Chapter 20

We're on the narrow lanes leading from the farm to Portwenn.

There is one thing I would like to do, but I can't because Louisa is with me. I can't think of any possible way to get it done without her finding out what I am doing.

I know there is no good reason to do what I feel that I need to do, but something within me insists and I really have to do it at some point.

As we are close to where I'd have to go, it would be reasonable to do it now instead of driving out here again some other time.

I look over to Louisa. Then back to the road.

I've got to ask her soon, or I'll miss the turn.

I clear my throat uncomfortably.

I see Louisa looking over at me, then back at the road.

I nervously clutch the steering wheel then I clear my throat again.

"Are you trying to say something or do you just have a frog in your throat?" Louisa looks at me and asks.

This is your chance. She's meeting you halfway and you just have to reach over.

"I…was thinking."

"Yeah?"

"Would you mind if we take a little detour?"

"Detour? Where to?"

"There's something I've got to do."

"Some home visit?"

"No…nothing professional."

"How long would it take? I'd like to be home in time for James' next feed."

James did have a bottle while we were at Ruth's, so he should be fine for a bit.

"That shouldn't be a problem. It's just…" I try to justify myself.

"No problem, just go ahead."

"….just that I don't want to drive out here again just for…" I cough nervously.

"I told you, it's fine. Where are we going?"

"Not far."

"But where?"

"There's something I've got to do." I say sternly before I use the indicator to leave the road to Portwenn.

I approach the parking space at the cemetery and park the car.

Louisa looks at me intrigued. She hadn't asked me again where I wanted to go, obviously aware that she wasn't going to get a useful answer.

I get out of the car and I notice that Louisa wants to get out herself.

"Please. Would you mind?"

"Mind what?"

"I've got to do this alone."

"You're sure? I'd love to come with you."

"I'd rather you didn't."

"Alright. If you think so."

I nod. I'm grateful that I don't have to argue. I'm grateful that she isn't angry with me.

I take a few steps, then pause. It doesn't feel right. I shouldn't go alone after all.

I turn on my heels, back to the car.

"That was quick." Louisa comments when I open the door.

"No, I…"

"Yes, Martin I know. A joke?"

"Ah…right." I answer insecurely.

"Would you like some company, after all?"

"No…eh…yes." Not the way she thinks, that is.

"Great, now I know exactly whether I should keep listening to the radio or get out."

"It's…" I struggle. It's so very hard to ask someone else for permission. I'm not used to that. "I…would you mind…"

"What? Spill it."

"James."

"What about him?"

"Uhm…James…would you mind if I take him. With me." I stutter. "Won't be long."

"Of course not, go ahead."

I quickly open the back door and get James out of his child seat. Before I close the door again, Louisa turns around.

"Sure?"

"About what?"

"That you don't want me to come with you?"

"Sure. I won't be long."

I close the door and with James in my arms, I walk quickly.

It doesn't take long until I find the grave. It's a small cemetery, nothing like Highgate in London.

I stand in front of the stone. I look at the name which is so familiar, but which I've hardly ever seen in writing. Somehow it seems wrong to see those grave letters in stone for such an unconventional person.

It is nothing like Aunty Joan. Somehow, this place doesn't seem right for a free-spirit like Joan. The sound of the crashing waves and the birds singing are more like her.

I stand at her grave, James' head tucked against my shoulder, and I'm not quite sure what I want here.

I never was one for graveyards. What do you do here? No one knows you were here. The dead wouldn't notice. But now, that the farm has turned into Ruth's place, there is nowhere else to feel close to Joan. After that disastrous meeting with Ruth and after the turmoil, reconciliation and decisions of the last 24 hours, I simply had to tell Joan about my plans. I've got to tell her that the future looks like what she had planned for me.

I know that she will never know. I know that she cannot hear me ever again. It's not that I want her to know, because I know that this is impossible. It's just that I feel it's my duty to tell her anyhow.

I know that I'm not making much sense. I feel stupid standing here. The words fail me. How do you address someone who can't hear you? How do you talk to a stone?

"Uhm…this is awkward." I start, just to get used to speaking aloud. "I'm really not good at this." I explain to the stone.

"I know that you can't hear me and I know that you don't realise what I'm saying. It's just that I thought I should tell you anyhow."

"I will not go to London. I know that's what you wanted from me from the start. What you wanted for me. I did see the disappointment in your eyes when I told you about the London job. Not even you could have been happy for me to finally get my old job back. I know you thought I belonged here now."

