The next day is Sunday, so I don’t have to go outside or talk to anybody. I stay in bed until half eleven and when I venture downstairs, still in my pyjamas, Dad makes me a cup of tea and tells me the hospital called and there’s no news yet. By the end of the day things will be more definite.
I feel like I’m in mourning already, as he doesn’t expect me to do anything or be useful, and I don’t feel like doing anything either. He tells me about the accident at last – my imagination got most of it right, but it was a van not a car – though he won’t go into details about her injuries. It’s as if talking about them might make them worse.
I do some practice, but my heart isn’t in it and I stop after I’ve finished at the barre. I don’t know what I’m falling. My brain isn’t worried, but my entire body is infused with nerves that I can’t dispel. If it were just my brain, I would have a chance of ignoring them, but I can’t ignore this feeling.
So I mooch around all afternoon, barely touching the lasagne I made for dinner, and whenever the phone rings I’m too afraid to answer it in case it’s the hospital and they’re telling me that my mum is dead.
It never is.
Afternoon drifts into evening and I pack my school bag and gather my ballet things from where they’ve scattered all over the house, in order to have the bag ready and waiting in the morning. Without a lift to ballet, I’ll be travelling straight from school tomorrow.
I go to bed early, but I can’t sleep. I haven’t done anything today. I’m not tired. I’m just apathetic and can’t think what to do with myself. I don’t want to read; there are no books in my room at the moment, anyway. I haven’t got a TV of my own, and there’s nothing I want to do on the computer.
So I while away more time staring at the ceiling, until Dad turns the light off in the hall and even that is gone. I must fall asleep at some point, because my alarm goes off next to my ear and wakes me up from a dream about mangled yellow bicycles in newly-dug graves.
School. I begin to move on auto-pilot.
Dad’s surprised to find me in my uniform, making breakfast, and says he’d be happy for me to stay home for today if I wanted. But I can’t stay here. I don’t want to face people, but I don’t want to face myself, either.
I’m dressed, I’ve eaten, and I’ve got all my stuff. So why do I feel lost and unprepared? I say bye to Dad and as I’m leaving the house, I hear the phone ring and he answers it in his ‘phone voice’, when it’s people he doesn’t know, but he doesn’t call me back in. It must be good news. Dad would come out onto the porch and call me back to tell me if Mum was dying, wouldn’t he?
I don’t let myself think that he’d allow me to go off to school, oblivious.
So that means it’s good news. Doesn’t it? It has to be good news.
Dad calls me when I’m on my way to ballet. My hands are shaking so much when I see his name on the screen that I can hardly accept the call. “Will you come and see her with me?” he says.
I hesitate. It’s half five already so if I head over to the hospital, I’ll miss my six o’clock ballet class. On the other hand, this is my mum we’re talking about, and she’s more important than any dance lessons. I haven’t missed one in a long time, but Alison will understand.
“Okay,” I say, and he gives me directions because I’ve never had to get there by bus before. The stop for that route is out of the way, rather – a good ten-minute walk from here. We exchange parting words and hang up.
I call Alison, but she must be teaching because she doesn’t pick up, so I send her a text instead: Mum’s in hospital so I’m visiting her. Won’t be at class today, sorry.
At least it’s not a private lesson. She shouldn’t miss me too much.
Now that she knows not to expect me, I take the turning that leads to the bus stop I need. It’s quite a secluded road and I take out my headphones. I’ll find something calming to listen to – that’s what I always do when I’m worried. But it comes on with the track I was listening to before, loud and brash with guitars and drums, and since it blocks out the little noises of the night I leave it on and keep walking.