Sep 02, 2022
17 mins read
This story follows the journey of a mother in England who gave up her baby. Through an Adoption Agency she is given the name and address of her son. The son now resides in Sydney Australia. The mother hears of his impending Marriage and decides to make the trip, bringing him gifts, this to make up for her lack of parenthood.
She is met at Sydney airport by the Adoption Agent who has organised the meeting. From there she is taken to the adoptive father’s house. Neither the Agent nor the father nor the son could have envisaged who and what this lady was!
Please enjoy this small piece. Thank you.
ADOPTION © NADINE CRABTREE A SHORT STORY
The telephone’s trill echoed through the silent house breaking Ben's train of thought. With a sigh he pressed the hand's free button. "Hello."
"Good evening sir. Am I speaking with Mr Benjamin Wakelin?" The cultured voice was English. "Yes speaking."
"Mr Wakelin please allow me to introduce myself my name is Dulcie Hartridge. My organisation runs a free service...”
Ben cut in quickly. He was not interested in purchasing windows or roof tiles. "...Miss Hartridge
I'm sorry but there is nothing your company sells which would interest me but thank...”
Dulcie interrupted his blunt reply, "...you don't understand Mr Wakelin. If you would allow me to finish? My organisation helps an adoptee find their biological parents and vice versa."
Ben nearly dropped the telephone. For twenty five years he and his wife shielded their son from the truth about his parentage but now out of the ether came a stranger calling to announce that she was about to run amok with their lives. When David was offered for adoption both Ben and his late wife Charissa agreed the child would never be told. The circumstances of his birth mother were such that they felt the child was better off not knowing the truth.
”What exactly do you want?" Cool civility drenched his query.
”We have a request from your son's biological mother. She wishes to meet her son. With his permission of course." On numerous occasions Dulcie fielded similar scenarios. It was part of her job and the shocked response was always comparable.
Ben hunched over his desk a knot contorting his gut, "...and if one were to decline your proposal?"
Dulcie took control. "It really is not up to you Mr Wakelin. We know David is twenty-five years old. It should be his decision alone."
Ben was caught off guard and needed time to think. "May I call you back within the hour?" "Certainly Mr Wakelin." Dulcie gave him her number and Ben hung up. Moments rushed by as Ben went through every possible scenario re: breaking the news to his son David. The boy would be married in less than a month and both families were working toward making the day a resounding success. This sudden can of worms would only serve to wreak havoc. With an audible sigh Ben punched in the digits and waited. ”Just returning your call Miss Hartridge this is Ben Wakelin...” He was in no mood for 'niceties' and considered Dulcie to be a busybody. "...My son is about to be married Miss Hartridge. Perhaps we could leave this business over for a few months?"
Dulcie realised she could be in for a struggle. She also knew that Mr Benjamin Wakelin was not someone with whom one should cross swords. He was a self-made business tycoon who was well known in the city. Dulcie geared up a notch. "Mr Wakelin this is merely a courtesy call. My organisation could have contacted your son direct. We try to keep things harmonious - ergo - we seek the blessing of the adoptive parents."
Ben seethed. "Yes indeed you have that right. However just at the moment with the wedding imminent it would make life easier if we could maintain the status quo until a later date... please?" He added as an afterthought. His acrimony evaporated as his temper geared down.
"It is precisely because of the upcoming celebration that Miss Darnell contacted our London office. You will no doubt remember that the recent engagement of your son to Lady Marguerite Maddern was reported in every glossy magazine in both hemispheres. When Miss Darnell read the article it prompted her to contact us.”
Ben sat down heavily. "How was she privy as to whom adopted David?"
"She was given access to the records years ago Mr Wakelin. These records are no longer concealed but there are formalities to be addressed before we bring parent in touch with child."
"So you are telling me that whether my blessing is given or not, you and this woman may contact David direct - that it might as well be a fait accompli?"
"Indeed we may but from past experience we advocate both parties be in agreement for the meeting to take place in a calm and caring atmosphere."
Ben closed his eyes. The dim light did nothing to alleviate the worry lines around his eyes. “Miss Darnell is definitely David's mother?"
"Yes Mr. Wakelin. She gave him up on December 2nd, 1980. He was born at St. Thomas' Hospital.
Father unknown. Miss Darnell was fifteen and from County Wicklow in Ireland. The child was handed to you that same evening. You and your wife were at that time domiciled in Kings Langley and when David was two you immigrated to Australia?"
Ben groaned. "Exactly so. We emigrated in order to give David the best that life could offer. It was unfortunate that my wife was unable to bear children but believe me, no one could have loved David more." "We do not dispute any of the foregoing however his biological mother would like to meet him; this in order to explain why it was necessary for her to give him up. She has never married and has no other family."
The lines on Ben’s face deepened. "All right Miss Hartridge but you must allow me time to review this matter. I must consider the best way in which to break it to David. Do you understand?"
"Indeed we do. It is never easy but you may be surprised by David's reaction." Dulcie felt a little more composed having stalled a possible verbal eruption. "Would Wednesday be convenient to contact you again Mr Wakelin?"
