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This is the follow-on from ‘Rag Doll 8.1 – Sherry Baby’ but also runs sort of parallel with said chapter. This segment of the ‘Rag Doll’ saga is told from the perspectives of Nia and Jamie Morrison and their parents, where Nia first learns about Barbara, her aunt, alternating with how Bobby and Shari’s search for Barbara’s family and Nia’s search for Barbara both begin to converge.
Darryl and Lena, Allie, and Mark and Julie from ‘Lost Girl’ and Big Girls Don’t Cry’ also make brief appearances as part of Nia’s extended family.
Many thanks to BlackrandI1958 for her on-going advice, sense of narrative reality, and many words of wisdom, and for all those others who chimed-in with suggestions, advice, and comments, you’re all very much appreciated.
This is a story, set in a world that exists only in my imagination, where things happen the way they do because I need them to, not necessarily how they would in the real world, so please suspend disbelief and try and enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please vote if you liked it, or tell me why you didn’t, and if you want to email me, please don’t forget to to attach a valid email address if you want me to reply. I always reply, so if you have a point to make, please do fire away, I read and digest all comment and suggestions.
Rag Doll Ch.08.2.1 – Connecting the Dots
It started, like so many endless tasks, with a simple question. In this case it was from Shari, and all she’d asked me was “Bobby, do you ever wonder about, you know, about Barbara?”
I was miles away, trying to make a project spreadsheet come out right so I didn’t really hear the question.
“What about Barbara?” I muttered absently, my head full of Ricky’s calculations and costs, scheduled tasks, project milestones and rolled-up tasks for the latest construction and refurbishment projects we had going on. A million things to do with keeping the business rolling forward, and I was thinking only of the approaching weekend and getting stuff ordered-up before the suppliers’ order-picking people went home for the weekend.
“Bobby!” Shari prodded me out of my haze. “Answer me: do you ever wonder about Barbara, it’s quite simple… ” she grumbled.
My train of thought was completely derailed. When Shari asks a question, she expects an answer not absent-minded dithering, so I replayed the last few seconds of conversation.
“Do I ever wonder about Barbara, about my mother? Sometimes I do. I wonder how it would have been if she’d lived. I wonder how I would have turned out if I’d known she was my mother, and yeah, I wonder about her charm bracelet. That one keeps me awake at nights sometimes because I really don’t know what it means. I’m not even sure I want to.”
I rubbed my eyes, trying to frame a reply that didn’t sound maudlin and self-pitying.
“Was it her way of telling me that it’s all over, or is that all she has for me: a second-hand message because I don’t deserve anything else of her? Or is it to remind me what we made of her, how little we cared, and now all we have left is just a piece of metal, because that’s all we deserve? I don’t know, and some nights I lie in the dark unable to sleep and wonder, so was there something specific in there that you wanted me to talk about, baby, because I really don’t want to talk about any of this…”
Shari gazed unwaveringly, silently, at me so I put down the pen I’d been toying with, and pushed my keyboard away because I wasn’t going to get out of this conversation.
“I know how badly I fucked-up, and yes, I wish I had a do-over, but I’m not going to get one. Dwelling on how wrong I was doesn’t do anything except keep reminding me how wrong I was. I know how badly I messed up. I won’t ever get to tell her to her face how sorry I am, how much I wish I had her back so I can do it right this time around.”
I leaned back in my chair, trying to relax my tense muscles, something that happened every time I tried to navigate my way though this minefield.
“I try, I do. I go to her graveside, and I sit and talk to her. I tell her about us, the kids, about Nicky, and how sorry I am, but I don’t know if she’s even listening to me.”
I stopped to clear my throat and blink something out of my suddenly blurred eyes.
“She talked to Rachel, but not to me, and I ask myself if that was because Rachel is an absolute innocent in this whole thing, or was it because she has nothing for me and she’s telling me she hasn’t forgotten what I did? Remember Nicky’s letter? How he took the blame for what happened to her?”
I slumped back in my seat, soul-weary of this whole guilt treadmill, but I couldn’t stop worrying at it, like a hangnail I never quite managed to clip.
“I still read it sometimes to remind myself of what I never thought to do, and that I wasn’t there when she needed me most. The stark truth is, he’s the only one who ever loved and helped her. He tried to protect her even though it almost cost him his life, while I ignored bursa escort her. I stood back and let her be harmed. Her blood is on my hands, mine, not Nicky’s. He has his absolution, he truly never needed it, but I’ll never reach mine, and I don’t know how I can ever earn it, or deserve it.”
