Simon stared in surprise as the horrified woman looked at him, turned, and ran away. Strewth, he knew he was hot – he had always had a way with the ladies – but he hadn’t ever had quite that reaction before. So hot that he’d overwhelmed a rather pretty brunette with curvaceous figure and beautiful eyes! Well, who knows, maybe she thought he was a film star or something, and had gone off to tell all her friends. Quite a few people had likened him to various film stars so it was plausible. But he mustn’t let himself get distracted. He was always getting distracted by women, which was probably why he hadn’t managed to hold down a long-term relationship. But recently, he felt the need to put down some sort of roots. He’d never really felt he belonged anywhere. Now he was in this place called Erinsborough, suburb of Melbourne, and he immediately liked what he saw, for some inexplicable reason. Maybe he’d hang around, see what work was going, and make a new life for himself. The death of his mother had altered his outlook on life. Yes, he definitely should hang around, it had a certain vibe to it, this place. Not that Simon had ever believed in vibes before.
Terese thought she must have been imagining things. But it it looked like him. Rationally, she knew it couldn’t be. And Terese had always been a competent, level-headed woman, good at business and running things. True, events over the last few months had left her in a bit of a state. All that business with her brother, Nick, who had done something so awful that even her family had never thought him capable of: Conned Paul Robinson into believing he had leukaemia, in order to persuade him to vote for the financing of a cancer research centre. Paul was a lot of things but he hadn’t deserved to be given chemotherapy under false pretences. And he hadn’t deserved to develop pneumonia as a result. He was recovered now, but Nick could have killed him. Terese had always been loyal to her brother, to whom she had looked up, but the cruel words he had spoken to her and her family before he was charged had made her begin to see the awful truth.
As Terese made her way home after the ‘sighting’ or whatever you could call it, she wondered if she should tell anyone. What on earth would Brad think? That she was cracking up completely? She would feel rather silly and no-one was going to believe her. She certainly couldn’t tell Lauren. Besides, Lauren was a bit of a thorn in Terese’s side these days. Oh, she felt sorry for her, what with losing Matt, of course. But did Brad have to spend quite so much time with his ex-girlfriend? Brad had said that Matt’s last words to him after the accident were that he must look after Lauren. Terese felt a little ashamed about even thinking this, but she had even wondered if Brad had made it up, in order to justify the time spent at the Turner house. Brad and Lauren were bound by so much history: sharing a daughter – one that Brad had had no idea had ever been born until last year – and whom Lauren thought had died at birth; and now Paige had been found, and was a member of both families, inextricably linking them for ever. What with that and now the revelation that Brad and Terese’s son Josh was the biological father of Amber Turner’s unborn baby, Terese had been a little stressed recently.
Shopping. Supper. Terese didn’t like cooking much, apart from breakfasts. At least she prided herself that she always sent her loved ones out to the day on a good breakfast. She grimaced as she recalled the way that her father-in-law Doug had always praised Brad’s ex-wife Beth’s culinary skills. He hadn’t made a secret of the fact that he and his wife Pam had preferred Beth to Terese. But never mind Beth. Beth was in the past, and Terese had an important job at the hotel to fill her time. Why should she have to compete with an ex-wife, she thought. As usual, she felt too tired to cook supper, so she popped into Harold’s, only to bump into Sheila on the way out.
“What’s the matter, Terese, love?” Sheila remarked, seeing Terese’s flustered body language, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”
Well, Terese could hardly say yes, that might actually just have happened, could she? Especially within Lauren’s earshot. She made some excuse about it having been a stressful day at work and hurriedly picked some dishes for supper, not wanting to have a long conversation with Lauren, who was serving at the counter. She was always seeing Lauren when she least wanted to. Ex-lovers and ex-wives of Brad seemed to continually pop up, either physically, or in Terese’s thoughts.
“How’s your day been?” said Brad, absent-mindedly, at the Willis home, pouring them both a glass of wine.
“Oh… yes, it was okay, a bit tiring, and the receptionists had to deal with a lot of complaints today, but nothing I couldn’t sort out, of course,” replied Terese, carefully rearranging a vase of flowers on the dinner table, and trying hard not to convey any sense that she thought she was going mad and seeing dead people walking around Erinsborough. But it was on her mind all that night.
