We fast-forward a year again, to October 2012, and Bink returned to Cambridge.
I really hadn’t got it, not at all. Not why she had left home to live a mile or two away, over the summer holidays. Nor why we didn’t see her any more.
Nor where this strange... what? Antagonism, I suppose... had come from. Or why.
Curious, that I had been the first in the family, by some months, to feel the chill in my flesh over Gatsby.
And yet I was so blind, so deaf and ignorant, when it came to her welfare that autumn. Needing my other children to see what I couldn’t.
Bink had asked if Rosie could spend the weekend with her.
There was a harp workshop taking place that Saturday in Cambridge: enjoyable, educational, where she could perform with other harpists. I’d signed nine-year-old Rosie up already.
And a concert in the afternoon, learning orchestral sight-reading.
It would have been much easier for me to take her myself. But I like to please Bink, of course I do. So I made everything far more complicated for myself than it need have been, organised a lift for Rosie at 8am with another participant; then another lift to Bink’s after the workshop; then Bink was supposed to take her to the concert in the afternoon.
When I learnt she hadn’t and asked why, the answer was trivial: they wanted an ice-cream or something. She made me feel (as Bink often did) a pushy-control-freak parent, for trying to organise their afternoon.
This is wrong, Serena observed, afterwards.
A child doesn’t spend the weekend with someone who isn’t relating to that child’s parents.
I hadn’t joined the dots. Serena was right, of course. It was the first time Bink had spoken to me in ages. Because she wanted Rosie.
I don’t think you should send Rosie again, Serena said. It’s too confusing, for a child.
The realisation felt – horrible to admit – liberating. We no longer had to go along with Bink’s plans, where Rosie was concerned. Indeed, it wasn’t right to do so, if Bink was cutting me out of her life.
And a watershed. From now on, the child’s needs would be paramount, not the adult’s... however ill the adult was.
A decision which was to cause much anger and accusation…
Then it was Alex.
He, like Ben and Bink, was due to graduate the following summer. He contemplated, out loud, throwing in his degree, to go and look after her.
Chuck in your degree?! Why, Alex?
To save Bink’s life.
What had he noticed, that I had completely missed?
He and Bink were part-way into the Michaelmas Term. He went to find her, to tell her the deadline for the Cambridge Bursary Fund (formerly the Isaac Newton Trust) was the next day. It gave generous financial support to students who qualified. If he did, Bink would.
She wasn’t in her room. He went to find her in college. She wasn’t in the hall or bar or café. He looked in the library.
He exhausted everywhere he could think of.
He rang me.
I rang Gatsby. He might know.
He was LA, on a work trip.
And he refused to tell.
Ben was incensed. She is vulnerable. Suicidal.
Ben, too, seemed to know what I didn’t.
Gatsby is thousands of miles away, not even in the same day-and-night zone!
We must tell the police.
No Ben, I overruled.
Cambridge has rules about residency. You have to keep term for a certain number of weeks in the year to qualify for your degree. Bink might be able to wing the language, the set texts, the lit crit. She’s pretty smart.
But even Bink couldn’t get a degree if she didn’t fulfil the university’s basic qualification.
I had no idea how the rule might be interpreted, or how strict they might be. Just as we had no idea where she was.
I didn’t dare blow her cover.
Ben was right, of course.
Rescuing her from Gatsby – had we succeeded – would have been worth a very great deal more to her life and health and welfare than a Cambridge degree.
Had we but known.
And, as I say… had we succeeded.