The Fathers, the Sons and the Anxious Ghost – Extract

Today’s Blogtober post is an extract from my debut novella, ‘The Fathers, the Sons and the Anxious Ghost’ which is about three families that are turned upside down by a tragic loss. The fathers tell the start of the story and the teenagers carry it on, ten years later as they try to unpick things.

“Mummm!”

I wished he would give it a rest.

“Dadddd!” he went on.

It made me wonder why his mum never answered. I was too busy trying to get knots out of Tess’ hair.

“What’s wrong now?” I replied anxiously.

Alfie stormed in with a red face and swollen, angry cheeks.

“I can’t find my football socks anywhere!” he announced.

“Try under the bed,” I said, trying to remain calm and de-escalate his crossness.

“Ouch,” squirmed Tess softly, as I caught yet another knot.

She was always so relaxed. She never let anything get to her. She was ten times cooler than Alfie, whose hot-headedness got him into scrapes—left, right and centre.

He stormed out again and slammed the door to his room. I winced and hoped that he could find those damn socks, or we would never hear the end of it. The clock was staring at me and reminding me that we hadn’t got much time left. I went to find Michelle.

The distant noise of a bath filling, coupled with an aroma of scented steam made it obvious that she would not be coming this morning. When we woke up this morning, she told me that she had had a bad night’s sleep, and her headache was back. Women use headaches as excuses to get out of things, but this was not like her! She always liked to be involved in school-related stuff. She loved the banter between mums. Her favourite thing was pricking her ears up and listening intently for any titbits of gossip that she could soak up from the gaggle of parents, who would usually surround her on that packed and bustling playground. Maybe this time she was actually feeling a bit sick. Quickly I realised I should attend to this in a sympathetic, understanding way. After all, she had cared for me, like a private nurse, when I had man flu last Christmas.

“Are you alright?” I tried, gently.

She turned off the tap to the bath and opened the window slightly to let out some steam.

“Have fun today. I bet the assembly goes well.”

I could tell she was not feeling very well. She kept holding her head; sort of wiping her brow as she spoke. I had not seen her look like this for a long, long while. Thinking back, I should have realised that this was out of the ordinary for her. Instead of prying further, I left her to it, planting a quick kiss on her forehead and then rushing down the stairs.

Alfie and Tess soon followed, and we collected our things and burst out into the driveway, where they ran to the car; Alfie calling shotgun as usual to make sure he got to sit in the front passenger seat. I asked if he had kissed his mum, and he simply said the bathroom door was shut. Tess went on to say, “I hope Mummy gets better soon because I want to go swimming later.”

When we got Tess off to class, and I had signed Alfie in, I went to find a seat next to someone I barely knew and sent Michelle a text. Quickly I switched off the phone and tucked my coat under my chair. I gave a slight nod to Matt as he rolled in, just in time. The lights came on and that teacher did the introduction. It did not cross my mind that today was going to turn out so black and dismal and full of anger.

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