"Oh. Hello, Missus Birken--you hard-faced cow. Oh, you have. Yes. Thank-you. Yes--well, spit it out already. Thank-you. No, I'm not particular about how my room should be decorated. However you like it, Missus Birken--Go chintz-happy then. On Tuesday. Before noon. Yes. Yes, I do have one prescription. Um...blood pressure tablets. It runs in the family. Oh, I'll remember them--and as if you give a--Thank-you, Missus Birken. See you Tuesday. Before noon."

Celia Birken

"How did it go? So I missed nothing, in other words. No, she's not arrived yet. Elizabeth. Already past noon. Yes, the rain, probably. A taxi, which must've cost her a pretty penny the other day, considering she came across town. No. No, all of five months. It can't have been easy, the girl alone, looking after her mother. Car accident, dreadful. Life-changing event one might never recover from. A long wait, yes, Janet, that it's been. I count myself truly fortunate to have found her for Alexandra's live-in nanny. She'll be perfect--Oh, Elizabeth's arrived. Not a taxi, no."


"You'll never've gotten a taxi, is all I'm saying. Not today to come all the way out here." said Dad, easing the car precisely in line with the green gate at 22 Rhododendron Drive.

The wipers swooshed to and fro, totally useless in clearing the downpour rippling down the windshield. In between one swoosh and the next, I saw her, vaguely: guessed Missus Birken could see the car, me, my dead Dad, all well enough from the big bow window of her house.

"I do love you for this, Dad. I gotta go now--but just stay in the car, okay? No point in both of us getting wet."

Before dad might get another word in--or, worse, complicate things by helping with my bag--I put myself outside his car in rain like the end of the world. Tugged open the side door. Started hefting out my bag and all I might ever need.

"You have everything then, love?"

"Everything, Dad."

"Your tablets, love?"

"Everything, Dad."

"So give us a kiss G'bye then."

"I gotta go! 'Bye."

Heard Dad snap, "Well, that's gratitude for you", just as I slammed the side door.

I could not tell him. And lying to Missus Birken simply would be easier than the truth.

I remember his eyes watching me, that mix of fatherly concern and hurt, as he drove away. Left me in front of the green gate of 22 Rhododendron Drive. Beginning to shiver under the rain.

The End

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