Mum seemed okay in the morning, although a bit quieter than usual. She didn’t want to talk about the incident at the library, and seemed quite happy when I said that I was going round to my friend Karina’s house.
I thought I might as well show her everything, so made sure that I had Mum’s camera with the digital photos we had taken to add to the stuff already in my school bag. I hadn’t even had a proper look at them yet. Then I met up with her at the 414 bus stop. She was quite sweet and asked about my Mum and stuff, and when we were upstairs on the bus I showed her the black and white photos.
“Wait a minute,” she said, peering through the magnifying glass, “does your Great Grandfather have odd coloured eyes?”
“Where?” I asked, eagerly grabbing it back off her. Of course, the photo was in black and white but funnily enough you could sort of see that his eyes were completely different shades of grey.
“Wow, that’s amazing!” I said, thinking about my own Mum’s eyes. “Well that’s it now, he’s definitely her Grandad, I don’t care what anybody says.”
I could also see, when I looked more closely, that he had her nose and dark coloured hair.
“I think I read somewhere that having different coloured eyes is the sign of a witch,” Karina stated, and then looked a bit embarrassed.
“Oy!” I yelled, giving her a slap on the arm. “Witches don’t wear crosses.” I showed her the one my Mum had given me. “This was his, too.”
“Oh that’s nice, Lacy.”
But it did get me thinking, one more amazing thing to come out of this week’s adventures. I would have to look up odd-coloured eyes on the internet to find out a bit more. Then I got out the digital camera and looked at the pictures we had taken yesterday. They were a bit boring but I handed the camera over to Karina. She flicked through and then stopped at one and zoomed in.
“Wow, look at that rainbow!”
She handed it back to me. “Look at your hands.”
At first I couldn’t make any sense out of what I was seeing. I had been doing a bit of a pose, holding the magnifying glass in one hand and the photos in the other. When I zoomed in I could see that the sun had glinted through the glass and the rays had made a tiny rainbow, which was shining onto the black and white photographs. The results looked pretty amazing.
“OMG I’m definitely printing this photo off for my project!”
“You should enter that into a photo competition,” Karina stated. “I bet you couldn’t do that again even if you tried.”
I zoomed back out and looked at the house, and saw that they were outside number 25. I felt a tingle in my spine.
“I bet this is their house,” I said to her.
“Why do you say that?” she asked, staring at me.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I dunno, just a feeling, I guess.”
Inside I was thinking, ‘it’s a sign’, but was too embarrassed to say so.
When we reached the high street we jumped off the bus and crossed the road to the library. I felt a little bit anxious going back inside, but I was determined to find out some answers for Mum. I saw the same man standing by the helpdesk so I walked straight up to him, with Karina following behind me. He saw me right away and came over.
“Hello,” he said, giving me a smile. “I’m glad you’ve come back. I’ve put together a few things for you and your Mum to look at.”
He reached under the counter and pulled out a large envelope, which he handed to me.
“Is she feeling better today?” He seemed genuinely concerned. I looked at his badge and read his name, ‘Tom Davies’.
“Yes thanks. And thank you for all this information, Mr Davies.”
“Oh, no problem, I hope it helps you find what you are looking for. Actually, I’ve got some more information but it’s on microfiche, so perhaps when your mother is feeling better she can come in and have a look at it.”
I nearly asked if I could have a look myself, but I was getting a bit embarrassed.
“Okay, I’ll tell her. ’Bye.”
We were both giggling as we walked out of the library.
“He’s quite nice,” said Karina. “He seemed very interested in your Mum.”
I laughed out loud then.
“Where shall we go now?” I asked her. Karina looked at her watch.
“Well it’s nearly 12 o’clock and I’m getting hungry. Why don’t we go for a burger and we can have a look at some of the stuff in the envelope?”
That sounded like a good idea to me, although all I could afford was a milkshake. We had walked in and ordered our stuff and I had just found us a table when I realised that Carey and his girlfriend were sitting opposite, and he had also noticed me.
“Hiya,” he called over.
I could feel myself going red. It was only last week that he had asked me to go bowling with him and his mates. Karina must have guessed something was wrong because she indicated that we should move to another table. I was about to answer him and I stood up again to move, but suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my ribs which knocked all the air out of me. I cried out and fell against the table, hurting my side even more.
“Lacy!” shouted Karina, quickly putting her food down and trying to grab me. It was too late, I had keeled over onto the floor and I started to make gasping sounds because I couldn’t breathe.
