"Is that you, Rosemary?" called
out Beth from the front door.
"Yes, mum," called back
"Damn this front door," said
Beth, struggling to remove her key from the lock. "Remind me to
give a blast to the agent about this lock, the next time I go
down to pay the rent."
"All right, mum," agreed
"Would you like a
"Yes, thanks," said Beth,
picking up her two suitcases, and carrying them inside the front
"What is that strange smell?"
she asked. Taking off her coat, she walked down the hall toward
"I don't know, mum, I noticed
it when I came home."
"When was that?" asked Beth,
folding her coat over the back of a kitchen chair.
"Couple of hours ago," said
Placing her handbag upon the
kitchen table, Beth picked up a newspaper from the table, looked
at its date, then dropped the paper into the kitchen tidy. She
went over to the refrigerator to investigate the contents. The
kettle began to whistle, so Rosemary went over to switch it off,
and then began to make the tea.
"It's a damn nuisance, this
tiny fridge," said Beth. could save money by buying in bulk, if
we had a model twice the size of this one."
"But where would we get the
money for the larger fridge?" asked Rosemary, carrying the teapot
over to the tablet to allow the tea to brew.
"That's a thought," agreed
Beth. She made herself a snack of cheese and vegemite on Salada
biscuits then asked, is your father home?"
"I don't think so," said
"Oh pour the tea for God's
sake," said Beth. "You know I don't like it very
"All right," said Rosemary, a
coffee drinker herself, so she did not know whether tea should
sit for half a minute, or half an hour.
Rosemary poured the tea for
Beth, who took a sip, then ate part of a Salada and said, "Where
can your father be? He can't afford to go anywhere."
"He might be over with Uncle
Jack and Auntie Norma," suggested Rosemary without
"He had bloody better not be!"
"Oh mum..." began
"Don't 'oh mum' me!" warned Beth.
"But mum, you and Auntie Norma
have got to make up some time. You can't go on feuding for the
rest of your lives over something that happened so long
"I don't care how long ago it
was, I'll never forgive Norma for what she did!" insisted
"What did she do?" asked
Beth thought for a few moments,
sipping her tea, and finishing a Salada. Finally she said,
"Well, she threw a glass bottle at me for one thing. She could
have killed me!"
"But that was only after you
threw a glass Pavlova plate at Uncle Jack," reminded
"All right then, she drove
Collie away from us," insisted Beth.
"You drove Collie away," said
Rosemary. "You and dad by refusing to let her stay here if she
wouldn't go on to Uni."
"Look! I don't intend to be
corrected by my own daughter!" said Beth. Standing, she drank
the last of her tea, took the cup and saucer over to the sink, to
rinse them under the hot tap, then said, "I'm going up to unpack.
If your father isn't home by the time I finish, you can go
around to the Smiths' to see if he's there."
"All right, mum," said
Beth walked up the hall to the
bedrooms opened the door and clicked the light switch, She
clicked the switch three or four times, then called out, "The
damn light seems to have blown. Do you know where the torch
"Yes, it's in my room," called
out Rosemary, "I'll get it."
She raced down the hall, and
hunted around under her bed with one hand for a few seconds,
before finding the small torch.
"Here it is," said Rosemary,
handing the torch to Beth.
"Thanks," said Beth.
Switching on the torch, she pushed the bedroom door open wide and
Rosemary halfway back down the
hall to the kitchen when she heard her mother's shrill
* * *
Norma held Beth tight, doing
her best to comfort her. Norma was an unlikely choice for the
job, she thought, remembering back to the harsh words that had
been used between herself and Beth in recent times.
"Is she going to be all right?"
Rosemary asked Debbie Williams as they sat together on the sofa
in the lounge room. Rosemary had never been particularly close
to her mother, more however, she had been shocked by Beth's
hysterics earlier, than she had been by the sight of her father's
"I think so, honey," said
Debbie, patting the teenage girl on the knee. She received a
sharp glance from Norma, and quickly withdrew her
From the front of the house
came the sound of male voices; Jack and Kevin talking to the
"We'll have to get statements
from both of them," said a young police officer, "But there's no
hurry, tomorrow or the next day will be fine."
"Good," said Jack. "They're
in no state tonight, but in a day or two they should both be a
Outside the ambulance pulled
away, so the two police officers took that as their cue to
"I'd better go and give Pauline
a ring," said Kevin.
"Phone's just on the corner,"
said Jack pointing.
