Brian's attempt to woo Jane in chapter 16

Jane’s mother was slowly regaining strength. Jane visited regularly, mainly because Brian insisted. She had seen a lot of Brian since her mother’s collapse. He was stable, reassuring and emotional in a way that she found difficult to relate to. Their meetings had developed a predictable pattern: Jane would demand that he talked to her about anything he wanted to that wasn’t family or emotional, he’d nervously recite whatever he’d been learning about as a safe emotion-free topic, and once his soothing words of statistics had calmed her, she’d slowly give up a little more of her past to him. His advice never wavered: no matter what, her parents were her parents and she should be there for them. His view irritated her a little; he didn’t know what she’d endured. This ritual had gone on for weeks. It was only now that it occurred to her to ask him about his own family. He smiled when she asked, but with tears in his eyes.

‘My dad’s awesome,’ he said. ‘He brought me up. He worked 50+ hours a week and still always had time for me. He was there getting me ready for school every morning, and there to pick me up. He never missed anything. Anything. The guy never slept for cramming in work while I was asleep so he could be there when I was awake. I don’t know how he did it. He gave up his life to give me a happy childhood.’

‘And your mum?’

‘She died,’ he said after a long pause. He choked. ‘I was 10. It was a hit and run.’

Jane wasn’t equipped for this kind of revelation. ‘That must have been hard,’ she said.

‘The weird thing is I don’t remember anything.’ The levee in his eyes broke. ‘I know that I had 10 years with my mum – I’ve seen photos, but they feel like someone else’s life. It’s like she was wiped from my mind when she died. I remember the look of desolation in my dad’s eyes when he told me, and everything since, but I don’t remember anything before that day. It kills me.’

Jane did something she’d never done in her adult life. She put her arm around another person and hugged him. She quickly felt awkward, not knowing whether it was weirder to keep holding him or to let go.