It was only half-ten in the morning, but Simon needed a drink. It had happened again. This time it was a hippyish-looking chick in a kaftan holding the hand of a toddler. Not quite so interesting for him, but he had certainly caught her attention. She’d looked, looked away, and looked again, then scooped up her child, who was pointing at him, and hurried off. What the hell was happening? It had to be that he looked like some new singer on the scene, or something. Having moved around quite a lot lately, he hadn’t quite kept track of the latest stars, which had proven a bit of a disadvantage when chatting up younger women. He was getting on a bit, and he realised that the women he was interested in were often almost young enough to be his daughter. That’s if he’d ever settled down and had a daughter, but he hadn’t, of course.
Making his way to a bar on the hotel complex, not far from where he’d pitched up his camper van, he caught his reflection in the glass. He might be getting on a bit, but he was still a looker, that was certain. Rugged, with the slight beard, defined muscles, what with the workouts, and nicely tanned body from the surfing. Let’s see if this was a friendly place or not. You could always tell how friendly a place was from the local bar. He’d learnt that a long time ago. If the bartender was chatty, they could tell you a good few things you might need to know to determine whether or not you wanted to stay. He had this strange feeling of having been here before. He was sure he hadn’t been here before, yet it was somehow familiar. Maybe he’d rocked up in another suburb a few years back with another hotel bar, similar decor. Well, hotel bars weren’t all that different from one another, were they?
Sauntering through the empty bar, Simon saw a blonde female bartender wearing an overly floral dress. A bit too middle-aged for him, he thought. Simon’s thoughts were never far from whether or not a woman might be ‘his type’. The woman had her back to him, putting some glasses onto the shelf behind the bar. “A pint of your best beer, love,” he said, cheerily. It never did any harm to make a good impression, even if they weren’t dating material. With that, the woman turned around abruptly, regarded Simon with a look of horror… and fainted. What the freaking hell was going on? Simon rushed round to her side of the bar, first making sure that she hadn’t hit her head as she’d fallen.
“Can you hear me, love? You fainted. I’m Simon. We’ll get you on a comfy chair and see if you need a doctor. Hello? Love?”
The woman was coming round, but seemed confused. She was mumbling that something or other couldn’t be possible, and that she must be seeing things. And she was rambling about someone called Matt, and that some chick, Laura, or was it Lauren, couldn’t know about this. Helping the woman to a chair, Simon fetched her a glass of water. He hadn’t meant to make her faint. Hell, he must look like some very famous person for people to be reacting like this.
The woman took the water, and stared hard at Simon. “This can’t be happening,” she said. For one minute he thought she was going to conk out again.
“Look, love, I am sorry that you seem to have had some sort of shock,” Simon said, “But I’m not sure why I frightened you so much. It’s happened twice before since I rocked up here yesterday. I had two women on separate occasions take one look at me and both of them ran off in a hurry. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m just here checking the place out to see if I want to stay for a while. Settle down a bit. I’m not doing anything wrong, I promise. I might be a bit of a babe-magnet but I’m not a bad egg.”
The woman still looked confused. “So… you’re really not Matt, then?” She asked him, her voice a bit wobbly.
“No,” Simon laughed, “I’m Simon. I don’t know who Matt is. But maybe that’s who the other women thought I was yesterday? Anyway, maybe you’d like to tell me your name?”
“Oh… yes… the woman began. “Well, I’m Sheila. I’m the bar manager here. Matt is… was, a local policeman. A lovely man. He died a few months ago, in an accident. So sad. His poor wife and family are devastated. It’s hit everyone hard, actually. But you look the spit of him. I mean, a real doppelgänger. That’s why I was so shocked. I thought I’d seen a ghost. But I don’t believe in ghosts. And you’re obviously not one yourself!”
“No, Sheila, love, I’m not,” Simon laughed. Although, underneath his laugh, he felt a bit uneasy. Did he really look the spit of someone who had lived in this place, someone who was now dead? It was surreal. Maybe the people here had been so traumatised by this Matt’s death that they were all in a state of shock and wanted to think they’d seen him come back from the dead? That was weird. He felt like he was in the middle of some creepy horror story. Maybe it wasn’t such a good place to hang around.
