Chapter 21

Still Sunday 2nd May 1999…

When Ruth arrives at Harry's she can hear Catherine screaming, even though the front door. Added to Scarlet's barking, it made for a very noisy reception.

"I DON'T WANT YOU! I WANT MUMMY!"

She lets herself in in time to hear Harry reply, "Well Mummy's not here so you'll have to put up with me." He's speaking to her like she's one of his subordinates on the Grid, which Ruth knows won't be helping the situation.

Following the shouting and crying she climbs the stairs and finds Graham sat on the landing, watching Harry as he shouts through Catherine's bedroom door. Graham looks up as she stands on a creaky floorboard, and he looks relieved to see her. "Ruth!"

Harry whips round at the sound of her name and his face mirrors that of his son; the relief obvious. "Thank God you're here."

"What's going on?"

"She began to get upset when her Mum didn't arrive. I tried to ring Jane to find out where she was, but there was no answer. At that point she began to scream and shout. She kicked out and eventually lay down on the floor, pounding her fists. She was like a toddler throwing a tantrum. I sent her to her room to calm down, and she began to throw things around, it was like she had lost control. She's sat behind the door to stop me getting in."

"Do you want me to try and speak to her?" Nodding, Harry steps away from the door. Ruth takes this to mean that he does. "You take Graham downstairs," she instructs. "He doesn't need to hear this."

Harry scoops Graham up and does as Ruth wishes, taking him into the living room and setting up his train set.

Ruth takes a deep breath and knocks on Catherine's door.

"GO AWAY!" Catherine screams.

"Catey, it's me…Ruth. Will you open the door?"

"NO!" Ruth tries the door; but it barely moves. Catherine is still sat behind it.

"I know you're upset Catey and that's okay…"

"Go away!" she shouts again.

"Come on Catey. If you let me in we can talk about it and-"

"I don't want to talk to you!"

Ruth takes a deep breath. "I really think that-"

"I don't care cos YOU'RE NOT MY MUMMY!"

Her words hit Ruth like a punch to the stomach and she backs away from the door, bumping into Harry who had returned after settling Graham. She turns to face him and registers the shocked look on his face. It's as if he can't believe what he has heard. When he finally comes to his senses he is very angry with his daughter.

"Catherine Pearce, come out here this instant!" he growls.

"NO!"

"I am going to count to five and if you don't open this door I am going to take it off its hinges."

"Go away! I hate you! Both of you!"

"Harry, stop it!" Ruth pleads, knowing it won't be helping the situation.

"One."

Nothing

"Two"

Still nothing.

"Three."

"Harry this really isn't necessary. She's angry-"

Again, Harry ignores her. "Four"

There is a slight shuffling behind the door but no discernible movement.

"Five." As soon as Harry reaches five they hear Catherine move away from the door and further into the room. Harry enters and finds Catherine curled up in a ball on her bed facing the wall, sobbing.

Ruth hovers in the doorway, watching Harry as he gazes down at his daughter. He is lost. He's never seen this side to his daughter before and doesn't know how to handle it. Tentatively, she takes a couple of steps into the room and places her hand on Harry's back. "Stay calm," she tells him. "I'll be downstairs with Graham."

With that she takes her leave.


Half an hour later, Harry re-appears downstairs. Graham's train set has been discarded and he is curled up on the sofa with Ruth as she reads to him.

"Hi," he whispers, despondently.

"Hi," Ruth greets, looking up from the book. "Did you get anywhere?"

He shakes his head. "She's not talking to me. She just lay there crying. I talked though; told her that her behaviour was unacceptable. Don't know if she was really listening."

"Best to just let her calm down. Once she has, you'll be able to speak to her properly."

"Catherine's naughty!" Graham pipes up from next to Ruth.

Ruth and Harry tactfully ignore him and he clambers down off the sofa and returns to his train set. Harry sits down in his vacated seat and turns to Ruth. "I'm sorry for what she said."

"It's okay," Ruth assures, but Harry knows she is lying; he can see it in her eyes.

"It's not," he insists.

"But it's true. I'm not her mother."

"That is not the point. I know it hurt you; I can tell."

"It did. But I shouldn't have let it. I got too close; too attached. I…"

"No. She didn't mean the things she said; she adores you. You must know that?"

