Aoife was very busy from then until she left, but she snatched several quick chances to talk to other members of her family.
“Dan! Dan and Lion! How are you? I won’t see you till mid-December, so I thought I’d grab the chance to talk to you.”
“I wish you weren’t going away,” Lion said wistfully. “I only just met my big sister, and now she’s going.”
Aoife laughed. “I’m not going far, as I told the girls earlier. Don’t worry about me.”
“I’m not. I’m worrying about us,” Lion said with childlike solemnity.
Aoife grinned and turned to Daniel.
“I’m glad you’re happy,” said Daniel gruffly. “I can see you’re happy, and I’m not going to make you feel guilty about getting married. I think it’s just great that you got married. I’ll help Dad and the others as much as I can, and it’ll be easier without Nat.”
“I know you will.” Aoife bestowed on him a dazzling smile. “I’ll come over as much as I can. If I’m not immediately on the spot for you lot, it’s good to know there’s someone to look out for them. Someone who can relate to them as someone like your father can’t. Especially for the girls. I’d have liked to stay with you a couple more years, till they’re grown up, but…”
“You want your life,” Dan said shrewdly. “You’ve done so much for us, I can hardly thank you. You’ve been like a second mother to me – to all of us.”
Aoife’s eyes welled and they became starry. “No; I can’t accept your thanks. It was a debt I owed to your mother, and I don’t think I have completed it. I’m sorry about that.”
Daniel snorted. “There’s no debt. Mum wouldn’t want you to sacrifice yourself to help us bring ourselves up. That’s rubbish.”
Aoife smiled and nodded her acknowledgement. Of course Auntie ‘Nymph’ would not have wanted her to make a martyr of herself. She had performed her task, and she had won her race, and that was what Auntie ‘Nymph’ had meant. “I have to go now. Thank you, Dan.”
She melted into the crowd and found Lindy, sitting with some other women and Nathaniel and Serena.