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Conversations with Tia
A novel by Louise Vanstone
The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates
For Sue, of course. Who else?
This is a work of fiction. All the names, characters, places and events portrayed are products of the author's imagination, or if real are used fictitiously. The author asserts her moral right to be regarded as the creator of this novel, and no part of it is to be reproduced by any means for private or public use without due acknowledgment of its provenance.
The phone rang and Lynn reached for it. As she did so, she found herself smiling – remembering that other phonecall so long ago . . . when it all began
You could tell straightaway that this was a place where nothing ever happened. People just waited here for their lives back. And since there was only one chair, presumably they waited on their own. It was on this chair that Lynn now sat. It was a plain wooden chair with a padded back and seat. The woman (receptionist? secretary?) had shown her through and then said, smiling, 'Please take a seat. I'll tell Dr Bradley you are here.' Even as Lynn said thank you, she found herself speaking to an empty space in which the smile still somehow lingered, like the Cheshire Cat's. She blinked and looked around. The secretary had relocated, sans smile, to an office, from whence Lynn could see her through the open door saying into the phone, ‘Dr Bradley? Mrs Davies is here.' For something to do, Lynn examined her surroundings. Everything seemed to confirm her earlier suspicion that she had fallen into a grey hole in a forgotten corner of the universe. The whole place, a sort of widened space at the end of a corridor, like an afterthought on the part of the planners, had managed to turn 'featureless' into an art form. It was clean enough, but there was nothing there - unless you counted a large 'No smoking' sign on the wall. Lynn mentally ticked the
'I didn't mean to startle you. It was worse than the dentist's. By focusing intently. A sense of adolescent angst descended on Lynn like a personalized raincloud . Experimentally she touched her face with her finger. Ouch. To distract herself she hurriedly took out her appointment card and began to look for the letters of the alphabet in sequence. back past the turn-off she had come 6 . Lynn. 'Miles away. Lynn supposed it might be. or doing violence to your doctor. This is madness. and it must not be allowed to get worse. or searching and abrasive and tell her to get out more? It would be interesting to find out. Her appointment was for two thirty. ‘I’m sorry. knowing in advance that there would be no ‘J'.' She followed the tall figure along the corridor. no posters warning you of the penalties for drink driving. Well. Why did it have to come now? Bloody marvellous . But really . Lynn sighed. Two twenty-seven. Would Dr Bradley think so? What would she be like? Would she be gentle and smiley. but it came in handy. not even an ancient Telegraph supplement or a Hello magazine with the cover off. Lynn recognized that feeling. What am I doing here? What am I expecting? Why am I making such a fuss? Was she making a fuss? Lynn couldn't tell. Lynn rose to her feet abruptly. But then Della wouldn't. And what would Dr Bradley think of her? Would she like her? Surely she would? Most people did. regarding her with a look of gentle inquiry. no leaflets about cystitis or five portions a day.’ the therapist said.' She looked up. Lynn consulted her watch. There never was.thirty-four and she still had spots.. She could feel her spot throbbing. No credit to her. And nowhere to put it if there was.' ' 'S all right. Lynn managed to get to 'F' when she was jolted back into her surroundings by the sound of a quiet voice. ‘Q’ was hard as well. ‘Mrs Davies? Come this way please. A woman was standing about four metres away.' mumbled Lynn. except in lists of names. matching her footsteps to the slow.what on earth did it matter if Dr Bradley liked her or not? She was just there to do a job. of course. measured pace. It was not a good one. No pictures of acrylic landscapes or sunflowers. she thought.missing items off. shoving the card into her pocket. Absolutely nothing. Sort of. Della never had spots.
where there were two low chairs set at an angle to each other. and Lynn looked at her for the first time. Lynn breathed again. short term . She seemed very young .or a solid wall . . Sit up! The therapist was speaking. and her hands resting lightly in her lap. . to assess your difficulties and whether we can be helpful to you . surely? Lynn was not entirely sure she liked the look of her. . with bare wooden arms that always reminded her of bones poking though skin. psychological therapies service . Lynn had never liked this style of chair. To stem the flow. someone a little more motherly perhaps. But it opened instead into a light. She would have preferred someone slightly older. shut up! Her head was beginning to spin. Dr Bradley gestured towards the the corner. not older. thought Lynn. airy office into which Dr Bradley serenely ushered her. How strangely this building was laid out. Dr Bradley was thin.too young to be a consultant. the chair was surprisingly comfortable and after a moment she relaxed. I understand all that. hurriedly relaxing her grip on the arms when she saw her knuckles showing white. at which Dr Bradley paused. . The therapist was looking at her. . 'Dr Bradley. sharp-featured stranger. Shut up. .or a parallel universe. the top one pulled out. She found herself fantasizing that the door would somehow open back into the corridor she had just walked down . Quick. . I know 7 . with a cloudy mass of reddish curly-permed hair and granny glasses. This was better. The therapist seated herself opposite. . . not this angular. Tia Bradley and I am a clinical psychologist . She couldn't help noticing that on the coffee table nearby there was an open box of tissues. Perhaps she should get some. . to a door inset into an alcove into the passage just beyond it. How strange that granny glasses always seemed to make people look younger. stop staring. . referred by your doctor .’ Too many words! thought Lynn. . . I can't handle this. But against her expectations. Listen. There were bookcases full of books and a desk at the window with some flowers on. She wore her skirts shorter than Lynn did. and Lynn instinctively took the one with its back against the wall. She sat with her legs crossed at the ankle. no miracle cures . Look alert! ‘ . she said quickly.through. . slanted sideways.
no. Take your time. . Sorry. Yes.so unusual. but I do need to explain adequately the procedures and guidelines which govern our time together. isn't it? So then Lynn. then? Or at a university? What kind of a doctor are you?' 'Clinical psychologists are not medical doctors.not entirely successfully.' Pause. I'm not thinking straight. like psychiatrists who have first studied medicine.' 'You would like me to call you Lynn? And what would you prefer to call me?' Lynn hesitated. just grade them from nought to four.' 'Oh yes. . Lynn seized the chance to gather her wits . May I begin by asking you to fill in a questionnaire. . of course. please! Call me Lynn. unless you have any objection?' Again a silence This time Lynn was ready. Does she always talk so quietly? In such a measured way? Why does she look at me so . 'Would you feel comfortable calling me Tia?' 'Tia? Oh yes. it's agreed we will use first names. Sure!' ‘ sessions last fifty minutes . of course. er. that's all. sorry. . Mrs Davies.. Where is it from?' 'Thank you. some people fill in all noughts.why I am here. No objection. That is. It's just about general situations in your life which might be indicators of levels of well-being or stress. I may use some of the material from these sessions with my students. I knew that. yes. that's fine! What a pretty name .' 8 . There's about thirty of them. I just need to talk to someone. Mrs Davies.thoroughly? Is my makeup sweating off? Can she see my spot? Oh god. I'm not expecting that. 'Do you teach here. confidential unless I feel I need to share things you have told me which could result in harm to yourself or others . or since I also teach.so . changing the names. and that you can't work miracles. it is an unusual name.' 'I appreciate that. There are no right answers. May I continue?' The therapist paused courteously and waited for Lynne’s permission to speak. Their doctorate is a PhD qualification. I wish I hadn't come! 'Oh. And oh. 'Me? Oh.
She scribbled in the four with some agitation. Hurriedly Lynn located the first question. ?' glanced down and read a question at random. If there was one thing she hated it was controlling people. After looking up once more and meeting that unnerving stare 9 . What was average? 'Moderately. unblinking gaze. Oh. 'Trouble falling asleep. better get this over with. But wait a minute. controlled. Why then did she feel so ruffled? And so woolly-headed! Why couldn't she think straight? And why did she feel so wrong-footed. She glanced up at Tia. She opened it. She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so foolish. Lynn could feel herself colouring. almost. She was a teacher. and couldn't get back again. she thought. This woman was talking so calmly and quietly. Lynn hastily bent her head to study the sheet again. But wait a minute! What was she doing. Why was this happening now? She didn't need to feel like this. Sighing inwardly.start at the beginning! She looked up once more and saw that that Tia was still regarding her closely. She valued them too much. Next question. And all the time she could feel Tia's eyes on her.. she put a line through the four and filled in the two again. ‘ . But she was on someone else's turf now. Oh well.' Well. that was an easy one! Not at all. Irritated. To her annoyance. I don't want to fill this in. nervousness or shakiness inside?' Well. This was going to take longer than she thought. starting halfway down the page? For goodness' sake . read the top line: 'During the past week. What about the times when she woke up at five in the morning.' That was a two. that was it. It was so wrong. Usually anyway. right at this moment it was 'extremely'. she bent to her task. and was disconcerted to meet a thoughtful. She scribbled out the 'two'. That would do. Yes. At length Lynn finished. Except it was meant to be how she'd felt over the last week. Damn! Angrily. Did that count? There seemed no provision for it on the sheet. . . I feel like a kid at school myself. how much were you distressed by . Lynn never ever tried to control people herself. Lynn glanced down at the title: Brief Symptom Inventory. put anything! How did they grade it? She checked the top line. put in her place. controlled! That put Lynne’s back up straightaway. She fell asleep instantly. . This situation was ridiculous. dammit! a professional in her own right.Lynn took the folded sheet of A4.
You can't lose what you 10 . looking concerned and ready to listen . . It's been over a month now. . What are you doing here? that steady gaze seemed to say. it's like this. to hand back the form and the folder she'd used to rest on with a smile. I . . really . No baby. . . . As Tia took it. but how could she. er .she’d given up and kept her head down. It was cells.' Tia was saying. lately. just cells. Now Tia was sitting forward.miscarriage. . suddenly gripped by the need to confide in someone without actually giving anything away. tell me what brings you here. Why are you wasting my time? I can't believe this is happening! She doesn't like me.' Lynn felt a tiny spark of hope. Don't you see? It wasn’t like anything died. I should be. I feel so down. I've been feeling really . . and it wasn't as if there was a baby there. She wanted to flop in the chair and be pathetic. Maybe it was going to be all right after all. Sometimes they just don't grow you know. I cry a lot when I'm on my own. I should be over it by now. . 'No baby?' ‘No. in front of this nonchalantly elegant woman. sort of low. Lynn! Wow! She opened her mouth to speak and nothing happened. . and I haven't even said anything yet! Fighting down rising panic.to listen to her. Or sometimes I just sit. .. who already seemed to dislike her. Where to start? Anywhere. to meet Tia's gaze.' Lynn stopped abruptly. almost. I can’t seem to pull myself together. 'Ah. actually . . well. Well. There was nothing there. Time? What time? Time was ticking away. I think I should. 'There's plenty of time. . So I shouldn't feel like this. well. really . I can't seem to snap out of it. Lynn forced herself to sit up. I was only three months. she noticed that Tia was smiling back. It wasn't like I lost anything. She felt depressed and agitated both at once. well. Just start anywhere. It wasn't like there was a baby. . .' 'Over what?' 'Over the .the . thirty-seven days. 'Now Lynn. that she was balancing a writing block on her knee and saying. there was no baby. Tia considered this.
A worse one than hers. 'So really. you can do that.' 'Well. Lynn didn't know what to say. yes. And how could she inflict the gory details on this stranger? That seemed so self-indulgent. That was what her mind felt like right now – a motorway pile-up. But that was what she was here for. Our hopes and dreams you mean? Our plans for the future?' 'Something like that. Mark is. she could do that! Really. it was a bit disappointing! 'Can you perhaps lose what you might have had?' It took a moment for this question to penetrate.never had. but once her first thought had come to a dead halt.' There was a pause. or just looking at you? Why. But he was very upset when it happened. But suppose – just suppose . She was not coping.this woman had had a miscarriage too. speaking energetically. but really and truly we have to look to the future. There seemed nothing else to add. asking questions like this. and when it did Lynn felt slightly winded. He didn't say much. He says it was very sad.' 'Can't you?' ‘No. the ones behind had all crashed into it like a motorway pile-up. She was just sitting there looking at Lynn encouragingly. You can certainly do that. Lynn wanted to tell Tia what it had been like. So far all she'd done was ask idiotic. She recovered almost immediately. of course not! How can you lose it if you've never had it?' Lynn was conscious that she was was the one now sitting forward in her seat. but I knew he was. Dammit. How could she check that out? She noticed Tia wore a thin gold band on her wedding finger. ‘Oh well. I should be over it by now. She would feel even more guilty about telling her then. Tia wasn't helping. which lengthened.' Lynn stared at Tia defiantly. What a stupid question! Tia seemed pretty slow on the uptake for a clinical psychologist. that was a loss of course.' 'Mark?' 'My husband. trying to make Tia understand. obvious questions! Was this how these people earned their money. but not a real loss. how to continue. she couldn't just talk! There had to be a 11 . Only in our heads. yes.
'Any kids?' 'Is that important?' 'Well. 'Why? To build a relationship of course. She seemed to think that by saying this she had explained something very important. Lynn noticed that Tia's fingers were slender and tapering. Why?' 'Let me explain a little bit about the counselling relationship.' 'Oh. She folded her own hands more tightly on her lap and tried again.' After a few moments. if they come for counselling it’s not usually very helpful for them if they have to take on board information about the person who is listening to them. never contributing.' Damn. It's not quite like other relationships.' There was another silence. absently twiddling her own wedding ring round and round.relationship! She said experimentally.just like that. 'Are you married. and that it was now up to Lynn to respond. She should have anticipated that. To . You see. leaving gigantic gaps in conversation. Yes! I can't just talk to you about personal things . when people are experiencing difficulties or stressful situations. Can't we sort of get to know each other a little bit first?' 'Why?' This was getting downright irritating. Lynn felt nothing of the sort. Tia?' Tia motioned with her left hand.get to know each other. a graceful. her nails translucent ovals. Tia had explained nothing. They need to be free just to talk and think about themselves. What kind of a conversation was this.to . no. 'Have you ever had counselling before?' 'No. never helping her out. What was going on? Why did it feel so strange? Lynn regarded her hands. economic gesture. answering questions with questions. She felt very unhappy. Tia was looking at her expectantly. 'As you see. leaving her to feel 12 . Tia said carefully.
' said Tia. the chance to know her as a person. because actually she did quite like Tia. But she couldn't just talk about the miscarriage. building 'You too?' sort of relationships. And yet she had to. But the alternative was too terrifying to contemplate. Why did Tia do that? Did she know from experience? 'So it's all right to talk about blood? You're not squeamish?' Tia said gently. She needed help and she knew it. sharing. or hating people. Very well. And there was something about Tia that appealed. if she was herself. This made no sense to Lynn. 'No. Could she hack it? She didn't know. And then they would have a proper relationship.' This felt reassuring. That was what she was there for. things like sex. nodding agreement. Tia seemed so laid-back. Tia seemed to be a very withholding sort of person . She was used to being open and honest. it might just draw Tia out.a bit messy. She glanced at her. But maybe. Curiosity stirred within Lynn. Not yet. 'So it's all right?’ she said again. Lynn. her.lonely and foolish? Tia was deliberately refusing to engage. networking.. ‘What about. And that would be nice. Tia was a very interesting person. yet wanting to hear it from Tia. help her see that sharing was good. that she wasn't a threat. um.' Oh god! So much blood! 'Mmm. so at ease. All this verbal sparring! How could you have any relationship which was not based on mutual sharing? How could Lynn talk to Tia if she didn't trust her? And how could she trust her if she didn't know her? And yet there was a sort of relief too about it. 'The miscarriage was . She had to go along with this. She would go along with it. just maybe. She had no choice. Lots of blood and so forth. and saw with a start that she was once again being closely observed. How confusing! What could she do? Lynn came to a decision.very defensive. I'm not squeamish. for instance?' 13 . friendly and natural. which Lynn couldn't as yet quite define. denying. Even Mark – especially Mark – had no idea how bad it was sometimes. and she would try to share even if Tia didn't. Lynn said tentatively. exchanging information. How long had Lynn been quiet? She didn't know. thaw her out a bit. or death. knowing the answer.
Tia said slowly and emphatically. and I was born. Lynn felt a bit thrown by this. Tia was making a note on her pad.we . 'You seem to find it easier to talk about your mother's pregnancy than your own. just to talk? And why. Be careful! You don’t know this woman.they didn't.sex and hating and death? They were just words plucked out of the air. Of course my mum had had trouble with me too. and sex. She really wanted me . She was just getting warmed up. Forty. Could that someone be Tia? She looked at her consideringly.after all this time. She had a very difficult labour too. but Tia wouldn't know that. 'I just think my mum was really brave. the room ever so slightly warmer. had my head jammed behind the pubic bone 14 . and the old biological clock was ticking. Only child actually. She'd read something into it. and death. Be careful. Lynn took a deep breath and plunged in. She held on. 'It's all right to talk about blood. in those days. But just for this moment. The chair felt ever so slightly more comfortable. oh why. It's all right to talk about anything you want. had she chosen those examples to cite to Tia . and loss. It was very painful. She was in a lot of pain too. I think. I was badly positioned.' she commented. so we wanted to get a move on.' Lynn paused for breath.' Lynn considered this. It was their job. but could it be so? Could it really be all right . Oh. Lynn felt that finally now she might. prematurely. she was forty when she had me . 'We'd been married a year. Tia waited a while and then said. you see.. twenty-seven hours. that's all.were so pleased when I found out I was pregnant. These psychologist types always did. just might be able to talk to someone about it. First child too.really badly.' she said. All that glitters is not gold. 'I'm only saying. she nearly died twice. and hating people. It never occurred to me that anything could go wrong. But she never complained . 'So you had a miscarriage?' It was now or never. and grief. Silly really. at my age. but mixed in with the warmth were stabbing icicles of caution. She had fibroids and she told me that when she was six months pregnant she bled for days. I .imagine that. without the least sign of impatience. She looked up. It seemed to have the ring of truth.
Once again.and in the end they . wondering what the view from the window was like. 'I'm sorry.' This stopped Lynn dead.' she said at last. She could only remember irrelevant disjointed things. She wasn't so sure she liked Tia after all. That was it. . 'You want me to tell you about my miscarriage?' She wasn't so sure she wanted to now. She was at the hospital already. I'd had a funny feeling all day .sort of flooding. So I went and lay down on the bed and waited for Mark and when he came home I told him and he took me to the hospital and . Lynn looked at Tia and thought.' she said. 15 .' 'She went through a lot. She gazed round the room. She looked at Tia. then back at Tia. 'You cow!' But Tia didn't look cow-ish. . It wasn’t working. . she knew there was. like how tired the young doctor who had examined her had looked.' sort of way.' Again she stopped. Tia regarded her levelly. Somehow this didn't feel like a very satisfactory answer. .and you didn't have yours. She looked sort of neutral. ' she stopped. She felt totally exhausted. Lynn said. Her body seemed to be pinned down with great weights but with a great effort she made herself sit up in the chair and folded her arms. This narrative seemed to be flowing rather too quickly. . No more.' Tia said nothing. 'One evening. I felt . I was cooking the dinner .' said Lynn less confidently. The pause lengthened and then lengthened again while she tried to think what to say next. thinking what to say next.' said Tia. you know . and as I was standing there. and how creased her lab coat had been. 'My mum was a brave woman. . 'I felt. . and how angry Mark had been at the sympathy cards. ' Yet again she stopped. . 'I went to the bathroom.you . her brain seemed to have turned to cotton wool.' Lynn continued drearily. 'and it all came away . . There must be more to it that this. 'But your mum had her baby . . leaking. She had lived through it so many times. . . . Tia raised her eyebrows and gave a brief smile in a 'You can if you want to. Lynn said in a voice that trembled slightly. 'That's really unfair. Tia waited. I felt . This was harder going than she had thought it would be.' Tia said softly. 'like I was . 'All right.
' It seemed only a few minutes later. At this. who. Lynn was instantly diverted and rather charmed. everything had shifted. Well. as far as Lynn could tell. isn’t it?’ ‘No.at two-weekly intervals?' 'Two-weekly?' said Lynn stupidly. who had been in full flow. or Mark . with a smile like that. There had been a real rapport developing between them.' 'Plenty of time. No. 'This is very difficult for you. It was like the sun coming out. and then aghast. could cope. she couldn't quite imagine that far but she was sure Tia had a sense of humour. Now with no warning. sort of smile. She relaxed back into it thankfully and let out her breath in a big sigh. at first disconcerted. yawned before her. . . Lynn could tell a good story. Tell me a little more about yourself . Maybe we could think now about whether to meet again. She couldn't help wondering what it would be like to have Tia as a friend. Suppose she said Lynn didn't need to see her. 'I think it would be beneficial if we met again . and terrifyingly fast. To go out for a drink together after work. .’ ‘There's plenty of time. stopped. said. 16 . Tia was once more the Therapist. had been listening with every appearance of enjoyment and making the odd note. Tia smiled. Though she said it herself.. Whatever you like. Lynn said. She was sure of it. vast and cataclysmic.' Lynn became aware of the chair holding her. Suppose Tia said that meant that Lynn was all right. the one who had power to give or withhold. to laugh together and put the world to rights. 'I'll tell you how I met Mark'. She could see it in her eyes. unexpectedly. it's not difficult! It just isn’t working. An abyss. and she had made Tia begin to smile once or twice more. What a nice smile! Maybe Tia did have friends after all. . 'It was quite funny really.Tia was looking at her understandingly. . Actually. that Lynn hadn't even known was there. 'Whether to meet again?' 'Whether?' What did Tia mean? They'd been getting on so well.shall we arrange for three more sessions .' Lynn. when Tia. was saying. or whatever you like. It was a start. . that’s all. But Tia was speaking. Lynn had found herself laughing as she had been talking. 'We have just five minutes left.
until she was finally able to say. was walking to the door. She replayed the conversation in her head. Are Tuesdays at 2. and this was important.' Tia magicked an appointment card from somewhere and said. 'that's fine.' The relief that spread through Lynn was so great that at first she could not speak.' Convenient? She would make it convenient. 'Fine. then Tia was standing up. 'I'll see you in two weeks' time then. Lynn. and as she walked down the corridor.Tia regarded her seriously. was opening it for her and saying with a smile. She watched Tia write down the details on the card and hand it to her. yes.30 convenient to you?' 'Oh yes. 'That is the usual time between sessions. She left the office feeling as light as air. she heard the door close firmly behind her. Time off from school for hospital appointments could hardly be disallowed.' said Lynn again. smiling back warmly in return. That would be fine. 17 . 'Today is Tuesday.' 'Two weeks it is!' said Lynn. It was only when Tia raised her eyebrows inquiringly that Lynn became aware that a response was needed.
Likewise. Hadn't they? She'd thought they had at the time. or as much of it as she could remember. Lynn always liked making people laugh. Green eyes. probably. Tia had seemed to move quite slowly and had sat very still. people had been coming up to her and saying 'Cheer up! It may never happen!' What would 18 . She pondered the paradox that was Tia. What a fascinating new world it had opened up! What on earth had been going on? She wasn’t sure what she made of it but it had certainly given her something new to think about. as Lynn herself did? Or was she both? Lynn shook her head and gave up. was she? Lynn couldn't remember. Was Tia a cold clinical psychologist. Graceful . But how was it she used to laugh so much? And people had laughed with her. . She'd never really given it much thought before.and her mouth! That was the worst. . Tia’s nose won. She hardly noticed her fellow passengers or the stations streaming by. She was occupied internally with reliving her time with Tia. Not now. in the surgical sense of the word? Or was she a warm. but there was something. It kept things at bay. Lynn caught sight of herself in the reflective glass of the carriage window . Dark unruly hair made worse by the window. But lately.and heaved a sigh without realising it. . There was a sort of concentrated look about her.Chapter 2 Lynn travelled home on the grimy tube with her head buzzing. Unless she made a special effort she looked so bloody miserable. Tia’s eyes beat her mournful cow's eyes . caring human being who wanted to help people. So this was counselling. and concentrated instead on recalling as much of Tia as she could remember. you can’t judge a book by the cover. She compared her blobby nose with Tia’s thin one. The oppressive grey fog of autopilot which normally hung over her was being shot through with tiny bolts of fizzy lightning.that. Well. A generous.two images unpleasantly overlapping . And she could never be bothered to straighten it now. mobile mouth. It seemed a long time since Lynn had had anything of interest to occupy her thoughts besides . Laughing was very important. . Not conventionally pretty. Involuntarily.
What was the point of it all. Everything came crowding in. really? What was the point? Oh. deep down. Lynn had tried very hard when they first moved in. Lynn felt the dragging weight of her everyday existence. Lynn felt the carriage begin to slow down and she mechanically arose. stop being so bloody dramatic! she chided herself angrily. thankful that it was only on the first floor. but they rarely saw the occupants. the mass moved on.here. It was less people to explain to. She scowled at her image in the window. 19 . but all that remained now of those eager. 'It already has!'? But it hadn't happened. that was just her perception. Lynn was all right. nobody ever need see their neighbours in North London if they didn't want to. Anyway. By the top of the second escalator. at least. Despite herself.they do if she said. of her very survival descending upon her again. But it all seemed too much effort now. especially an easy one like hers. found herself reflecting. Her pace slowed. she told herself fiercely. Except that she wasn't. Tears of self-pity. wasn't the end of the world. A miscarriage. At least she couldn't see the spot now! She touched it. she could feel tears in her eyes. She had to get a grip. I can't be completely losing my touch! The thought was a momentary breath of fresh air. As the doors slid open. Her legs felt like lead. It was still there. She'd been fine before. Miscarriages were two a penny these days. Think of something else. as she walked up the steps to the huge Victorian front door. the tube felt stifling. It had taken her a while to realise that it was nothing personal. You're not living in a bloody soap. As she walked along the street and drew near to their apartment. Tia seemed to enjoy talking to me. she inserted herself with mindless ease into a miniscule cavity within the many-legged organism flowing past her. There were two other flats. She grimaced. Get real! This is life! This is as good as it gets! She let herself in and climbed the stairs to their flat. above and below. always had been. Now it suited her. which which equally unthinkingly increased the space minutely to accommodate her body shape. hopeful encounters were residual polite hellos when they surprised each other on the stairs. get back her joie de vivre. Aware yet unaware. just a necessary survival mechanism .
The very pattern on the wallpaper seemed larger. eliminating all traces of Gina. She pulled out the appointment card she had been given and studied it with a teacher's eye. but she didn't particularly like it. possibly (possibly!) the most honest person she knew. It wasn't working now. In the pointless ordinariness of her surroundings. anyway. Lynn put it carefully away inside her purse and thought of the session. Their reaction was always so disappointing. Much better to make them laugh. Her writing was angular. . somehow distinctive. fighting her way past people's deadened comprehension to make them understand. until now. for the kids. Not that she was a dishonest person anyway. Four happy years . The room seemed smaller. 'What's this you wrote. but that was only to be expected. to re-experience the buzz she had felt. to have a shared moment of intimacy. though she purposely made it very easy to read. Hadn't Norman Collinson cured himself of ankylosing spondilitis by laughing? Well then! She concentrated again on Tia. In fact she was a very honest person. miss?' The card made Tia seem more tangible. She had to. Desperately she tried to relive it. rather like Tia herself. She looked around. of real honesty? Now where had that thought come from? Lynn didn't know. Anyway – laughing was scientifically proven to be therapeutic. granted. slightly italic. as though it was trying to get closer to her. And it was never worth it when you did.knew something. Tia knew about her . heard herself say again. Lynn's was rounded. Lynn resolutely forced herself to remember how lucky they were to have this flat.without her having to explain in lots of dreary words. And Mark had been so worried it wouldn’t work! A few little changes when she moved in. The wallpaper receded. She shook her head to clear it. Lynn's meeting with Tia seemed unreal. She felt that she couldn't breathe properly. . to invade her space. 'Could you perhaps lose what you might have had?' Suddenly. looping. slightly chaotic. however cheaply bought. 'It wasn't like I lost anything!' Heard again Tia's quizzical comment. They were always saying.As she let herself in. it clicked. She knew! Tia knew! In some way that Lynn couldn't quite grasp. That was better! But what was it that Tia knew? Would she ever get to know her and find 20 . she wasn't sure what . Even at the cost of real intimacy. Tia wrote in black.
Lynn turned hastily away.' Pause. 21 . That wasn't too bad for a beginning. surely? Lynn glanced at her watch and was horrified. when it came. .well. What would she tell him? What could she cook for dinner? For the first time in a while. What kind of image had she presented to Tia? Not immediately attractive. I know. it was so good to see you cooking again. . Tia smiling.' Pause. and with more energy than she knew she possessed. looking at her sadly with their papery old ladies’ faces. she'd asked questions. just a few withered old mushrooms. that was for sure. was very bad. 'And Lynn. as she was clearing the plates away. and Mark would be back by six-thirty wanting to know how the appointment had gone. She focused on the fragments of conversation she could remember: 'As you see . And why had her brain just cut out for no reason so often? Oh god. But your mum had her baby. The darkness. but it was early days. so caring .out? As she drifted round the flat. It's all right to talk . building up to it as she had known he would.' He was so kind.it was great. What did you put in that sauce . Lynn felt herself hanging onto Tia's brightness and concentratedness as a sort of talisman to dispel the wispy darkness that kept on trying to accumulate around her. I love your cooking. that was a wonderful meal. Mark asked Lynn the question she had been dreading. 'You know I love you. and then. sort of. Mark. Is that important? . Anything there? No dark green or yellow or red of shiny rounded life. left the flat to go to the Italian deli on the corner. . anyway. don't you?' 'Yes. 'Lynn. Tia looking. She had been home for over an hour and her encounter with Tia was still filling her thoughts! What was the matter with her? Why obsess about a stranger? It was nearly five o'clock. . she'd made Tia smile .why did this conversation grate on her so much? She struggled not to get more irritated by his look of concern. Lynn felt the stirrings of appetite. herself. she was so sick of it doing that! It had been doing it for months now – it never used to! But at least she'd been honest.' Tia saying. Mark arrived home to the aroma of pesto and pasta. Later that evening. really came. . She had still so much schoolwork to prepare. with only a few days left until term started. she'd shown interest. She looked at the vegetable rack.
. the heavy stare.' Why did she say that? She was going to see her . I thought she'd analyse me. good .whatever that meant. and didn't it say somewhere or other. . 'You went to see that . What's she like?' 'What’s she like? All right. Lot of work though. but she didn't. I've brought some home tonight. Though frankly. if she was honest. but lately . shared so much. She didn't seem to say much. conversed so easily and naturally. . . client account coming on?' 'Which one?' 'You know! You were telling me last night.'I know you've been . helpful at all?' Her name was Tia. . these past weeks. . . the Murchison one. But how would he know that? This conversation was her fault.' Lynn sat down again and fingered her wine glass absently. Probably fairly typical. I'd say. did it really matter? It helped her sleep.' Damn! The name had gone. Bit of a psychologist type. You know. 'Will you be going to see her again?' 'I think so. but wanting to mean it. down. 'Take a little wine for your stomach's sake'? . woman today. I don't know.' 'How's that new . . ' . so-so. . Usually she just had a glass or two at weekends. It's hard to say. but tonight you seemed just a little bit more. Fine. . . I think so. . . Anyway. most nights. 'So. . They’d laughed a lot. I suppose. as 22 . I'm not sure. wasn't she? 'Um. ask personal questions. 'Mark. didn't you? Did you find it . . how was your day?' 'Oh. and now she was making him watch every word.' Another pause. . . thinking how much she wanted a drink. more like your old self again. all her fault. well. . . Mark didn't seem to mind.' 'Oh. . I suppose. right.' This seemed to satisfy Mark.' 'Oh. meaningful silences. he drank too! Sometimes he opened a second bottle. well. . so she went on with a kind of faux brightness. She's a consultant clinical psychologist. Lynn thought that was going too far. . that's good!' 'Her name's Dr Bradley.
Lynn felt as though she had been hit with a brick. Do you want a coffee.I haven't been sitting on my backside all day. But then. 'I'll make a start on this in the study. resolutely squashing all reaction to Mark's last comment.big day tomorrow. if Tia saw she was 23 . Yeah. most of it's done.' The study. It was the study now. I've got some school work to do too.' 'Oh. every day. she reflected on the conversation as a whole. coffee would be nice.a matter of fact . It hadn't been as bad as she'd feared. you know.' (Thanks very much!) 'Do you want a hand with the washing-up?' 'No. she’d said there were no miracle cures. can you bring it through?' He was already up and moving off. Do you want it in here?' 'No. actually . since the miscarriage. Perhaps Tia could help with that? Mind you. She bowed her head and managed to speak normally. I thought you were cutting it a bit fine.' 'Yes. Oh yes. We’re back on Thursday. 'OK. But for how long? Lynn was vaguely aware of something about a time limit. It was just nice to have someone to talk to. But was that because they hadn't really engaged at all? They didn't engage much these days. About ten minutes?' 'Fine. But it wasn't his fault! He was doing the right thing and she wasn't – that's all there was to it.. Time's running out. And most of the school work's done. They didn't know how to reach each other. some dessert?' 'I never said you had. they were too afraid of hurting the other by saying the wrong thing. But then she didn't expect them. Any of that chocolate ice cream left?' 'Sure. She found herself cursing Mark for so unawarely moving on with his life and leaving her so far behind.' As Lynn did the washing up. It hadn't been that six weeks ago when they had been trying to decide what colour to paint it and whether pale purple would look like they couldn't make their mind up what gender the baby was.
half goaded beyond endurance.' And so they had got married in Cyprus. in case you hadn't noticed! Marry me. for god's sake! Maybe that will convince you. And marrying abroad had been different. 'So he's made an honest woman of you at last!' . but she had good taste.helping her . and Mark had not. the granite work surfaces. I have been for the past two years. Gina was the scab on their relationship that she hadn't been able to resist picking off again and again to see if it had healed underneath. had not seemed like marrying at all. Every time.which had not gone down at all well. afraid that Mark was making comparisons and finding her wanting. Always wondering if she was saying the right thing and worrying if he was thinking about Gina. well enough to say. Gina may have been a bitch. how quick to reassure her. in a way. the expensive wood of the fitted units. since by that time Mum had been too ill to come. 'Look. had said. I am totally. It had not been easy. willing herself to recapture the small but definite delight she used to take in the aromatic smell of the coffee. . And it had lasted quite a time. though Lynn had been able to hide it. either with Lynn or with Mark. Best thing she ever did for me. Always asking Mark if Gina did this or that. I never asked Gina to marry me! Never wanted to. The kettle boiled and she poured it into the cafetiere. In one sense it didn't matter where. . But eventually. showed her the ring and the photos. Dear good Mark! How patient he had been. 'Look Lynn. and your Mum not there! But she had been well enough to be glad when they told her. She's history now and I'm sick of the sound of her name! You are the one I love. his tone had become more bracing. which assuaged Lynn's so sore heart. She thought back to those early days of their relationship. you and you alone. half laughing. Eventually Mark. totally committed to you. not Gina! Now give it a rest! But she hadn't been able to. Or did she? But surely they weren't allowed to just do that? She'd have to ask her. Lynn stared thoughtfully into the washing up water. To be married. she didn't seem the sort just to abandon her. How insecure she'd been! She could admit it now. Lynn had never ceased to give thanks to the Powers that Be 24 . Gina was a total bitch and she walked out on me for my best friend. And I love you for being you. Mun had died shortly after.
It's been a while . You'll do fine! Shaking her head. 'How are you doing?' There was a delighted squeal down the end of the phone. how are you? I was worried when I didn't hear anything. .' Then Della's voice. 'You were only trying for three months? That's very good! There's plenty of time yet. except for now. That had been seven years ago. willowy. . Della . to reduce her concentration such a low ebb that she decided to phone Della. slightly muffled. it's Lynn. then retired to the living room and sat hunched up on the sofa for a while. immaculate. 'Lynn! It's Lynn!' Then. 'Lynn. Della Heworth here. She hadn't talked to Della for. If only they'd tried for a baby earlier! But it had never been the right time and somehow they'd assumed that you could plan a baby into your work schedule at a time convenient to you as easily as you could book next year's holiday. as though the mouthpiece of phone had only been partially covered. It seemed inappropriate somehow. The ringing tone stopped and she heard Della's precise. Something was missing. . Oh. well . How they'd ever become friends. 'Hello. restored to full clarity. It must be a marriage of two minds. . Lynn dwelt wistfully on a mental picture of Della. It took just ten minutes of pondering the physiology of Lumbricus.' She left the sentence unfinished. Lynn took the coffee and ice cream in to Mark. with her books and papers round her and the laptop on the coffee table. husky voice. How many others had made that same mistake and how wrong it was! How unbelievably wrong and stupid! Perhaps – new and terrible thought . Lynn couldn't imagine. Seven happy years. In the moments it took for the phone line to connect. she padded back to the kitchen for the wine bottle and her empty glass. so affirming. Arenicola and Nereis. how bitter was that? But the doctor had been so positive. actually she couldn't remember when. .’ 'Hi Dell!' said Lynn.that Mum had lived long enough to see them wed. It would be nice to hear her voice. 25 . yet tonight she paused momentarily. . she might even tell her about Tia. 'Darling. It was her usual response. . Gradually she began to pull them towards her and to leaf through them in a desultory fashion. .now they could never factor a baby into their life. with hardly a cross word. blonde. immersed in his spreadsheets.
or you and Mark could come for a meal?' 26 . 'Oh good! Lynn. Thanks for the card . .the one I've got for the time being. would you like to meet up? Drop round for coffee.' she said.' 'Oh. 'Oh well.' 'I am glad!' Della sounded it too. 'Really Lynn. obscurely touched. 'I'm seeing this therapist. I wish there was something we could have done. She was surprised to hear herself sounding so firm. darkening the door of a church to light a candle for her was strangely moving. . It really helped me pull myself together. but I'm sure I .I'm all right now. do you want to talk about it a little bit? I didn't like to ask before.she . 'You poor darling. 'It's been a difficult time . and the flowers. . Della heard her resolution and ceded the point. .' Her voice too trailed off. I'm . It's been such an awful. . We were thinking of you. We were so sorry .' said Lynn. I think I'll stick with Ti . if you're sure .' 'Thank you. you know. let me put in a word for you with mine. She could not remember why she was phoning.' 'Thanks.'Oh. so much. I've been concerned about you. you know what the National Health's like! Look. . tentatively. I even went to church and lit a candle for you. Now that we've made contact.' 'The National Health!' There was a tiny snort of amusement in Lynn's ear.' (Why had she said that!) ‘I mean I feel a bit better. that is such a wise thing to do! I saw one after my divorce. oh yes.' said Lynn. Della bailed her out. . Fortunately. awful time for you. But words are pitifully inadequate at a time like this. It somehow suggested a vulnerability which hitherto had not been particularly noticeable. . both of you.' Did she want to? Lynn wasn't sure. The idea of Della.charge?' 'Well. How much does he . . 'Look. . now that you're surfacing. . actually it's on the National Health. Listen Lynn.' 'It was nothing. .' said Lynn. Usually she bowed instantly to Della's unspoken superiority in the femme du monde business. a lapsed Catholic who didn’t care who knew it. He's really busy. 'Well.
Della was warm and funny and wise . Just do what you feel you want to. She'd fought them off so many times before as being an extreme reaction to a less than extreme stress. She felt no relief. thought Lynn. Could we . You take your time. and it was the physical discomfort which finally drew her to a sniffing halt several minutes later. Della. She usually delighted in Della's company. savoured it like a rich wine or a perfectly ordered dinner. my love. This was too rich a meal. could we fix something up when we get back to school?' For the second time. and sent her to the bathroom to splash her face with cold water. She couldn't see Della just yet. Lynn gave herself up to the luxury of tears. and almost invariably so busy. Della was too warm. wondering at her own hesitation. Desperation gave her a measure of control. too caring. and Auntie Della will be waiting with the tissues whenever you want.if you can. While in the bathroom. but not before she heard Della say 'God bless. I appreciate it. 'Of course. twisting the phone cord round her finger. give herself time to think. Sadness.Lynn considered this. too available. She had to back off. but not enough to make Lynn feel that she was acting in any way strangely. Take the advice of one who knows. . 'I can't talk about it just yet. coupled with a desire to terminate the conversation was welling up inside. . . that now it was a relief to just let them run. 'Thanks Dell.' But not about miscarriages. it occurred to Lynn that it would be a good idea to go to bed. Lynn. Love you ' Laying back on the sofa.' And then she found she was crying in earnest and hung up the phone quickly. uncomfortably aware that her voice was beginning to thicken with emotion as she was speaking. but it was a heaviness she recognised. It 27 . Or if you never want to talk about it. Now she was hanging back. Normally she jumped at the chance to spend time with Della. and she let just enough show in her voice to let Lynn know her solicitude. I really do. But it is good to talk . Della was surprised. She did not reason her pain. that's OK too. I'll get back to you. it's your show. Aloud she said.' she said. it was just a primal ache. 'I've got too much work to do at the moment. just a heaviness. .
Lynn returned to the bathroom and started to run the bath. There was no other way. 'What can't be cured must be endured!' Lynn smiled despite herself. half the time she couldn't care less.think I'll call it a day. these rituals complete.and yet . . She laid out a clean nightshirt. Why. fluffiest bath towel she could find on the towel rail. But she had to go through with it.' Mark looked up. 'Sure.she needed to get it unscrewed as soon as possible. True. and she missed her. and neither did Mark.was only eight thirty. this was her life . then put the largest. opened the door and said. what a rock to lean on! But not any more. go ahead. the Lynn that Tia would like if only she knew her. she always was.just tough it out . gave a tired grin that broadened into a real one. who cried so much. and then. 'Do you need the bathroom? I feel knackered . She decided on a really deep one. Then she could get back to being the old Lynn. And Mum would have been right. that he would what? She had no idea. poured some lavender oil in the little burner and lit the candle underneath. What was the matter with her? She should have thought of that before! And she must let Myra know that she would need every alternate Tuesday afternoon off for the foreseeable future. not done any really. Soon he would be so sick of her that he would . He didn't say anything. had to .it didn't really hurt. did it hurt so much? And yet . but dammit. said. 28 .' Feeling cheered by the encounter. A familiar voice in her head said bracingly. her mind had gone blank again. added a large amount of the much too expensive bath essence that Mark had insisted on getting her last month for no apparent reason. I'll-sort-it Lynn that people liked. . the fun-to-be-with. she could tell. threw off every item of clothing into the linen basket and slid into the bath. oh why. but his patience was wearing thin.hang on until it was over. Where had that Lynn gone? She hadn't seen her for a long time. plodded back to the study. She could imagine in advance the sour looks from the other members of staff as they scanned the sittings board. but she could phone up Brian tomorrow and crib his notes. Lynn sighed. Caring was all too much effort. how I miss you! she thought. she hadn't done as much work as she'd planned. What a tower of strength she'd been. but she could have a bath first. If she was honest. She didn't like this new Lynn who was such a burden. Oh Mum.
The aroma of lavender in the over-heated air was stupefying and the walls ran with the condensation that the tiny fan could not remove. This must not be! She sat up abruptly. finishing off with a cool shower. and now she felt desperate enough to take one after she'd just seen a therapist. for crying out loud! What was going on? Thoughts of Tia no longer intrigued or comforted. She'd only taken three. grabbed the loofah and an exfoliating bar (seaweed and kelp) and scrubbed furiously. You weren't meant to take them with alcohol but that had been hours ago. Although it was funny. a yearning to be held and soothed like a child by some vast maternal presence. She felt seriously disturbed. Afterwards. and thoughts of Tia intruded. it wasn't quite funny enough. and later in bed. causing the water to swirl dangerously. These had been prescribed for emergency use by her doctor about a week after the miscarriage. the only part of her above water. Lynn sat reading a novel. the bath sheet felt as comforting as it should. From nowhere a vast longing welled up within her. luxuriously soaking in perfumed water with scented air around her. 29 . Eventually she fell into a troubled sleep. After a while she let them. Instead of feeling deliciously pampered and in charge.As soon as she lay down she knew it was a mistake. It was altogether so unsatisfactory and so far from her hopes that again a few involuntary tears mingled with the water on her face. Lynn could feel a prickling of sweat on her face. She took a sleeping tablet and lay awake waiting for it to take effect. she looked down at her naked body and without warning felt hopelessly vulnerable and childlike.
' He looked puzzled for a moment and then light dawned. but he'd see it in the mirror in the hall . . A wave of remorse swept over her as she noted the shadows under his eyes. she hoped. . Lynn was ready. See you tonight. and rubbed his hand back over the crown of his head.you knew what you were getting) and plied him with gentle questions at discreet intervals. it was the presentation today! What time had he come to bed last night? She hadn't even heard him come in. I hope it goes well!' There was no mistaking her sincerity. 'Oh Mark! Sorry! Sorry! I . bony face was anxious as he tenderly placed it on the bedside cabinet. and oh Mark . . . it's in the bag! Have a good day. He'd been working on this for days. Lynn lay alternately cursing her throbbing head and her own cowishness. 30 . and he worked so hard! What had she done to deserve him? Apart from the necessary phone call to Brian she spent most of the day in bed. served a simple but elegant meal (Marks was pricy. 'Completely forgot'.oh. . She pressed a lager into his hand as soon as he'd dumped his briefcase.' 'Yes . what a cow she was! Of course.Chapter 3 Lynn surfaced next morning with what felt like a king-sized hangover to find Mark hovering over her with a cup of tea. His face cleared. By late afternoon Lynn was surfacing and an hour's manic rushing around meant that when Mark returned that evening. 'No sweat. Dear. 'I .like Volkswagons .' Oh dear god. He laughed. His hair was slightly sticking up. Or someone would tell him at work.' she couldn't bring herself to say the words. His dark. 'Got to dash. if not weeks. . It made no difference that Lynn was aware of. After he'd kissed her and left. your hair. good Mark! He asked for so little. but so reliably good . I'm doing my presentation this morning.
or full of pine and chintz? Minimalist. in a kimono or a terry towelling bathrobe? In the shower or still in bed. Patti Travers hadn't been there with her awkward questions . and enjoying Lynn's attentions. Fortunately it was a nine o’clock start today. the PowerPoint had hit the spot. Mark wasn’t so sure. got to get to school early. In the kitchen. Now there was only a staff meeting in the morning separating her from teaching in the afternoon. he was quite amenable to being talked round. probably. She sat there in a stupor. . No.' she said. let's open a bottle of really nice wine . . thoughts of Tia appeared in Lynn's mind. Inexplicably. 'Count your blessings. but she usually travelled before the rush hour. house . as she planted a kiss on his sweaty forehead. the full force of what was awaiting began to dawn on her. As she pointed out. or he seemed to be. 'Sorry darling. . She intercepted a glance from him that had a hint of speculation about it. willing herself to move as the minutes ticked by. Yes.celebrate in style!' she said.Yes. and the train of thought died. and she still had to walk to the station to catch the tube. a sure sign he felt like celebrating. However. they’d just had one with the meal. smiling smugly and drinking port. Now she was struggling to get out of the chair. girl!' said the little voice in her head. it was Lynn who brought Mark a cup of tea as he lay in bed. and how it could have been so much worse. Yes. . or black coffee? Was her house chrome and glass and minimalist. What was she doing now? Was she up too. At least. He sat there. that had been the plan. And what was her husband like? Lynn suddenly shivered. and the toast turned to cardboard in her mouth. Alan had been impressed. She shuddered. drinking tea. Lynn had very little to drink. But the spell was broken. 'Darling. She wished now that they hadn't had their training days at the end of last term. he was pleased with how it went. and a panic button went off inside her head.on holiday apparently.' Thus it was that the following morning. ‘I’m back at school tomorrow. and concentrated on thinking how lucky she was to have such a gentle introduction. Yes. at six-thirty? Was she drifting round her own flat . Lynn could tell he was too. And she wanted to get in early today so that she could meet the other staff in installments. She hastily told herself that it was only one period. it had gone fine. 31 .
She rose. Anyway. She had caught the habit from Mum. the white board 32 . It had been fun. of course it was here. the same woefully inadequate teachers' lockers along two sides of the room. When Lynn got to school. They were too low. There was still nearly an hour to go before the staff meeting. stacked open. They were only sat in as a last resort when all the others were taken – for obvious reasons. . which she was sure it wasn't. They used to play a game when she was a kid. She'd phone through and check in just a minute. panic overwhelmed her. But hang on! . wasn't it? She sat bolt upright. the same chairs. Where was the impedimenta and accumulata of the teaching profession? Where were the piles of partly marked exercise books. she'd only be at home. Lynn didn't like those chairs. as would the two nearest the staffroom door. The hall in the new building was much bigger. and left the flat. and. it was the right building. Lynn moved hastily on.coffee tables. and you had to shuffle forward on your backside to reach the coffee table or else perch uncomfortably on the edge. grabbed her bag. Same old. the same tea and coffee-making facilities and sink unit at the other. the staffroom was empty. . These chairs would have got 3 out of 10. Otherwise you could never put your coffee cup down. she could easily get there by nine. Lynn noticed things like that.very large . It took new staff about a week to work out why. It was all there. The one that Brenda (18 stone plus) habitually sat in would have got a 2. She sat down in a chair.there was plenty of time! Even if it was in the lower school. shouted. 'Bye!' in the direction of the bedroom. But . ready to face the onslaught when it came. Definitely too early. arranged around two large . How bare and strange the staffroom always looked at the start of the autumn term! Yes. She closed her eyes and sat back. for a few moments. in the old grammar school building. as Lynn well knew. though their proximity to it was not their fault. What did it matter though? If she wasn't here. armed and armless. It was better to be on the spot. was a fifteen minute walk away. Yes. She relaxed back again and sighed with relief as she felt a momentary reprieve from the tension that was knotting inside her. giving chairs marks out of 10. the same marking tables at one end. The lower school staffroom. She was too early. merely an accident of positioning. same old – except that everything looked unnaturally clean and clutter-free.
so sorry to hear . the head. knowing that seeing John Quincy's name (maths) would make it all too easy. staring at the printed pages. . Her stomach lurched.' And he'd written her a very nice letter too . . There were footsteps. she got up and went to look at the notice board with its impersonal. she gave up. In the end. secure and self-supporting. as Lynn knew from bitter experience). Her whole inner being was fixed on the corridor outside. . waiting for the sound of voices. Awfully sorry . a door slammed. Finally. By the end of term. Here at least. or if they were really desperate. They must have met in the car park and waited for each other. and sat. feeling her apprehension mounting with every minute. . That showed sensitivity. so 33 .markers. had sent to every member of staff about two weeks previously. She herself had been guilty on more than one occasion of filching pins from existing notices to tack up her own.a letter. . a momentary advantage. . All eyes connected. three women came through. . Soon. Fran. not a card. the women first. For a second. and the condolences began. Myra. Lynn knew. items of clothing and bits of paper with vital messages illegibly scribbled thereon? And how tidy the notice board looked. sequencing letters in alphabetical order. the vast amounts of dirty coffee cups. of footsteps. Alan. communally sharing pins. with actual space on it. Brian. and I know you will want to extend every sympathy to our friend and colleague Lyndsey Davies who sadly suffered a miscarriage earlier this holiday . How are you? . the door opened and a group of two men. time hung suspended. coming nearer. Lynn got out the brown envelope with the bulky sheaf of briefing notes that Graham. . uninteresting beginning-of-term messages. She avoided the page with the list of staff. . Lynn sat trying to read. Lynn. Jean. the odd unbent paper clip. she could see before she was seen. and then people flowed forward. At the end of the corridor. (never a red one.How dreadful. would be huddled together. skipping over the circular letter at the beginning ' . it would be liberally covered with notices held on with inadequate amounts of pins. notices which had once proudly kept their distance. 'Oh. the sprinkling of blue and black pens. It was no good.