Ben wanted to scream at her and tell her to leave his family alone. God only knew what this might do to the forthcoming nuptial arrangements and how would Marguerite’s family react to this bombshell?
"Very well Miss Hartridge. Wednesday evening about seven." "Thank you Mr. Wakelin." She replaced the receiver.
Dulcie had not met Miss Bernadine Darnell however an overview of the birth mother was faxed from her London associate and from this she understood that Miss Darnell could be from another star system in comparison with the Wakelins and Madderns but it was not her job to judge people, only to put them in touch as quickly and as sympathetically as possible.
As arranged, on Wednesday evening Dulcie telephoned Mr. Wakelin.
”Good evening Mr Wakelin. How did it go with David?" Dulcie asked.
”At first not good. David was angry with me for not having told him the truth. Then he became upset with Miss Darnell for giving him up. Finally we were able to discuss it in a rational manner. David does wish to meet Miss Darnell but quite frankly it would not surprise me if he censured her for giving him up."
Dulcie smiled to herself. "We shall cross that ditch when we come to it - or not - as the case may be."
"Indeed." Ben agreed. "Where does this woman live?"
"She lives in London. I thought that was clear?" Dulcie was positive she mentioned that to Mr Wakelin."
“How does she propose to meet David?"
"She has means Mr Wakelin and is waiting for affirmation from David, thereafter she intends to travel immediately."
"You may advise her to put her travel arrangements in train but you must deal with this situation through me. David does not wish to deal with either of you directly."
"Understood Mr. Wakelin. You shall hear from me when Miss Darnell arrives."
Ben replaced the receiver then looked up at his son. "Are you sure this is what you really want and have you told Marguerite?"
David's face tightened. "Of course I want to meet her, she is my natural mother and as for Marguerite. We are not going to start our marriage without honesty."
"You're a good boy David. Your mother would be so proud of you."
David nodded. He was still trying to come to terms with the situation. "Mum would have adored Marguerite."
"She would David. Your Mum was the most wonderful woman. She never had a bad word to say about anyone and always saw the best in people. There were times in the early days when we were struggling that anyone else would have walked out, but she didn't. She even worked nights in a factory to supplement our income. Did you know that?"
David turned and faced his father. "No dad she never told me."
Ben nodded. "She was like that. Everything your Mum did was for the benefit of the family. When she got sick...” Ben's voice diminished. He could never reminisce about Charissa without crumbling inside, "...anyway - what's past is past and now you are being married." Ben gave David a wry smile.
“Dad if Marguerite is like Mum then no-one could ask for anything more." Ben nodded his agreement. A few minutes later Ben waved David off and returned to his study.
The aircraft’s tyres bumped on the runway at Sydney’s International airport. Bernadine collected her forty-kilo of luggage all of which bore gifts for her son and his fiancée. She knew the wedding was scheduled for two weeks hence. She also knew that an invitation had not been forthcoming. Maybe after the encounter, David might possibly include his natural mother in the celebrations.
Bernadine waited twenty-five years for this day and whether she attended the wedding or not she would at least have laid her devils to rest by explaining to David why she gave him up, he was owed that Dulcie Hartridge stood in the arrivals lounge clutching a fuzzy photograph of Bernadine. Her London colleague dutifully supplied the flight number and arrival time. Dulcie knew roughly what to expect of Miss Darnell but the woman that came bustling through the glass doors swearing at the top of her lungs at the defective luggage cart was not in the least as she envisioned. Miss Darnell was forty. The bleached hair stuck out at right angles all over her head and her cosmetics were definitely not ‘less is more’. The mini-skirt might have doubled as a belt. She was slim attractive and tall. As she pushed her laden cart her raucous South London accent drew everyone's attention.
Dulcie stared in dismay. The reunion was going to be awesome and Dulcie would not have missed it for anything. She stepped forward. “Miss Darnell?"
" 'ullo darlin'. Are you the geezer what's meeting me then?"
"That's right but please call me Dulcie.” She offered her slim hand.
”Pleased ta meet ya luv I'm sure. Cor' blimey but it ain't half stinkin’ bleedin’ hot. You could use me tongue to sand furniture."
Trepidation etched Dulcie’s equable face. "Have you made an hotel reservation Miss Darnell?" "Yeah luv’. Got the paper 'ere somewhere." She dropped to her knees and emptied the cabin bag onto the floor and with a shout of delight shoved the wallet in Dulcie's hands. "In there darlin' “. Dulcie extricated the reservation. "The Wentworth?" Astonishment cluttered her reply.
”Yeah Polly Pearl told me about it. Said all the toffs stay up there."
Dulcie nodded. "Follow me." She wondered how Bernadine could possibly afford to stay at the Wentworth. "Did you have a good flight?"
"Bleedin' marvellous luv we had free booze and me own telly and a comfy bed."
"Did you fly first class?" Confusion garnished Dulcie’s query.
"Course I did luv. Polly Pearl don't never fly nuffin' less. Ain't worth it she says, 'cos you end up arriving like a dish rag."
Dulcie nodded. She knew what Polly Pearl meant - whoever she was?
”Is Miss Pearl a friend?"
"Yeah luv’. Me best friend and me partner. Me and her ‘ave been on the game for ever such ages.
