Red Sky at Sunset
The CBB -> Starting again at Sarres...

#1: Red Sky at Sunset Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:25 pm

Mary-Lou stood up as he came into the corridor.

"Your parents and Jem and Madge are talking to Peggy’s doctor. Your Dad said for you to join them -" she began. He shook his head.

"I don’t need to, I know what he’s telling them. Come for a walk with me?"


They walked for quite a long way across the grounds and into the nearby woodland. Rix walked slightly ahead, his hands in his pockets, while Mary-Lou followed behind, longing, yet not quite daring to take hold of his hand.

"She’s dying," he said, eventually, "I hoped - it’s just too advanced. I think she’ll go in the next few days. It’s just too advanced, the tumour’s grown too quickly. That’s what her doctor’s telling them now, I expect."

"Oh, Rix, no! Are you sure?"

"There’s nothing I can do. I wish there was. I hope Bride and John get here in time."

Mary-Lou blinked away tears, knowing that his calm, matter-of-fact tones hid his bewilderment and grief.

She stumbled slightly in her efforts to keep up and he slowed at once, taking her hand.

"Sorry," he said, "Let’s go back. We’ve come too far and it’s starting to get dark. I should really say hello to Jem and Madge, shouldn’t I?"

"Sybil’s here as well," Mary-Lou said, as he lifted her down a steep incline. Her shoes had high heels and she was finding the walk back to the San more difficult. She wondered if she should mention what Jem had said about Sybil being upset from a childhood incident, but he just nodded and changed the subject to Bride’s journey from Dublin.


When they reached the San they found that Lieutenant John Bettany had arrived, he was still in his naval uniform. He had so obviously been crying that Mary-Lou and Rix knew that Dr March must have broken the terrible news that Peggy only had days left.

Giles was with Peggy when she died only two days later; he told the Bettanys that she had simply told him that she loved him and she was tired, then she had smiled and closed her eyes.

"Falling asleep to wake up with God," Daphne had said tearfully when she had been told, remembering their conversation at the Quadrant.


Dick and Mollie sat down with Rix and Giles to plan the funeral service. It would take place at St Mary’s church in the village, where Peggy had married.

"When do you need to be back at work?" Dick asked Rix.

"I’ve resigned. I’m not going back. They wouldn’t let me have the time off, so I told them I wasn’t coming back. It’s OK, Dad, I’ll find another job."

"Let me know if you need money," Dick said, although he looked concerned.

They chose hymns, Giles knew all Peggy’s favourites. He was going to say a few words and Bride had wanted to do a brief reading. Maurice, John, David and Stephen Maynard were to carry the coffin, Rix knew he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to do it and nobody had said he should, for which he was grateful.

The church was full of people, the entire family except for a heavily-pregnant Josette, a great many of Peggy’s friends, the Winterton family and Miss Annersley, Miss Wilson, Miss Dene and Matron who were representing the school and of course, people from Channing St Mary, who had seen Peggy Bettany grow up. Some people had to stand outside the church as there was no room for them.

His mother and his wife were sobbing either side of him, but Rix himself was dry-eyed, concentrating on his order of service. The coffin was very small. The whole situation seemed unreal and he found it difficult to concentrate on the vicar’s words. It was preferable to think about the fun they had had together, swimming in the sea, cycling down to the village and so on, rather than the service itself. The letter she had sent to him when Alan was born, written on the very crest of happiness.

Alan was next to his father, who had an arm around him and Jenny, on the other side. Amy had been judged too young to attend, she was being looked after at the Quadrant by a woman from the village with her Bettany cousins and the other small fry.

It wasn’t a long service and after the committal, they all went back to the Quadrant.

Felix and Felicity Maynard sat together on the stairs, drawn together when ordinarily they might have gathered together with their siblings. Rix saw them and turned sharply away, going through the kitchen and out into the garden.

Felicity watched him go and nudged her brother.

"We shouldn’t sit together. Come on! We’ll go and tell Phil and Geoff as well."

"What are you talking about?" Felix was mystified.

Felicity explained and added, "I s’pect it makes him feel worse to see us together."

Felix saw her reasoning and they stood up, as Jem Russell came out of the drawing room.

"What are you two plotting?" he asked, fondly, ruffling Felicity’s bobbed blonde curls, so like Peggy’s.

Felicity told him what they thought and he nodded, gravely. "Where did Rix go?" he asked.

"Into the garden, I think," Felix replied.

"Right." Jem looked for Mary-Lou but she was sitting with Sybil, who was in tears again. David was with them.


"Stop it Sybil. This isn’t helping you and it isn’t what Peggy would want," Mary-Lou sounded authoritative. "You need to pull yourself together."

"I didn’t get the chance to apologise. They wouldn’t let me." Sybil sobbed.

"Apologise for what?" Mary-Lou asked, bemused, but David shook his head.

"Oh come on, Sybs, you can’t still be worrying over that. We were only kids. Peggy had forgotten all about it, you were good friends." He met Mary-Lou’s eye, "Rix doesn’t go on about it, does he?"

"I don’t know what you mean."

"I-I was horrible to the twins and Bride when we were in Tyrol and at the Round House," Sybil said, blowing her nose on David’s handkerchief. She was still very beautiful, Mary-Lou, thought, even with red eyes.

"He’s never mentioned it, no," she said, glancing out of the window where Rix was sitting on a low garden wall, talking with Jem. "What did you say anyway?"

Sybil gave another sob, "I said they didn’t belong in our family, they were only cousins. I said Uncle Dick and Auntie Mollie didn’t want them - I-I was cruel."

"You were just a kid! You’re overreacting." David was becoming exasperated.

"Rix won’t talk to me - "

"Believe me, he’s not sitting out there thinking about something you said twenty years ago!"

