Jane was looking after a Mrs. Carter who was suffering from a spinal injury. Summer had finally decided to accept the inevitable and permit autumn to take her place. The ash trees and the china berry trees had turned lemon yellow, vying with the orange and scarlet crataegus berries in the great pageant of autumn colours. The leaves of the plane trees, brown and dry, carpeted the sidewalks near the house where Mrs. Carter lived. The gardens were still full of flowers. Yellow hibiscus and pale plumbago awoke memories of the summer months, while the roses and dahlias bloomed red, gold and pink in a last fanfare of colour before the winter set in.
Mrs. Carter lay on her bed near the window of her ground-floor bedroom, and spent a lot of time watching the birds on the bird table, which her daughter had had placed where she could see it.
The year had crept past. Aunt Georgina once recovered from her heart attack, continued playing the piano and getting Jane to accompany her whenever possible on shopping sprees or to concerts, although she had lost a lot of her bounce. Bobby had grown and had started going to St. Michael’s English school for Boys and Girls; first grade in Spanish in the mornings, lunch at school, and first form in English in the afternoons. It seemed a long day for such a small boy, but all his thirty little classmates were the same age, and none of them seemed to be any the worse for it. Violet flew to Santa Laura regularly, sometimes for a weekend and sometimes for longer, upsetting Bobby and Robert thoroughly in the process.
Jane filled her life with as much activity as she could, to keep her thoughts at bay and her mind occupied. Her wedding day, hovering in the future, seemed more like a mirage than a reality. Over and over again the fear that the judge might hand Bobby back to Violet flooded her heart, only to be followed by an intense feeling of distress for what it would mean for Violet, should the verdict go against her. The wheels of Argentine justice turned so slowly, even slower, she was sure, than British justice in the times of Dickens. It was quite possible that the wedding might have to be postponed yet another year. It was all such a strain.
“Violet left Robert eighteen months ago,” she thought, as she prepared an injection for Mrs. Carter. “And still the lawyers and the judges are piddling about. I’m going to be twenty-five in July. How lovely it would be to be married by then!”
Mrs. Carter winced as Jane gave her her injection and snapped irritably, “I’m a human being, you know, not a grapefruit!”
Jane said nothing. Her patient’s one satisfaction, where human beings were concerned, seemed to be to cause as much friction as possible. Since her accident she had already gone through five nurses, and her family put up with her with weary forbearance. Her unmarried daughter, Dianne, who lived with her, tried to limit her visits to quick five-minute sorties, girded and helmeted against the inevitable torrent of criticism which awaited them. Her two sons and her married daughter paid dutiful calls as seldom as their consciences would permit.
“Did you hear me?” Mrs. Carter demanded.
“Yes, Mrs. Carter.”
“Where were you trained, anyway?”
“At the British Hospital, in Buenos Aires,” Jane replied for at least the hundredth time.
“Well, I must say, the way you give injections is pretty awful propaganda for it.”
“Would you like me to read to you?”
“No. Go and tell Dianne I want to see her.”
At that moment Dianne poked her head round the door and said, “Telephone for you, Jane.”
“I don’t employ you in order to have telephone conversations during your working hours,” Mrs. Carter flared. “Dianne, come here, I want to talk to you.”
Dianne grimaced as Jane slipped past her and went to answer the telephone. It was Robert.
“We’ve won,” he said, his voice exultant. “The lawyer has just called me. Bobby stays here, in Argentina, with me. It’s still not official; I have to go for an audience with the judge this afternoon, but my lawyer told me it’s in the bag.”
Jane stared at the wall in front of her with unseeing eyes, unable to speak. It was over. The long, long wait was over. They could get married… and Bobby would be living with them. Violet’s face floated into her mind’s eye; unbelieving, distorted with despair. Her only child denied to her. The only child she might ever have…
“Hello ? Jane?”
“Yes. I’m still here. It’s just that… I sort of can’t believe it. I’m afraid it might be a dream and that when I wake up…”
“You’re not dreaming, darling. It’s all true. We’ll be able to get married now, Cinderella. At last. Advise your fairy godmother, because I’m going out right away to buy a pumpkin!”
Jane laughed shakily. “Yeah. I’ll do that. Get a nice golden one, it’ll make it easier for her.”
“Right. How’s your old ptarmigan? As bad tempered as ever?”
“Worse, if that were possible. I’ll have to go now. Thanks for calling, Robert. I feel I’m standing on a cloud, I hope I won’t fall off!”
“I love you, Cinderella.”
“I love you too, Prince Robert.”
“Your Royal Highness, if you please.”
Jane hung up and stood quite still, trying to erase the picture of Violet’s face from her thoughts. Unbidden, the memory of covering her face and stretching out her hand to touch her baby’s head and features, his thin wail filling the room, swamped her. Tears filled her eyes, as she stumbled back towards Mrs. Carter’s bedroom. Dianne checked her in the passage and said. “Not bad news, I hope.”
“No, on the contrary,” Jane flashed her a slightly tearful smile. “Sometimes good news seems to make one want to cry, too.”
“Mum’s on the warpath this morning, I’m afraid.”
“Why don’t you put some seeds on the bird table?”
“Where’s the newspaper?” Mrs. Carter demanded, as soon as Jane appeared.
“Well, give it to me and bring me my reading glasses.”
Jane handed her the newspaper and the spectacles.
“Now, prop me up.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Mrs. Carter.”
“Listen, girl. I want another pillow under my head.”
“Mrs. Carter, you should lie absolutely flat. The doctor made that quite clear, when he came… ”
“Do as I say, you stupid girl. I don’t care what the doctor said. Put another pillow under my head.”
“How dare you contradict me?”
“Mrs. Carter, you were two months in hospital and you’ve been just over a month here in your room. Do you want to spend the rest of your life in pain, receiving injections and being looked after by nurses who can’t stand your ill temper and either disobey the doctor’s orders and put pillows under your head, or leave? Or do you want to regain your health and be able to get about again?”
“If you’re going to speak to me in that way, you can leave right now! Impertinent little goat!”
“I asked you a question.”
“Another pillow under my head isn’t going to harm me!”
“You should be flat. You know that.”