“I know this might seem odd,” Sheila was saying, “But you really do look like Matt. Only he didn’t have a beard. Well, not until his last weeks when he took leave from the force. He went downhill a bit. Oh, not that your beard makes you look as if you’ve gone downhill!” Sheila stopped for a minute and looked flustered.
“We have to make sure that Lauren doesn’t see you,” she went on. “If Lauren sees you, she’ll think she’s going mad like I did just then, and whoever else it was who saw you yesterday must have thought… I’m sorry, love, but you’ll have to leave, because it’s going to be too tricky for you to stay.”
Simon sighed. “Well, at least let me have a drink first – that’s if Laura, or did you say Lauren – isn’t about to come in any time now? Look, I’ll sit quietly and discreetly in the corner, I won’t let anyone who comes in see my face, and then if you honestly think I’m going to be upsetting people, I’ll be on my way. Shame, as I thought this looked like a nice place to stay. In fact, look, I’ll put my shades on, that will disguise me, so I don’t look like the bloke who died. I’m sorry to hear about the loss, by the way.”
Sheila got up to pour Simon a drink. “No, sit down, love,” he said, “In fact, why don’t you come and sit over in the corner with me, keep me company, while you recover. You had a shock, I feel a bit responsible.”
For once, Sheila did as she was bid. He seemed like a decent enough man. But she still couldn’t get over the fact that he was so much like poor Matt. The same chiselled cheek bones, the lovely eyes, everything was so familiar and yet somehow different. He even sounded a lot like Matt. Now that was odd. The man poured himself a beer, and took that and Sheila’s water over to the corner table.
“So, can I ask what you are doing in our little old suburb?” Sheila enquired.
Simon took a swig of beer. “I’ve been travelling around the country a bit,” he replied. “I’m from Queensland. I wanted a bit of a change, I had a few things to think about, you know how it is. So I took to the open road, to give me some space.”
“Oh,” said Sheila, forgetting the uncanny resemblance for a minute, as she loved a good natter –which is what made her so good at her job – “I have a friend, well – I don’t know him that well personally but he’s from these parts and came back to visit recently – he did the same as you. He’s travelled around for a good few years now. But he’s retired. How have you been surviving, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Inheritance.” Simon answered. Sheila put her hand to her mouth.
“Oh, I’m sorry, love, you’ve had a bereavement too, that’s sad.”
“Well.” Simon said, “to be honest, we weren’t that close, me and my old mum. She was disappointed in me because I never married and gave her grandchildren. Dad died a long time ago. I never wanted for anything, they weren’t rich but the house, that was worth a few thousand dollars, and I’d been in a dead-beat job over in the Northern Territory so I thought I’d take off. Nothing to stop me. And as I said, I needed to think about a few things. So, if you don’t mind me asking, if it’s not too painful, what was this Matt bloke like, who I’m apparently the spit of?”
“Oh,” smiled Sheila, “Matt was a good egg. As I said, he had a few problems before he died. But he was a good egg. A bit shy for a policeman, very definite ideas of right and wrong, loved his family to bits. But they’d had a few dramas in the time leading up to his death. His wife, that’s Lauren, well she found out her first baby that she had with Brad – he lives in the street with his wife Terese – the baby hadn’t died after all. Lauren’s mother had her secretly adopted out, and let Lauren think she’d died. And Brad hadn’t even known she’d ever existed up to that point! I know, it’s crazy isn’t it. Anyway, Lauren and Brad went looking for the daughter. And they found her. So now she’s here with her mother and her sister. Well, and her half brother and sister, that’s Brad and Tereses’s twins.”
Wowza! Simon struggled to keep up with Sheila’s chat. It sounded like a bit of a mess, and now the poor bloke Matt was dead. And he’d thought that this seemed like a sleepy place where nothing ever happened!
“I’m adopted too,” Simon told Sheila. “I only found out after my mother passed on. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to get away. I had to get my head straight. To think about whether or not I want to find my birth family. I still can’t decide. It’s a brain-ache. One day I think I do. The next, I say what if they don’t want to know me. My birth mother might not want to see me. She might be married with other children and never told anyone about me. She might be dead, I guess.”
