Updated: Dec 15, 2020
As she was driving towards the causeway, Sandra noticed a lone figure walking ahead of her. It was a bitterly cold morning, and she decided to stop and offer a lift. As she got closer, just before the causeway Sandra slowed down and opened her car window to offer a lift. It was a woman of around sixty years old, and she looked strangely familiar. She walked around to the passenger side of the car, opened the door and sat beside Sandra.
‘Where are you heading?’ Sandra asked.
The woman looked at Sandra, saying nothing. She had a haunted look about her and her hair was very wavy. Sandra was sure that she had seen the woman before, but couldn’t remember where. The woman was wearing a pair of slippers and an old dressing gown, and Sandra thought that perhaps the woman was confused and lost. The woman remained silent and Sandra decided to take her to the island police station.
When they reached the police station,Sandra left the woman in the car because it was so cold. When Sandra and the police officer came out to the car, the old woman was no longer there. The officer suggested that perhaps Sandra had imagined the woman but Sandra insisted that she had picked her up just before the causeway. When she mentioned the causeway, the officer’s face changed. He asked her to describe the woman, and what she was wearing. Sandra described her and said that her face looked familiar.
‘I think we should go inside and get a strong cup of tea,’ said the officer. ‘ There’s something you need to know.’
As they sat in the office, the police officer, Douglas to his friends, told her about a woman who had died under suspicious circumstances just before the causeway, on the side where Sandra lived. Over the last few weeks, visitors to the island had reported sightings of the same woman, who was always silent. Douglas had known Sandra’s uncle Tam, and his face suggested that he didn’t want to elaborate on the story, but Sandra pressed him for more information.
As he continued, Sandra learned that her uncle Tam had a relationship with a woman from the other side of the island, but because of religious differences, it was deemed unacceptable to the woman’s grown up children, that they should marry. Both Tam and the woman, who was called Mary were devastated, but acquiesced to the demands of her family. However, they continued to meet secretly late at night. One stormy night, as Mary was driving over the causeway to meet Tam, her eldest son was there waiting. He was angry and tried to persuade her to go back home. When she refused, he pulled her out of the car and a struggle ensued. Mary lost her footing and fell into the water. Unfortunately Mary couldn’t swim, as is common on the islands (it takes longer to drown if you can swim), and unfortunately she drowned. This was over ten years ago and after Tam died, the sightings of Mary stopped. Until Sandra moved into Tam’s house.
Sandra always felt different from her siblings, being the youngest by ten years, and she often wondered why she had brown eyes, unlike them. She was thirty years old, and had spent every summer on the island as far back as she could remember, She racked her brain, and she remembered a woman who used to visit Tam and make dinner. Tam was always happy when this woman was about, and she was very kind to Sandra.
Sandra always wondered why her mum was so much older than her, and why she had a child at forty two when her other children were fairly independent. Her mum never really answered Sandra’s questions. She tried to remember this woman’s name, but she did remember that she had the darkest hair and brown eyes, just like her. Sandra decided to call her mum after work, and ask her who this woman was.
She called just after dinner, and her mum was pleased to hear from her. She recounted the story from earlier, how she picked up this woman and the woman suddenly disappeared. Her mum sounded a bit strange, and when Sandra asked about her uncle Tam’s lady friend, her mum made some excuse about someone being at the door, and she had to go. Sandra wondered what was wrong, but decided not to bother her mum any more.
Sandra had never been abroad before and had never needed a passport. She decided that it was about time she tried a holiday abroad with her new friends at the cottage hospital, and so she would need a passport. She had never seen her full birth certificate, which was required, to give the full details of her parents, so she called her mum to ask for it. Silence; after what seemed a lifetime, her mum said that she would bring it up, in case it was lost in the post. She would be arriving at the weekend.
Sandra waited at the ferry for her mum, and she was so happy to see her. She thought mum looked rather tense and wondered what was wrong. As they drove back to what used to be her mum’s family home growing up, Sandra could feel that her mum was very agitated. Once inside, Sandra made some tea and they sat at the table.
‘Sandra, I have something to tell you,’ her mum said, ‘and it will be a bit of a shock. You know how you used to ask me lots of questions about why you looked different from your siblings? Well, there is a reason; your uncle Tam and his lady friend had a daughter, but her family refused to accept her, because the child’s father was a different religion. You are that daughter, which is why I brought you up
to visit Tam as much as I could, when you were growing up. Mary, his partner was your mother and she would come over to see you when you were up. You look so much like her, with your brown eyes and wavy hair. I’ve always dreaded this moment, and I wish I had been able to tell you the truth.’
Sandra sat there in silence, hardly believing what she was hearing. It all made sense now; the woman that she saw the other morning was her birth mother, and that was why she looked familiar. She had other siblings who lived at the other side of the island; the great divide, so to speak, was a point of doctrine. Her mum told her she had two brothers and a sister, and gave her their address. Sandra was at a loss as to what she should do.