Colin Robertson reached out with a wrinkled, age spotted hand. “Glasses, glasses!” He nodded and wagged his hand towards a small table positioned beside his chair. Terry leaned forward and picked up the pair of spectacles, he handed them over.
The old man turned the paper, examined the back. A frown creased his forehead. “What’s this?”
Terry spoke quietly, “Just read it.”
“I don’t know what it is. Is it from the lawyers?”
“No, just read it.”
Colin turned and tipped his chin towards Lily, “Who’s this? What the hell is going on today? What are you up to boy?” Lily saw Terry clench his hands into tight fists at his sides.
“This is Lily. She’s a friend of mine. She came with me today because…” It seemed to occur to Terry, quite suddenly, that he couldn’t really explain why she was there. He glanced at her, frowned, and then stepped nearer to the old man. He took the sheet of paper into his own hand. He leaned down and pointed at the typing. “This, this is the proof of what you’ve done. This…” he jabbed at a point on the page, “This is your son, and this…” more jabbing with his finger, “This proves it beyond any real doubt. This proves that you had a child, a boy. And this!…” Terry’s face was reddening now, his voice becoming a little louder, the words clipped and angry. “This is the proof of who was the boy’s mother.”
He couldn’t continue, Lily watched him struggle. There was nothing she could do to help. Silence fell, except for the harsh rattle of Colin Robertson breathing, and the quiet whisper of wind in the trees outside. Rain shushed against the window.
The old man lifted the paper close to his face, he peered at the writing, turned his head, and stared for one long moment at his son. His eyes were empty of the shock and emotion that should have been there. All there was to see was irritation in his small movements. He cast aside the paper and blew out a puff of breath through pursed lips. And in that moment Lily understood. She saw the hardness, the lack of any sort of concern or guilt. She saw what he was and understood that he would have been able to frighten and control a small child, a lonely woman and a terrified girl.
He reached for the paper where it lay on his lap, ripped it in half, tore it again and again and again, until all that was left were shreds and pieces and he tossed them aside.
“Load of nonsense. Nothing but an inconvenience,” he stumbled over the word, tangling it in his damaged mouth. He pressed on, “I dealt with it. If he’s turned up now send him on his way. I owe him nothing. I did what was best.” He turned with an impatient shrug of his shoulders, stared at the window, watching the drops racing downwards, unmoved, and unafraid.
Terry, looked at the pile of paper scraps and then glanced at Lily. There was nothing she could say.
He bent and gathered it all together, grasped hold of the old man’s wrist and pushed the debris into his upturned palm.
“No. No that’s not what we’re doing. You’re not getting away with this any more,” Terry pushed his second piece of paper towards the man’s face, “Granddad! Oh no, that’s not quite right is it ‘Dad’.” The final word was loaded with pain. Terry reached and pulled a small footstool towards him. He placed it directly in front of the old man’s chair and perched on it. He leaned forward, resting his forearms across his knees and staring directly into the twisted face. “I don’t want to discuss this with you, back and forth, debating what is and isn’t true. I don’t want to hear anything you might have to say about this. I don’t even want to be here with you, breathing the same polluted air. What I am going to do…” He stopped. From where she stood, Lily could see his hands shaking, she could see the gleam of anger in his eyes. She was afraid. Afraid that he wouldn’t be able to finish what he needed to say before emotion got the better of him. She wanted to lay a hand on his shoulder, to give him strength, to let him know that he was not alone. But the atmosphere between the two men held her in place, kept her silent.
Colin tipped his head to one side, a small smile twisted the thin, pale lips, his drooping facial muscles contorted. Lily gulped, she had her hands clasped together and felt the nails dig into the soft skin of her palms. She was immobile, didn’t want the old man to remember she was there. He was worn down by disease, and reduced by age, but she felt the power emanating from him. The strength of his ego, his confidence. She closed her eyes briefly.
When she opened them, Terry had regained control and was speaking again, quietly, clearly. “Let me tell you what’s going to happen now. I’m going to print out more copies of those reports. Both of them.” Colin lifted his chin in reaction, Terry nodded before continuing, “Oh come on, even you must know I can make any number of copies. I can print them off over and over and over and you can tear them up as many times as you like, but they’ll still be there. Did you really think I would be stupid enough to let you see the original? So, I’m taking them to the police. I’m taking them to the papers, I’m probably even going to take them to the bloody Masons, I can send them a copy – should I do that – should I?” There was flicker of something that could have been anxiety, the prospect of shame amongst his peers, the only thing to have evoked anything approaching the reaction Lily had been expecting.
Terry was still speaking, “This is the last time I’m going to come here old man. The next time you see me will probably be in court. And then it will be all out in the open. The disgusting things you did to me, the things you made me do to you. The truth about Mum and the baby that you sold. All of it, and then, you’ll pay.” He leaned back and prepared to stand. Colin Robertson coughed, snorted and began to speak.
He had gripped the chair armrests, his own arms tense and shaking, bony knuckles white under loose, papery skin. “You won’t do that. You won’t do anything like that. I know you Terrance,” It was the first time she had heard his given name and Lily could tell from Terry’s reaction that it was a deliberate barb, “I know you. You won’t risk your easy life, your car and your flat, and your wages. You do anything with this,” he moved now and threw the shreds of paper back towards Terry, his hand was weak, the result was a flutter of white bits onto the blanket across his knees. It spoilt the effect he had been aiming for, and with a huff of impatience he swept them aside. “You tell anyone about this garbage and I’ll cut you off, without a penny. I’ll take back the flat, have you evicted. What are you going to do then – huh. What will you be, you’ve got no qualifications, no experience, except running round after me. Lap dog that’s what you are, my lap dog. Bought and paid for. And how do you think you’ll be treated eh? How do you think people will look at you? ‘Why didn’t you say something before now?’ That’s what they’ll say. Taking advantage of a poor sick man who can’t stick up for himself. Telling lies to get your hands on the money. Jumping on the bandwagon of all the other cases. Don’t be ridiculous. Take this nonsense,” he pointed a quaking finger towards the floor, “and take this bloody witness, if that’s what she is and bugger off. Get out, get out, and don’t come back until I send for you.” He leaned against the chair back, his physical strength was spent but his eyes were hard, and his mouth twisted into a sneer as he glared at them both.
Terry had taken all he could. He turned to Lily, raised his eyebrows in question, she nodded and then walked before him to the door. She paused, stood for a moment, staring forward. “Are you alright?” He placed his hand on her shoulder. She nodded, reached for the door handle slowly, and then they left the room, stepped back down the great staircase and out into the damp and breezy day.
As they walked to the car, Lily leaned on the arm that Terry had offered, she could feel the thud of blood through her veins, pounding in the back of her head. Once in the car she struggled to control her breathing and rubbed at her chest.
“Are you alright Lily? I shouldn’t have subjected you to that.”
“It was my idea. I’m alright. Well, I will be in a minute.” She opened her bag and took out one of the pills to calm her down. “Are you alright Terry? That was awful for you. I don’t know what I was expecting, but he is so much worse than I could have imagined.”
“Lily, why did you want to come today? It was so odd, in there I realised that I hadn’t really understood. I mean, I just thought it would be good from my point of view to have someone there with me, but why did you want to come?”
She shook her head and answered him in little more than a whisper, “I think I was looking for Peter. I’ve always wondered what he would have been like. I just wanted to see him, Peter’s father. But apart from that I wanted to be with you. I started this, you were coping and I spoiled that for you. It was too hard for you to do on your own.” That was all she needed to tell him, the rest of it was for her and her alone.