Today I wanted to give some new life to my original short stories from 2018. My very first story was about a guy stuck in a snow drift who came across a potential romance. From there I went on to build a book of short stories of varying length. This is an extract from my shortest story, about parenting.
My head still ached from two nights ago but I was happy to get up and spend the day with her. Sizzling bacon greeted me when I got downstairs and mum seemed attentive as she poured me a coffee and suggested I take a few paracetamol.
‘How does it feel to be an adult?’ she asked.
‘Same really,’ I replied honestly.
‘Two day hangover, haha. Well today we can just relax and see some wild animals up close.’
‘Yeh, I haven’t been to the zoo since I was little.’
‘I remember taking you when you were six.’
On the road, mum played my favourite music and I was able to chill out and let the world pass me by. The sun was striking through the wispy clouds in shards and mum seemed happy driving but slightly quieter than usual. It took me back to all those occasions when, as a child, she had ferried me around to cubs, from football matches and between friends’ houses. She had always been there for me and never let me down. We always had a day close to my birthday when it was just me and her, mother and son time. She had kindly funded a private party for me and 30 friends on Thursday to celebrate my 18th and now was my turn to hang out with her. We had always been close and I knew that soon I would be off to uni and leaving her on her own. She would be alright but I reckoned it would be hard at first for both of us.
We queued for tickets and were soon inside, wondering past monkeys, watching a tiger stride around its glass framed grassland and trying to spot chameleons which were camouflaged magnificently in a tiny jungle. After a while mum wanted us to get our lunch and we opened our picnic not far from the giraffe compound. From where we sat, we could see a tall, majestic giraffe looming over the other animals, munching on leaves which it had grabbed from overhanging trees.
‘It is great being here again, mum.’
‘ I love this giraffe,’ she said.
‘Apparently he was an orphan when they got him,’ I told her.
‘Well he has been well looked after by the zoo.’
‘Yes, he has been here since I was born, according to the sign.’
‘Hehe, that is why I chose here. He is as old as you…well…maybe just a little older,’ she said.
A group of tourists filtered past and we fell silent for a moment or two, munching on egg sandwiches and sipping Ribena. The whole thing was beginning to feel like a school trip now.
Suddenly the bench seemed remote. A drop in the crowd led to a more stilted conversation. Mum got a sudden burst of confidence. She lifted her head and looked into my eyes. I had never seen this side of mum since grandad died. Her hand seemed shaky as it lay on her lunch box. She gathered her words into some very composed sentences which would eventually change my entire outlook on life.
I gulped as she began slowly.
‘You know you mean the world to me, Matthew.’
Her using my full name indicated the level of importance that this conversation must bring.
‘Of course, mum. What has happened. Is it Nan?’ I felt like I knew that it wasn’t but needed to at least check.
‘Nan is fine. It is about me… and you’ her words lingered and her face flushed.
‘What is it? Are you unwell?’
‘That giraffe was brought here because it had no family. It has grown up into a formidable beast. Everyone comes to see it. It is incredibly popular.’
At this point, my mind still did not join the dots.
‘Eighteen years ago you came to me. The best thing that had ever happened to me. A single woman wanting desperately to bring a child into the world. Then there came you.’
She was being all dramatic now.
‘But I could never have children of my own. My uterus didn’t grow properly. You came to me as a gift.’
My head was whirling round. Had I been a miracle?
‘I love you very much indeed. Your real mother was dying when she gave birth to you. I had the honour of bringing you up for her.’
My heart stopped.
I was adopted.
AD – Thank you for reading my extract and please check out my book on Amazon. It is available at no extra cost using Kindle Unlimited or for 77p.