“Brenda” Ralph addressed the woman as he stepped into the tense room. Pamela turned to face the man, praying to whatever Gods existed that he would pretend the woman in front of her didn’t exist, or at least show some hatred towards her. That was only wishful thinking. His expression had softened, his thin lips pulling into a half smile but his eyes betrayed him. The way he was looking at Brenda, was the way any man looked at his wife; with adoration, devotion and happiness. The dagger in her heart had been twisted. Had he ever once looked at her with such love and devotion? With every step that Ralph took towards the blonde woman, Pamela lost the will to live. Shutting her eyes, she silently prayed that this was all some horrible nightmare; that she was instead warmly wrapped up in bed, safely in Ralph’s loving arms. The sharp pain in her heart was a testimony to how real this all was.
Ralph stepped past her as though she was invisible - in a similar manner to what Jane had done - stopping in front of Brenda and embracing her in a tight hug. Pamela could feel her bottom lip begin to tremble against her own will, her eyes beginning to water. If she cried one tear, then a river would surely form. She would not give Brenda that satisfaction. Leaving the family to reunite, Pamela slipped out of the room and down the hallway. If it was possible, it was as though there was a dark empty hole in her heart; as though someone had pulled her heart right out of her chest.
She couldn’t - and wouldn’t - compete against Brenda. No matter how much Jane cared about her, Brenda was the girl’s biological mother, she had been the one to care for her as a baby and raise her. Pamela was just some woman passing through - in the grand scale of things. Ralph, her beloved Ralph, was an honorable man, would he really pick some lonely snobby writer over his wife and the mother of his child?
It felt as though her whole world was crashing in around her. Just when she thought she had finally found a home; just when she had finally began to open up, everyone she cared about was to be taken from her and right in front of her very eyes. Shutting the door as silently as possible, Pamela forced her palm against it, feeling her knees going weak under her. She silently wished that the ground would open up below her and shallow her hole. At least then she wouldn’t be forced to live with the unbearable pain and loss in her heart. As the house filled with Jane’s joyful laughter, Pamela wondered why she had ever allowed herself to fall into this fantasy. A fantasy that the three of them could be a family. A fantasy that Pamela had finally found the one place she belonged. A fantasy that would never become a reality.
Her freshly kissed lips were still soft to the touch; and at once it made her mourn the loss of Ralph’s presence by her side. Dropping herself onto the bed, Pamela wondered why it always had to be here. Wasn’t losing her father at such a young age not bad enough? Clearly not. Life kept dealing her the wrong hand, and it seemed like it always would. This was just the latest in a long list of misfortunes in her life.
Looking up, Pamela heard the front door closing with a slight ‘bang’. It seemed Ralph and Brenda were heading out to buy a bottle of wine. Pamela’s natural instinct kicked in then. She had to get out of there. Grabbing the suitcase, she dropped it down onto the bed, throwing open the lid and one by one, throwing her clothes in on top of each other. Usually, Pamela’s clothes had to be folded and organised in military precision; now they looked nothing short of chaotic. Not even checking if she had forgotten anything, Pamela picked up the phone and took the business card from her leather handbag. A short phone call later, and it was done. She was leaving. Leaving American, leaving Jane and Ralph and leaving behind the fantasy.
Clutching her luggage, Pamela’s knuckles were as white as the first drop of winter’s snow. Heading through the living room, Pamela noticed the black Lincoln pulling up at the curb. Fear and panic set in as she reached out for the cold grey doorknob. Could she really leave all this behind? Pamela knew she should stay and fight for Jane and Ralph, fight for the life she always wanted, but she had fought the hard fight too many times in her life, and had resigned herself to being constantly defeated. As her slender figures wrapped around the doorknob, a small voice sounded from behind her. “You’re leaving?” Jane’s desperate voice filled the room, looking as though someone had just told her Father Christmas wasn’t real. Pamela felt her lip shiver once more before she forced the ‘Mrs Travers’ mask back onto her face. “Yes” Pamela announced, turning around to face Jane - her darling girl - with the most heartless expression she could muster. While on the inside, the woman was slowly dying. “Your mother is back after all. You have no need for me anymore” Suddenly, Pamela felt like her beloved Mary Poppins when she left the Banks family, the irony of the situation almost killed her. “Tell your father....” Pamela stopped abruptly, what did she want her final words to Ralph to be? ‘I love you but I won’t fight for you’ or ‘I can’t play second fiddle to another woman’ Taking a deep breath, the woman continued. “I’m sorry” She concluded before pushing down the handle and heading out of the front door, not daring too look back. “Pamela! Please! Pamela!” Jane’s desperate pleas fell on deaf ears as the girl wheeled herself as far as the front door, unable to go any further unaided. Her porcelain cheeks were now painted with tears. “Don’t leave, Please! Pamela...Mama” The child breathed, her voice breaking as she spoke, unable to contain her sobs as she watched her mother figure walk right out of her life, as though she didn’t matter.
As the Lincoln pulled away from the curb, Jane let out one final cry, pleading for the woman to come back. The child’s shoulders shook and she buried her head in her hands as she allowed all her emotions to come to the surface. Pamela was gone, all because of her mother. This was all her fault. As though it would bring her back, Jane continued to repeat the woman’s name under her breath in between sobs. She even failed to notice her mother’s car pull up in a drive way, nor the worried cries of her father as he all but ran up the driveway towards her, dropping himself down at her feet. “Jane honey, what is it? What’s happened?” Taking his daughter’s hand, gently pulling them from the girl’s china doll face, he looked up worriedly into her eyes. It was as though Jane was mourning the loss of a loved one. “Pamela’s gone” The girl whispered in a state of disbelief before she broke down into another fit of sobs. “I want her back. Please, daddy” Ralph fell back at the news, his knees having given up on him. Pamela had left him, and it didn’t take the man long to put two and two together. He had to do something, and quick.
It was then that Brenda appeared behind him, wrapping her thin arm around his waist, and it took all Ralph’s self control not to strangle the woman on the spot. “It’s for the best, after all, she was a cold lonely woman” Brenda conceded, dragging the knife in further to Ralph’s heart. “Don’t you dare speak about her like that. She was more of a woman than you’ll ever be. She was more of a mother to Jane than you ever could be...and I loved her more than I could ever love you” Ralph snapped, pushing the woman’s arm off his waist and glaring at her with a look so vicious that it sent a shiver of fear down Jane’s back. Brenda took a step back then, fearful of what Ralph might do. Moving forward, he took the keys out of her hand before heading down the driveway. “You better pray that she hasn’t left yet, Brenda” Ralph barked as he arrived at the driver’s seat of his former wife’s car. Why had he been so foolish? Yes, he had been glad to see Brenda, his daughter deserved a chance to get to know her birth mother, but he should have known better than to have given Pamela the wrong idea. Now, his foolishness could cost him the woman he loved more than life itself. Pulling the car out of the driveway, Ralph darted off in the direction of the airport, hoping that destiny would be on his side and Pamela hadn’t slipped through his fingers.
He couldn’t lose her, because he couldn’t live without her.
The taxi had taken the trio back to their home when Ralph was discharged early the following morning - only after Pamela had the doctor’s swear under oath that Ralph was fit to go home and that they didn’t just need the bed. Pamela wouldn’t tell Ralph that she had signed the cheque for his medical bills before they left. The man had enough to worry about, and it was partly her fault that he was even in the accident to begin with. Having spent most of the night watching over both Jane and Ralph, Pamela was simply exhausted; to the extent where she had fallen asleep on Ralph’s good shoulder, his arm wrapped around her shoulder while Jane rested against Pamela’s other side, clutching the woman’s hand in her own smaller one.
This is what having a family felt like.
