This is Episode Sixteen of Paternity in which Frank reveals a secret and Pip has some thinking to do.
LINKS TO OTHER EPISODES ARE ON THE SIDE BAR
And please leave feedback in a comment at the end of this instalment.
Frank seemed to take a deep breath, as though he was about to jump into a deep pool of water. And then he leapt:
‘Ah. I talked to a mate over at the court – the forensic bloke. He knows about DNA tests. He got one for me..
‘You? For you? Have you been doing something you shouldn’t have been doing Frank?’
‘No – I don’t think so. Nothing I wouldn’t be proud of …’
‘Anyway this mate got this DNA test and he’s given me the result.’
‘And .. What if .. what if .. Robson wasn’t your father after all?’
‘I’d cheer. Of course.’
Then Pip got a gist of what Frank was trying to say. Was he suggesting? No. It couldn’t be …
‘Come on Frank. Put me out of my misery.’
‘That’s really what I’m trying to do Pippin. Just that. In a way.’
Frank bent even further forward towards her.
‘Your mother Selene and I were very good friends years ago. Very good friends. In fact we were together for more than a year when she broke off our relationship without warning. It nearly killed me.’
Frank stared at his wine.
‘That’s when I really got on the grog. That’s how much she meant to me …’
For a moment Pip wasn’t sure she was hearing this …
‘Gosh Frank. I had no idea you even knew each other.’
‘We knew each other all right. She was the centre of my existence and always has been.’
‘So why didn’t you say this before? Why on earth not?’
‘Well mate. For a while I didn’t twig that Violet Selene was the Selene I knew. Your name is Holmes and I knew your mother as Selene O’Rourke. That was the name in the court report in the paper remember? And that’s how I knew her.’
‘But you saw her pic …’
‘That hit me hard that did. I thought I’d better do a bit of research in case I put a foot wrong, so I didn’t say anything. I knew she had broken up with me months before the court case.
‘I hated the fact that she had been in so much trouble. Especially with those characters. A pack rape was nothing I could connect with my Selene.’
Frank’s eyes were swimming as they connected with hers across the check tablecloth.
Pip felt numb.
‘So … what about the DNA test?’
‘Well, by itself it was just a DNA test, and doesn’t tell us much. But I’ve been thinking about dates.
‘I reckon there is a very good chance that I could be your Dad.’
Pip looked closely: rapt.
The man who gazed towards her with such an earnest expression was the person she had known and admired as a young cadet. The Frank of old – confident and capable; trustworthy and empathetic. It was something of a transformation.
For Pip, his demeanour carried more weight at that moment than the words that tumbled into the quietness of that beautiful spot.
‘I’m sure I have at least as good a chance of being your father as Robson has, and given justice and fair play, I have a lot more.’
It was then that the words came together to produce a meaning – a meaning that could hold the key to her very existence.
A flock of galahs flew screeching from a nearby tree and a goanna skittered across the clearing. Then the clearing became quiet, but for the hum of cicadas in the distance.
‘I needed to talk to you. To see if you wanted to follow this further Pippin. Whether you really want to know beyond doubt. If it was me …’
Frank was staring intently at his hands, as though something minute on his skin could hold an answer to their dilemma.
Could he be right? Could this man be her father? This person whom she had admired for so long and who had been her mentor?
Frank was wondering if she wanted to follow through on his theory. How could he wonder that? How could he imagine she would not want to banish the possibility of Con Robson?
‘I would understand it mate if you didn’t want me in the picture. I can understand that …’
‘Frank please …’
‘We need never know – if that’s what you want. I just believed I had to tell you what may be …’
Right then there was hope in Pip’s heart. There was hope that the gang rape with all of its misery did not have far reaching consequences beyond those which had already destroyed her mother’s life. She did not want to imagine herself as the seed of that evil.
‘Of course I want to know. We must know! How could you think otherwise?’
She reached across the tablecloth to the nicotine stained hand lying there, and held it gently.
‘I’d love it if you were my Dad.’
A tear trickled down Frank’s weathered face.
'But what about you? Do you want to do this?'
'I'd be the proudest man on the planet ... if it was me.'
The tear mingled then with a broad grin.
There was a lightness in the air as the two of them enjoyed the wine and laid plans which might solve the mystery for once and all.
