round to marrying.  We probably won’t live that long anyway. All we want is to grab a bit of happiness while we still can.  And I can tell you, it’s been a bloody long time since I felt any sort of kindness in my life.”

“Well, that’s nice.  This is your only daughter you are talking to.  You know, the mother of your grandchildren.  Charlotte and Jason?  Didn’t we show you any kindness down the years?  And what about Mother?  I know she was ill for a long while, but there must have been a time – not that long ago either – when you loved each other.”

“Love?  Don’t talk to me about love.  I loved your mother alright.  Once.  But after you were born, and she blamed me for the hard time she had of it too….well, to tell the truth Laura, she shut the door on love.  Didn’t want to know any more – in that way, if you get my drift.  That was over forty years we had with not even a kiss or a cuddle.  No kind touch, not a suggestion of real love in forty years.   You didn’t know that did you?  And I didn’t mean to ever tell you either.  Wish I hadn’t really, it’s none of your bloody business.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry Dad.  I never knew.  I know she was a difficult woman.  I had my differences with her, heaven knows.  Well, if you are happy now what harm can it do.”

“Don’t worry.  You’ll still get the house, if that’s what you are worried about?  Sheila and I have talked about that. I won’t take what’s hers from her kids and she won’t have what yours either.”

“That’s not it at all Dad.  I just want you to be happy.”

Christmas 2017

“Come in and sit down Mrs Johnson. Can I call you Laura?  I’m glad you could manage to see me before the Holidays”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Mr. Williams will do.  Now, as you know I was your father’s solicitor.  I dealt with his few shares and I even managed the conveyancing when he bought his council house, oh back in 1988 I think that was.”

“Okay, I know all of that Mr Williams, I just want to know what was in my father’s will, now that he is dead.”

“Yes.  Well to tell you the truth Mrs Johnson, …er Laura, he never got round to changing his will after your mother died.  I met him once or twice in town and he said he would pop in and do it.  But he never did.  Besides it was really just a formality.”

“What do you mean a formality?”

“Well, since your mother died you were naturally the sole beneficiary, being the only child.  But as you know, your father re-married a couple of months ago.”

“How does that affect me though?”

“Well, it is rather complicated.  Legally his wife, his new wife that is – Mrs Sheila Jones, in the absence of any new will has a valid claim on your father’s property.”

“But she’d dead too.  They both died in that car crash.  Driving home from seeing me in London, too.  That was when they told me they had got married.  It was awful.”

“Yes. Tragic, I must admit.  But you see – your father died immediately, he was at the wheel when the lorry…Sorry.  His wife actually passed away two weeks later in Hospital.”

“Oh my God.  So, where does that leave us?  Dad always meant the house for me.  He even said that Sheila and he had agreed that whatever happened the house would be mine.”

“Yes, but sadly neither are alive now to confirm that.  In the absence of any specific will, and the old one, superseded now by his later marriage, named your mother, and you of course – his current wife would normally inherit his estate.  But she too is now dead so her estate falls to her children.  Well, we will have to contest that, of course.  I assume that would be your intention, you do have a valid claim as you are mentioned in the only will we have.  Mrs Sheila Jones had two sons and they have already applied for probate.  I must warn you that this could cost quite a lot, and there is no guarantee of success. The most we might reasonably expect is 50%, we would be very fortunate to get everything.”

“Oh, my goodness.  What a Christmas present that is for me.  I’ve not only lost my Dad, but maybe my inheritance too.   And all because of that wretched i-pad.  That was a Christmas present too.”