Honesty is the best policy?

Submitted into Contest #55 in response to: Write a story about an old family secret surfacing generations later.... view prompt


Drama Mystery

“I was there the day your parents fell off the bridge…”


Stefan solely decides to bring something as decisive as this 4 or 5 seasons later, completely disregarding the effect of concealing such a huge revelation from Elena. He spends almost all his time snogging her but wouldn’t dare reveal the truth that she so deserves to know. This is the reason why I’m always going to be a Delena fan. I honestly can’t fathom what goes on in these writer’s minds! With every new season are shocking and unexpected twists. Last week, I found out that Stefan was to be blamed for turning Damon into a vampire and now this. I wonder how people keep secrets, not uttering a single word to their loved ones, despite spending time with them almost every day.

Secrets are vicious creatures. You can be content while enjoying an ice cream cone but, the next day a flu shows up unanticipated. It goes the same way for secrets, they find you when you least expect them to.

“Mirianaaa! Get off that electronic device, you know Damon can waittttt. Everyone is hereee”

Gosh. How is Maa so loud?

We follow a family tradition every year on 11th August, whereby our relatives from mostly every part of the state come over to visit. We hold it to celebrate the day Great Great Grand papa started his business that is successful up-to date. These are the moments we come together to bond, forget about our worldly affairs and problems. The main aim is to spend quality fun time together just like Great Great Grand papa did with his family many years ago.

"Coming Maaaa.” Oh my! I sound just like Howard from Big Bang theory. Sometimes I believe I can relate to him. Well, I’m not a Jewish male or a weird nerd but when it comes to having loud mothers, we can totally relate.

I slam my laptop, anger towards Stefan still evident on my face. I hop off the bed to take a glimpse of myself in the room mirror; realizing my dress doesn’t have a perfect look anymore. I try to straighten it up or remove the creases. After about what feels like two minutes of struggling I give up and instead choose to get out of my room.

Knowing how clumsy I can be, I hold onto the rail made of wood. The stairs ahead are twisted in a perfect spiral, like a slinky toy pulled from each end which I faintly remember owning when I was five. Each stair was a deep walnut color with a sort of shine due to the effort Maa put in scrubbing them earlier. Apparently our house has to look iridescent. I continue taking my excited steps and can’t help but take a glance at the room from the corner of my eye. It looks peculiar, no one has dared set foot in it for a long time. Similar to haunted movies, no one was permitted to open the door. Whenever I try to do so Maa and Paa come up with a way to stop me or divert the topic. I always tell myself it is probably filled with fancy, expensive antique or maybe artifacts. I guess they don’t bring it up since we are a family of clumsy children.

There is a bounce in my every step; I feel every fiber of my being vibrating with excitement, adrenaline coursing through my veins, my facial expression is like that of a small child with an especially large Christmas present. Today is going to be epic!

“Dad, don’t you think the time has approached to finally speak regarding, you know…”

“Hush! They could hear you. I believe they’re too young for this kind of information. You do know how these young generation children think!”

Granny consistently preaches regarding the drawbacks of eavesdropping, but the conversation sounds similar to the debates we have on family game night and I don’t want to miss any chance to join in. I adjust my stance as my inner spy starts to emerge. Unfortunately, they start whispering due to Grand papa’s warning and not a word can be heard. With the looks of it, they seem to be having a serious conversation. Perhaps they are discussing marketing strategies to help increase the sales or beat their competitors; I should be honest and ask them about it.

Honesty is always the best policy.

“Heyyyy guys! It’s a wonderful day, why is everyone so serious?

Everyone turns around, covering their faces with identical grins. I can see right through their fake grins. What happened to honesty?

I think I’m overthinking this situation, they could be discussing the family business. Our family is well known for running a shoe business for the past 156 years. Great Great Grand papa opened it up with a lot of difficulty, I have heard stories about how he worked day and night not giving up even once until he succeeded. After his sad death, he passed it on to Great Grand papa who then gave it to Grand papa before retiring who recently transferred it to Paa, Uncle tony, Uncle James and Uncle Michael. Ever since then, they have been working hard to try and continue with the legacy.

I smile back. Mine more genuine.

I run off the stairs to greet everyone and make sure to give them each a big hug. I think I’ll collapse if anyone asks me how I’ve grown so tall since the last time we met.

“Ameliaaa, Ammyyy Oh my God! It has been so long! Why didn’t you visit last month during Jake’s graduation?” the twins look like a mess, pomegranate juice dripping down their pretty young faces. It was their 21st birthday last week, looking at them right now reminds me of 2 year old children. However, they are the most genuine and kind souls out there.

"Miriiii whatsuppp!”

They even speak in unison, typical twins. C’mon. Who says whatsup though?

