Chapter 2 – The Mother

I am releasing a chapter a day of a story I wrote as a tribute to a WWI digger, for background click here. For the previous chapter click here.

Doris was still coming to terms with life in Australia. It was hot and dusty compared to where she’d lived most of her life. She never expected to leave there. After the death of her husband, she felt a fresh start for her, and her son was needed. Free of the stigma that her husband had brought upon the family.

Brought up in a strict house Doris was one of four children. Three girls, one boy. Her mother died while giving birth to her brother who would not live past the age of two. Her father would pass away from pneumonia four years later when Doris was nine.

Orphaned, Doris and her remaining siblings were brought up by her Aunt. She saw them as nothing more than an annoyance. Her Aunt showed no love and expected the girls to pay their way from a young age. Doris entered service aged twelve and worked in kitchens and as a maid in several locations across her home city.

She had a natural beauty but was weathered. A fair complexion and blonde hair, she was only five foot tall. She tried to look after herself and would sometimes indulge in beauty treatments when possible.

At the age of sixteen, she met the man who would become her husband. He was twenty-two and she thought good looking. She would have said he was tall, dark, and handsome. Most people were tall given her stature, even when they were only five foot seven.

Doris had no idea what love was. She had never really experienced it since her father’s death. Certainly nothing like it from her Aunt. For her formative years, Doris lacked a decent male role model. This man showed interest and he seemed caring and kind. He was in a strange way romantic and he doted on her. With no real comparison, she thought she was head over heels in love.

She would be married at seventeen and pregnant at eighteen. Her Aunt was glad to have rid of her. Problems in the marriage started early. Her husband could not hold down a job. He had a sharp tongue that would typically see him in trouble, a quip to his superior and he would be out of work again. His tongue was not reserved for misbehaving only at work. He would regularly direct abuse at Doris about her looks, that she didn’t do enough at home, her cooking, nearly anything.

He was terrible with money the little he did make was pissed against a bar’s wall or worse. He had been arrested on multiple occasions for public drunkenness. The most embarrassing occasion for Doris he was collected by police for urinating on the local Church.

For Doris, it was better he was collected by police than when he came home. As then Doris experienced more than just a sharp tongue, she would be grabbed, scratched, beaten and occasionally raped.

Doris hoped with the birth of their son would be the chance for a new start. She thought it would encourage her husband knuckle down and hold employment. Maybe come home instead of going to the pub every night. Unfortunately, this was not to be. The drinking, the beatings, the arrests simply continued.

The beatings got worse when Doris was accused of hiding money away. How dare she, he said. She denied it, this was a lie but if she didn’t hide money the family would not eat.

Doris tried to work when possible but her main role was trying to protect her son from her husband. She hoped that he would not be subjected to the treatment that she suffered. Thankfully he escaped the worst of it, and her husband took his frustrations out on her.

Her life would change on a fateful winter’s day. It was a rare day her husband had a job, he’d had one for two weeks. This was even rarer. Doris was home preparing dinner, slightly more exotic than normal. Given her husband’s solid string of employment, she wanted to reward him. It was then she heard a knock at the door. Men from her husband’s work stood in the doorway. They advised he wouldn’t be coming home.

He had been killed that day, crushed by a load that was accidentally released from a crane. They did not go into details. Doris offered them tea, but they didn’t accept, she thanked them for telling her the news. She was shocked but, she did not cry.

She was now a widow, but she had been released from a prison without walls. She planned the funeral. Ironically her husband would be buried at the same Church he had years earlier defecated. At no stage did she shed one tear prior to the funeral or during.

She wondered about her now sixteen-year-old son and how he was coping with his father’s death. He also had shown no emotion. Although her husband had never been violent with him, he had not been fatherly in any way. She knew he was also aware of how she was treated.

It would be a year later that she would find out the truth behind her husband’s death. A man who had been at the building site working with him the day of his death, took an interest in Doris. One night after being plied with some drink, he told her the truth of her husband’s death.

Her husband’s sharp tongue had been causing problems for the two days prior to his death. He had been making comments directed at two of the other workers on site. On the day of his death he’d made comments about the wife of one of the men. Shortly prior to lunch break, the two men took a metal pipe and struck Doris’ husband across the back of his head, he fell to the ground dead instantly. To cover their tracks the men with some help lifted a crane load over where he lay and released it. Given Doris’ husband was not well-liked questions were not asked, and the story that the load released accidently was accepted.

Doris did not feel anything hearing the story. Her husband had been murdered. She would be lying if she said she hadn’t thought of doing it herself. She assured the man she would not tell anyone what he had said, but also that their relationship would be progressing no further.

She had sought answers to her husband’s death as rumors had been circulating. They never progressed. Doris would never tell a soul she knew the truth, she was happy with the narrative of him dying in a working accident compared to, the widow of a man killed with a pipe because no one liked him.

Her son was holding down steady employment and had proven to be a hard worker. But it was hard for him to progress in any job locally. The son of a drunk who pissed on a Church, it was hard to escape the stigma.

Doris saw an opportunity advertised, Australia the great land of opportunity. A world away no one knew them or their back story.

Doris spoke to her son and they agreed to save the fare and immigrate to Australia. It was a good time to get out of Europe, tensions had been steadily rising and people were on edge. The fare was raised. They booked their tickets.

Doris didn’t farewell anyone, they all talked behind her back, so she didn’t consider anyone her friend. Only one of her sister’s remained alive but they had not spoken much since leaving their Aunt’s house. Doris and her son boarded the ship, they went with a quiet hope that this would be the chance to start anew.

Now she was in Australia the horror of her life in England felt like a lifetime ago. Australia had shown to be a harsh land, but it was still better being here without baggage. The chances for her son were already showing to be significantly better than if they had stayed in England. This was both in his employment and socially as he was no longer known as the son of the Church pisser.

Sure, he spent too much time at the pub, however, he always came home for dinner and was never blind drunk. It was important he go there to cement relationships with his co-workers which was helping him have a better career outlook.

He attended Church with her on Sunday and she hoped he would meet a nice young lady there. Hopefully, life would turn out for him better than she had ever dreamed.

Doris herself had gotten involved with Church programs and picked up employment in a local hotel working as a maid.

The only concern she had was the war, currently, her son was too young to sign up without her consent. She would never give it, he was all she had left. She knew he would not forge her signature. He was caring and knew that would hurt her.

She hoped that the war would end prior to him turning 21 so she would never have to face the prospect of him going. She did not know if he wanted to sign up, she never asked, and they never spoke of it at their evening meals. Even if he didn’t, there was pressure on young men to serve King and Country.

She had time before she had to worry, so she would enjoy her son and pray the war would end soon.

For the next chapter click here.

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