Ralph had never truly experienced that feeling before. He and his wife had married young, and as they had gotten older, they only seemed to drift more and more apart. His wife, Brenda, had never wanted children; Jane had been a complete mistake. Though she was his favourite mistake and Ralph had went out of his way to make sure that Jane had never once felt unloved; and he had never once told her that she wasn’t intended. Of course, Brenda had blamed him for her pregnancy and never once attempted to connect with Jane. In fact, when Jane was born, Brenda had even suggested a ‘mercy killing’ because she didn’t want a child with disability. It was Ralph who stopped her and more or less raised Jane by himself. While his wife was there for the first six years of Jane’s life, she never once attempted to bond with her - nor cleaned her, fed her or played with her. Ralph did it all. One day, she packed her suitcase and left, never too be heard from again. Now, he silently wished he had of been able to do all that with Pamela. In the short amount of days that she had been with them both, she had proven herself as a better mother than Brenda had done in the space of SIX whole years. He liked to pretend that Brenda never existed, that it was just Pamela and him raising Jane as their daughter.
When the taxi pulled up at the driveway and Ralph didn’t have the heart in him to wake the pair up. Deciding he couldn’t push the wheelchair by himself, nor carry Pamela in, he shook the woman’s shoulders softly. “Pamela..Mrs....We’re home” He whispered into her ear, hoping to wake her up as pleasantly as possible. He quickly caught onto the use of ‘we’ and decided he rather liked the sound of it - it made it seem like the three of them were going to be together for good; something that Ralph would love more than anything. Fluttering her ebony eyelashes, Pamela kept her head on Ralph’s shoulder as she unwillingly woke up. “Do we have to get up..I’m far too comfortable” She admitted with another yawn, although Pamela was the sort that once she woke up, she couldn’t get back to sleep for the love of money. Pushing herself off the man’s shoulder, she watched as Ralph tried his best to conceal the pain as he got himself out of the car as the driver stood waiting with Jane’s wheelchair. The pair of them had become well accustomed to getting Jane into her wheelchair, and art they had mastered together, and without even waking the girl, she was safely in her wheelchair.
By the time they had gotten into the house, Jane had woke up naturally and was already her usual bubbly self. Pamela could only roll her eyes and chuckle at that. Only Jane. Pamela turned the television on for Jane before heading into the bedroom with Ralph. “You need to rest!” Pamela protested, playfully glaring at the man as he lowered himself down on top of the covers. “Only if you come and sit with me, Mrs.” He argued back, not wanting to be left alone so soon after coming out of the hospital, plus, he wanted a chance to spend at least a few minutes of alone time with Pamela. Sighing heavily, Pamela threw her hands up in the air in a sign of defeat before dropping herself down onto the bed beside the man.
“You scared me, you know” She confessed, as Ralph moved to take ahold of her hand in his, giving in a gentle squeeze before letting go and bringing it to her chin, making her look at him. “Nothing will ever happen to me. I will never leave you - or Jane” He swore, looking her straight in the eye as he spoke softly, even though it was only the pair of them in the room. “Promise?” Pamela breathed, she was close enough that she could smell his cologne - light, not over bearing, in fact, she rather liked it. “I promise” With that, Ralph moved forward and caught her lips in his, kissing her softly for a moment before Pamela pulled away slightly and rested her forehead against his. “We don’t half to do this. We can just go back to how things used to be” Ralph breathed, fearful that he has scared the woman off. Shaking her head, Pamela took a deep breath before smiling at him once more. “No, we’re going to do this. There’s no point in turning back from this. We’ll take it slow and steady” Moving to take the man’s hand, she nodded her head at him. “Slow and steady” He repeated before moving to kiss her once more, earning a slight chuckle from the woman. It was only the knock on the front door that interrupted the pair.
“I’ll get it. It’s probably the nurse come to change your dressings” Pamela stood up from the side of the man’s bed, her cheeks still slightly flushed from their earlier kiss. Her clothes were slightly creased as well from lying on the bed. In fact, Ralph had never seen her look so laid back. It made him smile a little too know that was all because of him. Heading down the hallway, Pamela could finally imagine what her life might be like there; with Ralph and Jane. They would make staying in America - with the horrible blasphemy that was America tea - a little more bearable. In fact, she now couldn’t imagine her life without either of them in it.
Arriving at the front door, Pamela moved to push down the golden handle and open the door. She would later come to wish that she had ignored the knocking at the door. Upon opening the door, Pamela was greeted with a thin blonde haired woman, whose thin eyebrows sculpted her chocolate covered eyes - in fact, they looked rather like Jane’s. While Pamela was dressed in one of her typical business suits, the woman in front of her was in a floral knee length dress and sandals - rather the polar opposite of what Pamela was wearing. It was as though one was night, and the other was day. “May I help you?” The woman in front of Pamela was certainly not the nurse who had promised to be around later that evening to redress Ralph’s wounds.
“Mom!” Jane’s cry filled the room as she caught sight of the woman in front of Pamela. It was then that Pamela’s heart stopped beating, she had never imagined Jane calling any other woman by that title except for her - even if it had only been teasing, she had enjoyed that title more than any other. She had enjoyed the idea of being Jane’s mother, an honor she would have died for. Now, she was face to face with the woman who rightfully held that title. The tears filled Jane’s eyes as she pushed herself in her wheelchair towards the petite woman, completely ignoring Pamela - as though the woman didn't exist. “Momma!” Jane put her short arms out for the woman, causing the unnamed blonde to bend down and hug her daughter tight; while appearing affectionate, Pamela didn’t miss the death glare that was sent her way. It didn’t take long for Pamela to put the pieces together; this was Jane’s mother, Ralph’s ex-wife. In that very moment, Pamela felt as though a thousand knives had just been pushed through her heart, as though the air had just been pushed out of her chest and as though the only two sources of light and happiness in her life were about to be taken from her.
She had loved Ralph and Jane.
She had loved and now she was about to lose that love.
She had imagined a life - a family even - and now she was about to lose it all.
She was about to be replaced by the woman in front of her.
[Happy Valentine’s Day - this is really a filler - and fluffy - chapter more than anything else.]
Pamela sat herself on the side of Ralph’s bed after helping Jane into her wheelchair and pushing the girl over to the bed. “You scared the life out of us” Pamela was taking the approach of scaring the life out of Ralph to make sure that he never did anything that could involve him ending up in hospital ever again. “What happened?” Jane’s curiosity was getting the better of her as she looked up at her father. Pamela turned her head to look at Ralph, showing that she too was interested in his answer. The man sighed heavily and glanced down into his lap then up at Pamela. “You’re going to have a go at me for it” He admitted, watching as Pamela took ahold of his hand, as though reassuring him that she wouldn’t react in the manner he expected her too. “I dropped the client back at his hotel, but I went to bakery near your hotel” Ralph revealed, and it took Pamela a moment to remember the bakery she had pointed out to him on the way to the restaurant the day before. “I wanted to treat you both to something nice, that’s why I was late. I was about to pull in when someone - probably drunk - crashed into the side of my car. I can’t remember much else” Ralph touched his left temple as he spoke, feeling as though his head had been repeatedly banged against a brick wall. Turning to look at Jane, Pamela was hit by a sudden realisation. She had lost her father because of alcohol. Jane - and herself - had almost lost Ralph because of the same substance. “I would take my daddy being here over all the cupcakes in the world any day of the week” Jane admitted, attempting a cheerful voice as she looked between the adults, forcing her joyful smile onto her face. “I agree. Not even all the cupcakes in the world could replace you” Pamela teased as she gave the man’s good hand a gentle squeeze.
