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Lynn's thoughts, as she left the vicarage, were extremely mixed. Why on earth had she said that at
the end! He was just trying to be nice, and after all, it was his job. But he couldn't have minded too
much, otherwise he wouldn't have laughed. She'd talked about going to church to please him, so
that he didn't feel bad, but quite honestly now, she felt like she'd had enough. She didn't want to go
to church, didn't want to talk god-talk, just wanted to hide away somewhere and lick her wounds,
give her psyche - or whatever - time to recover. She'd phone Polly, tell her no, about tomorrow. If
she asked her for a reason - well, she'd tell her, dammit! That was settled.
Mark, when she got home, was quiet. He kept glancing at her, finally asked, ‘Where'd
you go then?' She told him.
His reaction was predictable. ‘Here we go again, that bloody god-stuff! Haven't you
had enough yet?'
‘I rather think I have,' she answered slowly.
‘Right! Knock it on the head then!'
‘I will. I'm going to phone Polly now and tell her.'
She did. There was the silence of consternation on the other end, and then Polly's
anguished voice, ‘Oh, but Lauren's going to be there! I wanted you to meet her!'
Lauren. Against her will, Lynn wanted to know more. From what Polly said about
Lauren, she seemed almost to have the status of divinity in Polly's mind. Lynn was sure it wasn't
allowed in a Christian church. ‘Why do you want me to meet Lauren?'
‘Oh, I just did, that's all,' said Polly wistfully. ‘Lauren's a fantastic person.'
There she went again. A fantastic person. Lynn felt that she hated the idolised Lauren
in advance. She remembered how David had lost interest in her at the door of the church, calling
over her shoulder, ‘How's Lauren?' What was this paragon like, who inspired so much devotion.? It
was creepy. Lynn felt that she wanted to meet her, tell her, ‘You're not so bloody marvellous. You
don't have to be a Christian to be fantastic.' There were plenty of amazing people around; Gandhi,
Mrs Pankhurst, her mother, all the people she'd known in the past who'd been kind to her, her
Auntie Gwen - she smiled at the memories - even Sandra. Hey, Sandra was a good person. She
really liked Sandra. Lauren? Huh! But still Lynn couldn't help wondering what Lauren was
actually like. Human curiosity, she supposed. Maybe she'd go just once more.
‘OK, I'll come.'
‘You will? Oh that's wonderful!' Polly's naive joy was transparent. Lynn felt as though
she, Lynn, was pretty divine herself, able to invoke such delight by her simple consenting to be
there. How easily Polly was pleased! She said goodbye and rang off, just as Mark came in.
‘You've sorted it then.'
‘Well, actually, I thought I'd give it one more try.'
‘Oh Lynn! What's going on? Oh for goodness sake! I thought the miscarriage was bad
enough, then that - that therapist, now this church crap. I'm sorry, not crap - church stuff. And I
thought, I really thought after last Wednesday that I'd got you back. How wrong I was! Will
somebody just tell me what's going on!'
He shook his head slowly, his eyes bewildered. Lynn wished someone would tell her
what was going on too. ‘It's the last time. Just someone I wanted to meet. Trust me.' He made no
reply, just turned away, his face expressionless. It felt intolerable. Lynn ran after him and threw
her arms round him, holding him tightly, trying to convey her love for him. ‘Oh please, oh please,
give me more time.' She longed for the words that would reach him, enable him to understand, but
nothing came. She was mute - a dumb woman communicating with a deaf man.
His expression was unreadable. ‘Sure, Lynn.' He hugged her and let her go.
All through the tube journey next morning Lynn kept asking herself why she was doing
it. The memory of Mark's face continuously alternated with Polly's. When she was nearly there she
made a decision. She couldn't stay. She couldn't tell Polly, she'd be on her way to church herself
now. Anyway, she was on the tube and there was no signal on her mobile, but when she got there
she'd say that Mark was ill and she had to go back. It was the best way. She couldn't do this to him,
just couldn't. She had to make some choices, put him first. For some reason, this made her think of
Chris, who she'd managed to avoid in the last couple of days at school, but the day of reckoning was
looming there. She shuddered. How did she get into these messes? She hadn't got a clue what to
say. But at least she'd met Sandra. That couldn't be bad.
The tube stopped and Lynn got out. All the way to St Saviour's she was rehearsing her
lines. Then she saw Polly waiting for her outside the church. She repeated the lines. Polly wilted,
rallied and said, ‘Yes, of course Lynn, I understand.' And then she caught sight of something over
Lynn's shoulder and her face brightened. ‘Oh, but you can say hello to Lauren before you go!
