‘Hi, Mum,’ she replied.
‘Oh, it is you. Your fath—David has been all over the place, announcing his royal grandchild to anyone who would listen.’
For a moment Eloise was utterly confused. And then the events from hours before came flooding back, and she could hardly credit that the news had got out so quickly.
‘Mum, there’s no—’
‘He’s so happy, Eloise. Honestly, I can’t thank you enough.’
A stinging burn of acid hit the back of her throat to hear her mother’s happiness at Odir’s lie. She pushed down the familiar, impotent anger that rose within her whenever her mother illustrated just how dependent she was on her husband’s good mood. She wanted to reach through the phone and shake some sense into the older woman, but knew it would do no good.
For the first time that evening she had sympathy for Odir, who saw love as a weakness, as a destructive, hurtful thing. He didn’t realise that it was the person who wielded love that caused such weakness. Not the emotion itself.
‘I told Odir. About everything.’
She felt her mother’s silence as if it were a shout.
‘It’s okay, Mum. He’s promised not to say anything to anyone. I know I promised you that I wouldn’t tell anyone, but keeping a secret from my husband... Mum, it’s a promise I couldn’t keep.’
The silence from the other end of the phone was white-hot. Eloise held her breath, realising that even now she couldn’t predict how her mother would react. Whether she would be angry...whether she would break down.
‘You could come with me, Mum,’ Eloise said.
She might not have asked Odir, but she knew he’d allow it—make it happen if he could. Again, that small part of herself that hoped her mother would choose her this time—would choose her over the drugs, over her husband—raised its head. ‘You could leave him and—’
‘No. I... It’s my whole life, Eloise. I know what I’m doing here. With David. He needs me. If I were to come to Farrehed everything would be different. I wouldn’t know where to start. I wouldn’t know how to...’
Wouldn’t know how to be the mother that she needed, Eloise realised. Her mother didn’t know how to be that, and nor did she have the strength to try to be that. Angelina Harris’s addiction was too strong for her to choose a difficult path. To choose her daughter and leave her husband.
‘I’m getting help. Here. I am. I am, Eloise. But I need to do it here.’
Without you, Eloise finished in her mind.
Not for the first time she hoped that her mother was telling the truth, but this time, as if looking at her mother from a distance, she viewed her words with another meaning. Her mother was making her own kind of sacrifice and it was the only thing her mother’s kind of love made her capable of. To let Eloise go. To let her be free of the responsibility of her mother.
‘I hope that you will visit one day, Mum. But I’m saying this now—David will not set one foot in Farrehed.’
Another silence—and yet this time it was a settled one. An accord between mother and daughter.
‘I understand,’ her mother replied.
They said their goodbyes, and Eloise wondered when or even if she would see her mother again.
She looked up to see Odir standing in the bedroom doorway, his frame illuminated from behind, casting his face in shadow.
‘How much did you hear?’ Eloise asked, unable to discern his features.
‘I hope that I wasn’t being presumptuous—about my father.’
‘If you hadn’t said it, habibti, I would have,’ he replied.
His words sent a ripple of satisfaction and rightness into the hurt, cold part of her, warming her just a little. A sad smile played on her lips as she passed him on her way to the bathroom.
In less than ten minutes she had showered and dressed, redone her make-up and hair as best she could. All the while trying not to acknowledge the depth of feelings in her heart.
She emerged from the bathroom and entered the suite to find Odir waiting for her.
‘The limo is here.’
Odir was holding out his hand and she knew that she must take it. That it was time to accept her responsibilities just as Odir accepted his.