The Secrets We Left Behind

The Secrets We Left Behind by Susan Elliot Wright Read Free Book Online

Book: The Secrets We Left Behind by Susan Elliot Wright Read Free Book Online
Authors: Susan Elliot Wright
money had never been an issue for me, so I told them
about when Hannah was a baby and we’d lived in a grotty flat above a shoe shop where I worked on the days Scott didn’t, and how he’d buggered off leaving us with no money the day
before the rent was due. I was seventeen. We paid ten quid a week for that flat – two rooms and a shared bathroom. I spent the next three weeks hiding from the landlord until I managed to
find a job where they’d let me take Hannah with me. It was easier in those days, though, before this obsession with health and safety. I pushed her in her pram up and down the high street,
going in and out of all the shops until I ended up at a coffee bar called the Continental. The owners, an Italian couple called Mr and Mrs Sartori, fell in love with Hannah and said they’d
set up a playpen for her in the back room where I could keep an eye on her and where she could play safely when we were busy. You wouldn’t get that now. Mrs Sartori was brilliant. She adored
Hannah, and she treated me like one of her own daughters. It was she who taught me to cook, really. I still make her minestrone soup and the crispy little bread rolls flavoured with rosemary and
olive oil to go with it. But the best thing about Mrs Sartori was the way she helped me with Hannah, and how she always knew the right thing to do. She showed me how to sponge her down to reduce
her temperature when she had a fever, and how to keep her upright to reduce the pain when she had an ear infection. And if I was tired after a bad night with Hannah, she’d take her out in the
pram so I could get some sleep, because, she said,
The tired mamma not a happy mamma, and bambini not-a happy if the mamma not-a happy.
    This morning, I’d found Lauren, a young mum who had her second child just before Hannah had Toby, in floods of tears because the baby had a sore bottom and she blamed herself. She was so tired when she got up in the night to change him that she
hadn’t noticed his nappy rash and so hadn’t put any cream on him, and now, the way she saw it was that her child was suffering and it was all her fault. Lauren was only just getting
used to being on her own with her two kids, the dad having left her when the baby was three days old. The poor girl was on her knees with tiredness, not to mention financial worry. Where was her
mum, that’s what I wanted to know. We weren’t supposed to probe too deeply into our families’ backgrounds, but it seemed Lauren’s mum was retired and only lived about half
an hour away, so why couldn’t she spend some time helping her daughter? I was still thinking about this as I drove home, and there was a tight ball of anger in my stomach, possibly because
Lauren reminded me a little of Hannah. I was suddenly overcome with an urgent desire to see my daughter. I flicked on the indicator, pulled over and took out my phone. ‘Are you in?’ I
said when Hannah answered. ‘I’m on my way home and I wondered if you needed any shopping or anything.’ She sounded a bit fed up. She didn’t know what she needed from the
shops, she said. She couldn’t even think straight at the moment because they’d been up half the night with Toby – he had colic. She was shattered.
    ‘Listen,’ I said, pretty sure she’d say no – I knew how hard it was for new mums to let their babies out of their sight in the first few weeks. ‘I’m having
lunch with Grandma today; can I persuade you to let me take Toby with me? Dad says the car seat will go in my car easily enough. Grandma would be over the moon, and it’d give you a couple of
hours to get some sleep.’ To my surprise, she said yes almost eagerly. She’d feed him now, and she’d thaw some expressed milk in case he needed a top-up.
    *
    Estelle’s face lit up when she saw I’d brought Toby. I kissed her cheek and, as always, the smell of Nivea triggered a wave of longing for my own mother. As usual,
Estelle was fully made up and dressed as

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