Early summer 2014
We couldn’t protect Bink from Gatsby: she was of age.
I enquired into the law on “vulnerable adults” and there was no mileage there. (Mostly thanks to my stubborn protectiveness, Bink has never been sectioned.)
But at least Rose – in truth, perhaps considerably less vulnerable than Bink – was still under our jurisdiction. For a few more years yet.
We could protect her... or so I thought.
There was a family christening that summer. Rosie’s little cousin: first of the next generation. And the first family event since Serena’s wedding the summer before.
Might Rose be allowed, I had asked the cathedral organist some months beforehand, permission to come down South for it?
The organist agreed it was a significant celebration of faith and family, worthy of leave of absence. The dean and chapter were consulted and gave their necessary blessing too.
I booked her expensive train ticket well in advance. Advised on suitable attire. (I had decided on my outfit made for Serena’s wedding; Rose could wear her beautiful bridesmaid’s dress... just. For the last time.)
Cousins Fran and Fleur were coming for the weekend. And my sister’s family. We would travel in convoy.
No word from Bink.
You try to get into a rhythm of not caring. It doesn’t work, but you have to anyway.
Fleur had sent her a message a week or two before, offering a lift in their car.
Friday, happened to be speaking to the infant’s mother. Had she heard anything from Bink? Did she know if she might be there?
I think so, said my niece. She asked if she could bring someone.
You said yes?
Well, of course. Otherwise she wouldn’t be able to get there.
Without someone to drive her.
The lie was almost as staggering as the cheek. She knew we didn’t want Gatsby anywhere near Rosie.
Who was already on the train home.
Absolutely nothing we could do.
Yet again, a day both beautiful and terrible.
For the first time, I found myself not even wanting to see Bink. Shrank when she came near me. Avoided her over lunch.
Cheated, manipulated, Gatsby in Rosie’s presence.
Weeks before, Gatsby had succeeded in riling even Shaun to anger.
For her eleventh birthday Rosie had expressed a wish for a leather jacket. And Gatsby – Gatsby – had promised it.
We struggled to articulate why Shaun was so incensed.
Because it’s sexy.
Because it’s expensive.
Because he was a man in his forties and she a child.
Should I not have given her Ugg boots? Shaun’s sister asked, concerned.
Absolutely you should! I said. That was extremely generous and entirely appropriate. Thank you.
So I went on eBay and found a black leather jacket for a tenner.
Rose was delighted. She could wear – even lose – it with abandon and little regard for expense. I expect she eventually did both.
And the child was perhaps in control of the situation in the end.
At the reception Gatsby sidled up to her and gave her a present anyway. Wrapped but obvious: CDs. (CDs, we discovered later, only appropriate with PG. And much later, rejects from his own daughter.)
Could you look after this for me? Rosie asked Serena.
I don’t have a bag, Serena said. Give it to my friend.
So Rosie handed her unwrapped, unexamined birthday present to Serena’s friend.
Who contacted us that evening.
I’m so sorry: Rosie never asked for her present back and I forgot to give it to her at the end of the day. What should I do with it?
Clever little Rose!
That’s absolutely fine, we said.
Give it to a charity shop.