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  • Pamela Belle

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

“Hello, Dad.”

Jenna hadn’t said those words for more than thirty five years, and now they caught in her throat. She’d hoped that neither of them would give way to emotion, but she knew as soon as she saw him on her laptop screen that it was a lost cause. For a start, he looked so old. Instead of the upright, energetic father she remembered, the man in front of her was grey haired, scrawny, and somehow shrunk inside his clothes and his skin, as she remembered her grandmother being, in the year before her death. He’s ill, she realised with a shock, and then recalled Bill’s Facebook message: ‘Dad hasn’t been too well recently’.

“Jennifer. My little Jen, all grown up.”

Even his voice – those confident, head-teacher tones that expected enthusiasm, obedience, results – seemed to have shrunk along with the rest of him. It had also acquired, understandably, a distinctly Australian intonation. She said stupidly, “Yes, all grown up.”

“You’re – what? Forty seven?”

“’Fraid so, Dad.”

“You don’t look it. And you’ve got three kids – grown up too?”

“Joe and Tom are twenty two – they’re twins. And Rosie’s eighteen.”

“It’s been so long. Too long. Jen, I’m so, so sorry.”

There were tears in his eyes. “That’s OK,” Jenna said, and paused, wanting to take the conversation beyond banal small talk, yet apprehensive about where it might lead. She could imagine, all too clearly, both of them sobbing into tissues, their reunion dissolved in a flood of sorrow, remorse and regret. She couldn’t remember her father being anything other than calm and in control, even during those awful arguments with Patricia, that last summer, and she dreaded the thought of him breaking down.

“No, it isn’t OK. I’m not proud of myself, I behaved very badly, and nothing can make up for what we did to you, your mother and I. But afterwards, I did try to keep in touch with you. I wrote and sent cards, but you never replied. I didn’t realise that you’d been told –“

“That you were dead?”

“I had no idea she’d done that. I’d said I wanted a divorce. We had a huge argument. I took the day off work to try and sort it out while you were at school, out of the way. To be honest, I think your mother was having some kind of breakdown, she was hysterical, unreasonable, accusing me of all sorts of vile things. Then she gave me ten minutes to pack, and threw me out of the house. I fled to Annie’s, which of course only made things worse. Patricia said she’d send you off to your grandmother’s, so you wouldn’t be hurt, but then she wouldn’t let me see you, or contact you in any way, and she threatened – “

“I know what she threatened. She told me.” Jenna took a deep breath. “Dad, I’ve just gone through a divorce myself. I know how things can get out of hand if you’re not careful. And I know that it’s usually six of one and half a dozen of the other. I also know, none better, what my mother is like. She’s ... she’s a very difficult woman.”

Her father smiled, without much humour. “That’s putting it mildly.”

“So ... so I’m going to try and let bygones be bygones. You made mistakes, but I think Mum made bigger ones. To be honest, I’m finding it hard to forgive her at the moment. And I want to make up for lost time.”

“I do too. I may not have much more time, Jen. I had cancer last year. I’m in remission, but I’ve been told it could come back at any moment. So I want to make the most of what I’ve got left. And that’s why I asked Bill to see if he could find you on social media.”

“I’m really, really glad he did.” She swallowed, thinking of her earlier Skype conversation with her brother. He had been much more candid than her father, appalled at the lies she’d been told, and eager to welcome her into the family. And, she had pointed out with a smile, she was eager to welcome him into hers.

“The Clarkes,” he’d said, grinning. “Divided by twelve thousand miles, reunited by the power of Facebook. This is great, it’s not every day you find a long-lost sister.”

“I can beat you there – a long-lost sister and a long-lost brother.”

They’d talked for half an hour, comparing their adult experiences, their degrees. He was almost a generation younger than she was – thirty two – but she was surprised to discover how much they had in common, a similar taste in music, a shared love of old film noir and Blackadder. He’d just got engaged to his girlfriend Natasha, and they were planning a Spring wedding – which, of course, would be in September or October. “You’ll have to come out for it. Will your boys still be here?”

“I don’t know, but it would be great if they were.” Then she’d only need to buy two tickets, one for herself and one for Rosie. They weren’t cheap, but she still had a little saved, and she would be able to add to it from the proceeds of tutoring Flora. And this would be an occasion so special, so wonderful, so unexpected, that she felt she would make almost any sacrifice to attend. Suddenly, she felt a huge wave of excitement and optimism. Bill seemed such a nice man, and so genuinely delighted that the two parts of their family would be reunited. She hoped his sister would feel the same. And, of course, his father.

