A Bad Relationship

The estate agent was finishing his first viewing of the house. He told the vendor, Martin Lethbridge, it would sell quickly. It was a large old house which Martin had grew up in and his parents had recently died. The agent said he’d put it on the market next week and added that he really liked the study. Martin was pleased with what he heard but his happy face dropped when the study was mentioned.

Afterwards Martin walked back through the house and passed the study door. He had tried to avoid this room when his father was alive but something drew him towards it. He walked in and lifted his eyes lazily round the room. Yes, it was a lovely room to look at. It was large and well proportioned with a high ceiling with cornicing on it. The colour was a warm honeysuckle and it had an elegant French window from which you could step out into the garden. The furniture was distinguished and comfortable; there was an old grandfather clock ticking away. The Old Master paintings and portraits adorning the walls gave it a sense of history and time standing still. The morning sun shone brightly into the room which gave off a relaxed atmosphere. Yes, it was a lovely room – but not to Martin - there were too many bad memories. It was his father’s room and his beloved mother never went there. Only Martin and his younger brother Nicholas went in there as children; his sister, Sarah only very occasionally. It was a bolthole for his father really.

Martin looked at his father’s old desk; that’s where he had to stand time after time as a boy while his father, sitting down, berated him for bad school reports, bad behaviour, failing at something or letting down the proud family name. He had stood there, nervously having to accept what his father said, too frightened to answer back. Then he saw the chair in the middle of the room – that chair, the one he had to bend over for the beatings with a cane, just like a school beating. Nicholas suffered the same fate but only occasionally as Martin, being his father’s eldest, a lot was expected of him. The dread of the beatings came back to him. His eyes fell onto the little desk at the other end of the room to his father’s. This was where his father made him work, work far into the evening as a schoolboy; to work until he understood everything and his answers were all correct, his father standing over him like a schoolmaster. He had felt like a slave in those far off days. He never did get that scholarship to one of the great schools and never felt he would. Again it was all driven by his competitive father who had to be the best at everything. He would have been happier going for a ride or playing tennis than slogging away at a desk. Then he noticed the large, distinguished portrait of his father in general’s uniform with a row of medals; yes he had been a full general and knighted as well. Martin had no interest in the army but his father had made him join up. He had tried to fight back on this issue but his father was adamant. Martin hated it and was thrown out after six months. The image of this man in uniform was everything Martin didn’t want to be. Then there was the magnificent library – distinguished books, some beautifully bound and all laid out perfectly; but he could read only books his father chose for him, books he didn’t like. He tried to skip through them but his father tested him on each book so it was another dressing down if he didn’t know the answers. He loved reading now and there were books there he loved; what a pleasure it could have been. Almost hidden among the photographs was one of Martin’s wife, Caroline. How happy he had been at their engagement but his father made no real comment or gave any congratulations. He just said his mother had told him he was going to marry Caroline and then reluctantly added he would now receive a trust fund.

But there had been one final scene in that study which had changed Martin’s life. One morning his father came downstairs for breakfast but decided to pick up some papers from the study before his meal. Whilst sitting at his desk, gathering papers he suddenly fell forward, dead. Martin happened to be staying at the time, heard a noise, walked in and seeing his father slumped forward just knew instinctively he was dead. What an extraordinary ending for all the horrible memories of this room that his father should die in it almost in front of him. But then he felt sadness that he had had no relationship with his father and all that might have been; that study could have been a room of happiness and companionship.

© Rory MacArthur 2014

Rory MacArthur