Price Of Love

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

17th February 2017
Dear Dave,

I don't have long to write this, an hour at most. Ben and Susie will arrive home at three from their dad/daughter crisis bonding/diving trip and you'll be arriving tonight. I won't be able to talk to you in private and even if I could, I don't have the guts. I've always been a coward; hiding from what's real, running from anything too demanding and taking the easy road. So I'm writing you this letter, which I probably won't have the courage to give to you.

There are two main things I have to tell you.

I've been diagnosed with cancer (the outcome as yet I don't know, but the last two weeks have thrown my life into sharp relief - what was blurred is now crystal clear; what was unspoken now needs to be heard.)

And this brings me onto thing two: you are Susie's father.

There. It's out.

I could just chuck this in the fire and be done with it, but there are too many what ifs. What if I die? What if I never get the courage to speah this truth again? What if you die, never knowing? I'm pretty preoccupied with death. I've been walking, every day, trying to put as much distamce between me and the words of my doctor as I can, but of course, I can't walk away from it, however hard I try. At least the walking keeps me fit.

You may have suspected. Did you? Have you never noticed that amber glint in her eye; that captured sunset that comes straight from your own eyes? Her hands are your elegant musician's ones and she plays guitar just like you do. Her spirit and her gung-ho attitude to life are yours, too. And of course, the way she clashes with Ben.

I'm sure of this. There is no maybe, no possibility I got it wrong. That summer, the one I've always thought of as yours and mine, is what gave me Susie. Although Ben and I had been together for two years and everyone - including us - thought we were right for each other, that day I met you changed everything.

I don't know why we'd never met before. It's hard to remember now. I know you they thought of Ben as the golden boy and you the bad apple, the firstborn son who'd never got on with his new daddy or his new baby brother, the son who got pushed out of the nest by my dad; the boy who became a rebel. I'd heard about you from Ben - he adored you and I know you adored him, in the end. Somehow, depsite the mess with his dad, your stepdad, you adored each other. Ben followed your every move; wanted to be like you. Which is why your stepfather pushed you out, becasue the last thing he wanted was his son to turn out like his half-brother. A year you'd been gone when I met Ben. All he had to say about you were kind things; compliments and stories of times you'd stuck up for each other. He loved you like a real brother, not a half-brother.

When I met you I was prepared for a bad lad, a hell-raiser or an untrustworthy drug-addled wreck (the stories that reached me weren't always good ones) but what I saw, I was completely unprepared for. You and Ben were alike enough to be full-brothers but where his face was rounded and gentle, yours was angular, somehow medieval and sharp, with a smile that still haunts me, even now. You took my breath away. That old cliche, but it actually happened. I was 2o and I'd never experienced anything like it. I was lost for words, breathless, the whole tongue tied teenage thing.

Nobody noticed, except you.

What possessed us to try and have a family holiday, all together, I'll never know. I think it was Ben's idea. It didn't work, anyway. The arguments started and any hopes for forgiveness were gone. You were going to leave the next day, it had been decided, when you leaned close to me in the kitchen and said, 'meet me outside'. I'd been trying to ignore the growing electricity between us. Nobody noticed because they were all preoccupied with the ongoing family arguments. I was surprised it couldn't be seen - small sparks leaping between us whenever we were in the same room. The way you somehow managed to sit ext to me at dinner, and brush my hand against yours.

The way you looked at me.

If I could live my life again, Dave, I'd have gone with you. But I stood back and watched and you left and I found out I was pregnant and everyone assumed it was Ben's baby so I never had to say anything, least of all to Ben. After all, I couldn't be sure. At birth, she looked like Ben, but then so do you.

It wasn't until she began maturing I noticed the change in her features. They lost their baby roundedness and took on some of your angles. Her spirit grew and one day, during a row, I just knew. A feeling shot straight to the deepest bits of me - I knew she was yours.

