High summer 2015
By half way through 2015 there had been a small group of friends praying for Bink for six months.
Matters had improved hugely in that time.
And were still utterly dire.
After being out of communion with her family, often in unknown locations, almost since Serena’s wedding in 2013, she had made contact; come home; talked of doing voluntary work...
And then disappeared back to Gatsby’s again.
And passed up the opportunity to be treated in the Springfield Hospital.
Meanwhile the river of time flows inexorably on. Life continues.
You try to continue with it. There are four other children we have. They have lives too. It is hard, sometimes (a mother only as happy as her least happy child, &c.) but it has to be done.
Life has to be lived.
Rose – Rosie, as she was then – was at school over two hundred miles away. The previous summer, she had ploughed her own furrow, forged her own path, broken away from all family tradition and previous rôle-models available to her, and been awarded a prize on Speech Day.
The Greek Prize.
By virtue of being one of fewer than half-a-dozen members of the voluntary after-school Ancient Greek club. All of whom were awarded the Greek Prize.
So the following year, at the beginning of the Summer Term, 2015, I asked the school secretary whether Rose might be in line for a prize again, at the end of term. Because if so, I would book train tickets now so we could afford to be there.
No idea. Sorry. It’s not decided until much nearer the time.
Assuming that no Atkins was going to do something so spectacularly out of character and win a prize more than once in her life, I didn’t book.
A week before the end of term. A personal message from the head. You might want to attend Speech Day after all.
I looked up train tickets. Over £200… Not even to witness Rose share the Greek Prize with half a dozen other pupils for the second time in her life could I afford such a sum.
I rang the secretary back. It was a lovely idea, I said. Thank you for giving me the tip-off. But alas...
That’s a shame, she said. The head particularly thought you might want to be there.
I’ll come with you, Serena said. We’ll make a day of it!
I can’t, I said. Have you seen the prices?
Christian will book our tickets. You can pay me back when you can. I’ll meet you in Sandy Station around breakfast time.
(Why was Christian booking my ticket? Oh well…)
I was so early at Sandy I could have taken the train before.
Shall I? I rang Serena and asked.
Absolutely not! We’re meeting on the train. You’ve got to be on the same one as me.
The last time I’d travelled to see Rose at school – I believe Serena and I went together then, too: to cheer Rose on donning her surplice as a chorister in the cathedral – I discovered that tin-pot one-horse Sandy Station does a drippingy hot bacon-butty and stiff mug of tea.
Don’t, Serena told me just in time.
Don’t buy yourself breakfast while you wait for me at Sandy Station.
I really liked that last bacon butty and stiff tea. (Didn’t eat the butty, on account of I’m really good and don’t eat unnecessary carbs: I just picked the bacon out. And I watered the tea right down, on account of I don’t actually like it stiff but really weak and milky. Perfick.)
I looked longingly at the straggle of what passes in Sandy for commuters, handing over two quid and getting two rashers of bacon.
And suddenly realised.
Mid-July. Our wedding anniversary. And Shaun was off for the week, playing soldiers with the CCF cadets in a ditch somewhere.
His loss. (Turned out, it most certainly was.)
Another message from Serena.
Who had raced across London in an über, sweat breaking out all the way, having got the wrong time for the train. Caught it by a whisker.
Meet you in the First Class carriage, she said.
Something wrong with your hearing? Get in the First Class carriage! When the train pulls in to Sandy.
What was Serena up to?