Now, face to face with Keith Clarke despite the intervening twelve thousand miles, she couldn’t doubt it. She said, “Bill told me he’s getting married in a few months time. I said we’d try and make it.”

Her father’s face cracked into the broad grin she remembered most clearly from that last summer, flying her kite on a Cornish beach. “You are? All of you? That’s wonderful! Come for a couple of weeks, we can put you up, no problem. Annie? Annie, she wants to come to the wedding!”

A disembodied voice said, “Brilliant! Oh, and by the way, hi, Jen. It’s fabulous to be in touch again.” In the unexpected way of Skype, her former teacher’s face appeared beside Keith’s on the screen. “No hard feelings, I hope?”

“None,” said Jenna, and meant it. At the moment, her hard feelings were reserved for her mother, who had kept her father’s continued existence a complete secret for thirty five years, apparently out of a combination of wounded pride, guilt and spite. She added, “I never got the chance to say it, but thanks for being a great teacher. I loved being in your class and I’ve never forgotten it – in fact, when I was a teacher I pinched quite a lot of your ideas.”

Annie Clarke, once known as Buttercup to her pupils, laughed. Her accent was noticeably more Australian than her husband’s. “That’s OK, hun. There’s no copyright.” She gave Jen a friendly smile and a wave. “You’ll have to excuse me, I’m busy in the kitchen. See you soon, I hope – and thanks!”

When she had gone, Keith said quietly, “I hadn’t realised you were divorced. That puts a different complexion on things. What happened?”

Jenna hesitated, knowing that the answer wouldn’t be palatable, but also aware that it wouldn’t be possible to sweeten the pill. In the end, she said, “He’s found someone else. They’re going to have a baby in a month or so.”

“Oh, Jen, I’m so sorry.” Keith stared at her in genuine distress. “Talk about history repeating itself – “

“Don’t, please, Dad, it’s OK, honestly it is. There’s no denying I’d like his guts for garters, but I’m over it, truly I am. He’s living with her in New York, and as far as I’m concerned she’s welcome to him. She wasn’t his first affair, either.”

“Until I met Annie, there’d been no-one else,” said her father. “I knew it was wrong, but she was so warm, so generous, so ... different.”

Jenna knew what he meant. It was what she had thought herself. She said, “I can, sort of, understand why Mum told me you’d died, and why she kept the secret for so long. Understand, but not forgive. I’m finding it very hard, though, to work out why Nanna May did too. She did write me a letter explaining everything, before she died, but Mum threw it away before I could find it."

“I was very fond of your grandmother,” said Keith. “She was a one-off. When did she die?”

“Only last summer. She was ninety-five. And she never breathed a word, even though I was with her when she died.” Jenna swallowed. “I know she did leave me that letter, but I wish she'd actually told me."

“Perhaps she made a promise. She was very hot on keeping promises, your Nan.”

“Yes.” She had a sudden memory of her grandmother talking to her, just after she’d been told that she had to go back to her mother. “I promised her,” Nanna May had said, in the firm, uncompromising voice that Jenna had learned would allow no argument or persuasion. “I promised your mother that when she was well again, I’d send you back. She misses you, Jen. And you should be with her. She’s your mother, after all.”

And Jenna remembered, as clearly as if it were yesterday, her scream of rage and frustration. “Well, I wish she wasn’t!” She had run upstairs to her room, with her grandmother’s little dog following her, and had sobbed her heart out into its wiry, smelly fur, for what had seemed at the time to be hours, hoping against hope that Nanna May would come in, and sit beside her, and tell her that she hadn’t really meant it, and she could stay in Maldon after all.

Of course that hadn’t happened, and she’d gone back to live in a new part of London with her mother: new house, new school, new friends, and her father erased from her life as if he’d never existed, as if she’d imagined him. She’d been told he was dead, she’d grieved for him, and all the time he’d been alive, living in Australia with his new wife and, later, his new children, assuming that she had willingly chosen to break off all contact with him.