Neither Jane nor Pamela left the man’s side throughout the morning. Even when Pamela spent most of the morning chasing down the doctors - constantly asking for updates - while Jane read the newspaper to her father - as well as a seven year old could. Pamela returned with a doctor on her heels, and a curled fist resting against both side of her slender hips. “I’m fine” Ralph protested, not wanting to cause the doctors any more trouble. “No. No, No” Pamela glared at the injured man for a moment before turning to face the doctor. “He hasn’t gotten any pain medication this morning. His arm and left side are giving him bother” She informed, watching as Ralph sighed before holding his good hand up as a sign of his surrender. “Your wife is a persistent one” The doctor joked as he moved to one of the machines, Pamela opened her mouth to protest until Jane pipped in, clearly the only one who remembered the strict ‘immediate family only’ rule for the ward. “Yes, mummy doesn’t take no for an answer” Jane fluttered her eyelashes at the doctor as she attempted to appear as ‘cute’ as possible to keep the lie going. The last thing any of them needed was Pamela being kicked out of the ICU room because she wasn’t Ralph’s wife. While the doctor smiled at Jane, Pamela caught the confused look on Ralph’s face - trust him to be the one to mess it all up. “My husband has come to learn that I’m always right - the hard way of course” Pamela attempted to distract the middle aged doctor as he worked with the machine beside Ralph’s bed, increasing the dosage of the antibiotics and medication. It was when the doctor’s back was turned that Jane pointed out the strict ‘immediate family only’ poster outside Ralph’s doctor, one of at least a dozen dotted throughout the ward. The man nodded his head in understanding; why hadn’t he caught onto that sooner?
It was only several minutes later that the doctor left the trio alone. “So you’re my wife now?” Ralph teased, allowing himself to smile as the pain in his left side gradually disappeared. He tried his best to not think about just how close he had came too losing this all; Jane could have grown up without a father and Pamela could have lost another man in her life. Life was priceless. He had to live for today, too not worry about tomorrow and not to focus too much on the past. “For all intent and purposes I am for the moment” Pamela teased right back at the man as she sat herself down on the bottom of his bed. Shaking his head, Ralph had never been so thankful for what his life was like now. He had Jane and now...he had Pamela too.
Fear. Pure and unrequited fear. It was Pamela’s most detested emotion. She had felt in as a child, strolling into her childhood home, her thin arms burdened down with freshly picked pears; only too find her heartbroken mother pouring her heart out on the wooden floors of the hallway. She had felt it then. The fear had made her drop the pears and rush towards her father’s room. For fear that she would never see his enchanting brown eyes again. For fear that she had lost the most important man in her life. Now, she felt that exact same fear once more. Fear that she would never hear Ralph’s joyful voice. For fear that she would lose the first man she had cared deeply about since her father’s passing.
Her hands gripped the plastic handles of Jane’s wheelchair so tightly that the skin was the same colour as the first drops of winter’s snow. Arriving at the nurse’s station, she tried her best to keep the ‘Mrs. Travers’ mask on as she demanded to know where Ralph was; only too be told that only immediate family were allowed in the Intensive Care Unit. Pamela stood dumbstruck, they wouldn’t even let her in to see him? Jane on the other hand, spoke for the first time since being informed of her father’s accident. “Can my mom and I see daddy now?” The child begged, looking up at the nurse with her best puppy dog eyes, the tears still fresh in her eyes. The question had caught Pamela off guard, but she had managed to keep her poker face in place. The nurses’ stern face lessened somewhat when she looked down at the vulnerable and innocent looking Jane. “Down the hallway, third door on your right will take you to ICU, the nurse can direct you from there” The nurse revealed, smiling comfortingly at the pair before Pamela nodded her head in thanks before disappearing down the hallway, following the nurse’s directions. Each step made the fear grow, but each step brought her closer to him.
When they were finally escorted into Ralph’s room in ICU, the sight that greeted Pamela stopped her in her tracks, and left Jane’s lips in a perfect ‘O’ shape. Ralph’s forehead had a five inch gash across it, while it was dressed and stitched, Pamela could still see the dry, crisp blood surrounding it. His right arm was in both a heavy ivory plaster and a matching sling. She had never seen the man so pale, connected up to several monitors. The only noise that filled the tense room was the constant beeping of the machines...the only sign that Pamela had not lost another man in her life. It was Jane who forced Pamela out of her daze. “Daddy?” The girl whispered, completely heartbroken as she looked at the weak and fragile man in the bed before her.
Pushing Jane’s wheelchair up to the side of Ralph’s generic hospital bed - making sure to go to his good side - Pamela sat herself down on the plastic chair. Jane remained silent, simply watching her father’s sturdy chest rising and falling steadily, while her head rested on Pamela’s shoulder, the woman’s presence along managed to comfort her. At some stage, Pamela reached out to take Ralph’s hand, it was ice cold to the touch, which caused Pamela to tighten her grip on it as she struggle to hold back the tears, for Jane’s sake if not her own.
At some stage, Jane had managed to silently cry herself to sleep on Pamela’s shoulder, her crystal like tears had soaked Pamela’s flimsy silk blouse. Pamela rested her cheek against the child’s pale forehead, her eyes never leaving Ralph as she felt herself become more exhausted - both mentally and physically - with each passing second. Her attention was solely on Ralph, to the extent that she had failed to hear the door creak open, or the heavy footsteps of a nurse entering the room. “Ma’am?” Pamela almost jumped out of her skin as she felt a hand come to rest on her troublesome shoulders. “Yes?” Pamela asked, slipping her hand around Jane’s shoulder in order to keep the girl where she was as she turned to face the nurse. “Visiting times are over, but would you and your daughter like me to bring a bed in here? So you can stay the night with your husband?” The nurse asked, looking down sadly at Jane and Pamela. While she looked younger - newly qualified by Pamela’s guess - she was mature beyond her age. Pamela was about to protest, inform the young naive nurse that she was not Jane’s mother nor Ralph’s wife, but then remembered that only immediate family was allowed into ICU. That fear came back once more - the fear of having to leave Ralph and something happening to him. “Please” Pamela forced a weak smile at the young woman, who nodded before heading back out of the room and in search of a bed.
Within no time, both Pamela and Jane were asleep on the hospital bed that rested next to Ralph’s. Jane had managed to fall into a peaceful sleep while Jane tossed and turned as much as she could with Jane in the bed as well. An hour of sleep was the most that Pamela could manage, her sleep filled with nightmares. Nightmares that involved Ralph never waking up, of Jane being left without a father, and of losing the only man she had ever loved since her father’s death. Pushing herself off the bed, Pamela headed over to the right hand side of the bed; where she could keep a close eye on Jane as the girl slept but also hold Ralph’s good hand. Sitting herself down, she felt as though she was carrying an unbearable cross on her back. Resting her tried head down onto the bed beside their joint hands, Pamela allowed her eyes to shut for a moment, before she fell asleep to the gentle lulling of the constant beeping of the machines around her.
A large strong hand awoke her from her sleep, resting on the top of her head while long fingers creased her forehead and hairline. At first, she leaned forward into the touch, keeping her eyes shut as she yawned softly; before remembering where she was. Her eyes shot opened like a bullet, like a cat caught in the headlights of a car. ‘Ralph?” She whispered fearfully before her eyes came to rest on the man. Lying before her was Ralph, wide awake with his oxygen mask resting in his lap, his usual joy filled smile pulling on his lips while he moved to take ahold of Pamela’s smaller hand in his own. “You stupid man! You scared the life out of me!” Pamela protested, feeling the tears fill her eyes as she was forced to realise just how close she came to forever losing the man before her. Pushing herself forward, Pamela allowed the mask to slip from her porcelain face as she wrapped her arms around Ralph, bringing herself up to his chest as she held onto his muscular body tightly; as though if she let him go, he would disappear before her very eyes. He winced a little, readjusting themselves so that she wasn’t pressing into his injured arm. “You are going no where, do you hear me?!” Pamela demanded, allowing herself to laugh with joy as she rested her hand on the back of the man’s bald head as she kissed his cheek affectionately. The commotion was enough to wake Jane from her peaceful sleep. The child raised her head, swaying it from side to side before noticing her father. “Daddy?!” Jane cried happily, smiling brighter than ever as she looked between her father and Pamela.
