I had a happy life – to a point. A dedicated husband and two beautiful children, Noah and Violet. The little red head who hung around the house more often than was appropriate seemed a constant reminder that my husband’s dedication wasn’t to me but he was dedicated none the less.
Both of our children should have been set for life as heirs to a great fortune but since they were small they have had this inexplicable need to get rid of each other.
We live in the coastal town of Melway. Our own house – a large, crooked, stand alone structure with three floors – sits on the edge of a cliff. A forty foot drop into the rocks below awaits anyone who takes the wrong steps along the pathway. The house has been in the Regard family for generations. It was probably the most beautiful and grandest house in the area once upon a time but now it is a cold and empty vessel housing the Regard children until came of age to move to somewhere more cosmopolitan or one kills the other.
As a family we were close. We didn’t talk much but when we did we shared everything. Violet told me on more than one occasion she wanted to see her brother dead and as far as Noah was concerned the sentiment was mutual. What little scamps they were.
Violet was the most boisterous of the two. She rarely stayed indoors. She was always running, never walking. She climbed trees and even got into fights with the local boys. Noah was much quieter. He would spend hours in the library reading through volumes and volumes that he could barely understand yet. A great, unquestionable thirst for knowledge had my little Noah. He had many friends but kept them at a distance. He was his own favourite companion. The year or so he had spent as an only child had been a blissful time for him. He had my undivided attention as well as the sole attention of the staff who helped around The Grange. As is the norm with more than one child in a family the attentions were split. Noah probably grew a resentment towards baby Violet from there, growing stronger as they grew up. Violet no doubt felt this from her brother and sowed seeds of her own resentment.
Everything at The Grange must have seemed heavenly to those on the outside looking in. That was until my death and that is where this story begins.
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Jessica knew she couldn’t stop him. Her son, Dorian, had been given a place at the prestigious Filton University and it was a dream come true for him. It would be selfish of her to pull him back because she was afraid to be alone. It wasn’t his fault his father left, no more than it was hers. She knew Dorian felt guilty anyway. He was a sensitive boy and felt some kind of responsibility to become head of their little household. She felt guilty too because she let it happen. She allowed Dorian to look after her when, as a boy, he should have been learning to live his own life. She was a grown woman. She should have been able to look after herself. The mother – son dynamic changed when Walter left. Now she didn’t know how to live any other way.
His eyes darted over the acceptance when he first opened the letter. A smile caused to greyness of his eyes to glint. His lips traced a smile. Jessica watched him. She knew what it meant. The full realisation of what it meant must have clouded over him too because the warmth of excitement cooled like a dying ember.
“I got in,” was all he said.
Jessica managed a smile to match his own. She took her son’s shoulders and pulled him close in an embrace. She felt him shudder slightly. He pulled back and pushed the mop of bottled black hair from his eyes. He nibbled on his lip piercing.
“I’ll come back all the time,” he said knowing the cause of the tension over what should have been good news.
Jessica shook her head. “Don’t worry about me,”she said.
She tried her brave face. She wished she could be more convincing because Dorian looked tired – not a teen boy at all but a weary man who had seen too much.
The celebrated that night by going out to dinner. They picked one of Jessica’s favourite restaurants. Dorian paid. As the son discussed how excited he was for the new chapter in his life, Jessica listened attentively with a beam of pride, hoping Dorian couldn’t hear the thud of her heart at the prospect of him leaving her. Filton wasn’t millions of miles away from the little suburb they lived in but it would mean she wouldn’t see him every day as she was used to.
The day of departure came. Dorian decided to travel alone. He pulled a large rucksack containing everything he deemed important enough to take with him onto his back and he hesitated by the door.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?” she asked.
Dorian shook his head. “Why don’t you come visit me next week after I’ve had the chance to settle in,” he offered.
Jessica kissed him and held him tightly. “Be safe,” she said.
They both drew back tears and swallowed the separation anxiety.
Jessica knew she would have been selfish to make him stay. Looking back now it would have been better. He would still be with her. He would still be alive.
He was such a sensitive boy after all. As he looked back at her with a wave from the end of the pathway she never would have thought it would be the last time she would see him.
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1- ALL IN A NAME
Main character Dorian was named after ‘Dorian Gray’ from Oscor Wilde’s ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’. Incidentally the short story also features a Professor Wilde.
2 – MENTAL HEALTH DISCUSSION
Vivika believes in the importance of discussing mental health issues and opening up discussion about depression. Exploring this the reader is lead to wonder what may have happened if Dorian were to talk to his loving mother about the issues he was facing.
3 – DEMONS IN US ALL
Throughout the story Dorian is plagued by demons. His depression and his guilt has manifested itself into a form he recognises.
4 – COLLEGE CLASSMATES
Dorian’s room mate, Kelsey, is a medical student. It is mentioned that he borrowed an anatomy text book from one of his fellow medics. This fellow medic who climbed to a B grade in a relatively short space of time is Tracey Campbell who features in the Confessions series. (Confessions of an Anatomist, My Silly Little Confessions). The same university was also attended by Vincent Baines and Daniel Weir (Maestro).
