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December 2004 – Mum’s the Word.
The Tangled Web is a story spanning several years and is based on the complicated lives of Sara and Sam, lovers who are brother and sister, and those they live with. Set in the English Midlands, the tale is told through a series of interlocking short stories. Although designed to be read in sequence, I have tried to make each chapter stand as a complete and satisfying story in itself.
Although this chapter is essential to the developing plot, it is a little longer than usual and perhaps not quite as explicit in its content.
I hope regular ‘Web’ readers will enjoy it for what it is – an important chapter in the lives of two lovers.
It is December 2004 and, although the streets and shops are full of all the brightness and excitement of the approaching season of goodwill, Sara and Sam and their family are finding it hard to take part in the festivities.
Tragically, Sara and Sam’s father suffered a sudden and severe heart attack and died during the previous November. Although a considerable shock to all the family, their loss brought their already-close family even closer together, and they took some comfort in the knowledge that it had been very quick and he had not suffered.
Their mother, Helen, had felt it hardest. Although she had been a full eight years younger than her husband, nevertheless Sara and Sam had always felt that it was she and not their father that had been the more fragile of the two. Dad had always seemed so strong; so fit; so much larger than life; and yet it had been he who had left them first. The shock was hard to bear.
The day of the funeral and wake had passed as well as could be expected, with family members gathering from all over the world. Their father had been part of a large extended family, and distant relations Sara and Sam had never met before had arrived at their house and greeted them like long lost friends.
Their mother’s relations, though much fewer in number, had also arrived from distant places. Largely unfazed by the large gathering, they had helped to ensure that all the guests were well fed well looked after while the grieving widow, Helen, still a striking and attractive woman despite her 62 years, undertook the necessary formalities with her two grown-up children in full support.
It was only when the house had finally become quiet that the three of them had had time to sit and grieve properly before beginning the difficult task of considering the future.
Concerned for their mother’s loneliness, Sara and Sam had insisted that she came to stay with them in Sam’s house for at least a week, to recover some of her strength and to avoid being alone in such a large and empty house.
Somewhat to their surprise, she had agreed readily and since then had been sleeping in the guest bedroom for almost a week.
As a result, Sam had been confined to the small study bedroom at the back of the house, the twins naturally having priority in the nursery room. Although not begrudging this sacrifice, it did of course mean that, to their joint frustration, he could not visit Sara in her bed once the twins were asleep, and had to try and actually sleep in the uncomfortable camp bed in the study instead of alongside his warm, soft and beautiful sister.
The therapy, though tough on Sam, was working well on their mother. Helen was obviously rather distracted and upset, but to her children’s delight was quickly beginning to focus on the future rather than dwell on the past. Indeed, she talked excitedly of her grandchildren and the glowing, promising future that lay ahead for them.
Interestingly, Helen never talked about the twins’ supposed father, David, and still less about ‘that woman’ Lynn, Sam’s ex wife who now lived with her girlfriend in Sydney, Australia.
Meanwhile she was spending much more time with her daughter than she had done since Sara had lived at home. They had shopped together, gone out for coffee together, watched soppy chick flicks together and generally left Sam out of things.
Sam, of course still worked full time for the large manufacturing company he had been with since leaving university. He was now head of the Technical Department, a job which required him to travel the world extensively and gave a good excuse for Sara to live with him, ostensibly as a housekeeper. He was besotted with the children – his children, although still only he and Sara knew this – and took advantage of every moment to be with them.
We join them as their ‘Uncle’ Sam, after returning from a trip to the play park with Simon and Samantha, is playing noisily with them in the garden despite the cold weather.
Sara and her mother have just returned in Sara’s car from another long visit to the shops.
Sara heaved a weary sigh as she dropped the heavy shopping bags on the kitchen table. Her mother followed her into the room, burdened down by her own purchases and, placing them carefully on the counter top, perched herself precariously on one of the high breakfast bar stools.
“I bahis firmaları never thought I’d say this, Sara, but there is a limit to the amount of shopping I can cope with these days.” She laughed. “I’d say that even you were having trouble today.”
“Never!” Sara replied in mock outrage. “I’ve learned from an expert!”
She filled the shiny chrome kettle from the tap and switched it on. Her face was pink and rosy from the cold.
