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Kate's windscreen wipers finally gave up just outside Fishguard, sticking, and then sliding resignedly down toward the bonnet, at the exact moment that the rain, which had been satisfied with simply heavy, chose to become torrential.
“Oh, bugger,” she said, swerving as she flicked the dashboard switch up and down. “I can't see a thing. Sweetheart, if I pull over at the next lay by, could you reach your arm out and give the screen a wipe?”
Sabine pulled her knees up into her chest and scowled at her mother. “It's not going to make the slightest difference. We might as well just stop.”
Kate pulled the car to a stop and wound down her window, trying to wipe her own half with the end of her velvet scarf. “Well, we can't stop. We're running late. And I can't have you missing the ferry.”
Her mother was a generally mild-mannered soul, but Sabine knew that note of steel in Kate's voice, and knew that it said nothing short of a tsunami was going to prevent Sabine getting on that ferry. It was not a huge surprise; it was a note she had come up against many times in the past three weeks, but having to hear yet another reinforcement of her ultimate powerlessness in the face of her mother made Sabine's lower lip jut unconsciously, and her body turn away in mute protest.
Kate, finely tuned to her daughter's mercurial moods, glanced over, noted it, and looked away. “You know, if you weren't so busy being determined to hate this, you might just havea good time.”
“How can I have a good time? You're sending me to a place I've been to all of twice in my whole life, to stay in Bog City, with a grandmother you like so much you haven't seen her in bloody years, basically to be some kind of domestic skivvy while my grandfather pops his clogs. Great. Some holiday. I'm just gagging for it.”
“Oh, look. They're working again. Let's see if we can make it to the port.” Kate wrenched the wheel, and the battered Volkswagen lurched forward onto the wet road, sending tea-colored fans of spray up at each side window. “Look. We don't know that your grandfather is that ill; he's just frail, apparently. And I just think it will be good for you to get away from London for a bit. You've hardly met your granny at all, and it will be nice for you to see a bit of each other before she gets too old, or you go traveling, or whatever.”
Sabine stared determinedly out of her side window.
“Granny. You make it sound like Happy Families.”
“And I know she's ever so grateful for the help.”
Still she refused to look. She knew bloody well why she was being shipped off to Ireland, and her mother knew it, and if she was such a bloody hypocrite that she wasn't going to admit it, then she couldn't expect Sabine to be straight with her, either.
“Left lane,” she said, still not turning around.
“Left lane. You need to be in the left lane for the ferry terminal. Oh, for God's sake, Mum, why can't you just wear your bloody glasses?”
Kate wrenched the little car into the left lane, ignoring the beeps of protest behind her, and, under Sabine's bad-tempered direction, eased it over to the windswept sign that indicated foot passengers. She drove until she could see a place to park, a gray, windswept tarmac desert, in the shadow of a featureless gray Lubyanka. Why do they make offices look so dispiriting? she thought, absently. As if people weren't already miserable enough when they got there. When the car and its wipers stopped again, the rain obligingly ensured that it was swiftly erased, turning everything outside into an impressionistic blur.
Kate, for whom most things without her glasses were an impressionistic blur, gazed at the outline of her daughter and wished suddenly that they could have the kind of fond farewells that she was sure other mothers and daughters practiced. She wanted to tell her she was bitterly sorry that Geoff was going, and that for the third time in her young life their domestic arrangements were going to be in upheaval. She wanted to tell her that she was sending her to Ireland to protect her, to save her from witnessing the kind of bitter scenes that she and Geoff had barely been suppressing as they ended their six-year relationship; and she wanted to tell her that even though she and her own mother no longer had any kind of relationship, Kate unselfishly wanted her to feel like she had some kind of grandmother, someone other than just her.
But Sabine always made it impossible for her to say anything, was seemingly covered in an ever-growing coat of spikes, like a glamorous, sulky little porcupine. If she told her she loved her she was told off for being so Little House on the Prairie. If she reached out to hug her, she felt her child visibly flinch in her arms. How did this come about? she repeatedly asked herself. I was so determined that our relationship would be different, that you would have all the freedoms I was denied. That we would be friends. How did you come to despise me?
Kate had become an expert at hiding her apparently odious feelings from her daughter. Sabine hated it even more if she got needy and emotional; it just made her even more prickly. So instead she reached into her overflowing basket-bag and handed over her tickets, as well as what she considered a generous amount of spending money. Sabine didn't even acknowledge it.
“Now, the crossing will take around...”
Sheltering Rain. Copyright © by Jojo Moyes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.