Kevin nodded and headed off in
the direction that Jack had pointed. Jack walked down to the
lounge room. Seeing Beth still sobbing, he went over to Debbie
and Rosemary and whispered, "Kev's going to ring his wife, then
we're going round to pick up Chris."
"All right," said
"Chris! Is Chris here?"
called out Beth, struggling around in Norma's grip to face
"No. no, honey," said Norma
soothingly. "Jack is just going to pick up Chris."
"Pick up Chris?" asked Beth,
sounding as though she were talking in her sleep.
Holding Beth at arm's length,
Norma was shocked to see how pale Beth was. "My God I hope
she's not going to throw up over me," thought Norma, then felt
ashamed at herself. She remembered the bad blood which had
passed between them, and felt ashamed that she had made no
attempt to smooth things out between them over the last three or
four months, even if it would have meant Norma having to take the
blame for something which Beth herself had caused. Norma had
never been a vindictive woman, and yet she had made no attempt to
heal the rift, and now she felt guilty about it.
* * *
Norma held the first washed
plate out to Jack and said, "Well, don't just stand there, Collie
and Rosie should be here any minute now."
"I thought Collie said she
wasn't going?" asked Jack, wiping the plate dry, then placing it
in the cupboard above the sink.
"That's what she said
originally," agreed Chris. "But mum and I ... Norma and I went
around to see her, and with Rosie's help we managed to make her
change her mind."
There was a knock at the front
door and Norma turned to ask, "Will you get that,
"Sure," said Chris standing and
walking up to the front door. tie returned a few moments later
followed by Colleen and Rosemary.
"Let me give you a hand, Auntie
Norma," said Rosemary, taking up a tea towel to help with the
"Is anyone reading this?" asked
Colleen, picking up the newspaper from the kitchen
Jack looked back toward Chris
who said, "No, I've just finished with it. I
"Would you girls like a cup of
tea before we go?" asked Norma.
"Yes, please," said Rosemary.
"Coffee if you've got it."
"Would you mind making it,
Collie?" asked Norma.
Colleen stopped in the doorway,
on her way to the lounge room, and sighed heavily.
"Never mind, sis," said
Rosemary. "I'll make it once we finish with the
"Thanks," muttered Colleen,
walking through to the lounge room, Sitting upon the sofa, she
turned the newspaper to the television page and called out,
"We'll be missing a great movie tonight, one I've always wanted
"You can watch it another time,
love," said Norma. "I'm sure Beth would be upset if you didn't
go to see her."
"Yeah, I suppose so," said
They finished the dishes, then
Rosemary made the tea and coffee, and took a cup of tea in to
"Just put it on the coffee
table," said Colleen, reading through the fashion
"We don't have a lot of time,"
said Norma. "So don't let it sit for too long."
"Most of these things are
straight out of a Bogart movie," said Colleen, referring to the
fashion pages. "Except they looked a lot better on Lauren
Bacall and Betty Grable, than on the stick figure women that they
call models these days."
"Did you hear what I said about
the tea?" asked Norma.
"Yes, Auntie Norma," said
Colleen. She picked up the cup, took a tiny sip of tea, then
pantomimed receiving third-degree burn.
"Blow on it if it's a little
hot," advised Norma. "Don't think you can make the one cup last
long enough to get out of going with us,"
"Ready to go Auntie Norma?"
asked Rosemary enthusiastically. "Uncle Jack and Chris are
still in the bathroom, shaving. And they talk about women
taking a long time to get ready to go out."
"Christ, there's no need to
sound so happy!" said Colleen, "It's not as though we're going to
the pictures or anything."
"We're going to see mum," said
Rosemary. "That's something to be happy about."
"Not necessarily," said
Colleen. "We don't know what she's like."
"Even so," begin
"Girls, girls," said Norma,
"don't argue about it, we're all going to see Beth in a little
while, and that's final." She stopped for a moment, then looked
toward the hallway and, seeing there was still no sign of Chris
or Jack, she said, "While I've got you both together, girls,
there is something I wanted to talk to you about. Jack asked me
... That is, Jack and I both thought perhaps you might like to
move in with us for a while. We can shift Chris into the lounge
room, and put up your beds in Chris's room."
"Well, I'm living with the
Bernsteins, next door to our house," said Rosemary, "and I don't
"She doesn't want to move out,"
explained Colleen, "because she has a crush on their son,
"That isn't true!" insisted
"Then why do you follow him
around everywhere, like lost lamb?"
"I do not!"
