Positions Of Power

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

1st December 2017
Power is a slippery thing. To hold on to it you have to do all kinds of slippery things. One wrong move, and it's gone, sliding out of your hands - the more you try to hang on to it, the more it runs away. This is a story of how power can shift, and how the nature of it can change, in the most subtle of ways.

George had been the sort of boy who kicked over other kids' sandcastles on the beach. He grew into the kind of man who deflated his children's castles in the air, with the needle of his words.

I wasn't part of his life after the school day finished. He wasn't in my circle and I didn't want him to be. Nobody I was friends with made little kids cry. I could see straight through him. Charm could be switched on when he needed it; he talked teachers round, girls round, his parents round. The quicksilver of his words slid off his tongue and fooled everyone. Except me. I could see though him as if he were made of glass.

He was loved; there is no doubt about that. Adoring parents who indulged him; friends who sought him our for daring derring-do. He had a succession of girlfriends, all of them glamorous, all of them well-to-do. I watched from a distance as he worked his way through school, then sixth form college, then work, landing a management position in our local supermarket where he quickly gained the reputation as a bully yet one that people were still anxious to please. I kept away, even doing my shopping in the next town so as to avoid him.

I've always had good instincts; growing up with a widowed mother I had to have them, or the amount of time I was spending on my own would have seen me get into all sorts of trouble. George tried it on with me once, after school, on the way home. I metaphorically elbowed him in the face with my words, and earned his contempt - disguised as making fun of me - for the rest of my school days. The truth was, I made him vulnerable, and saw him for who he truly was. He worked very hard to make sure he never got rejected, and I rejected him, with a flash of words. It was a hollow victory though, for I became less popular as a result.

And then we became related. I tried to put my son, James off marrying his daughter. I tried so hard but of course the more I tried, the more determined he became. They were soulmates, he told me. Look at our names, Mum, he said. It's a sign. We're twins from a past life. Coincidentally, both George and I had married late and our children were the same age, much younger than our friends' children. They became an item in the fourth year of school so I wasn't worried; I was convinced it wouldn't last.

But it did. And I was forced to face George at family gatherings, funerals, and finally, and worst of all, my son's wedding. His daughter and I got along well enough. After she became my son's fiancee I had to work at it or I'd have lost my son. I used her name more. Jane. She was little and pale and plain and - if I am honest - lovely. But I didn't want to belong to her family. His wife came from a different town; he'd worked his way through most women and eventually, none of them could stand his need for control and his bullying ways. people still sought him our for friendship, he still had his cool exterior; it was still better to pander to him than become cast out from his affections.

I was icy to him when we met, though my smile. My husband was supportive of me once I explained everything, and he was cold towards him too. And George's wife? She was much like her daughter. I got to know Jane first and could well understand why she was as she was. Wouldn't say boo to a goose, my husband said. her mother was no different. Entirely in George's thrall. I struggled to like her, seeing how she gave in to him, over and over. When George became area manager and then managing director of the whole supermarket chain and travelled more, I saw her change, become more herself instead of the muted version she was whilst her husband was in town.

I thought nothing would ever be any different, but then George started behaving oddly. Forgetting things. Getting up in the middle of the night. Leaving the car in weird places. I suspected long before anyone else in the family, having been a carer for years, I knew the first signs. George had dementia.

'James,' hurry UP!' I shouted at my husband. The pains were getting more frequent; I was losing it. James was terrified, didn't think I was strong enough, worried about me. I knew this because I'd overheard him on the phone to his mum. She's lovely, his mum, but I know what she thinks of me. She thinks I'm a mouse. I know she didn't want us to get married.

I screamed as another wave of pain hit me and my husband rushed to the front door where I was hanging onto the handle, holding myself up. He had my bags in one hand and the car keys in the other. He helped me down the stairs and to the car.

The next eight hours were a blur of pain and screaming and gripping on to life as my body split in half and for a few precious seconds, I became two people before our daughter was born. James paced and held me and rubbed my back and cried when finally, she made an entrance to the world.

