This is the forty-second part of a fiction serial, in 752 words.
News came from Olly, in a phone call. They were moving house. And not just around the corner, almost a hundred miles away, to the coast. He was going to rent a bedsit near his office, and travel home at weekends. I wondered why he had even bothered to let me know, but supposed it was to make it clear he wouldn’t be seeing Leah much. If at all.
The real reason came in a long email, two days later. The extra expense, Leah getting older, blah blah. The bottom line was that he wanted me to try to get her into some kind of permanent care facility once she was eighteen. Then he would reduce his payments to the bare essentials she needed, and I could sell the house and hand over his share of the profits.
Lauren must have really been working hard on him.
Part of me wanted to refuse to consider it, just to spite him. Though I really thought it would not only be better for Leah, but for me too. I replied saying I would think about it, and make some enquiries. That kept him off my back for a while.
That Christmas, dad stopped over for a couple of nights. We made the best of it, and Leah enjoyed her turkey and mince pies at least. Ronnie was spending the holiday with miss skinny’s family, and had dropped off dad’s present of a bottle of single malt four days earlier.
Once Leah was settled for the night, I sat chatting to dad as he enjoyed his whisky. He was telling me about the news. Not having a television meant I didn’t really keep up. I heard some gossip around Barbara’s flower shop, but her and Emily mainly talked about soap operas and reality shows. I knew nothing about any of those, and they thought it was really weird that I didn’t own a television. I doubted that either of them had read a book since they had to at school.
Dad was telling me about some new virus that was killing people in China, and turning up in Europe too. He seemed really gloomy about it, so I turned on my laptop and we read the latest updates on some news websites. Dad was nodding, pointing at the screen. “Look love, if we don’t stop people flying in from all around the world, it will be here soon too. There’s no cure for it you know”.
He was a worrier by nature, so I let him ramble on. But It didn’t really concern me too much was was happening in other countries. I had enough to worry about struggling to cope with my daughter.
Then not long into the new year, it was here, and everyone was scared shitless.
After that, I began to check the laptop more often, and everything started to speed up. Barbara told me she might have to close down the shop until it was over. There was some talk about the government paying the wages of people like me who got laid off if that happened. The supermarket was sold out of toilet rolls, most pasta, and for some strange reason, tomato puree. Dad stepped in with a bundle of toilet rolls from the huge stock he always kept in his shed.
But then he told me he had better not come round anymore for a while. If he caught it, it might well kill him, and he didn’t want to take the chance of ending up in hospital even if it didn’t.
The next bad news came from the day centre a week or so later. Because of the dangers to staff and clients, they were going to have to close the facility soon. They called people like Leah ‘clients’. That meant that even if the shop didn’t close, I would have to tell Barbara I couldn’t do the deliveries, as I would now be back to caring for Leah all the time.
I tried to get my head around it all, but the amount of information was both contradictory, and confusing. Washing hands, but no need for a mask. Work from home if you could, and only go out for essential stuff like groceries. But then if you had a job in a supermarket, or you were a nurse, you had to carry on as normal.
Washing Leah’s hands seemed pointless. She hardly used them, after all. But I was soon doing it all the time.
Just in case.