John’s gone back to his mother’s for a while. Peony’s gone with him. She said it was to help Justine out but I know she wants to keep an eye on the lad and make sure nothing untoward happens. Justine is out of whatever place she was in and is said to be most energetic and coherent. That would be a first.

But here’s the thing. I rather miss the little fellow. Oh he’s gruff and unpredictable, but we’ve been hitting it off, him and me. He does this thing where he leaps about in front of me and fires out ideas for my plots. Just the other day we were tidying up the garden when he began the bouncing business and asked me what it was like being old.

“I’m not old,” I said. “My mother is old. I am middle-aged.”

“What do middle-aged people do?” he asked, leaping all the more wildly. (It’s a good sign when he does that.) “Do they work?”

“Yes they do,” I answered, stopping to lean on my rake.

“Are there jobs for middle-aged people and jobs for young people?”

“Yes,” I said, an idea forming there and then.

“What if middle-aged people try and do young people’s jobs?”

“Oh John!” I cried. “It would end in comic disaster. What a brilliant idea. You are a clever boy. Now what shall I get you as a reward? A hot chocolate? Shall we watch some more ‘World’s Craziest Fools’?”

He had a little think.

“Can I start going to school now please? I am nearly five”

Bless him. He’s got a point, though.

We've been hitting it off, him and me.

We’ve been hitting it off, him and me.

*

I’ve just put the phone down.

Oh dear God, dear God.

I can’t talk. I can’t write. It’s happened. It’s finally happened. The biggest trial of a person’s life. Why didn’t she tell me? Oh why have I been so sceptical, so hard on her? What kind of daughter am I?

It’s easier if I just relate the conversation.

Once the male voice on the other end was convinced that I was the person he was after, he seemed at pains to stress that his call was not “orthodox”.

Only then did he remember to tell me who he was.

“I’m Dr Lorenz. Laurence Lorenz.”

“Eh?”

“You can call me Laurence, if it’s easier. Or just Dr Lorenz. Really – I don’t mind. Not Dr Laurence, though. That doesn’t work.”

“Should I know you?”

“Ah! So sorry. Really sorry. Yes, I’m your mother’s new consultant at the hospital. I’ve taken over from Dr Henge. As you know she came in for a routine test about her… her condition… last week.”

“Yes, I heard all about that. I hear about it all the time. She claims she’s worsening and that the whole medical profession is beavering away to find a cure.”

“Yes…”

“Yes what?”

“It’s about those tests.”

“What about them?”

“I wonder… I wonder if you’d come into the hospital to have a chat with me? I’ve met her and I don’t think she’s the type to….”

“To what? You keep drifting off. The type to what?”

“Well, I don’t think she’s the type that handles serious news very well. At times like this we prefer to speak to the next of kin first, discreetly. That way we can find a way to move forward together, work out a strategy as it were.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m afraid this is the kind of conversation that’s best had face to face. Next Thursday do you? Ten?”

“Well that’s a week away.”

“I’m so sorry. I know this has come out of the blue but I’d rather we’d just talk together, you and I, first of all, before well… before letting the cat out of the bag.

“Um. As it were.”

And that’s where it ended.

Oh my mother! My beloved mother! How can I undo all the awful things I’ve done to you, unsay all the nasty things I’ve said? The harsh words I used to your face and behind your back! Oh and to this blog. My heart is breaking and I am utterly ashamed of myself. I feel I have so little time to make it up to you. But I will. From here on I will be the loving and loyal daughter you deserve.

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