"David, could you please get me another drink?" Mary-Lou said hurriedly, before he and Sybil could start arguing. She could see why Sybil was so upset. She knew Rix tended to bottle things up to brood over and Sybil’s words had been very cruel.


"It was a beautiful service," Jem said, joining his nephew in the garden. "What did you think?"

Rix shrugged, lighting his cigarette on the third attempt.

"I think it was," Jem continued, sitting down. "I’m sure Peggy, where she is, must be thinking…"

"She’s dead, how can she be thinking anything?" Rix said, harshly.

Jem sighed, "I know how you feel. You remember my sister, Margot, don’t you?"

"Of course."

"I think about her every day. I’m in my sixties now and I still miss her. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s all right to grieve…"

"How can you say I’m not grieving?" Rix looked up, "Is that what you all think?"

"No, no." Jem hastened to reassure. "Of course not. Only - don’t feel that you can’t talk to us."

Rix nodded.

"Now, are you going to introduce me to these famous triplets of yours?" Jem said lightly and they went back inside.
The Quadrant was full of people, but the only room that had not been pressed into service was Peggy’s own old bedroom.

It was three in the morning when Rix opened the door and stepped inside; he hadn’t slept, ignoring the tablets his uncle had pressed on him, and the need to look through her things before whatever Giles and his parents decided to do with them was compelling. The hinges of the door needed oiling and made a noise, but he didn’t think anyone had heard.

He switched on the light, there were dust covers on some of the furniture, but they were easily removed. Her wardrobe contained only a few old clothes that she hadn’t taken to Canada.

He sat on the bed, remembering the last time they had talked in here together, he had urged her to tell Alan that she was dying. Previous to that, he couldn’t remember. Possibly the evening before Peggy got married - they had talked for hours that night, knowing she would sail for Canada almost at once and it would be a long time before they would see each other again.

She had a drawer full of letters, all carefully arranged by sender and date. He rifled through them, looking for his own to her, the thin war economy envelopes with the Winchester postmarks, he could barely recall writing them and on opening one, found it was full of long-forgotten accounts of inter-house cricket matches. It felt like a hundred years ago. What had she written back? He couldn’t remember.

The ones he’d sent from London were longer, full of his hopes for the future and his worries about the demanding hours of training. He remembered her response to that, she had always believed he could pass the assessments and examinations.

What would Giles do with all these letters, hundreds upon hundreds of them, not only from him but from their parents, cousins, aunts, friends? He wished he had spoken to Nell Randolph, Daphne, Dickie, Edna and the others at the funeral and afterwards, instead of running away into the garden. He would have to visit them, his mother would have their addresses.

He heard muffled footsteps and the floorboards creaking gently. The Quadrant was an old house. Closing the drawer he got to his feet and opened the door, Maurice was fully dressed and he turned around when he heard the door open.

“What are you doing up this early?” Rix asked, looking at the clock on the landing, which read quarter to five.

“I’ve got to see to the herd,” Maurice said, calmly. “Jake and Trevarn are waiting for me. You can give us a hand if you like.”

It didn’t take long to throw on some clothes, although he was careful to avoid waking Mary-Lou. They walked to the milking shed in companionable silence. Maurice was quiet by nature; he was a very peaceable person to spend time with. It was good to be able to concentrate on the milking and not think about anything else.

“I’m glad you were awake, I told Dad not to bother this morning,” Maurice said, as they headed back to the house for breakfast.

“I couldn’t sleep… I’ll help you tomorrow as well, to give Dad a rest.”

Cook was not a demonstrative woman but she patted Rix on the shoulder as she dished up breakfast and told him to eat up everything or she would be offended.

They talked quietly, mostly about the farm, until Maeve came into the kitchen. She went straight over to Maurice and sat next to him. She looked pale.

“Freddie’s still asleep – oh no, Cookie, no thanks - I can’t face eating anything. Is it normal for me to throw up all morning, Rix? How on earth does the poor babe get any nourishment?”

He didn’t know whether it was seeing the twins together, or the fact that Peggy had once asked him a similar question, or something else entirely, but he was suddenly filled with the overwhelming urge to be alone. He muttered something in reply and was out through the kitchen door, the tears in his eyes blown away by the wind until he reached the cove, sat down and cried properly, for the first time.

Last edited by Mia on Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:40 pm; edited 1 time in total


#2:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:28 pm

It helped a little. Afterwards he sat up and stared at the sea, surprised yet glad that nobody had come after him. Nobody understood what it was like to lose your twin; they couldn’t know. His feeling of misery distorted to anger, then hopelessness.

He didn’t want to go back to the Quadrant with red eyes and face all their sympathy. He moved right back to lean against the foot of the cliff, where he was hidden from either the road or the house. The tide was going out and the morning was pleasant enough, not that he cared at that moment.

Two distant figures came along the rocky bit of the beach. Rix looked over without interest and with the sun in his eyes. This wasn’t a private cove but it was sufficiently isolated so not many visitors chanced upon it.

He was concealed by the big rock by the entrance to John’s cave; he could see them but remain unseen. This spot had been useful during their exciting adventure when they had first moved to the Quadrant; Rix smiled slightly remembering that time.

As they drew closer he saw it was Freddie Brentford, Maeve’s husband, and Daniel Lyndhurst, they had been at the funeral but he hadn’t spoken to them. He wiped at his face again and was about to get up when he saw the rather mutinous expression on Daniel’s face and reconsidered. It was obviously a very private conversation between the two cousins.

When they had gone, Rix scrambled up the cliff path. He would go back to the house and apologise to the Second Twins, and then find Mary-Lou and talk to her.

The first person he saw was his father, who was in the garden.

“I was looking for you… Are you all right?” he asked, kindly. “Giles has some things for you – a letter and some other stuff that Peg wanted you to have. He’s in the Library, I think.”

“OK, thanks.”

“I should thank you for seeing to the farm this morning. If you wanted to stay on for a while and help us out – until you get another job, of course. Or are you planning on going back to London straight away?”