'Hi Dell!' she said. . 'That's all right. . 'How bloody annoying. People's sad faces relaxed as they moved away. A whiff of a familiar perfume made her turn her head.sorry . and hums of conversation broke out in other parts of the room. . Why on earth did Della say that to her when she had already expressed her sympathy? It felt like a kick in the gut. they've forgotten to fill the urn again. just she thought that it would never stop and she would be there repeating the same things for the rest of her life.' Every time there was a lull. simply could not. 'Are you sure you should be back at school yet? Do you want to sit down? Shall I make you a coffee. She could not. Lynn found herself looking at kind. The staffroom buzzed and heaved with the inordinate number of staff present and nobody took any notice of her. 'Oh Lynn. She walked over to stand by the hot water urn. she stood up straight and turned full face to Della. apart from a few latecomers yet to arrive.' Then she recognised the voice and swung round to face her. something about the way Della expressed her concern . . How are you feeling now? . So sorry. 'Hello. Winded. thanks. concerned faces and saying over and over. glad of a respite to get her bearings. the door opened again and more people drifted in. Adrenaline pumped through her.' 'Thank you.' Lynn was taken completely unawares. 'Hello!' she said again. discuss the miscarriage with Della here and 34 . Lynn still standing by the notice board. It was over.' she said absently without turning round.' 'Yes. . she took refuge in a small smile and a slight shrug. She found her voice and gave a dismissive ‘I’m all right' sort of laugh. sit with you?' Thankfully.the list of questions and the 'poor little you' tone. Pushing herself away from the lockers. Della was preoccupied. this time looking directly at her. 'You look very pale.' said Della. I'm so sorry you lost your baby. enabled Lynn to pull herself together more quickly than anything else Della could have said. by and large. it stopped. The electric kettle could be heard boiling and people began checking the fridge for milk and looking for teabags and coffee or producing their own from secret supplies.' and then.' 'Better now. moved slowly and somewhat unsteadily away. . So sorry . leaning against the lockers.
‘I‘m fine! A quick D and C and I was a new woman! Not that I'm the sort to take it lying down. How does that sound?' Lynn felt a bit lost. First it was 'soon'. Damn! How about the Friday after? I know it's a long way off.' 'Yeah. But that was how Della organised her life. But still . 'Got to run . then it was two weeks tomorrow.' The irony of this was not lost on Della. You'll have to come then . but it will give me the chance to lay on something really nice.' Lynn said slowly. ‘I’ll have to check with Mark. Della had had therapy.I've got about twenty things to do. then that was how it was. But she undoubtedly managed it somehow. It just wasn't her. 'Mark must have been surprised!' Nevertheless. and if a fortnight Friday was her first free day. . though she felt slightly ruffled. She must do something. she would quite like to.it'll be legal and binding!’ 'Great!' Lynn echoed. She had the most hectic social schedule of anyone Lynn knew. This was the Lynn she knew and loved. . ‘I’ll put a note in your pigeon hole confirming it. . Yeah. It's been ages . Coffee has been implicated in 35 . 'A new woman eh?' she mused. but it should be OK. . 'I think so.now. it would be interesting to know what she thought. But that's the only way they'd do it. . 'Great!' she said. Deryk will be so pleased to see you. come round for dinner soon? You and Mark. .' Della recognised the response and inwardly approved. Lynn still looked pretty fragile. 'Look. a fortnight tomorrow seemed a long way off . wait. Lynn had no idea. wait! It's the squash club's annual dinner and we’re doing something on the Saturday .I forget what. Next Friday? No. And you'll have seen your therapist again by then so you can tell me all about it. smiling her appreciation. fine! Why not!' 'Let's think.' She managed a weak grin. How she fitted it in with being head of department. We're in Portsmouth this weekend. Why did Della assume that she would want to tell her about her therapist? Though actually. She hated seeing Lynn looking droopy and depressed. 'I think we can squeeze you in.
How awkwardly Polly had offered her hand to shake. though she couldn’t help noting with annoyance that someone had borrowed her cat mug again. Lynn relived their first meeting. And acting. amongst other things. Lynn had wanted to hug her on the spot. was what Della taught . Some people would have 'He meant well' engraved on their tombstone. with her floppy hair and glasses and her perpetually worried look that Lynn loved dispelling with a joke.' What was the point? He was just being kind. took you to one side and discreetly whispered.premature loss of libido. ‘thespian’. Sipping her coffee. not a bloody lifethreatening disease and I had it over a month ago!' Lynn had replied sweetly. Lynn walked to the lower school.' 'What?' 'It's a fact. It had been a challenge to thaw her out but it had been 36 . she wanted to borrow his notes. oh. though Polly was not there. lipstick bright but not too bright. It seemed funny without Polly but she wouldn't get back from holiday until tomorrow. It was strictly against the rules but who but the science staff would bother coming up three flights of stairs to check the fridge? And if anybody noticed. After lunch. now abandoned. earrings dangly but not too dangly. Resisting the urge to snap back. . full of Polly.' Smiling. here in this prep room. but empty. 'No thanks. Della moved away. Lynn thought. . Lynn was sick of people just being kind. jewellery chunky but not too chunky. Lynn located the kettle. Polly was the lower school lab technician. 'Want a lift?' Brian had said. a bit too meaningfully. 'No thanks! It's just a miscarriage. filled it up and savoured a much-needed cup of coffee. too shy to even look Lynn in the face! Amused. shouted – no. Lynn made some coffee and sat in the homely. Then she joined the general exodus to the main hall. Lynn went straight to the science prep room and put the milk in the fridge. And anyway. as though that somehow excused everything. anyway. Everything about her. Brian. What a load of rubbish Della talked! But it was entertaining rubbish at least. I could do with some fresh air. But. they could always say it was for an experiment. where her class was. of course. getting some milk on the way. I read it in the Tea Drinkers' Weekly and Doughnut Dunkers' Gazette. cluttered prep room. tights sheer but not too sheer.
They were a nice bunch. Polly doted on her . 'Fine thanks. No one ever crossed Della twice. just at the moment. strolled round the labs. Had a miscarriage. which swelled when they saw her. But Polly's company was very restful. She looked round and sighed. also 37 . It was usually the other way round. who. What a contrast Polly was to graceful.a bit too much at times. Polly had repaid all Lynn's efforts . Miss!' 'Have a good holiday?' 'Do anything then?' Not much. Aloud she said. and went outside to meet her class. Lynn regarded her as one of her successes.wandered round some more. She'd had them last year too. Lynn waited for it to die down a bit. had another cup of coffee. Not that Della didn't listen too. Got depressed. but her pupils had a healthy respect for her tongue. of course. thought Lynn. Polly's chief talent was listening. It was a useful attribute for a teacher. this produced a loud groan. Saw a therapist. found herself nodding off . she was not so shy. and then said amiably. It took a lot to make her speak her mind. She always had the most Christmas cards and presents of all the staff in the school. Sometimes Lynn couldn't help feeling a bit jealous. How about you? Ready for some work?' Predictably.worth it. 'Hello. but you couldn't always tell what was going on inside her head and it sometimes paid to check out that she wasn't joking when she spoke.’ then had to eyeball the humorist. Strange that after her accidious cultivation of Polly and the time she had spent gently drawing her out.this would never do! . She was very tongue in cheek was Della. 8R.dear Polly! She was such a simple soul! Lynn checked that her lab slips for the next two weeks were up.and though she was still earnest and awkward. one of Lynn's favourite classes in fact. mused Lynn. Well. They were untidily assembled outside the lab with much pushing and shoving and noise. it was now she who missed Polly. heard a noise as of approaching thunder coming up the stairs. sat and thought. But it was Polly that Lynn wanted now. with her clarity of mind and her easy warmth and witty ripostes. I'm not letting you in until you are. 'Well. She was so accepting . urbane Della.
they're gas taps. it's over there. draw the diagram underneath and then answer in your books the questions I am about to write on the board.' A disappointed mumble surfaced and a dissonant voice was heard. Her lessons were looked forward to and she seldom disappointed them. 'But Mrs Davies. but the lab technician is still away. sitting on them. . Ben. Sara.' She paused.' 'But couldn't you . but we can do it. and she hadn't even started teaching them yet. but that she had not the emotional energy to stay on top of a bubbly class clustered round a dangerous demonstration involving superheated steam set up on the teacher's 38 . The class looked at her expectantly. She's back tomorrow. sweetheart. got that? Page 32. When you get them . from the effort of mentally imposing her will on them. But she did today. isn't it? Bin it .?' 'Definitely not. Lynn was a popular teacher. . you said we would be doing a practical first lesson. . . . Kevin. and stood at the front watching them finishing coming through. Union rules. just leave them . 'Afternoon everyone. . 'Yes. if we don't waste time . . then left her position when about half were in. Already Lynn could feel herself becoming drained from the encounter with their sheer animal exuberance. when you get them turn to page 32. Now then . so there's no one to set out any practicals. give out the text books. Write out the paragraph headed "Steam turbines". . OK. bit early to be chewing gum.' Lynn said. Yes. . . Lynn stood in the doorway so that they had to go through in single file. Put the comb away. you said . you've seen them before. I’m sorry.predictably. taking down the stools on the benches. 'Stephanie. chattering away like monkeys as they unpacked their bags. . ‘Suits me fine!’ There was muttering and shuffling as they got into a semblance of order. said.' Lynn had no intention of telling them that Polly had in fact been in at the beginning of the holiday to set out the demonstration which was even now on a trolley in the prep room. your hair looks fine. by the window. we've got a lot to get through this term. . Make sure you answer in sentences. I know I said. hel-lo? . welcome to the first science lesson of the term. Patrick. Now.
She had spent too much but she was in no mood to let it bother her. no more. but nothing major. ‘Yeah. and Nicole was the one that made 8R shine more brightly for Lynn. She should have at least prepared worksheets. Faithful Nicole! Lynn 's heart warmed towards her. When she got home that night. He said her name and she came to. Lynn sighed. half asleep.’ 39 . I’ve handed my notice in. she made a cup of tea and sat down in the kitchen. could have been worse. hair invariably worn in a severe ponytail. You?’ She longed to say. . .’ (Not much!) Mark sat down beside her and put his arm round her. one of several in this class. . . Now. head industriously down. diagnosed ADHD. concentrating on the words. There was always one in every class. They were so distressing that she turned immediately to the crossword on the back page. all right. Tall and merry.bench. Few problems. Already Ryan. on the female side. had always ended. he got up and moved towards the kitchen. disorientated. When he felt her shift restlessly beneath it.’ but temporised with. Mark found her there. 'How was your day?' 'Oh. This was very bad teaching and she knew it. when he came in from work. so she got up and hung it in the hall. She looked at him with such an air of bruised fragility that his heart went out to her. articulate but not too cheeky . Lynn was shattered. ‘What’s for dinner? I’ll get it. ‘Bloody awful. and it looked like it was hurting. She said.and very bright. She suddenly wondered if the demonstration would have been a better option than policing a rebellious science class for the best part of an hour. was poking his neighbour with his pen. She stuffed the food she had grabbed up at the supermarket in the freezer and the fridge. with the likes of Nicole. giving it her best shot. Nicole was the first to begin writing. She moved in to placate the neighbour and to jolly Ryan along into doing some work in a place where no one would annoy him by getting in the way of his pen. Laboriously. The end of Lynn's imaginings about . She sat down again and looked at the newspaper headlines. It was going to be a long lesson. Individual pupils looked up reproachfully but she stared them down. After a while it dawned on her that she was still wearing her coat. the future .
' Mark had heard only the first two sentences. and went to bed as early as possible. I didn't mean to put it in the freezer actually. She took another sleeping tablet and fell asleep still wondering. . He called from the kitchen as she heard the microwave door click shut. 'What's that?' 'Oh . Lynn thought of Tia for almost the first time that day. She was so bloody touchy these days.' She hoped Mark was reading the instructions correctly. Still almost two weeks to go! She could not decide whether she could hardly bear the thought or whether she didn’t give a tinker’s cuss whether she ever saw her again. . Mark said nothing. but contented himself with looking at her now and then in what he hoped was a sympathetic way. It was getting very tiring. I'd forgotten we were going to eat it tonight. did it really matter? She spent the evening in a fog of depression. In bed. but if not.'Lasagne and mange-tout. He knew that any attempt at conversation would be rebuffed. 40 . nothing. Fridge and freezer.
This time the tablets worked. Lynn slept deeply and awoke the next morning filled with a new resolve. This would not do! She was not surviving and she must survive! She was not being fair to Mark, not being fair to her friends, not being fair to the kids she taught, not being fair to herself. What could she do? Then it hit her. It was simple - so simple - all she had to do was just act 'as if'. As if she was coping. As if the miscarriage had not happened. As if everything was normal. And soon it would be! Why had she not thought of it before? It was so obvious! After the miscarriage, things had been . . . well, black . . . but she had been crawling out of it. Stiff upper lip! Least said, soonest mended. And what had happened? She'd seen Tia, that's what! But then what? She'd seen Tia and come home feeling great and then . . . well, just gone back to where she was before really. Except that now she had Tia to stress about as well. What had gone on in that counselling session? Lynn paused in genuine bewilderment. Tia had said . . . well,
nothing, really. Tia had . . . listened. Tia had made her . . . remember things. Well, of course, she had to do that, but she'd remembered wrong. Not in a 'It was a shame but I can cope,' strengthening kind of way but in a sad, hopeless kind of way. That was no good. In fact, it was very depressing. Tia had made her feel depressed! Had put the idea into her head! She'd been all right until then . . . well, more all right than she was now. Well then! She was officially declaring herself undepressed! The old Lynn was back! Mark sighed and mumbled as the bedclothes were flung back with the force of Lynn's exit. He came round to the sound of the shower running in the bathroom and Lynn singing. Her voice was true and melodious, and he listened in pleasure until it dawned on him that it was something he had not heard for quite a while. He put his hands behind his head and lay there smiling. All through breakfast, Mark kept casting covert glances at this new, cheerful Lynn. She
seemed determinedly upbeat, but not relentlessly so, as far as Mark could tell. 'Just thinking more positively, that's all,' he told himself, loyalty preventing him from adding, 'And about time.' It was amazing how positiveness rubbed off. He could feel himself stretching inside, as though he'd just been let out after spending the night locked in the wardrobe. He looked at Lynn's profile, the wetness from the shower unable to subdue the wave in her hair, her lovely skin, her smiling mouth, and he longed for her. She felt his gaze and turned towards him. ‘I'm so looking forward to seeing Polly. I’m pretty certain she’s back today.’ Oh. The smile was not for him then. No matter. A smile was still a smile. It was a start. He swallowed his disappointment and leaned forward to kiss her. 'I'm off now.' The kiss glanced off the corner of her mouth as she turned to check the calendar. He hesitated fractionally, then as he rose to leave, she smiled properly, just for him, and said, 'Have a good day, Mark. Let's try and do something special tomorrow.' His joy was whole again. He left, whistling. Behind him, Lynn found she was gripping the table so fiercely that her knuckles showed white. On the tube to work, Lynn found she could maintain her new-found optimism quite easily as long as she didn't relax. Any negative thought was immediately countered by a mental image of herself before the miscarriage and the positive assertion, 'I am like that now!' and consigning the period in between to a black hole - a toilet actually - and flushing it away. Lynn was a very visually oriented person. She debated the idea of not seeing Tia again. It really had done more harm than good, now she came to think about it, but this thought itself seemed negative and stress-inducing, until she counteracted it with the idea that she actually ought to see Tia again, to tell her how harmful the last session had been. Tia really should be made aware of how dangerous those suggestions of hers had been. Then she stopped thinking about Tia, because that was the best thing to do, and thought again about seeing Polly . . . Polly's cuddly form, Polly's cheery countenance, Polly's air of comfortableness. As soon as she got to school, Lynn headed for the prep room. Lynn saw Polly before Polly saw her, her white-coated back bending over a trolley
loaded with test-tube racks full of test-tubes. Polly heard her and turned round to greet her. She looked a trifle weary. Her lab coat swung open, revealing her neat dark skirt and jumper. None of Polly's lab coats had enough buttons. As they fell off, she carefully saved them in pockets and petri dishes and beakers in odd places, so that she could sew them on later. Once Lynn had needed a couple of dozen buttons in a hurry for a floating and sinking experiment and had dashed into the prep room, laying her hands on enough of them in a matter of seconds. 'Hi Polly - good to see you!' said Lynn. 'Nothing's been getting done around here!' She meant, 'I've missed you,' and Polly knew that. She laughed. 'Good job I'm back then! Good to see you too, Lynn. How are you?' She made as if to hug her and then realised that she had a large conical flask in her hand filled with liquid and hesitated, confused and looking for a space to put it down.. Lynn took advantage of her confusion to counter the question with another. 'So - how was the holiday?' Polly didn't notice the change of topic. 'Terrific, lovely weather. And the hotel was near the beach. We were blessed. And I was able to hire a wheelchair and that made such a difference to mum.' Polly's face glowed. Clearly the wheelchair had been the icing on the cake. 'You look a bit tired though.' 'Trust you to notice! It was the usual flight back in the middle of' the night – and it was delayed. We got home at four-twenty this morning, so I feel a bit spaced out to be honest' 'You should have phoned in sick – come in this afternoon. We would have managed.' Polly stared at Lynn as though she had suggested something immoral. 'You know I could never do that!' As she spoke, Polly continued to pour liquid from the flask into one test-tube from each rack. Her squarish hands, perpetually roughened and stained with chemicals even though she got through stacks of disposable gloves, worked deftly, somehow independently of the rest of her. A rhythmic 5 mls of lime water glided into each test-tube, almost as accurately as if it had been pipetted. 'How are you then?' she said. There was no evading it this time. Polly didn't know about the miscarriage. How could
she? She'd been visiting her brother, then in Spain with her mother in the holidays. She was not party to staff briefing notes. Lynn probably could have contacted her in the brief interim between Polly's jaunts, but contacting anyone hadn't been high on Lynn's list of priorities then. 'Oh Polly, I lost . . . it.' Polly stopped what she was doing. Lynn watched as shock, disbelief and pain jostled for supremacy on her face. Pain won, melting quickly into sadness. She opened her mouth to speak, thought better of it, glanced desperately around, dumped the flask in the sink and came quickly over to put her arms around Lynn. Lynn returned the hug and found that there were tears in her eyes. No matter how hard she tried, they came unbidden and unwanted at the most awkward moments these days. Polly continued to hug her, and at length released her and stepped back, her eyes silently searching Lynn's face. The embrace was what Lynn had been waiting for, yet it was somehow unsatisfactory. When she had felt Polly's arms round her, she had imagined laying her head on Polly's shoulder and letting the tears flow freely but something imperceptible - whether from her or Polly, she could not tell - had held her back. Lynn rubbed her eyelids with the back of her hand as Polly spoke, her voice unsteady. 'Oh Lynn, I am so sorry.' Lynn knew she was. Why was it not enough? She gave a watery smile. 'That's all right, Pol. It's been over a month now.' 'It must have been terrible,' said Polly. Lynn saw tears of sympathy in her eyes and
opened her mouth to reply. At the very same moment Bill the chemistry teacher breezed through the room and paused in the doorway through into the other lab, calling over his shoulder, 'Pol, major favour! The distillation of ethanol demo - you know the one I mean. Lab three - first period this afternoon. I meant to fill in a slip but I forgot.' ‘I’ll try,' said Polly, 'but we’ve only got one set of Quickfit here and it’s booked. I'll have to see if someone can . . . ‘ She spoke to his retreating back. 'Thanks Pol! I owe you one!' came floating through
the empty doorway. Polly sighed resignedly. This sort of thing was always happening. The moment was lost. There was a silence, then Polly said, ‘I’m glad you always fill your lab slips in.' 'Thanks,' said Lynn wryly. A buzzer sounded. Lynn saw Polly glance involuntarily towards the racks of test-tubes, then back to her. She so patently did not know what to do that Lynn took pity on her and said, 'What are you doing for lunch?' Now was not the time to talk. Now was never the time to talk. Polly looked blank. ‘Let’s go to the Black Caff then.’ Relief surged over Polly's face. 'Good idea, why not!' ‘I’m paying’ she added hastily. 'My last holiday fling . . .' she paused, unable what to think of to say next. 'Before the humdrum hurly-burly of school life drags you down again,' Lynn finished for her. 'Something like that,' agreed Polly. Lynn gave her a somewhat shaky wink and left, as Polly picked up the phone to Brenda, the lab technician at the upper school. At lunch time, they met, as they always did, in the staff car park by Polly's car. She drove in each day from a nearby council estate. Though she was permanently resident at the lower school, it was handy to have a car to facilitate escape at lunch times. The Cafe Noir was ten minutes away by car, and consequently conveniently inaccessible, on the whole, to sixth form pupils, who preferred the new Starbucks anyway, or McDonalds, both within walking distance. Polly parked by the new shopping precinct and they strode purposefully towards the large plate glass windows, slightly misted over with condensation. Inside, they could see squashy black sofas, chrome and glass and potted palms. It was an odd mix but they liked it. As they pushed open the door, the warm smell of croissant, coffee and chocolate drew them seductively in, and they found themselves sitting, coats on the backs of the seats, perusing the menus before they knew how they'd got there. The emphasis in the Cafe Noir was on comfort and it was very satisfying to sink back into the soft leather upholstery. Lynn and Polly studied the menu carefully. It was as familiar as
They were both hungry. 'Tell me all about it.all for nothing! She felt a surge of irritation. Considering the highly calorific nature of croissant dough. Lynn risked a glance at her.' she said. and when the food came they gave it their full attention. Polly's with some sort of cottage cheese mixture. It was in her. Polly settled herself comfortably. Lynn's with chocolate. Polly was sitting very still.' She paused again. . at length. afterwards . It had been at the hospital . that it was taking too long. Lynn finally found a door. 'Yes. searching for the right words to begin. I got. they never did 'sensible eating' here. it was a good enough one. Lynn. .' Lynn said.' she said finally. she felt that something was definitely wrong. I was coming up to the three months. 'Well.' Then she remembered. Polly said in surprise. I thought you didn't take sugar now.' and then blushed crimson at the forthrightness of the phrase. . And now she was back on the sugar. After a minute. .the contents of last week's newspaper. 'You're putting sugar in?' 'Only in coffee. it was like this . She paused. lost in her own thoughts. with every expression of sympathy. groping for a way in. Lynn thought this was a total waste of time. By tacit agreement. It did seem odd. . All that effort . and it took you ages to give it up. Lynn didn't reply immediately. . that kind of preperiod ache? But it never occurred to me . aware that she was repeating herself. . . 'It was in the holiday. who was listening perfectly. How long had she been doing that? 'Oh well. 'Well. . about two weeks after we broke up. blinking behind her glasses as she waited for her to continue. . and then looked across the table at Lynn. 'Just this once. As they reached for their coffees. She was gazing into her coffee cup. 'Only if you want to. but it was still part of the fun.' she said. and in an agony lest Polly should interrupt. when she didn't care any more.' She began to talk. you know. What was it? It was not Polly. but . 'Now.' Lynn considered. Lynn began to panic. After two minutes.' she added hastily. They had filled croissants. 46 . She began to listen to what she was saying. she felt that something was not quite right.
'And damn you too. 'Well. Yuck. When I got to school. She began to remember exactly what they had said. She was majoring on the care of the staff. Just words. nothing she could hold on to. 'What a stupid bloody thing to say! What do you know about it. People had said nothing . stop her feeling. more solid.' she said eventually. That's very good. . . 'People were very kind.describing. . as if she didn't know how to react. The vague feeling of irritated puzzlement and unsatisfactoriness inside her began to coalesce into something darker. she forced herself to look at Polly. yes. . Nothing that told her they could feel her pain. . to concentrate on what she was saying. animatedly playing down the gory bits. like mercury rising up a thermometer. At length Polly said. It was cold now. She didn’t know how else to say it. when Lynn had ground to a halt. Polly was still listening hard. feeling more sure of her ground. She stopped. Or it would have been deformed. Lynn thought about stopping. the fact that there was no baby. and flowers.' She paused. and began to boil over. She put the cup down and wiped the froth from her lips. We got loads of cards . ' Lynn's anger seemed to explode through the top of her head. but she couldn’t. Polly!' she heard herself shout. They said . She was talking brightly. 'You seem to have a very positive attitude to all this.' Now it was Lynn's turn to be puzzled. Lynn. 'So it's all for the best. it probably couldn't have lived. What had they said? 'They said they were sorry. so that her discomfort and pain didn't make them feel bad. but she was looking puzzled.' Polly was saying kindly. the more she could feel a sense of hot fury swirling up inside her.' she said at last. The more Lynn thought about it. 'If there had been a baby. What was positive about having a miscarriage? She took a sip of coffee. Oh damn them! Damn them all! The rage filled her to overflowing. the support she had been given.nothing of value. It's nature's way . people were very sympathetic. and too sweet. leaving out the emotion entirely. slowly at first and then faster and faster until it began to reach explosion point. words to shut her up. 47 . That was how it seemed to her now. nothing of comfort. and it dawned on her that this was an edited account. With a gargantuan effort.
and in the face of Polly's distress. which strangely enough looked the very same as it had before she had spoken. The cafe went quiet. I know. I say mad things. 'I was only trying to help. She held on tighter. Oh please believe me! Please forgive me!' 48 . could not believe what she had said. Heads at adjacent tables turned. she was doubly so now. oh Pol! Don't cry! Oh. I'm not myself. . Trembling. and Lynn could feel them shaking beneath her grip. I know! I don't know what got into me. If she was aghast before. Her jaw dropped. Polly had her head down and her shoulders were shaking. but Polly and Lynn still sat staring at each other. 'I don't understand. she lowered her head and stared at the table cloth. please don't cry! I'm sorry. Horrified. ' Polly . All her anger seemed to have vaporised in that explosion. She looked up. She couldn’t gaze at it for ever.oh. Something had happened which could not be reversed. truly I don't! Oh please forgive me! I'm so sorry! I'm under such a strain these days. I'm sorry . and she was scrubbing away tears. Lynn watched her struggling to regain control before she added with an odd dignity. Lynn. What did I say . which were convulsively clasping a wad of tissues. She looked at Polly's tear-stained face and reached across the table to grab her hands. when all I wanted to do was help you. 'I didn't deserve that. too. Polly made a half-hearted attempt to withdraw them. Her face was swollen and blotchy. for god's sake!' Polly stopped in mid-sentence. much as she wanted to. .' she said awkwardly. After a couple of hour-long seconds.' Lynn was beside herself with remorse. 'Polly. she couldn't work out why on earth she had said what she did. Lynn had never seen her cry. something Lynn had never actually seen happen before. I'm sorry! I don't know what got into me.to cause that?’ Her lip was trembling. so after a little while she lifted her head to look at Polly. I'm seeing a therapist. the hum of conversation resumed.you patronising cow? What do you know about anything? You're still living with your mother. and regarded her with a look of total unbelief. please don't cry!' Something of her wretchedness seemed to penetrate Polly's misery. then turned quickly back.
Polly did not drive to the upper school. She returned the pressure of Lynn's hand. but thank you!' Polly did not trust herself to reply. 'Course I forgive you! We've said worse than that to each other!' (Have we? thought Lynn. Instead. 'Just remembered.' After Lynn had got out. to grope. And for putting up with me.' 'Polly. it really is. She managed a small smile. not knowing what to say to make it right. I said.' She broke off. rather blindly. I've got to nip to the upper school to pick up that Quickfit for Bill. 'Polly. The Quickfit apparatus was already set up.' said Polly humbly. had put her through. That's what friends are for. As they were leaving. 'so it's all right. They would never come to this cafe again.I'll just sort the bill out. How could Polly do it? Did she really mean it? She seemed to. Polly said suddenly. the death blow that Lynn had nearly dealt their friendship. would never recover from this ordeal that she.Polly heard her sincerity and was programmed to respond. anyway.' Lynn let her. she drove quickly to her own house. although her hands were still shaking.I don't deserve it. looking at her. 'That's all right Lynn. Polly. let me! It's the least I can do!' 'No! My treat. 'Time to go . I needed to talk – everything's all churned up inside . Lynn. having been delivered by a member of staff travelling to the lower school during break. and then withdrew her own. with her agonising shyness. thanks to her. you are so kind! So forgiving! Thank you so much .' 'Polly. realised that Polly actually meant it. Thanks. It was all spoilt now. but the situation was still horribly fragile. somehow. for her purse. Polly. was surviving. Lynn didn't dare say any more.' Lynn. It was incredible. 49 . thanks. Can I drop you off?' 'Sure. Lynn could feel them. she tried again.) 'I know I can't really understand how you're feeling. was amazed to encounter Polly's steady gaze. Thanks for listening. As they were driving back to school.
It’s no more than you deserve for not letting Him help you. . she wedged it between her knees. She worked quickly and methodically. in sheer frustration. She ripped the wrapper off one and stuffed it whole in her mouth. and as she worked she continued to fork the cold macaroni into her mouth. frosted flakes. Polly opened the fridge door and took out some cold macaroni cheese in a bowl. By the time Polly got to school. she moaned quietly in anguish. Hardly knowing what she was doing. With the seat belt on. Grabbing a fork from the draining board. Good! She grabbed the waxed paper bag from the carton. I just can't help it!' Polly piled the frozen butter shavings onto the bread. and the familiar voice began in her head. She kept it there because they ate butter so seldom. She grabbed that too. Then another slice. ‘Call yourself a Christian? Where's your self-control. But the bag kept sliding about when she tried to put her hand in. Polly took the butter over to the bread bin. In between mouthfuls. while taking the butter out of the freezer. She was glad she did. Thankfully. Look at you! 50 . the urge to eat had subsided. gulping down big bites alternately with the macaroni cheese. Wait! A third of a box of cereal . As she locked the front door. Oh please forgive me! I just can't help it. Then she remembered to check the kitchen in case mum came in. she checked the pantry and found a packet with Weight watchers chocolate bars in. She hastily put the macaroni cheese bowl in the sink underneath the breakfast things and noticed the still half-eaten slice of bread she had left on the work surface.Once inside. She put the other one in her pocket. folded it over. I'm so sorry. You will die of obesity and God will let you. she couldn't reach the cereal bag still in her pocket. and began to chew it. 'Oh Lord. Nothing else in the pantry. she began to eat it. so in the end. She took a sharp knife and began to shave off thin slivers of frozen butter. Then another. the carer would have given mum her lunch and gone by now and mum would be asleep in front of the TV. stuffed it in her pocket and headed out of the door. so she put it on the passenger seat and attempted to eat from it while driving. . Polly headed for the kitchen without pausing to take off her coat. She forgot about the Weight watchers bar in her pocket as she began to feel bloated and sick. and got out some white sliced bread. Polly crammed the last of the bread into her mouth and got into the car.
Lynn was sitting on the same chair in the drab corridor. 'This is the first of the three sessions we agreed 51 . had telephoned through to somewhere.Look at the state of you! You’re disgusting!’ Polly's only consolation was that these new bad feelings were so overwhelming that they caused the old ones about the scene in the Cafe Noir to recede mercifully into the background at least for the time being. At two thirty precisely she heard the soft click of the door at the end of the corridor and turned to see Tia approaching. she stopped. unbidden. When Tia saw her looking. sat in the same seat she had sat in two weeks ago. 'Lynn. and Lynn. and said. Tia seated herself opposite her and said. Once again she was waiting for Tia. Chapter 5 Once again.' Then she waited until Lynn had almost reached her and turned and led the way to her office. 'Mrs Davies is here'. Once again the attentive receptionist had asked her to take a seat. Once again she ushered her through. This time Lynn was more alert.
but it felt so wrong. . now she'd got started.' There was a pause during which Lynn suddenly remembered with annoyance what she had actually planned to say to Tia. filled Lynn's mind. She hadn’t meant to start with that at all. her thoughts scattered like cockroaches under the cupboard when the kitchen light was turned on. Into the silence that followed.' ‘Why's that?’ This simple question helped Lynn to focus. Della. more importantly. her thoughts about the miscarriage. but I felt so angry. how have you been?' All the events of the past two weeks. Lynn looked away and mumbled in a rush. Polly. it's been bloody awful. and got hopelessly jammed in the doorway from her brain to her mouth. now. about everything. What a relief. ‘And you made me feel 52 . She’d had a lot of carefully thought out questions first. How on earth had that happened. 'People were so kind. my friends. They made me angry. 'I . but now Tia was actually looking at her. bugger. how does counselling work then? Can you tell me something about it? I know very little. about Tia. but I don’t know why. I don't know why. how could she get it back? She didn't think she could. Lynn hastily averted her gaze again. 'Although people were kind. She'd need to be quicker next time. Tia was looking concerned. Actually. it's been really difficult. made a concerted rush to escape. 'To tell the truth. ‘So . it was a relief to talk. . they made you feel angry. And then her mind blanked completely. So. 'Yes. Hardly knowing what she was doing. Tia's enquiry had sent it completely out of the window. Actually. What kind of training do you do? How did you become interested in it?’ Somehow.well. She knew now what she wanted to say. very angry. I didn't know what to do. it's been really hard work. and.um .together. God! Why did Tia keep doing this to her! She'd had it all so carefully prepared. Oh. Tia said. They simply were not there.' She wanted to add. Her chance had gone. She risked a glance at Tia.’ Lynn resigned herself to go with the flow.' Silence.
This would never do! She concentrated fiercely on Tia’s hands. she said as conversationally as she could.all right. . noticing a rather nice green and silver ring. having to cover me for that. not thinking about it. had been smouldering for days. I just went to pieces. I started my period last Monday!' To Lynn's dismay she found herself wanting to cry. I feel so angry with myself!' ‘With yourself?’ Lynn thought about what she had just said.’ but she hadn’t got the bottle. To distract herself.oh Tia.like another miscarriage. Oh. It wasn't even painful. but I felt so strange. I had to have two days off school. But here she was in Tia's office. I suppose that was because of the D and C. I didn't even phone any work through. . weird. but it was so .' 'Yeah . Every cloud has a silver lining.I mean being angry with other people when they were being so kind.' 'It's all right. it was just a period.I . 'Sorry.well . But it had taken a lot of energy. ’Yes. . I couldn't go in. When I saw the blood. I think so.angry too. She wasn’t entirely sure it was true now. it wasn't as though I wasn't expecting it. and now she felt so tired. 'Funny about the anger though . I bet they hated me at school though. at the whole lot of them. Oh.well. and then looked up. putting it on hold until she could see Tia and ask her what she thought of it. it brought it all back. well.' It was not an ideal choice of distraction. and wisps 53 .' Lynn could feel herself trembling at the memory.’ said Tia. but it felt like . ‘Should I talk about it?’ ‘Whatever you like. it was awful. seeing the blood again. It was just . But I . anyway. I should have been ready for it. I . Tia was regarding her with an air of polite expectation. She had coped by resolutely thinking of something else. as my old mother would say. smothered under a flame-retardant blanket of guilt. at Polly. 'I . .oh. That's not like me. The anger she was feeling at Della. that's one benefit I didn't expect from a miscarriage. Was she angry with herself? She supposed she was – losing patience with her own inability to take it in her stride.
it was to herself. she came to. everybody looked . pleading silently for help. It wasn't all right. "If there had been a baby. useless failure! Thinking you were pregnant! Congratulating yourself! On what? On nothing. She looked at Tia. you'd be surprised. a little self-consciously." I felt . "If there had been". positively billowing out from under the blanket. When she spoke again. She stopped trembling. called her a stupid cow. trying to remember. in a hissing undertone. She had felt as empty as the universe. and Polly said. it probably couldn't have lived or it would have been born deformed. that there never had been anything. Tia said. Tia seemed unaware of her inner turmoil. It's nature's way. 54 . and then her heroic efforts to minimise the outburst. . The smouldering pile of anger looked smaller. After a while. 'Anger is a very normal emotion in these circumstances. she said. She wasn't sure what she really thought about that. Can you tell me about the times when you felt angry?' Lynn felt OK once more. aware of Tia's eyes resting on her. more manageable. 'Well. She sat up. . to say it didn't matter. galaxies of emptiness inside her.' She broke off. 'I'd been feeling very angry anyway. She said obediently. She continued hurriedly. She and Polly had hardly spoken since. . Nothing! Just emptiness!' Emptiness. She said. and gently rocked back and forth. She leaned forward. But there wasn't! There wasn't!' Lynn found herself whispering. I shouted at her. . about something. She was aware that she was close to losing it.How the hell did she know! What right did she have to say it was better for it to have died. It was my baby! I would have loved it! Being deformed doesn't mean you've got no quality of life! Life's what you make it! It's better to live than die!' She paused. Oh Polly! Lynn said slowly.there was no baby. the worst one was Polly. 'But . 'Stupid. to make it all right. It felt very bad. 'You felt that there was nothing there . It seemed too terrible to say aloud. But it did matter.of smoke were finally emerging. I really freaked out.I thought . She trailed off and sat staring into space. So are a lot of others. and said mildly. She had oceans. in a cafe. She had felt so empty. holding it in. and Lynn was powerless to stop them. said she was bloody patronising. clasping her arms around her emptiness. Poor Polly! She could see again that look of stricken disbelief on her face.
smiling at her. By the time the miscarriage occurred. Tia. had deceived yourself. what then? There must have been a baby! Even if it had only been there for one cell division. for ten minutes . 'But the emptiness. Somehow. but pleasantly so. you just told me. 'There was no baby. which should have been the safest place in the universe for the tiny 55 . What was Tia saying now? She relived the miscarriage. but kindly. She'd save that to think about later. ‘Are you so sure it was like that – the whole time?’ Tia’s question echoed in her head. 'But how do you know?' 'Lynn. She thought about it all. She thought back further. you were really empty. There was no baby.' 'Yes!' said Lynn.the whole time?' Lynn thought. and suddenly. the wriggling sperm. When you’d thought you were full of growing life. it seemed safe to do that here. there had been only an undifferentiated mass of cells. Tia continued. There was nothing to mourn. then four. the penetration. didn't understand how simple it made everything. The baby didn't grow'. 'Yes! That's it!' She looked at Tia wonderingly. only their disappointment to contend with.for ten seconds – for one second! There had been a baby! Her baby! She felt a sudden surge of wonder. almost of relief.' Tia said gently. the doctor saying.That you'd been deceived. looking at her anxiously to see how she would take it. a fragile bubble of joy rising within her that was burst almost instantly by the crushing awareness that the baby had not survived. Instead he had been bewildered.' Lynn felt foolish. she understood. . Are you so sure that it was like that . She remembered the feeling. in Tia’s bright room. but right back at the start. There had been no baby then. and her frustration at his obtuseness. and then a ball of cells . . when she told Mark. It touched something. true. She had thought he would be relieved too. but when had there started to be no baby? Into her teacher's mind came a vivid picture of fertilisation. when the sperm met the ovum. 'Oh. the fussy time-lapse cinematography showing the ovum dividing into two. Her womb.
in a way she had not cried since she was a child. If it ever reached the uterus.growing life.was there. . and shake her whole body. She cried for a long time.hugely. The sobs seemed to die down and just when Lynn thought it was over.' Lynn bent her head and cried. But it must have.' said Tia. and smiled tremulously. eyes closed. She knew that something of value had just been 56 . she could not see her. It was not unlike being sick. and even though she was dimly conscious of Tia sitting perfectly still and making no move towards her. She could hear herself gasping and grabbing in breaths between them. aching sobs that seemed to knot her stomach in spasms. flowing round the pain. It was such a nice feeling. It did not occur to her to think about her red eyes. without warning they welled up again within her. The pile of used tissues on her lap grew. The ruin of her make-up had been completed by the first minute. They exchanged a long look and it was only then that Lynn became aware of her blotchy. All she could do was to ride them out as best she could. red-faced state. 'The baby was there. Anguish gripped her and she cried with racking.did exist . 'The baby . wasn't it? Even if it was only for a minute. Confusion overtook her. Tia made no attempt to say or do anything to stop her. Something inside her was hurting . it was there?' 'Yes. Creeping in. was a curious feeling of security. but Lynn didn't care. Eventually the violence of the sobs grew less and Lynn's tears became punctuated by sighs. Lynn exhausted the tissues in her bag. With her head down. She opened her eyes and repeated it to Tia to see if she had got it right. She was powerless to stop them. . Something (she shuddered) must have implanted to stimulate hormone production and the thickening of the uterus wall. and turned to the open box of tissues on the table. or what Tia thought of her. was not safe enough. It felt so safe to cry in Tia's quiet presence. She could not remember feeling like this before. But one thing stood out. She could feel whatever was inside her changing from an agonizing laceration into a steady ache. she suddenly thought clinically. Lynn finally finished. she know she was there. horribly. The thoughts all became too much for her and she leaned back in her chair. She looked at Tia gratefully. and looked up. working her way steadily through them.
froglike down into the silent shadiness at the bottom of the pond. It had not gone away.transacted. Lynn. hands resting loosely on her lap. It meant that she didn't have to do anything. Lynn became aware of Tia's well-cut slacks and sandals and the bright hoop earrings shining through Tia's hair.' It was clear to Lynn that she would get nowhere with this particular line of questioning. ready to engage. so she paused to regroup. 'I don't. regarding her with composure as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Lynn suddenly felt a resurgence of curiosity about this strange and fascinating world about which Tia knew so much and she knew so little. But did she actually need to do anything? Tia was sitting there as relaxed as ever. She sat back in the chair and closed her eyes. This was amazing. Nothing was said for a few minutes. felt so hot and bothered? What was going on inside Tia's head when strangers could totally lose it in front of her while she just sat there? Clearly this was normal for her. if necessary. but Lynn didn't want to think about herself . with genuine bewilderment. alert. Tia had apparently not moved a muscle. Tia was in charge. Where had the time gone? How could she make the most of what was left? As she reflected. 'What happened just now?' 57 . There was Tia. Lynn realised that Tia knew what to do even if she didn't. Eventually she felt herself drifting slowly upwards and reluctantly poked her head above the surface into the bright world around her. Tia?' Tia looked at Lynn with a faint air of 'Why are you asking me this?' 'No. when she. and Lynn sank. She'd think about what it all meant later.' she said. something of the emotion she had felt only moments ago washed over her. Lynn felt glad that Tia was in charge.she felt exhausted. How could she look so cool. but now the moment was over she felt uncomfortable and she was not sure what to do or say next. She looked as though she could sit there all day like that. She glanced at the clock on the wall. 'Do you live around here. But mingled with it was a measure of release. She said. Lynn couldn’t remember now any of the questions she’d wanted to ask so on impulse she said the first thing that came into her head. She wasn't sure she was even thinking anything. Twelve minutes to go. Tia didn't look at all bothered.
' 'And I felt .' 'So my baby was real. It was grief. tasting the unfamiliar words. I mean.' agreed Tia. She had to be. "See. pain . . ." ' ‘That's one reason for having a baby. . but softly. isn't it?' There was another pause which Tia did not fill. . I can do it too. 'I felt such a failure. and went on hurriedly.' Tia said drily. . but because my baby was gone. ‘You said she was a fighter?' 'Yes. ' 'Yes. She had me against the odds. when I had the . Not just feeling sad because my my future was different. Mum. She was tough though. 'You know. I felt . Somehow say. I wanted to be just like her. 'Well. decided not to. She looked at Tia. . . you know.' ‘Mmm?' '.' Lynn paused to think about it. She was so alive. really there?' 'Yes it was.' Lynn felt tears welling up again. . and then I realised it was to do with the fact that there was no baby . of grief.' She hesitated for what seemed an age ' the baby' . 'My mum. I really admired her. She would cry later. . . Tia looked back. and then I cried?' 'Yes. . I felt like I'd really let my mum down. . wasn't it? I was grieving for my baby.Tia gave her an approving nod . She had such a sense of humour. That's odd. .' Lynn repeated. . . and then I realised there was a baby after all . such a pain. lost the baby. She knew she would be able to cry later. After a while she responded hesitantly. looked up to her. she died a few years ago. 'You would have liked my mother. . I was telling you about what Polly said . wasn't it? Really. . 'You did. .' . My dad left her when she was three months pregnant 58 . Lynn felt again the sense of awe she had felt earlier. 'What do you think happened?' Lynn replayed it in her mind. But they could wait. lost . What on earth went on inside Tia's head? What did she know? She said. she was such a fighter.Tia said.
That was one of her sayings – she had lots of them. take life's knocks and get up again. But you do understand.' Tia said. We would be in a stronger position to assess your counselling needs and we would have more time to do it in. 'I think we would need two more sessions to end properly. They were on holiday in Italy and he just walked out of the hotel and never came back. we have just five minutes of this session left. don't you.and she and Tia weren't even friends yet! 'Well. Where had the time gone? Fifty minutes wasn't long enough! They could at least give her an hour! She seemed to have said nothing. But my feeling is that there may be other issues around for you here and if the next 59 . even more woefully. I was about ten before I cottoned onto what she was talking about . it would really be better if we discussed it during the next session rather than at the end of this one. A jibber's a horse that refuses at fences. she cried out.with me. "Never say your mother bred a jibber!" she'd say. Mum was so wonderful.' 'Oh!' Lynn cried in distress. Tia looked at her carefully for some moments. Can you imagine that? But I respected her. 'Only two more! Couldn't we agree some more sessions now. She said. I think you may find that things have shifted a bit for you. that this is a crisis clinic. we've got a few minutes left?' The thought of only two more sessions with Tia seemed too awful to bear. and she could tell Tia didn't think so! . I know it!' She could not keep the desperation out of her voice. Tia held all the cards! Against hope.' 'Oh!' Lynn cried again. there was nothing she could do. “What can’t be cured must be endured”. She wanted to tell Tia about her mother. You've come to a deeper understanding of your baby and it has helped you to begin to grieve. She taught me not to whine.' Lynn didn't agree at all. seemed hardly to have started. And now she'd have to wait another two weeks! 'And our next session is the second of the three sessions we agreed. Tia was implacable! Lynn felt completely helpless. Couldn't Tia see how upset she was? All the intuitions she had felt in the first session about Tia being a withholding person came flooding back. 'Lynn. please! Two's not enough. 'Oh please. She had so much to say. for brief therapy? We’ve looked at some important issues today.
I'm picking it up tomorrow – I hope. is two weeks from today. Why did she always seem to leave with more in her head than she came in with? Once again. . When Mark came home late that evening. 'It's all right. I’ll see you then. 'longer term counselling'. at two thirty. deeply.' All Lynn heard clearly was the phrase.’ He paused. Then Tia was walking with her to the door. 'And now I am afraid our time really is up. yet . The next two sessions need not be the last ones. Tia was already standing up. The second session was over.two sessions highlight anything then it may be worth considering referral for some longer term counselling. 'Here. about what she might say to her in the sessions to come. measured way. Lynn. She felt so achingly. A reprieve! She had gained a reprieve. Don't be afraid. I've had mine.' Tia's smile seemed to be saying. one of these days. on legs that felt slightly wobbly.' Lynn turned to say goodbye. She knew it. 'Your dinner's ready. saw again that Tia was smiling. and saying in her quiet.' and Lynn was dropping them in. 'I understand. ‘You know what we ought to do. 'Our next session then.I’ve had to drop it off to get it sorted. Surely she needed to talk to Tia for much longer than two sessions. * * * Lynn walked down the corridor with her thoughts buzzing. then added. there seemed so much to think about. holding it open. . scrabbling at the mounds of tissues on her lap. away from Tia's affirming presence) about Tia. he found Lynn busily typing a letter. about the miscarriage (she didn't feel like saying 'baby' -. She had no memory of the journey home. We ought to get a video and order in a pizza like we 60 . But she didn't need to. it's in the microwave.' Lynn was standing up too. Lynn walked through the door. Tia was passing her a waste bin from by the desk behind her.' As he got it out he said. 'Will you be long with the laptop? Mine's playing up . .' Once again. . saying. once again heard it close with a firm click before she had gone three paces. saying. thankful that she could hardly speak.
so stream-of-consciousness. you bloody technophobe. I hardly ever use it. Only for the odd worksheet. Tia was an extremely intelligent. Good bone structure.’ 'Oh. Hey. It seemed so adolescent. 'You should have said. the floppy discs waiting to be used on the coffee table serving as a focus for his increasing annoyance. Back in the living room. . but Lynn recognised it in his heavy breathing and abrupt movements.used to. you seem to understand so much. Lynn didn’t even notice. . Do you need it right away?' 'Not yet.' He ate his meal restlessly in front of the television. 'I did. I feel more in touch with my feelings about my baby. Lynn was finally satisfied. That translucent. come on! This wasn't getting her letter done. Her turbulent. Then you expect me to pretty them up for you and 61 . Fine lines . Older than she had first thought . After half an hour. Back in the spare bedroom cum study.' she said. Then she responded to his ‘Nearly finished?’s with growing exasperation. I feel I can trust you with anything. . It was very weird.' floated back. . You made me feel safe. he started looking round the door. Take your time. slightly freckly skin that often goes with reddish hair. come on. but Lynn felt a growing distaste as she read it. aware person. Mark waited in vain for the computer to be free. I won't be long. the remote in the other. ‘I’ve said I won’t be a minute!’ By nine o'clock. around the eyes . First of all I want to thank you though because it was very helpful. she remembered the close-up of Tia when she had left. complex feelings seemed incapable of being expressed other than very simply. laughter lines . At first. As Lynn thought of her. . She scrubbed the beginning and started again. Definitely hazel eyes. Lynn pondered what she had already written: Dear Tia I wanted to write to you after the session today because so much seemed to go on in it that I didn't understand. . Mark came in. I never expected to cry so much but it felt very safe. trying not to show his anger. a fork in one hand. There was more in the same vein. 'No.’ ‘I know.' 'That would be nice.
