At seven o'clock on a Saturday morning, Aurelia woke to find Jamie gone, but a warmth left in his pillow, and a tiny comic strip done in biro on the back of a receipt.
It seemed to be a fairy-tale about a wicked fairy and a good princess. She held it up to the light, smiled at the proclivities of writers and went downstairs to start making tea.
Jamie arrived half an hour later, carrying a bag of bagels, smelling pleasantly of warm bread and fresh, clean air. Aurelia grinned to see him, said, "Where?"
"To get breakfast," he said. "Er, pequeno almoço. I left" – he flapped his hands about – "a note."
She raised her eyebrows; she didn't like his notes. He couldn't write between the lines, and she couldn't read between them; he could remember not to be colloquial, not to use words like "perambulation", when speaking, but he picked up a pen and immediately forgot. Some day soon she would read his novels in the original. She was looking forward to it.
"I know you don't like me writing things down… " He was holding his little comic strip. She raised her eyebrows again, kept them up, went to fetch the dictionary. Flicking expertly through, she showed him "witch" and "princess" and "fairy-tale" in quick succession.
"What – oh." He looked embarrassed. "That was my hair, you see. Sticking up because it's morning. Not a wicked witch. And the little lines that mean she's shining – not because she's a princess. She's – you know. You. You shine like that."
"Oh," she said, and bit into her bagel, and said nothing, and something inside her exploded into paper stars.
"If you're absolutely sure, and I can't have him killed," David had begun, and Karen had wanted immediately to hang tight onto her big brother and never let him go, "let me do something for you, Karen. Let me help."
Karen had never taken advantage of it, ever. But when Harry was away – on business in New York, but they both knew it was so she could think about it, and the children were with their grandparents – and she was walking around the big, empty house in her bare feet, drinking tea, listening to the same songs over and over, and thinking, he sent baskets. One every day, sent by courier: sometimes fruit, sometimes flowers, white, pink, red, sometimes DVDs of silly romantic comedies, sometimes scented, pretty packages, all wrapped up in ribbon. Sometimes there were notes in the spidery scrawl unchanged from childhood (thinking of you, Karen) and sometimes typed slips (with the compliments of the Prime Minister) and sometimes a woman's hand, hope you're all right, men are wankers really.
That was something, she supposed. "You're a lucky man, David," she said, aloud, and went down to the kitchen to make some tea, and to close the windows against the incoming rain.
Harry would be back soon. She supposed she'd better start cleaning up all this ribbon and cellophane.
It's funny, she said to her mother, looking out of the window at the traffic passing on the street below, at the way the steam rose from the red-and-white stacks. You think about boys differently when they run through an airport away from the police for you.
Her mother laughed so much she had to go and sit down, but Joanna didn't get the joke.
Dear Sam, she wrote. The postcard was of the Statue of Liberty, and she'd got several copies. Thank you for coming to see me in the airport.
Too boring, she decided.
Dear Sam, I like you a lot, and I like listening to you playing the drums.
Sounded like something she'd read in a magazine on the flight over; her mother had tutted and said she shouldn't read things like that, but she'd liked the pictures, and the very interesting article about Playing Hard To Get.
Dear Sam, I heard your mom died and I wanted to say something but.
Dear Sam. I am coming back on January 25th.
She kissed the bottom of the card before sending. Her mother looked suspiciously pink and went to get a glass of water.
Natalie married the Prime Minister close to the end of his first term, in a small wedding which was attended mostly by her family, but did have Karen and Harry in the front row of pews, together with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
"I don't like it," David had said. "It's political, if we do it then. Do you understand why?"
"I'm not thick," Natalie had said. "The electorate will see pictures of their smiling Prime Minister, in his nice suit with his sort-of-nice-looking-but-sort-of-chubby wife…"
"Gorgeous, stunning, beautiful wife," he said, decisively.
"And think, oh, he isn't such a bad man after all, look, someone even wants to marry him, maybe we should give him another chance."
"Well... yes." David sounded surprised. "Yes, it's political."
Natalie said, "I want you to win."
"Natalie, I don't think..."
"I'm a citizen, aren't I? Don't I get to decide who I want for Prime Minister?"
"They have a thing for that these days. It's called voting, I hear all the cool kids are doing it."
Natalie glared at him. "Well, if you want my vote…"
It was a beautiful ceremony, and an incumbent majority of sixty-six, after recounts.