3. Where Daddy Kissed a Lady

3. Where Daddy Kissed a Lady

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



Jane heard the familiar sounds of Betty and her brother Roger rising in their room and starting the day off with their usual cheerful noises, but today it all seemed inappropriate. There was a heaviness inside her head, a numbness that wouldn’t go away.

George was dead. He’d never again share her bed or warm her on winter nights or make the sort of all-too rare suggestions that had led to the arrival of Betty and Roger. No, she wanted a time of quiet peace that would honour his name as whatever happened to the dead happened to him.

She wasn’t sure what that might be, but once when she’d gone to church because there was a new vicar and she felt the need to check him out he’d spouted something confusing about an afterlife and clouds and green fields and angels with wings.

In the skies? Green fields in the skies? How would they be supported without falling down to Earth with a mighty crash? And angels. How come a might deity that managed to create everything in a matter of days, and by everything she knew it actually did mean everything, even the stars and the planets, the Earth and the moon, absolutely everything, how come he needed an army of winged women to keep house for him?

After all, she managed all on her own, didn’t she? And although the small house she lived in was old and battered she still managed to keep it decent, didn’t she? And not an angel in sight.

Betty! Not so noisy!” she called up the stairs, and decided to add “today’s not the sort of day for a lot of noise. Today’s a special day.”

Are you in a mood, mum?” asked Roger, and then, more thoughtfully, “is dad coming home today?”

Shush, Roger,” hissed Betty, who was a great deal more sensitive to grown up things than was her only slightly younger brother.

Betty started descending the stairs, careful not to trip on a loose stair rod. Roger was just behind her, but even he was sensitive to whatever it was in the air that had affected his sister and didn’t do his usual hopping from step to step.

You won’t be going to school today,” she told them when Betty was half way down the stairs.

No school? But Dave’s bringing something special to show me! I’ve got to go!” protested Roger. Dave was Roger’s best friend. At least, he was this week. Last week it might well have been a different boy. Keeping up to date with Roger’s best ever friends was a task too big for Jane.

No school Roger,” insisted Jane firmly, then quietly, “I had a policeman round in the night to tell me something very special. He told me that your father died. He won’t be coming back home again, and we’ll have a day away from school, out of respect for him. You’ll have to see Dave tomorrow.”

Died?” almost shouted Betty, her voice a dramatic wave of schoolgirl horror.

Yes, darlings,” replied Jane, and there were tears in her voice. She wasn’t finding it easy, this holding herself together in a grown up way even though the tally of her years said she was very grown up indeed.. Then she pursed her lips, determined that the children should properly understand the importance of the moment.

It was during the night, in hospital,” she said, “the policeman said that he died peacefully in the night. He came specially to tell me. That was kind of him, don’t you think?”

And daddy’s gone for good?” asked Roger, “I mean, I know he was poorly and was coughing all the time, but for good? Which means he won’t be coming back to see us? To kiss us goodnight when he thinks we’re asleep, but we’re not?”

Is that what he did, darling?” smiled Jane, suddenly aware that little things like kissing the children goodnight were so important. “You’ll have to remember that for ever, won’t you? It’ll keep something alive.”

Like a ghost?” suggested Betty, “I don’t think daddy would make a very good ghost. He coughed and coughed and coughed, and ghosts don’t do that. But I’ll miss him, mummy. I really will. Will I meet him in Heaven one day?

Jane didn’t think so. She’d never been a religious believer and the demise of her husband George convinced her that the beliefs of the religious were as insubstantial as the air.

I don’t know the answer to that,” she said, carefully.

Betty nodded. “But I’ll miss him anyway,” she murmured.

I know you will, darling, we all will,” sighed Jane, “now come on, have your breakfast and you can come out with me.”

Betty frowned. “Where are we going, mummy?” she asked, “if we’re not going to school, I mean?”

Jane thought for a moment. There were shops, she supposed, but she had little money and in all honesty didn’t need anything anyway. All she really wanted to do was get out of the house, into the fresh air, away from this or that reminder of George. Like the hole in the lino where he’d dozed off and accidentally dropped his lit cigarette, and fortunately it hadn’t started a fire. If it had done, they’d all have been burned in their beds. She’d told him about that, how silly it was, smoking when you’re dead beat, and he had been good about it, said he’d never do it again. He’d even promised to buy her a new roll of linoleum, but that would never happen, not now that he was gone for good.

What about the park?” she asked, “where you can have a go on the swings?”

That’s a good idea!” exclaimed Roger, “daddy used to push us on the swings, higher and higher until we nearly reached the sky!”

Then that’s where we’ll go,” she said, realising that just about everywhere might contain a memory of George, and she couldn’t avoid everywhere. The burned lino, the park with its swings, everywhere.

I’ll remember daddy there,” whispered Betty, “I’ll remember him real good.”

Is there something special there, then?” asked Jane.

Betty smiled at her mother. “Yes,” she said slowly, “it’s where daddy kissed a lady…”

What lady?” asked Jane, her heart doing a tumble inside her. George hardly ever kissed her, so who was this lady that had left such a mark on Betty’s memory.

It was Aunty Peggy!” grinned Roger, “he didn’t half snog her!”.

Of course,” whispered Jane, “his sister, and it’s sad, but they’re both dead now.”

© Peter Rogerson 15,06.21


© 2021 Peter Rogerson

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Added on June 15, 2021
Last Updated on June 15, 2021
Tags: bereaved, memories, school


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..