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Illingworth House: Chance Child, Part Two - 27

...Both Ann and she knew they needed each other and they needed each other more as time went on...

John Waddington-Feather continues his profoundly moving story of the lives of the Illingworths, a Yorkshire mill-owning family.

Ann watched from the gate till John was out of sight, then she rushed inside weeping. She went straight to her room and threw herself on the bed exhausted and cried herself to sleep. How long she lay there she didn't know, but she was awoken by her mother, shaking her gently, standing by her bed with a cup of tea. Rosemary was sober and had showered.

She no longer reeked of gin but was bending over her as she had done in childhood, stroking her hair and calling her name to bring her to wakefulness. Ann's sleep had dispelled her anger and the tender broken look on her mother's face filled her with pity.

She took the tea cup from her and sat on the edge of the bed. It was Rosemary who spoke first.

"I'm sorry, my pet," she whispered, using the term of endearment from Ann's childhood she hadn't used in years. "More sorry than ever I can say. I hurt John terribly. How is he?"

It was the first time ever she'd asked after him and it surprised Ann. Her mother had changed. "What do you think?" She said in a hollow voice. She was past all weeping now. So was her mother who continued stroking her hair.

"What are we going to do?" said Rosemary, biting her lip. "I'd do anything.. .give anything to help."

"I shan't be seeing him for some time. He goes into the army tomorrow. He said he'll write. That's about all he can do."

"I hope so, my pet. I hope somehow you'll keep in contact. It'll help. I've hurt him terribly, I know... unforgiveably."

Ann continued drinking her tea, watched by her mother. When she'd done Rosemary took the cup from her gently like a nurse. It was growing dark, long past the time for their evening meal, Ann had slept so long.

Rosemary said she'd make them something to eat and went out and after showering, Ann joined her downstairs.

Throughout the meal, Rosemary could hardly meet her daughter's eye, but she was glad she was there. If she'd walked out on her as she'd threatened to do, she couldn't have coped. She was all she had now, for husband and son meant little to her and she to them. Both Ann and she knew they needed each other and they needed each other more as time went on.

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