Mum was down at the shops when Max was trying to retrieve his ball from under the desk in the study, but it had gone so far under, even I couldn’t reach it, so I pulled out the heavy desk so I could get behind it. It was then that I realised that the desk was actually in front of a door. Curiosity got the better of me, and I pulled out the desk further so that I could open the door. I don’t know why I was surprised to find a staircase leading down to a cellar. I had never really thought about it before, but then I remembered that there was a very dirty looking window just about at ground level in our back yard behind our old mangle.
Down in the cellar there was not much light from the window, but I had flicked on the light switch at the top of the stone staircase, which threw out enough light to reveal a huge room, which must have run the full length of the back of the house. Cool! We could have a games room down here – a table tennis table perhaps, and a pool table. I would ask Dad when he got home if I could help him tidy it up and paint the stone walls white or something to brighten up the room.
There was not much down here. Just an old sofa on the back wall, with a dusty old rug in front of it, and an old desk and chair on the other wall. I wondered when they had ever been down here. I opened one of the desk drawers. There were a few old sepia photos, probably of my grandparents family, a bronze war medal or something, and a cardboard tube containing a scroll and signed letter from King George commending one of my great uncles for giving his life in the Great War.
Max was still larking around with his ball, but kept wining. I presumed he wanted to go out, so I tried to close up the drawer, but as I did an envelope got wedged. I pulled out the envelope, noting that this didn’t look as old as the rest of the stuff in there. It had my mother’s name on it. I probably shouldn’t have looked inside, but I didn’t think it would be very important, or else what was it doing down here? I started to read. I couldn’t believe my eyes: firstly that it was dated 24th January 1965 and secondly that it was a passionate love letter from Brian. Who’s Brian? It is November 1959. Why’s a strange man writing love letters to my mother, saying that he was looking forward to my 21st birthday party, five years in the future? I was outraged that it looked like my mother was having an affair.
Just then I heard the front door slam as in came Mum. Max rushed up the stairs to greet her. Mum must have realised where we had been and she came rushing into the study and down the staircase.
“What have you been doing down here?” she asked, her face was ashen.
“What’s more to the point,” I retorted “is who is Brian, and why has he written this love letter to you, dated 1965? Have you been having an affair?”
“He’s your real dad,” Mum replied sheepishly. “I should have told you about him before. And no, I’ve not been having an affair. During the war Brian and I had a passionate romance. He was a soldier in the war and I thought I’d never see him again, so we made love while he was on leave. Brian gave me that letter the day before he went back to war, just after I told him I thought I was pregnant. He was an optimist and said he intended to be around for your 21st birthday party. He was killed in action two months later. Eventually, after you were born, I met and married James, your adoptive father.”