Saturday, 7 April 2007

Chapter 70

Left alone to her thoughts, Lillian was wondering exactly who Harry McFry was. Just a ‘coincidence’ that he was a McFry? She doubted it. Why had he been so disingenuous, pretending he was Danny’s father when, just to look at him, you could tell it wasn’t true, she wondered? In the end – somehow - she had come to trust him. Maybe that was just how the McFry’s were: they had messed up her life well enough already – she, above anyone, should know what they were capable of. And yet … he had been (eventually) quite … charming, in a disheveled, untidy sort of way.

In the end, she was tired of it all. She wouldn’t live forever – she knew that. A miracle of sorts it was that she was still there at all. So, what did it matter if everyone knew? Most of them were dead, now, anyway.

She’d been glad to hear that her granddaughter was prospering. All the regret of never knowing her … well … it might have been worth it if it meant the poor girl was spared her history. She looked at the picture of herself on the sideboard. What she wouldn’t give to live her life over again, to live it from that one, sunny day when she’d felt so free.

Lillian never thought for a moment that, if Laurel knew about her, she would be proud of her. So far as she was concerned, her life had been frozen, from the moment she had accepted Thomas McFry’s ‘proposition’.

“We were meant for each other!” he had said. Lillian had often wondered whether he knew just how weak she had felt when he’d said those words. Perhaps he did: his callousness, she’d thought, had come later, but now she wondered whether it might have been there all along.

The ‘proposition’ had sounded almost reasonable to her, at the time. Jonathan Harcourt was most probably dead. She had to accept that. Stuart McFry – who she might have loved, but never did – had married, and given his life somewhere in Germany. She was left, at the end of it all, with Thomas. Thomas, who stood to inherit the McFry fortune, when Stuart had died.

She remembered – vividly - the day he had come to tell her of his brother’s death. She had not long returned from her shift at the munitions factory, making shells which she sometimes inscribed in chalk “This one is for the workers!”: her own, personal protest, her own revolution. He must have thought she carried a flame for his brother, the way he’d spoken. He’d tried his best to be tender, had even seemed almost regretful as he told her the news. But she’d sensed something deeper – she knew Thomas McFry better than anyone so, if she didn’t sense it, who would?

And then, there came the ‘proposition’ that they should not be married.

A proposal which (at the time) was something that seemed, at least to Lillian, to hold out some hope. Perhaps Jonathan Harcourt was still alive – still looking for her? If she never married Thomas McFry, then there was always hope that Jonathan would turn up, claim her as his, and their life together could begin.

And so, Thomas and Lillian never married. The codicil of the agreement was more uncomfortable. Once (if) the War was over, she and Thomas would move away from Yorkshire. He’d use the McFry fortune to build them a life together. And she must never - ever - tell anyone about her daughter.

Now that’s not something you would really want to tell a perfect stranger - even if he appeared ‘quite charming’ - is it?


Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I don't understand the last paragraph

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Thanks for alerting me to the fact that a key word somehow got lost between Word and Blogger - I've now corrected it!

Kind Regards