Secrets

I can’t remember the year but I seem to think it was about 1970 or 1971. We were living in Bulawayo. My mother always seemed reticent to discuss the details of her father with us. This story below reveals why … .

It was secreted in a brown school suitcase that resided in the bottom of the cupboard. A bombshell lurking, undetonated.

A child tiptoed into the room like a ghost. The suitcase groaned under the weight of the secret.

The sky turned orange and blood red. A cold wind shivered outside.

The document – a page only – revealed blanks in important places, saying everything and nothing. Lies unlatched in the heads of children: they became co-conspirators not daring to admit and even believe it themselves. The secret that had a life of its own, waiting to detonate. (But, much, much later.)

Rain had begun to scour the sky.

In the blank space on the document there was no deletion, simply an emptiness that told of shame. The paper was put away, the contents smouldered in the minds of the children who were startled into a wide-eyed silence.

An ocean and a continent away, the father, whose name was missing, nodded into his old age quite forgetful of the lives he had discarded.

The children stared out of the window into the darkening sky that had fallen to the earth.

Photograph: http://www.labola.co.za/product/school-case-vintage-brown-46cm-x-30cm-x-15cm/