“Better late than never, I guess” Jade sighs at the sight of the curious man standing on her doorstep. His once dark, thick mane now replaced with limp, grey strands beneath his flat cap. He wears the same classic oxford shoes (despite it being mid-June) with tweed trousers and a matching waistcoat. His appearance suits his eccentricity. She reluctantly waves him in, as if coerced by an unknown persuasion.
Jade is craving a stiff drink, but for fear it could lead to questions, it being only 10.30 in the morning, she opts instead to head for the kettle. A strong Yorkshire brew will still hit the spot. I haven’t got time for this. Her exercise class starts in just under an hour.
The man perches himself at the small kitchen table, with an air of superiority about him , as if this was his honoured position in the family home and had been reserved for him only. He removes his suede gloves (again- it’s June, why?) and fiddles with his shirt collar. So far, he hasn’t uttered a word.
Jade didn’t remember much about her Dad. He was barely home when she was young , and when he left, never to return, her sisters and Mum had continued life as they always had. The main difference that Jade had noted, was that the air smelled sweet and felt clear, as opposed to smoke-filled and claustrophobic. Her Mum had died shortly afterwards and her sisters had taken on the parental roles, at the ages of 11 and 13 respectively. Jade had only been 7 and hadn’t realised quite what was going on at the time. (We won’t dwell on the sob-story here, we’re not auditioning for a place in Pop-Idol after all ) But suffice to say, life hadn’t been untroubled and her sisters had vowed to never speak of their father from that day on. Jade was indifferent but curious as to his reasons for disappearing without a trace in the middle of the night. She had assumed it must have been a life-or-death matter and didn’t think to question their decision.
The local and national papers had made it very difficult, if not impossible, for Gerald to keep a low profile. “Nations most notorious thief caught at last!” “Police say the hunt for renowned offender is over!” Gerald’s mug-shot was plastered everywhere- yet somehow little Jade had been oblivious to the whirlwind of controversy surrounding her Dad. Oh to be 7 again. So unaware, so naive. Gerald had hoped Jade had moved far away, however he’d found her just 30 miles away from their original family home, in Pickering, North Yorkshire. She was his last hope.
Being the considerate northerner that she was, her introduction was full of tact and affection . “I thought you were dead, Dad” she abruptly states whilst handing him his cuppa. She makes no attempt at eye-contact. He clearly thinks more of himself than he should already. Jade has no time for self-obsessed family-wrecking men and what the hell is he wearing suspenders for? (The type that hold up trousers, not the Ann Summers style, crikey, she definitely wouldn’t have let him in then).
Gerald gets the drift. That’s fine. He’s not here to talk heart-to-heart anyway. Just the thought of it fills him with dread, so a chilly reception is pleasing enough to him (Is this maybe why he wore gloves ..?) Anyway, he’s loving this, she’s so much like him, but that’s another story for another time.
“I hear you work in a jewellers?” he boldly questions. You’ve got to be kidding me? “Is that why you’re here Dad, really? After 20 years? What are you after? Blue or Pink diamond? Emerald? Or maybe Red Beryl? Have you perhaps upped your game since your younger years? Why did you have children Dad? Bored, were we? I mean, honestly?” Her voice has become increasingly hostile and aggressive, and for the first time, Gerald doubts his decision to come here.
Jade plonks herself opposite him at the table, seemingly defeated by her own outburst and clearly unable to cope with whatever answers lay ahead. “Look” Gerald hesitates, “there’s something you need to know...” At that, the doorbell rings and Jade almost falls off her chair. “Oh for goodness sake! Who is it now?!” as she awkwardly clambers to her feet. She steams to the door in readiness for a fight. On opening it, she’s furious to see it’s just an Amazon package. Yet again it is “signed for”, yet tossed onto the doorstep with clearly no clue whether the householder is home or not. “It’s a good job I don’t mind it getting stolen...from my doorstep! Your moron!” she hollers down the path, hoping the driver is still nearby to feel her rage and be quaking in his tax-payers funded work-boots. She slams the door shut and propels the package in the direction of the sideboard. She pauses, and takes some deep breaths. Ok, ok just calm down....