“You’re just a tyrant. All you want is to force me to do as you say, standing there in your silly uniform, waving your nurse’s degree in my face and spouting that you’re only following the doctor’s orders. What sort of a nit-wit are you anyway? I’ve been in this position for three months… THREE MONTHS! I’d like to see how you’d react if you were here instead of me. If that drunken sod of a lorry driver hadn’t…”
“Mrs. Carter,” Jane interrupted. “The doctor told you that if you remain flat for another eight weeks he’s sure that you will recover completely, but if you keep moving and trying to sit up and all that, as you do, you’ll retard your recovery by goodness knows how long. What’s the matter with you? Didn’t you understand him?”
“You’re just an insolent chit of a girl and I don’t want to have anything more to do with you! Get out of here!”
“Very well Mrs. Carter.”
In the silence that followed Jane began to gather her things while Mrs. Carter watched her with a mutinous expression on her face. At last she approached her patient’s bed and said, “Would you like me to bring you your elevens’s before I go?”
“You may as well.”
Wearily, Jane went to the kitchen to fetch the tray with the biscuits and the mug of tea with the special plastic tube. Mrs. Carter’s waves of ill temper and continual insults were very tiring, but understandable. To have to lie flat on one’s back day after day for weeks on end was far worse than having to wait for Robert’s divorce to come through and the judge’s decision on Bobby.
When she returned, Mrs. Carter was watching the bird table. “There were two calandrias, mocking birds, just now,” she said. “And then a Benteveo.”
“Look,” Jane smiled. “There’s the little wren again.”
They watched the wren together while Jane helped Mrs. Carter to drink her tea. Afterwards she said, “I’m going to read you the story of Cinderella now.”
“The fairy story?”
“Yes. My fiancé always calls me Cinderella. It was he who ‘phoned me. His divorce has come through. We’ll be getting married soon.”
Mrs. Carter glanced at her sharply. “And what about me?” she asked.
“Well… that depends on you, doesn’t it?”
“What do you mean?”
“No one likes to be insulted, bullied and dismissed day in, day out. I can get another job very easily. I haven’t left because I can understand how impotent and resentful you feel, and that you take it out on your nurses and on your family, but it makes no one very happy. Least of all yourself.”
Jane fetched the book of fairy stories she had brought, and sat down on a chair where Mrs. Carter could see her.
“Once upon a time … ”
When she finished reading the story, Mrs. Carter’s expression had softened and she said quietly, “My grandmother used to read me that story when I was quite a little girl. It was my favorite… I remember everything so clearly.”
“This book has a commentary on the meaning of the story,” Jane said softly. “I’ll read it to you one day if you like. I’m sure it would interest you.”
After a short silence Mrs. Carter said, “I’d like that. But not now. I think I’ll have a nap now. I’m feeling tired.”
Jane let down the shutter a little and withdrew to her arm chair, glad that she had thought of bringing the book of fairy stories. Their magic had its effect not only on little children. Her mind turned to Violet. What would she do when she got the news? Appeal, presumably. Would that mean that the wedding would have to be put off? She sighed, wishing she didn’t feel so guilty, and remembering the first time she had met Robert and Violet at Santucho.
Now she was about to marry Robert and become Bobby’s step-mother. The twists and turns of life were strange indeed. She looked at her engagement ring and thought about Mrs. Carter. She, for a nurse, had certainly given her the rough edge of her tongue today, poor woman. But it seemed that no one ever had the courage to make the wretched lady see that she was her own worst enemy. Eight weeks was not so long, after all, if it meant almost certain recovery.
“She’s always had her own way and done exactly what she wants,” Dianne said. “Having to take orders and be so dependent is simply driving her bananas, and all of us as well. I tell you, once she can get about, I’m leaving. I’ve had enough of her rudeness to last me a long, long time. And if she does disinherit me, well, just too bad. My brothers and sister dance to her tune because of her money, but it’s not worth it. They don’t live here! I’d rather be free. Perhaps I’ll regret it when the time comes, but I doubt it.”
Jane thought of her parents. Was she free? She liked to think so. Unconsciously her fingers touched her lips as she wondered how Bobby would turn out due to his struggle to cope with the conflicts which assailed his little heart.
That evening Robert appeared late with a bottle of champagne. He hugged her fiercely, kissing her face and throat, running his fingers through her hair and murmuring her name over and over again.
Three thumps under their feet made them draw apart.
“What on earth does she want at this hour?” Robert protested.
Jane looked at her watch and shook her head. “I’ll just go down and find out,” she said, and taking off her shoe she gave three answering thuds on the floor.
Robert grabbed the bottle of champagne. “We’ll celebrate with Aunty, since she’s still up,” he twinkled, following Jane out of the flat.
“Oh, hello,” Aunt Georgina exclaimed when she saw him. “There’s a nice concert on the radio; I wanted Jane to hear it.” She was in her dressing gown and had pinned up her hair into hap-hazard curls.
Robert held up the bottle of champagne. “We were about to celebrate,” he said. “My divorce has come through, and Bobby has been awarded to me.”
“Really?” Aunt Georgina crowed, fiddling with her hearing aid. “Will that mean that you’ll be getting married soon? I’ve decided to wear a hat at your wedding, one of those pretty ones with big brims and flowers. They’re quite the fashion just now.”
The concert forgotten, they got out the champagne glasses and drank to their health, wealth and happiness until they had finished the bottle.
“That was very nice,” Aunt Georgina asserted. “What about a little Chopin to top it all off?”
“No, Aunt Georgina, not tonight,” Jane interposed hastily. “It’s very late and you should be in bed. Also, I have to get up at five again tomorrow.”
“How is that awful Mrs. Carter you’re looking after?” Aunt Georgina inquired. “How you put up with her I don’t know! How many times did she sack you today?”
Jane laughed. “Several. I ticked her off and read her the story of Cinderella. Magic. She was as good as gold after that. We’ll see how long it lasts!”
“Well, once you’re married you’ll have your hands full with Bobby, so you can give in your notice right away and see how she likes that!” Aunt Georgina declared. She drew Robert into her arms and hugged him. “I’m so glad all this awful law business is over, my dear. The judge took his time, but he came to the right decision, so we can’t complain. Violet made her bed. Now she’ll have to lie on it.”
She kissed them both goodnight and saw them out, her thoughts once again caught up with her wedding attire.
“I’ll wear blue, I think, pale blue; it goes nicely with white hair, and a long skirt, since I’ll be representing the mother of the bridegroom. We’ll have to go and choose the material, Jane, and see if Leila can make it up for me.”
Jane grinned. “Whenever you like, Aunt Georgina, but don’t be too smart or you’ll make us feel uncomfortable!”
