To coincide with my new collaborated book’s launch tomorrow, 23rd December, I’ve updated the cover on my first book ‘Tissue of Lies’.
I have made it clear it’s a new cover. See the blurb on the Amazon purchase page. For those who haven’t read it, I’m including the ‘look inside’ pages.
It was Tuesday, March 29th. The gusty winds, howling and roaring through the trees, showed no signs of abating. Oblivious to the gale force winds blowing outside the house, Julie Simpson sat inside her home shocked to her core.
Drowning beneath a torrent of disjointed and unspeakable thoughts, she felt lost. Only fragmented words or phrases broke through as she fought desperately to block them out. It was a futile effort.
Tears engulfed her as she lost the battle, and finally breaking down, she wept uncontrollably as the enormity of her discovery hit home…. My whole life is a lie!
“Oh God!” the words escaped her control, rasping out past the painful lump in her swollen throat.
Remaining seated, she picked up the magazine that lay in her lap and re-read the offending article—the cause of all her present anxiety. Her hands, taut and half clenched, gripped the magazine tensely as she read. Her bone-white knuckles bearing testimony to the deep emotions this now familiar story evoked in her.
The pitiful story, of an event which happened many years ago, told how a young mother came out of her dentist’s treatment room to find her baby daughter missing.
The mother had left the infant in the waiting room of the dentist’s surgery and, foolishly perhaps, had asked a young lady just arriving there to keep her eye on the sleeping child. Her consultation with the dentist over, the mother had been horrified to find both the young woman and the baby missing.
She’d been frantic naturally but, despite the police being involved and years of searching, the child had never been found. The young woman who’d taken the baby didn’t even have an appointment.
Julie thought about her own twin daughters as babies and her sympathy went out to the mother. She had to grudgingly admit she’d been forced to leave her babies sometimes, just for a few moments.
It happened once when the aisles of a particular shop were too narrow to accommodate her wide twin-buggy. She’d had to leave the sleeping infants just inside the more generous entrance while she’d hurried in to make a purchase. Her doctor’s surgery door also presented difficulties. That was before she’d met Lyn, she was another mum with children and now her best friend.
She thought about Lyn now and how they’d met at the amateur dramatics club. Lyn with her long blonde hair and angelic face, who always looked so innocent yet, had everyone in stitches mimicking the prima donna of the group whenever she left the room.
It was cruel really, but her impressions were so good everyone just had to laugh. When she and Julie had chatted together that first time, they’d hit it off straight away and, much later, when they’d discussed the difficulties of shopping with young babies, Lyn had come up with an idea.
“We should help each other when we go shopping,” she’d suggested.
From then on, they did. Julie almost smiled remembering the fun times she’d shared with Lyn, but her attention was again drawn to the present by the magazine she was still gripping.
Reluctantly, her eyes scanned the page. A slightly blurred, large picture of the parents stared hauntingly back from the well thumbed page. Judging from the pictures, she guessed they were in their fifties.
What really drew her attention, though, was a clearer, well defined image of the woman taken when she was younger, probably around the time her child went missing.
This was the picture that said it all. Julie was shocked when she first saw it. In this photo the woman looked around the same age she was and her resemblance to the woman in the image was unmistakeable. Looking at that photo made her skin creep.
Instinctively, she dropped the magazine in her lap again. The movement was involuntary and happened each time she tried to scrutinise the likeness. It was like looking at herself in a pose and surroundings totally alien to her. Just as if it was her photograph but she couldn’t remember having it done. It was weird and sent cold shivers scurrying down her back.
She picked up the magazine again, but this time deliberately avoiding glimpsing the picture. Instead, her eyes focused on the text which by now she knew by heart owing to the fact she’d read it so many times already.
Bracing herself, she attempted to read it yet again, this time without tears making the words run together. She feared missing something which could throw more light on the situation.
The article described an incident that happened thirty one years ago. The young baby had been only a few weeks old at the time it was taken, and it was Arthur and Jeanette Pollard’s only child. They’d never lost hope that one day they’d find her again.
Although it wasn’t possible for them to give a description of how she’d look now, nevertheless, they were able to provide some information which might identify their adult daughter.
Feeling very close to panic, Julie took a deep breath and once again scanned the short list of identifying markers which described her exactly.
Blood Group O, rhesus-negative
Curly, ginger or reddish hair
Something grated inside Julie, and she winced slightly as she read that last piece of information. She’d always referred to her hair as a copper colour and, despite her growing panic and alarm, the idea of her hair being described as ginger both annoyed and dismayed her. She hated the notion of red hair even more.