"Do too," said Colleen. 'It's a
wonder you didn't invite him along tonight. You could have
brought along some pop corn and Jaffas, and you could sit around
staring at her, and it'd be just like being at the
"You shut up!" shouted
Rosemary. "That's a nasty thing to say!"
"Yes, you should be ashamed of
yourself," said Norma.
"I'm sorry," said Colleen, but
it sounded like a bad actress reading from a cue card.
As Chris and Jack walked into
the lounge room, Norma, asked, "Then how would you like to move
in with us for a. while, Collie?"
"No, thanks," said Colleen.
"I've recently started work as a typist, and I'm renting a room
in a house a couple of streets away from where I
"That's convenient," said
"Yeah," agreed Colleen. "And
the couple I'm boarding with have a young daughter, Sonja, for me
to play with."
"Sonja?" asked Chris. "That's
a co-incidence. I know a girl, about Rosie's age, named Sonja.
I met her at night school last year, and I've been taking her to
Out of Work People's Action Group meetings, in the hope of
helping to bring her out of her shell a-little."
"Sonja Juchster," said
"That's right," said Chris,
amazed. "Her father, Allan, is one of the interviewers down at
the Footscray CES."
"That's right," agreed
"He's the biggest bastard I've
ever met," said Chris.
"What?" demanded Colleen. "On
the contrary, I find him charming."
"Sure, the way a Cobra is
charming. You obviously don't know him as well as I do," said
"I've been boarding with him
and his family for almost a month now," said Colleen. "And I've
never met a nicer man."
"You obviously haven't met too
many men then," insisted Chris.
"He has always been good to
me," insisted Colleen. "In fact he got me my job. They had a
vacancy for a typist come in, and instead of putting the card up
on the job board, he took it home with him that night, so I was
the only one who applied for the job, and natch I got
"That doesn't sound very fair,"
said Rosemary. "What about the other girls who he robbed of a
chance to get the job?"
"Who cares about them?"
demanded Colleen. "What matters is he helped me to get the
"Well, he was never much of a
help to me, when I was on the dole," said Chris. "In fact, he's
the bastard who threw me off. He turned toward Jack and said,
"You know him, don't you, dad?"
"I think so," said Jack. "Is
lie the tall, thin bloke who looks like he was rejected by the
Nazis for being too cruel?"
"Yes, that's him," agreed
"He is not cruel!" insisted
Colleen. She thought, "It doesn't count with Sonja, since she's
obviously a nymphomanical masochist. And he's never raised a
hand against me ... well apart from the first day."
"Well, all I know," said Chris,
"is that I don't think it's wise for a teenage girl to be
boarding with an animal like that. Or a teenage boy for that
"Oh shut up!" said Colleen.
"I don't want to hear any more of your garbage! Mr Juchster is
a nice man, and I am staying there. Besides, it's not as though
I'm alone with him, he's a married man, and I share a room with
his daughter. So he could hardly sneak in on me in the middle
of the night ... even if he were that way inclined."
"You're probably right," agreed
Chris. He did strike me as being a bit of a poof!"
"That's not what I meant
either," insisted Colleen.
"Chris, let's not fight about
it," said Norma. "If Colleen is happy there, then the matter is
"Thank you Auntie Norma," said
Colleen, surprising Norma by standing and kissing Norma upon the
"Finished?" asked Colleen,
taking her sister's empty cup, which she added to her own. She
carried both cups into the kitchen and rinsed them under the hot
"Wow that's the closest she's
ever come to washing the dishes," said Rosemary.
"If we're all ready now, then
we'd better be leaving," said Norma, herding everyone toward the
* * *
As the white robed matron led
them down the long hallway, Chris was reminded of all the
long-walk films he had seen on the television. The convicts
were always led down a seemingly endless corridor to the electric
chair, or perhaps the gas chamber.
When they finally stopped
before the last door at the end of the corridor, Chris, lost in
thought, almost collided into the back of Jack.
"I think it would be best if
you were to see her one or two at a time," said the grey-haired
matron. "When she first came here it was necessary to keep her
sedated most of the time. Gradually we were able to reduce the
amount of sedation in accord with an increased amount of therapy.
But even so, she is far from well, and too much excitement at
once could reverse all of the good work we have done, in one fell
The matron unlocked the door,
which she only opened a few centimetres.
"You can...." began Colleen.