Walking beside Robert and holding Bobby’s hand, Jane struggled to hold back the tears which threatened to overflow, and calm her sorrowing heart. A cold, heavy mist wreathed its veils about the gaunt, leafless trees and the rows of graves with their varied headstones. Underfoot the last of the autumn leaves formed a soggy carpet on the muddy path. In front, two men pushed the rubber-wheeled cart which carried the coffin, followed by the parson, their footsteps squelching softly. Behind, the rest of the mourners followed in silence, the sounds of their movements muted by the mist and the damp.
“I mustn’t cry,” Jane told herself firmly. “It’ll upset Bobby and Robert. At least she was at our wedding. In blue and with that crazy hat. Darling Aunt Georgina… and you were so well, so happy. What a fun wedding it was, wasn’t it? Anyway, we all enjoyed it. Bobby held the flowers for me very sensibly, didn’t he? Quite an old hand at it after Nelly’s wedding, and then he went and ate some fruit from the fruit cup at the party and got completely tiddly! You played the piano and we all sang like crazy! And the presents… weren’t they lovely? Yours was the best by far. A week in Ushuaia and Lago Argentino. What made you think of it? Ushuaia was just lovely. The autumn colours are so marvelous there all through from lemon yellow to the most brilliant scarlet against the dark green of the evergreens, and the mountains all covered with snow, just there as it were. The cloud formations, too, are gorgeous. Lago Argentino was tremendous as well, with that huge glacier and parts of it breaking off right in front of our eyes, and falling into the water. We were very lucky to see that at this time of year. It was a wonderful honeymoon! The hotel so warm and cosy; the air outside so cold and crisp. Thank you, Aunt Georgina. We said thank you but it didn’t seem to do justice to all we experienced and enjoyed so much. Perhaps you’ll understand better now, how grateful we are.”
The cart stopped. The men lifted off the coffin and lowered it into the waiting grave. The parson said a last prayer; one of the men held out a tin of partially dry sand for him, and any of the mourners who wished, to throw onto the coffin before they covered the hole with planks and laid the wreaths on them. One by one Aunt Georgina’s friends stepped up and laid small bouquets of flowers by the wreaths : Nelly, Soledad, Ana, Ema and Eusebio, Jane’s parents, Antonia … Two or three very old friends of Aunt Georgina, and the sons and daughters of other friends who had already passed on; Daniel and Leandro made up the rest of the group.
Quietly they said goodbye to Robert, Jane and Bobby, murmuring a few words of condolence before walking away between the graves.
Back at the flat Jane sent Bobby to play with Sarita in his bedroom while she served coffee and sandwiches and smiled and chatted mechanically with those who had accompanied them home. They were all so kind and had loved Aunt Georgina, but she longed for them to go and to be alone with Robert and Bobby. Or, she wondered, would being alone be even worse? She wanted to cry. To cry and cry and cry and let her pain and the hollow feeling of loss flow out with her unrestrained tears.
When they had said their last goodbyes, Robert said wearily, “I’m going to go and lie down for a bit. Is that all right, Jane?”
Jane nodded. “Go ahead, my love. I’ll see to Bobby.”
Robert kissed her and made his way to the bedroom. A few minutes later Bobby ran into the sitting room and looked round.
“Has everybody gone?” he asked.
“Yes. Sarita and her Mummy and Daddy were the last to leave.”
“He went to lie down.”
Bobby was silent, watching Jane as she stacked the last few dirty coffee cups and saucers.”
“Want a sandwich?”
“Mm mm.” He shook his head.
Again he shook his head. Jane took the crockery to the kitchen where Ana had left everything else washed and dried, and returned, leaving the sandwiches on the table in case he changed his mind. She sat down and he walked up to her and stood in front of her. His eyes were very wide.
“Is Aunty going to stay in that box forever?” he asked at last.
“Only her body. Her spirit has gone to heaven to be with Jesus.”
“Will she have a piano there?”
“I don’t know. I expect so.”
“We could push hers onto the balcony so she can come and fetch it.” He looked anxious.
“Perhaps we’d better wait, in case she doesn’t need it.”
“Yes. It is a bit heavy. Is she with her guardian angel, too?”
“Yes, she’s with her guardian angel.”
“Can she see us, Jane?”
“I think, more likely, she can feel us. Feel our loving thoughts like a nice warm shawl. We all loved her so much.” Jane felt her throat tighten and the tears well up into her eyes. “We’re going to miss her so much,” she whispered.
Bobby raised a grubby hand and wiped away Jane’s tears. “Don’t cry,” he said. “Aunty wouldn’t want you to cry. She must be very happy to be with Jesus and her guardian angel.”
Jane leaned forward and hugged him. “You’re right, Bobbykins. You’re so right. Thank you, darling, for reminding me. Would you like me to read to you?”
“Ooh, yes! I’ll go and get my Christopher Robin.”
Bobby dashed away while Jane blew her nose and dried her tear-streaked cheeks. A little while later Robert found them curled up together on the sofa, and Jane was reading quietly all about Pooh Bear and his last pot of honey.
“My period. I’m two weeks late.”
“Are you sure?”
“My dearest one. Are you pregnant? Is that what you’re telling me?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty certain.”
“Hey, where’s the champagne?”
“Only white wine, I’m afraid.”
“That’ll do. How wonderful. How… absolutely WONDERFUL. Jane, my sweet,
blossoming, adorable wife. How clever of you!”
Jane remembered the trouble Violet had had conceiving Bobby, and laughed shyly.
“It may be a false alarm,” she warned, as Robert hugged her and hurried to fetch the glasses and the wine.
“I must get some cigars,” he said as he poured it out.
“Hold on, there’s eight months to go still. Who’s the third glass for?”
“Aunt Georgina. Wouldn’t she have just loved to be here right now? Oh, heavens! According to your ideas, it wouldn’t be her re-incarnating again, would it?”
“Robert! NO! You’re crazy!”
“Wouldn’t put it past her! Well, then, Aunt Georgina, as I expect you’re right here and have known since the word go, we’re all going to drink to our child, our first child’s very good health. I’ll drink yours for you if you like. Jane, here is yours.”
Handing it to her with a flourish, he proclaimed. “To our baby.” and raised his glass.
“To our baby,” Jane echoed, raising hers. They touched their glasses and drank; Jane felt the cool liquid slide down her throat, and knew she would begin to feel a little light-headed in next to no time. Robert turned to pick up Aunt Georgina’s glass, knocking it lightly by mistake. It toppled and the wine spilled over the table in a widening puddle. Jane burst out laughing.
