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Honest Money

by Chestersmummy 

Posted: 05 July 2017
Word Count: 979
Summary: For 646 challenge

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Honest Money
The metallic rattle of the window blind woke him; a sudden breeze had sprung up and Ben was grateful for the draught.   He struggled into a sitting position and caught sight of the clock; school was over and he sat listening for the patter of Charlie’s footsteps.  Sure enough, within a few minutes the door hand turned and Charlie’s small figure slipped into the room.
                ‘Hi Dad.  How are you?’  His voice was anxious.
                ‘Fine son.  But I’d like some water.  My mouth feels like the bottom of a birdcage.’
                Charlie picked up the jug with both hands and carefully filled a glass.  
                Ben’s mouth twitched.  Charlie was always such a serious little lad; in many ways he reminded him of his father. 
                ‘So.  What did you do at school today?’
                Charlie shrugged.
                ‘Stuff.  History mostly. We’ve all got to trace our family tree.’
                Ben’s chest tightened.
                Charlie was quiet for a moment, then he looked up.  Again, Ben thought of his father.  Charlie’s eyes were the same intense shade of blue.  When he blinked it was like the flash of a kingfisher’s wing.
                ‘Dad, what sort of work did Grandad do?’
Taking a sip of water, Ben looked at his son and struggled to keep his voice even.
‘He worked in the City; for one of the top investment banks.   Very boring.  Like doing maths all day long, and you know how much you love maths!
                Charlie giggled.  ‘Will you help me with the family tree dad?’
                ‘Course I will son.  But not tonight.  I’d like a nap now and you’ve got other homework to do.   Come in and give us a kiss before you go to bed.’
                Ben lay back on his pillows and wondered what to tell his son.   His family had led a pretty luxurious lifestyle when he was young.   They had a cottage in Gloucestershire and a holiday home in France as well as a penthouse suite on the River.  They’d lived there mostly, to be near Dad because he worked such long hours.  Some evenings he’d stand on the balcony and look towards the City, imagining his father at his desk.   As it got dark the lights glittered better than any jewels you could buy in Harrods, especially the oval building near Aldgate.  The one they called ‘The Gherkin.’
                One night he’d dreamed that he was in the middle of a storm; thunder was growling overhead, every now and then erupting into earsplitting cracks.   One had woken him but the dream hadn’t ended.   Then he’d realised the noise was coming from downstairs – his parents were shouting at each other.   He’d crept out of his room and looked over the banisters; his father was sitting slumped in a chair while his mother paced around the room.   He was sure he hadn’t made a sound but suddenly she looked up and sent him back to bed.
                The next was just like any other day but after school his father’s Mercedes was waiting to pick him up.   
                ‘Surprise.  We’re going on holiday.  Just us.  Mum’s too busy.’
                The moment the car nosed towards the coast, he’d realised where they were going.   His parents kept a yacht moored near Southampton and Dad had always promised him a sea voyage.
Ben closed his eyes, remembering his mounting anticipation as the lights of the motorway streamed by and his excitement when, at last, he saw the moon shivering on the waves.  That night, he was too excited to sleep but lay listening to the halyards talking to each other.
                They were at sea for a long time but he wasn’t bored.  Most of the time he was in the wheelhouse with his father, watching the ocean roll by.  He’d seen dolphins, porpoises and even a whale once.   But he’d thought his Dad was obviously better at maths than navigating because one morning he’d woken to find themselves beached on an island.   His father had told him that something had gone wrong with the engine.   It was so exciting.   Every day they explored the island finding fresh water, coconut palms and a lagoon where fish were falling over themselves to be caught.   Not that they’d needed them, his father had brought a mountain of tinned stuff as well as all sorts of things to do.  
                Ben closed his eyes trying to recapture that time.  It had been magic, just him and his Dad, the two of them against the world. 
                Their idyll had ended when, one morning, he’d woken to find the sky black with helicopters and his father’s face as white as the surf that fringed the island.   They hadn’t been rescued.   They’d been apprehended.  Once back in England, he’d been parted from his Dad, never to see him again.  As his mother drove him home, he’d been amazed at all the boarded-up shops lining the rainswept streets.  Suddenly, he’d seen a placard; its caption read ‘ROGUE TRADER CAUGHT’ and underneath was a picture of his father.   They told him that he’d gambled with billions of other people’s money and when his luck finally ran out the losses had led both to the collapse of the Bank and the fragile house of cards propping up the economy.
Ben thought of Charlie again.  How on earth was he going to explain what happened, most importantly, how would he persuade him that his grandfather was not a crook?
                Deep inside him, pain flared.  The Bible said that God visited the sins of the father on the children.  He’d spent months being burned nut brown by a tropical sun.  Maybe that was why he’d developed the melanoma.   Lines deepened on his face as he thought of his own son facing a fatherless future.   He’d done his best to make sure that Charlie was provided for – he would never live in luxury but at least the money was honest.

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Comments by other Members

michwo at 18:39 on 11 July 2017  Report this post
You're brilliant.  You put such a lot into everything you do that I, for one, can't help but be impressed.
Well done as always.

Chestersmummy at 22:19 on 11 July 2017  Report this post
Thanks Michwo - glad you enjoyed it.   I posted this one for the 646 challenge before I posted 'Bruised, battered and bewildered' and I thought it had been deleted.   I must say that, personally, I prefer Honest Money.

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