“Oh, you poor love,” said Sheila, sympathetically, “That must be a real conundrum. Do you know anything about your birth family? Or haven’t you checked anything out yet?”
“Nope.” Simon shook his head. “Still not sure if I want to or not.”
A thought was starting to form in Sheila’s mind. No, it was too far-fetched. It had to be coincidence that he looked like Matt. But he looked so much like Matt. Sheila had never remembered Matt mentioning that he’d been adopted. But then why would he? No one in Erinsborough knew much about Matt’s family. He never mentioned them much in conversation. She gleaned that they hadn’t been that close. This Simon, he couldn’t be Matt’s long-lost twin. Could he?
Sheila and the man, Simon, who was the spit of the late Matt, stared at each other.
“You don’t think …” Simon began, then stopped short.
“Look, I don’t know, love,” said Sheila, “but there is a chance. I don’t know much about Matt’s family. Even if you wanted to find out, now isn’t a good time for a complete stranger looking exactly like Matt rocking up on the Turner’s doorstep. All I can say is this: if you do want to find out, lie low, make sure you aren’t spotted, and don’t come too near Ramsay Street until we’ve checked out a few things. I can get Lauren to chat about Matt in a nice way, remembering the happy times, and maybe ask around a few other people. There’s a woman, Susan Kennedy, she’s very good at finding out things.”
Sheila paused for a minute, before continuing. “Between you and me, Susan’s a bit of a sticky-beak. Nothing like me, of course. I always know when to mind my own business. But I could get her on board. That’s if you want. Because, you sure do look just like Matt. Remember though, the Turners might not be able to deal with it right now. Oh, and the daughter’s preggers with her ex’s baby as well, that’s Brad and Terese’s boy. They’ve got a lot going on.”
Good grief, thought Simon. This family – or should he say those two families – sounded like pretty dysfunctional ones. He still hadn’t quite got his head around all of the ins and outs of who had been married to whom, babies, pregnancies, lost children. It was like one of those soap operas his mother had been so fond of watching!
“Sure thing. I get that,” Simon nodded, looking at his now almost-empty glass. “I won’t shoot through. I’ll hang around, but lie low. If this all turns out to be a coincidence, I’ll move on, I don’t want to upset anyone. Tell you something, it feels odd to think I might have had a twin I’ll never know. I can tell you something else too. I can’t shake off the fact that I feel at home here somehow, almost as if I belong. That’s weird. I don’t really believe in all that stuff. But if I did have a twin…”
Sheila exchanged mobile numbers with Simon. What an extraordinary morning, she mused. It seemed that Simon had been spotted by Terese Willis, and then by Sonya Rebecchi: one apparently apparently ‘ample up top’, the other ‘wearing a kaftan thing.’ No mistake there then, Sheila thought with a smile, although she knew this was no laughing matter. She was going to have to get Terese and Sonya together. She remembered then that she’d seen Terese looking a bit startled when she ran into her in Harold’s the day before. Strewth, she must have hit the nail on the head by saying Terese looked like she’d seen a ghost!
“It’s me, and it’s very urgent and top secret,” Sheila said to Terese, on the phone. “I can’t tell you what it’s about until I’ve got you and Sonya together. But you have to believe me, this is between us three for the time being.”
“I can’t think what’s going on,” Sonya said to Terese, on the way round to Sheila’s place that evening. “Sheila sounded very worried when she phoned. I’ve had to get Susan to babysit, as Toadie’s playing pool with the others.”
“I know, it’s odd,” Terese agreed, in a disgruntled tone. “And I had to rearrange my plans too. It’s probably about something trivial, but you know Sheila. She likes to make something out of nothing. Look at how she nearly started World War Three when one of her gnomes went missing!” Sonya giggled. That was true of Sheila, she was fiercely protective of her gnomes, and some of the neighbours had taken to moving them around for light entertainment. Terese didn’t articulate her thoughts to Sonya, but she was feeling edgy that she’d been ‘summoned’ when she’d planned a quiet, and hopefully romantic night in with Brad. Brad wasn’t very good at enjoying his own company, and she really didn’t want him popping over to check on Lauren when she was out. Sooner or later, Lauren had to learn to cope without him.