Secretly, she’d always been proud of her hair, especially on a bright summer’s day when it reflected golden highlights from the sun, but she’d never accept that her particular shade of hair could be described as red. It looked nothing like red. In fact, no colour described it accurately but copper sounded so rich a shade that Julie was quite happy to describe her hair in that way.
Quickly exhaling the breath she’d been holding, she determinedly read on.
Small egg-shaped birth mark on her right shoulder
Again Julie’s breath caught in her throat as she remembered her own blemish. John, her husband, had made light of it, referring to it as a beauty spot when he first caught a glimpse of it hiding beneath her luxuriously thick, shoulder-length, curly hair.
“Look,” he’d said jokingly, “the narrow part is pointing towards your face, as if it’s telling me how pretty you are.”
They’d both laughed then but, despite her future husband’s compliment, Julie knew it was a birthmark not a beauty spot, and hers was most definitely egg-shaped. Her mother told her she’d had it since birth and it was much larger than any beauty spot.
“Oh dear Lord, mum!” she gasped.
Tears sprang to her eyes the moment she thought about her mother; great globules of hot liquid that stung her already tender skin, blurred her vision, and threatened to cascade down her raw cheeks yet again. Julie blinked them back in a vain attempt to stop them falling.
Too many tears had already fallen since she’d first stumbled on that article and what purpose did they serve? She knew the answer was none.
With one more monumental effort she struggled to regain her composure instinctively knowing she’d have to be strong for whatever the future now held, but she was only partially successful.
Hesitantly, she read on, her eyes falling on the piece that told how these poor young parents had already christened their daughter before she was abducted. They weren’t sure what name she’d now be using but they had christened her Julie.
Julie! Even the name was correct. It was all far too much of a coincidence: the age, the hair colour, eye colour, birth mark, blood group, and even the right name.
The features described in that article definitely identified her, and even if she’d held doubts about the worded description, they were immediately wiped away when she looked at the picture of the woman when younger. It was a mirror image of her. Julie was so much like the young mother the photograph could have been hers.
The belief she was reading about her own past re-affirmed itself each time she read the sad, tragic story and she’d now lost count of the number of times she’d studied it. Comprehension was way beyond her as a thousand thoughts vied for attention in her whirling brain.
If she was abducted as a baby, why was her name retained? How did her abductor, that stranger in the dentist’s waiting room, know what name she’d been given? Was it on her clothing or somewhere else? Perhaps it was just a strange twist of fate she was later given the very name she’d been christened with.
Julie felt dizzy…. In her confused state it was impossible to make sense of even the simplest equation, yet all these questions were begging to be answered. With a last determined effort to control her wayward emotions and conquer the falling tears, she fought back her rising fears. The enormous lump that had risen painfully in her throat finally subsided, and at last she was able to think things through more clearly.
Taking several deep breaths to aid and strengthen her fragile state of calm, Julie allowed herself several moments to wind down before allowing the thoughts, now assembled in a more logical fashion, to come through.
Long before Julie had stumbled upon that article, she’d been vaguely aware her mum and dad might not be her natural parents. Even though they’d never given her the slightest cause to doubt them, for some unknown reason she had.
It hadn’t been a suspicion based on anything concrete, but from time to time minor discrepancies had arisen. For instance, years ago, when Julie was a student, she’d read somewhere that couples who both have brown eyes like her mum and dad were more likely to produce children with brown eyes rather than the clear blue ones she was blessed with. Brown was the dominant colour and had been passed to both of Julie’s brothers.
She’d wondered why she was the only one with blue eyes and then just dismissed it. It couldn’t happen in every case. Surely there must always be the exception.
Yet, on occasions it had bothered her for not only was she the only member of her family with blue eyes, she was also the only one in the family to have her distinctive, copper coloured hair. The couple she knew as her parents both had dark, almost black hair when they were younger. Although they were now both grey, both also once had the very same shade of hair as her brothers.
She’d asked about it once but her mum had brushed her fears aside, saying, “Do your friends’ families all have the same colour hair and eyes then?”
Julie had to admit they didn’t. Nevertheless, these things still worried her periodically, mainly because it wasn’t just that Julie looked different from the rest of the family, on top of her different appearance she also had a different type of blood from them. She’d found this out purely by accident and quite recently too.
She’d learned about her own blood type when she was having the twins and a routine blood test was done. Hers was blood group O rhesus-negative and, at that time, she had no reason to suspect her blood might be any different from that of her parents.