“Perhaps she promised my mother,” Jenna said at last. “I think Mum had a breakdown after you left. I stayed with Nanna May in Maldon, and she told me that Mum was ill. I sort of got the idea that she’d been hurt in the car crash that you’d supposedly died in. But to be honest, I was just so happy to be living with Nanna May that I didn’t think too much about it, I didn’t question it at all.”

“Yes, I think she would have wanted to ensure that Patricia wasn’t pushed too far, for your sake as well as hers. She wasn’t a selfish woman, your grandmother. I suppose she never dropped any hints or clues, that things weren’t quite what you’d been led to believe?”

Jenna frowned, thinking back. “Not that I can remember. Of course I was a particularly stroppy and rebellious teenager, and on Planet Jenna half the time as well. I suppose that by the time I’d grown up a bit and might have coped with the information, it seemed too late to rock the boat. Although I think it was her suggestion that the boys went backpacking in Australia. Did she keep in touch with you?”

“Very sporadically. She sent a card to say you’d got into university, and another telling me you’d got married. I don’t mind saying, that was a bad time, knowing that I wouldn’t be walking you up the aisle.”

“It’s OK, we got married in a Registry Office. Quite low-key. No aisles involved.” Silently, she seethed, thinking of her mother’s words as they arrived at the venue. “Such a shame that your poor dear father isn’t alive to see you on your wedding day.” The lies, the hypocrisy were breathtaking.

Keith smiled again. “Well, I’m long since over it. Life’s moved on. The really important thing is that we’ve found each other, and it isn’t too late to make amends. Anyway, May let me know when your kids were born, and she even managed to send me pictures of them every so often while they were growing up. Annie put them into an album for me.”

Jenna had a sudden mental image of her grandmother, with her little Kodak, taking photos of the children on family occasions: Christmas, birthdays, visits to the zoo or the Tower of London or the park. She’d had her own album, with ‘Grandma’s Boasting Book’ embossed in silver on the cover, filled with pictures of Tom, Joe and Rosie from babyhood to adolescence and beyond. So it would have been easy enough to have duplicates printed, to send out to Keith in Australia.

“It must have made you so sad,” she said impulsively. “To see your grandchildren growing up and having no direct contact with them, thinking we’d deliberately estranged ourselves from you.”

“Oh, Jenna my dear, it did – it certainly did.” This time there was no mistaking the tears. “I have Bill and Jodi, of course, and they’re wonderful kids, but I never forgot you, not for one moment, and I never gave up hope that one day you’d get in touch. Then I got ill, and I knew it couldn’t wait any longer. I even wrote to your grandmother, last summer, but there was no reply.”

“She died in August, and she was in hospital for a few weeks beforehand, so it’s possible she didn’t get to see your letter.” And of course her mother had made sure to go through May’s flat before Jenna could find anything incriminating.

“That’s a shame.” He sighed. “Still, it turned out OK in the end, and thanks to May after all, letting me know that the twins were coming out here. That spurred me to do something.”

“And how glad I am that you did.”

“Me too, Jen. I wish I could hug you.”

“Sending you a virtual hug, Dad.”

They had spoken for nearly two hours, hours which couldn’t replace the lost years, or make up for what they had both missed, but which did much to bring them closer together. It was so strange, to be speaking as an adult to this man whom she remembered most clearly from a child’s point of view. When they finally said goodbye, it was past midnight in Orford, and she had belatedly remembered that she had to go to work in the morning. She didn’t mind, though. It had been worth any amount of lost sleep, to speak to her father once more.

*

“You look as if you could do with a good powerful shot of coffee.” Fran surveyed Jenna sympathetically. “Are you OK?”

Over the past few weeks, their old friendship had been made anew, even more solid than it had been before, and she was fed up with lying and obfuscation. “Not really,” she said. “But also, weirdly, I feel great.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I warn you, it’s a long story.”

“Good, I like long stories. I’ll make us both a coffee and we can have a good chinwag. I’ve even got some tissues handy.”

Jenna laughed, feeling better already. “I hope I won’t need them, but you might!”

“That sounds serious,” said Fran. He went over to the kitchen area, while Jenna sat down on the sofa, reflecting that while to do so in her house you usually had to move kittens, here you had to (gently) move a guitar. The stove was burning warmly, a welcome sight on this cold wet morning, with the wind shaking the oaks and hollies that surrounded the cottage. She should have been at the shop, but Andrew had phoned her at eight, apparently with a clothes peg on his nose. After some confusion, she’d ascertained that he’d come down with flu – “And it’s nob man-flu, by dear, whatever Jib mighb say, this is undoubdebly the genuibe artigle.”

