Celia had given me the room across the hall from Alexandra’s and star of the show was a state-of-the-art baby monitor, though it had to fight pretty hard to compete with rose-explosion curtains and matching bed set; the customary pink pleated valance tried to raise the class from middle suburbia to royal country cottage. As if.
‘Just make yourself at home dear – I mean, it will be that, I hope.’ Celia smiled. She’d been smiling since I arrived; it un-nerved me.
‘Do you mind if I have a quiet hour to settle in? I like to get the feel of a place as quickly as possible.’
‘Oh, feel free, in fact you don’t officially begin until tomorrow. I’ll be making tea for Alexandra about five, why don’t you come down to the kitchen then and we’ll break the ice, so to speak, eh?’
‘So to speak,’ I laughed with her. Lovely.
‘I’m sure you can find your way round the TV and other electicals, and the bathroom is the door between you and the stairs. I love this room; it used to be mine when I was a girl – a lot of teenage tears were shed here!’ her laugh screeched high in my ears.
I wondered what kind of teenager she’d been, and what the hell was going on with her daughter. She brushed me off every time I asked where Alexandra’s parents were; it was all, “My granddaughter is spending time with me at the moment,” but it probably meant that her daughter was in a nuthouse. Or maybe she’d locked herself away in a secret cult or lived in a London smack-house. But none of that mattered because suddenly Celia had shown herself for what she really was – a pushover.
‘Oh Janet, this is all so nerve-wracking that I’ve decided to just be myself, and you know how I hate duplicity. Yes, yes, I know. Well, she’s up there now. Mmmm. It feels so strange having someone in the house, in my old room. It makes me wonder if she can hear or read my old dreams. Sometimes I wish I’d never been born. I know, I shouldn’t, I know. I wish you weren’t so far away Janet. No, I haven’t heard from her yet and I have no clear idea of what to do for the best. It’s all so difficult; I read through some of the letters last night and still can’t make head nor tail of them – it’s as if they’re written in some kind of code…and why all the blooming mystery? I tell you, this is going to be the death of me!’