Chapter 20

INCIDENTS CROWDED WITH LIFE 

CHAPTER TWENTY 

‘Hall Of Mirrors’

I lay in the bath listening to the soft sound of Ray’s gentle snoring from the next room. In a kind of dream, I reflected on my shock, half an hour earlier, at seeing him standing there outside my flat. His unexpectedly sudden return, after weeks of not having a clue where he was, rather than prompting spluttered shrieks, in fact turned me quite speechless. I’d simply waved him inside and then just stared at him. Several questions jostled in my head but my mouth wouldn’t turn them into actual words. Finally, with a faint smile flickering across his face, he’d said,

“Aren’t you going to say hello?”.

He looked terrible, exhausted and pale. The swagger he’d possessed on the night I met him weeks earlier was now replaced by an air of a defeated prodigal son. The question I’d kept on the tip of my tongue, if he’d ever returned, now sounded rather lame:

“Where have you been?”

“Make me a cup of tea first?” he asked, his usually sparky wink now a rather tired attempt at cute.

As I boiled the kettle and poured the hot water onto his teabag, he collapsed into an armchair and watched me busying away for him. The look on his face was like a child’s watching his mother baking in the kitchen.

“Okay,” I said, handing him his tea, which he slurped down as though he hadn’t drunk anything for days, “now tell me. What’s going on, Ray?”

Draining his cup, he sighed heavily and, as I sat in the other armchair cradling my mug like a comfort blanket, he began his sorry tale:

“Right…”. He glanced over at the chair by the table and smiled, “Oh! You’ve still got my jacket!”

I responded with a look which said, ‘Get on with it’, and so he did:

“First off, I want you to know that none of the last few weeks were planned. I fully intended to come back that night, I wanted to come back! I did. Honestly. But I couldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“When I went back to my flat, my -”, he looked across at me and winced, “my girlfriend, well, ex-girlfriend, was there.”

He watched me as I took in that bombshell. All I could manage was a mouthed, ‘Wha -?’

“Yeah, I know. I should have told you but…I’d been living with her for a couple of years, but it was over! Honest! She’d moved out. Anyway, I walked in and there she was, sitting there like nothing had happened. I’d kicked her out, for God’s sake! She was waving a set of keys at me, said her brother had given them to her…he and I go back a while…and telling me her family want me to help them with another job. If I said no, it’d be curtains for me, that’s what she said anyway, and I believed her. They’re a nasty bunch.”

“What kind of job?”

“A robbery. I used to be their driver, all sorts of stuff, usually big jobs, lots of cash, she and I did very well out of all that. Unfortunately, we drank most of it away.”

I put down my half-drunk tea and decided I needed a proper drink! I poured myself a vodka with a dash of lime, offering him one, but he declined with an emphatic, “No thanks!”

With a mixture of fascination and shock running through me, I took a large swig of my drink and sat down:

“So…did you do this job?”

“Yeah, that night, they robbed some jewellery shop in the East End, it went fine, I got them away ok…but, anyway…when I got back she was still there. She had some stuff with her…you know…” He mimed shooting up. “We used to do it together a lot but I’ve been off it for months. Thought I’d kicked the habit. But when it’s offered…it’s like…” He looked haunted. “Oh Christ, it’s all such a mess, such a fucking mess!”

“So – are you back with her, this -?”

“Sarah. Nah! She and I got wrecked for a few days, too fucked up to fuck. I actually can’t remember most of it, we were out of it for God knows how long. Anyway, her brothers have taken her home now, thank God. They say I’m a bad influence!” He laughed ruefully. “Me! It was always her, she’s the bad ‘un, but they think she’s little old weak-willed Sarah under my spell. What a joke!”

He looked at me, his eyes resembling a lost kitten, but I resisted. Truthfully, I was  wondering who the hell and what the hell I’d got myself involved with. I found myself wishing he hadn’t come back at all. As his tale sunk in and I desperately tried to think of what to say and do, his plaintive voice cut through my thoughts:

“Can I just stay tonight? I need to get some sleep and get myself sorted. Please. I’ll be gone tomorrow, I promise. This is too much for you, I can see that. I’m sorry.”

“What about your flat?”

“Kicked out. The landlord turned up for his rent a couple of days ago and found the place looking like a drug den, it was a real shit-hole. That’s what she does to me, I end up being nothing better than a strung-out tramp. But at least her brothers have ditched me, thank goodness. Out of my life at last. I slept on a friend’s sofa last night, you know, the barman who -”

“Oh yeah, another one of your salubrious friends!”