Sheila knew she’d have to keep quiet until she’d spoken with Terese and Sonya. Hopefully, both of them could keep it under their hats and then, maybe they could include Susan in the discovery. But certainly no one else, not yet. She hoped that she was doing the right thing, by discussing it with Terese and Sonya. But evidently, they’d thought the same thing as her, and it needed dealing with before poor Lauren saw this man Simon for herself.
As Sheila related what had happened in the bar that day, Terese and Sonya looked at each other, and at Sheila, in horror. “I know you both saw him too,” Sheila said, “and that you separately both thought you were going mad, seeing a ghost. That’s why I fainted when he walked into The Water Hole. It was such a shock!”
“But-what-so?” Sonya gabbled, trying to get her head around the idea. “So, this guy, Simon, he knows he’s adopted, and maybe Matt was adopted too, you’re wondering? And Matt might have been the twin that Simon never knew he had?”
“That’s about it,” Sheila nodded. “We need to work on a way of getting to the truth without upsetting Lauren. Sonya, maybe you could get her talking. Or do you think Lucy Robinson would know anything? She and Lauren were pretty close when they were young. Did they stay in touch after Lauren went to live with her mum? Lauren might have told Lucy stuff about Matt when she first met him.”
“Yes! Yes! Maybe.We have to do something.” Sonya said, still rather flustered. “And I’ve just thought of another thing. Nell doesn’t really understand about what happened to Matt, I mean, she’s too young to know about death, and, well, when we saw this guy, she was yelling to him, ‘Hello Matt!’ I’m scared that now she’s talking more, she’ll go and say to Lauren ‘We saw Matt!’ or something. Oh, this is a nightmare!”
Terese’s head was spinning too. Of course, she was relieved that she wasn’t going mad and seeing apparitions of dead police officers. But she knew that a discovery of a possible twin of Matt’s could have repercussions for Lauren. And who would Lauren lean on in this latest crisis? Yes, Brad. Maybe it wasn’t true. Maybe this guy just happened to look a lot like Matt. Terese hadn’t seen him all that close-up, and in some lights, people looked similar. Sonya was a bit airy-fairy and so she might be fooled. But then, Sheila must have seen him close up, and seemed so sure. Sheila was one for straight talking: she wouldn’t say he was the spit of Matt if he wasn’t. Although, she was fond of exaggerating over some things. She once complained that a customer was ‘practically groping her’ when the poor man was only swatting away a bee that was about to sting her. Terese sighed. She didn’t really know what to think any more. This was alien to Terese, not knowing what to think. She hated not being in control of things.
The women agreed that they should Skype Lucy, on the pretext of catching up with her and with Chris, who had followed Lucy to New York and was having a ball, by all accounts. They had to wait until a lot later in the evening, so that it was breakfast time in New York, but Sheila said this couldn’t wait till the next day. Terese was becoming a bit anxious, and aware that she was gulping down her wine at a faster rate than she knew was sensible. An evening in the company of Sheila and Sonya wasn’t her idea of fun at the best of times. Should she text Brad to say she was going to be a bit later home than planned? Or would that look as if she was checking up on him? She decided against it but she knew she wasn’t being unreasonable to feel suspicious, given the past.
Lucy was, understandably, astounded at what she was being told. Unfortunately though, she didn’t have a clue about whether or not Matt had been adopted. “It’s a long shot, surely?” she said to her Erinsborough friends. “I know that Lauren mentioned once that Matt’s mother was a bit older than the average mum. So, she might have been in her early forties when Matt was born. Other than that, there isn’t much I can help you with. Matt’s dad had a drink problem when he was growing up. I know his mum died a few years ago. But his dad’s still alive. He’s not that well, I don’t think. He probably wouldn’t be ready to talk about anything to do with Matt, so soon after losing him. He and Matt weren’t especially close, but I know the old guy was devastated when he got the news.”
Sheila, Sonya and Terese looked at one another. This wasn’t what they’d hoped for.