"Well, I can't tell you what led to this decision. It's complicated. You should have seen what happened since yesterday. You wouldn't believe me anyhow as you weren't there. It was weird. Even for Portwenn standards."

"Yes, you're right, I don't like Portwenn any better than I ever did. It's just that I've realised what you knew from the moment you heard about Louisa's return – that Louisa belongs here and that I have to be where she is, now that our son is here."

"By the way, this is him." I hold James up for him to be able to see the stone. I don't know why I'm doing it, but by now I have almost convinced myself that I'm really talking to Joan. "It took some time, but Louisa and I were able to agree on a name finally. It's James Henry, after both our grandparents. I know, your father's name will soon be forgotten because even now almost everyone calls him James, but that was the best I could do. I tried to get Henry first, but Louisa didn't want to have any of it. I hope you don't mind. You know how easily she can be offended. You know how stubborn she is. I didn't want to risk another row. Yes, I know, it's hard to believe, but an Ellingham gave in."

"Maybe you think your father got more than he deserved in being represented in his great-grandson's middle name. You never thought much about the family values of the Ellinghams. I suppose you didn't have an easy time with your father either. Maybe that's why you understood my pain with mine."

"I'm scared when I think of the history in parenting skills of our family. I'm scared for James Henry. I'm scared for myself. I'm afraid I will just be the next in line to scar their offspring badly, just handing down the Ellingham curse into the next generation."

"When I came back to Cornwall, your first words were that you had hoped that I wouldn't turn out to be like my father, but of course I had. I really hope that's not true. I promised Louisa yesterday that I won't be like my father. That's a horrid thought."

"I know I'm difficult. I know I'm not good father material. I still hear you 'You just have to work twice as hard.' Didn't I always?"

"Maybe that's why I wanted to go to London. Maybe that's why I didn't want to commit myself."

"You'll be glad to hear that things have changed. I've decided to fight it, fight the curse. This should be the end of the Ellingham curse. I know that I have decided to stand up to an enemy that is older than any human standard can describe, an enemy that has had centuries to grow, flourish and adapt perfectly to this family. An enemy that has a firm grip on any Ellingham, probably from the first moment that any Ellingham walked this earth."

"I know how strong my opponent is, but I owe it to James to try. It's not his fault that he was born into such a dysfunctional family. I promise, I will do everything to let this curse end with me, to be buried with me eventually and not to inflict it on James."

"I'm sorry that you aren't here to help me anymore. I would have needed your help more than ever before. Things between Louisa and me are still a bit fragile, I don't understand her, really, even though I try, and I have no one now to turn to."

"Your sister certainly isn't of any help. You should have seen her. She was ghastly. At least it helped me to see the Ellingham trait from the outside. We really are a horrid lot. At least I know now what I have to fight, and maybe, if I try hard enough, and maybe with the help of Louisa I can make it."

"You've always had the confidence in me that I could do whatever I wanted to do. You always were confident enough that I could adapt to everything intellectually. I will try. I will not promise anything, but I will try."

"Well, that's it, basically." I take a deep breath. "I just thought I should tell you. I know it's too late, and I should have seen sense before it was too late for you to realise that your advice didn't fall on deaf ears. It just took some time to sink in. Time and the experience of James' birth. Time, and the fear of losing him again. Time, and the feeling of pure despair after Louisa left me again."

"It took a lot to make me realise what really counts, but I'm certain now. You were right all along. I am a father now, and I have to stand up to this responsibility. You were also right about Louisa and me. You knew it from the moment you caught me staring into her classroom. You knew before I had the courage to admit to it."

"Now you've left me. Really great timing. Just sneaking off leaving me alone at the most crucial point in my life."

"But I will make it, at least I will do everything I can. I want you to be proud of me."

"Well, that's it. I suppose. Louisa is waiting in the car. I don't want to let her wait too long. It's goodbye then."

I said what I'd wanted to say. I feel better now, although I still don't know why. I return to the car and secure James safely in his seat.

Louisa looks at me. "You're alright?"

"Fine." I say.

"Let's go home, shall we?"

"Yes. Home."

The end

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

I thank all kind readers, especially those who took their time to comment. It was a huge encouragement.

My very special thanks goes, as always, to my proof reader, fanficfan71, who still patiently corrects everything I throw at her. All my errors are my own.

My last but not least thanks goes to Buffalo Pictures for creating such wonderful characters. As always, it had been fun to play with them for some time. I hope, I'll return them to you undamaged. Series 5 really gave lots of inspiration and I'm looking forward to another inspiring series next year.