[Serena has been telling me for so long to fast-forward to this part of the story.
How can readers understand coming up into sunny grasslands, if they haven’t been through the valley of shadows with us?
This is what she says to me.
And now I’m here, I don’t know where to start… or how to tell it in less than the years it took to live through.
I had pre-scheduled a different post for today, going back to the story of ten years ago, before writing my Thought for the Day script yesterday, but now think this may not be what you want, quite yet.
So I’m going to have breakfast and think about it. And post late, today…]
Several years, c. 2013-6
In all true færie tales, the last is the most significant.
Grendel’s mother more fearsome than Grendel. The stepmother negligent, but the witch downright murderous. The tenth plague of Egypt more devastating than all the others put together.
The last Robin... bound to be more disturbing than all the rest.
The thing about pain, mercifully, is that you can’t remember it. Else the human race would die out long since. Every new birth striking a seasoned mother with the force of incredulity. It can’t have been such agony last time. I remember pain... but pain like this will surely kill me.
And thus it is that I can’t really remember how anything could have hurt that much.
I remember details... just as I remember the midwife asking for music when I was in labour with Serena. To remember what it actually felt like, would be to feel the pain all over again.
I can remember being without sleep all night long, Bink missing. Rose, aged ten, pulled from her dormitory at three in the morning, because Serena thought she might have had some message though the rest of us hadn’t, and the police said we must try everything. The poor child falling asleep again just before dawn... and dreaming she was the one to find Bink’s body swirling in the dark woods and darker water.
I remember delaying a business flight by half a week to the US, where I was to interview Desmond Tutu’s daughter; missing my one and only chance to visit Washington DC for my next novel. And every time I turned my face from the work I was there for, wanting to sob and weep my life away.
I remember not knowing where she might be spending Christmas. Wondering, for weeks and months, whether she lay in a ditch. Unknown, unrecognised, untraced.
I remember being at a pre-Christmas party, apologising, appalled, to someone I barely knew for the tears streaming down my face. Bicycling home behind Shaun, my balance so gone that I wobbled and fell into the gutter and just wanted to lie there and howl.
Occasionally, once every many-months perhaps, receiving a telephone call... my sick heart soaring to hear her. Dropping everything to listen and talk, for an hour or so, savouring each moment because it was my dear, close-loved Bink.
Her lurching back into our lives for a day or two... but as with the end of war and announcement of peace, you discover you have lost so much that the death and destruction you are left with hurts as much as the fighting ever did.
The praying, the crying, the begging for it to end. For years, this must have gone on, one way or another.
I said it was my dear, close Bink. And surely she was.
And she wasn’t.
She asked us to meet her in Staines one Sunday evening. We abandoned everything and drove for an hour and more, and found a wisteria wrapped around the pub, pregnant with early summer scent. No Bink anywhere to be seen. We asked the barman.
No, he said. No one called Bink.
We described her.
“Oh,” he said. “You mean Robin. We all know Robin! She’s in the garden.”
We visited her in a friend’s house. “Hello Robin,” said one of the lodgers.
“Robin!” Her friend called upstairs to her: the one who had hidden her from us, and didn’t tell us when she was in hospital.
Robin. All the bad people in my life. Now me.
[This from Bink’s therapist to me.] Fri, 18 Jan 09.33 (12 days ago)
“To keep you updated Bink has chosen to be called Robin and so we are now referring to her by this name.”