“I don’t know… I’d like to stay a bit longer – if that’s OK.”

“Of course it is – you can stay as long as you like. Having you here is helping your mother.”

Rix wondered when it had become so difficult to talk to his father, both seemed so wary of upsetting each other that it had forced a new level of awkwardness between them and he didn’t know what to say to resolve it. Dick turned back to his work – he was pruning rose bushes – and Rix went to find Giles.

Giles had been crying, it was obvious, but they each politely ignored the other’s red eyes and discussed what would happen.

“She asked me to give this to you,” it was a letter with Peggy’s writing on the envelope. Rix nodded and pocketed it, wanting to be alone when he read it. “I’m going back to Canada next week. The children are coming with me, all of them, and Alan’s going to school in Canada now. We hope you’ll come over and visit us, as often as you like. Will you?”

“Of course. I’m glad…” it went unspoken. Giles nodded.

“I think it’s for the best, I’ve been very hard on him recently and I need to make it up to him. Lala’s coming with us. She’s coming to live with us for the first year and then we’ll see. She’ll enjoy it out there; it’s a nice place with lots of people she can socialise with. I was good of her to offer.”

“I’m pleased about that.”

“Yes, it’s a stroke of luck, the children are happy about it, they like Lala and it gives them something fresh to think about. You will come and visit?”

“I’d like to. I’ll write as well.”

When they had finished talking, Rix went upstairs to open Peggy’s last letter.

Last edited by Mia on Wed Apr 26, 2006 5:05 pm; edited 1 time in total


#3:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:31 pm

“What’s the matter with you?” Margot Maynard asked her sister suspiciously. She had reason to ask, Con was behaving very oddly. First she had crept out of the bedroom the two of them were sharing with Felicity quite late last night with her coat on, with a vague explanation that she was going for a walk and now she was mooning all over the place like she had done when they were younger.

The other thing was that despite the fact that the whole family were naturally subdued following the funeral, Con seemed to radiate a new kind of happiness that Margot had never noticed before. It was like she had a magnificent secret – and secrets were extremely rare occurrences between the Maynard triplets.

“Oh, nothing,” Con barely glanced at her sister, so occupied was she with holding different outfits against herself and rejecting half of them. Margot watched her with a certain amount of amazement, then bent her red-gold head back over the medical textbook she simply had to read before she went back to Edinburgh in three days’ time.
Francis Rayner had attended the funeral and stayed the night in the Quadrant, now he packed his possessions in the small guest bedroom that he had been given in preparation to return to London. He knew Con had wanted him to talk to her parents, but the opportunity hadn’t presented itself and he was reluctant to intrude on their grief. No, they would have to go out to Switzerland as they had originally planned.

Con knocked on his door and slipped into the room, she saw his suitcase and her face fell almost comically.

“But – are you leaving?” she asked.

“I’m going in about an hour. Do you want a lift back to London?”

“No, thanks. I think I might need to stay here. Couldn’t you?”

“I don’t think so, darling. I really should go, and anyway, your aunt and uncle might need the room for someone else.”

“I hadn’t thought of that… it was good of you to come. Especially with Giles and everything…”

“Well, I wanted to be here for you, and for Richard. I should tell him I’m leaving.” He picked up his case and followed her out onto the landing, closing the door behind him.

“Mother said they might go to London for a few days before they go back to the Oberland. Could you meet them then? Properly, I mean, and we could tell them?”

“Of course!” he kissed her, laughing at her anxious expression. “Don’t worry, it won’t be much longer, will it?”

She shook her head and he took her in his arms, kissing her again. At that moment a bedroom door opened, and Jack Maynard came out, closely followed by Joey.

“Con! What are you doing?” Jack demanded in amazed tones, while his wife was for once completely lost for words.

“I’m sorry, I-I…” Con went white.

“I’d like to know what’s going on, please.” Jack said with a suspicious glance at the open bedroom door behind his daughter.

“Please don’t be angry, Dad,” Con began, nervously. “We’re good friends, that is -”

“Dr Maynard, Mrs Maynard, I’m Francis Rayner, we’ve met before and I-I’ve asked Con to marry me,” Frank said, awkwardly.

“And I said yes,” Con produced the engagement ring. “We didn’t mean to tell anyone until we’d spoken to you, but with the funeral and everything…”

“Oh, my dear!” Jo said, a great deal of alarm in her voice. She exchanged glances with Jack; both seemed stunned by the news.

“You’re engaged?” Jack frowned slightly. “This all seems very sudden. We’ve met before, you say?”

“Yes, I used to work with Richard at St Thomas’… “

“I remember. The Senior Consultant.” Jack’s face was unreadable.

“I very much want to marry your daughter, sir - ” Rayner knew it was all going wrong.

“Perhaps we’d better discuss this in private,” Jack said, shortly.
Dear Rix

This is a hard letter to write but I know I must. I’ve told Giles to give it to you if the worst should happen, but I do hope so much that you’ll never have to read these words.

I received the diagnosis the same day as your letter telling me you and Mary-Lou were to be married. I wish I could be there with you. I hope you and Mary-Lou will be happy always, as Giles and I are and I know you’ll make a wonderful father when the times comes.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks thinking about the unfairness of life but I know now I can’t continue thinking like that. I’ve been luckier than most, I have all of you and Giles and the children and I love you all so much. I’m not scared of dying but I’m terrified of missing seeing my children grow up. I know how hard it was for us not to have our parents with us when we were small, even though Aunt Madge and Uncle Jem treated us like their own. I don’t want Alan or the girls to ever feel like we did. If they ask about me, please tell them how much I loved them, won’t you?

Rix looked up from the letter as the estate office door opened. It had been the only quiet place he could find, but he had hoped he wouldn’t be disturbed.