At the same time Norma said,
"I think the girls should go
Colleen sighed in exasperation,
and gave Norma, a pleading look. Norma gave Colleen a return
glance which seemed to say, "The sooner you go in there, the
sooner you can get it over with. "Is there anywhere we can buy
magazines or something for her?" asked Norma.
"Well, she isn't able to read
yet," said the matron, "but I suppose you can take her some
chocolates, or ice-cream, There's a canteen in the foyer. If
you'd like to come with me, I'll show you the way," she said,
heading down the corridor at a brisk pace.
"Jack?" asked Norma.
"Why not?" asked Jack,
following Norma and the matron back down the hallway. "The
girls will be in there for some time yet, I suppose."
But Jack was wrong, it was only
a few minutes later that the two girls came out of the room,
Rosemary looking as though she was about to cry, and Colleen with
cheeks flushed red from anger.
"Is anything wrong.?" asked
"Only everything," said
Colleen, as Rosemary began walking down the corridor, "Why don't
they lock her away in a dark vault somewhere, and throw away the
Rosemary began to cry into her
hands, Colleen ran after her and put a comforting arm around
"Just tell your mum and dad
that we had to leave, f said Colleen to Chris, as she led
Rosemary toward the visitors elevators.
Chris stood looking back down
the corridor after the two girls for a few moments. He
hesitated to take the initiative, then decided that perhaps he
should get it over with too.
Opening the door, he stepped
into the room, and closed the door behind him.
The room was a tiny single-bed
ward. At the back of the room was a separate room with a sign
on the door saying, "Washroom and toilet." In the bedroom there
was q. ceiling height cabinet which Chris correctly guessed to be
locked, a metal frame bed, a small cupboard near the bed, and two
On the bed, propped up by four
foam rubber pillows, sit a grey-haired old lady, who looked to be
about ninety years old.
At first Chris assumed he had
somehow walked into the wrong room. He was about to apologise,
when he recognised the old lady as his mother, Beth.
"Mum began Chris, uncertain how
to react to her.
It seemed et first -as though
the grey-haired woman had not heard him, and he wondered whether
there was still time to sneak back out through the door, But then
she turned her head quickly to the left end stared hard at him,
puzzled look came over her badly wrinkled face.
"Who are you?" she asked in a
voice hardly above a whisper, yet which still had a sharp edge
"It's Chris," he said, walking
over to sit upon one of the plastic stools.
"Chris?" she asked, puzzled.
For a moment it seemed as though the name meant nothing to her,
but after awhile, she said, "Chris ... I used to have a son named
"I know, mum," said Chris.
"Me. I'm your son, Chris," Beth continued as though she had not
even heard him, I used to have a son named Chris. but he was
stolen away from me."
"No, I wasn't, mum," said
"Stolen away from me," she said
again and stopped to ponder for a moment, having trouble drawing
anything up from her faint memories of the post. "When I was a
little girl, I used to watch a lot of movies about little
children who were stolen away from their parents by gypsies.
They always seemed such silly movies, I never suspected it could
happen to me in real life."
"Mum I wasn't stolen away from
you," insisted Chris.
"Stolen away from me," repeated
Beth, not having heard a word Chris had said. "But of course
that was a very long time ago," she said. Her eyes seemed to
come into focus for a moment as she gazed hard at Chris as though
she could almost recognise him. Then she said, "But of course
you're much too young to know anything about that, it was
probably before you were even born."
"No, it isn't, mum. it was me,"
Chris almost shouted at Beth. "I'm your son, Chris."
But Beth's eyes had clouded
over again like twin moons which occasionally showed through
Chris did not hear any
approaching footsteps, so he was surprised when the door opened.
The matron looked in and asked, "Is everything all
"Yes, matron," assured Beth.
"I was just explaining to this young man that I used to have a
son, but I don't seem to be able to remember what his name was,
or what happened to him."
"Don't you know who this young
man is?" asked the matron.
"No, should I?" asked Beth.
"I'm sure I've never seen him before today."
"Then why did he come in to see
you?" asked the matron.
"I really don't know, matron.
Perhaps you had better ask him. He simply wandered into the
room, I thought he must have come to visit someone, then
wandered into my room by mistake," said Beth.
"Yes, perhaps you're right,"
said the matron. She took Chris by one arm and led him
"There are more people here to
see you," said the matron. She ushered Norma and Jack into the
"Well, I hope I know these
two," said Beth. "I get sick and tired of strangers wandering in
and out as though I was an exhibition in a freak circus." She
paused for a moment to think. Then she added, "Like those two
The matron was surprised Beth
could remember back so far, she said, "Mr and Mrs Mayron weren't
"Who were they then?" demanded
Beth. "And why didn't I know them if I know them?"