“Tea, Mum?” She asked.
“Yes please, dear.” Her mother replied, peering into the bags’ open tops. “We really have been naughty, you know. I didn’t really need more shoes or that long skirt.”
“Mum, it’s not a question of need. It’s good to treat yourself. Especially now. You deserve a bit of spoiling. You know Dad would have said the same. He was always generous.”
Helen fell silent for a while.
“I know. I miss him terribly. And at silly times too, like now.”
Sara crossed to her mother’s side and hugged her. No words were spoken. There was no need for them. They understood each other well, as only mother and daughter can.
“Where’s Sam? I’m sure I can hear him.” Helen eventually asked, diffusing the sadness in the air. Sara crossed to the window and looked into the small garden at the back of the house.
“He’s still outside playing with the kids, Mum.” Sara replied, laughing. “He’s like a big kid himself sometimes. Just look at the faces he’s pulling.” Her mother joined her at the window and chuckled.
“That double swing was a good idea. They both love it. Or should I say all three of them? Look! Sam can keep them both going at the same time. No squabbles!”
“They hardly ever argue.” Mused Sara. “I can’t decide whether that’s good or bad.” She paused for a minute. “Did Sam and I squabble a lot when we were their age, Mum? I can’t remember anything much that far back.”
Her mother thought for a while.
“No, I don’t think you did. You two always got on famously. Until you were both teens, that is. Then the sparks started to fly”
She thought a minute longer.
“I think you disapproved of Sam’s girlfriends and he certainly disapproved of your boyfriends.”
Sara fell silent, thinking of Sam and their relationship now.
“He’ll be cross I’ve spent all this money.” She eventually said, quietly.
“Honestly, Sara.” Her mother scolded. “You sound like an old married couple.”
Sara’s heart missed a beat and she tried to recover quickly.
“I just meant that he’s so generous, supporting us all like this.” But her mother was making a ‘don’t worry’ gesture.
“I did know what you meant, dear. I’m just joking.” She smiled. “It’s nice to feel like joking again. But then I immediately feel guilty about it, as if being happy is a betrayal. I know it’s ridiculous, but I can’t help it.” There were tears in her eyes.
She paused at the window, watching her son play with the two young, excitable children in the cold December air. All three of them had rosy red cheeks and their breath made clouds of condensation as they laughed together.
The sight seemed to strengthen her resolve. She turned away from the window and looked at her daughter.
“Sara, I think it’s time I moved back home again, don’t you?”
Sara looked at her mother. “So soon? Really? There’s no hurry, Mum. We love having you here.”
“I know, dear, and you’re both very kind, but I think that the longer I leave it, the harder it will be. If you aren’t offended, I think I’d better pack tonight and go back tomorrow while I still have the courage.”
There was a heavy silence. Finally Sara spoke.
“Well, as long as you’re sure, Mum. We’d love to have you here for longer. The kids love having you around. It’s like being a real family.”
Sara’s words seemed to have a profound effect on her mother, who stared once more at the three playmates in the garden. Sam was giving the twins, noisy airplane rides in big circles. They were squealing with delight.
“And I love being here with them, too. But I have to get back on my feet. After all, I hope I have many good years ahead of me. Those two are growing so fast.” She nodded at the twins who were giggling loudly outside the window, making faces at their mother and grandmother. “They’ll soon be doing things and seeing things that will have a lasting effect on them. I want to be around to be a part of that.”
She stopped in mid flow, as if making up her mind whether to go on. With an air of steeling herself for a difficult decision, she went on with a forced, unconvincing casualness.
“And anyway, dear.” Her mother said, almost in a whisper. “Don’t you think it’s time Sam moved back into his proper place?”
“He’s quite happy in the study.” Sara replied with a laugh. “You mustn’t worry about pinching his bed. Really, you mustn’t.”
“No dear, that’s not what I meant.” Her mother’s voice was slow, calm and clear. “I mean back where he was before I arrived. Back where you want him.”
The words took a few seconds to sink in. The colour drained kaçak iddaa from Sara’s face and she began to tremble. Surely she hadn’t heard properly. No! Her mother couldn’t have meant what Sara thought she meant.
Fighting to keep herself under control, she asked her mother in a tiny, frightened voice, her throat suddenly bone dry, her forced casual tone entirely unconvincing.
