As I looked out of the window trying to think of what to do and where to start first I saw a flash of light, fireworks were going off to celebrate the new year. I was unaware of what was happening at first, thought I was just dreaming like everyone else. It started when I was 13, it was the night before Christmas. The dream felt so real, like I was there. I remember waking afterwards and wondering if it actually happened or whether it was just a really vivid dream, I was just a child then or at least I felt like a child.
I was in a bed with a window with no curtains and a man came in and told me to get dressed and pack a bag, I remember there was shouting and tears from another room and just as a door opened I woke up to the sound of mum shouting downstairs.
“Lilly come and open your presents!” I heard, and I couldn’t get dressed quickly enough. I ran down the stairs and as I reached the lounge mum was sat crossed legged on the floor with a large parcel in front of her. It was wrapped in gold paper and on it was written ‘To my darling daughter with love to my princess’ she pushed it towards me. I smiled and ripped off the paper gently and as I opened it realised it was Casio keyboard, I gasped when I realised what it was. Mum must’ve been saving for ages for this, I knew how expensive these were and I was going to treasure it.
Thinking back to then I now packed the Casio carefully back in the original box, the familiar smell of the box reminded me of being told how to look after things. I cannot believe that was 10 years ago, it was still in immaculate condition, and I’d promised myself I would look after it and that was what I’d done. I picked up a picture of mum and I stood at the Arc de Tiomphe and smiled to myself, a treasured moment of before mum got ill. We did loads of travelling around Europe and that’s how I wanted to remember her, when she’d told me about her cancer I had told her that I’d wanted to travel and spend as much time as possible with her so she suggested we go away and we packed up and left our apartment in New York and started with London. So here I was in the apartment clearing it out, I couldn’t handle being here anymore I could still smell her and couldn’t stop crying so had made the decision to move after being alone here for nearly ten months.
It hadn’t happened suddenly which is why I couldn’t understand why I was so upset, we’d both expected it. The doctor had told her it was terminal nine months, three weeks, three days and four hours ago I’d come home from work to find her sleeping on the sofa but she never woke up. I broke down and cried for three hours before I called the doctor, I couldn’t get my head round not seeing her again. I called into work and told them what had happened and they were understanding, they told me to stay off as long as possible. I worked in a record store, the money was awful but I loved my music so much so it was easy money and they were really flexible knowing about my situation.
I went and stayed with a friend for a couple of nights as I couldn’t go back to the apartment knowing it was empty, then when I did finally go back I started to sort out mums bedroom. That’s when I re-read the letter that mum had left for me which made it sink in more.
I’m really sorry to leave this all to you to organise, my funeral and all the problems along with it. I did organise as much as I could whilst I was ill, the funeral is paid for and all you have to do is call the solicitor and they’ll advise you what to do. I did try and tell you all this, but as you remember you wouldn’t listen.
She was right, I remember it well.
“Honey we have to talk about when I die.”
“I know but now is not the time.” There was never the right time and I hated talking about it, and now it was happening I wished I’d listened.
Everything is done and organised and paid for, there is still money left over that your grandmother left me that is in my account which the solicitor will also sort out for you. I want you to use this money on travelling Lil, I would love you to go to California. I know that’s your dream and you could do some music over there, I know you’ve been writing music and I think you should focus on that and our happy memories.
Also I need to speak to you about your birth father and his side of the family, as you well know there was just you, me and your grandmother. I know we’ve spoken about this before but I have specifics that I would like you to know.
I’d had this dream again, the one of being in a room again but with no curtains but this time I was older and there was no one else in the room and I was crying.
“Mum do you ever have dreams where you feel like it’s really real?” She looked up at me over her bowl of muesli.
“I’ve had dreams where I think it’s actually happened and it hasn’t, is that what you mean?”
“Kind of, when I was thirteen these dreams started. First I thought it was just random dreams, but they seem to be telling me a story. Stop me if I sound a bit crazy!” She smiled and looked at me intently listening to what I was saying.
“The first one was when I’m in a room and a tall grey haired man ushers me out , I’ve also had dreams where I’m in different bedrooms lying awake, at first I thought I was dreaming about someone else but then I looked in a mirror in a dream and saw myself, or at least I thought it was? Then I had dreams of arguing with an older man with long hair, and one was my sat asleep on a coach…” before I continued I noticed that my mum had gone white, like she’d seen a ghost. I’d heard that phrase but never imagined it meant a person actually went white, but she was actually white.
“Does this man have an accent of any kind?” She asked like we were talking about someone we’d just seen on the street.
“Possibly an Irish accent.”
“Oh dear lord.” She ran to the toilet and I could hear her being sick. I’ve just told my mum that I’m having strange dreams and she’s being sick.
“Mum are you ok in there?” I was stood outside the door with my hand on the handle poised about to go in and check on her. The door opened and she breezed out, smiling but looking pale.
“Lillian, I think you should sit down there’s something you need to know.” My stomach lurched, I had that feeling that something about this conversation was going to be about my father? Since she’d discovered about the cancer she’d been acting strange, she wouldn’t let me go in her bedroom alone and she’d devoted her time to being on the internet a lot and whenever I’d asked her what she was doing she’d shut up the laptop and say nothing.