"Mrs Mayron used to be married
to your husband, Bob," said the matron, wondering whether she had
said too much.
"Bob?" asked Beth. sounding
genuinely perplexed. "But this is my husband," she said,
pointing toward Jack.
"No, Jack is my husband,"
"Who is this woman?" asked
Beth. seeming to notice Norma for the first time, "And what does
she mean about you being her husband, Jack? Have you been
taking advantage of my illness to see floozies behind my
The matron walked back to the
door. "If she gives you too much trouble just give me a call,"
she said to Norma.
"Don't worry matron, I've got
my buzzer," said Beth, holding it up,
In the hallway Chris leant
against the wall opposite to the door to Beth's room. He
wondered how much longer Jack and Norma would be, whether he had
time to go downstairs to the kiosk for a few minutes. It seemed
to Chris they wrist had been in the room for hours, but not
having a watch, he had no way of knowing,
A young nurse walked out of a
room halfway down the hall, and began to walk in the opposite
direction. Chris went to call after her, then decided it would
be inappropriate in this place. Instead he walked quickly down
the corridor after her. He caught up with the young nurse just
as she pressed the down button for the staff elevators, the doors
opened immediately and the nurse stepped inside the
"Excuse me!" called out
"I'm sorry, you'll have to use
the visitors' elevators," she called to him as the doors shut in
He walked across to the
visitors' elevators, then hesitated for a moment. He looked
back down the corridor past the half of a dozen locked doors, to
the door at the very end. The door was closed, but for all
Chris knew Jack and Norma could have been standing behind the
door, saying their final good byes.
Chris hesitated for a moment
longer, then pressed the red down button.
* * *
Colleen paid off the taxi and
led her sister to the front door of the house, Rosemary had
stopped crying but she still seemed upset by the visit to her
mother, "Are you sure you don't want me to come inside with you?"
a long time goo
"No, I'll be all right now,"
assured Rosemary. "It was stupid of me to allow myself to get
upset at what she said. She isn't herself,
"She's a bitch, the same as
always!" said Colleen, shocking her sister. "Some things never
change! It was stupid to even go there after what the Mayrons
told us she was like."
"I guess we just didn't ...
None of us could believe she was really that bad."
"Mum's always been worse than
anything you could imagine," said Colleen, "Sane or crazy. No
matter what your wildest fantasies about the world's worst bitch
are, mum can always find a way to be worse."
"Oh Collie, that isn't
"I'm sorry," said Colleen
kissing her sister on the cheek. "Sometimes I forget you still
see the world through rose-coloured glasses."
"I do not," said
"Do to," said Colleen. She
laughed, then said, as Brian Bernstein opened the front door,
"I'll see you later."
* * *
"But who are these two girls
you keep prattling on about?" demanded Beth,
"Rosemary and Colleen," said
Norma. "They were here to see you earlier today."
"Nobody has been in to see me
today, until you came in," insisted Beth. "And whatever their
names are, I still don't see what they are to me?"
"They're your two daughters,"
"Nonsense I don't have any
daughter," insisted Beth. "How could I forget a thing like
that? Jack and I only ever had one child, a. son named
"They are your daughters by
Bob," said Norma. Seeing Jack glance at her, she wondered if
she had already gone too far. "You do remember Bob, don't
"Of course I remember Bob,"
Jack and Norma exchanged looks,
wondering whether this new development would turn out to be a
good thing, or bad. Norma mimed the question to Jack, who
shrugged his shoulders in answer.
"But that was a long time ago,"
said Beth. "Bob hanged himself years ago, before I even met
Jack. And Bob and I certainly never had any
"But of course you did,"
insisted Norma. "Rosie and Collie!"
"I don't know about collie,"
said Beth, "but I had cabbage and sprouts for tea
"No, your daughter Colleen,"
"Don't you think I'd know if
I'd had two daughters?" asked Beth. "You're as bad as that
crazy woman last night who tried to tell me she was Bob's first
wife. Which is ridiculous since Bob and I were straight out of
high school when we got married. And he hanged himself two
years later, so how could she have been his first wife? Unless
they were married in the crib." For some reason this struck
Beth as incredibly funny and she began to cackle like one of the
old crones in Macbeth.
"But you do remember Bob?"
