This is the thirty-ninth part of a fiction serial, in 808 words.
Mum decided to have no treatment. She was more scared of the surgery, chemo, or radiotherapy than of dying, so dad said. And the doctor got the prognosis wrong too. She lasted weeks, not months. By week five she was in a hospice, and dead four days after that. I took Leah to see her, and we had a rather emotional farewell, with her telling me to look after dad, and make up with Ronnie.
The funeral was a dismal affair. Ronnie and his exceptionally skinny girlfriend did little more than nod at me, and I got the impression that she was hiding behind Ronnie because she was scared of Leah. Two women who used to work with mum showed up, and a couple of men from the Round Table came to show support for dad. Thirty minutes in a busy crematorium with a bland eulogy from a female vicar who had never even met my mum. The friends apologised for not coming back to the house, and then Ronnie announced he and miss skinny were not coming back either.
So it was me, dad, and Leah. At least she enjoyed the sausage rolls and sandwiches dad had bought from M&S. He had the luxury of enjoying a few glasses of Scotch now mum wasn’t around to tell him off. When I was leaving, and getting Leah into the car, he came up and kissed me on the cheek. I asked him if he was going to be alright. I would like to have stayed over, but that wouldn’t work with Leah. He smiled as I got into the driving seat. “Of course I’ll be alright, love. I have you, Leah, and Ronnie. I’ll manage fine”.
There had been no point keeping up with the dating website up to then. I could hardly have asked dad to babysit, leaving mum alone when she was so ill. But I had been surprised to get over forty apparent matches. Eleven of those had messaged me, and I had replied that due to family problems I wasn’t dating at the moment. The next time I logged on, some of those had dropped out, which was understandable, but I had five new ones to think about. I wanted to give dad some time before I asked him to watch Leah though.
Although he hadn’t been invited to the funeral, I had sent Olly a text to let him know. He had said he would email me after the funeral. In that email, he began with the normal commiserations, then sneaked in the fact that he wanted me to enquire about being paid Carer’s Allowance. Although he would still pay as agreed, he could deduct that amount from what he paid in to the bank.
Then he had the audacity to tell me he had been promoted to full partner in the publishing house. He must have realised I would know how much of a pay increase came with that, and yet he was trying to reduce what he gave me and Leah.
Still, it made me think. I would try the day centre route once again, see if I could get her into a place so I could go back to work. If I could get a job, I would let Olly know he could pay me that amount less each month, whatever I earned. Sooner that, than apply for an allowance to stay at home day and night with Leah, and never go out.
Things had improved a lot. Two young women came to assess Leah, and didn’t take long to tell me that she more than qualified to attend a day centre. She would start at a child’s centre, and move on to an adult placement when she was eighteen.
I was pleasantly surprised when they told me they could take her in just two week’s time, and that a minibus would pick her up around eight, and drop her off before five. I would still be the only option at weekends of course, but I didn’t want to apply for full residential care just yet. Besides, I knew dad would help if I asked him.
My new cleaner, Valeria, was working out well. Older than Rosa, and living in the country for a lot longer, she took things in her stride. She mentioned that she had a friend who was looking for someone to work in her florist’s shop. I told Valeria I knew nothing about flowers, and she shook her head. “No, she wants someone to deliver the flowers locally, and you have a big car, Angela. I took the phone number, and rang the shop. With Valeria vouching for me, the lady said I could start the same day Leah went to day centre.
I had a job to go to. Things were finally looking up.