Chapter 20 – Pimlico House

Caitlin – September 1982
It was not in Caitlin’s nature to be underhand so the advice she was following from her father and Ariel was foreign to her instincts. Frank and Ariel had advised her to pack a minimum of possessions for Charlie and her and to pretend to Mario and the staff that she was going out to Easthampton with her parents as she sometimes did. They advised that she was best away from the city and Long Island lest the story broke. Whisperings were growing louder in their circle and Frank wanted Caitlin and his granddaughter well away from any malicious gossip.
Frank arranged the flight and sent his driver to collect her. Caitlin was not comfortable in her subterfuge to Charlotte and worst of all to leave Mario without him knowing; without first talking to him seemed almost criminal. She knew that he would be distraught to lose his wife and even more his adored daughter. Despite everything Caitlin loved Mario. In his way he had been a loving husband to her and an adoring father to Charlotte. Everything was such a fuck up she thought bitterly.
Caitlin arrived at Heathrow in the early morning of the last day of July. Charlotte was quiet and withdrawn sensing that things were amiss. They were collected from the airport and taken straight to her Pelham Crescent house. The third period in her life that she was to come here Caitlin reflected. Her father had arranged to have the house cleaned and aired and as always Caitlin felt a sense of homecoming when she approached the front door. She had had some happy times here, as a teenager with her parents, than later when she had inherited the house from her mother and turned it into a single woman’s party pad; albeit a very sophisticated one.
She held out her hand to Charlotte as they walked up the short path to the door.
‘Mama loves this house Charlie. We’ll make a new room especially for you and you can help Mama pick out all the colours you’d like. Charlotte looked around the chequer board hallway and up the curved Georgian stairway her face stricken,
‘Where’s Daddy?’ was all she could manage, her big brown eyes brimming with tears. Caitlin knelt on the floor and held Charlotte close, trying hard not to cry herself.
‘We’re having a holiday darling. Just like when we go to stay with Grandpapa and Ariel. Daddy will come and visit us soon don’t worry baby.’ Caitlin smoothed the curls back and placed a gentle kiss on her daughter’s furrowed brow. As she said the words she knew it was true. Once Mario realised that they had left he would go straight to her father’s Park Avenue house or out to Easthampton.
When he found that Caitlin and Charlotte weren’t with Frank and Ariel he would deduce that they were here in London even if Frank would not admit to it. Poor Mario she thought. She knew that he would be distraught. What a goddamn mess her life had become. Caitlin thought that above everything she must protect Charlie from distress. If she pretended that everything was normal Charlotte would be fine.
With this thought in mind she and Charlie spent the day first inspecting the house and then sitting at the kitchen table drawing and colouring. They chatted happily together as Charlotte picked her bedroom, the one that had been her mother’s room, and then proceeded to design her colour scheme. Caitlin was astonished by her daughter’s concept and application for one so young.
Clearly she had inherited her father’s talent for design and his prodigious gift of recollection. She drew the window with curtains and a toy box beneath, with a padded lid she explained to her mother so she could sit on it and look out of the window. She drew a bed and a desk and chair in the way that children do and coloured the whole meticulously in pink and yellow stripes, checks and flowers. Caitlin admired her daughter’s design and sincerely hoped that they would be able to find the products to realise her vision. A trip to Peter Jones seemed on the cards.
After the two had lunched together eating beans on toast in the kitchen. Charlie’s head began to nod. Caitlin scooped her up and took her upstairs for a nap. They were both exhausted. While Charlotte slept Caitlin put in a call to Rebecca at the shop. She was put through immediately by one of Rebecca’s team.
‘Becca, we’re here. We got in this morning. Charlie’s just dropped off to sleep, she’s so tired.’ Caitlin sounded tired and flat but much less distraught than the day before, Rebecca thought with relief,
‘Shall I come over now Caiti? The girls can look after the shop and Ty and Roo are in the crèche here so I can get away easily.’
‘Thanks Becca, I’m trying to make everything seem normal, like a holiday, for Charlie. Perhaps if we came to see you at Pimlico tonight and she can play with your two while we talk…’ Caitlin didn’t want Charlie to hear her mother crying if she got distressed which she surely would. Rebecca thought fast,
‘How about I call round to you after work, about 6.30? I’ll have the boys with me but we can squeeze you and Charlie into the car. Pack Charlie’s PJs and she can bath and story with the boys. Once they’re all asleep you can fill me in over dinner. Jack knows there’s something wrong and he’s a marvel of discretion knowing exactly when to disappear!’
‘That sounds brilliant, thanks Becca, I seem to have lost the ability to think straight.’
‘I remember only too well what that feels like. Remember our holiday in Rome? It’s as though your mind goes into hibernation to avoid thinking unpleasant thoughts.’
‘Yes, that’s it.’ Caiti sounded forlorn.
‘Have a nice hot bath and catch a nap yourself Caiti, you must be wiped out. I’ll see you later. Around 6.30 I expect depending on the traffic. Love you.’ Rebecca finished. Caitlin smiled inwardly glad to have such a stalwart friend and decided to take Rebecca’s advice. She fell into a deep sleep curled up next to Charlotte in case her daughter woke and couldn’t find her mama.
Caitlin and Charlotte were ready and looking out for Rebecca’s arrival. Caitlin waited with impatience to see her best friend, Charlotte with a mixture of delight in the prospect of two new friends, and trepidation being rather a shy child. Rebecca and the boys arrived just before 6.30 and Rebecca hopped out to hug Caitlin and stoop to say hello to Charlotte.
‘Have Charlie on your knee in the front Caiti, we’ll be at Pimlico in no time.’ Rebecca said, taking the small overnight bag from Caitlin and putting it into the boot.
Once ensconced in the large family kitchen the children soon thawed with each other; Ty and Roo vying good-humouredly for Charlotte’s attention. The boy’s cats enchanted Charlotte; the boys proud to display their respective adopted pets. Tyrone had laid claim to Zorro’s affections and Reuben to Ziggy in the early days of their lives at the Pimlico House. Charlie was soon being towed around the house by one or other of the boys showing off their toys and mastery of gymnastics. Jack appeared to pour drinks for the girls and greet Caitlin with affection. Rebecca prepared fish fingers and beans for the children and started to assemble a vegetable lasagne for the adults, Jack seemed to be going off meat lately.
Caitlin found the whole ritual and normality of the tasks quite soothing though part of her mind thought how strange it was to be chatting routinely about inconsequential bits and pieces at the same time as knowing that your whole life had just changed irrevocably. It was what she wanted though; she had requested to Rebecca that she wanted everything to appear normal for Charlotte’s sake.
Little did she know that Charlotte had already been disabused of the fact that daddies were mandatory; when Charlotte had mentioned her own daddy Tyrone had informed her airily that he and Reuben didn’t have one.

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