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“If that’s how you’re going to look at it, we’ll forget it,” she said sharply. “To feel that she was an unwelcome guest would do Mélanie far more harm than good, and I won’t have it.”

She turned and walked out of the room, but she knew that the triplets would come round. Len would feel so guilty that she wouldn’t be able to say no to inviting this girl, Winnie’s... what was she again? Ah, Winnie’s husband’s new colleague’s niece, that was right. Anyway, Len wouldn’t be able to say no to inviting her to come along on the Maynards’ family trip; and then Con would agree too; and Margot would feel obliged to do the same, whatever she’d just said about the holidays being the only chance that the family got to be together. Her elder daughters were inclined to be very clannish sometimes, as she’d just told them, and she had no intention of letting them get away with it.

“Clannish,” she’d called them. Clannish. Where had she first heard that word? Long ago. The Bettanys are inclined to be clannish. Jo’s inclined to be clannish.

No. She couldn’t have heard anyone say that. She must be remembering wrongly. She’d never been like that. There’d always been room for everyone in her world.

She tried to dismiss the memories from her mind. Annoyingly, though, they didn’t seem to want to be dismissed. Even worse, other memories were coming along to join them.

“I think it was topping of the Maranis to take Grizel and Juliet away for the week and let us be on our own for a bit.”

No. Now that really was nonsense. She’d never have said anything like that. That was the sort of thing Sybil would have said, Sybil who’d always so desperate for some time alone with her own family and had resented the presence of anyone else, Sybil who as a child had been so vain and selfish. And only a vain and selfish person would ever dream of saying anything like that, or even of thinking anything like that. She’d never been like that. She’d never have behaved like that. And she wasn’t going to let Margot get away with behaving like that either.

But still the memories nagged away at her. And now there were more and more of them.

“Dick seems so far away since he married Mollie. You’re going to get married next. I – I hope it won’t be like that.”

She couldn’t have said that either. Of course she couldn’t. She’d been delighted about Madge and Jem getting married. And about Dick and Mollie got married. That was what happened. People got married. And then they had lots of children – although not as many as she and Jack had, naturally. That was how it was. As if she’d ever have had the slightest twinge of jealousy about Madge or Dick getting married. This was all stupid. Where was it all coming from? Her memory was playing tricks on her today. Maybe it was the heat.

She wasn’t going to think about this any more. She was going to go upstairs, to see her younger children.

Upstairs. “You've seen all over it before, Joey. Come upstairs and have a chat with me.” “Can't. Where's my Robin?"

No. No: she’d never have spoken to a friend like that. She’d never have treated Grizel like that. She made time for everyone. She never made anyone feel left out or pushed out. There was no way that she’d have dismissed her oldest friend with just a brusque “can’t” because she wanted to see Robin. She’d always been a good friend to Grizel.

She’d always been a good friend to everyone. She’d always wanted to include everyone. Wanting to spend time just with your own family or with one special friend ... that was no way to be. You had to share. Sybil had had to learn that. And Margot was jolly well going to learn that too. All her children were. Their home was open to everyone, and that went for their holiday home too. As for these strange snatches of conversation which kept, insistently, drifting through her mind ... well, that could only be explained as being the author in her, trying to empathise with Margot, trying to understand how her bad triplet felt. She could never have felt like that herself. Could she?

Of course she couldn’t, she told herself firmly. Honestly, the next thing she knew she’d be wondering if she hadn’t really always rushed to butt in whenever there had been a problem, or if she hadn’t really always tried to help anyone in trouble, or if she hadn’t really been the best Head Girl the Chalet School had ever had. She was just forgetting how it had really been, that was all. That was the trouble with getting older. Sometimes, you found yourself getting that little bit forgetful ...



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