Mending Bridges

Luckily she had an ‘old school’ road map book in the boot of her car. It had been there since she bought the car three years ago. Laura had been using her phone as a Sat Nav up until now but the battery had died and she did not have a car charger. Her trusty old Ford Ka did not have a USB socket.

She knew she wasn’t too far away, but these country roads were unfamiliar. She found the correct page in the book and soon pinpointed her position. She was about 20 minutes away according to her phone, just before it had died. The route looked fairly simple. She would be there soon.

Laura was unsure what reception she would receive when she got there. She had received a reply to her letter but it was terse and uncommital.  She didn’t expect to be welcomed with open arms by the Auntie she had not seen for twenty years.

Laura had a distinct memory of visiting the little village near Preston with her mother and older sister when she was about six years old. Her mum had told her once about the reason she had no contact with her sister, Auntie Helen, and that side of the family. Twenty years ago their mother had been very poorly in hospital and had wanted to return to the home she had lived in for fifty years, to die in peace. Laura’s mum, Dot, had been the one who volunteered to go and live with her mother 250 miles away from their home so she could achieve her wish. Laura and her sister Steph, aged 16 and 14, had been left with their father, seeing their mum only occasionally over that difficult period of about six months.

Her mum has been very quiet on her return; it has been a difficult time, watching her own mother deteriorate. Worse still, her sister Helen, after initially being grateful that Dot was prepared to put her life on hold, for their mother, when she Helen was not, had suddenly turned on her. Helen had accused Dot of only caring for her mum because she was after the inheritance. It was a ridiculous accusation of course. There wasn’t a lot to leave but what remained was divided equally between the two daughters. But Helen had said many hurtful things and the rift grew wider as the years went on.

Laura’s mum had died without seeing her sister again. Looking through a box of old photos Laura found one of the two sisters, arm in arm, in the back garden at her aunt’s home. Laura and her sister were in the background playing with her aunt’s little dog. It seemed so sad that the two sisters had never been reunited; Laura had decided to visit her aunt and try to heal the rift. She would take a copy of the photo.

It had been quite easy to get back in contact with her aunt and to find her address. Facebook was a wonderful tool and now Laura had regular contact with a younger cousin she had not even met. After receiving a short response to her letter Laura had set up a date for a meeting with her aunt and cousin, Kate.

With the map book open on the passenger seat she set off again. The house was quite easy to find thanks to the map and she was soon parked outside. Taking a deep breath she approached the door. Before she had time to ring the bell, the door opened and a slightly younger, sprightly version of her mum stood there smiling nervously. The sisters had grown so alike as they aged. Laura and her aunt tentatively embraced.

“Come in love, come in” Helen brushed a tear away and led her niece to the kitchen at the back of the house. “Your cousin Kate will be here shortly. She thought we might want a little time to ourselves.” They sat at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, and talked about Dot and how close they had been when they were youngsters. Helen had been devastated to hear of her death, always hoping that one day they would be reconciled.

“It was all my fault and I never dared make the first move. I felt so guilty that I had allowed your mother to give up her own life to care for ours. I was selfish. I let you and your sister manage without her, looked after by neighbours while your dad worked. My guilt made me lash out at her and accused her of all sorts of things. All made up by me. I’m sorry Laura.” Helen was crying freely now, and Laura put her hand over her aunts and squeezed gently.

“It all happened a long time ago, so many years wasted, let’s not waste anymore,” she said gently. “Mum kept all her photos of you in a box. Look” and she showed Helen the photo of the two sisters arm in arm, smiling into the camera.

“I’ve got lots of photos I can show you too,” said Helen. Kate arrived as they were looking through the photos, and soon all three were enjoying each other’s company with the homemade cake Kate had brought with her. Laura was sure her mum would be pleased that she had made contact with Helen and Kate. Life was too short to bear a grudge and Helen had carried her guilt for long enough. Laura was sad that her mum was not here with her, but she was happy she had gained an aunt and a cousin that she was sure would be a part of her life in the future. She felt her mum would be pleased too.

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