Sunday, 1 July 2018

Unknowns


© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2016

Rose-Anne and I first met years upon decades ago, at work, in the Surrey Hills, inner city Sydney, Quinnswerth delicatessen. Working there in the deli was always fun, staffed by a young crew who all enjoyed having a good time. The staff in Quinnswerth’s other departments all looked up to us deli members somewhat. In hindsight, I really don’t know why this was so obviously the case, but we were the best of friends with everyone else in the store. Maybe it was the singular, eclectic mix of people, artists, and university students.
     Rose started there soon after I did. She normally worked in bakery and had been randomly chosen to fill someone’s Saturday shift in the deli after that person had called in sick. I had recently transferred across from the groceries department. To be honest, I transferred because of the deli uniform - a studded front, white, short sleeve coat that made work more pleasurable, being well dressed.
     Rose was a second year Arts/Dip. Ed. student whereas I was a third year Arts student. I was at AuCU, Aus Central University, and Rose was at Macquarie. We also had similar subjects, though different Majors, and enjoyed talking about them with each other.
     Exactly how, from such a firm foundation, Rose and I developed an intense love-hate relationship over the next eight months or so is still beyond me. Maybe it was my untrusting, sarcastic streak that caused it, a leftover survival tactic from high school. Maybe I was subconsciously venting the fact that she did not appear to be the slightest bit interested in me romantically. Even though I was nineteen years of age at this time, I still had never had a girlfriend. Or maybe I was just childishly trying to allure her, like the young boy perpetually pulling the ponytail of a particular girl’s hair. Whatever the reason, we both learned to relish our mutual company, and to revile it. And we also both seemed content to let things lay the way they did between us, neither needing to justify our mutual joyous viciousness. Maybe, after all, it was just one of those things.
     Thus, I was very surprised when, one night at a birthday party of a Quinnie worker about eight months later, she confided, under the most complete strictures against revealing her secret, that she was a month pregnant. She knew of only two guys whom could be the father, but Rose didn’t fancy having either of them as a spouse to raise the child. In fact the guys were the opposite of reliable and level headed. That was why she unhesitatingly slept with them, over and over. Though fun in the sack they were definitely not father material, and Rose was in no manner going to let them know of the possibility.
     And if I still don’t know why Rose and I developed such an intense love-hate relationship, neither do I know why I said, once she had briefly told me of her straits,
     ‘Don’t worry, Rose, I’ll look after you. I’d love to marry you. Maybe the wedding will stops us biting each other.’
     ‘You can’t marry me, Tim. That’s absurd. Even if it would maybe end our constant bickering.’
     ‘C’mon, Rosey. Weigh up the pros and cons. You’ll find marrying me will be just what the doctor ordered.’
     ‘I’m not marrying you, Tim.’
     ‘How can you finish uni and raise a child too? I’ll have my degree fairly soon, by which time you’ll have your first daughter or son. I can look after the tyke while you finish off your degree.’
     Rose didn’t rejoinder, but just looked downwards, thoughtfully, chewing the right inside of the corner of her lips. She was still looking down when she said,
     ‘I think you have a point. It’s my biggest worry, never finishing uni, ending up very run-of-the-mill. I don’t want to hate the child for making me miss out on greater opportunities.’
     ‘And you need someone’s serious help fast if you really want to finish your studies. And only I can do that. Is there someone else that can step in?’
     She looked up,
     ‘Ok then, ask me.’
     ‘Will you marry me?’
     ‘Yes.’

