The Call Of The City – Episode 31

daily serial the call of the city the people's friend

“Something’s wrong with Juliet?” Meg repeated her daughter’s words uncertainly. “What do you mean, Grace?”

“I don’t know. She’s been so distracted and irritable lately.”

Meg let out a disbelieving huff. Juliet had always been irritable and distracted!

“Really, Grace, you scared me for a moment. I thought – well, I don’t know what I thought.”

She let out a wobbly laugh. With Andrew’s health in such a precarious place, she’d jumped to ridiculous conclusions.

“Why don’t you just talk to her, Grace?” This isn’t really my concern, she wanted to add, but didn’t. It would sound callous and hurt her daughter.

Still, she hadn’t talked to her sister properly in 30 years.

“I’ve tried,” Grace said, “but she keeps putting me off.”

“Then perhaps you should just let her be.”

Meg closed her eyes. She didn’t have the emotional energy to think about Juliet now. Not when Andrew was scheduled for more heart surgery, and they were thinking of selling the house.

So much was going on.

“The thing is,” Grace said, “there was a letter in the post today from a hospital here in New York. The neuro-oncology department.”

Meg tried to process the words.

“The neuro – what?”

“Neuro-oncology. It’s the department for cancers of the brain; tumours, that sort of thing.”

“What?” Meg sat down suddenly, glad of the chair beneath her. “It could be anything,” she said after a moment. “A flyer, or a fund-raising letter. You really can’t say, Grace.”

“But what if it isn’t?” Grace asked softly. “She’s really out of sorts, Mum. I’m worried.”

“Oh, Grace.” Meg bit her lip. “I’m sorry for Juliet if something is wrong, of course, but . . .”

“But what, Mum? She’s your sister!”

“And if she wants to tell me about a medical problem, she will. I can’t force her to, Grace. Surely you can see that?”

“What if you ring her?” Grace pressed on. “Just to say hello. In case there’s not much time left.”

“That’s melodramatic.” Meg spoke more sharply than she meant to, but some old emotion in her had been stirred up. Why was her relationship with her sister her responsibility alone?

Just like when Juliet left.

Meg was the one who had been forced to stay behind, and then rearrange her life so she could take care of her father, while Juliet did as she pleased. She was the one whom everyone in the village had urged to make the first move; call; visit; reconcile.

Something hardened inside Meg. She was tired of feeling guilty and responsible for Juliet, and didn’t she have enough to worry about?

“I appreciate you’re concerned, Grace,” she said in a more moderate tone, “but Juliet is a grown woman, and she always valued her privacy. She’ll tell me when, and if, she wants to.”

“But, Mum –”

“That’s all I’m going to say about it. I know you’re hoping for some sort of reconciliation, but that’s not only up to me, Grace. The truth is, I have quite enough to deal with at the moment.”

Her voice wobbled and she took a deep breath to compose herself.

“I’m sorry if that seems harsh to you.”

“I just wish there was something I could do,” Grace said after a moment. “It feels wrong to have this separation go on for so long. I don’t think Juliet is happy with the way things are.”

“She certainly hasn’t seemed to mind.”

“What about you, Mum? Do you mind?”

To be continued . . .