Rachel's Holiday Page 2

Of course I had no intention of going anywhere but by then I was really frightened. And not just by the talk of going home to Ireland and into a clinic, but because my father had rung me. He had rung me. That had never happened in the whole of my twenty-seven years. It was hard enough to get him to say hello whenever I rang home and it was one of the rare occasions when he answered the phone. The most he ever managed was ‘Which one of you is that? Oh Rachel? Hold on till I get your mother.’ Then there was nothing except banging and bashing as he dropped the phone and ran to get Mum.

And if Mum wasn’t there he was terrified. ‘Your mother’s not here,’ he always said, his voice high with alarm. The subtext being, ‘Please, please don’t let me have to talk to you.’

Not because he didn’t like me or was a cold unapproachable father or anything like that.

He was a lovely man.

That I could grudgingly admit by the time I was twenty-seven and had lived away from home for eight years. That he wasn’t the Great Withholder of Money For New Jeans that my sisters and I loved to hate during our teenage years. But despite Dad’s lovely manness he wasn’t big on conversation. Not unless I wanted to talk about golf. So the fact that he had rung me must have meant that I’d really messed up this time.

Fearfully, I tried to set things right.

‘There’s nothing wrong with me,’ I told Dad. ‘It’s all been a mistake and I’m fine.’

But he was having none of it. ‘You’re to come home,’ he ordered.

I was having none of it either. ‘Dad, behave yourself. Be… be… realistic here, I can’t just walk out on my life.’

‘What can’t you walk out on?’ he asked.

‘My job, for example,’ I said. ‘I can’t just abandon my job.’

‘I’ve already spoken to them at your work and they agree with me that you should come home,’ he said.

Suddenly, I found myself staring into the abyss.

‘You did WHAT?’ I could hardly speak I was so afraid. What had they told Dad about me?

‘I spoke to them at your work,’ repeated Dad in the same level tone of voice.

‘You big stupid eejit.’ I swallowed. ‘To who?’

‘A chap called Eric,’ said Dad. ‘He said he was your boss.’

‘Oh God,’ I said.

OK, so I was a 27-year-old woman and it shouldn’t matter if my father knew I was sometimes late for work. But it did matter. I felt the way I had twenty years earlier when he and Mum were called up to the school to account for my on-going dearth of completed homework.

‘This is awful,’ I said to Dad. ‘What did you have to go ringing work for? I’m so embarrassed! What’ll they think? They’ll sack me for this, you know.’

‘Rachel, from what I can gather I think they were just about to anyway,’ said Dad’s voice from across the Atlantic.

Oh no, the game was up. Dad knew! Eric must have really gone to town on my shortcomings.

‘I don’t believe you,’ I protested. ‘You’re only saying that to make me come home.’

‘I’m not,’ said Dad. ‘Let me tell you what this Eric said…’

No chance! I could hardly bear to think about what Eric said, never mind hear it.

‘Everything was fine at work until you rang them,’ I lied frantically. ‘You’ve caused nothing but trouble. I’m going to ring Eric and tell him that you’re a lunatic, that you escaped from a bin and not to believe a word you said.’

‘Rachel’ Dad sighed heavily. ‘I barely said a thing to this Eric chap, he did all the talking and he seemed delighted to let you go.’

‘Let me go?’ I said faintly. ‘As in, fire me? You mean I’ve got no job?’

‘That’s right.’ Dad sounded very matter-of-fact.

‘Well, great,’ I said tearfully. ‘Thanks for ruining my life.’

There was silence while I tried to absorb the fact that I was once more without a job. Was God Beadle rerunning old tapes up there?

‘OK, what about my flat?’ I challenged. ‘Seeing as you’re so good at messing things up for me?’

‘Margaret will sort that out with Brigit,’ said Dad.

‘Sort out?’ I had expected the question of my flat would totally stump Dad. I was shocked that he’d already addressed the matter. They were acting as if something really was wrong with me.

‘She’ll pay a couple of months’ rent to Brigit so that Brigit has breathing space to find someone new.’

‘Someone new?’ I shrieked. ‘But this is my home.’

‘From what I gather yourself and Brigit haven’t been getting on too well.’ Dad sounded awkward.

He was right. And we’d been getting along a whole lot worse since she’d made that phone call and brought the interference of my family tumbling down on top of me. I was furious with her and for some reason she seemed to be furious with me too. But Brigit was my best friend and we’d always shared a flat. It was out of the question for someone else to move in with her.

‘You’ve gathered a lot,’ I said drily.

He said nothing.

‘An awful bloody lot,’ I said, much more wetly.

I wasn’t defending myself as well as I normally would have. But, to tell the truth, my trip to the hospital had taken more out of me than just the contents of my stomach. I felt shaky and not inclined to fight with Dad, which wasn’t like me at all. Disagreeing with my father was something I did as instinctively as refusing to sleep with moustachioed men.

‘So there’s nothing to stop you coming home and getting sorted out,’ said Dad.

‘But I have a cat,’ I lied.

‘You can get another one,’ he said.

‘But I have a boyfriend,’ I protested.

‘You can get another one of those too,’ said Dad.

Easy for him to say.

‘Put me back onto Margaret and I’ll see you tomorrow,’ said Dad.

‘You will in your arse,’ I muttered.

And that seemed to be that. Luckily I had taken a couple of Valium. Otherwise I might have been very upset indeed.

Margaret was sitting beside me. In fact, she seemed to be constantly by my side, once I thought about it.

After she finished talking to Dad, I decided to put a stop to all the nonsense. It was time for me to grab back control of the reins of my life. Because this wasn’t funny, it wasn’t entertaining, it wasn’t diverting. It was unpleasant, and above all it was unnecessary.

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