There she is!'
Lynn turned. Polly pointed . Lauren was dressed in brown with very short dark brown
hair. She was standing, barely visible, in the middle of a very lively crowd of what looked like year
sevens . Lynn was reminded of a sparrow being mobbed by a flock of budgies.
‘Oh,' said Lynn. She felt an unaccountable pang of anti-climax, and foolish too, for
feeling it. In the absence of any physical description of Lauren whatsoever, she had imagined
someone, well, a bit like Tia. Someone with some presence anyway, a force to be reckoned with,
not this dowdy person. Fantastic? She'd reserve judgment. Lynn thought of Polly's not infrequent
references to her; ‘Well, Lauren says . . . Lauren thinks . . .' But Lauren didn't seem to be saying
anything, from what Lynn could see. Really, ‘nondescript’ was the word that came to mind.
Disappointing really, but what could you expect from Polly? Silly of her to fall for it. Oh well,
she'd only wanted to meet her to satisfy her curiosity, and now she'd done it. She turned her
attention back to Polly.
‘You must be Lynn,' said a voice behind her. ‘And I'm Lauren. I just came over to say
Lynn swung round again with a start. Lauren? How did she get here? Her eyes
connected with the top of Lauren's head and travelled down. Lauren looked different close to. Her
dark hair was cut short, very, very short, and stuck up like fur. It made you want to stroke it.
Lauren wore the sort of earrings Della wore. She had a high, wide, unlined forehead, and her eyes
were the deepest, brightest brown Lynn had ever seen. Her eyebrows were straight at the top and
then dived down sharply at the outer corners. Enhanced by the droop of her eyelids, they gave her
features an expressive melancholy.
Lynn barely had time to register this before Lauren smiled. It was as though a billboard
had switched pictures while Lynn had blinked. Lauren's face changed completely; her eyes
crinkled and smiling, became two tiny, mirror images of a curvy, teasing smile that lit up her whole
face. If Lynn had been able to see only Lauren's eyes, she would have known exactly what
Lauren's smile was like. And it was for her. Lauren's smile, and her eyes that seemed to look into
Lynn's very soul, said, ‘Oh, what fun to meet you! You look like the sort of person that I really
like!' Lynn felt thoroughly approved of..
Lynn found herself smiling back all over her face. It was impossible not to. Had she
imagined then, that look of sadness? She must have. ‘Yes,' she said, ‘I'm Lynn. I've - ' she paused.
She was going to say, ‘I've been looking forward to meeting you,' but it wasn't exactly true. She
temporised with. ‘I've wanted to meet you.'
‘Have you? I wonder why?' said Lauren, still smiling. In another woman it would have
been a cue for something complimentary to be said. But for Lauren, it seemed a genuine question –
not to do with the qualities that she, Lauren, had that might make make her attractive to people , but
about Lynn, and the reasons Lynn might have for wanting to meet her, which might be nothing to
do with Lauren and everything to do with Lynn. Almost, in fact, as though Lauren knew how Lynn
had felt about her. But that was impossible, of course, not least because Lynn hardly knew herself.
But one thing stood out. There was something about Lauren that rang true.
Nevertheless, Lynn replied conventionally, more for something to say than anything
else. ‘People round here seem to think very highly of you.'
Lauren laughed. ‘Hmm,' she said. It's always better to form your own opinions, don't
‘Oh yes,' said Lynn. ‘Definitely. Yes indeed.'
‘So, you came with Polly?'
'No.' Lynn wanted to make that clear straight away. 'On the tube.'
'Was it far?' Lynn told her.
'My goodness – that's quite a way. Must have taken a while. How do you pass the time
on the tube?'
'By looking at other people,' Lynn said honestly, 'or – counting things.' Even as she said
it she wished she'd said 'Reading'.
What a co-incidence – I do just the same! I love looking at people, they are so
interesting. And sometimes I - '
She stopped, distracted. One of the budgies – quite a small one - had run over and was
tugging Lauren's sleeve. 'is it true, Lauren?' he cried in a tone of anguish. 'Is it true you can't come
to the zoo with us next week?'
Lauren smiled down at him. 'Yes, Tim, I'm afraid it is. I'm very sorry. Were you
looking forward to me coming?'
He said nothing. His face spoke for him.
I tell you what,' said Lauren. 'Would you do something for me? I really wanted to see
the kangaroos. I think they are wonderful. Would you mind terribly looking out for them for me
and telling me about them when you come back? And maybe' - she dug in her pocket and produced
a pound coin – 'you could buy me a postcard of one if you can find it.. would you mind doing that
for me? I'd be so pleased.'