It was not very long. 62 . she was going to make sure she used that one in future if he was going to be like this about it! Not that she exactly knew how to do it but someone would help her. And I do know how to print things out’ said Lynn stubbornly. Lynn looked at the letter she had written to calm herself down. It’s nearly the year 2K. That's what Mum would have said. (Another Brownie point or two . but poor masters. (A good start. instead of leaving it to me!’ That stung. Now in the living room. Lynn thought. but it seemed the ideal way to clear my mind of all the background chatter so that the time in the last two sessions can be used to best advantage. Computers were a necessary evil. I’ve finished now. and it was such a release to be able to express my emotion so freely in front of you. Good servants. they ruled the bloody world. a willingness not to write again if necessary. As if I haven’t got enough to do.) The letter continued: / really found this last session so helpful. inwardly seething. we'd still be using quill pens. please tell me so next session. but Mum had read enough for two. and stop making a fuss. She’d thought he didn’t mind. An explanation of why she was writing. You haven't even mastered the Internet. ‘You should do it more often then. well. plus a subtle acknowledgment of Tia's fixation with time. she'd not read hugely. but if it was up to you. Your insights enabled me to realise that I had not properly grieved for my baby. You should go on a course.print them out. Miserable sod! How often did she use the laptop? Hardly ever! There was one at school – well. the written word. the printed page. but she felt it struck just the right note: Dear Tl I hope you don't mind my writing to you. Sodding computers. Chris would – he was always ready to help anyone. So. she'd been too busy. If it's not appropriate. not literature anyway. Lynn grabbed her letter and disc from the computer and walked out. Lynn was sick of the times they'd had this conversation.coded message: Tia. but Mark refused.' ‘Yes I have. simply refused to understand her love of books. OK. And Mum had never been keen on technology either. she had a bit of a block when it came to computers.
and a plea to her better nature. Oh. then dismiss her from her mind and her life. but she wanted that truth to convey a restrained strength. And Tia was pretty fascinating. but something had told her that Tia would regard this as the fulsome gushing of a needy person. Lynn felt that everything she had said in the letter was true. Lynn wanted Tia to notice her. . a sort of mutuality between her and Tia. so cleanly. . say how much it had meant to her.it should be 'need' Lynn would have to reprint it when Mark had finished) to say. Part of her wanted to thank Tia rather more strongly. not even Della. . Don't let's make anything out of it! Lynn liked people.? ) Thank you . when it was doing so much good.you are doing such a good job. liked making friends anyway – everyone was interesting in their own way. . Sincerely Lynn had wrestled much over how to end the letter. She wanted to meet Tia somehow on more mutual terms . How could that be? It seemed a hopeless task. a parasite. someone to be dealt with as quickly as possible before she moved on to the next.) As I reflect. Lynn had never met anyone who thought that way before . I do so hope that we can fit it into the remaining time. bringing so much healing? Surely she would extend the time . Aren’t you trying rather hard to get the friendship of this woman you’ve only met twice? What’s so special about her? Oh. (A nice touch . I look forward to our next session together.again. I realise that I have so much more that I want (Drat . a little monitor went off in Lynn's mind. It was . that was all. set by Tia. was it? To want people to like you? Not just to kindly help her. How could she deny Lynn access to her wisdom. more interesting case. Lynn liked the way she thought. recognition of the time limits. Where was the harm in that? 63 .so minimally. See what a difference you are making to me. her clear thinking.so much. come on! Tia was just an interesting person. she so wanted Tia to like her! That wasn’t wrong. it's your insights that have enabled me to grieve. As she read the letter through again. so that Tia would not regard her as inferior.to laugh and joke and exchange views as equals. intriguing.
Most of all. it was nice. she had made Tia change her mind . recalling their interactions. there was hope. Lynn posted the letter on the way to the tube. Her honesty . with mingled dread and pleasurable anticipation.against what had seemed to be her better judgment. 64 . She had no idea when he finished. the look Tia had given her when they had parted. Mark was still working when she went to bed at eleven. She could not resist putting on a first class stamp.Lynn relived the session again. She got up early to reprint the emended letter in the morning. really . Yes. surely? Their talking together. to learn. . Tia smiling.Tia couldn't fail to be impressed with that.offer more counselling . almost laughing at her. . She thought of her own willingness to accept Tia's insights.
I hadn't properly grieved. all my fault. She just waited. She couldn't go on like this. Lynn.' That at least was true. but scarcely more than this. she climbed the stairs to the science labs and prep room.and I let you have it. was bent over the prep room table with her back to her. ('Toast?' 'No thanks. Lynn. But it wasn't you I was angry at.I'm seeing someone. 'I understand more now.' Lynn called. lab coat unfastened and swinging open. 'Polly .Chapter 6 As Lynn entered school that morning. In the session with Tia the previous day. she knew. but she dimly sensed that this was just the start. apart from a grunted exchange of information and farewell. as she approached.she really had to sort it out with Polly.' Lynn paused momentarily. I'm . That's a part of grief. 'Oh .well . Oh well. I'm off now.') What kind of relationship was that? And as for Polly .sort of touched on something . I was .we've got to .' Polly tried to interrupt. standing there so meekly to hear what she had to say. let me finish! It was my fault. She realised with chagrin that she had hardly spoken two sentences to Mark since the previous evening. Her face was neither friendly nor unfriendly.' 'Ciao. looking at her. And you .’ ‘Sure. new resolves to sort out her future and her past. You see. something had been laid to rest.hello. I just had say again how sorry I am about what happened. 'But it wasn't your fault.’ said Polly. as usual. That wasn't strictly true. had been at fault. She had to make it all right.oh Polly. She looked anxious. but Lynn overrode her. let that pass. With this thought in mind. 'No.' Polly straightened and turned to meet her. Polly had been insensitive. wait.I felt angry. a therapist I mean.can we talk? I mean about the other day. 'Polly. Polly. you know. she was aware of new desires emerging within her. She. Poor Polly. 'Polly . and I’m beginning to 65 .' 'Ciao then. But she hadn't meant to be. and yet it was Polly who waited like a child for a rebuke. felt a rush of affection.
I don't know what’s going on myself.' she added. I acted as though I knew what he was talking about. 'Let's go out for a sandwich this lunchtime. Polly smiled. His face was shadowed. A warm feeling was spreading within Polly's guts. Before. we've got to talk. but ever since you've been seeing this woman. And I know that I hurt you so badly and I'm really really sorry. In everything that Lynn had been saying. but we can't go on like this. as she had once said before. It was deserved . . What's going on?' Lynn felt rebuked. Mark was home late.understand. 'I'm sorry. but she needed to put it right. I've been trying to be patient. It really didn't matter to her now: she could hear it. you're worse than ever. . Please forgive me. That evening. Lynn. He said he was looking forward to Friday. as he was taking his coat off. Everything was all right again. You’re just not there anymore. so deserved! She came and stood by him and said repentantly. 'I saw Deryk at the gym. Polly had heard just one thing . They did not go to the Cafe Noir. 'It's all right.it wasn't you I was angry at.' 66 . !' Polly's squarish. it wasn't your fault. open countenance was beaming. 'Oh yes! Della invited us round for a meal on Friday! Didn't I mention it?' 'No!' said Mark. She didn’t know what. It wasn't her fault. dissolving and dissipating the chilling hurt that had been nagging at her ever since That Day. she could see that Polly's face was changing from a look of apprehension to an expression of muted. Now her forgiveness of Lynn had a deeper resonance. Lynn recognised the authenticity in Polly's voice and was slightly awed by it.' Polly beamed more widely. Lynn said. Apparently it's been booked for two weeks. . On impulse. He burst out. The miscarriage was bad enough. forgiving Lynn had been something Polly Had To Do because Polly had clearly done something very wrong. genuinely. 'Look.' As Lynn spoke. But this time she meant it in a different way. yet amazed relief. 'It really doesn't matter any more.' she said. He came in the door and said. But if someone had said to her in public what she had said to Polly .' Oh god! Hadn't she told him? She said quickly.
Had he got it wrong again? Lynn felt his body beginning to tense and made a split second decision. put his other arm around and bent his head. . I can't go back now. The shutters came down whenever she had tried to talk about it. felt her soft nearness. but how much longer is this going to last. It seemed so inadequate. So that was a no-no. . 'It's been a long time. Lynn froze. What was the matter now? She had seemed so willing.to share. I know I'm not much company at the moment. As for the miscarriage .. for god's sake!' 'I don't know.the sweaty city office odour replaced by the smell of fresh cotton and the piney shower gel they used at the gym. the baby .' She didn't know what else to say. . insufficient though it had seemed to her. On impulse she moved closer to him.and too painful . Things are happening I don't understand but I know I've got to go through with it. heard the apology in it. felt only thankfulness. even eager a moment ago. Mark heard what she said. Smiling. Still holding her. but managed not to translate it into any bodily reaction. What was left? Not much. that was over and done with as far as he was concerned. in Mark's arms. . and put his arm around her. The moment hung in the air while Mark waited in an agony of suspense. ' Inside her head. Lynn. but how could she? Her time with Tia was too precious . She could feel herself almost sagging with relief against him. I don't know! Everything's such a mess and I'm thinking about it such a lot. Please give me just a bit more time to try to sort it. Whatever she had said. catching the characteristic scent of her shampoo and cologne. She inhaled his smell . She leant against him. . had obviously meant something to him. Mark murmured. She'd told him nothing. He dropped his briefcase. to try by her closeness to convey that she loved him.'I told you. Lynn . she took his hand and placed it on her breast. * * * 67 . . You know I don't mean to hurt you. I've been trying to be patient.
Drinking her Shiraz. She always appreciated coming to Della's and Deryk's immensely. come in. They had just seated themselves in the Heworth's comfortable sofa. So faded. 'Oh good. and Lynn said. mingling with the night scents of the still blooming flowers in the beds around. then departed to tend to the flowers. what was the date? Lynn stood up to see more clearly . 1663 ‘Harriet Cooper. haloed in soft light. aged seven years’. what lovely flowers! Thank you. they were pious in those days! And 68 . A subtle perfume hung for a second in the September air. she kicked them off. 'I must take my shoes off. Lynn! Well. filthy rich but not pretentious. That was why he used the same fitness club as Mark. Deryk!' she called over her shoulder. Lynn tried not to be jealous. You couldn't see it unless you looked. Oh. Thank you so much!' Her thanks were genuine. Della appeared in the doorway. when Della appeared with the flowers artfully arranged in a tall vase. Heavens. Lynn always enjoyed spotting what new trophy they had added since last time. That child's sampler. with their feet in the Heworth's deep shag pile carpet. 'Look. there was a tiny wire running down behind the bookcase. They were born hosts and their flat was large and full of interesting things arranged in odd corners and on low shelves. I love your carpet so much!' 'Of course!' said Della. wait. Deryk was a self-made businessman. you're here. She looked around.Friday night found Lynn and Mark standing outside Deryk and Della's flat in St John's Wood. in a simple jersey dress that showed her figure to perfection. Drinks. in the way that people who have no children can get away with.the little maker's fingers long since turned to dust. so delicate .’ To prove the point. as she had done before. It was a bit like one of those memory games. these flowers are perfect for this vase. ‘I’m not wearing mine. while Deryk materialised and benignly ushered them through to the lounge. Mark rang the doorbell. Lynn looked around. come in! Let me take your coats. Della. How did they dare have up on the wall like that. The Lowry? No. so casually? No. They entered and Della whisked their coats away. Della loved flowers. That pirate's treasure chest thing? No.
'Has everything here got an anecdote attached?' 69 . and anyway. and her eye fell on a large and very beautiful shell. 'Ah yes.illegal? They are quite rare. How people could choose to believe that these giant marine molluscs died natural deaths. Turned out they were as common as muck and the bugger just had swum under the boat to his mate in a boat behind us . The people were poor. Lynn wasn’t sure what to feel about this. Della responded with some animation. they need the money so desperately . so beautiful. 'Our last holiday in the West Indies.' she acknowledged. She turned to Della who had come to stand beside her. was that a tiny bloodstain in the corner? She shivered and turned away. . quite unlike her usual languid tones. Paid a local an absolute fortune to dive for it. get real! The thing was dead and gone when we bought it.had a bag of 'em!' 'I don't know about "as common as muck. She clearly had strong feelings about this . Someone else would have if we hadn't. . . On the other hand. 'So. 'My dear Lynn. and maybe she was right. Deryk saw her looking. . . up he came with it. The biologist in her felt affronted at the unnecessary sacrifice of biodiversity required to grace a rich person's sideboard." ' murmured Lynn. pearly opalescence in perfect contrast to the glowing richness of the wood of the sideboard below it. He swore they were as rare as hens' teeth. these people are very poor. aren't they?' She had touched a nerve. it was beautiful .yet there was a sort of innocence and modesty about it somehow. She bent over it.any money! I assure you Deryk paid handsomely for that!' Lynn felt slightly taken aback. 'It's very beautiful. She’d never seen one so close before. Della hardly ever expressed herself without being amusing in some way.well . You could hardly blame them. the pinky. 'The very idea!' 'Isn't the sale of these shells . was the shell still inhabited when you got it?' 'Heavens no!' said Della with a shudder. It wasn’t Deryk’s thing .' he said. . Lynn wondered where Della had got it. After about ten minutes. what was a shell compared to food for your wife and family? She reached out and ran a finger along the pale lip of the shell. their shells just 'happened on' by collectors was beyond her.
smiling. Lynn’s pleasure in it began to be shadowed with a feeling of unease. It was as though Della had ripped out the cookery section pages of the Sunday supplement magazines. . After a while. . She too. It was lovely here and Della and Deryk were so welcoming and considerate. She had to glare at Mark to slow down his eating. that no matter how much they ate.' she said. she wasn't sure how. Lynn contemplated asking Della about the little needlewoman. She’d probably find out she’d been burned as a witch or something. and talked and laughed and ate a large amount of some type of crustacean which Della brought in on a platter and put on the coffee table. and she'd been looking forward to it so much . Della would have gladly given her one. had been frowning at Deryk. but as the meal progressed. You couldn't have one without the other. . Della said. and made them three-D. But then he must be at least fifty. well . How old was Della then? With a slight shock Lynn realised that she must be in her early forties. Deryk said they were just very large prawns.' said Della.’ For a moment. Somehow. thick-set.but that was Della's style. So they did. Maybe because she had a touch of Jean Harlow about her. and therefore seemed ageless. Lynn as aware too. It seemed a terrible waste . generous but extravagant. and then decided not to. .She had said the right thing. 'But we don't tell them all to everybody. Lynn had noted with amusement. It tasted sublime. but because he was already on his third glass of wine. Lynn could never bring herself to ask for a doggy bag. laid them on the table. because she knew from experience that a starter this size would herald a generous meal. In between 70 . 'More or less. a vast amount would end up in the bin. ‘Come and sit down. and they were fried with something which Lynn couldn't quite place but which was very nice. but she would have been amused.it seemed almost rude to think about Della's age. Somehow it was something she had never thought about . The meal looked delicious. not to slow down his eating. but somehow she'd expected it to be a little bit different from this. . 'Are we ready to eat now?' and without waiting for an answer rose gracefully and drifted towards the dining room. and she was right. Too boring. . Mark and Lynn enjoyed it tremendously. probably her pale blonde hair. Was that how he had got that slight paunch? For a man who worked out regularly he was quite . Della's usual good humour was restored.
' said Deryk.' Della looked uncomfortable.they'd asked. they are. You were making it when I came. 'We met Rachel and Samson . that sort of thing.. 'Oh. Bloody thieving postal service over there!' Della elaborated. Lynn noted thankfully . 'They sing well there. and yet so incredibly generous. 'That's what that appeal for old school sweatshirts and pens and pencils was for about three years ago.was it last Christmas. didn't you? I never realised you were so personally involved. ' 'Samson?' 'Yes. 'Rachel sent us those . the anecdotes went relentlessly on. it was quite fun. They put us to shame.' she said again. looking interested. don't they Deryk?' Something clicked in Lynn's memory. nothing much.Mark and Deryk talking Stock Markets and politics and personal trainers (Mark was beginning to loosen up. you know. 71 . then?' said Lynn curiously. Della coloured faintly.. We've got a tape of a church service we went to. She could not imagine elegant Della and worldly-wise Deryk in a hot sweaty church service with lusty Pentecostal singing. . 'Oh well. When in Rome . actually. 'Unusual salad servers. so poor.' 'So you went to a service. 'Ah yes.' said Della. We've sort of exchanged gifts at Christmas and so on ever since. There's a school there. frowning. It seemed the right thing to do. that's all. not really personally .’ said Della hastily. 'They didn't get our present though. they've all got Biblical names over there . . They're lovely people.and their family in the Gambia about four years ago and got friendly.must be the wine ) and Della and Lynn talking school and diets and personalities.' 'So you believe in God?' Lynn could not resist asking. Very religious and morally upright. 'Well. you got quite a lot.' Mark said.’ 'What’s that about school sweatshirts?' said Deryk. All believe in God. Deryk?' 'Um.
Deryk wasn’t usually this bad. 'the only thing you know how to use is the corkscrew. and even then you nearly had a nervous breakdown.’ said Della suddenly. that is. They didn't work very well though. I believe there's something in control. Lynn and Mark exchanged covert glances. She glanced at Della.I forgot to whisk the cream. Lynn felt amazed. That reminds me . it would not be in response to other people's questions. you’ve got cream on your nose. nervous breakdown when I put it in the wrong drawer. a Higher Power.and how to use it!' 'So do I!’ 'Let's face it. thought Lynn.’ She left the table and the sound of whirring emanated from the kitchen. Della wiped it off with an impatient gesture. I get a better standard of repartee from my year sevens. 'Deryk darling. Something about the way she ended suggested to Lynn that if she ever talked about her religious beliefs. He was clearly enjoying this exchange. 'The sound of the little woman at work!' His face was slightly flushed and he spoke loud enough for Della to hear.' Deryk guffawed. though now she remembered . ‘That's why I bought a few voodoo dolls as well . The subject had never arisen. and Della seemed to talk freely on any subject. do shut up. Della's voice floated indignantly through the doorway. . 'Well. whose mind now seemed elsewhere. 'That's what I like to hear!' said Deryk. The milkman is still alive. His remark got the response he was clearly hoping for.' Casting a comically rueful ‘See-what-I-have-to-put-up-with’ look at Lynn and Mark.' 'So you admit it was the wrong drawer? And by the way. suddenly appearing pointing the whisk threateningly at Deryk. their version of them anyway. . I repeat. Her feeling of discomfort increased.' She stopped suddenly. ‘I like to keep my options open. And it did not go 72 . . 'Little woman be blowed! At least I know where the whisk is .'Of course!' said Della. Deryk subsided. the reality was that she knew almost nothing about what Della really thought. Somehow she had never thought to wonder if Della believed in God. . Not for the first time she reflected that although she and Della had been friends ever since she had joined the staff.' said Della. Perhaps she was thinking about God.
This was her opportunity. but she had to live with Deryk after tonight. She had to make a decision. What was going wrong? Lynn asked herself. As she listened to the banter and discussion she had less and less heart to join in and her feeling of alienation grew. She would just have to make it up to Lynn some other time. some comfort. I know all about 'em. turning towards her. She wanted . Lynn noticed. 'Cigarette? I remember you used to indulge after meals occasionally. Lynn couldn’t help feeling touched. and Lynn took it. Unseen by Deryk or Mark she grabbed Lynn's hand and held it. .' This time it was Deryk who broke the silence. 'Now when I had my miscarriage . . The silence grew. .' She paused. . 'I stopped when .' It was her opening.’ 'Deryk!' said Della warningly. Lynn and Della sat side by side on the sofa and Della said. He and Mark were well away now. . That was so typical of her. 'D and C? Did you have FforbesTaylor? He did my snip. As they drank coffee in the lounge. you wouldn't be able to smoke in the hospital. Well. Lynn was hurting she knew. Everybody waited. .away through the dessert or the cheese and biscuits or the coffee. It seemed in such bad taste. Butt out!' 'Gynaecology? Women's problems. 'The hospital . . but she could not speak. But how? She imagined herself butting in on the conversation. . 'And of course. .' Deryk had already offered Mark a cigar. you could smoke. Rescue me! her eyes begged Della. after the D and C . There was a room .' she murmured. Della glanced at her thoughtfully and said. to get some relief. while she said to Deryk 73 . I've lived with your PMS for years!' Della thought fast. She must have bought them especially. Deryk passed the port around. .' and smiled despite herself. She could not finish. She knew Della did not smoke herself and the packet was unopened. . 'No thanks. but not decisively enough. 'This is gynaecology. what did she want? She wanted to talk about herself and her pain. Oh god! she thought. yes.
‘I’ll run you home. standing up. watching Lynn on the sofa. Her chance was over. now she was white and desperate.' 'The tube's fine . . Mark. Looking from one to the other. Lynn felt as if she was in a bad dream. 'Is that the time? I think we ought to think about making a move. She shrugged into the coat Deryk had fetched and now held out for her and turned to go. Della! Don't bother going through the motions now! When push comes to shove you're just not there for me.' 74 . What the dickens was happening now? She'd been all right a few minutes ago. giving a creditable imitation of a yawn. wrestling her hand from Della's frantic grip. He had to act quickly to get Lynn away. I'm not risking the National Health!' Deryk chortled appreciatively. summoning her strength to stand up. Even as he thought. It was over. Della. She had a sudden picture of a tiny ember in a vast sea of grey ash giving a last faint glimmer and winking out. he was moving. glancing at his watch. The evening was over as far as she was concerned. still holding her hand. and it will be HRT next. Tia! The very thought of her made Lynn want to cry. What on earth was going on? Why was Della holding her hand.' ‘I feel it!' said Lynn. That will cost you plenty. spent. He cursed Deryk and Della and their endless need to be a double act. and yet was doing this to her? She had been so looking forward to this evening and it had vanished before her very eyes. as though they had just flipped from being in one soap-opera on TV to a completely different one on the other channel. . never. 'It's been so good to see you. She leant back against the cushions. She hadn't even mentioned Tia. Della also rose. But you do look a bit done in. never get relief.' 'Must you?' said Della. It's been a long week. as though she cared. She could never talk now. Lynn.menacingly. became aware that she was suddenly struggling. Lynn. Too bloody late. was now laughing at Deryk's sally about the gynaecologist who decorated his hall through his letterbox. 'Yes.
What. 'What took you so long? I've been expecting you. then drove off round the corner and parked up for twenty minutes. 'Leave that my darling. 'What are you doing? I'm waiting!' 'Just coming. Mark wondered. darling.' Della lingered outside long enough to see them enter the house. ‘I’m sorry we didn't get the chance to talk. Lynn. glancing at them in the driver's mirror.' As she started stacking the dishwasher. all trace of tiredness gone.' 'Oh but .'No! Please.oh. As she quietly closed the door. and come to bed now.' 'But I know you . if you like. had he said to make her look so grateful? They drove back in silence. all right. the miscarriage. waited a little while until their light went on. Deryk 's voice came sleepily from the bedroom. Here we are. her hand on his knee. I couldn't say no to her – she was in a bit of a state. Two minutes later. Good to see you.' 'You're welcome. I insist! It's no trouble. Won't be a moment my sweet." ' 'Night. See you on Monday.' ‘It DOESN'T matter. ‘Thanks.' 'It doesn't matter.' There was complete silence from the bathroom.’ Della flashed him a dazzling smile. The cleaner will do it in the morning. 75 . Deryk tried again. I got away as soon as I could. 'Night. Lynn leaning against Mark's shoulder in the back seat. he called once more. And Lynn wanted to talk – you know. a hint of petulance in his voice.' 'Oh. When she got back. And thanks for a lovely evening. Della. said softly. I've got the car out ready.' said Mark. his voice sharper. anyway. Just making myself beautiful!' Five minutes later. And did no one notice my deliberate abstemiousness over dinner? I am disappointed!' 'I did. It's what we pay her for. traffic. OK?' ‘OK. . we could talk now. then went into the flat. he called out. she put the car away.
'Come to bed. 76 . like last time?' Della came to bed. damn you! Now! Or would you prefer me to come and fetch you.
That was the effect that seeing Tia had on Lynn. At intervals in the night she imagined Deryk and Della. adolescent love.and then what? Probably nothing. laughing and teasing each other in the darkness.sacrificed. but whatever it was it took total precedence over Della standing with Lynn in her anguish. The previous six hours had been a confused hotch-potch of tossing and turning.to Della's need to be the centre of attention. secure in their cosy. Lynn was sure of that. The crying she'd done. lured in by comfort and kindness . that was the only word for it . How amazing Tia was! Beside her. clearer. had seemed cleansing. Della knew how much she'd been counting on that evening. sort of kindness. What she saw in him Lynn would never know. trips to the bathroom.over-elaborate . Lynn knew it would have to. and then one hour more .nearly two weeks' time .what . But even that was cold comfort. all Lynn's anger boiled up again. nearer to being sorted. Della knew how much pain she was in. things had seemed brighter. after seeing Tia on Tuesday.god 77 . Then to be sacrificed like that .as though everything was done for effect. did she care? She certainly hadn’t shown it last night. interspersed with surges of bitter anger and despair. She would understand. How could she not? And it had started so well. sycophantic. The only bright thread running through the whole seething mixture had been the thought of seeing Tia in . Most of the time anyway. Of course it wasn't. all served on a bed of the malaise caused by imbibing too much rich food and wine. Somehow. Della was genuine. dozing and quiet tears that made the pillow sticky. One hour. together. therapeutic . drinks of water. Della was no fool . But then again. darkness.and telling her what it felt like. How did a woman of Della's intellectual calibre tolerate it? She actually did seem to find it enjoyable. to flaunt her highly-charged sexual relationship with Deryk.well. At the memory of the previous evening. in two weeks. Mark's intermittent sleep-driven mumblings. At least Della might have spared her the heavy byplay. though bitter. The night had felt endless. genuinely cared.Chapter 7 Saturday morning dawned eventually.a necessary stage on the road to wholeness. Della had seemed somehow artificial .
Lauren's amazing. an unexceptional C of E that went by the name of St Saviour's.' 'Such as?' 'Oh. but it had been so hard to explain to Polly exactly the effect that Tia had had on her. 'But she makes you think . 'It doesn't sound like she says very much. And holding her hand while she did it! Lynn ground her teeth in the darkness. 'Lauren?' 'Yes. . .' agreed Lynn. She goes to my church. I don't know . Surely she could have done that? But no. But Polly had surprised her. 'Don't you know anyone like that. by which she supposed they meant Jesus.things you never thought before.' Lynn knew Polly went to church. Polly?' Lynn waited for Polly to say no.about Tia would have indicated even to Polly that Tia was in a class of her own. She could see that Polly wasn't convinced. Lynn had always thought that this was a strange name. there's Lauren.' Lynn couldn't explain it.tried to say . They had really talked . Perhaps that was worth more? Lynn thought again of her lunchtime sandwich with Polly earlier in the week and her feelings softened.' Polly had said.oh . yes. There was only one Tia. It's not what she says. But when she does speak . and yet she still deliberately chose to not be there for her. Surely what she'd said . about a lot of things. . but Polly grew pinkly 78 . just to listen a little bit.' she'd said. just a little bit. That was what made it worse .Della knowing. she knew. well. the Saviour. was. Saints were saints. it's what she leaves out. about Tia and Polly had screwed up her face with the effort to understand. . 'Well.knows she wasn't expecting Della to magically make it all better. to flirt with Deryk instead. and the Saviour. Perhaps she was better off with Polly's not knowing.things. Blundering on and putting her foot in it. About the baby I suppose. but caring and trying to get it right. It had been a good time. 'She doesn't. surely? So how could you have Saint Saviour's? She had tried asking Polly about this. Lynn had told Polly a bit. She tried one last time.
and it's . She was not particularly prepossessing – homely. doesn't he. really . but the minister.' Then the sun had come out again in Polly's face. and Lauren. and they had laughed and talked of other things. Lynn said. 'Yes he does!' And then the brightness dimmed as though by speaking so freely she had uttered some blasphemy and she stopped. lively.' Lynn didn't know. Lynn stopped. It sounded vaguely suspicious. Polly's face was so expressive. 'David's not been there very long. Lynn had watched her. and Lynn could not resist pursuing the topic a little further.’ she had said. like a dog with fleas. Polly had so little of value in this world. Lynn was just about to say. as though the thought of feeling God there gave her pleasure. 'Lively'. when the subject of God or religion was mooted. You can feel him.defensive and earnest. well. unsure of how to continue. in a worried sort of way. She had no social life and her job at school was thankless and not particularly well-paid. 'You mean like pins and needles. ashamed. Polly.' when she noticed that Polly's face had changed again. and Lynn had never had the heart to press the issue. you know.the Holy Spirit. Life couldn’t do much more to her really. Polly?' ‘Well. in her twenties – late twenties. 'That's really good.' Polly's face took on a soulful look. 'And.' This sounded even more suspicious. 'That’s good. and Lynn had the sudden horrible suspicion that that was how she herself looked when she talked about Tia. it's not very big. David. but he's getting things moving. God's there . On impulse. Lynn suspected and lived with her invalid mother. Polly?' Polly brightened. and Polly had felt safe again and gone happily back to school with Lynn. she's really special. She looked peaceful and happy. 'Oh yes!' she said. Lynn had 79 . he's very good. . Now here was Polly mentioning church of her own accord.although her face did have a way of lighting up when she laughed that Lynn found very endearing. 'God makes you feel happy. 'What's your church like. She was unmarried. in terms of everyday direness.
He listened intently. Yes. with a pain like sinus trouble in her head from lack of sleep. feeling.for all it was due to an irrational and antique mindset of pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die. At last he said. Join a dating agency! But do something! You can't expect them to come to you. but then stopped. there's a few good lads out there . 'Oh yes!' and was silenced. his hair still wet from the shower. with the papers from the corner shop. But nothing felt normal now.the miscarriage. Polly had once confided to Lynn her desire to get married and have children. humanly speaking. nothing gave her any comfort . patriarchal being who demanded everything and gave nothing in return. Except.find yourself one. Mixed in with all the dross. Again. Lynn felt sweaty and tousled. As Lynn turned it all over in her mind. It had been such a normal sort of conversation. You'd make a lovely mum!' 80 . She remembered Polly's face when she had said. physically better for making the effort. She told Mark about this new strange feeling that she couldn't define when he came back from his run. Strong winds had buffeted her from all directions throughout the night. an unfamiliar sensation came over her that she struggled to define. and so soon over – and now thoughts of Polly and her God. but it was all nonsense! Impatiently she recalled a conversation that she had once had with Polly where she had quizzed her on her lack of social life and boyfriends. No matter where she looked. with a laugh. girl! Get yourself out to the clubs and discos. you've got to go where they are. Mark. peace? Oh. at least. New and strange was a welcome relief from the old and intolerable and she pondered it as she got up and showered and dressed. this dreary Saturday morning. Polly might have nothing Lynn wanted. Della (she shuddered) Tia . Go to evening classes at the college. 'If you want a man. Jealous? Of Polly? He had to be joking! No. Lynn started to demur indignantly. but who would want peace at such a price? Slavish obedience to a vengeful.peace . Pol!' Lynn had said. glad to give his attention to anything that took Lynn's mind off the night before. he wasn't joking. school. 'You're still young. and she felt spent from trying to stand against them. but she had one thing that Lynn hadn't got .so little. 'You're jealous!' Lynn was incredulous and indignant. perhaps.felt a sort of restoration.
not that Lynn could tell. But still. an absolute nonentity. But perhaps Polly's standards weren't very high? On impulse. and religion. of course. But it was better than admitting to Mark that her considerations about church were linked to Polly. you could package it a touch more enticingly’ – Polly’s eyes had widened – ‘Oops! Sorry. Mark saw she was serious. but I couldn't marry someone who didn't believe the same as I did. 'I feel extremely offended by your godless attitude. 'I think I'll go to church on Sunday. and Lynn had felt that she had reasonably said enough on the subject for the time being. Polly did have peace from whatever source.' She paused. That was a bit sneaky. All that Saturday. 'You're not a Moonie are you? Or some Exclusive whatever? Well. Della had nothing to do with it.' But she did know. .' Lynn had had no patience with this. why can't I?' She thought about what she'd said. who was Lauren? Nobody could compare with Tia. anyway. the image of Polly's face came back to Lynn now. I don't know. but at the same time chagrined that Mark should think it such a surprising idea. 'Where will you go?' 'Oh. not Della. generous person with a lot to offer. you're a good. 'Hang on a minute! After all. He thought that Polly was one of Lynn’s lame ducks. kind. Pol! No offence!' Polly. the thought of what lay ahead hung over Lynn like a dripping 81 . .Polly had looked anxious. had not taken offence at that at all. then! Don't be so fussy. she said to Mark. rigid belief system. if Della can do it. . being Polly. Granted. 'Oh.' Mark burst out laughing. But she had clammed up on the subject of men . There's plenty of good men out there who would love you. amazed to hear herself talking about going to church. even though Mark might possibly have worked that one out. and whispered as though confessing a sexually transmitted disease. He said. 'You! In church! That'll be the day!' Lynn said primly. . You can't expect everyone to adhere to your narrow. I'll have to think about it. and . She would go to St Saviour's. in the nicest possible way.
and the place seemed full of people and the noise of their talking. or Della's endurance of lusty Pentecostal singing in the Gambia. church. not wholly pleasant. Where do we sit then?' 'Wait a minute. when she saw her evident happiness and pride. Sometimes Polly was so adolescent in her outlook. and had begged to be allowed to meet her outside to 'take you in and introduce you to people. anonymous. She rushed to a middle-aged woman standing by the door Lynn had just come in through and had a hurried con flab with her. or Polly's shining face intervened. Lynn sighed. From the way the woman turned her head to look at Lynn. and won. 'Hi Polly. but at least the smell of the place was agreeable and not too musty. Victorian monstrosity. but the thought of Mark's laughing face. the church looked completely different. Polly was clearly telling her about her. beaming happily.' said Polly. Lynn. but for the liberal use of slightly shabby red carpet. She still couldn't quite believe that she was doing it. couldn't grudge it to her.umbrella. Inside. Oh well. Lynn dared not even conjecture. In fact. A dozen times she nearly changed her mind. She wished she had. mind! She could easily have decided to come on her own . right on the end of the tube line. emerging from some shadowy corner where she had clearly been lurking. and there would have been a good deal of echoing space. waiting to Velcro herself to Lynn for the duration of the service. After all. a surprising distance from Polly's home. it did have something to do with Polly that she was there at all.' This had filled Lynn with such dread that she had had to sternly threaten not to come at all if Polly even so much as tried to do it. subdued but not defeated. even when next day she stood outside the ugly. but she had to own Polly's right to own her. had played for. Polly had been surprised and delighted when Lynn had phoned to ask the time of the service. receiving a couple of bundles of papers in return. too late! She braced herself and marched in. What this meant. now. the concession that she would sit by her to 'help' her. Not much. Lynn just had time to register these impressions before Polly appeared at her elbow. and Polly. The ceiling still seemed impossibly high. It was quite large. square. It was 82 .or gone to another. there was a distinct impression of light and warmth.
Often Lynn wondered. She had wanted to see if this unknown Lauren was worthy of Polly's evident adulation of her. thought of Tia. or what? She hardly knew what she was doing there anyway. Polly returned and led Lynn to the comparative safety of a pew near the back. 'Oh. was disconcerted to see her with her head down. To comfort herself. She smiled at the woman.' She too felt strangely let down. her laconic comments . 'Let me get my breath back. Why do you ask? 'Just wondered.the one on the keyboards and the one with the guitar. just because she was in a church? If there was a God.and Jill is . with her articulated grace of movement. they are the music group really. 'Those two lads over there at the front . that's all.' she said.' said Lynn indulgently. as she carried out some mundane household task. As Lynn looked around. will you? Oh which one's Lauren?' Polly looked round. she's lovely. Now Lynn found herself asking. much less if she believed in God.' 'Wrap up. The girl with the violin. They've made such a difference to the music group actually. visibly disappointed. they're Tim and Josh. Lynn registered that Polly was silent. Does Tia go to church? Sit in a pew? Believe in God? Somehow she thought not. Lynn found it fascinating to speculate. go shopping? It was pretty nearly next to impossible to imagine Tia doing anything normal or routine. He hasn't robed yet .sweet. David's sons. but it would be fun to try to find out. she. that's Marcy. and stealing a glance at her. empty the washing machine. her appearance of total relaxation. 'You mentioned her.in his shirtsleeves . . but wearing.sorting out the microphones. Pray. that's David. Tia. . But pray to whom. 'Lauren's not here. The one that's just come in . she was 83 . or pretend to pray.' said Lynn. She just was. She briefly wondered if she should do the same. who smiled back. and a rather more interesting game to play than any of the other distractions she employed when things got a bit too much. praying. Does Tia do this? Watch TV. vacuum the carpet. her measured gaze. Polly kept up a running commentary. She often did this now and she accepted it. Pol.
they could come up with something better than that! There was also some sort of regional newsletter. gazing at the words of the hymns (were they hymns?) projected onto a screen from an OHP and swaying. The service seemed to involve quite a lot of flipping back and forth in the book. to psalms and whatnot. She hung on. and a couple of flyers for some forthcoming Christian entertainment events.' Polly had merely nodded without looking at her. It was a very interesting experience. She felt extremely thankful that they were near the back. even a touch too personal. She was completely caught up in it. but surely. who had either been 84 . Lynn noticed. ‘That girl on the violin certainly can play. Granted. The words of the hymns she thought were a little on the emotional side. for a few die-hard old dears in hats. So that one could wait until Polly surfaced. Lynn found that a little bit spooky. . What surprised Lynn most was the music. and in the end she gave up and just let Polly show her. Lynn had to acknowledge that quite honestly.' to help her though the worst bits. she turned her attention to the papers and book in her hand. and was still bemusedly turning them over when Polly woke up and found the place for her in the Common Worship book. The book was entitled Common Worship. and looked totally incomprehensible. though this seemed optional. she was glad that Polly was there.' she whispered to Polly.except. staring fixedly in front. Everyone under the age of forty seemed to know what they were doing. Lynn thought. as they sang. enraptured. 'I though it would be all dirgey. remembering Della's murmured. and occasionally kneeling. Lynn felt as though she had entered another culture. the other members of the congregation. gritting her teeth. St Saviour's was a bit of a mouthful. with secret delight. So that was sorted! Relieved. When the songs ended. Reading through them. who stood rigidly to attention like soldiers. in the name of all that was holy.certain he wouldn’t think much of that. . The papers included a copy of the parish magazine entitled The SS News. since it also appeared to involve a lot of standing up and sitting down. Lynn did a double take there. 'When in Rome . to be part of a group like this. obviously not enjoying it one little bit. but people seemed genuinely to mean them .
At least they were something to look at. and then she realised it was because Tia did listen. laid-back sort of person. There were a lot of appliqued wall-hangings in the pillars. like the rest of the service. The women outnumbered the men by about three to one and most of the men there looked spoken-for. When they had a time where anybody could pray. blue and silver. and green. Doves and flames and water images featured heavily. and seemed a caring. Lynn was both fascinated and repelled. A bit amateurish in design. What she would make of it would be another matter. and there was much riffling though pages by certain people who had brought bibles with them. His scornful incredulity at the thought of her going to church made her feel 85 . She was glad when the sermon started. which Polly had referred to as 'banners'. He even made a few jokes which the audience seemed to love. Was this what the C of E was like now . she had a new insight into why Polly was unattached. None that she could see from where she was sitting were Polly's age. the people who did so prayed very fervently and intimately as though God were sitting in the pew next to them with his arm round them. but this was a bit too close for comfort. Polly included. in red and gold. the preacher was sincere. This seemed to work. Without doubt. and would probably listen intently to the preacher.he made her angry. anyway. but overall the effect was pleasing. depending on the beat of the song. listening. Lynn decided generously. but there was a little too much about Jesus in it for Lynn's taste. but gave up after a while and gazed around. Surveying the scene.apparently jumping up and down on the spot with excitement or singing with eyes shut as though in mystic trances. and frowned. She didn’t really like it. a bit too up close and personal. She stole another glance at her watch. Then Lynn imagined Mark sitting with her. The sermon seemed long and. Lynn tried to follow what was said. This was going on for ever! She imagined Tia sitting in the pew in front of her. He quoted the bible a lot.so tribal? It was one thing to watch it on TV (not that she did) when you could get up to make a cup of tea when it got a bit heavy or the adverts came on. returned abruptly to normal. She didn't want to think about Mark .
No one asked her why she had come. In for a penny. She didn’t feel quite like going outside yet. but that was all. Pol. 'Just a quick one then. And besides. Lynn could hardly imagine anything she would personally like less. what was she doing there? What had she expected to find? Whatever it was. Polly looked pleased. to be sitting there so secure and on the inside. 'How did you enjoy the service?' Lynn briefly rehearsed the good points in her head and then said honestly. 'People seemed to quite enjoy it. in for a pound as Mum used to say. which 86 . and yet . and besides. almost against her will. as Tia. Being Tia worked so successfully that now Lynn. Lynn. remained outside in the dark! She spent the rest of the sermon. Patronizing sod! And yet . furiously concentrating on not feeling depressed. she could not deny the veiled longing she saw in Polly's eyes. They all seemed concerned that she'd enjoyed the service. but she was observing an experiment now. 'I enjoyed the singing. . . Have you got time to say hello to one or two people?' Lynn had.' She had said enough. delighted. . 'I'm so glad you liked it. sitting rapt beside her and a wave of desolation rose up to engulf her. lucky Polly. There seemed to be a lot of people milling around. nay. Lynn glanced at Polly. . And the vicar seemed sincere. had enough clinical interest in the proceedings to acquiesce to Polly's seemingly casual but deeply charged suggestion that she stay for a coffee.' As they stood drinking. now mercifully nearly over. The service was a bit longer than I thought. Lucky. An interesting sociological experience certainly. She did this by pretending she was Tia listening to the sermon and imagining what Tia would do. Then the service was finally over and they were filing to the back of the church for a cup of coffee.' She heard herself adding. actually. smiling and nodding. Polly asked the question that Lynn had been dreading. she hadn't found it. it was quite nice and warm in here. while she.absolutely bloody furious.
The 'one or two'. noting as she did so that he was not as tall as she had thought. introducing her to as many people as she could. coupled with a strange pang of jealousy. as she thought about it. Damn! She shook his hand as Polly introduced her. Lynn decided. Afterwards. although she could easily have said she'd come out of interest because she knew Polly. Lynn. This invasion of space and delaying tactic when she was so eager to leave the building felt most uncomfortable and completely negated her previous good impression. She tired long before Polly did. he had simply forgotten to let go. Lynn noted. seemed to be not only well-known. Polly. was touchingly proud of Lynn. and to her surprise. apparently guarding it. So the prolonged handclasp was nothing personal. was used to defending and protecting? Now she was positively sparkling! Lynn reflected how odd it felt to see someone you thought you knew shining in another setting.someone would find it later . and that he had short wiry hair. chatting vivaciously. that she wondered why she had worried. this seemed such an obvious thing to say.and began edging purposefully towards the door. Was this really good old Pol. had clearly been a figment of Polly’s imagination. for her part. Lynn realised that David was indeed by the door. but greatly liked. 'Let me introduce you to David. Lynn felt a sense of pride in her friend. he did not let go immediately. she of the flapping lab coat and anxious expression. Then she realised that he was considering her with a shrewd yet puzzled glance.greatly relieved her. Then she saw that his eyes were on her with a kindly interest and that his hand was outstretched in welcome.' Too late. abandoned her coffee cup on the nearest horizontal surface . Polly registered Lynn's intention and fired her last salvo. and was in her element. as though uncertain what to make of her. Polly. and that she had almost trodden on him. He's by the door. with a bald patch on top which was was beaded with sweat. She stepped back. whom she. It was a firm and satisfying grip. 87 .
'I don't know. Bloody Lauren again! Interrupting. 'I don't think so.' This at least was true. Pol. Lynn could not think. Lynn searched her mind for a remark which was polite but also totally crushing but she was too slow. from the service.he'd just been being kind. But why the disappointment? Why this despondency. so sick. uncertain whether to be irritated or amused. 'Poorly today but she sends her . 'How's Lauren?' Lynn felt a sense of summary dismissal. this sense of loss? What had she expected. decided on the latter.' Whether he perceived the irony or not. . Mum! Thanks 88 . in his way. The service was . of hurting. most interesting.' and found herself saying instead. His expression changed. She opened her mouth to say. yearned for that peace that Polly had. . Why this anger? It wasn't the vicar's fault . I hope you'll feel able to come back.' and rested his hand against the side of her upper arm. and he was calling with some urgency to someone over her shoulder. don't get. 'The service has given me a lot to think about. Lynn could not tell. and said with a touch of irony. briefly. Polly seemed delighted with her reply . Even as she opened her mouth.Lynn pulled her hand free. He accepted her compliment at face value and replied 'I'm glad you found it so. Maybe it was Polly's face. Them as ask.' Inwardly Lynn was seething.' He said simply. This time the space invasion felt intolerable. vicar. Lynn tried to analyse what was happening inside. What a totally unsatisfactory encounter! She needed time to recover. Lynn felt backed into a corner. Thanks. Politely refusing Polly's offer of a lift home. she headed for the tube. against the odds. and I need a bit of space. She wanted. and she wasn't even there! She heard part of the reply as she moved outside. he disengaged. . She was sick. 'Thank you for your warm welcome. 'I hope you do.' This was unpleasantly unsubtle. but very positively.why. hoped for something. As she sat in the tube going home. from the vicar? The strength of her feeling now was an indication that she had.
and kept darker emotions at bay until she got home . so she gave up and concentrated instead on spotting the tube station with the longest number of letters in.that.a lot! That's all I need at a time like this! Anyway. on the clothes of the people in the seats around her. she'd have to have a mind as simple as Polly's. and that she certainly did not want! This thought afforded her some grim amusement. and seeing how many times she could spot the colours of the rainbow. in sequence. 89 . She didn't even manage it once. . to have a peace as simple as Polly's.
but at least I went there.' This was a side of Mark she hadn't seen before. they would be nice to you! They want to convert you! Give 'em half a chance and they'll have their hooks into you well and truly. of course. instead of uniting them. nothing malicious. and in frustration she struggled up from the table and rushed from the 90 .' 'More fool them! They should get a life. Something snapped inside Lynn. but they mean well. Their laughing together enabled her to distance herself a little from it. At first Lynn told him honestly of her impressions and the people she had met. They don't do anybody any harm.' 'Will you lay off the sniping now?' What did he know for god's sake? He hadn't even been there. 'Told you you wouldn't like it!' he said. You could end up brainwashed and clapping and dancing along with the rest of them!' Mark started laughing again at the very thought. began to drive a wedge between them. unable to resist drawing it ever so slightly larger than life . 'Maybe you should.' 'Well. 'Those happie-clappies are a mixture of frustrated old spinsters and crazy mixed-up kids . Mark. you bloody Neanderthal! I'll go if I want!' All the things she wanted to say rose up to choke her.Chapter 8 Mark was waiting for Lynn when she got home. was a balm to assuage the rawness of the pain she chose to let remain undefined. it's not my thing. They may be simple. and they were very nice to me. This was not so good. 'I told you .only in fun. and at least I'm not despising them. But Mark refused to stop laughing. He sat opposite her while they ate.the old dears didn't join in. He had cooked lunch. 'You patronizing bastard! What right have you to sit there so smugly. determined to extract the last drop of satisfaction from her failure to find what she had needed from the service. gloating over your superiority? And don't you bloody lay down the law to me about going there. I'm not sure I ought to let you go back there. Look. and there were people our age there. and gradually this.it's a cheaper fix than drugs. this was good.
never learn enough. as though she didn't recognise him any more.at least she was. they were Siamese twins. the laugh still in his throat. clearly recognising that he had transgressed and not sure how.but she hadn't meant any harm. pulling his skin this way and that to accommodate the razor. She couldn't even summon up the energy to mourn the loss. Lynny. how different it had been! How wonderful! There had been so much to talk about. sitting on the side of the bed. so much to admire. had pleased her. Even watching Mark shave in the mornings.room. It was gone now. I didn't mean to touch you on the raw. all gone. . Lynn lay face down on the bed. leaving her food half eaten and Mark sitting amazed. Who was this callous. Mark looked and spoke the same. so much to desire. awkwardly stroking her hair. They had felt they could never look their fill. his scorn had been for her too. Not like Mark . And somehow.he'd enjoyed being such a bastard. for being such a fool as to go and look for something there . hacked apart and bleeding . but only that she had not found it. she knew . They weren't one flesh in two bodies any more . She wanted to be on her own. It seemed so distant now.' 'You never said!' 91 . In their bedroom. It was horrible. and Lynn hadn't even noticed. with whom she shared a house and a bed? Surely he hadn’t always been like this? She mused on the past. . mocking stranger. I'm sure they're very worthy people .she knew not what it was. Where had it all gone. but an alien life-form had invaded his body and it had just showed itself in their last conversation. but wanting to make it all right. the closeness they'd shared? When they had first met.' ' Don't call me Lynny! You know I hate it!' 'Since when?' 'You know I hate it! I always have. the love they'd felt. then married. And she didn't care. Why had it all gone so wrong? She had been partly to blame. even if she was bleeding. 'I'm sorry.or if they were. My god! She could do without grief like this! Into these bitter reflections came Mark.
But then it seemed. the next you're treating me like crap. / had no feelings . touch me not. hang on!' 'No.no matter what happened. At first.I'm running out of patience. I never know where I am with you. but dammit.that was over two months ago and I'm still treading on eggshells the whole sodding time. Mark sat staring miserably at the computer screen. What the hell had happened there? He too had felt the violence of the encounter. you started to hate what had attracted you. sad. Lynn. Your mood swings are driving me mad. laughingly saying that she was able to absorb the emotional colour of any situation and pass it off as her own. He'd said so. You'll have to do better than this. But wasn't that what they called empathy? But perhaps he hadn't liked it? But he'd always laughed when he said it. * * * In the study. Stop being so bloody selfish . have it your way! I suppose "patronizing bastard" is totally acceptable as a term of endearment! What gives you the right to do this tragedy queen. I'm saying now!' 'All right. touch me. Happy. but Mark had liked that.'Well. She wouldn't have known what to say. Opposites attract. She let her thoughts drift towards Tia. 'Hang on. Why had he laughed if he hadn't liked it? What had he never said? She'd thought he appreciated it because it made such a refreshing change from how he was – always the same – reliably the same. And yes. even if Mark had stayed. happy. leaving Lynn wide-eyed with shock on the bed.' He left abruptly. One minute you're all over me. she'd said . "I'm so precious" act all the time? When you had the miscarriage you acted like it was yours and yours alone. he was right! A man could only take so 92 . you hang on! Or level out. Which she'd appreciated. Was she really that bad? She'd always been sensitive to atmosphere. her mantra for calm. she did have a rapid response mechanism to events and situations. How weird was that? Oh sod it! She didn't want to think about it any more. sad. His 'mood-chameleon' he used to call her.
