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The Secret

Task: A secret

It is one of those universal truths about people.

When you’re in mourning and tidying up the belongings of the deceased, one should never, ever, on coming across a diary, stop what you’re doing, sit down and read it.

Of course, I know that most diaries are bland and meaningless, some kind of teenage drivel about the harshness of the world, how Russell prefers Angie, how Angie fancies Rich, how Rich kisses Colin, blah blah blah. So, when I found my mother’s box of diaries, I almost succeeded in ignoring them, until I glanced at the dates and saw the year of my birth on one of the spines.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Don’t jump ahead and force me to tell you that my real father was a film star or something.


I remember my father teaching me a lesson about secrets and whether, when they come out, people really want to know. It was a crisp spring morning and we were walking the dog. I have no idea what had led up to this, but he stopped and suddenly looked serious. ‘Son, just say you pretended to know something and ran up to me and said “Dad. I know you’re secret!” and I gave you five pounds to keep quiet. Then you ran to your mother and said “Mom. I know your secret!” and she gave you ten pounds. Well, don’t go up to your Uncle Jim and say “Uncle Jim. I know your secret!” because he might not give you money. He could just open his arms and say “At last, now come and give your father a hug!” Would that make you feel good?’

But, I read them nonetheless, with my father’s tutting in my ears.

The world carried on outside, getting wet as the rain poured, while I sat alone, in the quiet, truly orphaned by recent events, reading about the year of my conception and birth. And, yes, I stumbled upon a secret, her secret, which she had kept all to herself as though it was her only object of value and worth.

But she’s gone now and if I hadn’t opened her diary at that point, it would have died with her.

I stood up, slowly pacing the attic and, as though needing some answer, I walked towards the dormer window. It had steamed up and I wiped the glass with my hand to look out onto the autumn storm.

I shuddered as though my father had left the room in a foul temper, making the door inexplicably creak.

‘I know your secret, mom.’ I said aloud.

That’s when I became aware of the drenched figure outside on the drive, staring up at me. He walked out of my sight far below and banged on the front door.


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