She came across this revelation sometime later. It was just after she and her husband, John, had bought her mum and dad their little retirement home. It had really been John’s idea to buy them somewhere warm and easily run and her parents finally chose a charming little cottage. It was all olde-worlde charm on the outside but tastefully modernised on the inside. The abundance of yellow rambling roses around the door and the tiny windows had been added attractions for the retired couple.
“It’s a dream home,” her dad said when he first saw it.
“All centrally heated so it’s snug and warm; just what you need at your age,” John said approvingly after they’d finally agreed to let him buy it for them. “It’ll put our minds at rest knowing how much easier life will be for you now,” he added.
“It’s a huge improvement on our present draughty home,” Julie’s mum said with feeling.
Her parents had never owned their own home before having always lived in rented accommodation, so Julie’s big hearted husband had thought it would be a nice present for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. This gesture was typical of John’s generosity to those he loved.
Julie made the blood type discovery when she was helping her parents sort out their possessions in preparation for their move into the retirement cottage. On her mum’s instructions, Julie was sorting out the contents of the bureau drawer when she’d come across their old blood donor cards. Both her parents had been regular blood donors when younger.
They too were blood group O but they were both rhesus-positive. Neither of them was rhesus-negative. Even then, it meant nothing to her as her knowledge of blood groups and hereditary genes was practically negligible. Yet, something at the back of her mind, possibly her sixth sense, caused her to wonder if they could really be her parents if she was rhesus-negative and they were both rhesus-positive.
Throughout the years she was growing up, Julie had sometimes thought about her Auntie Pauline who was her dad’s youngest sister. Auntie Pauline had the same blood type as Julie and though they were very different in looks, their personalities were very similar.
In fact, her mum often remarked on this especially when Julie pulled a certain facial expression or said something particularly witty.
“Oh you’re just like your Auntie Pauline!” her mother would exclaim, and she said it so often it had set Julie thinking…. Perhaps Auntie Pauline was really her mother.
There was one other curious fact that had intrigued Julie over the last few years and seemed to substantiate her theory about her auntie. Since Julie had become a mother herself, she was aware of the problems that could arise in childbirth if the mother’s blood type was rhesus-negative.
Often, the first child was anaemic but lived. Sadly, consecutive babies often died as a result of rhesus disease as it was familiarly called. This was where the rhesus-negative mother developed antibodies to her rhesus-positive baby.
It happened if the first baby’s blood mixed with her blood. The antibodies in the mother took time to develop, so although the first baby was usually delivered safely, the mother’s antibodies attacked further foetuses.
She’d been told her Auntie Pauline lost the first baby of her marriage through rhesus disease. She thought this was unusual, and it made Julie wonder if perhaps her auntie had already had a child before marriage, a healthy first child who’d not been affected by the disease. If this was true, that baby could have been her.
Knowing how much of a stigma it was to have an illegitimate child in those days, Julie could easily imagine that baby being given away to an older brother and his wife; her mum and dad who already had two boys and would eagerly welcome a baby girl.
Once she’d started thinking along these lines, it hadn’t been difficult to find other circumstantial evidence to back up her theory.
Yet all these secret thoughts were no more than vague fantasies germinated from tiny snippets of information she’d gleaned while growing up. Making no sense on their own, she’d strung them together with other fragments of information she’d learned about her auntie’s life. Then she’d elaborated them weaving her own romantic history, supposedly to help her make sense of things she didn’t understand.
This made her content, and enabled her to forget the little discrepancies that arose from time to time. For the most part it worked and Julie rarely thought about this part of her life. It only surfaced occasionally, but even then she wasn’t troubled by it, feeling only a kind of obscure sadness that she could never talk about it. If it was true, it was obvious no-one wanted her to know, so she’d never spoken about it. Fearing she was being over fanciful was another reason to remain silent. After all, it had been a long time ago, if it had happened at all, and she’d always been happy with her mum and dad, real parents or not.
However, one thing that didn’t fit into Julie’s comfortable theory was the birth of her own twins. She knew that twins were supposed to be hereditary, and yet she wasn’t aware of any other sets of twins in her family.
To be certain, she’d made a point of discreetly asking everyone. There were none and John was also adamant there was no history of twins in his family either, so she’d then also began to have doubts about Auntie Pauline being her mum too.
She’d once jokingly expressed her doubts to her friends during a coffee morning. They’d been horrified to see she doubted her parentage, and they’d tried to convince Julie that the trait of having twins had to begin somewhere. Why not with her?
Seeing how logical this argument was she had to agree with them and her anxiety was subsequently pacified. Yet it never disappeared completely, underneath the surface there was always doubt.