Pamela had no reason to be fearful anymore. Ralph was alive and well, safely in her arms. It was then that she realised something. Love. Pure and unrequited love. It was Pamela’s most unappreciated emotion. Though in that one single moment, she had felt a life time’s worth of love surround her. Fear had been replaced by love. Everything would be okay now, she was sure of that.
When Ralph returned from the kitchen, it looked as though a bomb had exploded. Pamela’s brown tweed jacket had been discarded on the sofa, while Jane’s black satchel had been emptied of its contents. Now, Ralph’s coffee table was covered with Jane’s multi-coloured notebooks, textbooks and sketchpads. From his vantage point, he noticed several of Jane’s poems abandoned in small piles on the floor next to the wheelchair. Most shocking of all? Pamela’s heels had been placed under the table, and she was sitting bare foot on the floor next to Jane’s wheelchair, the silk sleeves of her blouse rolled up to her elbow. It caught him off guard how natural and domestic the scene in front of him looked. Pamela was proof reading and correcting Jane’s literacy homework while the girl attempted to wrap her head around the art of division. Placing the tray of tea cups and a small plate of chocolate and plain biscuits - including Jane’s favorite chocolate fingers - down onto the only free space on the coffee table, a safe distance from Jane’s schoolbooks.
“I see you’ve now been tasked with Jane’s english work” Ralph teased, sitting himself down on the floor beside Pamela. His mind was drawn back to the day he had first made tea for Pamela, when he had sat on the grass beside her and built a small stream. “Don’t listen to daddy, he’s no good at English” Jane protested, faking a glare at her father until she noticed her usual after school snack sitting on the coffee table. “I’m sure your father is much better at mathematics than I am” Pamela pipped in, having hated the subject ever since she was Jane’s age - perhaps even younger than that - with a vengeance. Pulling her well loved reading glasses off her nose, she placed both her glasses and Jane’s book onto the coffee table. “It’s almost perfect - you just made a few little spelling errors” Pamela informed the child, having already penciled the corrections in over the spelling mistakes. It was then that she caught Ralph looking at her with a teasing smirk. “What?” Pamela chuckled as she shook her head, wondering why Ralph was looking at her like she had grown two heads. “I never thought I would see you sitting on the floor” He confessed joyfully from his spot on the floor beside her. It was then that Pamela playfully hit the man on the chest, before shaking her head once more at the man’s comment. “There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me, Ralph” Pamela narrowed her eyes as she tried her to best to hide her smirk before turning to pick up the biscuit plate - having spied Jane eyeing up several of the chocolate fingers. It was then that the phone started ringing, the shrilling constant noise filling the room. “I guess I’ll have to get it” Ralph concluded with a heavy sigh as he pushed himself up from the floor, hoping that whoever had interrupted his precious moments with Pamela and Jane had a darn good explanation for it.
“Hello?” Ralph asked curiously, after picking the phone up off its receiver. “This is he...yes...” Pamela glanced up to look at Ralph worriedly as Jane stuffed her face with a second chocolate finger. Ralph looked annoyed - slightly angry almost - like a child who had just been informed that Christmas was canceled. “I understand. I’ll be there in ten minutes” Ralph looked defeated as he placed the phone back down again, turning to look at both of his girls with an apologetic expression. “You have to go, don’t you?” Jane asked in a small voice, her face falling almost. She hated it when her father got called in unexpectedly to work, he had taken a few days off to relax, but they had the nerve to call him in? Pamela rested her hand onto the coffee table before pushing herself up so that she was at her full height as Ralph headed towards them, nodding his head sadly. “It’s just one drive, apparently one of the other drivers is stuck at the airport waiting for someone to come in” He informed the pair, moving to pick his jacket up from the coat rack, taking his tie and stuffing it in his pocket - he could put it on in the car sure. Jane pulled her best attempt at puppy dog eyes, hoping she could somehow convince Pamela to talk her father out of going in to work. “I’ll be home in time for supper” He promised as he bent down to kiss Jane softly on the forehead then Pamela’s cheek, stepping back to look at the pair for a moment, wanting to apologise again when Pamela stopped him. “We’ll have it on the table when you get back” She joked. It caught her off guard how natural and domestic this all was to her. With one last goodbye, he headed towards the front door, glancing back over his shoulder at the pair as he left.
Darkness had replaced the burning sun. The food had since gone cold. The burning fire was already beginning to die out. Still, there was no sign of Ralph. “He’s been gone for ages now, Pamela” Jane admitted fearfully, having seated herself in front of the window, wrapped up in her tartan blanket with her tattered copy of ‘Mary Poppins’ for company. “I’m sure there’s some reasonable explanation for it all.” Pamela reassured the child, but also tried her best not to show her own worry. Ralph had left three hours ago, promising he would be back before supper, which was an hour and a half ago. Where was he? Heading back into the kitchen, Pamela decided a strong cup of tea was in order. Perhaps that would calm her nerves.
It was only when the water was beginning to boil that she had heard Jane calling. “Pamela, there’s someone at the door!” Setting the teapot aside, the writer headed from the kitchen, through the living room and to the front door. She would never forget the sight that met her. “Ma’am” The grim expression told Pamela everything she needed to know, suddenly her knees seemed to go weak under her and as if the air had been pushed right out of her ; forcing her to grab onto the side of the door frame. Jane appeared behind her, having wheeled herself from the window. “Yes, officer?” The innocent child failed to pick up on the tension in the air, or the silent crystal tears that had began to fill Pamela’s dark eyes. The middle age man’s expression softened slightly as he glanced from the child to Pamela, waiting until the elder woman nodded her head before he cleared his throat, taking the police hat from his bald head. “I’m afraid there’s been an accident” A sense of sudden realisation filled Jane then, and she gasped aloud in shock, the tears coming to her eyes. “Daddy?” The child whispered, silently praying that it wasn’t true. Her father was fine; he had kissed her on the forehead before walking out the door. He had promised to be home for supper. “We got to him just in time. He’s at the hospital now” The officer informed them both, watching as Jane reached out to grab Pamela’s hand, the woman instantly stepping closer to the child. Grasping her hand, Jane looked up at Pamela then before the woman moved to hug the child in a bid to comfort her. “He’s going to be okay, isn’t he?” Jane begged, her tiny fingers coming to clasp around Pamela’s blouse as the tears began to coat Pamela’s skin. “I promise” Pamela stroked the girl’s hair in a bid to calm her down, shutting her eyes in the hope of disguising her tears.
She had to be strong for Jane.
She had to be strong for Ralph.
She had to be strong for herself.
Pamela had never been so proud. Just as she had expected, Jane had showed everyone just what she was worth - especially the three big headed imbecilic mothers who believed Jane wasn’t worth the air she breathed. Jane’s poems - a work of art in Pamela’s mind - both opened and closed the performance. While the words were strong and emotive, it was how Jane delivered them that grasped everyone’s attention. She had began the first one in a rathe impressive British accent, something that had made both Pamela and Ralph laugh to quietly to themselves - but it was the final one that had left everyone gobsmacked. The emotions Jane was able to convey in her voice were unimaginable, and Pamela suddenly felt as though she was at a performance of MacBeth in the London West End, with Jane center stage as the infamous Lady MacBeth. “You never told me she was this good” Pamela whispered in a shocked voice as she glanced at her side to Ralph, the man himself looked rather shocked. “I had no idea” He confessed, unable to take his eyes off his daughter. Even in her wheelchair, it seemed as though Jane could command an army of ten thousand men with just her voice. Was this really an innocent child standing before her, or an intelligent, confident and headstrong young woman, who had been forced to grow up far too quickly, but wasn’t going to allow her disability to catagorise her as a second class citizen?.
The performance had awarded Jane - and the other children of course - a standing ovation, and several cheers from Ralph which caused Pamela to laugh to herself at the man’s typical fatherly actions. Even in the crowd of people, Jane was still able to spot her father and Pamela, nodding her head and waving joyfully at them, as though she didn’t have a single care in the world.
