Two Wrongs Make a Life

“There are few reasons for telling the truth, but for lying the number is infinite.”
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Emma Richards was in love. It was a long time coming, but at twenty-eight and after numerous short term relationships, she had finally found the man of her dreams. John was different, quietly confident, thoughtful, caring. He wasn’t particularly attractive, well not physically, but that didn’t matter at all. To Emma, John was the loveliest man she had ever shared her time with.

They had known each other for nearly six months and the last couple of those had seen each other two or three times a week. He was one of those rare men she had known who didn’t see sex as the top priority in their relationship. Most men only wanted one thing, or at least that had been her experience. Of course they had kissed and petted, on occasions quite intensely, but John was content to wait until they were more committed together before he took that final step. They had not yet discussed marriage, but John had often intimated that he would like a more secure partnership with Emma. She imagined that he was short before making a proposal. Knowing John as she did, it would probably be a formal affair, down on one knee and a very expensive ring. She could hardly wait.

Tonight was a big night out. Her best friend was having her hen party. Emma would be looking after her, to make sure she didn’t do anything she would regret. The drinks would be flowing for sure.

By nine o’clock twenty-four fun loving young ladies were dancing away to a live rock band. They were having a wonderful time, all except one, Emma’s friend Jody. Jody was having serious second thoughts. She was not sure if she wanted to commit to one man for the rest of her life. Emma tried to reassure her, telling her about John and how she would love to make such a step. Jody was drinking far too much, far too early.

The evening had started with so much promise, yet was descending fast.  The other girls didn’t recognise Jody dashing out to be sick. By eleven o’clock it was clear that Emma needed to get her friend home. As she had also drank far too much to drive, they staggered outside together to try to find a taxi.

“Whoa! Careful!”, came a loud voice as they turned the corner towards the taxi rank, bumping into a tall attractive man in blue jeans and black crewneck pullover, which emphasised his regular gym work.. “My, you two look a bit worse for wear”.

“Hello Dean”, Emma replied. “Sorry, but I really need to get Jody home straightaway. She is really not well.”

Emma had known Dean for years. They had gone to school together and lived only two streets apart. They had been together for a short time a few years ago, so the familiarity between them was not unusual, particularly when he offered to take them both to Jody’s in his car.

He dropped them off. Emma delivered Jody home and her parents, who she still lived with, took it from there. Dean waited outside in order to take Emma home. As she walked back to his car, she realised that she had also had far too much to drink.

Dean suggested that they get a bite to eat. “You need something other than alcohol in your stomach”, he convinced her. The local Chinese was nearby.

Emma relaxed in the company of an old friend, good food and the gentle atmospheric music of the restaurant. As they left to walk back to the car, Dean put his arm around Emma and she felt warm and comfortable with it.

*****

John could hardly sleep, he was so excited. Today he bought the ring. At the weekend he had booked a table in a Three Star Michelin restaurant and would propose to Emma. He was not nervous of the reply, but very confident that their relationship had moved to the right point.

That night, as he lay in bed, imagining, anticipating and planning their future life together, Emma was in the arms of an old flame.

She woke in the early hours, the dry thickness in her throat, from the alcohol, making her feel very thirsty. She stepped out of bed, barely opening her eyes, as she stumbled into a cupboard that shouldn’t have been there. This brought her quickly to her senses. There was enough light seeping through the curtains for her to see a little. The horror struck her as she looked down at Dean’s naked body. He looked wonderful, tanned, handsome, and breathing peacefully as she stared at him. It was as if she was looking at her own life from above, with the knowledge that she had ruined it completely, thrown away her one chance at true happiness. John would never forgive her. She could never forgive herself.

She dressed quietly and left. Dean didn’t stir.

*****

Normally Emma didn’t appreciate such high end cuisine. She was a person who enjoyed good quality, healthy food but couldn’t help thinking that much of the very expensive price in such a restaurant was spent on unnecessary fancy trimmings. However, tonight was different. She was well aware that John wanted the perfect setting for what he was about to propose. She had understood immediately after he invited her to this meal. She has sensed his anticipation and excitement. Tonight would be the day he asked her to marry him, and she would say, “yes”, despite the nagging guilt that she felt from her drunken night with Dean, only three days earlier.

