21st August 2009
Lunch was delicious. Isabelle had clearly chosen such a good restaurant to impress us, to prove she wasn't the depressive she believed we saw her as. But she didn't have to prove anything. The meal went well. After the first bit of awkwardness Isabelle began to ask about us; what we were interested in, what subjects we liked best in school, what are plans for the future were.
Isabelle seemed very impressed by my knowledge of literature even if she wasn't so keen on the fact I was doing nothing with my life. She asked why I hadn't gone to university and I said it was because we couldn't afford it. I said that Father struggled to keep us afloat as it was without us creating any extra expense.
"So why don't you have a job?" She asked.
"I don't have enough qualifications. No one will take me on without a degree, at least not in any job worth having."
After our main course I excused myself from the table and went outside for a cigarette. I breathed the smoke in deeply, feeling myself relaxing as the nicotine oozed itself into my system.
"Do you mind if I pinch one?" Isabelle asked carefully.
"Of course." I helped her light the cigarette I had handed to her and watched as the end of the cigarette began to glow as she breathed in the smoke.
"It's a terrible habit," she said out loud to no one in particular. "I've been trying to quit for years but I've never seemed to be able to manage it. But I'm sure I don't need to tell you that."
"Father hates it. He won't let me have cigarettes anywhere near the house. Of course that doesn't stop me from smoking them in the kitchen when he's not looking."
"I remember that," Isabelle said, smiling in a half-wistful way. "He would always nag me about quitting." She took another drag of her cigarette, her face thoughtful. "How is he?"
"Quiet. He doesn't really talk to us."
"Does he know you're here?"
"I wouldn't have come if he didn't know. My conscience wouldn't have allowed it."
"Of course. It was a stupid question to ask. You wouldn't go behind your father's back with something like this."
"What makes you think that?"
"Because you're a good girl. And I can see that you trust your father, no matter what he has done."
"That's quite a big assumption to make when you've only just met me," I said taking another drag of my cigarette to steady the nerves that were building up inside me.
"Lewis has spoken so highly of you that I can't imagine you to be anything less than loyal to your father. I can't thank Lewis enough for helping me find you. The very day he found you he called me with such a wonderful account of your character I knew I had to meet you. He even mentioned you had my hair." She reached out with her spare hand and gently stroked the hair hanging down one side of my face. The intimacy of the touch made me very uncomfortable; it was all moving too fast.
"He thinks very highly of you," Isabelle continued, thankfully taking her hand away. "And now I've seen you for myself I can see why he's so smitten. You're a beautiful young girl Evelyn and I love you very much, promise me you won't forget that."
"I'll try," I said, dropping my cigarette butt and putting it out with the heel of my shoe. "I'll see you back inside." I didn't wait for a response, walking back into the restaurant as quickly as I could.
"Are you OK?" Lewis asked, standing up from the table when he saw my strained face.
"I'm fine. This is all just moving a little bit too fast for me. I'm not sure if I can take it."
"OK then, that's fine. Do you want to leave?"
"What do you think you're doing?" Rupert asked bluntly as I picked up my jacket from the back of my chair. "She's only trying to be nice to us and you're pushing her away. She'll think you don't care."
"I do care. I just can't deal with her acting like she hasn't been missing all our lives. If that's how she wants us to be then she's living a lie."
We all fell silent as Isabelle re-entered the restaurant and stopped in her tracks as she saw me holding my jacket and ready to leave.
"What's going on?"
"I think I need some more time," I said shakily. "It's been lovely meeting you but I need to be able to get my head around this and for that I need some space."
"I understand," she said, the disappointment showing on her face. "This has all happened very quickly and it's taken me some time to get used to the idea of seeing you two again. But before you go there is something I wanted to tell you, no matter what happened today. I think you should know the truth."
Even Lewis looked confused as we took our seats at the table to listen to what Isabelle had to say.
"I wanted you to know that I've spoken to a lawyer."
"Why on earth would you want to see a lawyer?" Lewis asked, the shock visible on his face.
"Because he and I both agree on one thing; that what Edmund Russell did to me was wrong l and he can be punished for it. I'm going to get the justice I deserve for losing you two, no matter what it takes."