Olga’s Diary (Continued)
The worst present in the world: It’s my birthday today and God has given me a terrible birthday present. Jamaica has been hit by a savage hurricane with winds over 125 mph. Kingston suffered badly and so far 154 people have died and 50,000 are homeless.
Please God, let my family be safe, please, please. How can I find out how they are?
There isn’t very much in the newspapers about it. Perhaps the newspapers here will print the names of the people that died, like the Daily Gleaner does. If not, I’ll have to go and see Aunt Martha; she will be in touch with the family.
It must have been terrifying; it’s bad enough when a hurricane comes during the day but this one struck at night.
Aunt Martha: Went to see her, but what a shock I had. It’s a been a long time since I last saw her and AM’s changed a lot.. She looks like she’s shrunk and looks so much older and her teeth were rotten – breath smelt! I wasn’t sure how she would react when she saw me at the door, but, to my surprise, she was very nice.
“Olga, come in, how nice to see you”.
I was shocked too by the state of her flat, which was once pretty and clean, but now filthy, dark because the curtains were drawn even though it was daytime and it smelt of stale cooking fat.
“Excuse the mess, it’s difficult to find good help these days”. I thought she was being funny, but the look on her face said she was being serious.
“I’ve fallen on hard times, and can’t sew any more, arthritis” she said showing me her knarled hands.
After a while I asked her if she knew how Mammie and the rest of the family were after the hurricane. She said she hadn’t heard from any of them since 1946 when Sydney was in London.
“You remember when Sydney was here that time, don’t you Olga? That was when you told him my secret, wasn’t it”?
At first I didn’t know what she was talking about. And then I remembered. She had made me promise not to tell the family that Mr Kitchen was a black man. I knew why she didn’t want the family to know. It would have shown her up to be the hypocrite she is, after all she was horrible to Mammie for ages because she had married Pops. I started to deny it but she stopped me.
“Don’t, Olga, don’t lie. It’s not important anyway. It’s all in the past and what’s done is done”.
Aunt Martha is not normally the forgiving type. In fact, I remember Aunt Lucy saying Aunt Martha could bear a grudge longer than anybody else she knew. But, perhaps she had softened in her old age, I thought.
“Why are you asking me about the family, Olga?”. Suddenly I was angry with myself. You fool Olga. I realised my mistake immediately – by asking about the family I was telling her I wasn’t in contact with them.
“Why don’t you ask them yourself Olga, or is there some reason you can’t? Do you have a secret too, Olga, is that why you haven’t gone back to Jamaica?” She asked sympathetically. Then her voice got harder.
“You don’t have to tell me your secret Olga, I already know it. I phoned St Giles a long time ago and after a bit of digging around, I discovered you’d been kicked out of the hospital because you were pregnant. You had a baby didn’t you. Mammie’s favourite little girl got herself a little bastard”.
“Shut up” I shouted. She made me feel dirty again.
“That’s why you won’t speak to any of the family or go home, isn’t it”? I nodded.
“Oh, don’t worry Olga,“ she was being sympathetic again now
“Your secret’s safe with me. I promise you I won’t mention it to any of them”.
I looked at her and there was a little smile around her mouth but the smile didn’t reach her eyes. They were cold.
I don’t think age had mellowed Aunt Martha, I think she is still a mean spirited woman.
Letter to Becky, 3 Tremaine Road, Kingston, Jamaica
Martha, 23 Chilworth Street, Paddington.
I am the bearer of some tragic news. I have today been notified by the authorities that Olga died in the winter of 1947. Apparently, at the time of her death, there was nothing to identify her, no identity card, passport, letters, nothing.
This has come to light all these years later because, by chance, I read in the local paper of a woman who was in court recently for shop lifting and gave her name as Olga Josephine Browney. I immediately went to the police and said I wanted to see this woman because she was a relative of mine, but when I saw the woman, it was not Olga.
The woman’s real name is Celeste Rodgers and according to Celeste she befriended Olga all those years ago. Olga told her she had nowhere to live. Celeste told Olga she rented a room in a boarding house and she was sure the landlady wouldn’t mind if Olga stayed there for a few days until she found somewhere suitable.
While Olga was sleeping Celeste robbed Olga, took all her possessions, including her clothes and moved out. Celeste gave the police the address and I recently visited the landlady who confirmed that over three years ago an unnamed coloured woman was found dead in bed of hypothermia in a room that had been rented to Celeste Rodgers.
Because Olga had nothing to identify her, and it pains me to have to tell you this Becky, Olga was buried in a paupers grave. Some small comfort, however, Becky, at least Olga is with Jesus now.
Your loving sister, Martha
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