Andrew Burvill, Year 11
Today was a special day. Berty was filled with that bountiful energy that only a six-year-old could possess. He was seeing Daddy.
It was one of those rare sunny days in London where the city flocked to the outdoors to bathe in the sun’s warmth. Hyde Park had never seen so many people on its lush carpet of green. Berty eagerly sprinted down to the banks of the Serpentine and curiously peered at the drama unfolding between the majestic swans. An elegant mother pen had been caught by the father huddling next to another cob. The father snorted explosively unfurling his magnificent plumage and coiling his neck back to strike as the cygnets watched in fear. Berty turned to his mother and noticed her calculating eyes focused directly on the mother and cygnets; a brief flicker of fear flashed upon her face. The two males locked necks and wildly flapped their milky wings, an awkward dance of twists and turns that made the once elegant creatures look foolish and clumsy. Berty suddenly felt his mother’s icy grip on his neck as she determinedly led him away from the performance, her body immune to the sun’s kiss.
She quickly led Berty up to the crest of a hill where a jet-black food truck was conveniently perched so that its sizzling meaty aroma wafted across the park. Queues snaked through the grass as the perspiring workers madly rushed inside the steaming, cramped oven. Berty’s eyes drifted towards the truck in search of his father. Finally, he spotted the handsome, ebony-haired man donned in a lightweight business shirt and pants. He was swiftly making notes on his clipboard without a hint of stress. Berty squealed gleefully as he ran up to the back door of the truck and clambered up the stairs. Mr Robertson’s eyes lit up as he saw his child bounding up into his arms.
Penelope Murson watched from afar with a slight tinge of envy; Robert had always been great with kids. His charm and charisma were as sweet as sugar cubes to sparrows and were the reasons he could win customers over in his businesses. Her, less so… Penelope’s years in court had built up a distant wall between herself and her peers and the wall had grown even higher since the divorce. She impatiently checked her glistening Gucci watch; she wanted to get this dirty business over with quickly. After a minute, Penelope inhaled deeply and approached the steps to the truck.
Robert’s gleaming smile faded as he saw Penelope striding across the grass.
“Ah Penny, my dearest condolences for your loss,” Robert said with a forlorn bow of his head.
“Don’t act like you care, Robert… You always hated him,” she retorted scathingly with the venom of a lawyer.
“True, it does tend to happen when a man has an affair with your wife,” he beamed and spoke in the effortless, casual tone he had spent years mastering.
“Anyway, what brings you outside of your little cage? Why isn’t Susan looking after Berty?”
“Wednesdays are her day off and I actually came to see you.”
“Ah, always a pleasure, Penny. I’ll get some food for us.”
Before Penelope could object, Robert had already darted inside the truck. She was not going to be ensnared in his radiant allure that she had so much difficulty escaping from.
The small family descended under the cool embrace of an oak tree.
“Berty, why don’t you go play on the playground sweetie?” Penelope asked with a false enthusiasm.
Berty nodded and ran off to the nearby playground to join in a game of tag with some children while Penelope braced for battle.
“I can’t believe you would accuse me of this! Look, we may not have got along towards the end of our marriage but do you honestly think I’m a murderer?”
“Robert quiet please; we’re in a public space!” she hissed.
“Penny, it’s been incredibly difficult for you, I understand. Losing a lover; remember, I’ve been there myself.”
Penelope had completely forgotten. Of course. Robert had lost his high school lover in a car crash. Unknowingly, her wall was starting to be picked apart by the only man in the world who could do so.
“But please don’t let your anger get the better of you. We’ll bring justice to this crime.” His dark, chestnut eyes conveyed the entirety of the world’s sadness for a brief moment. Cracks started to form in her wall, leaking out her neglected emotions and building pressure behind the wall until it finally came crashing down.
“Oh Robert…You’re right. I’m sorry. Forgive me, I’m just in such an emotional state at the moment. The police can’t find the body and…” Penelope’s usually coherent sentences gradually turned to a deep sobbing. Robert offered her a handkerchief from the depths of his pockets. Penelope devoured her meat roll in a feeble attempt to rid her tears. The result was a broken woman, a once pretty face now tarnished with mascara and meat sauce. Robert hugged her comfortingly, his warm body clutching her dainty body tightly. It had been a long three weeks since her lover’s disappearance and she was yearning for affection. Her presence had turned frosty and she frequently snapped at Berty. Penelope hadn’t realised how much she had missed Robert’s reassuring embrace. His intoxicating warmth flowed through her body and melted her stress away. She reluctantly broke the hug and murmured something about needing the bathroom and trudged off.
Berty came out from behind the oak and gazed at his father staring at the swans in the distance. The father swan had returned victorious from his battle to his doting lover that curled up beside him ever so innocently as if the previous events were a faded, forgotten memory. He was no longer a thrashing, clumsy fool but a proud, graceful creature.
“Oh look Daddy, the father swan won.”
Robert’s eyes revealed a cruel chill that Berty had seen occasionally towards the end of his parents’ marriage.
Absentmindedly, he remarked, “Us fathers always win Bert.”
Almost instantaneously, his mask returned and his eyes glimmered back to life. He plucked Penelope’s meat roll from its greasy wrappings and offered it to Berty. “I specially prepared this roll for us. Wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get good quality meat around here these days… Your mother loved it; here try some.”
The two ate in silence as they bathed in the pleasant air with the tangy flavour of the odd tasting meat on their tongues.