The Call Of The City – Episode 18

Kerry relaxing in a bath as Daniel makes a meal Illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

GRACE laid the neatly folded jumper on top of another, her heart tumbling in her chest as she surveyed the packed suitcase.

It was May, and she was leaving for New York tomorrow. She hadn’t expected it to come around so quickly. The last few months had been a blur of working as much as she could to pay for the flight and living expenses in New York, as well as trying to be helpful and available for her family.

Now the moment of departure had arrived, and she could barely believe it.

Worry warred with excitement as she looked around her bedroom. Although she’d packed two suitcases, it still looked more or less the same – the eyelet curtains framing the window, the bedspread she’d had since she was a child and never wanted to give up.

Music awards and certificates plastered a noticeboard by the mirror, and her ballerina music box, a gift for her twelfth birthday, still had pride of place on her bureau.

Smiling sadly, she opened and closed it to release the swelling notes of one of Tchaikovsky’s concertos.

“I haven’t heard that for a long time.” Her mother appeared in the doorway, a pile of folded laundry in her arms.

“I haven’t opened it in a long time,” Grace admitted.

Meg came in and put the laundry on the bed.

“A few more things for you to cram in,” she said with an attempt at a smile. “Your favourite fleece. It was hanging on the peg downstairs . . .”

Her lips wobbled and she pressed them together firmly.

“Oh, Mum. Thank you.”

Grace reached for the fleece and breathed in the scent of the washing powder her mother always used, as well as a faint note of the lavender water she ironed with.

She looked up to see her mother dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief.

“Don’t mind me,” Meg said with a little laugh. “You know how I am at times like this.”

“I feel guilty,” Grace said, unsure if she should voice the emotion.

Ever since she’d told her family she would be leaving for Juilliard in May, not August, she’d felt as if she’d let them down. She was scarpering off instead of staying and dealing with the hard stuff.

“That’s the last thing I’d want you to feel.” Meg blew her nose before tucking her handkerchief in her sleeve.

“I know things are still difficult.”

It had been three months since Andrew’s heart attack, and his recovery had been slower than anticipated. He wasn’t able to return to work, and a slow stroll down the high street still had him panting for breath.

Grace knew her mother hadn’t bounced back, either. She always brushed off Grace’s gentle queries of concern, insisting she was tired, but fine. Always fine.

“Honestly, Grace,” she said now, “don’t worry about me. I want you to enjoy yourself, living in New York. I really do.”

“Still, I’m sorry I’m going earlier than expected.”

Meg shrugged.

“It’s all part of it, isn’t it?”

After she’d accepted her offer, Grace had been asked to take part in a summer course in theory and practice, in order to brush up on some of her skills before embarking on her degree.

She was looking forward to getting stuck in, and was grateful that Juliet hadn’t minded having her to stay earlier than expected.

Still, leaving was a wrench, just as Grace had known it would be.

“Perhaps you could come and visit, Mum,” she suggested hopefully.

She didn’t miss the uncertainty that clouded Meg’s eyes.

“Perhaps. We’ll see how your father is.”

But Grace knew it wouldn’t be Andrew’s health that would keep her mother on this side of the Atlantic.

In over 30 years, Meg had never visited her sister. Having her daughter in New York didn’t seem likely to change things.

To be continued…


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