“Alan, are you still there, mate?” Dave Frankston asked when it had gone silent at the other end of the line. “Alan?”
It took Ironbark a few moments to recover from hearing Dave’s full name.
“Yes, I’m here, Dave,” Ironbark replied. “It’s been a while,” he continued, “I never thought we’d be in touch again.”
“Well, we are, and I reckon you know why.”
By this time, Ironbark’s memory was going full throttle and he had cottoned on quick enough as to why Dave had contacted him after all those years.
“Yeah well, it’s funny, really, that you should phone me.”
“Oh?” Dave exclaimed.
“I was down at the National Archives the other day when you came to mind.”
“So, you found out for yourself, eh?”
“Hmm, yes, I did.”
The words had barely left Ironbark’s lips when questions started to pop up. Questions about his daughter and her abduction, and questions about the people involved.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Dave interrupted. “You might not believe this, but I only just dug up the truth myself last week.”
“You’re right about one thing, Dave. I find it hard to believe you or any one else at the social services knew nothing about my daughter’s abduction.”
As he spoke, Ironbark felt a terrible rage building up inside. Now he was beginning to understand what had caused his daughter to wreck her own life and that of her mother as well. However, when he thought about it, he knew this was not the whole truth. He and his wife were also to blame, maybe even more so, as it was they who had judged their daughter and her boyfriend when she was barely nineteen. They and the unfortunate boy’s parents had come down on them like a ton of bricks, causing him to run away from home and her to break down with grief. And there was more, but a sharp shock to his heart prevented him from giving it further thought.
“Argh!” he shouted, grabbing his chest and dropping the phone in the process.
After recovering form the last heart attack two months ago, he had been convinced it would not happen again, although his daughter thought otherwise. Now, here he was, on his knees, with one hand at his chest and the other leaning on the toilet seat for support.
“Ah, bugger,” he groaned in pain as he slowly started to recover.
“Alan, what’s happening? Are you okay?” Dave shouted worriedly.
It was quiet at Ironbark’s end for a few seconds. Then Ironbark grabbed his phone from the shower mat and examined it. What a stroke of good luck, he thought. It was still intact and did not have a scratch to show for its heavy fall.
“I think I’m alright, Dave. It was another heart attack,” Ironbark groaned as he sat himself on the floor with his back up against the wall.
“Just sit still and take some time to recover.”
Ironbark did as he was advised and a few minutes later he resumed his conversation with Dave.
“I’m sorry about that. I realize I was a bit harsh on you just then. That’s what brought on this heart attack, I suppose. But, if anyone’s to blame for this mess, then it’s got to be me and Estelle,” Ironbark explained.
As he spoke, tears came to his eyes. The hospital staff had told him this was perfectly natural after a heart attack, yet, he knew that in this case he was feeling the grief that he had bottled up over the years. He glanced through the window, which he had opened to let in some fresh air, and saw it had stopped raining. The scene in his back yard was a tranquil one that was reflected in the little drops of rain that clung on to the leaves of the plants and the trees.
Then, Dave spoke again.
“This isn’t the time for condemnation or self-judgement, Alan. Instead, it’s time you stopped being so hard on yourself. That’s what this heart attack is trying to tell you. Take it from me, you’ll do yourself a world of good by forgiving yourself.”
“I suppose you’re right, Dave. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. I’m sorry I brought this about.”
“Don’t be, I’m kind of glad you did. Now I can come clean and forgive myself, like you said. That way I’ll have the guts to tell my girl the truth.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what, give me a call when you’re ready and we can talk things over. I’d like to help you, if that’s okay. It’s the very least I can do.”
“Ta, that would be fine. I’ll give you a call soon. Bye.”
As he ended the call, Ironbark looked outside again to see the sun breaking through. Its rays shone through the humid air creating a small rainbow right above the banana trees by the back fence. A gentle smile appeared on his face and for the first time in many years, he felt a deep sense of inner calm come over him. Everything was going to be alright after all.
‘Spring Plants Close Up’ by Allison Choppick on Freeimages.com
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