There was no mistaking that hard look in my mother’s eyes. I’d seen it several times before, memorably when she had shut me in my own bedroom after I had almost been knocked out by a small bomb at a house of someone I wasn’t supposed to actually know.
“Agnetha, where on earth have you been?”
Summer in Oxford was not summer in Moscow. By seven o’ clock the sky was already dressed in a dark cloak. I had checked into the hotel through that certain early dark, having found myself lost in some back district where building-works were going on, because I couldn’t quite remember the location of the hotel.
“I got lost,” I volunteered to my mother.
“Yes, and before that?” However, she was not impressed.
“Mum! I’m 16! I don’t want to be subjected to disapproval and want of disclosure every time I don’t follow the path you have allotted for me. Can I at least be given some freedom here in a holiday place?”
My mother sighed pensively, and for a minute I thought she was going to begin to cry.
“Just promise me that you’re safe, Aggie.”
“I am, mum, and always will be. That I will happily promise to you.”
“Benny is in his room if you want to pop in,” was all she then replied.
I shook my head and began emptying my rucksack of the things I was just going to put back into it tomorrow.
“The thing is, Agnetha,” my mother continued, although I had the acute feeling that she was talking more to herself, “you don’t know what you want to do with your life these days. Career conventions come, and you walk away without a word. These travelling ‘notions’ of yours don’t come cheap, and jobless, you’ll find it hard to travel. I just…wish you’d stop being so…unsure, especially since you’ve pushed your music away.”
I looked up at her, surprised, although I tried not to let that expression peer through into my face. Instead, I chose an expression to mimic the weather-colour outside.
“I’m not mindless. I’m going to have a shower. Don’t wait up for me.”
So, I made my way to the en-suite bathroom, my head in a storm of anger, my mind rained on by lines and remarks full of the day’s revelations, as few as they were in reality. The warm water was a healer, but it couldn’t take away the frostbite that had settled on my heart.