The Sad Truth
Short Story – By Guest Author Angela Clapcott
Audio Version Play
The phone was ringing as Janice stepped out the shower, who on earth could that be so early in the morning she thought……
Adam, her youngest son sounded unusually quiet, could he come and stay for a few nights he had asked.
Of course, that was no problem, but why? why would Adam need to stay with her, he had a perfectly good home, not ten minutes away, and Jill his wife looked after him well, in fact, she was lovely, Janice was very fond of her.
She shopped for extra food and made up the bed in what was once the boys’ room, but was agitated all day, puzzled by his unusual request. He had sounded very strange on the phone and offered no explanation.
As soon as Adam stepped into the hall with his bag Janice bombarded him with questions. He looked tired and drawn, and it was obvious he hadn’t shaved that morning, in fact, she couldn’t remember him ever looking so awful.
“What is it Adam, has something happened at home, I’ve been worried all day”.
“Sorry Mum, can we leave it a while, I’ll explain soon, but at the moment I need to get my own head around this”.
She assured him he was always welcome, the explanation could wait until he was good and ready to tell her……
“Take a long slow soak in the bath and dinner will be ready when you are,” she said, gently guiding him through the door to the stairs.
Janice had never felt so uncomfortable with her youngest son, he was the one always solving other people’s problems and would be there taking over and getting everything under control. He had a great sense of humor and was always smiling, but this young man upstairs was far removed from the boy she knew and loved.
Adam had never really been any trouble not even at school, going in and out of puberty almost unnoticed. Of course, he had a few smacks and tantrums like any other normal child growing up, but she had always thanked God for her good fortune.
Even Mick, her eldest, had been easy and uncomplicated, but very serious, always with his head in a book. Mick was closer to his father and they spent a lot of time together watching sport or taking long walks by the river. Nonetheless, all three males in the family had been great friends.
That evening they ate dinner in silence, Although Janice could barely keep from questioning him she had to remind herself that he was a man now, she could not pry too much into his life. She didn’t want to drive him away, which would serve no purpose at all so she remained patient.
However, by 9 o’clock as he was about to go up to bed, he turned to her, tears welling in his eyes,
“It’s not true you know”, he cried and as he crumpled back into his chair. Janice put her arm around him.
“She’s pregnant Mum, and the word is it’s mine”.
“Adam!”, she jumped back falling against the cabinet, “What do you mean pregnant? Who’s pregnant?”.
“Laura at the office, the little typist, I often give her a lift home. She’s pregnant and she has somehow let out that it’s my child and that we’ve been seeing each other”.
Janice was staring at him, why would she make it up, has Adam, her son, been carrying on behind his wife’s back.
“Now Adam, be honest with me, why would this Laura make up a lie without reason; have you been seeing her?”
Adam was angry, he leapt to his feet making for the door, “What do you think?”.
She didn’t sleep that night, she could hear him moving about in his room, and several times she stood outside his door tempted to knock and take the discussion further but thought better of it.
Janice must have slipped into a deep sleep around 5 am and was woken by Adam as he knocked loudly and walked in with a tray of coffee and two cups. This was so like him, and for a moment she forgot yesterday’s worries and sat up with a smile,
“How lovely, Adam”.
He poured her coffee and handed it to her, he looked less agitated.
“Mum I’m sorry, bringing my worries to you but can I stay again tonight. Jill’s told me not to go back to the house. We have to work this out together, she must believe me, but at the moment there’s nothing I can say that will convince her I’ve never slept with Laura, in fact, I’ve never kissed her”.
Thinking aloud, he went on “I may have hugged her occasionally, she’s always having trouble with one romance or other and I’ve often consoled her, but more like a sister, I don’t even think of her in a sexual way. I knew she was pregnant, she’s quite far gone, about seven months I think”.
As she looked at him, she could see the worry on his face; he suddenly looked older than his thirty years.
“Have I been that naive, should I have read something in the situation?. Even with the guys making sly remarks to me, I didn’t catch on”.
Janice had never had reason to doubt her son’s word before, why should she now, but why did she have this feeling of doubt in the pit of her stomach, was he lying perhaps even to himself!
“Mum. Whilst I’m at work, could you telephone Jill and have a chat?, tell her I’m staying with you”.