' Mark had sat down on the spot she had just vacated. in fact it's very common. 'Let me get this straight. as though he was mentally deficient. drained of all hope or joy. there was no baby. evidence of his haste in packing an overnight bag for her . then leaving her there. the nightmare drive to the hospital that night. tear-stained and vulnerable on the bed. Please don't make me have to repeat it. jostled with the memories he was doing his best to erase from his memory forever. listening openmouthed to his diatribe. they expected you to be sodding mind readers! Images of Lynn. But the worst.it happens sometimes. Mark groaned aloud as he remembered. it's hard enough once. had she started to hate being called 'Lynny'? Why didn't she say at the time? Bloody women. concluding with. and she saw him. her hair in disarray. had begun to explain all that had happened since she last saw him. the bizarre. surreal quality of the brightly lit accident and emergency unit at four in the morning. she white-faced and trying not to groan with pain. trying so hard to be brave in the dimly lit ward. they flooded in now. and Lynn. Mr Davies. 'So you see. Then lying awake waiting. there was no baby?' Lynn had looked at him pityingly. not knowing quite what to do. stopping the car while Lynn opened the door and leant out to be sick. for the doctor. and they're going to give me a D and C tonight and I'll be home tomorrow. the very worst was seeing Lynn in hospital the next day. it was just combined in sentences they didn't add up. He hesitated by the door. He recognised them all individually. Mark had struggled to make sense of the words. 'Mark. waiting for the dreary day's dawning. holding her hand while they waited. talking very fast. The doctor looked very young but very professional. He had got back to the ward just as Lynn was finishing a conversation with the doctor who was sitting on the bed. returning home to the chaotic hell of the bedroom and bathroom. just a mass of cells . And at what point during the years he had known her. and she was holding Lynn’s hand. I was just going. Against his will. He could see that look now. 'Do come in.much.an overnight bag that was six months too soon. I've just told you. 93 .
With impatient movements he closed down the computer and grabbed his gym bag. so come for me about eleven. All over! What was the point in revisiting it? Mark felt hot anger take the place of the desolation and loss he had allowed himself to remember. After a few moments he was able to look at Lynn. They gave me some Pethidine early this morning but I'm fine now. but she didn't seem to be in pain any more. I can't eat until after it. That was another thing he had against Lynn her refusal to consider a car. The world went on around him while he sat quietly on the bed. Lynn heard the door slam as he flung out.I can't eat until after. everywhere was accessible in London by tube. so there was literally no parking space where they lived. didn't want to know any more. The anger flowed like lava into his arms. But that was all over now. I told you. To divert his thoughts. A D and C to clear it out? Was that it? The end of all their hopes was .there was only his mother anyway . but it was so damned inconvenient! They hired a car for holidays and visiting friends and family . as he waited for the tube. he would not ask again. Mark longed to chuck his gear on the back seat of a nice little BMW or Audi and just roar off 94 . He knew enough now. and yes. It had been the strangest afternoon of his life as they sat there saying nothing . Not in any pain. and Mark had gone home again to the oh-so-empty flat. Clear what out? Mark didn't like to ask any more. She had obviously been crying. until it was time for Lynn's pre-med. OK. his legs.and holding hands. I'm hungry though .It's just a mass of cells and I'm having a D and C tonight to clear it out and I'll be home tomorrow.' 'After?' 'After the D and C. Mark visualised again the car he would get when they eventually got around to buying one. they'd had a baby last night and now there was no baby? They were going to clear it out.this? No baby? How the hell could there be no baby? For god's sake. Perhaps it was OK to ask about that? 'Oh yes. and the car park cost an arm and a leg and was further away from the house than the tube station. OK. I'll be ready then.what was there to say? . There was no baby.' Had she? Mark couldn't remember.but right now.
She refused to learn to use one . now. was it. He grinned despite himself.the bossy old cow. Mark couldn't help catching sight of them both in the mirror. Deryk greeted him jovially. Well. hers wasn't exactly a miscarriage. Well.somewhere.she basically was afraid of driving in London. But Lynn. towelling his hair dry. only at a minimal level. if he had a car. grizzled bullishness. people tended to cut you up a bit and the road layout was terrible.they're all the same. And they had nothing to save their money for. Why. You looked a bit down in the mouth when you came in. He felt foolish not having one.or at least. It was that bloody mother of hers with her anachronistic ways. Mark could never understand why Lynn thought she was so wonderful . Nothing to do with economics .he'd be away somewhere . I suppose.' 'She looked pretty miserable on Friday.more . he wouldn't be going to the gym . Lynn . she's all right. Why. As they talked. He'd only met her a few times and she'd been failing then. I told her 95 . that he had to lug all his kit onto the tube on a Sunday afternoon .it was Lynn. he saw Deryk come out of the shower. Della moped on about hers until I had a word with her. You had to be on the QV but it still wasn't impossible. he didn't know exactly. OK.and then back again? It took all the pleasure out of going. Nobody wants to prang their car if they can help it. How's the wife?' 'Lynn . she didn't want to drive and she didn't want him driving either. Actually. Of course. Deryk caught the look and attributed it to his own conversational skills.' 'Women . he supposed.oh. but my god! was he glad he'd never known her at full throttle! But she'd never be dead while Lynn was alive. for god's sake? It was like she was stuck in a time warp . 'That's better. he seemed very cock-a-hoop.where. It was the same with computers. Then she snapped out of it. Still moping over the miscarriage?' 'I suppose so.that she was frightened to engage somehow. As he changed. What was it with her? They needed a car. A vigorous workout was just what he needed. that wasn't his style. with the money they had. and contrasted his etiolated pallor with Deryk's stocky. Mark was extremely thankful to get to the gym.
after all. You will probably be surprised to get another letter from me so soon.doesn't do to let them get away with too much. . He set the treadmill at 14 k/h and ran until he was exhausted. get them a little present . and Della's languidly acerbic dismissal of Deryk's petulance and heavy humour and felt like laughing himself. Lynn . as much invested in this marriage as Lynn did. Dear Tia. What planet was Deryk on? Like children? Mark thought back to Friday night.straight. Right then. 'They're like children ." She didn't like it. And he'd just sat around taking it! Maybe she wasn't going to snap out of it on her own. she's like a magpie a magpie with bloody expensive tastes!' Deryk walked away still chuckling. And just when she'd seemed to be getting over it. Lynn was an intelligent woman. Let him have his dreams. .and the whole bloody thing had gone off exponentially. my girl. Maybe he'd been patient long enough. "You made your bed and now you lie on it. the letter ran. Sometimes you have to take a firm line. He'd have need to be. Or you can always bribe them. Lynn was sitting hunched over the computer. and Mark looked after him. but I was right. He was demonstrably powerful enough in the boardroom if not in the bedroom. What was it Deryk had said? A firm line? No harm in that. but Deryk continued. It's just that a lot 96 .it works with Della like a charm.but you have to let them know who's boss.' 'Mind you.what was her name? He couldn't remember . Poor old Deryk. surely? He had as many rights. Not too heavy . but lately her emotional output was off the top of the scale. * * * Back at home. ' Mark did not want to know Deryk's theories on women. Now she'd started going to church! Where would it end? He wanted their life back. Expensive tastes became Della. she'd started seeing that counsellor woman . pity mingling with dislike.' 'Well. or they'll get away with murder if you let 'em. I'll tell you another way where they're all the same . But perhaps there was a tiny grain of truth in what Deryk had said.
. just for something to do. I even went to church this morning to see if it would help. She hastily erased it. She dared not think about Mark. Lynn paused to re-read the last sentence and was horrified. and then over lunch. Lynn sat there mindlessly. turning her chair at an angle to face the crowded pavement and away from the two other people who shared her table. She transmuted them into: / desperately need some help in clarifying my thoughts. letting the noise and distraction anaesathize her. I keep thinking. or Polly. Afterwards she walked around Leicester Square and Covent Garden for a couple of hours. Why not? Nothing to go home for. I feel desperate! Lynn read over the last two sentences and again was appalled. 'What would my mother do?' and then I think 'What would Tia do?' but it doesn't seem to help. Sincerely Lynn read it over and on impulse added a PS Do you believe in God. I feel so greedy and selfish and self-centred and I can't seem to do anything about it. Please help me. She dared not think about Della. or 97 . she had nothing to lose! There were only two more sessions anyway. but it didn't seem to. and. don't even know why. and any help you could give me would be appreciated. . After the last session I felt so good. . or Marianne. and I thought that things were working out. I had a massive row about it with my husband and I don't even know why. Tia? It was probably irrelevant and intrusive and Tia wouldn't reply. The misery of this thought washed away any last shreds of reserve or discernment and she hurried the letter into an envelope. but I can't seem to talk about the miscarriage to anybody. She got a drink at a pavement bar and watched the world go by. even my two best friends. I don't know what I'm looking for.of things are happening at the moment and I can't keep pace with them. took the tube to the hospital to deliver it through the door of the department by hand. London was a lot safer than people thought if you knew where to go. but dammit. Everything seems such a mess. or the church service. or what I want or expect people to do. If only it had occurred to her earlier she could have phoned up Lorna.
The journey home seemed interminable. 'Lynn! Where the hell are you? I've been ringing you for hours!' (Surely not hours. 'Good to see you back. When Lynn got in. as 'confidential'. that's why!' 'Sorry Mark. and then went hastily to bed. and then the phone so that he couldn't ring back and settled back in the uncomfortable slatted chair. It was too late now anyway. So she looked at him and smiled as gratefully as she could to show that she had heard and appreciated it. I just popped out for a wander round and a drink. decided against another and rose heavily to her feet. She got her mobile out and switched it on thoughtfully. she supposed. 98 .' Grateful though she was for this olive branch.' She switched the call off mid-reply. Why?' 'Why? Why! I've been bloody worried. she remembered two things. it was eagerly seized by one of the three people who had been standing around talking to the two seated at the table with her. and yet too short. loud with anxiety.Declan or someone to meet her for a drink. The first was the pile of marking she had intended to do for her first period lesson. It was the second thought that worried her most. I'm on my way back now. Mark?) 'I'm having a drink in a bar in Covent Garden. Within a minute it rang and Mark's voice came through. As sleep mercifully overtook her. Some minutes later she finished her drink. Consultant Clinical Psychologist. The second was the thought that she had not marked the letter entitled Dr Tia Bradley. The moment she vacated her place. by the time they got here it would be 9 o'clock and she ought to be getting back soon. Mark said. Lynn could not bring herself to respond in kind.
Polly. If she believed in God . . Then she said.I don't know. It seemed ironic that she.' she said at last. but I do respect her intelligence. 'Lynn. washed her hands before. was eating her sandwiches from a plate she kept specifically for that purpose on the shelf where the evaporating dishes were stored. Pol? Or wait to see if she says anything? Or what?' Polly blinked. 'Then you would too? How many times have you seen this counsellor?' ‘Twice. ' she paused. They were eating lunch in the prep room. was now being asked this question by someone she was fairly sure did not believe in God about someone she knew absolutely nothing about. I know hardly anything . extracted one and nibbled it slowly. who had eaten whole Chinese takeaways in the most unsavoury and chemically hazardous conditions while experiments were running and the fumes from concentrated sulphuric acid digestions were dissolving her lab coat. Polly considered while she chewed.' She corrected herself. . it 99 .Chapter 9 'So should I just ask her if she believes in God. to give herself time to think. find somewhere to start from. But things seem in such a mess at the moment that I've got to – oh . and slid her hand carefully into a sandwich bag containing quarters of apple. Nothing seems fixed anymore. 'I don't know if I believe in God myself. an activity which was officially frowned on. Polly. for obvious reasons.' Polly extracted another piece of apple and ate it thoughtfully. a person who longed above all things to know whether people she met believed in God but never dared ask them. 'I don't know. Lynn. during and after and nervously took every hygienic safeguard she could. ‘I know nothing about Tia. a point of reference or something. who had learned her trade at a CFE. 'Why do you want to know?' Good question! Why did she want to know? Now it was Lynn's turn to consider.
that was being laid to rest. Lynn felt in exactly the same boat. There was a short pause while they took it in. He's started singing to himself now. I just want to. You're going to Tia because of the miscarriage. shouldn't you be . I feel that she's very wise. She sighed. so why should I care about what she thinks? But I . I wouldn't care about what my GP thought. If I knew that she. ask then?' This simple statement of the obvious gave Lynn great relief.) 'Then I could think " Why does she believe in God?" and it would be a start.seems to me that there's something a bit strange happening here. Still she tried to unravel it. for her own satisfaction as much as Polly's. What heavy weather she was making of everything at the moment! 'Right. believed in God .well . she could see where Lynn was coming from. Polly. Hastily she said. Does it matter about what she thinks as long as she helps you?' This was the most directive thing that Polly had ever said to Lynn and they both knew it.I don't need to know anything about her.I wonder if Michael Strangely is back yet? I've got him later.’ but she didn't.oh. in a way. Besides.tap into that wisdom I suppose. as a thinking person. Then Lynn said slowly. She'd already said enough for one conversation. 'If Tia has written any books?' but the look on Polly's face told her it was time to change the subject. 'Why don't you wait to see if she says anything about God. and she knows more than she lets on. I'm seeing Tia for my benefit. Not in the way that Lynn was.talking to her about you and your problems and not worrying about what she thinks? It's just that you talk about her an awful lot. 'Why can't you just work out for yourself whether to believe in God or not? Why do you need Tia's permission to do it?. . it's so hard to explain!' And it was.' 100 .' She stopped. and if she doesn't. You're absolutely right. anyway . I'll do that! I wonder if . not hers .' Polly wanted to ask.' (Polly winced inwardly. but what she says makes me think. 'You're right. how can I say? . So she said. Where did that leave her? But she knew she wasn't a thinking person. But what to? Not to the miscarriage . ‘Tia doesn't say much. '. She had been going to say. right? If that's so. Looking at Polly's I'm-puzzled-but-explain-to-me-and-I’ll-understand expression. then realised she had left the sentence in mid-air. .
But his parents are somewhat intellectually challenged themselves and they insist there's nothing wrong with him. They had not yet spoken this term so she said.' 'I know him. None of the other kids want to work with him. he just marches to his own drumbeat . but Chris has asked for them too.' Polly's face was creased with a familiar anxiety. But he's not aggressive or wantonly malicious. 'That's OK. . but Chris only asked this morning. It was rarely that a day passed without some sort of juggling act being necessary. with his back to the wall?' "Yes. 'You asked for the picture cards and string to do food webs. but a total pain.'Michael Strangely . Bloody Chris. in Andy Powell's form. he just keeps going like a tank. He's harmless. Unfortunately he also helps himself to other pupils' pens and pencils then using them to draw over their books. I've got him this afternoon. I think he thinks he's singing the words of the text book but he can't actually read. Pol.is that his real name?' 'No. I don't suppose you could share. Sorry.' The thought of the afternoon class triggered a problem that she needed to air. You can't blame them. so untypical of him. Sometimes I think he's more lonely in a class full of children that he would be on his own. Half a set will do.' 'Can't he go for special help?' 'I wish! He does for maths and English. I'm getting the kids to bring pictures of their own in 101 . or have them for half a lesson. Doesn't he go along corridors sideways. so he'll stay in normal lessons until the classes are set in year nine. The singing drives me nuts though. could you? You could half a set each. it's Michael Strachley. the kids call him "Crabman'" and when he reaches the queue for lessons. hands and clothes. thought Lynn. .' 'Poor Michael!' said Polly feelingly. I don't mind him . 'I guess there's a few kids around like him. one that nobody else can hear. I meant to say earlier. bulldozing other people out of the way until he gets to the front. Why can't he get his act together? Then she remembered her conversation with him last term. and an image of his worried face. flashed before her mental sight.he's a sweet boy really but he pushes the classroom assistant to her limit and he has to be watched like a hawk the whole time.
She really must learn to shut up about Tia! What got into her at times? 'Actually. who ought to know better!' She saw him relax.' said Lynn. Lynn thought. . though.' he said. 'Nor any who'd want it. 'I need a word with Chris myself. But hey. looking round. . as she knew he would be.appreciated. and put his arms behind his head. well. He laughed outright then. But thanks anyway . 'Not difficult.' she said. He stretched. she had things on her mind too.' she added. startled. He'd think she didn't care. 'That's history now. and Lynn thanked her stars that she had changed the subject. and we're making our own. I'll still need the string.Lynn berated herself for her forgetfulness. you tracked me down.' Hurrying along to the smokers' room . He glanced up. Life goes on. so I just need some for a back-up.both members of the science staff.' said Lynn briefly. 'I never saw you properly to say . He was there.from magazines. puffing his pipe furiously. 'So. 'You ought to give that thing up. as she sat on the table by the books. what a very nice mouth he had in general.which was the size of a walk-in cupboard and constituted a grade one fire hazard if anyone was actually in there smoking .' 'Skip it. Back in five minutes. and his smile grow to match hers. 'You and Brian are the only members of staff who smoke . 'Yeah. somewhat self-consciously. smiling broadly. you know any other teachers who have their own room just for them?' 'No. I'll just nip out and catch him in the smokers' room. She'd meant to see Chris earlier and completely forgotten.' Polly visibly relaxed. that reminds me.' she added. and putting the pipe into an ashtray nearby. in fact. and she noticed how very even his teeth were.' said Lynn lightly.' 102 . Then he stopped suddenly and looked embarrassed. huddled over some marking. Chris. saw that it was her and gave a sheepish grin. I assure you. moving the books to one side to give her more room. his bright curly hair the most visible thing about him. I might add.
flanking the pile of half marked books. That a loss. What did Tia do? She helped me . There wasn't much room between the chair and the wall. She just 103 . .' Lynn emitted a soft 'Ooh' of sympathy. and she couldn't help sensing that the clumsiness of this manoeuvre rather destroyed the delicacy of the moment. I'm sure she'll come back. think. Lynn said. She thought. like my loss. Nobody knows! I keep replaying and replaying it. Sandra's left him.' The silence that followed was comfortable. It was so useful. 'So. clearly wondering how much to say. Then he replied. 'She left me.' or even 'Maybe you're better off without her. There's no other man. so she squashed into the chair at the other side of the table.' But that was really crass. because she knew him very well. and it freed the person to answer any way they wanted. 'That's quite a loss. and Lynn was a quick learner. . He sat there. And she could use it with Chris. . She's told me that. flatly. Lynn resisted the impulse to take one of his hands in hers. what should she say? She would normally have said. . staring bitterly ahead. 'Chris. That would be most unwise. She saw pain shiver across his face and vanish. She told me she was going to. He hesitated.'That's OK. . how? I don't know . That was pre-Tia. his forearms on the table in front of him. somehow! Aloud she said. Tia didn't say things like that. 'Quite a loss! You don't know. Into it. . Lynn found herself wondering about the colour of hair elsewhere on his body and mentally shook herself.' 'Yeah!' said Chris savagely. The short hairs on the backs of his hands and forearms glinted red.' followed by something like 'Don't worry. Like the loss of . how have you been?' She'd picked that expression up from somewhere lately and liked it. but I never thought she would. and I believe her. Chris didn't seem to notice. It suddenly occurred to her that sitting on the table looking down on him was a bit too much like looming over him. Think. I'm so sorry! I don't know what to say.
'It's all right. I can't even talk to her . Couldn't Sandra see what she was doing? Chris was universally liked. unsure what to do. would you really?' He grabbed her hand with both of his. Lynn reached out and gently touched his curly mop.' 104 . Lynn. Poor Chris! What he was going through . Then maybe. 'I'd be glad to help if I can. Chris.' she said. ? Oh. How could Sandra . refuses to answer my texts. Unable to stop herself. and now his head was in his hands and it almost looked as if he was trying not to cry. she says. registered that he had done so and paused. warm. would it help if / tried to talk to Sandra .what he was trying to contain! And now it was all spilling out. you know. you could work something out.' His face clouded with the memory and he shook his head. Maybe you could. open. . honest. never mind! She briefly returned his grip with both her hands. pleading gaze.won't say anything. She could feel herself stirred by his emotion. 'Look.' said Lynn.sort of woman to woman . Maybe she's as puzzled as you are about what's going on. She had to do something. His face was alight with hope. as her words sank in. God almighty. whom she had met once and quite liked ('Time to think!' She knew about that!) and a much stronger gush of indignant sympathy for Chris and the pain Sandra was putting him through.she just hangs up on me. staring ahead for a moment. funny and a good teacher. He was shaking his head as though to try to clear it. and I like Sandra too. He did the same. by his intense. But think about what? What have I bloody done ? She won't talk to me . Chris.try to find out something? Maybe she needs someone to talk to. looking at him earnestly in return. despite his best efforts. it would give you a bit of a clue as to where she's coming from. 'Oh Lynn! Would you. I hate to think of you carrying all this pain. 'I think a lot of you.' Chris sat up abruptly. He related well to everybody. It's worth a try! God knows / can't do anything. what am I meant to do when I don't even know what I'm meant to have done!' Lynn listening.wants time to think. was torn between a pang of fellow feeling for Sandra. Then he turned to her. 'Maybe it would work. then deliberately let go.
well. You and Sandra love each other. She sighed. though he rather spoiled the effect by saying anxiously 'Don't lose it!'. but rushed to disclaim them.' She smiled inwardly at his words.' 'I know. This is just a temporary hiccup I'm sure. as she left him. as she made her way back to the prep room. She was so fond of him. Oh. he was such a sweetie.’ What an idiot he was! He was definitely feeling better. Laughing. Afterwards. 'You're a darlin'!’ To her amazement. 'I'll be in touch. / trust you. I'll phone. now Lynn? Promise?' 'I promise. His eyes had lost their look of anguish and his usual air of jaunty merriment was clearly on the way back. and even as she finished. with a smile. It was so good to help people. was receding again.' 'She'll want to speak to you. But he certainly seemed to have been helped by their talk. His accent. he leaned over and kissed her lightly on the cheek as she struggled . to his marking and his unlit pipe. she told him. Lynn. 'People trust you.' she mused. Lynn.' she added formally. and then grimacing at himself for saying it. he was more in control.I've got a few things on myself and I need to think what to say.to wriggle. 'You won't forget. she felt absurdly pleased. 'No Chris.' said Lynn. Clearly. Sandra means everything to me. it occurred to her that 'I'll let you know' might have been better. scribbling down Sandra's mobile number on a piece of paper which he presented to her with a flourish. It was all she could think of to say. 'Maybe I didn't buy Sandra enough presents. 'What a mess. Lynn.what . She looked at him. 'I won't forget this. with some degree of dignity. He said. Yes. a look of pleading swept over his face again and he said anxiously. 105 . always more pronounced when he was upset.'So you'll . out of the seat.' he said confidently. I've .phone? I feel like you're my only hope.' she said. give you a bit of a hand on the way. with a hint of mischief.anti-climax! . I could send her some of that. She might not want to speak to me anyway. I hope I can help! she thought. Dear old Chris. Give me a few days though. What's that perfume you've got on Lynn? It’s really nice.' Again. But maybe I can. and it was certainly a handy distraction from her own troubles.
I told her I'd tell you. 'I wish I looked like her. 'You were saying the other day that her Parkinson's had flared up. but she could listen. The reply was lost as they clattered down the stairs. her best friend. She knew Lee wouldn't get it. She was crying.' Polly beamed. and the conversation revolved around new drugs and diet and bath hoists until the afternoon bell for registration caused them both to start guiltily. Polly?' she asked. 'Oh a lot better!' she said. 'Makes a change from Russian then. She hadn't meant to say anything after Friday night.' Lynn felt a pang of concern. 'Been up to no good again?' 'We're making a video in English!' said Lee happily. She remembered something else. 'New?' asked Lynn. 'Deryk bought them for me on Saturday. Not that she could do much.' said Lynn conversationally after the register had been taken and the form were filing out the door. she'd catch up with her later.' 'Those earrings!' said Gillian. of course. Polly had a message for her. modern designer ones with emerald chips in that must have cost a fortune. but the question slipped out naturally. Oh well. Lynn to flee through the lab to let her form in while Polly washed up her plate. 'Mrs Heworth is excellent!' said Gillian. 'You look very pleased with yourself. She herself had noticed the earrings earlier in the week. 'Yes. does it?' asked Lynn smiling. she surmised. but Lynn could guess the rest. a little self-consciously. Della had seen her looking and put up a hand to touch one. 'How's your mum doing these days. 'I wish I was like her! 'Yeah!' agreed Emma. She felt pleased that Nicole had felt able to come to her.' 106 . but Daniel and Gillian both laughed as they went past. 'Nicole was up here looking for you. taking no offence.' said Della. Lee.Back in the prep room. and indeed there was a general air of cheerful anticipation pervading the form. Level-headed Nicole! What could be the matter with her? Boyfriend trouble. compounded by her over-protective father.
She approached. kindly. and could find it in her heart to feel sorry for Della. 'Don't worry about it. 'I like my pretty things. again and again. it was a strangely driven and aimless way of living . and thought for the hundredth time what a strange person Della was.' said Della complacently.neither in. 'about Friday night. if she knew she was doing it.' 'Yes. But she had said.if they didn't have to cover for anyone.' You bitch! thought Lynn. I couldn't sell myself for earrings. three days after she had seen Tia. of course. I feel better about it now. 'They're lovely.'Really? What was the occasion?' An unreadable expression crossed Della's face momentarily. thought Lynn. she thought. 'Oh. Lynn agreed. and then she drew back.' Overtook you. Aloud she said. He may have a superb business brain and his heart was in the right place. next Friday. Events just overtook us. But that was Della . But she was rewarded by the look of relief that had flashed across Della's face. But unlike the tide. Deryk was amazingly childish at times. she didn't know how Della could stand it.Lynn had given Della another chance. quickly superseded by a look that Lynn could only describe as smug. and turned to Lynn as though she had only just realised who she was talking to. Della was always best on a one-to-one.take her or leave her. you mean.I mean. Like the tide. and drew back.' Then she seemed to come to. . So . . Yes.' Lying cow! she had said to herself. For someone who was so manifestly in control of her life. Brian didn't have a form . but really. And yet Della seemed happy enough. just maybe. Anyway. approached.he wouldn't mind registering Lynn's class. And from the look on Della's 107 . Really. I didn't mean it to be that way. Maybe. nor out. It wasn't . no occasion. But she had had time to think. this time she could tell Dell a bit of what was really going on in her life. 'Lynn. They both had a free period the next Friday afternoon and Della had suggested a long lunch . she seemed to have no ultimate direction or destination . Dell! The time just wasn't right then.' she said urgently.
108 . it seemed that she might have a few things that she wanted to tell Lynn.face.
‘I read them very carefully.' They were once again seated in Tia's room. After a second or two. What did you think of them?' Tia looked at Lynn. glancing around the office. aren't there?' 109 . Apart from Tia herself. but she didn't. an in-tray and an extremely tidy pile of papers. expected her to say that.' said Lynn. Lynn waited. Was it an office? Or a surgery? Or what? It was very plain. Tia had shown her carefully in. The early October sun streaming through the window behind Tia's desk gleamed on the small ceramic sculptures in front of the books on the wide shelves of the bookcase. One was red and rangy. Her look had a slight. and said. but the titles were too far away to read. Tia broke the silence. Again. They looked hand-made. and the other was green-blue. ‘Good. but not quite. ‘All right. ‘What do you expect me to say?' quality about it.Chapter 10 ‘I got your letters. ‘This is the second of the three additional meetings we agreed together.how have you been?' Lynn's thoughts were still on the letters.not all right. ‘Good. The bookcase had books and files in. There are a lot of things going on in your life that you are trying to sort out at the moment. she repeated it. they were the only spots of colour in an otherwise beige and grey world. Lynn hoped Tia would say more about them. Tia was seated with her back to her desk and Lynn couldn't see what was on it apart from a computer terminal. No . ‘So . So what did you think?' ‘About what?' ‘Of the letters.' Lynn had almost.' said Tia. It all looked terribly functional. To buy some time. Then she had made the remark about the letters.
This was no answer. Her mind could move around again. What do you say to someone who says they don't know? ‘But don't you ever think about it. ‘Yes . Although she had anticipated this. room. When I got back from Polly's church he was so patronising about the people who went there. I told you in my letter that I'd gone to church . but I didn't know if I should. I probably should.oh. . Where on earth was this coming from? ‘I did get the letters and as I said. Fair enough. Lynn could not imagine her having unformed ideas about anything. ‘Perhaps you have a reason for asking that question?' This was better.' There seemed no way forward. And yes.well. the Sunday before last. I wanted to write to you again. I read them very carefully.' ‘I . She tried again. Oh thank you! I mean . She had no idea at all what to say next.' Lynn stopped in confusion as she heard her voice beginning to rise. it is allowed to write while you are seeing me.she hesitated – ‘unformed. everything seems to be sort of slipping away. Tia?' Tia was not disturbed by this question. She gazed meditatively into the middle distance and spoke carefully. I didn't know if it's allowed.oh.yes I do. but my life is very busy at the moment. Lynn had not been able to resist hoping that Tia might say something and the sharpness of her disappointment took her by surprise.' ‘Oh. There was no mistaking the ring of truth. and that Mark and I fell out about it big time. ‘So you don't believe in God then?' ‘I don't know.I'm just sick of everything! I'm sick of Mark giving me a hard time. I didn't even know if you got the letters . I .oh . . ‘Do you believe in God.' What did that mean? From her experience of Tia. Tia?' ‘Not really. good. Tia wanted her to set the agenda. Lynn felt released from the mental strait jacket that always seemed to envelop her when she set foot into Tia's . He hadn't even been 110 . Tia said softly. ‘My ideas about God are' . After a few moments. She came to the point. It occurred to Lynn that she had not been specific enough.' said Tia simply.
and I so wanted to tell her about the miscarriage . . nice genuine people. But Della. really embarrassingly. caring face flashed into Lynn's mind. But there was nothing there. ‘Polly's a very loyal person. .if he's there at all.' ‘Yes. nothing. there was just . Mark and I went round for a meal last week. so he can’t let me down. She just doesn't know what it feels like. I told you about Polly. Then she had the nerve to try to get me to talk in the car on the way home. well-modulated voice. something reliable you could hang on to to get you through.' A picture of Polly's honest. but she's a simple soul. but people either can't or won't listen to you . That's a pretty lonely place to be. Only a lot of people worshiping . can he? Not just Mark. all evening. We've made it up now. . In the pause that followed. I wanted to find out if there was something I could trust. ‘So where you thought . . How very let down you must have felt.' she said hastily. It’s hard to explain. ‘So wherever you go. absolutely! I did feel let down . even God. I wanted to know if it was true. no one to trust. really really disappointed. desperately want find out. now. . and about you .hoped . . wherever you look.there. ‘Nothing that I could see anyway. It was a bit late by then! There's nobody. she heard Tia's quiet. Then she realised that it would be very difficult to see God. ‘I mean very much intellectually. Except he’s not there. At the moment it feels like there's no one to hold on to. I'm aware that I can't expect very much of her. nobody I can trust!' Lynn finished on a wail and closed her eyes. so disappointed!' ‘You were disappointed?’ ‘Yes. . . I suppose I couldn't help wondering . but – but I was so . I expected more of Della. If he was there. ‘Or feel.you might find something of worth.nothing. People who believe in God are always banging on about how wonderful he is. .by everybody.' She paused. and she just flirted with her husband. You've got things that you desperately want to say.' she added. no one seems able to recognize that you are hurting inside. and she felt pang at betraying her.and maybe not even God will .' 111 . that was really there. what right had he to be so superior? And they were nice people. .' she amended.
The bits about Della certainly were. Tia was still there. Even at this moment of rescue. attentive. with Tia. Tia returned Lynn's gaze perfectly steadily. Tia would. was the only real moment there was. I felt abandoned! I watched her do it. When she had finally finished. she found time to wonder if Tia's finely arched brows were natural. Lynn described the dreadful dinner party and her feelings of betrayal and Tia listened without comment.' and ‘Um. but the skirt was short and the fabric did not have enough play in it. But understand what. aware. if any.‘Yes. Even though several ‘Well. that although Polly and Della would not understand. here. ready. it is’ said Lynn reflectively. ‘Take your time. as though answering her own train of thought. as it were. it was not entirely what she had planned to say.skin had a creamy glow that only required a hint of blusher to highlight the cheekbones. Lynn thought of Della and her offer to listen. and tried to pleat the edge of her skirt with her fingers. ‘Let me see if I’ve heard right. it still felt all right. But it clicked that Tia had said it. For a moment. Tia said. Her slightly freckled . She opened her eyes. Your perception of Della was that she knew what she was doing. when she herself didn't know what she wanted to talk about? Why on earth did she feel so self-conscious. you see's. and looked away embarrassed. . and transmuted her skirt pleating into an imaginary fluff-picking exercise. it seemed to Lynn that this moment.just over the nose . when Tia was smiling at her so encouragingly? She looked down. But Tia wore very little makeup. Lynn took her time. Our friendship – my need – counted for nothing! Why did she do it?' 112 . Tia was wearing a well-cut sandy-colored skirt with a chased leather belt and a lime green open-necked shirt. even though your need was greater?' ‘Yes.' said Tia.. and yet chose to abandon you in favour of Deryk. or the result of artful plucking. It suddenly occurred to Lynn. How artificial and studied it seemed in comparison to this simple being. And when she spoke.just there. it's like thistle’s' tentatively emerged and tottered a few steps towards Tia before falling into oblivion in the space between them. But her eyes flicked back again almost immediately. completely For a split second. Lynn felt somehow wrong-footed by it. It felt all right. Tia was waiting. until Lynn became conscious she had been staring too long.
You described the evening very well. You listened so well.' or. 'People always have reasons for doing things. Only another fifteen minutes left! Where had the time gone? She said hurriedly. Oh. It was so good! So helpful! I felt I could properly grieve. Tia only did concrete statements. Thank you! Thank you so much!' Lynn could hear the emphasis and emotion in her voice. I listened. then realised she would wait for ever. Lynn peeked at the clock and saw that the time said 3. Nevertheless. Instead she said gently. though she could not for the life of her work out what Tia had done wrong. ‘That would be good. She hesitated before replying.' Lynn was instantly diverted. Lynn noticed every time Tia spoke her name.' to finish the exchange off. the words tumbling out. she noticed with pleasure that Tia had called her by name. and as you talked. she rushed in to counter any wrong assumptions Tia might have about what she had meant to convey. but even in the hearing. a long lunch-break. so what! Tia deserved it! She'd been bloody fantastic. It's not really my brief to make people see things. ‘Yes. 'Why? What do you think was going on for Della?' Tia came as near to looking annoyed with herself as Lynn had ever seen her. I suspect there was quite a lot going on for Della that night as well. She was burbling.' She waited for Tia to make a further comment. but gave no overt sign of pleasure at this eulogy. rather than heard the implied rebuke. like. You said you were seeing Della on Friday? Perhaps you could ask her?' Lynn felt oddly pleased at Tia's acknowledgment of her descriptive powers . you were so understanding. Lynn.05. leaning forward and sweeping away a lock of hair that had fallen over her eyes. From what you say.This was not the sort of question Tia answered. ‘I know you don't make 113 . I never saw that before. During the next pause. Tia didn't do abstract conventialities. that's right. She said.. ‘I didn't make you see anything. you worked it out for yourself. ‘I never thanked you for the last session. You made me see that there was a baby. She saw that Tia registering her anxiety.' Lynn felt. ‘You may get some light on the situation then. dammit! For a moment she felt embarrassed. so sympathetic! You were wonderful. that I did have a right to grieve. 'I've no idea.you couldn't really describe it as a compliment. Tia heard Lynn out.
‘Yes. well. ‘Shouldn't you be talking to her about you and your problems and not worrying about what she thinks. but I don't know why. it's more useful when people can express how they feel about things without worrying what other people might think. I know you don't work that way.' ‘Why should your approval be important to me?' ‘Why indeed? I'm simply here to facilitate your thinking in a free and non-judgmental setting. Lynn.people see things. "I'm wondering if there are issues here about what I might be thinking about you?" ' An image came into Lynn's mind of Polly's face during that lunch-time conversation where they had last talked of Tia. Lynn? I'm wondering if there are any issues here about what I might be thinking about you?' This simple statement hit Lynn with unexpected force. ‘Let's try'. ‘Sorry?' ‘I said.' Lynn felt as though the ground had been knocked from under her feet. Lynn' heart ached.that my approval might be important to you. She had got it right.' ‘Us’ meant 114 . satisfied.perhaps I'm wrong .that I was able to think clearly in your presence and I saw that the baby was real.no . Tia.' Indignation and a sense of desolation struggled together for supremacy inside Lynn. Tia had said. I didn't mean to say that. She looked at Tia. isn't it.' Lynn felt rescued. The sense of desolation won. I meant that you opened my eyes . I have the feeling . She sat back. I felt lonely. She felt tears prick her eyes. ‘When you said that. surely it's normal for people to care about what other people think of them?' ‘Yes it is. That was saying ‘Let us try. She felt herself tense with panic.' ‘Let's try to stay with that sense of loneliness for a little while. but in situations like this.you . Tia looked back with her wide-eyed neutral. Thank you. therapist's gaze. ‘It's important to you that you get it right when you talk to me. She said defensively. Now I can let go.' Lynn saw to her relief that Tia was smiling again. Tia said.
Tia looked as if she might have questioned the logic of this last statement. much less saying it. Lynn gasped. ‘Well.that's all I'm saying. I still like her. it was true. ‘What are you saying? That I can't trust you? But you must be able to be trusted. can I. even if I don't know you?' Fractionally.I do want people's approval. but I don't respect her. she was dismayed to hear her voice rising as she spoke. Lynn obediently tried to recapture the feeling of isolation she had felt. I used to want Della's approval.' Again. But I do want your approval. That was Lynn's name. That meant that somehow Tia was in it with Lynn. And if I think you are wise. That all you know of me is what you see and hear in this fifty minutes we have together . that is. Inwardly. at least I think I do. and I think I can trust you. had wanted it. You seem wise and good. she forced herself to consider it. she did want it .which by the way. Encouraged. ‘I am simply saying that you don't know anything about me. Are you saying that I'm wrong to trust you? That I shouldn't trust you? Who can I trust then? There's no one!' Again. Lynn. Perhaps Friday will help. She said sharply. She didn't even remember thinking it.' Even as she said it. is nearly up . but instead she said unexpectedly. She said stubbornly. Lynn felt fear volt through her.' Again. Eventually. from the things you've said to me. she realised with a sense of shame that it was true. It was a life-jacket in a stormy sea. Or trust her. and yet she recognised the voice as hers.or rather. ‘Whose approval do you want?' ‘My mother's!' The words came out immediately in a knee-jerk response. ‘I think .' ‘But you don't know anything about me. Otherwise you'd never be in this job. I feel I can trust you. Yes.her and Tia. I think you are a wise person. I can't help wanting your approval. And she had said ‘Lynn' too. After the first shock. What had made her say that? It was as if she heard it in retrospect. I don't worry about Polly's approval. so why should she be so surprised? Who didn't want their mother's approval? She was still mulling 115 . People whose approval I think is worth having. Lynn said slowly. I like the way you talk. That made Lynn feel better.I think . but I'm not so sure about that any more. the use of her name.
I'm sorry. ‘It can be. and it . I think that it might be worthwhile discussing that in the last session. Psychotherapy! All that she'd heard. Why did these sessions with Tia give her such mixed emotions? Why couldn't she just feel peace at unloading her problems and talking things through? Why did it have to hurt so much? It didn't make sense! But Tia was speaking again.' ‘But isn't psychotherapy for mentally ill people?' said Lynn before she could stop herself. that wasn't even English! Tia contemplated her thoughtfully. Lynn. At least she hadn't said 'nutcases'. Images of Frazier jostled with pictures of 116 . yes.' Lynn's head was spinning.this over when she heard Tia's voice say.' ‘What are you talking about!' ‘There's a place in London called Sycamore House which is a regional psychotherapy centre . psychotherapy. read or seen about it came tumbling into her brain in a kaleidoscopic jumble. ‘You offered me more time!' ‘More time. Sometimes it's good to explore things at leisure and not feel pressured by time constraints. I think it may be worth hanging onto that thought and bringing it with you to our next session. I need to remind you it is our last one together when we will say goodbye. ‘So. ‘Lynn.what we're engaged in here . and it is outside the remit of this unit to change the amount of time we can offer you.' ‘But you offered me!' Lynn cried in despair. But not with me. your mother's approval is very important to you.' Not again! Lynn's heart contracted in agony.' ‘Psychotherapy!' ‘Yes.is brief therapy. ‘What 's going on for you now?' ‘Not the last! Too screwed up!' Hell. I think that there may be issues around that mean that you would benefit from longer term counselling than I can offer. This . but it is also for troubled people with deep-seated difficulties who need more time to talk things out and to think than I can give you.
but there was a finality about it that Lynn was in no mood to appreciate. It was all over.pressed into it by unknown G forces. Tia held out a folded leaflet.people. She had the sudden fantasy that she would never be able to get up again. My mother . The ‘but' hung in the air. Didn't you hear me say that it was for troubled people who need time to talk?' ‘Yes. She could hear her speech coming in short staccato phrases. Tia had mentioned it.' Lynn took it without thinking. see what you think. ‘No! Psychotherapy's not for me .' Lynn stopped.I thought I could talk to you. ‘Here's some information about it.’ ‘I'm very sorry if I gave you that impression.to talk to you . about . Words like ‘schizophrenic' and ‘repression' and ‘ECT' came into her head.it's for really bad . Tia was still monitoring her closely.I mean ill .things. ‘Yes you did. She saw people lying meekly on couches being talked to soothingly by people sitting out of their sight. but . she saw it all now.for a little while. What was there to say? Tia had told her. ‘Lynn . She felt as though she was drowning in it all.oh god. and part of her listened to her delivery with a kind of detached interest.chosen to misunderstand . but it wasn't. She slumped in the chair.' Tia's habitual expression of quiet seriousness had returned.Freud and great grey rooms full of shambling psychotic inmates milling round supervised by authoritative people in white coats. Her smile looked very kind. then reacted. I'm not like that. I thought right at the beginning that I'd mentioned that if the sessions threw up any more deeply seated problems then there was the possibility of longer term referral. She'd thought that somehow it would be different for her. She became aware that Tia was smiling at her reassuringly. but I thought . Read it.she's got nothing to do with it. ‘Are you sure about that? I can see that this has come as a shock to you. It was helping too. She'd thought she'd misunderstood . You look horrified.' Lynn searched her memory. She said. I just wanted . Yes.come back. What a long time ago that first meeting seemed now.' 117 .
She perceived only that she had won something. . unsmiling. But Lynn. Lynn had to exert every particle of self-control not to beg and plead and cajole. .' ‘What other option do I have?' ‘You do not have the option of seeing me for longer than two more sessions after the next one.' she said. . ‘Very well. You must understand that. .‘You .' Tia was looking at her very seriously. She looked down at her nails. ‘I can get things sorted out . But losing would have been death. She dared not. ‘I do understand that!' she said. She gazed thoughtfully at a space on the wall above Lynn's left shoulder. so it was not worth having. . But what did she understand? It felt so bewildering. oh please give me two more sessions. The moments dragged on. Lynn felt like crying. but that the thing she had won was without Tia's approval. so whatever she was feeling now must be better than that mustn't it? 118 . . And after them there will be no more. ‘Well. It's up to you.' ‘But how could they do that? I'm getting things sorted out!' Tia didn't answer.I can! Please.you're recommending that I do this . how could they?' Tia still said nothing. But I must stress that it is your responsibility to structure them. Finally Tia looked at her. more . yes.' Tia looked at her as though she was not seeing her. It would make Tia say no. time. This is your choice. Lynn felt absolutely desperate.go to this place?' ‘It's an option.' ‘So I could see you for two more sessions after the next one?' ‘Theoretically. She was bargaining for her very life. and there is the possibility that the sessions would uncover things that might make it more difficult to do that. We will have to end there whatever happens. Six sessions is the maximum I can offer. There is nothing I can do to give you any more time. we would still have to say goodbye at the end. need . I . ‘I will give you the two extra sessions you ask for.
’ Lynn looked at it with a dull curiosity. ‘I'll see you in two weeks' time then. and said.' Today. She had to struggle to focus on it. our time for today is over. smiling. That was two cards she had now. Lynn.Tia was scratching down something on an appointment card. maybe it was the clothes. Here was Tia's spiky writing again. The woman was about thirty. ‘Here are the dates of our remaining two sessions after the next one. she had not envisaged the session ending like this. with a thin intelligent face and shoulderlength mid-brown hair. What do you make of her?' Lynn looked. Tia looked down at her. just like last time. What was Della getting at? What did she want her to notice? The woman was just doing the crossword.Lynn had not been there since that ill-fated lunch with Polly . Lynn could only feel utter desolation. ‘I'm sorry. and once again heard the door close firmly behind her before she had gone three paces. Della was doing it again. They were sitting in the Cafe Noir . cut straight with a fringe.' Tia rose to her feet. Lynn too stood up. ‘Look at that woman over there. She walked through the doorway.and were consuming panini caldi and large lattes and talking animatedly. Chapter 11 Lynn couldn't believe it. She tried to smile back but she had nothing to smile with. Tia walked towards the door and held it open. At least Della was. In her most wild imaginings. her smile did not reach her eyes. Beige 119 . She wore a beige woolly cardigan and a long grey skirt and she was absorbed in the paper. She'd started almost as soon as they'd sat down. amazed that she could do it so naturally. as usual. Lynn considered. As Lynn walked across to it.
If you didn't stop her she could just attach it to the nearest thing and then swing effortlessly off from branch to Over the rattle of 120 . .' she said. ‘As a term of endearment it expresses a certain . ‘They're laughing a lot. she was capable of carrying on for hours. in fact they can even . almost against her will. ‘I read this fascinating article in the New Scientist a while ago entitled ‘Slugs Clean my House.it was not a good combination. ‘Don't knock it. Deryk calls me a slug sometimes. There was no way she could have overheard . ‘I teach biology. .and grey . as she caught Lynn's look.' ‘In a caring way.' observed Lynn. Della had such a . lack of imagination . could she? Della. . not a whit abashed. had moved on.' ‘No offence. looked up and smiled. Once Della got started.' Did you see it? I was riveted.' said Della triumphantly.' ‘Bunnykins!' Lynn repeated.' she continued. but she had to stop Della somehow. .' said Lynn briefly. but she didn’t. delicately picking a dangling sliver of roast red pepper from her sandwich and deftly eating it. ‘And that couple over there. The author said . She had a gentle face. .' said Della. She waited resignedly for Della to move in for the kill again.' A lull in the background buzz coincided with the laughter of the couple near them.' ‘Yes. ‘I thought clothes were meant to reflect your personality. darling.' ‘Precisely. ‘Did you know that slugs and octopi are sort of cousins? But that octopi are much more intelligent.' she said at last. The woman felt Lynn’s gaze. She didn't want to talk about the couple. but the lad's blond profile was clearly visible as he talked animatedly non-stop. obscuring her face. meanwhile. . ‘Fascinating! Look at them leaning forwards across the table and mirroring each other's gestures. . but we've all got our ways of communicating affection.prehensile mind. of course' she added. before she could stop herself. coffee cups and buzz of conversation she caught the word ‘Bunnykins. ‘Dressed by a committee. It was true. Lynn felt caught out and rather ashamed.what was the word? . They're besotted with each other!' Lynn looked. . The girl's long hair hung like a curtain.
It had a long strand of melted cheese attached. She rather envied them herself. ‘Don't keep playing with it!' She took a determined bite of her own prawn and avocado sandwich. making easy connections. ‘Just eat it!' thought Lynn. aren't they?' she said. ‘You can share a moment of laughter without ever She hastily pulled her sleeve down over 121 . Lynn's head was throbbing with the need to unload. Della was diverted. How could she begin to turn the conversation round to more personal matters? Fortunately. Shouldn't you . .?' 'No it's nothing.the lingua franca of love! How sweet it is!' She picked a piece of roasted courgette out of her sandwich and gazed at it thoughtfully. but right now. It looked extremely sore. She didn’t want to talk about slugs. . Trapped my hand in the – er . really?' She spoke as though she was thinking aloud. isn't it. and that it had made the bandage slip down.drawer and the bracelet dug in and left a mark. she noticed that her trademark wide bracelet on that arm was being worn over a bandage. It's fine I tell you! Don't fuss!' 'Okay! Sorry I asked. Lynn thought she detected a certain wistfulness in the look. 'They're holding hands now. oh that! It's nothing. Nearly better.' 'What? Oh . Della held up the piece of courgette and absently began to nibble the cheese.' it. But if they had anything Della wished that she had. . It was very entertaining. 'But it looks infected. touch . ‘Yes. She could get from ‘a’ to ‘e=mc2’ in three moves.conversational branch. struggling to keep up and hoping she'd come down to earth at some point. She always finished eating before Della. Ah. even to someone as unpromising as Della. while you were left on the ground. Della looked around. ‘Laughter is a way of conveying intimacy without commitment. 'Della – your wrist. Her glance lighted again on the couple who were still sharing so publicly their appreciation of a private joke. . it didn't show in her next comment.' An uneasy silence fell. It's fine. As Lynn tried not to watch her. reveal a thin purplish weal that was oozing pus.
there must! She would ask Della. And when you do know them.how unlike her own! . ‘I wonder if they've had their first big row yet?' ‘I wonder. it changed the awareness of Tia from a dull ache into sudden searing pain. she still couldn't bear to think about how the last session they'd had ended. Della was sitting bolt upright. Lynn was reminded of a piece of Dresden china. I wonder if those two really know each other?' She paused as if to say something else. ‘I can't imagine what I was thinking of.’ How had she got there? You really had to be a pretty agile conversationalist to keep up with Della.knowing someone else. But there must be a way through . Lynn would have described as anger. She had no interest in the couple whatsoever. ‘Sorry. it's too late. Tia was the one person that Lynn wanted to talk about most. It was bloody annoying. but at the end of the day. Tell me about your Tia. staring into the middle distance. It was too much effort. This was a complete lie.Della never. and managing to look absolutely charming as she did so. ever. except as a way of getting Della off the subject of slugs. and her eyes were glittering with what. though Lynn couldn’t think why. and it spoilt her make-up. Her habitual graceful languor was gone. The flush subsided and Della's fixed gaze returned to normal as she looked at Lynn. smiling apologetically.' said Lynn. she delivered the most amazing non sequiters at times. ate corn on the cob. with such sudden savagery in her voice that Lynn looked at her in surprise. in another person.' she said sheepishly. Even as Lynn admired the effect of anger on Della . and then laughed herself instead.she couldn't help wondering how Della's make-up stayed so intact under such extremes of emotion. One thing she felt sure of .' ‘Tell me about your Tia. ‘Intimacy without commitment . What was the matter with Della these days? Then a phrase that Della had used caught her attention. A lock of pale hair had fallen over her forehead. but what to say? She'd spent a sleepless night trying to come to terms with the fact of only three more sessions and how to use them to best advantage. her smooth. Laughter is very deceiving. Horribly and inexplicably. air-brushed complexion was flushed a delicate pink and her perfectly painted lips were pressed together. Della would think 122 .do you think there is such a thing?' ‘Definitely!' said Della. Only Della never got angry.
