The first thing you think of when you read, ‘Call me when you get this…’ is that somebody’s died. The second thing is that you don’t want to know who it is, not yet anyway. I pressed the buttons one by one by one.
‘I’ve just been in to feed the goldfish…’ she said.
One of the goldfish has died?
‘..and I have bad news…’
Oh bother, both goldfish.
‘I think you’ve been burgled.’
Dammit. I’d have preferred the fish. For the next hour she talked me through the house, room by room so that we’d have an idea what was missing, what she could tell the police. The study was strewn with papers; cards were ripped open; my jewellery box was in F’s room, upturned. By the time she reached T’s room she began to cry.
‘Oh Lord,’ she said,’ this is really bad. The other rooms are a mess but this is totally ransacked.’ Poor T. He’s very private, likes his own space….has an x-box 360 that he got for his birthday last month hidden in his bed. We took a deep breath, pinned on brave faces and headed for the airport.
The plane journey was fraught. All the way we were silent, each dreading what mightn’t be there when we got home. I thought of the presents we’d got my husband for his 50th; presents for his twin sister and his parents who were coming to stay; presents for our boys who hadn’t asked for much – just a couple of special things – all in a bag in the spare room, convenient if you’re a burglar in a hurry. Our happy Christmas plans ruined. We were livid at this violation of our home, angry at the thought of how this would upset out families. And then I remembered my mother.
My mother loves good jewellery. She has beautiful rings and one of them has my name on it. She asked me once if I liked it, and I said I did but I wouldn’t when it was mine. She was taken aback but I explained that by then, it would have come at too high a cost. It would always be beautiful but it would always be cold.
I did, of course, suggest that if she wanted to give it to me now…
She was here on holiday in early December. The evening before she left this visit, she came into the study and said she’d been thinking, had decided to give me something ‘warm’. She pulled back her sleeve and took off a bracelet that she’s been wearing as long as I can remember.
‘It’ll be too wide but you can have it adjusted,’ she said, and handed it to me.
It was warm.
I put it on and knew that it always would be.
But she was right about it being too wide. The following day the local jeweller said he was inundated with Christmas orders, bring it back after Christmas and he’d do it then. I hid it safely in my jewellery box. The one that was on F’s floor, upturned.
It was seven that evening before we got home. Ignoring the fact the the boys are 18, 17 and 14, we pullled maturity rank and insisted on going in first. The initial reaction was stunned silence, the second relief. A window was broken and glass and paper everywhere but the car was there, the computers were untouched; wallets were strewn but no cards appeared to have been taken; downstairs was ramshackle but beyond the mess, things were there. A note from Sue said, ‘I tidied a bit – I couldn’t have left you to arrive home to it as it was.’
Then we remembered. It wasn’t till she went upstairs that she’d started to cry. We ascended. One by one, we ticked off missing, present, missing – the bracelet, various pieces of jewellery that had been gifts over the years – my wardrobe completely emptied on the floor. I wanted to cry but even more than that I wanted to phone Sue and tell her, ‘Sue, you’ll be my friend forever – you know that saying, ‘You have to be – you know too much…..’
Then T’s room. He was still downstairs bewailing the fact that all the DVD’s were gone. I’d already bewailed the fact that the only one they’d left was Fight Club. What’s wrong with these people – why couldn’t they have had the wit to check the machine and take that too? We called him upstairs and before pushing the door open, told him what Sue had said. He took it like a man, inhaled deeply and went inside.
I have never pitied burglars so much. Imagine. They’d broken through double glazed windows, jemmied two doors, ransacked the entire ground floor of a house, four not very productive bedrooms and then arrived in this one to find that someone might have got there first.
They’d be mistaken.
My son is 17.
You can tell from his bedroom.