“No way did she like the idea of your drinking her wine,” she teased, jumping to her feet and fetching a cloth to mop up.
When they were quite sure, Robert told Bobby.
“Will it be a boy?” he asked dubiously.
“We don’t know, what would you like?”
“A girl,” Bobby decided. “I think a girl would be nice, don’t you? Can I tell my Mummy?”
“Yes, if you like.”
“Will she want Jane to give her the baby?”
“Oh, I don’t think so.”
“We can keep it a secret, for a time anyway.”
“I think that might be a very good idea.”
Jane, who had been listening to the conversation from the little hall by the bedrooms, joined them.
“Where is the baby, Jane?” Bobby asked.
“In my tummy.”
“But how did it get there?”
“It’s soul slid down a moonbeam.”
“Aah. Can I bwing my cars in here, Daddy?”
“Certainly, and bring your service station, too, if you like.”
“Can I? Hey, that’s wild!” Bobby whooped and rushed to get his toys before Robert could change his mind.
Robert grinned sheepishly. “Do you mind?” he asked Jane.
“No, of course not, so long as you help him take everything back.”
“I see what you mean,” Robert conceded as Bobby returned, lugging his large basket of cars, the service station, and the bus station.
“Look, Daddy, we can put the bus station here and the service station there. This’ll be where you live and I’m the owner of all the buses… ”
Robert laughed and slid down onto the floor.
“All right, you little monster,” he chided. “Pass me the patrol tanker-truck; I’ve got to fill up my service station.”
“Jane? Soledad here. How are you?”
“Huge and bulky, but fine apart from that. How’s Sarita?”
“Growing like a weed. Jane, Daniel has to go to Santucho for a few days and we suddenly thought it would be nice to go together and take Sarita, since the schools are opening later this year. We were wondering if you’d like us to take Bobby and give you a little rest. Sarita is delighted with the idea because she wants to see her new horse and show him off to Bobby. What d’you think Robert will say?”
“I’m sure he’ll agree. He’s coming home latish tonight, though. Can I let you know tomorrow morning?”
“Of course. Oh, I must tell you. Lucio ‘phoned last night: he’s been offered quite a big part in a film in Spain. A Spanish-Argentine production. We can’t quite believe it.”
“How fantastic, Soledad. When does he leave?”
“In about two week’s time, I understand. Isn’t it terrific? He said they had interviewed about seventy hopefuls at least. Daniel is as proud as a peacock – you should see him! Who would ever have thought it, eh? Well, I’ll expect your call tomorrow then.”
“Who was that?” Bobby asked. He was busy creating a picture for Dora. Crayons were strewn all over the table and a toy bus was propped up as a model.
“Soledad. She says Lucio is going to act in a film in Spain.”
“In Spain! That’s where Granny and Grampa live. Can we go and watch him acting, Jane? We could stay with them.”
“I’m always forgetting that Violet’s parents are living in Spain,” Jane thought guiltily. “I must send them some photographs of him one of these days.”
“Can we, Jane?”
“Well, our baby’s going to be born soon. It would make things a bit difficult.”
“I could go with Daddy.”
“We’ll have to talk it over with him.”
“Is that what you think he’ll agree about?”
Jane frowned and then, remembering her conversation with Soledad, laughed. “No,” she said. “I think he’ll agree about something else.”
“Some party, I suppose,” Bobby hazarded with weary resignation. “Look, Jane, d’you think Granny Dora will like this picture of a bus?”
Jane regarded the picture he held up for her inspection seriously, thinking of the four or five similar ones her mother already had, stuck up in the kitchen. “Yes,” she declared. “I think it’s about the best you’ve done up to now. Why don´t you put in a background?”
“Aw’ right.” He began to colour energetically. “This bus is going to the Iguazú Falls,” he said, “So I’ve put in a sign post.”
“Put an oven-bird’s house on it.”
“On the sign post.”
“Aw’ right. I’ll put a big oven-bird’s house.”
The finished picture was a very busy one, what with the bus, passengers waving from its windows, the sign post with a very large oven-bird’s round, mud, oven-like home on it and several birds flying about in the sky, lit by a huge, yellow sun. Jane looked at the picture with an analytical eye, and decided that Bobby was developing satisfactorily. There didn’t seem to be any signs of hidden anxieties and traumas, or did the birds… ? For the thousandth time she wondered how he would feel once the baby had arrived, demanding so much of her time and energy. She hoped it would be a girl.
“I dreamed about the baby last night,” he said, as if on cue. “I dreamed her name was Aryn.”
“No. A-R-Y-N. She had it written on her left hand.”
Jane looked at him and felt a tiny shiver of suspense. What relationship had the baby to Bobby, karmicly speaking? Would they love each other deeply, or were they to set in order a relationship that had been fraught with hate or jealousy through many lifetimes? What did it mean, her left hand, her heart hand? Aryn. What would Robert think of that as a name?
“Hey,” Bobby shouted. “I’m going to miss my T.V. programme!”
“Put your colours away first.”
“It’s started already,” Bobby wailed, pressing buttons on the T.V. and twiddling the knob for the volume. Sound blared forth and Jane winced. “Turn it right down,” she ordered. “It’s much too loud. But first put all your colours away and tidy up the table.”
Bobby turned down the volume a little, and when Jane said warningly, “Bobby!” he turned it down again grumpily.
“Your colours,” Jane reminded him.
His eyes glued to the T.V., he raked up his colours sketchily and stuffed them into their plastic case.
“You’re too near; come and sit here on this corner of the sofa,” Jane said. “I’m going to lie down.”
“May I put it a little louder?”
“No. It’s just fine as it is.”
“Just a little?”
“You are mean!”
Jane said nothing and walked heavily to her bedroom. She left the door open and lay down thankfully on the bed. The heat of the last two days seemed to have drained her of all energy. She heard the volume of the T.V. go up, and considered getting up and turning it down again, but it was all too much effort; even calling out was too much effort. She hoped the neighbours wouldn’t complain.
She missed Aunt Georgina, the thumps under the floor, their jaunts to concerts or to the cinema, the piano tinkling away at odd moments of the day or night. Darling Aunt Georgina, who only heard what she wanted, and was always having a sip of white wine because it was so ‘invigorating’.
She missed working too. Mrs. Carter had been her last patient. She wondered how she was, and if she had finally been able to walk again.
“I could ring her up, I suppose,” she thought, and dropped off to sleep.
