After all the angst, it was turning out to be a good weekend. Tom quite liked sleeping in the small room; he and Sarah got on really well, and all of Millie’s anxieties went out of the window. There was a brief moment when she almost objected because Tom wanted to go and meet up with some friends for lunch on Saturday, but then she stopped herself, remembering that he hadn’t just come home to see her, he had friends of his own too.
“What do you think of him then?” Millie whispered.
“He is lovely; incredibly handsome and very intelligent. He obviously thinks the world of his mother, and I find him to be very easy company. Stop worrying so much. You’ve done a wonderful job of bringing him up to be confident and independent. Well done! At the same time, he has mislaid his phone three times since we got home yesterday which makes him a fairly normal teenager by all counts.”
After Tom, in unfeasibly tight jeans and a brightly striped tee-shirt, had gone out to meet his friends, Sarah turned on the TV to catch the lunch time news. The main section was full of doom and gloom as usual, but it was the local news that made Sarah sit up and call Millie in from the kitchen. She came running in quickly at the sound of fear in Sarah’s voice. There had been a car accident in the early hours of the morning. Five young people were in the car. No one was killed fortunately, but all five were in hospital, and the front seat passenger was said to have head injuries. It was when the camera showed footage of a large dark green Range Rover stuck in a ditch that Sarah had cried out. It was Natasha’s mother’s car.
Millie flipped through the channels trying to find out more information, whilst Sarah did the same on her laptop. Details were sketchy but it appeared that all the occupants had been drinking, and the driver had taken a corner too quickly and gone into the ditch. Millie phoned Jenny, who had only just heard about it herself, but had been able to ascertain from the police that it was Natasha that was driving. Jenny had given the police details of Natasha’s mother’s whereabouts, and was able to provide further information about the other four people in the car based on what the police had given her. According to Jenny, Natasha had come off worse in the accident; her ankle had also been broken in the impact. The other four had scrapes and bruises but were very lucky. They had all been discharged from hospital except for Daryl, the runner that Sarah had met on her first day at the studio. They didn’t want to let him go as he lived on his own, and he had bumped his head when the air bag went off.
“He can come here.” said Millie impulsively. “I’ll sleep on the sofa and he can have my bed.”
“Are you sure? I thought Sarah was staying with you, and that you had Tom home this weekend?”
“All the better, plenty of us to keep an eye on him. We’ll come and collect him from the hospital. Will you let them know?”
“Of course. If you really don’t mind?”
“We don’t. We’ll be over for him in about half an hour.”
Millie and Sarah sat in silence for a moment or two after Millie had put the phone down. They looked at each other.
“There was nothing we could do to stop it happening, Sarah. They’re all adults after all and who’s to say that she was drink-driving anyway; she may well have sobered up by the time they’d gone out and had a meal.”
“Do you really think so Millie? I think Natasha is so used to getting her own way that even if we’d got the car locked up somewhere, she’d have gone home and borrowed another one.”
“I didn’t realise her parents were that rich.”
“If her boasts are to be believed, they are. She generally uses the family Golf to whizz around in, but wanted to impress her mates by using the Rangy because it’s brand new and can seat five.”
“Not any more by the look of that TV footage. The Rangy is a write-off now.”
“Poor silly little girl. Come on, I’ll drive.”
The hospital wasn’t far away and Sarah managed to squeeze into a parking space not far from the entrance. Daryl was sitting in a wheelchair near the entrance talking to a nurse, and a tall man whose face looked rather familiar.
“Hey!” said Daryl. “Thank you so much for this. I wanted to go back to my flat but they don’t want me to be alone for the next day or so.”
“He may have concussion as well as a sprained wrist and a number of bumps and bruises,” explained the nurse.
Daryl indicated to the man next to him. “This is Natasha’s father, this is Millie and this is Sarah, they are social workers on the show.”
Mr Hart-Heron frowned. He shook Millie’s hand but took a pace backwards. “Sarah? Aren’t you the one who took Natasha’s job?”
Millie shook her head. “The post calls for a registered social worker with extensive experience in a number of fields. Natasha has only studied media to ‘A’ level, there’s no way she would have been considered for the job.”
Mr Hart-Heron’s frown deepened and he turned to Daryl. “Is that right Daryl? Natasha led us to believe that she was being lined up for promotion to the aftercare team.”
Daryl started to shake his head but thought better of it.
“No, Sir. Natasha was only on a temporary contract as a runner; she’s the youngest of all of us, and has the least experience. In fact, she dropped a huge clanger today that could have caused a huge amount of trouble if one of the security guards hadn’t stepped in so quickly.”
Natasha’s father turned back to Sarah. “Then I apologise for my daughter’s behaviour Sarah. Is that why she had been drinking yesterday?”
“It started off badly for her.” said Sarah and went on to explain about the car parking incident, being late for the meeting, getting hauled out of the meeting and then making a mess of the exit strategy. “We saw her with her friends in the restaurant and she’d been drinking then. I thought you were going to sober her up a bit Daryl?”
“We tried, but she had a bottle of vodka in her bag, and after she’d been put on a final warning by Jenny, she went off to the toilets, drank the lot and passed out. We put her in one of the green rooms to sleep it off, and she seemed to be okay when we came back to get her. I’m sorry Sarah, but she blames you for everything. There’s no rhyme nor reason to it – she’s just jealous that you got the job that she wanted.”
