I got my mother’s phone number – it wasn’t hard to find – and rang it. As soon as she realised who it was, she tried to hang up. Somehow I managed to stop her, managed to keep talking, make her listen. I don’t think she’d been drinking. I asked her to tell me things about me. “What’s to tell, you were a spiteful, pig-headed girl.” I said sorry. She said “That’s the first time you’ve ever said sorry, do you know that?” I said “No, I don’t know that.” I don’t know if she really believes I’ve lost my memory.
I explained what the doctors said, that you can forget everything because of something traumatic you’ve experienced. She said “I’m not surprised then, the life you’ve been leading.” “What sort of life is that?” I asked her. “Haring round the world, trying to find someone who clearly wants you to think he’s dead, doesn’t want to have anything to do with you.” “Who’s that?” I asked. “Your father, obviously.” “But you said he sent me a birthday card, last year?” “He did,” she said, “But for years he was happy for you to think he was dead and gone. Except he wasn’t dead, he just walked out on us, you know. Left me literally holding the baby. I had to get a job as a cleaner to support us.” She was really angry. And I started to see why. “Have you ever spoken to him since?” I asked her. There was a long pause, then she said “Yes. Once. He rang the house, in Washington. Heaven only knows how he got the number. It was quite a shock, I knew his voice immediately.” “What did he want?” “To talk to you, of course.” “Why didn’t you tell me? How old was I?” “You were fourteen, just starting to get on with your new step-father. I didn’t want Jean-Paul messing things up.” “Is that his name?” I asked her. “Of course it is, I don't believe you've forgotten anything, this is all another of your tricks.”
I begged her to tell me more about him. She told me he was born in Haiti, they met in the US, that when he phoned that time, he was phoning from Paris and, the biggest thing of all, when I left home in 2004, I said I was going to look for him. “Where?” I asked her. “I didn’t bother to enquire," she said.
We didn’t talk for much longer after that. She gave me her address, I said I would come and visit as soon as I had sorted everything out. She said “Fine” like she wasn’t so bothered.
When I put the phone down, I had discovered so much more but I felt empty. I felt cut adrift. And I know I’ll continue to feel like that until I know what I’ve been doing for the last three years. Why was I in Paris? Who’s Nicolas? Who’s Katy? And what’s the story with Helen?
And that’s what I’m going to do next. It was no coincidence when she 'found' me sitting on that bench. Helen was clearly watching me. It’s time the tables were turned.
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