Normally she would have given him a hug and planted a kiss on his cheek, but today was different, she didn’t know what she felt. She said she would speak with Jill and then without getting out of her bed, said goodbye.
Janice telephoned Jill that morning with a heavy heart, what was she to say. Jill was abrupt but Janice could hear the pain in her voice, and she briefly explained that Adam was staying with her temporarily, and if there was anything she could do to help, Jill was just to ask, assuring her that the door would always be open for her and little Sophie.
She then phoned Mick on his mobile. Janice never liked to contact either of the boys at work, but she needed Mick’s opinion. She also knew how close the two boys were and that Mick would want to do all he could.
“I don’t believe it,” he said, “Adam, loves Jill and little Sophie too much, they’re such a great couple, why would he do something like that. They’re so strong together, not like Melanie and me, we fight all the time.”
He assured her that he would arrange to meet up with Adam for lunch that day and help sort out this terrible mess Adam had found himself in.
As Janice was having lunch the doorbell rang, and Jill was on the doorstep. Her eyes were red and swollen. She looked so sad, as she dumped a large case in the hall.
“I’ve packed most of his clothes, can you take them in, please. I suppose he’s told you the awful truth or has he lied to you as well?”.
Janice gathered her daughter-in-law in her arms “oh Jill, I’m so sorry, I can’t believe this is happening, surely Adam wouldn’t do such a thing, you’ve always been so happy, he wouldn’t jeopardize that, would he? he adores you and little Sophie. Where is she, by the way?”
“I’ve taken her to my mothers for a few days, Adam will have another child soon, let him adore that child. I can’t bear to think he’s been sleeping with that girl, probably all the time I was carrying Sophie”.
Jill blew her nose and tried to stop the tears.
“You know Janice, the more I look back, the more I can see it, working late into the evenings, working weekends, it all adds up now. Wendy down my road, say’s she saw him once, about six months ago, with his arms around some girl, I laughed it off, I’ve always trusted him. What a fool I’ve been!”
As she sobbed, Janice led her into the lounge to the settee, and handing her a box of tissues, said
“Just sit there and I’ll make a cup of tea”.
In the kitchen Janice tried to think of excuses for all the extra time Adam was spending at work, convincing herself that he couldn’t be guilty of these terrible accusations.
After Jill had composed herself and left the house, Janice had a strange feeling of Deja vu. She could remember quite clearly when she was about thirty-five her mother-in-law had been sitting in that same room weeping just as Jill had, pouring her heart out about her husband. He’d had an affair with his secretary for many years and she, it appeared, was the last to know about it. Not long after that, he had left the family home to start a new family with this much ‘younger’ woman.
Janice could remember feeling disgusted with her father-in-law and sympathy for that lovely lady whom she grew very close to over the years. They never saw him again and Greg, her husband, had never forgiven his father.
Please God, don’t let history repeat itself.
She was thankful that as a family they had always been close and when Greg had died they remained so, comforting one another after their sad loss, even her daughters-in-law, bless them, regularly visited her because they wanted to, not purely out of duty.
Was all this to fall apart, would Adam of all people be the cause. What would Greg have said, he would have been so disappointed in his youngest son.
How well do we really know our own children? thought Janice.
Before Adam came home that evening, Mick had telephoned his mother.
“Adam certainly is low Mum, he can barely talk to me about it, in fact, I can’t say I’m any the wiser. I really don’t know what to believe.
Before Janice could answer he continued,
“I’ll try and meet him again tomorrow, in the meantime, Melanie is going around to Jill’s to show her some support”.
Adam slumped in the chair as soon as he was home.
“There’s a terrible atmosphere at work, most of the men are avoiding me, and of course there are sly innuendoes. It’s awful; I just don’t know what to do. Jill won’t answer her phone to me and I’ve left loads of messages, I’m desperate to see little Sophie. I never miss a cuddle in the mornings……she’ll miss me too I know”.
Suddenly Janice felt very angry.
“Adam, first things first, has Laura actually told you the baby’s yours?”
“No” replied Adam, surprised by his mother’s tone, “but she seems to have told everyone else. I couldn’t confront her as she’s not been at work today. I thought about going round to her house but couldn’t face her family, how sad is that. I’ve done nothing wrong; at least I thought I hadn’t. Am I really that stupid, did I misread all the signs?”