It was Sybil and she had been crying. Her lovely chestnut curls were scraped back from her face and needed washing and her usually peaches-and-cream complexion was blotchy. She looked so unlike her usual glamorous self that Rix looked at her with concern.

“Sybs, what’s wrong?” he asked, folding up the pages and stuffing them back into the envelope, glad she had not come in a few seconds earlier when his eyes had been swimming with tears.

“I didn’t mean to disturb you…” she said, dabbing at her eyes with a grimy handkerchief. “I – just wanted to t-talk.”

“You haven’t. Come on, we can walk down to the village if you like. I need a drink.”

She instinctively reached up to touch her hair, “Oh, I couldn’t – I look so awful. What are you doing?” she added as he got up and started opening cupboards and looking behind files.

“Looking for Dad’s whisky – here it is,” he poured it into two glasses and handed her one. She sipped at it and relaxed a little.

He stared at his own glass wondering if it would help to get outrageously drunk. He couldn’t remember the last time he had done so and it was tempting – to lose the ability to remember all the times he had argued with or been unkind to his twin over the years.

“I can’t stop thinking… how cruel I was to Peggy,” Sybil said, bleakly, unconsciously echoing his own dark thoughts.


“When we were kids, you know.” Sybil continued, more tears falling down her face. “I said such awful things. I wish I hadn’t, I really do. I can’t stop thinking about it, I really can’t. And I wasn’t able to tell her I was sorry.”
“You didn’t need to.” Rix said, quietly. “It doesn’t matter, Sybil. We forgot all that a long time ago and anyway, Peggy never used to listen to you.” he laughed briefly, but there was no humour in it.

His own grief was so black, so insurmountable, that he didn’t feel he could deal with Sybil’s as well.

“I’d better go,” Sybil said after her third drink. Neither of them had said much for the past hour, just the odd reminiscence. He looked up at her as she made her unsteady way to the door, realising she was feeling the effects of the unaccustomed alcohol. In contrast he felt stone-cold sober.

He poured himself another drink, after all, the bottle was still half-full.

It was empty when the bell rang for dinner. Rix gave it a careless push and it fell from the desk and shattered, making him curse. Trying to clear up the glass he cut his hand and swore again. He had forgotten Peggy’s letter, it lay amongst the jumble of papers on the desk.

His bedroom was miles away from the estate office as he headed for it, wanting to sleep. He felt nauseous and dizzy and angry and knew he had been stupid to drink so much.

The Quadrant had a large dining room but it was not large enough for all of the family. Only Josette was absent, apart from Rix, for whom it had been tactfully decided not to send a search party. Sybil sat quietly in her place, she still felt drunk and it was not pleasant, although she had stopped crying.

“Did you speak to Rix?” Mary-Lou asked, noticing that she smelt of whisky.

“Yes, it’s fine,” Sybil tried to speak normally, but she caught her brother’s amused glance and flushed.

“How did it go?” Con whispered to her fiance, who nodded, wishing he had definite news to tell her. Jack Maynard had fired questions about his background to him all afternoon and still hadn’t said whether or not he was happy for the marriage to go ahead. They would talk again in the morning, he had said, finally.

“OK, I think,” he reached for her hand under the table, then changed his mind and picked up his knife as he noticed Jack’s eyes fixed on them. It would have been easier to deal with if Maynard had ranted and raved, but he had been calm and even - well, pleasant, on one or two occasions. His true feelings had been and still were inscrutable. He ran over the afternoon’s conversation in his mind.

“We were going to visit you in Switzerland, Dr Maynard, that is - I didn’t want to intrude on your grief. I thought it could wait a few weeks.” He had felt uncharacteristically nervous as the Library door had closed behind them.

“I’m glad to hear there’s no urgent reason for you to both want to marry,” Jack said, drily.

“No, it’s nothing like that, I…”

“Sit down,” Jack indicated a chair. “I’m afraid I was under the impression that you were already married.”

“I was, my wife died ten years ago.”

He had answered all of Jack’s questions in his honest, direct way, but he had made no mention of his vague future career plans and the fact he had written that controversial article.

And at the end of the conversation - no, interrogation - Jack had simply asked him to continue the conversation the next morning. He knew he would worry about it all night.

He was startled out of his reverie by a crash outside the dining room, followed by some muffled but rough language.


#4:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:33 pm

Reg Entwistle was nearest to the door, he opened it and uttered an exclamation when he saw Rix hastily and unsteadily picking himself up from the floor, he had fallen over a small table and smashed a vase, there was water and flowers on the floor.

“Are you all right?” he asked, seconds before realising that Rix was completely plastered.

“Mind your own business,” was the ungrateful response, as Rix, his eyes narrowed and dark with fury, surveyed his audience.

“What’s going on?” Dick asked, coming forward.

“I see you’re all enjoying yourselves, forget that she died, did you?” Rix sneered, wanted to strike out and hurt them all. “Let go of me,” he swore, as his brother took hold of his arm.

“Jesus, Rix, what have you been drinking?” Maurice said, concerned. “You’re bleeding.”

Rix shook him off and faced down Jack Maynard, who also tried to take hold of his nephew’s shoulder.

“I’m warning you, get your damn hands off me,” Rix might have slurred his words, but his tone was full of menace. Maurice took a step back, but Jack tightened his grip, “Come with me and you can sleep it off,” he said, firmly.

“I said to get off me, I mean it or I’ll…” Rix pulled away at last, nearly losing his balance. He laughed, bitterly, “I suppose you’re the expert aren’t you, but you can’t say anything, who booked you into that alcoholic’s place in Switzerland?” He glanced at Con, who was sat there, frozen with horror, “And you don’t know half of what goes on in your family.”

Jack flushed, “Now look here,” he began, but Rix had found another target, while they were all sat in their places, too shocked to move.