It was only now, after reading that fateful magazine story, she’d begun to take her doubts seriously. She was quite shocked to realize there may be something in her imaginings after all. The formerly held notion of her Auntie Pauline being her biological mother somehow lost all credibility compared to this very real and deep conviction now taking over her senses.
What if her mother was really this stranger in the magazine? The more Julie re-read the article, the more she was convinced it was true.
The ring of the front doorbell interrupted her thoughts and Julie hurriedly dabbed at her eyes before answering it. Thankfully, it was only Lyn. Her friendly smile froze instantly on seeing Julie’s obvious distress.
“Good heavens! What’s up?” she inquired, becoming concerned as her gaze fell upon Julie’s puffy, tear-filled eyes.
“I’m glad it’s only you;” Julie sighed, greeting her and beckoning her in. “C-come inside…’ I can’t talk here.” She led Lyn back to the sitting room.
Knowing from past experience she could confide in her, Julie showed Lyn the article. After what seemed an eternity, but in reality were only a few minutes Lyn had read the article. She raised her eyes to meet Julie’s.
“You mean this is about you?” she ventured.
“Yes, I really think it is. Can’t you see the resemblance in that photograph?” Julie jabbed her finger at the offending picture.
Lyn examined the likeness again and conceded, “Well, yes, I suppose so, but Julie, are you sure?”
“Everything points to it; I always suspected I was adopted or something. You must remember me mentioning it.”
“Oh, but you weren’t really serious were you?”
“I made light of it because it was only a suspicion. I never had anything to go on but now, I just know there’s something in this,” Julie said with conviction. “You know twins are supposed to be hereditary and yet there aren’t any other twins, neither in my family nor in John’s. I always wondered how that could be, If I did have other parents then that would account for it, wouldn’t it? I’ve been over that story countless times and I’m convinced that missing baby was me.”
Lyn was thoughtful for several moments before speaking again, “Well, if what you say is true, where does that leave your mum and dad? Surely you can’t believe it was your mum who abducted you? Yet, if it wasn’t them, then who?”
Lyn knew Julie’s parents, Dora and Bill, and she thought they were a loving, caring couple. She couldn’t believe they were capable of doing such an outrageously wicked thing. The two friends were quiet for a while each lost in their own thoughts.
Finally, Julie spoke, “I’ve really got to get to the bottom of this but I don’t want my mum and dad to know what I’m doing. I don’t believe for one moment they did anything wrong, but if I am that couple’s daughter, then I have to find out who did abduct me… and why?”
Although Julie was finding it hard to understand how she came to be with her mum and dad, her instinct was still to protect them.
“Promise me you won’t breathe a word of this to anyone,” she pleaded.
Lyn’s honest face comforted Julie. “You know you can rely on me. My lips are sealed but what about the twins? If they find out, you won’t be able to stop them giving the game away to your parents, intentionally or otherwise.”
“Leave the twins to me,” Julie said, already planning her moves. “I’ll sort something out.”
“What do you intend to do?”
“I think the first thing I should do is visit the library, try to find out about blood groups and hereditary factors. It’s time I knew the truth once and for all.”
Lyn nodded her agreement. “You could look it up on the internet,” she added.
“Our computer’s playing up at the moment. It keeps freezing so I can’t use that and John’s taken the laptop away with him.”
“You can always use ours,” Lyn offered.
“Thanks, but the library will be fine. Besides, I have to make sure neither the twins nor your Beverley see my research.”
Lyn looked thoughtful for a minute then concerned for Julie she warned, “Have you thought about how this may turn out, though? You don’t know what secrets you might uncover. It could end up being very unpleasant for you and your parents if you go behind their backs.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be careful. I’ve just got to know the truth.”
Unable to deter her friend from the path she’d already designated for herself, Lyn finally left. Their conversation had clarified Julie’s thoughts and alone once more, she carefully laid her plans.
Although she was reluctant to start anything which might lead to trouble, there was still a driving inquisitiveness buried deep within her. She just had to know one way or another no matter how it might turn out.
John, her husband, would be home in a couple of days and he’d know what to do, but there was no way she could sit and do nothing until then.
It was imperative she knew what she was up against before she could ask for his help and support. After all, she had nothing tangible yet to show him. Despite that, Julie somehow knew she shared something with these strangers, perhaps for some inexplicable reason she just wanted to have some connection to them.
Whatever the reason, she felt some unaccountable magnetic bond was present between her and this tragic couple, and it was drawing her, compelling her… to seek them out.
