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Destiny Tea (runner-up)

My father loves to talk and has a lifetime of stories to tell in the sort of laboured way reserved only for the older generation.

I needed to talk with him now more than ever because his memory is fading and, with it, tales of our past...

As we both settle down in his living room, cocooned by soft upholstery and with cup of tea in hand, I steered the conversation towards the subject of why he came to Britain.

‘Oh, why do you want to hear about that?’

‘Because it matters. It helps me understand why we are here.’

The story was long. The first six months of 1965 stretched over more tea and several trips to the loo.

My father, in his late twenties was recently married and had a decent job which he enjoyed. With few possessions, life was simple, although a struggle in the city and most of his earnings went straight to his family home where his mother, retired father and eight school-age siblings lived.

‘Back then, everyone was poor and I knew I was trapped in that life,’ he said, quietly, gazing into his tea.

His job had involved writing and speaking in English and he worked on the floor above the office where visas to Britain were issued. One day, when the visa office’s waiting room was full, he invited a man loitering outside his door to come in.

‘I offered him tea and we had a chat about things. He couldn’t understand why I hadn’t considered going to Britain. I told him I was happy where I was, why change things?’

Later that day, the man returned with an application form, which my father left in his drawer for three weeks. After much deliberation my father eventually obtained a passport, the visa and borrowed money for a single air fare to London. He said goodbye to his family and my weeping mother (they would be reunited two years later).

‘So what made you leave?’

Emphasising each word carefully, he said: ‘So that I could choose my destiny.’

This runner-up entry to Time & Leisure’s Short Story competition was written by Rubina Kitching