I hated the thought of leaving the twins behind, but I knew taking them with me would be impossible. Bryony was easier. She likes to go on the bus, especially on the double deckers where she can sit at the front and pretend to drive.
I knew telling Rory would be hopeless. He'd make me stay home by fair means or foul. I waited until he was changing the twins and then I left a note and took Bryony quickly to the bus stop.
As we waited for the bus, Bryony said, "Are the twins too little to come on the bus?"
"Yes." I said.
"But I can come because I'm a big girl?" she said.
"That's right." I said.
"It's good, being big." she said.
When the bus arrived, she scurried up the stairs. I followed, finding every step a struggle. When I got to the top, she said, "Mummy, are you alright?"
"I'm fine." I said.
"Really fine or Emma fine?" she said. That child listens to everything her father says.
The bus had started moving and a field appeared that seemed to offer a useful distraction. "What's in that field?" I said.
"Cows!" she said.
"And what do cows do?" I said.
"They go MOOOOOOOOOOO!" she said, waking a sleeping man.
"Very good." I said, "But we should be a little quieter."
"I'm sorry." said Bryony, "I think I had it switched on too loud."
"We need to find Daddy a birthday present." I said.
"Is he having a birthday?" she said, "Is he having a party with jelly and ice cream?"
"We'll have a special tea, but he doesn't want a party." I said.
"He's silly!" she said.
"Don't call poor Daddy silly. He just likes to have a quiet time with his children."
"Quiet?" she squealed, laughing, "Does he know us?"
"We'll make Daddy's birthday happy." I said.
"Mouse Richmond says you can't have a birthday without jelly and ice cream."
"Well, I'm sure Ravensmoore can give us both."
"Mouse has a 'dopted sister." she said.
"I know. Amanda's nice, isn't she?" I said.
"When you're 'dopted, it means you got picked out specially."
"Yes. That's right." I said.
"You didn't pick me, did you?"
"God picked you for us."
"Were you cross? Did you want to pick one?"
I kissed her and said, "God sent us the best little girl in the world."
"God's nice." she said, "I like God."
"Good." I said, "God likes you too."
We got to Foxton and I struggled down the stairs again. Bryony looked at me and said, "Mummy, you don't look happy."
"I'm fine." I said, "Maybe we need a cream cake to get us started."
"Chocolate 'clair?" she said hopefully.
We went and bought a couple of eclairs and ate them looking out at the busy street. I felt very uncomfortable, seeing all those people after the peace of Whiteturrets, but Bryony loves people-watching. She saw a couple kiss and said, "Awww! Look, Mummy, that man and that lady are like you and Daddy."
"I hope they'll be as happy as we are." I said.
She smiled. "You love Daddy lots, don't you?"
"With all my heart." I said.
"He should have come, then you and him could kiss."
"We can kiss at home." I said.
"But why didn't he come?" she said.
"Because we have to buy him a secret present."
"Doesn't he know he's having a birthday?" she said.
"Presents are supposed to be a surprise." I said.
"We could get him a jackal-a-box." she said.
"I don't think Daddy would like a jack-in-a-box." I said.
"It would surprise him."
"What do you think Daddy would like best?" I said.
"More babies!" she said, "He loves babies."
"I think it might be hard to find more babies by Monday." I said.
"Maybe a really big special hug!" she said.
"We'll definitely give him one of those." I said.
We went to a little antiques shop I know and looked at all the lovely things there. Bryony was looking at the pocket watches when she almost walked into Richard Sheridan. "Uncle Richard!" she said.
"Bryony! I haven't seen you for ages." he said, "Are you here with your daddy?"
"With me." I said.
He looked at me, horrified. "Shouldn't you be resting?"
"Mummy's not a pliceman!" said Bryony, "Only plicemen 'rest people."
"The babies are almost two weeks old." I said.
"Rory's with you, is he?"
"Rory's with the twins. He knows I'm here."
"And he let you come to Foxton at a time like this?"
"We wrote him a note." said Bryony, "I put a big kiss on the end."
"Emma!" said Richard, "You didn't tell him you were coming?"
"You know what men are like," I said, "They fuss."
"They do." said Bryony, with all the accumulated wisdom of her three years.
"I can't believe you came alone!"
"She didn't, silly! I'm with her." said Bryony.
"Can I give you a lift home?" he said.
"In your car?" said Bryony.
"That's the usual way." he said.
"Daddy calls your car the Pratmobile." said Bryony.
"Daddy calls all cars pratmobiles." I said.
"I know." said Bryony.
"Richard has a very nice car." I said.
"Horses are better." said Bryony.
"She's definitely Rory's daughter." said Richard.
Bryony looked worried. "Did you think I wasn't?"
"He just means you're very like Daddy." I said.
I saw the perfect thing for Rory, a rosewood writing box. I knew he would love the craftsmanship. http://www.hygra.com/wb/wbdg12.htm
"It's a little box!" she said.
"People used to have them to keep all their writing things in, so they could write letters wherever they were." I said.
"Daddy will love it!" she said, "It's so pretty! And he can write letters for me and Aunty Ana can read them to me."
The manager of the shop came over and showed me the secret compartments and other features. Bryony was delighted. "We could hide things in it for him!"
"Has she explored the secret passages at Whiteturrets yet?" asked Richard.
"Secret what?" she said.
"Until now, she didn't know they were there." I said, frowning at Richard.
"Oh. Sorry, cariad. Wasn't thinking."
"Is there secrets at Whiteturrets?" she said.
"What do you want to get for Daddy?" I said.
"There's a lovely thing with a horse on it." she said, pointing to one of the watches.
"It's a good one." said Richard. He collects them, so I knew he would be right.
The manager got it out of the case and opened it. Bryony squealed. "Look, it's got a baby clock inside!"
We had to get it then. I also bought some horse brasses as a present from the twins.
After that, we went to a card shop, where I had to read all the cards to Bryony so she could choose one. Richard followed anxiously, insisting that he wanted to take us home as soon as possible.
As I walked out of the shop, I came face to face with Sean.
"It's the Sean!" said Bryony, hugging him.
"What are you doing here?" he said, "Rory's frantic."
"No he's not, he's Irish!" said Bryony.
"He wanted to come after you, but couldn't leave the twins. So he's freaking out at home and I thought I'd better find you."
"I am capable of a short shopping trip." I said.
"I know, you're fine, you're indestructible, but Rory is a worrier and you're scaring him."
"Mummy's not well." said Bryony, "She went a funny colour on the bus."
"I'm just tired." I said, "But all Rory's presents will be delivered this afternoon."
"I know this doesn't quite get to your brain, but Rory loves you more than he likes presents." said Sean.
"He's the most important man in my life and I'm not going to let him think I've forgotten his birthday." I said.
"We love Daddy." said Bryony, "When you love someone, you give them nice things. My Aunty Ana gave me this skirt. It's from New Zweeland."
"It's great, lass." said Sean.
"When I'm big, I'm going to New Zweeland."
"It's a long way." said Sean.
"I know, you have to go on a hairyplane."
"Emma, will you come home with me now and convince your husband you're fine?" said Sean.
"Her husband?" said Bryony.
"Your daddy." said Sean.
As we headed for Sean's car, Bryony took his hand and said, "Do you know about secrets at Whiteturrets?"
"I hardly know where to begin." he said.