By Any Other Name

By: Natasha West

One

Lane Whittaker couldn’t remember a time when her family didn’t hate the Goodwin’s.

The beauty of it was, there were plenty of them to hate. Just when you started to feel ambivalent toward them, one of them would pop up and do something shitty and the hatred was re-ignited. There was Bert, the Grandad, a mean old raisin who threw stones at cats who came into their yard. Then there was Carol, his daughter. Lane’s Mum never stopped reminding people about the time when Carol had elbowed in front of her to secure the last loaf of fresh bread at the bakery. And the Dad, Marcus? He wasn’t enormously spiteful, but he was quite weaselly, so the Whittaker’s hated him on general principle.

And there were plenty of kids to hate, four to the Whittaker’s three. Two girls, two boys. Although the eldest, a girl, was gone. She’d flown the coop a while back, vanished out to who knew where, but she hadn’t been seen in Bishops’ Crook for a while. Lane didn’t know that girl. She just knew the rest of the pack of animals. God, how she loathed them. From afar, obviously. She’d never actually had any of her own dealings with them. She was adopted, landing with the Whittaker’s at age ten. At eighteen, she still had a little catching up to do. But she knew it was just a matter of time before she joined in the tradition and had her own run in with a Goodwin. She almost looked forward to it.

As Nanny Whittaker told it, it had been contentious between the families since the bubonic plague was just a sniffle. ‘Silas Goodwin started it all’ she explained one summers night after the café was closed, while Lane mopped the floor. ‘My Grandmother told me and now I’m telling you’ Nanny Whittaker said cosily as she sat at one of the tables, poring over receipts, doing sums on her giant calculator. She did the books for the place, having been a bookkeeper in her working life. She still missed the maths but kept her hand in by helping her son and daughter-in-law’s family business, making sure they kept their heads above water. Mike Whittaker could cook up a storm and Jenny Whittaker was good with people, but neither had what you’d call a head for business. That’s why Lane had gone to work there after graduation, they couldn’t afford to pay much of wage. But she didn’t mind, she liked working in the family business. Especially when her Nan was in the storytelling mood. ‘It was over a woman; wouldn’t you just know? Clara Howard. By all accounts she was this town’s equivalent of Helen of Troy. Noah Whittaker, your great, great Grandad saw her in the market and said there and then, he was going to marry her. And he began to court her, like they did then. All very gentlemanly. Calling around to the family for tea, bringing little gifts. Nothing like you’ve ever seen, those boys down at the park - used condoms everywhere’ she said with a shake of her head and Lane fought the urge to gag at her Nan’s casual reference to sex.

‘Go on, then. What happened?’ Lane asked, mid-mop, on tenterhooks despite the disgusting detour.

‘Silas Goodwin happened’ Nanny said with a grimace as she tapped a number into her calculator. ‘He was apparently quite a flash sod and he whisked in and promised her the earth, asked for her hand. And she gave it.’

Lane pushed the mop, disappointed. ‘That’s it?’

Nanny Whittaker laughed. ‘Oh no. Not at all. Because then he got her up the duff. Before they tied the knot.’

Lane was back in now. ‘Yeah?’

‘Yes, and these days no one blinks about that sort of thing. But back then, she was a ruined woman.’

‘But when they got married, couldn’t they have like… I don’t know… Fudged the numbers? Got married dead fast and pretended?’ Lane asked. ‘They do it all the time on Jeremy Kyle.’

‘Possibly’ Nanny Whittaker nodded. ‘Only Silas never had any intention of marrying her, the cad.’

Lane gasped. It was the olden times equivalent of a soap opera and it starred people with the same last name as her. Talk about juicy.

‘So there she was, Clara, pregnant, disgraced. But Noah Whittaker still loved her and despite the shame, he married her and took on the son as his own. My great Grandad, Jackson Whittaker.’