Our challenge for January was to write something with the theme of ‘dilemma’. Below are two examples that were read and discussed at the January session.
BY LIZ DIXON
‘Geoff, come and meet the latest newbies in the neighbourhood.’ Alan clapped a friendly hand on Geoff’s back and directed him across the grass to the couple who had recently moved into the area. ‘Geoff’s been here longer than us, haven’t you, Geoff? Must be nearly 40 years for you and Mary now!’
Normally Geoff would have managed more than the mumbled agreement to Alan’s comment but he was feeling far from normal. His mind was all over the place. The neighbours often got together in one garden or another for a drink and a barbecue and whilst Geoff was never the ‘life and soul’ like Alan, he was usually sociable and chatty in a calm, understated way. But without anything to say on this occasion, he looked around and caught sight of Mary talking amiably to another neighbour. His heart sank. His beautiful plum cake (a name he occasionally used in public by mistake) might just have her whole world shattered very soon. Could he put her through that? Would it be worth it? He had no idea.
Mary wandered over, her comfortable expression turning quizzical as she saw he was not himself. ‘Are you okay, Geoff, love? You look a bit peaky.’ He tried to assure her he was fine and only too happy to nip back home for her cardigan. She raised her eyebrows at the new neighbours as she exclaimed, totally unnecessarily, how unpredictable the British weather was. He left the three of them chatting and headed next door but Mary’s cardigan was the last thing on his mind. He slumped in his armchair and began picking over the agonising memory of his encounter with Amanda at work the previous day.
Amanda had only joined the office team a month ago. She was good at her job – focused and reliable – but she seemed to find any excuse to talk things through with Geoff. He’d shrugged off the ‘Aye, aye, wink, wink’ comment from another colleague. Why were people in the office so interested in extra-marital gossip? Geoff was totally devoted to his plum pudding and their two amazing offspring, Robert and Claire, both in their late thirties with delightful young families of their own.
‘Just checking you’re still alive, love, you’ve been ages!’ Mary had breezed in, too chilly to wait any longer for him. ‘I’ve got to get back because I’ve promised Anita I’ll butter the rolls but if you’re not feeling well why don’t you go to bed.’ He certainly did feel ill, even if it was due to stress rather than a virus. God, he loved this woman so much. She joined in with Dusty Springfield singing ‘I Only Want to Be With You’ as she headed back towards the music and the party.
Geoff’s head was in his hands. The bomb that had been dropped by Amanda was news that he had, unknowingly, fathered a child 42 years previously and that child was Amanda. She’d been given scant details by her mother but had painstakingly followed up every avenue to arrive at the conclusion Geoff was her dad. Once she was fairly convinced she’d found the right man she had planned to ask his permission to do a DNA test but she’d chickened out in case he’d refused and had gone ahead with it already. For this she was deeply apologetic. The DNA test was the least of his problems. He had seen Amanda as a smart, pleasant woman but now he was staring at another daughter. It excited him and terrified him equally. How on earth was he going to deal with this? He didn’t want to wreck the idyllic life he had with Mary and his children – his other children – but if he kept it a secret, would that betrayal be worse?
Mary would be back in a couple of hours. Tormented, he took a pad and a pen out of the bureau to make some notes but he couldn’t bring himself to commit his thoughts to paper. Once he’d done that there’d be no going back. So he tried to bring some order to the bewilderment in his head and work out what he would say to Mary if he decided to come clean: He was sorry. It was a moment of irresponsible madness before he’d met her. He’d had no idea until yesterday. He was so sorry. He would understand if she wanted nothing to do with Amanda. He was sorry if she’d preferred not to know but he couldn’t hide it from her. What would they tell Robert and Claire? Please don’t hate me, Mary.
He sat bolt upright when he heard Mary come in through the back door. His hands began to shake but, with his mind made up, he tried to steel himself for the conversation. ‘Oh, you’re still up, love. I thought you’d have gone to bed,’ she said brightly.
