Ruth was very surprised to hear from Amy, and thought she had come over on holiday. But when she heard Amy’s garbled tale, through bitter sobbing,she told her to get in a taxi and come straight over.
When Amy and a crying Isaac arrived, Ruth took charge. She put the kettle on and then sent her elder daughter out to get a pack of nappies, extra milk and a bottle of baby lotion. Emily came back quickly with everything, and Isaac was made clean and comfortable in one of Emily’s T-shirts, while Amy drank the first English tea she had for several years. While Emily sat with Isaac, making him laugh and smile, Amy and Ruth looked at each other.
“What am I going to do?” she said, tears starting again. I’ve no money, no home, no job. I’ve only got these jeans and T-shirt and Isaac has got nothing.
Ruth thought for a moment. “You can stay here for a few days. The girls can share, and you can have Natalie’s room. Elva up the road has just put her little boy in a bed, so she might lend you his cot. I’ll ask her tomorrow.”Amy started crying again. “I’ve been such a fool….” She began, but Ruth interrupted her.
“You can tell me about it tomorrow. Now, go and have a bath and go to bed. I’ll leave you some clothes, and I’ll keep an eye on Isaac. Go on. Go!
At breakfast the next morning, Ruth said Elva was bringing the cot down later. Isaac was rather grizzly, but Amy gave him a toast crust and he chewed happily for a while.
Natalie and Emily came downstairs and immediately took Isaac away upstairs.
“How old are the girls?” asked Amy.
“Emily is fourteen and Natalie is twelve. They are such good girls, have been a huge support since Stuart went off.”
Amy nodded. I’d wondered where he was”.
“Younger model” said Ruth bitterly.
Amy nodded again. She supposed that’s what she had been.
Gradually Amy’s story unfolded, and Ruth was in turns horrified, tearful and hysterical with laughter. Amy relaxed and felt happier and at home.
Elva came with an older son and her brother bringing the cot, bedding and a bundle of clothes for Isaac that Stefan had grown out of. She also came with an offer Amy considered a miracle from heaven. Elva had a room she could let to Amy. Her brother, who had been living with them was going back to Latvia for a couple of years, and Amy could have his room.
Amy fell upon her and gave her an enormous hug. “Elva!” she sobbed, “you are an angel”.
A few days later, when the dust had settled, and Elva’s brother had been waved off on his way to Latvia, Amy settled in Elva’s house, Isaac slept in his cot, and used Elva’s buggy when she went out.
Together Ruth and Amy scoured the Charity shops for some clothes for Amy, and as they were drinking some restorative tea in a town tea shop, Ruth casually remarked “Do you remember that Bill Hunter who was so sweet on you? I saw him yesterday, and he said perhaps he could come round? His wife died a couple of years back, and they had no children. I think he’s lonely”.
Amy remembered Bill. Strong, steady, capable Bill, no prince, but someone better.
“Tell him any time,” she said.
And as they say, the rest is history. Bill searched the records and found nothing to prove that Amy was legally married. As she had suspected the ‘marriage ceremony’ Darim had arranged was a sham.
Amy and Bill were legally married six months later, with Ruth, Emily and Natalie, who looked after Isaac, Elva, and Bill’s brother Ted in attendance, and afterwards they all went for lunch at the nearby MacDonald’s.
Amy, Bill and Isaac settled down in Bill’s house, a couple of Tube stops from Ruth, and if the marriage wasn’t passionate, it was happily comfortable.
After a few years, Isaac had moved up to the Comprehensive school, and looked like being a bit of a whizz at IT, Amy had found a good job at Tesco’s, where her bubbly good looks and happy smile was invaluable at Customer Services, and Bill was thinking retirement wasn’t so far away. Everything looked positively hunky-dory.
Until one day, a letter bearing an Egyptian stamp, and several readdresses, was popped through the letter box.
Amy stared at it with considerable foreboding, and slit it open.
On reading the first sentence, she fainted clean away. Bill hurried to her and picked up the letter.
Chère Mama, it began.