“I was lying when I told you Peggy didn’t care,” he said to Sybil, “You ruined everything for us, she hated you, and I hate you. I’ll never forgive you and now she can’t forgive you, so go back to Australia, you bitch.”

“Rix - stop it.” Mary-Lou intervened, her eyes full of tears. “Please!”

“You shut up, you never liked my sister anyway, did you? And she saw right through you…” Rix was shouting, over the sound of Sybil’s sobs.

“That’s enough!” Dick Bettany’s voice was full of fury. “We’re all grieving, you’re not the only one. If you can’t keep a civil tongue in your head, get out!”

“She cried every night for a month after you dumped us in Tirol…” Rix began, but Frank and Freddie Brentford had manoevred him out into the corridor and both were stronger than he was.

“Shut your mouth,” Francis said curtly when Rix began to argue.

“Are you all right?” Daniel asked from the doorway, looking concerned. Rix was shaking with anger and he rounded on him.

“Don’t think you’re getting your hands on me, you queer…”

The blow, from Freddie Brentford’s fist, nearly knocked him off his feet and it hurt.

“You don’t know a damn thing, Bettany!” he spat. “You sister would be ashamed of you.”

Daniel’s hurt, drawn face was a worse reproach. “I-I’m not…” he began.

“You don’t need to justify yourself to him,” Freddie said disgusted.

Rix sat down on the stairs and burst into noisy, angry tears. Mollie came out to him at once and put her arms around him as he cried, shooing everyone else away.

“I didn’t mean it,” he choked out.

“Ssh, I know, mavourneen, we all know.”


Rix woke the next morning, with a headache and alone. He frowned, trying to remember what had happened, the last thing he remembered was drinking whisky in the estate office with Sybil and he didn’t know how he had got to his old bedroom. He was still dressed under the bedclothes.

He lay still for a while and wondered why he hadn’t found his way to the room he shared with his wife, where was she? His hand was bandaged and it hurt and his face felt like it was bruised.

It was very quiet. He looked at his watch and saw it was after ten, too late for helping his father and Maurice with the milking and too late for breakfast, not that he could face eating anything.

He remembered shouting at someone… it was very hazy – and crying, his mother soothing him.

After washing in the hand basin and changing into clean clothes, he opened the door, worried.

Francis Rayner was on the landing, about to knock on his door. He raised an eyebrow.

“How are you this morning?” he asked, but he seemed distant.

“Frank – I – Terrible. I drank too much. Do you know where Mary-Lou is?”

“Don’t you remember what happened?”

“Not really.” Rix sat down on the unmade bed, feeling almost afraid. “Did I say something to Sybil?”

“I’ll say. You told her how much you hated her.” Frank’s voice was carefully neutral. “I think you need to make some apologies this morning.”

“I couldn’t have said that,” Rix was pale, but then most of it all came crashing back to him and he felt sick.

“What else did I say? Did I say anything to you? About – anything?”

“Not to me, no. Do you honestly not remember?”

“Only parts of it. I said something to Dad, didn’t I, about leaving us in Austria, and to Jack – oh God, I told everyone about the clinic.”

“You should apologise to them all and to Mary-Lou. And to Lyndhurst, who never did anything to hurt you, and to Con. You were going to tell everyone about her miscarriage.” Frank’s eyes flashed with anger. “If you had, I would have decked you myself.”

“I couldn’t have…”

“You were looking for easy targets and you found them. You said some cruel things,” Frank calmed down, it was clear that Rix was upset. "Drinking like that isn’t the answer, you know.”

“I didn’t want to remember.”

“You don’t need to remember the bad things. Peggy - ” Frank used the name deliberately -“Wouldn’t want you to. You should remember your happy memories of her.”

He found his father in the drawing room.

“I’m sorry,” he said, all at once, “I didn’t mean what I said. I made it all up.” He knew he was going to start crying again.

“I know you didn’t mean it,” Dick said, indicating the seat on the chesterfield next to him. When Rix sat down, wiping his eyes, he handed him a handkerchief and put an awkward arm around his shoulders. “What I’m more worried about is what you said as we – your friends and I – as we were helping you upstairs.”

Rix shook his head, “I don’t remember. Frank didn’t tell me about that.”

“You said that you thought we wished that you had died and not your sister,” Dick’s voice was unsteady and full of emotion. “We don’t think that, we would never think that.”

“I just wish she was here.” Rix said, miserably. “I’m so sorry to make things worse. She didn’t cry at night like I said she did. Only for a little while, because we missed you, but Auntie Madge explained everything.”

“I know, Madge told me who used to cry – I know it wasn’t Peggy.” Dick looked up as the door opened, but it was quickly closed with a murmured apology. “What sort of things did Sybil used to say to you both?”

“It doesn’t matter, does it?” he replied, “I shouldn’t have said those things to her, they weren’t true.”

Dick left it, “You can tell me later,” he said, kindly, rummaging through his pockets. “I found this in the estate office. I haven’t read it, but I recognised the writing.”

Rix took the precious letter gratefully and left the room, in search of Sybil. The Quadrant seemed eerily empty as he climbed the staircase upstairs.

“Davy? Where’s Sybil?” he asked, coming across his cousin on the landing.

“She’s in bed.” David was curt to the point of rudeness.

“I wanted to apologise.”

“Well, you won’t be able to. She was so upset that Dad had to give her a sedative. So you’d be best advised to leave her alone.”

“Fine,” Rix knew further argument was pointless until Sybil was actually awake.

Mary-Lou, he thought, with sudden shame. He should have gone to her first to apologise. He hoped she hadn’t decided to take the children back to London without him. Walking away from his irate cousin, he went to find her.

She was with the babies, in the old nursery.

“Look,” she said, quietly, taking his arm. The three babies were down on the floor and two of them – Alexander and James – were crawling and making laughing noises. She had tears in her eyes.

