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(A short story of 3426 words)

Family Gatherings


by Carmen Nina Walton

Ahead of a visit from her returning sister, a woman considers the effect of her father on their family.

In the wedding photo on Ruth’s sideboard Mum is at the back of the crowd of relatives. I have to pick the frame up and bring it close to my face to see her there, behind Graham and Julie, slight with her hair cut short and that pale blue dress she liked so much. Da’s at the front of the picture, bold and bluff with pink cheeks and his paunch, standing where the best man should have stood if Da had had any decency, which he didn’t. The photographer tried to tell him but he’s not a man for taking advice he didn’t ask for.

‘I never get tired of looking at that photo.’ Ruth takes it off me and wanders over the faces with smiling eyes. ‘Ahh, your Mum.’ Her face crunches up with sympathy. ‘I wish she was here now.’

‘Me too.’ How I wish. It’s good of Ruth to have us all round for Adele’s visit. She has a big house and a big heart and she knows it’s what Mum would have wanted.

Ruth’s eyes zoom in on Da in the photo and she pokes him in his belly and frowns. I nod in agreement and she replaces the photo frame precisely over the space it left in the dust. ‘I know he’s my brother but.’ She stops. That’s what everyone always did when it came to Da; they stopped. Fear of rousing his temper, of him hearing from miles away, the way a dog hears a fridge door open. Fear of the repercussions for my Mum. But Mum’s not here anymore and all that silence never did her any good...

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