One week before the opening page of Going Back, medical Andrew is working his way slowly through a technical proposal from one of his team. His mind is not entirely on the job in hand; he has a window open on his laptop so he can check his email – there is one in particular he is hoping to receive, but Anne does not appear to have responded to his call last night about his trip to Germany next week.
The laptop gently chimes every now and again, but his messages are either dry internal week end reports or copies of conversations he has no direct interest in – people copy him on all manner of things because he has complained at length on more than one occasion about being missed out on what turned out to be important information.
He contemplates his evening again; he is aware that his investment in a season ticket for the Proms season gives him a fallback for most evenings, but he is genuinely looking forward to this evening – a world-renowned soloist in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto followed by a less well-known Nielsen symphony is just about his ideal way to spend a Friday evening, and he actually considers for a moment leaving early and eating in the Albert Hall, but then frowns at what he is reading; it would have to be done over the weekend, and will inevitably take twice as long to read at home.
Andrew sighs, and returns to his reading.
One week before the opening page of Going Back, Matthias is walking home through an unexpected summer shower. He is dressed only in his shirtsleeves, with the cuffs buttoned tightly at the wrist, as is his custom, and he reflects momentarily on how his father would have had a raincoat in his classroom for just such an eventuality. He grunts to himself, and remembers that his father would also have driven the Mercedes he had been so proud of, and been dry in any case.
Thought of the Mercedes causes him to visualise his mother driving furiously to Hamburg that day, and he grunts more audibly this time. He knows why he is thinking of her; that damned email from Andrew. Why now? Why after all he had done to banish all of it from his mind?
He stops at the end of the road and takes a deep breath, remembering the things he has been taught about keeping his emotions in perspective, and runs silently through a mental checklist. One of his neighbours – who probably thinks him a little odd already, he muses – looks at him curiously from her window, so he straightens his shoulders and walks on, wet and unhappy.
One week before the opening page of Going Back, Anne is sitting quietly behind her library desk, willing the afternoon to either be over, or to be busier so that she doesn’t have to think about her ex-husband’s phone call of the night before. She has turned it over in her mind so thoroughly now that she doesn’t honestly believe that there is any aspect of his trip next week that she hasn’t considered and every way she has thought about it ends badly – not just for her, but for Matthias and Andrew, who she still doesn’t want to hurt, in spite of everything.
She again thinks of calling Clare to discuss it, but has the uneasy sense that telling Clare that Andrew is going to Hohenügel would be like pulling at the loose thread which will unravel her entire life. She sighs again, drawing yet another glance from her colleague, who must be concerned about her enough by now to be on the point of asking Anne about it. Since that is the last thing Anne thinks she needs, she stands up and brightly offers to go and make the tea, since the afternoon break is only five minutes away.
A familiar patron opens the main door and comes in, which only encourages Anne on her mission. Talking to anyone right now would be a bad idea.
One week before the opening of Going Back, Karla is walking grimly around the running track in Bretten. No-one knows she does this, and she has surprised herself by her dedication to it – even, as now, cancelling sessions to come out here when it is quiet and no-one can see her. The wind keeps catching her hair and blowing it across her face, and each time it does, she tears it back with her left hand; each flick of her wrist more furious than the previous one.
She summons her training and expertise to examine her reaction to Erika’s phone call the previous evening. So what if the English boy is coming? It is all over, and he knows nothing. Matthias will never tell him anything, and she knows that no-one else has, thanks to Erika. Karla takes her regulation number of calming breaths, and then repeats the exercise when it appears that it did not change anything.
All will be for the best, she thinks. It always was this way, and no-one died. No-one who matters.
One week before the opening page of Going Back, Clare is arguing more or less amicably with another department head about travel expenses. They are close colleagues, but not friends, which suits Clare well, since she suspects him of having un-Civil Service-like thoughts about her – more than once she has been certain that he has lingered by her desk a little more closely than necessary. Not for the first time, she pines for the old days of enclosed office spaces, where men who should know better couldn’t come and talk to you from behind your left shoulder.
She smiles to remember a story of Erika’s about a colleague in Berlin who had written – or had someone write for her, Clare couldn’t remember – “What are you looking at?” in felt pen on the upper slope of one of her breasts. Invisible from the front, it could only be seen by someone who was deliberately looking.
Clare’s colleague stares at her, no doubt puzzled as to why the new regulations regarding buying tickets for the Eurostar were causing her to be so amused. Clare declines to enlighten him, knowing that this will infuriate and bemuse him.
Perhaps not my smartest move, she will later think, on receiving yet another email from him offering to go for after-work drinks.