Chapter One - Lilly
Lilly Barker was 34 years old, single, a shop floor manager in a large department store; sometimes witty; sometimes snappy; nearly always tired; sometimes sociable; liked watching TV with a take-out on her lap; sometimes liked going out with friends to the pub and her life was about to change irrevocably and forever.
However, she did not know that. All she knew was that life was pretty good, nothing special though, and that she had started to notice a bloody great hole in it! This hole, this great big black hole, had started as indefinable niggle – like something she couldn't quite get in to scratch. Lately, however, it had grown just that bit bigger and blacker. She blamed it on the approach of her 35 th birthday, now just one week away.
In seven days time, on a typical spring morning, she would pass that particular landmark. She lay back on the couch, fingering the chicken nuggets from her take-out and calmly asknowldedged that the newscaster on the telly had no idea of who, where and what she was. Would he ever, in a thousand years, include the dreaded event on that day's news?
“Good morning, this is the 8 o'clock news. Today, Lillian Barker is 35 years old and has done absolutely nothing with her life.
Lillian blinked, heaved a noisy sigh and popped the crunchy nugget into her mouth.
“This just isn't me!” she thought. “I am NOT going to start poking around inside my head. Life is simple – get on with it Lilly!”
She got up and tidied the coffee table in front of her. Deftly she picked up the bits of take-away rubbish that came with the meal; unwanted plastic fork, squashy packet of sauce, soggy receipt; and popped them all into the empty carton.
She marched into the kitchen and hurled the screwed up missile into the swing-top bin. It thudded to the bottom and Lilly watched for a minute as the lid swung back and forth.
“This is silly”, she mumbled. “I can't just ignore it.”
Although nothing material had actually moved in the room, at that moment Lilly had in fact taken a huge step and opened a door that would lead her to places she would never have dreamed of going.
The phone rang and snapped her out of the brooding thought.
“Hi Carol! What's up?”
“yes, of course I'm still coming.” She looked quickly at her watch and gave a small gasp.
“Oh, sorry. Give me ten minutes. I'll meet you outside.”
She put down the phone and dashed into the bedroom, flinging off her clothes and turning on the shower. In less than ten minutes she was pressing the lift button while pulling on her jacket.
When the lift doors opened downstairs, Carol was waiting in the hallway, just inside the front door.
“Martin's outside. He's in the middle of the road, we couldn't find a parking space.”
They both dashed out and into the waiting car.
Carol and Martin Radcliff had two young children and fortunately a good and reliable baby-sitter. 17 year old Debbie, who lived next door, looked forward to the opportunity to take possession of the TV controls for a change and actually get paid for doing what she liked best – playing mum. The Radcliffs therefore, had no problem relaxing during their weekly outings and it had become a regular event.
Today it was the bowling alley and they had collected Lilly and another friend from the department store to make up a decent ‘team'. The fourth team member was Sidney Pollock who worked in the electronics department.
Sidney was the artistic type but no-body would have known since he managed to hide it behind a never-ending stream of jokes which he traded like football cards with his friends. Beneath that wisecracking exterior was a fairly thoughtful and introverted person who kept close guard on his personal feelings.
Lilly was happy to see him as she settled comfortably into the back seat. Just what she needed tonight, a ‘shallow' wise-cracker – perfect!
“You O.K. then Lilly?” asked Carol, twisting round in her seat. “You look a bit jumpy. You forgot didn't you!” she joked. “You should have said, we would have come back for you later.”
It stayed that way too, most of the evening, right through the bowling match and then onto the pub. If only Martin hadn't remembered her birthday! All he said was, “your Birthday's coming up next week isn't it? Anything special planned?”
There was hardly a second's pause before the flood gates opened and the big black hole tumbled out. A whole torrent of worries and excuses.
“Yes, yes, quite right … absolutely, ….No, of course you're not….” Etc…etc…etc…went the rather bemused sound of consolation coming from Carol.
Lilly drew in her breath and stopped talking.
“HELL!” said Sydney and smiled wickedly at her.
“Seriously though,” went on Sydney . “Some people are afraid to think about anything the least bit worrying in their lives. As if that will make it go away and then … WHAM! … it sneaks up on them and squashes them flat!”
“I wouldn't have put it quite like that,” interrupted Carol, darting a quick warning glance at Sydney . “But he has a point. There is probably something you need to sort out and putting it off isn't helping you.”
Lilly downed the last of her drink and stood up. “Time for a loo break,” she muttered and marched off.
This had been really out of character for Lilly. She had been cruising through life in a well-ordered, peaceful way for the past seven years. Before that she was living with her parents, Mary and George Barker, in a neat semi-detached house in York .
Lilly knew she had been adopted as a tiny baby. They told her this as early as they could and had shown her the only personal clue that had been left by her mother.
They knew that, sooner or later, she may have found out the circumstances of how she came to be adopted. The truth was that she had been ‘abandoned' and was found outside a local clinic – wrapped up warm and well in a wicker basket with a little note pinned to her shawl. This was never an easy thing to have to tell your child but it was the contents of the note that made it easier.
The note gave the name of the baby's father but the authorities could find no trace of him and realized that they had no proof that the name was even a real one. There was also a touching post-script which read;
“Please love her, she is my treasure.”
The Barkers did not adopt any other children and had none of their own. Lilly had grown up happy, secure and pampered and with a passion for neatness and order.
When both Mary and George Barker had been killed in a car accident seven years ago, that attention to order saved her from falling into complete chaos. Somehow she had weathered the storm and got on with life. Gradually the joy came back and Lilly once again lived a happy, smooth and well ordered existence.
She had thought, at one time, that she should perhaps try to track down her natural parents but the thought unsettled her and she had put it right out of her mind.
This then, she thought, as she strode back to the table, this must be what she is trying to avoid.
She beamed a huge smile at all three of them as they looked up.
“I know exactly what is wrong and I am going to deal with it,” she said triumphantly.
Sydney twisted round and looked in the direction of the Ladies loo.
“Who have you got in there? How much do they charge and can blokes get appointments?
Lilly started at him blankly.
He jerked his thumb in the direction she had come.
“The guru in the loo..”
“What guru? … oh, very funny” She ignored him and sat down.
“I'm simply telling you. In case you are interested. I know what's wrong. Now forget it.”
Carol smiled and said “Good,” but was not entirely convinced. She made a mental note to speak to Lilly quietly. She knew exactly who she would send her to for help.
That is what started the whole incredible journey.