This is a preview to the chapter Empty Nest from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
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I looked around the room. It was immaculate. Pictures of Adalet covered the mantelpiece and the huge antique dining table was set for breakfast. Rogers was sleeping on the sofa, body outstretched and mouth dribbling with contentment. The place was jarringly silent.
“It’s so quiet, where’s Adalet?” Liam stared at Alan. Alan buried his head in his hands.
“What’s happened? Where’s Adalet?”
“They took her this morning.”
“Who took her?”
“The police. And the social workers. They took her.”
Liam went to check on Charlotte. Part of him didn’t want to believe what Alan was saying. He would find Adalet playing on the end of Mummy’s bed, demanding attention and gurgling as she always did.
Alan filled me in on the bizarre news. A judge had dismissed their adoption application, without ceremony and without explanation. Early the next morning, a team of social workers came to the house. They were flanked by a detachment of armed police waving an order from the provincial governor. Charlotte swept Adalet up into her arms. Alan stood between her and the police and refused to budge. Charlotte screamed at the social workers, demanding an explanation and hugging Adalet hard. The protest was useless and within minutes, a screaming Adalet was prised from Charlotte’s grip and handed to a social worker. Charlotte ran barefoot into the street and begged them not to take her child. The police car drove off. Adalet wrestled with her minder in the back seat and Charlotte slumped to the ground and called to her baby. It was all over in minutes.
It took a while for everything to sink in. Alan started to cry. I reached over and held him.
“Alan, I’m so very sorry.”
“I’m glad you came.”
“How’s Charlotte? Sorry, dumb, dumb question.”
“Completely devastated, shell-shocked. We both are. She can’t stop crying. I’ve given her a sedative.” “You should speak to your lawyer,” I said.
“That’s the problem. We can’t get hold of him.”
We heard nothing from Alan and Charlotte for days. Our calls went unanswered. We left pathetic messages and busied ourselves with the house, hoping they would eventually contact us with better news. Liam was distraught and I distracted him as best I could. By pure chance, we’d moved to a house on the same cadde as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was just a few hundred yards up the street. I dragged Liam to see it one afternoon, partly to take his mind off Adalet and partly to feed my obsession with ancient ruins. It was nothing but a big hole in the ground. Having survived for seventeen centuries virtually intact, it was felled by an earthquake in the Middle Ages. What was left had been plundered by the Knights of St. John to build the rather impressive landmark Crusader castle that dominated the town. “That’s the Catholics for you, no respect for history,” said Liam. “That’s my Liam, once a lapsed Catholic, always a lapsed Catholic.”
I arranged for a German odd-job guy to install lights and a put up some pictures: my girly cordless drill didn’t leave even the smallest dent in the thick stone and concrete walls. Bruno was an interesting chap. He confirmed very early on that he batted for the majority team. He also told us about his one-off threesome with his best (male) friend and the friend’s (female) partner. He didn’t elaborate on who did what to whom but insisted “there was no penetration involved.” This curious tale was volunteered with absolutely no prompting. As he screwed our pan rack to the kitchen ceiling he reminisced about a tailor- made love seat he constructed in his marital bedroom. “To spice up the sex life with my wife.” Apparently, it didn’t work. She filed for divorce a week later.
Charlotte was struggling to cope with the emptiness that engulfed her. She couldn’t sleep and resorted to sleeping tablets. Alan seemed stronger but grappled with the new reality as much as she. We would visit Yalıkavak, watching them struggle and watching them cry. “We’ll sort this,” I would say. “It’s a mistake. It’ll be okay.” I had no idea if it would be.
Weeks slowly passed and sketchy details of the charge against them began to emerge. Court papers confirmed that Turkish Social Services had received an allegation from a
‘private individual’ through official channels in the UK. There was suspicion that Charlotte and Alan had purchased Adalet from her birth mother and planned to abscond with her. Worst of all, the anonymous complainant was someone they knew. In the circumstances, the authorities had little choice but to remove Adalet. Down but unbowed and strengthened by the absurdity of the accusation, they gathered themselves and began to collect evidence to clear their names. Charlotte discovered that Adalet was in a Muğla orphanage and planned an unannounced visit.
“Let them try and stop me,” she said to Liam. “They’ve got my little girl.”
Our life in Bodrum was put on hold. Liam found the whole situation impossible to endure. I would find him sitting in the garden, making notes and thinking of new ways to inspire his friend. “Charlotte, we need to plan Adalet’s return party. We’ll have magic dust. I’ll dress up as a giraffe and pas de deux with that stuffed toy we gave her.” Or, “Charlotte, she’ll be absolutely fine in that orphanage. Adalet could charm the pants off a donkey. Stop worrying, she’ll be home soon.” Each time, Charlotte would say “Sweet pea, you’re crazy,” and each time Liam would reply, “I know.”
Alan focussed his anger on the complainant. “What kind of fucking pond life would accuse us of this shit? All we ever wanted was our own child.”
“It makes no sense, Alan,” I said. “What are you going to do?”
“Do? We’re gonna fight. I’ll sue the lot of ‘em.”
As the weeks passed and the case became lost in a never-ending maze of bureaucracy, life started to revert to some semblance of normality. Alan employed a new lawyer and plans were drawn up to approach the powers that be and plead for more information. Liam and I went back to our days in the sun, helping when we could but knowing that we couldn’t affect the outcome.
Liam had run out of ideas. “It’s hopeless, Jack. What should we do?”
“Be there and get on with our lives.”
and all the others, when you
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