' For just a moment. Really listens. to Lynn’s way of thinking. . . ‘What was Jim like?' ‘Jim? Oh. Go on about Tia. I remember. She nodded and sipped her coffee. what she does say packs such a punch. ‘I've never met anyone like her before.' Lynn thankfully did so. good manners . But not just yet.damn them! . She doesn't. . It's really .' ‘Jim?' ‘A therapist I went to see .at least. Lynn said to Della. What was he doing here? They were talking about Tia. ‘Tia is such an interesting person. . it's as though she can read my mind. while Lynn did the same and thought aloud about Tia . and said. because then Della looked her normal self.' Della's face darkened. before I met Deryk actually. of what Lynn had said to her.' Lynn felt a bit annoyed by the unknown Jim. and gave a few more details of her exchanges with Tia. Though she hardly seems to say anything in the sessions.very helpful. what Lynn thought about her. . ‘Ramble away!’ she said benignly.what she looked like. briskly for her. and fill Della in with the general picture first.' Della looked at her understandingly. And he was . And she is so wise. or Lynn thought it did. he was like Deryk. ‘Yes. ‘Anyway . what she said. oh. She'd just block that memory off. Nevertheless.that was then. this is now. a flicker of pain crossed her face. spooky. But she must have been mistaken. way long ago . And when she looks at me. ‘Mind if I just ramble?' Della's composure had now completely returned.of something. But she listens.' ‘She doesn't seem to say a lot though. ‘No.' said Lynn at last. and a bit. Jim did that. . She doesn't waste a word. just a little bit. It was 123 .required the conversational ball to be batted back over the net . Actually he was nothing like Deryk! Nothing like! But he was like him to look at. does she?' ‘That's the point.
' Even this was not comforting enough. look at it from their point of view.' Lynn felt appalled. Instead. Why was she speaking so forcefully? All of a sudden. Della seemed to soften suddenly. I remember somebody said that to me once. You're a client to them . she does! I'm sure of it! Everyone is an individual. I've hurt you. Tia sounds lovely.' Lynn stopped. Intimacy without commitment. Della?' Della considered this carefully. They don't take their work home with them. Was that why that comment had resonated so strongly? Because it was true of Tia and her? Oh god. stricken. Suddenly she 124 . I was thinking aloud. all right. Lynn stopped. this was awful. It sounded like vivisection. She laughs . Lynn. That's all I meant. I'm sure she really understands you. ‘You have to remember. She cares. but Lynn couldn't think why. seemed aware that something was going wrong in the conversation.' ‘What do you mean?' ‘Well. Aloud. that "like" isn't really in these therapists' vocabulary. ‘I just wanted Tia to like me as a person. She sees you as an individual. not as a case study. I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Look. But when she got to the point where Tia had recommended psychotherapy. ‘Do you think Tia likes me. They're objective. But not to you. It's not always like that. She said. They can't afford to relate deeply to every damaged waif and stray that crosses their path. to see me as a person. she said. She broke off a bit of her sandwich and ate it daintily before replying. How could she be in that job if she didn't care?' That's not what I asked. She couldn't talk about that yet. She does.' ‘Don't be so defensive.' ‘They're human. ‘But surely they're human. They're all different.the raw material on which they practice their craft. she asked the question which had occupied her thoughts for days. you're hurting. Of course she cares.such a relief to talk about it. ‘Lynn. She’s warm and friendly. thought Lynn. Again. it did not seem like the Della that Lynn knew.' This felt brutal. ‘But wait a minute! Tia's not like that. Lynn was hurting badly. weakly.
She gave her a measured glance and said consideringly. ‘The last thing Tia said to me was that I can only have three more sessions with her. and making connections with her. Do you see anyone else around . They don't . ‘I wonder what Tia is like as a person. Lynn. forcing the words out. if she's there full-time or if she works elsewhere. It's what they call brief therapy.' So Lynn said. But she couldn't resist one last try. She realised now that what she had wanted to ask Della most of all was.you know – ‘Friend of something or other' or something like that. Della finally seemed to get the message. Della! Don't make me beg. See if you can find out where she parks her car . and then said in a businesslike way. ‘I don't know what to do. and that would be unendurable. Della would say no. She was not going to get what she wanted from Della. Any stickers . I wouldn't give much for your chances for making connections but there's ways and means of finding out things. And number plates are always traceable if you know where to go.' ‘Ah. Pump the receptionist. She sounded more assured. Into her sadness came the desperate thought.wanted to change the subject. Read my lips.' She paused.' said Lynn.' ‘Oh. ‘Let's see. brief therapy!' said Della knowledgeably. ‘There's two ways forward. ‘But I've got to ask Della's advice about what to do now.self-disclose. these psychotherapy types. Quite honestly. finding out more about her.what's the word . ‘I told you you should have gone private!' Lynn hated her.' Inside she was pleading. She's the only one that could come up with any ideas.cleaners or such? They probably wouldn't know very much but they'd be easier to talk to.get a look inside. Find out how long she's worked for her. Make friends with her. get rid of your 125 . ‘I don't know what to do. she added. ‘I doubt it! They're very cagey. Again she said. She knew with her guts that if she did. She felt deflated and very down-hearted. And for crying out loud.' Against her will. If I'll ever know anything about her?' Della laughed. you're good at that. as if marshalling lists of points in her head. ‘Could Tia and I ever be friends?’ But she couldn't ask that now.
and she's married. you're on a loser there then. She imagined Tia looking at her coldly. ‘Right. See if you can get a look at her desk. Force her to respond to you as a person . who had been most amused by it all. I assume you must have tried the phone book. But I'm warning you.this was repellant! This was spying! Did Della really think that she.not that she knew it anyway. But this . then somehow chilled. Don't act so much like a dying duck in her presence. then fascinated.there was a plethora of nubile secretaries at Deryk's office that he enjoyed eyeing up. I can't stop you . 126 . You could tell Deryk was a ladies' man. it will be damned difficult. now. Della was talking like a cheap private eye. But she'd almost certainly be ex-directory anyway. as though she didn't have to think about it.didn't it? How on earth could she contaminate it by such means? Trace her number plate! . pat. the last time they'd met. . If you've only got three more sessions then you've got to structure them carefully.Google her or something. films. Lynn was so far gone that she would use such means to get information? Clearly so. . What's her surname .Bradley? Oh. or lying.' But the horrible truth was that Tia had looked at her like that. her bookcase. how did you find out how to trace it?) What did Della think she was? And what would Tia think if Lynn did that and she ever found out. Make her want to be friends with you. and saying. and finally.' As Lynn listened.to see you as an adult. some honesty .technophobia! Look her up on the Net . Unless she's divorced. Too many. And the way she reeled it off. Draw up a plan of what you want to ask. probably . it's your choice. on equal terms. of course. as though she didn't know her. she felt first intrigued. But what kind of vibes had she given off then to make her think so? What was she turning into? Her relationship with Tia had some integrity. Who had she checked up on in her purple past? Deryk. according to Mark anyway. totally revolted. even though Della was so drop-dead gorgeous. It was horrible. She's a psychologist isn't she? She might be in some directory or other. I wonder if she does private work? You could ask. ‘Well. Mention books you've read. Ask her if she's seen them. Start reading up on psychology and counselling. isn't she? Hmm. (But even if you did. connections. what you want to achieve in each one.
I wish it hadn't been an internal promotion. I wish he'd gone elsewhere. She's an absolute bitch. Lynn desperately. ‘Yeah. She was sick of talking about Tia now. What a bizarre way of thinking Della had! So cold. It seemed an age since she had seen him. She hadn't taken Tia's advice about that psychotherapy place. thanks.was there nothing she could do? She had to think! But she was sick of thinking! What she would like to do most of all would be to hole up somewhere and just cry. we've still got a little while. But what had made her become like it? Deryk? She would never see Della in the same light again after this. ‘Mark? He's OK. so clinical. She said. The moment dragged on. Della happily. Della. Tia had had enough of her. Lynn looked at Della. How is Audrey a bitch?' 127 . Oh.' That. Mark! How was he doing? Lynn had to think. ‘Since he got promoted to Financial Director one of the other accountants has turned very snotty. ‘How's Mark doing?' Mark? Oh. Della said suddenly. Audrey. she'd fought for two more sessions that Tia didn't want her to have. but she did want to know her! She wanted to know her so badly. was true.) Over large cappuccinos this time they mutually considered their next topic of conversation. Della was looking pleased with herself and clearly waiting for a response. at least. ‘Hey. although it was only that morning.' What could she tell Della about Mark? Oh yes. You've given me something to think about. Della looked gratified and pleased to see Lynn looking more like her old self. yes. She had to say something. She forced a smile. She longed for silence. Surely it couldn't all be wrong . How about another coffee?' ‘Oh yes! Why not!' (Why not indeed! What the hell? What mattered any more? And at least the place was warm and bright and while she was sitting here she didn't have move or think or make any decisions . Lynn felt torn between anger and pity. cautiously. She consulted her watch. What was the point? As she struggled to think of something to say. for a long time.' ‘Hmm.except about what coffee to drink.It was all over. Very busy at work though.
She had simply regurgitated what Mark had said the previous night in reply to a routine inquiry about work. I'd always thought that you and Mark were the ideal couple . She and Della went back a long way. . oh bloody hell. like the cappuccinos. Why had she said that? She hadn't meant to say it at all. Isn't that awful?' Della said shrewdly. Humiliation engulfed her. I never thought to ask. did Lynn want to talk about personal things any more? Actually. not even asked. do you know. She felt so desperate that soon she would be buttonholing complete strangers in the street and telling them. She said the first thing that came into her head. And . ‘Did you know that I . ‘I'm sorry to hear that. Yes. as Della had done. And. as well? Surely there was nothing funny in what Lynn had said? But when Della spoke. She had no idea why Audrey was a bitch.so much in love. . we've sort of drifted apart. ‘No. she did. Ever since the miscarriage.Too late. Lynn. Perhaps Lynn had taken it a bit too seriously.this is the weird thing. to her shame. ?' And old habits died hard. But why did she look . what Lynn was trying to say.' That was what he had said. It's almost as if . yes. just to keep the conversation light and frothy. quite deeply. how to get it back. Lynn said. Seeing at Della looking concernedly across the table at her it was hard to believe she'd said what she had about Tia. . In view of the glimpse she'd just had of Della's Machiavellian thought processes.' 128 . And she. absolutely hopeless! But Della looked as if she had understood . . Lynn realised what she had done. there was sorrow in her voice. she'd mentioned Tia too! She was hopeless. ‘Della. All her defences were crumbling.she's an absolute bitch. ‘I've had enough of Audrey . Now it had got all heavy again. Della was looking at her enquiringly. almost amused. . ‘You and Mark aren't getting on too well at the moment. Maybe it was worth talking about a bit more . for clarification on Audrey's bitchiness. I've no idea. are you?' Split-second decision. had taken this statement at face value and left it there. I don't know what to do. but he doesn't seem to care.as if he's jealous of her in some way isn't that crazy?' Oh damn. he can see how much good seeing Tia is doing me. And Della had asked about Mark. she probably had.
‘We were, we were. We couldn't bear to be out of sight of each other, wanted to know all about everything the other did, said, thought. Couldn't leave each other alone in bed. Was that love? Now - oh god, we feel like strangers. What is love, Della?' (Oh, you stupid cow, why ever did you say that! Della will have a field day with that one!) To Lynn’s utter relief and surprise, Della actually stopped to think about it. ‘ "What is love?" Now you're asking. How should I know? Me of all people?' She sipped her coffee reflectively. Was Della buying time to mentally review her list of amusing quotations and anecdotes to dazzle and enlighten or was she was actually taking the question - that commonplace and yet unanswerable question - seriously? Lynn waited hopefully to find out. It was that ‘Me of all people?' that gave it away. It was most un-Della-ish. Della remained silent for some moments, concentration etched on her brow. Did she know that? Della never frowned as a rule. Although she openly sung the praises of Botox she was too canny to court trouble if she could avoid it. Lynn too had time to think. Like Della, she cupped her hands around her cappuccino and inhaled the fragrant steam. She felt the cushioned comfort of the chair she sat in and became aware of the warmth and colour and the friendly muted hustle and bustle around her, the gleaming, hissing coffee maker behind the counter, and she waited. She had nothing else to do. The young server came to clear the table and asked, ‘Was everything all right?' She was a pretty girl, her winter colouring and slender figure accentuated by the white shirt and abbreviated black skirt she wore. Lynn had the sudden sensation that there was a huge store somewhere in existence in the galaxy filled with thousands of cloned waitresses, all exactly like her, waiting to be dispersed, like shop window mannequins, to restaurants and cafes all over the world, to ask ‘Was everything all right?’ over and over again . . . But this girl was a real person. Lynn looked more closely at her. Did she have problems and sadnesses, an internal world in shreds, despair waiting outside the door? Who could tell? She was now eying Lynn somewhat dubiously. ‘Fine, thanks,' said Lynn. The girl nodded, relieved, and moved off. Della came back from the place where she had been and focused again on Lynn. ‘I'm
not sure I know what love is,' she said, oddly hesitant. ‘I know what it isn't, that's for sure.' Lynn felt an uncharacteristic pang of pity for this new, uncertain Della. She said nothing, but quietly kept her eyes on Della's face. Tia would have been proud of her. ‘I'll tell you how it was in the beginning, for me,' said Della. She gave a short laugh at nothing in particular. ‘I know it sounds trite, but there was this sense . . . I suppose . . .of recognition. Of recognising oneself in the other. Of self meeting non-self, and yet knowing you were the same - yet not the same - oh, how can I put it! - of finding one's completion, somehow. Then, not to be with the other, was in some sense not to exist, not to be whole, because they expressed the part of you you didn't even know about, didn't know you had, until you saw it in them and thought, "This is me - in you." And when you're together you laugh, all the time. Not just because everything seems funny, and bright and good, but because laughing says - oh, so many things - that I feel safe with you, that you can feel safe with me, that we can be vulnerable together, that we see things the same way. And you laugh to give an outlet for the joy you feel because you are with them. And you feel that it's worth anything to make them laugh, to make them happy.' She stopped abruptly. ‘That's how it was for me, anyway,' she said lamely. Lynn remembered. ‘Yes,' she said. ‘That how it was for me and Mark. Everything about him delighted me. I thought I would never tire of watching him - it was that otherness, yet sameness - just as you describe. Weird, isn't it?' ‘Yes,' said Della, ' Very weird indeed.' There was a rueful self-mockery in the way she spoke that puzzled Lynn. She thought, There's something wrong here. Della had spoken so passionately - so unlike her normal collected self and Lynn felt touched by Della's sharing such a confidence. Yet she could not imagine Della feeling that way about Deryk, not even at first. Who then? Could it be that therapist Della had mentioned - what was his name - Jim? But the way Della had spoken of therapists suggested what? - that maybe she had liked him and he had rebuffed her advances. Of course. In spite of herself, Lynn felt a sense of relief. So that was why Della had spoken so bitterly. It hadn't been therapists in general, but Jim in particular that didn’t care. Maybe they weren't all like that. But in
her heart Lynn knew that Della was right. She was clutching at straws. Quickly, think of something else! So who was it then? Perhaps someone in Della's youth, her first love maybe? What to say? She couldn't leave Della hanging in the air. Now it was Della, self-assured Della who was waiting for some word of comfort, of sympathy. ‘Weird, but good, wouldn't you say?' said Lynn. ‘It's good to have those feelings, isn't it Della? Even if they don't last, it's great while they do. It sounds like' (That sounded good. Like something Tia would say. Although - had Tia ever said it?) 'it sounds like that for you, it was a long time ago. Was it a lad at school, or university . . . your first love?' Lynn felt tremendously daring. In all her years of friendship with Della, she had never, ever asked such a personal question, only ever waited for what Della wanted to tell her, which, she now knew, had in fact been extremely little, despite the fact Della talked so much. The moment between them lengthened. Della seemed to be making up her mind to say something. Lynn felt a twinge of fear; had she been too invasive? Well, it was too late now. Finally Della spoke, and Lynn saw to her surprise that the delicate flush was back, creeping up Della's cheekbones. She looked directly at Lynn and smiled wryly. ‘Pretty much my first love – and yes, at university, Her name was Avril.'
For a moment Lynn sat looking at Della. Avril. Somehow she hadn't expected Della to say that. Della . . . bubbly, flirtatious Della who oozed appreciation of the opposite sex – anyone of the opposite sex - gay? It took a bit of getting your head round. Had she heard right? 'Yes, Avril,' said Della, as if reading her thoughts. Right. Well, okay. Fine. It wasn't as if she, Lynn, didn't have gay friends. There was Marco and Polo - aka Mark and Paul- and Gail and Barbara, and Marianne, and Dominic her hairdresser and the two at school who kept themselves to themselves but clearly had a particular friendship, and well, loads. But . . . Della? Della was clearly expecting a response. Hardly knowing what to say, Lynn murmured, ‘So you met at university . . .?' ‘Yes,' said Della. ‘She lectured on the Romantic Poets. She was warm and witty and humane. When I was in her lectures, it seemed as though she spoke to me alone. I had never felt this way before. I adored her. Oh, how I counted the hours to the next tutorial! She noticed me, she liked me. What can I say? Things . . . developed.' Della lapsed into silence. After a pause, Lynn ventured, ‘So what happened?' ‘She dropped me,' said Della bleakly. ‘For a younger, prettier girl. A week into my second year she called me into her office - her office - and told me it was all over. Very nicely. But then the whisper went round about her and Elaine. Elaine was a first year, red-haired, PreRaphaelite looks - absolute stunner. The worst of it was that the first and second year students had joint lectures for some subjects and I had to . . . I . . .' She left the sentence unfinished. Lynn held on, watching Della's face, but Della was not looking at her. Della sighed. ‘It was my fault,' she said. ‘I should have read between the lines. Avril was such an amazing person. Everything about her was beautiful - the way she looked, the way she spoke, the way she dressed - her rooms were full of beautiful things. She opened my eyes to so
much! What could she be expected to see in me? I was a gauche nineteen year-old, very unsure of myself (Della? Unsure of herself?) and things were different in those days' Again she paused. Lynn felt totally out of her depth. What should she say? She sensed that Della wanted to say more, but the situation seemed so precarious - the slightest wrong move on her part, she felt, would result in Della's icy retreat. Perhaps Della was already regretting embarking on this conversation. What did Della want her to say? What would Tia have said? Lynn didn't think she would have asked questions. Tia never asked questions. Trying to be Tia, Lynn leaned forward and murmured, ‘She opened your eyes . . ?' It seemed a stupid, but safe thing to say. It worked. ‘God, yes!' said Della enthusiastically. ‘The things we talked about! Everything! She knew so much - I could have listened for ever. And she made me laugh! I think I amused her, too. You know, I think she did care for me a little bit,' said Della wistfully. 'If only it could have stayed that way I might have had a chance. But it all went wrong somehow. I don’t know how. No, that’s not true - I do know. She showed me new ways of looking at things and it was intoxicating. After a while my head was bursting with it all and I started testing out my ideas on her, I couldn't resist arguing, contradicting her. It was so exciting - such fun, at first! But I got so arrogant - thought I knew it all. No wonder she got sick of me. We had terrible rows. If I hadn't done that, we would still be together!' Lynn looked at Della in some amazement. Did she really believe that? It seemed that she did, for Lynn could see the hint of a tear glistening in her eye. Well! This was a day of wonders! ‘It must have been hard,' was all she could think of to say. ‘It was,' said Della drearily. ‘For a while, I . . . ' Again she left the sentence unfinished, bent her head and fiddled with her teaspoon. After a few moments, she looked up and went on, ‘I was on anti-depressants for quite a while. God, it was hard to get off them! My second year was a bit of a blur. Actually, there's a six month gap that I can't account for at all.' Her eyes still glittered with tears, and she stared fixedly ahead, looking at something Lynn could not see. Even then, Lynn noticed, she took care not to dab her eyes dry.
‘Well . don't take me so seriously! Suicide is such an easy word to say (not for me. drastic?' Della didn't appear to connect. Della seemed to have recovered her composure with remarkable ease. ‘You mean . .' Lynn was now completely lost and Della saw it. I . thought Lynn) but so much harder to do. and then said. ‘Oh Lynn.suicide?' She spat the word out in a quiet hiss.that's all. Avril caught me unawares. Lynn realised that Della hadn't regained her composure at all.massacre of a Native American population. she looked at Lynn as if she were mad. Della was so hard to talk to! ‘What did she look like? What does it matter what she looked like! Do you want to 134 . ‘Suicide?’ Then seeing Lynn's expression. . ‘What did she look like?' She couldn't help wondering where Della's taste in women lay. and again. Once again. She had to know. . in my experience. Lynn had the awful sense of having got it completely wrong. '? The silence became intense. I coped. Though I must say.the bank of a very large canal.take his relatives to court.low .' said Lynn. First love and all that. suicide . She paused. she knew it was the wrong thing to say. much much harder to do. the parties I went to!' Della laughed reminiscently. What had she meant when she had said ‘For a while. ‘Oh. She could have bitten her tongue out. Maybe because it was all so long ago. Suicide . She leaned forward. ‘Did you ever think of doing something .and yet how meaningless it is when you say it. I’m still here. Too late. in fact quite buoyant. ‘What?' she said finally. ‘Really. but it is no substitute for getting completely trollied! My goodness. Oh god.ending it all?' The moment Lynn said it. she softened.Lynn couldn't help being fascinated. How did she do it? She seemed all right now. Lynn could bear it no longer. as if listening to herself. focusing with an effort on Lynn. and said musingly.you know . I was just . suicide . This was such a new Della. going to bed early with a hot water bottle is all very well. ‘Suicide . Lynn! Your imagination! Suicide!' She paused. 'Ending it all?' said Della. thought Lynn.what an ugly word it is . with a curiosity she was unable to repress.
This lunchtime had left her with more than she had bargained for and a return to whatever passed for normality in her life was more than welcome. 135 . As they journeyed back to school in silence. though. almost fat. ‘Actually. Actually. as though by doing so. There! Will that do?' Why had Della added that last line? Lynn felt contaminated by it. Avril looked a bit like you. ‘I've said that before today. the one that could still recall the details of that bruising encounter so many years ago. But as they paid the bill and left.' She couldn’t think of anything else to say. ‘I'm sorry. She cursed her insatiable noseyness and wished with all her heart that this conversation had never started. now I come to think of it.' With every sentence. hadn't actually used the word . ‘It's OK. Yes . She added. now I come to think of it!' This reflection seemed to cheer her immensely and she ran her hand down the lapel of her jacket in a preening gesture. she could feel Della becoming quieter and more withdrawn. ‘After all.quite a bit like you. the men I got through! Did I ever tell you about Felix when I was in Paris? Maybe that should wait until another time. Lynn pondered this most bewildering lunch hour and what Della had said. Lynn could only be thankful. She looked ever so slightly older and more tired.know all the gory details!' Then Della seemed to wilt and shrugged as though it hardly mattered now.had she? But Della had denied it anyway.let me see – she had dark wavy hair and brown eyes and a very expressive face and when we made love she was very gentle. But she. much plumper.' said Della. Della's usual urbane and amiable persona came more to the fore.' she said. I must be getting old. She was plumper. she could distance herself from that other Della. Lynn. I did rather invite it by telling you in the first place.' Della paused as though this thought had hit her for the first time. Everyone I meet reminds me of someone else! That must be why I told you about Avril. then had a couple of rather unsatisfactory flings so I thought it was time to go straight again heavens. ‘But she was nothing like you inside. ‘Oh all right! She . She hadn't wanted to know that.' She paused. the one she had so foolishly let Lynn see. I was celibate for quite a while after that. Too strongly. ‘I didn't mean to pry. Della had reacted so strongly to what her remark about suicide.
it clicked.' said a little voice in her ear. She really ought to start reading up on this counselling business. thinking about people and trying to work out how they ticked was so fascinating. Then it would be a point of contact .in the face of the evidence how on earth could she hold onto that idea? Even Lynn could see how Avril had used her. Much better to work it out from first principles. she looked like Avril? Could be. It was always best to know the truth. Surely she discussed cases with her students all the time. It was because she had told her about Tia. Well.why had Della told her about Avril? Was it because she had been honest about Mark and Della felt a need to reciprocate in kind? But Lynn hadn't said that much about him. But Della had seemed to think it might have worked too . Was it because. That was a kind of denial too. . Perhaps she could ask Tia about it. Anyway. . that wasn't true! She was a very honest person. She and Tia had a lot in common really. But it was as they entered the school gates. she hadn't really got very far in working out what was happening in Della.And then sort of glossed over it. Lynn felt pleased. wasn't it? Hmm. But something didn’t feel quite right about doing that – just yet. because Della thought that she felt about Tia how 136 . Where ignorance is bliss . as Della had said. Della had told her about Avril because she had told her about Tia . What would Tia have made of it? And here she was. Analysing the relationship she had with Tia would sort of spoil it somehow . her mind was racing.make it too clinical. Wasn't it amazing how otherwise educated people could deceive themselves so completely when their emotions where involved. or something? And saying that her feeling at Avril's betrayal was just a first love kind of reaction . as Lynn sat on the loo. Lynn suddenly went cold as it dawned on her why Della had told her about Avril. . very interesting. Why had telling Della about Tia made the difference? As she was washing her hands. In the staff cloak room.like Della had said she should make.trivialising it when she clearly felt it really deeply all those years later. thinking about it just like Tia would have. Didn't they call that denial. But . Tia would help her to understand what was going on there. 'And maybe there's something inside you that doesn’t want to know too much. That would be ironic.
realisation swirling around her. unless . were they? Downright effeminate. how come you've spent all your life thinking you're heterosexual? What about Mark and Giles and Declan and Brendan and that one whose ears stuck out?' ‘Yes. unless . god! No wonder she thought Tia was so wonderful. she was a frigid one! A dishonest one. ‘Not very masculine. she wasn't only a lesbian then. That time in the -' ‘You've wondered how it would be with a woman. in touch with their female side. She just didn’t want to go there. what about it?' ‘You've never really enjoyed it. haven't you?' ‘Haven't we all?' ‘But you've wanted to try it. .' said the voice in her other ear triumphantly. some of them. But why should she feel about Tia like that? No reason. that it wasn't true. I like men like that!' ‘What about the sex?' ‘Well. no. You've wanted to try it with Tia. so special. it all connected now! She saw it all.Della had felt about Avril. . instead of comforting her. she couldn't be gay! The little voice of reason whispered in her ear. . . mostly. this awareness caused her thoughts to take a new and alarming turn. The idea of sex with Tia was a new and horrible thought. and thankfully aware of the solid support of the wall behind her.' ‘They were just sensitive. she was gay too! Lynn felt as though she'd just been hit by a lorry. Lynn could feel her mind 137 . have you?' ‘I have. though. She leant against the wall. But. She was gay. ‘If you're gay. caring men. but look what they were like. Oh. She felt as weak as water. It was just too dangerous. and the thought of it now repulsed her. It had never occurred to her. thought about her all the time! No wonder. practically worshiped her. So.what did she actually want Tia to do? She didn't dare dwell on it. not in touch with her true self! Think! Think! Don't panic .' ‘No! That's not true!' And Lynn found to her relief. I have! Well. Oh. But after a moment's relieved reaction.
done so many things with her. but you've done your best with what you had. Quick. Normal childhood . That was it! ‘Whose approval do you really want?' ‘My mother's!' Wait though . You'll never set the Thames on fire. Mum had said it before she died. ‘He's a good man for all I don't think he'll make old bones. to hold her close. Absent father. that she'd passed on to Lynn. Mind you – hard to live up to when you were only a kid. And her mother 138 . try another tack. ‘I'm proud of you. Nothing wrong with that. pale and flaky in layers. Well. but a caring mother whom she deeply admired . Wasn't gayness meant to be linked to the way you were brought up? Mentally. love.' Lynn wanted to hug her. Slow and steady wins the race . remembering that scene near the end. Something was being replayed in her memory and she was straining to catch it. like a pile of grey ash with just the spark of her spirit glowing through.high standards.' Lynn's mum had sighed. Disapproval. nothing wrong there. but all she could remember was gainsaying Tia and feeling her disapproval.praise tempered with caution – ‘You're doing all right but don't let it make you proud!' ‘I'm so glad you've got Mark.was that it? It was nothing! She had had her mother's approval.never give up. You can't afford to . looking shrunken and frail in the hospital bed. What was it? Lynn couldn't quite remember. like the lights going out in a building. In the awfulness of the last session with Tia. It was so wonderfully typical of Mum . but she didn’t dare.pretty good. Lynn paused to think of her mother. something had been said that she'd glossed over. that wasn't good. Lynn continued leaning against the wall by the hot air drier. Even the lightest touch hurt her mother now. taught her so much . hoping that no one would come in. Remember that.shutting down. who had sacrificed everything for her. Lynn began to trawl through her life. in fact. she was such a loss! There was something lurking at the back of Lynn's mind that had some bearing on this.oh.' Lynn had valued that exchange. Tia had said it.there's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip.
hang on a minute. she had decided. But there were always epidurals. No.' Lynn had said. Her mother had been typical of her generation. ‘but there's no guarantees. What did it matter? But all the same. What would. If she was Tia. as though she almost couldn't bear the sight of her. now she came to think of it. Funny really. a shudder went through her . though I won't be there to see them. wishing she looked like her . Lynn longed to be a mother. and you've got good child-bearing hips.' (Ouch! thought Lynn. Tia would have seen through her wanting her approval. touched and irritated at the same time. . Commitment and permanency. or fat men who wore shorts .a schoolgirl crush? Oh.' ‘I'll try. Another new and worrying thought came. It had been only a week later that Mark had proposed – if you could call it that.oh. or people who didn't wash their hands after using the toilet. ‘You come of good breeding stock.' Lynn had promised. But it hadn't been very high during the miscarriage. what a horrible thought! Fresh misery washed over Lynn. of the pain of childbirth. saying she was wonderful. . Love wants commitment.had never been what you'd call touchy-feely anyway.' That was easy to promise. lesbian business? If she was a latent lesbian. or whatever the term was (and Mum would have freaked at that . would Tia have picked it up by now? Would Tia have read it in her admiration .' her mother had gone on. Otherwise why did lovers carve their name on trees? Funny. Ice-cool Tia . And have lots of children. . she had to admit. as was her habit these days.completely freaked. Mum had no time for homosexuals. though she was terrified. that couldn't be right. ‘I will.she could admit that now . ‘Get him to make an honest woman of you. It had hurt intolerably. with a picture of Tia.amongst others – quite a lot of others) if she was.looking at her so coldly. who would be Tia for her? 139 . (or did) Tia think of her regarding this . But that didn't help now. . wishing she was her.) 'I want lots of grandchildren. because her pain threshold was normally very high.' her mother had added. failure. oh loss! She quickly replaced it. It's what we were made for. At the memory. Especially after her mother's account.wishing she was like her.
then nothing. And she only had three more sessions . the drier switch was digging into her back. telling her this? And Mark. They'd certainly worked hard at it! But all the timing and thermometers and pillows under her bum had. she could hide in the prep room.This was getting a bit complicated! Lynn shifted her position.actually that hadn't worked terribly well. But it hadn't always been that way. but there had been a secret frisson of pleasure in buying Nutella so openly in the supermarket. well. Perhaps they should have got the proper stuff from a sex shop or something. then Tia would look at her with affection and love instead of that cold therapist's stare. And Della! What of Della! What did Della want of her. How was she going to teach this afternoon? Thank heaven it was sixth form. what was Lynn going to do about Mark? Did this explain why since seeing Tia she'd gone off the boil as far as sex was concerned? But that had happened earlier. But getting pregnant had been OK sort of. where did that leave their relationship? But wait a minute! How did she know she was gay? If she really was. She'd have to go soon. How could she lived for thirty-four years. after the miscarriage. please god. looking back. taken the spontaneity out of it. Lynn's stressed-out and painful thought processes took a welcome escape route down memory lane and she sighed for the fun they'd had when they had first made love. though next time (if there ever was a next time) she'd suggest they try the smooth one instead. Why did she want her mother's approval when she had already got it? Why did she think Tia was so wonderful when she was just a cold-blooded therapist doing her job? And most importantly. But the peanut butter had worked pretty well. She felt suicidal. never suspecting? But. . One swallow didn't make summer. and it had been awful to get off the sheets. It seemed like two other people now. and a bit before. don't let anyone come in! But if she was like Tia. And she was still sure the pictures in that 140 . there were questions . when she was pregnant. But she hadn't finished thinking! Oh. . If she was gay. Memories of the showers they'd had together jostled with recalling the experiments with chocolate spread .
That was a given. with the problem still unresolved. It was true. Oh. But it had been fun trying. But Tia never would touch her. Oh Tia. just couldn't. She couldn't bear to part with Tia. She was behaving like someone in love. Nobody could do that without years of training! Worse than yoga. appraising the possibilities. they'd done lots of things that had been fun. 141 . Lynn thought again of Della and her cold-blooded analysis of ways to obtain information about Tia. She was hopelessly in love. Lynn was plunged straight back into a most unwelcome present. So she couldn't have been gay. this longing . She sighed for those days.for Tia to touch her.book had been computer generated. Tia! Lynn broke down and wept. could she? Otherwise how could she have enjoyed it? But what was happening now? Why was it all so different? With an icy shock. Somehow she knew that. Against her better judgment she began reviewing what Della had said.she might as well admit it . How could she explain this infatuation with Tia.
once again. as well as think. It was time to make her promise more than just a way of increasing her own feel-good factor. she really didn't want to. Her mind flashed back to the scene with Chris . This worked. Chris in turn had seemed 142 . She couldn't help feeling that she'd bitten off more than she could chew this time. She concentrated. she liked helping people . and besides. Lynn. a piece of paper fell out. As she switched on her mobile. Halfway through. in a nervous sort of way. Lynn paused. There was a world out there that she needed to get in touch with. because she needed to keep thinking it all the time. Sitting at home. and so she decided that she had to do. but then the memory of Chris's face intervened and stiffened her resolve. taller than average.how long had it been since her glib offer of help? Days at least. . and that she had a life to be in charge of. perhaps longer. mainly at comments Chris had made. but she had to do something. waiting for Mark. quite skinny. trying to recall what little she remembered of Sandra. before she met Tia. decided to behave as though she was still the same person. and. no one contradicted her. with a bottle of wine invitingly open (and by the time he came in. Her heart sank . Sandra had said next to nothing. She pleaded a headache and left early . She recalled the fact that she had only known Tia for three hours.looking at her face. . . after a fashion. It worked because she held in front of herself an image of the happy. mousy hair. friendly outgoing Lynn she'd been before the miscarriage. that Tia was only a therapist (what she meant by only she wasn't quite sure). was in charge of her life. didn’t she? She thought she did. she just couldn't remember. She picked it up and saw it had Sandra's mobile number written on it. in a pub a little less than a year ago. that she. Lynn found her address book and started thumbing through it. but she'd giggled a lot. two-thirds empty) she began to summon up all her powers of rational thinking. It was hard work. because doing things distracted you. She'd only met her once. Sandra . every second. . and they had hardly spoken.Chapter 13 Somehow Lynn got through the day. She didn't want to phone Sandra.
' Lynn’s heart flopped with relief but she could feel herself blushing too. Then there was silence. ‘Above medium height. you're honest.' said Lynn doubtfully. Am I right?' ‘Well. amazingly. Sandra seemed to find this very funny. Lynn thought as fast as she was able under the circumstances. That was very nice of you. during which Lynn died the death. ‘He didn't tell me any details though. and then. though there hadn't been that many to choose from.dark wavy hair. and I phoned to say I'm sorry. Lynn took a deep breath and just said it. sorry. What did you say your name was?' ‘Lynn Davies. There was no easy way to say this. Then she thought she ought to return the compliment. ‘I'm still the same height. ‘So you phoned to commiserate. ‘Sandra. ’I heard that you and Chris had split up.' she conceded. always making jokes. ‘Well. We met at The Apple and Serpent at a Christmas Do last year – the science department from the school where Chris works. ‘It's just that my mind cut out and I couldn't think what to say so I had to ring off and try again. She quickly cancelled.' She stopped.' There was a split second of incredulous silence. medium height. rehearsed a little speech. Suppose she’d dialled the wrong number by mistake. hesitant. Chris didn't put you up to it by any chance?' There was an unmistakable edge to her voice. um. the hair's right. god! Then Sandra's voice came over the phone. and apparently riveted to her every word.' ‘I remember.' she finished. Chris was the one who'd told me you'd split up. smiley. ‘Well. not letting her out of his sight. 'Let me see .' Pause. very slim.devoted to her. dark hair .' There was another pause. a silvery laugh of genuine humour. We met once about a year ago. ‘Did you just ring me and then cancel?' ‘Yes. it's Lynn Davies. There was another chuckle.' 143 . then tried again a minute later. Oh. Suppose Sandra had got a new phone and given this one to her mother. She couldn't actually remember anything particularly positive about Sandra.' Pause. Lynn wished she'd thought what to say. hi. suspicious. ‘Always laughing. The phone was ringing. There was silence at the other end. at least.' she said with some hesitation.
She'd see what she could find out. her voice sounded mollified.' said Lynn. 144 . . but how he still loves me. What do you want to do? If you’d like to get together. So. I don't know. Poor Sandra too! She had to do something. ‘That's really sweet of you. we could meet at the pub again. it would be nice to put my side of the story to one of his cronies! I bet he's playing the wounded soldier to perfection . When Sandra spoke. . were there? Well. there had to be of course. if you'd like to meet up for a drink or something . feeling agreeably diverted from her own misery. But maybe Sandra was suffering too. ‘See you there.This at least was true. somewhat taken aback by this speedy acceptance of her offer. but . The Asp it is then. but what to say now? ‘Erm. I look nothing like I used to!' ‘Oh. She hoped she wasn't going as a double agent. I was wondering how you were .' She rang off. . ‘Well. there were two sides. I must say.or something like that. what experience had she in doing it at all? She waited in suspense. nothing venture. because I'm telling you. . How's he doing?' This was promising.00?' ‘Fine. it was nice of you to phone. When she spoke again. .' Lynn's voice trailed away. I just couldn't take any more of his crap!' ‘Er. but quite honestly. .' ‘The Apple and Serpent? OK then. ‘Right. I look the same. There's no man involved.telling everyone what a cow I am. right. poor Chris. ‘Look. But I hope you look the same. she certainly sounded different too. I'm bloody lonely without the bastard. intrigued. but oh.' said Lynn. I don't see him much. if she could. Sounds like we both remember what we look like. She was doing this all wrong. Lynn could hear her voice changing through hesitant to aggressive. Sandra was clearly thinking this over and it seemed to be a good enough answer for her. you know. Tomorrow any good? Say 6. If this Sandra looked different now.' Well. hard to say. nothing gain . Very different.
‘to meet an old schoolfriend.' Well. She looked around at the earnest laughing groups of young men and women in business suits. despite their expansive gestures. round cheeks. Sandra was now chubby . No point in making small talk. or holding them high as they 145 . Back about ten. ‘You haven't though. to return a few minutes later with a pint of something. the men cradling their pints carefully. Eyebrows plucked to infinity and beyond and then pencilled in.' she said.' She vanished. Huge round earrings. cut very short. full mouth . Let me get a drink. Clothes courtesy of Camden Lock. a nose stud and one below her lower lip. ‘Lynn?' Lynn turned.then. Magenta hair. Several ear-piercings.very chubby. Who else would know her name? Sandra had been right about the height. a place where you could still converse without lip-reading . ‘you and Chris seemed so happy. What else had they in common but the fact that they both knew Chris and that he and Sandra had split up. clearly enjoying Lynn's efforts to mask her surprise. . . Got my mobile if you need me.' said Lynn. Lynn didn't remember it being as crowded as this. and. yabbering away about matters vital to them. adding. Lovely skin. ‘We were . I'll be right back. Sandra was clearly spitting nails. Dark slitty eyes. Sandra smiled grimly. I can't believe .' She shook her head. the pavement was ten deep in shirt-sleeved city workers. she felt a touch at her elbow. just when uncertainty was toppling over into doubt. After ten minutes. Mark looked pleased. it was true in a way. She wished she'd been more specific about the exact location.' he said. coats secured over the shoulder by a thumb in the collar. There at her shoulder stood someone whom she supposed to be Sandra. The Asp was down a back street off the Central Line. As usual. Lynn decided. ‘That time I met you here.lipstick and paint. amazingly for London. The rest was negotiable. ‘Do you good. mascara'd. I've changed. the women tossing their hair back.' she said. Sandra smiled. Lynn got a glass of wine and waited. ‘Yes.though lip-reading helped. maroon nails.The next night Lynn told Mark where she was going.
Sandra and Lynn were now wedged into a corner by the wall behind a low wooden partition with a coloured piece of glass with a fleur de lys set in it. and he doesn't even remember what he said to you five minutes ago. why should you? It took me a while to fall in. ‘Yes.' She peered at Lynn as if she was seeing her for the first time. Including me. Will the real Cormac O'Doyle please stand up? . It was usefully private but Lynn felt claustrophobic. I know he calls himself Chris at school. Not so bloody good if you live with him!' She paused. the name I've always known him by. ‘Yeah. isn't he? Listens well.' Sandra snorted angrily. This time a response was required. Then he goes and does it to somebody else. and Lynn became aware that the drink Sandra was holding was not the first she had had 146 . a really good. it didn't seem to matter. funny. ‘Don't you notice how he behaves?' Then she made a gesture of resignation.If there is one. ‘I can't believe I'm telling you this. says Cormac sounds too Irish . Lynn said. . ‘You mean. I'm just so desperate. talks about his feelings. Maybe it had been a mistake to come back to this pub. she hadn't remembered the noise level quite as high as this. ‘What did you think of Cormac? Didn't he ever strike you as a bit too good to be true?' She registered Lynn's surprise. He's friendly. Cormac. ‘Tell me honestly. Well. Oh it sounds so stupid when you say it! Cormac is nice.moved through the press of people. Now she was here. To her surprise. If he doesn't want to be associated with leprechauns he should bloody well stop behaving like one!' Lynn did not know what to say. the one I call him. Sandra looked at Lynn closely. meaningless. So she said nothing. special . Cormac! That's his real name. All very well and good if you work with him. What more could I want?' She started to laugh mirthlessly. I've no patience with that any more. She was coming to terms with this now as an integral part of her overall inadequacy. . We hardly spoke two words when we met last year. He devotes his life to making people happy. he's like that at home?' ‘All the time.while he's talking to you.makes people think of leprechauns. How can you argue with that? What an ungrateful cow I am. kind man. Cute. looks at you soulfully with those soft Irish eyes? Makes you feel really important.' she said. Everybody happy. ‘Well. warm .
' She looked at Lynn pathetically. sniffing. A little girl was looking at her. and Lynn felt slightly more hopeful that the evening wouldn't end in disaster. Her face looked an absolute mess. Sandra came to. Or was it?' ‘We'll get a pizza on the way.and she did.that day. ‘That's if you like pizza. ‘It's all right. I said . Diversion tactics were called for. the well made-up face. She said. ‘When was the last time you ate?' ‘Oh. Yesterday some time.' said Lynn firmly. ‘So where did you go when you moved out?' It worked. Nor the second. In a minute she would start crying. Cormac doesn't know where I am. Maggie and Liam. It's a relief. ‘I've got a couple of friends. 147 . Will you come back with me? I just want to hole up indoors. She looked much better.' she found herself adding anxiously. Lynn was relieved. more in control.' Some instinct made her ask. She was going to cry now . ‘Yes. ‘I never said he didn't. I'll come.' ‘OK. and when she returned Lynn could see she had applied some make-up. They're away in the States for a couple of months.' Sandra was gone a little while. Lynn stood by supplying tissues. I don't know. no! Pizza will be fine. Eventually. and said drearily. I love you" crap.' ‘Look. "Come back to me. I don't think I could take his whining. Sandra finished. ‘Why don't you splash some water on your face in the Ladies? I'll wait here. what's the use?' Her face crumpled.' Sandra started to laugh shakily.' she said. torn between pity and exasperation and thankful they were in a corner where no one could really see them. Gone was the confident exterior. I'm house-sitting for them in Tottenham. Lynn said. ‘Sorry.' ‘So he does love you?' Sandra looked at her with frustration in her face. Somebody had to take care of this child. what have I done. ‘Would you prefer some soup or something?' ‘Soup? God.oh. I need to think. I don't want to stand around crying in public.
They travelled back on the tube to where Sandra was staying and got two pizzas at the corner shop. Surely pizza must be the most popular take-away in London - or maybe it was kebabs. Sandra opened the door of the inevitable large terraced house, sub-divided into flatlets, and they trudged upwards. Liam and Maggie's place was at the very top. The room seemed dark at first; though there was still some light outside, the dormer windows let very little of it in. When Sandra clicked a switch, and flooded the place with a soft glow from concealed lighting, Lynn gasped. It was so unexpected; a huge room, open plan with wood floors and rugs, a piano (a piano?) and what seemed like thousands of books. ‘They're musicians' said Sandra, as though this explained everything. Perhaps it did. Certainly it explained the piles of sheet music and the music stand. Sandra had already moved to the kitchen area and was looking out glasses. She seemed to have totally regained her composure. ‘Drink?' she said. Lynn hesitated. Sandra smiled. ‘You're worried I'm drinking too much. It's only because I haven't eaten. We'll have spritzers if you like, but I must have my wine.' Lynn could hardly stop her. ‘Fine' she said. 'Hang on,' said Sandra, 'I must remove my stud.' She was a gone long time in the bathroom, and when she returned Lynn thought she looked rather white, but she forbore to comment. She hadn't heard anything, perhaps it had been a struggle for Sandra to remove the stud in her fragile state. They settled down in the comfortable settee with the pizzas on a coffee table in front of them. There seemed to be no need to talk for a while. Sandra seemed to have no trouble eating, though she ate very slowly, and with a faint air of surprise, as though she had forgotten quite how to do it. ‘Just as well we didn’t get extra cheese,' thought Lynn. ‘She must have the constitution of an ox.' ‘You've changed a lot,' she observed aloud. ‘Yes, haven't I? That was Cormac's doing.' ‘Chr - Cormac's?'
‘Oh yes. I was a dowdy little frump and he encouraged me, brought me out of myself, I suppose. That's one thing I've got to thank him for. "Be yourself," he used to say, "Be the you that you were meant to be - or even the you that you weren't meant to be! That would be more fun!" With that bloody wicked twinkle in his eye!' She broke off. ‘I'm talking about him as though he was dead,' she said. ‘Well, so he is! Or I wish he was. Not dead - but dead to me. I want some relief from loving.' Lynn put down her pizza. How hard it was to listen meaningfully and chew at the same time! She could not imagine Tia listening to someone while she was eating. Actually, she couldn't imagine Tia eating. ‘ What I mean is . . . ' there were tears in Sandra's eyes ‘ . . . Oh, what do I mean? It's not loving. What Cormac does is not loving. It looks like it, but it isn't.' She finished the last word on a wail. ‘What is it then?' asked Lynn - reasonably, she thought. It sounded like loving to her. Sandra glared at her. Lynn realised uneasily that Sandra was stretched pretty thin. Maybe a person could think too much. Sandra subsided into hunched misery. She clasped her hands tightly as though by so doing she could get a grip on her thoughts. She stared ahead at the wall. Lynn could see her eyes moving from side to side as though she was trying to read the answer there. She let out her breath gustily. ‘It's a kind of faux loving,' she said at last. ‘It looks like loving but it isn't. If you love that way, then it stops you having to love the real, proper way. Oh, I know what I mean but I can't explain it!' (‘Been there!' thought Lynn.) ‘Have you ever read Browning?' ‘What?' ‘Browning. He's a poet.' ‘Oh. No.' ‘Nobody ever reads poetry any more. Oh, never mind.' She spoke as though to herself. ‘Does that make me the duke then? Substitute "my virginity" for "a nine-hundred old years' name"
and it's pretty damn close. I wonder if his smiles will stop if I cut him out of my life? No. He's indestructible.' This was meaningless to Lynn. ‘Sorry . . . I don't follow.' ‘What? Oh - my fault. I apologise. I'm rambling. It's a poem about someone who marries . . . oh, never mind. It would take too long to explain.' Sandra grew very quiet. The minutes ticked away. Lynn surreptitiously finished her slice of pizza. Finally Sandra raised her head with the air of someone who had made a decision. ‘Well, it's like this,' she said. She stopped. Her eyes sought Lynn's, appealing for her to understand . . . but understand what? Lynn swallowed what she was eating and sat up. ‘Cormac's into sharing. That's what I can't take.' What did she mean? Sandra spoke in riddles. ‘Sharing? Sharing what?' ‘Bodies,' said Sandra in a whisper. Bodies? It sounded like they were members of some group taking part in some secret necrophiliac rite. For a moment Lynn felt totally freaked out. Then she recovered. ‘What do you mean, bodies?' Sandra gave her a variant of the look Lynn herself favoured for those in her classes who were being purposely slow on the uptake. Then she deflated. ‘I mean sex, she said. ‘Cormac's philosophy is - how can I put it kindly? - we're only here once. This world is a pretty shitty place - full of misery. Sex makes you happy. What's the harm, as long as you don't hurt anyone. I didn't find this out until I was well and truly hooked on him.' There was a long pause. Lynn didn't dare say anything. She was too busy trying to process what she had heard. Sandra went on. ‘I was so in love. And I thought he was with me. And so he is, according to his philosophy, I suppose. He had a bad back ' - Lynn remembered, it had been in the Easter holiday - ‘ and he was out of action in bed for about two months. He was anxious that I was missing sex. He - ' Sandra paused, shaking her head and staring at the floor. Then she said, forcing
the words out, ‘He tried to set me up with his friend. It all came out then. He was very open about it. He couldn't understand why I was dumbfounded.' She turned to Lynn. ‘But you can, can't you Lynn? You can understand!' ‘Oh yes,' said Lynn. ‘I can understand.' ‘In a sense you can see his point. And he's very moral. Always takes precautions, never breaks up relationships . . . unless they’re into sharing too. A lot of his friends are. And he gives me total freedom. "Be happy!" he says! But how can I be happy?' said Sandra fiercely. ‘I . . . don't . . . want . . . to . . . share.’ She started crying in earnest then, not making a noise, just sitting there with her face in her hands, letting the tears soak into a handkerchief, blowing her nose, throwing the tissue away, getting another, the tears still pouring down. Lynn thought she had never seen such an eloquent expression of silent grief. She put her arm round Sandra and gradually she felt Sandra lean against her, as though drawing strength from her. Eventually Lynn noticed the tissues were lasting longer, and then finally Sandra sat up. ‘Thanks, Lynn. I don't know what to say. It's the first time I've cried like that.' ‘Don't say anything. I'm glad I was here.' ‘I don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do. He's not really a bastard. And I do love him.' There was nothing Lynn could think of to say. She was wiser now in the value of withholding platitudes. Sandra supplied her own answer. ‘I'll think of something. I don't think he'll change. I think it's me who's got to change - or leave him for good.' She smiled bitterly. ‘Not much of a choice is it? I need time to think.' She smiled again, this time at Lynn. ‘Thanks for listening, Lynn. You're a good listener. You know I can't believe we've really only just met. I feel like I've known you for a long time.' ‘Me too,' said Lynn. It was true. Looking at Sandra now, she could hardly remember the antipathy she'd felt at first. She had seemed so different with her dyed hair and piercings, not at all the sort of person Lynn usually spent her time with. Now she saw her in a new light. An old
saying of her mother's came to mind, ‘Never judge a book by the cover.' ‘I feel better now,' said Sandra. ‘Shall I go and warm the pizza up?' As she was in the kitchen area Lynn heard her opening another bottle of wine. She came back. ‘Let's talk about something else, shall we? I'm sick of men.' The pizza was chewy but still edible. The wine helped it down beautifully. After a while, Lynn said, ‘So how do you know Liam and Maggie?' ‘I was at college with them . . . music.' ‘Oh, do you play?' ‘Piano and organ. And I sing.' ‘Really?' Lynn was intrigued. ‘Yes, I play the organ in church actually. The Church of Christ the Fisher. Wouldn't think it to look at me would you?' ‘Well - no.' They both laughed. ‘But seriously,’ said Lynn. ‘You go to church? What do you think of it?' ‘I only go to play the organ.' A wary look came into Sandra's eyes. ‘Why? You're not a Christian are you?' This took Lynn by surprise. She couldn't help appreciating the irony of it. After a pause, experiencing conflicting emotions in which she was taken aback to find sadness pre-eminent, she said reflectively, ‘No. No, I'm not.' Sandra looked relieved. ‘I didn't think you were. I meet a lot of them at church. I tend to keep my mouth shut. They think I'm a liberal, but really I'm agnostic. How can you know? I think about it of course, but really, how can you ever know, ever be sure? Sometimes I think I'd like to believe, but then I see some of the prats that do and I think, "Oh no! If that's what it does to you, then I don't want to be like that!" ' For some reason this conversation was becoming intolerable to Lynn. She said quickly, ‘Could you play me something on the piano?' ‘Sure, only I'm a bit squiffy. What would you like?'
