Discover more from Heaven & El
Charlie: Chapter 5
I could hear Rob calling my name as I stormed up the road in the direction of my mum’s house but it wasn’t until my mobile started ringing in my bag that I stopped and allowed him to catch up.
“What was the …”
I waved at him to be quiet as I pressed a button to take the call. “My mother,” I mouthed at him. He nodded.
“Hi Mum, how are you?”
“Charlotte? Oh! How did you know it was me?”
I sighed. We’d been through this before, more than once. “You called me on my mobile Mum. I have your number saved.”
“Well that’s very clever.” She paused, seeming to give this due consideration, before turning her attention to the real reason for her call. “I wonder, Charlotte, if you might know why that policeman friend of yours has parked his car outside my house?”
I rolled my eyes. Policeman friend? Honestly! I couldn’t really blame her of course, he and I hadn’t given a name for whatever it was that was going on between us so how did I expect her to be able to name it?
“You mean Rob? He’s with me.”
“And you are?”
“In the cafe in town. You weren’t in so we thought we’d wait. Where were you?”
It was her turn to sigh. “I’d popped to the shops, if you must know. Do you really expect me to sit around here waiting for you to visit?”
“Of course not Mum.” I tried to keep my tone conciliatory. “You’re home now though, right?”
“I am. Shall I put the kettle on?”
“That would be great!”
Call over, I turned my attention back to Rob. I didn’t have the patience to deal with him right now but I didn’t want to go and face my mother on my own. I knew I should do my best to be nice. It was a struggle.
“She’s home. You’re still coming?” Despite my best intentions, I knew I sounded huffy but it was the best I could do.
Rob smiled. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” He took my hand and swung it back and forth as we walked. If he started whistling tunelessly I decided I would smack him!
I groaned but then smiled in spite of myself. “Did anyone ever tell you you’re bloody annoying when you’re chirpy?”
“All the time. But I didn’t get where I am today by bowing to peer pressure.”
We walked hand in hand back towards my mother’s house, all thoughts of my earlier outburst forgotten. The sun was shining and a gentle breeze whispered through the trees. If I were one for grand declarations I’d have said it was the perfect moment to be alive, almost romantic, but I wasn’t one for such cliches. Life had made me a cynic and instead of enjoying my time with Rob, I was focused on dreading the upcoming conversation with my mother.
If only Dad was here, I thought, not for the first time. Whatever reasonable explanation there was for the address in my pocket, he’d have been able to deliver it with a charm that always alluded my mother. It was like they were two halves of one whole and he had the delightful, warm half. It felt that all the love and connection died with him and all we were left with was my mother at her most bitter. Without my dad’s sugar, there was no-one left to bring out Mum’s good qualities.
“Penny for your thoughts,” said Rob. “You looked miles away.”
“I wish you could have known him. Dad. He was so much nicer than her. Don’t know what he saw in her if I’m honest.”
Rob winced. “That’s a bit harsh. She’s alright really you know.”
“Ha! You haven’t had to deal with her for the last four decades!”
“It can’t have been easy for her though. Losing your dad like that. A widow so young. Even the best of us would have struggled.”
“Maybe. But she’s always been horrible. Not like Dad, he was just so generous, not a mean bone in his body.”
“Bit of a daddy’s girl weren’t you?”
I shrugged. I wasn’t about to apologise for my relationship with my dad. He’d been my hero, my rock, the one who could do no wrong in my eyes, and that picture of him had only intensified since his early departure from the planet. Mum, by contrast, had always played the role of bad cop. When either of us kids needed telling off, it had always been left to my mum. None of this ‘just wait ’til you father gets home’ nonsense from her. No way, she ruled with an iron rod. If there was any fun to be had from a situation, you could bet your life she’d do her best to squash it.
Rob stopped walking and forced me to a halt alongside him. “Just go easy on her, okay?”
I smiled. “Of course, you know me, I’m the picture of ease.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I pretended to be outraged. I knew exactly what Rob was getting at but wasn’t about to make it easy.
“You don’t need me to tell you how to conduct your relationship with your mother any more than you need me to tell you how to get along with your headstrong daughter. Just remember you need her on side, if you’re to find out what you want to know. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to go gently, just this once?”
I wasn’t about to make any promises. If she was in one of her moods there was no telling how the conversation might turn out. I may be feisty but I hadn’t inherited that from my dad and if Rob thought I was about to go in there and play the contrite daughter, he didn’t know me at all.
Before he could reply, we found ourselves back at my mother’s front door. I rang the bell and crossed my fingers that this wouldn’t all end in tears.