“Then maybe we need to get Mark on board,” Sheila suggested. Terese rolled her eyes. Sheila had a fondness for Mark Brennan, and still had hopes of him and her daughter Naomi getting together for good. They’d dated but it was a very on-off thing. Sheila ‘just knew’ that Mark was the one for Naomi, if only her stubborn daughter could see it too. She had long despaired of Naomi’s choice of men, and she was cross that she seemed to have let a good one slip away. Any excuse to get Mark Brennan on board in a ‘good turn’ scenario would be a chance to show Naomi what she was missing.
Mind you, Terese thought, Mark was clever. He was a detective by rights, and at heart, and the fact he had returned to the police force in the rôle of constable didn’t mean that he wouldn’t win back a promotion to his former status. This type of investigation was bound to appeal to him. Why not get him involved? He had mentioned last week that he was taking a trip to Queensland to visit family, so while he was there, he could call on Matt’s dad. He could make the excuse that he wanted to pay a tribute to a fondly-remembered colleague. Get the old man talking and he might just let something out of the bag. Sonya was in agreement – she was a big fan of Mark’s too, and she knew he’d conduct things in a sensitive manner. He’d be easily persuaded. One cuddle from Nell and he’d be onside in no time. Where Sonya and Toadie’s toddler daughter Nell was concerned, Mark was a big softie.
Everyone in Erinsborough knew that you had to run anything past Susan Kennedy before you went ahead, thought Terese. It didn’t matter if it was what you wanted to cook for supper, the choice of colour for your new sofa, or discussing a relationship crisis; Susan was the wise woman of the street with all the answers, and she wouldn’t take kindly to being kept out of the loop. Besides, she was as sharp as a knife and she’d know if something was going on behind her back. The only thing she hadn’t ever known about before it happened was her own husband’s past indiscretions, Terese thought with a wry smile. But that was behind the Kennedy couple now. Karl was heading into late middle age in a more amiable manner, and his only unfulfilled dream was his ambition of becoming a world-renowned singing star with his band, The Right Prescription. Susan relished being involved with neighbours’ conundrums, and she might come up with some sound advice. Yes, Terese thought, maybe including Susan in all this was a good thing.
Simon had taken on board that he needed to lie low in case he was spotted. He found a place to park his camper van away from the immediate area, but the women he’d encountered had promised to keep him on board with any developments. Jeez. He was gobsmacked by all these possibilities. What an odd bunch they were in this place. Although, maybe not all of them were odd. He’d caught a sneaky glimpse of that Sheila’s daughter when he was in the bar. She hadn’t seen him looking, but he had to admit, when she rushed in during his chat at the corner table with Sheila and shouted something about ‘Sorry Mum, can’t stop, got to go and check out that designer handbag,’ before rushing out again, he had to look again. She was an attractive girl, alright. If she was up for it, he wouldn’t mind a date with her. If he could ever get this odd mystery or mix-up sorted, that was.
Soon, both Susan and Mark were in on the secret of Simon. In fact, pretty much everyone but the Turner family knew about it. Erinsborough was a small community, and news travelled fast. But they took care of their own, and there wasn’t a soul who would want Lauren or her children to have a dreadful shock, not after the bereavement. It had happened once before, to poor Kate Ramsay, when she thought Mark was dead and it turned out he’d been in witness protection all along. How ironically sad that Mark hadn’t ever been dead, and then Kate’s life was to end so abruptly after their brief reunion.
Mark agreed to call on Matt’s dad in Queensland. “But, Matt’s dad’s an old man,” he reminded everyone. “We don’t know what state of mind he’s in. I can play it a bit more personal and make out I knew Matt for a bit longer than I did. I’ll tell him what a good man his son was, and give him a story or two about catching a crim, you know, get him onside. There’s no telling it will encourage him to say anything about Matt’s childhood, though. Matt mentioned a few times that his dad was a man of few words.”
“Maybe he wasn’t adopted then,” Sheila remarked, “that sounds so much like the Matt we knew and loved. A man of few words. He even got stuck for words when we had the public speaking event.”
