Wednesday 8th March
June used to leave the girls alone mostly, and rarely went into their bedrooms at all, their own private sanctums. After all they were growing up and she could remember when she was sixteen being furious with her own mother when she had ‘just been tidying up’ in her room. Snooping was what she was really up to, and though she never found anything – that didn’t stop her. But one time when Harriet must only have been sixteen, June was looking for her hairbrush and thought that maybe Harriet had borrowed it. And though she knew she was out, even so she cautiously pushed open the door, and was quite amazed. Every wall and even a bit of the ceiling was covered with faces, all different sizes, some in colour, some in black and white, all cut out of magazines and pasted overlapping each other, so that it was a vast crowd, a sea of faces. It must have taken Harriet ages and was really quite artistic, whereas June had always thought Jane was the artistic one, she was the child who would bring drawings and paintings home from school. Harriet wasn’t the sort to seek or need her mother’s approval, and would even laugh at Jane’s efforts sometimes.
And there right in the middle of each wall was a large photo of Harriet. June couldn’t think where she had had the photos taken, and they were blown-up too, about life size. So, each wall was a crowd of faces, all smaller than and surrounding, the quite serious and intense face of Harriet. Talk about standing out in the middle of a crowd. She learnt from Jane that evening that Harriet had cajoled her father into letting her get her photo taken in a professional studio in Ipswich, and that he had paid for the pictures.
June had no idea, they hadn’t told her a thing about it, and hadn’t shown her the pictures either. Apparently it was over a month ago, and no-one had bothered to mention it. For the first time she began to realise that she was becoming a stranger in her own home. Jane still chatted to her, but Harriet would ignore her mother more often than not, or make some sarky comment in passing, not real conversation anyway. Phil seemed more and more engrossed in work, or he would fall asleep in his armchair soon after ten, and June would go up to bed and leave him sleeping. She knew that she had Ted, but that was scant compensation for this feeling that none of her family really needed her. For the first time in her life, she began to really worry about the future, her own future she meant, and of course without Ted it looked pretty bleak..
* * *
Harriet was so bright that Phil was certain she was going to be a success. A real success he meant; not like him – a stupid plodding workhorse. She would make something of her life, not get bogged down in a small town, doing a mundane job she hated. He really had high hopes for her. She said that she wanted to be some sort of a model, or a ‘face’ as she put it, and asked him to let her have her photo taken, professionally. There was nowhere in Stowmarket, so one Saturday Phil drove her into Ipswich, and a photographers’ studio she had arranged and she had the pictures taken. They had to go back a week later and pick them up. Twenty five pounds it cost him, he realized he was in the wrong business alright. She showed him in the car on the way home, and she was right, she looked amazing, much older than fifteen. They were mostly head and shoulder shots and a couple of full length pictures. She was staring straight at the camera, very serious and so beautiful too.
Harriet made him promise not to tell June, “It will be our little secret, hey dad.” and she snuggled up to him in the car. What could he say, he felt bad about not telling June, they weren’t the sort of couple to have secrets, except of course, all that dodgy business he was involved with. Phil never told her about that to protect her if he ever got into trouble, besides she would never have understood how he had got involved in the first place. But Harriet was quite insistent, she said she was going to send them off to model agencies in London, and her mother was sure to disapprove. He reluctantly agreed, and just decided that he would say it slipped his mind if June asked about it. It was only a small lie, and besides, he wasn’t sure if lies by omission counted anyway. Secretly he was very proud of his daughter, and her ambition. And quite comforted that she had confided in him; the thing about Harriet was that she really was much older than her years, and her mother never really understood what was driving her; she wanted to be someone, to do something with her life. Phil understood that alright, and though it was too late for him, he would help her in every way he could. He was determined not to be like his own father and try to persuade her to do something she hated. And anyway, it was only a few photo’s, what harm was there in that.
* * *
“Phil, why didn’t you tell me about the photos?” June asked him that evening when the girls had gone to bed.
“What photos?” he said, acting all innocent.
“You know, the ones you took your daughter to get taken, all the way to Ipswich, about a month ago I think it will have been.” June smiled at him, “surely you haven’t forgotten, has it slipped your mind?”
“Oh, those photos, of course. Didn’t I tell you,” he lied straight-faced, “I must have told you, surely.”
“You mean you should have told me Phil, don’t you. You do know you should have told me. Anyway I was bound to find out sooner or later, the girl has them plastered all over her walls.”
“Oh, has she?” he said defensively, “I thought she wanted to send them off to see if she had what it takes to be in magazines, modeling, you know, that sort of thing.”
“Whatever she wanted them for you should have told me, you know that, don’t you?”
“I suppose so,” he admitted, “but honestly I didn’t think it really mattered June.”
“I am so disappointed in you Phil, it isn’t the photos or the cost I mind, it’s just the being excluded. What did you think you were doing, not telling me? Did you think I would scream and shout or something? I might have thought and said that she was a bit too young, but really Phil, we should have discussed this.”
“Sorry love,” and he reached out and rubbed her fore-arm, almost the first sign of affection he had shown in months, “it won’t happen again. If she asks me for anything else like that I’ll come and talk to you straight away, I promise I will.”
And he took up his paper again, shook it, and pretended to be engrossed in some stupid article about farm prices of all things. June knew he thought it was a lot of fuss over nothing, and it wasn’t about the damned pictures at all, she couldn’t care less about them, it was the collusion between the two of them that she hated.
* * *
Harriet got the photos taken when she was fifteen, nearly sixteen to be precise. She was going to send them off to model agencies in London, she had this big idea she could be a model or something, but when she really looked at them later she saw that they weren’t half good enough. She had forgotten to smile, or even look anything but terrified. Her mother found out and had a moan about them, but Harriet just told her she was jealous, and anyway it hadn’t cost that much really.
“It’s not the money Harriet, I just think you are a bit young to think about modeling or acting or anything like that, don’t you?” She said in that holier-than-thou voice which Harriet suspected she kept just for her,
“Not really mother, I am nearly sixteen, and everything is changing now anyway. But don’t worry I have decided not to send them off, I don’t want to be a model now.” she said half to reassure her and half in justification. “I am going to go to University first; then I’ll decide later what I want to do.”
“Well, at least promise me that you won’t go behind my back like this again, won’t you?” she half pleaded, worried she was appearing to prudish..
“I never went behind your back, as you put it.” Harriet insisted. “You just weren’t around, and it was sort of a spur of the moment thing, and anyway Dad was cool about it. It wasn’t anything sleazy you know, it was just some photos for Christ’s sake.”
And that was that really, a lot of fuss over nothing, and Harriet breezed out of the kitchen, leaving June more confused than ever..