I like to think you've wondered, before. I like to think you've felt a kinship with her above that of errant uncle who pops in every few years, when someone kicks him out.

When I stood at the altar with Ben, the life that would become Susie wriggling inside me, I tried - and failed - not to remember how it felt to be with you. I almost wished for you to come flying through that church door, yelling Stop! She's mine!

But you never even came. Thailand, I think you'd last been seen, hiding from some deal gone wrong.

With the benefit of years to look down, and this thing, this big C hanging over my head, I can now say I wish I'd come with you. But at the time, Ben was becoming a successful architect, we had money, a nice house, and a beautiful girl. Who in their right mind would give that up? Not me. I wanted security.

Now I want to have lived more. Not a day's gone by when you've not been in my thoughts. I remember your touch as if you branded my skin forever. That one stolen evening in the summerhouse when we could so easily have been discovered, altered my entire life.

Over the years youy've never looked at me properly again. I wish tonight that you will. Just once more, to take with me when I fight this demon. But look clearer at your daughter and know, she's yours. I wish you could have given her a brother or sister. I wish Ben could have. I'm not too old, but I'm too late to try again or who knows, perhaps I'd find another summer house and take you there again. Would I?

I don't know. These last two weeks have made everything matter differently. Turns out what I thought mattered most, doesn't. It's the stuff I didn't do that suddenly seems important.

I can hear a car pulling up outside.

I've got to go. I hope I find the guts to give you this.

I loved Ben more as the years went by; and always will. But I loved you first, even though I met you second. There's a bit of my heart that Ben never saw, that is yours to keep.



I've read the letter about a hundred times. It's creased, dirty, folded and refolded so many times that there are tiny holes in the corners of the creases.

This letter and I have a history.

Obviously it's from my mum. Less obvious is how I got it. I remember the day she referred to. Dad and I had been on a trip to try and get over our differences, in the light of Mum's cancer diagnosis. Breast cancer. Killed her grandmother; she was convinved it would come after her. (It didn't. She beat it off and lives still, slightly mad, in Scotland). We got in and wanted to tell her that her idea had worked. We'd sorted our differences and were going to stick together and that was that, happy days. Except she didn't look happy. Her eyes were red, she didn't seem that excited to see us and she looked blatantly guilty. When I came in the room I saw her shoving something down the edge of the sofa cushion.

I'm quite nosy and was worse back then, and I knew there were secrets surrounding me. I knew that whatever Mum was hiding, was to do with me. And that's when I did something bad. Dad had asked Mum to go upstairs with him - he'd bought her this ring and wanted to give it to her right away, in private. I rolled my eyes and joked that they were off for other reasons and Mum got almost cross; almost looked like she didn't want to go. Anyway, they went up the stairs.

And I went down the edge of the sofa cushion. I looked at what was there. I skim read a couple of lines and I stuffed it in my pocket. then I went to Mum's desk, folded another couple of pieces of paper up, shoved them in a matching envelope and put them down the sofa.

I watched Mum like a hawk all evening. When Uncle Dave called and said he was going to be late, she rushed off into the lounge, grabbed the envelope and threw it in the fire. She didn't see me watching.

That night I met my father. I saw what Mum saw. But it didn't change anything. My dad was Ben and it's only now he's gone, to the same damn demon that threatened my mum all those years ago, that I know what to do with it.

Dave's coming for tea tonight. Dave lived a crazy life, continued to do so util his sixties. He calmed down a little then, but lived alone with melancholy quiet as a housemate. We visited him often and I saw the occasional glance between him and Mum, but nothing more. They stayed true to Dad, right to the end.

So tonight I'll give him the letter. If he wants, he can go and see Mum, in Scotland. She's bonkers, in a benign, loving way, but then he always was, too.

I think they'll get on really well. And if I hear he has gone to see her, I'll try and visit at the same time. Perhaps, with nobody to hurt, the secret can be set free. And maybe I can lay my hand between theirs, and see how we fit together.