And Bink wasn’t talking to me.
That is, she wasn’t talking to any of us. But her silence was more particularly targeted at me than anyone else.
Serena interprets this as a form of self-loathing, when Bink punishes me. Why else but that I am the nearest she has to herself?
It came as a surprise, when she was in her early twenties, that she told me she had always assumed she would go up to Oxford to read English, marry at twenty-two, become a writer and have lots of children by the age of thirty. It never occurred to her that she wouldn’t do as I had done.
So any ruling about Rose’s safety had to come from both of us. More particularly, Shaun.
Please explain to Bink, I said to the house mother, that it’s very kind of her to want to take Rosie out for the weekend, but she’ll have to talk to us first. Either of us. If you can say it’s policy that you can’t allow a child off the premises without express permission from the parents, it would help.
I can’t, she said.
I’ve tried and tried. Bink doesn’t answer her telephone. She left me a message, but I can’t get back to her. And there’s no facility for voicemail.
Ah, that one...
No, she doesn’t I’m afraid. Not telephone, not email... doesn’t even read old-fashioned letters. All contact is on Bink’s terms, always.
So she might just turn up, two hundred mile journey and more, to take Rose out... and not be allowed even to see her.
It was heart-breaking. But then, so much of Bink’s life has been.
Why was I the one worrying about this? Bink and Gatsby decide to drive half the weekend to see a child without confirmation from the school or the parents that they can... why should I care?
Why should the house mother care? But she worried too.
Bink had rung the school earlier in the week.
A few hours before they set off on Friday, the house mother managed to speak to her.
Please contact your parents before you come. We can’t let you visit a pupil without permission from the parents, and they’d like to talk to you.
There are advantages to being a father. Not nine months dragging around an extra stone and a half culminating in an excruciating few hours of utter and extreme torture and then having the life sucked out of you for several months more being not quite all of them.
Though this possibly informs the subsequent lifelong difference.
Shaun was working all day. In classrooms. A bit preoccupied. Given that he was the one preoccupying the others in the space.
Me, if I were a brain surgeon in the middle of operating on Einstein, involved in the trickiest medical manoeuvre known to Man, and Bink had rung me that day, I’d have shoved all the scalpels in the hands of the most junior nurse in Theatre and taken the call.
(Actually, this is a lie. If I were playing Lady Macbeth, I wouldn’t. Just shows: I wasn’t called to be a brain surgeon.)
Shaun was busy.
Sent Bink a text saying he couldn’t speak until later.
So she had to contact the school and leave a message for Rosie, apologising that they’d left it to late to organise this time.
We will come and see you very soon indeed.
How would she do that, I wondered.
Given that she still didn’t want to talk to us.
And we would never let Gatsby see Rose again.