Around 5 I awake filled with dread. The realisation hits me that my daughter will leave the house today and it may be weeks before she returns. Our night time chats, our morning routines are to disappear for the time being and despite the stress we have been under, this seems terrifying. I wonder in my sleep filled haze if this is the whispering voice of Ed, tired of taunting L and come to pour words of doubt in my own ears. I ignore the doubt and remember that this is the first day of a journey to freedom.
I do some work in bed, making up for the time lost later. I check emails and wonder if those receiving them will wonder why they are so early. I get up and tell L it is time to get up. She beams as she comes down from her top floor room and goes to the bathroom.
At 9 her father arrives and I let him in. He starts to sob as he enters the house. I take him through to the kitchen. He tells me it has just hit him as he walks up the steps and he cannot believe where we are with L. I leave him in the kitchen and go to L. I have no time for this at all. L tries to comfort him. I carry on making breakfast. Part of me feels sorry for him and part of me wants to smash crockery and ask him why it has taken till now to work out how serious this is and perhaps he could consider that today is about L, not him. I decide to ignore and chat to L. Eventually he goes as he doesn’t want to upset us. I sigh.
We leave for the unit, a twenty minute drive from our house. K comes with us, so she can see where L will be. I think how familiar the route will become over the coming weeks. It is raining and grey and miserable. We arrive and are met by a warm friendly young woman, a mental health nurse, who will be one of a team of three supporting L. We get a copy of a care plan, L is given a buddy to help her settle in. We unpack her things, the bedding is brought from home and is familiar and L has pictures for her notice board. On her bed sits Hattie, a family toy cat that I bought when my marriage broke down. I told all three of them stories about Hattie to detract from their misery when their father and I split up. She was a fishmongers cat who battled pirates and won a boat race before settling in our home and Hattie stories made a miserable time better. L needs Hattie now, even at nearly 15.
This morning L is making jam with her group and I imagine her having it on her two slices of toast tomorrow morning. I leave her and she smiles. I feel sad and happy in equal parts. When I get home, there is a letter from her on my bedside, which she must have left earlier. She thanks me for everything I have done and tells me she is ready to get better and that I have helped her not just to eat more, but to know she is worth more. I read it and then hug K and weep. Not with grief, but with pride at my beautiful daughter and her determination to battle this terrible illness and find a future without it.