“What do you mean, Mum? This is Sam’s house. We’re very grateful to him for keeping us all.”
Her mother looked at Sara with a pitying half smile on her kindly face.
“Sara, did you really think you could keep it a secret from me forever? Me? Your own mother?”
Sara still couldn’t face the horror of what she was hearing. Defiantly, she tried to make it mean something else; something less terrible.
“You think we should move out and let Sam have some space to himself? Perhaps to find a new girlfriend? A new wife?”
The words almost choked her but the alternative was too terrible to contemplate.
“No Sara. And I know you and Sam don’t want that either. I mean, Sara that you should take Sam back into your bed and fully into your life, where he belongs. Don’t keep the pretence going any longer – not for my sake anyway.”
Sara stared into her mother’s face, thunderstruck. There could be no doubt whatsoever in those words. Her mother – their mother – knew all about their incestuous relationship.
Sara’s trembling became shaking, her face became paler.
“You….you know?” She stammered.
“Yes, dear. I know. I’ve known for a long time.”
Sara grasped the wooden tabletop for support as the shock sank in. Her shoulders heaved and she fumbled wildly for the low chair, dragging it beneath her collapsing knees as she slumped down beside her mother. Her eyes filled with tears and she buried her head in her hands.
The older lady promptly put her arm around her weeping daughter’s shoulders. There was tenderness, not anger in her voice as she spoke.
“There, there, darling. Don’t worry. Don’t worry. It’s all alright. Everything will be alright.”
But for the moment, Sara was beyond consolation. She began to weep uncontrollably, her mind full of terrible pictures. Of Sam being arrested; of her being arrested; of the twins being taken into care; of her mother’s hatred and loathing; of the shame of being exposed.
She could barely hear her mother’s words as Helen tried to reassure her anxious daughter.
“It’s all alright, darling.” Her mother persisted. “It really is alright. You have nothing to worry about. Trust me. Please. Trust me.”
Eventually her mother’s soothing voice broke through her sobs and into Sara’s traumatised mind. It was not so much her words as the loving, understanding tone of her voice that finally made Sara realise that things might not, after all, be as black as her nightmares. Slowly she regained control of her sobbing body, then her breathing, and finally she managed to raise her head from her hands.
Helen saw her daughter’s pale, anguished face as she lowered her hands, the little make-up she usually wore now ran in dark streaks down her cheeks. Sara could not look her mother in the eye, but in a trembling voice asked.
“How…how long have you known?” Sara realised as soon as she had spoken that this was a confession as well as a question. She knew there was no going back now.
“I’ve suspected for several years, dear.”
Sara gasped. He mother continued.
“I’ve known for certain since you became pregnant and I’ve been doubly sure since you started wearing that little thing on your left hand.” She indicated the antique diamond ring that Sara had worn since she and Sam had become ‘engaged’ the previous year.
Sara began to cry again, but less violently this time. Her mother rose and crossed to the boiling kettle where she quickly made two cups of hot tea. Sara remained at the table, her breath coming in small, noisy gasps as her sobbing slowly subsided.
Eventually returning to her daughter’s side, she sat and pressed a cup of the warming, soothing liquid into her trembling fingers.
“Come on, dear. Sip this. You’ve had quite a shock, I know.”
Sara did as she was told and after a few minutes of silence, regained something of her composure.
“Why ….why didn’t you say anything before, Mum? Why?”
Her mother thought for a few seconds before replying.
“Because it would have killed your father, Sara. You know how upright and correct he was. He could barely cope with the idea of you, his only daughter and the light of his life, having a sexual relationship at all.” Sara nodded through her sobs.
“You know he never liked David. The idea of you having a sexual relationship with your own brother would have finished him altogether.”
Something struck Sara about her mother’s tone of voice.
“But you? You’re not.….not disgusted? You’re not angry with me….with us?”
This time it was her mother’s turn to become emotional.
“Oh darling, it has been sheer hell keeping this knowledge all kaçak bahis to myself for so long. I’ve wanted to tell you both, to talk to you both, to hug you both for so long. If anything good can come out of your father’s death, it’s this. We don’t have to keep this a secret between us any longer.”
