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Donna’s Men

by Michael E. Lloyd

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Book III: At Home With Robert

Chapter 7: Springing Leaks

part 2 of 2

And then Clyde finished off his story ...

‘While Bonnie had been busy with her own special research, I’d been house-hunting again. I soon found a small place in Northgate Hill, well away from our old Wood Green neighbours and served by a different doctor’s surgery, of course. We’d already had a good offer for the flat, so we went to see the house together one weekend, made our decision, and set the sale and purchase in motion. It was all completed in early March, our furniture was moved across, and I spent a couple of weekends there getting it neat and tidy.

‘Later that spring, very soon after the baby was born, Jane finally emerged from our Clapham flat and returned to her mother’s place in Wood Green, as if she’d come direct from France. She went on to spend the summer recovering and relaxing in the privacy of their back garden — she really needed some sunshine! — and began her sixth-form studies, one year later than her contemporaries, the following September.

‘And the day after Jane had left us, Bonnie, baby and I had quietly departed from the flat and driven up to our own new family home. The baby made the journey in a Gladstone bag — just a nondescript piece of our house-moving luggage.’

Of course, I had a few questions for Clyde by now.

‘How on earth did your wife manage to persuade the new surgery that the baby was hers?’

‘Oh, she had that all worked out. She told them she was fundamentally scared of doctors and hospitals, even though she’d never admitted it before. So when she’d discovered — rather late in the day — that she was finally pregnant, she’d resolved to look after herself at home and not go to any ante-natal clinics or whatever. And she said the baby had arrived very quickly during the night, just after we’d moved to Northgate Hill, and there had been no time or need for a midwife, even though she had the name and number of one ready in case of a real emergency ...’

‘And they believed all that?’

‘I guess they had to. They probably didn’t have the time or will to investigate it, and their job was to concentrate on the present and the future, not the past. So she and the baby went onto the new doctor’s list, and that was that.’

‘But what about the Birth Certificate?’

‘Ah, that’s where I had to bend the truth a little myself. Well, a whole lot really, of course. Once we’d moved into the new house, only four days after the baby was born, I went to the Northgate Hill Registrar’s Office to report it. I gave our names as the parents, I told them the correct date of birth, but I gave our latest address as the place of birth. None of our new neighbours would ever know about that last little detail, and anyway Bonnie might well have already been living there in her self-enforced seclusion for a week or more.’


‘Well, that’s really all there is to say about it. My wife and I now officially had a child of our own, who had been absorbed into the system. We just took it from there.’

‘Just like that, Clyde?’

‘Yes, just like that ... but of course I don’t have even a nickname by which I can address you, sir. And as Catherine and I have both already said, that’s perfectly fine by me, unless or until you want to tell me any more about yourself ...’

‘You’ve given me a lot to think about, Clyde. Are you willing to stay on the line while I do at least a little bit of that thinking?

‘Of course I am. But I’d happily call you back later if that’s what you’d prefer ...’

‘No — just give me a few moments right now, please.’

‘This is all still quite amazing, Robert.’

‘That’s exactly what I was thinking, there and then, Donna. I wonder what you would have done, in the circumstances ...’

‘Oh, that’s a tough question! Surely it all depends on how you had personally felt about being kept in the dark for so long?’

‘You’re right, of course. But I’m still interested in how you might have reacted, if you’d been in my shoes that day ...’

‘Very well, then. I suspect I’d have seized the moment and tried to find out as much as I possibly could!’

‘I’m glad you said that, Donna. Because that’s exactly what I then did.’

‘All right, Clyde. I’m grateful for what you’ve been brave enough to tell me, and I think we should now stop pussyfooting around. But let’s take it one small step at a time. My surname is Kerr. What’s yours?’

‘It’s Burgess, Mr Kerr.’

‘Thank you. So, I suppose the next thing ...’

‘But that’s my maiden name, Robert! Wait ... did Clyde tell you his wife’s first name after that?’

‘Yes, he did. It was Wendy.’

‘And that was my mother’s name!’

‘Yes ...’

‘And did he then tell you that his first name was actually Ian?’


