Just as I was going to bed last night, a random thought snuck its way across my mind. In the last few days I have spent ages putting together my daily posts, and I’d felt a certain sense of frustration that it was taking me so long. What this thought suggested to me was that I look at that from a different angle. What if it was taking so long because I was actually enjoying writing more than anything else in my life just now, that using almost two hours to put together just over 1k words was actually my escape from the real world (although part of it is retelling my real world for anyone to read, and for me to remember it when I reach my dotage, or for people to remember me by when my dotage has passed and I’m no longer around to irritate people)? Even in my working hours, there is a part of my brain which is constantly active with thoughts and plots and words and letters (both those that make up words and those that make up communications), and that desire to be able to spend all day writing and thinking and plotting and scribbling illegible letters onto the yellow paper that I have favoured since I was 18. Is it a pipe dream to want to be a full-time writer, even at the grand old age of 61?
This morning, I managed to take a picture of the rising sun between the branches of the huge cork tree that rises out of the garden two houses down. Of course, I didn’t look at the sun directly, just through the lens of the digital camera. When I was 14, I remember getting up very early for a week, partly because there were robins nesting in the void between the garden gate post and the wall, and partly because Radio 3 had Vivaldi as its composer of the week, and that played out at something like 6 in the morning, and partly because the sun was casting a glorious light over that miserable part of the world that Doncaster was in the mid-70s. The time light takes to travel has always fascinated me, has raised all sorts of questions about looking into the past out there at night, if I had a strong telescope and there were mirrors on distant planets and stars, so that I, here on Earth, could look back at history being played out live on exactly the same spot that I was standing on. That’s probably another reason time travel has such a hold over me. Sometimes I even persuade myself that I am a time traveller. Nothing is impossible, after all.
And yet the future is uncertain. My plans for Aggie include keeping her in the public domain for as long as I can while I’m writing, and then pulling her away into my privacy for the last month or so of this year while she works towards some sort of ending. There are never any guarantees, though, are there, when we’re looking into the future with our planning? And that doesn’t just apply to these days we’re living through right now; it applies to any time we’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to live through. There are only so many moments we have, and it’s fortunate that we don’t know when those moments will run out.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 38
‘Because she needs them? Zav says.
‘But why particularly those?’
‘They’re the ones that will give her the most freedom of movement.’
‘But wouldn’t the Russian one have let her move more freely if getting to Putin was one of the things she wanted to do, the one thing that would make her most dangerous to Putin?’
‘Not if she planned to get into Russia secretly. We don’t know how she operates.’
‘That’s true,’ Aggie says. ‘But it’s a valid question. And it makes it even more important we find her.’
‘I guess that means I carry on with the other rooms.’
She nods. ‘And I’ll carry on going through these documents. It’s not just passports in here.’
‘Fine,’ he says. ‘I’ll just get myself another coffee.’
‘Make that two.’ She looks past her reflection at the top of the cathedral’s spire, wonders why they’re still mired here, why they haven’t found anything concrete to establish where Cassandra might be. And the clock is ticking if she is a prisoner somewhere, and Valentine is her jailer. And he’ll be bound to have guessed where she and Zav are. She takes the cup from him. ‘We need to do this quickly now.’
‘On my way.’ He runs out of the kitchen, coffee in hand, and she hears his heavy tread make its way back up the stairs.
Yellowing papers in the drawer. She pulls them out carefully, brittle as they are, unfolds them gently. A birth certificate. Constance Aurelija Sofia Stratford. Born in May 1980, in London. Father unknown. Mother’s name Katharina Yaroslava Romy Anderson. A dual national. English and Norwegian. Born in Norway. No maiden name. Aggie scrabbles through the rest of the drawer, but can’t find what she wants to find. There are no more photos. Some letters. Dear Connie. Dear Cas. Dear Cassie. Aggie skim reads. Why won’t you let me come to see you? Don’t be a stranger. You’re too good for him. What about the child? All signed your loving mother. She drops the last letter on the table.
‘She had a child,’ she shouts at him, busy on the floor under the bed of the second guest room.
‘What?’ He crawls out.
‘She had a child,’ she says again. ‘I found some letters.’
‘Where is the child?’ She can’t keep still. ‘Maybe that’s what the call was about. Don’t let him find … the child.’
‘A bit fanciful, isn’t it?’ He’s on his feet now. ‘She couldn’t expect you to know she’s a mother.’
‘She could expect me to go searching through the house.’
‘Not from what you’ve told me. Maid and servant and all that.’
‘Women know things differently.’
‘Oh, so you’re just reverently cowering to the man, to Valentine, but quite happy to snoop around another woman’s things?’
‘It’s not like that.’ She kicks at the ground. ‘And there’s no reason for me to be defensive.’
‘No, there isn’t.’ The corner of a smile. ‘You keep these rooms nice and clean.’
‘It’s my job.’
‘Then there’s no point me looking for anything in here.’
She smiles. ‘Probably not.’
‘Then why ask me to?’
She nods. ‘And maybe you’d see something I haven’t seen. But you haven’t.’
‘And now?’ he says.
‘The cellar,’ she says. ‘It’s not locked, but I’ve never really spent any time down there.’
‘Spiders and things,’ he says.
This time she laughs. ‘No. There’s just nothing down there that I need to run the house.’
‘Perhaps we’ll find something we do need.’
‘Like more guns?’