It was nine years later when Hattie was twelve, the twins nine and William eight that everything changed. Their father was away on business in York and their mother had been suffering a migraine so she was lying in her darkened bedroom with strict requests not to be disturbed, no matter was happening.
Lissa and Fern were getting ready to go to bed and William was asleep in the bedroom he shared with Hattie. Hattie was reading Jane Eyre. It had been a quiet and fairly uneventful evening. Everything seemed perfect. But maybe that was the problem.
When the phone began to ring Hattie considered ignoring it but something told her it was important. Picking the receiver up with a sigh Hattie answered, "Hello?"
"Hello. I have bad news. There has been an accident. A red fiesta has overturned at the edge of the motorway on the return from York. A Mr Joey Princeton was in that car and he is being rushed to the nearest hospital by air ambulance at this very moment," the voice paused for a second before continuing, "If necessary he will need operating on. Will that be okay? Can we have your consent please?"
Hattie looked at the door to her mother's bedroom, trying to weigh up the benefits of going in and disturbing her mother. Eventually she decided against it.
"Yes. That will be fine. Do we need to come down to see him?" Hattie forced herself to find out some more information; when her mother woke up she would ask questions and Hattie would need to know as much information as possible.
* * *
It was twelve hours later when Lissa came out to find Hattie sitting in exactly the same position as the night before with the phone in her hand and her feet tucked up beneath her on the sofa.
"Hattie, what's wrong?"
"Oh Lissa!" Hattie gave Lissa a hug, "Papa is hurt and has been taken to a hospital near York."
"No! This can't be happening. We need to tell Fern, William and Mama." Lissa looked very shocked and her mouth hung open, rendering her momentarily speechless.
"I'll go and tell Mama," Hattie said "and you go wake the others up. It's alright. Honestly, Lissa."
* * *
As Mama spoke to the women at the reception desk Hattie watched Mama's face fall. Mama wandered back over in a daze.
"Joey... your Papa... he's dead. He didn't make it. The injuries...too serious... never likely to survive... A full on hit... No chance... Horrific... At least he's not suffering any more... We'll wait... speak to a doctor..."
Mama trailed off and slumped into a plastic waiting seat and closed her eyes. Lissa and Fern soon fell asleep and so did William. Hattie sat staring into space. Her dear Papa had gone. The thought raced round her head continuously.
The intensity of this thought prevented Hattie from noticing when Mama got up and headed for the exit. The first time Hattie noticed that her Mama was gone was when the doctor appeared and shook her awake, asking to speak to Mrs Cassia Princeton.