Chapter 17. The bust up.
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Regardless of whether they had seen the news item or not, none of them could have been prepared for what happened next.
Ruth was exhausted from the travel and Ray had taken another sleeping pill so he was flat out. Maeve had collapsed into her own bed. Ada had ear plugs in, her eye mask on, and was oblivious to the world. So it was Orla feeding the cat and Marieanne getting up for school the next morning who saw it first.
The whole street was blocked off with cars, vans and outside broadcast units parked anywhere and everywhere. They were on the road, in the road, and all over peoples gardens. There were television reporters each talking to their own camera crews and each with a view of Ray’s house. It seems that the day before had been a quiet news day, globally, and Simon’s report of a spirit medium helping the police to solve a crime, potentially a murder, was just the sort of gossipy story that people all over the world love, so it had spread like wildfire. Simon was fighting to keep his place near the house, but it didn’t matter to him, he had already had the scoop plus he had the old footage of Ada, which he could use again and again. There were crews from everywhere, ITV, BBC, Sky, and internationally too, from CNN, from Japanese TV, Russian TV and on and on.
Marieanne ran up the stairs and woke Maeve while Orla checked the internet and by the time Maeve was awake Orla had the full story. Along with images of Ada, looking the very picture of a glamorous medium, to a sound bite of ‘I help the dead to tell their story’ intercut with Simon talking outside the house as Ada, the helpful neighbour, opened the door. It was all over the internet, it was everywhere! Simon had been very clever and had cut together a great story, most of which was just speculation, but until someone spilled the beans it was all anyone had to go on.
“Christ Mum! What have you done! How could you!” Maeve was too upset to hold back. She shook Ada awake, “What, darling, I’m still asleep, I can’t hear a thing with the earplugs in, aren’t they great..”Ada trailed off as by this stage Maeve had shoved a laptop in front of her showing the news clip. “When were you going to tell us? Or was this just another opportunity for you to be the great ‘I am”, the one taking centre stage? It’s been like that all my life and I thought we could get beyond it. Clearly not. It’s more important that the great Ada, the spirit medium gets the publicity. Christ sake mother, Anne is dead! This could tip Ray over into a full on breakdown. Some friend you are.” Maeve didn’t draw breath and she wasn’t going to listen to any ‘excuses’ Ada might have. She had thrown on some clothes and was hopping over the back wall to get into next door before they saw the frenzy outside the front of the house when Ada shouted after her, “I didn’t do anything, I swear it, on my dying mother’s grave I swear it!.” Maeve didn’t reply, she didn’t believe it, if it really was a mistake wouldn’t Ada have told them about it last night? How on earth was she going to apologise to Ray and Ruth!
Ada was beside herself, crying, as she rocked back and forth, “that bastard! I didn’t say anything, he made it all up.” Orla was trying to comfort her, rubbing her back saying, “it’ll be fine, when she calms down Mum’ll be fine, you’ll see” but Ada knew different. They had unresolved issues, secrets that Orla knew nothing about which meant that Maeve might never speak to her again, as this realisation dawned on Ada, another wave of tears broke, she was incoherent and inconsolable.
Marieanne was standing between them and the kitchen not knowing which way to turn. Up till now she had kept herself together, life had been manageable, she just had to focus on studying for the exams. Marieanne had always been the quiet one, the strong one; she had a will of iron. She could do anything once she had the time to mentally prepare for it. Surprises of any kind however were not appreciated. She had been thinking that the May bank holiday weekend was probably the last break that she could take before the exams. Even with the arrival of Ada and the dramas next door she was still on top of her revision. The schedule was working out fine, she was confident that she could take a long weekend off. She wanted to pop over to Arras and see the other family. She had a great relationship with her Dad, Pascal, and although she never liked to say it to Maeve she also really enjoyed her stepmother Marie-Odile, who was more like a friend than a parent. But the kids were the real reason she wanted to go. They never asked awkward questions, they loved her unconditionally, and they demanded her full attention, stories, shopping, playing games. It was the best way to take your mind off things, and that would give her a proper rest. Right now she needed calm normality, not this. Thinking it through Marieanne convinced herself, it will be fine, Orla is better than me in situations like this and really Mum could do with one less to look after. For once in her life Marieanne decided to just act.
Maeve had managed to sneak into the house without any of the reporters seeing her. She would never forgive Ada, but that was for another time, right now she needed to warn Ruth and Ray. She managed to wake them up, make tea, and get them into the kitchen before they realised what was outside the house. She had brought her laptop and just showed them the news clip. Ray was still groggy and couldn’t take it in. Luckily Ruth was in PR so she realised what had happened probably even better than Maeve. Maeve explained that there were tens of news crews camped outside in their normally empty Close. Ruth turned into her professional persona, “right, I am going to sneak into the living room and close the curtains. Whatever you do, nobody is to answer the door. Maeve, can you pull down the blinds in the kitchen and the shutters in the breakfast room. But don’t look out the windows, they all have telephoto lenses. Once we have shut down the house, I suggest that Dad and I get showered and dressed and by then I will have come up with a press statement. Oh, and Maeve, can you call your policeman friend? I think we should let them know what’s happening and make sure that our stories are along the same lines.” Maeve was so relieved that she could have kissed her. She found it hard to imagine that this was the same Ruth who when she left home, was a timid, beautiful young woman just married, prone to blushing, always deferring to her husband. Ruth had always been bright as a button, and kind to Marieanne and Orla but with no ambition for herself and she never, ever wanted to be the centre of attention. Yet here she was taking it all in her stride. Maybe having an important role was a good thing.
Meanwhile, Ada had recovered enough to get ready for the day, drink her tea and even nibble a slice of toast. Orla had decided that this wasn’t a day for school so was doing whatever she could for Ada. With more spirit than she has shown since she woke up, Ada made a decision, “ Okay, I’ve got it. This is what we will do. Orla, you are going to help me pack. We are going to get a taxi to Sandgate, I am going home. You are going to come with me. It's Friday so you can come and stay for the weekend. You can be my nurse and make sure I don’t have another heart attack! That way we can leave Maeve some space. Maybe by Monday she will be ready to talk to me.” In a flurry of activity, they tidied the breakfast things, packed and ordered a taxi. They didn’t think about Marieanne because she would be in school by now and she was probably the best one to handle Maeve at the moment anyway especially if Ada was out of the way.
The taxi arrived, parking a distance away from the house because the news crews were in the way, rather than anybody's good planning. By the look of them, the news teams were getting settled in. Scarf over her head and dark glasses on, Ada had ‘borrowed’ Maeve’s navy blue quilted jacket, trying to look normal or at least less conspicuous than her own gold lame shower proof cloak. In the rush to leave the house as discreetly as possible neither Ada nor Orla had noticed the sheet of paper in the middle of their ‘welcome’ doormat. They had just shooed the cat who was sitting on it out of the way. As they shut the door a gust of wind picked up the sheet of paper and blew it behind the old fashioned coat stand. It was just visible, with a corner peeping out, and Marieanne’s writing was recognisable, ‘Mum, I have ….’ This was Marieanne’s way of not disturbing anyone as she left for France. She would turn her phone off once she crossed the channel. If they needed her they could always call Dad, couldn’t they?