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NOT REALLY ALIKE

The story begins in Wales, with twin brothers on their fourth birthday. Their mother is found dead in suspicious circumstances and they are temporarily cared for by their elderly landlady. The boys are taken into care by Child Services and are eventually separated.
A wealthy English family adopts one boy and he enjoys a very pampered existence. The other boy is sent to Australia to another family. The boys meet up several times over the course of thirty years, but do not realise that they are twin brothers.
When they are thirty years old, their father locates them and the brothers are introduced to each other in the office of a London solicitor. They meet with their father, but are against any further contact with him. They eventually return to their chosen way of life, one in England the other in Australia, realising that they are in fact ‘Not Really Alike’.

In Store Price: $24.95 
Online Price:   $19.95

ISBN: 978-1-921574-66-5
Format: Paperback
Number of pages:210
Genre: Fiction
Cover: Clive Dalkins

Buy as an Ebook version - $AUD9.00 pdf upload.

 

 

Author: Vivien M. Reid
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2010
Language: English

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR  

Vivien Reid was born in England during WWII and migrated to Australia in 1951with her family. Due to travelling, and moving about with her family, her schooling was, to say the least, haphazard. 

She has been married to her husband, Frank, for 47 years and has two wonderful daughters and three exceptional grandchildren, Andrew, Nathan and Rachel. With her family she moved from Sydney ten years ago when her husband retired from work, to live in Canberra, and thoroughly enjoys being there. 

Although her novel, Not Really Alike,  is a work of fiction, there is a certain amount of factual detail, which highlights certain periods of time.

 

Chapter 1 

 

Owen opened one eye and decided it was morning. He had been awake for some time but had stayed where he was because his mama didn’t want them up too early, making a racket, as she put it. But surely today was different, it was 7th February 1947. When his mama had put them to bed last night she reminded them to be good boys because tomorrow was a special day. When they woke up it would be their birthday, they would be four years old and that was pretty grown up. Owen squirmed around in the double bed and prodded his twin, David.  

‘Wake up Davvie, it’s our birthday, we’re four today and Mama says that it will be a very special day with presents and red jelly for tea. Mrs Llewellyn is going to take us to the park to feed the ducks and when we get home Mama will be home from work and we can have tea,’ said Owen excitedly.  

‘Go ’way Wennie, I’m sleepy and it’s freezing. I wanna stay in bed an’ be warm,’ grizzled Davvie.  

‘Oh, come on sleepyhead, wake up, it’s ’citing, we’re four today. I’m gonna wake up Mama and get our presents.’ Owen clambered down from the high double bed, holding his nose as he realised that Davvie had wet the bed again. He hurried from the room and burst into Mama’s bedroom. She was lying across the bed, still in last night’s clothes and her lovely golden red hair was scattered over the counterpane. The room smelt of stale cigarettes and cheap wine, but Owen didn’t take any notice of that as he was used to seeing his mama like this most mornings.  

‘Mama, Mama, wake up, it’s our birthday, remember? Can we have our presents? Are we still going to have a special tea? Mama, wake up.’ Owen gently shook her and when she didn’t respond, he shook her more firmly. She didn’t move, even when he shouted in her ear. He scurried back to his and David’s room and violently shook his brother until he sat up.   

‘Davvie, Mama won’t wake up; I think she’s forgotten it’s our birthday. Come on get dressed and we’ll see if Mrs Llewellyn has our brekkie ready.’

Mrs Llewellyn was scuffing around the scullery in her old, down at the heel slippers, a cigarette hanging from her mouth. Her hair was grey and springy and no amount of hairpins could tame it. Her cheeks were round and rosy and there was a kind but determined look in her eyes. The old, blackened stove refused to come to life this morning and no amount of swearing and cussing was having any effect. She poked and prodded and added more screwed up paper, before lighting another spill to try again. This time the ancient stove gave a small belch and ponderously came to life.

‘About time too, you old devil, it’s the scrap heap for you when the boat comes in. Been waitin’ a long time for it but my luck’s gotta change soon,’ she threatened.