I saw a flash of anger in his eyes, but only for a moment, then he laughed:

“Fair enough! I don’t keep good company, it’s true. Never did. You brought home a bad lad, John.” He leaned over to grab my hand but I moved it away. “When I met you, I thought, at last, someone nice, someone good, someone who likes me, doesn’t want anything from me, except – me. And I’ve fucked that up now, haven’t I?”

The abandoned kitten look again attempted to melt me, almost did, but again I resisted:

“Okay!” I said, standing up. “My bath is going cold, and I definitely need one now. You go and lie down, get some sleep and we’ll see what the morning brings.”

As I walked towards the bathroom a terrible thought struck me:

“Er – your girlfriend and her brothers – they don’t know where you are, do they?”

Ray was already settling himself on the bed:

“No! No, don’t worry about that! They have no idea about you, about my ‘other life’. I’ve never mentioned it to any of them. They wouldn’t believe me anyway. Tough ol’ Ray a pooftah? They’d just laugh! And anyway, they’re gone now. That’s all finished.”

By the time I’d finally lowered myself in the thankfully still hot water, letting the rainbow-coloured suds climb deliciously up to my chin, he was snoring soundly.

***

“Why don’t we get a flat together?”

Ray’s whispered question in the dark woke me up. I realised I was snuggled in his arms and reluctantly turned on the bedside light:

“What?” I said, sitting up and wiping sleep out of my eyes.

“I think if we got a flat together, something a bit bigger, and set up a proper home, things would be better.”

“For who?”

“Me for one. Wouldn’t you like to?”

I had never even thought about it. For heaven’s sake, we’d had just two nights together, with a very stressful and unsettling break of several weeks in between. I hardly knew him, and in fact I knew him probably less now than I had after our first night together. I didn’t know whether to believe his tale of driving a robbery van, followed by drug-ridden days with his ex, and then magically turning up on my doorstep. It sounded genuine as he’d told it, but now –? Especially at the ‘3 a.m. Doubt Time’. But here he was, suggesting we become a couple! Talk about whirlwind romance watching your life get carried off. Without thinking, the words tumbled from my mouth:

“I rang William Hill. You know, Ray, the Bookies. Where you ‘worked’.”

Ray’s head clicked towards me, his ice-blue eyes darting about as I spoke:

“They’d never heard of you, not the Mile End Road branch nor indeed their London Head Office.”

He sat up and nuzzled me with his head:

“Yeah. That was a porkie.”

“Another one.”

“You calling me a liar?” It sounded angry, but he was smiling.

He leaned forward to hold me but I squirmed out of his grip and got up to put on the kettle. Making tea gave me something mundane to concentrate on. As I busied away, out of the blue I heard him say,

“I think I’m falling for you, John.”

I actually laughed. Undaunted, he sat on the edge of the bed. I still couldn’t help admiring his perfectly-formed stocky little body. But this had reached a point beyond lust:

“You’re different from anyone I’ve ever met,” he said, staring at me. “Man or woman – and I’ve had my share of both. You’re the best.” I gave him his tea. “Most people would have kicked me off the doorstep and down the corridor last night, but you -”

“Yeah, I’m a bloody fool,” I said, sipping my tea and sitting by the window.

He started singing Elvis’s A Fool Such As I and lurched off the bed, took my mug from me and put it on the table.

“Come ‘ere,” he said.

***

The gorgeous strains of The Stylistics’ You Make Me Feel Brand New floated out of the transistor as, over a breakfast of Muesli and toast, Ray and I chatted about where we could find a flat together. The fact was, while he’d declared he was falling for me, though I’d been loathe to admit it to myself, I’d already fallen. On our first night. Our second night together had convinced me he was The One. Voices in my head were shouting ‘No!’. I just re-directed them to my heart, which wasn’t listening.

***

“You have such great bone structure,” Jo the make-up lady told me as she applied the base for the work of art she was about to perform on my face.

I was sitting in one of the small anti-rooms in Les Ambassadeurs, the beautifully stylish restaurant inside The Inn-On-The-Park off Park Lane. It was a boiling hot early August morning, and I’d arrived that day feeling very positive about things. I’d drawn out £120 from my Midland Bank account the day before, to cover the deposit and four week’s rent in advance on the flat in Harlesden that I’d found for Ray and me. Before I’d left, I’d given him the cash, the address of the flat and instructions on who to give the money to – a Mrs Rawindi, a very pleasant lady who’d shown me round the flat a few days earlier.