Pip felt sure that Denzy would come to the party, having Frank’s DNA results compared with her own. She could get those from the Macquarie Street specialist who did her test.
Frank said his research had clarified that he and Selene had broken up on June 30 1975.
‘I remember wondering if there was anything significant about it being the end of the financial year. They’re the sort of crazy things I was thinking.’
He had wracked his brain for reasons when Selene came back from ten days away to announce out of the blue that their relationship could not continue. She’d been travelling on her own, as she often did, exploring the countryside.
‘She seemed so distant when she got back that I thought she may have met someone else. Had another relationship going.
‘But she didn’t seem right somehow. She was lifeless and I felt deeply that there was something wrong.’
Selene had resigned her job soon afterwards and left Sydney.
Frank’s eyes were still moist. ‘I never saw her again.’
Pip was thinking fast: Frank and Selene broke up their relationship on 30th June 1975 and
the rape happened just six days previously, on June 24, while Selene was on her holiday. Pip herself was born on March 27 1976.
Almost nine months later. It was possible that Frank was her father.
On the other hand the rape date was also filled with possibilities.
‘You’re thinking that Selene got back after the rape in a complete panic …’
‘Yeah. Whatever, she wasn’t being rational. I mean if she thought she was pregnant at that time she’d have known that it wasn’t a result of the rape… I don’t think she knew at that stage.
‘I also think she couldn’t cope with any sort of closeness after that experience. Our relationship was just too much for her as well.’
‘The reports said that Selene was a virgin at the time of the rape.’
‘Shows you can’t believe everything you read in the papers,’ said Frank with a very large grin ‘I tell you she was no virgin. She was great!’
Pip remembered that Selene had changed her surname just before she gave birth. They both had been known by the name Holmes ever since.
Altogether, it was entirely reasonable that Frank would not have made the connection any earlier.
‘You’re making sense Frank. We need that DNA comparison!’
‘Mmmm. We do.’
As the sun lost its heat they piled into the car and meandered back into town. The two of them even sang along with a CD of ‘Give Me a Home Among the Gum Trees’.
After dinner with Frank at the Greek cafe Pip went back to her pub bedroom to find a single pink rose lying on her pillow, with no sign of where it came from.
Although puzzled, there were more pressing matters on her mind. She made a long phone call to her friend Denzy, the pathologist.
Denzy agreed to compare the result of Frank’s DNA test with the one of Pip’s which had been done through the Macquarie Street doctor’s. It would be ready in a day or so, depending on the time it took to have the test delivered from the CBD.
She hadn’t given Denzy too many details.
Pip made herself a cup of instant coffee in the pub kitchen and took it to the upstairs verandah outside her room. By this time the half moon was showing itself low above the horizon, and she leaned on the balcony railing to watch its glow as she mulled over the afternoon’s events.
Pip was also analysing her feelings.
She knew her immediate reaction to Frank’s suggestion was a positive one and now, thinking again on the possibilities, she still felt comfortable with the prospect of him being her father.
She’d always had a good friendship with Frank, right from the beginning of her cadetship when she’d arrived at the Sydney daily as a raw university graduate.
They’d had their ups and downs when she made mistakes.
And Pip had reservations about Frank’s increasing reliance on alcohol. Over the years they worked together she saw the blunting of the sharpness which had made him one of the city’s most respected journalists.
She had never understood why he let the demon drink enmesh him so completely in the end, and had watched the strange on-again-off-again relationship he had with Flo, the press bar attendant he lived with in between emotional explosions. Pip had always respected Flo and felt sorry for her.
It was a strange feeling, to imagine that Frank could be the source of her existence.
On the other hand, she had to be realistic. It was also very likely that her real father was Con Robson, the monstrous solicitor.
Pip’s dreams that night were a strange mixture.
She tossed and turned in between horrific images of werewolves and moons, strangely entangled, and with more peaceful dreams in which she seemed to be floating on quiet seas. Here, the moon remained with her, as though for protection.
The foregoing is excerpted from Paternity by June Saville. All rights reserved. No part of this novel may be used or reproduced without written permission from the author.
So - what will be the news from Denzy? What will happen next?
GO TO EPISODE SEVENTEEN