Were we the first,
Were we really the first
At anything? To write of one
Thing or another, to think a
Specific thought, ask a particular
Question, and fill it with a
Particular answer we thought was
We wrap history in many veils,
Fictitious and lived, and yet
Memory is an imagined beast
Of many dimensions which
Calls our names when it fears
Being lost in the dark.
Where do we come from, really?
Who were the forebears who made
Us, and jumped continents to
Bring their brood to this shore
Of all the shores they could have
Chosen? We think we know
Their stories as truth, but they
Are only stories.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 166
‘If she survives,’ Katharina says.
Robert looks at her in surprise. ‘You’re condemning your own daughter to death?’
‘I’m being realistic,’ Katharina says. ‘She should never have let it get this far. You should never have let it come to this.’
‘What could I have done?’ Robert says, his face even more drawn than ever, the look of the well-fed unworldly composer replaced by the skeletal face of a man cut adrift in a world he understands only too well.
‘Nothing,’ Aggie says. ‘No point rehashing the past.’ She lets go of Marit now, gets up. ‘We should get going. I’m going to take Martin’s car again. It’s faster than Katharina’s.’
‘That’s it, is it?’ Zak says. ‘Just like that.’
‘Yes,’ Aggie says. ‘What’s the point in just talking around things? You and Anna stay, like I said, and we’ll take it from there. I don’t need an army.’
‘But Valentine does.’ Robert’s voice cuts through the closeness of the room.
Aggie laughs. ‘Men can’t cope without armies,’ she says. ‘They need some sort of reassurance, I think, that they’re in charge and not alone.’ She makes one concession to her feelings, and grabs Robert in a big hug, tries to ignore the trembling disease that seems to be worse every time she sees him. ‘Look after yourself,’ she whispers. ‘Don’t blame yourself for anything.’ His unexpected kiss burns on her forehead. She wishes she’d had a father like him, wishes she’d had a father at all. She steps back. ‘No need for a farewell committee either.’ She’s at the front door in a flash, and in the car waiting for the others.
An hour later, the car is hurtling southwards, after a quick fill-up and recharge at a confluence of motorways. Katharina and Marit in the back, Lilibet in her accustomed seat in the front, to Aggie’s left. No need for any of them to speak, no need for any conversation. Aggie’s head is full of pictures of the house, Sir and Madam’s house, her house, and she asks herself what she could have overlooked that Cassie wants her to find, asks herself what she’ll do with Katharina and Marit, doesn’t want them to stay at Katharina’s house, all exposed and unsafe, although the bait would be useful if Valentine already knows where they are. Her face doesn’t move with those thoughts, and Lilibet knows better than to interrupt her, knows that look already.
The headlights cut through the growing darkness, and Aggie adjusts her eyes so that the oncoming lights don’t blind her. She doesn’t understand why governments resolutely refuse to install solar-powered lights on every road. She understands light pollution, but her mind has already worked out how technology could turn lights on ahead of speeding cars, and then turn them off again. She tries to stop these meandering thoughts so she can focus, but her irritation with modern humankind seems to escalate the more she tries to evade it.
Night is complete by the time she guides the car into the Norwich suburb where she found Marit and Katharina a short few days ago. The streets are empty, the street lights subdued. She pulls up in front of the house, gestures to the others to stay put, gets out, and moves stealthily up to the front door, pushes down the handle. It’s unlocked. Aggie plucks her stiletto out of her boot, and disappears into the darkness.