‘That’s the name under “Father” on my own Birth Certificate: Ian Charles Burgess! But this still doesn’t make any sense, Robert! Because Wendy said my real mother’s name was Cath! Oh, hang on ... yes it does! They must have adopted more than one child in that secret way ...’

‘What? You discovered you’d been adopted, Donna? And Wendy told you that about your real mother?’

‘Yes. On her deathbed, Robert. But that’s all she said before she passed away. And you and I both know that other baby’s mother was called Jane, so ...’

‘Ah. Now I think I understand why this has taken us so long, Donna ...’

‘Huh? But anyway ... this still has nothing to do with me directly, does it? It’s just a really weird coincidence of two people having the same foster parents. Hah! But of course, that does mean ....... Hey, wait a minute, Robert — you just said “Yes ...” when I told you Wendy was my so-called mother’s name!’

‘You’re quite right. I did.’

‘But how could you possibly have known that? You don’t know anything about me! We’re not related in any way. My real mother was called Cath, dammit ...

‘Well, Donna ... my good old lady-love did indeed introduce that sweet young thing in the pub garden as “Jane” and nothing more, and that’s how I’d then remembered her throughout my life. But Ian also told me, a little later in our phone conversation, that she had always been called by that name in public, as one small way of protecting her privacy. And then he said she had actually been christened Cathy-Jane. And Wendy had called her Cath throughout the time she was living behind closed doors with them in Clapham ...’

‘Oh ... my ... god.’

‘Take it easy now, Donna ...’

‘Exactly when did you and Peter bump into those women at that pub, Robert?’

‘In July 1980.’

‘Oh my god. So ... no, I just can’t believe this ... so your daughter Cathy-Jane actually was my real mother ...’


‘And your brother Peter is my real father ...’


‘And Ian is the so-called father I never knew either. The man I’ve always despised because he’d walked out on us — but now you’ve told me ...’


‘And you are my uncle ... and my grandfather ...’


‘And Catherine is my grandmother ...’


‘And ... you knew all of this before I ever met you, didn’t you, Robert?’


‘Give me a few moments now, please ...’

‘Of course, Donna.’

* * *

‘Are you feeling a little better now?’

‘I’m not sure. Maybe ...’

‘I think you and I should share the reins of my story from now on, Donna. So perhaps we can dispense with these “side-remarks” and finish it off together ...’

‘Whatever, Robert.’

‘And then I asked Ian to tell me about my daughter ...’

‘My mother! Yes, where’s my mother, Robert? Where’s Cathy-Jane?’

‘She’s not here, Donna.’

‘She’s left Wood Green?’

‘No, she’s left us all.’

‘You don’t mean ...?’

‘I’m afraid so. Seven years ago.’

‘Oh, god. So we’ve both lost the woman we never knew! And she can’t have been more than forty-eight! How on earth did it happen?’

‘Ian told me she was killed in the Attacks.’

‘Oh, that’s awful, Robert ...’

‘Everyone seems to have lost someone they loved that day.’

‘I didn’t. Well, not until now ...’

‘Events like that are part of the reason I was never very keen on extending my own family, Donna.’

‘Did she have any other children?’


‘So apart from Lady Catherine, and Sally, and any other great-aunts or distant cousins, I only have men left in my new family ...’

‘Yes, that’s very true. Victoria died quite recently too, and she’d never married. And so did poor Nancy — but her husband and her brother Steven are still with us, and so are several of our other male cousins. Dear old Walter, of course, is your grandfather and your great-grandfather. And I’ve already had a confidential word with him about things — without revealing your name, of course. He would love to meet his long-lost (great-)granddaughter and her loving husband.’

‘You know about Graham??’

‘Oh yes. And about young Philip. Dad and I are counting on an invitation to his sixth birthday party next month, if this all works out. He’s going to the same Infant School that Peter and I attended, sixty-five years ago ...’

‘Oh my god.’

‘So I hope, despite the shock of it all, Donna, that you’re glad you’ve finally re-discovered the large and loving family you’ve been missing for so long ...’

‘No, please stop right here, Robert! This is all just too much! I need to do a lot of thinking of my own before I go to collect Philip this afternoon. And before Graham gets home tonight ...’

‘Of course. But will you still come to see me tomorrow?’

‘I expect so ... Grandad.’

Proceed to Chapter 8 ...

Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd

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