Alex had been to stay with Bink and Gatsby for a weekend sometime earlier, probably the previous winter.
With his infinite fairness, Aspergic objectivity and sense of justice, he had reported he thought Gatsby arguably even more the victim than she was.
In the early hours of a morning Bink had wanted something from Gatsby. Who, for all I know, was trying to sleep in bed. Or his children were. Or whatever you do at two or three in the morning if you’re a Gatsby with a mad Bink in your house.
So she picked up a pile of plates in the kitchen.
And dropped them .
On the floor.
One by one.
To get his attention.
Almost the moment Bink stepped into our house to live with us, even if it was only to be for a few days, I laid down the law.
She was frustrated with something, went into the garden and kicked a flowerpot. And broke it.
No, I said.
Never, I said.
You do not come into this house and break things.
I dare say you were frustrated, or in a panic, or needing help.
You find another way of communicating it.
Because I have enough demands on my time and my life, and even a humble flower pot is not something I want to waste my days replacing. And it will be me. It always is.
Ben, I need to talk to you.
Go on then, said Ben. You’ve got about a minute before I leave the house to take a lesson.
Bink sat silent for a minute, wanting more, much more from him.
Ben left the house.
For the next hour: Doesn’t he care about me? Why did he do that to me? How can he be so unkind?
Because, Lara, he had a lesson to take. And he’s not going to let his pupil down.
Aren’t I more important to him than his pupil?
Almost certainly yes.
So why didn’t he stay?
Because he had an obligation. Because we don’t measure your importance by waiting around for you do and say nothing. Because Ben recognises his pupil’s entitlement to punctuality.
(Which is what makes him sane and you mad.)
All the time we were having this conversation, she was holding a mug of mine to break it on a paving stone.
And I was holding her hand, so she couldn’t.
No, Lara. You don’t break my mug. It’s mine, and I don’t want it broken.
Let go of my hand.
Not until you let go of my mug.
Let go of me. I won’t break it.
You promise me.
You absolutely promise, you won’t break my mug if I let go of you?
It was astonishing how quickly she learnt.
She did break one more thing, though this might have been some time later. A garden cane. She was in some panic or anger with me.
No, I said. I told you, no.
But it’s only a garden cane! I specially chose something of no value.
Well, I’m glad you did that. Thank you, Lara. But still, I told you, no. It’s a nuisance even to have a garden cane broken.
You don’t break anything here.
We could see her getting better by the day.
She didn’t need to break things.
She found other ways.
And then she went back to Gatsby’s in the middle of that night, that April in 2015.
What could we do? We knew from his own words now, even if it hadn’t been obvious, that the relationship was destroying them both.
In an absolute sense, no doubt Alex was right. I’m sure God looked down on both of them, and pained His heart over both His suffering children.
And if I were God or Alex I probably would too.
I am not.
I’m a mother. I’m neurotypical. And I’m biased.
She was my daughter. She was very ill. She was half his age and perhaps less than half his size.
Just after she left there was a brief mention in the Sunday Programme on Radio 4 about how grooming works.
i. A vulnerable target is chosen: whether vulnerable because of age, or social class, or mental illness, or any combination.
ii. He or she is provided, even bombarded, with what she believes she needs: affection, money, addictive substances. Or perhaps a safe haven from the world, free board and lodging, and – something she had been promised – “a corner of my home forever, wherever that home may be.”
iii. She is separated from her family. (Indeed from any others who could provide her with what she genuinely needs.)
iv. Only then, when these other steps have been completed, is she or he exploited. Usually sexually.