Will Ye Go, Lassies, Go?
"This'll be good for you Di," Lola reasoned as Pam fussed over her suitcase. "You have to be positive about this."
"I am," Diana shrugged. "Positive Mum will never forgive me."
"Oh never mind her," Pam sighed as she folded a red Chinese dress into the case. "You're going to France for a well-earned break and you have a perfect right to see Dad if you want to."
"Yeah, I know that, but Mum thinks that I've gone over to the dark side," Diana moaned, stuffing rolled-up tights and neon-bright bracelets into the case.
"Mum made her choice, love," Lola repeated for the umpteenth time. "She did and said things she shouldn't have, and she'll have to live with that. Her opinion doesn't have to affect you."
"Easy for the shrink to say," Diana muttered, slotting pairs of shorts and cami tops in with her other clothes.
"Watch it, blondie," Lola warned, even as Pam collapsed with laugher onto the floor. "Pam, back me up!"
"God no," she spluttered, wiping her eyes, "You two argue like an old married couple. You need to get a partner, Di. You too, come to that Lo."
Lola bristled. "I am perfectly fine without a bloke, thanks-"
"Di, if you hook up with a gorgeous guy - or girl - in the wildness of France, bring back a mate for this one, will you?" Pam jerked her thumb at her mortified twin. "She is in desperate need of a shag."
"What?" she waved a hand airily. "You've very uptight - if you just went for a romp with someone, you'd be so much more relaxed-"
Pam didn't get to say any more as Lola tackled into her and they both rolled around on the floor fighting. Diana was laughing so hard she fell bum-first into her suitcase.
"What on earth is going on?" All three girls stilled to see their mother standing in the doorway, her arms cross and face pinched with annoyance. Even like that, Diana still thought her mum was the most beautiful woman she'd seen. With her gorgeous mahogany hair and dark green eyes, she was wasted as an executive's assistant.
Her lips thinned. Or on her current boyfriend, Timothy.
"Well? Any reason why you were making that amount of noise? Lola? Pamela?" Victoria asked in a tired voice.
"Nothing, Mum. We were just messing around," Diana piped up. Her mother's cool gaze landed on her youngest daughter.
"Why are you sitting in a suitcase?"
"I fell in." Diana flushed, wriggling out until she was standing. Her mother didn't say a word.
"You're going somewhere?" she asked eventually. Diana gaped.
"Yes Mum, I told you I was going to France," she managed, her mum's eyes narrowing. "To see Dad."
"I don't think so," she snorted.
"Mum, please," Diana begged as the twins sorted themselves out. Victoria stalked over, her face a tight mask of anger.
"Just stop it, Diana," she snapped. "Your father is gone and he is not coming back. You're being childish."
"I want to see him!" Diana shouted. "I miss him - not like you'd care!"
"Oh spare me the heartache," her mother sneered. "If he cared, he could have visited, or called, or written."
"But he did write, every year," Lola intervened coolly, her professional mask on. "And called on our birthdays. But, if I remember correctly, you decided we were well shot of him. You stopped taking his calls. You threw his cards and letters to us in the bin. You were determined to wipe him out of your life, because in your mind, he had done the same to you."
"Shut UP Lola!" Victoria screamed, her eyes narrow slits in her face. "So what if I did? If that bastard really loved us, he wouldn't have left in the first place! What can you say to that, hum? I'd love to know."
Lola remained silent. Victoria turned back to Diana, who was pale and shaking.
"Fine. You want to go to France? Knock yourself out," she said coldly. "But you're only setting yourself up for pain, my girl. He'll let you down hugely. You'll see I'm right! And when he does cock it up, don't come crying to me!"
Her mother flounced out of the room, the door slamming behind her. Wordlessly, Lola held out her arms and both her sisters went to her, gathering comfort in the embrace. If any tears were shed, it was never mentioned.
The girl at the airport check-in desk examined Diana's passport and checked in her bag without a word. Pam and Lola stayed with her while the hours ticked by slowly. Their mother was nowhere to be seen.
"Is Mum really that upset with me that she couldn't be bothered to see me off?" Diana asked as they ate a light lunch. Lola groaned and Pam set down her chicken wrap firmly.
"Get Mum out of your head, baby-doll," she said in her no-nonsense voice. "You don't want to meet Dad with a frown on your face. First impressions count, yeah?"
Before she knew it, they were standing in front of the departure lounge, the arrival of the plane being announced at a nearby gate.
"I packed something yummy for later," Pam said, a big grin on her face. "Hope you like it."
"Dad'll meet you by the main exit at the airport - just get your suitcase and go on through," Lola fussed.
Diana nodded, a bit shell-shocked by it all. She kept a smile on her face, willing herself not to fall apart in the middle of Heathrow Airport with the whole world watching. The flight was called, and passengers began lining up at the gate. Diana caught Pam looking at her phone, while Lola grabbed a cabin-crew girl about Diana's age and asked her to keep an eye on her until the plane landed. The girl smiled and nodded, going through the gate for a word with her supervisor. The sisters looked at each other.
"We'll ring you," Pam promised.
"Be careful," Lola said worriedly.
"Take loads of pictures-"
"And just enjoy yourself!" they chorused. Diana laughed, launching herself into her sisters' arms and hugging them both tightly. They all stepped back, the twins fiddling with errant strands of hair or dust on their sleeves. "Bye baby-doll," they said, linking arms and striding away, Pam's Harley Quinn shoulder bag swinging. Diana watched until they were both out of sight.
