A pack of lies
“Oh, do you remember that” cooed Lucy’s mother whilst gazing at last year’s holiday snap in Tenerife. “Yeah” came the half-hearted reply from Lucy. Her long black hair uncomfortably covering her left eye as she looked at the screen. “Ohh take me back there right now” joked her grandma, who was perched on the edge of Lucy’s chair, making her feel even more awkward about the situation. They were making their annual family calendar together. Not something Lucy would ever choose to participate in, but was forced upon her by her mother, and grandmother.
“Just use that one then if you like it so much” came Lucy’s spiritless suggestion. She didn’t even like the photograph. She couldn’t help but notice how her pale white body stood out amongst the sun-kissed tanned bodies of the rest of Tenerife.
“Oh, but I’m not sure, I liked the other one of us in the bar as well. What do you think” Lucy’s mother asked her grandmother. “Well, I like the one in the bar because Lucy is smiling there isn’t she.” Laughed her grandmother. Lucy didn’t see the funny side, two hours they’d been musing over photographs. The photographs which portrayed a somewhat happy life. The fake the life. You know, the one you show people to make them think you have had a great time. The photographs don’t show you that the holiday in Tenerife was in fact two weeks after her grandpops had died. Her mother and grandmother had seemed to let that slip their minds too.
“Well, we could use the bar one for July, and the beach one for August” said her mother looking pleased with herself for coming up with a solution. “What do you think Lucy? Do you think the bar one is ok for August, or should we change it for the one at the water park, or maybe the one…”
“I don’t care” interrupted Lucy very abruptly and with a hint of aggression. “I don’t care what goes in the stupid calendar.” Lucy had reached braking point. What wasn’t helping matters was the howling dog that was constantly ringing in her ears, it’d been howling for days now.
“Well, there’s no need to be like that” her mother shot back. Her grandmother didn’t speak, she just sat looking hurt. “We’ll leave it there shall we”. With that, her mother began to shut down page after page of photographs on the computer. And that’s when it caught her eye. The picture. The photograph of her mother and a man Lucy did not recognise.
“Go back one” she demanded.
“Go back, what?” her mother stalled.
“The picture. Go back to the picture, the one of you, and that man”
Her mother and grandmother exchanged glances.
“I, I don’t know which one you mean Lucy.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. The one of you and the man who was wearing the white shirt. The one that was on the screen literally two seconds ago” said Lucy becoming increasingly impatient.
“Oh, I think that was an old friend from work, it’s nothing. Just an old picture” explained her mother nervously.
“It was him, wasn’t it?” quizzed Lucy referring to her father. She had never met him. Her mother refused to talk of him. She didn’t even know if he was dead or alive. No one would talk of him.
“If you are referring to your father, then no, Lucy, it wasn’t him. Now I think it’s time that I went downstairs and started tea.”
Her grandmother was equally as quick to make her excuses to leave . “Yes, yes, my eyes are hurting from staring at that screen for so long. I don’t know how you kids do it” her grandmother exclaimed.
With that her mother and grandmother rose to their feet and left Lucy sat bewildered. She had never quite understood why her father was such a mystery. What was her mother so scared to tell her? Was she ashamed? Embarrassed? Scared?
The photograph had remained etched in Lucy’s mind all evening. As soon as she had seen the photograph, she knew it had to be him. Her mother’s and grandmother’s reaction certainly played a big part in her presumption, but she also had that feeling. Some might refer to it as ‘gut instinct’ or like a sixth sense. She just knew it was him. She couldn’t remember from the photograph exactly what he looked like, but he was handsome. Very dark hair like Lucy and very slim and pale.
Lucy began to make her way downstairs. The dog’s howl was really intensifying and she wondered how her neighbors could possibly put up with that noise all evening. As she approached the kitchen, she noticed the door was ajar. Her mother and grandmother sat across from one another at the dining table. A cup of tea in each of their hands and very stern, low whisper filled the room.
“You’re going to have to tell her” uttered her grandmother “she deserves to know the truth. Besides, it’s only a matter of time now isn’t it?”
“It’s too complicated” protested her mother, “she wouldn’t understand, I don’t even understand. I just know I have done what I can to protect her, and that’s what mother’s do isn’t it? They protect their kids. Not throw them into the danger”. Lucy leaned closer, eager to hear her grandmother’s reply, but she accidently nudged the door causing it to creek loudly. She turned and fled back to her room, her grandmother and mother so engrossed in what they had been talking about were completely unaware of her eavesdropping.
