“What happened – in between, I mean?” asked Carey, curiously. She felt that she should feel something more about the woman who might have been a mother, but it was really just like hearing a story, not anything real.
Con shrugged. “To be honest, we don’t know. The rest of us, well, we didn’t even know Marie was pregnant. She was the youngest, you see; everyone else had left home by that time. It was just her and Mamma and Papa. The San – the Clinic, as was – was going through a rough patch, and Papa was spending all his time there, so there was no-one to know what happened between them. Then, when Marie… well, they contacted Papa. Mamma was… you know, I think she’d tried to forget the whole thing, pretended it hadn’t happened. Then when we found out what had happened to Marie, she was distraught.”
“But, that was four months later!” exclaimed Carey. “Didn’t anyone talk to Marie before then?” Con blushed.
“What can I say?” She looked imploringly at Carey. “You have to understand, she was so much younger than us! We were Seniors – Prefects – when Mamma brought her home. We left school soon after that, went off to university, got married. Apart from the first year or so, the only time we saw Marie was in the holidays, and not always then, after a while, because she would go to Erica’s in the hols sometimes. Oh, it’s no excuse, but you see, we – the older ones – barely saw her from one year to the next! As for the others – well, you can’t expect much in that line from the boys – they didn’t see much of her either. Fliss knew her when Marie was little, but by the time she started at the school, Fliss was at university. She and Cecil had never particularly got on, and Cecil was married by then, and living in South Africa. Phil was the closest to Marie – they had always been great friends, though Phil was older. But that year, Phil was studying in New York. She’s an artist. By the time she’d got worried about not hearing from Marie it was already too late. God, I know how awful it sounds!
“We don’t know what she did in those four months. We probably never will. She left Sadlers Wells, told them she was ill and would be going home. But she didn’t. Couldn’t.”
“Oh, you can’t know how much she regrets what she did! She thought Papa was having an affair, did you know? She was a bit funny that whole year – we thought it was because of not having anyone at home, you see. There’d always been so many people around, and then it was just her and Papa, and Papa was out most of the time, trying to save the San. The rest of us were so caught up in our own lives. It’s hard, when you’re nearly forty yourself, with teenaged children, to think that your mother might need you as much. I think, in a way, we all let Marie down, but Mamma feels it worst of all.”
“But if that was how she felt – about an… unmarried pregnancy…”
“She didn’t. In a way, that makes it worse. It wasn’t principle. It was hurt feelings, and… well… spite, in a way. I know it makes her sound terrible, but truly she isn’t like that. It’s why she feels so awful. And of course, Phil didn’t help.”
“The youngest of the Maynard clan. She and Marie were closest. She came straight back when it happened, and then Mamma told us what she’d done. Phil went mad, accused Mamma of all sorts of things. I don’t think she’s spoken to her from that day to this. Erica’s pretty much the same, but it’s not quite so bad with her, because she’s not exactly family.”
“Who’s Erica – you mentioned her before?”
“Another one of Mamma’s stray lambs. She came to stay with us the same summer we got Marie. She was – oh, I don’t know – about fourteen? Anyway, she adored Marie, claimed her as her own special pet, you know the sort of thing. After she got married, she used to have Marie for the holidays sometimes – one of the reasons we didn’t see her so much.”
“Didn’t Marie go and see her when she was pregnant?” Carey asked. Con shook her head regretfully.
“It’s just a horrible string of things going wrong. Erica had gone back to India all that summer – didn’t come back till the autumn.” Con’s face was full of feeling. “Poor Marie! She didn’t have anyone to turn to. I suppose she thought the rest of us would react like Mamma.” She gave a rather hard laugh. “You’d never think, would you, hearing all this, that the Maynard name was once a byword for compassion and understanding?”