Angela squeezed herself onto the Tube, trying not to breathe in the smell of sweat from the bodies pressed up against her. This wasn’t where she wanted to be on the Friday night of the Summer Bank Holiday weekend, but her parents had invited her specifically. In fact, she had been slightly intrigued as to what may have prompted the invitation for her to spend the long weekend with them. Angela tried not to think too much about the Astoria nightclub. It would have been a brilliant night out and her friends had been talking about it for weeks. Angela wasn’t too bothered about the drugs, but she did like the music. When you worked in a stressful industry like law, you needed a release. Besides, she thought, she worked hard and she deserved a night out once every so often. Yet here she was, jammed on the Tube on the way to her parents’ home in Tetbury. It was a good two-hour journey from her office in central London and she was getting the 4.15 p.m. from Paddington, which had meant leaving work early. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been outside her law firm during working hours other than to grab a sandwich to eat at her desk. Normally, she’d be ensconced in her cubicle working at least a sixty-hour week, often going in on weekends as well.
Escaping the stifling odour of the underground at Paddington, Angela got on the mainline train, happy to have found a seat, and took a few moments to straighten her new Jaeger suit. The eye-catching shade of green was perhaps a little too much for the corporate environment of Kings Solicitors, but it went fabulously with her dark hair and she knew she pulled it off by the number of admiring glances she received. The tailored trousers and fitted jacket with shoulder pads were so flattering. Besides, she didn’t want to blend in with all the other associates in the office, and this was just one way to be remembered by clients and the senior partners. Satisfied with her appearance, Angela pulled out some papers from her bag and began to work.
Angela had her own key to her parents’ house, a pretty bungalow, built of traditional Cotswold stone, and as she let herself into her childhood home she inhaled the familiar aroma: a mixture of clean washing, fresh flowers, and the trailing scent of her mother’s Estée Lauder perfume.
It was a few moments before she became aware of the stillness. She was used to the television being on or her mum talking animatedly on the phone about one of her various committees. Leaving her key and overnight bag in the hallway, Angela walked curiously through to the living room. Her mum and dad were sitting next to each other on the sofa, holding hands, and talking quietly.
‘Hello, darling! We didn’t hear you come in!’ Her mum got up to embrace her and Angela gave her a perfunctory kiss on the cheek. Normally, she would drop down on the sofa, complaining about the journey, but there was something about her mum that evening that made her think twice. While Rosemary appeared as polished as ever, with her sleek silver bob and ever-present string of pearls, her face looked worried and drawn beneath her welcoming smile. Instead, Angela turned to her dad, who gave her a hug and, as she’d known he would, asked her about her journey. He didn’t trust public transport and drove his beloved Jaguar wherever he needed to go, much to her mum’s frustration.
‘How are you?’ Rosemary asked, already walking to the kitchen to put the kettle on, Angela following behind her. ‘How’s work going?’
‘It’s fine, Mum, thanks. Busy, as always.’
‘Have they given you your promotion to senior associate yet?’
‘Not yet, but I’m sure they will soon.’
While Rosemary understood very little about what Angela did all day, she was so proud that her daughter had grown up to be what she called, a career woman. When Angela had graduated from university and got her place at one of London’s top law firms, her mum had never tired of telling her how different it was from when she was growing up. Back then, the most common goal in life for women was to get married and have children, although Rosemary was one of the few women of her time who had been to university. Angela was part of the late baby boomer generation and, according to her mum, had opportunities that she herself had never had. Although Angela had only experienced middle-class life and all its privileges from her teenage years, she truly believed that success depended more on the drive of the individual rather than the current expectations of the day. How else could she explain her own success? She was confident, ambitious, and slightly entitled, as so many of her contemporaries were, and her work-hard, play-hard lifestyle had sustained her through her twenties. Now, at twenty-seven, she was in her element. She had a fantastic job, earned a good salary, was about to get promoted, and partied with her friends every other weekend.
Angela pushed away the twinge of anxiety she’d felt when she saw her parents whispering. She must have been imagining things. They just wanted to spend time with her over a Bank Holiday weekend – there was nothing more to it than that.