Richard Pierce


Day 207

Let’s start the day the right way round for once. The last few days I’ve been going to bed and getting up again, and staying up much too late. I’ve been too negative, railing against the end of summer already, which is ridiculous. The summer holidays here have only just begun, and summer, in the old (and right) way of measuring the seasons, goes on until almost the end of September. Just because we’ve had a great holiday (and have been back for three weeks) doesn’t, and mustn’t, mean that summer is gone. And I have to accept, right here, right now, that the English summer is different from Southern European summers. As simple as that. I do know what else has got me thinking so negatively, so I need to put that to one side, or at least try to. Smartphones have a lot to answer for, and our addiction to them is really counter-productive.

The sun is shining, for the minute, the air is fresh, which is refreshing, and I’m trying to wake up my mind by coming straight in here and sitting down and writing straightaway. I just looked over a poem I wrote after midnight this morning, and suffice to say it will never see the light of day. When output is high, some of it will be garbage.

We did have a conversation yesterday about how easy it is to feel trapped by life, by the vicious circle of having dreams but needing enough money to make them come real, and then being imprisoned in the need to keep earning money so that the dreams actually gradually fade. But it doesn’t need to be like that. There has to be a balance somewhere. And over the last few days (weeks) I’ve forgotten what probably is the most important lesson of therapy – that the middle ground is the most fertile. I’ve been veering off into that country where everything is black and white, indulging in the extremes, and in that land lies self-destruction, actually. So I’m going to make an effort to pull it back, to tread the middle path where I feel more settled and happy, where real fulfilment lies.

We make a mistake when we think life owes us something, a mistake when we expect things to change without us changing, when we expect our paths to change without us changing direction. Even if we are of faith, we can’t expect whatever gods we believe in to be the sole makers of our destiny. Our destiny is in our hands, perhaps not entirely, and I need to grab a firm hold of mine.

Compromise is not a weakness; it’s a strength. And, most of the time, compromise is the only way to realise our dreams.



‘What do you mean, she’s disappeared?’ Robert says.

‘For an intelligent man, you’re remarkably stupid,’ Katharina says. ‘You came down here to play your dangerous and silly game, I went to the toilet, and when I went back into the room, she’d gone.’

”We didn’t hear the front door,’ Aggie says.

‘Then she didn’t use the front door, obviously,’ Katharina says.

‘Out of the window then,’ Lilibet says.

‘I can’t watch over her all the time,’ Robert says.

Katharina crosses her arms. ‘Have you ever tried to imagine what it must be like for her? To have a father almost four decades older than she is? A father whom she has only just met? And a mother who disappears off all the time? And a father who is actually on the opposite side to her mother? Have you?’ Katharina is almost shouting now. ‘But we’re wasting time. We need to find her.’

‘I’ll go out over the roof,’ Lilibet says.

‘Where would she go?’ Aggie says. ‘Tom’s family?’

‘They don’t live round here,’ Robert says.

‘She wouldn’t, would she?’ Aggie says, frowning.

‘What?’ Robert says.

‘Try to find her mother on her own?’

‘She doesn’t know where she is,’ Katharina says. ‘None of us do.’

‘Russia somewhere,’ Aggie says.

‘That’s like looking for a needle in a haystack,’ Robert says. ‘And even she can’t be that stupid.’

‘Robert!’ Katharina’s voice cuts through the room like a steel blade. ‘How can you even say that about your daughter.’

‘Well.’ Robert shrugs, looks embarrassed. ‘What am I meant to say?’

‘Be supportive, perhaps?’

‘Let’s stop the parenting lessons, shall we?’ Lilibet says. ‘I’m going out onto the roof.’ She runs out of the room, Aggie not far behind her. They sprint up the stairs, burst into the room Katharina and Marit were sharing. The window’s open.

‘We’ll both go,’ Aggie says.

‘Fine. But let’s get a move on.’

Aggie decides to lead, clambers up on to the ledge, and out onto the roof. Its steepness surprises even her, and she can’t think of how the girl even had the courage to get herself out here, never mind disappear from it so quickly. Maybe she fell. She shakes her head. They’d have heard her fall. They’d have heard her scream.  She curses under her breath.

‘It’s not your fault,’ Lilibet says in her ear, right next to her now, balancing on the tiles. ‘We weren’t even meant to be here.’

Aggie looks up over her shoulder at the top ridge of the roof, and then back across at the enormity that is the Minster. ‘Most likely to have gone up and over,’ she says. A gentle breeze tugs at her words.

‘Agreed.’ Lilibet starts climbing up towards the ridge.

They sit astride the roof, look down into the shadow that is a tiny back garden amongst the messy tapestry of the old houses all fused together into a confused picture.

Lilibet points to an expanse of grass beyond the garden, were the sun is falling in mottled drops onto the green. ‘There’s a way out.’

‘And then what?’ Aggie says.

‘The station,’ Lilibet says. ‘That’s the only option. We’d have heard a car go, so there’s no point even checking that.’

‘Let’s go down that way then, and then find our way to the station. Try to trace her steps rather than go back down and out the front door.’

‘Sounds good to me.’

They scramble down the roof, slide down the drain pipes to the ground, run across the green space without pausing to catch the few rays of warmth, rush out into the open street, where Aggie pulls them to the left without hesitation. She pushes her mind to get working again, to stop emotion for the time being, to just track and trace and catch. Because if they don’t catch up with Marit, she will die, Aggie’s sure of it. Valentine must know by now that she’s his daughter. And he’d do anything to hurt Cassie now.


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