The children were then escorted out of the room by their teachers and marched into their classrooms in military precision. “She was awfully good. You should be very proud of her - I know I am” Pamela concluded with a smile, standing up from her seat in time with Ralph. The man couldn’t help but smiling to himself as he watched Jane disappear out the door with the other children. “How does lunch sound, Mrs?” Ralph suggested, wanting both an excuse to spend time alone with Pamela and the chance to eat something, after all, he had spent most of the morning reassuring Jane that Pamela was coming and that her speech would be perfect. Thankfully, he had been correct on both occasions. “It sounds like an excellent idea” Pamela proclaimed, placing her handbag into the crook of her arm before allowing him to guide her towards the nearest exit door, his hand hovering on her lower back as they walked. Glancing over her shoulder, she allowed herself to throw one last death glare at the three brainless, ignorant and idiotic mothers.
Ralph had surprised her by taking her to one of the restaurants that was only a stone throw away from The Beverly Hills Hotel. She silently prayed that he wasn’t putting himself out of pocket just to impress her. As he pulled the car up at the curb, she remained in the passenger seat until the valet stood forward and opened the door for her before taking the keys from Ralph and parking the car. Holding his arm out for the woman beside him, Ralph smiled to himself. “Shall we?” He asked, raising his thin eyebrow at her. “Yes, we shall” Pamela moved to slip her slender hand through Ralph’s arm before putting one foot in front of the other and making her way into the up market restaurant. It didn’t take long for them to be seated next to the ivory french windows that overlooked the picturesque gardens, filled with rows of white roses, cordelias and tulips. “I had no idea you could charge twenty dollars for a salad” Ralph exclaimed in a state of shock, his eyebrows almost disappearing into his hairline. Pamela glanced out the window nervously, Ralph didn’t have the sort of income that she had - after all, she was writer of the beloved Mary Poppins, and made a pretty little penny from Mr. Disney’s movie adaption of it. “Let me pay” She insisted, and within moments Ralph attempted to protest, wanting to be the gentleman that he was. “No, I insist, consider it a gift for putting up with me for so long” She persuaded the man,, wanting to at least repay the kindness that he has shown her - both during this visit and her two previous ones. “Okay, but next time, I’m paying” Ralph fought back, not believing that he was about to let a woman pay for dinner, being the traditional man that he was. Whenever it came too order, Pamela didn’t fail to notice that he ordered one of the cheapest meals on the menu, whereas she choose the intermediately priced salmon dish.
“What wine would you like?” The waiter asked, causing Pamela to freeze for a moment and look up at Ralph. The flashbacks hit her then. The empty bottles of beer and whiskey lined up on the kitchen table after one of her father’s drinking weekends - and the devastation that would always follow in its path. Was Ralph like that? “I’ll just take a soda. I’m not a massive drinker myself” Ralph confessed, usually only taking the occasional glass of whiskey at the weekend or after a hard day at work. Pamela recovered herself before replying to the waiter’s question. "I’ll have a glass of ice tea” It was the first thing Pamela had noticed on the menu, and had ended up regretting it almost as soon as she had ordered it. If it was anything like the American’s poor excuse of English tea, then she may end up pouring it over the poor waiter.
The pair sat in a comfortable silence as the waiter left them alone once more. “You have nothing to worry about” Ralph reassured his female companion as he leaned forward, resting his hand over hers on the table for a moment in an attempt to comfort her. “This book will be your best yet” He announced positively, as though declaring the most important fact in the world. As time went on, Ralph found himself being able to read Pamela like an open book, and he could already see her mind falling back into worry and fear about her latest novel. “It’s just...Mary Poppins is like family to me” Pamela confessed with a heavy sigh as she felt Ralph’s larger fingers move across her thin knuckles in a bid to rid her of her fear and anxiety. “You’ll do her justice...and you nothing to worry about” He moved to look the writer in the eyes, as though placing all his trust in her at that moment. “promise?” Pamela found herself whispering breathless, unused to such confidence and reassurance from another human being. “I swear. Jane and I are here if you ever need someone to turn too.” Ralph concluded just before the waiter returned with their food, placing it down on the table in front of them.
Even whenever Pamela handed the freshly written cheque to the waiter, Ralph was still protesting that he should be the one paying for their meal, though he silenced himself after becoming on the receiving end of one of Pamela’s infamous glares. Collecting the car from the valet, Ralph decided that he would be best for them to return to his house and then walk to the school to pick up Jane. “She won’t stop talking about this for weeks you know” Ralph joked as he got out of the car after pulling into the narrow driveway. Pamela slipped her cashmere emerald cardigan over her thin shoulders as she came to walk in time with Ralph, heading in the direction of the school. “You can never let her forget how amazing that performance was” Pamela herself still couldn’t get over just how good it was, Jane would make the most incredible speech writer and performer, all she needed was to believe in herself - and to not have sarcastic fools making vindictive and malicious comments behind her back.
The pair arrived at the school gates just as the bell rang, and it didn’t take long for Jane to appear at the door. Ralph moved to get behind the wheelchair, pushing it across the playground - which Pamela noted was covered with at least two dozen different coloured hopscotches - and out the gate, while Pamela placed the shoulder strap of Jane’s bag onto her shoulder. “You did exceptionally well, I don’t know what you were worrying about, Jane” Pamela assured the child once they left the school gates. Jane looked up at the woman walking in time with her wheelchair and smiled. “Yeah, but it was nothing compared to what you did” The child’s joyful smile brightened then as she began to excitedly recall what had happened - at least from her own point of view - which Pamela would later have to reassure Ralph as a slight over exaggeration of the truth. “I thought Emma’s mom was going to drop death with fear” Jane exaggerated, moving her hands out to show her shock as she continued to smile as brightly as the sun on a July afternoon, the occasional giggle slipping in as she retold the events of that morning from her own point of view.
By the time Jane had finished, they had arrived on the porch outside the door. “I guess Pamela was our knight in shining armor” Ralph teased as he unlocked the front door, allowing Pamela to walk in first before he pushed Jane’s chair in after her. It was than that Jane smirked to herself before casually saying “Of course not daddy, She’s Mary Poppins to me”. Pamela stood with a fists on each hip as she attempted to glare at Jane as best she could before breaking into a fit of laughter, closely followed by both Jane and Ralph - the latter recovering first and declaring that he was off to the kitchen to make them all a ‘proper English cup of tea’
Sleep was something Pamela had always craved. Countless nights had been spent staring at the blank ceiling of her Victorian townhouse, or tossing and turning against crisp white sheets as the nightmares of years prior attacked her in her restless dreams. Now, that felt like a distant memory. As soon as her head had hit the freshly pressed pillows of her hotel room at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Pamela had fallen into the first peaceful sleep she had experienced in recent memory. Cuddled up between her pillows and the featherlight duvet, she had woken up naturally for the first time in years; not from a nightmare or her alarm clock. For the first time, Pamela had something - or rather, someone - to wake up for.
As a teenager, Pamela had enjoyed the silence. It allowed her to think, explore her wild and wonderful ideas, and transport herself into a land that only existed in her head. Now, the silence was haunting. A silent reminder that this - whatever it was - couldn’t last forever, that she would one day have to return to her quiet life in London, spending more time working on an overly edited manuscript than with other human beings. There was a weight lifted from her stubborn shoulders, and Pamela finally felt free...as though she didn’t have a care in the world.
Unlocking the clasp of her own personal ‘Mary Poppins’ bag, Pamela pulled out the pristine silver tin box. The smell of Earl Grey instantly eloped the room, and at once Pamela felt as though she was transported back to her living room, sipping on a cup of tea as she got on with her mountain of work. Jane deserved to taste a proper cup of tea, not the blasphemy that Americans attempted to pass off as tea...it seemed nothing more than flavored water to a woman as adversed in the art of tea making as herself. Slipping the tea bags into her leather handheld bag, Pamela crossed the room before locking the heavy walnut door behind her.
