Winter 2013 and 2014
2013 was the Year of the Christmas Card.
I hadn’t forgotten the card: of course I hadn’t. I don’t suppose I’ll forget it as long as I live. I still have it, in the tiny drawer in my study where I keep precious things, but I don’t need to rootle through other treasures and find it, dig it out of my heart again, to know what it says.
I didn’t realise it was that year, that’s all.
It wasn’t until yesterday afternoon, when I looked back through the emails of the first half of 2014 so that I could drop back into place which order everything happened in, that I found a reference to it in a letter to someone else whose daughter has a similar illness. He had kindly asked. And in a rare moment of confidence I had shared what we both knew we shared anyway.
What surprised me was the timing. I hadn’t realised we had fitted so much pain, so much estrangement, into so few, such short months.
It was indeed in late 2013 that Gatsby and Bink had taken Rose out of school for the weekend. Despite, you notice, his insistence that he had no idea where she was or how she was living.
The envelope arrived just before Christmas
Bink’s writing is unmistakable. Very neat, very small, un-joined-up letters. Like a very careful child’s.
Addressed to Shaun and me.
All clichés apply. Heart racing. Palpitations.
I saved it up. Put it aside while I got some business out of the way. Made myself a lovely cup of coffee, with cream.
Took it into the sunlight in my East-facing study.
When had I last heard from Bink? Really? Was it years since she had last actually sent me something?
Took a sip of my coffee.
Slit the envelope open with a knife, to keep the envelope neat.
Slap in the face.
Bucket of iced water.
Bucket of scalding water.
All of them and nothing.
It was a cheap card, obviously someone else’s choice, out of a packet of childish, sentimental such. A gaudy cartoon kitten with a ribbon and bell, looking out at snow and a pillar box.
Shaun and Anne
Don’t expect me for Christmas
(Possibly there was an x. I suppose I ought to check really. An x might make all the difference, mightn’t it?
But not to me. Not then.)
I howled for half the morning.
One of the boys – Ben perhaps; or more likely Alex – came and found me. Asked the matter.
But don’t you see, he said. Calm. Objective. Does sound more like Alex.
This was kindly meant. She means exactly what she says. Don’t expect her.
She doesn’t want you to expect her.
How liberating it must be, to be Aspergic, sometimes!
The emails to the school pick up in the New Year. Bink ringing Rosie several times a week. Put through to her but monitored, to make sure Rose is coping.
Trying to hammer out some kind of policy with the staff, to protect her.
Then the inevitable…
Bink told Rose she was coming to take her out for the weekend again. Rang the house mother to arrange it with her.
Who, of course, told us straight away.
Oh lordy what now?
How to love both daughters, whilst protecting the younger?
Whilst the older wasn’t talking to us at all.
I will be in Cambridge tonight. Speaking at the Cambridge Writers.
Yet again, no idea where Bink is or how she is living.
Yet again, no way of seeing her, loving her, helping her…