Tuesday, 4 March 2008
‘Look who I found loitering around Stanstead Airport’ called Martin as he paid off the taxi.
Running out from the kitchen where I had been putting the final touches to the salad for our BBQ supper, I hug my youngest daughter as she rushes up the drive.
‘Ella, how lovely, I wasn’t expecting you to arrive till after midnight’
‘I phoned Dad earlier in the week to find out which flight he was getting, then I managed to swap my shift so that I could finish at lunch time and we could travel together. Don’t shout at Dad, I swore him to secrecy, I wanted to surprise you Mum,’
‘Oh it’s a lovely surprise’ I can’t stop smiling as I pick up her rucksack and follow them both into the villa. ‘Olivia, Grace, come here quickly, Grandpa and Aunt Ella have arrived’ I call out to the children who had been busy in the kitchen making Welcome Home banners.
Scrambling into the hall clutching the still wet posters, the girls fling their little arms around their Grandpa’s legs. ‘Where’s Sophie?’ asked Martin as he bends down to kiss his granddaughters and admire their artwork.
‘She’s in the study Darling, I think that she might still be on the phone to her office. I’m sure she’ll be out in a minute’
‘I thought she was supposed be on holiday. Doesn’t she ever switch off?' asked Emma putting a large gift wrapped box on the hall table.
‘Now don’t start, I want this to be a lovely weekend and I don’t want you two squabbling as soon as you get together’
‘Oh Mum’ laughed Ella putting her arms around me ‘you wouldn’t want us any other way’
Don’t you believe it, I mutter, ‘Oh Ella it is lovely to see you again, I’ve missed you so much, it’s been far too long since we’ve all been together.’
‘I’m sorry I couldn’t get here any sooner but it’s been a nightmare trying to get this time off work. We are really short staffed at the moment and everyone is working silly hours.’
‘And you have the nerve to call your sister a workaholic. You are both as bad as one another’ I sigh
Ella laughs as she sits on the floor hugging her little nieces ‘Yes but I don’t have these little princesses waiting for me. It’s easy to stay in work when you’ve nobody to go home to’
I look on wistfully as Ella rolls around the floor tickling Olivia and Grace. Ella would make a wonderful Mum. She has so much love to give. I can’t believe that she is still on her own. She is so pretty and full of fun. It’s been a long time since she split up with Jake, I wonder if there is any one special for her in London. No. I’m sure there can’t be, she would tell me if there was.
Ella is now laughing fit to burst as the girls scramble over her trying their best to tickle her back. As if on queue, Sophie storms out of the office. ‘What’s all the noise about? Mummy is trying to work’ spotting Martin leaning against the wall she looks embarrassed as she says ‘Oh I’m sorry Dad, I didn’t know that you were home’ and glaring at her sister who was still lying with her giggling nieces on top of her, she snaps ‘Don’t get them over excited Ella or they won’t eat their supper’
Immediately the giggling stops and the atmosphere in the hall changes, Sophie stands motionless in the doorway of the study with her arms folded and I know that Olivia senses her Mother’s quiet disapproval. Not tonight, I pray, please no arguments, for Martin’s sake if not for mine. This is supposed to be his special weekend, not a war zone.
With a self control that I could only wonder at, Ella looks up from where she was still lying on the floor. Angry beyond belief that Sophie could spoil such a happy welcome, Ella looks straight at her sister and then fixing a big silly grin on her face said ‘Hi sis, good to see you too’
Closing my eyes I whisper a silent prayer of thanks. Looking up the hall I can see the children who must have run to sit at the bottom of the stairs as soon as they had seen Sophie glowering at their funny Aunty. My heart sinks when I realise that they’re sitting holding hands nervously. Glancing at Sophie with the contempt she deserves I call with a brightness that is pure acting ‘Right girls, who wants a BBQ?’
‘Me, me’ they shout in unison running over to pull at Martin’s hands ‘we want a BBQ don’t we Grandpa’
‘Yes my little darlings, a BBQ and a very large Scotch' answers Martin glowering at Sophie as he let’s himself be pulled out towards the pool.
Looking at Sophie and shaking her head, Ella walks through to the kitchen to pour herself a large glass of wine.
Turning to Sophie with my anger only just in check I say ‘Don’t ever let me see those girl’s frightened of you again. I don’t care how busy you are or how tired you are, they come first. Do you understand?’
Sophie glared at me as I continue ‘And nothing is going to spoil this weekend. So it’s no more work Sophie, no phone calls to the office, no faxes to America, you are going to spend time with your daughters.’
‘You will never understand Mum what’s it’s like to be me. I have to win this contract, don’t you understand if it falls through I can kiss goodbye to being made a partner and then everything I have worked so hard for will be for nothing’
'No Sophie you're wrong, I do understand. You're my daughter and I love but what you are in danger of loosing is irreplaceable. If your not careful you will loose something far more important than any contract. Olivia and Grace need you right now, not when you have made partner, they need to know that their Mummy loves them and has time for them. Your family is what’s really important and believe me if you loose sight of that you really will have lost everything.'