Joanna Trollope: The Other Family

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Joanna Trollope The Other Family
  • Название:
    The Other Family
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    Старинная литература / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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Joanna Trollope: другие книги автора


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Also by Joanna Trollope

The Choir

A Village Affair

A Passionate Man

The Rector’s Wife

The Men and the Girls

A Spanish Lover

The Best of Friends

Next of Kin

Other People’s Children

Marrying the Mistress

Girl from the South

Brother & Sister

Second Honeymoon

Friday Nights

For more information on Joanna Trollope and her books,

see her website at www.joannatrollope.com

For Jason

CHAPTER ONE

Looking back, it astonished her that none of them had broken down in the hospital. Even Dily, who could be relied on to burst into tears over a shed eyelash, had been completely mute. Chrissie supposed it was shock, literal y, the sudden suspension of al natural reactions caused by trauma. And the trauma had actual y begun before the consultant had even opened his mouth. They just knew, al four of them, from the way he looked at them, before he said a word. They knew he was going to say, ‘I’m so very sorry but—’ and then he did say it. He said it al the way through to the end, and they al stared at him, Chrissie and the three girls. And nobody uttered a cheep.

Chrissie didn’t know how she had got them home. Even though Tamsin and Dil y could drive, it hadn’t crossed her mind to hand either of them the car keys. Instead, she had climbed wordlessly into the driver’s seat, and Tamsin had got in – unchal enged for once – beside her, and the two younger ones had slipped into the back and even put their seat belts on without being reminded. Unheard of, usual y. And Chrissie had started the car and driven, upright behind the wheel as if she was trying to demonstrate good posture, up Highgate Hil and down the other side towards home, towards the house they had lived in since Amy was born, eighteen years ago.

Of course, there was no parking space directly outside the house. There seldom was in the evenings, after people got home from work.

Chrissie said, ‘Oh bother,’ in way, and Dil y said, from the back seat, ‘There’s a space over there, outside the Nelsons’,’ and then nobody spoke while Chrissie manoeuvred the car in, very badly, because they were al thinking how he would have been, had he been there, how he would have said, ‘Ornamental objects shouldn’t be asked to do parking. Gimme the keys,’ and Chrissie would – wel , might, anyway – have laughed and thrown the keys at him ineptly, proving his point, and he’d have inserted the car neatly into an impossible space in no time so that they could al please him by saying, ‘Show-off,’ in chorus. ‘I make my living from showing off,’ he’d say. ‘And don’t you forget it.’

They got out of the car and locked it and trooped across the road to their own front door. There were no lights on. It had been daylight when they left, and anyway they were panicking because of the ambulance coming, and his frightening pal or and evident pain, so nobody thought of the return, how the return might be. Certainly, nobody had dared to think that the return might be like this.

Chrissie opened the front door, while the girls huddled behind her in the porch as if it was bitterly cold and they were desperate to get into the warmth. It occurred to Chrissie, irrelevantly, that she should have swept the leaves out of the porch, that it badly needed redecorating, that it had needed redecorating for years and Richie had always said that his granny, in North Shields on Tyneside, had scrubbed her front doorstep daily –

except for Sundays – on her hands and knees. Daily. With a brush and a galvanized bucket.

Chrissie took the keys out of the door, and dropped them. Tamsin leaned over her mother’s bent back and switched on the hal lights. Then they al pushed past and surged down the hal to the kitchen, and Chrissie straightened up, with the keys in her hand, and tried to put them into the door’s inside lock and found she was shaking so badly that she had to hold her right wrist with her left hand, in order to be steady enough.

Then she walked down the hal , straight down, not looking in at the sitting room and certainly not in at his practice room, where the piano sat, and the dented piano stool, and the framed photographs and the music system and the racks and racks of CDs and the certificates and awards and battered stacks of old sheet music he would never throw away. She paused in the kitchen doorway. Al the lights were on and so was the radio, at once, KISS FM or something, and the kettle was whining away and al three girls were scattered about, and they were al now crying and crying.

Later that night, Chrissie climbed into bed clutching a hot-water bottle and a packet of Nurofen Extra. She hadn’t used a hot-water bottle for years.

She had an electric blanket on her side of their great bed – Richie, being a Northerner, had despised electric blankets – but she had felt a great need that night to have something to hold in bed, something warm and tactile and simple, so she had dug about in the airing cupboard and found a hot-water bottle that had once been given to Dil y, blue rubber inside a nylon-fur cover fashioned to look like a Dalmatian, its caricatured spotted face closing down over the stopper in a padded mask.

One of the girls had put some tea by her bed. And a tumbler of what turned out to be whisky. She never drank whisky. Richie had liked whisky, but she always preferred vodka. Or champagne. Richie would have made them drink champagne that evening; he always said champagne was grief medicine, temper medicine, disappointment medicine. But they couldn’t do it. There was a bottle in the fridge – there was almost always a bottle in the fridge – and they took it out and looked at it and put it back again. They’d drunk tea, and more tea, and Amy had had some cereal, and Tamsin had gone to telephone her boyfriend – not very far away – and they could hear her saying the same things over and over again, and Dil y had tried to pick some dried blueberries out of Amy’s cereal and Amy had slapped her and then Chrissie had broken down at last herself, utterly and total y, and shocked them al into another silence.

That shock, on top of the other unbearable shock, probably accounted for the whisky. And her bed being turned down, and the bedside lamp on, and the bathroom al lit and ready, with a towel on the stool. But there was stil a second towel on the heated rail, the supersized towel he liked, and there were stil six pil ows on the bed, and his reading glasses were on top of the pile of books he never finished, and there were his slippers, and a half-drunk glass of water. Chrissie looked at the glass with a kind of terror. His mouth had been on that glass, last night. Last night only. And she was going to have to lie down beside it because nothing on earth could persuade her either to touch that glass or to let anyone else touch it.

‘Mum?’ Amy said from the doorway.

Chrissie turned. Amy was stil dressed, in a minidress and jeans and bal et slippers so shal ow they were like a narrow black border to her naked feet.

Chrissie said, gesturing at the bed, at the whisky, ‘Thank you.’

‘S’OK,’ Amy said.

She had clamped some of her hair on top of her head with a red plastic clip and the rest hung unevenly round her face. Her face looked awful.

Chrissie put her arms out.

‘Come here.’

Amy came and stood awkwardly in Chrissie’s embrace. It wasn’t the right embrace, Chrissie knew, it wasn’t relaxed enough, comforting enough.

Richie had been the one who was good at comfort, at subduing resistant adolescent limbs and frames into affectionate acquiescence.

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