We woke up bright and early next morning, determined to enjoy the last few hours of our holiday. We had to be out of the caravan by 10 o’clock, so it was chaos until we’d got everything packed again, and poor Mum had a bit of a sore head so she wasn’t moving around much. We left her to some peace and quiet and went for a last stroll on the beach. It was a sunny day but the wind was very strong, so we wrapped up warm and watched the kite-surfers and sand-yachters, who were out in force.
“Some of these men are hot,” noted Karina.
I smiled to myself. It seemed like lately she had a sudden interest in boys now that Annabel and I were talking about them all the time. Sitting there and watching all the action and feeling the wind blowing through my hair really made me feel refreshed and alive, a world away from all the madness of my life in London. Maybe Mum had a point about moving to the sea, I thought to myself.
We strolled back to the caravan just before ten to collect our things, and then Mum and we all wandered over to the bus stop for the 10.10 to New Romney. It was possible to live without a car, I thought, after all we had managed it for the past sixteen years. It just involved a bit of planning, and relying on public transport a lot.
In town was a very nice pub which did a Sunday carvery, which is where we had arranged for Crystal to pick us up, so we had a lovely roast dinner and then sat and waited for her.
“Hello darlings,” she called out when she arrived, “have you had a nice break?” Then she hugged Annabel as if she hadn’t seen her for a month.
I thanked Crystal for the charm bracelet, which I was wearing, and for letting Annabel come.
“You may be seeing a lot more of her soon, have you heard the news?” she looked at my mother.
“No, we’ve been avoiding it,” Mum answered pointedly.
“The Chief Executive of Wadham Council has resigned. And all sales of their Council houses have been halted until the police have finished their investigations.”
Mum and I looked at each other, and then I looked at Karina and Annabel, who both gave a cheer. It was good news, obviously, but we were both speechless.
“Stephen told me this morning that there is going to be a government inquiry into every Council in the country to find out what they got up to during the war!”
“Wow!” I said, with feeling. I was completely stunned, but very, very pleased.
So on that happy note we boarded Crystal’s car and drove home, with us all chatting excitedly.
When Mum and I returned home there was a message on our telephone from the Mayor of Wadham Council with a brief message asking Mum to contact him, so she rang and left a message on his voicemail and we spent the rest of the day wondering what he was going to say to us. As it was Sunday we would probably have to wait another day.
I went up to my bedroom to unpack my things and then thought, I’m going to ring my Dad. So I called his number and he said he’d ring me right back, and thankfully he did.
“Hi Dad.” There was so much that I wanted to say to him, but I didn’t want to scare him off.
“Did you have a nice birthday?”
“Great, thanks. The best ever.”
“Oh, that’s good. Listen, Lacy, I’ve read the papers and seen you in there, and I’m very proud of you. But I want you to know that I’m not ringing you just because I’ve seen you in the papers. I didn’t know about that before I rang.”
I was pleased to hear him say that, and a little bit of hardness in my heart melted.
“Well Dad, I’ve got lots of questions to ask you.”
“I know. You can ask me anything you want.”
“Why did you leave us?” I felt a lump come into my throat as I said it.
“You deserve some straight answers, even though I’m not proud of myself. Your mother doesn’t know this, but I was married when I met her.”
He paused again. I was silent. “Lacy, are you still there?”
“You’ve got an older brother and a sister with my ex-wife, and a younger brother and sister with my new partner.”
“I’d like to meet them.”
“I thought you’d say that. The two eldest are away at university now, but I will have a word with them. That is, my eldest son isn’t speaking to me, but I still hear from my daughter once in a while.”
“I’d have loved to hear from you once in a while.”
“I know, and I’m so sorry. Listen, I was thinking of coming up next weekend to see you. Would that be okay?”
“Can you take me to see your parents? I want to meet my Grandparents.”
“That might be difficult. You see –”
“They don’t know about me.”
“That’s right, I’m ashamed to say they don’t.”
“Well, I think it’s time they did,” I continued. “I never knew my Mum’s parents so I want to meet them. They must be getting old now.” I could tell my Dad was squirming.
“All right, well leave it with me, but I can’t promise, okay?” I was silent again.
“Actually, they don’t live far away from you, in Hunter’s Corner by the Common. I’ll try to arrange it for next Sunday.”
“Okay then, we can have a proper conversation when we meet up, because there’s lots more things I want to know.”
“You were always a bright little thing, asking questions. Well, I’ve got your mobile number now, so I’ll give you a call on Wednesday evening to let you know what’s happening. If I can’t take you to see them, would you still want to see me?”
“Yes, I would. Somebody tried to kill me last week, so I nearly didn’t see anybody again.”
I heard my father take a sudden gasp of breath. I hadn’t meant to say that but it just came out.
“Really? Oh Lacy, I’m so sorry. Is it all connected with what was in the paper?”
“Yes,” I replied, my tears starting to fall.
“Have they caught the person responsible?”
“He’s dead.” The tears were really flowing now.
“Somebody tried to kill my little girl? That’s disgusting! Listen, Lacy, it sounds like you’ve got yourself in some sort of trouble. Do you think you’re safe now?”
“I don’t know, Dad. I think so.”
“Can I speak to your Mum?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll ask her.”
So then I went downstairs and asked her if she wanted to speak to Dad, and she was really shocked but agreed to. I handed her the phone and went back upstairs to let them have a bit of privacy, although I could hear what she said. They spoke for about ten minutes before she called out to me,
“Lacy, Dad wants to say goodbye.”
I came back downstairs and spoke to him again briefly, when he said he’d email me and send me some photos of my brothers and sisters, and then call me on Wednesday about meeting up at the weekend. After he rang off, Mum gave me a big hug.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
I looked at my mother, and I could tell that she was upset too.
“Do you think he really cares about me?” I asked.
“He sounded really sorry. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. But I realise now that I wasted too much time thinking that he cared about me; and that he was never going to come back.”
“Did he tell you he was married?” I asked her.
“Just now, yes he did, although I did suspect it after you were born and he was being so secretive.”
“Would you still have had me, even if you knew he was married?”
“Gosh, that’s a really hard question, Lacy. But the truth is, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me, because you gave me something to live for.”
We continued hugging.
“And I’ve got some half-brothers and sisters that I might meet one day. And his parents.”
“Yes, he mentioned about taking you to see them.”
So after our heart-to-heart I sent a message to Julian briefly explaining about the weekend, and that I was looking forward to seeing him again. He texted back that he wanted to take me out for a birthday celebration meal on Monday, and Mum said I could go as long as I was back before 8 o’clock and she knew where we were. I felt a bit better then, though I was so worn out emotionally that I went to bed early.