Posts Tagged ‘Chloe’

I never understood why Chloe wanted to join the Girl Guides. She came home every Tuesday evening looking miserable, and she never went on any of the outings or brought friends home. She did, however, enjoy earning the badges. The first one she got was for needlework. I’ve always insisted she mended her own clothes, so she’s very neat and quick with a needle and thread. She put that skill to good use over the next year, sewing badge after badge onto her blue uniform. For cookery, she planned and catered a dinner party, and invited the Lord Mayor to join the Guide leader and the rest of her patrol. He came, as well, with his chain round his neck. She didn’t invite me. I wouldn’t have been able to go anyway, I had a flower-arranging class.

When she’d just turned twelve, the local fire brigade offered to help the girls get their firefighting badges. I’ve never seen her so excited. She said it was the last one she needed for some sort of award. She read all the books about fire that she could find, and wrote long lists of questions for the firemen who came every week to give talks and demonstrations. If her dad had been alive he would have encouraged her, but I’ve never really known how to deal with her odd behaviour.

One Tuesday I saw her going out after tea wearing jeans and t-shirt. I asked why she wasn’t wearing her uniform.

‘We’re going to the fire station today for the final test. I told you about it last week,’ she said.

Later that evening, as I was making my cocoa, I realised she should have been home at least an hour earlier. I initially assumed the tests had taken longer than expected, but by the time I put my empty mug on the draining board I was beginning to get annoyed with her. I didn’t mind her staying out, I generally let her please herself, but she should have let me know.

As if she’d heard my thoughts, the phone rang. It wasn’t Chloe’s voice at the other end of the line though.

‘Hello, Mrs Hunter?’

‘That’s right. Who is this, please?’

‘I’m Nurse Beckett, from the Children’s Ward at Northampton General Hospital. We’ve got your daughter Chloe here.’

For a split second my irritation intensified, then I’m not quite sure what happened. I heard the nurse say, ‘Mrs Hunter? Are you still there?’ as I put the phone down and went into the kitchen to wash up. I’d only just filled the bowl and pulled on my rubber gloves when the phone rang again, so I ignored it. I didn’t want to waste the hot water.

I’d nearly finished drying the pots when there was a loud hammering at the front door. I put the last plate away and went into the hall, unsure whether to answer the door at that time of night. I could see the end of a fingertip holding the letterbox open.

‘Mrs Hunter, are you all right?’ The voice was male, and too loud. ‘I’m PC Ledger. The hospital called the station and asked us to check up on you. Said you’d just had some bad news?’

What was wrong with me? I had a policeman kneeling at the front door, and Chloe was in hospital. And I’d just finished the washing up.

I opened the door. PC Ledger appeared to be about three years older than Chloe. He rose to his feet. ‘I’ve got a car out front, would you like me to take you up to the hospital?’

There are times in one’s life when one has to suffer indignities for the sake of one’s child. Climbing into a police car in full view of several pairs of eyes peeking from neighbouring windows was certainly one of those times. Thankfully the constable didn’t switch on the sirens or lights, or screech his tyres as we left.

He did drive very quickly though. It only took five minutes to get there. I apologised for troubling him as I got out of the car. He awkwardly reached out and touched my arm, and said, ‘I’m sure your daughter will be OK, Mrs Hunter.’ How did he know?

A porter pointed me in the direction of the Children’s Ward, and I was met at the double doors by a brisk woman who introduced herself as Nurse Beckett.

‘Chloe’s sleeping now. She’s had a nasty scare, but she’s going to be OK. We’re just keeping her in for observation.’

‘What happened? Is she badly hurt?’

‘Oh no, she just got very cold and shaken up, a few bruises, nothing worse than that. We had to warm her up a bit, that’s why we want to keep an eye on her.’

‘What on earth are you talking about?’ Couldn’t the woman get to the point?

‘I’m sorry, I thought you’d been told…’

‘Of course I haven’t, who would have told me?’

‘I’m sorry…’

‘Just tell me what happened, for pity’s sake.’

‘According to the Guide leader, some of the other girls dared her to climb on top of a fire engine, and then one of them nipped to the phone box and reported a huge fire. Chloe managed to wedge herself in and hang onto the ladder, but she was still thrown around, and the wind froze her stiff, the poor mite.’

I started walking down the ward. Nurse Beckett darted alongside me, tiptoeing like a nervous burglar. I couldn’t see Chloe, until the nurse took my elbow and steered me towards a bed I’d overlooked on first glance. Her tiny pale face, as white as the pillowcase it was resting on, was that of a girl half her age. At the same time, it was the face of her father lying motionless on the pier at Southend.

‘Tell her I’ll bring some clothes in the morning. No point staying if she’s asleep.’

I turned and walked away.

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Chloe again, again…

And she’s back. The questions she chose to tackle yesterday were the easy ones. I had to talk her into returning to answer the rest. It’s wonderful what the promise of wine and chocolate will do!