*

Rose-Anne and I made a great pair, and our marriage - a de-facto marriage - on the whole was very peaceful. We never had any other children (bearing our only child, Jennifer-Anne, had almost proved too much for Rosey) and Jenny was told on the night of her sixteenth birthday that I was not her biological father, but her father nonetheless. We told her the truth out of simple courtesy to her, but she was not in any way upset by the news. She neither spoke of it in any form after she learned the truth, nor asked any questions. She just accepted the fact.
     That is, until she had returned home from her first day at university. She was attending AuCU in Strathfield, doing a Bachelor of Primary Education. She came home in raptures that day, all replete with the fact that she was now an adult, learning adult things. But the adult nature of her new environs had also backfired, the noble and genuine atmosphere of the university making her think of her biological father, of how very dishonourable he was. When she got off the train that day after her first lecture she decided to track him down, to make him explain his dereliction of duty. Uni could wait, but she felt she deserved her biological father’s apology as soon as possible. In fact, the noble beauty of university was only possible when after she had been in converse with the most important man in her life, whom had created her, and unwillingly shaped her.
     What could we do? Rosey and I tried to talk her out of the search, to go back to her textbooks and laptop, but she was adamant. So, Rosey told Jenny the full names of the two possible men, one of whom created her.
     She eventually found the two men, after looking in the electoral role. They easily agreed to have samples of their hair follicles tested for paternity of her. Now that Jennifer was obviously a grown woman, the men must have felt that she would not be in any way a drain upon them. And, besides, it’d probably be nice to know if they were a father, especially if it involved little to no work.
     The results were unwelcome. Her progenitor was Dimitri Maximich Gorky, the one she hoped did not prove to be her father. He was a hopeless pothead. All through Jennifer’s brief interview with him while collecting the hair sample, he had had a bong in his hand, occasionally filling it and smoking. He spoke very quietly, and looked to be half asleep. He was obviously never fully awake enough to properly look after his flat for the floor was littered with sundry food wrappers, stains, and debris. He was a mess, and dressed like a mess too. And he was her father.
     But he was a father she could reject, which she unwaveringly did, telling him that he was simply not worth troubling over, that she now knew she had a real father in me. Jenny said that Dimitri didn’t appear dejected at the news. Probably too stoned to fully know what was going on.
     Now you’d think that Jenny, having such a profligate for a father, would avoid a similar fate. But, indirectly, it lead to the same history repeating itself. Jenny took to white wine after leaving Dimitri to his fate, ostensibly to celebrate avoiding Dimitri’s stoned fatherhood. I never knew she was drinking, mostly in a local park, with some neighbours that she would invite. I only found out when she told me she was pregnant, father again unknown, and again one of a possible two, and both again nothing more than booze hounds.
     Luckily Jenny had a good boyfriend, Marcus Broadlee. H simply had to be told the truth, I told her. She didn’t want to, but she quickly saw that she would soon have no choice when she began showing. Abortion was not an option with her. Her mother and I felt that way as well.
     Marcus took the news better than expected, asking Jenny to marry him, swearing to raise the child completely as his own. He had a good, steady job with the New South Wales government and they spent a week in outlining a plan to bring the new baby into the world. You can imagine all of our surprise then when one day Marcus was not able to be found. It was his mother, in fact, who let us know that he had gone missing, not having come home the night before, and Marcus always careful to tell her when he came and went. Jenny and I tried all of Marcus’ friends to find out where he was now, even some of his work colleagues, but he had completely vanished. None of his belongings were taken from his home.
     Of course we duly notified the police who, to all of our surprise, located Marcus several days later in Western Australia. He gave Jenny a message through his searchers that he was not coming back to Sydney and that she was not welcome in WA. Marcus, having tried as hard as he could, was not in the slightest willing to become her infant’s father. Anyway, he would probably do a lousy job. No, by far and away the best thing to be done was to find another man for the job, a man far less selfish that Marcus admitted to being.
     So, not long after my forty-seventh birthday, it looks like I’ll be raising another child not at all of my own blood. The offspring of another child that I had similarly raised. If I was superstitious I’d say that I’ll also probably be a great grandfather in the same way. The fates are all obviously having a big lend of me. But that’s okay, I enjoyed raising Jenny and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved with her. She plans to resume university as soon as she can and we have assured her that she can still study well while we take the best of care with her child. She’ll be a qualified teacher sooner than she’ll realise and then she can afford to be more indulgent with her child.
     And whether or not it was due to my very willingly taking on my granddaughter’s upraising, as well as sharing Rosey’s initial burden, yesterday Rose-Anne asked me to marry her, to solemnise the vows that I have ‘already proven’ to her. Even to the point of taking on my surname, Finnegan. It would be nice, she told me, to proclaim me as a staunch husband for my efforts, and that required staunch, serious vows. She wanted a church wedding, which we had a month after she asked me to wed her. Jenny is back at university and I expect my wife’s and my slowly approaching senior years to be nothing but joyfulness, maintaining our youth through Jenny’s child. I’m looking forward to the challenge. Again.

~~~

If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing on September 01, 2018. You can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com
    
    
    

    

No comments:

Post a Comment