“Just the same old, been here and there.” Previously, I wasn’t as close to the twins as I am right now. Last summer, our families went for vacation to Turkey and being stuck with them for an entire month made me grow closer towards them. Our family consisted of 6 cousins. The twins and I, my older brother Jake who graduated last month and travelled overseas recently. Adam, uncle Michael’s son who got married and is in his honeymoon and lastly my favorite cousin of all time; Teresa who sadly couldn’t make it due to attending her best friend’s wedding. I was the youngest of all making me the most pampered.

After giving our greetings to one another we hurriedly gather around the table, my tummy growls and I imagine the delicacies going to be presented soon. I am salivating just thinking about it. My tummy grumbles again and I think this time Amy hears it.

The seating arrangement is the same every year, we all sit on the grand table with the men on the left side and the women on the right. On each corner of the table were royal like seats for Grand papa and Granny. I still find it funny as to how we all make the similar movement of pulling out our chairs, dusting the napkins and finally sitting down.

Granny, Maa and my aunties bring about a range of dishes. My vision is filled with scrumptious rotisserie chicken, melt in the mouth cheese fries, well-cooked steak, bread rolls, little shrimps and special fish curry for Grand papa. I inhale the smell of the fresh food as I lick my lips while grabbing a handful of the fried shrimps, I make sure to drench them in Maa’s famous creamy white, sweet sauce. I crunch another handful of crispy shrimp completely forgetting my table manners. I then grab a chicken leg and a medium size piece of steak not forgetting the cheesy fatty fries. I saturate them in the rich, sweet sauce and pop a large bite of the steak mixed with the fries in my mouth as the juice drips down my face as if a caveman taking massive bites of the meat rather than slicing it in a sophisticated manner.

What is a fork and a knife? Here, we eat with our hands and savor each and every morsel gracefully placed into our mouth.

I can hear the chitter and chatter from every corner of the table and cannot help but smile, this feels so soothing. Everyone is enjoying their meal, their plates a riot of vibrant shades. I can hear Grand papa eating noisily, slurping his curry like some sort of vacuum cleaner. He doesn’t show any signs of embarrassment as he wipes his mouth on his sleeve letting out a burp.

After having lunch, we collect the dishes and place them in the dish washer, clean the table, sort out the leftovers and move with our dessert plates. It was time for the best part of the day, dessert! On the dessert table I see an even better sight. There are slices of black forest cakes, tiny, yellow and cute lemon pie slices, hazelnut mini tarts, blueberry muffins and our signature chocolate pretzel sticks. On the corner of the table are sugar covered jellies, sour candies, fizzy cola bottles and my most favorite; chocolate pralines in their purple wrappers. This right here is why I love being part of such a foodie family! I make sure to get a small portion of every dessert present on the table in my plate.

The twins and I take our plates carefully and sit down on the fluffy white rug, the men and Granny on the sofas while the women on the dining table. Maybe I should bring up what I heard earlier. Never mind, it was time for dessert meaning it was forbidden to bring up work related conversations.

I ask the most awaited question

“Granny! What game do we begin with this time?”

“Hide and seek!”

I feel giddy with excitement as I hear a chorus of Yayy from everyone. Happiness flows through me, warming my skin like rays of an early summer sun. This isn’t the normal hide and seek that you can play during recess in kindergarten, this game is much more intense and exhilarating. Every year I try to win but Granny always has a unique place to hide. Last year, she hid in the truck that we kept in the garage and never used I mean, how smart is that? This time I need to win, the prize of having pizza for a whole week is too precious to be lost!

Like every year Granny starts announcing the rules

“No hiding in the bathtub Michael, I remember you falling and spraining your ankle the last time you hid there. Although, the sight was hilarious ha-ha. No use of electronic devices, especially Miriana. Please leave Damon alone. No bribing the twins James, it never works! And most importantly kick off your boring shoes. Amelia, you’ll be the one counting since you lost last year; I still don’t understand how hiding behind the curtains work child.”

“O…n…e… t…w…o…t...h…”

Everyone starts to scramble away quickly and I no longer hear Amelia. The grownups always have an upper hand since they’re familiar with every nook and corner of the house. I need to defeat them! I sound like a diabolical villain and I love it!

Maybe I should go to the ROOM. This is hide and seek, one of the most serious games we play so, going to the forbidden room with boring artifacts that cost a ton sounds good.

I tip toe towards the direction of the room and stare at the tall door, it is scratched and dented with chipped brown paint. The front of it has a brass colored door handle that looks dull and ancient as if from a 100 year old mansion. The knob is grey with unburnished silver, where there should’ve been some fancy metal handle is only a dark and rusty handle. On the corner of the door is a peephole that isn’t helpful, there are various marks of dried wood everywhere. I try to open the door but obviously it turns out to be locked, I take out my hair clip and follow the tutorial Uncle Michael had given me when I was nine in case I get kidnapped.