“Thomas can’t do it yet – look at his face,” she said, as he put his arm around her. “He’s so frustrated!”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“I had a disagreement with Peggy, it didn’t mean I didn’t like her. I’m desperately sorry she’s gone, you know.”

“I know.” He went over to the window and stared out of it, his back to her. “I don’t deserve you.”

“I love you,” Mary-Lou paused, knowing that what she said now was so very important. “I knew as soon as you said those things to Sybil and Jack that you were hurting. They were words spoken in grief and anger, and everybody understands that, even Jack and Sybil. They had a basis in truth, Sybil knows she made things uncomfortable for you when you were younger, and Jack accepts that he had a drink problem...”

“I shouldn’t have said what I said to Dan, that had no basis in truth.” He interrupted her.

“I didn’t hear what you said to him. But he’s your friend, darling, your good friend. He’ll understand.”

“What happened after I went upstairs?” he asked.

“We all sat there in silence for a moment or two, I think everyone was stunned – then Joey and Len made sure all the children went to bed. Both Geoff and Alan wanted to come and see you, but they were told you were feeling poorly. Sybil was upset, of course.”

“David said she was sedated.”

“Yes – well, that’s an exaggeration. Jem gave her a sleeping tablet and some hot milk. I had to come and see to the babies, Con helped me. Jack saw to you, he bandaged your hand. He says it’s not deep, you’ll still be able to operate.” Mary-Lou reassured.

He looked at her, then at the boys, who were still crawling on the floor. Thomas had rolled onto his front and his baby concentration was comic to watch. He thought of the bitter words he’d thrown at his own parents the night before and tried to imagine one of his own sons saying something similar to him one day.

“I’m not going to be a surgeon anymore,” he said.

They discussed their future for nearly two hours in the old nursery, just when they thought everything was decided, one of them would suggest a different idea, and they would be back to square one. They didn’t argue. Both recognised a distance that had begun to develop between them over the past nine or ten months and they were equally determined to fix it.

“It makes sense, we can’t stay in the flat; I know it’s too small.” Mary-Lou conceded. “But we don’t need to leave London completely if you don’t want to.”

“But I do want to. Don’t you?”

“You know I do,” she admitted. “The babies are thriving here. It would be nice to live by the sea, or in the country.”

“Well then. I want to see something of you and the kids, my hours were ridiculous in St Thomas’ and they’d be the same if I worked in surgery anywhere.”

“You can’t throw it all away though.”

“I could work in general practice, couldn’t I? We could live anywhere you wanted if I did.”

“We’ll have to talk it over,” Mary-Lou replied, thinking hard. She knew exactly where she wanted to live and what she wanted her husband to do with his life, but she would have to play it very carefully.


Sybil woke with a headache. For a second she couldn’t recall where she was, but then she remembered the things Rix had said to her. She pushed back the bedclothes and put her feet into her slippers. It was strange, but the words she thought about were not those spoken in anger, but rather his reassurances in the estate office. Not that hearing how she had made her cousins’ lives miserable hadn’t hurt a great deal. The worst thing was that she knew everyone in the room knew Rix had been speaking the truth.

Her reflection in the mirror disturbed her, usually she looked so polished. Andrew liked her to look well.

She frowned, thinking of her husband. He hadn’t wanted her to come to England, not with baby Benjamin reaching his second birthday in her absence, but then he hadn’t understood how important it had felt for her to make amends – and then she hadn’t been given the chance before it was too late.

Stop it, you moke, don’t you dare cry, she told herself firmly. She would have a bath and wash her hair and then she would find Rix and see if he would finally forgive her.

Last edited by Mia on Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:38 pm; edited 1 time in total


#5:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:34 pm


“Yes my love?” Jack looked up from the latest issue of an eminent medical journal, his face softening as he regarded his wife. “You’re a sight for sore eyes.”

Joey smiled back, “Dick wondered if he could talk to you, dearest.”

“Of course – about last night, I presume.” Jack got to his feet.
“I know he said some terrible things, Jack, but he and Peggy were very close. It’s been a terrible shock for all of us. To lose your twin…” she trailed off.

“You don’t need to tell me this, Jo,” Jack shook his head as he took her in his arms.

“He turned the San round for you, Jack. He didn’t have to do that.”

“Joey, I’m not angry. He’d been drinking, he was upset – I understand, and I’ll tell Dick and Mollie that, and Rix himself. What a mess it all is,” Jack sighed.

“It was so much simpler when they were all children,” Joey smiled. “And what are we to do with Con?”

“I’m not worried about Con, he seems decent enough. He clearly adores her. I made some enquiries and he’s well regarded. I’m going to give them my blessing. I was going to tell them last night until – well, I’d better go and have a word with Dick.”

“I’m sorry,” Sybil blurted out, when Rix opened their bedroom door to her knocking. “I really am – can we talk?”

Mary-Lou got to her feet at once, “I’ll be downstairs…” She longed to stay and help, but Sybil’s pleading look had not escaped her notice. She closed the door behind her, almost slamming it in her hurry to leave.

“No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean what I said. It was – wrong of me. I was drunk, I finished all that whisky.” Rix said, all at once.

“David said you were.” Sybil was looking at the dark-haired babies, who had started to roll on the floor at their feet. “It was the truth though, so you were entitled to say it.”

“It wasn’t the truth. Peg didn’t care what you said to us, honestly. I can’t even remember how you used to act when we were kids. Do you think I meant what I said to my father, or to… to Mary-Lou? I was upset, you were all sat in the dining room like nothing had happened, and I wanted you to feel how I felt.” Rix bent to pick up his youngest son, who had rolled under the cot. “It was wrong of me, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am about it. I just – I miss her so much, Sybil.”

She sat next to him on the edge of the bed, moved by this small glimpse into his raw grief. Thomas resolved things slightly by grabbing at a strand of her long, chestnut hair that had worked itself free of its knot and putting it into his mouth, making her cry out, then laugh.

