The Silver Lining

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Chapter 3 - Zoe

Dear darling Zoe,

I suppose you have found this letter in the wake of my death. It feels strange to be writing this knowing I will not be around at the moment you are reading these words.

You are the most wonderful daughter a mother could ask for. I feel so lucky to have made such a perfect person. You were the ray of sunshine in my life. The one thing that kept me going during my darkest of days.

I can’t believe I won’t be around to watch you grow up. To meet your future husband or hold my future grandchildren. No matter how sad you feel now, know this feeling will not last forever. Let it pass quickly, so you may get on with living your life! I will never forget you, and I will always love you. I hope after I tell you what I am about to say, you will still love me too.

I am so sorry. I have been keeping a secret from you. I hope you are alone before you read on.

Your father is a bad man. A man you need to stay away from. I have reason to think he is responsible for many killings. I know this will come as a shock, but I need you to be wary. I did not have the strength to confront your father, and I am begging you to not confront him either. He is capable of horrendous acts. This I know first-hand. As my dying wish, please obey this instruction. Rid yourself of him and start a new life.

I love you so much,

Mum x

The letter trembled in my hands. My father was a bad man, a killer? Why had my mother never spoken of this before?

Suddenly, I heard footsteps creaking up the staircase, and I knew I needed to leave. I stuffed the letter into my pocket and fled past my father, calling to him as I hurried, “I have to leave, I forgot I need to be somewhere, sorry!” I didn’t stay to hear his reply.

The front door slammed on my way out. I frantically opened my car door and ignited the engine. I paused momentarily to glance back at the upstairs window. The figure of my dad stood, watching. After wiping my wet eyes, I pushed the car into first gear and drove off.

All the way home, my ears filled with the drumming of my heart. My limbs were but mere mechanics as my mind was hijacked by my emotions. I felt elsewhere, otherworldly.

Somehow, I made it back unscathed and parked up. The sky outside was transitioning to dusk, awash with burnt orange and cobalt. My hands still gripped the steering wheel as all the heat from the car evaporated. I don’t know how long I sat there like that - not knowing how to use my limbs or mind for action. Eventually, I pushed the car door open and ambled to my property, forcing my feet forward.

Inside the salvation of my own home, I flicked on the hallway light, and it buzzed yellow. I sank into a heap on the floor and uncrumpled the letter once more. I could feel my heart quickening and breath racing.

What was going on?

How could my mother believe her husband was a murderer? How could my mother believe my father was a murderer? The same man who taught me how to speak French and how to play the guitar (albeit badly). The same man who defended me against bullies and told me everything was going to be alright when I didn’t make my grades. My head swam with confusion. Nothing made sense. It was only then that I realised I’d left the jacket in my haste, sprawled out on my mum's bed like a deflated ghost. I wondered what he thought when he saw it.

That night, I went to bed with sore eyes that were empty of tears. I tossed and turned for hours, replaying my mother’s final words, final warnings. Eventually, I drifted off. Even then, my mind wouldn’t let me rest. Images flashed constantly before my closed eyelids. I dreamt of my childhood. I could see my parents laughing and canoodling at Christmas while they prepared dinner. I was smiling at them through a slight gap into the kitchen as I played with my new toys. Festive music sang dimly in the background, and I could feel the warmth of the house.

My dream skipped to the evening. The house felt chillier, the table cleared of food. My mother was slurring her words, saying things I didn’t understand. Without warning, my father grabbed her by the throat. So hard her drink spilt down the sofa, and her eyes grew desperately red and wet. Her hands frantically pulled at his fingers. No words could escape her lips. Her breath faulted and her gaze glossed over as if she was about to lose consciousness, but then footsteps interrupted them.

His hands leapt from her throat. Face empty, he hurried to straighten her appearance before sitting her back down. My mum began wiping the sofa down as the living room door gently swung open. I tiptoed in, sheepish and tired. I curled up on the sofa and started watching the TV, acting completely oblivious to the scene prior.

My body woke in revolt. Was that a memory or a nightmare? I could never remember my father laying a finger on my mother. Could I? They had a great marriage.

In the light of the morning, I had an urge to retrace my past. No better place to start than photo albums. I scattered my family’s life across my wooden floor. From baby pictures to holiday snaps, it was all there. We looked like a normal family, didn’t we? I needed a second opinion.

Despite the early start, my best friend Vivienne came to me within twenty minutes of my phone call. “I’m looking through photographs of my mother. It feels bloody depressing all on my lonesome. Join me?” I pleaded. I’d already texted her about my mum's death the day before. She knew how much I needed her.

“I’ll be there with your favourite Starbucks in less than half an hour.”

Viv was the very definition of loyal and true. If anyone could help me, it was her.


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