“We didn’t treat your aunt well,” Bartlett told his daughter Taren, “We were too caught up in ourselves to spare a thought for her. That’s why we support your marriage plans and those of your sisters – we don’t want any of you to wind up in our position or hers.”
“But why is Grandma Clare so het up about it?” Taren was genuinely puzzled, “You’d think that of all the grandmothers she’d have least interest in our marriages, after all, she has no blood investment in us.”
“Ah,” Bartlett sighed sadly, ”I think she feels that if she agrees to the plans you three have for your weddings, then she’ll be admitting she was wrong about us and your Aunt Soraise. Grandma Clare doesn’t like to be wrong.”
“Whatever happened to Aunt Soraise?” Taren looked around quickly, “I mean, I know she’s an uncomfortable subject but no-one ever talks about her.”
“We don’t know,” Bartlett admitted sadly. “When we came home and found the annulment notice on the kitchen table we assumed she’d gone back to your grandparents’ house. She didn’t take anything with her, we thought that meant she planned to come back. But when we went round there, it was the first they’d heard of it. Next we thought she might have gone to friends, we were still upset that she’d embarrassed us with an annulment at that stage, then we realised that none of us knew who her friends might be.” He sighed, “One of the rules we’d imposed on her was that she couldn’t bring people into ‘our’ house so we hadn’t even met people she’d invited to our parties. At least her work would tell us they’d given her a transfer but because she’d taken everyone off her next of kin list, they wouldn’t tell us where to.”
“So the grands really don’t know where she is?” Taren was surprised, “I mean I can imagine Grandmother Shasta or Grandad Charlie keeping it quiet if they were sworn to secrecy and thought they were protecting someone, although he’s the wrong side of the family. Or even Grandmother Gwellen. She really just...disappeared?”
“Yes,” he reached out and ruffled her hair, “I remember your Grandmother Gwellen crying when she realised that your aunt had run away from them as well as us. That’s about when Grandma Clare started saying she should have toughed it out and waited for things to get better. She never says how long she thinks your aunt should have waited though and as one of the,” his voice caught, “Perpetrators, I don’t think it was going to get better. A year was enough to tell her that. It took your Grandmother Shasta less than half an hour in the house to work out how your aunt had been living – she was so angry she slapped Ebony.” Taren goggled at the thought.
“So how did your parents react?” Taren wanted to hear the whole story while someone was prepared to tell it.
“They were disappointed in us,” Bartlett admitted, “Your Grandad Charlie asked if we had some hormone deficiency. ‘The three of you were married to her for a year, lived in the same house all that time and not one of you drove her round the block to find out how she handled?’” His imitation was spot on.
Taren laughed. “That would be Grandad Charlie too. Crass and a car analogy.”
Beth, one of Taren’s mothers came slowly into the room with a strange expression on her face. “Bartlett, I’ve just taken the oddest call from my cousin Saffron.” She looked, in fact, slightly stunned. “She’s working today. Her boss is giving some news conference at the State Art Gallery. She thinks she’s just seen Soraise in one of the ground floor galleries.”