I stared at Sara. Mary didn’t. She laughed. The laugh of a madwoman before the strike.
‘Are you telling me you didn’t know that Adil, whatever his name is, had an intimate relationship with my daughter?’
‘He didn’t. Now if you excuse me, I’ve…’
I felt sick. Had Jane been deceiving me? ‘Wait a minute,’ I said. ‘If Adil wasn’t the father, who was?’
Sara sat still.
Mary stood up. ‘You’re staying put while I drag Rod out of his interviews. I want the truth.’
Sara remained calm. ‘I don’t think…’
‘Exactly. You don’t think your precious Adil strayed. He’s a man. They all do, given the chance.’
‘I’ve nothing further to say.’
Mary glared at her, told her not to move, and stalked out.
‘Sara,’ I said. ‘Jane became close to me. We shared confidences. Why would she tell me Adil was her son’s father?’
She reached for another tissue. ‘It’s not true.’ She struggled to express her emotions. ‘Jane was…was…’
Never. Not Jane. After a few moments, another thought. More disturbing. Like mother, like daughter?
I kept my voice even, although my hands trembled. ‘How can you be sure?’
‘Alone with a man in a room, different ones, and sometimes at the guesthouse. A do not disturb sign outside.’
I stifled a groan. ‘Sara, she was a counsellor, for Christ’s sake.’
Sara went quiet.
We sat, not saying anything until Mary crashed back in. ‘Rod will be with us soon. Lunch break.’
Mary sat down and glared at Sara, who busied herself writing in a notebook as if we didn’t exist. My gaze alternated between them and the prevention of HIV poster on the door. If Adil had been Sara’s fiancé, safe sex — prior to marriage — would be mandatory.
And if Adil had been straying? Okay, both Muslims, both virgins? But Sara acted like a modern woman…
I’ll ask her. ‘Sara…’ I said, as the door opened and Rod entered, carrying a chair.
‘Twenty minutes,’ he said, plonking himself down, ‘and that’s all.’
‘You’ll stay here until I find out the truth,’ said Mary, pointing her finger at him, ‘and if you mention the word confidential, I’ll remind you it’s my dead daughter and my grandson we’re talking about.’
‘Yes, I understand all that, Mrs. Parrington, but—’
‘No, you don’t understand at all. I want answers, not platitudes, even if I have to travel to the top of NEMO’s executive chain until I get them.’
Nice one, Mary.
Mary’s outburst had Rod pinned to his chair. His eyes flicked back and forth between us, as if seeking a way out.
With him and Mary in a silent stand-off, I simplified. ‘Rod, was Adil the father of Jane’s baby?’
Rod shook his head, opened his hands. ‘I don’t know.’
His actions appeared genuine. I twisted the knife. ‘What do you know? Did Adil and Jane go out together? Sleep together? Have an affair?’
Sara gasped. ‘Impossible, it’s…’
‘I’m not asking you, I’m asking your HR Manager.’
‘Answer, will you,’ said Mary.
Rod lowered his eyes. ‘It’s possible,’ he said. ‘Rumours...but that’s all it was. Only rumours.’
Sara slammed her fist on the table, stood up, and flung back her chair. ‘Rumours? What the hell do you mean about rumours? I’m out of here.’
Mary stood up, and blocked her exit. ‘Get back in your chair, because you’ll want to understand this. I’m going to demand a paternity test.’
Sara gasped. ‘What? I won’t allow it.’
‘You’ve no choice. I’ve got the right.’
Rod held up his hand. ‘Ladies, this is Aceh. Sharia law will defer to the wishes of Adil’s family.’
‘Let’s make one thing clear,’ Mary replied. ‘I’m here for six more days before my return to England. What about my family?’
Rod looked at me. Pleading.
‘Sara,’ I said, before Mary persisted. ‘You’ve told us that Adil was your fiancé. Are you a virgin?’
She flinched, cheeks reddened. ‘It’s none of your business.’
‘I think it is. Isn’t it Muslim tradition? And what would Adil’s father think of you? A harlot leading his son from the righteous path?’
Sara’s eyes locked with mine, and I glanced up at the HIV poster. After a few moments, her eyes clouded and she said she wouldn’t object to a DNA test. Which, to me, meant Sara had practised safe sex.
Not that it helped Mary.
‘May I make a suggestion,’ I said to Rod. ‘Ask Mr. Donaldson to help us out with blood samples. In the meantime, you talk to Adil’s father, suggest he could be a grandfather or whatever it takes for him to agree.’
Sara stood up, tears flowed, and her body shook. ‘I don’t want to know anymore. Please let me grieve in peace.’
We all stood up. I am sure at that moment we all felt her suffering. Enough for me to mumble apologies to her retreating back, and to finish up with Rod promising to meet with us again, soon.
Outside the building, Mary called the “boys”, while I went in search for a taxi. I returned with one, but she hadn’t given up.
‘Let’s go straight to the hospital. Talk to Hamish. I’m not waiting on some raghead to pontificate my grandson’s future. If need be, we’ll by-pass protocol.’
I didn’t argue, although it was pointless, and probably illegal. If Adil had fathered the baby, would she have any redress from his family?
But I didn’t think he had. Adil, a practitioner of safe sex, aware of the risks of HIV — as was Jane — betrothed to Sara, surely wouldn’t have been so careless.
Rumours...but that’s all it was. Only rumours.
I needed to talk with Rod. Alone.