Guilt And Deception
By Robert James Taylor
Rachel Markham, now a widower, left her hometown in Canada, back in 2005, and had settled in Lakeside with her husband. Both were outgoing and sociable; joining bridge and gardening clubs, generous of their time within their new found community: Rachel, though somewhat reserved in nature, formed a close relationship with Hannah, a trusted friend she spent much of her time with.
When she and her husband, Peter, left Canada over twelve years ago, she was somewhat sad to leave her daughter, grand daughter and her elder sister, where they had lived in that small rural town in Ontario, and where her father had been the town’s Anglican minister. Peter Markham, had been a successful engineer in the oil industry but the many years of being posted overseas, at times for several weeks, had worn thin and at age 60, he retired, whereupon he and Rachel chose to live out their lives here in Mexico. In 2012, after a brief illness, Peter passed away. Rachel considered moving back to Ontario, to be close to her remaining family, but by then she had formed a new lifestyle and she was happy. Rachel’s sister, Susan, would visit occasionally, which suited them both- they had been close to each other over the years.
For all these years Rachel held a secret that only her elder sister knew. It was a secret that had been buried without any personal burden for over 40 years and in the passing of time it seemed that the secret would remain so: there was no need to reveal it and create division in the family. Rachel seldom thought about her indiscretion when she was in her twenties back then in Ontario. She had lived with this family matter for so many years that it seldom came into her thoughts, but now, as the years eroded, her resolve weakened. After her husband passed away she became increasingly reclusive, sought empty support from alcohol and found herself prone to fits of weeping. She was troubled. One evening, a few months later, Hannah had a birthday party for Rachel; when the guests had left, the wine having loosened her mental reserve, Rachel confided in her friend and thought no harm in talking about her past. Hannah had already observed that her friend tended to drink more after her husband’s death; something weighed upon her, some possible guilt. And so, for the first time in so many years Rachel Markham confided her secret to Hannah.
“You know Hannah, I so regret, now that I am a lonely widow, that I kept something so vital from Peter, something I kept suppressed all those years. He was away so often on his overseas trips, I used to be so lonely at times. I had an affair with an old school friend from years before and I got pregnant- it was a stupid mistake, a one night stand you might say. I wrestled with the consequences, which I knew would disrupt our marriage and I made my decision: I wrote to Peter telling him he was going to be a father – it seemed the only way to avoid scandal, and, besides, my parents would have dis-owned me. When Peter returned, it all seemed harmless to me; he welcomed the baby- we named her Celia- and I put the past behind me. Before the baby was born, I confessed to my sister Susan, we were very close then, and she made a promise to never speak of it.” Hannah listened: she had observed the change in Rachel’s personality after her husband had died; the drinking, and now this latent remorse that troubled her now after all these years.
Months later events would transform the life of Rachel Markham. In the summer of 2016 Rachel received a phone call from her daughter Celia: Susan had died suddenly after a fatal car accident. It was bitter sweet for Rachel- she knew the secret that Susan shared would be taken to her grave. Celia, having been the closest family member to Susan, and who lived very close by to her aunt, was given the task of taking care of her aunt’s funeral, and later, would sort out her aunt’s possessions. Rachel arrived three days before the funeral; she stayed with Celia at Susan’s former home. Susan died a widow, her husband having died four years previously. After the funeral, Rachel went to visit a lifelong friend who lived in a nearby town, and planned to return to Mexico several days later. Now the duty of Celia to sort out Susan’s personal items would commence and on the Sunday following she went alone to the house to start this task. She found a neatly tied bundle of papers inside a desk by Susan’s bed- and there Celia found a letter dated from many years before. It was in Rachel’s handwriting: “My Dear sister, it has been years now that I shared with you the truth about Celia. Her happiness is all that matters to me, and that her real father is unknown to her, will never need to be revealed. Why spoil all the happiness that we have now. Anthony, her father never knew- I never told him of my plight, and he was not to blame. I chose my decision in the interests of all of us, for better or for worse. I pray you will always honor the trust between us, whatever ensues in our lives hereon- please destroy this letter. Your loving sister, Rachel.”
Celia was crushed. Who was her real father, and why did her mother so deceive her? She searched through every fragment of the remaining papers but there was no reference to this family secret. Rachel returned three days later and stayed with Celia the night before she would return to Lakeside. That evening, under a tense cloud, Celia sat her mother down, poured two glasses of wine, and unloaded her fury. Placing the letter on the table, she simply asked “So mother, why have you kept this from me , and who is my real father?” Rachel sobbed hysterically and took the bottle to bed: it was the end of their relationship. The following morning Celia found a note on the kitchen table that read “I know you will never forgive me for keeping this from you. Please understand I did not want to lose the happiness we had, and I knew Peter, would be a good father to you- which, you know he was. The injury I have done, has now cost me what little I have left. Your real father was Anthony Davis, probably deceased.”
Rachel returned to Mexico, where she continued to spiral down into her depression and drank incessantly. The decision she took those many years ago had finally taken its toll: she died not long after.
As for Celia, she kept the secret to herself, not wanting to bring confusion and resentment to her own children. However, she did research the whereabouts of Anthony Davis. He had left that small Ontario town when he was in his early twenties, and had studied law at Osgoode in Toronto. He had married, but the marriage was childless; after his wife died in 2010 he settled in Cape Breton, living alone with his three springer spaniels.
Celia would finally meet her father after weeks of correspondence. He was aging now himself; she took care of him for the remaining years of his life, which were the happiest. He left his entire estate to his daughter.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com