It was one of those typical London conversions, a once grand Edwardian house turned into several flats on three floors. A large, rather magnificently tiled hallway led to the flat’s inner front door, which opened onto a spacious sitting-room, which led out down a narrow, windowless corridor, with a sizeable bedroom on the right, then opening out into a good-sized kitchen. The bathroom was just inside the back door which opened out onto a walled cemented-over courtyard. It wasn’t a particularly pretty flat, but it was roomy, and I thought I could maybe make something of it, especially when Mrs Rawindi told me I could decorate the flat any way I liked.

Harlesden was a busy multi-cultural suburb of London, and the flat’s lounge window looked out onto the main road, which was full of restaurants, deli’s, a newsagent, several greengrocers and lots of different kinds of shops. It certainly wasn’t St John’s Wood, and I would miss its quiet subdued salubriousness. But the rent on the flat was basically the same as for my one-room bedsit. Even with the misgivings I still had about Ray, I was young and naïve enough to believe I could change him. I hoped that with a settled life he could leave behind whatever problems he’d had before.

Even now I get cold chills when I think how trusting I was handing over £120 to Ray. It was a lot of money in 1974, a quarter of what I’d been paid to write and record the theme song for the forthcoming Peter Fonda movie, Open Season. I don’t remember, though, having any sense of how foolhardy I was. I told him I’d see him at the flat later that evening, and happily imagined him sitting waiting for me with the keys to our new flat dangling from his fingers.

As Jo applied some dark blush rouge to my cheeks, Patsy sat watching the transformation. I decided to finally tell her about Ray (well, some details I kept to myself!). I prattled on about how marvellous he was, how in love I was, all the while knowing how much she’d disapprove. She and Stuart had given me a friendly career lecture just a few months earlier over lunch:

“Have fun by all means, John,” Stuart had said, “but romantic attachments just get in the way of a career, certainly in these early stages anyway. My advice? Stay single. For now anyway.”

As I chattered away like some besotted showgirl, casually dropping in the bit about the flat in Harlesden, I heard Patsy shift in her seat:

“Harlesden? That’s miles away!”

“It doesn’t take that long on the tube.”

“But, John! The flat in St John’s Wood was so perfect for you. Why would you want to leave it?”

Jo giggled and said,

“Love, eh? Makes us do silly things.”

“Silly is absolutely right, Jo!” Patsy said angrily. “So silly, John!”

As the eyeliner was delicately applied, I looked up to the ornate ceiling above us. Being pampered must have emboldened me:

“I’m twenty-one, Patsy. I can make my own decisions.”

“Yes, that’s right. Of course you can. But Stuart and I are here to not only help you in your career, but also, I like to think, to protect you, advise you, John. And my advice would be that this is a very bad thing to do. You’ve given us no opportunity to talk about this. We haven’t even seen the flat! Why didn’t you tell us about this Ray person before?”

Jo carefully applied dark red lipstick saying,

“Lips together. Purse them. Perfect!”

Just then, I saw Stuart walk in and beam at me:

“Wow! You look sensational, John!” he shouted. “Doesn’t he, Patsy? Amazing!”

“You do look fantastic,” Jo murmured, giving me a mirror.

As I viewed the gothic beauty before me, I secretly congratulated Tony Meehan. He had suggested the white face and black lips, and, as he said it would, this look truly transformed me.

From a corner of the room I could hear Patsy quietly telling Stuart about Ray and the Harlesden flat. Stuart mumbled,

“Who’s Ray?”

“Exactly!” Patsy hissed.

I gave the mirror back to Jo who stood back to take a good look at her masterful creation:

“Stunning!” she said, thrilled. “We should have Vogue magazine here!”

She took off the white linen cover from around my shoulders, handed me my black velvet jacket off the hanger, and looked excitedly over at Stuart.

“You look incredible, John,” he said as I did a little pirouette. “Like a star.”

Gently taking my arm, he walked with me, head down, a gesture which always meant ‘We have a problem, John.’

“You and I must have a chat, young man,” he said quietly.

I turned to him, feeling oddly masterful within my new star-like image:

“There’s nothing to talk about, Stuart. It’s done. I move into the flat this evening. Ray’s already taking my stuff over there. As we speak.”

