As soon as I finished my two extra years at St Clara's Academy Boarding School for Girls, I was sent down to the reception desk for an urgent message.
The middle aged receptionist stared at me peering over her spectacles with a look of pity and sympathy in her brown eyes as she handed me over a small brown envelope.
I stared down at the envelope in my hand and then began opening it. I pulled out the letter from Grandmother Maxine. As I read the letter my eyes moved back and forth quickly as the words in black ink on the paper began to go all blurry as my eyes filled up with fresh, sad tears.
Dearest Zoe, 25th June, 1950
I have the most devastating news to tell you. It'll shatter and break your heart in two like it has done for Gene and I. Gene is now ten, Zoe, and growing taller and getting more like your father used to be every day. Speaking of your Papa, my dear, sweet and innocent Zoe, I don't know how to tell you this any other way but, your father is dead, Zoe! He drank himself into a huge slumber because he was extremely miserable and unhappy with his life. Your little brother and I did everything in our power to shake him out of it by getting him to do active things that he used to love doing like cricket, golf, and croquet. But he didn't do it; Your father drank himself to an early grave. I am so, so, very deeply sorry Zoe.
I am getting older now and I don't feel as young as I used to be. So I am suggesting and I've spoken to your Papa's younger sister, Isabel, yours and Gene's aunt, who lives up in West Cornwall in St Ives on the mountain with her husband, your Uncle Herald, and their three beautiful children who are your cousins, Oliver, Devon, and Cynthia. Oliver is the eldest child at twenty four years old. Devon is the middle child at twenty two years old. And Cynthia the youngest at thirteen.
I really do hope you can understand this proposal that I'm offering you, Zoe. You'll be living with your family who you and Gene have not known for a long, long time since you were very young because your Papa and your Aunt Isabel never really got on. I will stay with one of my dearest friends, Mrs Lavender, you and Gene will go there and have the best time of your lives with your cousins.
I have told your aunt and uncle that you and Gene are coming up on a train at the beginning of August to live with them. So they are expecting your arrival, so please do not refuse. You don't have to worry about yours and Gene's education because your aunt has assured me that there's a highly reccommended primary school in West Cornwall for Gene and and college for you, so no need to worry about that at all.
Take care now
Love Grandmother Maxine
Tears swamped over my blue eyes and eyelids and then streamed down my cheeks like a waterfall as my mouth quivered uncontrollably. My hands threw to my face letting the letter drop to the floor in slow motion. Everything began to blur and turn around me as my legs gave way beneath me and I fell to the floor.
All I could hear was the faint voice of the very concerned receptionist say to another to call for the doctor urgently whil she stayed by my side assuring me that everything will be all right. Which I doubt it will ever be right again now that both my parents were now deceased. My eyes closed shut and I fell into unconsciousness.
I began to come around slowly a few hours later in a unfamiliar surrounding. I looked around and saw young and old, fat and thin women in blue nurses' uniforms busy with patients, rushing around wards. It was the hospital. What was I doing at the hospital? There has got to be some misunderstanding because I felt perfectly fine; I'm not ill of any sorts. Well, I don't think I am anyhow.
A quite big, rosy cheeked nurse came through the door with a big bright smile "hello, you've come around, wonderful. We were all so worried about you, miss, you gave us all quite a scare," the nice nurse continued. "We thought u'd never wake up."
I sat up and smiled at her. It all came flooding back to me why I had been taken into hospital. The letter. Grandmother Maxine's very devastating letter about Papa being dead. Fresh tears filled up my eyes blurring my vision of the nurse walking back out the room. Why had Papa drunk so much to actually kill himself? I wondered miserably. Didn't Grandmother, Gene, and I make him happy? Hadn't we given him much joy and pride? We had tried our best to make him happy, really we did.
A tall, dark skinned doctor in a white doctor's coat with a stethoscope around his neck walked into the hospital room. He smiled kindly down at me and sat down on the edge of the bed. "How are you feeling, Miss Smith?" he asked in a soft concerned voice.
"I feel fine now, thank you doctor," I replied with a smile. "I guess devastating news of my Papa being dead really took a turn for the worse for me and I blanked out."
The doctor with the name tag of Doctor Tony Bailey nodded his head sympathetically and touched my left hand with his. "I know how it feels to lse someone so close to you to suddenly kill themselves with no explanation."
I stared down at my fingers and noticed that my fingernails were chipped and broken. Oh god, I thought with horror. I can't let this handsome doctor see these. So I quickly hid my other hand underneath my legs.
The doctor put the stethoscope against my heart and listened to it beating and then it out from his ears and smiled down at me "you're free to go, young lady. But just be careful. You look after yourself, you hear? You've experienced dramatic, painful and devastating news about a loved one and I know how sad news like that can affect a person physically and mentally," he told me in a stern voice.
"Will do doctor," I said. I watched as the doctor and the nurse left and then changed back into my clothes from the blue hospital night gown. I walked down the corridor to the ladies rest room and splashed cold water onto my face. I brushed my hair that had gotten blonder from the summer sunshine. I pinned it back into a low bun and walked out of the hospital.
It felt so good to have the hot sun on my face again. I called out to a taxi cab and it stopped in front of me and I got into the back.
"Where to, miss?" asked the cab driver, looking at me through his rear view mirror.
"Tintagel, North Cornwall, please," I said firmly sitting back comfortably against the black leather seat.
The cab driver turned his head round and gave me a shocked look. "Do you know how much it'll cost?" he asked.
I nodded. My eyes narrowed at him "I have money, you don't need to worry about that."
He shook his head and turned back round to the front and started up the cab and drove away to Tintagel, North Cornwall. My home.