We got seven knockin’ shops now darlin' - up the West End.” Dulcie paled. Her London connection failed to mention this incongruity
The door attendant at The Wentworth saluted as the women climbed from the taxi. They had exactly an hour before the meeting with David and Ben Wakelin.
”Would you care to freshen up before meeting your son?"
Bernadine looked at herself in the mirror. "What do you think darlin' - for a menopausal hag do you reckon I can still pass muster?" Her smile lit up her attractive face
”Perhaps, but I thought that maybe for the initial meeting you might wear something a little less 'intense' “. Dulcie felt the situation required diplomacy and a plain suit rather than a million sequins.
”Cor blimey but I'm that excited." Bernadine ran into the bedroom and emptied the contents of the suitcase onto the floor. " 'Ere ‘ave a butchers in here luv'. See if there's anyfink posh enough among this lot?"
Dulcie held up a dozen garments all of which were covered in sequins and all totally inappropriate for the inaugural meeting.
"Have you anything a little more modest?"
Bernadine scowled. "What's wrong with 'em?" she eyed the pile of expensive garments.
“A tad bizarre for daytime and the occasion?" Dulcie mumbled.
Bernadine turned on her. "Look luv’ I'm 'ere to meet me son not be part of a bleedin' fashion parade.
If he don't like me as I am that's tough. I am what I am and don't you go forgettin' it. Its how I made me money see and that’s what I’m ‘ere for - to give all me money to ‘im so he won’t have to sponge offov his new missus and her mum and dad cos’ I seen in the paper where they was stick filthy rich wiv’ knobs on ‘em. "
Dulcie was speechless. "Fine you choose whatever you like but we should leave soon. Would you care for a cool drink before we go?”
David and Ben paced David’s penthouse.
"Do you think she'll like me Dad?" David resumed pulling at his knuckles, cracking each one in turn. Something he had not done since childhood.
”Of course David. She's your birth mother."
David nodded. "I'm glad Mum's not alive to see this."
"Your mother would have welcomed her warmly because it was Miss Darnell who gave you life and for that your mother and I were always grateful." Ben felt a quiet unease and knew David did too. The doorbell terminated the silence.
”You go Dad." David pleaded.
”All right son. You organise the champagne please.”
Ben pulled at his gold cufflinks straightened his tie then threw open the door.
Miss Darnell gave Ben the ‘once over’ then whistled. "Cor luv you’re a right spiv ain’t ya? Are you me boy's daddy then darlin'?"
The voice and terminology grated. "How do you do. Miss Bernadine Darnell isn't it?"
"In all me glory luv." She pushed past Ben and practically ran into the spacious sitting room then stopped and gaped. David stopped pouring the wine and stared in awe. His mother wore a bright red low cut sequinned top, a tight black mini skirt, black spike heels and far too much make up.
”Hullo Davey boy. My gawd but you're a beautiful boy. Come and give ol’ Bernie a kiss luv." David allowed himself to be embraced. "How do you do...er mother." His voice croaked.
”Get away wiv’ ya darlin'. Mother I'm not. Not fit to be see. Too young I was but after all these years I wanted to tell you why I done it." Bernadine helped herself to a glass of champagne. "Cheers darlin'." Her son lifted his glass, passed one to the others and the quartet drank a silent taut salute.
”Gawd ‘elp me but you are so bootiful Davy. Gettin' hitched too I heard. Never married meself. Course when you was comin' I thought about it but at fifteen... and Seamus didn’t want me. He bein’ sixteen hisself!" She shrugged. "It wouldn't have worked." She eyed her son then flopped into a chair. "...not that I didn’t love ya Davey. That moment when you was shoved in me arms, blimey that was somethin' what never left me not even after all these years...” she turned her dark green eyes on him and smiled, "...course now I've seen ya in the flesh like, I know I done the right thing. Your lovely dad and this house and all. If you'd stayed with me we'd 'ave lived in the slums. In them days being a pregnant Irishcatholic girl...” She shrugged “...you got chucked out see, sent away to them revolting nun’s homes. I never did go back to Ireland. Anyway Gawd bless you boy”. She turned to Ben. ”You and your missus done a right good job with Davey. So Gawd bless youse too."
The quartet stood in stunned silence. There were no words to speak.
Bernie placed her champagne flute on the table and picked up her bag. "Gotta go now darlin' but remember I'll always love ya. Look me up if you and the missus come to London." Bernadine fled from the apartment a grim smile attached to her ashen face.
David and Ben stood staring at one another in disbelief.
”Is that it?" David asked. He ran after his mother.
”Don't David. Please let her go." Dulcie shouted after him.
David turned, came back and leaned against the wall. "What was the point of that? Why come all this way and then run off?"
"She didn't realise that you were prosperous. She came to shower you with wedding gifts and to assign to you a lot of money and I mean millions, in order to make things right for what she did to you." Dulcie sat down. "You see David she thought you and your father were destitute. It was the one chance in her life to be a feminine Knight in Shining Armour. To be moral and to redress the injustice she perceived she had done to you? She didn't know. I think it was the bravest thing Bernadine ever did."