He left the room, fearing that the girls and everyone else would see him cry if he stayed any longer. He went to his bedroom, and there Aoife found him a few minutes later, her feet instinctively taking her to his bedroom against her will.
“Oh, Daniel,” she said simply, closing the door softly and wrapping her arms around the boy.
“I miss Mum,” Dan said, and Aoife recognised the herself of just a few weeks ago, when she had fainted – and been caught by Vinzent Watersheen, God bless the man!
“I do too,” she said at once, all her defences breaking down. “My own mum as well as Auntie ‘Nymph’.”
Daniel looked at her with red-rimmed eyes. “I forgot you had two people to miss. It must be loads worse for you.”
Aoife smiled wanly. “I’m older than you, and I’ve had more practice at coping, but I have mental breakdowns too, sometimes.”
“I do. Luckily I have people to talk to. You know you can always come to me when you feel bad.”
Daniel nodded, turning his eyes towards the bed clothes again. Aoife knew he was embarrassed at crying, but past stopping the flow of tears. The easiest way was to hide them.
“Who do you talk to?”
Aoife started. “People who understand,” she said.
“You’re lucky,” Daniel stated in a tragic tone. “You’ve got something out of Mummy’s death. You’ve found happiness.”
Aoife looked even more startled. “How’s that?” she said, trying to conceal her surprise.
“If Mum hadn’t died, Dee wouldn’t have got sick because they’d have been someone to pick her up from Brownies, so we wouldn’t have come here, and you’d never have met Vinzent. You’ve found happiness, Aoife. You’re in love with Vinzent, and he’s in love with you.”
Aoife opened her mouth, and closed it again like a suffocating fish. She didn’t even feel her face growing hot. Her mouth suddenly became unbearably dry.
“Where did you…how do you know that?” she gasped.
“You can’t hide it,” Daniel said, locking his honest, steady green eyes with hers. “Rob and Lindy are too occupied with each other and Serena, Dad’s too busy missing Mummy, and the girls and Nat are too young to see. But I’ve seen it. The way you look at each other makes me think of people who completely understand each other. You were meant to be together. You fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. And when you laugh together, I know there’s some kind of unconscious telepathy between you. And when you talk about one another you don’t say much because you aren’t entirely sure what your mind is thinking. But I know what your hearts think. They’re attracted like magnets.”
Aoife looked incredulous, but she recovered herself sufficiently to speak, though she was not sure what she was saying. “Well, I think that’s a horrible way of putting it, Dan, but I’m glad you’re matter-of-fact. There’s only one thing I don’t understand. I’m not denying I don’t feel for Vinzent, but what do you know about what he thinks about me?”
“I asked him, of course.”
“Daniel! You didn’t!”
“I did.” Still in that so very matter-of-fact voice.
Aoife breathed in, and out, slowly. “You’ve blown me away. I think I’d better pick up my thoughts. They’re scattered everywhere where you made them explode.”
“Your mind had better pick them up. You heart is still perfectly intact,” Daniel said, cheering up with a little of the old grin, “although it’s probably beating faster than usual in exhilaration.”
Now Aoife blushed purple. “Don’t tell anyone about all this, will you?” she ordered. “Especially Vinzent.”
Daniel nodded. “Oh, there’s one thing,” he said, and Aoife prepared herself for the worst. “Mr Atkins wants to buy your ‘Achensee Sundown’. He says it’s worth several hundred pounds, and he wants it for above his fireplace.”