Katie was a strong-willed child. Bossy, even. At the dinnertable, she would sometimes point a sharp finger at the last carrot in the serving dish and announce, in her best Mrs Thatcher voice, “that’s Katie’s!” (This was long before her mastery of possessive pronouns.) You’d mistake this behaviour for insolence were it not for the easy baby charm and mischievous grin that followed, which left her brother, mother and me in fits of laughter. It was impossible to be cross with her. She got the carrot, of course…
She used her bossy voice to devastating effect that day in June 2008. We had just returned from a fraught, rushed afternoon’s ‘contact’; and as I drew up to my children’s mother’s house to return them, Katie ordered: ‘My Daddy Come Home.’
This wasn’t like the episode with the carrot, however. There was no tone of cheekiness. When I looked in the rear view mirror to my daughter in her car seat, her beautiful steel blue-grey eyes were glazed with sadness. Her brother Thomas joined in, ‘yes Daddy, when ARE you coming home?’ This Daddy didn’t have an answer to their questions.
It was to be the last time I saw them. I couldn’t go home, of course: the locks had been changed, both in a literal sense, and in every imaginable metaphorical sense.
[Original longer article heavily edited for legal reasons.]