Week 40: A story about a secret.
Her mother, Carol, never spoke about him.
It was only when she grew up, did she find out who the man in her mother’s photo album was. He was a dashing man, with brunette hair and warm hazel eyes, he had an easy smile and was laughing at something. The only thing she recognised about the picture was that the building in the background was the university her mother had attended. Whenever she asked her mother about him, the answer she received was always abrupt and cold, as if talking about him was too painful.
Her father wasn’t around to ask, he’d past away about five years ago and that man was most definitely not her father. Her father had been a bubbly man, with a little bit of a belly, dirty blond hair and green eyes, freckles and wore glasses. He was sweet and soft in a way that the man in the photos was hard, edgy but appealing at the same time. When she was around eighteen, she started to do some digging. Intrigued, she took her mother’s photo album and hid away the pictures so that she could look at them. Not once did she ask about him again, knowing that her mother would just say, “not this again, Lavinia, stop worrying yourself with ghosts from a long forgotten past. And not even yours to begin with.” But Lavinia would not stop.
She contacted her mother’s best friend, agreeing to meet up with the kind woman, she knew as her godmother, to talk about him. When Lavinia showed her the picture, she was surprised to see the usually fun loving woman burst into tears.
“Forgive me,” she said, wiping her eyes, “it’s just…God, that was such a long time ago.”
Lavinia handed her some tissues and gave her a small, soft smile, “Auntie Rose, do you know this man? Did my mum?”
Rose looked at her goddaughter and gave her a sad smile, “yes, yes she did. He was…well, the first love of your mother’s life.”
“What?” Lavinia asked, astounded, “why doesn’t she talk about him then?”
“I suppose it is too difficult for her,” Rose sighed sadly, “he was…wonderful in a way that your father was, but he was also a light that we’d never known before. He was our best friend as well as your mother’s first love, he was like a brother to me. And well…”
“What? What happened to him?” Lavinia asked, leaning forwards, “please, I really want to know. I have all these pictures from mum’s albums but she won’t tell me anything.”
“My dear,” Rose smiled, distant and wistful, “there’s no easy way for me to tell you this. But he was suffering from severe depression…he seemed to be doing so much better, but one night, he climbed through your mother’s bedroom window and surprised her with a lovely dinner. They danced the night away and when he kissed her goodbye, your mother knew something was wrong…”
Lavinia nodded, “so what happened?”
“After their date, which Carol always looked upon with love, he was such a sweet man, she tried to follow him but lost him in the thick mass of people out at night on Campus. The following morning, she went to his room, where she had stayed for hours to see if he’d return. He didn’t and the rules stated she needed to go back to her own room…she did that and thought he’d be back my morning. But…when she got there, she found a note,” Rose’s voice croaked at the end, “he’d left her with all of his money, a promise ring that he bought for her and…where to find him.”
Lavinia frowned, “wait, what? So he’s still alive?”
“No, no, where to find his body. See, they wrote songs together and the clues were in a verse he’d written down for her…I don’t think he knew she’d catch on so quickly. They fished his body out of the Campus lake that afternoon. He killed himself,” Rose wiped her eyes, “our poor, Dylan. It really hit all of us, especially Carol. She doesn’t speak of him but I don’t know if you’ve noticed, the necklace she wears all the time? That’s the ring he gave her.”
“Oh, God,” Lavinia said, eyes wide and tearful, looking down at the man in the photograph resting on her palm, “that’s so sad…”
After, when she returned home, her mother was watching TV. She hadn’t noticed Lavinia walk into the living room and was absent-mindedly fiddling with the ring Dylan had given her, one she wore on a necklace. There was a soft, faraway look on her face.
Lavinia never told her mother that she knew who Dylan was.
Some secrets are better left hidden.