She woke with a start. It was dark outside. She looked at her alarm clock. Ten! She had been asleep for over three hours. Anxiously she struggled to her feet and hurried into the sitting room. The T.V. was clacking away noisily. Bobby lay curled up on the sofa, fast asleep, an apple core still in his hand. The front door opened and Robert walked in. Jane was flooded with guilt.
“Hello,” she gasped, switching on the nearest lamp.
“What on earth… ?” he queried, looking from her sleepy expression and tousled hair to Bobby asleep on the sofa.
Jane burst into tears.
Robert, who was accustomed to a competent, thoroughly organized Jane, who always seemed to be able to juggle six things at the same time without even appearing to have to pay much attention, hastened to her side in consternation and drew her into his arms.
“I’m sorry,” she sobbed. “I fell asleep. Your dinner’s not ready and poor little Bobby’s had nothing to eat either, except for an apple and… I’m starving!”
“Look,” Robert said. “I’ll go and get something from the delicatessen, or would you prefer a pizza?”
“No, I’d like some roast ch-chicken.”
“Well, I’ll do my best. We’ll wake Bobby when I get back.” He kissed her. “Are you all right.”
“Yes. Just tired, that’s all. This hot weather is so, you know, exhausting. I’m sorry, Robert. ”
Robert remembered the many, many times he had had to go to the delicatessen in Violet’s days and shook his head, smiling warmly into her eyes. “Don’t be,” he whispered. “I’ll be right back.”
He kissed her again, hung his coat up on the back of a chair, took off his tie and left. Jane turned off the T.V., dragged herself to the kitchen, collected cutlery, glasses and plates, and laid the table.
The baby seemed to be more active than usual, and her belly even larger than it had been this afternoon. She tried to remember how she had felt the first time, but it had all faded away. She had no idea whether she was bigger or not. All she knew was that she felt enormous, ungainly, and definitely unattractive. Poor Robert. Tears trickled down her cheeks again. Aryn. Would he like the name?
Robert returned triumphantly with a whole roast chicken, piping hot, fried potatoes, and a pot of ice cream. Jane had combed her hair and changed her crumpled dress for a fresh one. She woke Bobby who, after sitting sleepily on the edge of the sofa, his eyes closed and his head wobbling, suddenly jerked awake and said, “I’m hungry! What’s for dinner?”
“Roast chicken,” Robert informed him. “Go and wash your hands.” Bobby scampered off and Jane said, “Soledad has invited Bobby to Santucho for a few days, now, before school starts. They’d be leaving tomorrow evening with Daniel and Sarita, I think.”
“Have you mentioned it to him?”
“No, I wanted to ask you first.”
“I think it’s a wonderful idea. It’ll give you a rest, and then he’ll be at school and you won’t have him under your feet all day.”
“Poor little bundle, cooped up here, but I’m so tired all the time. We do go out, though, to the plaza, and he rides his bike. But not really for long enough, I suppose.”
Bobby came prancing back. He picked up his picture and said, “This is for Granny Dora. D’you like it Daddy?”
“Very much. But always buses. Why don’t you draw something else?”
“I could do a lorry, I suppose. This bus is going to the Iguazú Falls.”
“So I see. Would you like to go to Santucho with Soledad and Daniel and Sarita?”
“An’ you an’ Jane?”
“I have to work , and Jane needs to rest.”
“Tomorrow or the day after.”
“Sarita wants to show you her new horse,” Jane smiled, passing him his plate.
“Will we go in a bus?”
“No. I imagine you’ll go in the car.”
“Is the baby going to be born?” Bobby asked suspiciously, forking fried potatoes into his mouth.
“No-o-o, there’s a whole month to go yet.”
They all concentrated on the chicken for a while in silence, until Jane said, “Bobby dreamed our baby was called Aryn. Aryn with a Y.”
“That’s a nice name,” Robert said. “Aryn, I like that.”
“It was written on her left hand. Can I take my cars to Santucho?”
Robert glanced at Jane and winked. “Only three,” he said seriously. “That way you won’t lose any.”
“When will I give my picture to Granny Dora, if I go tomorrow?”
“You can give it to her when you come back. I’ll stick it onto a nice piece of card for you,” Jane suggested.
“Aw’ right. A dark blue one. It’ll look nice on a dark blue piece of card.” Bobby squinted at his picture with a considering air.
“Ice cream?” Robert asked.
“Oooooh, yum. Yes, please!”
Robert and Jane took Bobby round to the Torres Hidalgos’ the next evening. His clothes were packed in a new, bright green ruck-sack, the three cars zipped into the pouch on the outside.
“We’ll be back on Sunday,” Soledad assured them.
“Here’s his document, should you need it for anything,” Robert said, handing it to her.
“I’ve got a new horse, Bobby,” Sarita shrilled, jumping up and down. “It’s called Dindón. D’you like the name? I can ride all by myself, you know.”
“You should!” Soledad retorted. “You’re eight years old now.”
“Yes, and Bobby is only seven. But you can ride old Pampa. She’s very quiet, isn’t she, Mamá? Did you bring your bathing suit Bobby?”
After a little while Robert put his hand under Jane’s arm and said. “Well, we’ll be off now. Have fun. Bobby, mind you do exactly what Soledad tells you, otherwise I shall be very cross. Promise to be really obedient?”
“That’s my boy.”
They hugged him tightly and left, the picture of his shining brown eyes under his mop of red hair engraved in their minds.
“I can’t believe the luxury!” Jane exulted. “Five days of silence and not feeling guilty.”
“Don’t worry,” Robert teased. “They’ll entertain each other by the time the next one arrives.”
“Oh, hush! I want to really enjoy this baby, every minute of her or him. It’s just all this bulk which is such a bore!”
“Let’s go to the cinema. Would you like that?”
“Wild! Can we have something to eat first?”
The insistent ringing of the telephone dragged Jane out of her afternoon siesta and she answered drowsily. Soledad’s voice, taught with anxiety, thrummed in her ear.
“Jane, Bobby’s had an accident. Sarita’s horse kicked him in the stomach this morning. The children have only just told us. He has started vomiting and says he has a pain. We’re taking him into the hospital in Santucho right away. Could you advise Robert? I’ll ring you up as soon as we’ve seen the doctor. Wait. I’ll give you the hospital’s telephone number; have you got a pencil?”
Jane fumbled in her bedside drawer, found an eyebrow pencil and noted down the number Soledad dictated to her.
“He’ll be alright, Jane,” Soledad tried to reassure her. “I’ll ring you.”
