Walking away from Midnight
One: Cambridge University June 1939
“I’m going to count down from three, and when I shout now, that’s when you throw. Ready?”
The photographer looked into his lens and started the countdown. “3. 2. 1. Now!”
Suddenly the sky was full of flying mortarboards and the photographer got his picture.
Jessie managed to catch her mortarboard as it fell, but others were not so lucky, and the headwear took ten minutes to be sorted out and returned to the rightful owners. The photographer waited patiently, and then individual photos and family photos were taken.
“We’re up next,” Jessie whispered to her father, “and what I would give to just walk away…”
“You can’t just walk away, Jessie. You have a responsibility. Your mother wants to see these photographs.”
Jessie said nothing, but her father could see she wasn’t happy.
“I just hate all the fuss,” she said with a resigned sigh. “Anyway, Armel is not my mother and…”
Once more Jessie’s father interrupted. “She is in all but name. It was Armel who brought you up after your mother died. Don’t ever forget that.”
“She was paid to. She was my nanny!” Jessie stormed off and her father sighed.
“One day you will stand your ground and not walk away, Jessie,” Albert Fordham shouted at his daughter’s receding back. Jessie simply waved her right arm and carried on walking.
Jessie caught up to Rose Sinclair and draped an arm round Rose’s neck. “Your dad didn’t make it again, I see.”
“No and I’m not bothered,” Rose muttered as she carried on walking. “Let’s face it. I’ve graduated, I’ve got a job offer, why worry. I’m out of here and he can’t do a damn thing to stop me.”
“Come with me and my dad,” Jessie blurted out.
“To France? To that black lake of yours? No thank you. Gives me the creeps just thinking about what’s in there.”
“There’s nothing in there but fish.”
“No, I’m off to America. I’m starting my job three months early.”
“Then… then this is good-bye?”
The pair stopped walking and Rose smiled at her friend. “I guess it is. But we’ll see each other again, one day.”
“Not if my dad has anything to do with it. He wants me to join him and Armel in the Foreign Office. Could you picture me cooped up in an office in Paris? Old and wizened,” Jessie said, bending over and pretending to be old. “I’m so old I can’t walk upright,” she said, staggering and laughing at the same time.
“Your dad’s a diplomat, and your mother is too. What makes you think you’ll be anything different?”
“I do, I make myself believe I’ll be different because I’m destined for better things than the stuffy old Foreign Office.”
Copyright © Tom Kane 2019