That night Lucy tried to process what she had heard. A million questions swimming through her brain. She somehow managed to fall into a restless sleep. By the time she awoke in the morning she felt even more exhausted than when she went to bed. She’d had this feeling before. It usually came after she had experienced the same reoccurring dream. The one where she was being chased. But in the dream she never found who or what was chasing her. Sure enough, last night she had that dream again. She seemed to remember the dog’s howl playing a significant part in the dream, but put it down to the fact that the same dog had been howling constantly now for days.
She yawned and stretched and ran her hands down her face, allowing them to come to rest on her lap. That’s when she noticed her finger nails. They were covered in dirt. She felt the heat rise through her body but at the same time her neck went cool and prickles of hair stood on end. This wasn’t the first time this had happened following that dream. She hurried to the bathroom and began scrubbing her nails.
Her mother was downstairs and her grandmother was still here. She could hear their muffled speech as the water rushed over her fingers. She thought about confronting them, but she had learned over the years that her mother would only hide even more information from her. The more she tried to find out about her father, and her past, the less she seemed to learn. She had never really developed a close enough relationship with her mother. She didn’t know why but neither of them allowed themselves to become ‘too’ close.
Lucy decided the only way was to again to attempt to listen in.
“We’ve got to tell her. Today” insisted her grandmother. “You can’t hide this forever, she’s a bright girl, and besides, she might well, be, well like him”
“Don’t say that” cried her mother. “I can’t do it, I won’t do it, I’m just going to have to deal with the other problem. Get rid of it somehow?”
What on earth was her mother talking about thought Lucy. “Who am I” she whispered to herself fighting back the tears.
“I’m going now” said her mother in a panic.
Lucy backed up a few steps on the stairs, out of reach of her mother’s and grandmother’s eyesight, but close enough to listen and follow them if she needed to.
“You’re not thinking rationally” spat her grandmother. “just calm down and we can talk about this. Talk about it with Lucy.”
“No” said her mother “I’m going. It’s going. It’s the only way to deal with it”.
With that her mother grabbed her raincoat from the hook and made a grab for the front door. Her grandmother stood for a moment shuffling from one foot to another, then decided to follow.
Lucy bolted downstairs. It was now or never. Her grandmother had somehow managed to catch up to her mother as they both made their way across the garden and down the steps towards the garage. Lucy had never seen her mother use the garage before. Since she was only a little girl it was a forbidden place, out of bounds. Lucy had never really questioned why. Just looking at the derelict remains, it wasn’t a place a young girl would ever want to venture.
She heard the old iron shutters slide up and that’s when she realised the howls, the barking, the yelping. It was coming from inside her garage.
Lucy didn’t even think about it, she raced towards the open garage door to see her mother and grandmother stood arm in arm over the creature. It was some sort of dog or wolf. It looked to be in terrible condition. She quickly took in her surroundings. On the wall were photographs of her mother, and a man. The man. The man from the photographs. Her father.
Her mother and grandmother gasped when Lucy’s shadow fell on the ground besides them.
“What is this? Why are you keeping this dog here…it’s chained up, look at its hair. It’s disgusting. Why, how, why are you being so cruel?” Lucy was panicking now. Why on Earth would her mother chain up a dog in a disused garage. A creature she was never meant to know about?
Lucy looked closer at the dog. Her mother was reeling off some sort of explanation but Lucy couldn’t hear. Her brain was whirring around too quickly. She recognized the dog. There was something about him. Her dream. His eyes. Those were undoubtedly the eyes from her dream. The one where was being chased.
Her grandmother broke her gaze. “If you don’t tell her, then I will.” Yelled her grandmother. “Lucy. Darling. This is you father”.
Lucy took a step backwards. Such a small sentence but a world of information hit her like a train.
The dreams. They weren’t dreams were they? They were real. She closed her eyes. The dirt under her finger nails. The howling. The lack of photographs of her as a child, as a baby. She was the same as him. She could feel it in her bones. The lies. The deceit. The rage. The anger. The inevitable.
Three weeks after Lucy’s world had been tipped upside down, she overheard her neighbor as she walked passed the window of the cottage. “It’s always the quiet ones isn’t it, those poor poor ladies. And to think no one knows where the girl has gone. It’s tragic.” Lucy smiled and licked her lips relishing the memory of that fateful night. Her father hobbled alongside her as they set out for their new lives together. As they reached the top of the hill where Lucy once belonged, they both let out a long, deep howl.