Father’s Day

I wanted our meeting to be just perfect and although it wasn’t, it still meant so much to us both

I look around at my teashop, Tilly’s, trying to see it with fresh eyes.

It’s impossible of course. I have lived and breathed this space for the last six months. It’s as familiar to me as the backs of my hands.

This place is my palace, my home, and latterly, as Mum’s illness took hold, stealing her away from me, inch by painful inch, it’s become my sanctuary.

I let my gaze roam over the cakes under their protective cloches; all gooey loveliness waiting to be devoured.

The tables and chairs are painted in a carnival of pastel shades, the old beams and wonky walls that have seen so many lives lived and secrets told.

But none like mine, I bet.

I already know what he looks like. Mum had some photos that she shared with me and I’ve looked at his Insta and Twitter feeds and scrolled his Facebook posts, lingering over the photos I found there. His hair is greying now.

I’m still standing, lost in thought, when I hear the familiar tinkle of the bell above the door.

It’s a hot day; flaming June. He’s early and he’s caught me with a duster in my hand and my hair in a messy top knot.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this! I wanted to be seated at a table, striking an Audrey Hepburn-like pose.

But no. Here I am. The real me. Not the glossy, imagination me.

“Hello, I’m Mark Wyatt. I’m here to meet Zoë?”

“That’s me,” I say in an over-bright voice and thrust out my hand, realising too late that I’m still clutching the duster. “Sorry! I was just cleaning up.”

“Lovely place,” he says.

“Thank you.”

“I noticed the name: Tilly’s. I knew a Matilda once.”

A faraway look enters his eyes and a smile plays on his lips. Whatever memories are screening in his mind right now, they’re happy ones.

“It’s named after my mother. Can I get you some tea?” I ask.

“Please. I was interested in the message you sent me. Although I have a gallery in town, I’d love to have my paintings on show here. I was born in the village, you see, so it’ll be a little like coming home.”

He goes over to inspect the paintings I already have on sale while I make the tea, burning myself in the process.

The china rattles on the tray as I carry it over.

I wonder if he can see how my hands are shaking, and if he wonders why?

“The paintings are mine.”

“They’re very good.”

I blush. I’ve never been good at compliments.

“Sell many?”

“A few. We get a lot of tourists, they come for the antiques.”

He nods.

I pour the tea and manage to slop some into both saucers. He must think me the most inept teashop owner ever.

“There was another reason why I asked you here today, although I do very much want to hang some of your paintings…”

I wait for him to take a sip of his tea and put the cup safely back down.

“The Matilda you once knew… she was my mother.”

He does a double take.

“Really? Small world! She moved to America because of her father’s job. We lost touch. How is she?”

I hesitate. “She died a month ago.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

His concern is genuine and I’m touched by it. He still had feelings for her, I can tell.

“The thing is…” I begin. “I never knew my father. Mum said he was her first love…”

He frowns at the table.

“I thought I was her first love… She was mine.”

He says the words as much to himself as to me and then he processes what he’s just said. And slowly… so slowly… he lifts his gaze to mine.

Blue eyes meet blue eyes and widen.


I nod and swallow, hardly daring to breathe.

“When they came back from the States, she looked you up but you were married by then, you had a son…”

“Mark junior.”

“She thought things were best left. She only told me on her deathbed. She wanted me to find you, to let you know. Now that we’re all grown, she hoped…”

“A daughter?”

He smiles and fireworks actually go off in my heart.

“I always wanted a daughter. Two boys, never a girl.”

Standing, he opens his arms to me. “If I may…” he says.

“You may!” I reply as I jolt the table, spilling the tea.

I lose myself in his embrace. I’ve waited twenty-eight years for this moment and it’s more than I could have hoped for.

“Hello, Zoë,” he says.

I almost need to pinch myself to make sure that I’m not dreaming as I reply, “Hello, Dad.”

Our My Weekly Favourites series of feel-good fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.

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