It wasn’t the sound of tires coming to a halt at the curb that had alerted Ralph to Pamela’s arrival, but rather Jane’s sudden intake of breath before she announced in a hushed tone. “She came! She really came” As though she had doubted for even a moment that Pamela wouldn’t be coming to see her - as though the day before had been a figment of her imagination, wishful dreaming that the woman her father cared so deeply about had walked back into his life and became an instant mother figure for her. Pushing herself forward down the narrow hallway, Jane pushed the gold tone handle, pulling the door back to greet her guest. “Pamela!” She exclaimed happily, like a child on Christmas day, smiling happily at the woman walking up the garden towards their suburban home. Pamela steadied herself in her heels as she arrived at the front of the porch, smiling as she headed towards the child. “I have a surprise for you” She declared, pulling her handbag from her arm and taking out the tea bags as she walked into the well kept home. Ralph greeted her in the hallway then, chuckling as he noticed the unused tea bags. “Is my tea really that bad?” He asked amusedly as Pamela came to stop in front of him. “Ralph, dear, all American tea is an act of blasphemy” She informed the man as Jane finally turned her attention to the small tea bags in Pamela’s pale hands, taking them from the woman, she inspected them as though they were the most precious of diamonds. “It even smells better” Jane announced happily, causing a pale smile to pull at Pamela’s thin lips as she shook her head. “You’re going to have my daughter hooked on that stuff” Ralph concluded as he led the way into the welcoming sitting room. “That was the plan, dear” Pamela added, following the man into the red toned room.
Jane had insisted that Pamela proof read her poems for her, claiming that she didn’t want to mess up in front of her everyone. “Jane, these are excellent, you have nothing to worry about” Pamela promised the child, while there had been a few insignificant errors, but they would only have been noticeable by a writer of her standard. “Are you sure?” Jane begged, terrified of messing up in front of Pamela. “What did I tell you last night?” Pamela asked as she stood from her seat, as Ralph appeared once more with Jane’s school bag and coat. “That you never said anything you didn’t mean” Jane repeated, having memorised most of her conversation with the woman, it had been rather hard not too after all. Jane’s constant nerves seemed to relax then, her shoulders falling slightly as though a weight had been lifted off them, her usual ‘happy go lucky’ smile returning to her china doll face once more. “We better get going” Ralph informed them all as he headed towards the door, lodging it open with the doorstop. Stepping behind the wheelchair, Pamela herself moved to push it through the living room; catching Ralph off guard as she did so. “Are you sure you don’t want me to push?” He suggested, stepping outside to allow Pamela to push the wheelchair through the front door. “Oh no, we’re fine. Aren’t we Jane?” The child looked up at the mention of her name. “Definitely” Jane smiled joyfully up at the woman before returning her attention to her father, never had she seen the man look so carefree, happy and relaxed, it seemed Pamela had that affect on them all.
The peaceful walk to Jane’s school had been a quick one, most of it spent listening to Jane practice over her speech as both Ralph and Pamela attempted to assure her that it was perfect just the way it was. As they arrived at the school, which seemed a world away from the typical upper end London schools Pamela had seen at home, they were greeted by Jane’s teacher, a Miss Gold. She was the sort of woman that made Pamela’s eyes roll to the highest heavens...the typical American that Pamela detested. “And you wonder why there’s only two Americans that I actually like?” Pamela breathed. It didn’t take a genius or a noble prize winner to figure out who the two were. Heading into the assembly hall, Pamela was met by perhaps her worst nightmare. More American tea. Were they trying to kill her? Ralph couldn’t help but laugh and shake his head when his eyes landed on the table filled with plastic cups, four large metal teapots of tea and several trays of biscuits. Resting his hand on the woman’s slender arm, he stopped her in his step. “Pamela, not everyone can make tea as well as you do” It seemed the simple statement was enough to relax the woman, who shook her head before smiling brightly. Ralph had no doubt saved the poor mothers behind the table from a rant by Pamela about how to make tea correctly...the good old British way. Glancing out of the corner of her dark eyes, Pamela caught a glimpse of Jane as she and some of the other children made their way to the front of the room. “Why don’t you go and get our seats and I’ll do my best with this...” Pamela began, but decided that she wasn’t exactly sure how to describe the no doubt awful tea. “Whatever you say, Mrs.” He replied, returning to her old name, granted he had said it in a teasing tone.
Standing at the table, Pamela took a deep breath before beginning the impossible task of making the American’s poor excuse of tea actually drinkable. Eavesdropping was something Pamela usually didn’t condone, but it was impossible not to do when the three women behind the table decided to have a conversation right in front of her, as though she wasn’t even there. “I don’t know why they let that child come here” The woman nearest her, a blonde haired woman, her no doubt normally thin tone replaced with a rather large bump, exclaimed in an annoyed tone. “It’s not like she can do anything after all, handicapped and everything” She continued, Pamela paused them, almost dropping the heavy teapot in her thin hands, instead deciding to tighten her grip and bite her tongue. Neither Jane nor Ralph would appreciate it if she pulled a scene. “I wouldn’t let my child live like that, they should have just put her down like a dog” The middle woman dictated to the others. Unlike the first, she had the exact opposite of a slender tone, her chubby fingers wrapped around a plastic cup as her own blonde hair looked as though it had been dragged through a ditch backwards. How dare they even consider speaking about Jane in such a manner, as though she was some second class citizen or a person who didn’t deserve to have even taken their first breath. “She’s a strange child” The last woman thought aloud, her brunette hair worn loose around her shoulders as her sun kissed skin was decorated to a few too many fake diamonds for Pamela’s taste. “Never talks to any of the other children, and never leaves those stupid books of hers down” The other two nodded their head in agreement as the first spoke once more. “It’s that clueless father of hers” That was it. The teapot met the table with a large ‘bang’ causing the three women to almost jump out of their skin.
Placing one thin hand on her hip, the other rolled up in a fist and pressed firmly against the table as though it was one of the women’s faces, Pamela leaned forward. “Don’t you dare say a word against either of them” She hissed, aware that she had already drawn attention to herself from the people nearest them. “Jane is worth more than all of your children combined. She’s intelligent, strong willed and determined. Anyone else in her situation would have given up on life, but Jane is stubborn and not even her disability can put her down” Pamela argued, feeling her blood pressure raging through the roof. “She will go places and see things that your children will only ever be able to dream about, and when she does, I hope to God that she comes back and rubs it in your faces” If looks could kill, the three women would be six feet under and long dead. Pamela’s maternal instinct had came out, like a lioness protecting her cub on the battle field. “And don’t you dare attempt to insult Ralph in my presence” Her voice falling dangerously low as she inched herself closer, all three of the women taking a step back from the foreign woman. “Never once has he let his daughter think she was different, simply because she couldn’t walk. He’s raised her to be the most amazing young girl, and I highly doubt any of your and your precious husbands have done even half of the job he has done.” The three women stood dumbstruck until the slender blonde regained her voice before Pamela could leave. “And who are you? Her mother!?” She spat, and it took all of Pamela’s self control to not lunge across the table and give the woman the long and painful death she deserved. “I’m afraid I don’t have that honor, but at the moment I’m the nearest thing she has to a mother” Pamela fought back, the other two woman taking another step back in a desperate bid to leave the situation. “And if I ever hear that you spoken a single syllable against her, I will come and deal with you myself” Her British accent became even more pronounced as the anger in her began to boil over. Taking a deep breath, she grabbed the paper cup and left the table, doubting she could continue the argument for much longer without killing one of the women.