'Of course I will, Lauren!' he said, all sunshine now. He pocketed the coin and marched
'Do you really like kangaroos?' asked Polly, who was standing by.
'Actually, no, Pol. Wombats are my preferred marsupial. But I thought it might be
easier to find a postcard of a kangaroo.'
It was odd to hear Polly called by the name that Lynn had only ever heard herself use.
Lauren turned back to Lynn. 'Where were we?'
Lynn made a disclaiming gesture. She'd met Lauren now and she needed to get back.
Let Polly take over. It would make her departure less obvious. Lauren looked at her keenly for a
moment then turned her attention to Polly who was now talking to her again.
‘Will you be at the prayer meeting on Wednesday?'
‘I hope so. Are you leading it again? I loved that reading you used last time – and you
read it so well.'
Polly flushed beetroot and beamed. ‘Oh, thanks, Lauren.'
Lynn, watching with interest, felt both fascinated and repelled, and something else that she
couldn't quite identify. It was strange to hear of Polly in such an unfamiliar role, leading the prayer
meeting. Whatever next! And Lauren seemed to think quite highly of her too. Perhaps that was
how these Christians got their kicks. They all thought the others were wonderful - a real mutual
admiration society! Hey, she had to go. She said as much to Polly.
Lauren looked at her inquiringly. ‘You're not staying for the service then?' Lynn
‘I'm sorry.' Whatever Lauren meant by sorry, it sounded genuine anyway. The service
was starting; they could hear the music group sounding more melodious, people were going in.
Lauren and Polly turned away.
‘See you tomorrow, Lynn.'
‘Oh - yeah. Sure, Pol.'
Watching them enter the church together, Lynn felt oddly alone and excluded.
Resolutely, she headed back to the tube. During the ride home, reflecting on the encounter, Lynn
tried to identify the mystery emotion she'd felt at seeing Lauren and Polly talking, and then she
wished she hadn't. It didn't feel at all nice, and the most she could permit herself to acknowledge
was that it was something not a thousand miles away from a wistful envy.
At home, Mark was surprised to see her back so early. When he learned that she'd come
back early for him, his smile of delighted surprise was ample repayment for any inconvenience
incurred. And as a bonus, she had seen Lauren. No point in telling him that, and Lynn felt a glow
of virtue from having made the decision to come home before she'd seen her. It seemed like a sort
of reward, somehow.
Later that day in bed, Lynn and Mark were talking after half an hour of home
entertainment. It had been quite fun really, Lynn reflected. Sometimes she thought they were too
boring and predictable, as though they'd been married for twenty years instead of two. But now and
then it was nice to stick with the tried and true. She remembered that time so long ago in the
shower. It hadn't really been successful. Perhaps all people did in the shower was - well - shower?
And were you meant to keep the water running? It all had got a bit slippery, and it wasn't really
helped by Mark being so much taller than she was. Then there was that time they'd tried it in the
kitchen. It had felt rather odd to have dinner at the table so soon afterwards, and wow, had it hurt
her back! Anyway, at least today she'd made up for yesterday, and in comfort. Mark was looking
very pleased with himself. She loved that look.
‘I think I might try to read up a bit about this psychology stuff,' Lynn began cautiously.
‘I really know so little about it.'
‘Probably a good idea,' Mark agreed expansively. He was lying on his back, hands
behind his head, contemplating the ceiling.‘ Help you get the most out of it. A bit of background
reading never hurts.'
Lynn looked at him sorrowfully. Those two sentences had been all she could bring
herself to say about the subject. She could never tell him what was going on in her head about Tia,
or even what she had said to her in the sessions, it would completely freak him out. And maybe
now she'd just said that to prepare him for finding the place knee-deep in stuff about psychology.
Oh, what a devious person she was! There was no honesty in her. She and Mark had never had
secrets before. And now she had so many. She sighed.
Mark, unable to interpret the sigh, but wanting to make it all right, rolled over, pulled
her towards him and started nuzzling her neck. It had the effect he desired. Lynn summoned her
reserves of energy, laughed and started kissing him back. Presently they lay back again. Mark said,
‘You want some coffee?'
‘Mmm, nice,' said Lynn.
Mark got blithely up and went out. She could hear him whistling in the kitchen.
* * *
The next evening, after dinner had been cleared away, Lynn said ‘Right!' and dumped a
pile of books on the table. Mark, ambling by, looked interested. He picked one up at random and
opened it. Statistical Methods in Psychology. ‘What's a t-test then?'
