Mrs Eleanor Reed seemed one of the kindest old ladies in Gibraltar, she consistently went out of her way to help everybody in need. When I came back from school every day, she would always hand out sweets and chocolates to the local children, who gobbled up their goodies in delight. Back in the day, the old town of Gibraltar was buzzing with people. Children would play on the streets and roads whilst mothers would listen to the 3 o'clock soap opera on the radio, something very common amongst patio dwellers at the time. Years went by, and Mrs Reed had disappeared, our memories of her all seemed a faded dream. Although she seemed the salt of the earth, Mrs Reed had some secrets of her own, but secrets don't stay secret for very long, and lies have short legs to run with, even in a close knit community like Gibraltar. It was from Mrs Reed that I had learnt that there is always more to people than what meets the eye…
It began on one of the hottest days in August, when the levanter cloud was perched on the rock, making it sticky and unbearable. In St Bernard's Hospital, dozens of babies were being born in the maternity ward, however, in room twenty seven, things were not going as expected, much to the doctor and patient’s disappointment.
Mrs Reed had given birth to her very first baby boy. Oh, how she would love him. Everything had gone as planned, until the doctor strode back in, his forehead creased, eyes concerned. His smile had faded completely, his mouth was now a thin, straight line. In his hand, a large, yellow, file labeled “Eleanor Reed”. It did not take much longer to figure out that this was very important news indeed.
News to ruin their lives forever.
Years came and years passed, with every spring came a new year of tediousness for young Lucas Reed. He was so tired of living in such a way, he was so sick of the repetitive cycle that was his life. He desperately wanted to be free, he wanted to feel the powerful wind against his face, and hear the rustling of the beautiful autumn leaves. He wanted to be able to thrive and see the summer sun that shone behind the curtains that were always sealed shut. There was so much to see and do, the town of Gibraltar was full of endless possibilities. He felt trapped, bored and claustrophobic. Absolutely everything that could be enjoyed was “dangerous”.
Mrs Reed of course, encouraged as little freedom as possible for him. Safety products were to be scattered all around, but it was
‘better to be safe than sorry’, she would often chant to herself.
After the dreadful news she had received fourteen years ago, she was not allowing him to take any risks for his own good, or so, she believed. That was also the reason why she always walked Luke to school every day, even though she knew full well that he could manage to walk himself, after all, Gibraltar was a small place, and he was fourteen years of age. This made him a laughingstock at his school, so friends were scarce, if any.
It was only a matter of time until Lucas Reed would rebel.
He often engaged in heated arguments with Mrs Reed, that got out of hand quite quickly. This almost always resulted in him stomping back into his room, blazing with anger, with stubborn tears in his furious eyes, after all, he would never truly understand her position. He had never stopped to put himself into her shoes, and consider what she had felt, but how could he, if she had never told him what the doctor had said on the day of his birth? Surely he had a right to know, didn't he? However, this argument was like no other. This argument was the worst, things were said that could never be taken back. By the end of it, frustration had gotten the better out of both of them. Lucas had left his home for good, his suitcase beating and rattling against the pebbled path that led the way to the light and freedom of the world around him. He wished it didn’t have to be this way. The guilt of knowing that his mother did not deserve this would never leave him, but it had to be done, for he could not spend another minute as he had spent his last fourteen years.
Mrs Reed had never felt such sorrow and misery in her life, it was unbearable. He would never truly be able to understand how much value a child has to his mother. Her pale face was now streaked with dried up tears, but she did not care anymore, she had barely even noticed. Mrs Reed was one of the finest women in Gibraltar, but her appearance suddenly didn't matter to her anymore. She had always been so conscious of how she appeared to others, but that had all faded along with her happiness. She was so afraid of losing him, that she had done it all by herself. Now what could she do? It was not as if she could have had any other children of her own, as the doctor had said on that seemingly lovely afternoon in 1956:
‘If you lose this one, you will not be able to bear another child.’
Every time I leave my home, and walk past Flat Bastion Road where they lived, I stop to think about this story, questions swirling through my mind, gaps in my knowledge of what seemed the cheery old woman who went by the name of Mrs Reed. The woman who adored all of the children in our neighborhood, and was always “happy”. I can not help but think, can you push someone from your life by protecting them, by wanting them to be safe? Is it possible to love too much?