“You sound awful,” she’d said sympathetically. “Do you want me to open the shop?”

“Doe, doe, thab’s why I rang, dobe bother, nob worth ib, ’s horribub oudside, Jib’s pubbing a nobice ob the door.”

Jenna hadn’t argued. She knew that customers would be very thin on the ground on a wet February morning, and guiltily she hadn’t really felt like going into the shop and facing Andrew’s well-meaning concern. One look in her mirror earlier had shown her the dark circles under her red-rimmed eyes, her pale cheeks and haunted look, and she knew that only industrial quantities of slap would be capable of disguising it. Since she only ever wore the bare minimum of makeup, if that, anyone who knew her would know at once that something was wrong. And she quailed at the thought of explaining it all to her boss.

There was one other person locally, though, who was aware of at least part of the story, and she could rely on his discretion and also his support. She’d thought the previous evening that she wasn’t ready to tell him what she’d discovered, but now she found the need to unburden herself had become overwhelming. Feeling a little better with a couple of slices of toast and marmalade inside her, and a big mug of strong coffee at her elbow, she’d texted Fran. And now here she was on his sofa, with the warmth of the stove seeping through her chilled bones, hoping that he wouldn’t mind her unloading her troubles to him for the second time in a few weeks.

At least Flora was at school, so they’d have the freedom to discuss the situation without her long ears attuned to their conversation. She watched Fran moving with his usual lack of fuss around the kitchen, setting out the mugs, getting the milk out of the fridge, pouring the coffee. She had long ago noted that there were some people who seemed to exude calm and reassurance, and he was definitely one of them. He brought the tray over to the table in front of the fire, adding a tin of biscuits. “Chocolate hobnob?”

“Of course.” She took one and dunked it into the hot, fragrant brew. “This is great. Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” Fran said, settling down on the opposing sofa. “So – what’s up? Is it to do with your dad?”

Surprised, Jenna stared at him. “How did you know?”

“I didn’t, but I guessed – I couldn’t think of anything else that might have upset you so much.”

“Do I look that bad?”

He studied her solemnly. “I’ve seen better.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“It’s what friends are for. So, OK, spill.”

It took a while, and Jenna’s coffee had cooled almost to lukewarm by the time she had finished. Fran listened largely in silence, occasionally nodding or asking pertinent questions. Much to her surprise, she managed to tell the tale without much wobbling of voice or leakage of tears. After all, she’d not lost a father, but gained one, and whatever the mixture of emotions surging around her relationship with her mother, and her feelings about her grandmother, that surely was something to celebrate.

“Christ,” was Fran’s somewhat inadequate comment, when she’d finished. “That’s incredible. To discover your dad’s alive after all that time – and that you’ve got two siblings you knew nothing about. Just ... amazing.”

“I’m just about starting to get my head round it,” Jenna said, draining her coffee. “I’ve spoken to my dad, and my brother. I think what gets to me most is the sheer waste of it. All those years when we could have stayed in touch, visited – yes, I know they’re in Australia but it would have been perfectly do-able to go out there every so often, we could have afforded it. He missed seeing his grandchildren grow up, he missed seeing me grow up. And we missed him. And it was all for nothing, because I found out in the end, and my mother must have known that was likely to happen one day.”

“So what did she say when she realised the game was finally up?”

“Not a lot. She just kept repeating that it had all been for the best, and for my own good. Which, in the circumstances, is hardly an adequate explanation. But then that’s always been Mum’s mantra – never apologise, never explain.” Jenna gave him a rather shamefaced grin over the rim of her mug. “I’m afraid I told her to bugger off – not quite in those words, but very nearly. And I’m not sure I shall ever forgive her for what she’s done.”

“Really? Do you mean that?”

She took a last sip of the coffee, which was now almost cold. “Yes, I do. She kept me in the dark for thirty-five years, give or take. The kids and I have missed so much, and it’s all down to what she did.”

“But she may not have set out to do all that,” Fran said thoughtfully. He glanced up at her. “Perhaps she thought that it would come right eventually.”

“How? By telling me a couple of months later that it had all been a terrible mistake and Dad wasn’t dead after all? Once she’d started lying, it was such a huge lie that she couldn’t stop, it all just snowballed. And Nanna May backed her up. That’s worse than what Mum did, because I thought that Nanna May was on my side.”

