Ellie’s trembling hand reached for the phone, picking it up and pressing number one on the speed dial. She waited for it to connect her to Liam. In her life she couldn’t remember feeling such conflicting emotions. Even the simultaneous shock, panic and ecstasy of discovering that Rohan was going to be joining them a little sooner than was ever intended wasn‘t the same. In actuality it probably was, but the utter ludicrous nature of the circumstances surrounding these particular emotions made them seem unprecedented. She was relieved, there was no doubt about that. She had always been sure of that relief being there when the postcards eventually stopped, knowing she would be undeniably happy not to have the fear of waking in the morning after a restless night, trying to hold off going into the kitchen for as long as she possibly could. What she hadn’t predicted was the sadness she now felt, and actual disappointment at not finding the Winchester postcard as expected. She had been instantly relieved, but the feeling of being almost cheated came over her as she walked to where the phone was housed on its cradle behind the computer monitor (originally where little hands could not get to it, until little legs were strong enough to walk and little minds were clever enough to work out that brothers teaming up to try and get what they wanted meant they would nearly always actually get what they wanted, hidden or not). Even as illogical a suggestion as it had been, the remote chance that Helen (someone she had been closer to than anyone other than Liam, their sons and her mother) may have been enjoying herself and living her life in death as fully as she had in life itself, and that she had perhaps chosen to come and see her granddaughter’s little family when she could have perceivably gone anywhere she desired made Ellie happy. It made the loss easier to deal with, but now even that had been torn from her. She had to keep strong, and try with all her might to suppress the sadness in her voice when Liam answered his phone. So she told him about the absence of a postcard, trying to emphasise her initial relief. He didn’t say a whole lot in response, and after she had hung up, Ellie swore she had sensed a hint of disappointment in his voice. Had he felt the same? Ellie liked to think that he did; they felt the same about most things, and indeed he had been somewhat adopted as an honorary grandchild by Helen, having lost both his grandmothers at quite an early age, and he loved her as much as Ellie did.
With the boys playing happily in the living room, Rohan taking one of her regular naps in her cot and the dog bouncing around on the other side of the baby gate, Ellie bustled around doing bits of housework she liked to keep up with daily. Keeping an eye out for the postman on his rounds (the dog of course having never grown out of the stage where she would chew anything pushed in front of her, like letters through the letter box) as she did her own, she absent-mindedly sang along to all the kids shows on the television, smiling at little Ciaran as he pulled a tissue out of the box on the window sill and started to follow her around, copying her dusting. Eventually the postman appeared, about an hour and a half earlier than his usual lunchtime arrival, and Ellie quickly popped out through the baby gate to intercept the post before the yapping fur ball of a canine welcoming committee could get there. She waited just to the side of the door, and as the post came through the letter box she put her hand out to catch it. She used to actually answer the door, both to be friendly and also to get some conversation of a less gurgling infant variety, until one summer day, before she was even pregnant with Rohan, when the boys slept in longer than usual, meaning she did too. Of course, this was a day when the postman was running early while she was running behind, and she answered the door in her dressing gown. She was a little confused by the mixture of shock and surprise on his face accompanying a slight grin, and surmised that it was because he was used to seeing her fully dressed and well presented. So, she simply muttered that she had just got out of bed, and he nodded, smiled a little more, handed her the post and left rather hurriedly. Only when she had got back into the living room had she seen to her horror, in the mirror on the wall, that one of her breasts was very much exposed. No wonder he had been whistling on his way to the neighbours’ house. As she covered herself up, mortified, worrying about how much she had seemed like a bored lonely housewife, she made the promise to herself that she would not open the door for the post again. Unless he had a parcel for her, or something to sign for, she couldn’t face looking him in the eye, which is why she started to stand to the side of the door when he delivered there.
On this particular day, she grabbed the post before it hit the ground (something of a skill she had perfected) and took it into the living room, flicking through as ever to see if there looked to be anything interesting to save for after the junk. Council Tax bill (it only seemed like a week since she had paid the last one), Polling Cards (the amount of local/general/whatever else they could think of elections they had voted in recently made it incredibly difficult to keep up with what they were meant to be voting for this time), what looked like their annual allotment renewal slip, bill, bill, car insurance, junk for the previous tenants (hopefully nothing like the summons they had received one day, when Liam had had to attend the local police station with his passport and driving license to prove it wasn’t him they were after), and finally a postcard.
At the sight of it, Ellie felt like all the air had been sucked from the whole room and from her too. Taking pride of place in the very centre of the card was Winchester Cathedral, and a very busy Christmas Market scene. This wasn’t the Winchester card they had been expecting to find on the kitchen floor; that one had a picture of the St. Cross Hospital and Almshouse of Noble Poverty on it. With her heart pounding in her ears (but not feeling like it was even beating in her chest), she slowly turned the card to read the reverse side. As soon as she read the message, written in Helen’s familiar cursive style, she realised that what she had in her hand was the missing postcard that they had never received. As she turned the card over to gaze once again at the stalls and the ice rink, all the things that Helen had enjoyed so much on her outing, Ellie’s first reaction was to call Liam and tell him about this very surprising turn of events, but as she took hold of the phone and started to dial, another thought entered her head, and she replaced the phone and went out to the kitchen. Looking at the notice board that, she thought for the first time since she tidied it up, looked oddly bare, she took a spare pin from the cork and pinned the new card to it. When she returned to the living room, she didn’t even bother trying to stop the smile she had felt blossoming on her face.
(Chapter 7 due tomorrow, 24/12/08)