“O.K. G-give him my love,” Jane managed to say. Her heart was pounding. How could she have been so stupid as to agree to letting him go off all by himself to Santucho? Why hadn’t the children been properly supervised? Kicked in the stomach – vomiting – he may have peritonitis… “Oh, God. He may die! I must phone Robert.”
With frantic haste and trembling fingers, she dialed Robert’s office. The telephone was engaged; she dialed the number again and again until at last she heard it ringing. Robert’s secretary answered.
“Mr. Gregory is out just now,” she said anxiously when Jane, struggling to control her distress, had passed on Soledad’s message. “I’ll do my best to locate him and tell him to call you.”
Jane sat on the edge of the bed, trembling violently. “Please God,” she said. “Don’t take him. Please don’t take him. Please, please, please.”
She stood up abruptly and began to gather clothes and stuff them into a hold-all. After a moment or two she emptied it and packed it again tidily, folding each garment carefully and discarding those she would never need. Once her hold-all was ready, she prepared Robert’s. The telephone rang. It was the secretary.
“I haven’t managed to locate Mr. Gregory yet,” she said. “I just wanted you to know, I’m sorry. Any news?”
They cut off and the ‘phone rang again, Jane grabbed the receiver and said loudly, “Hola?”
“This is Winifred Carter here. May I speak to Jane, please, er, Jane Gregory.”
Mrs. Carter… after all these months! “This is Jane speaking,” Jane said shakily. “How… how are you, Mrs. Carter?”
“I just telephoned you to tell you I’m walking. I took my first steps a week ago.”
“Oh, I – I am glad. That – that’s wonderful news.”
“Are you all right?”
“I’m … Bobby, my step son, has had an accident. I’m waiting for a ‘phone call.”
“I’m so sorry. Is it serious?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“I’m sorry I called at such an inopportune moment. Is there anything I can do?”
Jane’s eyes fell on the photograph Dr. Michaelson had given her when she had been living at Ana’s, hanging on the wall by her bed, and said softly, “Pray … please pray for him,” and cut off.
Again the telephone rang. It was Soledad. “The doctors say Bobby has peritonitis,” she said, her voice unsteady with anguish. “They want to operate but they need Robert’s O.K. A fax would do, I’ll give… I’ll give you the number.”
She dictated it.
“What happened?” Jane asked. “How did the horse get to kick him?”
“I don’t know. We had gone out riding this morning and then we were in the house and the children must have gone back to the corral. There’s a storm brewing here and there’s a lot of atmospheric tension. The horses were fidgety. I knew nothing about it until Bobby vomited and Sarita told me. I… oh, Jane…”
“Pray, Soledad. All we can do is pray,” Jane whispered, and replaced the receiver slowly.
Robert rang fifteen minutes later. “What’s the news?” he asked. “Has Soledad been in touch?” His voice was clipped and brisk.
Steadied, Jane gave him Soledad’s last message and the number of the Fax at the clinic. “I’ll send it now,” he said. “I’ve ordered a taxi ‘plane. Are you well enough to come with me?”
“Of course I am. I’ve packed both our hold-alls.”
“Good. Well, can you get your tame taxi-driver to drive you out to Los Coyotes airport? If you can’t get hold of him call a ‘remis’. It’ll save time. I’ll go in the company car straight from here. Will you be able to manage, Jane? Get Eusebio to take the hold-alls down for you. Don’t, for God’s sake, strain yourself or anything.”
Jane rang Nahuel Luna’s home. “I’ll let him know,” his wife assured her. “He has a special telephone in his taxi.” Five minutes later he called up and told her that he would be at the flat in ten minutes at the most.
Closing the windows and leaving a hurriedly scribbled message for Ana, Jane went downstairs and asked Eusebio to fetch the hold-alls for her. Outside on the sidewalk she waited anxiously for Nahuel Luna to arrive, glancing at her watch and trying to control the inner trembling which threatened to invade her whole nervous system. Eusebio brought out the hold-alls just as the taxi drew up, his face grey under his usual tan, and his heavy lidded eyes wet with tears.
“Oh, Señora…,” he said in a cracked voice. “Such a little boy…”
“Pray… we must pray… believing.”
Luna had slung the hold-alls into the boot of his taxi and was holding open the door. Jane turned quickly and said, “Eusebio, would you ring up the Señora Nelly, and tell her to let my mother know.” She began to look for a pen in her hand bag, Luna handed her one and she caught Eusebio’s and wrote Nelly’s number on his leathery palm. “You can use our telephone.”
“Sí, Señora, en seguida. Suerte. Right away, good luck.”
As Nahuel Luna drove his taxi as fast as he dared through the afternoon traffic, Jane poured out her troubles. “I know if it’s his destiny to go now I must accept it,” she said. “But I can’t, I just can’t. We should never have let him go alone like that, just because I was feeling so tired. It’s all my fault. It seemed such a good idea, but it was my selfishness that thought that. If he dies I’ll never forgive myself. Never.”
Nahuel Luna let in the clutch and said calmly and clearly; “From what you told me, the children disobeyed and went back to the horses. Even if you had been there, this accident would have happened. You must not let your emotions cloud your good sense, Señora. Bobby seems to have looked for this accident. I feel sure that it will not be in vain.”
Jane remained silent for a little while, reflecting on his words. At last she said, “Perhaps you’re right. I hope so.”
They did not speak again until they reached Los Coyotes. Robert had already arrived and was waiting for them, his face drawn and white, his manner calm and decisive. He paid Luna, and the taxi driver laid his hand on his shoulder, “He’ll pull through, Señor,” he murmured; climbing back into his taxi, he drove away.
“Nice chap, that,” Robert remarked as they hastened across the tarmac towards the taxi ‘plane, which was revving up its engines ready for take-off.
A few minutes later they were up and flying over Santa Laura, heading for Santucho.
“There’s a big storm brewing,” the pilot said. “I’m afraid the flight is going to be a bit bumpy.”
How they ever arrived at all Jane never knew. Huge black clouds menaced them as they neared Santucho, and gusts of wind made the small aircraft heave and bounce. Jane clung to Robert, her eyes wide with anxiety. What if the ‘plane crashed and they were all killed and Bobby survived? Her mind turned sharply away from such a possibility; it was all too dreadful.
