Chapter no 5


HOURS LATER PA LEFT FOR PARIS. Accompanied by Mummy’s sisters, Aunt Sarah and Aunt Jane. They needed to learn more about the crash, someone

said. And they needed to arrange for the return of Mummy’s body.

Body. People kept using that word. It was a punch in the throat, and a bloody lie, because Mummy wasn’t dead.

That was my sudden insight. With nothing to do but roam the castle and talk to myself, a suspicion took hold, which then became a firm belief. This was all a trick. And for once the trick wasn’t being played by the people around me, or the press, but by Mummy. Her life’s been miserable, she’s been hounded, harassed, lied about, lied to. So she’s staged an accident as a diversion and run away.

The realization took my breath away, made me gasp with relief.

Of course! It’s all a ruse, so she can make a clean start! At this very moment she’s undoubtedly renting an apartment in Paris, or arranging fresh flowers in her secretly purchased log cabin somewhere way up high in the Swiss Alps. Soon, soon, she’ll send for me and Willy. It’s all so obvious! Why didn’t I see it before? Mummy isn’t dead! She’s hiding!

I felt so much better. Then doubt crept in.

Hang on! Mummy would never do this to us. This unspeakable pain, she’d never allow that, let alone cause it.

Then back to relief: She had no choice. It was her only hope of freedom.

Then doubt again: Mummy wouldn’t hide, she’s too much of a fighter.

Then relief: This is her way of fighting. She’ll be back. She has to be. It’s my birthday in two weeks.

But Pa and my aunts came back first. Their return was reported by every TV channel. The world watched as they stepped onto the tarmac at RAF Northolt. One channel even added music to the arrival: someone mournfully singing a psalm. Willy and I were kept from the TV, but I think we heard that.

The next few days passed in a vacuum, no one saying anything. We all remained ensconced inside the castle. It was like being inside a crypt, except a crypt where everyone’s wearing trews and keeping to normal routines and schedules. If anyone talked about anything, I didn’t hear them. The only voice I heard was the one droning in my head, arguing with itself.

She’s gone.

No, she’s hiding.

She’s dead.

No, she’s playing dead.

Then, one morning, it was time. Back to London. I remember nothing about the trip. Did we drive? Did we fly on the Royal Flight? I can see the reunion with Pa, and the aunts, and the pivotal encounter with Aunt Sarah, though it’s wreathed in fog and might be slightly out of sequence. At times my memory places it right there, in those horrid first days of September. But at other times memory casts it forward, to many years later.

Whenever it happened, it happened like this:

William? Harry? Aunt Sarah has something for you, boys.

She stepped forward, holding two tiny blue boxes. What’s this? Open it.

I lifted off the top of my blue box. Inside was…a moth? No.

A mustache?



Her hair, Harry.

Aunt Sarah explained that, while in Paris, she’d clipped two locks from Mummy’s head.

So there it was. Proof. She’s really gone.

But then immediately came the reassuring doubt, the lifesaving uncertainty: No, this could be anybody’s hair. Mummy, her beautiful blond hair intact, was out there somewhere.

I’d know if she weren’t. My body would know. My heart would know. And neither knows any such thing.

Both were just as full of love for her as ever.

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