"I thought I did, but now…Anyway, you two must be hungry. How about I throw us together some pasta?" She is off the sofa and in the kitchen before Harry can reply.


Catherine doesn't join them for dinner but Harry takes a plate up for her. When he returns to get it before loading the dishwasher it is half empty, which relieves him a little – at least she is eating. She is sprawled out on the bed, snoring lightly. It's only 7.30 but it seems her tantrums have tired her out.

He and Ruth put Graham to bed together; something they rarely do but both of them feel the need to be connected to at least one of the children after Catherine's harsh words earlier in the day. Once he is asleep Ruth and Harry curl up together on the sofa. They agree that she will stay the night, something that doesn't usually happen when they have work the next day. But they want to present a united front to Catherine tomorrow. As it nears 10.30, Ruth announces she is going to bed to read. Harry nods, tells her he'll be up after the late news before kissing her. Halfway through the bulletin, Harry hears footfalls on the stairs.

"Daddy?" Catherine's voice is small, muffled from sleepiness, as she enters the living room. He looks at her; her eyes are red and puffy from crying and she has tears stains on her cheeks.

"Yes Catey?"

"I'm sorry."

"What exactly are you sorry for?" He isn't going to let her fob him off with a blanket apology; he wants to be sure that she understands what she has done wrong.

"For shouting and throwing things. For saying I hated you. I didn't mean it Daddy. I love you!" She's getting upset again and begins to sniffle.

"I know you do," Harry assures and kisses the top of her head. They sit cuddled together for a few moments while Catherine calms down. When she has done so, Harry continues, "I think there's someone else you need to apologise to as well, isn't there? You shouldn't have spoken to Ruth like that. It wasn't very nice, was it?"

Catherine shakes her head and then looks around. "Where is she? Has she left?" There is a hint of panic in Catey's voice and Harry knows she is thinking that she's driven her away.

"She's upstairs, reading. I'm sure she won't mind if you go up and see her though."

"Will you come with me?" Catey asks, worry evident in her voice.

Harry switches off the television and stands. "Of course."

As they climb the stairs Catherine slips her small hand into her father's much larger one and they approach the bedroom hand in hand. Harry knocks tentatively before peering round the door.

"How many times; you don't need to knock on your own door," Ruth chides as he enters with Catherine.

"I thought you might have dozed off and I didn't want to disturb you. As you are still awake though, Catherine has something she would like to say."

Ruth places her copy of Persuasion on the bedside table and sits up. Harry nods at his daughter to go on.

Catherine takes a deep breath. "I'm sorry."

"For?" prompts Harry.

"For shouting at you and telling you to go away. For saying I hated you."

"Apology accepted."

"I don't hate you Ruth," Catherine stresses as the tears come once more. "I don't know why I said I did."

"It's okay."

"Please don't go!" Catherine cries.

Ruth is confused by the sudden shift in conversation. "Go?! Why would I go?"

"Because I said mean things so you won't want me anymore."

And suddenly Ruth sees the child's logic. Her mum had left when she was good so why would Ruth stay if she was naughty. She opens her arms to the little girl. "Come here." Catherine runs to her and clings to her for dear life. "It's okay," Ruth soothes. "I'm not going to leave."

"Promise?" she sniffs, looking up at Ruth.

"I promise," Ruth assures. She holds the young girl tight against her as her she sobs, rubbing comforting circles on her back. Sensing Ruth and Catherine need some time, Harry excuses himself to get ready for bed.

Not long after, Catherine falls asleep, snuggled against Ruth. When Harry emerges from the bathroom, he moves to lift his daughter from the bed and take her back to her own room, but Ruth shakes her head. "Leave her," she suggests.

Harry does as he is bid and climbs into bed next to them. "She okay?" he asks.

Ruth nods. "She'll be fine."

"I could kill Jane," Harry hisses.

"Did you manage to get hold of her?"

He shakes his head. "No. No answer at home and her mobile is going to voicemail."

"Try again tomorrow?" suggests Ruth.

"Oh yes. I shall be putting several of the Grid's resources to use in the morning."

Ruth rolls her eyes. "Well in that case, we'd better get some sleep." She leans over, careful not to wake Catherine, and kisses him gently. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight sweetheart, and thank you." He kisses her again. She rewards him with a small smile and the two of them fall quickly to sleep, flanking Catherine protectively on either side.