No. 2  Resolution of a kind

Some time later. Maybe a year. Stella will sit in the designated waiting area, watching people and trying not to look as if she is. A young woman will park her bicycle outside, come through the double glass doors and sit down opposite her with one leg under, then take out a book. Stella will discretely study her and think that she looks posh. There are certain clues to indicate this. A smart shortish dress with blue stripes, short, chic haircut will be the main ones. These, along with the bicycle which she will have noted has a basket on the front. Stella will wonder about the bike. Is it common to ride bikes round here ? Like Cambridge ? The girl will start chatting to one of the girls on the reception desk. Stella will wonder why she has come into this place since it is currently being used for interviewing prospective students. It is obvious that she is already a student or employee at the university by the way she knows the girl on the reception desk. She will wonder if she’s going to take over her job at some point.

The relentless drone of the video advertising the success of the university will annoy Stella to the point of her nearly going outside for a break, but she will resist, knowing that her daughter will notice if she leaves and this may unsettle her.

Her daughter will be involved in an interview. It will be conducted in an open, group session far down at the other end of the room and Stella will be able to watch how the lady with the very short grey hair looks up admiringly at her daughter who is much taller than the lady and she will notice how the lady looks particularly at the delicate expanding tattoo style choker that her daughter will have put around her neck for the occasion.

Then, a couple will come noisily through the double doors, struggling with a large portfolio, several files and a giant unidentifiable structure made out of what will appear to be paper mache and chicken wire. Stella will presume this is a piece of art that one of them has created and she will think, disparagingly and unkindly, that it looks hideous. She will watch as they wrestle with it all and they try to explain their business to the friendly and courteous receptionist. Stella will decide that the female is about 17 and the bloke about 30 odd. Stella will take in the dishevelled shoulder length badly dyed pink hair, tight drain pipe jeans, old pumps and revealing skimpy top of the young woman. She will notice and raise an eyebrow at the way the bloke keeps running his hand up and down the girl’s back, side and bottom and how he keeps chipping in and interrupting when the young woman tries to answer the receptionist’s questions. She will also take note of the fact that the young woman doesn’t seem to care about these two facts, which will be indicated by the way she keeps nodding and smiling at the bloke.

While all this is taking place, a huddle of young people will shuffle out through some kind of exit barrier which is situated at the opposite end of the interview section and seems to be the entrance to the college facilities. They will all be dressed in an interesting and arty way and will be laughing and talking to each other confidently as they move through the waiting area together and leave through the glass entrance doors. Stella will think how affluent and posh they all look and sound, despite their apparent scruffiness and will sigh a little sigh to herself. As a wave of anxiety washes over her, she will take a surreptitious side-long glance at the interview end of the room to see if she can still see her daughter. She will have to scan around, however, before she will find her now sitting at a round table with some other young people, apparently taking part in a discussion. Her expression will be pleasant and smiling, but Stella will know that she feels intimidated by this situation and another wave of anxiety will wash over her.

The young woman opposite will get up suddenly and, stuffing her book into her little leather backpack, rush out of the exit doors, smiling a brief farewell to her friend on reception. Stella will see her through the glass doors, rapidly unlocking her bike and wheeling it quickly across the road in the same direction as the group of young people. The bloke’s voice suddenly will then draw her attention back as he fires questions at the receptionist about some course that the girl he is with seems to be applying for. She will strain her ears to try to understand the situation being described and although she knows her imagination and prejudices are filling in the gaps, she will deduce that the young girl is trying to get onto a course that she is not really qualified for and that the bloke accompanying her thinks he can assist by being bullish and pushy. Stella will see the receptionist ask them to take a seat and then she will go through a door located in the wall behind Stella and be gone for some time, leaving the reception desk unattended.

Stella will scan the end of the room again to see how her daughter looks. She will catch her smiling and nodding as someone else speaks and then laughing at some remark another person makes. Stella will wonder if her daughter is really as relaxed as she looks and will decide to ask her as few questions as possible afterwards. Slightly to the right and over the other side of the waiting area, Stella will catch sight of the couple kissing and manhandling each other as they wait for the return of the secretary. Stella’s stomach will churn in response to this.

Some few minutes later, the secretary will emerge from the room behind her and go towards the canoodling couple. Simultaneously, the group interview session that Stella’s daughter is involved in will end and the students will stand, draw back their chairs and move back towards the interview area where they will have laid all their art work out at the beginning of the interview some half an hour ago. Stella will watch as her daughter, still listening to another student who is looking up at her and talking, shifts her tall frame elegantly as they negotiate the obstacle course that is composed of chairs and tables. Out of the corner of her right eye, Stella will notice the girl return to her reception desk and the bloke get up after kissing his girl. She will not have any difficulty hearing his booming voice explain to the receptionist that he has to leave now to attend an interview himself for a job in the area and will leave through the glass doors, waving at his girl who will now be hunched over herself, chewing her thumb nail. Stella’s stomach will churn once more at the sight of this.

After some indiscernible amount of time, Stella will see her daughter walking rapidly towards her, carrying her portfolio and the carrier bag full of sketchbooks. She will wear what Stella will recognise as a frozen smile on her face and Stella’s stomach will churn for the umpteenth time. Stella will rise and hold her hand out as if to take the bag of sketchbooks from her daughter, but her daughter will say no it’s ok she can manage and will lead the way out through the glass doors, barely stopping to say a brief thank you to the girl on reception.

Stella will follow suit and have to almost run to catch up with her daughter as she makes her rapid exit and heads off across the street, hardly looking for oncoming traffic. Once by her side, Stella will look side-long up at her daughter’s face and see the tears welling in her eyes. Come on, get me out of here, her daughter will say quietly and, Stella recognises, with suppressed anger.

These things take time to anatomise. As a parent you learn not to pry or to react too quickly. Well if you don’t, you’ll never get to understand anything at all. During the 180 mile drive home, Stella will talk about everything in the world except the interview. Her daughter will remain quiet and look out at the passing relentless monotony of the East Anglian countryside as they drive along the only road out of Norwich which is the endless A47. By the time they get to Sheffield, she might start talking about how posh and intimidating she found the woman who interviewed her. Stella will remember how admiringly the woman had gazed up at her tall and elegant daughter, but, of course, won’t reveal this memory to her daughter. And so the gradual unravelling of experience in parallel will unfold on the long journey home.