The Secret



Valerie Byron    

© Copyright 2023 by Valerie Byron  


Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay 

Ada Segal had a secret, one she shared with no-one except her best friend, my mother.  

In 1972 Ada’s husband, Phil, died.  After his funeral, she decided to pack up her belongings, rent out her London flat, and move to California.  On a sunny day in 1973 I visited my mother.  She was living in a comfortable garden apartment in Los Angeles and Ada had come over for the day.  As the three of us sat outside on the patio, drinking tea, we chatted.

 So how’s it going?” I asked the tiny woman, wondering how she had adjusted to California living.

 She looked at me, her bright black eyes twinkling.  “Oh darling, it’s wonderful here.  I’m enjoying the wonderful weather.  Don't miss the rain at all!”  Her Cockney accent made me smile, and I looked at her admiringly.  For a woman in her early sixties, she was stunningly attractive.  Her black hair, pulled back in a chignon, was still shiny, with only a few threads of silver.  Her skin was dark, almost like a gypsy’s, belying her Russian Jewish heritage.  She was short in stature, with enormous breasts that strained against her fashionable dress.

Don’t you miss, Phil,” I inquired. “It must be lonely living on your own.”

She paused.  “Yes, we were together for so many years that it was really difficult for him to let go and leave willingly after he died.” 

Blinking, I stared at her.  “What do you mean,” I asked.

 After his heart attack, he was stuck here,” she explained.  “I could see his spirit in the room, hovering around for weeks.  I begged him to go. I told him it was okay - he would be all right - but he was afraid of the unknown.”

I looked over at my mother, but she seemed unfazed by this confession, as if she had heard it all before.   “No way!” I gasped.  So what happened?  Did he finally leave?”

 Yes,” she confided.  “I told him that it would be safe to go, and he should just relax and surrender to whatever was going to happen.  His spirit finally left the house, and I was free to come to America.”   No more was said about the matter, and our conversation veered in a different direction.

A decade passed, and Ada met a charming Italian named Salvatore.  To everyone’s surprise, they fell in love and married.  Both were in their mid-seventies, but it seemed to be a perfect match.  An excellent cook, Ada prepared mouthwatering dinners, and I often went to visit the two of them with my husband and children.  She never spoke of her late husband again, and our conversations were limited to mundane matters.

Over the next few years I started having recurring nightmares.  I remembered them with a sense of anxiety and dread upon awakening, and started to wonder why they were the same dream, over and over again.  I confided in my mother one day, as she was a great believer in dreams, always relating her vivid, Technicolor nocturnal episodes to anyone who would listen. 

 Mum, I keep having these dreams.  I don’t know what they mean.  I keep dreaming I’ve murdered someone.”

 At this, her expression changed.  “Go on,” she encouraged.

 Well, it’s nothing specific.  Just that I have killed someone, I don’t know who, and I have gotten away with it.  No one knows I did it, except me of course, and I am living my life without any suspicion falling on me.  Except – and this is the part that really freaks me out – in every dream I have the feeling that someone, maybe the police, are going to figure out it was me and are going to come after me.  I have this sense of impending doom, and wake up with my heart beating wildly.”

My mother looked at me strangely.  “Listen,” she whispered, “There is someone who might be able to help you.”

 Who would that be?” I responded in surprise.

 Ada .  She may be able to help.”

 What do you mean?” I asked.  “How could she help me?”

 My mother hesitated, gauging whether or not she could trust me with what she was about to say.

 She used to counsel people when she was much younger.  People who had committed murders.”

 Really?” I gasped, stunned.  “That is amazing.  I wonder why she never mentioned it.”

 Wait, there’s more,” she went on.  “She counseled people who had committed murders in prior lives.”

 I was dumbfounded, trying to take in what she had told me.

 But that’s impossible,” I scoffed after a few moments.  “That’s ridiculous.”

My mother said nothing more, and I let the matter drop.

Several months later Ada had an operation to reduce her enormous breasts, at which time she was diagnosed with cancer.  Salvatore remained by her side, and I later learned from my mother that she had returned home to convalesce.

I drove over to see her and Sal waved me upstairs.  I entered her room cautiously.  She lay on the bed, looking like a shrunken doll.

 Hello, darling,” she said with a smile.  “How are you?”

Never mind me,” I said.  “I’m worried about you.  I’ve missed you and have been praying for your recovery every day.”

 Her bright eyes searched my face intently.  “Don’t you fret about me, darling.  I am feeling much better, honestly.”

Although I was anxious to ask her about her unusual profession from so many years ago, I suspected this was not the right time.  My dream could wait for a while.

May I come back and see you?” I asked.  “I’d like to ask your advice about something really important.” 

She nodded knowingly.  “I’d love to help.  We’ll have a nice long chat.”

I kissed her leathery cheek and squeezed her hand, promising to come back soon.  Unfortunately, life got in the way, and before I could return to discuss my dreams, she passed away.   But something odd happened - I never had those nightmares again.

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