She wishes she hadn’t opened the door at all this morning. Her Dad could just get lost (as he was clearly so good at it) and the package can get stolen off her doorstep for all she cares. If someone else fancies putting themselves through the indescribable pain of epilating they’re more than welcome to it.
It wasn’t too late to make him go away though was it? She makes an inner resolve and looks at the clock in the hallway. It’s 10.45am. If she’s quick, she’ll make it in time for her class. She loves nothing better than to attempt to encourage fat and old (or rather overweight and slightly older, if to be said aloud) ladies who wasted her time each week pretending to care about their health, whilst simultaneously arranging their ladies-to-lunch with cakes, wine and all things naughty. Truth be told, it was demoralising, but she’d convinced herself that she needed the cash and it was good for her to do something “for herself” and was too stubborn to admit it was horrifyingly boring. Still, that beat sitting across from the man who broke her Mum and sisters hearts any day. She couldn’t claim he’d broken her heart, as she felt that particular organ in her case wasn’t really fully formed by the time she was 7, and had stunted growth ever since, as it certainly seemed to be harder than most.
On re-entering the kitchen, Jade is irritated to see the man is not only still in her kitchen, but now walking around the room, hands held behind his back as if a Head Master inspecting his students quarters. He appears as though he belongs in the 1920’s and she’s inclined to kick him right back there any minute.
“I never stole a sausage” he proclaims in well-spoken English usually only heard in the Queens speech (admittedly with a northern twang, but still). “What?” Jade shakes her head in disbelief, disapproval and annoyance all in one. “I didn’t steal anything. I was the designated driver for the getaway and the only one they caught. But I didn’t steal anything. I never have. And never will.” He stands upright and observes Jades reaction. “Right.” She’s frozen rigid with her arms folded. She’s not entirely sure what to say, but shes not going to thank him or say sorry, if that’s what he’s after. He discerns her tone. “I came to give you these. As your sisters gave up on me years ago, I’ve only you to pass them to.” He painstakingly unrolls a red velvet carry case within which are precious gems of varying size, colour and shape. To us plebeians with no specific gem knowledge, they could’ve been from Claire’s Accessories, however on immediate analysis Jade can see radiant Ruby, Black Saphire, Emerald, Musgravite....her face says it all: there’s literally millions of pounds worth here, and the rest. “They’re yours Jade,” he bluntly states. “I’m done with it all now. Too old for all the games. I made connections with some very influential men in prison. By the time I was released I had a blooming business , all legitimate, before you ask”. He sits back down at the table, as Jade stares in disbelief.
“All these years” she steadily grasps. All these years we thought you were a criminal.” She feels like crying. She’s only cried 3 times in her life- when her beloved dog died when she was 17, on the day her Mum told her she was proud of her, even though she’d made a pigs ear of her part as a sunflower in the school play in Year 4 and now. She’d not even shed a tear for her own mother’s death. She knew deep down she must be some sort of psychopath with no empathy or something, but back to the main point- she’s crying now. Gerald has no clue what to do or say. He shuffles uncomfortably in his chair and wishes he could just walk out now, but senses there are more questions to be asked.
Several hours, and 4 or 5 cups of tea (and several toilet breaks) later, Gerald and Jade are sat chatting away in the comfort of the living room. Jade can’t believe how much they have in common. Her sisters had never understood her fascination with all things sparkly after knowing what their Dad was put away for. But she loved the science of it, how they were formed, how they resembled purity of beauty unlike anything else on this earth. You can’t recreate the beauty seen in a precious gem. It seemed this appreciation ran in the family. She’d spent her entire life being told what to do and how to live her life. She had never given it a second thought, that she was missing one part of the puzzle all along , her Dad. Who, after all these years, was a peculiar and whimsical old oddball who’d made some dumb decisions, but wasn’t the deceitful, thieving, good-for-nothing beast she’d been convinced to believe. Before her, sat a piece of herself. And now, only now, was she complete. She had always yearned to travel the world. Finally, she had someone to travel it with.