Twist, turn, put in some effort and voila.

I push the heavy wooden door and it swings open with a creak. A cloud of dust hits my face in mere seconds and makes me let out a cough. I quickly cover my mouth to minimize the noise. Icy and bitter wind trails into the room despite the day being so warm, I look around to take in the view ahead. The wretched and worn down timber walls have collected mold and dust, I notice spiders scurried in dark corners, their old webs flapping in dusty silence. The walls once painted antique cream are now covered with a dusty layer completely hiding the perfect paint underneath. The room looks like it was perfect one day and abandoned the next. The dust in every corner of the room is thick like the winters first snow, but instead of being a spirit-raising brilliant white, it is a depressing dirty grey.

The ceiling is low, the window glass though clear is as thick as a beer bottle. Each piece of rectangle, no bigger than a dollar-store notebook, is held in place with brown iron. Below the window panes are worn out curtains hung slack like things exhausted by the heat.

I slowly shut the door and every step I take leaves a footprint on the floor. The room is pitch black. I look around, praying a flashlight would just pop out of nowhere. MY PHONE! Oh my days! How could I forget about it? I take out my phone, despite knowing the rules. In my defense this isn’t part of the game.

I turn on the flashlight app, feeling much better when a bright lights appears. I think I saw a rat pass by. Yuck. I feel myself overlooking the game and instead admiring how ancient yet old the room is. A royal bed is at the far end of the room covered with bed sheets that lack fashion sense, next to it is a worn out desk, a shelf filled with outdated books and an old painting leans against the wall looking unloved. Apart from that, were boxes with torn out edges and unrecognizable objects.

I twirl as I continue admiring the room, I suddenly feel myself almost tripping and hold onto the shelf for support. The floorboard creaks as plumes of dust erupt from the old book I held onto, giving the air a musty smell. I look below to see the cause of my tripping but I’m not quite sure what it is, it feels like an old cloth or a cut out piece of paper. I crouch down feeling my thighs hurt as I squat. Okay, I so need to work out. I touch the piece of paper or cloth intricately, it feels dusty and icky. I strain my eyes to recognize the material of the piece of paper, it appears to be a bit of an old newspaper with the year 1906 on the corner.

I read out the headlines “BYRES MATHEWS, ARRESTED!”

Wait, isn’t that Great Great Grand papa’s name? This has to be some sort of coincidence, there are around a thousand people with the same name so I just give it the benefit of doubt. It still captivates me, causing me to move it closer to the flashlight so I can have a closer and better view. I start reading out the paragraph

On 20th June 1906, Byres Mathews, a well-known successful business man and owner of the famous shoe business ‘PICK AND SLIDE,’ was arrested with the claim of transporting 352 people into concentration camps. Using his cunning and smart nature, he hid them in the trucks that were transporting the shoes out of the border making him gain 50 million dollars. On 15th may 1906, his brother Johnathan Matthew knew of his tactics and caught him off-guard which then led to him being heartlessly pushed off a cliff…

Wait what?

Did they call Great Great Grand papa a murderer and destroyer of lives? Impossible!

It hits me. Secrets. Secrets. Secrets. All these years, we’ve been narrated stories portraying the hardworking and special nature of Great Great Grand papa. When I was young Paa read me stories and called him a kind, honest, sincere, selfless and young at heart man. They were lying the entire time!

A tear slides down by face in the name of disappointment, I was hurt and confused. So confused.

Could this be what everyone was talking about previously? We always cared, helped and guided one another. So, how is it possible for us not to know something as serious as this? I try to find clues maybe something to prove this is all phony. I stare at the piece of dirty paper intently, I turn it around and notice part of a face that is old and wrinkly. The eyebrows look familiar, that face is the same face I’ve seen in so many picture albums and on the walls of the hallway. It indeed is Great Great Grand papa.

I hear the door squeaking, surprising me as it is loud and immediate. I hope no one knows I’m here, I need to find out more! After freezing to listen for a few moments I begin to ascend against the advice of my anxiety.

“Miriana Honey, you were not supposed to see this.”

The door is slammed.

August 20, 2020 21:26

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Susie L
01:21 Aug 27, 2020

I really enjoyed your story, and I loved the ending. It was open enough not to feel like a cop out, and was intense enough to leave the reader asking for more. The beginning was also good for foreshadowing the ending, and I really enjoyed that. There are some things that I think could be improved on. The narrator's voice is very chaotic, and I, as a reader, feel bombarded with all these details. This can be seen right at the beginning when you're talking about the T.V. show. It feels overwhelming when you jump from talking about the...


11:45 Aug 27, 2020

Heyy!! I really appreciate your feedback. The next time I write I'll make sure to take all that you said into consideration and improve my writing. I like the idea of linking her thoughts to her reality and will work on this. Thank youuu so much:)


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