The call came around 2 am. I awoke with a start and fumbled to put the bedside light on, but by the time I lifted the receiver I already knew what it was. My brother Christopher calmly told me “Hello mate, she’s gone”.
Equally calmly I told him I would be back as soon as I could. Then rather pathetically stated that I hoped he was OK. Of course he wasn’t but I could not think of anything more useful to say.
I lay numb in bed for most of the night – I can’t remember if I slept at all. I certainly was moving by day break and took a long walk along the sandy beach to the limestone headland, watched the waves breaking for a while then ambled slowly back to the hotel. I sat at the restaurant table long before the staff arrived, and waited patiently for Mike to emerge. He came across with his usual ebullient mood, but he could see on my face that this was going to be a different day. I told him about the conversation I had had with my brother the night before, almost able not to break my voice in the telling. Mike was brilliant at this moment. We would head into Port Mathurin first thing to try and make the travel arrangements.
We needed to get me on the earliest flight to Plaisance and then I needed to rebook my final return flight with BA back to the UK. Cotton Bay in those days had no reliable email, but Mike had stayed at a hotel in town that had some internet connection so we headed over the hill. First we visited a travel agent and arranged a flight back to Mauritius. Then we sat in this hotel, the TV blaring out Obama’s election to the US presidency, while I tried to get online to the BA website to rearrange my ticket home. The ticket agent in Port Mathurin had found a space on the 2pm flight. We had little time to get back over to Cotton Bay for me to throw my belongings in the case. I knocked on Jeremy’s hotel room door and apologized for leaving him in the lurch, but would support him from back home. Mike and I exchanged few words as we crossed the island – I kinda felt sorry for the guy – what do you say to someone who just lost his mother. At the airport as he shook my hand and thanked me for what I had done, I had to say “ I won’t be coming back” .