She hated the bloody thing. Lynn's thoughts kept switching from the pleasure of her time in the flat with Sandra to the unpleasant revelations about Chris/Cormac. How will you get home?' ‘Taxi. Then Sandra played something Lynn knew and she couldn't resist singing along. To her delight Sandra joined in. with some difficulty. this evening had certainly taken her mind off her own troubles! The need to get moving coupled with the coolness of the taxi and the night air made it difficult to concentrate. unable to get back on track for laughing. Sandra was disappointed.' ‘We will! Definitely! I feel so much better. ‘We were having such a nice time.' She focused. Lynn listened entranced.' said Lynn. Lynn approached the 153 . Surprise me. we were!' said Lynn. then some jazz that Lynn couldn't identify. though her head was swimming and she hardly knew what she was doing. She had a vague memory of him helping her to pick up the contents of her purse from the pavement. Lynn came over and stood by the piano and they played and sang.' Sandra did.' ‘We were. A good servant but a poor master. with an effort. it was only useful in emergencies. Well. It was late. frequently ending in a riot of mischords and broken harmonies. Eventually Lynn said. then some Beethoven. contralto. Too late. singing in a rich. Going up the stairway to their flat. How surreal it was to see someone looking like Sandra making such amazingly beautiful sounds. only about how angry Mark would be if she didn't get home as soon as possible. She played a Chopin nocturne. She didn't seem to need music. but a glance at her mobile phone revealed the reason. I don't know. Well. It was very definitely after 10 o'clock. She wondered why he hadn't phoned. ‘We'll have to do it again. Somehow she managed to pay off the cabbie. It must be getting late. on her watch. She said. she wouldn't switch it on now. ‘I've got to go. Lip studs and Chopin just wouldn't go together normally. with one hand on the wall. then some Scott Joplin. drunken. She didn't dare think about the cost. All the way home in the taxi. Very late. She would have to go immediately and she said as much to Sandra.‘Oh.
the contrast between his patient. However.' ‘Well. you wouldn't. The thought of actually getting the key out. As she saw him waiting for her and then coming towards her to grab her.' ‘OK. would you?' They looked at each other and burst out laughing.' Lynn's brow wrinkled. ‘What do you mean?' ‘You passed out on me. Mark said conversationally. you were pretty bloody useless in bed last night. waiting love and Chris's strange perspective welled up within her. she collapsed into his arms. 154 . then. as overcome with lust. ‘I don't remember that bit. The stairs seemed hard enough work as it was. You passed out under me.' ‘I don't remember that bit either. * * * The next day. smiling in spite of himself as the recognition of her sorry state dawned on him.' ‘Oh. ‘Well. over breakfast.door with some anxiety. the problem was solved when the door was opened by Mark.' Lynn was concentrating on buttering a piece of toast without it making too much noise. fitting it in the lock and turning it seemed far beyond her meagre powers. ‘Oh Mark. I do love you!' she cried.
. the vicar. Can I help you?' For a split second she imagined herself saying ‘Sorry. but now she was here she wondered whatever had possessed her to do it. She'd acted on impulse what the hell. St Saviour's Vicarage.' just . I wanted the North London Satanists society. I must have the wrong number. She'd just felt like it . She recognised his voice.Chapter 14 Lynn was pacing up and down the road that St Saviour's church was in.almost wondering if he was a real person outside the Sunday morning service. Lynn had nearly dropped the phone when he had answered. An hour earlier she had rung David. ‘Hello. ‘I'm sorry you have dialled a wrong number. . him. ‘Hello. no engaged tone. No answerphone message. not thinking. not planning what to say if anyone answered the phone.' but instead heard herself say. I'm Lynn Davies. 155 . not caring. no. this is David Mowbray. regretting her phone call and wondering what she should do.
‘Lynn Davies? I remember you. Can I come and talk to you about it?' Oh. In an hour then. You can't miss it . Right. what had she got to lose? Now Lynn was outside the vicarage.' ‘It's the ugly Victorian pile right next to the church. ‘Come in. I don't suppose you happen to be free this morning do you? I was expecting someone but they've had to cancel so I've got some unexpected spare time.' The phone went dead. yes. She waited. In about an hour's time?' ‘Fine.' Ulp! Now? This morning? So easily? Didn't she have to be vetted or something? Surely vicars weren't really so accessible? And how come he didn't sound surprised? That was spooky. See you then. Sometimes she was such a silly cow. Again she thought. Doesn't happen often.' ‘Yes.after all he'd 156 . She wasn't just being open. She'd always prided herself on her openness. she was completely losing it . You know where to come?' ‘I think so. this must be off the top end of the scale of total madness. but something horrible now was happening inside her head. But really. What have I got to lose? She marched up the narrow pathway between funereal overgrown trees and bushes and resolutely rang the bell. Fine.though some people try . come in!' Why Lynn was surprised that David opened the door she couldn't imagine .like old ladies who told you about their bowel movements or what they really thought of you under the impression that they were only thinking when really they were speaking aloud. Lynn stared at it as though it might come to life and tell her what was going on. ‘Er. weren't you? Sure. You were with Polly. bloody hell! If phoning was stupid to start with.' ‘OK.I came to a service at your church last Sunday and I'm beginning to think about God.
It was a study. ‘You haven't met my wife. I met David when he was a student in Bristol. and her face wore an expression that was at once benign and shrewd. Her voice. had a slow west country burr. For the tenth time she was regretting coming. He showed her through a wide entrance hall into a room by the front door. have you?' He crossed to the still open door and yelled through it. I was born in Bath.answered the phone . please' said Lynn. Nice to meet you too. was aware of her own inner caution. He was in a clerical shirt without the collar and his wiry hair was up on end. holding it open for her. you must be Lynn. but Alison didn't really fit the bill. and Lynn shook it. She wore jeans and a baggy sweatshirt which did not disguise her muscular. when she spoke. ‘Hi. no sugar. thought Lynn. quite large. ‘White. ‘Ali! Got a minute?' Footsteps sounded and Alison appeared.' ‘I'll just give Alison a shout’ he said. with two shabby easy chairs by a gas fire which was not on.a church in Bristol called Pip'n'Jays I sometimes went to. Her smile as she spoke was warmly professional. Pleased to meet you. You're not from these parts?' ‘No. Her thick fair hair was styled in an expensive looking cut that probably needed manicuring every two weeks. ‘Tea? Or would you prefer coffee?' ‘Coffee. Lynn was not sure what vicars' wives should look like. We met at church . book-lined. and above it was a landscape in watercolours. and Lynn. smiling back. How original is that?' Not very. At the window was a large desk scattered with papers and a captain's chair pushed back where he had clearly been working as he awaited her arrival. ‘You're no fool. as he clicked the fire on.' She moved forward with her hand outstretched. whatever it was. The mantelpiece contained artifacts of a vaguely seafaring nature with a preponderance of wood and brass showing. Bath! That was useful . sturdy build.but she was. but David was indicating a seat and saying.' she thought. ‘Hi. It looked so fresh and sunny and tranquil that Lynn couldn't help wishing that she was there instead of being where she was.she'd spent a week's holiday at Lisa's 157 .
establishing a few friendly connections? He was just like bloody Tia. talking about God was personal. You couldn't just do it. a few opening preliminaries.' ‘Ah. Jane Austen. ‘Hang on.' ‘Right. A series of useful connected topics were buzzing in her mind. ‘You've come far?' ‘No. I just want to know. both in the study and somewhere else in the house. did I? I mean. I don't believe in him. I live near Camden Town.' Lynn looked at him suspiciously. straight in. what will you do about it?' Hey. ‘I told you. she could tell. Was it tea or coffee by the way?' ‘Coffee please. which was the name of the village where Lisa had lived . I'll just get that. smiling at her puzzlement. Lynn followed suit. Dammit. and the old familiar disappointment came stealing over her. ‘What's it like growing up in a tourist spot?' Before Alison could reply. . you know.' Then. But if you find he is there. Alison was starting to warm to her. She turned her attention back to David.' ‘Sounds quite reasonable to me.once when she was a kid and they'd gone to Bath a couple of times. disconcertingly. What was this? What about a bit of small talk. yes I did. A clear run through on the tube then. hold on a minute. the Roman ruins. . Back in a minute. Lynn felt extremely irritated. How nice it would have been to see that appraising expression melt into friendliness. how nice west country accents were. ‘You said on the phone that you wanted to talk about God?' ‘Oh. What was she doing here? What had she expected to find? This man had 158 . they were interrupted by the phone ringing. I’ve only just sat down! Back off will you? Memories of his unpleasant space invasion at the church door flooded back. like discussing whether Waitrose was better than Sainsburys. Aloud she said. and he gazed back innocently. but I'd just like to know if he's there. Damn! She'd been all ready to talk. whether Alison had ever been to Midsomer Norton.' She disappeared and Lynn was left. He gestured again to an easy chair and sat down himself. All of a sudden she felt very wary of telling David anything.
She stood by Lynn and gestured with the tray. I see. a cafã´tiere of coffee. sure . David reached over and took it from her and shoved it on top of the mantelpiece. and so did she. ‘You play squash?' ‘Yes. She's fitter than I am though. it made me think . When we can. and if there's anything up there. He sat back again. That was reasonable.’ ‘Er.' she ended defensively. ‘Could you . for he leaned forward. despite the weightiness of a solid wall of books behind her. There was a small vase of flowers on the coffee table at the side of her chair and a tube of squash balls on a corner of the desk by the computer screen. ‘About the God stuff.sorry. . and said quite gently. David surveyed it with interest.' Lynn nodded.' Lynn didn't really want to talk about Alison.' Lynn removed the flower vase and looked around for somewhere to put it. I have found myself wondering lately what the point of everything is. gives me a hard time. cream in a jug. suddenly wonder if there is. So does Alison. She said. If there's anything more to life than meets the eye.' He said nothing more. just let the silence rest between them and Lynn was beginning to say. right. only questions. there is usually a reason for it. ‘Your sermon on Sunday. Alison put the tray down. She let her gaze wander round the room.' when Alison's footsteps were heard in the hall and she came in through the half open door with a tray.no answers. finding some ease of spirit in its faded comfortableness. but only partly. It's true. 159 . .' ‘Oh. ‘I'm only asking because when people who perhaps have not been particularly interested in whether there is a God or not. It was daintily laid with a lace tray cloth.?' ‘What? Oh. but it was still too soon to talk about God. She felt partly reassured. though some of them were paperbacks. He seemed to sense her disengagement. sugar and a plate of what looked like homemade biscuits. I suppose most people do at one time or another. It had a light and airy feel. ‘I think they do. She could understand that.
I was going to talk about the fact that when you really look at the heart of things then it's not so easy to define 160 . as though he had been going to say something and then changed his mind.' ‘Hang on a minute . He took his time. Lynn felt somewhat wrong-footed by this. ‘I knew there was a reason why everything fitted on!' She went out and came back a few moments later with two mugs which she had clearly warmed. thought. you wouldn't have got this if I'd been doing it. He continued on another tack. it's not quite so straightforward as that .‘Well. There's . about things not being straightforward. "The greatest enemy of truth is not lies. ‘And that's not the only kind of truth there is. ‘I'm having coffee with the vicar!' and stifled an insane urge to laugh. . Of course. if you know where to look. Lynn took hers. He pushed the plunger down. . before she laughed and said. .' she said. That.' He stopped. She declined a biscuit and sat there feeling the odd sort of contentment that one sometimes gets with hands cupped round a hot drink. the way I see it. poured and handed her a mug.' Lynn closed her eyes the better to recollect. ‘Well. ‘I hate cool coffee. She looked at David. don't you. it's the truth we already know. Well. added cream . the gas fire and the picture were the only things of comfort in the room. I seem to remember . but I can't help thinking that a couple of cups would help. and was gone again before Lynn could think what to say. you were talking . . ‘You were saying?' ‘ .Yes. about truth. There's scientific truth. sitting there benignly in his shirtsleeves. when you get down to the heart of it. .' Lynn looked up just in time to see Alison poke her tongue out at him. there's a lot of truth in this old world of ours.you said. Your sermon." What did you mean?' ‘What did I mean?’ Now it was David’s turn to think. ‘Let's have the coffee now. shall we?' said David. . You said . though obscurely pleased that Alison had forgotten the mugs. just now.what were you going to say?' ‘When? Oh. The rest felt very alien. where according to known laws.how nice! and sipped it. things behave reliably and you can test hypotheses. ‘ . It smelt wonderfully aromatic and it was very hot.
' said Lynn briefly.like Schrodinger’s cat?' ‘Yes. swallowed. ‘Go on. profoundly real. Truth cannot contradict truth .' ‘You mean you don't know what's really happening . Surely the message he was giving her was that when you looked at the heart of things . in art. in literature. ‘Men!' she thought. or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. He put down his mug and sat purposefully upright. You were saying?' David took a biscuit. All sorts. ‘There's spiritual truth too. chewed. That wasn't what she wanted to hear. what then do you do when new truth comes along? How do you make room in your life for the truth you don't yet know?' 161 . He felt the implied rebuke and. like a chunk from another sermon. any more than you can define a Rembrandt in terms of the amount of different coloured paints and type of canvas he used to explain The Night Watch. But if your hands are already full of truth.but it wasn't Sunday. surprisingly. in music . Clearly he was warming to his theme and did not want to be distracted with the mundanities of eating and drinking. in science. She didn't want to be sidetracked. in life itself. You're a scientist?' ‘Biology. . and she had asked.reality . This sounded little bit glib. Some people have a lot of it. well.the very heart . . ‘Yes. There's a lot of it about. All these truths mesh in at a deep level. and washed it down with a great draught of coffee that surely must have been much too hot. And their truth is real. looking at her carefully to monitor whether or not he was boring her. sorry.' said Lynn pointedly. The point is this .but you can't use the same yardstick for measuring them all. This homely diversion brought Lynn the relief she needed.there was nothing really there. But what choice had she? She was here now. wherever you look. She half expected him to wipe the back of his mouth with his hand.' he paused and said simply. make no mistake about it. inserted it whole into his mouth. secretly entertained.' ‘I believe I've heard that argument before. ‘Truth is more common than we think. All very well on Sundays . flushed. She took a mouthful of coffee. and also. she felt a sudden chill within.but that's true in other fields as well.
dragonflies draw flame" . . Selves. Then it goes on to talk about us. It's a favourite poem of mine. then again. It was indeed lovely. Her enquiring mind and the outgoing curiosity of which she had always been secretly proud suddenly seemed now somehow now to be tunnel vision.' David rested back against his chair.' He took the frame from her and read. mercifully saying nothing. marvelling at its delicate beauty. . Lynn looking around. ‘What fascinating words. she saw her life as small and contained. in green and gold and blue and vermillion. unconsciously mirroring David. . enclosed. She felt challenged. slowly. the beguiling incomprehensibility of the words. beautifully written in calligraphy and illuminated with gold leaf. to be what they really are inside.This simple question hit Lynn between the eyes and then opened a door inside her head.the essential truth of the nature of things. took it down and handed it to her.' David reached up. animals." ' She read it aloud. 162 . have to be true to themselves. Goes itself . . ‘That's lovely.' she said. decorated around the edge with tiny birds and animals. caught sight of a framed piece of writing on the wall to one side of the mantelpiece. " Each mortal thing does one thing and the same. what is it?' ’My son Josh did it. What do they mean?' ‘I suppose it's what we were talking about . To give herself time to think. rebuked. Deals out that being indoors each one dwells. eager to examine it more closely. she caught a glimpse of something but it was gone before she could see what it was. The way that in order to be true to ourselves. She looked at it. It was a poem. silently. Through it. In an instant. How do you make room in your life for the truth you don't yet know? There was so much truth. confined. we have to be like Christ. the ones which reinforced the truths she already knew. ‘I'll think about that. . ‘ "As kingfishers catch fire. . No fakes. She was winded. good point. She did not know what to say. to be truly what we were meant to be. Josh had done it? That loutish lad she had last seen playing a bass guitar with a marked lack of co-ordination. selecting only the truths she wanted to hear. She took it. well. There was too much truth. ‘Yes. They were made that way. encouraged. all in one go. One never could tell . Birds. She still didn't understand it.
killed it dead with his stupid words. What was he talking about now? How did he get there? She hadn't read that bit. I'm not feeling myself these days. Things are getting to me for no reason. She was a million miles from nowhere in a barren wasteland in the dark. listening to him talking another language suddenly came over her. ‘I've said something to upset you. Besides it would look very odd just to walk out just like that. too much probably. I'm thinking a lot . .‘"For Christ plays in ten thousand places. .just behind . The door slammed shut in her face.just beyond. I overreacted. ‘I'm sorry. Lynn had to get out. She sat down again and smiled wanly. This is what depression is like. He had meant well.' ‘What. to the Father through the features of men's faces" ' Lynn listened in growing dismay. He was going too fast. right this minute?' David looked suddenly alarmed. coupled with a disgust at her own lack of control. what it was that he had said. of sitting here. desperately replaying the last few moments of conversation in his head. And now he was dragging God into it. Just when she was getting so close! She could have wept with frustration. there had been such a sense of getting nearer to something really important. and lovely in eyes not his. She put down her mug and stood up abruptly. the pointlessness of the whole world. . A weary pity overtook her.' Lynn could see him in his mind. She could feel herself sinking fathoms further down into it. Now. done nothing wrong. Oh! A terrible sense of the pointlessness of this conversation with David. As she had been reading it. into those beautiful words and completely ruining them. she couldn't follow him. This Is Depression. I've got to go. . I don't know . And now it was gone. lovely in limbs. extrapolated itself into the pointlessness of all conversations with him. trying to work out what had gone wrong. spoiling it all. The darkness felt overwhelming. something glowing with wonder . all conversations with anybody anywhere. He'd taken the poem from her. I'm sorry. The thought suddenly occurred to her. in this claustrophobic room. ‘I'm the one that should be sorry.' 163 .
' ‘You and Alison! What for?' ‘Ali is a trained counsellor and I've a bit of training myself. There's no meaning. He said nothing. I don’t know anything about you but I can't help feeling that you are hurting a bit inside too . It's all a waste of time. ‘It was the poem. not intellectual ones . . . . And I felt sort of spooked. I didn't understand what you meant. and maybe we could listen to you . it got to me. oh. ‘I wonder if you'd like to come round sometime and talk to myself and Alison . .' Lynn at last found her voice. hasn't it?' Lynn looked at David almost fearfully. yet wanting to be as honest as she could. hating him for making her say it. ‘That poem. Instead he said.' ‘Oh yes.' A bit! thought Lynn. when it said about kingfishers. Alison! She'd rather die! She suddenly realised that she did not like Alison at all. It was very odd. Life's got to have a meaning. ‘Lynn. ‘Nope. ‘And what you said. Rubbish. ' Lynn could feel herself losing it again. It didn't seem to match the poem. He continued. He could not be serious. but she owed him something. It was as though . you are thinking about big things at the moment.She watched David's look of anxiety become replaced by a look of calculating concern. She braced herself for the God bit.' she added.' she said reluctantly. . half afraid he might contradict her and say. ‘. and things. sometimes.in fact she was a cow. just watched her intently. very often in fact. . And it has. It seemed the hardest thing in the world to do when all she wanted to do was go. as though . . but it didn't come. waiting for her to continue. as though life might have a meaning after all. hating herself for saying it. I caught a glimpse of things behind things.' He said it so confidently that Lynn found herself wincing inside.that there's more in this than meets the eye. I don't know "going themselves" or something. . not believing in God is about emotional issues. did not trust her . ‘But why Alison? What's she got to do with it? You're 164 . Life's got to have a meaning.
I recognise that as a genuine offer.' This was said with the barest possible twitch of his lips. It was definitely time to go now. But I don't think it would be helpful at the moment. nevertheless. He said. I don't counsel for a living. actually. Despite herself. Even though. people are always ready to make something out of nothing. And unfortunately in my job. ‘Thank you David. and knowing how busy you and Alison are (playing squash!) it's a generous one too. There was no way in the world she would trust herself to these amateurs. ‘You mean you need a minder in case I make a pass at you?' She thought of adding ‘Don't flatter yourself!' but thought better of it. And I have to acknowledge my own fallibility. she couldn't help being flattered at the compliment and disarmed by his admission of his own humanity.' He looked at her carefully. Wow. David's face remained expressionless. Like Polly. straight-faced. she couldn't quite believe it. God. yes. it is something that I have to take into account. it's surprising what kinds of things come up. He was a very shrewd and wily person even though he was very nice and she had no desire to tangle with him at all. give her Tia every time. I'm a vicar. Oh really! What hard work everything was! What bloody hard work! And made worse by people like him. if there was a god. for example. they were probably quite good for some people. in their way. and Lynn became aware of what he was saying. or did she detect the hint of a look of caution in his eyes when she said that? But he answered evenly enough. You are a very attractive woman. ‘Remembering what I see in the mirror in the mornings. I do realise how remote that possibility is. Lynn said slowly and formally. Thanks. but. still less his ball-breaking wife. even though. and two people can be a lot better at listening than one .the one I've come to see!' Was it imagination. and Lynn realised with a start that he was a lot more aware of what was happening in this situation than she thought he was. must be laughing his head off. Maybe I'll come back to you again when I've done a lot more thinking (And maybe I won't! she thought) but I'll leave it for the 165 . People can become quite vulnerable. to give herself time to think. but no thanks. well. ‘When people talk deeply about emotional issues.
he liked her. And against the odds. it was lovely. If you don't see me in church on Sunday. if you don't mind. ‘Thanks' he said. 166 .' What a quaint old-fashioned phrase! He liked her.' At the door. meaning it. I don't mind.present. How funny life was! She smiled back and said ‘No. she still liked him.' She extended her hand. ‘I'm still doing a lot of thinking. I'll see you out. it doesn't mean I'm never coming back again. looking uncertain. You're a deep thinking person. 'And thank Alison for the coffee. David had no choice but to take it. and vanished. and I think you'll make it. he paused. Lynn could tell. ‘I don't suppose you'd like me to say a prayer for you now to the God you're not sure you believe in?' ‘No bloody thanks!' said Lynn. He said. And I'll think about what you said.' She added on impulse. You won't mind if I remember you in prayer sometimes?' ‘Remember you in prayer. In spite of the hard time she'd given him.' Lynn said.' David's smile broadened. ‘Thanks for your time. ‘It's nice to know I haven't blown it completely. ‘I’m glad you came Lynn.' David let go of her hand and smiled.
just wanted to hide away somewhere and lick her wounds.or whatever . I'm going to phone Polly now and tell her. and then Polly's anguished voice. didn't want to talk god-talk. ‘Right! Knock it on the head then!' ‘I will. If she asked her for a reason . dammit! That was settled. finally asked.? It was creepy. so that he didn't feel bad. tell her. Lynn felt that she hated the idolised Lauren in advance. ‘Here we go again.' There she went again. who inspired so much devotion. ‘You're not so bloody marvellous. Mark. You 167 .' said Polly wistfully.' she answered slowly. There was the silence of consternation on the other end. From what Polly said about Lauren.well. but Lauren's going to be there! I wanted you to meet her!' Lauren. I just did. was quiet. She remembered how David had lost interest in her at the door of the church. that's all. She'd talked about going to church to please him. when she got home. Lynn was sure it wasn't allowed in a Christian church. A fantastic person. ‘How's Lauren?' What was this paragon like. were extremely mixed. and after all. Why on earth had she said that at the end! He was just trying to be nice. calling over her shoulder. She didn't want to go to church. about tomorrow. but quite honestly now. Against her will. His reaction was predictable. Lynn felt that she wanted to meet her. she felt like she'd had enough. she seemed almost to have the status of divinity in Polly's mind. tell her no. give her psyche . ‘Lauren's a fantastic person. But he couldn't have minded too much.' She did. He kept glancing at her. as she left the vicarage.time to recover. ‘Why do you want me to meet Lauren?' ‘Oh. She'd phone Polly. Lynn wanted to know more. otherwise he wouldn't have laughed.Chapter 15 Lynn's thoughts. she'd tell her. that bloody god-stuff! Haven't you had enough yet?' ‘I rather think I have. ‘Oh. it was his job. ‘Where'd you go then?' She told him.
don't have to be a Christian to be fantastic. but when she got there she'd say that Mark was ill and she had to go back. Gandhi. all the people she'd known in the past who'd been kind to her. her mother.a dumb woman communicating with a deaf man. his eyes bewildered. ‘You've sorted it then.she smiled at the memories .that therapist. ‘Sure. enable him to understand. give me more time.' ‘Oh Lynn! What's going on? Oh for goodness sake! I thought the miscarriage was bad enough. I'll come. she was on the tube and there was no signal on her mobile. then that . How easily Polly was pleased! She said goodbye and rang off.' ‘Well. Anyway. Lynn. just as Mark came in. Lynn. Lynn wished someone would tell her what was going on too.even Sandra. she'd be on her way to church herself now. her Auntie Gwen .' He hugged her and let her go. now this church crap. not crap . ‘It's the last time.' She longed for the words that would reach him. ‘Oh please. I thought I'd give it one more try. 168 . trying to convey her love for him. All through the tube journey next morning Lynn kept asking herself why she was doing it. holding him tightly. able to invoke such delight by her simple consenting to be there. Sandra was a good person. She really liked Sandra. She couldn't tell Polly.church stuff. Lynn felt as though she. It was the best way.' ‘You will? Oh that's wonderful!' Polly's naive joy was transparent. Just someone I wanted to meet. It felt intolerable. Hey. His expression was unreadable. Trust me. I really thought after last Wednesday that I'd got you back. actually. was pretty divine herself. She couldn't do this to him. I'm sorry. Lauren? Huh! But still Lynn couldn't help wondering what Lauren was actually like. The memory of Mark's face continuously alternated with Polly's. Lynn ran after him and threw her arms round him. Human curiosity. his face expressionless. oh please. And I thought. just turned away. How wrong I was! Will somebody just tell me what's going on!' He shook his head slowly.' He made no reply. She couldn't stay. When she was nearly there she made a decision.' There were plenty of amazing people around. she supposed. but nothing came. ‘OK. Maybe she'd go just once more. She was mute . Mrs Pankhurst.
Lauren thinks . Lauren says . and now she'd done it. not this dowdy person. ‘And I'm Lauren. Lynn was reminded of a sparrow being mobbed by a flock of budgies. but what could you expect from Polly? Silly of her to fall for it. Then she saw Polly waiting for her outside the church. a bit like Tia. Lauren looked different close to. of course Lynn. . for feeling it. She repeated the lines. Oh well. put him first. I just came over to say hello. unlined forehead. she had imagined someone. But at least she'd met Sandra.' said Lynn. ‘Yes. Lauren wore the sort of earrings Della wore. Fantastic? She'd reserve judgment. from what Lynn could see. She shuddered. well. .' said a voice behind her. in the middle of a very lively crowd of what looked like year sevens . very short. She was standing. but you can say hello to Lauren before you go! There she is!' Lynn turned. and foolish too. very. . ‘Oh.just couldn't. a force to be reckoned with. ‘Oh. She turned her attention back to Polly.' But Lauren didn't seem to be saying anything. ‘Well. For some reason. That couldn't be bad. and her eyes 169 . rallied and said. Someone with some presence anyway. barely visible. she'd only wanted to meet her to satisfy her curiosity. but the day of reckoning was looming there. Lauren? How did she get here? Her eyes connected with the top of Lauren's head and travelled down.' And then she caught sight of something over Lynn's shoulder and her face brightened. In the absence of any physical description of Lauren whatsoever. All the way to St Saviour's she was rehearsing her lines. . Disappointing really. The tube stopped and Lynn got out. She felt an unaccountable pang of anti-climax. wide. Polly wilted. Her dark hair was cut short. It made you want to stroke it. and stuck up like fur. Polly pointed . ‘nondescript’ was the word that came to mind. who she'd managed to avoid in the last couple of days at school. ‘You must be Lynn. Lynn thought of Polly's not infrequent references to her. She had a high. I understand.' Lynn swung round again with a start. this made her think of Chris. She had to make some choices. How did she get into these messes? She hadn't got a clue what to say. Really. Lauren was dressed in brown with very short dark brown hair.
' but it wasn't exactly true. ‘Definitely. Lynn barely had time to register this before Lauren smiled. It was impossible not to. in fact. She temporised with. It's always better to form your own opinions. She was going to say. which might be nothing to do with Lauren and everything to do with Lynn. her eyes crinkled and smiling.' she said. If Lynn had been able to see only Lauren's eyes. Lauren's face changed completely. but about Lynn. what fun to meet you! You look like the sort of person that I really like!' Lynn felt thoroughly approved of. and her eyes that seemed to look into Lynn's very soul. you came with Polly?' 170 . teasing smile that lit up her whole face. she would have known exactly what Lauren's smile was like. ‘I'm Lynn. Had she imagined then. don't you think?' ‘Oh yes. it seemed a genuine question – not to do with the qualities that she. Her eyebrows were straight at the top and then dived down sharply at the outer corners. of course. But for Lauren. had that might make make her attractive to people .' ‘Have you? I wonder why?' said Lauren.' ‘So. ‘People round here seem to think very highly of you.' she said. It was as though a billboard had switched pictures while Lynn had blinked. not least because Lynn hardly knew herself. There was something about Lauren that rang true. ‘I've been looking forward to meeting you. they gave her features an expressive melancholy. ‘I've wanted to meet you. became two tiny. But one thing stood out. as though Lauren knew how Lynn had felt about her. Almost. still smiling. said. mirror images of a curvy. ‘Yes.were the deepest. brightest brown Lynn had ever seen. and the reasons Lynn might have for wanting to meet her.' she paused. Lauren. more for something to say than anything else. And it was for her.' Lauren laughed. Lauren's smile.' said Lynn. that look of sadness? She must have. ‘Hmm. I've . Nevertheless. Lynn found herself smiling back all over her face.. ‘Oh. Yes indeed. Enhanced by the droop of her eyelids. In another woman it would have been a cue for something complimentary to be said. Lynn replied conventionally. But that was impossible.
What a co-incidence – I do just the same! I love looking at people. His face spoke for him.' Lynn said honestly. He pocketed the coin and marched off proudly. Lauren?' he cried in a tone of anguish. they are so interesting. Would you mind terribly looking out for them for me and telling me about them when you come back? And maybe' . 'Is it true you can't come to the zoo with us next week?' Lauren smiled down at him.'No. 'is it true. all sunshine now. Lauren!' he said.' It was odd to hear Polly called by the name that Lynn had only ever heard herself use. I'm very sorry. And sometimes I .she dug in her pocket and produced a pound coin – 'you could buy me a postcard of one if you can find it. distracted. Pol.' 'Was it far?' Lynn told her.had run over and was tugging Lauren's sleeve. would you mind doing that for me? I'd be so pleased. Must have taken a while.' 'Of course I will. 'or – counting things.' said Lauren. Wombats are my preferred marsupial. I tell you what. She'd met Lauren now and she needed to get back. 'Actually. How do you pass the time on the tube?' 'By looking at other people.' Lynn wanted to make that clear straight away. Lauren turned back to Lynn. Tim. 'Where were we?' Lynn made a disclaiming gesture.. Were you looking forward to me coming?' He said nothing. I think they are wonderful. 171 . I'm afraid it is.' She stopped. 'Would you do something for me? I really wanted to see the kangaroos. 'On the tube.' Even as she said it she wished she'd said 'Reading'. One of the budgies – quite a small one . 'My goodness – that's quite a way. 'Yes. no. 'Do you really like kangaroos?' asked Polly. But I thought it might be easier to find a postcard of a kangaroo. who was standing by.
Lauren looked at her keenly for a moment then turned her attention to Polly who was now talking to her again.' Whatever Lauren meant by sorry. Are you leading it again? I loved that reading you used last time – and you read it so well. The service was starting. Lynn felt oddly alone and excluded. She said as much to Polly. It didn't feel at all nice. and something else that she couldn't quite identify. thanks. Resolutely. Lauren. Lauren looked at her inquiringly.' Polly flushed beetroot and beamed.Let Polly take over. it sounded genuine anyway. It would make her departure less obvious. felt both fascinated and repelled. Pol. reflecting on the encounter.' Watching them enter the church together. Lauren and Polly turned away.' Lynn. Sure. ‘I'm sorry. At home. ‘You're not staying for the service then?' Lynn explained. leading the prayer meeting.' ‘Oh . watching with interest. and Lynn felt a glow of virtue from having made the decision to come home before she'd seen her. Whatever next! And Lauren seemed to think quite highly of her too. people were going in. Lynn tried to identify the mystery emotion she'd felt at seeing Lauren and Polly talking. she had seen Lauren. It seemed like a sort 172 . When he learned that she'd come back early for him. and the most she could permit herself to acknowledge was that it was something not a thousand miles away from a wistful envy. ‘Will you be at the prayer meeting on Wednesday?' ‘I hope so. They all thought the others were wonderful . No point in telling him that. she headed back to the tube. Perhaps that was how these Christians got their kicks. And as a bonus. and then she wished she hadn't. During the ride home. she had to go. It was strange to hear of Polly in such an unfamiliar role. ‘See you tomorrow.yeah. ‘Oh. Mark was surprised to see her back so early. they could hear the music group sounding more melodious. his smile of delighted surprise was ample repayment for any inconvenience incurred.a real mutual admiration society! Hey. Lynn.
shower? And were you meant to keep the water running? It all had got a bit slippery. Sometimes she thought they were too boring and predictable. Presently they lay back again. what a devious person she was! There was no honesty in her. it would completely freak him out. ‘I think I might try to read up a bit about this psychology stuff. 173 . She loved that look. And now she had so many. at least today she'd made up for yesterday. unable to interpret the sigh.well . or even what she had said to her in the sessions. Perhaps all people did in the shower was . Lynn and Mark were talking after half an hour of home entertainment. hands behind his head.' ‘Probably a good idea. ‘I really know so little about it. And maybe now she'd just said that to prepare him for finding the place knee-deep in stuff about psychology. But now and then it was nice to stick with the tried and true. rolled over. It had been quite fun really. It had the effect he desired. She sighed. Mark said. Later that day in bed. She remembered that time so long ago in the shower. He was lying on his back. Those two sentences had been all she could bring herself to say about the subject. Lynn summoned her reserves of energy. laughed and started kissing him back. and in comfort. Then there was that time they'd tried it in the kitchen. A bit of background reading never hurts.' Lynn began cautiously. as though they'd been married for twenty years instead of two. ‘You want some coffee?' ‘Mmm.of reward. pulled her towards him and started nuzzling her neck. She and Mark had never had secrets before. nice. had it hurt her back! Anyway. but wanting to make it all right.' Mark agreed expansively. Mark. Lynn reflected.' said Lynn. Oh.' Lynn looked at him sorrowfully. and it wasn't really helped by Mark being so much taller than she was. She could never tell him what was going on in her head about Tia. contemplating the ceiling. and wow. Mark was looking very pleased with himself. It hadn't really been successful. It had felt rather odd to have dinner at the table so soon afterwards.‘ Help you get the most out of it. somehow.
or would be if she had the time. ‘Oh sod off!' said Lynn exasperated. All these dreams about weeing and eating and stuff. Mark picked up another one. Statistical Methods in Psychology. The book was quite easy to read. He picked one up at random and opened it. Her respect for Tia increased exponentially.Mark got blithely up and went out. * * * The next evening. entitled ‘Calculating coefficients of correlation'. Wasn't he the one who was always banging on about sex?' He started to thumb through it. She should really have looked at it in the library. of course.' She snatched it from him and looked at the page. A sentence caught her eye 'Differences of this kind also apply to the weakening of a mode of imagination that originally was 174 . She put the book to one side. Mark. but it seemed a bit weird. loaded with incomprehensibility. looked interested. wasn't he? So .' he read with interest. was there any sex? Just curious. it explained the huge inequality between her coursework marks and her exam results. Tia had never mentioned sex. he put it back on the table and swaggered off. Lynn said ‘Right!' and dumped a pile of books on the table. She could hear him whistling in the kitchen. then another about chi-squares. 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. 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. Bloody hell! The book was all like that. Too late. She looked at another page. . ‘What's a t-test then?' ‘Give me that back!' said Lynn. Even the sight of his back was irritating. ‘Freud. after dinner had been cleared away. ‘How should I know? I only got it today. ambling by. Surely Tia was into Freud? He was the one that started it all off after all. 'The Interpretation of Dreams. To those in the know. Lynn picked up the Freud book herself. Grinning. . But then Tia never mentioned anything very much. It even felt heavier than it should.
He came up quietly behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. Mark found her in the kitchen wrestling with what he took to be a large. When he returned home from work. . fumbling in his briefcase. What else can you expect if you skim read? she thought. But if she did she'd make sure she never dreamed any of the stuff he talked about . Did all men regard puns as the acme of humour. Nicole was away.strongly visual. Either Tia was very clever. She never dreamed anyway. Separation and Loss. ‘I've got something for you. wondered Lynn. Luckily she had heard him come in or he would have sent her through the roof. Psychology as the Behaviourist Views It and The Philosophy of Psychology met with a similar fate to The Interpretation of Dreams. 175 .' and ‘get a move on’ at home? Nevertheless she gave a reluctant smile to show she appreciated his humour.' Lynn read the paragraph it was in three times but it made no difference. not for the first time. pale orange lightbulb. which Lynn put on the toaster without comment. knife in hand. Lynn puzzled over the conundrum that Tia was a clinical psychologist.' muttered Lynn grimly. still intent on penetrating its bulbous mysteries. Did Jeremy Paxman? Or did he only ever say. All next day. He gave her a bag. but not enough to encourage him to continue. don't take the pith out of me!' he squealed in mock alarm as she turned on him threateningly. she couldn't have cared less if they'd told her how to win the lottery. 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. or Lynn was very dense. Probably both. By the time Lynn got to the last three books entitled Attachment. ‘You're kidding! ''Butter nuts squash'' . ‘Ye-up. But she had no time to do very much else.sounds painful! Hey. Half a night and half a day of thinking (she had to make some effort to teach . she noted with some anxiety) had brought her close to desperation and she threw herself into cooking the dinner to occupy herself. Principles of Topological Psychology.' Mark said quickly. . She went to bed.though quite how she'd do that she wasn't exactly certain. ‘What's that?' ‘Butternut squash.
As she was sinking under the weight of this. The reality was that though somehow she felt more able to leave the miscarriage behind. The reality was that her relationship with Della now felt decidedly unsafe after Della's confession in the cafe.' Lynn grew quieter as she recognised more and more old friends. 176 . The reality was that she didn't know what the hell to do about Chris or even Nicole. But it was still her job to sort it. the phone rang.why. Inside was a book called Introducing Psychology. ‘I can understand this. It had lots of pictures inside. The reality was that she felt jealous of Polly for knowing Lauren and that felt really wrong. though Nicole was probably nothing serious . Yes. The reality was that she felt confused and ambivalent about her relationship with Tia. listening. 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 . Mark smiled smugly. Lynn read the book. now in the study.' she said with surprise. she hoped. ‘So it was Milgram who was the electric shock man. I'd always thought it was an odd name. she didn't know. the question suddenly flashed through her mind.' ‘The Bobo doll man isn't called Bandanna after all. Reality suddenly kicked in hard. .' 'Skinner and Pavlov are important in psychology too. Lynn looked at them. I read about that. The reality was . her relationship with Mark was still pretty unsatisfactory and she didn't know what to do about it. So this was psychology. ‘Yes.oh shut up! But with all these realities kicking in. 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. she wasn't so stupid after all! And it talked about therapy too. ever. and then no more. After dinner. things were looking up. . keeping up a running commentary to Mark. and where Tia fitted in. Mark. and therefore with other women. but what do I do with it?' And she didn't know.‘Aren't you going to open it then?' She did so. a little bit. And the reality was that she only had three more sessions with Tia. as Lynn finished the book and set it down with a sigh of satisfaction. Towards the end of the evening. Mark. I guess that makes sense. She knew more than she thought she did. it made feeling happy about reading a poxy little book on psychology look pretty bloody stupid.
' ‘Oh.' ‘Afternoon? About three? It's 23. ‘It's for you. I hope it's not too late to phone.) ‘Well.' he mouthed back. I got your phone number from Polly.' ‘I . As she dragged herself to the bathroom to take her makeup off. Trying to keep the astonishment out of her voice she said. Lynn felt her equilibrium return.' Lauren laughed. ‘Don't know. Well-spoken. As she hung up the receiver. ‘Good. I still manage to arrive late though.some time?' Lynn nearly dropped the phone.answered it. ‘I'll look forward to it too. ‘Hello. said. ‘Who is it?' she mouthed. I don't know many people at St Saviour's. It's nice of you to ask. Lauren's call had come at just the right moment. Bye. no. Let me give you my phone number in case you need it. The road right by St Saviour's. I'll look forward to it. won't you?’ said Lauren.' As she took the number.' The phone went dead. ‘No. ‘A woman. It was much more tiring than the other way round. ‘That sounds fine. I was just phoning to ask if you'd like to come round for a coffee . good.or tea .' ‘Bye. She began to feel happy again. Very handy for church.' Hoping against hope it was Sandra inviting her round. Fine. ‘I was wondering how you are fixed for next Saturday. Lynn laughed too. How nice it would be to go round to Lauren's and talk to her. Lime Avenue.I think I could manage that. ‘That would be very nice. As if she cared how many she knew.' she said formally. after Saturday you'll know one more. covering the mouthpiece. Lynn suddenly felt the need to sit down. Don't know the voice.' Lynn went to answer it.' (What a hypocrite she was. It was this sudden switching from despair to hope that did it.' said Lauren again. but instead a voice she didn't recognise said.' It was the last person Lynn expected to hear. ‘Thanks again. hearing 177 . Lynn took the receiver. She was never going back. In fact she felt rescued.' ‘Wait! I'll get a pen. this is Lauren.
I must admit.' ‘I think it's a great idea! Do you good! You've been working hard lately. What would he say? Oh blow! And it had all been going so well between them.' ‘Oh Lynn. You won't get this chance again. but. Lynn said softly. go off enjoying myself leaving you feeling miserable. almost a sense of gratitude.' Lynn stayed awake for quite a while. Mark?' She felt hesitation run along his body and wondered with some trepidation what was coming next. Goodnight.’ ‘Well. yes. well. ‘Have you had any thoughts about what we might do at the weekend. and it would be nice for us to do something together.I mean. you go. It would mean leaving you early on Saturday and probably not getting back until late Sunday afternoon.' ‘Yes . she could not help feeling relief. I did want to go. you're wonderful! Thanks! Thanks for being so understanding. And she'd always thought of herself as the caring one in the relationship. Mark. It had seemed a straightforward enough question. ‘I was picking the right moment.' ‘Goodnight. He said carefully.' (For what?) ‘I know you've been low lately. and I've not been much company. Say if you'd rather not.again Lauren's voice in her head. and as he turned the light out and settled down beside her. I'll be fine. and I'll be glad to think of you up there in Newcastle. but I don't want to leave you on your own. that’s settled then! You’ll enjoy it. She was already in bed when Mark came through. she suddenly thought of Mark. 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. You go. listening to Mark's rhythmic breathing. Was there no end to this voyage of self-discovery through her own self-centredness? 'No Mark. I have been working hard. for the 178 . honestly. Chica. I mean it. Despite hating herself for her hypocrisy. I've got a few things to do. I'm not such a selfish bastard as that!' Ouch! She was touched by his caring.
She thought of Lauren asking her round for tea and fell asleep. Now she wouldn't have to tell him.way things had turned out. 179 .
. chaos really. . more for something to say than anything else. . or perhaps the hall was very long. ‘There seems a lot of it. The gate creaked and the lawn was full of daisies encroaching untidily onto the path. . It was littered with piles of sports clothing of a masculine nature. She had made the invitation so definitely. feeling nervous. and drew Lynn in. picking her way between the piles. And leaving it in the hall . . not even what she was like as a person. took her by surprise. which looked and smelt as though it had recently been in close contact with damp earth. why not. It occurred to her that she actually knew nothing about Lauren at all. or out? Had she forgotten? No. except for her pale face. And it smelt.well . she could hear it. . the hall looked bigger and darker. Well. Lauren would have remembered. but this . The wooden door was studded with bolts and had a diamond-leaded pane in the middle. Lynn was sure. Was Lauren in the garden . Relieved. Lynn heard the door begin to open. But Lauren. Lynn rang the bell and waited. Once inside. she could not say. Lynn smiled back and entered the house. but her face creased delightedly and she threw the door open. . small and neat and dark. ‘I offered to do the second team's as well. reached forward. Was it working? Yes. . and Lauren herself was standing there.Chapter 16 Lauren's house was a surprisingly ordinary-looking semi in a tree-lined avenue. seemed quite unconcerned. It was also surprisingly untidy.' Somehow Lynn had not expected this. . ‘My son's in the junior team at school.although I 180 . Nothing happened. in the shady hall. Why. It's my week to wash the strip. Could she have been called away unexpectedly? Suppose she wasn't in? Before she had time to really start worrying. . When she saw Lynn she said nothing. Lynn had formed an impression of Lauren that was somehow to do with discipline and wisdom and inner control. So Lauren had children. Lauren saw Lynn looking and explained. After a minute she rang the bell again. It was probably unwise of me . She moved more slowly than Lynn remembered . in piles? There seemed masses of it. but no one had ever said anything.' ventured Lynn.
Almost the whole length of the furthest wall was occupied with a window looking onto the garden and there was another smaller window to the left of it on the wall adjacent. I get them now and then. The effect was slightly odd. but Lynn. ‘Is this all right? It's my favourite room. She sounded confident. Lynn wondered what sort of work she did. she didn't look very well. together with nameless sprouty things hanging limply out of jam jars. and Lynn felt reassured. could see why. better 181 . She hadn't heard it the first time because she'd been working and listening to music. It was a large room. In fact. ‘Are you all right. there were flowers and shapeless painted lumps of clay. over the sink. but she did want to talk to Lauren. Behind it was a chair against the wall. but it will go. On the larger windowsill. saw that her face had a bruised look. with dark smudges of fatigue under her eyes. with a start. but pleasing. So that was why she had taken so long to answer the bell. The chairs had thin padded cushions and on the one nearest the Aga (How Joanna Trollope! thought Lynn) an immense and battered-looking tabby was wheezily snoring. Lynn registered the fact that Lauren had been waiting for her to stop looking around. There was a lot more pine.didn't expect them to dump it in the hall.' said Lauren. ‘It's a headache.' She waved her hand as though to wave it away. Lynn said with concern. and it let a lot of light in. ‘It's lovely to see you. You couldn't ignore the dust in this room. looking at her properly for the first time in the pale brightness of the kitchen. It seemed to have only one ear. looking round. Still. Lauren? Is this a good time to call?' ‘I'm fine.' Lauren said this with total unconcern.' Lynn. where Lauren had evidently been sitting. At one end of the kitchen table there was a laptop and a stack of books and papers with a personal CD player on top. There was no mistaking the warmth of her greeting.' Lauren’s voice brought her back. so Lynn mentally shrugged her shoulders and followed Lauren through a stripped pine door into a room which turned out to be the kitchen. She didn't want to intrude. shabby. We have a perfectly good utility room. One paw was dangling over the edge and it looked as though the rest of it might follow any second. but good quality. thought Lynn. On each side of the Aga were shelves with an assorted mugs cups hanging and cupboards below cluttered with odds and ends. I've taken something for it.
