In fact, Joyce had had far more than the “few confabs” with Rosie that Sarah was aware of. She had always been fiercely interested in the business, and although her grief over her husband’s death was still a raw and painful wound, she was increasingly rising above it.She phoned Rosie most evenings to hear how things were going at the yard and to offer Rosie support. She was perfectly aware of how wounded Rosie herself felt, both from her father’s death and from what she felt was her parents’ betrayal over the future of the firm.Things had been edgy between them in the immediate aftermath of that announcement, but, always close, they were coming through it.Joyce set a cup of tea on the little side table beside her chair in the sitting-room that now always seemed too quiet, and dialled the familiar number.
* * * *
Jodie answered as she was curling her legs under her.“Hello, dear, it’s your grandmother. I’ve been meaning to ask how come it’s always you who picks up the phone when I call? Is your mother avoiding me?”Lying on her stomach on her bed in her room, Jodie giggled.“Of course not, Gran. It’s just that I keep it by me in case any of my friends call.”“Oh, I see. I thought it was all texting and messaging on your mobiles for you youngsters these days.”“We do that, too, Gran, but nothing beats a chat, and mobiles fry your brain, so we’ve gone retro and use the good old telephone.”“I see. Retro, am I? That sounds like it’s just one step away from being an antique! Anyway, I’d best let you get back to the mountain of homework that I expect you have to do. Is your mother there?”“Sure. I’ll call her for you. Mu-um!” Joyce flinched as she heard Jodie yell for Rosie.A moment or two later, Rosie was on the line.“Hi, Mum! What have you been doing today?”“I had lunch with Biddy Kavanagh do you remember her? I’d lost touch with her in recent years, but she sent me the kindest letter when I lost your father, so I phoned her, and we arranged to meet up. It was lovely to see her again. I’d forgotten what good friends we used to be.“You know, you can’t beat having good friends around you. Well, I don’t have to tell you that. You and Alice are like sisters. And it’s lovely to see the way Sarah and Freya have been bonding lately.”“I’ve heard about that,” Rosie agreed. “Yet they’re so different. Sarah’s sensible and focused on her college course, and Freya . . . well, I’ve always thought of her as a . . . well, I don’t mean to be unkind, but a bit of a lightweight.”“I think you are being unkind, Rosie,” Joyce remonstrated. “Freya has such a generous, caring nature. She’s been kindness itself to me, phoning to see how I am, sending over little bundles of special cakes she thought I might like. She’s been wonderful.“And don’t forget the voluntary work she was doing with children in Nepal. I think our Freya is a very under-estimated young woman.”There was a moment’s silence on the line and Joyce wondered if she had sounded too hard on Rosie. Her daughter was still vulnerable after the recent upsets, after all.“I know, Mum. You’re right, of course,” Rosie said at last, and Joyce relaxed a little. For a dreadful moment there she had feared the rift was opening up between them again.“I wish I could be more like you, Mum,” Rosie went on. “You always see the best in people.”“So do you, Rosie, I know you do. It’s just the terrible strain you’re under just now making you view things differently. I understand that. This situation with Adam . . .”“It’s not only that, Mum. To be honest, I’m probably feeling a bit miffed. I used to be the one Sarah would confide in about boys and all that kind of thing. But I’ve hardly heard a word about this Paul she’s seeing. It’s Freya she talks to now,” she finished sadly. “It’s pathetic, I know. I just feel that everything I used to be so sure of is collapsing around me. The business, Sarah . . . I’m just not sure of my place in the family any more.”Joyce heard the tears in her daughter’s voice and felt her own eyes prickle. She wished she was there with her to wrap her in a reassuring hug.“Oh, love, of course you’re still the centre of this family. Look how we all lean on you. I’m never off the phone! But I can see that I’ve placed a terrible burden on you, asking you to keep my plans for the business to yourself while supporting your brother. That was very selfish of me.“But now it’s time for me to look after you for a change, instead of you looking after everyone else. I want you to start planning your own future. College courses, art school . . . I’m going to start fixing this, I promise, and it begins tomorrow when I tell Adam that the business is his. I wonder how he’ll take the news?”