Spotting Ralph, she sat herself down in the seat to his left, sighing deeply as she did so. She felt rather light headed now, no doubt a side affect from her raised blood pressure. Bringing one hand to massage her right temple, she glanced up at Jane as she sensed the child watching her. From the simple look on Jane’s face, she could tell that the child had been one of people watching the argument. Though when the smirk came to Jane’s face, followed by a characteristic wink, Pamela felt her anger disappear. Jane would show those women exactly what she was worth - she had no doubt in that. Ralph moved to take the paper cup from her shaking hand and placed it on the floor, before resting his hand on top of hers. “Thank you” He whispered softly, knowing exactly what the woman had done. After all, it wasn’t hard to imagine what the conversation was about whenever Jane grabbed his attention and pointed it out to him with a simple wave of her hand. Moving to kiss Pamela’s cheek softly, Ralph returned his attention to Jane as the headmaster walked towards the front of the room, announcing that the performances were about to start. Pamela failed to hide the gentle blush that came to her cheeks, however, her hand never moved from under Ralph’s.
The wind from the east had a slight chill to it when darkness fell. Pamela had seated herself on the plush leather sofa, where Jane had been able to wheel her chair up beside her - the child still being unwilling to leave her mysterious companion for too long - while Ralph took the single seat across from Pamela. On the coffee table lay the silver toned teapot and three steaming ivory tea cups, not proper china of course, but Pamela would rather have the welcoming company than that any day. “Are you writing again?” Jane asked in an eager tone, her eyes lighting up as she leaned forward in her chair, desperate for the answer to her latest question. “Actually; yes I am” Pamela said cheerfully, attempting to hide her fears towards her latest novel, watching as the child’s porcelain cheeks dropped for a moment as her cherry toned lips turned into a perfectly formed ‘o’ shape. Her recovery was quick though, and in no time, the child was smiling her typical pearly white smile. “Really?” Jane inquired in a state of disbelief. “I could let you read it sometime” Pamela suggested, the child’s eyes growing even more with each passing seconds, as though Father Christmas himself had appeared at her door with a fluffy white maltese puppy. Bringing the tea cup to her lips, Pamela allowed to warm liquid to burn the back of her throat before she spoke once more. “Jane, child. I never say anything that I don’t completely mean” She confided honestly before smiling at the girl once more.
Pleasant conversation filled the small but cosy sitting room for the majority of the evening, the discussions mainly focusing on Jane’s various attempts at writing and the child’s questions about the mysterious distant land of England. Ralph jumped into the conversation every now and again, but he was more than content to sit back in his sturdy seat and watch the way Jane’s eyes never left Pamela as the elder woman spoke, or how Pamela looked more comfortable on the tiny leather sofa - having a passionate talk with Jane about the ‘joys’ of writing - than she had during the duration of her last two visits to the ‘land of the free’. Pamela looked perfectly at home - the very idea brought a smile to his thin lips.
It was only whenever Jane turned her head away to let out a gentle yawn, her eyes becoming heavier with every passing second, that any of the trio noticed how late it was. “Come on, honey” Ralph stood up from his seat and headed towards his daughter, who looked as though the inter world was about to end. “You are coming back aren’t you?” Jane asked softly, acting as though she may never see the writer again, as she snapped her head around to look at the older woman. “Of course, dear. You won’t be getting rid of me just yet” Pamela assured, resting her hand on the girl’s shoulder - giving it a light squeeze - before forcing a weak smile. Her eyes never left the child as Ralph helped her down the dark deserted hallway to her bedroom.
As the room became silent, Pamela shut her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. How was she meant to explain it all to him? That something deep inside of her had overcome her entire being as soon as she stepped foot into that airport - a depression of sorts - and it had only been cured when he had appeared at the front of the house earlier that day. She had held this off for as long as possible, but she could no longer deny that Ralph, and now Jane, were the only cure for this sudden depression that had seemed to grasp her in its claws.
“Well, Mrs” Ralph’s cheerful voice sounded like music to her ears, as he returned from putting Jane to bed. “What brings you back to the good old land of the U.S of A?” He asked while seating himself down across from her. Pamela was not a fan of America, heck she would quicker stick needles in her eyes than return to the country - or at least he had thought so. His mind was suddenly drawn back to their final conversation during her first trip ‘You’re the only American I’ve ever liked’. Pamela allowed her eyes to lift off the floor and look at the man. “I needed a holiday” She lied calmly, however Ralph had seen straight through that. “You don’t do holidays, Pamela” Ralph thought aloud in a soft voice. You learnt a lot about a person from simply driving them around, and Ralph would like to think that by this stage, he could read Pamela like an open book. The writer sighed deeply for a moment, a tense silence falling in the air before she spoke once more. “I felt...Claustrophobic in England...I needed some time away. This was the first place I thought of” Pamela confessed, well it was at least half true. She wouldn’t admit to him that she had packed her bags the night before and demanded a seat - regardless of if it was in economy or first - on the earliest flight to Los Angeles. Ralph’s smile softened somewhat as he listened to the woman speak. Out of all the places in the whole world that Pamela could have went...she had came to Los Angeles, the city she had once detested with all her being. She had came to him.
“This book might be the death of me, Ralph” She confessed shyly, usually not someone to admit her problems to anyone but herself; she wouldn’t allow herself to appear weak. “There’s so much pressure after that bloody movie!” Pamela exclaimed, keeping her voice to a sharp whisper for fear of waking Jane up. “I just wanted to forget about all of that...for at least a little while” Folding her pale hands on her lap, Pamela allowed her eyes to rest on Ralph as his shoulders relaxed and gradually, his hand moved the short distance to take her smaller one. “Then forget all about it...at least for a little while” Ralph repeated, flashing her a reassuring smile as he gave her hand a comforting squeeze.
Deciding that she had by now well outstayed her welcome, Pamela stood from her seat, allowing her hand to slip out of Ralph’s grasp as she did so. “I better be going, the car should be picking me up any minute” She revealed as Ralph stood up from his chair, looking a little hurt by the sudden loss in contact. “Of course” He didn’t want to push her, he knew she wasn’t a very open person - in fact, he was amazed by how she interacted with Jane - perhaps his daughter was the key to helping her open up?
Walking the writer towards the door, he held it open for her, spotting the chauffeur driven Mercedes arriving. “Jane’s school is having a performance in the morning, first thing actually” He announced as the woman stepped in front of him, now standing on the lower step. “She’s reading out some her speeches, I know she would love for you to be there” He watched at the smile came her lips then. “I’ll be there. I’ll get the car to bring me here in the morning” Pamela suggested before moving forward to place a soft kiss on Ralph’s cheek, careful not to leave a lipstick stain, as her hand came to rest on his shoulder. “Good night, Ralph” Pulling away from the man, Pamela headed up the stone pathway towards the waiting car, never looking back at the dumbstruck man on the doorstep.
Never in her short life had Jane ever been so excited. Walking down the crisped leaf covered street, Ralph effortlessly pushed her wheelchair in front of him while Pamela stood at her side, walking in step with the contraption that allowed Jane to see at least a little of the adventurous world around her. Glancing between her father and the mysterious writer beside her, the child couldn’t contain her constant beaming smile. Her father had spoken of her often, and his eyes had always seemed to brighten up at the very mention of her name. “Pamela” She began, causing the woman to look down at her affectionately. Pamela would be the first to admit that she wasn’t the biggest fan of children - they were sticky, loud and obnoxious - but Jane struck her as a different sort of child; who reminded her of herself at that age. “I’ve started writing” Jane confided in the woman, having little faith in her own writing - after all, she was only a child, and Pamela was the woman responsible for creating her beloved ‘Mary Poppins’. “I would love the chance to read them sometime” Pamela coaxed the child, coming to rest her slender hand on the girl’s thin shoulder. It was as though all of Jane’s Christmases had come at once. If the child could have, she would have jumped out of her chair and embraced the woman in a bone wrenching hug. “Thank you” Jane crooned, overcome with emotion. Ralph remained silent throughout the exchange, finding himself smiling just a little more than usual at the conversation, his burley shoulders relaxing as he came to the conclusion that everything would work out fine - it had too.
