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Authors: Lesley Pearse

Tags: #Fiction

Father Unknown

 

 

Father Unknown
Lesley Pearse
Penguin Books Ltd (2011)
Tags:
Fiction

Synopsis

One young woman in search of a past - and a future ...

Sweet-natured but dappy Daisy Buchan drifts from job to job and takes her policeman boyfriend Joel for granted. She's happy, but she doesn't know what she wants from life.

But when her adoptive mother dies and leaves her twenty-five-year-old daughter a scrapbook of memories, Daisy finally discovers who she is and where she came from. Her real mother was a teenage farmer's daughter from Cornwall - and Daisy drops everything to go and find her. But in going in search of her past, is Daisy risking the future of her relationship not only with her adored dad but also with Joel? And will she be able to deal with the truth about her real parents and the real Daisy?

LESLEY PEARSE

Father Unknown

PENGUIN BOOKS

Contents

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Twenty-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five

To my sister Selina with my love and deepest respect.

We may have been flung together as children and had
to accept what we couldn’t change. But you became
a true sister of the heart, and that’s what counts. I
wish you all the happiness you deserve.

Chapter One

Chiswick, London, 1990

‘Come here and hold my hand, darling. I hate to sound melodramatic, but I think I’m on the way out.’

Daisy was just leaving the bedroom as she had thought her mother was sound asleep. Hearing these words, she wheeled round in shock and dismay.

Lorna Buchan had cancer. She had fought it bravely for over two years with radiotherapy, a mastectomy and countless alternative treatments, always believing she would get better. But two months ago she had been told by her specialist that the cancer had spread throughout her body. She had resigned herself to this and refused any further hospital treatment, because she wanted to spend her last weeks at home with her husband and children.

Daisy was beside her mother’s bed in a trice. ‘I’ll call the doctor,’ she said, her heart pounding with fear.

Lorna smiled up weakly at her daughter. ‘No, darling, there’s no point. I’m not in any pain and I feel really calm. Just sit with me.’

Daisy was appalled – she couldn’t just sit there and watch her mother die without doing something. Yet to argue with her now seemed awful too. So with her free hand she gently stroked her mother’s head, while she considered what she should do.

Lorna had lost her lovely honey-blonde hair after the radiotherapy, and the new growth was white and as soft as a baby’s. Her face was gaunt because she had lost so much weight and even her blue eyes had faded to a pale duck-egg colour.

It wasn’t fair, Daisy thought, that her mother should be singled out for this. She was only fifty and she’d been such a striking, robust woman, always fashionably dressed, known to everyone for her vivacious and warm personality. She was the sort of indomitable woman who could tirelessly supervise a school fête, then at the end of a day which would have exhausted anyone else, invite all the helpers home for an impromptu party. She would still be dancing and laughing as her guests finally left. Yet miraculously by breakfast the following day the whole house would be tidied and cleaned as if nothing had gone on there.

‘I
must
call Daddy,’ Daisy said after a few moments’ thought.

‘Certainly not,’ Lorna said surprisingly firmly. ‘He has an important meeting this afternoon and I don’t want him rushing home through the traffic in a panic.’

‘But I must do something. Let me call the college and get the twins home.’

‘No, not them either, they’ll be home soon anyway.’

Daisy had given up her job a month before when her mother became too ill to be left at home alone. This was not an act of martyrdom – Daisy loathed her job, just as she had loathed practically every one she’d ever had, and there had been dozens. Housekeeping and caring for her mother was something she liked and was good at, and she used to think that she could handle any situation or emergency. Yet she knew she couldn’t handle this one alone.

‘I’ve got to phone the doctor at least,’ she said resolutely.

Lorna turned her head away in a stubborn attempt to try to dissuade her. Daisy picked up the phone by the bed regardless and quickly phoned the surgery to tell them she needed a doctor immediately.

‘That wasn’t necessary, I only need you here,’ Lorna said weakly, as Daisy put the phone down.’ Besides, there’s something I want to talk to you about.’

