But when your daughters decide to do as Mayuri and Bean have decided to do – to change the direction of their lives, to pick themselves up and out of the house of orange and black gates – when they decide to do this simultaneously, it is about as devastating as it gets. When Sian starts up this wailing and cannot stop till it’s all washed out of her, the other women begin to think about their own private sorrows and they let it out and let it out until there isn’t a dry, smudgeless eye on that beach.  

Every woman, that is, except for Ba. Ba is not crying. Ba has gone looking for Babo, who’s sitting by himself, watching the inky sea. He’s thinking about the first English love song he ever heard – Nat King Cole’s ‘Love is a Many Splendoured Thing’.  He’s thinking how that song used to play in his head over and over when his daughters were little, when they used to strip off their clothes and go running into the waves at Marina Beach while Sian and he held hands on the seashore. He’s remembering leaning over to his wife and saying, Life really did begin in the ocean, didn’t it? 

When Ba finds him she lowers herself on to the wet sand beside him. ‘Nobody said it was going to be easy’, she says.  

Babo lays his head in her lap. 

‘Only fools and lovers never learn how to let go’, Ba says, opening her mouth to the rain, moving her fingers out of habit through Babo’s non-existent curls.

It’s not what you think. It’s not that I don’t want them to go away from home, find love, live their lives as fully as they possibly can. It’s not even that I want them to remain eternally innocent. But what I want, what I really want to know is what I’m supposed to do with the space they leave behind? What am I supposed to fill it with?  

‘You fill it with love,’ Ba murmured. ‘Like you have always filled it. With love and more love’.

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