Glancing up at the ornate pendulum clock in her sitting room, Julie panicked when she noticed it was a quarter past three already. Her daughters were due home from school so she’d have to postpone her trip to the library until the following day.
She resolved to get there early and spend most of the day there. Now she had a plan to help her find the answers, she was feeling better already.
Closing the magazine and forcing herself up off the chair, Julie went into the kitchen to prepare something for the girls to eat. They were always hungry when they came home from school, and today would be no exception, regardless of the way she might be feeling.
When the large estate car carrying the twins appeared, Julie was already standing at her open front door anticipating their arrival. It was cold and damp, and the savage winds whipped up around her skirt as she waited for the loaded vehicle to stop.
Carol Wilkinson, another mother who shared the school run, stepped quickly from the driver’s seat pulling her coat snugly around her. She opened the rear passenger door so the excited children could spill out and then saw Julie coming towards the car. Carol was a fellow member of the amateur dramatics club Julie went to.
“Hi! Don’t forget we’re having a dress rehearsal next week; you’ll need to bring your costume. Have you finished it yet?” Carol shouted above the windy blasts.
Julie was right next to her now so there was no need for her to shout. “Yes, it’s all done. I finished it last week. What a job I had to get the bustle right, and Lyn had problems with hers too. Whose idea was it anyway to put on a play of that period?” she moaned wryly.
“Never mind,” Carol sympathised, knowing full well no matter what show they put on, someone always did have trouble with the costumes. Then, noticing Julie was coatless and shivering, she advised her, “You’d better go in before you catch your death out here.”
Carol got back in her car with the rest of the children. and Julie quickly ran the few steps back to her house to get out of the wind. The twins ceased chatting to their friends through the open passenger door and, hugging themselves against the bitterly cold winds, hurried behind her. Julie waited at the door for them to catch her up.
“I’ve been chosen for the swimming gala,” Lucy called excitedly as she skipped towards the house. Her long fiery hair, so like her mother’s in both colour and style, bounced wildly about her in the wind.
“I’ve been chosen too,” Karen shouted, equally enthusiastically.
“That’s good!” their mother responded half heartedly, trying to work up some enthusiasm for her children’s achievements in order to cover up her own unsettled mood.
Rubbing her crossed arms and shivering, Julie stopped her children just inside the front door, hugging first one and then the other as they squeezed past her through the open doorway.
Like two peas in a pod she thought proudly gazing after them; her mood was beginning to lift.
Friends had often asked her how she could tell them apart, and she had to admit to them how difficult it had been at first. The hospital had supplied each twin with an identity wrist-band when they were born and a wise nurse had suggested she leave them on until she was quite sure she could tell them apart.
It had taken three weeks. First she began to recognise their very different cries; Karen’s always seemed much more urgent. Then later, she noticed Lucy seemed to be the active one, the first to smile, to sit, to talk and to walk. Soon there was something in their facial expressions, indiscernible to everyone except her and John. Eventually, others in long term contact noticed it too.
Closing the front door firmly against the wind, Julie followed the twins down the hall.
“The gala’s next week and I’m doing the breaststroke,” Lucy continued as she struggled to take her coat off.
This proved to be a difficult task as she was still holding onto the bundle of papers given to her by her teacher and which contained all the latest school news. As Lucy’s hand disappeared inside her coat sleeve, it jammed solid amid the sound of rustling paper.
Regardless of her earlier mood, Julie was unable to stop herself laughing at Lucy’s predicament as the child struggled to free herself.
“Here give that to me,” she grinned, making a playful grab to retrieve the sheaf of papers from Lucy’s sleeve so she could then remove her coat. The papers were rescued before they got too crumpled, and once they’d been read they were carefully put away for future reference.
The twins’ cheerful banter about the forthcoming swimming gala did much to prevent Julie dwelling too much on her own problems that evening, for her attention was concentrated as usual on their needs.
Everything once again seemed hectic and busy. The children had to be fed and then she had to make preparations for the following school day. Karen and Lucy’s class were going on a special outing to learn all about Victorian schools. This had been arranged by the school some weeks ago and the twins were eagerly looking forward to visiting the Victorian exhibitions and particularly seeing the slates the children used to use instead of exercise books. Soon Karen and Lucy’s topic of conversation changed from swimming to how things were in days-gone-by.
Despite the extra trouble of providing the twins with a packed lunch, the diversions were welcomed by Julie who was grateful for a respite from her own narrow concerns. In fact, as the night wore on, she was reluctant to send them to bed and for once allowed them to stop up a little later.
