They huddled together on their mother’s bed. All three of them had on white nylon stockings and similar navy blue dresses. The older two sat in silence as their little sister whimpered and sniffed.
The house was finally empty. Everyone had left and their father was polishing off the bottle of whiskey in the living room.He looked around the room at all the flowers and crumpled tissues and glasses all over. He closed his eyes and sighed at the thought of cleaning up.
He topped up his glass. The bottle was almost finished so he reconciled that it wouldn’t make any difference and he filled his glass to the brim. It spilled over the edge as he brought the glass to his lips. The liquid soaked his tongue. Another big sip to make the glass manageable. He settled back into his chair and let the whiskey do its job.
Thoughts of his wife and her speedy departure were pushed to the back of his mind. The girls. The house. The debt. All of it was a blur with a strong bottle of whiskey.
Everyday since her death he has had to numb himself from the truth. Rosemary died and left him to pick up the pieces. He was angry with her.
She knew for a while that she was sick. She knew . Her doctor was shocked that he didn’t know.
Everyone knew Rosemary as the free-spirited kind person. He knew people always wondered how a guy like him got a girl like her. The accountant and the dancer. World’s apart.
But none of that mattered any more.
Michael woke up the next morning,the glass of whiskey gone,the living room was clean and the smell of strong coffee in the air.
His youngest daughter was sitting at his feet watching cartoons.
‘Morning Penny Pie’
The little girl looked up at him , the strain of crying evident on her face.
‘Morning pappa bear. Megan’s made you coffee’ she turned her attention back to the tv.
His head was splitting. He took a sip of coffee. The house phone rang.
‘Dad!it’s for you. It’s Dr Marsh’
He had been dreading this phone call. He slowly made his way to the room. Megan didn’t look impressed with him,he knew it was because of his drinking every night essentially leaving her to see to the house and the younger two. He looked at her and tried to make eye contact,but she just shoved the receiver into his hand and left.
‘Good morning’…he cleared his throat. ‘Good morning, Michael Alice speaking
“Mr Alice. Dr Marsh asked if you could make it to his office today…any time is fine. He received your test results but wants to discuss it with you personally”
Michael tried to get more information from the nurse but eventually agreed to see the doctor. A million things filled his head.
Megan was setting the table for breakfast. She was working fast. Juggling plates and bowls and knives and forks. Keeping busy kept her from sobbing, she was exhausted from having so much to do but it kept her busy. She called Penny to the table and then called for Jess who was dangerously circling the drain of depression…but she was always the emotional one.
Michael wasn’t called but he joined them.
Meg dished up for Penny then took a big gulp of coffee.
‘Since when do you drink coffee’ Michael seemed shocked
” Two whiskey drinkers would be frowned on now wouldn’t it” Meg wanted the words to hurt, and it did.
” I’m going to Dr Marsh later. He did some blood tests on me , do you ladies want to get out of the house for a while”
” Ok. That’s OK. ”
They ate in silence with only the sound of the cartoons in background. He looked at his poor girls and thought about their mother …
Rosemary stopped dancing when Megan was born. She never said it but Michael knew she resented him for encouraging her to give it up. As the years went by her restlessness grew. She started doing crazy things like taking the girls shopping for the day then leaving them in the car outside a club while she danced the night away. Michael would come home from night shift and find the house empty. The strange behaviour became one of her quirks because everyone loved her and no one could admit that something was wrong. Dealing with her became part of his day-to-day.
“You’ve got to clean moms car out today. There’s some paraphernalia in there that could get us into trouble” Meg stared at him intensely , she wanted him to get what she was saying.
Michael closed his eyes and sighed hard. ” I thought she was done with all that”
“Well that’s what you get for abandoning your family “
“That’s not fair Megan. I had to leave and was not abandoning you. You know why I moved out”
Megan’s face was blood-shot . Her melt down was immanent but somehow she managed to contain it.
Michael got up and walked out side to the car. He opened the door and it was filled with takeaway boxes and sweets and Penny’s drawings. It didn’t take long for him to find her stash. But the size of her stash was not normal…in fact it was too much for one person. On further inspection he noticed that the brick sized package had not been opened at all. There was a piece of paper selotaped to the package with a name and number.
“What did you do Rosemary…”