5 – WHO’S TRULY TO BLAME?
Some say Jessica should not have allowed herself to lose contact with her son. If she hadn’t tragedy may have been avoided. Others feel that Dorian’s interfering friend Juliet is responsible and there are some who believe that Dorian alone should have reached out for help.
6 – HAND WRITTEN
Like many Vivika Widow novel, ‘The Grip’ was completely hand written prior to being published.
7 – THE GRIP
The title comes from the depression that has gripped Dorian so tightly he is unable to shake it off.
8 – COUSINS
Dorian’s girlfriend, Juliet, is a cousin of Daniel Weir (Maestro)
9 – JESSICA FEATURES IN MAESTRO
The bus trip that Jessica takes to the university after receiving the tragic news is the same bus trip Catherine Beckingridge makes from her boarding school (Maestro). In Maestro, Catherine takes note of a distressed woman travelling alone who has tragedy written on her face.
10 – AWARD WINNER
‘The Grip’ is short listed for the Costa Coffee short story award!
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When nineteen year old Dorian McElroy went to college, he left his old life and his mother behind. At first there were frequent phone calls. The phone calls became monthly letters. Eventually all contact was lost.
Jessica’s mild mannered world is torn apart when she receives word from the university that Dorian has taken his own life. Now she must abandon the safety of her home and venture out in search of information on Dorian’s last days, the people he met and why he made such a tragic decision.
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Jessica McElroy had been preparing her evening meal at precisely six o’clock as she did every evening. As the pot bubbled on the stove she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the window. She had reached her middle age without the grey becoming too evident through her blonde hair. Her skin was soft and pale like it had been in her youth. Only the slight lines of crows feet were telling of her age. Yet, she couldn’t smile. She couldn’t seem to affix any kind of emotion. That horrified her the most. She looked back towards her stove. The television in the parlour was playing a comedy show. The comedian was throwing himself around like a clown to an appreciative live audience. The laughter from the screen drew her attention, finally she smiled. How dazzling that smile had been twenty years before. ‘You could be a model,’ she had been told more than once. She chose instead to marry Walter and bear their son.
The telephone began to ring. She ran to answer it. When she lifted the receiver her heart began to beat a little faster.
“Mrs. McElroy?” asked the voice on the other line, a deep resonant tone of an ageing professional. “My name is Jack Farther. I’m the head of student services here at Filton College.”
Jessica’s heart began to beat faster still. Her son, Dorian, was a student at Filton College. When his father left them it seemed Dorian could be no more interested in her than Walter. He left for college and in the beginning there were regular phone calls, sometimes twice a day. Those calls became twice a week, then twice a month until eventually they stopped altogether. Jessica had written him several letters and after a trickle of replies they finally ceased too. Dorian was set on becoming a teacher. He had had his nose in a book ever since he was a little boy. He was nineteen now and in a few short years he would make a confident, encouraging English teacher for young people like himself. The phone call from Mr Farther had come out of the blue. The college had never contacted her for anything. Jessica couldn’t help but wonder what trouble Dorian had found himself in.
“This is Mrs. McElroy,” replied Jessica after a few moments contemplative silence. “What’s wrong? What has happened? Is Dorian okay?”
Mr. Farther breathed a heavy sigh. “I’m sorry Mrs. McElroy. Can you come to the college right away?”
Jessica shook her head, as little good as it would do over the phone. Her body tensing was evident in the tones of her voice. “The not knowing will drive me crazy. It is a long trip to Filton and it will only torture me. Please tell me what has happened.”
Mr. Farther pulled the receiver away from his mouth. Jessica could still hear his voice speaking to someone else but it was muffled and faint. When he returned to her clearer he said, “Please Mrs. McElroy, I really shouldn’t do this over the phone.”
Jessica insisted, “If Dorian has found himself in trouble please tell me what I can do to fix it.”
Mr. Farther sniffed. “Earlier this evening, Dorian’s room-mate found him,” he stuttered; hesitated. “Dorian had taken pills. Dorian is dead.”
The receiver fell from her hand. Tears immediately began to stream from her eyes as the words dropped into her ears like a deadly poison clouding her brain. She caught her reflection in the window again and this time it was filled with emotion. The pots on the stove were beginning to bubble over.
“Mrs. McElroy? Mrs. McElroy?” Mr. Farther continued to call over the phone as the other end fell away.
Jessica managed to pick up the telephone again. “Why?” was all she could mutter.
Mr. Farther adopted a more soothing voice. “I’m so sorry Mrs McElroy. I had known Dorian his whole time here at Filton. He was a good boy. Please can you come down here?”
“Yes, yes of course. I’ll leave right away.”
Subscribe to the page for more images, news and stories from Vivika Widow.
For a limited time only THE GRIP is FREE to download!
Torrance Media will match £1 for every copy to Ragdolls UK Foundation for girls with Turner’s Syndrome.
Click HERE to claim your copy!