You have something in a drawer that you have told no one about. What is it? Why have you kept it secret? Why haven’t you thrown it away?
Yellow BlanketIt’s a yellow blanket, one of those baby blankets with holes in. I was wrapped in it when my real mum and dad crashed the car. My mum gave it to me when I left home. One of the paramedics at the scene wrote down my real mum’s last words, and that piece of paper is wrapped up in the blanket. It’s like a nursery rhyme, but not one I’ve ever heard before, and I don’t understand it:

Rocking to, rocking fro,
The balance must be kept.
In the wood the stone will grow,
That centuries has slept.

I’ve kept it secret because it sounds a bit mad, to be honest. I never really knew anyone I wanted to tell it to. But it’s the only link I have with my parents, so I couldn’t throw it away.

Is your desire to search for info on your birth family getting stronger?
Not particularly. Well, that’s almost a lie. I want to know where I came from, for some reason the place is more important than the people. I’m not bothered about having a sense of family, because I’ve never had that and I’m not sure I could cope with suddenly having lots of relatives. But I would like somewhere to call home. I have this strange feeling that my home is calling to me, and that home isn’t Northampton (where I grew up), Nottingham (where I was at uni) and certainly not London, where I live now.

Are you going to explore the hidden meanings behind your draw to the countryside? After all, you are trained in psychology.
Yes. See above. I have a very strong feeling that my real home, where I was born, is somewhere in the English countryside. Or it could be Wales, or maybe Scotland at a stretch, but I don’t think it’s that far away. I have no explanation for this feeling, all the psychology degree gives me is the ‘knowledge’ that it’s irrational! Doesn’t stop me believing it though. If there’s a God, he’s certainly trying to steer me somewhere.

In the 10 years that have passed, do you see yet that it’s not about how pretty you are?
I guess you mean what I said about John going for the prettiest girls? Well, I always did see that, but I didn’t feel it. I’m not sure I do even now. John can make my heart do somersaults just by smiling at me, and a big part of that is that he chose me rather than any of the others. And I still don’t know why. So sort of yes and no – it isn’t about how pretty I am, but I don’t know what it is about. Does that make sense?

In your fantasies who are you?
Someone who can fly a long way. I can imagine nothing more magical than just taking off and following the sun, or the moon, or the stars.

Have you no ambitions in life?
That’s a really difficult question! See my answer to the next question, and probably tone it down a bit for what my true ambitions are.

What would you do if you won the lottery, would anything major change in your aspirations, or would it just be fun to spend it, and you’d end back up in the same old rut?
I can’t spent money just for fun, so I definitely wouldn’t fritter it away. There are two things that would change, for sure. I’d give up work, and I’d buy a house in the country. I never really liked any of my jobs, they’ve always been a means to an end. Dad left me a bit of money, enough to put down a 50% deposit on the flat, which helps. We still can’t live on John’s salary alone though, not the rate he spends money. So yes, the first thing I would do is leave work. And a house in the country, that’s always been my dream. When I was a little girl it was a magical house with a stable and a pair of horses for me and my handsome prince. When I was at uni it was a rock star pad, with a swimming pool and a stage. Now I’m not fussy really, just as long as it’s warm and dry, big enough for me and maybe a couple of dogs, and miles and miles away from any built-up areas.

Yes, what would you do if you had enough money to quit work? Would you look at John differently? Would you leave him?
I think it would depend on him. If he wanted to come and live in the country with me, that would be fine. But if he didn’t, I don’t know what I’d do. I hope I never have to choose.

Why do you think you’re so insecure?
What’s behind all that guilt?
Does being doormatic feed your guilt and give you what you deserve?
Are you an honest victim?
All these questions are really difficult for me to answer. I don’t actually know the answers, to be honest. I didn’t think I was particularly insecure or guilty, and I don’t really think of myself as a victim. I don’t stand up for myself as much as I should, I know that. I am trying to do something about it, and so far I’m doing pretty well, I think. At work, anyway. Doreen keeps trying to persuade me to stand up to John as well, but I reckon I’ll tackle one thing at a time. As for getting what I deserve, doesn’t everyone? Yes, John has hit me once or twice, but it was always when I was winding him up, so it doesn’t count as abuse or anything like that.

I haven’t got any questions at this point, but do have a suggestion for a hobby: she flies a glider.
Now that I agree with wholeheartedly. I shall book myself some lessons. I’d better not tell John though, he’d re-mortgage the flat to buy his own bloody glider!

So, that’s about it. If you have any further questions, I’d be happy to try and answer them for you (especially as the Old Bat is bribing me with yummy things). Otherwise, hopefully it won’t be too long before you can buy the book and read about the strange and wonderful things that happen to me!

And Finally…

Old Bat here again, just to play you out. Thank you so much to Chloe for taking the time to let us into her world and helping me to understand what makes her tick. I don’t think she’d be one of my bessie mates, but I’d certainly be up for going down the pub with her, or a long walk in the country.

And thank you even more to you guys who helped me by asking questions that I had to dig deep into the mystery that is Chloe to answer. It’s been a fascinating exercise, and I feel a whole lot happier about my plan to spend a lot of the next six months with her. Julian, Laura, Steph, Fran and Adrian, you’re all stars! and if the novel ever gets published you’ll definitely get signed copies and a mention in the acknowledgements!

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