“But it must have been an impossible dilemma for her. Perhaps she wanted to tell you the truth, but she was afraid of the effect on your mother if she did.”

“That’s more or less what Dad said. He asked me if she’d ever dropped any hints. Apart from the fact that she apparently suggested to Joe and Tom that they go to Australia to look up their relatives, I can’t remember her saying anything.” She smiled ruefully. “She did leave me a letter, though, for me to open after her death.”

Fran was looking puzzled. “So what happened to it? Because you've only just learned that your dad's alive."

“Unfortunately, my mother found it before I did, and you can guess what she did with it. She admitted to me that she'd torn it up."

"Ah. I can see why you're finding it hard to forgive."

"I'm also finding it hard to forgive Nanna May, for not telling me direct. Leaving a letter was sneaky, it meant that she couldn’t be confronted by Mum, or by me. She’d have the last laugh, in every sense."

It fitted, somehow, with the maverick, rebellious old woman whom she had loved so much. May had never done the expected thing, had never been straightforward, had always forged her own indomitable path. Jenna managed a smile. “She’s probably looking down from on high with that mischievous grin, and wanting to tell me in no uncertain terms not to be such a wimp."

“I’m sorry I never met your Nanna May,” Fran said. “She sounds like a real force of nature.”

“Oh, she was. I loved her so much. Much more than I ever loved my mother. Does that sound awful?”

“No, hen, it’s entirely understandable.” Fran set his coffee mug down on the hearth. “What’s that line? ‘And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make’. Some people are very hard to love, even though you’re supposed to. My dad was like that.”

Jenna looked at him enquiringly. Fran had never said very much about his parents, though she had gathered that there had been some sort of falling out. He went on. “He liked to think of himself as a ‘hard man’. His family came from Glasgow and we had some very dodgy cousins. Having an only son who was into music and poetry was a bit of a body blow. Let’s say that he wasn’t so keen to have me go to university either. One reason I picked Norwich was because it was a very long way from Inverness – so far, in fact, that I had a good excuse not to go home very often.”

“That must have been really difficult.”

“It was, when I was young and stupid and thought the best way of dealing with it was to argue him out of his prejudices. Which of course just made things worse. Poor Mam was stuck in the middle. My sisters were like me, they got out as fast and as far as they could. In the end, we’d all decided, without talking about it, to leave them to it. I was bumming round the States, fancying myself as a sort of cross between Dylan and a wandering minstrel, when Kirstie got in touch with me – Mam had been diagnosed with cancer, and it was terminal. I got home just in time – my sisters had been looking for me for months, and it was before the days of social media. It was bad enough when Mam died, but then Da went to pieces in a big way – hit the bottle, tried to hit me, we had a colossal row at Mam’s wake and the girls and I walked out saying we never wanted to see him again.”

“God. I had no idea.” Jenna stared at him in sympathy. “So – what happened?”

“Nothing happened. That’s the point. He drank half the Highland distilleries dry, and was dead himself within the year. Cirrhosis of the liver, unsurprisingly. Kirstie phoned – she’s the eldest of us, always the boss when we were kids. ‘The old bastard’s gone at last, and good riddance,’ was what she said, and that’s what we all thought. She and Bel turned up to the funeral in bright colours, and I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. The minister looked quite shocked. Then when we were all standing round the grave, Bel began to cry. That set Kirstie off, and then I’m not ashamed to say that by the end the three of us were sodden, grief-stricken wrecks. None of us had brought tissues, the minister had to lend us some.” He looked up at her. “At the grave, seeing that hole in the ground and the coffin lying at the bottom of it, that’s when it hit us – that he’d gone, and it was too late. Too late to mend fences and build bridges and make amends. Too late to say that when we were little kids, he’d been a great dad, the sort who plays football and takes you wild camping in the hills and swimming in freezing cold tarns. He just couldn’t cope with the fact that we grew up and had our own thoughts and opinions. And we never gave ourselves the chance to say that to him – and I think he was desperate to hear it, though he’d have died rather than tell us. He did die, rather than tell us. And bitter regret is a horrible thing to have to swallow.”

“I know what you’re saying.” Tears were threatening, but she took several deep breaths and mastered her emotions. She’d had enough of crying over other people’s mistakes and misdeeds. “But I’m very angry with Mum at the moment.”