I heard Karina calling for help and I think I must have blacked out for a while because when I opened my eyes I could see her and Carey leaning over me, trying to wake me up.
“It’s all right, Lacy, they’ve called an ambulance,” she said in a shaky voice.
“Lacy, what’s wrong?” asked Carey.
I didn’t have the strength to say anything.
“Go away, Carey, I think you’ve done enough,” I could hear Karina say to him, defending me.
“I didn’t do nothing,” I heard him say back to her, “I’m not going anywhere until I know she’s okay.”
I took a deep breath of air and felt the blackness moving away as I started to come round. I tried to get up, but Karina made me stay on the floor. One of the workers at the restaurant came over and rolled me into the recovery position. This was turning into one big nightmare. Actually I felt fine again and wanted to get up, but they wouldn’t let me.
“Just wait till the ambulance gets here,” the worker said, “they can check you over in case you’ve hurt yourself.”
So there I had to lay until I heard the sound of a siren outside. Two paramedics came upstairs to examine me.
“What’s your name?” the first one asked, so I told him. “Okay Lacy, what happened?”
“I don’t know,” I replied truthfully. “One minute I was fine, the next I felt a sharp pain in my ribs.”
He examined my side carefully and pressed different places, asking if it still hurt.
“No, it’s okay now,” I replied.
Then he asked if I had banged my head and whether I’d been unconscious and for how long, and I let Karina do the talking because I really wasn’t too sure myself. Meanwhile, the other man had been taking my blood pressure and loosening my clothing. It could have been highly embarrassing, but I was too scared to care. When they were satisfied they both gently helped me to my feet, supporting my weight, before helping me down the stairs.
“I’m fine now,” I kept telling them.
I could see Karina following me down, and all I could think of was the envelope and my school bag.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got your stuff,” she called after me, seeing me looking round.
“I’m satisfied that you are all right now,” the first man said. “But I want you to go and see your doctor if you get any more pains like that, do you promise?”
“Yes,” I replied, nodding my head.
“We can take you to the hospital as a precaution,” suggested the second man.
“Oh no, I’m all right, honestly,” I replied, starting to panic.
“Where do you live?” he asked.
“She lives in Surrey Street,” Karina answered for me.
“Well technically we aren’t supposed to give you a lift if you aren’t going to the hospital, but seeing as it’s on our way to the depot, why don’t you both get in the back.”
I looked at Karina and she nodded at me, so in we went. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Carey watching me, but I was too embarrassed to look at him. I started giggling nervously, and that started her off too. Then we both sat on the bed while the other ambulance man sat in the back with us. He strapped us in so we didn’t fall off when it went round the corners. Before long we were back at my maisonette.
“Is anybody else home?” the first man asked.
“I think my Mum is,” I replied, so he went up the stairs and knocked on my front door.
Mum answered it with a worried expression on her face. “I’m all right,” I called out, following up behind.
The ambulance man explained what had happened and said that I was to take it easy for the rest of the day, and for her to keep an eye on me because I had banged my head. Karina handed me my school bag and the envelope back, saying that she had better go home and leave me to rest. Mum thanked her again for making sure that I got home all right.
“No worries,” she replied, “I’ll speak to you tomorrow, Lacy,” then gave me a little kiss on the cheek before leaving.
Mum made me lay down on the sofa, got me a drink, and said that when I was ready she wanted to know exactly what happened. Then she saw the large envelope I’d been carrying.
“What’s this, a letter for your doctor?”
“Err no Mum, it’s just something I picked up from the library.”
She looked at me keenly.
“So you’ve been back there again today?” I nodded.
“It’s all right, Lacy, I’m not cross with you. I’m just glad to have you back in one piece.”
“Oh?” I replied, “did you think something was wrong, then? I told you I was going out with Karina?”
Mum paused. “I just had a feeling...,” she hesitated. “Lacy, have you seen the news today?”
“No Mum, why?”
“Probably nothing to worry about,” she replied.
It’s really infuriating when somebody does that, but she wouldn’t say any more. Then, about an hour later, she said, “Where was it that your friend was going skiing?”
“Germany somewhere, why?”
“Oh, well I was watching the lunchtime news and it says there’s been an avalanche at one of the ski resorts there, that’s all. I’m sure it’s nowhere near where Annabel is staying.”
I made Mum put the television on and waited anxiously for the next news item, at 4 o’clock. The newsreader said that there had been an avalanche in the ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen which a group of British skiers had been caught up in. All had been found, but several of them had injuries, including a fifteen year old girl. There was also a telephone number for people to call if they were concerned. I quickly grabbed a pen out of my bag and wrote it down.
