My memory from then on is of myriad harsh pinpricks – often brutal stabs – of pain.
Summer holidays. Bink living a mile or two away.
Now, I would consider this bliss: Bink independent enough to pay for her own room. Able to look after herself. A grown-up lodger. Why on earth did I complain?
Because something was out of joint.
I just couldn’t work out what it was.
Guests were coming for the evening.
I have no idea, now, who they were: the rest of the world recedes behind the thick, dark banks of Bink’s miasmic clouds. They were young people she would have enjoyed, or they her. Perhaps friends of Ben’s, at Cambridge with both of them; musicians?
Bink doesn’t answer her telephone. The times when she has done so, over fifteen or more years, wouldn’t keep the fingers of one hand very busy.
So I sent her a text a day or two before. Folk to meet you: please come for supper?
To be sure she knew I also told Shaun’s colleague, her landlady; who confirmed she had given Bink the message and Bink had said, Ok.
(A confusing response, I now know, which Bink uses to mean, Please leave me alone. Rather than what you might take it to mean. What I took it to mean, for many years.)
I hadn’t seen her for so long, she was become such a stranger to our house, I spent many hours cooking Bink’s favourite. Several different curries: mild, creamy korma, for Rose; searing jalfrezi, for Bink’s wilder taste; spicy okra and aubergine; homemade nan.
The guests arrived soon after seven.
I rang Bink soon after that.
Again, half an hour later.
Eight, eight thirty. No answer. Guests hungry.
What do you do? How long do you keep a kitchenful of people waiting for Bink’s favourite dinner and to meet her?
Shaun, Ben, would both say, You don’t wait at all. She knows. She’ll come if she wants to.
But Shaun and Ben will never know what it takes, what you have give, to bring someone into the world. How your body tears itself into two, every time, and what is left is never quite your own again.
I rang her hostess’s mobile. She was in a meeting, out of the house. All she could say was that Bink knew, and had the message.
We ate around ten. Or the others did.
When we eventually spoke, a long time later, she simply said, I never agreed to come.
Once that summer, I lost my cool.
And made her angry with me. With reason, this time.
Rosie was nine. Bink had always considered herself Rosie’s second mother. First carer, sometimes, when you listen to her. Credits herself with bringing Rose up.
It seemed innocent enough, benefitting both.
They slept in the same bed, since Rose stopped her night-feed at six weeks old. Bink took her to nursery school, the park, friends’ houses.
Organised her birthday parties... when, yes, I longed to do this myself...
But Bink went to so much trouble. For her eighth birthday (I think it was), Rose chose cowboys and indians. Bink ordered a real wigwam for the bottom of the garden, decorated the summerhouse as a Wild West station, ordered a vast cake with a chief’s face adorning the icing. (In truth, I believe Christian helped her with a lot of this. But she sparked it off, had the ideas, asked him to help.)
And then, wham!
Moved out. Not here in the summer holidays. Wanting Rosie to go to the house where she was living, and refusing to come to ours.
Is this what carers do? Leave home and expect children to follow?
Shaun said, No, Bink can come here if she wants to see her sister.
So one rare afternoon that summer, she did.
And I told her that the way she had behaved towards Rosie was unkind, unfair, abandoning her. How could a child understand such indifference?
Later, she told me why she was so angry.
Those weren’t Rosie’s feelings you were describing. They were yours.
How can you be so perceptive, Bink…
And so unkind?