The mental asylum was blank-white and November-cold. The corridors were dull and the air was empty. The staff were frowning and unfriendly, and I could tell that Dad felt unwelcome by his awkwardly bent posture.
He followed the bobbing nurse down a long hall, and I followed him down the hall, till we reached a peeling white door in sad need of repair. We went through the door, and sitting in a tatty-looking armchair was Mum.
I have never been less delighted to see her.
For one thing, her eyes were wild and untamed as they looked us over. For another, she turned away as soon as a spark of recognition kindled in their depths. For a third, the jerky movement and poor braking skills of her neck as she turned her head filled me with a sort of horror. She was like a child.
"Alana," Dad said in a gentle voice, stepping into the room and kneeling on the floor, then touching Mum's cheek tenderly, and rubbing quickly. She refused to look at him. "Alana," he appealed again.
I gritted my teeth.
"Nanu, what are you doing here?" Mum said in a confidential whisper, shooting a sly glance at the nurse and I as if she were worried that we were listening to a private conversation.
"I've come to fetch you, Alana," said Dad in a low voice. "We're going to America. Won't that be nice?"
"I told you I was leaving. I'm fine here, truly. I'm warm and comfortable and I have a nice home and good food. I told you not to come back, not to look for me."
"How could I not, darling Alana?" said Dad, stroking Mum's hair. "How could I not?"
He leaned over and brushed his lips against her cheek, and I fidgetted unsurely, wishing I had something with which to employ my bored fingers.
There was some more low-voiced talking and pleading on Dad's side, but after a while he straightened himself up and gave an exhalation of relief.
"She's coming," he told me.
"Wonderful. A mentally unstable member of the family to care and provide for in our new beginning," I said.
Dad gave me a stern look. "I couldn't leave Alana behind. And you couldn't either," he added. "She's your mother."
"Some mother," I muttered.
"You have to make allowances," Dad said.
"Yup, and she wasn't the one to watch her sister murdered," I mumbled.
Dad's face puffed up in a raging impulse of fury, and for a moment I thought he was going to hit me. The moment passed.
"When we leave this continent," he said, "you will never mention your sister in that way ever again. Never, unless you can be happy about it."
"Happy!" I scoffed through the bile that had just risen in my throat. Thank goodness it just sounded like a choking cough. I dread to think what Dad would've said if he had heard me.
We left by the next boat, and as Ireland blurred through the thick November fogs, I sniffed in the bracing air and decided to follow with Dad's theory of a fresh start. Hell knew I needed one.
So in this, I guess, healthy manner, the three of us left England, never to see her again. We left our birthplace, our home, Vere's deathplace, Vere's grave, and I left Deanna Macpherson. That girl who reminded me so of my sister, oh, that girl, was lost to me forever. The last traces of Vere were gone.