‘Give me that back!' said Lynn. ‘How should I know? I only got it today.' She
snatched it from him and looked at the page. She looked at another page, entitled ‘Calculating
coefficients of correlation', then another about chi-squares. Bloody hell! The book was all like that,
loaded with incomprehensibility. It even felt heavier than it should. She should really have looked
at it in the library. Too late, she remembered that the statistics lectures were the first ones she'd
bunked off from at university and the deal she'd done with nerdy Martin, whereby she posed as his
girlfriend to allay his parents' suspicions when they came to visit in return for certain favours
concerning the writing up of her lab experiments. To those in the know, it explained the huge
inequality between her coursework marks and her exam results. Her respect for Tia increased
exponentially. She put the book to one side.
Mark picked up another one. 'The Interpretation of Dreams,' he read with interest.
‘Freud. Wasn't he the one who was always banging on about sex?' He started to thumb through it.
‘Oh sod off!' said Lynn exasperated. Grinning, he put it back on the table and
swaggered off. Even the sight of his back was irritating. Lynn picked up the Freud book herself.
Surely Tia was into Freud? He was the one that started it all off after all, wasn't he? So . . . was
there any sex? Just curious, of course. Tia had never mentioned sex. But then Tia never mentioned
anything very much.
The book was quite easy to read, or would be if she had the time, but it seemed a bit
weird. All these dreams about weeing and eating and stuff. A sentence caught her eye
'Differences of this kind also apply to the weakening of a mode of imagination that originally was
strongly visual.' Lynn read the paragraph it was in three times but it made no difference. What else
can you expect if you skim read? she thought. But she had no time to do very much else. She never
dreamed anyway. But if she did she'd make sure she never dreamed any of the stuff he talked about
- though quite how she'd do that she wasn't exactly certain. Principles of Topological Psychology,
Psychology as the Behaviourist Views It and The Philosophy of Psychology met with a similar fate
to The Interpretation of Dreams. By the time Lynn got to the last three books entitled Attachment,
Separation and Loss, she couldn't have cared less if they'd told her how to win the lottery. She went
All next day, Lynn puzzled over the conundrum that Tia was a clinical psychologist,
and yet the entire stock of the psychology section of the library seemed to give no clue as to how it
fitted in with her job. Either Tia was very clever, or Lynn was very dense. Probably both. Half a
night and half a day of thinking (she had to make some effort to teach . . . Nicole was away, she
noted with some anxiety) had brought her close to desperation and she threw herself into cooking
the dinner to occupy herself.
When he returned home from work, Mark found her in the kitchen wrestling with what
he took to be a large, pale orange lightbulb. He came up quietly behind her and put his hands on her
shoulders. Luckily she had heard him come in or he would have sent her through the roof.
‘Butternut squash,' muttered Lynn grimly, still intent on penetrating its bulbous
‘You're kidding! ''Butter nuts squash'' - sounds painful! Hey, don't take the pith out of
me!' he squealed in mock alarm as she turned on him threateningly, knife in hand. Did all men
regard puns as the acme of humour, wondered Lynn, not for the first time. Did Jeremy Paxman?
Or did he only ever say, ‘Ye-up,' and ‘get a move on’ at home? Nevertheless she gave a reluctant
smile to show she appreciated his humour, but not enough to encourage him to continue.
‘I've got something for you,' Mark said quickly, fumbling in his briefcase. He gave her
a bag, which Lynn put on the toaster without comment.
‘Aren't you going to open it then?'
She did so. Inside was a book called Introducing Psychology. It had lots of pictures
inside. Lynn looked at them. ‘I can understand this,' she said with surprise. Mark smiled smugly.
After dinner, Lynn read the book, keeping up a running commentary to Mark.
‘So it was Milgram who was the electric shock man, I read about that.'
'Skinner and Pavlov are important in psychology too. I guess that makes sense.'
‘The Bobo doll man isn't called Bandanna after all. I'd always thought it was an odd
Lynn grew quieter as she recognised more and more old friends. So this was
psychology. She knew more than she thought she did, she wasn't so stupid after all! And it talked
about therapy too, and where Tia fitted in, a little bit. Yes, things were looking up. Mark, listening,
felt hugely delighted with himself that his efforts in finding the book had received such a
satisfactory pay-off in Lynn's evident pleasure in reading it.
Towards the end of the evening, as Lynn finished the book and set it down with a sigh
of satisfaction, the question suddenly flashed through her mind, ‘Yes, but what do I do with it?'