When they finally went up, all three of them went together. Despite feeling tired, Julie couldn’t sleep. She was tossing and turning until the early hours, wondering if what she was about to do was the right thing.
The following morning, after seeing the twins off to school, Julie kept to her plan and visited the library in town. Unfortunately, she didn’t find the answers she sought. Hereditary genetics proved to be a very complicated topic indeed with a vast range of subject matter.
Julie was somewhat annoyed. After spending several hours searching for the information she required, she came out with her head whirling and just as confused as before.
Sure enough, she’d found several books with references pertaining to blood groups and paternity but, from what they were saying, it was impossible to tell if the parents she knew were, or were not, her real parents. It was possible they could be if one of her grandparents also had the same `rhesus negative’ blood as herself but, since all four of her grandparents were deceased, there was no way of knowing.
Consequently, Julie was none the wiser about the truth of her birth. Yet, she still had this overpowering intuitive feeling that the couple who’d brought her up, lovely though she thought they were, had not given birth to her. Dejected, she left the library and went to see Lyn.
“You just wouldn’t believe how much information there is in the library,” Julie explained. “It’s hard to know where to begin. I looked at lots of different reference books but never learned anything. I just wasted my time really.”
“Didn’t you ask the librarian for some help?”
Lyn placed a cup of steaming de-caffeinated coffee down in front of Julie and the aroma began to relax her. Julie sniffed appreciatively.
“I couldn’t really. I don’t want everyone to know what I’m up to, do I? I’ll just have to find some other way.” There was a lull in the conversation while they both drank the coffee.
“Anyway, enough of me,” Julie said. “How are things between you and Alan?” She wasn’t really prying. Lyn had told her weeks ago that she and her husband, Alan, were going through a rough patch in their marriage. Julie was just being sympathetic.
“Still the same; I think he’s gone off me. He doesn’t seem to want to make love anymore.”
“Perhaps he’s just tired; he does work long hours Lyn.”
“I know that! He’s always worked hard but he’s never been like this before. I can take the physical rejection, what I don’t understand is that he won’t discuss it, and when I ask him if anything’s wrong or try to get him to talk about it, he just gets ratty and shuts me out.”
“How long has this been going on now?”
“Long enough for me to think he may have found someone else.”
“Now come on, you don’t know that. There may be a perfectly good reason why he’s like this.”
“Well I can’t think of one, but I suppose you’re right. He may have been overdoing things at work.”
“It’ll all blow over in a couple of weeks, I’m sure. Just don’t pressure him. Let him come around in his own good time,” Julie said, pleased she could offer her friend some practical advice. After all, she’d read enough ‘Dear Monica’ letters in her favourite magazine to know this would be her stance.
It was mid afternoon by the time she left Lyn’s house. Julie wasn’t the only one with problems and she felt sorry for her friend. At least, she could choose whether she pursued her birth parent search, or not, Lyn had no such choice. Her problem was staring her in the face every night when she slept with Alan.
Thank heaven, John had never rejected her. Even though she’d brushed Lyn’s fears away, Julie was still worried about her but she knew there was nothing she could do. Only Lyn and Alan could sort it out for themselves. Now Julie had two problems to worry about, Lyn’s and her own.
Her own problems still weighed heavily on her heart, though. That magazine article had awakened her curiosity, a curiosity that had lain almost dormant until yesterday. She still desperately needed to know the truth about her birth but was unsure now how to proceed. The dilemma was constantly on her mind.
She arrived home just before the twins were dropped off. Understandably, they were still excited about the school trip they’d just been on and couldn’t wait to tell her all about the Victorian classroom with the ‘real’ Victorian teacher, the mill girls, and the mock pub.
“The teachers wore clogs and shawls, and they talked funny,” Lucy told her.
“They would be using old Lancashire accents,” Julie replied. “What did you like best about it, Lucy?”
“The grimy, dark coal mine. Did people really work under the ground in little passages?”
“It was a bit scary in there, though,” chipped in Karen. “You should have seen the old mill, Mum. We went on a barge on the canal to get there. They made big reels of cotton there in the old days,” Karen gushed.
“No they didn’t, stupid. They made cloth,” Lucy argued.
“It was Cotton!”
“No! It was cloth.”
“It was cotton, Mum, wasn’t it?” Karen shrieked.
Constantly twittering on, they set Julie’s nerves on edge. She felt like yelling at them to be quiet, but instead controlled her frustration, and did her best to settle the argument.
“You brought some leaflets home didn’t you? Why don’t you look at those and see what it says about the old mill.”
