Ticket To Ride, Book 2, Chapter 20: Hold the best of him and don’t be false…

East Finchley SignTwenty

Livy’s mind slipped back to that December day in 1967. She and Trudy were back from Blackfriar’s Bridge and her mother had put together a small surprise party for her birthday.

“Happy Birthday love,” she says.

“Oh thank you so much mum, Livy replies, “is this all for me?”

There’s a birthday cake with waxy numbers in the shape of 10. Beside it is a box the size of a typewriter and a smaller box the size of a pencil  or pen holder.

“I can guess what those are, “ says Livy as her father walks into the room noticeably drunk.

“A fools paradise is all that bloody is. You’re just a stupid little girl.”

Livy looks to her mother for redemption or at least a kind word in her defense. Say something mum, she thinks.

“And you the bloody blind leading the blind, you daft cow.”

Her mother says nothing. Can’t say anything. The repercussions would be more than she could bear. She’s broken, and can’t be mended.

Oh mum, Livy thinks, if only he weren’t here, how wonderful it could have been.

“What about Trudy?”

“Forget it Livy,” her father says and takes the typewriter to the rubbish bin.

 

10218780_1Present Day (1979)

East Finchley, council flat, mum. Brick, grey skies, orange flowered, threadbare couch and that God awful painting of the toreador. Three years and I’m back.

“Livy I miss your father,” said Livy’s mother.

“He was a bastard  mum.”

“Please don’t say that Liv.”

“He was.”

“Drop your sulky teenage attitude for a minute.”

“There you go mum, let me have it.”

“Hmm?”

You’re sticking up for yourself.”

“Oh, I guess I am.”

“I’m so much more grown up when I’m not here.”

“Try to be that for me now.”

“I’m sorry mum, it’s just that I don’t have much good that I remember. He was a drunk and so damn angry all the time.”

“I wish you knew how wonderful he could be. It’s just that he got old too young. And well, when you came, he didn’t know how to be a father and felt inept. He wasn’t good at little girls.”

“Are you saying if I was a boy…”

“I’m not saying anything of the sort. It’s just that he’d closed himself off to me and you represented a challenge he couldn’t face. Your grown now and I want you to know that neither of us would have had you any other way, but he was closed. He tried but he was closed.”

“But you went away with him.”

“Livy I…”

“Let me speak this time mum. The valium, the naps, the wine, you let him take you with him and I was alone most of the time.”

“I remember you loved books.”

“Books were all I had, and Trudy.”

“But whether you remember or not, your father spent a lot of time reading to you when you were a child. He gave you that love.”

“I wanted love not books.”

“Don’t be disrespectful.”

“Children want love mum. Little girls want to love their daddies as much as their mommies. I’ve stayed away from men because he was what I thought they were.”

Livy’s mother began to cry.

“I’m sorry love,” she said to Livy.

“It’s ok mum. I’m ok. I just don’t want you to slip into some phony soft reverie of him. He hit you mum.”

“That’s enough now Livy.”

She began to cry harder and moved toward Livy and they hugged. Livy became the mother.

“I love you mum and I don’t want you to cry,” Livy said.

“So stop now lovey.”

“Just be ok without him mum. Hold the best of him and don’t be false.”

Livy reached into her pocket and pulled out a poem.

“Here mum. I just wrote this. It’s nothing, but maybe something.”

 

80

when I’m 80

I may,

God willing,

forget,

all the ages I’ve been and all the things I’ve done

and be spared the pain of

wishing to return to places I can’t go back to

and being with people who are not who they once were or,

are dead.

when I’m 80

I will,

God willing,

remember,

all the ages I’ve been and all the things I’ve done

and feel the joy of a life lived.

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