Patsy, who had stayed close behind as we’d walked towards the photography set-up, situated by a huge and fabulously ornate spiral staircase, joined us and said,

“At least give us the address and phone number, John!”

“There isn’t a phone.”

They both gasped at that.

“I’ll use the phone box across the road!”

They looked dumbstruck.

I didn’t want to sound impertinent but I think I did when I said,

“What’s the problem?”

Patsy stared at me:

“How are we going to get in touch with you if we need you?”

“I’ll call in every morning to see if you need me for anything.”

Stuart joined in:

“But what if something urgent comes up? What if CBS calls us after you’ve rung us, to say they want you there that afternoon? Or they’ve set up an interview? How will we get that message to you? We won’t be able to, John!”

I suddenly felt extremely stupid. It had never occurred to me. And should have done. With no answer for them, and seeing the photographer approaching us with a huge grin, the three of us made independent decisions to cease the discussion for now.

“John!” the photographer cried, extending his hand. “I’m Mike Nicholson. Wow! You look fabulous!”

He beamed at Stuart, then at Patsy, who both put on a steely smile and shook his hand.

“Where do you want John?” Patsy asked Mike, her voice revealing none of the anger of just a few moments ago.

“Oh, I think on this amazing staircase, don’t you?”

***

For the next few hours, Mike photographed me; walking up and down the spiral staircase, both with and without the white fedora; standing and lounging in various wood-panelled rooms; sitting at the enormous exotically decorated bar with a multi-coloured cocktail the barman had created for me. All the while Jo occasionally stepped forward to touch up my make-up, getting rid of any ‘sheen’, and Patsy followed me from each set-up with the red and white fedoras at the ready for whenever Mike wanted me to don one of them for a particular shot. Meanwhile, I languished in the feeling of looking like a star. At one point, I caught myself in a gilt-framed full-length mirror, and inwardly gasped at how truly amazing I looked. Jo had done an incredible job transforming me into someone I found unrecognisable, and yet a person who had always lived somewhere within me.

Patsy’s reflection came into view and stood behind me smiling. She put her hand on my shoulder and whispered,

“That is the star I always knew you were, John.”

“Now!” said a bright-faced Mike, “Why don’t we go outside? I’d like to photograph John in Hyde Park.” He turned to me, “I have a little surprise for you, John!”

As we all emerged into the too-bright sunlight which seemed to scorch Park Lane, we were met by a superbly-smart lady, her perfectly coiffured long blonde hair fell around her pink Chanel frock, her bright pink stilettos reflecting the sun.

“Hello! You must be John!” she said. “I’m Vicky.”

In her hand she held two bejewelled leads, one blue, one pink, which were attached to two equally beautiful Afghan Hounds. Their exquisitely maintained manes seemed to float in the breeze, and rather matched her own, which she constantly swept back with an efficient flick of the head. She introduced her charges as Sara and Carn, and I said hello to them both. They smiled confidently back.

Mike kissed Vicky on both cheeks and grinned at me:

“I thought you could walk Sara and Carn through the park, John!”

“How divine!” Patsy exclaimed.

We all quickly crossed the busy road in a group, Vicky hurrying her charges along, Stuart waving at the cars to thank them for slowing down. Then, while Mike snapped away happily, I began sauntering through the leafy walkways with the impeccably-behaved Sara and Carn accompanying me. At one point Mike caught sight of a Victorian-style stone bench surrounded by trees, like a tiny magic garden, and suggested I sit on the bench with the dogs at my side. With just a single point of Vicky’s finger, the dogs stood perfectly still and beamed at her. Mike took several shots and then we were off again.

By about two o’clock we were finished, and Stuart invited everyone to his Denmark Street office for a snack and drinks. As we walked along all chatting together, I was aware of people stopping and staring at me, then walking on, or surreptitiously glancing sideways as they wandered past. I had become used to this kind of thing in my teens in Lancashire, my then shoulder-length hair drawing the attention of scoffers and name-callers. However, this felt different. I mentioned it to Patsy:

“Of course they’re staring, John!” she replied. “They’re trying to work out who you are!”

“They think you’re a star, John, they’re trying to place where they’ve seen you!” Stuart said.

“Welcome to fame!” Mike said happily, and, running backwards in front of us, took more photos.

