Nick. Nick. Nick.

For the first morning in a week, Rose’s first waking thought was not about Kate.  His name ticked and tocked in her brain. His warm words, his soft lips as they… didn’t kiss her. Nick, who pulled away, rejected her, left without saying when… if… he would call.

Winchester Cathedral [photo: David Austin Roses]

Winchester Cathedral [photo: David Austin Roses]

Rose turned the water in the shower from hot to cold and yelled so loud that Michelle and Lewis downstairs must have heard.

Nick. Nick. Nick.

“Pull yourself together girl.” Rose told her reflection in the glass of the shower door. ”He doesn’t fancy you.” Rose had never known a man not kiss her back, harder and insistent. What had she done wrong? What had changed? He’d wanted to kiss her, hadn’t he? Could she have misread the signs? He’d certainly led her to think he’d like it, wanted it… perhaps she’d cried too much. She made a mental note to show Nick the Strong Rose in future, the Rose she used to be before the adoption thing.

Running late, there was no time for breakfast. She opened her bag and swept into it the pile from the hall table which comprised today’s paper, yesterday’s unopened post and her i-Pod.

On the first tube train, she read the same paragraph of the Herald three times. While she waited for an eastbound train out of Earl’s Court, she started a story about the NHS but stopped reading when the hospital spokesman quoted was called Nick… something. She licked her lips but the taste of his mouth had gone, washed away by toothpaste. She turned the page where a headline about squatters occupying the empty house claimed by a local MP as his second home caught her eye. In Battersea. Where Nick lived. It was a good story, but no byline. That was the sort of story she wanted to write, potentially an Eighter, maybe a Niner if the story was expanded. There was a photo of the house. She didn’t know if it was Nick’s part of Battersea or not.

She took his one page action plan from her bag and read it for the fifth time since waking. Though she knew each word, her heart leapt at the sight of his handwriting, the long lazy looping g’s and j’s and y’s which hinted at a looseness behind the businessman’s mask. It was incredibly sexy. He’d written this for her.

She thought for a moment, forming words sufficiently relaxed to show him she was still interested but was not a bunny boiler, then dialled his mobile. It was turned off. She left a polite message thanking him for his help last night, saying it’d be great to speak with him again. The tension in her throat made her voice sound formal, she’d spoken to him as if he were a customer. Oh well, she’d already got it horribly wrong, she couldn’t be any more embarrassed than she felt now.

There were no seats on the next eastbound train, so she stood in a squash near the doors and neatly folded her newspaper into quarters, and read the Bank of England’s economic forecast with commentary by a City expert called Martin Maddox. She pushed the newspaper into her bag and pulled out the envelope post-stamped ‘Enfield Foster & Adoption Centre’. Her hopes weren’t high. Bella at ARAP had explained the tortuous process involved. Despite the Freedom of Information Act, the correct hoops had to be jumped through in order to protect everyone involved in the case.

“It’s not worth getting annoyed about, Rose, believe me. Often the files which exist at these places contain no more than copies of the documents already in circulation.”

Rose prepared to read things she’d read before.

Dear Miss Haldane,

Further to a request by Mrs Eileen Greenaway of Wimbledon Social Services, please find enclosed the following documents:

  • two birth certificates related to yourself [photocopies];
  • a letter to EFAC dated 26th September 1968 from the Westmead Home for Ladies, Endeavour House, Church Road, Enfield [photocopy].

Yours sincerely,

Emma Turner [Miss]

“The next station is Westminster,” said a computerised voice. Rose jumped up, papers in hand, and got off the train just before the doors slid shut. She changed to the Jubilee Line, her pace slowed by the powder blue kitten heels she’d slipped on as an impulse this morning because thinking of Nick every second had made her feel girly. So instead of walking down the escalator on the left as she usually did, feeling fitter and therefore more virtuous than those standing, she stood to the right and didn’t complain as her elbow was jostled by the virtuous ones.

She leafed through the ‘Enfield Foster & Adoption Centre’ papers. She’d got the birth certificates. The 1968 letter had a signature at the bottom which she recognised. ‘Received with thanks. Diana Haldane.’

Received with thanks? Was Alanna received with thanks? Was I… received like a parcel?

The letter was a list of things that had been passed to Diana Haldane on 30th August 1968:-

  • Alanna Jane Ingram
  • White cotton gown
  • 12 hospital-issue terry napkins
  • White knitted bonnet

First she was a parcel, now she was an object on a list. She stumbled off the bottom of the escalator. The heat in the tiled tunnel was overpowering. A woman was walking towards her with a white-wrapped bundle strapped to her chest, a tuft of hair reached for the sky as if styled by static. Suddenly Rose was that small. She was Alanna, and Kate had just given her away. Rose stopped dead in her tracks and howled inside. It was a scream stored deep inside her all these years.

“Excuse me.”

“Watch where you’re going.”

Irritated commuters flowed around her like cars waltzing round a roundabout, dancing around each other and missing collision by moments. Gulping warm air to stop herself howling aloud, she saw the newborn baby rise to the top of the up escalator and disappear from sight.

Later she had no memory of either the Jubilee line train or the DLR. She felt as if she’d been spun in a tumble drier. Her mobile got its signal back as the train rose above ground and beeped with an incoming message. It was alive again. She took it out of her bag, and it beeped again like it was saying ‘Hello!’

She knew someone else who would be torn by the sight of a newborn baby. At the sound of Lily’s voice, Rose opened her mouth to speak but the words were not there.

“Rose, take deep breaths. Come on now, breathe, and again, that’s better. Now speak slowly. What’s happened? Where are you?”

The words spilled out. The letter, the list, the newborn baby.

“Aah,” said Lily. “I guess you saw that baby and thought it was you?”

“How… how tiny I was, defenceless, innocent.”

“Yes, you were. It’s horrible what happened to you, Rose, the lies, the secrecy. But it didn’t ruined your life. It hasn’t stop you doing things, becoming successful, growing into a wonderful young woman. And you are wonderful, you know.”

“I am?”

“You are.”
© Sandra Danby

…in IGNORING GRAVITY #48: Rose has supper with Maureen and gets some answers…

This is the 47th instalment of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ about identity detective Rose Haldane. To start reading from the beginning, please click on the category ‘My Novel: Ignoring Gravity’ in the right hand menu.