He put his head in his hands,
“What a nightmare, I always thought he was so innocent and when she told me she was pregnant I felt sorry for her, she is so young and I wanted to protect her, but only as I would with our Sophie. I can honestly say it never once occurred to me that Laura had designs on me or would even be so conniving”.
“Come on Adam, it’s time to be positive”, said Janice. “If you are sure this child is not yours, then you must prove it to everyone. The first move is to confront Laura and her parents, and I’m coming with you.”
Adam had always dropped the young typist off at the corner of her road and was surprised to see the state of her house. The front garden was strewn with old scrap cars, old bicycles, and general rubbish.
“This is awful”, he said. “It’s such a slum, I had no idea”.
He felt angry and knocked loudly at the door which immediately set dogs barking inside. They stepped back instinctively not knowing quite what to expect when the door opened.
Two terriers leapt out yapping and sniffing at their heels, followed by a very pregnant young girl. She was wearing only a housecoat and her feet were bare, her face was very pale and her hair drawn back into an untidy bunch. She looked about sixteen, thought Janice.
The young girl was surprised to see them, and averting her eyes from Janice, put her arms out to Adam, “Please take me with you”, she cried, falling against him, but before Adam could react, a large man in his forties, clad in vest and jeans, all non too clean, followed her out and behind him came an equally unpleasant-looking woman.
“Do you know these people Laura, is this him?”, shouted the woman.
“Please don’t make a fuss, Mum”, whispered Laura.
With that, the man, who Janice assumed was the father, grabbed Adam by his shirt collar.
“So it was you been carrying on with our girl”, he shouted, pulling Adam down the path, and before anyone could protest, he landed a full blow on Adam’s chin. As he stumbled back he caught his head on the iron gate stop and slumped to the ground. It all happened very quickly. Adam didn’t move.
Both Janice and Laura rushed to him.
“What have you done”, shouted Janice, kneeling over Adam, and seeing a small trickle of blood seeping out from beneath his head.
Keeping her cool she quickly searched through his pockets locating his mobile. She dialled 999 for an ambulance and as they waited she did her best to make him comfortable. Meanwhile, Laura stood by shivering and whimpering, “I didn’t mean any of this to happen, she sobbed.
On her arrival at the hospital, Janice contacted Mick, who immediately joined her and they waited nervously for news of Adam’s condition.
After what seemed like hours, the doctor came towards them looking very serious, Janice held her breath clutching Mick’s arm.
“At the moment your son is still unconscious,” said the doctor as he introduced himself. “It seems he has slipped into a coma and apart from monitoring him very closely, there is nothing more we can do short term. All the relevant tests have been done I can assure you, but apart from a small gash to his skull, we can find no other injury or reason why he should not have come around by now. Sometimes when a patient is comatose, it gives the brain time to heal itself, so please don’t be unduly worried at this stage”.
He patted Janice gently on her shoulders, “You may go in and see him now if you like”. Mick said he would phone Melanie and ask her to contact Jill, “She should know what’s happening”.
“Of course she should”, replied Janice as she followed the nurse to Adam’s bed. She took her son’s hand as she sat in the chair provided. Adam looked so peaceful, as the doctor had said, there were no signs of injury, and apart from the oxygen mask and a small tube connected to his hand he could have been sleeping…
Jill and Melanie arrived an hour later, and Janice allowed Jill to take over the bedside vigil.
Jill insisted on sitting with Adam throughout the night, she was very distressed, and despite everything, she still loved him very much. The others waited outside, drinking numerous cups of coffee, afraid to go anywhere and praying that Adam would wake soon.
Nine o’clock the next morning the doctor once again said there was no medical change at all in his condition, and insisted the ladies all went home for some rest…
“He will need you when he does come round, but I am sure it will be quite some time now before this happens”.
Mick said he would stay and contact them immediately there was the slightest change.
However, two weeks later, they were still visiting Adam’s bedside, talking to him, playing familiar music, reading aloud, anything to try and bring him back to them, but he lay motionless.
Janice would relieve Jill, and as she sat holding Adam’s hand one evening, it took her back to the time she had sat with Greg. He’d had a heart attack and she had held his hand as he quietly slipped away. She remembered how terrible it was to lose someone you loved and couldn’t bear to think it could happen again. However would they cope should this happen to Adam?
As time dragged by they became increasingly worried. There was no change in Adam’s condition and it was apparent the hospital was concerned by this.
