‘Hello Martin.’

Martin curses under his breath, he needs to change the locks no more unwelcomed visitors in his house, especially children and ex-wives.

‘What are you doing here Gyll? How did you get in?’

‘I used to live here. Raised five children here.’ Gyll answers, she’d been waiting on her ex-husband to come home. Let herself in and everything.

‘Raised.’ Martin laughs sardonically, ‘don’t be silly you barely raised your children and as for raising all five, I think we know better.’

‘I see you still hit below the belt, not only with a belt but with your actual words too.’

Martin hates that she can bring out the ugly side to him, there once was a time when they loved each other.

They share a look one filled with battle scars and shredded emotion, a lifetime of trauma lay in the chasm between them…

Theirs was not an unusual marriage for the time, they’d been affianced by their parents who were the best of friends, but they’d grown to love each other during their two yearlong courtship. Gyll was at university studying Arts and a celebrated Ballerina, one of the very few and first Black ballerinas the industry would deign to recognise, who’d toured with the best of them, and Martin was training to be in the army. They laid a good foundation for their marriage. Gyll understood that in time her role was to be a wife and mother whose whims would be catered to by her vast inheritance and Martin’s. It should more than make up for her giving up the dream to be a world-famous Ballerina who’d made a name for herself. She was the envy of their friends, threw the most decadent of dinner parties where only the most venerated guests were in attendance, their children were always so well behaved and put together, she made the grand home warm and welcoming, and was always being fawned over the society pages which made Martin the envy of his army buddies.

Looking back Gyll winced at how medieval it all was.

He was a hardman, Martin Adamson, Major General Adamson, decorated military man and heir to the vast family estate. He raised his children as if he were back in the barracks, but his hardness was balanced by Gyll’s softness; she understood that was how he was raised, his parents spanked him, never spared the rod where discipline was concerned and so he raised his children. He was expected to go into the army, following in his father’s footsteps, and he did. They grew up in a society that lauded expectations with preconceived roles, and traditions; there was no stepping out of line, no flights of fancy; the children were her purpose and they gave her much joy, they had a wonderful life, the hardness of their father regardless, he was a good father who only raised children the way he was raised, exceedingly privileged upbringing, strict parenting, and an upper-class education. It was perfect, they were perfect.

When Gyll found out she was pregnant with Jorja, she knew, just knew, she wouldn’t cope. She was just coming out of the fog of having Tommy, who was a terrible two at the time, the most terrible of the twos her son was, and she was done with having more children. Jorja was unexpected and she did not have a say.

‘I don’t have time for your games Gyll what do you want? Martin brings them back to the present.

‘I hear you’ve been invited to Tuscany.’

‘I hear you haven’t.’ He doesn’t fail to disguise his pleasure at that.

‘Don’t ruin it for her Martin.’

‘And how would I do that? As far as Jorja knows, I’m the parent who stayed and took care of her, I didn’t up and leave because I was high on pills.’

‘As far as she doesn’t know, you’re the parent who wouldn’t let me back in her life. You’re the parent who filed for full custody, you’re the parent who spanked all your children probably leaving them mentally scared.’

At those truths his face fell.

‘You never told them I tried to come back for them, did you? You never told them the truth.’

‘And what truth is that? That you left your youngest child abandoned for five hours whilst you went God knows where-’

‘I was sick Martin. I needed help.’

‘And I got you help-’

‘And took them away from me. Jorja hates me. She flinches every time I go near here.’

‘Because you would not hold her as a child!’ He stated matter of factly, ‘you said it yourself you were afraid to hold her.’

‘That was my cry for help.’ Gyll wipes the tears from her eyes, ‘how could you not see that?’

There were a lot of things he wished he’d seen but missed, too many things and he could never forgive himself so he shut her out of his life and that of their children’s as long as he could. ‘What do you want Gyll?’ He was suddenly tired, so damn tired.

‘What happened to us?’

Martin’s shoulders sag the weight of the past still on it. ‘I don’t know. I don’t want to hash out the past.’

Gyll stands to leave, ‘just don’t hurt her, don’t ruin the holidays for her Martin. Try to be a better father than I was a mother to her.’