“Sorry – he likes long hair,” Rix smiled, and extricated her from Tom’s small fist and the tension was partly broken.

“Ben was the same. They look like you – I-I don’t know which one is which.”

“Thomas – James is over there, nearest to the door. Alex next to him. I’ve just realised you haven’t met them before. They’re too much for Mother and Dad at the moment, so Mary-Lou’s kept them up here, out of the way.”

Rix and Sybil talked until the babies were ready for their afternoon sleep, and then went for a walk down to the beach. David had taken all of the children down already, and with Mary-Lou, was supervising a noisy game of cricket. The younger children had never before felt such an atmosphere of sorrow and loss and had been rather over-awed; even the usual boisterous Mike had been quieter than usual. David’s idea had been a good one for their last day at the Quadrant. Tomorrow the Maynards would fly back to the Gornetz Platz.

“What will you do?” Sybil asked, as they sat down on a large, flat rock, watching the children play.

“I don’t know. When do you go back?”

“Tuesday. I’m flying from London. David’s taking me to the airport, or else Dad will if David’s working.”

“I’ll drive you – I don’t mind,” he offered, and she smiled. “You just want to drive David’s flash car,” she teased, glad that things were getting back to normal.

He grinned, “True.”

“You never know, you and Mary-Lou might have eleven, like Auntie Jo and Uncle Jack. You’d need a minibus then, like they have,” she laughed.

“Oh no, we won’t have any more kids. I’ll speak to David and see if I can take you, I wouldn’t mind having a couple of days away, and I could do with sorting out the sale of my flat in London anyway.” He looked away, towards the sea.

“Don’t you want a daughter?” she asked, before realising she had been tactless. “I’m sorry, it’s none of my business.”

“It’s fine,” he shook his head, thinking how had avoided talking to her about certain things for years Their conversations at family events had been about superficial things, their relationship had been coolly polite at best, and they had not kept in touch directly since she had gone to Australia, but now he could talk to her about things he had difficulty discussing with his own wife. “It was a difficult birth and now we can’t have any more.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. We’ve got the boys, and they’re healthy, so we’ve more than most people. I’d love to have daughters too, but I know we won’t, so it’s OK.”

“I’m glad we’re talking like this,” she said.

“Me, too. I’m sorry… I – Peg would be pleased.” It was hard to mention her name, but he managed it. He did feel better for talking to his cousin properly and wished he had done so years before.

The sound of Mary-Lou’s laughter floated over to them, David had his arm around her and he was laughing too. They appeared completely unaware that they had any kind of audience.

“David is awful!” Sybil tried to make light of the situation, which had become suddenly tense. “Maybe we should go and join them?”

“No, I’d rather not. I need to go back to the house. Let me know if you do need me to drive you, won’t you?” He stood up and checked his pockets for Peggy’s letter again. He knew he should read it but he wanted to be alone to do so, and clearing things up with Sybil had seemed a more pressing matter.

He couldn’t think about David and Mary-Lou, not now. Even the thought of that was something that he couldn’t deal with, not now.

Back at the Quadrant, Mollie saw him coming up the path from the nursery windows and went down to meet him.

"The little ones are still asleep," she said, as he stooped to kiss her. "Your uncle want to talk with you, mavourneen."

"Uncle Jack? Where is he?"

"Both he and Jem and your father are In the Library, don’t look like that, mavourneen, whatever you said yesterday has been forgotten, I’m sure. They want to talk about the San."

"The San? Why?"

"You’ll only find out if you talk to them," she smiled.

"Rix - come in, sit down," Jem was the first to speak when he opened the door. "We wanted to offer you a place at the San in Armiford, now that you’ve left St Thomas’… Mary-Lou told me you wanted to take the children out of London and see more of them, this way you can."

Jack shifted in his chair, "But obviously, you’re under enough stress at the moment without a decision like this," he said.

Rix wondered how long they had been arguing, "Thanks, Uncle Jem, but I’m not working for David," he said, decisively, pretending not to notice as his father and uncles all exchanged glances.

"You wouldn’t be working for David." Jem said, delicately. "He’d be working for you."

"I don’t think he’d be pleased with that arrangement." Rix shook his head, swallowing his exasperation. He couldn’t bear yet another family row over where he chose to work. "You can’t demote him, he’s done a decent enough job."

"The quarterly profits are good, but we do need a balance with patient care." Jem explained his idea patiently and at length. It did make sense, thought Rix, who nevertheless retained a significant number of doubts.

Rix turned to Jack, "You don’t think it’s a good idea, do you?"

Jack cleared his throat. "It’s not my decision, is it?" he said, but his tone was kind. "You’d do very well at it," he added.

"At the end of the day, I am the majority shareholder, I am unhappy with David’s performance and I’m going to find somebody else to take charge." Jem sighed.

"I’ll think about it," Rix stood up. "Can I talk with you?" he asked Jack, who nodded, and got to his feet at once.

They walked through the garden, which was starting to come into bloom.

"I’m sorry I said that yesterday." Rix wondered how many times he would have to say the words.

"I can’t lecture you on the evils of drink," Jack said, with his quick smile. "But it really isn’t the way to go."

"I know… I’m sorry I told everyone about that."

"It’s probably a good thing that you did, I’ve been able to speak to the children properly about it, which was good. I do appreciate what you did at the San, so… Tell me, your friend, Francis Rayner, does he love my daughter as much as he says he does?"


#6:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:34 pm

Mary-Lou was enjoying herself, David was amusing company and although he was subdued by Peggy’s death, his grief wasn’t as all consuming as that of her husband. Mary-Lou wondered if it was disloyal to notice.

She asked him about it as they headed back to the Quadrant.

“She wouldn’t want us to grieve to that extent.” David said, easily. “Just to remember her. The funeral helped anyway, and knowing that she’s safe with God.”

