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فصل 03

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER THREE

So what are we going to do?

Sunday lunch at Jan’s was over. On the kitchen table were the bones of a small roast chicken, potatoes in cold fat, some broccoli in a bowl, half a chocolate pudding from the supermarket and a plastic pot of cream. There was also an empty bottle of cheap red wine and two glasses.

‘Coffee?’

‘That would be nice.’ Kate played with her wine glass, then drank the last few drops.

‘I’m afraid I can only offer instant coffee. I don’t do proper coffee any more. It’s just too expensive.’

‘Oh.’ Kate paused. She was obviously disappointed. ‘Never mind. Instant will be fine,’ she lied.

The April afternoon light shone weakly into the kitchen from the small backyard. Jan put on the kettle for coffee and switched on the light.

‘We need some light on the subject,’ she said as she banged two mugs on to the table and spooned in coffee from ajar.

Kate had arrived at one o’clock - just in time for lunch, when there was no risk of having to help prepare it. She parked her new red BMW outside Jan’s house. There were empty beer cans on the pavement. The front gardens along the street were full of bags of rubbish lying among the weeds and long grass. The new car looked out of place among the old Fords, Fiats and Skodas parked in the dirty, grey street.

Jan poured hot water into the mugs and passed one over to Kate.

‘Sugar?’ she asked.

‘No, thanks. I must be careful about my figure,’ said Kate.

‘Of course. I know you have to keep up appearances in your position,’ said Jan without smiling.

‘True,’ said Kate with, a meaningful look at Jan’s old sweater and dirty jeans. ‘I can’t afford to let myself go.’

‘So what are we going to do about Mother?’ asked Jan. Her voice sounded nervous.

‘What do you suggest?’ replied Kate, trying to control her nervousness too. The sisters were like wild animals getting ready to attack each other.

‘Well, let’s face facts. Mother can’t look after herself any more. The doctor says so too. It’s all happened so fast. She can’t remember things. She forgets to turn off the cooker. She leaves the lights on all the time. Her fridge is full of rotten food. She wets the bed. She can’t walk properly…’

Kate interrupted her. ‘But is it really that bad? I mean, there are lots of old people who manage well enough on their own. Surely, if you just carry on coming round a couple of times a week, to check up on her…’

‘Why me?’ Jan was beginning to lose control of her feelings. ‘Why always me? You seem to think I have nothing better to do than look after Mother.’

‘It’s not that…’

‘Well, what is it then? I’m still trying to get a proper job, you know, and when I do, I certainly won’t have time to “check up on” Mother all the time. And anyway, that’s not a solution. I told you, she’s getting worse all the time. She can’t be left alone. What if she falls down in the bathroom, or falls out of bed? No-one would know. We’ve got to find a proper solution. It’s no good burying your head in the sand like an ostrich. It’s time to stop pretending, Kate. This is serious. You may have been Dad’s little favourite, but she’s our mother, not just my mother. Don’t forget that.’

‘As if you’d let me forget,’ said Kate in a sharp voice. ‘Anyway, what do you suggest? You obviously have an idea.’

Jan took a deep breath, then, in a calm voice, she said, ‘I think there are three possibilities. Number one, we find a permanent nurse - someone who can move in with Mother and take care of her all the time. Number two, we find a good old peoples home or “care centre” - I think that’s what people call them these days. The only problem is that both these solutions cost money, lots of money. And money is something I don’t have. Even if we sold Mum’s house to raise the cash it would take time and we don’t have time.’

‘But I do have money. Is that what you mean?’ said Kate.

‘Well… yes, you do. When Dad died he left you half the money from the business. Mum got the other half. I don’t mind that, but all I got was enough to buy this miserable little house. That was typical of the way Dad always treated me anyway. And you can’t pretend you don’t earn plenty from your law business.’

‘So I can afford it? Is that it?’ said Kate.

‘Yes, I think you can.’

‘My dear Jan, I don’t think you understand anything about money,’ said Kate with a cold smile. ‘It’s true that we earn a lot of money, but we have to spend a lot too - the children’s education for a start. You have no idea how much it cost to send Caroline to Oxford University, and we had to buy her a flat to live in afterwards too. And Jeremy still has to finish another year at university in Cambridge… and then he’ll need money to help him get started too… and then there’s the cost of running the house, and the garden and all the entertainment expenses…’

‘Of course, but I wouldn’t know anything about any of that, would I? My Cindy was a dropout from school so she didn’t even get to university. And as for your kids, when did they last visit their grandmother? And you seem to forget how much it cost Mother and Father to send you to Oxford. I didn’t even get the chance to go to university. Dad couldn’t wait for me to start work as soon as I left school. And as you can see, my lifestyle is not quite on the same level as yours.’ She pointed at the remains of the meal on the table - the small chicken and the cheap wine.