"Bob?" asked Beth. "I don't
know anyone named Bob, what are you raving about now?" To Jack
she said, "Who is this crazy woman, anyway, honey?"
"Perhaps we had better leave
now," said Norma to Jack.
"You can leave," Beth said to
Norma. "I didn't invite you here in the first place," To Jack
she said, "Why did you bring this woman here Jack? There's no
need to flaunt her in my face. I don't know why you need her
anyway. In a couple of more days, when my testing is over, I'll
be able to come home again, and then I'll be able to give you
everything you need. You should know by now I'd never hold out
Norma stood and glared at Beth,
barely containing her rage. She allowed Jack to lead her over
to the door.
"Come again, Jack honey,"
called out Beth, "But by yourself next time, all
Outside in the corridor, they
looked around for Chris.
"What are you smiling about?"
"I was just thinking about her
saying she'd never hold out on me," explained Jack.
"What's so funny about that?"
"Only that one of the main
reasons that I divorced Beth was because she was always such a
frigid bitch," said Jack. "She was so certain she had the
perfect shape, and she was afraid that sex would make her less
than perfect. Or worse, she might get pregnant which would
really spoil her perfect figure. You wouldn't believe the fuss
she made after Chris was born. She spent a fortune on special
diets and exercise classes to get back her perfect
"Although, personally, I always
thought she was a bit too scrawny," said Jack. He reached
around from behind Norma, to grab her large breasts in his hands,
and whispered into her left ear, "I've always preferred women
with a bit of meat on their bones."
"In that case you must have me
by the breastbone at the moment," said Norma.
"To be quite honest," said
Jack, "I was amazed she and Bob ever had children."
Chris stepped out of the
elevator and walked down the corridor to where Jack was still
squeezing Norma's breasts.
"Looks like I'd better get you
two home," said Chris. "Or at least get a bucket of water handy
* * *
Norma nibbled on the toast for
a moment, then carried her cup of tea over to the kitchen table.
Sitting she asked Chris, "How was your mother last
"Beth? No better than the
first time we saw her, as far as I could tell," said Chris.
"Although the doctor in charge told Rosie that Beth was making a
slow but steady improvement."
"That's a shame," said Norma.
She finished the slice of toast, then sipped her tea for a moment
before asking, "Have the girls been going to see her very
"Rosie goes once or twice n
week. But from what I could find out Collie hasn't been back
since the time we all went together."
"That can't be helping Beth at
"Don't blame, Collie," said
Chris. "It's the fault of those animals at the CES. If they
hadn't thrown Uncle Bob off the dole, held still be alive, and
mum ... Beth would still be normal."
"Chris! Your mother isn't
abnormal ... she's ... she's just temporarily unsettled, that's
all. The doctors were quick to write her off during her
problems after the divorce from your father. But she was up and
around again in a little under two years." Norma paused for a
moment, then said, "I suppose you don't remember much about
"No, nothing at all really,"
"That's understandable, you
were barely six when your mother was released that
"Is that why I was given to you
and dad, instead of Beth?" asked Chris.
"It was partly that," agreed
Norma, "and partly the fact that someone had to look after you
while your mother was in hospital. Then your mother was still
far from well when she was first released, and your father and I
had already married by then. So it was agreed your father and I
would look after you, at least for a while. Plus, of course,
there was your kidney troubles as a child. We had enough
trouble running back and forth between home and the Royal
Children's, but Beth wouldn't have been able to take it at all.
She was only just out of hospital herself, and didn't need to be
reminded of it by seeing you sick."
"Didn't she ever visit me in
hospital?" asked Chris.
"No, never," said Norma. 'Or at
least not to my knowledge," Norma sipped the last of her tea,
then took the empty cup over to the sink to rinse it under the
hot water tap. She took a nibble from the second piece of toast
on the tray, grimaced, then dropped the toast in the kitchen tidy
before saying, "Then of course your mother married Bob Bennett,
and surprised us all , a year later by giving birth to Colleen, a
few days before Beth's fortieth birthday. Two years later she
gave birth to Rosemary, so, since I was nearly forty, and
unlikely to have any kids of my own at that stage, it was agreed
between the two couples, with a little help from our legal
advisers, that Jack and I would continue to raise you. But only
on the condition that you were always to know that Beth is your
"Oh mum," said Chris.
Standing, he walked over to put an arm around Norma's shoulders.
"You should know that I've always thought of you as my mother.
Beth is more ... more like half an aunt to me; Collie and Rosie
like cousins than sisters."
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