She never missed her father. He had gone away before she was born leaving her mother to struggle on with her life until, seven years later, she married Aden. He was a kind man and always comforted her when she felt sad. After a while she called him Daddy, but she always knew he wasn’t.
She didn’t know a lot about her real father: he was called David and had been in the army. He had been sent to India but had never returned. No one knew how he had died. Her mother cried a lot, but Claire couldn’t: She didn’t know what she should be crying for.
After Aden arrived, her mother cheered up and began to laugh again. Then Sally was born. She was strange looking at first, all scrunched up like an old woman, but after two months she began to look like a baby.
Claire liked playing with her, she loved to kiss her on the cheeks, Sally gurgled and smiled back,
“ You’re my little sis aren’t you?” she said tickling her stomach with her fingers.
She never considered Sally to be her half-sister. To her there were no halves. She pushed her miles and miles in the pram, she changed her nappies, she fed her. All her other friends had toy prams and dolls but hers were real.
When she got home from school, she wanted to know all about Sally.
Had she cried, had she been fed, had she had her sleep after lunch? Aden and Anne were amused by her concern, but also reassured. Her affection was proof that she had accepted their union. Aden had replaced David, and Sally provided the bond between the two.
The two girls grew up very close. When their parents were away they stayed with their Granny Margaret who spoilt them terribly but found it sweet the way Claire mothered her little sister.
Claire liked her grannies house, for a start it was different. There was a mass of lavender growing up one side of the path that smelt wonderful when she brushed past, and there was a small shed in the garden that was made from strips of wood smelling of creosote. Inside the house, Granny kept a larder full of surprises: there were boxes and bottles she’d never seen in her mother’s kitchen. It was all much more old fashioned.
But however much she liked going to her grannies, it was nice to get back home and feel her mother’s arms around her.
It was fun when she started school because Aden was the head master. It was a small primary school with about fifty children set in a red bricked Victorian building with a bell tower protruding from it’s roof.
Aden was tall, thin, wore brown corduroy trousers, a jacket, university tie and gold framed glasses. He was firm but fair in his manner towards the children; and acted exactly the same with her as he did to them. It was at first a shock, but she got used to it. He became his old self as soon as he got home.
Her mother used to tease her sometimes by asking Aden if ‘miss’ had been a good girl.
“ Miss has a fertile imagination, her day books are amusing, as are the drawings of her parents, despite the fact that they have been depicted as sheep!”
Claire didn’t quite understand everything he said but she knew he was being funny.
“ Oh, Daddy, Daddy. Stop teasing.” She said with her arms around his neck.
Anne was comforted when she saw that.
Of course, to little Sally he had always been Daddy. The security of her world was not in question.
They went on summer holidays to Cornwall staying in a tiny caravan on a farm, the sea in the distance, beyond some grey dry stone walls. Anne and Aden slept at one end on a bed that magically folded down in place of a table. The girls slept at the other end on twin bunks, from where, lying tucked up, they listened to the soothing voices of their parents discussing the day’s events or tomorrows plans. In the morning the faint odour of gas proceeded breakfast as their mother lit the stove. The bed was pulled up and a table emerged, cornflakes, toast and tea appeared as if from heaven; the day started.
Claire went hand in hand with Sally into the waves that broke over Polzeath beach, oblivious, as only children can be, of the howling gale and rain that lashed their faces. All they cared about was the white bubbly surf that flooded towards them.