“Mum, you don’t mind if I call this number, do you?”
“No, of course not,” she replied.
She sat down next to me while I rang the number, and when I got through they put me on hold for quite a while. The operator asked me who I was, who I was asking about and what relation I was to them. When I said I was a friend she asked me how old I was and whether there was an adult in the house, so I put Mum on the ’phone. I could hear her saying,
“Yes, yes, yes, I see, yes. Okay, no that’s fine, I will, thank you very much,” before hanging up.
“Come on Mum, what did they say?”
“Well, it sounds like good news. Annabel was in the avalanche ...”
“Oh my God!”
“No, let me finish. She was rescued and they have taken her to the hospital. She hurt her head and she has a couple of broken ribs.”
I gave a loud gasp, thinking of the incident in Burger Man.
“The operator asked us not to say anything to anybody because they need to make sure that all the relatives have been informed before they release any names to the press.”
“So is she going to be okay?”
“Well the Operator doesn’t know any more details but she gave me the number of the hospital. I think we should wait a few more hours, Lacy, to give the doctors a chance to examine her and get her settled in.”
“Mum, you know, that’s what happened to me. I was just standing there in Burger Man when I felt a sharp pain in my ribs, and when I leant over to catch my breath I fell onto the floor and hit my head.”
Mum looked at me for the longest minute. Then she said, “What time did this happen?”
I thought carefully. “About 20 past 12.”
“Did you have your mobile ’phone with you today?”
“Yes, I did. I didn’t have the sound on though, because I was in the Library.”
“Well have a look to see if you have any messages.”
I thought Mum was being a bit weird but I got out my ’phone and switched it on. Sure enough, the inbox said that I had received a message. I looked at the details and it said ‘Mum’ sent at 12.20. I quickly selected it and read it out loud,
“Lacy, are you all right, please give me a call xx”.
We both stared at each other with wide eyes.
“Mum,” I said, “we must both be psychic!”
“Yes,” she answered, “I think we must be.”
Then we both started laughing and hugged each other, because what else can you do when you find out something like that, that nobody else would believe in a million years.
“So go on then, tell me what happened at the Library.”
“I went back and spoke to the man we saw yesterday – he’s called ‘Tom Davies’ by the way – and he said he’d sorted out some stuff and it was in this envelope.”
I saw Mum eyeing the envelope with a mixture of curiosity and fear.
“And then he said that he had some more info on microfiche, whatever that is, and that if you wanted to come back he would show it to you.”
“That was kind of him, he’s been very helpful.”
“Karina thinks he fancies you.” To my surprise, I saw Mum blush. “You don’t fancy him as well?”
Mum turned positively crimson. “Well, he’s not bad,” she said, which coming from my Mum was like saying he was a rock god superstar.
I pulled a face, but had to admit that even Karina had said he was ‘quite nice’, although I couldn’t see where they were coming from. I handed her the envelope.
“Shall we open it together?” I asked.
I could see that Mum wanted to, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
“No, I think we’ll leave it for tomorrow,” she replied, putting it on the mantelpiece. We’ve had enough drama for one day, don’t you think?”
I suddenly remembered the photos on her camera.
“Well, what about looking at the pictures we took of Lavender Road?” I said innocently, not letting on that anything dramatic was in there.
“Okay, I’m up for that,” she replied.
“Well, sit down next to me,” I said to her, just in case she decided to do her fainting thing again.
We began flicking through them and when we got to number 25 she skimmed past it and I had to get her to go back and have another look.
“Look at my hands, Mum.”
She zoomed in and stared in amazement.
“Wow, that’s really pretty, isn’t it. The sun was low on the horizon yesterday and it must have caught the glass and refracted the beam.”
I looked at Mum with new respect. “I can’t believe you just said that!”
She continued to stare at the picture. “It’s amazing how it’s made the photos you’re holding look like they are in colour instead of black and white, though.”
“I know, it’s really brought them to life.”
“Yes,” she said thoughtfully. “In a way I guess that’s what we’re doing with all this research, we are bringing them back to life.”
“And Mum, it’s outside number 25, almost the same as ‘125’. Now that we are officially psychic, I can say that I think this is the house that we are looking for.”
We both looked at each other and laughed again. A few hours later my Mum rang the German hospital, to be told that Annabel and her parents were all ‘comfortable’ and were being kept in overnight. I hadn’t even thought about Annabel’s Mum and Dad, but it sounded as if they had been caught up in the avalanche too.
