Friday 24th November
Out of it, just blissfully out of it, that was all Harriet was seeking. Fucking Oblivion. No more thinking about her mother, no more studies, no more Jane hanging around her like some sort of miserable shadow. No – just oblivion, total nothingness in her tired head. They don’t understand her, they think she wants excitement, action, something happening, something going on. No, all she wants is complete nothingness. O-fucking-blivion.
* * *
So, this day was precious to Jane, despite the fact that none of her family knew what had happened to their father, though pretty soon it would all come to light. It unfolded like some sort of Japanese origami puzzle. As each intricate fold in the paper was straightened out they could see a bit more of the picture. The Police would come round every evening to ‘brief’ her mother; she wondered whether this was standard procedure or if they were given special treatment being the family of ‘someone’, it was still a time of deference to people who had influence and money. Come to think of it that hasn’t really changed at all over the years. The Bentley had been seen all over the place, it was a car that people noticed, but no confirmed sightings, nothing definite, so they still had no idea where he had gone.
The town’s Bank Manager’s confirmed their worst fears, he had withdrawn a few sums of money from client’s accounts, and his partners at the office were urgently reviewing their accounting records to see what he had been up to. Obviously no good at all, Jane had no doubts on that score. Her mother also discovered that the house was heavily mortgaged, which meant that potentially they might lose it, if her father was eventually caught and found guilty. At sixteen this hardly seemed to matter, Jane had never really thought about the fact that they lived in a big house, and how they had come by it. She just assumed that they had pots of money somewhere that had paid for everything. She had no idea about mortgages and debts, and how ordinary people struggled. The girls had never had to struggle for anything, it just seemed normal to live in a big house. She had hardly even asked myself why some people lived in big houses with lots of spare rooms and others were crammed into tiny little boxes.
She was only just beginning to develop any sort of a social conscience, and while she was quite involved with following the struggles of the blacks in America, and had lately been reading and being enraged by Ian Smith and UDI in Rhodesia, it never connected in her mind with the fact that her family were very privileged, and that in truth everything was inter-connected. That the very fact that they were rich, or lived a rich lifestyle, was the result of other people, somewhere else in the world, being deprived. This was the beginnings of her political awareness, her desire to put right some of what was wrong with the world, to maybe correct the injustices she saw everywhere. But back then it was all a bit mushy, just a sort of desire to do some good in the world, not to really change anything.
* * *
And Phil doesn’t ever want to go back. He feels quite content here. His life has made no sense to him so far, it’s as if it was all written for him by someone else, his father most likely, or June, or just circumstances – he really doesn’t know. Certainly not Phil, it was never what he wanted – he just read the lines and acted out the part, day after day turning up and saying the words expected of him. But now he was out of it, at least for a while. He has stepped away from the machine, thrown his script away and he feels free, a boy of ten again.
Sort of. Because he knows they will find him, sooner or later – it’s only a matter of time. He could never have expected for a moment to get away with it, life isn’t like that, is it? But it is peaceful here, and he can see the sea from this window. That’s the wonderful thing, to be able to see the sea. Maybe that’s what’s been missing from his life; an ocean to watch, some way of trying to measure himself against, to understand what it all means. Even if it’s just for a while, before he is forced, or dragged, back into the real world again.
His father is the key to it all, he thinks. Phil never understood him, what made him tick. He was always judging myself somehow by his ideas, his standards. And look how woefully short he fell. But maybe that’s always been the problem; he had never lived his life by his own rules, always by other’s. The only thing he ever saw that he really wanted was June, and he made damned sure I got her. But now it turns out he never had her at all. All the time she was in love with Ted. The one thing he thought he had, the one thing he had achieved off his own bat, turned out to not be his at all. He had studied for five long years and had tried, despite evidence to the contrary, to do the right thing, to be someone, to make his father proud of me, to provide a decent home for June and the girls.
And what reward did he get for all of that? To be kicked in the teeth, to have been deceived, and for years too. It wasn’t as if it had only just happened once or twice, some stupid mistake. No, this had been going on for years and years. And he like a fool had known nothing, hadn’t suspected a damned thing. And what the hell did she see in him anyway? He hardly had any conversation, he knew nothing of the world and will never amount to anything, he is just a farmhand. A stupid farmhand, but maybe that is exactly what she wanted, someone to be as un-Phil-like as it is possible to be. As a student he can remember reading a tattered and torn copy of ‘Lady Chatterley’ that did the rounds. Rubbish, he thought, pretentious and ridiculous, not even good wanking material. What is it with women that they are so bloody contrary? But not even Lady Chatterley had thrown it in her husband’s face quite like this.
“And how could you June?” Phil cried to the open, vast and empty sea, “How could you have done that to me. It breaks my heart even to think about it. And even if I am crying for myself and my own stupidity, that doesn’t make these tears any less real.”