Caitlin squeezed my hand and said, “I want to hear it all, Sharon, but only if you are OK telling me. I know how hard it can be to have someone asking questions about stuff you really want to keep locked up in a box right at the back of your mind. Tell me what you want to and no more – although you know I’ll be killing myself not to ask lots of questions.”
We looked at each other and smiled. Somehow all the time and the hurt, the waiting and the hoping all dropped away and we were an ill-matched pair of girls, who somehow liked each other and trusted each other. So I drew breath to start my story, but not before Caitlin had said, “Start at the beginning, Sharon. Where were you born? What about your family? How did you come to be at The Haven?” – just to prove that some things never change and she couldn’t stop herself poking her nose in other people’s business.
“Well”, I said. “I don’t have much of a family. My mother fell for me when she was fifteen. She never would say who my father was, but there were always hints that he was some rich geezer, because there was always enough money for me to have what all the other kids had, and more, which my Nan and Grandad who brought me up could never have afforded. People thought Mum was my aunty and nobody ever told them any different. They never told me either. I called them Mum and Dad, and Nan and Grandad just took the joking when people said they had waited a long time, or there was a big gap before they remembered how to do it again.
“When I was about ten, Mum met this bloke, Jimmy, and after a bit they got married and moved away because of his new job. Since neither him or me got told who I was, I stayed with Nan and Grandad. That was OK for me, although there was less money because Mum wasn’t bringing her money in and I think my real dad was less keen to pay up as well, once she was married.
“Then Grandad had an accident in his car and had to stop working. Nan decided that she couldn’t look after me and him and couldn’t afford the kinds of things I wanted either. So Mum and her bloke Jimmy were asked to come over and “discuss the future”. Pity Nan didn’t hint what it would be about before she got them there. Poor Jimmy looked as if the roof had dropped in on his head. Suddenly his sweet little Rosie wasn’t quite so sweet, and his awkward pre-teenage niece Sharon was his step-daughter and just about to have her gear packed up and moved in to their expensive little riverside apartment. You could see he was less than thrilled and I don’t really blame him now, although at the time I hated him for it.
“I just went numb. The three people I had loved most in the world had lied to me for twelve years. Everything in my life changed in that short time it took Nan to say, ‘Rose you must take responsibility for your daughter yourself’. “When I understood what it meant, I drew breath to shout and rant and scream. But nothing came out. I just sat there and they all talked over my head, some of it about me. But not one of them talked to me.
“Anyway, it was obvious there wasn’t much choice, so after a very uncomfortable ham salad tea, (Nan’s speciality for important events), I was squashed into his high performance car, surrounded by my life in bags and carriers. It was as if Nan thought if I left anything at hers I might come back for it.”
I went to look out of the window, because sitting looking at Caitlin made it too hard to say what I was going to say. I had never said it out loud to anyone and even when I thought about it in my own head I shut it out as quickly as I could.
“You know, Caitlin, when she shut the car door and turned so quickly to go back inside the house, I suddenly realised that my Nan didn’t really love me. She and Grandad had put up with me because they felt they had to. She was big into church and would not let my Mum have an abortion. Then they couldn’t let the social in to get me adopted, because that would have meant people knowing that their Rosie was less than perfect. So they put up with me.
“Oh, they weren’t cruel or unkind. But that day, when she shut the car door and was up the path and in the house with the front door closed before we were out of the street, I started to understand things. They had looked after me out of duty, not because they cared about me. Just like some of the staff at The Haven – you know what I mean. She went indoors and shut me out. You saw them making up your bed for somebody else while you were still there. Duty done. Move out. Move on. No time to worry about feelings. Too painful”.
Suddenly I felt very tired. Caitlin was at my side. “Come and sit down, you poor thing. You must be drained. We’ll have some supper and talk about something else for a bit.”
So we worked side by side in the little kitchen. I tried to keep off the wine Caitlin had opened. I didn’t want her to know that with me one drink followed another until I couldn’t remember. While we ate we tried to talk about other things, but I knew Caitlin really wanted me to carry on with my sad tale.
You can find the next episode in Sharon’s story on this page.