I stared unseeingly at the faux Robert Adam ceiling plasterwork friezes and dentil mouldings, the most elegant of the period features of the house, marshalling my thoughts.
“So yes, to answer your question, I do wonder, and I wish to God I didn’t have to. It never goes away babe, it just huddles away in the back of my mind when the day is happening around me, but it always, always comes back to remind me, that little voice deep inside reminds me that I did nothing and she died.”
I shook my head dismissively, wanting rid of this but never managing to do it.
“I do wonder if she can ever forgive me, and I ask her to give me a sign. That’s all I can do, and hope she can hear me, that one day she’ll let me know, me, not like when she gave a message to Rachel to pass on, but me, directly. Maybe when I’ve finally earned her forgiveness. So far I have nothing, and I don’t know why I keep hoping. Maybe it’s arrogant of me to hope for absolution when really I should be begging for her forgiveness, but I don’t know if that will help because I don’t know if she’s even listening to me.”
Shari moved away from her desk and stepped around mine to spin my office chair around so she could sit on my lap with her arms around my neck.
“My poor Bobby, you’re so tied up inside. I can only guess how much this hurts you, but don’t give up hope. She’ll find you, she did once, and one day she will again. You and Ricky have tried so hard to make this house into a home, and you succeeded. You have built a sanctuary, a haven for her grandchildren to live and play and be safe, filled with warmth, and love and laughter. In every way you could you gave her what she wanted most, and I’m sure she knows it.”
She kissed my cheek and rubbed her forehead against mine, a gesture she used when she was being especially gentle with me.
“She’s at peace now, Bobby, we, her family, you, her children, made sure of that. That’s why she came back to give you her bracelet. It was to give you a part of her to keep always and remind you of her, not as a rebuke, I’m sure of it.”
She waved her hand, the gesture taking in the house, us, everything around us.
“Can’t you feel the peace in this house now, the stillness? Nicky once told me how the sense of anger and hate and endless misery in this house always oppressed him and beat him down; remember how reluctant he was to come back here? That’s all gone now. He says he can feel it when he’s here: the house is at peace now. She tapped my chin with her forefinger, making her point.
“That’s what you and Ricky gave her, the thing she always wanted for you, for all her children and their children: a haven of peace, a blessed place to love and be loved, to grow and be cherished, to foster memories to cherish. Never forget that.”
She nuzzled my neck for a while, something she knows I like, and so we sat together, schedules and orders and delivery deadlines forgotten, just enjoying a golden afternoon, just the two of us, made one by the misery and evil that had come out of this house. All of that grim past was now exorcised and gone forever; only the faintest echoes remained in my mind, disquieting whispers of guilt and sorrow at what I’d been party to.
“Are you happy, sweetie?” murmured Shari and I grinned, my melancholy mood passing at her touch. I had my wife, my Shari, our children, my extended family to call on if I needed them. The business was thriving, ensuring our children’s futures, all of them. We had a home to keep all our family safe and secure in a place where we had earned the right to be together. It was ours, held in trust in perpetuity for us and our children, and their children.
No bank or legal shenanigans could ever take it from us or them, and there was a good amount of money put way to provide for all our families and any future need.
We had security for our whole family. We were a family fortress, bonded together with ties forged from our unique background, bonds no others could ever understand let alone intrude upon so yes, I was very happy indeed.
Almost six years married and my Shari’s beauty was untouched by the years, she was as lovely and as young as the day I first laid eyes on her. Two beautiful children and a third on the way, and her skin was still as smooth and taut as a teenager, her lithe, slim body still sleek as a dancer and graceful as a gymnast, and she was all mine. I had much to be grateful for.
“Of course I am, Shereen Shahida Davis, my darling wife, mother of my beautiful children, and the love of my life. You make me happy, happier than I’ve ever been, my darling. You keep the dark away just by being you. The children make me happy, and our life together makes me very happy indeed. I want for nothing bursa escort bayan more. Life is good, my life with you is all I want, and all I’ll ever need.”
kissed her cheek gently.
“You make me very happy, wife of mine.”