“The sun came out today” Ralph cooed, looking directly at Pamela as he spoke, his steps slowing down somewhat - to an even more leisurely pace - as the woman came to walk in time with himself and not the wheelchair. “Now you’re going to tell me that it has something to do with me” Pamela foretold, remembering how he had announced that during her last visit. She wouldn’t admit that she had thought of him every time the sun had made an appearance. “He’s right, the sun hasn’t shone in weeks - it’s been raining mostly” Jane contributed, her usually soft spoken voice became tremulous as she spoke. Pamela remembered what Ralph had told her once; when it rained, he would have to leave Jane in the empty house by herself, whereas when it was bright and the sun shone like a blazing fire, he could leave Jane in the porch to watch the world go by. “I think you brought the sun out again” She concluded, turning her head to face the two adults behind her. Pamela looked out of the corner of her almond toned eyes at the man beside her before glancing down at the stone grey footpath. Ralph could have sworn that he saw a faint pink blush come to her cheeks - not that he was going to tell her that of course.
It was only whenever Jane took the tartan fleece from her lap and wrapped it around her shivering shoulders, that Ralph decided to turn the wheelchair around and head in the direction of home once more. Without drawing much attention to herself, Pamela took the child’s shaking, shivering and unsteady hand in her own. Jane’s was almost as pale as her own - only a shade darker than the first snow of winter - though her very bones seemed more fragile than her own. Subconsciously, Pamela found herself running her thumb across the girl’s knuckles in a bid to keep at least her hand warm if nothing else. Silence filled the air around the trio, but it was a comfortable silence, each of them lost in their own deep thoughts. Returning to the suburban home, Pamela headed up the ramp ahead of Ralph and Jane, moving to hold the heavy timber door open for the pair. “Can you teach daddy how to make proper tea?” It was Jane who broke the comfortable but familiar silence, with her innocent voice echoing through the once silent room. Pamela chuckled slightly at the request, remembering the day that Ralph had committed the biggest act of blasphemy known to man - serving tea in a paper cup; who would ever do such a thing! “As long as we can serve it in something other than paper cups” She jested, throwing a teasing look over her shoulder at the man. Ralph allowed himself to laugh, the sort that came from the very depths of your stomach, as he shook his head in a bid to hide the undeniable smirk that graced his face. “Of course not, Pamela” He proclaimed, his eyes landed on Jane for a moment.
As carefree and full of life as she was, on this occasion, Jane’s ‘happy go luck’ nature was infectious - even Pamela couldn’t deny that. Taking her periwinkle cashmere cardigan off her shoulders, Pamela folded it over the plush leather sofa before making her way over to Jane. “We’ll have you making proper English tea in no time” She vowed as her hands wrapped around the plastic handles of the wheelchair and pushed it in the direction of the dimly lit kitchen. Ralph stepped into the compact kitchen, flicking the light on and allowing it to illuminate the room. “Do you have a teapot?” Pamela wondered aloud as she brought the wheelchair to a stop beside the worn out stove. Jane began to giggle softly as she watched her father patter around the little kitchen in search of the teapot - something that Jane rarely saw until recent weeks - and glanced up at Pamela. “Daddy’s been trying and failing to make the perfect cup of tea for weeks now, ever since he made you a cup of it” She uttered in a hushed voice, hoping only Pamela would hear her and not her father, she didn’t want to embarrass the man after all, as much as she did love him. Fiddling with the stove - they always had been a pain for her to use - Pamela eventually had the water boiling before adding two tea bags. “American tea is nothing compared to a good English brew” Pamela confided in Jane - as though it was a national secret - as the child hung on to her every word and action.
Leaning against the countertop, Ralph found himself enthralled by the scene in front of him. Was this some twisted dream, taunting him with the one thing - or one person rather - that he could never have?
Summer was long gone by the time Pamela had returned to America. Stone grey pavements were covered with a healthy coating of thin, withered sunset toned leaves, while the once humid air had a gentle breeze to it, the sort that made you long for the warm arms of another. Clear blue skies were now filled with fluffy white clouds, blocking the burning sun behind them. As the chauffeur driven Mercedes made its way down the vacant streets, Pamela allowed herself a moment to take in her new surroundings. At least it wasn’t raining like it had been in England.
Subconsciously, she found herself fiddling with the leather strap of her structured handbag. What if he wasn’t in? How would he react? It wasn’t everyday that someone you thought you would never see again lands on your doorstep unannounced. All too soon, the engine of the car came to a gradual stop and the driver’s door opened. Now or never. As the door opened, she placed her handbag into the crook of her arm before putting one foot in front of the other and stepping out of the car. “I won’t be needing your services again” She informed the driver, who responded with only a nod before returning to the driver’s seat. Oh, how different he was from her last American driver.
As the car pulled away from the curb, Pamela turned around to face the property behind her that was guarded by a white picket fence. Her pale lips turned up in a smile at that, imagining Ralph covering the fence in a fresh coat of virgin white paint at the dawn of every spring. Walking across the freshly cut grass, the aroma wrapping itself around her, she moved to undo the lock on the gate. It was then that her eyes caught sight of something - or rather someone - on the porch of the typical suburban home. Jane. Her feet carried her towards the child who was watching her with intent interest. Pamela guessed her to be no older than six or seven, but she knew one thing for sure. She was Ralph’s daughter. The smile that greeted her was warm, gentle and inviting but most importantly, it was almost a mirror image of Ralph’s. Her chocolate brown hair was worn in a braid, coming down over her thin shoulder; her eyes an almost identical colour to Ralph’s. Even when sitting in the well worn wheelchair, the child was beaming of life - though should she have expected anything less? Wrapped over the girl’s lap was a thin tartan blanket, resting on that was a rather battered looking copy of ‘Mary Poppins’ which was sat under the girl’s china doll hands. The pages were coming loose at the seams, a sign that this wasn’t the child’s first reading of the book, nor would it be her last.
“Good morning, Mrs. Travers” Jane beamed up at the woman, lifting Pamela’s attention from the book in the child’s hands. The pair had never met, yet Jane spoke to Pamela as if she had known her for the entire duration of her short life. Stepping up the small ramp at the front of the porch, Pamela took the three short steps towards the girl’s wheelchair. “I see you like the book” She suggested, which on closer inspection, she recongised to be the one she had signed for Ralph at the airport. “Of course, Mrs. Travers. It’s my favourite.” Jane concurred with a smile, her short fingers wrapping protectively around the spine of the book. “Pamela” The elder woman coaxed, not many people were allowed to call her by her given name - Ralph being one of the few - but it didn’t seem right to hear the child refer to her as ‘Mrs. Travers’. “Pamela” Jane repeated, her infectious smile growing brighter as she looked up adoringly at the writer.
Before the pair could speak again, a familiar voice boomed through the front section of the house. “Jane! Would you like something too...” There it was. That voice. The one she had longed to hear again. Pamela turned to face the heavy black door as it opened fully. Ralph stopped mid-sentence when greeted with the scene before him, his feet grinding to a halt at the same time. Never in all his days did he think he would see her again. Even more so standing on his porch talking to his dearest daughter. “Pamela” He breathed, blinking to make sure that all of this wasn’t some twisted dream taunting him. Jane could hardly contain her smile at her father’s reaction, trying to hide it behind the battered hardback cover of ‘Mary Poppins’. “Ralph” Pamela continued, equally as breathless as she took in the man’s appearance. The suit and tie that she usually saw him in was replaced with a pair of grey dress trousers and a cream tone shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his burly elbows - a clear sign that he had been working in the house or garden.
Her lips turned up in a smile, a slight flush coming to her skin as she spoke. “Would you and Jane like to accompany me on a walk?” Pamela requested, resulting in an immediate cry of ‘Yes!’ from the young Jane, while Ralph remained as shell shocked as before.