The twins set about spreading the leaflets on the kitchen table, getting in Julie’s way as she made them some sandwiches. They were always ravenous when they came home from school, so a sandwich was usually the answer, then they’d have their main meal later on.
The argument was soon settled with the documented evidence in front of them, but the friction had left Julie tense. It took all her willpower to act as if everything was normal for the rest of that day but she knew she had to for their sake.
Although Julie was extremely tired by the time she climbed the stairs to bed that evening, sleep was once again elusive. Again she lay awake hour after hour wrestling with the problem, wondering what she should do. Finally, giving up on the fitful sleep she was having, she climbed out of bed.
It was Thursday already and she was no nearer a solution. With a heavy heart she peered out of the bedroom window. The early morning grey skies echoed her mood as she struggled hard to shake off the depression creeping up on her. She just knew it was going to be another dreadful day temperature wise, and her customary peek out of the bedroom window before dressing, proved her right. Cursing the miserable weather, she showered and dressed.
She was usually even-tempered first thing in the morning, but today was different. Julie lost her temper before she finally got her daughters off to school. Karen, not good at putting away her belongings at the best of times, was true to form this particular morning. She’d mislaid her gym shoes.
“Really Karen, you’re just the end,” Julie exploded. “Now you’re nearly nine, I think it’s time you were able to look after your own things. Well, I’m not looking for you this time. Go find them yourself and be quick; it’s nearly time for school.”
Karen, surprised into action by her mother’s unusual outburst, had rushed off in tears to see if she could find the missing items and then returned almost immediately clutching them tightly in her hands.
Julie felt awful about the way she’d jumped on her daughter. Nevertheless, it had produced the desired result, and she wondered if perhaps a little more shouting might be just what Karen and Lucy needed. Yet, she knew it wasn’t her way. She preferred using reason to persuade them to do what she wanted. John, however, was a trifle sterner than she was and would have been proud of her stand.
Catching sight of the dust-laden, untidy house, she was grateful John was away on business. Julie hated him going, but these trips were very infrequent and of such enormous value to the family business, she’d made an effort to cover up her displeasure before he went.
He was due home tomorrow. She was sure he’d be tired when he came home, so he wouldn’t notice her unusually agitated mood or the disordered state of their normally immaculate house. With all the turmoil still going on inside her, she just couldn’t bring herself to start cleaning up yet, at least, not until she felt more settled.
So when the children had finally found all their school equipment and had been picked up for school, she collapsed on her favourite armchair and allowed her innermost thoughts the freedom to surface once more.
The one thought that kept rising above all the others was the one which concerned her mum and dad. Julie knew she’d always regard them as her true parents no matter what they might have done in the past. These feelings couldn’t change no matter what the true circumstances of her birth were.
She was very aware that these two precious people had given her a happy and stable life even though they weren’t very well off. Whatever else she may have gone short of, and she couldn’t think of anything specific, she’d never gone short of love.
Grateful for her extremely happy childhood, Julie vowed to make sure that these two special people were not unnecessarily hurt in her quest for the truth.
Yet, despite this concern, Julie couldn’t help thinking about the other sad couple who were continuing to be unduly hurt. They’d been denied the joy of watching their own daughter grow and were still suffering after all this time.
Although she didn’t love this second couple as she did her mum and dad, Julie had compassion for them. Desperately wanting to ease their pain, spurred her to make a decision.
With new purpose, she rose swiftly from the chair. She’d go back to the library and consult the online telephone directories. The article mentioned they lived in an area about forty miles away. It seemed more than likely that the Pollards would have a telephone; everyone had a telephone these days. She vowed to contact them if it was possible. The decision made, she at once felt part of the burden lifted.
Opening the door of the large walk-in cupboard which John grandly called a cloakroom; she took out her coat, bag, and outdoor shoes. Throwing a backward glance at the untidy mess she was leaving behind her, she shrugged her shoulders philosophically. The housework can wait until I get back.
Unusually, she didn’t even bother to straighten the doormat lying annoyingly askew some way from the door, what she had to do now was far more important. Leaving the housework usually went against the grain for Julie, but this time she really couldn’t have cared less about it.
On opening the front door, she could tell instantly from the heavy, cloud-filled sky that it might rain, so she went back to the cloakroom for an umbrella. She was fed up of the rain, the cold, and the wind. It had been a long winter. Now it was the end of March, she hoped with all her heart the weather would start to improve but there were no signs yet. Sighing, she pulled the heavy front door until it shut behind her and then made her way for the second time that week, to the library.
Fifteen minutes later, as Julie parked the car and hurried into the busy town centre, the old clock tower was just striking ten. She was pleased to see it was still relatively early. There would be plenty of time to do what she planned before she had to return home to see to the twins when they finished school.