‘I will get a real career,’ Daisy said quickly, assuming that this was what was on her mother’s mind. She was twenty-five and she knew her parents despaired because she was feckless and lacking in ambition. ‘I thought I might join the police force.’

Lorna smiled. ‘You’d be hopeless at that, you don’t like taking orders and you’re so soft you’d be bringing all the villains home for tea.’

‘So is it Joel, then?’ Daisy asked.

Joel was her policeman boyfriend of a year’s standing, the longest she’d ever gone out with any man. Her parents approved of him, and she thought perhaps her mother was going to urge her to marry him.

‘No, not Joel either, you are perfectly well able to make your own mind up about him. I wanted to talk about your real mother.’

Daisy looked at her mother in horror, ‘I don’t want to talk about her now,’ she said.

‘Well, I do,’ Lorna said. ‘What’s more, I want you to find her when I’ve gone. I think it will help you.’

Her words made tears well up in Daisy’s eyes. ‘Nothing and nobody will ever replace you,’ she said passionately. ‘You are my
real
mother. I don’t want anyone else.’

She had known she was adopted since she was a tiny child. Lorna and John had told her that she was extra special because they had chosen her, while ordinary parents got no choice at all. Even when she was five and the twins were born – a miracle because Lorna had been told she was sterile – nothing changed. Daisy never felt her parents loved them more, in fact she imagined they’d got Tom and Lucy just to please her. Not once in her twenty-five years had Daisy shown any interest in her birth mother. She knew she was a Buchan, whoever she was born to.

‘You might think that way now, Dizzie,’ Lorna used the family nickname lovingly, ‘but I know from experience that a death in the family can bring up so many unexpected emotions and questions. I believe finding her would help you through all that.’

Daisy didn’t know what to say. Lorna wasn’t one to make a suggestion like this without having thought long and hard about it. Since she knew she was dying she had organized everything, from her funeral service to filling the freezer with ready-cooked meals. There was nothing morbid about any of her arrangements, she’d been this way all her life, always thinking ahead, making life easier and more comfortable for her family. Yet Daisy couldn’t imagine why her mother thought that finding a woman who had given her child away so many years ago would help her grief.

She stared out at the view of the back garden and there, as everywhere in the house, was more evidence of Lorna’s planning and patience. It was beautiful, the herbaceous border just coming into its full glory, a bank of blue, pink and mauve plants. Honeysuckle had all but covered the roof of the old Wendy house where Daisy and the twins had spent many happy hours as children. Yet Lorna hadn’t led it slide into decay or removed it once there were no children to use it. Each spring she planted flowers in its window-boxes and cleaned it out. Daisy knew that if she were to go in there now, she’d find the little pots and pans, the chairs and table all still arranged carefully.

Of course Lorna had hoped that one day there would be grandchildren playing in it, and Daisy’s eyes filled with tears as she was reminded that her mother wouldn’t be there to play her part in weddings and babies’ birth and upbringing.

‘I’ll look for her if you really want me to,’ Daisy said, keeping her face turned to the window so her mother wouldn’t see her tears. ‘But whatever she’s like, she’ll never take your place.’

‘Come and lie down with me,’ Lorna said.

Daisy remembered that her mother had always been able to sense tears or unhappiness even from a distance, and so she did what she was told and snuggled up beside her.

Her parents’ bed had always been a special place. She and the twins had used it like a trampoline, pretended it was a boat, a desert island and a hospital. They had opened their stockings here on Christmas mornings, been tucked in here when they were ill, climbed in during the night when they had bad dreams, and as a teenager Daisy had often lain beside her mother and confided all her fears and dreams. But it was the more recent memories that Daisy thought of now as she put her arm around her mother: Sunday mornings when Dad had gone out with Fred, their West Highland terrier, or evenings when he was down in his study working. Then she’d come in here and end up baring her soul, about Joel, her anxiety that she’d never find a job she really liked, and her friends.

Most of Daisy’s friends said they couldn’t tell their mother anything important. Yet she had only to lie here, her mother tucked under the covers beside her, and she could talk about things that were unimaginable outside this room.

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