'And no pain relief,' he said, in wonder. I hadn't wanted any; wanted to feel every second of it. (Later, lying exhausted in bed, even though it had been a 'quick' birth, I wondered at my stubborness, hugged myself for it).

James cried as he held her. I watched him and thanked God I'd met him, this twin soul of mine. Nothing mattered now; we had our family.

The following I took a breath before calling home. Now that Dad was formally diagnosed he was behaving more strangely than ever. Putting things on, you could say. Shouting more than usual; bullying people just a little more. I didn't want him here just yet. I had my new tiny family and they were all I wanted.

Thinking about him had always been difficult. He'd stamped on my individuality from an early age - I only knew this because of the secret therapy sessions I went to. I'd not even told James about going. As I stared at my daughter, lying sleeping in my arms, I knew I'd do everything to bring her true self out to the world.

When I eventually called home, my mother cried. Dad pretended to forget who I was. When they arrived at the hospital Dad called our daughter 'Jane' repeatedly. He cradled her and told her how much he loved her, something he'd never said to me, at least, not in my memory.

He shook James' hand, and then asked him who he was. The most frightening thing about this was that this time, I didn't think he was putting it on.

The day we took our daughter home was the day we named her; Helen. A strong name, for a girl we'd support and encourage.

'I don't want to go,' I said, aware of how like a petulant child I sounded.

'It's his birthday. We have to go,' Jane said, whirling Helen into her coat, tickling her as she fastened the zip. My wife was a different person these days. To the world, she probably didn't look much different but there was a new fire in her eyes that I didn't recognise. I loved it, but it was a little frightening.

I sighed and grabbed the pram from the cupboard, placed my daughter inside and buckled her up. It was a short walk to the care home. By some weird and interesting coincidence, Mum had started working there the week my father-in-law was admitted, after becoming a danger to himself and his wife at home. He didn't know anyone, now, because if he did he'd have protested at the fact that his son's mother sometimes had to clean him up. Funny how life turned out.

I didn't want to go because George - who in life had been a difficult, bullish man - had become an even more difficult bullish man in his second, almost after, life. Because he didn't remember anyone he was equally angry with all.

But when we arrived, it had got even worse.


They think I don't have a damn clue who I am. they're wrong, so wrong. I am somebody in this town. I've had them all working for me, at one time or another. I've slept with them all. I remember these people. I am George Morton, father of one, manager of Sainsbury's.

They think I don't have a damn clue who I am. They better look after me. I am a somebody in this town.

They think I don't have a damn clue who I am. I'm their boss. All of them. We might not be in the supermarket anymore, but they work for me. They must come when I shout.

They think I don't have a damn clue who I am. They think I don't know my own family. They think I can do nothing. In my head, it's all here. I am...

They think.

There are people here to see me. A woman I should know but it just won't come. A baby. A toddler? A man. Hello, they are saying. Hello Dad, hello Papa. This makes me not want to speak. I've woken up in the wrong body. I turn from them. This is all wrong. I want them to go away. I call the nurses, the ones who work for me.

And one appears, and I know her! And this is awful because if I know her and know who she is she is, in fact, my boss. I try to hold onto this thought because there is a key there to why I am here, in this place and not at home.

They think...

I do not know. I do not know.

Time passes. I don't know how long but one day a man and a woman come and a child. A walking, talking child who laughs in a tinkly voice.

I'm in my bed. Why am I in my bed? I try to move but my arms won't obey.

I'm afraid.

They think... I think...

One day I wake and they are all there, all of these faces that I don't know. There is something...something I should... they're not even words anymore. Just thoughts.

I am sorry. There is a picture of a small boy, kicking something on a beach.

I am afraid. Don't they understand?

They think...

I want to tell them, I'm wrong. I am just a boy, just a boy who was afraid to be on the other side. Afraid to be the one who built the sandcastle. It's easier to...

They think... there is so much I want to say, but it is just pictures, now. My mouth won't say the words.

They smile at me but they are tired, forced smiles.

I am sorry, I want to say. Can I try again?

Can I start again?

They think...

I am not like that, I want to say, and now, lying here, I see everything I've done. I see everything I've...

I'm sorry, I want to say.

I was afraid.