The pilot landed miraculously, amid the crashes of thunder and flashes of lightning, in a lull between one gust of wind and another. They scrambled out as men ran up to guide the ‘plane into the safety of a hangar. An ambulance drove up beside them, its lights swirling, and its siren wailing. Hands helped them get into it just as the rain began to fall in sheets. Robert held Jane close to him, trying to shield her from the swerves and bumps as the driver skidded and slithered through the pouring rain, unable to distinguish the potholes under the floods of water which had turned the streets into rivers.
Twenty minutes later they had reached the clinic and were walking across the softly-lit hall towards the reception desk.
“We made it,” Robert exclaimed. “And we’re dry!” he added, almost for something to say as he gave Jane a little hug.
A nurse accompanied them to the stairs and led them to the waiting room on the first floor near the operating theatre. Soledad and Daniel rose to greet them. Scenes of other such moments flashed up in Jane’s memory: Soledad’s illness, Bettina’s death, her mother’s operation, Nelly, Aunt Georgina’s last days struggling for breath as she fought a losing battle against pneumonia, and all the experiences she herself had had at the British Hospital. They hugged each other wordlessly.
“They’ve just started operating,” Soledad said at last. Daniel was too upset to say anything. “A Dr. Harrision. He’s just joined the staff at the clinic.”
“Harrison? Miki? Dr. Michael Harrison?” Jane demanded shakily.
“Yes, I think so.”
“If it’s him, he’s brilliant. How fantastic! He was trained at the British Hospital, and he’s been to the States and Germany on courses. I’ve worked with him. He’s one of the best. How incredible. How quite incredible!”
Jane remembered Nahuel Luna’s deep voice assuring her, ‘I feel sure it will not be in vain,’ and felt a surge of hope. Her faith had been undermined by the feeling that however much she prayed, Destiny would take its inevitable course and Bobby would die. It was not, after all, a battle with Destiny, or a battle of wills between God and herself and Robert. It was a question of attitudes. ‘If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.’ If she believed utterly in the power of God to heal Bobby and concentrated on that, her attitude would be the right one. If she let doubt and intellectual reasoning weaken her faith and make her attitude wishy-washy and ambivalent… but it was hard. Oh, how hard it was!
“Do you mind if we pray together?” she asked. “You know… ‘where two or three are gathered together…’ ”
She held out her hands. Silently the others joined hands and Robert and Soledad took Jane’s. Just then two farm hands from the Farm entered the waiting room. Water streamed down their dark, suntanned faces and off their ponchos. Jane released Soledad’s hand and held hers out to them. Silently they joined the circle. Jane’s prayer was short and simple. They remained holding hands for a few minutes more in silence. In Santa Laura an ever widening, invisible net was already spreading across the city. Hands were clasped, heads bowed, candles lit and hearts which seemed to have lost all connection with anything beyond the world of matter, were raised timidly, as secretaries and servants, rich and poor, prayed for a little red-haired boy hovering between life and death, and for the surgeon trying desperately, with all the skill of which he was capable, to retrieve him from Death’s gentle arms.
At last the little group in the clinic drew back into their isolation, alone with their thoughts, yet in some way warmed and comforted. Daniel gripped his workers’ hands gratefully after they had divested themselves of their damp ponchos.
“Sarita?” Jane asked, turning to Soledad.
“I left her with Jeanette.”
Robert walked over to the window, staring out at the storm which raged unabated. He could not pray, or even think clearly; he felt hollow, simply a sort of husk, a human shape which moved and even spoke if necessary, but drained and empty, with no capacity to feel anything… anything at all. If Bobby died… how could he believe? But Jane did… at least Jane did.
Time ticked by. A maid brought a thermos of hot coffee, some glass mugs and sugar. They drank gratefully. The storm died out slowly. The rain ceased. Night fell.
Jane shifted to a more comfortable position and glanced at her watch. Two hours. How much longer? Another hour perhaps? She looked at Robert, knowing how inaction nearly drove him to distraction.
“Why don’t you go for a walk, Robert? It’ll be a little while longer yet. Why don’t you go with him, Daniel?” she suggested.
After a moment’s hesitation, the two men left the waiting room. The farm workers remained, their ability to sit so still reminded Jane of the Indians in the province of Jujuy.
“How much longer, do you think?” Soledad murmured.
“Maybe an hour… less perhaps.”
Soledad glanced at her watch. “I keep remembering my own experience,” she said in a low voice. “It’s still so vivid.” Jane nodded. “I liked your prayer. How seldom Christians pray aloud together like that. Just making up a prayer, sort of talking to a friend instead of repeating the Rosary or the Lord’s prayer, or whatever.”
“Dr. Michaelson taught me. I wish I’d remembered to let him know. Perhaps he knows already. Sometimes I feel he’s tremendously clairvoyant. I know he meditates a lot.”
“He probably does then, know I mean. I was thinking, too, how… lucky you were to be able to land with this awful storm. It’s also like a sign, isn’t it? The surgeon, the ‘plane being able to land despite the storm, the fact that the operating theatre was free and the anaesthetist was here seeing a patient. I forgot to tell you. I’ve just remembered.”
Jane looked at Soledad sharply, then went back to staring at the tile floor. She was remembering how she had known that Bettina was dying. Bobby was not going to die, of that she was now quite certain. He had looked for this experience, as Nahuel Luna had said, but in some mysterious way, everything had been orchestrated for his survival.
Robert and Daniel returned and they all chatted quietly.
Suddenly there seemed to be a flurry of activity beyond the swing doors leading to the operating theatre. A nurse hurried out through them, and was gone before they could ask her anything. Two doctors appeared from the passage and walked quickly through the same doors in the opposite direction.
“It’s over… I mean the operation,” Jane said.
The waiting became almost unbearable. “And Violet has no idea that Bobby is hanging by a thread between life and death,” she thought. “But she would have let him come here with Soledad, if that’s any comfort.”
The swing doors opened and Miki Harrison strode through, still dressed in his green operating outfit, his mask hanging round his neck. His eyes met Jane’s, and after a startled pause while he checked that he wasn’t mistaken, and registered that she was pregnant, he exclaimed, “Jane!”
“Hello, Miki. How is he?”
“Still with us. Touch and go, though.”
“Robert, this is Miki Harrison. Robert is Bobby’s father.”
“How do you do? The child is still under anaesthetic. I don’t think there’ll be any set-backs, but of course it’s too early to make any definite statements.”
He was a tall, well-built man in his fifties with a smooth, unlined face and blue eyes. His air of authority and self-assurance instilled immediate comfort in all their hearts.
“He’ll be in intensive care for at least twenty-four hours. You may see him for two minutes.”