For three days she switched between convincing herself to tell him about it, knowing that it would probably end their relationship, and keeping quiet and trying to forget her stupid action. In the end she simply couldn’t bring herself to put her whole future at risk, knowing at the same time it was wrong of her. She promised herself that she would make John a good wife and from now on remain loyal to him until they died. She would prove that she was worth it, even if it took her a lifetime to do so.

John had really gone over the top. Another table was brought next to theirs, followed by a huge vase containing sixty red roses, John explained one rose to represent each year of their life together. On one knee, he handed her the most exquisite diamond ring with the marriage proposal she had been expecting. A tear ran down her face as she accepted. Even she did not know the true reason for that tear. Was it happiness or guilt?

*****

“Come on, hurry up or you will be late for school”, Emma shouted up the stairs, to the loud rumbling of footsteps from her three boys. Johnny, now fourteen and showing the first hints of chin fluff was the first one down.

“Bye Mum, have a nice day.” He was out of the door in a flash.

Peter, nine and Jason, seven soon followed down. Emma would drive them to their middle school. Even at that age their likeness to their father was uncanny. Both had the same wide nose, deep-set eyes and quiet manner. Young Johnny was far more like her, blonde, blue eyes and more openly fun-loving. There was never a day went by that Emma didn’t feel a pang of pleasure in her heart for her four boys, as she called them.

As she was helping Jason with his coat buttons, there was a loud screech outside, followed by a similarly loud crash which stopped her in her tracks. She ran outside to see a smoking Passat estate smashed up against a large beech tree. Horrified, at the possibility of what she would find in the car, she quickly rushed towards it. Then she saw something else, what looked like a pile of John’s clothes lying in the middle of the road, his school satchel open, with papers blowing out into the cool breeze. She didn’t hear her own scream as she tore down on the limp body of her firstborn. His eyes were open, but he couldn’t speak. Shock was holding him in a trance-like state. Blood was gushing from his right leg, flowing to the beat of his young heart.

Emma trembled and felt the panic rise in her body. A neighbour shouted that she had called the emergency. Emma went into overdrive, knowing that she must move fast or her son would bleed to death. She took off his tie, wrapped it twice around his leg, but couldn’t find a stick or something to twist a tourniquet. Afterwards she would know that it hadn’t been a good idea, but the only thing she could imagine to use to tighten the tourniquet was her own arm. She quickly fastened the loop, and crawled round and round her son’s still body, as she felt the tourniquet slowly tightening. The pain was excruciating, but the blood flow slowed. She made two more rotations around him, watching as the blood finally stopped. She was soaked in her own son’s blood. The sound of the ambulance siren rang through her ears, and was the last thing she heard as she lost consciousness. The pain in her arm had sent her into oblivion.

*****

John sat next to his son’s bed. He was breathing quietly, and according to the doctor would have no lasting damage apart from a nasty scar down his right leg. Their main concern was the amount of blood that he had lost and therefore would be in hospital for a while until it was stabilised. The doctor had said that it was only due to his wife’s quick thinking that his son was alive, although he couldn’t agree with her exact method. Emma was in another ward with a nasty injury to her arm. She had torn the delicate flesh and broken her radius bone, in her desperation to stop the bleeding. John was overwhelmed with the love and respect he felt for Emma, who would clearly have destroyed herself willingly to save her son.

As he stood up to leave and go to see Emma, he looked up at the red bag of blood, slowly seeping into his boy. O+ was his son’s blood group. He had never thought much about it before. He didn’t know any of his family’s blood type, not even his own.

Emma was sitting up in bed, feeling quite chirpy. The knowledge that her son was safe was all she had wanted.

They held hands for a long time, not needing to speak, simply be together.

“Do you know what? I feel a bit of a fool”, said John suddenly. “Our son almost died through loss of blood and I didn’t even know what blood type he has. Is that normal?”

Emma laughed, “You men are all the same. You have AB positive, which is quite rare I think. I’m A positive, Johnny is O positive and the two little ones are both A positive, the same as me. See, now you know.”

John shook his head in disbelief at how she could remember all of this. For him, it had never seemed important. He thought that perhaps it should, and promised himself that he would take more notice in future

*****

They were all happy to be back home and safe. Johnny was lying on the couch, with his leg up. Emma was sitting in her armchair with her arm in a sling. Peter and Jason were lying on the rug in front of the fire. They were watching a film on the TV. John looked at them all one by one, wondering how he could have coped had he ever lost one. It had been a close thing with Johnny. A few inches further and he would have taken the full force of that Volkswagen Passat, the driver of which sadly hadn’t survived the collision with the tree. John pondered and marvelled at the same time as to how fragile life is, something that we so often take for granted.