She sat silently for so long I thought she’d dozed off, but then she kissed my neck very gently, barely a feather-touch.
“My question earlier, I kind of meant it two ways, sweetie. There’s something that I don’t think we’ve ever really thought about… “
I reclined my seat further back, tipping her even closer to me.
“About Barbara, you mean? Sure, go ahead.”
“Ok Bobby here goes. Who was Barbara Morrison? Where was she from? How did she end up with… with… that man? Does she have family back wherever she came from? We know nothing about that side your family at all: where they’re from, where they are, if they are anywhere, who your grandparents were, where they are. Your family comes from somewhere, maybe there’s more just waiting to be found the way Ricky found us.”
She drummed her fingers on my chest, a gesture she’d copied, consciously or otherwise, from Ashley, Nicky’s wife when she was thinking or drawing a thread together.
“I tried looking on some of those genealogy websites and there are dozens of Barbara Morrison’s. Even discounting the ones we know can’t be the right one because of the age, there’s still an awful lot of them about the right age, scattered all over the British Isles, but as we don’t know where she was from, or even how old she was, it’s a dead-end, because we just don’t know enough about her.”
She pursed her lips in thought, a cute little moué, one of her more attractive quirks, I always thought.
“We need to find a way to locate her, baby. I think this is important. I think we need to make at least some kind of token effort at the very least, because one day Ayesha and Nick, and baby-bump, and Ricky’s David, and little Leon are going to want to know where they’re from, and we only have half the story.”
At her mention of baby-bump I instinctively ran my hand over the smooth, taut curve of her waist, not yet too obtrusive, but anyone looking at my wife would immediately know she was pregnant. We’d passed on knowing if it was a boy or a girl, if it was a boy, he was going to be James, my middle name, and if it was a girl, Rowena.
I’d have picked David, my adopted father’s name, but that was Ritchie Junior’s real name, we all just called him Ritchie because he wanted to be called by the same name as his daddy.
Shari kissed my neck again as I caressed her baby bump.
“If you don’t object, baby, I’d like to do some digging. Barbara came from somewhere, there has to be some kind of record somewhere. If I only knew her date of birth, but we don’t even have that, and I don’t know where she was married, so I’ll have to figure out somewhere to start. How about all those boxes and boxes of your… of Robert’s papers in the attic? Ricky found us in there, maybe Barbara’s family is hiding somewhere in there too?”
I shrugged, or as much as I could with my gorgeous wife’s arms twined around my neck. I found it telling that even now, so many years after he came into her life, she still wouldn’t call our bastard, murdering father by his real name. His real name is Brian Davis, but she knew and hated him as Robert Davies, that was the name of her personal demon, and that was all he was ever going to be to her.
I grinned wryly, knowing what a mammoth task that would be.
“It’s worth a try, sweetheart, sooner you than me. There are mountains of the stuff up there, it took us days to get all that junk up there and out of the way, and Ricky was rummaging through that stuff for weeks. You’ll be old and grey, with a beard down to your belt-buckle before you get through it all, so good luck with that!”
Shari grinned and rubbed noses with me, but any further canoodling was interrupted by my little girl, Ayesha, six years old going on sixteen running into the office and jumping on both of us.
“It’s Friday, daddy, ice-cream, you promised!” she demanded, while little Nick, holding Yasmin’s hand and grinning like a pumpkin, shouted “I’keem, I’keem, I’keem dada, I’ keem!”
Ricky was fascinated with my baby girl. He couldn’t resist picking her up and sitting her on his lap just so he could gaze in her eyes and finger comb her hair off her face so he could look at her. When he did that, I’d see in his eyes the love and the loss and pain too, and see his lips trembling.
My little girl was the spitting image of her namesake, her grandmother Ayesha, Ricky’s beloved adoptive mother. She was an exact little copy of her grandmother, right down to her rich mahogany hair, her smile, and her bright, light green-hazel eyes that looked like they were lit from behind, so much like her both grandmother Ayesha and her Aunt Yasmin, and Ricky adored her.
Ricky loves his two boys to the ends of the earth and back, but he definitely has a special place in his heart for my little escort bursa girl. In return, “Unka Wicky” was hands-down Ayesha’s most favourite playmate, babysitter, sleepy-lap, storyteller, and all round chief sucker to go to for guaranteed spoiling, sweets, and treats.