Mark felt awkward as he approached the house in Queensland a few days later, having been given the address discreetly, via a bit of digging from Daniel Robinson, who would do anything to protect his girlfriend Amber from any hurt. Mark wasn’t even sure what he was going to say to Matt’s dad. Poor old bloke, he’d just lost his only child, so he could hardly come out with ‘A man turned up in Erinsborough who’s the spit of your dead son and we wondered if they were twins who’d been adopted,’ now could he? Mark loved detective work, and this was something he was doing out of the goodness of his heart. However, he also hated being underhand when dealing with people who weren’t criminals, just ordinary folk caught up unwittingly in some complex situation or other. He rang the doorbell, and after a minute or two, a man perhaps in his mid to late seventies answered. He looked broken, sad.
“Mr Turner, you don’t know me but I was in the area and I’m a friend and colleague of your late son, Matt,” Mark began. “I know this might be difficult, but I just wanted to pay my own personal respects to him and say how much we miss him in the neighbourhood.” He paused, and hoped that the old man would invite him in.
“You’d better step inside I suppose,” the man replied, not giving much away by his expression, other than the grief that the past few months must have brought him.
“Cup of tea?” Matt’s dad offered. “ I’m not sure I’ve got any sugar, if you like sugar. But if you’ll take it as it comes, then you’re welcome. I’m afraid I haven’t got biscuits either. I don’t get many unexpected visitors.”
Mark found himself searching the old man’s face for any signs of similarity to Matt’s. Surely they had the same eyes? The jawline looked similar too. Maybe this was all a big mistake, and the fact that Simon bore an uncanny resemblance to Matt was just chance, nothing more.
“He didn’t visit regularly since they moved to Erinsborough,” the old man said, setting two mugs of tea down on the kitchen table, his hands trembling a little. “I’m Matthew senior, by the way. Bet Matt never talked about me that much?”
“Er, well, he didn’t give much away about himself, ” Mark began cautiously, “but that was part of his nature.”
Matthew senior chuckled. “Chip off,” he said. “We Turners don’t tend to do small talk. Always was an awkward child at conversation. You didn’t need much out here. There are open fields, and animals, so what need is there for talking? My Lorna, she could talk, mind you. She made up for me and Matt. Maybe we men couldn’t get a word in.” He chuckled again, and then looked saddened.
“What I’d give for a bit of small-talk nowadays,” Matthew went on. “I used to like chatting on the phone with the grandkids, but they’re so busy these days. And now Matt’s gone, Lauren doesn’t know what to say to me.”
There was no adoption, Mark could tell. This man was definitely Matt’s biological father. You only had to look at his mannerisms for a few minutes and you could see the likenesses. Mark felt a bit of a low-life, drudging up painful memories for a bereaved old man. Only one way to play it now and that was to ask genuine questions about Matt’s childhood that might give his dad a shred of comfort. After all, until the last few weeks of Matt’s life, he had indeed been a wholly good and upright man with a sense of family and right and wrong. Matthew really looked like he needed to hear this.
“Did he always want to be a policeman?” Mark enquired. “He made a good cop I can tell you. He always said he learned his values when he was very small.” (This wasn’t quite true, as Matt had never said a lot about his past, but it didn’t hurt to bend the truth just this once.)
“Oh yes, since he was about seven,” Matthew said. “I’ve got some photos somewhere, he used to play cops and robbers and he once pretended Lorna was a robber and shut her in the outhouse till she had to bang on the door for me to come let her out. Full of imagination, that one!”
Mark smiled. This chat did seem to be cheering Matthew up and Mark felt a bit better about it. Besides, it was actually nice to hear things about Matt that he’d never known. Mark and Matt had had their differences, but he had genuinely liked the guy. And Mark knew for himself just how painful loss could be, and how in time, it helped to talk about your loved one.
“He caught Alan Thompson taking sweets from Rhona’s Stores once, and he tried to make a citizens arrest on him,” Matthew said, visibly relaxing a bit. “They were both nine. He got a shiner for his troubles, but he was determined he wasn’t going to let crime get out of hand in the area, that’s what he said. We did laugh. But he meant it.”
