“When are you going to relax and enjoy the pretty flowers?” Jo Whitely said to her girlfriend, Janet, as they walked around RHS Harlow Carr near Harrogate.
“When I know for certain that I will not bump into my dad here.” Janet said.
“Was your dad particularly keen on visiting gardens?” Jo said.
“Not that I can recall. I last saw him when I was five.” Janet said. “But we’re in North Yorkshire, and he’s still in North Yorkshire, so I’m far more likely to bump into him here than in Lower Strangling.”
Janet’s childhood was not the happiest of childhoods. In fact, she’s the only person in Lower Strangling to have experienced real hardship first hand.
She grew up on a farm in the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors with her mother and father. Her earliest years on this planet were fine.
But then her mother died. Everything changed after that.
Janet’s father found it hard to cope with the loss of his wife. He expressed his grief through anger that he unleashed on Janet through no fault of her own. Janet was his only living reminder of the woman who was no longer there.
Then, when Janet was five, the sound of squealing woke her up in the middle of the night. She got out of bed and went downstairs to where the squealing was.
Eventually, the squeals brought her outside to the barn. She entered the barn… and saw something that still traumatises her to this day.
The squealing was coming from their piglets… who were being slaughtered by her dad.
Suddenly, her dad caught a glance of her. He shouted at her and told her to go back to bed.
Janet panicked, picked up the two piglets nearest to her and ran out of the barn.
Janet only got halfway down the entrance path leading to the main road before the weight of the piglets was too much. She fell to the ground and let go of the piglets, who ran into the darkness.
Her dad caught up with her, scolded her, then brought her back to bed.
The next day, he drove her up to Whitby and left her with a local priest.
Janet never saw her dad again.
Janet lived in Whitby with the priest until she was eighteen, when she went to Oxford university to study Criminology and Criminal Justice.
There she met Jo, and eventually she elevated up to the Upper-Middle-Class and moved to Lower Strangling. She’s never looked back since.
Until a few weeks ago, when Jo suddenly decided that she wanted to go to Yorkshire on holiday. Reluctantly, Janet agreed, despite knowing that memories she’s repressed will suddenly come rushing back.
And so, here she was, walking around RHS Harlow, constantly worried that at any moment now she’ll spot her dad observing the planting.
“How do you know he’s even still alive?” Jo said. “For all you know, he may have died in the past thirty-five years?”
“Possibly, but he could also still be alive. He wasn’t that old. He’d be in his early sixties by now.” Janet said.
“If you last saw him when you were five, how can you remember what he looked like?” Jo said.
“Trust me, I’d know. I’d just feel it. You can’t forget the things I’ve seen.” Janet said.
Knowing when to drop the subject, Jo focused on the planting instead, and so she and Janet walked around the rest of the gardens in silence. Janet occasionally jumped at the sight of any middle-aged man or the sound of any powerful male Yorkshire accent, much to Jo’s annoyance.
“Look, how about we go to Bettys later? That will make you calm down.” Jo said as she and Janet had a snack at the cafe.
“No, it won’t, and I don’t want to go. I don’t want my dad to suddenly go in there and discover that I’ve become the sort of person who eats at Bettys tea rooms.” Janet said.
Jo sighed and rolled her eyes, then ate her caramel slice in silence.
“I’m sure you’ll like where I’m planning to go tomorrow,” Jo said as she and Janet drove back to Harrogate.
“Really? Where are you thinking of going?” Janet said.
“I thought we could go to Whitby and see the Abbey,” Jo said.
Janet didn’t say a word for the rest of the day.