The walk to Stuart’s office took about half an hour, and as soon as we entered the second floor room, Jo the make-up lady saw the upright piano and her eyes lit up:

“Oh! John! Will you play something for us?”

As Stuart handed round glasses of wine and Patsy busied in the kitchen preparing a large salad for us all, I played Kid In A Big World, while Mike again took more photos.

The dogs sat obediently at Vicky’s feet as she sipped her wine and listened to me playing. At the end of the song, I stood and bowed to the enthusiastic applause while Patsy brought in the lunch and a large bowl of water for Sara and Carn. We tucked gratefully into the cheese salad, with various cold meats on a wooden platter, and chatted away happily.

Finally, as we bade farewell to everyone, Stuart came back into the office and declared,

“What a fantastic day!”

Any lectures about the folly of moving in with Ray seemed forgotten, for the time being anyway.

***

As I put my key in the lock, I wondered what I’d find inside. I half-expected an empty room. As I opened the door, the first thing I saw was a bottle of champagne on the coffee table, and beside it a set of keys. I looked up, and there was Ray, grinning at me from inside the flat.

“Bloody hell!” he shouted. “You look fucking gorgeous!”

Although I’d been stared at all the way home on the tube, having decided to keep my make-up on for a while longer, partly to see what reactions I got, I’d actually forgotten all about it by the time I’d reached the flat. Other more worrying thoughts had invaded my mind. Needlessly.

Ray picked me up, carried me into the bedroom, lay me on the bed and went to get the champagne. I heard the cork pop and that delightful chuckle.

“Here’s to us!” he said, walking back in with two glasses. “Our new life, and here’s to you, you beautiful creature!”

At his request, I didn’t wash the make-up off until, in the early hours of the morning, seeing my reflection when I went to the loo, I decided that, with passion-smudged lips and runny mascara, I now resembled Bette Davis’s Baby Jane, rather than the pristinely made-up gothic creature of the previous day.

***

The next morning, I duly popped across the road at about ten o’clock to the phone kiosk and called Stuart:

“Steve, your press and promotion chap at CBS, has just called us,” Stuart informed me. “He would like us to go and see him today. The photos are ready!”

That afternoon, Stuart, Patsy and I sat in a darkened meeting room while Steve, a pleasant enough guy who had chatted cheerily as he’d walked us from the lift, turned on the projector and began pushing each slide through for us to see.

I was astonished. The pictures were utterly breathtaking. As Jo had declared, some of them could have been Vogue cover shots. There must have been about thirty which Steve showed us, each one as it clicked through emitting a “Fabulous!”, “Stunning!”, “Beautiful!” from both Stuart and Patsy. My two favourites were the one of me sitting on the stone bench with the Afghan Hounds, and the other of me sitting at the Les Ambassadeurs bar with my exotic cocktail.

“That’s the sleeve!” I said, as it came up on the screen.

“It’s certainly a contender, John,” Stuart murmured.

All the pictures viewed, Steve switched off the projector and got up to turn on the light.

“So, what do you think?” he asked us as he sat back down.

“They’re fantastic, Steve!” Patsy said.

“Wonderful!” Stuart said.

Steve turned to me,

“John?”

“I’m thrilled with them, Steve,” I told him, feeling very excited. “Mike’s a genius!”

“And the make-up, John,” Patsy said, “it looks beautiful – you look beautiful!”

“Don’t sound so surprised, Patsy!” I joked.

As we both giggled like thrilled schoolgirls, Stuart turned to Steve:

“But what do you think, Steve?”

“Honestly?” Steve asked.

“Yes.”

“ I think they’re disgusting!”

The three of us gasped at once.

He directed his gaze at Stuart:

“I can’t believe that you, Stuart,” his face and neck turning a baby-shade of pink, “allowed John to pose for these.”

He stared down at the slides with disdain.

Stuart leaned forward:

“And I can’t believe you’ve just said that!”

The two men glared at each other.

“Why don’t you like them?” I asked Steve, utterly devastated, but keen to dispel the hostile atmosphere.

Steve turned to me and looked incensed:

“Because they’re depraved, John, they are distasteful,” he spat the words out, “and this –“ he waved a hand over the slides, “is not how we want, how CBS wants you to be seen by the public.”

I shook my head at him. I didn’t know what to say. It was as though someone had thumped me in the chest. Stuart was staring at Patsy, who looked over at me with a kind of pity.

“You actually like them?” Steve asked me in disbelief.