‘I'm so pleased you could come. and she knew how bad they could be. A rhythmic throaty rumble briefly replaced the asthmatic wheezing and it stretched and flexed the dangling paw 182 .' Again. He thinks he's being clever because 'gato' is Spanish for cat.Lauren was already looking better. she sounded as if she meant it. 'What's your cat's name?' she asked. Even the white bits on the furry balloon draped over the chair looked clean. ‘Tea please.check it out. ‘What would you like to drink? Tea? Coffee? A cold drink?' Not a migraine. ET?' Lauren leaned over the cat as she spoke. but Mark was allergic to them.' 'And does he answer to any of these names?' 'Hard to say. Lynn loved cats. just a headache. all rather abusive. Lynn had a lot of sympathy for migraine sufferers. she didn't want Lauren to suffer pain.' ‘That's how I drink it. and Dom calls him "Megalino Maxissimo" or "El Fatto the Gato". ‘It's not a migraine is it?' she asked. Alec calls him "Bulb".' ‘Earl Grey or ordinary?' ‘Earl Grey please.' said Lauren. with bone china mugs. Isn't that right. With milk. ‘No. because he wanted a dog instead. It didn't stir. And you?' 'I call him "ET" ' 'Extra Terrestrial?' 'Equilateral Triangle.' She smiled. Migraines totally incapacitated people so they couldn't talk to you.' said Lauren. She gave it a careful stroke. You'd understand if you saw him sitting up. Lynn felt relieved. Jamie calls him "Blob". Andrew calls him a lot of different names. and besides. her mother had had them. and not too bad either . He sleeps day and night. The tea was served in a fat teapot with flowers on. The only thing he really responds to is the sound of a tin opening.' 'I see. 'It depends who's talking to him. ‘it's not a migraine. Everything was spotlessly clean. Lynn knew about migraines.
' said Lauren. looking at Lauren who was sitting facing her across the table and regarding her with that slight. No hidden agendas.' As if in response. Mutual . was a very animated talker. It almost seemed a pity to speak. No. The very silence. At first Lauren was slow and thoughtful. Lynn resisted the impulse to try to shove it further back on the chair. Lynn learnt quite quickly that Lauren's boys were sixteen. ‘you teach at Polly's school?' Polly's school. ‘Yes. Oh it was nice to share. as though she brought her whole self to the encounter. felt rested at last. Lynn felt that she could think good thoughts in that silence. Italian food and going to the theatre and that neither of them liked cruelty or waiting in queues.primary .perilously but did not open its eyes. Lauren. . Wow. but Lauren laughed so easily. Lynn loved that – when people laughed! Not that Lauren didn’t talk too. fourteen and eleven.' she said. made it so. she'd always been good at that. she soon came alive. and Lynn. broken only by the cat's breathing. the cat shuffled round in its sleep and settled its bulk more securely on the seat. once she trusted you. Surely Polly worked at her school? But of course. And her face was a joy to watch. ‘So. She used gesture and facial expression sparingly but meaningfully. under Lynn's friendly questioning. Lauren. but somehow approving smile. . that she had been a teacher once . 'He never falls off. as though she had trouble putting words together. However. how it should be. Lauren would see it that way. You felt you really knew her. She'd been to India twice but nowhere on the continent unless you counted a day trip to France when she was at school. and started to talk about it. Lynn. 'Don't worry. that was the wrong word. But she would love to go to Italy 183 . who had been sitting forward tensely.' she said. so expressive. It was peaceful room. It was very easy. listening. It was Lauren who broke it.and that Alec was a doctor. seemed to have a potentiality for creativity and growth in it. Somehow it didn't slide off the cushion. entertaining people. She discovered that they both liked jazz piano. there was no more space for it there anyway. Lynn had not thought of it like that. sat back in her own chair and relaxed. Not that Lynn had any trouble communicating. And she'd been sick on the ferry.
. I wondered. They took turns. ‘Sometimes. It felt every bit as good as Lynn had thought it would. surely you can't believe it all!' Lynn found that she really wanted to know.well. I suppose?' ‘I can't remember..' The conversation flowed. But as time went by. looking amused. but not so . . ‘Do you ever read poetry.' said Lauren. that's maybe not such a simple answer'. as though she was committing what Lynn was saying to memory. she was telling Lauren about . or her face creased into a smile of delighted recognition. Why?' ‘Have you ever heard a line in a poem about a nine hundred years' name?' ‘Hmm. Well. I’m not much of a reader. Polly was a pretty simple person (not that she said that to Lauren of course). not exactly everything -she couldn't talk about Tia yet. she wasn't so puzzled by that. And actually Lauren was a pretty good listener too. surely you as a thinking person. that's all. Lynn liked that too. somehow.' ‘It's not important . I suppose. Sometimes she nodded thoughtfully. she added as an afterthought.I don't think so. . clinical . . Before she was aware of it. but most of the time she just seemed to sort of absorb it. Maybe something like "Gravy"?' ‘Gravy? Could be Graves.such a wonderful poetical language. so still. 184 . . as though Lynn was telling her the secrets of the universe.' 'Actually. Sorry . But she could tell Lauren about her search for God and her puzzlement over Polly's simplistic faith.' ‘I think the simplest answer is that I do. 'but not in the way you might think I do.just something I heard someone say. Sort of like Tia. . She fixed her eyes on Lynn and sat there . You don't know the author. I’m afraid. ‘But surely Lauren. My mother was though. Lynn found herself throwing caution to the winds. Lauren?' she asked. That reminded Lynn of something. ‘All what?' ‘All that god stuff you get in church.
But there was a certain weirdness about it all that she wasn’t ready to tangle with just yet. Lauren was not difficult to talk to.Predictably. then it is mysterious and beautiful and special. ‘But when I talk to people like . Lynn had zoned in on the bit she'd heard that had most emotional content for her. Perhaps she needed to find out more. It felt so easy.' Memories of how she had felt talking to David welled up and without thinking she raised her voice. they make it seem so ordinary and they make me feel stupid for even asking. You preach an all-powerful loving God who lets people die in agony a thousand times a day. Sorry to be so picky but it gets complicated unless you're sure that when you use a word you both mean the same thing by it. who'd done nothing wrong. You could ask her questions and she wouldn't fob you off like Tia.' Lynn admitted. Science has proved the bible wrong over and over again.. . ‘I don't know very much about it. so stupid?' Too late. How can that be true?’ She looked at Lauren who was regarding her thoughtfully. Lynn became aware that she was speaking very loudly – nay. She couldn't ask Lauren if she believed in it all until she knew what 'all' was. What actually did she mean by ‘all'? It suddenly dawned on her that she wasn't sure what Christians believed anyway. well people like David. She didn't keep confronting you and making you feel uncomfortable. But at least she could talk to Lauren.said what 185 .' 'Well .' She hesitated a moment and then went on. ‘I'm not sure. But she'd said it now . It makes me think that they are the stupid ones for being so naive. ‘And you believe it all too. They expect me to swallow all their lame excuses for the improbable contradictory things they believe and yet I’m supposed to be the stupid one. or how much she actually wanted to know in detail. So Lynn could ask her about God and not feel stupid. actually. she wasn't withholding. But it seems to me that if there is anything there. somehow.' Lynn wasn't certain what to say. ‘It makes me feel angry. shouting shouting at Lauren. ‘All of it? You believe in all of it!' ‘It depends on what you mean by "all" – or “believe” for that matter. You just said so! My god! How can you be so naïve. only listened. She shared things. .
haven't you?' said Lauren. ‘You've wanted to say that for a long time. But just lately. Lynn felt completely bewildered. never. though actually they usually did. What on earth had she said that Lauren could possibly find funny? But it wasn't that kind of laugh. trying to look confidently at Lauren but miserably aware that inside she felt horribly afraid. and paradoxically.very highly . the less likely it seemed that they ever could. ‘It's quite simple.being real. never needed people to like her. What a stupid. She'd said 'My god!' as well.' Lynn felt so amazed that she said the first thing that came into her head. with Tia.she'd really thought. how could she stop it? She hated feeling like this.' Lynn nodded mutely. You're confused. Oh bloody hell! Why had she said that? Why had she been so rude? It had all been going so well and she had wrecked it . Their relationship was over. Lynn never. the more she wanted them to like her. ‘I don't mind. More than ever now. And to Lynn's astonishment. Lauren would never like her now. Actually laughed.completely wrecked it. but she remembered Polly wincing as though she'd been stuck through with pins whenever she heard anybody say it. childish thing to say! What was wrong with her today? And what did it matter anyway? It had never mattered before. her curving smile making her eyes crinkle and dance. Just a word.' she added. Just now. I think another cup of tea is called for. She was doomed. She had to stick with it. She'd burnt her boats. aren't you? I can see it in your face.' said Lauren emphatically. you said what you really felt . She waited for Lauren to tell her so. she could have bitten her tongue out. Lauren laughed instead. It mattered very much too much. and now with Lauren. ‘You don't mind? You still like me then?' Again. I value .at a cost to yourself.and it was all her fault. And then you were afraid of my disapproval. It was a gurgle of approval as though Lauren thought that Lynn had done something very well. Isn't that 186 . What was happening? Was it the miscarriage? Was it depression? And more to the point. never be her friend . ‘I had to say that. ‘I feel so pleased that you've been able to say it to me. ‘And I do like you. it did matter. Lauren looked at her understandingly.
187 . was reminded of that living. It made sense . She should go home. And that was great. It reminded her of Tia. looking at Lauren. Lauren would like her to come again. She laughed again and this time Lynn couldn't help smiling too.' Lynn found that she had been holding her breath. because. Lauren made the tea and they drank it without needing to talk. ‘Mmm. ‘I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about God. and I hope that you will go on being honest with me. in her peaceful.' ‘Good!' said Lauren. take a chance.' she said. too quickly. In fact she felt completely exhausted. and perhaps some of mine might give you a different angle to consider. Lauren directed her gaze at Lynn over the top of her mug. Will you come?' Lynn liked this direct approach. with the sunlight streaming through the windows and the cat still asleep on the chair. It felt so comfortable to be tired in Lauren's presence. I like it. growing silence she had encountered when she first entered the room. as she gazed into the distance seemed to be full of quiet. ‘Yes. ‘That feels better. wanted to come again too.sort of. doesn't it?' Lauren said. for she grabbed hold of the edge of the table to steady herself. She stood up too. I'd like to come again.' There was no necessity to say any more on the subject. Lynn. She felt too weary. she'd said so. ‘I'm away . Lauren's eyes. ‘Why should I disapprove of people who are honest? I am glad you felt safe enough to trust me. ‘It does. ‘I'd like you to come again. For a second she did not look like Lauren at all.right?' Lynn nodded again. Perhaps it had come back. in at the deep end.' she said. She let it out with a sense of relief. spacious kitchen. So she would. Then the moment passed. let me see . Her brow creased. No messing about.about two weeks. it seemed. Lynn couldn't be bothered to anyway. Lauren looked at her. she. But she didn't want to. She looked at Lauren. sun-breathed thoughts. oh. from the start of next week for probably. She finished her tea and stood up. if you want to. Lynn suddenly remembered the headache. Lynn. Lynn wondered what they were.
why. Lynn said. Lauren smiled and waved too. But a glance at Lauren's face dispelled that fear. It was over in an instant. She looked around for her tea mug but it was at the other end of the table. After a minute or two she groped without looking behind the toby jug with the pens and pencils in and extracted a blister pack of capsules. Two weeks! It felt like the sort of thing Tia would say. ‘Church Fun Day. Shall I phone you?' That at least would give her the initiative. * * * Lauren stood watching Lynn go down the garden path. who. Where had the time gone? What had Lauren done with her kids? She glanced at Lauren. . She waited until Lynn was out of sight then she closed the door. Couldn't they arrange it now? It felt as though Lauren didn't want to see her. It was what Della had said about the dinner. When Lauren reached the kitchen she sat down carefully in the chair Lynn had just vacated.So how would it be if I phoned you in two weeks' time and we'll arrange something then? Or would you rather phone me?' For a moment. ‘That would be fine. When she got to the gate. She wouldn't be waiting at the end of a line for someone who didn’t get in touch. When she had closed it she leant against it for a few moments and then turned and made her way heavily back along the passage. And Alec is on duty at the hospital. hugged her. uncannily reading her thoughts. said. Lynn didn't know. measuring the distance with her 188 . By common consent they moved towards the door. Lynn was astonished to see that she had been there for over two hours. or anything else.' said Lauren. Lynn looked back and waved. She and Lauren were friends. She thought for a moment and then slowly turned her head to look at the sink and regarded the glasses upside down on the draining board. Lynn felt a lurch in her stomach. ‘Perfect. As she glanced up at the clock above it. Lauren touched Lynn's arm and then. lightly and unexpectedly. Lynn didn't notice the football strips on the way out . occasionally reaching out a hand to steady herself against the wall. Swallowing her disappointment. She'd have a measure of control. .' For some reason this thought amused them both .
it would only be civil to say hello. She put them in her mouth and tried to swallow them. as though to say. She grimaced. In the end. but it forced her to examine her motives for going. As she did so. but this sounded pretty lame. She leaned forward and ran the fingers of both hands over her cropped hair. 'I knew you wouldn't be able to keep away!' Lynn was extremely irritated by it. but when Lynn saw her at the door of the church Polly's face wore a certain insufferably knowing expression. Lauren sighed in frustration. Before the service began. she gingerly moved her head a fraction. eventually coming to the unpalatable conclusion that she wanted to find out more about this god that Lauren seemed to believe in. and then closed her eyes and rested her head against the high back of the chair. This time Lauren's sigh was one of thankfulness. She rested her elbows on the table. breathing very short. put her chin on hands. She looked thoughtfully at them. Lynn kept a weather eye out for Lauren. And if she happened to see Lauren there. and all during the boring notices she scanned the pews without success. even to her. but she couldn't see her. She reached out and pulled it to her. even breaths and keeping her head very still. It had about an inch of tea left in it. washing the capsules down. Lynn decided to go to church again. * * * Next day was Sunday. She remained in this position. which was rather nearer than hers. After about half an hour. They were rather large. As she did so she caught sight of Lynn's mug. she reluctantly decided 189 . She explained it by saying that she hadn't given it a fair trial.Polly was certainly thrilled to bits when she phoned her to tell her.eyes.. for some time. without success. she glanced at the clock above the door as Lynn had done. Maybe it was for Polly's sake . and then a little more. and began to think. Her smile returned. To Mark's consternation. well. Lynn was pretty amazed herself. Occasionally she opened her eyes to check the time. She picked up the mug and swigged back Lynn's tea. Eventually Lauren popped the blister pack and took out two capsules.
how could she? She'd only been coming to 190 . ‘Where's Lauren?' She hissed. When this happened twice. underpinned by the instinctive knowledge that Christians must never ever get angry kicked in so ruthlessly that the emotion that she actually experienced was guilt.' Lynn was puzzled.Polly! .but not to her when she'd only seen her the day before. Wasn't there something about attendance at church on Sunday being compulsory? Maybe even twice? And how come Lauren had said something to Polly . all monotonous and clappy. Polly would know. Lauren was a fully paid-up member of the Christian Club. and she would have to share that with Lynn now. in the service. Although. and completely ignored her. ‘How do you know?' she asked. and Lynn's timing was way off. she'd just assumed.doesn'tknow-any-better and the you'll-put-her-off-Christianity-for-ever-if-you-show-any. rudely awakened from her happy state. in fairness. Polly. anyway. since Lynn had asked so abruptly. that's what she told me she was going to do. Some things were sacred. felt extremely irritated by Lynn's thoughtlessness. the exasperated Lynn grabbed Polly's shoulder and shook it hard. the make-Lynn-feel-welcome-at-all-costs-she. Surely Lynn knew? But then. Polly was away with the birds. swaying as she sang the first song. It was an awful song. Surely they didn't just arbiter ally take a day off if they felt like it. get with it! she thought. At least. Couldn't it wait until coffee? Apparently not. But it was common knowledge anyway. Couldn't she even have waited until the end of the song? However.annoyance reactions. ‘I think that Lauren's gone out for the day with her family. But she couldn't help feeling peeved. So she answered very politely. she hadn't asked. How could Polly even pretend to enjoy it? Who would choose to sing these songs when there were so many other much nicer ones? Polly. Honestly.to ask Polly. What was Lauren to Lynn? Did she even know her? Polly had enjoyed talking to Lauren at the Wednesday Bible study. ‘Why isn't Lauren here?' she demanded. from the way Lynn was looking. Polly felt Lynn's peevedness and felt puzzled in turn.
who was lustily singing as though she hadn't got a care in the world. Relieved. Lauren . She would have to tell Lynn gently. you know. She had let 191 . had cancer. What a good thing they usually sang this chorus eight or nine times. Lynn sat down in the pew. Her headache! But why hadn't she said anything? Lynn had asked her about it. She didn't seem to want to ask any more questions. Lauren! . Lynn looked up and nodded dumbly. she couldn't even think what they were. ‘Lauren told me at the Wednesday Bible study that she probably wouldn't be at church on Sunday. . . Lauren's slowness. Actually had cancer. But she hadn't asked the right question. Everybody knew. But only then. In the meantime. To anything. Yet Polly had said it so matter-of-factly. Lynn felt in anguish. ‘Well. ‘Do you know what's causing it?' Because when she had asked questions. she starts the chemo again tomorrow. Polly realised that she had not been gentle enough. Lynn began to replay the events and conversation of the previous afternoon. normal. Lauren had cancer. so the family wanted a day out together while she still feels well enough. . They think they've got it in time. And she would hardly lie. Lauren had replied very readily. Polly turned back to her worshipping. Lauren . . As the thought sank in. She's had the cancer a while now. She added hastily. It was too awful. . she's got cancer. .had .church for five minutes. . Surely it couldn't be true. Brain cancer. . Everybody knows about it. . cancer. Lynn was in shock. even though it's brain cancer. .' Lynn still looked stunned so Polly continued. ‘They're hopeful. Sitting in the pew. Actually. She had never actually volunteered anything. Didn't you know?' Cancer! Appalled.' ‘Chemo?' ‘Yes. She glanced sideways up at Polly. She hadn't said. her headache. Polly's compassion reasserted itself. Lauren looked so . How could she do that when Lauren had cancer? How could she? She was jumping up and down now! There were a million questions that Lynn wanted to ask but she felt too numb to ask them now. unable to think of anything to say. She would ask later.' she added somewhat unnecessarily.
If someone tells you that. ‘Oh yes. But she could have said! But how could she have said? ‘Oh. the youngest eleven. ‘I'm not looking forward to the chemo on Monday. She remembered Lauren's dark. What must they be 192 . And Lauren had initiated another meeting. for doing that. from the secret sadness that dominated her life. I've got cancer you know.Lynn make all the running. Now Lynn thought about it. her approving look. Lynn felt better. cancer gives you terrible headaches. Maybe it wasn't so bad. If Lauren had done that. that everybody knew about. but for how much longer. Common courtesy demands that you give the person a chance to talk about it if they want. her stillness. so shut out from Lauren's confidence. And Lauren didn't want to talk. ‘But Lynn. except Lynn. after the chemotherapy. Not knowing made Lynn feel so lonely. That shone out like a beacon. ‘Oh Lauren. I wish you'd told me. as it had before. But Lynn still couldn't help wishing that Lauren had told her . that felt horrible. Oh. Lynn's heart stopped still. by the way. even though she'd spent two hours with her and she'd thought they were friends. an aunt of mine had that.' she thought desolately. She died. But how could you have brain cancer and not mention it once in a two-hour conversation? At the memory of that conversation. you don't just say. I've got cancer.' Lauren had said that she liked her. No one could ever take that away. Lauren's husband. I would have if you'd asked!' It was so unexpected that Lynn found herself laughing with her. and then suddenly smiling all over her face and saying. Suddenly Lynn had a picture of Lauren looking at her in her thoughtful way.' Or. mentioned her cancer.' Or. ‘Yes. I do like you. Lauren didn't seem worried. Why didn't she tell me? Lynn wondered again. ‘See. then the whole of the rest of the conversation would have had to be about it. bright eyes fixed on hers. It felt like Tia. Alec. Lynn felt she hated Tia now. her smile. if Lauren had cancer? And what about her family? All of a sudden. . the way they had the day before. her laugh.if everyone else did. because Lauren had wanted to see her. her three boys. And Lauren's laugh said. .' ‘Chemo?' ‘Yes. somehow. Did Lauren think she knew . the way Tia never self-disclosed.' That wasn't Lauren's style.' End of subject.
she's an old schoolfriend. coming home full of the match. she remembered why. I just heard today.' ‘No. 193 . Oh god.going through? And she had only just thought of them! All she'd thought of first was how Lauren's illness affected her. Another deception. Mark would never understand that.' ‘Have I ever met her?' ‘No.' Lynn couldn't bring herself to say that she'd only really met her herself the day before. The rest of the day before had passed in a haze of misery and disbelief. Life was full of them these days. she hated herself! For the rest of the service Lynn tried to pray to the God she didn't know for the welfare of people she had never met. but still puzzled over Lynn's grief. I haven't seen her for years. ‘But you said you didn't know her very well. Mark. as she came to. What kind of a monster was she? A deep sense of shame engulfed her. Lauren. had been amazed to see her so distrait and distressed and immediately assumed that it was something he'd done. tear-filled night. He was relieved to find out that it was not. Chapter 17 Lynn woke on the Monday morning aware of a heavy dragging ache in her heart. which merged drearily into a restless. Drowsily.
Besides we're all praying.' Lynn saw that she should put up or shut up. even if they chose to call it prayer? She smiled.' Lynn turned away to hide her expression. like a mantra. we're all praying for her at church and she's doing very well. but high on optimism. it might not be as bad as you think. ‘So. We all love her too much. We all love her too much. Doesn't sound like you know too many details. Who knew? Cancer did go away sometimes.' His irritation showed when he saw that Lynn remained unconsoled. We won 3-1. And Lauren’s cancer did go away before when we prayed. ‘One I do know for definite. Now it's come back.' ‘But Polly. She wrote a book about it. She can't. God wouldn't let Lauren die because they all loved her too much. come on. seeing her look. She shut up. but she's not dead yet. She repeated. What kind of faith was this? What kind of God? She had no words to say. I know people who've been healed. ‘Oh. you know. Lynn. Three at least. two anyway.' 194 . Polly. people do die. Lynn sought out Polly. I admit it sounds serious. ‘Oh. before continuing more positively. And he'd come in so happy. God won't let her.' Polly looked panicky. The chemo worked before and it cleared up for a year.‘Well. Who knows? God moves in mysterious ways. how was the match?' ‘Oh. even people who pray.' Lynn. ‘God won't let Lauren die. Compartmentalise a bit. Polly. She hated herself. Well. You've got enough to worry about as it is.’ she added somewhat uncertainly after a pause. it was good. listening. Polly was low on details. thought perhaps Polly was right. but Lauren's such a fighter. Why don't you go and see her if you feel so strongly about it? I can't quite understand this deep concern of yours if you haven't met her for years. ‘Maybe you're right. ‘God does heal people. hastened to reassure her. I've read it.' But Lynn could see that there was no pleasure for him in talking about it any more. They don't think it's come back so badly now. And who knew what effect the power of positive thinking could do. At the first opportunity at school. Several people have had words from the Lord that she won't die.
‘Therapists never tell you anything about themselves.not self-disclosing?' She thought she knew already but it was a diversion. but looking at her she realised that it was just Della. Della was looking rather wan.' ‘Transference?' ‘Yes. They're a blank screen or a blank sheet of paper or something. ‘What did you mean in the cafe about . that's really important. Della loved explaining things.' she added. And surely.what was it . if there was a god. Personally. Yes. She nodded.Polly looked as pleased as if Lynn had just made a public declaration of faith from the pulpit of Westminster Abbey. and felt better. ‘Yes. Lynn had been so dreading this meeting. if you like. that's better. Then. Now that they were face to face. remembering Lauren.' ‘Blank screen?' It conjured up pictures of a broken TV. Della looked up. ‘I was glad you felt able to trust me.' 195 . Looking at her face. for Della. for Della looked suspiciously bright-eyed at this. She felt better.' she said. She couldn't avoid Della for ever.' she said wryly. to change the subject. and said hello. write your own agenda about them. That's when you transfer feelings you've really got for other people on to them . must love Lauren? How could he not? That lunchtime. god. but why? 'Well the idea is that they present a sort of blank screen . I think it's overdone (‘Me too!' thought Lynn). it felt easier. She saw Della getting something out of her bag.yes. went over. It was now or never. Lynn decided to choose to be reassured. She gritted her teeth. ‘You didn't embarrass me. Or project your own image . ‘I'm sorry if I embarrassed you with my revelations the other day. Sort of fantasise. she said hurriedly. It worked. Some therapists work like that anyway – not all of them. her old friend Della. Lynn went to the staffroom.the therapist. The idea is that if you don't know anything about them then you can as it were. It helps with the transference. Lynn knew that that conversation in the Cafe Noir had been on Della's mind too.
But that's the only line I know. she might wish it hadn't. I don't know. Something to do with working through the bad feelings or something. but probably. Lynn sensed she had touched on a raw nerve there. . thought Lynn.Tia . ‘Oh. It's quite a chilling poem about a duke who marries a peasant girl who's a bit too simple for his tastes. . closed her eyes and quoted softly. Lynn's chance came later that day when she saw Della by the staff lockers.along with words like ‘repression' and ‘complex'. It was really irritating her now. Can we talk about this later?' ‘Sure.' ‘ "Nine hundred years' name"? Yes. somewhere. Dell? Have you ever heard a line from a poem about a nine hundred years' name? I heard it somewhere and I don't know how to find it. Lynn. she'd dismissed them as psychobabble. turning the conversation with her over in her mind. now she thought about it. . I must fly! Though that would convince my year sevens I'm a witch. How does it fit in?' Della thought briefly. Sorry. . she was in new and risky territory.‘Why is that important?' Lynn felt excited.she never needed to. Lynn was sure she'd heard the word before .oh.how shall I say? 196 . judging by the amount of instructions per second her brain usually seemed capable of.well you . Where did you hear it?' ‘Oh. I can't remember now. . she was forced to concede . She watched her go. Oh damn! She'd meant to ask Della about the poem. ‘Transference? Well. Something told her that Della knew more than she let on. Before . But this transference thing . but it might. Although if it did make sense. Is that the time? Heavens. ‘ "She had a heart . . All of a sudden. This didn't make sense yet. My Last Duchess.especially in view of her self-inflicted crash course in psychology . The implication is that he has her killed so that he can remarry. it's important because you .' Della seemed uncomfortable. it's Browning.they did have some sort of meaning after all. Playing for time was not Della's style .
That explained a lot. Della was looking at her curiously. On the other hand. so all things considered . Lynn following two steps behind. . Lynn's heart as usual. she finished getting the books from her locker and departed with a wave and a cheery smile. 'How have you been?' Lynn found herself wishing Tia would start with something else. Tia's elegant.' said Lynn.Too soon made glad. * * * It was Thursday afternoon. it fitted the bill pretty well. so stereotyped now. and yet not the same. was pounding. Lynn rose and went to meet her and Tia turned and silently led the way to her room. leaving Lynn wondering what she was going to say to Chris. It seemed so formulaic. The faded sunshine still came through the window although it was October now. Seeing nothing further was forthcoming. This time she didn't even say Lynn's name. Lynn was used to it now. and ‘What have you been up to then?' sounded a bit too jolly.' sounded a bit too intrusive. It was the same. When she saw Lynn looking. ‘So. angular form materialised out of the door at the end of the corridor and she walked towards her. Sandra. And now Tia again. She ranked my gift of a nine hundred years' old name With anybody's gift" Does that help?' ‘Oh yes. Lynn paused to reflect. David and Lauren kaleidoscoped through her mind. As a teacher she recognised the value of open questions. whereas ‘Tell me how you are feeling.' said Tia. again she stopped and waited. No words were exchanged until once again Lynn was sitting opposite Tia in the room. What a lot 197 . Poor Sandra. Chris ranked Sandra's gift of her virginity with anybody's gift. With anybody's gift. . Was it only two weeks since the last session? Thoughts of Chris. too easily amused.
‘What are you thinking?' Torn between ‘You are beautiful' and ‘What is transference?' Lynn opted for the latter. ‘Oh I don't know. how she hoped not! She could feel a flush of shame.' Lynn gasped inwardly. Feelings that belong to a relationship you've had . worse than she'd ever felt before. ‘Transference is a big subject. suffusing her face and neck.of experiences she'd had. That summed it up in a nutshell. tell me more about this transference. What feelings? Where did they come from? She didn't understand. Tia returned the gaze absolutely steadily. I guess.and yet she knew nothing. But did Tia know what they were? Lynn hoped not . Inappropriate feelings you can’t explain. Finally she said. Lynn. it seemed that they didn't feel right to her.' Tia looked at Lynn firmly. if you feel able to do so.' Tia said meditatively. what a lot she knew. Lynn felt like an absolute child. ‘Where did that come from?' Lynn felt herself reddening. Then she said.' Lynn watched her collect her thoughts carefully. somewhat huskily.oh. except that Tia was beautiful. and Tia wasn't going to tell her. And Tia knew that she had feelings for her. Tia blinked.or have . and Lynn loved her. she must be! Tia said. would never 198 . but my guess is that in this context it can be used to mean the feelings you have for me or about me. She must be a lesbian. Now that Lynn was sitting opposite her. Why did Tia have to be so bloody superior? Why couldn't she just tell her? Della was right. Just noseyness. looking down at her hands. This blank screen thing could be overdone. knew. Tia told her things but then never explained them. feeling like this. But she'd asked. now. She stared at Tia speechlessly. feelings which may seem inappropriate to you but which you can't explain. said. then up. So transference was about feelings. and it just made things worse. ‘It can mean a lot of things. She felt much older . I heard the word somewhere. It's more important to discuss the feelings you have about me.with someone else which you've now transferred onto me. How does it work then?' ‘We are not really here to discuss transference theoretically. staring at her. ‘So. It was some moments before Lynn could speak.
What would you say?' Tia raised an eyebrow. it's not me. It was so frustrating. This was awful . And this is a stupid conversation!' Part of Lynn was amazed at the anger she felt. She wanted to rattle Tia's cage. Lynn?' ‘Yes you do think so.' said Lynn. The other part was enjoying it. You just do! I can see it! Why are you smiling if you don't think I'm stupid?' Tia raised both eyebrows this time. I am stupid. is it? There's no one else in the room. although I've asked you why on earth I should think you are stupid.' To her horror. and you can't give me a reason. That was worse. ‘I'm doing it. "What makes you say that"?' she said mildly. It was so superior. very briefly. don't you?' ‘Why on earth. And you're doing it. Lynn found herself crying.wrong-footed. isn't it? Is that what you're saying? It's not you. What was it about Tia that always made 199 . She'd had enough of Tia. I bloody do! I feel incredibly stupid . ‘Suppose I called you a stupid cow. you still insist that I do think you are. not exactly smiling. Tia was watching her attentively. ruined beyond repair. She felt tantalised. Tia continued to look at her. ‘So. The situation felt irretrievably spoilt. ‘should I think you are stupid. ‘I suppose I'd have to say. so that all her facial expressions were clearly visible. Or is it me? It is me. she couldn't really tell what it meant. but not exactly not smiling either. Tia. She felt in despair. On impulse Lynn leant forward and said.' said Tia calmly. And you’re sure it's me?' ‘Well. Her curly hair framed her face. Do you feel stupid?' ‘No! Yes! Yes. Actually. What did Tia think? What did she bloody think? ‘You think I'm the stupid one. ‘Oh.tell her.and . it's me. Lynn hated that look.how had it happened? How had they got from ‘How have you been?' to this in about ten seconds flat.
‘It could be someone else.her feel about five? She was a mature adult everywhere else. . She could feel a darkness like a cloud descending on her. It was so strong that she opened her eyes to escape it and looked at Tia. does it?' ‘It's quite common. someone else and I think it's you? Is that the transference? But that still doesn't make sense . ‘But that's ludicrous. .' Lynn sat up. But her mother wasn't laughing. . where was it? . She had rushed home from school because she wanted to tell her mother something. in their first house. She was coldly furious. she could hardly speak for laughing. . Lynn shut her eyes again. but that's not what I meant here. bloody hell! Tia was regarding her thoughtfully. Then she said slowly. Gingerly. It was a joke poem someone had told her and it was so funny. don't rush. don’t rush’ she repeated. actually. half past nine See the soldiers in a line One had a musket.' said Tia. It doesn't have to be you or me. and as Lynn had looked to 200 . She shut her eyes and chewed her lip with concentration. Lynn loved it when Tia talked like that. wiping her eyes. She was in a room . She saw the small overstuffed settee. and as she neared the punchline. There's no one here but you and me. ‘You mean . Can you think of a time when you had this feeling before? Just take your time.' What was Tia trying to say? It didn't add up. She was telling it to her mother. she said. After a pause. . Oh. . . the rug on the floor. one had a gun One had a pancake up his bum. ‘What. people feeling stupid?' ‘Well.' Tia was talking very calmly and gently. Let's approach it from another angle. ‘Take your time. What was it now? What's the time. people often do feel stupid although they are not. Tia was still there. Almost immediately she regretted it. Her steady encompassing gaze imparted a sense of stability to Lynn. and a wave of anxious emotion. Close your eyes if it helps.
unable to keep the surprise out of her voice. Tia said. Tia was smiling at her. and the sense of having done something terribly terribly wrong. Her mother had swept her up in a pleased hug and said with warm approval. I remembered my mother calling me stupid when I was five. She wanted to open her eyes to escape. She remembered that eventually. She was just a faceless blur. ‘Sarah helped Emma up in the playground today when she fell over. it had started raining. She felt terribly. in the safety of Tia's office. experienced again that feeling of humiliation and disappointment. but she couldn't. Now go away. How strange that she’d forgotten it until now! But there was a lot of her childhood that was hazy. She shrank down in her chair to get away from her mother's face. terribly foolish and sad. not because she couldn't think of anything nice. Here. Relief poured over her. and don't come back until you can think of something nice to tell me. and said in a whisper. ‘What's happening for you now? Her voice sounded so normal and matter of fact that Lynn automatically looked up. ‘I remembered . now watching the incident as though on a video. and fear of her mother's increased wrath if she got her clothes wet had driven Lynn indoors.' Every word had cut like a whip. What to do? She compromised by opening her eyes to look at the floor. I hate feeling stupid. but because she hadn't wanted to face her mother again. and if you ever tell me anything like that again. because then she would have to look at Tia. ‘Yeah. For something to do.’ Lynn shuddered at the memory. though she couldn't see on the screen exactly how her mother had looked.' she said.her. Lynn. Lynn had crept away and stayed in the garden for two hours. well. then her hands. After a while. she had said in a voice colder than ice. Lynn quivered involuntarily as she relived the terror that had trembled through her as she inched her way up to her mother. . looking at the floor and hoping she was doing it right. in Tia's office. she could remember how it had ended. to see her reaction. . ‘That's better! Now you’re my good girl!' She felt a bit like that now. she compared her thumbnails. I will be extremely angry. vulgar little girl. ‘You are a stupid. with Tia looking at her so 201 .' She broke off.
If she could just get hold of this .' Lynn thought back over her life. just horribly black ones impenetrably woven together into a solid mass. It seemed chaotic and full of feelings that came from nowhere. The ball was as big as a house. she had a tremendous sense of wellbeing. Sometimes they enable us to get in touch with all sorts of feelings from the past. You are nothing like my mother.' ‘As I said. The ball was her life. for some reason. ‘But I still don't really understand. that's transference?' Tia opened her hands. And how could she have forgotten it so completely? She stared at Tia. therapeutic relationships are not like other relationships. and let it wash over her for a while. that she had never been able to explain . the rest dark and unhappy.' she said. .benignly. . ! She said. Lynn knew intuitively that there were no coloured threads on the inside of the ball. ‘So . sometimes not very good ones. . Lynn's mind was racing. Lynn felt pretty pleased with herself now.just a few . thinking aloud. She sat there. ‘But why . ‘Lynn.' ‘So . ‘Nothing's ever all anything. She said hopelessly. 202 . . ‘I behave towards you as though you are like my mother?' Tia made the same ‘maybe' gesture. . They seemed hopelessly entangled. my mother calling me stupid? And me thinking it was you . ‘So you don't think I am stupid?' Tia gave her a look. some .brightly coloured. It didn't seem so bad now. .especially since she had met Tia. But it was still puzzling. palms up. ones that we'd prefer to forget.?' ‘Why here?' Tia finished off for her. She had a sudden picture in her mind of a giant ball of coloured threads. in a ‘maybe' kind of gesture. Lynn thought about the incident. . Tia gave her space. transference is a big subject. In fact. It was OK to do that in Tia's room. it's all transference then?' Tia smiled.
her feeling for Tia.' The words seemed to hang for a moment in the air between them. existing only in Tia's imagination. There seemed no way out. insubstantial. quite nice. ‘Lynn. I'm feeling things I should feel towards my mother.they're not real. You need to think very carefully how you wish to structure your remaining time with me. . Issues that it would be of benefit for you to explore with somebody in a safe environment. a sort of tawny colour. She wasn't completely convinced yet. and I did explain to you that I cannot give you any more time. and that you had to take responsibility for what we talked about. about to be blown away. Several more minutes passed. The world grew solid again.partly anyway . Chief among the emotions was a kind of puzzled relief that this explained . You understand what I'm saying. As she stared at the floor the carpet distracted her. and they seemed to be taking her to a place that she didn't want to go to. She felt drowned in thoughts and emotions.and what to do with them. Into this jumble inside her head broke Tia's voice.‘But you are not like my mother?' ‘What was your mother like?' said Tia.these emotions that I feel . and you may be left with some painful issues still unresolved at the end. . Tia could see that. She said gently. substantial and reassuringly three-dimensional. unable to keep the despair out of her voice. But I have to remind you that we have only two sessions left after this one. it's not a real thing is it then. It seemed a long way away.' For a moment. ‘Transference is real. You've had a 203 . But it still left her with the huge problem of the feelings themselves . Her guts twisted. don't you?' Lynn did understand. There is a very real risk that you may uncover things which cannot be adequately dealt with in the time we have left. . She was locked into her own thought processes. Lynn didn’t hear this. It's like ghosts. Lynn became a real person. but . ‘But . I have the sense there may be more issues here to do with your mother. ‘I don't know what to do!' she cried out. but she's not here. . It was incredibly lonely. but not for long enough. this transference? This . Finally she looked up at Tia. Tia said quietly. able to think once more. It was a plain carpet. Their eyes met. ‘Perhaps that's enough for for now. Lynn felt like a ghost herself.
and then got curious. about how she'd heard Lauren’s name. Lynn could feel her stomach unknotting. This is your time and you're entitled to all of it. I know there are. She released her death grip on her forearms and let her hands relax. She explained how she'd gone to church the next day and how she'd discovered that Lauren .' Tia was looking at her very compassionately. ‘Yes. and looked at Tia appealingly. She took a deep shuddering breath and then another more relaxed one as she slumped back into the chair. and how well they'd got on and she'd felt they were friends. She could do that now. She would put things away to think about later. . and she involuntarily clasped her arms over her stomach. leaning forward. ‘Seeing Della was before Lauren. about Lauren's .55 pm. . . . illness. She could tell Tia about Lauren! So Lynn told Tia about Lauren. and then met her. It was amazing how much you could 204 . .' she finished. because time was running out about how Della had told her in the cafe that she'd had a relationship with another woman and how uncomfortable Lynn had felt. I didn't mean you to think I was suggesting that you have to leave right now. feeling that somehow Tia ought to know this. Lauren came into Lynn's mind and she became aware of Tia sitting slightly more upright. Then she stopped. She described how she'd gone to Lauren's house. that Polly had told her . ‘Though I don't know why I should be so bothered.' she added. . What I meant was that you don't have think about what to do here and now . ‘There are still twenty-five minutes to go. .lot of things to think about today. Then Lynn told Tia briefly. Tia's gaze still held hers and Lynn quietly looked until she felt her strength returning. It said 2.' knowing that Tia could hear the betraying quaver in her voice. it might be better just to let these new ideas and feelings sink in a bit before you think them through. I'm sorry. This was all so draining. . she must not waste this precious time with Tia by just staring at her! Suddenly. quite a few of my friends are gay. Was Tia saying that the session was over? Her insides lurched again. Lynn glanced at the clock. and disliked her on the spot.' Involuntarily. Lynn. She said. ready to listen. In the meantime.
‘You're on a roller-coaster aren't you? You're hanging on with your eyes shut. And I want to get off. Tia had said nothing at all.say in twenty minutes if you just solidly held forth and hardly paused for breath. saw it said 3.' Tia laughed. She said nothing. Lynn said nothing either. she sat back and exhaled as though she'd been holding her breath the whole time and said. But she felt heard. After a little while. as though she sensed the importance of what Lynn was saying and didn't want to stop the flow. They both stood up. And it feels pretty frightening. Lynn.' That was it exactly! ‘Yes. Tia glanced up at the clock. ‘And sometimes when I open my eyes everything is upside down and I feel sick. At the door. 205 . and every time you open them to try to get your bearings you get a different view. following her gaze. she knew the time was nearly up.22. Lynn. Now. ‘See you in two weeks' time then. Lynn felt really special.' agreed Lynn glumly.' ‘Sure. Tia said. and walked though. as Lynn ground to a halt. and had a comforting sense of being warm and well-fed. What would Tia make of it all? Throughout the time Lynn had talking. Tia had given her extra time.' said Lynn.
still not thinking about things too much. There were hundreds (well. And there were books about counselling too. it wasn't for her then. She turned to the index at the back. you are stupid. Ten Pain-free Steps to Total Well-Being. was that the price? She thrust it back. Feng Shui Saved My Life. She ran her finger down the spines of the books: Think Your Way to Happiness. as usual. But the scientist in her couldn't help wondering where the evidence was that any of it worked.' a little voice said. Did people really believe all this? Maybe this was where god was. She didn't 206 . Lynn had a mocha in a cafe and tried to read the paper there. She looked around for books on psychology. Maybe they were rubbish and didn't exist in the real world. with conflicting feelings. This one was expensive too. Lynn hastily asked an assistant where the psychology books were and sighed with relief to be directed to several well-filled shelves. Something clicked. picked up another that looked more readable. Ah. Finally. Become Who You Were Meant to Be Through Colour Therapy. body and spirit section. Oh. Perhaps she should try it. but she counselled. rushed to the tube. Perhaps it all worked if only you believed in it hard enough. was that the time? In panic. not because it made her feel good. so what! She rushed with it to the counter. but it was much harder than she thought. 100 Ten-minute Spells for Busy People. Heavens. just to check if they really did have the same books as the ones she'd got from the library. She wanted to believe in something because it was true. saw the word 'mind' and ended up in the mind. she decided to head home. She didn't know. nearly) of references to transference.Chapter 18 Lynn left the counselling rom. Oh. She resolutely determined that she would take Tia's advice and not think about things too much until the dust had settled. Lynn called in at large bookshop on the way. rushed home. she grabbed a book up. yes! Here were the Attachment and Loss books. Well. Of course. Maybe she wanted too much. shut up!) Heavens. counselling! Tia might be a clinical psychologist. where she gazed at the books on self-help with some fascination. How stupid of her not to think of that! (‘See. It was a bit spooky.
A little further on she read about the client's perception of the counsellor as omnipotent and she slammed it shut and threw it on the table. but made no comment. then smiled again. ‘Have you seen Sandra yet?' he asked anxiously. And if she hadn't thought of anything to say by now. She put the postcard on the mantelpiece. Chris. there was 207 . Eventually she made out. It cud b a lng time. Lynn couldn't say no. When she got home. Mark raised his eyebrows when he saw the title. She could hardly blame him. Lynn finally started reading the book on counselling. After dinner. Lv Sandra. He was treading very warily. There would have been no answer and she would have wondered.' said Lynn. saw her in the staffroom at lunchtime and rushed over. Lynn decided. which appeared to be composed by three different people all trying to write it at the same time. Lynn turned it over and looked at the message on the back. anyway. Lynn smiled. It was only six stops. ‘Soz not 2 b in tuch. the post had come. then sighed. that which Lynn had been dreading finally happened. Stayin here til I gt a tan. ‘Good book then?' he inquired. * * * At school next day. She looked at the postcard again. Mark glanced up from the FT. Lynn picked up a postcard which had a picture of three voluptuous violins with sunglasses on sunning themselves on a beach and the legend underneath. Will contact u wen I get bak. She was glad now she hadn't tried to phone her. with some difficulty. these days.' The ‘will' was underlined three times. The stamp was Greek but the picture could have been anywhere. She turned back to the book. whom she had somehow by a miracle and quite a bit of forward planning managed to avoid. ‘Let's go to the pub. When she reached the section on the client's idealisation of the counsellor she ground her teeth.dare get it out to read on the tube. ‘All tuned up and ready to play.' It could only be from Sandra.
Chris. I told her. Sandra had not given her permission . I can't tell you that. . space? I gave her all the bloody space she wanted!' ‘Space to think. to share anything.you know. you're on her side? Why. Desperation gave her fluency. When Lynn had told him everything she felt she safely could. She feels very strongly about you. She nodded resignedly. He paused consideringly and then said with studied nonchalance. she'd never thought to ask . About her relationship with you. why?' ‘It's not a question of sides. He led her to the smokers' room. for god's sake. he took the pipe out and said simply. you saw her. How to convey what Sandra had expressed without betraying confidence? After all. took out his pipe. walking only just ahead of her and glancing at her continually as though if he took his eyes off her for too long she would do a runner.' ‘What do you mean. She asked me not to tell you. puffing at his pipe greedily.' said Lynn. ‘Can we go somewhere and talk?' Again. gender differences. Chris stayed lounging against the wall. His anguish overlaid Sandra's anguish. but was that important? Now that she was actually face to face with Chris (she still couldn't get her head round ’Cormac'. ‘Maybe it's a man-woman thing.' Lynn was thinking hard.' Lynn was pretty sure that Sandra had said that. dropping bits on the floor. Did you tell her that?' ‘Yes. trying to get it to draw. ‘And what did she say?' ‘She told me she loved you too. Chris . ‘And where exactly is this place she’s staying at?’ ‘I'm sorry Chris.no guarantee that she would in the foreseeable future. stuffed it untidily.' ‘Ah. . probably just as well) her anger against him was evaporating. . . She couldn't remember if she'd said it in so many words. ‘So. Lynn was sorry now she'd kept him waiting. she could not resist the pleading in his eyes. She needs space. She's given 208 . lit it at the second go and said. ‘I do love her you know. which was a lot less than what had actually transpired. How did she look?' He listened to the description.
I'd much 209 . So she did know some poetry. as though to a child. and we are here for a blink. to nothing. Eventually he said tightly. getting more angry every moment. is a sadist. for as long as we can. is up to us.' ‘What are you talking about? She is special to me. She could see him forcing himself to speak more slowly. an uncaring sadist. cruel. did she?' Lynn watched him struggle for words. that's it. I repeat. this is a vile cruel world. ‘So you don't believe in god then?' ‘Believe.' he said bitterly. Sex makes people happy. I didn't mean that! Of course I don't think that! You're pushing me beyond my limit!' Lynn had never seen him so excited. ‘What's to believe? God. ‘I repeat.' ‘My god! You are totally screwed up!' ‘No. Be happy.is . 'tis a woman's whole existence. We need to stick together. make others happy. he was beginning to sweat and his accent was thick enough to cut with a knife. Haven't I just told you!' ‘And what about you to her?' ‘What do you mean?' ‘She doesn't want to share you. we're all we've got. Let's make other people. "A man's love is of his life a thing apart. if he's there. From nothing. and all we've got to keep us going is our own body heat. It's a cold.!' ‘Well. if he's there. His face was red. before we are dispersed into eternal nothingness. What the hell does it matter?' ‘What does it matter! What about STIs. ‘Oh. AIDs . any warmth. We're all in it together. is as vile as the rest. lets the good die. Any happiness.herself to you and only you. dark world. before you're gone. There . for god's sake let's stay in the sunshine. unfair world. ‘Look.) ‘A woman wants to be special to the man she loves. but trying to speak calmly. but while we're here.nothing . It was a bit scary. we've all got to die of something." ' (Surely that was from a poem somewhere. A vile. No. You know. god. keeps the bad alive. as happy as we can.else'. any joy. she told you about that.' A veil came over Chris's face. it's a vile world. let's be as happy as we can. She couldn't be that stupid. no! I'm sorry. everyone we can.
he can answer prayers.' Lynn sat down. The room grew very quiet. So did he.rather believe that he's not there. I never told you about Marie. his voice was thick.' ‘Then why didn't he answer Marie's?' ‘Who's Marie?' ‘Marie? Marie was my little sister. ‘She left a note. Lynn could see him concentrating on trying to breathe evenly." She was nine years old. and said in in measured tones. It makes things less complicated. Only she didn't smile very much because she was being bullied at school. as though this was something that he had learned by rote a long time ago. I asked God to help me but he didn't. did I? Sit down. And Marie was never one to make a fuss. Chris eventually won the battle. with racking sobs that shook his whole body. Chris was clearly struggling for composure. She didn't know what to do.' Chris repeated. Eventually. ‘Why do anything?' said a voice inside her head.' Despite himself Chris couldn't help a sob catching in his throat. The awkwardness of the lack of space in the room didn't seem to matter now. So she very quietly hanged herself. she came and stood awkwardly 210 .' ‘Why do you say that? About god being a sadist?' ‘If god's there and he can do anything. My elder brother Seamus found her. I think she tried to tell us but we didn't really catch on to what she was saying. She thought it must be Tia's because it wasn't a smiley voice. ‘Marie had very straight brown hair and a lovely smile. So she just sat and waited. Lynn sat there rigid with shock and pity. When he spoke again. She didn't know if it was Tia's or Lauren's.' Chris buried his head in his hands and cried in earnest then. The tears dripped down through his fingers. It said. Looking back. It was much less common in those days and she went to a very good school. right?' ‘I suppose so. "I'm sorry. He cried as though he would never stop. ‘My little sister. looked directly at her and through her.
Standing behind him. Chris sat up and looked straight at Lynn. It felt risky but it was all she could think of to do. frightening Chris was gone. Chris gripped her hand back . who wouldn't be in until later. if there's a f***ing god. Something told her that Chris didn't want an answer anyway. With one hand. and on impulse she leaned forward and placed her hand over them. Lynn thanked her stars that the smokers' room was at the back of the school. ‘Never thought I'd tell that to anyone here. grabbed his handkerchief out of his pocket and began a vigorous mopping up operation. She felt the wetness of his tears on her skin. why the f*** didn't he f***ing well do something when Marie f***ing prayed to him?' For a brief instant. his face a mask.' Lynn was torn between a huge feeling of relief that the strange. The unfamiliar rigidity of his face began to melt back into his familiar. it did the trick. Lynn quite admired him. They seemed so banal. She felt overwhelmed. ‘Well. He surely couldn't switch back. out of earshot of all but the cleaners. as though her gesture of compassion had given him courage to be angry again he said. Then. This was a side of Chris that she had no idea existed. his eyes still red. He was staring stonily ahead now. pliable features. It didn't look like the Chris she knew. She suspected that he was trying very hard not to break down again.behind him.awful! And yet how could she allude to it when she 211 . He made a passable attempt at a wink. reached round and placed her hand on his forearm. just like that? What he'd told her was awful . smelling his aftershave. she slipped back into the seat opposite him. Amazingly. Secretly. While Chris was sorting himself out. the thought of saying ‘I don't know.hard. She saw his clasped hands on the table.' crossed Lynn's mind but she couldn't bring herself to utter the words. Gradually the twinkle returned. She guessed that no one else at school knew about it either. Now you know something about me no one else knows. seemed too intimate once he had stopped crying. his anger. feeling his grief. how about that?' he said at last. ‘That's why. holding the sodden handkerchief between them. He continued crying for some moments longer and then gave a couple of honking sniffs. Chris reached over and convulsively grasped it. so close. and concern because the change back had been so quick. he must be a f***ing sadist because otherwise. his vulnerability.
