the expression in her eyes moving from their usual look of quiet pleasure at seeing me, to bewilderment, then horror.
âOh, Kit, oh Lord,â she said, when I had finished. She clapped her hand over her mouth and stared at me. âDonât worry,â she said. âYou can still get out of it. Have you spoken to him this morning?â
âHe meant it,â I repeated. âI know he did.â
I was still feeling a kind of victorious expansion and babbled on for a bit about how we loved each other and how, in India, I could work at the Home, which was what Daisy had suggested all along.
âIt wonât happen.â Her head was shaking even before Iâd finished. She looked ashy white. âIt canât. His family wonât allow it.â
âBut Daisy, theyâre not Indian Indians.â I tried to explain to her. âTheyâre educated. Theyâre Anglophiles. His father lived in EnÂgland. He trained to be a lawyer here.â
She sat down and put her head in her hands and groaned. âI know that. Oh, my dear girl,â she said, looking up, âyouâre stepping into a bear pit.â
âI thought youâd be pleased.â I sounded like a child even to myself.
âItâs true Iâd hoped you might consider being a worker there, on a very temporary basis of course, you know, a month or two months, part of a team, with a small salary, not as a wife, not as an Indian wife. And of course Tudor will be desperately disappointed too. Heâs such a dear.â She put on her glasses and stared at me, looking very sad. No, heâs not, I thought. Tudor was definitely Daisyâs blind spot. Not in a million years , my mind clanged, only I loved her too much to say it.
âAnd it will kill your mother,â she added. Unusual for Daisy to try emotional blackmail; it made me realize how desperately she minded.
âSheâll come round, Daisy.â
âNo, she wonât.â Daisy was shaking her head, looking sadder than ever.
âYou donât know that.â
There was an extra intensity in her gaze, which linked with other things I felt I didnât understand: my motherâs half-truths, the occasional sly dig from Tudor and Ci Ci.
And I was sick of it suddenly: this unspoken thing that seemed to follow me round like a whiff from a drain.
âDaisy,â I said, âwhat are you talking about? If you know something about my mother that I donât, why wonât you just say it?â
âYou must ask her yourself.â She got very busy rustling papers and putting her pens away in the old Stilton jar she kept on her desk. âItâs nothing to do with me.â
âSo there is something?â
âI donât knowÂ .Â .Â . I donât know.â
Iâd never seen Daisy look more furtive or trapped.
*Â *Â *
I ran to the kitchen, where my mother was chopping spinach with her usual economy of movement. Two dead pheasants lay on the table, their necks flopped over, their little eyes all blank now. From the door I surveyed her quickly: the neat waist, the trim ankles, the beautiful black hair, caught this morning with a marquisette comb. The apron was the jarring note: an actress cast in the wrong play.
âMother, I need to speak to you.â
âWell, I donât want to speak to you.â
She may as well have added âyou revolting slut,â her look was so shuddery and thoroughly disgusted. She carried on chopping.
âMother,â I announced grandly, âIâm terribly sorry about last night, but we are in love and Iâm leaving soon. I really am, you know.â Did I really believe it then, the grandiose words, the concrete travel plans? I donât think so, but it felt important to make a stand. She stopped chopping and laid the knife down.
âShut up, Kit,â she said. âI refuse to talk about it here