Turning her head upwards to look at the grey, overcast, and heavy sky, Julie quickened her pace even faster. Perhaps she’d be able to reach her destination dry if she hurried. She was almost there when the ominous, water-filled, black clouds took exception to the weight they were carrying and began to spit rain, lightly at first but quickly growing heavier.
Opening the umbrella, she huddled under its protection through the High Street drizzle until she came to the large public building which was the library. Turning into the doorway, she paused to shake the rain from the saturated umbrella and catch her breath.
Briefly, she stood and watched the raindrops rolling down her closed brolly, dripping onto the floor, and forming a little puddle in the otherwise dry doorway. Then, knowing her resolution would fail her if she hesitated much longer, Julie ignored the still dripping material and firmly pushed open the door. Dripping wet, she determinedly marched inside.
Nodding to the librarian who she was vaguely acquainted with, Julie hurried past her and on towards the computer area. Choosing a computer set apart a little way from the others, Julie quickly set to work.
Within a short time she was presented with a list of ten possible phone numbers in the right area. Two were Arthur Pollard and the other eight were just A. Pollard, so they could have been Arthurs but, equally, may have been any other name beginning with A.
That was easier than I expected. Tentatively, she examined the addresses. Despite the ease of this first step, she was well aware actually making contact with them would be far more difficult emotionally, and the thought of this half-frightened her to death.
What if I’ve made a mistake and I’m not their daughter? She half-hoped she could still get out of communicating with them but deep down she knew she couldn’t. Her belief they were related was too strong. The description of her and her exact likeness to the magazine photo were too convincing not to have substance. As soon as she’d brushed this fear aside, other equally disturbing thoughts took over.
Suppose I don’t like them and can’t get on with them? What will I do then? How can I stop them from discovering who raised me? When the twins find out, how can I stop them from telling my mum and dad?
On and on, the unending questions tortured her, spinning around in her head. Julie was beginning to feel too warm in the stuffy, dry-heat of the staid old building and all these misgivings were making her perspire with panic. She was uncomfortably hot.
Undoing the buttons on her warm winter coat in an attempt to cool herself, she swallowed resolutely, brushed all these fears aside, and printed out the telephone list. Folding it, she placed it in her bag.
Stepping back out into the High Street, the cold but welcome drizzle fell upon her hot burning face, cooling it. It felt so good, so soothing, she swiftly walked on without bothering to put up her umbrella or fasten her coat buttons that she’d earlier undone.
For once, she didn’t object to the rain running down her face in tiny rivulets before cascading off the end of her nose and dripping gently down her neck. She welcomed the freshness of it, lifting her head skywards to let the cooling drops fall on her overheated brow.
By the time Julie had reached her car she’d cooled off considerably, but she was soaking wet. Two telephone kiosks caught her eye as she was just about to get into her car. She made an impulsive decision to contact the Pollards from one of them, telling herself the call would be anonymous. She could have contacted them using her home phone or her mobile phone but they may have number recognition and would then have her telephone number. Also, there was less chance of anyone at home finding out if she made her calls from here.
Julie pulled open the heavy resisting door of the first glass cubicle and went inside. Closing the door behind her, she swiftly took out the list and some coins from her bag. Her cold wet hands unfolded the printed paper making the page wet as she straightened it.
Her heart pounding, she dialled the first number and waited…. She could hear the telephone at the other end of the line began ringing. It rang twice before she panicked and hurriedly replaced the receiver, slamming it down much harder than she meant to in her haste.
What was she going to say? How could she approach the unknown people on the other end of the line? After all, she didn’t know which number was the right one or indeed if any of them were. Maybe her Mr and Mrs Pollard didn’t even have a telephone. What would she do then?
With a significant effort, Julie managed to override these negative thoughts leaping into her head and dialled the same number again. Once more she heard the ringing and this time she waited. It continued to ring. After a while, she decided no-one was at home so replaced the receiver.
Somehow, she felt calmed a little by this short reprieve so moved on to the second number on her short list. This number turned out to be engaged so she tried the third one. At last, a voice answered from the other end. It wasn’t a very young voice and the speaker was definitely female and adult, but she could have been aged anywhere from twenty to seventy. Julie was slightly irritated about not being able to pinpoint the age range more precisely.
“Hello?” the owner of the voice queried.
“Good morning,” Julie trilled trying to sound confident. “I hope you don’t mind my asking, but are you the Mrs Pollard whose story was featured in a woman’s magazine recently?”