Going into the third week, Jill arrived at the hospital, carrying little Sophie.
“I had an idea that Adam might respond to Sophie, I know I’m clutching at straws, but it all seems so desperate. I’ve heard the Specialist talking quietly to the doctor about Adam and they were looking very troubled”
She had wanted to protect her daughter from everything that had been happening so she and Sophie had moved into her mother’s home, for the time being, thinking it wiser not to take her into the hospital.
Janice was delighted, it was lovely to see the little one again.
As Jill placed Sophie on the bed beside Adam, she gurgled away “da da, da da” she repeated, gently touching his cheeks with her tiny hands, then she snuggled her face close to his and closed her eyes. She lay there with him for a while, she lay very still and they were amazed at her behaviour, it was as if she was aware her presence could make a difference.
Janice saw it first, a slight flicker of an eyelid, and then one finger slowly moved. She called out excitedly startling poor Sophie, who started screaming.
The doctor was in the room immediately.
It was not long before Adam was gradually regaining consciousness, and by the end of the day he was smiling and working very hard at moving is limbs, finger by finger. His lips were moving slowly but made no sound.
The doctor assured them it was quite normal for speech to come back gradually, it may be necessary to have a therapist to help. Adam,’s recovery would be slow and he was to be kept quite calm for the next few days, he also suggested that Jill stayed with him and the rest of the family go home.
It was such an exciting moment, Janice gently kissed him and agreed to take Sophie to stay the night with her. She would then visit for an hour tomorrow with his daughter, after all, it was Sophie who had made the final breakthrough.
Another week in hospital and Adam was allowed home with instructions to remain quite quiet with no unnecessary exertion.
Janice felt sad she could not take him home with her and nurse her son as she did when he was a small boy, but of course, she knew these were just selfish feelings of a mother. She would, however, take little Sophie whenever they asked to give Adam a little quiet.
During Adam’s time in hospital, the police had arrested the man, who was, in fact, Laura’s stepfather, but he had been released pending further enquiries into the assault.
One morning, however, about a week after Adam’s return home from the hospital, Janice had instructions to contact Mick and Melanie and all go round the house, the police had news of further developments.
They gathered in the sitting room, and as the police officer sipped his tea, he began by saying that they’d had a visitor at the station the night before…
“Laura had crept in like a frightened rabbit, poor little thing, she was very heavy with child and was in such a state we had to call the police medic to her. Anyhow, to cut a long story short, this stepfather of hers had been abusing her since the age of twelve, and it finally progressed to rape. She said it had been happening regularly as she had grown older. By then she was so frightened of him and his threats that she couldn’t tell anyone.
“She did say that she had tried to say something to you, Adam, she said you made her feel safe, but she was afraid you’d be disgusted. She felt very ashamed and somehow thought it must have been her fault for letting it happen. Men like that have a way of convincing their victim it is their fault”.
As he put his cup down, he went on to say,
“The awful part of this story, of course, is that this monster is the father of her child. She insists she has never slept with anyone else. In fact, I think in order to cope she fantasised you were her fellow and the baby was yours”
They were all horrified but, of course, relieved that Adam’s name had been cleared.
“What will happen to him officer?” asked Adam, trying to keep calm.
“What about that poor girl, how will she manage?”, added Jill.
“We’ve got him locked up and she will testify against him. Her mother is no help to her, it seems she was aware of what was going on all along, but just turned a blind eye, she was more concerned about losing him than protecting her daughter” said the police officer and then added,
“Our social worker has managed to find a nice lady who will take poor Laura in until the baby is born. Then an adoption will be arranged, there is no way the poor girl would want this baby under the circumstances.
“It’s all so tragic”, said Jill, and turning to Adam with tears in her eyes, added
“I wouldn’t blame you Adam, if you turned me out now, I should have believed you when you explained how busy you’d been at work these last few months. You were always honest about giving your typist a lift home every day. I’m so sorry, can you forgive me?”
“I would like to get my hands on that bastard stepfather of hers”, remarked Mick, “What a nightmare it’s been for you two”
“Well it’s all over now”, sighed Janice, “we just want Adam to recover fully, and he and Jill can get back to normal, they have a lot of making up to do”.
She hugged them all in turn, and with tears of relief in her eyes, made her way to the door.