“I love them!” I said. “This is exactly how I want people to see me!”

Steve stood up, meeting obviously over:

“Then we have a problem.” He carefully put the slides back in their box, tapped the box on the table then, without warning, threw it across the table, where it clattered into the projector, the slides crashing out and laying strewn around it. Steve looked at me, then at Stuart. He walked forward and held up his finger:

“There is no way CBS will be using any of those photos.”

He wagged his finger at the slides, then made a kind of helpless wave of his hand as he turned away from us and went to the door. He looked about to leave the room when Stuart also stood and walked up to him, faced him and, challenging his body space, said,
“So what now, Steve? Where do you suggest we go from here?”

Steve stepped back a little and raised his chin, obviously keen to maintain his superiority in the room:

“We arrange another photo session for John, but this time I get our sleeve designer involved, to make sure nothing like this…” he pointed again at the splayed group of slides lying by the projector…“happens again!”

He flounced out and left the three of us staring at each other.

“Oh Stuart!” Patsy wailed.

“I don’t believe it,” he replied sadly. “I’m so sorry, John.”

In fact, I felt it should have been me apologising. After all, the whole white face/black lips look had been suggested by me, after Tony Meehan had come up with the idea. Maybe if we’d done what Stuart first envisaged, the invitation card and white stick concept, we wouldn’t have been sitting there feeling like we’d just been severely scolded by the headmaster.

“I need a drink!” Stuart said, “let’s have lunch!”

***

Feeling just a little tiddly from two vodka and limes and sharing a bottle of expensive red wine over lunch, I got off the tube at Harlesden, going over in my mind everything that had happened earlier at CBS, still not really believing it. As I reached the flat, I was looking forward to ordering a takeaway from one of the Indian restaurants in the High Street and telling Ray all about it.

But, when I walked into the flat, I could tell it was empty. On the table was a half-drunk cup of tea, which I’d made for Ray just before I’d left, a plate of uneaten toast, but no sign of Ray. The Beatles’ ‘Blue ’67-’70’ sleeve was lying on the floor and the record was on the deck, the player still switched on. It looked like Ray had left in a hurry. I looked for a note, but there was nothing.

‘Oh well,’ I thought, ‘I’ll have a bath. He’ll be back soon.’

The following morning, however, after a feverish night once again full of strange dreams, it was back to square one, he hadn’t shown. I looked at the bedside clock. It was ten o’clock. I quickly got dressed, made a cup of jasmine tea, sat and cursed the bastard, and then went across the road to ring Stuart. I decided not to mention Ray’s no-show. I hadn’t told him about the first one yet, nor the still-puzzling aftermath.

Stuart’s bright and breezy voice cheered me a little. He told me he’d heard from Roslav Szaybo, CBS’s chief sleeve designer, that morning.

“We had a long chat. He sounds very positive, John. He’s arranged a new photo session for us. I liked his ideas.”

“Did you mention Steve’s bizarre outburst yesterday?”

“Yes, I did. I expressed my anger at how Steve had treated us, well, how he’d treated you to be more exact. It was inexcusably rude.”

“Did Roslav say what he thought of the Les Ambassadeurs photos?”

“All he said was he felt they didn’t promote the image CBS wanted for you. He thought they were a little too camp, too outrageous.”

I sighed loudly.

“I know, John,” Stuart said in reply, “but let’s see first what Roslav’s photo session produces. If we don’t like the new pictures, we’ll say so. He’s booking the session for early September. He must have liked something about the photos, he wants to use Mike Nicholson again.”

My next call was to my mum and dad. They’d just moved out of their cottage in Ramsbottom and into a corner sweet shop in Heywood. It was the one I used to pop into as a child to buy an ice lolly and pick something from the ‘penny tray’, before walking down to the park. Mum had told me a few months earlier about how she wanted to go back to the town where she had been brought up, where she’d begun her married life and brought up my sister and me. She fancied the idea of running a little shop, where she could chat to people who might remember her in her younger years. It was as though she wanted to return to happier, healthier times. I was keen to find out how the move had gone. But, unusually, Dad answered the phone:

“Hello, son,” he said. “I’m glad you’ve called.”

“Hi Dad, how did the move go?”

“Er, that’s why I’m glad you’ve called…not very well, I’m afraid. It’s your mum. I think you should come and see her. Soon.”

***

The names of some people in this chapter have been changed 

Copyright John Howard 2017