Mark could well believe this of Matt, and smiled again as Matthew continued, “Lorna tried to over-protect him a bit you know, but Matt wasn’t having any of it. He was very independent. Shy, but independent, and didn’t seem to need lots of friends. Lorna was always scared that he’d grow away from her. He was all she ever wanted. She couldn’t have one of her own, you know.”
Mark sat bolt upright in the chair and nearly spilt his mug of tea. “Oh, so… you mean, Matt was adopted, then?” He said. Maybe there was something in this whole story after all.
“Not exactly,” Matthew replied. He sighed, looking weary. “It was messy. I didn’t behave well, I know. Early on in our marriage, we went through a rough spell. And later, I strayed. Though I do regret it, I don’t regret the result. You see, Matt was born to the girl I had a quick fling with. She wasn’t from round here, she worked in the local hotel. When her parents found out she was pregnant, they sent her to a mother and baby home. You did in those days. To avoid the scandal. When Lorna learnt about the affair, she was heartbroken of course, and I was very sorry. Then we got to know about the baby through someone working in the hotel, and it all seemed to make sense. The girl and her parents were in agreement. We put the wheels in motion and at least I could give Lorna what she really longed for, a baby. And we could make our marriage work. I think trying to have a baby and failing had pushed us apart, so this was our chance to be happy. When Matt was three months old, we picked him up from the mother and baby home and that was that. But we never told him about Lorna not being his real mum. She made me swear not to. It was the least I could do in the circumstances.”
These revelations left Mark longing for a stiff drink but, knowing of Matthew Turner senior’s past battle with alcohol, he thought better of suggesting it. So, Simon could have been a twin? Had Matthew and Lorna known Matt had been a twin? Mark tried to think on his feet. How could he possibly break this to Matthew if he didn’t know already? It could give the poor old guy a heart attack if it wasn’t handled properly.
If Mark hadn’t known about Matthew Turner senior’s past battle with alcohol, he’d have loved a stiff drink right now. So, Simon could have been a twin? Had Matthew and Lorna known Matt had been a twin? Mark tried to think on his feet. How could he possibly break this to Matthew if he didn’t know already? It could give the poor old guy a heart attack if it wasn’t handled properly.
“You did the right thing,” Mark told Matthew. “Matt said he had a happy, country childhood. He clearly had loving parents, and no one is perfect, so I’m sure he would have understood if he’d known about your fling.”
This seemed to please Matthew, so Mark thought maybe he’d risk moving the conversation on a little.
“Look, Matthew, I know this might sound like an odd question, and you don’t have to answer it and I’m sorry if you think it’s too nosey… but, are you sure the girl, um, Matt’s biological mum, had one baby? She didn’t have twins?”
It was Matthew’s turn to look shocked. “How the devil did you guess?” he said. “As a matter of fact, she did. But the other one died, apparently. It often happened back then, twins didn’t have the same chance of survival as they do today, and they were born two months early. Shame, as we’d have had both babies. But that’s life for you, eh?”
So what on earth could Mark say now? He could hardly say, actually, I think the other baby might not have died but been adopted by another couple. Too much. God, what was it about babies being adopted when people thought they’d died? Only last year they’d had all the drama in Ramsay Street with Paige Smith turning up. Mark had got to know Paige well, on a few occasions. Very well, in fact. And there was certainly no-one more alive and kicking than feisty Paige!
Mark knew he’d have to try and find out the rest from Simon’s side of the picture. Which mother and baby home Matt’s real mother had been sent to, official records, all that stuff. He couldn’t take this any further with Matthew right now. Sure, Simon had a right to find out about his real family, but this was going to cause such a tremendous shock. And Mark Brennan felt as if he had been landed right slap bang in the middle of it all.
This writing is unauthorised fan-fiction based upon the Australian television serial Neighbours. It remixes characters and places from pre-existing Neighbours narratives with new characters and plot-lines to tell an original story. It is not a copy nor an adaptation of any known story-line(s) from that serial.
The author makes no claim that any rights-holders of Neighbours – in particular FreemantleMedia Australia Pty Ltd and FreemantleMedia Operations BV – have made any any endorsement whatsoever of this writing.
This story and original characters are © 2015 Carol Ann Wood, all rights reserved.
Originally published May 2015
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