Joyce quietly let herself out of her sister's house and sat in her car. She couldn't stop grinning. What a wonderful surprise. She still cpuldn't believe that she was part of such a rich, loving, dynamic family. Her handsome French brother-in-law. His glamorous mother Madeleine and her new husband that reminded her of the Frenchman in a Daphne du Maurier novel and the whole entourage of exes and step-children that they had made them all so welcome.
Joyce's early years had been very quiet and rather lonely. Her parents were both only children and her grandparents had lived in New Zealand then working as teachers. They'd come back for their retirement years and doted on Greta. When Joyce was born her mother had suffered from what is now openly referred to as Post-natal depression but in those days women were told to just get on with things and not make a fuss. Joyce's mum, Anne had opened up to Joyce when she was expecting Polly. She had told her that without her father Malcolm, she couldn't imagine how lonely she would have been. It had taken her some years to fnd the courage to have Greta.
Doctors understood Poat-natal depression more now. It was nothing to be ashamed of anymore. There were lots of ways to deal with it. Joyce's mother was full of advice on how to recognize the signs and how to help.
'You won't be on your own Joyce, you've got me and Greta. It's going to be wonderful.'
Polly had been the same sirt of baby as her auntie Greta. Placid and easy, with a passionate streak and a wicked sense of humour. Polly adored her auntie Greta and they sometimes seemed like sisteers themselves.
Joyce thought of the day when Greta was born. It seemed that as she gazed at the three of them peering into her cot and she greatly approved of her family. She beamed her way through childhood, filling the house with laughter and song. Joyce would come home from school and Greta would hurl herself at her sister, flinging her arms around her neck and covering her with kisses. The loneliness deep inside Joyce started to be replaced with other feelings. A fierce love and desire to protect her little sister, she vowed to be her guardian angel.
Joyce switched on her car radio. One of her favourite songs by Pink was playing. She drove home joining in and singing at the top of her voice. She felt like celebrating.
When she got home she was delighted to see that Martin was already there. She entered her house calling out his name and he quickly appeared to envelop her in one of his bear hugs.
'Ricky's done wonders at school today. He's done a painting of Jean-Claude being attacked by a crocodile. He really sees him as a super hero. Polly's in her room, would you like a cup of tea.?'
Joyce sank gratefully onto a kitchen chair. Polly and Ricky came in and kissed her. They both looked very excited about something.
She put her arms round her two children and breathed in their lovely clean smell of apple and lime shampoo.
Polly at twenty-five was the same age that she'd been when she had had her. Times have changed though, Joyce thought, and none of Polly's friends seemed to want to get married or have children. Joyce ruffled Ricky's hair and he turned to grin at her. He was nearly fourteen and growing fast.
Joyce had had trouble conceiving and waited twelve years to have another baby. She'd known before the doctors that Ricky was different. He didn't look her in the eye and she couldn't engagé with him like she had with Polly. When the doctor had called her and Martin into their office and told them, Martin had calmly taken her hand and looked straight at the doctor.
'We'll give the little fellow the best life we can.'
Joyce had broken into tears. The doctor was about to say something to console her but then he saw the look if immense gratitude and love that she had given Martin and sat down again.
'We'll help you as best we can and there are a lot of excellent Pyschologists and schools that will be looking after you. Ricky will be fine.'
Martin handed her the tea and a slice of Christmas cake.
'We've just had a phone call from Jean-Claude. He and Madeleine are coming her next weekend and we're all going out for a party. I can't get over how kind they all are.'
Polly clapped her hands and Ricky grinned at his sister.
Joyce looked at her family, faces aglow. It often seemed that it was Greta who was her guardian angel. She'd take Polly to the sales to buy new dresses for the party. There was going to be a very special celebration.