I sat on the sofa and looked at her, she did look rather pale and wondering whether it was the cancer she must’ve read my mind.
“Now before you ask I feel fine with the cancer, but there’s something you need to know.
I swallowed hard.
“This is really hard for me, because I’ve only just accepted it myself so I’m going to tell you and you’re probably going to find this hard but you have to accept it.”
“Ok.” I sat crossed legged on the sofa hugging a cushion.
That’s when she told me about my birth, there were complications and I knew that I was a twin but mum had said that my twin sister died during the birth. So that wasn’t a surprise, but I’d asked about my birth father a few years ago and mum had said that he lived somewhere in America but he was British. Mum was American, she was from New Jersey but when she fell pregnant her and my father had come to blows and split up. When I was born I was born in his sisters house where the doctor had said that my twin (Rose they’d called her) had died in the birth. My mum took me home and never spoke to my father again, although she did send him letters of what was happening in my life and pictures of me growing up.
He’d never replied to these letters but mum kept sending them and she’d sent them to his sisters house, as she thought it was fair and she had also told him about the cancer. A few years ago he turned up at our apartment in New York demanding to see me, I had been out at school and mum had told him to go away politely and managed to get rid of him and that was when she’d decided to do the travelling. It wasn’t hard to convince me to go away, I was being bullied in a school that I hated and all I wanted to do was spend all my time with mum. She’d just been left all grans money so we just lived off of that, and I got part-time jobs sometimes where we stayed. We started in London, then after a month went to Paris as that was a dream of both of ours, I remember spending the whole plane trip reading a French dictionary and phrase book wanting desperately to fit in. Mum had found me English schools wherever we went, it was unsettling especially as I had to re-take exams when we went back to London but I managed to scrape through and get a few good grades. I was doing song writing a lot of the time and spending time as a loner, I didn’t have many friends but the friends that I did have were good ones. A lot of kids in school picked on me because of being in a single parent family, so one day I asked about my father and that’s when mum had told me. I remember being so upset about it, about being that close to meeting my dad and not getting to see him.
“He had been violent in the beginning and I didn’t want to bring you up in that environment, I’d been close to his sister and she’d been there for me and quite a few times I would stay with her and her husband and they were extremely understanding. The thing is, she couldn’t have children so before I gave birth to you I was going to let her bring you both up and then I changed my mind when I saw you, so adorable a little bundle of pink baby.” She smiled like it was a close memory. So we were all upset when we discovered that little Rosie didn’t survive, but we had a funeral and that’s when I moved over to New York with you days after and never heard from them ever again until the day when Richard, your father turned up at our apartment that day.”
She had a sip of water and the thought of everything had sunk in.
The last time I saw your father was when I found out that my cancer was terminal I wanted to get in contact with him and tell him, and also to get his contact details and leave them with you when I die. So using the internet I found his details, he’s living in San Francisco with his wife and 2 children. I emailed him and he was shocked but said he would love to see you, and he’s sorry and a changed man. I so desperately wanted to tell you this, but I’ve been feeling so poorly lately and haven’t had the energy to accept it let alone tell you but there’s something else.
I read the sentence four times after with tears building up
Your twin sister is still alive.
I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks.
She’s living in New Jersey with your fathers sister Susan.
You were born minutes after Roseline and unfortunately I thought Roseline had died or rather Susan lied to me. I’ve since found out that that Susan has brought up Roseline but changed her name to Lydia, I know it’s a lot to take in but what you’re thinking about right now is how I felt when I found out.. Everything you need to know is in a folder marked Beth in the wardrobe on the top shelf.
I remember seeing that and thinking it was grans paperwork as Beth was her name, I’d put it in with my paperwork but I’d never opened it! I was angry at mum for not telling me the truth whilst she was still alive, but I pictured her frail body lying in bed the night before she died wondering if she was going to make it another day and felt a pang of guilt for being angry with her.
I put the letter down on the counter and went to the drawer and pulled out my paperwork file and the folder was tucked into the back of it, I pulled it out and emptied it. There was a picture of my mum pregnant, sat in a car with a guy with his hand on my mums stomach. I turned the picture over and it read ‘Richard and Jayne June 1984’, this was my father. I looked at the picture more closely and realised I could see my eyes and nose in his features, tears were still rolling down my cheeks but I didn’t care. I turned back to the letter and continued reading.
I have my own suspicions about what happened the day you were born, whether Rosie was taken by Susan or whether your father was involved but I’m leaving it up to you whether you would like to know or not. Your father knows and he and his sister fell out years ago after arguing over it, but it was quite a bad argument as they’ve not spoken since and she moved to Texas.
Once again my darling, I’m so sorry to burden you with all this and I hope you will find peace and decide the right thing to do. Hope you enjoy your life as much as I did, and hope you’re happy in whatever you do.
All my love,
Your mum always xxx
So not only have I got to get my head round the fact that my mum has kept this from me but I’ve also got to accept that I have a twin sister living in a different state thinking that she’s someone completely different! I looked through the paperwork and read out loud my fathers address and the last known address for Susan Jeffers, his sister.