And she didn't know. Reality suddenly kicked in hard. And the reality was that she only had three
more sessions with Tia, and then no more, ever. The reality was that she felt confused and
ambivalent about her relationship with Tia, and therefore with other women. The reality was that
though somehow she felt more able to leave the miscarriage behind, her relationship with Mark was
still pretty unsatisfactory and she didn't know what to do about it. The reality was that her
relationship with Della now felt decidedly unsafe after Della's confession in the cafe. The reality
was that she felt jealous of Polly for knowing Lauren and that felt really wrong. The reality was
that she didn't know what the hell to do about Chris or even Nicole, though Nicole was probably
nothing serious . . . she hoped. But it was still her job to sort it. The reality was that she wanted to
know if god was really there but she never wanted to go to church again or talk to anyone remotely
Christian - why, she didn't know. The reality was - oh shut up! But with all these realities kicking
in, it made feeling happy about reading a poxy little book on psychology look pretty bloody stupid.
As she was sinking under the weight of this, the phone rang. Mark, now in the study,
answered it; said, ‘It's for you.'
Lynn went to answer it. ‘Who is it?' she mouthed.
‘Don't know,' he mouthed back, covering the mouthpiece. ‘A woman. Well-spoken.
Don't know the voice.'
Hoping against hope it was Sandra inviting her round, Lynn took the receiver, but
instead a voice she didn't recognise said, ‘Hello, this is Lauren. I hope it's not too late to phone.' It
was the last person Lynn expected to hear. Trying to keep the astonishment out of her voice she
said, ‘No, no. Fine.'
‘Oh, good. I got your phone number from Polly. I was just phoning to ask if you'd like
to come round for a coffee - or tea - some time?'
Lynn nearly dropped the phone. ‘That would be very nice,' she said formally.
‘Good,' said Lauren again. ‘I was wondering how you are fixed for next Saturday.'
‘I - I think I could manage that.'
‘Afternoon? About three? It's 23, Lime Avenue. The road right by St Saviour's. Very
handy for church. I still manage to arrive late though.' Lauren laughed. Lynn laughed too.
‘That sounds fine. It's nice of you to ask. I'll look forward to it, I don't know many
people at St Saviour's.' (What a hypocrite she was. As if she cared how many she knew. She was
never going back.)
‘Well, after Saturday you'll know one more, won't you?’ said Lauren. ‘I'll look forward
to it too. Let me give you my phone number in case you need it.'
‘Wait! I'll get a pen.' As she took the number, Lynn felt her equilibrium return. How
nice it would be to go round to Lauren's and talk to her. She began to feel happy again. In fact she
felt rescued. Lauren's call had come at just the right moment.
‘Thanks again. Bye.'
‘Bye.' The phone went dead. As she hung up the receiver, Lynn suddenly felt the need
to sit down. It was this sudden switching from despair to hope that did it. It was much more tiring
than the other way round. As she dragged herself to the bathroom to take her makeup off, hearing
again Lauren's voice in her head, she suddenly thought of Mark. What would he say? Oh blow!
And it had all been going so well between them.
She was already in bed when Mark came through, and as he turned the light out and
settled down beside her, Lynn said softly, ‘Have you had any thoughts about what we might do at
the weekend, Mark?'
She felt hesitation run along his body and wondered with some trepidation what was
coming next. It had seemed a straightforward enough question.
He said carefully, ‘I was picking the right moment.' (For what?) ‘I know you've been
low lately, and it would be nice for us to do something together, but, well, Alan told me today he's
got tickets for the away match with Newcastle and I was wondering if you'd mind terribly if we
went up to it. It would mean leaving you early on Saturday and probably not getting back until late
Sunday afternoon. Say if you'd rather not.'
‘I think it's a great idea! Do you good! You've been working hard lately, Mark, and
I've not been much company.'
‘Yes - I mean, yes, I have been working hard, but I don't want to leave you on your
own, go off enjoying myself leaving you feeling miserable. I'm not such a selfish bastard as that!'
Ouch! She was touched by his caring. And she'd always thought of herself as the
caring one in the relationship. Was there no end to this voyage of self-discovery through her own
'No Mark, you go. I'll be fine, honestly. I've got a few things to do, and I'll be glad to
think of you up there in Newcastle. I mean it. You go. You won't get this chance again.'
‘Oh Lynn, you're wonderful! Thanks! Thanks for being so understanding. I did want to
go, I must admit.’
‘Well, that’s settled then! You’ll enjoy it. Goodnight.'
Lynn stayed awake for quite a while, listening to Mark's rhythmic breathing. Despite
hating herself for her hypocrisy, she could not help feeling relief, almost a sense of gratitude, for the
way things had turned out. Now she wouldn't have to tell him. She thought of Lauren asking her
round for tea and fell asleep.
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