While everyone was quiet and engrossed in the film, John began messing with his smartphone, checking Whatsapp messages, latest Facebook posts and finally ended up Googling in a search for next year’s holiday accommodation. While he was at it, the thoughts came into his mind about the discussion over his family’s blood group. He googled blood types and their meanings. Soon, there it was, plain and clear on his phone.

‘ A man who has type AB blood could not father a child with type O blood, because he would pass on either the A or the B allele to all of his offspring. Despite their usefulness in this regard, ABO blood groups cannot be used to confirm whether a man is indeed a child’s father.’

“What’s the matter?” asked Emma, noticing the look of shock on his face.

John checked himself quickly. “Oh, I just saw on Facebook an old school friend of mine has been sent to prison for theft,” he lied. “He always was a bit untrustworthy at school”.

His mind raced back to the day he had proposed to Emma, the tears in her eyes. He thought of his ideas of a long engagement, with a properly planned wedding, which were cut short by the pregnancy. They had made love the week after they had become engaged, and it had been no surprise to him that Emma had conceived so quickly. He knew now that Johnny was not his own flesh and blood. He looked at him closely. All he could see was his son, a son that he loved as before.

John realised that no-one knew except him. Emma had clearly never pieced it together, otherwise she would not have been so open with explaining all of their blood types. It would break Johnny’s heart to learn the truth. He decided there and then that no-one must know. It would be a secret that he would take with him to the grave for the sake of his family. He knew Emma. Whatever had happened was before he proposed to her. She had been the love of his life and a wonderful mother ever since. Despite the shocking discovery, he realised that he still trusted her as always.

His mind began racing. “But what if she ever finds out?” he asked himself. “Surely one day she will come across the same information. It must only be a matter of time.”

He came up with an elaborate plan of deception in order to save his family.

*****

A few weeks later, when everyone was sitting at the breakfast table, John casually mentioned that he had an appointment on Tuesday to give blood.

“Really, what has brought this on again suddenly?” asked Emma. “You haven’t given blood since we have been married. It was only by seeing your old donor card that I knew you were AB positive. Do you know kids, your special Dad also has special blood. It is quite rare.”

“Well, you know. With what happened to Johnny it just made me realise that I have a responsibility to give something back”, he replied.

John thought that his plan was going to be a little more difficult that he had imagined.

On the following Tuesday afternoon, at the time he had announced his blood donor appointment, he sat in the local park. He had neither eaten or drank anything the whole day, in order to make himself as weak as possible. He called Emma.

“Emma, can you come to the park to pick me up. I’m not able to drive my car. I feel awful.”

“Oh my goodness. What’s wrong?” she gasped.

“Can you just come?”

“Of course. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

John waited, trying to make himself look as weak and awful as possible by the time she arrived.

“John! What is the matter?” a very nervous looking Emma asked, after spotting him drooped on a park bench.

“I went for my blood donor appointment, which was fine, but I felt a bit giddy afterwards, so came here to get some air and settle down a bit. When I tried to get back up I almost fainted, so here I am.”

“Well let’s get you home. Perhaps giving blood is not for you, if it is going to make you feel like this.”

While they were in the car on the way home, John delivered the second part of his plan.

“Oh, by the way,” he said as casually as he could muster, “a strange thing happened while I was giving blood. They told me that there had been a mistake on my donor card. Apparently, I’m not the rare man that you thought I was. I’m just a bog standard O like Johnny. They will send me a new card with the correction on. They said sometimes it happens, especially many years ago.”

Emma smiled and winked at him. “I guess I can still love you, even if you are run-of-the-mill.”

John smiled back. He knew that his plan had worked and his family would remain intact as it had always been. The only thing he must never allow is that he comes into a situation where he will need to have a blood transfusion.

He sat back in his seat and told himself that lying is easy, as long as the motive is honourable.

The End

3 thoughts on “Two Wrongs Make a Life

  1. Pingback: Voting instructions for the November 2021 tcwg competition. – TCWG Short Stories

Comments are closed.