See part two here.
She remembered the heavy soup of pity she had whirled around in for so long. Pity, or even worse, ill-concealed curiosity. “Wasn´t it your mom who …?” All their sticky eyes and the whispered remarks about the poor little girl which died away when she appeared.
She and Neil had been sent off to her grandparents afterwards. Her mother´s parents, obviously. Neil was just a baby; he didn´t understand a bit of what was going on around him, but they tried to keep Emma away from all the commotion. After that first night she hadn´t seen one single policeman in uniform, and it was also granny who put her foot down after some months and told them that Emma had had enough of all their experts and shrinks. If they left her alone, it would be far easier for her to forget it all.
Granny meant well and did her best, but it must sound strange to other people that it had taken several years until Emma was able to form a reasonably complete overview of what happened that night. Her mother had met a new boyfriend who was going to visit her when she had put the children to bed. She washed her hair, shaved her legs and made up her face meticulously, but not until she was certain Emma and Neil were asleep upstairs. Then she put on a new dress and her best necklace, and at some point she must have tried to get up some Dutch courage. They had found an empty whisky glass on the kitchen table. She also remembered to spray herself well and truly with perfume from the bottle on the dressing table. The last piece of information was one of the only things Emma had not been able to read in the papers and now, fifteen years on, it was very difficult for her to distinguish between what she really remembered, and what she had discovered via frequent research in the local library.
The police did not think anyone had rung the bell. Yet another detail in favour of an attacker whom her mother had expected and opened the door to, before he could wake up the children. Someone had certainly come to visit, someone who woke up Emma and made her sneak out onto the landing. This person kissed her mother, and afterwards… What went wrong between them? All her shiny pearls were spread on the floor, around the immovable body. And Emma just sat there in her wet nightdress. For how long would she have stayed there if the neighbours had not noticed that the lights were on in most of the house?
All that she knew about the investigation and whom the police suspected certainly came from the newspapers. Her father had had right of access to her for several years before she realized that he had been very close to stand trial for the manslaughter of his own wife. What if her grandmother, her father´s mother that is, had not been able to tell them that he had come home to her place and gone to bed in his old room even before the light was switched on in Susanne Munch´s hall?
In their second round the police had concentrated on the boyfriend. Not for long, Emma thought, because far too many witnesses came forward to testify that he had never fulfilled his casual promise to visit her mother that night. He had said something that afternoon which she had taken very seriously while he had gone out bowling with his mates like any other Tuesday evening. When it came to men, mom´s judgment could not have been very good.
It had cost Emma several years´ fight to free herself of all the staring eyes. Granny was like a safe haven, but as soon as the police had given up their suspicion of her father, he was allowed to see his children again of course. Little Neil grew used to him soon and moved in with him in their old home before long. For Emma things had been different. Dad came and visited her at granny´s, but even though she hadn´t quite understood then, she instinctively felt that they were stiff and formal and full of aversion to him during each visit. Before long she had begun wetting her pants and waking up from nightmares every time he had been around her.
She still saw her father now and then, and things were better between them. But they would never achieve a close relationship like the one between him and Neil. And she couldn´t even wear perfume. Just the slightest trace of a flowery perfume, and she could not breathe. She used to tell her friends that she was allergic.
And now her father´s mother had died. Would she be mired down in the same old soup again?
To be continued on Thursday.