vendredi 12 avril 2013

The Prodigal's Daughter

A few years back, I was challenged to write a contemporary retelling of a well-known Bible story.  This is the result.

Louisa edged her father's BMW backwards gently, gently until she felt a gentle thunk. Then she hauled on the wheel and started to edge forwards. Heart racing, she waited again for the thunk. Tomorrow she was definately going to take her own car – never mind that her Father said the staff wouldn't take her seriously if she turned up in her little Fiat.

Success ! The damn thing was finally parked – sort of legally and almost straight in a side street only two blocks from the house. Maybe things were finally looking up after a truely lousy day. She streatched into the back, grabbed the strap of her lap-top bag while groping with her other hand for her overstuffed briefcase. Pushing the door open with her elbow she swore vigorously as her tights laddered on the seat trim. Another pair for the bin then. Back-aching from the weight of her lap-top and papers, head-thumping after the stand-up row with the sales director, feet aching, she headed for home, looking forward to a soak on a long hot bath and a large glass of chardonnay (or maybe vodka...)

Nearing the house, she was surprised by the number of cars pulled up onto the pavements. She could hear music as well – someone must be having a party. Unusual for a week-night. As she rounded the corner, she stopped dead – barely able to believe her eyes. All the windows of her father's house were lit up, and the music – which sounded for all the world like a jazz band – was clearly coming from inside. « What the....! » She squeezed round the gardener's van that was blocking the entrace and came nose to nose with its owner, who appeared to be holding a crate of champagne. « Tom, what the heck is going on ? » « Its your father Louisa. He's having a party now your brother's back ». « A party ? My father ? For my brother ? My brother ? Back ? Are you sure ?». She could hear her voice getting shriller with each question. « Well yes, your father sent me out for more champagne because they were running out. Anyway, better get this lot up to the house. I'll tell your Father you'll be over once you've changed, will I ? » And with that, Tom was off.

A party. A party for her brother ? Her brother back, after all these years ? No, that didn't make sense. He'd been gone for years. Dropped out of uni half way through his business studies course and gone off to « find himself » leaving their father heart-broken, and Louisa to give up on her own ambitions and take over the business. Was it possible ? Could he really be back ?

Avoiding the people drinking champagne and dancing on the lawn, she climbed the stairs to her little flat above the old coach house and closed the door behind her. Her brother, back after all these years. No, it just wasn't possible. As for going over to the house to celebrate his return. Well that would be the day. Give him a piece of her mind more like.

She kicked off her heels and headed towards the bathroom when there was a knock at the door. Now what ! To her astonishment, her father stood in the entrance. But he never came here, to her little flat. She always went to him. « Louisa, its your brother. He's back. Anyway, we're having some drinks over at the house, to celebrate you know. It would be great if you could come over too. »
« Come over. Just like like. After the way he left us – the way he left you. Just walked out, barely a postcard in all these years, and now he just walks back in like he owns the place and you expect me to come running... »
« Louisa, look, none of that matters now – just come over please. Come and say hello, thats all. »

Was she imagining it, or did her Dad look his age as he walked back down the stairs ? But no, really it was too much. She sat down on the settee...
...and woke several hours later in the dark. Only a glow from a streetlight lit the room. She must have fallen asleep where she was. She stretched and headed to the kitchen for a drink of water. It must be late. Well in the small hours. Looking up to the house, all appeared in darkness except for a light in her father's study. Could he still be up ? Unlikely. He liked to be in bed early these days, ever since Lionel... Lionel...
How could he just turn out of the blue like this and expect everything to be OK. Typical bloody Lionel, no thought for others.

Couldn't hurt to nip over and make sure that dad was OK. Pulling on a pair of trainers, Louisa headed for the house. The front door was unlocked and the alarm hadn't been set. Not like her father. She headed for the study and then stopped just outside the open door at the sound of soft voices. Her dad and Lionel – maybe she should just head back to her flat and leave things to the morning. But no, too late « Come in Louisa ! We were hoping you'd come ». As she walked into the study, Lionel stood up. After an awkward silence he kissed her briefly on the cheek. « Good to see you again, sis » He looked thinner, tired, not quite how she remembered him. « Dad, if its all the same to you I'll turn in now. I think that you and Lou have things you need to talk about. Thanks for the whisky ». And with that he left the room.

Louisa looked at her father, and suddenly realised how frail he was looking. She nodded briefly as he held up the whisky bottle then took the glass he held out. Wordlessly she sat down in the armchair Lionel had left.  And then realised, to her horror, that she was crying. Gently her dad took her glass from her hand, and for the first time in years, she let him take her in his arms.

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