Naomi Frankel


Chapter 2 of 4

Talia Bergson had a difficult childhood but she grew up, moved on, married Alex and had twins. Now she is faced with uprooting her family to go back in time. But then comes a shocking discovery that will change her life…

Staring at my phone’s silent screen, I stand rooted to the spot for a while, angry tears prickling the corner of my eyes. I decide to forego the bus and walk home to clear my head. The April air is fresh and the wind wafts playfully with my scarf but I am in no mood for its game. It takes me half an hour instead of 45 minutes and I smile in triumph as I unlock the front door. It quickly fades when I see Alex with his coat on, pulling a beanie over his short, dark curls. “Where are you going?” I ask. “To pick up the twins,” he replies shortly, turning away to examine himself in the hallway mirror. “Ma called. Something went very wrong after Dad’s operation. She also mentioned something about you and a phone call.” I look at him in the reflection and his face is white and pinched. I suddenly feel horribly guilty and almost want to throw up. “What’s wrong?” I whisper. “He’s in a lot of pain. They suspect an infection. I’ve offered for us to stay there indefinitely. It will be a huge help for them. I will go straight there from the school.” I swallow and it feels like a great big bowling ball stuck in my throat. By the time I’ve found the words, he’s gone with an almighty slam of the door. I stand there for a few minutes, the tears sliding down my face and then run upstairs where I bury myself in the safety of my king-size bed. I am woken suddenly by a noise in the room. I groan, rubbing my sleep-encrusted eyes and turn over, hugging my matching pink, fluffy pillow. Then I remember it’s not the morning and jump up in panic. I fumble under the covers for my phone, mumbling: “Shoot,shoot,shoot.” To my relief, my lock screen notifies me it’s half past five. I fall back into my bed’s warm embrace, but cringe when I remember what happened just two hours ago. Urgh. I want to bury myself under the covers and disappear into a deep, dreamless slumber. But I can’t. I have to get on with life. I decide to do some grocery shopping to stock up Ma’s fridge, seeing as she’ll now have four extra hungry mouths to feed. Throwing on my coat hurriedly, I grab my electric blue bag. All set, until I remember that I’ve forgotten to put my lenses in. I groan loudly and debate whether to just leave them. But then I hear that awful optician’s words echoing in my head:  “You have neglected your eyesight, neglected…” I shake my head furiously, refusing to let yet another person invade it. Sighing impatiently, I somehow manage to get the lenses in quite smoothly. I blink, my eyes watering and silently plead that my perfectly winged eyeliner is still intact. I check it in the mirror quickly and satisfied, turn to leave. The local Waitrose isn’t so packed and I grab a trolley and start at the beers, tossing in a six-pack of Corona, Dad’s favourite. Well, they do say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, or his liver in this case. I snicker to myself and the woman on the aisle packing shelves glances at me. “Thinks a lot of herself doesn’t she?” I suddenly hear. “Looks like a spoilt little madam.” I gape at her, mouth wide open.   “Excuse me?” I finally manage to say. “Yes, can I help?” She smiles belligerently, a painted fake smile with lip liner applied lopsidedly above the lip line. “Did you just say something to me?” I splutter. “No.” Her smile has been replaced with a raised, perfectly drawn on eyebrow. Feeling suddenly very awkward, I avert eye contact. “Never mind,” I say brightly. “Must have been a mistake.” I start pushing my trolley away, heading for the cereal aisle. “Gosh. What is she on?” I hear behind me. I whirl around. “Are you going to pretend you didn’t say that either?” I hiss. “I haven’t said a word.” She raises her voice but then drops it as a mother and toddler walk by. “I distinctly heard you say “What is she on?” Are you going to deny that to my face?”
At this, she looks at me very strangely and slowly backs away. “Really sorry,” she mutters and turns on her heel, almost tripping over a display of fruit. I debate whether to call the manager and report her outrageous behaviour, but decide to leave it. Too many arguments in the past few days. All I want at this point is a cold Diet Coke and a decent father. My eyes fill suddenly, but I push his image aside as roughly as my steering of the trolley. I do the rest of my shop blindly, throwing the items in, avoiding eye contact with anyone. I then head to the self-checkout where I pay mechanically, grateful that for once there is no need to “call for assistance”. Thank G-d. I cannot face any more people today.  When I let myself in, I can hear the water running upstairs. The house is quiet and mostly tidy, apart from some toy cars strewn across the floor and yoghurt smeared on the worktop. “The boys,” I think ruefully, suppressing a smile. I pad into the kitchen, quickly pop a beer into the freezer and start making pasta, with an extra cheesy sauce just the way Dad likes it. I’m busily chopping vegetables when suddenly, his deep voice calls me from the next room, making me nearly slice my hand open. “Talia,” he says evenly. He is lying on the couch with his leg propped up on a stack of cushions. “Hi,” I whisper back, breathily. “How are you?” “Terrible,” he replies automatically. “And you?” “I’m ok,” I babble nervously. “Sorry it took so long for me to come, popped to Waitrose to get some groceries for you guys. It was sunny when I left the house but then it started pouring, got there on time at least.” “I didn’t expect you earlier,” he says mildly, glancing away. I feel a white hot surge of anger. I just told him I went out FOR HIM. “Oh and there’s a Corona in the freezer, should be cold in a bit,” I say chirpily. “Thanks. Smells good in here.” There’s a long silence and I drop my gaze. I can feel his eyes surveying me and it makes me shiver involuntarily. I’m about to say something when I hear…Och I hate this small talk. Why can’t we just say what we’re really thinking? She’s trying to please me with the food and beer but I just want her to look at me with love, not constant disappointment. I start in surprise, staring at him with wide eyes. “Dad?” “Talia?” He eyes me strangely. “I agree. Everything you said just now, I agree with.” “But I haven’t said anything for the last five minutes.” He speaks slowly, looking at me like I’ve gone mad. I feel like I have. Suddenly, I am reminded of the woman in the shop earlier, and what he has just said reverberates in my head. He said “she” and not “you”. Why would he have said she? I was gripped by fear. What was happening to me