Shari slid off my lap and took the little boy from Yaz, putting him on my on my lap with Ayesha as she smiled at the two clamouring children.
“You hang on to them, and we’ll go get all the kids some ice cream; Ritchie and Nick can smell ice-cream from the other end of town, so they’ll be here any second now. Tomorrow I’ll need you to watch them; I’m going to be busy in the attic most of the day. Keep them busy down here, OK baby?”
Mummy sent me to go find Daddy. Lunch was ready and he’d disappeared somewhere hours ago, and she couldn’t raise him, mostly because his cell was ringing happily unanswered where he’d left it on the dining-room table. I searched the house for him but he wasn’t in his usual weekend haunts. On the weekend Daddy would usually be found either somewhere down at the far end of the garden, talking to the compost heap as he stirred it and fed it grass clippings, or trimming the hedge and swapping gardening lies with the neighbours.
His default escape-hatch was the greenhouse, where he’d sit with his feet up and a flask of sweet tea reading seed and geranium catalogues and humming along to Smooth Radio. I looked in all his hideouts and he was nowhere to be found, where could he have been?
On a sudden impulse, I pushed open the garden door into the garage, and there he was, lounging on an old lawn chair, leafing through a photo album.
“Daddy, there you are, Mummy wanted me to tell you lunch is ready… what’s that?”
Daddy looked up and I was a little perturbed to see his eyes bright and shiny.
“What are you looking at, Daddy?” I murmured, and he smiled sadly.
“I found this under a pile of Jamie’s baby stuff; I’d forgotten about it. Look, these are my parents, your nana and granddad Morrison just after they got married.”
I looked at the picture and I was a little taken aback at how much daddy looked like his father, especially the hair and eyes. The big surprise was his mother: Jamie was a dead spit for her. I’d always thought he looked a little like his birth-mother, Laura, mixed with Dad’s features, but now I could clearly see our grandmother in him, the same generous mouth and quirky, lop-sided smile, the same chin and neat ears, and I could even see some of myself in her too, with my black hair and definitely my expression down to a ‘T’.
I would have liked to have stayed and browsed with him, but Mummy had said lunch was ready, and her one rule was that hot meals be eaten hot, no dawdling around and making others wait, so Daddy closed the album and handed it to me while he put the folding chair away.
“Bring that with you, Nugget, we’ll go through it after lunch. Let’s go, we don’t want to keep your mother waiting, life’s too short… “
After lunch, we cleared away the debris of one of mummy’s usual spectacular feasts and I spotted the photo album, so I grabbed it and plonked down on the sofa next to Daddy.
“Right, Daddy, who’s who? Tell me who these people are… “
Daddy leafed through the photographs, giving me time to study them and occasionally grin at the clothes or the hair, especially Daddy in the 1980’s; that bouffant George Michael hairstyle did NOT suit him, but it was good for a giggle, and pictures of Daddy as a little boy, with his mum, which clicked something inside me.
I’d never seen any pictures of his mother, my grandmother, or heard him talk about his parents, and now I was wondering why, but what caught my eye were two little girls, a toddler with a shock of black hair and the other, a pretty little blonde in a stroller with the woman who could only be their mother.
“Daddy, who’s that, who are those two girls?”
Daddy sighed, and his eyes sparkled with sudden tears.
“The little girl in the stroller, that’s Barbara, and the baby, that’s Rosa… “
My interest piqued, I looked closely at the two of them; something about them had upset daddy, and he never gets upset, he’s the most laid-back, evenly-balanced man I know: he’s so calm he makes unflappable Jamie look frantic.
“Daddy, why have I never seen any pictures of your parents?” I asked gently, because it was obvious seeing their pictures had triggered something inside him.
“I’m sorry, Nugget, it’s a long story, and I… I…”
His face worked; this was really upsetting him, so I changed tack, instead pointing at the pictures of the little girls.
“Those little girls; who are they?” I asked gently, because now I had to know.
Daddy sighed, obviously relieved to change the subject, gently tracing their faces with his fingertip.
“Barbara and Rosa, little Rosa-Girl, they’re… they were, my sisters; Rosa was still in her teens when she was…when she passed away. This was before Jamie was born, actually, before I even met Laura. There was a road accident, a complete fluke, the car… one of the cars skidded and smashed into the queue at the bus-stop she was at, on Lewisham High Street, and she was killed.”
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