“Can I ring Karina now and tell her?” I asked. “Hmm, yes, I suppose so. But you’d better ask her not to put it on Chatbook or anything like that.”
So I had a very long discussion with Karina and told her all about Annabel, Mum liking the librarian and about Carey too, which was a bit naughty as I knew sometimes Mum couldn’t pay the ’phone bill and we had already rung Germany twice today.
“What about the envelope?” she asked. “Have you opened it yet?”
“No, my Mum didn’t want to open it today, she said to wait until tomorrow.”
“Ahh, I do feel sorry for your poor Mum. You will tell me what’s inside though, won’t you?”
“I will, I promise. I tell you what, I’ll bring it round tomorrow and show you.”
“Okay, it’s really quite exciting, isn’t it? You never know what you might find out. Your Grandmother’s real name, for a start.”
“Yes, that would be good. We could then look for her birth certificate.”
“It must be really difficult without a birth certificate. Just think, you could never go abroad if you didn’t have a passport, and you need a birth certificate for that. I only know because Mum had to send mine off last week to get one.”
I hadn’t really thought about it.
“I wonder if you need a birth certificate to get married, then?” I asked.
“Well I’m not sure but I think you do,” she replied.
“Okay,” I said, a bit more quietly, “I’m going to ask Mum some more questions tonight, and I’ll let you know what she says.”
After speaking to Karina, I went downstairs and found Mum watching telly on the sofa.
“Mum, how did Nan get married without a birth certificate?”
She sighed. “Okay, Lacy, I know you won’t rest until I tell you everything. Come and sit next to me, then.”
I sat down next to her on the sofa and gave her an encouraging smile, and she switched off the television.
“I suppose Mum never really worried about her birth certificate until she needed to have one, to get married. I expect she thought there wouldn’t be any problem. Mum was 25 when she met my father, Robert Clark. He was ten years older than her and not in the best of health himself, and he died when he was 55.”
Mum paused. “He died in 1995. But when they wanted to get married, Mum had to write to the Archbishop of Canterbury for special dispensation because she didn’t have a birth certificate.”
“I’ve never heard of that before. So they were married, then?”
“Oh yes, very happily married, too. And of course, Mum relied on Dad a lot, because he was her ears, and they always went everywhere together.”
“What do you mean, he was her ears?”
“Mum was so deaf that even hearing aids weren’t any good, so Dad always looked out for her. The only way that Mum could communicate was by sign language, and he used to explain things to her that way.”
I waited for her to continue.
“A year after Dad died, Mum was crossing Upchurch Street, by the high street, when she was knocked down by a speeding driver. He was never caught, but unfortunately she died.”
“Oh no, that’s really awful!”
“I expect she never heard the car coming.” She put her head in her hands and I could hear that Mum’s voice was cracking up.
“Oh, sorry to hear that, I feel bad for making you tell me now.” I felt close to tears myself.
“No, Lacy, you’ve every right to know about your family history. Heaven knows, I feel guilty enough about you not having a proper father, and all his relatives that you’ve missed out on.”
It’s now or never, I thought, as one of my burning questions popped into my head. I waited a little while and then asked gently, “So what about Dad’s Mum and Dad, did they ever see me?”
Mum shook her head.
“To be honest, I don’t think he ever told them about us.”
“What, so they never even knew that I was born?”
“No, I doubt it, because if he never told them about me he could hardly tell them about you, either.”
“What a coward!” The words just came out.
“Yes, I agree,” Mum continued. “So I’m going to make damn sure that we find out as much as possible about our side of the family, and if there’s any cousins, aunts and uncles around today that we don’t know about, you might uncover them and have some more family to look after you.”
Mum never really swore, so I knew she really meant it. “You look after me fine, Mum,” I said gently. “Don’t you worry about that.”
Later that evening I had a text message from Carey asking if I was okay, so instead of ignoring him like I wanted to, I let him know that I was fine and thanked him for asking. I think I was almost over him already as there were too many other things to be thinking about.
In bed I considered the events over the past few days, which already felt like a lifetime. This researching our family tree was more important than I had first thought. I realised that Mum was doing the grown-up thing they called ‘taking responsibility’, and that she was genuinely worried about what would happen to me if anything should happen to her, and she didn’t want me to be left all alone and put into an Orphanage like her mother. And that my Dad had not done the grown-up thing by me at all. Then I started to wonder about his parents, my Grandparents. It would be lovely to have some I thought, as I’d never got to know Mum’s side of the family.
There was a lot more involved in this growing-up than I had realised.