“But how did you find out? Did you see us……..?” She left the sentence unfinished. “I thought we were so careful.”
“Darling, did you really think that your own mother wouldn’t be able to tell when her daughter’s in love – and so deeply? And who she was in love with?”
She looked deep into Sara’s red eyes.
“I’ve seen the look in your eyes when you’re watching Sam and your body language when you’re near him. And of course he’s the same when he’s with you – perhaps even more so.”
Sara blushed, colour at last returning to her cheeks. She sipped her tea, feeling its warmth spread through her chest.
“Is it really that obvious?” She began to feel strangely pleased, but still afraid.
“To me, your mother? Yes, it is very obvious.” She paused. “There is always a certain sexual frisson between you even though you try hard to hide it. And of course when you were pregnant there was no doubt left at all. No man would ever look at a woman you like Sam did at you unless he was the father of your child.”
“Did Dad suspect?” Sara asked anxiously.
“I’m certain he didn’t, dear. Your father wasn’t the most observant man, and it would never cross his sweet mind that such a thing could be possible.” She laughed. “You young people always think you know so much better than your parents, don’t you?”
Sara was shocked. There was no doubt in her mother’s voice. She knew that Sam was the twins’ father. She knew. She had always known.
“And you don’t think it’s all unnatural? Aren’t you horrified?” Sara at last stammered out.
“Sara darling, I think it’s just about the most natural thing in the world. You are a very beautiful girl and Sam is a very handsome boy.” She grinned. “Handsome man, I should have said.”
She leaned towards her daughter and spoke earnestly. “I know it’s not something every brother and sister should do, but for the two of you? Well, I’ve watched the two of you growing closer and closer. I don’t think either of you had any choice in the matter, do you?”
Sara couldn’t believe her ears. Her own mother not only knew about her incestuous relationship, but was actually praising it. This must be a dream!
“Sam has been in love with you since the day you were born, didn’t you realise that? And I know you’ve always hero-worshipped him.”
“He’s always been in love with me?” Sara asked, pleased.
“Of course I have, you silly girl.” Came the deep, male voice from behind them both.
“Sam!” Sara almost shrieked, swivelling around and leaping to her feet.
Unnoticed by either of the women, Sam had entered the house with the children behind him. He quickly herded them into their room, settled them with their toys, closed the door and returned to the kitchen.
Sara grasped his hand and, holding it anxiously, asked him.
“How much have you heard, Sam?”
“Quite a lot, Midge. Enough, anyway.” He took her hand in his and led her back to the table where he sat, very close to her, facing their mother. His body language was challenging and protective, but his voice was low.
“I’m sorry Mum.” He said.
“Sorry for what, dear? I hope you’re not sorry for all the two of you have done together.”
“No, Mum, I’m not sorry for that. I’m sorry for keeping secrets. But how could we have known that you knew? And that you wouldn’t be revolted by the idea?”
“You couldn’t have known, dear. I made sure of that. But now your father’s passed on, we can clear the air between us and the two of you can make the plans I’m sure you want to.”
Sara and Sam looked at each other meaningfully.
Helen continued. “Without worrying about me. I might even be able to help.”
“I can’t believe you’re being so relaxed about it, Mum. We thought you would be shocked. That you might have a…..” Sam paused, thinking about his father’s untimely end. “Well, a heart attack or something.”
“We older folk aren’t all as fragile or easily shocked as you think, Sam.” She went on, indignantly. “And anyway, how old do you two think I am?”
They laughed, pleased to be able to ease the tension.
“I know it’s early, but I could do with a drink.” Sam exclaimed, crossing to the fridge. “A glass of wine? Or perhaps something stronger?”
He poured three glasses of warming rich red wine and, after checking on the twins in their room, joined the two girls at the kitchen table. They sipped their drinks slowly; the atmosphere became gradually more relaxed and comforting.
Sam squeezed his sister’s thigh under the table. She held his fingertips in her hand.
Helen looked at her two confident, attractive children. Their faces were so alike, and so like their father’s, she thought. Could they really get away with it? Oh, how much she wanted them to succeed!
“I can’t believe you’re ….well, that you’re being so relaxed and understanding about this, Mum.” Sam said. “It’s been our biggest fear ever since…..well, ever since it all started.”
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