I knew she’d gone to that faraway fantasy land when she told me she’d bought me a secret horse to protect us all. When pushed she said it was hidden and I was to remember Jake Kennedy. “Change your surname,” she said.
And I did remember Jake. He was the old farmer who rented out the land of the landscape gardener business my mother was a company director of. Wizened and unwashed, he would toil all day, swear and drink all evening and pitch up every so often to get his rent in cash. Rich enough to build his daughter a house in case she ever married but looking as if he didn’t have two pennies to put towards a different jacket, Jake was from more than 30 years before yet hidden in some synapse to be brought out into the open again as soon as the infection hit.
It is always difficult to know what to do when someone is delirious – to humour or not? I chose the CID approach. “Where is the secret horse? When did you get it? How much did it cost? How could you afford it?” but the oddest thing is that even amidst the craziness there is a kind of sense and rationale, however irrational to the outside world.
Because, you see, there was a time when I had needed to be kept safe from a violent husband and I had been about to leave home for good. There was a safehouse all set up and I would have had to change my name. At the final moment though I balked and chose to face up to the legal nightmare rather than flee and now I wonder if Jake had been the one who was going to provide the safe passage.
Maybe I have a secret horse somewhere, about to ride to my rescue.