The Very Thought of You

The Very Thought of You by Mary Fitzgerald

Book: The Very Thought of You by Mary Fitzgerald Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Fitzgerald
Johnny by his little hand. ‘Can I take the tea tray, milady?’ she asked.
    Opaline nodded and, getting up, went to the door. ‘I’m going to my boudoir,’ she said. ‘I’ll have my supper on a tray there.’
    â€˜Oh Lord,’ Frances said, picking up her son for a hug and then taking him to look out of the window onto the parkland. ‘Things are worse than I thought.’
    â€˜I know,’ Maggie sighed. ‘I think the petrol business was the last straw.’
    In the five days that followed, Frances saw her mother only a few times. Lady Parnell stayed in her room, reading and smoking, and whenever Frances passed her room, she could hear her talking on the telephone. Once, when it rang and Frances picked it up in the hall, a man’s voice, said, ‘Opaline, honey, Mabel said you were coming up to town next week. Great. We’ll do the shows.’
    â€˜Er … it’s not Opaline,’ Frances said, and would have gone on to explain that she was the daughter, but her mother came on the line.
    â€˜Put the phone down, Frances. This is my call.’
    The coldness in her mother’s voice was chilling. She sounded like a stranger. Frances tackled her father about it when they were together leaning over the pigsty wall, looking at the big Tamworth sow that had recently farrowed. Ten piglets were attached to her teats, grunting and squealing over the abundant milk, and the old sow had a dreamy expression of contentment on her brown, whiskery face.
    â€˜By God, those are healthy-looking pigs,’ Lord Parnell said with a grin. ‘They’ll bring in a few bob.’
    â€˜Mm,’ Frances nodded. ‘That’s good.’ Then she looked up at him and took a deep breath. ‘Mummy is talking about leaving,’ she said. ‘I think she means it.’
    â€˜She won’t go,’ he said. ‘She’s just restless, that’s all.’
    â€˜Not this time,’ said Frances. ‘It’s different. She’s different.’
    It was if he didn’t care. ‘Well,’ he said, turning away from the pigsty, ‘it’s up to her, isn’t it? I can’t stop her.’
    The phone call Frances got that evening from Beau was a welcome relief from the strained atmosphere at the hall. ‘Fran, darling, you have to come back to London,’ he said excitedly. ‘Our plans have been altered. We’re going to France earlier than we thought and I need you here to organise the gang.’
    When she went back into the library, her father was on his hands and knees playing with Johnny and his cars. He had accepted the little boy absolutely, even if her mother hadn’t. Only this morning he’d been talking about buying him his first pony.
    â€˜I have to go back to London tomorrow morning, Pa. Beau needs me,’ Frances said, coming to sit on the arm of the sofa.
    He sat back on his heels. ‘Must you, dear girl? You’re such a help on the farm. The land girl isn’t bad, but she needs telling what to do all the time. Not like you.’
    â€˜I must,’ she said. ‘We need the money. It’s not much, I know, but it’s something. Besides, what I’m doing is helping the war effort. You’ve no idea how much the servicemen and the factory people appreciate us.’
    He sighed. ‘I’ll miss you, and so will Johnny.’
    Frances sat on the rug beside them and gathered the child into her arms. ‘I’ll miss him too, but I know that you and Maggie will take care of him.’
    â€˜We will,’ he said, and gave her a kiss on her cheek.
    She went up to see her mother. Opaline was sitting at her dressing table painting scarlet varnish onto her fingernails.
    â€˜What d’you want?’ her mother asked. ‘If you’ve come to try and persuade me to make up with your father, you’re wasting your time.’
    â€˜I hadn’t, actually,’ said

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