She scuffed over to the sink and filled the battered old kettle. Taking the beloved brown teapot from the over-hanging shelf, she put two large spoons of tea in and waited patiently for the kettle to boil. Whilst she waited she looked out through the once white, lacy curtains and prayed that it would be a fine day. Her gaze took in the drab surroundings, the dirty brick walls, the smoky rain-filled sky and heaved a great sigh. Well, hadn’t she promised to take those darling wee boys to the park to feed the ducks? Shouldn’t have been so hasty old girl, your poor feet will suffer all the way there and probably more on the way back. But still, a promise is a promise and I wouldn’t disappoint the poor little things for a king’s ransom, she muttered to herself. Ma’be Rita and me could take the boys up on the headland, on Sund’y, that ‘ud be nice.

Just then Owen hurtled through the door, dragging David with him.

‘Mrs Llewellyn, Mrs Llewellyn, it’s our birthday today and we’re four years old. Don’t you think that that’s pretty old? Yesterday we were three and now we’re four. It’s so ’citing. Mrs Llewellyn, Mama won’t wake up, I shouted and shouted at her but she must be very sleepy, ’cos she won’t wake up,’ gabbled Owen.

‘Now, now my cherubs, what’s all this din for, anyone would think it was a special day,’ she teased. She gathered them to her ample bosoms and squeezed them tightly. She ruffled their hair and once again marvelled that although they were twins they were not really alike at all. Owen was tall for his age with straight, light-brown hair. His eyes were a deep sapphire blue and he had long road-sweeping eyelashes. He was thin but very agile and could keep up with the best of them. Whereas David was small and skinny and didn’t really look as if he was four years old. His eyes were greenie grey and his golden red hair was naturally curly. He didn’t exude the same presence as that of his brother. Even so, she loved them to bits and not for the first time wished that they were hers or even her grandchildren. They needed her, they loved her, she knew it and felt their tiny arms around her. She felt tears swim in her eyes at the sadness of it all.

She ran a boarding house and although she only had Rita and the boys at the moment, she was well aware that her reputation as a great cook, when the stove behaved, was well known about the town and usually she had to turn people away. In the old days, as people were want to say, all the houses in her row were quite smart, but over the years, what with little or no maintenance and the mines pumping foul air out of their furnaces twenty-four hours a day, the town became squalid, dirty and unhealthy.

Lilly’s house was one of many in the terrace, all the same, all with a tiny front garden fronting onto a narrow road with a similar terrace facing them on the opposite side. She had three bedrooms. Well, two were a good size, the other was more like a box-room really and a small cramped attic, which was where she slept. There was a front parlour, a tiny hall, a scullery; you couldn’t really call it a kitchen, and a lean-to out the back where the toilet was, and a bit of a laundry, housing an ancient copper. She seldom used the clothesline as usually the weather was too unpredictable and so used the contraption that her Alf had rigged up, which was suspended from the ceiling, near the stove and which she could pull down when she wanted to dry the clothes. There was a minuscule backyard with a gate leading to a very narrow lane where the sani-man could come to empty the lav. Not forgetting the dustman, whose happy whistling, was enough to cheer anybody up. Nothing special about this garden, pretty mean and uninteresting really.    

Of course in the old days, when she was first married, she and all the women in her row, and indeed the whole town, kept their homes lovely and scrubbed the front steps religiously, until they were white as snow and of course the brass knockers had to shine like gold. But now it all seemed too much bother and slowly the town became unkempt and decidedly unhealthy. She remembered that awful morning when the hooter at the mine started blasting its dreadful warning that something was amiss.

She had hurried to the door, looked out and saw another dozen or so women peering up the street with worried expressions on their faces. She had grabbed a shawl, which she put over her head to protect her from the unceasing rain and, forgetting her slippers, started running up the street. Several other women joined her in the dash to the mine head. A crowd had started to arrive, pushing and shoving their way into the band of men surrounding the pit. The overseer kept telling everyone to keep back and that they were doing all they could, but it seemed like there was no hope at all and the women started wailing and screaming. And tiny tots, grabbing their mother’s aprons were crying too, their snotty noses streaming and nappies trailing in the dirt and grime.

The heavens poured down and the women waited, silent now, knowing that their menfolk would not be coming out of that mine. For hours they waited until one by one the miners who had gone down to look for survivors, came up in the cages, wet and bedraggled with gaunt looks on their despairing faces. As the bereft women turned to go back to their empty houses, a watery sun came out and tried, in vain, to ease their pain.

Husbands, fathers, grandfathers, sons and lovers were farewelled with the closing of that mine and people stood around and prayed that it would never happen again. But of course there were many mines in the area and the same tragedy happened time and time again.