“In your place, I’d be splitting blood too. But there’s bound to come a time when you can be a wee bit more detached.”

Jenna opened her mouth to deny it, and then thought of the warm, loving family that had so enthusiastically welcomed her into their lives. Even though she hardly knew them yet, she already felt so much closer to Keith, Bill and Annie than to Patricia. She hadn’t lost a father, she’d gained one, and a brother and sister into the bargain. In the end, her mother’s deceit and manipulation had come to nothing. She’d lost, finally and emphatically, and Jenna had won, without ever having to fight, and attaining full possession of the moral high ground into the bargain. She could afford to be magnanimous – but not quite yet.

“You’re right,” she said. “But I’m not going to rush off to Berkhamsted to apologise for what I said to her. She deserved everything I threw at her, and she knows it. I think I’ll let her stew for a while. Anyway, she’s got other things to think about.”

“Other things? You mean, something bigger than this?” Fran sounded bewildered.

“Yes – ironically, the reason she was in such a hurry to visit at the weekend was that she wanted to tell me all about the new man she’d met on her cruise. I still can’t quite believe she’s hooked up with this guy – as far as I know, since Dad left, she’s never so much as looked at anyone else, let alone embarked on a new relationship. She’s seventy-five, for God’s sake!”

“There’s no law saying you have to be under forty to start seeing someone,” Fran pointed out, with a grin. “Fair play to her.”

“But is she going to tell him she’s divorced, or a widow?” Jenna saw his look and shook her head. “No, no, I’m not going to get involved. She can tell him what she likes, but I’m not going to lie on her behalf. I’m fed up with lies. Rick, Mum, they’ve both been lying to me for years and years, and I can’t be doing with it anymore.”

“Then you’d better tell her that, or she may find herself in very deep water.”

“Oh, God, the last thing I feel like doing at the moment is talking to her. I’d be bound to lose it. Again.”

“You could write to her. Set out all your thoughts and feelings. You can take your time and do it in a calm, reasonable way. Then at least you’ve spelled it out for her.”

Jenna nodded. “That’s a really good idea. I think I’ll do that. And sooner rather than later, before she has the chance to spin any wild stories to Stuart – that’s the guy she likes. I don’t want any more lies, but I don’t want to wreck it for her either. I’m feeling very angry and upset with her, but I’m not vindictive.” She grinned at him. “Not much.”

“Glad to hear it,” said Fran, with feeling. “More coffee?”

“No, thanks, I ought to get back, I’ve imposed on you long enough.” She had a sudden idea. “Look, I’ve got Saskia coming at the weekend, would you and Flora like to come over for dinner?”

“That sounds wonderful, hen, but I won’t be bringing Flora, if you’re planning on it being the Saturday – she’s going to a friend’s birthday sleepover. So if you don’t mind it being just me –“

“Of course I don’t! I’ll see both of you on Wednesday evening anyway, for the tutoring. The kittens are sharpening their claws in readiness, they love a new set of legs to shin up.”

“I’ll put my old leather trousers on just in case.”

“You haven’t got a pair of leather trousers!”

“Don’t sound so disgusted, hen. Plenty of men have leather trousers.”

“Not the sort of men I’m happy knowing. I’ll say no more.”

At the door, with the icy rain blowing in, they hugged briefly. “Thanks,” Jenna said. “You’ve been great. Really supportive.”

“It’s what friends are for. I’m always here for you, you know that. Yes, I know it’s a terrible cliché, but I am. Day or night. Fire, flood or storm, Fran’s your man.”

She grinned at him. “In the nicest possible way, I hope I never have to take you up on that. I think I’ve had enough trauma and shock over the past few months to last me a lifetime. And I’ll do the same for you, you know that, any time. Day or night, fire, flood or storm, Superwoman Jenna to the rescue!”

“I’ll bear it in mind,” Fran said solemnly, and watched from the shelter of the porch as she ran to the car, climbed in and started the engine. As she drove out into the road, she could see his brief wave in the rear view mirror, and then he turned and went inside. A true friend, who could be relied upon to bring help and support in times of trouble. There weren’t many people she’d trust with her life, and he was now undoubtedly one of them. It was a good feeling, comforting and reassuring. She put her Abba CD into the player, and sang along raucously, all the way back to Orford.

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