Winter, 2013 - 2014
We had no idea where Bink spent Christmas, that winter after Serena’s lovely wedding.
If indeed she did. If she still breathed and lived.
Having lived in a recognisably working vicarage for fourteen years, in what was technically inner-city, we had met plenty of homeless. I knew about the life-expectancy of rough sleepers.
Three years is supposed to be good-going.
Bink had been a target for sexual abuse even living in the privileged confines of Cambridge University. She is so small… so vulnerable…
It was years before we learnt where she did.
With a lovely family, whose son had taught her Classics when we were living in Oxford. (I had once imagined Bink herself might have such a boyfriend: academic, musical, Christian. They’d never have had any money... but how much happiness, music and children she might have shared with such a friend!)
Then she went on to sleep rough. For a month? Was it two? In the bitterest teeth of winter. In a desperate bid for treatment.
Which led to none.
Look on the streets. At those huddled there, hungry and cold. Does anyone care? Most of them are in need of treatment.
Eventually admitted herself to a psychiatric hospital... Which proved worse than living on the streets.
Herded like animals. Made to wait humiliating, dehumanising hours for a few-minutes’ conversation with a nurse. Like blacks in the time of apartheid. Non-persons.
They are loonies. Why would you treat them like human beings?
More terrible than anything she’d been in before, which even I found hard to credit.
But we knew nothing of this. Would it have been more bearable if we had?
We did hear – either late 2013 or early 2014 – from the Chorister School, where ten-year-old Rosie was boarding two hundred miles away, that she’d had a lovely weekend with them.
Bink and Gatsby. Came to take Rosie out for the weekend. Surely you knew, Mrs Atkins? It was the boys’ choir on duty that weekend, so she was allowed out for the weekend.
Oh my word.
Some parents, I know, would have exploded their anger and grief and terror at the school itself.
(You did what? Without parental permission? How dare you?! Calling my lawyer…)
I know plenty of parents who would. Totally unfair as well as pointless. Long before Rose started at the school, Bink had asked if she could take her up there to settle her in. At the beginning of her first term. She seemed well when she asked.
Bink can’t understand “broken” promises. Is very black-and-white, if the believes she’s been let down. So we had let Bink and Gatsby take Rose there the previous September: my harp and all her luggage in Gatsby’s car, several days staying in the North of England, introducing her to the school.
How could the staff know how much had changed? If we had trusted Bink and Gatsby then...
(We didn’t know until years later what Gatsby had done that previous summer. We had several meetings with the police when we did. I wondered what the impact might have been on the care of his own daughter, if we’d known sooner.)
Well, the school must be told now.
Never, I said. Never again. Ever, ever, ever. Gatsby is never to be allowed to see Rose again.
Nor is she to be allowed out, with anyone, without our express permission.
And if Bink rings on the school call-box, we are to informed immediately.
Do not fetch Rosie, if Bink rings asking for her.
Poor Rose. Singled out so often by her sister’s illness.
It was a truly wonderful school and I’m sure they did this very discreetly and compassionately... but dearest Rose must have been the only child whose telephone calls had to be screened.
And of course, you can imagine, to wretched Bink’s troubled and twisted mind, how this was interpreted.
Such evil parents. Keeping two loving sisters apart.
Taking out their revenge on a child and using her as a pawn in their anger.
(She put that on her Facebook page later that year. Some of her Cambridge friends, people we’d had staying in our home, were appalled at us. But not quite all. I remember one: Bink I’ve met your parents; they’re lovely; this is very sad indeed…)
All in Bink’s poor sick mind.