Lilly’s husband was a foreman on the night shift and when she had handed him his dinner-box and miner’s hat, and a quick peck on his cheek, she never dreamt that he wouldn’t be coming back to her. She had never minded about his filthy mining clothes, which she had to scrub and scrub to get clean, to say nothing of trying to get them dried after being washed or every evening having to fill the old tin bath that took several buckets of soapy steaming water, to wash his grime away. Because she found it a joy in cleaning his body with a rough flannel and to cherish the thought that they would be together always, loving and caring for each other and waiting for the huge brood of children that would soon appear.

They were only married for two short years and the Lord hadn’t blessed her with any children of her own. She stayed in the Welsh valley, mainly because the miner’s fund paid her weekly rent and besides that she really didn’t have any real family of her own.

She had met her Alf when she had reluctantly joined a group going on an excursion to the seaside at Barry Island. Her friend, Phyllis, had nagged her until she agreed to go. But they were only a short way into the trip when she found that she was enjoying herself immensely, and besides that, there was a really nice fellow sitting just across from her. She had never cared for the usual crowd of boys that she and Phyllis went around with and at eighteen had never so much as kissed a boy. Alf, she had heard his friend’s call him that, looked over at her and had smiled such a gentle smile that she though her heart would burst. She blushed and quickly turned her head away, but couldn’t help but sneak another look, only to find that he too, was looking at her. Later, on the beach, with her skirts gathered up to her knees to avoid getting them wet and with her shoes dangling from her hand, she paddled in the icy water, dragging her toes on the sandy bottom.

Alf appeared as if by magic at her side and startled her, so that she almost fell. He grabbed her and prevented her getting wet altogether, and they laughed and laughed at the silliness of it all.  They bought ice creams and cockles and winkles and thoroughly enjoyed the whole day. As the sun was going down they joined the others for a rowdy drink at a pub before clambering on board their charabanc taking them home. They all sang silly songs; some had a last swig of beer or cream soda and, as the evening finally closed in around them, they sat quietly, thinking back over the happy day they had just spent together. When the charabanc arrived back home, Alf shyly took her hand and waving gaily to Phyllis, she and Alf wended their way slowly to her parents’ home. As she kissed him goodnight she thought, this is the man I am going to marry.  

They married two months later at the town’s registry office with her parents and a few close friends in attendance. For a wedding gift, Alf gave her a cheap gold necklace with a small heart that had a pretty red stone in it. She cherished this small token of Alf’s love for her and wore it always. Many’s a time when things were bad she had been tempted to pawn it, but somehow she just couldn’t part with it. Their reception was held at the Miner’s Hall and well-wishers congratulated them as they drank the health of the happy couple. Their wedding night was spent in a rather expensive hotel, but they reasoned that since they would only be married once, then hang the expense.

All too soon their happiness faded as Lilly’s parents were killed in a terrible tram accident in Cardiff and Meg, her only sister, moved to London with her new husband. After Alf’s mine accident, Lilly thought that she was just about the unluckiest person in the whole world. Still, her friends were pretty much in the same boat as herself, and they banded together to make new lives for themselves. Life went on, they said, you sink or swim; life is what you make of it. Who knows what’s around the corner? One day the sun will shine again for you! And so on… Eventually though, Lilly had learnt to adapt to life without her Alf, and had come to grips with her gaping hurt.

Lilly started a boarding house and the years rolled slowly by. She was lonely with no one of her own until the day Rita and Charles Sinclair arrived with their twin baby boys. Charles had taken a new job in the mining office and they were going to look for a house. But fate stepped in, Charles met and became infatuated with Dulcie, a beautiful young woman, who worked as a barmaid in the local pub, and they fled for parts unknown one evening. Rita was absolutely devastated and cried and huddled in their room for weeks until Lilly suggested that she go along to a bingo night at their local, whilst she Lilly, would mind the boys. Rita quickly made friends and started going to the pub most evenings to meet with them. One thing led to another and most evenings Rita would come home drunk, sometimes with a man. Lilly was not happy about this but didn’t have the heart to say anything to Rita, as she knew how lonely she was from her own experience.

With all of this heavy on her mind Lilly started boiling two eggs, making toast and hot cocoa for the boys. They clambered up on their stools with pure love dripping from their eyes, letting Lilly know they thought she was pretty special and that they loved her best, next to Mama of course. As the boys noisily munched their toast and spooned up their eggs Lilly started up the shabby staircase to Rita’s room.

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