Robert started forward and then paused. “May Jane come too?” he asked.
They tiptoed into the ward and stared down at Bobby, lying unconscious in the hospital bed. A drip was attached to his foot, a drainage tube snaked out from under the bandages covering his operation. His heart beeped unevenly on the monitor. He looked dreadfully small and pale in contrast to his mop of red hair. Jane touched his little, blue-veined hand and whispered, “Thank you Lord. May our faith give him strength.”
They left him in the hands of a gently efficient nurse, for all her black hair and Indian-looking features. Jane realized that she was exhausted and very hungry. The farm hands, satisfied that Bobby was alive and well, had left, riding back through the night jubilantly, as the stars began to shine between the drifting clouds. Daniel and Soledad suggested dinner, and offered to put Jane and Robert up on the Farm, but they preferred to stay at a hotel across the street from the Hospital.
Jane asked for roast chicken and fried potatoes, and the others joined her. She ate with relish, feeling she hadn’t eaten for days.
The hotel room was as impersonal and functional as a room could be, but the double bed was comfortable and the pillows soft. Jane, warm and relaxed after a hot shower, snuggled down and fell asleep almost as soon as her head touched the pillow.
Robert leaned down and kissed her, then he pulled on a pullover and went out, suddenly wanting to be alone and to hear the ageless lullaby of the breakers. He walked all along the esplanade and back, before deciding to pay a quick visit to his little son.
The nurse smiled at him and said, “He is just coming to. It is a good thing that you came.”
Bobby’s eyes flickered open and he saw Robert.
“Hello, Bobby,” Robert whispered. “How are you feeling?”
A look of intense fear filled the little boy’s eyes. “Are you… are you very cross, Daddy?”
“Cross? Of course not. I’m very, very happy. Why?”
“’Cos I was dis’bedient… Sarita’s… horse.”
“I’m not cross at all. Not at all, Bobby. I love you. It was an accident. Just don’t worry one little bit. Go to sleep now.”
A deep look of relief spread across the child’s face. He looked beyond Robert. “Jane?”
“She’s next door, sleeping. She’s very tired.”
Bobby nodded and his eyes closed. In a moment his even breathing indicated that he, too, had fallen asleep. A doctor entered, nodded to Robert, checked Bobby’s pulse and blood pressure, and looked up smiling.
“He just spoke to me,” Robert said.
“Yes. He’s sleeping normally now. It was an incredible operation. Dr. Harrison is a brilliant surgeon.”
Robert left the clinic and walked into the hotel. The night clerk handed him his key. He went up to his room and went to bed quickly. Lying quietly beside Jane he felt the tears of relief and peace spill over. He let them flow, and for the first time in his life, a prayer of thanks formed itself in his heart.
Aryn was born punctually, one month later, at six o’clock in the morning. Dr. Michaelson delivered her. To Jane, lying in her bed resting, the whole process had been like a miracle. Even the pain and the pushing and the panting beforehand. And then the final push, and Dr. Michaelson’s quiet, cheerful voice informing her, “It’s a girl!”
A few minutes later she had been placed in her arms, sweetly bathed and wrapped in shawls, her tiny face looking so old and wise, her hair a soft fuzz of fair down. A daughter, Aryn. What did life hold in store for her? No need to worry about that now, though. Now all she, Jane, had to do was to enjoy her and marvel at her perfection: her pink-tipped fingers and toes with their perfectly formed nails, her button of a nose, her rosy mouth and rounded eyebrows, her utter vulnerability. Jane thought of her other child, somewhere out there in the world, and as always, sent him her love and support on a winged prayer. However many children she had, her first would never be forgotten.
Robert had gone back to inform Bobby and get him ready for school. He had recovered remarkably quickly and had already been back at school for a week. The crown prince and walking miracle for everybody who lived in their block of flats. Hadn’t they been asked to pray for him in his hour of need? Wasn’t he then for each one of them, the living proof of a loving and ever-present God? In fact, weren’t they, too, in a very small way, of course, just a little bit responsible for his being alive, due to their prayers?
A camaraderie had sprung up between them, which had not been present before. Some of the ladies started to visit each other, and the problem of damp between the fourth and the fifth floor A’s was solved amicably after a year-long feud.
Mrs. Carter, when she heard that Bobby had recovered, had even gone to visit them and brought presents for Bobby and for the expected baby. She had stayed to tea and asked if Jane read fairy stories to Bobby.
Jane grinned to herself as she thought about Mrs. Carter, remembering the ticking off she had given her. It all seemed such a very long time ago!
“Isn’t she lovely?”
“If you say so.”
“Robert, what sort of a father are you?”
“Quite a normal one, I should say. I love you, Jane.”
“I think she looks like you.”
“You do, do you? But her nose is definitely yours.”
“I have to say something, Cinderella.”
“Do you really like the name Aryn?”
“If Bobby dreamed it, I think she should be called Aryn. We’ll have to choose another name for the authorities, unfortunately. Ariana, perhaps.”
“How do you find he is coping?
“Stoically. I think he realizes that she’s going to steal some of his limelight. I gave him a huge packet of sweets to take to school, to celebrate.”
“D’you think he’ll be jealous?”
“Possibly. But as she’s a girl, which is what he wanted, he won’t have the problem of competition.”
“A daughter. How lucky I am. I have so much. You, Bobby and now Aryn.”
“You deserve it.”
“I don’t know that I do.”
Jane touched her baby’s cheek and felt a pang of compassion for Violet, who might have no more children and didn’t even have Bobby any more.
“Sometimes I feel terribly sorry for Violet,” she said
“Well, her only child and… she’s lost him. She had so much trouble having him, too.”
Robert smiled gently and shook his head. “Violet was often obsessive and a little unbalanced, Jane. And she wanted to have her own way… always. She couldn’t have children, you know, but she simply refused to believe the doctors.”
“But … Bobby ….?”
“We made the whole thing up, and kept it deadly secret, about her having to go to a special clinic in Buenos Aires and all that.”
Jane raised her eyes very slowly and stared at Robert with an intense, penetrating gaze.
“Are… are you telling me the truth?” she whispered.
Robert lifted his hand and ran a forefinger along the line of her cheek.
“Yes, my darling… at last,” he said. “Violet went to the clinic in Buenos Aires all right, but we adopted Bobby… illegally… the day after he was born, through Dr. Michaelson.”
“Just in case, my love, I checked with Hetty, Hetty Michaelson…”