‘Mary I’m so sorry.’ But he didn’t have chance to say anything else because Claire came in behind Mary wittering away about how lucky they all were that she and her brother got on so well when many of her friends were indifferent or positively hostile towards their siblings.
‘Look who popped in to the party!’ Mary was beaming, happy to have had her daughter to herself for a short time without husbands and small children.
‘Hi Dad,’ said Claire. ‘How’re you feeling?’ He didn’t answer the question because all he could think about was that he couldn’t put this off any longer.
‘I need to talk to your mother,’ he said and suggested Claire made some tea in the kitchen, out of earshot. And so it began. The words came tumbling out in a jumble of phrases, less coherent than he’d planned but he just had to get them all out. Eventually he took a breath and looked up at Mary. She was stunned. Calm but stunned. The silence was broken by Claire bounding in.
‘A sister? I’ve got a sister!’ She was genuinely happy. Mary considered her thoughts for a moment and said quietly,
‘Geoff, I have no right to be upset about any of your liaisons before I met you.’ And after another moment’s pause, she said, ‘I reckon we can accommodate another daughter, don’t you?’ and for the first time ever, she saw him shed a tear.
What a Dilemma
BY ANN HENDERS
I hardly ever go to Chorley but a friend told me about the curtain stall on the market so I thought I’d have a run out to get a new net curtain for my front window, freshen the place up for Easter. I’m not very familiar with the lay out of the place and got a bit lost coming out of the car park. I was on a quiet side street when I passed ‘Maisie’s Coffee Shop’ and happened to glance inside. Who did I see but Malcolm, you know, married to Lizzie who’s in the same Knit and Natter group as us. But he wasn’t with Lizzie, he was with a dark haired woman I’d never seen before. All long dangly earrings and shellac nails. They were having a good giggle over something or other but it wasn’t till the waitress brought their order over that I realised they’d been holding hands under the table. Well that had to stop so they could deal with their cappuccinos and all day breakfasts. Well, I didn’t know what to do for the best. I stood back so I couldn’t be seen, not that they were looking anywhere but into each other’s eyes. Anyway, I decided to risk a quick photo, which came out quite well considering.
Well, I spent a sleepless night that night, I can tell you! I tossed and turned. Shall I tell Lizzie what I saw I wondered? If my Len had been carrying on would I have wanted to know? In the morning my mind was made up, I knew I had to do the right thing. I messaged Lizzie and told her I was popping around. I decided the only thing I could do was give it to her straight. I told her exactly what happened and pulled the photo up on my phone. She said nothing at first but gave me a strange look then told me she did not want to see the photo and she was very sorry that I had seen Malcolm yesterday. I said to her I didn’t know how he could do such a terrible thing to her and she shouldn’t put up with it. I was outraged for her! She put her hand up, palm towards me and said,
‘Stop! You’ve no right to criticise Malcolm or judge my marriage. You know nothing about our private life. I wish it could stay that way but now I feel I have to explain something to you in order to keep my privacy. Will you promise to keep this absolutely confidential?’
‘Well’, I said ‘you know me, the soul of discretion. I won’t breathe a word’. Then she told me about the horrendous health problems she’d had a few years ago. Terrible operation which went badly wrong. Really everything was just a mess and Malcolm had been marvellous throughout. But it left her with no interest in sex at all.
‘I know, so sad. So, her and Malcolm have come to an agreement. He has a lady friend he sees from time to time, if you know what I mean and Lizzie and Malcolm carry on as before and they go on lovely holidays together and have you seen her new kitchen? Fabulous!’
‘What, should I have told you this? Oh my dear I know you’re just like me, the soul of discretion. I know you won’t tell anybody else, so telling you doesn’t count, does it’
Anyway, I’ve decided to put new nets all around now so I’ll just need to pop back to Chorley again next week. I wonder if I’ll come across that café again?
Last Updated on January 13, 2023