Millie shook her head in amazement. “I’m sorry Daryl, but Sarah and I qualified as social workers over twenty years ago. Does she not understand that?”
“Nope.” said Daryl. “She said that her mother thought she would make an ideal social worker, and that she would speak to Oliver about trying her out, but before she could, Millie had introduced you to Oliver and he’d given you the job.”
“I’m afraid my wife and I have widely differing opinions regarding Natasha’s abilities. Don’t worry. I’ll sort this all out when she gets back.”
Sarah looked thoughtful, “Perhaps Oliver might consider putting her into the aftercare team as a runner once she’s better. It might help her to understand that the job is nowhere near as glamorous as it looks. How is she anyway?”
“Whiplash, a broken ankle and some facial injuries from the airbag; she was very lucky really. They think that she probably does have concussion as well. I dread to think of what might have happened to both her and Daryl if it wasn’t for the air bags. Thank you again ladies. I’ll go back up and check on her.”
Millie pushed Daryl’s wheelchair out to the car and took it back whilst Sarah got him settled in the back seat.
“Does she really hate me that much Daryl?”
“She’s jealous. She adores Oliver and doesn’t like the way he asks yours and Millie’s opinions all the time. Her dad is right. Mrs Hart-Heron thinks Natasha is exceptionally talented, but to be honest we have to carry her most of the time because she gets so distracted,”
“Oh well, these things will sort themselves out eventually. Are you hungry?”
“Starving. I could murder a cheeseburger.”
“Fine, we’ll stop off at the drive thru’ on the way home. I could murder one myself and Millie is very easily persuaded where junk food is concerned.”
Millie needed no persuasion at all and the three of them arrived home laden with cheeseburger, fries and thick milkshakes. Once these were dispatched, Millie escorted Daryl to her room and ordered him to bed. He didn’t need much persuasion. Tom returned around six o’clock, in very high spirits, which were dampened slightly by the news of the car crash. Sarah was a little puzzled by his level of concern, and then she realised that Tom had spent a great deal of time on set after school and in the holidays, so he knew most of the crew very well.
They had planned to go out for a meal but in view of Daryl’s situation, they decided on pizza instead. Sarah grinned as she reached for the menu.
“What’s so funny?” asked Tom.
“Andy hated pizza. I tended to order it when he was away, but however hard I tried to get rid of the boxes, he always knew. I always got the same lecture as well. Pizza boxes may be made of cardboard but they contain a substantial amount of animal fat on them which could taint everything in the recycling bin, and make it all worthless.”
“He’s quite right Sarah, you are very nearly as irresponsible as my mother.” said Tom with a wink as he dodged the tea towel his mother threw at him.
The smell of pizza and garlic bread had a reviving effect on Daryl, who limped blearily out of Millie’s bedroom in time to sit down at the table and eat. The bruises on his face were beginning to show now, but his appetite didn’t seem to be affected by the accident. After dinner, Tom and Daryl commandeered the TV and set up Tom’s X-Box. Despite the sprained wrist, Daryl seemed to have no problem competing with Tom, and sometimes even winning. After clearing away and not putting the pizza boxes in the recycling, Millie and Sarah moved into Sarah’s bedroom and sat by the laptop.
“I need your help Sarah. I need to bounce something off you so you can tell me if I’m mad or not.”
“Okay. How mad?”
“Very. When I went down to visit Tom, he kept on asking me questions about his father. Questions that I couldn’t answer.”
“He’s at that age, and a point in his life where a bit of curiosity would be expected.”
“Yes, yes. I know that. Sarah, I’m toying with the idea of taking a leave of absence from the show and going to India to find Tom’s dad.”
There was a part of Sarah that had been expecting this to come ever since she had tracked him down on the Internet, so she had prepared herself.
“Will Oliver let you go? Do you have enough money?”
“Now that we have you on the team, Oliver and Jenny will be fine. I may have to leave it a few weeks until the runners are back, but that’s not a problem. I have plenty of money to finance the trip. I was hoping that you would put off your flat hunting for a while and stay here to look after Tom and the cat. Would you?”
“Of course, I would. “
“Good. Will you come with me to tell Tom?”
“Shouldn’t you tell him on his own?”
“No, I can’t put off telling him any longer. Come one.”
Millie led the way back into the living room where Daryl and Tom had just completed another war game.
“Tom, can you turn that thing off for a moment please?”
Tom looked at Daryl, then at Sarah, and turned the X-Box off.
“What’s up Mum?”
The response came out like a bullet. “I’m going to India to find your father.”
There was a moment’s silence before Tom turned back to the X-Box.
“Yeah, I hoped you would. Will you be gone long?”
“A couple of weeks, a month maybe. Sarah will stay on here to look after the cat – and you if you come home.”
“What’s Oliver going to say?” asked Daryl.
Millie grimaced. “He won’t like it, but I’ve not had a proper holiday for a couple of years, and now that Sarah is on the show, he can probably do without me for a while.”
“One condition Mum.”
“Yes Tom, what’s that?”
“Make sure you come home, and don’t join a religious sect or a harem or something?”
“I promise not to. Daryl, not a word of this at the studio. I need to do this my own way.”
“My lips are sealed.”
“Good,” said Tom. “Can we get back to the game now?”
Millie and Sarah went back into Sarah’s room, and spent the next hour or so checking out what vaccinations Millie would need, which flights were the best, and where to stay. It was quite exciting really.