The cabin girl popped up beside her and gestured for her to follow her. Diana was lead to the ticket desk, through a corridor, down a flight of steps and out onto the tarmac. Diana made her way up the steps and went to her seat, clutching her rucksack like a lifeline. Two elderly ladies who'd been busy with the duty-free perfume took their seats beside her, one of them offering her a boiled sweet to have during take-off. Diana thanked her and popped the sweet into her mouth, trying to unzip her rucksack with shaky fingers. It was a brand new one, a last-minute present from her sisters; a TARDIS rucksack in a beautiful royal blue. They knew what a nerd she was.
The cabin crew welcomed the passengers aboard and ran through what to do during emergencies. Diana fastened her seatbelt, her nerves starting to fray when one of the ladies beside her started muttering the rosary to herself. Her companion smiled at her.
"Never mind her dearie, she's always like this on a flight," she said soothingly, patting Diana's hand with her own. "Is this your first time flying?"
Diana grimaced. "Yes. Was it obvious?"
The lady laughed. "You're like a coiled spring, dear. Just relax, we'll be fine."
The plane moved slowly along the runway, gaining speed as it hurtled towards the end, tilting upwards as it began to climb higher and higher, through the thick layer of clouds before it broke free and the sun shone through the cabin windows. Once the plane was level and the fasten seatbelt sign was off, Diana decided to investigate the contents of her new bag. Right on top were Pam's snacks: cheesy baps, strawberry cheesecake, a jammy doughnut and a bottle of flavoured water - all her favourites. Lola had packed one of her favourite books too, and she discovered that the pair of them had bought her a new set of pencils with a sticky-note attached, promising that there was a new sketchbook and paints in her suitcase. A smile on her face, Diana leaned back in the soft seat and watched the scenery below until her eyes closed and she slept.
Roses. She could smell roses again.
It wasn't as strong as last time though.
Diana opened her eyes. She was in a large, dark hall; the only source of light was a crackling fire at the top of the room in an enormous fireplace. She nearly jumped out of her skin when a loud clang ripped through the silence. She snorted when she realised it was just a large clock chiming the hour out.
A rustle behind her had her turning to see a girl around her own age coming down a set of white stone steps in a gorgeous dress that faintly clung to her curves. She made her way up to the top of the room. Two large, golden candelabras flared to life as she passed, revealing a long table covered in rich, delicious-looking food. The girl took a seat rather shakily in a large chair at the head of the table as a person appeared behind her.
Diana frowned. Why couldn't she see their faces?
The person - obviously a male - behind the girl spoke in a rich, velvety smooth voice that had Diana's pulse racing, but the other girl was practically crying, leaning away from her unwanted companion as much as she could.
Why couldn't the guy see she was uncomfortable? Diana went to go towards them, but her legs were refusing to move. Her voice stilled in her throat when she tried to call out to them. She snorted mentally. This was a dream. Why was she bothering?
A loud scream broke the silence.
Diana woke with a start.
Her neck felt sore, her face cold. The view outside the plane had changed from soft clouds and glimpses of the ocean to green fields and small towns.
"You all right, pet?" one of the ladies asked her. "We're nearly there."
Diana smiled and nodded before rooting around in her rucksack for her small hand mirror. Her hair fell in dark golden waves around her face, and her eyeliner had decided to smudge and make her look like a demented raccoon while she slept. She shrugged. She'd looked worse.
The plane began its descent, plunging through the clouds and finally swooping in to land with a roar that made Diana's ears ring. The fasten seatbelt clicked off and the cabin crew were wishing Diana and her fellow passengers a safe outward journey. Like toy soldiers, they filed off the plane and headed to the terminal building to collect their luggage. The conveyor belt hadn't started, so Diana fished around in her bag for her mobile and sent a text to her sisters: Landed safely - will text later if big meeting went down well! Love you both x
The conveyor belt eventually came to life and luggage started to tumble down onto the carousel, like sweets from a Halloween dish. Black bags, brown bags, plaid bags and suitcases, rucksacks and golf-clubs, and finally, Pamela's lime-green suitcase came into view. Diana dragged it off the conveyor belt and onto a trolley before making her way through to arrivals and headed towards the entrance, her eyes scanning the crowd for a familiar face.
After a few minutes, Diana saw a familiar figure in the distance. Her heart thumped with excitement and a grin appeared on her face. This was it.
"Diana!" Thomas said, a large grin on his own face. "Sorry I wasn't there to meet you at the gate - had to park my car. It's good to see you!"
"Good to see you too, Dad," she answered, feeling shy all of a sudden. Her dad laughed.
"What, no hug for your old dad?" he teased, holding out his arms. Diana flung her arms around him and they held each other tight. He still smells the same, she thought wonderingly. Soap and warm leather and mints, just like he always did. Diana couldn't believe how much she'd missed that smell. How much she'd missed him.
They parted and he grabbed her case, swinging it off the trolley with ease and heading in the direction of the car park where his scarlet Jeep was waiting. The suitcase was banished to the back seat, and Diana sat eagerly in front, just like she used to as a kid. The car smelt like pine and toffee apples, just like it always did. She sighed in nostalgia.
"Right then," Thomas said as he started the car. "Let's go home."