Mary-Lou regarded him with curiosity. “I never knew you thought like that,” she murmured, astonished.

He frowned with embarrassment, so she didn’t push him.

“I’d better deliver you back to your loving husband,” he said, mock-gallantly.

“You haven’t fallen out again?”

“No – we never do for long,” David broke off to yell at his brothers, who were grappling with each other by the sea-edge, regardless of the incoming tide.

“We might be moving to Howells,” Mary-Lou told him as they continued up the cliff path.

“Oh yes?” David was interested. “To Carn Beg? Do you remember the games we used to play in your orchard when we were kids?”

“You never played with us though, John would, but you and Rix were most superior,” she smiled.

“Oh, I’m sure not,” he said, using his most charming smile in return. “Anyway, weren’t we only kids then.”

“Remember the apple-battle?” she teased, taking his arm in a matey way. “You fell out of the tree.”

“At least I didn’t break my arm that time. I remember your pigtails.”

The next instant he had pulled her hair down from its careful arrangement and sprung away, laughing. She glared at him, and collapsed into giggles. Their eyes met, his held something she couldn’t quite read, but she looked away before he did.

“Sorry,” he said, handing over the hairpins and running his hand through his own hair, uncomfortably. “I’d better go and finish packing. See you.”

Idiot, he cursed himself, as he went upstairs, moodily. Much as he did want her, she couldn’t be more unavailable.

“What are you looking at?” Con asked her fiancé, who had moved over to the very edge of the cliffs and was looking down at the beach.

“Only those two kids – the twins, your cousins, messing around in the water. They’ve gone now. What are you doing?”

“Making a daisy chain. D’you mean Kevin and Kester? I thought they were playing cricket with David.”

“They’ve finished now – I think they’re heading back to the house. Should we head back?” He sat down next to her on the grass, taking her into his arms and kissing her, making her drop the daisies she’d collected.

“No,” she smiled, when he let her go. “I’m perfectly happy here and I can’t bear Margot and Len fussing around me any more.”

He sobered, “Did you tell them we want to get married?”

“They guessed. It’s hard to keep secrets from them.” She leaned against him as he draped his arm around her shoulders, watching her work with the daisies.

“Do they think I’m good enough for you?”

“Oh yes. They’ll like you even more when they get to know you properly. When we’re married!”

“I can’t wait,” he murmured, stroking her hair.

“I wish Mamma and Papa would give us their blessing,” Con bit her lip. “I don’t see why they’re making us wait like this.”

“They only want the best for you – and they don’t know anything about me.”

“If they say no, we can elope,” Con stood up and brushed down her skirt. “I’m going to tell them that. I’m twenty-four, they can’t treat me like I’m a child.”

“I don’t mind. You’re worth the wait, darling. Come here and tell me what kind of a wedding you want."

“Your mother said you were up here,” Jack joined them, about an hour later. They both looked up at him expectantly, Con’s heart was racing and she gripped Frank’s hand tightly.

“June’s nice for a wedding.” Jack remarked, conversationally, then, “Steady on, Con! Are you trying to strangle me, my child?” but he was laughing.

“Thank you, Papa,” Con said, hugging him tighter.

“Yes, thank you,” Francis said in relief, shaking hands.

“Welcome to the family.” Jack smiled back.


#7:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:35 pm

When Mary-Lou was asleep, he got out of bed and sat on the windowsill, with Peggy’s letter, which he read from the beginning:

Dear Rix

This is a hard letter to write but I know I must. I’ve told Giles to give it to you if the worst should happen, but I do hope so much that you’ll never have to read these words.

I received the diagnosis the same day as your letter telling me you and Mary-Lou were to be married. I wish I could be there with you. I hope you and Mary-Lou will be happy always, as Giles and I are and I know you’ll make a wonderful father when the times comes.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks thinking about the unfairness of life but I know now I can’t continue thinking like that. I’ve been luckier than most, I have all of you and Giles and the children and I love you all so much. I’m not scared of dying but I’m terrified of missing seeing my children grow up. I know how hard it was for us not to have our parents with us when we were small, even though Aunt Madge and Uncle Jem treated us like their own. I don’t want Alan or the girls to ever feel like we did. If they ask about me, please tell them how much I loved them, won’t you?

I don’t want you to be unhappy, please remember all the good times we had. I know that sounds trite, but Mummy and Daddy will need you, and so will Giles, and you’ve always been the stronger of us both, so I am praying you’ll continue to be strong for everyone.

I’m going to seal this now and hope that you’ll never see it. You know I love you and I always will.

Do you remember the last time Grandfather took us to the Hindu temple outside the Deccan, and they were so welcoming to us we stayed ages and the sun was going down when we left, and the sky was so red we just stood there and stared? That really was a perfect day and one I’ve always remembered. We could go back there together and see it again if I get better but if I don’t come through this thing, you’ll know I’m safe with Grandfather looking after me and showing me things like he did that day.

All my love, always, dearest Rix

Mary-Lou stirred, then sat up. “Are you all right?” she asked, sleepily.

“I will be. Sorry to wake you.”

“Don’t be silly, you don’t need to apologise.” She pushed back the covers and came over to him, putting her arms around him. “I love you, you know.”

“I love you too.” It was good to hear her say those words. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

She squirmed, thinking how she had acted with David that afternoon. It had been nothing though and meant nothing, not compared to how she felt about her husband.

“Can we move to Howells?” she asked, as he joined her in their bed.

“If that’s what you want, of course.” He relaxed for the first time in weeks and smiled. “We’ll make some sort of a go of it.”

“We’ll make a great go of it, you’ll see,” she said and kissed him goodnight.


#8:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:46 pm

Hehe I never really finished this did I? Loose ends all over the place! Laughing


#9:  Author: MaryLocation: Sussex University PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:59 pm

Oh Mia- that was fab. You wrote them all beautifully. Thanks.


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