‘All I’m saying, Jan, is that you mustn’t think we’ve got piles of cash to spend on Mother. Our money is tied up in property and investments, not under the bed!’

‘Oh no? But you don’t seem to have any problems when you want to go on a luxury holiday abroad, or buy a new car or designer clothes, do you?’ said Jan sharply. She was beginning to lose her calm.

‘Look, Jan. How we use our money is our business, not yours. I realise that something has to be done about Mother, but don’t just think that I’m going to sign a blank cheque.’

‘So what now?’ asked Jan angrily. ‘Are you still hoping I’ll “checkup” on Mother for the rest of her life?’

‘Wait a minute. Didn’t you say there were three possible solutions? What’s the third one?’

There was a long, uncomfortable pause. Then Jan took a deep breath and said what she had on her mind.

“The third solution? Well, Kate, you have a very big house. Your kids have moved out, so you have plenty of room. How about fixing up part of the house as a small, separate flat for Mother? Your maid could keep an eye on her, make sure she had regular meals, kept herself clean and all that. She wouldn’t be in your way.’

‘Are you completely mad? How could we possibly manage with having Mother all the time? And what do you think Hugh will say when I tell him about your crazy idea? It’s his house too, you know.’

‘I doubt if Hugh would even notice. He seems to spend most of his time away on business trips, or playing golf. Anyway, surely you could explain things to him? After all, he is your husband, isn’t he? Aren’t you supposed to share things - including your problems?’

‘Are you suggesting that we don’t?’ Kate said angrily.

‘Not really. I’m just asking you to think carefully about my idea. Don’t simply say no now. I don’t think it would be that much of a problem for you. At least you wouldn’t have to pay for a nurse or an expensive care centre. And Mother would be in her own rooms, so she wouldn’t get in the way of your lifestyle. You wouldn’t have to include her in your dinner parties or anything like that.’

Kate looked at her watch. It was half past three.

‘Look, Jan. It’s getting late. I really have to be home by five thirty. I told you - we’re going out for dinner tonight. But we don’t seem to have come to a proper decision, do we?’

‘We certainly do not,’ replied Jan bitterly. ‘You say you have no money to pay for Mother. And I certainly have none. I have no proper job, and I have Cindy to look after too. She still has no job and nowhere to live except with me. And you’ve just refused to even consider the idea of having Mother living with you. We mustn’t upset Hugh!’

‘That’s not quite what I said,’ said Kate. ‘I’ll tell you what. I’ll speak to Hugh when I can, and see what he says. But I really don’t think he’ll agree.’

‘OK, speak to him. But, meanwhile, what am I supposed to do? I’ve got job interviews in the next couple of weeks. I can’t look after Mother the way I have been doing. We need a temporary solution until we finally decide what to do. Couldn’t you at least have Mother for a week? It would be a kind of trial. You’d have a chance to see what it would be like. Come on. It’s not much to ask. After all, you’ve got your Filipina maid Corazon, Corrie, or whatever her name is… I need a break. I can’t go on like this any longer!’

Kate looked at her watch again. ‘OK. I’ll call you tomorrow. By then, I’ll have spoken to Hugh. Maybe we can take Mother for a week or so till you get your job interviews sorted out. Will that help? But if you do get a job, there will still be the problem of what to do in the long term.’

‘It will help. Thanks,’ said Jan. She felt such relief at finding a solution, even a temporary one.

‘OK then. I’ll speak to you tomorrow evening. Thanks for a lovely lunch, Jan. It was nice to see you again.’

‘Take care. Safe journey.’

Jan watched the red BMW drive off, and closed the front door. She went back to the kitchen and started to pile the dirty dishes in the sink. As she did so, tears began to run down her face. She cried with relief. She cried at the unfairness of life. She cried about the way her father had treated her so unfairly all his life for no good reason. She cried for the miserable life she had in her small, dirty house. She cried for Cindy and her useless life. Above all, she cried for the strange, crazy woman her mother had become.

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