.' He grinned.' A look of alarm flashed across his face. ‘Not even Sandra?' Momentarily his face hardened again. . But time's a great healer. But please do think about telling Sandra. And now is what counts. But she wasn't sure she trusted whatever he meant by relaxed any more. She felt exhausted. . someone qualified to listen. And you won't tell anyone else? I can't believe I just told you myself . It won't change a thing. kicked her shoes off and curled up on the sofa calling to some invisible person. darling . or maybe see someone else . my pipe's gone out again. ‘Sandra? She knows Marie died in an . but not how she died. It's done nothing for you. ‘A counsellor you mean? They offered at the time. . his choice. . And it wouldn't make any difference now. The moment was over. ‘Fix me a g and t.' But she didn't know how to say it without making him angry. It was all a long time ago. She wondered if Tia felt exhausted after a session with her was over. accident .a stiff one. . and then relaxed. ‘Time's not a great healer. You women. But . ‘Look. Not a bloody thing. Don't worry. Marie will still be dead.sensed that he so clearly didn't want to? She said.I don't know what came over me. It's not my story to tell. ‘In the name of all that's holy. . poor Sandra. It's all we've got. or got home from work. be happy!' Lynn thought. you won't tell her. will you Lynn? It's over I tell you. now. Her musings were interrupted by Chris saying in a tone of wonderment. Or . . If Tia went to the cupboard and poured herself a whisky. the present moment. The old invulnerable Chris was back.' ‘Don't you think she ought to know? It might help her to understand. The shutters were up again. . Lynn laughed.' ‘I won't tell anyone else Chris.' She couldn't imagine it. 212 . I swear it goes out more than I do!' Despite herself. Oh well. you do love to talk as though that makes it all all right.' ‘Understand what? There's nothing to understand. but it wouldn't have made any difference. I've put it behind me now. . "Leave the dead to bury their dead" as the good book says.
* * * The week trickled sluggishly by. and he was really nice and he sorted it. Lynn also tracked Nicole down. that could afford to wait just a little while. and her feelings about Della she dealt with by saying. Nicole?' she asked. Not that she neglected him. Clearly she had thought that Lynn hadn't cared. so she didn't bother with strategies for dealing with her feelings about Mark. She was married to him after all. ‘I'm sorry I wasn't here when you came last week. Lynn drew her to one side. I'll get re-referred in three months' time with stress'. ‘Della's not like that now. it was Michael. Nicole stood by the door. ‘If I can't cope. You know!' 213 . her feelings about Chris and Sandra she dealt with by plotting how to wise Sandra up to asking Chris about his past without giving anything away.' Chris! What had he done! ‘Do you want to tell me about it?' ‘Well.' ‘Michael?' ‘Michael Strachley. watching Nicole's face.' (which was clearly true). Lynn was content to immerse herself in planning and doing and to leave the thinking and feeling for a few days. She particularly went out of her way to listen to him more. ‘It's all right now. ‘Are you all right now. and you were away after that. This all took a lot of energy. Her feelings about Lauren’s cancer she dealt with by the mantra ‘Positive thinking gets positive results'. She only had so much energy. her head hanging. ‘Yeah. ‘How vulnerable they are at this age!' thought Lynn. When you weren't here I saw Mr O'Doyle. Priorities.' Nicole brightened up when she realised that Lynn had remembered her. Not that it took much doing. or herself. and he seemed to appreciate it. She simply asked her to wait for her after the lesson.' said Nicole. of course. her feelings about Tia (she was particularly pleased with this one) she dealt with by saying.
He got a week's suspension because he'd had so many warnings.the year elevens .he went up to them at the back and started telling them that they shouldn't smoke. And he's so good-looking too. I'd like to kick him where it hurts myself!' ‘Hey. Good!' said Nicole fiercely. ‘Understandably. and he was really good. So I picked Michael up and when he stopped crying I went and had a go at Kyle.champion of justice. I'm sure. They took it for about two seconds and then Kyle just picked him up and threw him right down the aisle. People like him should be locked up.' ‘Do they?' said Lynn drily. All the girls fancy him. She went back into the prep room. but Mr O'Doyle was class.' ‘You're welcome.' ‘It was on the school bus.' ‘Anyway. He doesn't know any better. you know. Watch how you go. But you weren't here. steady on.you know he's not right in the head really . ‘Oh.' ‘Yes?' ‘And Michael . I was sitting up the top at the front with my friends and all the bad lot were at the back smoking . But it didn't do any good. everybody's friend. thanks for asking. so hard he cracked his head off the pole bit where you go downstairs. Miss!’ Lynn watched Nicole go jauntily along the corridor.Kyle Sanders and his mates. But Mr O'Doyle was.' said Nicole bitterly.’Oh yes. He was really crying. * * * 214 . ‘I hate him.' ‘Well. I would!' Then Nicole softened. her eyes sparkling at the very memory. swinging her bag. ‘So I came to tell you. He checked that Michael was all right and he sorted Kyle out. Go on.' ‘See you. Good old Chris . She shook her head.
Well. When are you coming round? Or shall I come to you?' The desire to have Mark meet Lauren was offset by the fact that if she came round. Not that she'd have gone to church. Polly. you could hardly get near her!' But Lauren had asked after her. That night. Tuesday or Friday?' ‘How about Monday . Mark might make some connections . 'Lauren was at church on Sunday! She says she feels a lot better. good to hear you. well.' ‘I'll look forward to it. She heard Lauren's welcome voice. ‘How are you fixed for evenings?' ‘Monday. Mark heard Lynn singing in the bath and grinned. This decision not to go was vindicated when she heard Polly say happily. ‘There were crowds of people round Lauren. and rang off.eightish?' ‘Fine. ‘And she asked after you. church had felt like a real no-no. eyes shining. She couldn't help feeling that he had a point. He was not disappointed. 'Lynn. Lynn would have to share her. I think God's healing her!' Lynn was so thankful she had to sit down. 215 . ‘I'll come to you.Lynn couldn’t face going to church on Sunday (what for?) so she had to wait for Monday for Polly to burst in. She'd phone her at the weekend.' said Lauren. .how unaware she was! . Though would it really matter? It would be nice to be able to . . then phoned Lauren. if that's all right?' ‘Sure. * * * Lynn waited until Saturday afternoon.’ said Lauren. though it would have been lovely to have seen Lauren. but somehow. had few details . as usual. hurriedly Lynn said. but Polly didn't notice.but she did know that Lauren had gone away for a few days with Alec and the boys. It was a signal for cautious optimism.' Lynn's heart was singing. after Chris. hang on! If the cancer thing came out. . .
on reflection. The most interesting thing about the sitting room was the open fire burning in the grate. the hall was clutter-free.' she said. ‘It's a bit of a luxury . Alec sweeps the chimney.Chapter 19 This time as she waited. Lynn had more confidence that Lauren would answer the door. I'll stick on the biggest log in your honour.' she added. And she did. ‘Alec's working and the boys are out. wearing trousers and a camel-coloured sweater of very soft wool. her smile welcomed Lynn in. 'Let's go into the living room. Again.' ‘Not that that makes any difference. I'm not sure if we should 216 . ‘We'll have to give it up soon. Lauren saw Lynn's look of surprise. Unlike before.' said Lauren.
She looked at the fire. Lauren looked pleased. It's not often you can find something that appeals to four separate senses at once. ‘Coffee please. and Lynn sank into a comfortably yielding three-seater sofa near the fire. And how noisy it was! There were crackles and sighs and pops and little whistling squeals and groans. then vanished. bonfires are allowed. What can I get you? Tea? Coffee? Something stronger?' ‘You drink?' said Lynn almost involuntarily. . . Lynn decided. well. ‘Make yourself at home. "Well. Back in a tic. And we do have a back boiler. Perhaps next time . Lauren raised her eyebrows. but I think. She half expected the whole fire to sigh and flop over.' she said. Lauren's smile encompassed both Polly and her. better than TV. 217 . . How lovely the flames were! Her experience of flames was mostly limited to Bunsen burners in the lab.' Lynn couldn't think why. ‘I think it's beautiful. as the rough-textured piney log that Lauren put on began to crackle." It's a nicer focal point than a TV flickering in a corner. . It was . A bit sixties-ish. wreathing patterned vapour: the pinky-violet glowing ash that was beginning to form in the incandescent depths. noting the small spurty flames that appeared in the wood briefly. Lynn studied the fire closely. She hardly noticed when Lauren came back with a tray loaded with coffee and mugs and biscuits. with little puffs of smoke. but quite pleasant on the whole. ‘I never thought of that.’ Somehow the thought of Lynn and Lauren swigging chardonnay didn't seem quite right. It had a Prussian blue throw over it with suns and moons on. It was magic.' Lauren vanished. I think. How odd that something that was dead should give more of an impression of being vitally alive than a lot of living things did. the large bright ones that burnt with a steady crackle and lovely.burn logs or not. I have terrible debates with my conscience at times. the lights were dim and there were candles burning on the mantelpiece. ‘Polly's the only other Christian I properly know. like a child getting comfortable in bed.' she added hastily.
groping for the words. She couldn't resist saying ‘But Polly and the others seem think you've been healed or something. . ‘No.' she said simply.I wanted to talk and enjoy the company of someone who didn't know. and even the pharmacist at the chemist knows. . It was not sad.' she ventured. I'm feeling better.' she said. her brain filled up and overflowed into her mouth. And I did. ‘Fires are very watchable. She seated herself on the other end of the settee. Lynn realised Lauren was trying to work out how much to say to her. 218 . then plunged in. . Lauren looked embarrassed.' said Lauren drily. because . and it makes sense to me. I felt that if only I'd known. ‘Yes. ‘Wonderful. I guessed you'd have a reason. like a guilty child. but serious. and then looked rather anxiously at Lynn and spoke tentatively. Lynn rushed to reassure her with words. ‘We'll leave it for a minute. I didn't think you'd find out so quickly. and then stopped to think about how she really did feel. and the boys know. ' She paused. and . though I did have a bit of a headache. because. and everyone at church knows. ‘But not actually better?' Lynn felt dismayed. I would have told you tonight. aren't they?' ‘Mmm.did you feel very deceived?' Lauren looked rather crestfallen.' ‘That’s OK.just for once . and it was very good. and all my friends and family know. drawing her legs up underneath her so that she was facing slightly towards Lynn. ‘I felt so normal when you came.Lauren put the tray on a low table nearby. She blinked a few times. I get so tired of talking about it. but it was your choice not to tell me. ‘Why didn't you tell me you had cancer?' How rude it sounded! She hadn’t meant to be so accusing! But to her surprise. I think I'd feel like that too. ‘Polly said you said you were feeling better. I might have been a bit more sensitive. She turned towards Lauren.' Suddenly. Lauren had that effect on her. I suppose . ‘It's like this. I know I've got cancer. not really.' Lynn was unsure how to continue. She said slowly. and Alec knows. I'm sorry . ‘Well.' Lauren regarded her with an unfathomable expression.' said Lynn. .' ‘Thank you. but with truth.
He cares very much. "When the Almighty falls into the sea. She said slowly. ‘Oh yes. I don’t quite follow the god-talk. She thought of Lauren. ‘Don't you care about dying?' and then froze aghast. She said. it becomes a fish.' Lynn didn't know whether to ask her about it or not. I care. can't he?' ‘Of course. but the frown was not for Lynn.he's a sadist if he can heal and he won't!' Lauren's struggle to find the right words was plainly written on her face. as though she'd never considered that question before. thinking aloud. but you have to compare like with like. ‘Yes. Doesn't he care?' cried Lynn hotly. They've done some new tests and I've got to go for the results on Monday. ‘Meaning. Maybe talking about god was a better bet." ' ‘Meaning?' said Lynn. Lauren had as good as told her she was dying. She wanted god to heal her. . of course I care. She didn't want Lauren to die. and now she was spouting meaningless god-talk. he cares. The Chinese have a saying.if he's god. Lauren looked at her. They couldn't do the chemo after all. I care very much. ‘But god can heal.' ‘Then why doesn't he . different .‘They would like to think that. My blood count was too low. what was God like when he became human?' This metaphysical twaddle was utterly opaque to Lynn. She thought of Chris and his little sister Marie.' ‘I can understand that. ‘God is . but she was too worked up to listen to the answer.' 219 . Something about the way Lauren said it gave her the impression that Lauren was very weary of the topic and would prefer not to talk about it if Lynn didn't mind. . but I'm not so certain.' ‘Caring is caring whether you're god or human!' ‘Yes. . And sometimes I feel very angry. .' ‘But how can he? He . frowning. He is other.
and how they want me to stay.' ‘Sorry. you know. And I feel desperate.' said Lauren. and returned with more coffee and a very large plate of cheese and biscuits. not to me.' she said.' she said. sometimes. smiling the curvy. What was worse than dying? Dying in agony? Watching someone you loved die in agony? Wishing you could die and not being able to? What did Lauren mean? Lynn shuddered. She didn't want to know what Lauren meant.‘I feel angry. I'm sorry!' she cried frantically. you know. You use the word "dying". oh dear. when it's just me. And because he won. what a mess it all is. Or at least. And I feel very tired inside and I rather wish it was all over at times. I forgot all about it. and there's hours to go before it's light. ‘when I see how frightened Jamie and Andrew and Dom are of me leaving them.at her. I've won too.' Lynn stared.' said Lauren. because of this.' said Lauren. God-talk. They hate God. ‘But giving up isn't quite the same as yielding up. ‘Sometimes. teasing Lauren smile that made her eyes crinkle up. And I'll try not to talk the God-talk if it doesn't scratch where you itch. and I don't think I can. ‘Don't you think it's time for coffee? I do. ‘You can't say or think anything I haven't said or thought before. ‘sometimes you win by dying. half-humorously. to be sure. sometimes at night. as she saw Lynn's look. Now she was laughing in earnest. Oh no! She was doing it again!. ‘I haven't just given up. ‘Oh dear. ‘Would you 220 .' ‘But you're giving up! You've got to fight it!' Lynn heard herself say.' she added. and I wish I could die to escape it. awake. Well. What on earth was she talking about. But Lauren didn't seem to mind. And do you want anything to eat? I'm starving. But dying isn't the worst thing there is. And I feel frightened. ‘It's all right. I might have to go and make some fresh. We're all dying. maybe it's true.' How could someone laugh about dying? Lynn looked at her bewildered. when the pain is very bad. what on earth did she know about Lauren's struggles? What would she do in those circumstances? You've got to fight it! How dared she say that? ‘I'm sorry. Someone I know did.' Lauren went leaving Lynn to mull over the utter incomprehensibility of what she had heard.
‘The chemo takes care of that.or any cheese come to that.' ‘No. honestly.' ‘Oh good! I hate eating alone.' Their eyes met and they burst out laughing. As they moved from laughter to smiling at each other. . 221 .' said Lauren. ‘I'm fine. . I like the crusts on the bread too.like some?' she asked.’ Lynn took the cheese. She’d never seen that before. just a piece of cheese then. Searching round for something to distract her from her acute discomfort.' ‘But the rind . ‘Not watching your weight then?' Lynn could not resist saying jokingly. then added a large chunk of cheese to each one before topping them all with mango chutney. OK. ‘You eat the rind?' she said curiously.' said Lynn suddenly. When she'd finished Lynn hoped she wouldn't offer her any. ‘Sure? I think I’ve brought the contents of the fridge in. Lauren put another log on the fire and they watched it burn in silence. ‘On the NHS.' said Lauren. ‘I'm going to see a counsellor. dangerous to do that? Aren't there harmful chemicals in it?' Lauren shot her a look. . It's the best bit. you mean?' she said coolly. considering each different variety of cheese. isn't it . ‘Yes.' Lynn added her prayers to the long list of those before her who had wished the floor would open and swallow them up. Well. even as a child. Lauren was strange in some ways. Lauren did this very slowly and methodically. Lynn felt a sense of delight inside. ‘Carcinogens.' said Lynn. ‘Not really. she noted with surprise that Lauren did not take the rind off from the San Paulin or the Stilton . selecting a biscuit and taking a careful bite. . ‘I always have done. and it took some time. How odd. ‘I can't say I'm bothered. I’m fine. as though that was important.' she added quickly. then watched in fascination as Lauren took several digestive biscuits and buttered them thickly.
and how she hoped that Lauren would not disappoint her. ‘There's a saying that grief is the price we pay for love. She put down the biscuit. as an afterthought. I don't think I can bear it!' ‘Why's that?' ‘She's good. It was nice to sit and feel the wonderfully comfortable sofa and not be afraid of what Lauren might say.' ‘You saw a counsellor? And you loved her? But you're a Christian. Lauren was a Christian after all.the miscarriage seemed almost irrelevant now . Bit of a cliché but there's truth in it. Lauren might see it as a . you mean?' ‘No! Not like fairies! So. ‘is this happening to me? I don't understand it. oh Lauren. .' Even as she said it.' ‘Not in a sexual way. Lynn felt a sense of unease. .well . she noted thankfully that she still wasn't frightened. ‘Why. it was Lauren she was saying this to. She glossed over some bits . not Polly or David what-his-name. She might get all preachy and start talking about Jesus or something. I value her highly and I don’t want to stop seeing her. This was getting dangerous. ‘I mean.' Lynn hesitated. After all.Lauren looked interested.' said Lynn dolefully. They had funny ideas.really well. What Lauren said was a surprise. this was before you were a Christian.' she added hastily. ‘How's it going?' ‘It's going well .’ Lauren nodded slowly and understandingly. Surely you don't believe in them?' ‘Like fairies.but it was still a jumbly mess in which Tia featured heavily. right?' 222 . . I sort of love her. Who knew what they thought about things like that? ‘Love’s too strong a word’ she added.' said Lynn despairingly. oh why. Lauren asked simply. But it was still a risk. . I saw a counsellor once and I loved her. ‘Actually. after all. ‘Can you talk about it?' And Lynn could.but. ‘Just when you thought you were getting somewhere?' ‘Yes . I really like her. It was only Lauren. ‘god-given' (in her eyes) opportunity for her to drag religion into it. But I'll have to stop seeing her soon. And when she finally ground to a halt. So good. But Lynn felt so desperate to talk about it that it was worth the risk.
' Lauren hesitated. very! And she smoked like a chimney.she was a Christian?' ‘Definitely not!' said Lauren. I know I shouldn't ask. I'm conscious that I've successfully deflected the attention from you. It's none of my business. if that means anything to you. and wore big gold earrings. It can be quite confrontational. laughing.' ‘Pearls?' What on earth did Lauren mean? ‘Fritz Perls. Inside. ‘She was a Gestalt counsellor. I'd been a Christian for years. I think she modelled herself on Perls a bit too literally. ‘It's a kind of counselling where you deal with things in a very direct way. chain-smoking the whole time.' It didn't.' ‘I can't help wondering what you saw her about. And I was a complete mess. She swore as well. and you're the one who's hurting at the moment. I'm sorry.' ‘ And was it confrontational?' ‘Yes. He was the founder of Gestalt psychology. ‘I don't in the least mind you knowing. she suddenly felt much easier 223 . ‘But it's a long story and maybe I could tell you next time we meet. not me. I only told you really to let you know that I understand a little bit about the pain of that kind of loss. ‘But this counsellor .‘I wonder why you would think that? No. I thought she was wonderful. There's quite a well-known video of him counselling a client.' she said at last.' ‘And your counsellor smoked?' ‘Incessantly.protect you?' ‘From what? From life?' Lynn suddenly remembered the cancer. She changed tack.' ‘But didn't god .' ‘You said you loved her?' Lynn remembered.
Lauren was watching her compassionately. Although I might have shared my life with her . saying them! And so casually . sitting there so composedly. on looking at the fire. Of all the words Lynn dreaded hearing.it wasn't reciprocated. so real. Tia was different.as though they meant nothing! But Lauren said she'd seen this woman for a year.' Lynn stiffened involuntarily. 'It probably doesn't. And it was Lauren.' she said. And Lauren would tell her her story next time they met. ‘But how could you bear it?' she found herself asking. ‘How long did you see her for?' ‘A year. ‘I knew God loved her more than I did.and I did . Sod that! she thought. She thought. something strong and good. That felt very good. Lynn was still alive. It was a total mystery and she wasn't sure it was really happening. regarding her with such concern. We could never have been friends. and mixed in with the pain she could feel something from Lauren flowing into her. . .' Let go? This was not so good. But this counsellor couldn't have been like Tia. Lynn looked at Lauren. She said she loved her. She survived. Counselling isn't friendship. 224 .' ‘A year? And then . Lauren would never have been able to let her go so easily. That was what made it possible to let go. How could this be? Lauren's words hurt just as much as if they had come from Della but they did not destroy her. 'I cried for three months. How could she be so unconcerned about it? A sense of unreality came over Lynn. ‘Oh yes.' But it did help. Lauren made it.about her feelings for Tia. that was it? After all that you'd shared?' ‘Yes. Look at her now! It seemed to Lynn that Lauren had just dealt her a death blow. I never saw her again. She concentrated on feeling the sofa beneath her. somehow so free. on chewing her lip thoughtfully. so caring. yet amazingly.' Counselling isn't friendship. those ones came top of the list. I absolutely delighted in her. Lynn didn't want to hear this. until she felt able to speak. of all people. if it helps you to know that.
Lauren noticed her look. ‘Was it long ago?' she asked. Lynn returned the pressure with interest. 'And now. Kalia helped me through it so that I was able to forgive them. But I pray for her now and then. ‘Just over twenty years ago. you did ask. She felt as weak as a kitten. Truth cannot contradict truth. What could she say? ‘Did your counsellor ever . . It didn't affect the awful situation I was in – but then it wouldn't. It was when someone I loved and trusted set out to destroy me. But it was clearly important to Lauren who was now looking rather damp about the eyes.and if I ever see them in heaven I will.' ‘You say she helped you though? Even though she didn't believe in god?' ‘Oh yes. leaning forward and grasping Lynn's hand firmly. ‘Well. Much more practical. If I met them now I would hug them . 'So I do appreciate . She is still very dear to me. but sometimes 225 .. They nearly did it too.a little bit . . What she wanted most in the whole world now was to change the subject. but it surprises me that you let her. Lauren accepted her. after all. But I can't forget her. ‘All truth connects. still holding her hand.it was all so bewildering. so she couldn't just change the subject totally.' ‘She had truth. She ought to do the same.' said Lauren cheerfully.do you want any? And I think I'll start hitting the Baileys. She still needed to know more. 'I need more coffee .' For a moment Lynn remembered David. but couldn't think why. But .' she said apologetically. . Counselling's not like that. but again she had the strange sensation of strength flowing from Lauren into her. I do hope I do!' Lynn felt stressed. become a Christian?' ‘I've no idea.' said Lauren. almost unable to move.something of what you're going through' said Lauren. Lynn felt ashamed. you know . This talk of forgiveness and heaven was more than she could handle. Normally it's red wine for me. That surprises you?' ‘No. . I was very damaged and angry and she helped me tremendously. I think it doesn't so much show you how to sort your life – more like help you live with the mess. much as she wanted to. especially on top of the body-blow she had just been dealt.
' said Lauren. Everything made them laugh. normal even. Lauren came back. after a moment's reflection. unselfconscious and animated in the firelight. ‘Fortunately it doesn't specify.only Baileys will do.' Lynn was still trying to work this out when Lauren put another log on the fire and departed. They swapped teaching anecdotes and finished each other's sentences. That's exactly the reason I drink it. Amazingly she still felt OK. Lynn paused.' ‘Is it?' ‘Oh yes.' ‘ ”Take a little wine for your stomach's sake”. getting more and more absurd. The intensity of the moment lightened instantly and popped like soap bubbles in the air around them. They let the conversation go where it wanted. The wine tasted of summer. though my twenty-something days are lost in the mists of time. seemingly 226 .' she said. please. ‘Where's that from?' ‘The bible. They finished up seeing pictures in the fire. trying to get it right? That had never happened before. As they talked. ‘All right. and they knew it. Lynn gingerly felt her psyche as an adult who slips on the ice might check themselves for broken bones. giving her hand a final squeeze and letting go.' she added. ‘Athough perhaps you're meant to rub it on. like a puppy running through a meadow. Lynn found herself casting covert glances at Lauren. They drank quite a lot of it. all right to grieve.' said Lauren blandly. I read somewhere that it's a preferred drink of some twenty-somethings because it provides the alcohol but still tastes like sweeties. and followed it to see where it went. Thinking about Tia hurt just as much but she knew now it was all right to love. So what! Will you join me? Or would you prefer wine?' Lynn couldn't help grinning at Lauren's matter of factness. leaving Lynn to watch the flames begin to rise. After a few moments. How had Lauren done it? Lynn had no idea. ‘wine would be nice. amazed. How could this be? And at what point during the evening had she stopped watching what she said. The main business of the evening was now over. She could hurt in Lauren's presence quite safely.
Lauren. but the truth was that it was really dead. Lauren said. But even as Lynn responded in kind. I was just thinking . . ‘Um .' ‘Then we'll definitely have to do it again. This evening has meant more to me than I can tell you. as though it was a toast. ‘since we've both so clearly benefited from it. so glowing. hasn't it?' agreed Lauren. . so afire with life. She was a bit like the fire.dead . It seemed an appropriate note on which to end.' They were at the door. and somehow. she suddenly remembered her earlier impressions of the fire. the last sound she heard was not the sound of Lauren's door closing.' ‘It's been good. Lynn. Was that the true picture? Lauren looked so well at this moment. but was she really . the thing that should not be there. ‘You're very quiet all of a sudden. constantly changing.' ‘The next time!' said Lynn. I'll be waiting for you. Lauren sensed her change of mood and turned to her. They quietly finished their coffee.' Lauren thanking her? For what? Lynn said with equal sincerity. Lynn decided. getting bigger and bigger. 227 . Lynn closed her eyes to escape the sight of the fire which now seemed strangely dark and malevolent. and a chill ran through her. Lauren hugged her unexpectedly closely. and said. Thank you so much.able to enjoy each moment to the full. And she thought about the thing growing inside Lauren's head. Lynn. that it looked so alive. and constantly pleasing to watch. As they walked to the front door. as she released her. caught unawares. with unexpected emphasis.' said Lauren cheerfully. ‘It's me who ought to be thanking you. I didn't want this evening to end. . ‘I'll be in touch.' ‘Am I?' said Lynn. and Lauren got Lynn's coat.inside? Did she have the seeds of grey death growing inside her that soon would creep all over ther vibrant aliveness and still it for ever. ‘Here's to the next time we meet. . wrapping her coat tightly around her as protection from the frosty air.' As she walked down the path. it's time to go. but of Lauren laughing. so bright. mimicking life. ‘I've enjoyed this evening tremendously.
. Tia continued.Chapter 20 ‘So.' ‘It's all right. . She couldn’t help staring. She was reminded of Lauren and how tired she had looked when she first met her. Without her glasses and with her head bent.' But it wasn't all right. On the other hand.' (‘Leaving?' thought Lynn) ‘and so.somehow it didn't seem right . ‘I need to take leave of absence for a month. I'm afraid the circumstances are out of my control. Lynn had never seen Tia do this before. It occurred to Lynn that she looked uncharacteristically weary. . In one week's time or six weeks' time.' Oh. ‘this is the last session before we meet to say goodbye. if you liked.' (‘Come back?' thought Lynn) ‘then the Christmas holiday will intervene and we will not be able to meet again until January.' She paused. .' said Tia. She replaced them and became Tia again. I am sorry to have to present you with this choice. One week or six weeks? She 229 . . This will mean you waiting about six weeks for our final session. but afterwards it occurred to her that this would probably have been a perfectly reasonable thing to say.' she said. never see Tia again. thanks. I am not leaving until the end of next week .and then . ‘I mention this because I am afraid I need to change the date of our next meeting. ‘What made you think of that?' Lynn didn't want to mention Lauren . ‘If we wait until I come back . It didn't seem much of a choice. it's not cancer. . Bloody thanks! Do you think I don't know that? ‘Yes. ‘It's not cancer. It's up to you. In one week it could be all over . for god's sake? And over Christmas too. Our next meeting is in two weeks' time.' Alarm bells went off in Lynn's head. Tia. six weeks . Tia looked much more vulnerable. I know. Tia.so she shrugged apologetically and said nothing. ‘No. is it?' she asked before she could stop herself. She'd never survive. but I will not be here then. . On the other hand . how could she wait six weeks with her nerves strung as taut as this. we could meet again at the same time next week for the final session.' Tia took off her glasses and polished them. . Tia smiled wanly.
Wrong-footing you. Why? Lynn felt completely wrecked. She couldn't think now. Tia said. just to say . ‘No. making you feel awkward and angry. good guess! I am angry! You sit there so smug. Tia. The anger grew hotter. more composed.’ Yeah. Always getting it right. defenceless Tia she'd seen. it seemed to Lynn. Staying in control. apparently indifferent to the bombshell she had just delivered.for six weeks! Oh hell! Tia. how to pace herself. her frail feeling of control gone. . what she would do in the two weeks. Something in Lynn snapped. she looked more Tia-ish. She couldn't think what to get in a week. She'd wanted to get Tia a present. . impervious.' But a week wasn't long enough.rack . almost amusement. I wonder if that feeling rings 230 .' Now that she had told Lynn the bad news. She'd had it all worked out. always saying the right sodding thing. she was watching with cool clinical disinterest. was observing her closely. She felt anger rising within her. Tia. Her habitual expression. I wonder what you’re thinking. Lynn felt that she had imagined the tired smile and the fragile. as usual. or a card. ‘That's how you see me. and. so bloody perfect. What was it about Tia that produced these extremes of emotion in her? She was perfectly normal everywhere else. One week or six weeks. Just a little something. and Lynn didn’t care any more about getting it right.didn't want to think about it. never giving any bloody thing away!' Tia took it without a flicker. ‘I'll remember you. right. You deliver this ultimatum – one week or six weeks – then you coolly sit back to watch my reaction like I’m a bloody lab experiment or something. she didn't know what. ‘You can tell me at the end of the session. Having just ruined everything. ‘I wonder what you’re thinking right now?' The volcano erupted. a sort of serious but ready-to-smile attentiveness had now completely returned. But six weeks! She couldn't endure this . Tia was such a cow. It shouldn't make a difference but it did. She looked at Tia. if you like. unyielding. What do you think about it all?’ ‘I think you are angry. This was the Tia she knew. the effect that her words were having. what to say.
What must it be like for her? What an awful job she had at times. she did feel sad inside. You are angry. having to sit there and take it from angry clients. when .any bells for you?' Lynn stiffened. did care. and stop giving me a hard time!' always having to think of what to say to help them. Why hadn't she noticed that before. for god's sake?' To this Tia said nothing. ‘Yes! Why do you do it? Why can't you just be normal. Grief meant you were sad. she saw something in her face that mirrored her own feeling. ‘Sod off. It made it so much better than the other time. She was being paid for it! The anger flooded back. Yes. What did she feel? Actually. Her face had a patient look and the fatigue Lynn had seen at first seemed evident again. didn't it? But she was angry. even a little bit . wasn't she? She stopped and allowed herself to feel. Lynn had heard that once before. But bloody hell! It was her job. When? Her brain felt muzzy. having to be there for them. I'm bleeding to death in front of you! Don't you care?' ‘Whether I care or not doesn't alter the reality of what has to happen. . when she thought about it. What was 231 . really really sad. That transference thing! Where had she felt it before? Very clever. The bad time she never thought about. ‘Oh. never able to retaliate or defend herself.' That registered. she tried to listen. leaving her feeling tired too. Did Tia feel sad then? Sad like Lynn? Did she know how Lynn felt? Did she? Or was it a psychological trick to make Lynn feel better? Because if Tia did know. And she was looking at Lynn.Tia making her angry. Tia looked so sad. This is normal for you! Bloody hell Tia. Maybe she did feel something. no one else! She refused to be diverted. Oh no! It was Tia . Oh god! And Tia wasn't helping. but she wasn't falling for it this time. In the midst of it all. But when she glanced at Tia. We have to say goodbye. She felt a sudden pang of pity for Tia. or something like it. What was Tia trying to say? Grief. Anger is a is a part of grief. I forgot.something icy gripped Lynn's guts and made it hard to breathe. to say. Lynn's anger ebbed away. then she could bear it. .
' she added pointedly. I can't bear to think about it now. Can you stay with it just a little while and see how it feels?' In Tia's calm presence.' said Tia.' ‘Last time?' ‘Something's stirring in my memory. then went on.' She paused and groped for her handkerchief. I can't face thinking about it here. from really early on. What am I going to do?' ‘You don't know what it is and you feel too frightened to think about it. with Tia looking at her and speaking so quietly. ‘I'm feeling your sadness.' ‘Yes. I've got too much else to think about now. Lynn. oh I don't know . . ‘Yes.' Lynn could see it was true. ‘Yes. Quick! Distraction! Lynn said hurriedly to Tia.and painful?' Lynn felt a wild. She smiled tremulously. ‘I don't want you to feel sad. Something I'd completely forgotten. ‘I'm sharing it with you.' Again. . No! Not here.' ‘But it's horrible . It's something to do with going away and being frightened. 232 . She exerted all her strength to shut the door on it. Tia. She felt deeply moved. It's too vague and indistinct to pinpoint now. I don't feel so lonely now.' said Tia. I feel frightened.this? Something was stirring in the furthest recess of Lynn's memory. Maybe it will come clearer later. No one had ever said anything quite like that to her before and she didn't know what to say. . ‘You look unhappy. ‘Thank you. The thudding of her heart began to slow down and she took a deep breath. It's not your problem. Lynn felt her fear being contained. But you've only just been made aware of it. I feel kind of glad too. oh Tia. and to be honest. . not now! Not on top of this pain she was feeling.' ‘I'm feeling sad. But. but even with the door shut she could sense it moving behind. It's so horrible and painful I'm afraid to think about it. Her anger had evaporated. ‘But in a funny way. I'm not even sure what it is. It was something so nameless and so painful that Lynn couldn't bear it. Eventually she mumbled. sharing it with me. It's so different from last time. jerky panic begin to overwhelm her. Is it OK to say that? It's like you're sort of. Lynn didn’t know what to say.
‘Sometimes things like this. When I write things down 233 . So could she. ‘Yes. Another thought struck her. while Tia was with her. Then she said slowly. Her mind refused to engage.' she added.‘Hmm. She didn't feel quite so hopeless now. It was clinging like a monkey to the patterned wallpaper behind Tia's head. once we become aware that they're there. ‘Can you do that though? I mean.' was all she said. ‘But how long will it take?' Tia made a ‘you tell me' sort of gesture.' she said more happily. What I can do is keep the next week's slot open for you. Somehow. filled Lynn with new alarm. She tried with all her might to think what it might be now. even if she chose not to turn up seemed to make a difference. but without success. but not here. I will assume that you will be coming in January and send you an appointment accordingly. ‘Why don't you write it down?' Write it down! Another good idea. ‘I could send it to you. if you want to take it up. I believe I am allowed to do that. What do you want to do?' ‘Like I said.' Tia agreed. or in six weeks.' The thought of it coming clearer. ‘Suppose I remember and you're not there?' ‘That seems likely. Tia could handle this coolly. Tia's calm acceptance of what seemed to Lynn to be a completely bizarre experience reassured her. and the fact that Tia would keep the session time free for her next week. this being allowed to choose when to come. Tia seemed to really want to help her. ‘OK. She nodded. Do you feel able to wait and see what happens?' Again. You'll appreciate that I can't keep a space open for you indefinitely. Lynn felt immensely comforted. She refocused on Tia and looked at her appealingly. Lynn was touched. ‘You can either come to see me in a week's time. as if thinking aloud. keep it open like that? Are you allowed?' Tia gave her a look. Again. when she was not with Tia. just start coming into our mind bit by bit and we begin to build up a picture. I think it might come clearer. elsewhere. If you don't turn up.
when you get back?' ‘Oh yes.' ‘Oh. Then another. and wished she could save them all in a bottle and just pour them out in another time and another place when she wanted them. ‘What's the joke?' said Tia.they could be arguing for instance. and then Lynn's mind cut out and she couldn't think what to say. and she would have to read them all. and Tia looked amused too. ‘You'll get it eventually though.' ‘You can if you like. that actually there were worse ways of spending the time she had left with Tia than by looking at each other . She imagined herself writing a letter to Tia which she would eventually get.it's like I'm talking to you. and Tia raised her eyebrows and looked alert. After that. And she could never say everything she wanted to anyway because no matter what she talked about.' said Tia reassuringly. considering how much she loved her mother and how proud she was of her. Lynn kept going to say things. And she'd had so much to say! She had planned to tell Tia more about her mother. 234 . She looked at Tia and received strength.' A cheering thought struck Lynn. and now. So she told her. She couldn't even think about her. the moment the door closed behind her she would remember things that she really wished she'd said instead and it would be too late. It was very odd. So Lynn told Tia this too. her mother was the last person she wanted to talk about. And then it struck her that. ‘I'll get it then. Lynn watched the minutes ticking by in silence. and then Lynn and Tia looked at each other again and it occurred to Lynn. no. The icy hand that had relaxed its hold on her heart tightened it again. whether the time was spent in silence or talking. they sat in silence for a while. for some reason. Tia might get enough for a book by the time she got back. but then finding she had more to say and writing another one. it was still ticking away. and what did it matter because soon it would be over whatever happened. minutes of her and Tia that she could use properly when she had something that she really wanted to say. But bear in mind that I'm not around after the end of next week. and Tia looked sympathetic and nodded. And she told Tia this. This struck her as so ludicrous that she chuckled out loud.' Lynn had forgotten. and Tia agreed. She was too drained to think clearly now. won't you.
But the time seemed, weirdly, to drag, in a way that it never had before. Lynn couldn't ask Tia any questions, and she couldn't talk about her mother, so she talked a bit about Sandra and Chris again, and Tia listened carefully and made some interesting observations, but she seemed very content to leave the running to Lynn and it wasn't at all what Lynn had in mind. Lynn looked at the clock a lot. ‘I didn't think it would be like this,' she said. ‘I don't suppose you did,' Tia replied. And eventually, Lynn felt too worn out to talk even to Tia, who seemed to understand everything she said. Her brain felt numb. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, and she couldn't help wondering, deep inside, what it was she'd forgotten, and whether it was really so awful. Because here in this calm quiet place, with Tia looking at her, it didn't seem as if it could be so very bad. Eventually, when there was still some time to go, Lynn warmed up, and began to talk a bit about Lauren, and she mentioned the cancer again and Tia said 'Mmm', evidently making the connection between that and Lynn's earlier remark. And the mere mention of Lauren's name had a cheering effect on Lynn and she found herself glad to talk about her - she really hardly mentioned the cancer - and Tia seemed to enjoy hearing about it and nodded a lot as she listened as though to say that Lauren must indeed be as nice as Lynn said she was. Tia didn't once intervene or be challenging or directive. Lynn was quite thankful. In one way it seemed a waste not to be on the receiving end of Tia's insights which usually made her think, but truly she was so tired and she didn't think she could have coped with very much along those lines. Tia seemed so uncharacteristically gentle and everything seemed so unreal - all kind of running together - that she would not have been surprised to find that she had fallen asleep and dreamt the whole thing. And finally Tia said, ‘Our time is up for today, Lynn' and they both stood up. As they moved across the room, she added, ‘I'll keep next week open for you, and we'll see what happens.' ‘Thank you,' said Lynn. ‘And I’ll write to you if I remember anything.' Then she walked out through the door.
The feeling of unreality stayed with Lynn all that night and the next day. She kept puzzling at what it was she couldn't remember, lost in her own interior thoughts, teaching on autopilot and engaging in conversations quite mechanically. By Friday evening, Mark was quite worried. ‘Are you sure you don't want to come tonight? I don't like leaving you at home like this. You enjoyed the Works Do last year, they always get a good band.' ‘No, honestly. I'm going to have a shower and an early night. I've just been a bit under the weather lately. I'll be fine.' ‘Well, phone me if you need me. I wish you'd let me stay home with you. I can't say I won't be late, because you know how these things go on. Look, are you sure you don't want to come?' ‘Positive. I just don't feel like dancing, but there's no point in us both missing it. Go on, have a good time. You know you'll enjoy it when you get there. Now push off, you're keeping me from my shower.' Lynn's sparkiness seemed to reassure him, and he left, not without a last backward glance. Lynn gave a big smile and waved encouragingly. He laughed and closed the door behind him. She sighed with relief. Lynn had a long, hot shower, as though she could never tire of the feeling of the warmth penetrating her skin. Theirs was an old shower, fitted over the bath, but it was surprisingly efficient. It was while she was reaching for the towel, in a state of dreamy relaxedness, her mind finally switched off, that it happened. As Lynn pulled the towel off the top of the shower curtain rail, the edge of it caught a little bowl on a ledge in the tiling and knocked it over, spilling the bright glass pebbles, red and purple and blue, all over the bottom of the bath. Lynn looked down, felt her irritation turn without warning to a vast, swelling dread as she saw them shining there. She heard a hoarse voice – ‘Animal!' and it seemed as though the very ceiling was caving in on her. Something terrible and frightening was in the bathroom with her. She gasped, felt her bowels turn to water and hardly
knowing what she was doing, struggled out of the bath and fled. Lynn flung open the door of the bedroom and stepped into the dark. As she groped for the switch, which seemed to take longer than usual to find, the darkness and the colder air on her wet, naked body seemed to have a horribly familiar feel. She pulled the towel around her and tried to control her breathing, which was coming in ragged gasps. In the midst of the panic was a feeling of utter bewilderment. What was going on? The bedroom was not the place to be. Even with the light on it was dark with terror. Lynn snatched at her dressing gown and made a dash for the living room where she dragged it uncomfortably over her still wet body and, teeth chattering, collapsed into the sofa. Her whirling thoughts were so chaotically unpleasant that she totally blanked them out, concentrating instead on staring fiercely round the room as though committing every detail to memory. Never had the ornaments on the mantlepiece, the lampshade, the waste-bin, the blank TV screen been scrutinised so thoroughly. Lynn's mind, her mental being, was no longer in her head, it was attached to everything around her. Gradually, the heat from the gas fire began to penetrate her chilled body, but still she refused to allow any thought in that was connected with whatever had just happened. As Lynn looked at the sideboard it registered that the drink was kept there. She willed herself to visualise clearly every bottle behind the frosted glass of the door, lingering on the squat shape of a large, dark bottle. What was that? - relief engulfed her as she recognised it as a bottle of Baileys. Moving disjointedly, as though she was drunk already, Lynn got the bottle and shakily half filled a tumbler with it. She gulped it down. She was surprised at how easy it was, she'd thought she'd hate it. Halfway through the third tumbler, she began to gag and realised she would have to change drinks - the sweet taste was proving too much for her. What to, though? Lynn looked at the open door and pondered each one in turn. There was wine in the rack in the kitchen, but she couldn't get her head round fetching it and uncorking it. Hang on! There was Mark's malt whiskey, that would do. Not her tipple of choice but any port in a
storm, ha ha! Why did she feel sick? And why was it harder to move? She paused to consider, and a wave of terror that came from nowhere caused her to scuttle disconnectedly towards the sideboard and slam against it as she reached towards the malt. Ouch! That hurt! The pain in her shoulder served to clear her head momentarily and she extracted the bottle and carried it with exaggerated caution back to her nest on the sofa. She curled up on it and poured herself a stiff one. The Bailey's glass would do . . .
'Lynn, wake up! What the hell happened last night?' Lynn felt herself rising upwards from a deep dark place into a world of light and colour that sent excruciating pains stabbing through her head. She felt absolutely terrible. She opened her eyes a fraction and squinted at Mark, who was bending over her shaking her. She had no clothes on and she was in bed. How had she got there? But it was Mark who was asking the questions - but also supplying answers. 'I got in last night at two o'clock to find you completely blotto on the carpet in front of the fire with my malt whiskey all over the place. And you'd thrown up everywhere. How you never burnt the bloody place down I'll never know. And what about the mess in the bathroom? What . . .happened?' Lynn began to shake her head to clear it. Mistake. She concentrated on lying still. 'Mark, I don't know. I remembered something. I . . .I had a shock. I had a little drink.' 'Little drink!' 'Big drink then! I don't remember. Leave me alone!' 'Leave you alone! That's what I did last night and look what happened! I can't leave you alone for five minutes! What's happening? It's like looking after a sodding baby! I've had it Lynn, I've had it!' 'Oh, shut up, will you! I'm not interested! Eff off! Just bloody eff off, damn you! I'm sick of you!' The message ended in a scream. Lynn had half sat up in bed to deliver it and now she
sank back, her head throbbing exponentially. Mark was dumbfounded. Lynn had never spoken to him like that before, as though she hated, really hated . . . him? This was another Lynn he'd never met. How many more were there? He was out of his league now. He felt fear shiver down his spine. Lynn recovered first. 'Sorry, sorry!' she said wearily. I've had a hell of a night. What time is it?' She sounded normal. But he couldn't forget what she'd said. 'Half past one.' 'In the afternoon?' Lynn was amazed. 'Oh I'm sorry!' she said again. Again she sounded so normal. This was scary. These mood swings were getting worse – much worse. Where would it end? 'Mark, I had such a bad memory. Something from my childhood. Something I've got to think about, to process. I'd completely forgotten it ever happened, until last night.' Mark was silent. Inwardly he was raging – bad memories from her childhood? - it was that bloody therapist again! None of this would have happened if she hadn't come on the scene! Or would it? He said, as neutrally as he could, 'Bad memory?' 'Oh yes! Mark, it was awful. I can only remember bits and pieces, impressions . . . ' as she spoke, Mark could see her trembling. She sat up, clutching the duvet to her, staring at something he could not see. Despite himself, pity overtook him. 'Do you want a cup of tea?' Lynn came to, breathed out and regarded him. There were still tears of fear in her eyes. She made an effort to smile and speak normally. 'Oh yes!' And a big glass of water. And some aspirin. Thanks!' As he went to get them, he could see her struggling again with thoughts he could not see. Lynn got up that evening and crawled delicately into the living room, which now had a distinct aroma of air freshener. Jumbled images and words were tumbling over and over in her brain but this time she was trying to let them come, containing their terrifying potential for destruction by imagining them writhing like demons in a glass bottle that Tia was holding.
You remember I'd told you my Mum was very ill at that time. She knew deep down he cared. things she hardly knew she'd remembered. expanding. Mark had gone round to watch the match on Sky at Christian's and had said he would phone a couple of times that evening to see if she was all right. she began to cry. * * * The next morning. clarifying. Still. Except for welcome offers of tea or coffee. Now they made sense. Guilt at what she was putting him through was only outweighed by the anger she felt at his inability to trust her. above all. Lynn surfaced from sleep to find that her mind had beaten her to it. Lynn began to jot down words and then phrases at random as they occurred to her. It had clearly woken up some time previously and was already in gear. sat back exhausted and dozed fitfully for an hour. so they had compromised. and she had truthfully said that she wanted to be on her own to try to recall what had happened.Mark had asked Lynn what she wanted to do that night. Sitting on the sofa. she began typing. She got up and went though to the lounge. She fetched the jumbled notes of the night before and began reading through them. his total refusal to listen to her or to understand what was happening inside her head. Fortunately. As she did so. When she had finished she phoned Mark. then went to bed and crashed out. Feeling very virtuous. and. Well. she phoned and told Mark that as well. That was what it felt like. that was Mark. somehow the night's sleep had helped her to remember more details. Then she came to. Mark had agreed. and she had only just managed to control it by saying that she would phone him instead. Armed with a pen and pad. This had infuriated Lynn almost beyond endurance. This took quite a long time. Dear Tia she read. here's 240 . looked at what she had written. By 3 o'clock it was ready to post to Tia. I' had an accident in the bathroom the other night which reminded me of something that happened when I was about four. She checked it one last time. and decided to go to bed. Mark had not wanted to leave her alone. Mark left her mercifully undisturbed.
and there was nothing I could do. you’re an animal! You bite. It was really ugly . "Look. Well. has it? I said. I did drop it .it slipped through my fingers and shattered into the bath. As I stood up for her to dry me. I tried to wriggle and pull away. She went into a sort of a frenzy then – she couldn't stop. I turned my head and bit her hand as she held my upper arm. My Mum was very upset and shouted that I'd done it on purpose. that's what it felt like. Then she stopped but it still kept hurting." and she made me look at her hand and it was all red. My mother was giving me a bath. . . I don't know how long she did it for. all purple and red. and her breath was coming in gasps. ‘. She stared fiercely at the picture over the fireplace and concentrated on breathing evenly. I saw an ornament on a shelf.what happened. It felt like forever. Lynn stopped reading for a little break. She kept telling me to put it down. She's never done that before and it hurt. She summoned her resources and read on: It made my Mum very angry. and continued: It was in our first house.’ And then she said. I picked it up and my mother got very upset. you wet yourself like an animal. and I said the first thing that came into my head . She grabbed my arm with one hand to hold me still and started to smack me hard. The page she was looking at was shaking and it seemed to be rather blurry too. it made my mum change into another person. I was so frightened that it made me do something even more stupid. She described the incident in the bathroom. And that made something really horrible happen. She didn't even look like my mother any more. After a few minutes she resumed reading. my mother said it to me all the time.nothing's changed. looking around the room for something else to focus on. and she was panting with exertion and she said. And it hurt so much. and I felt so I didn't 241 . Well. but there was no escape. Images of her mother that evening swam up into view and she fought them down. Lynn paused to regroup.' know it was a bad thing to say. I could feel a warmth running down the inside of my legs. I think she thought I'd drop it. I was so frightened I had wet myself.you know that Venetian glass. her face was all red and twisted. This was so hard to read.I think a sort of clown thing my mother had got from somewhere . ‘Don't be so stupid. ‘You animal. you've made me hurt my hand on you.
and was given lots of sweets. otherwise they wouldn't have. and she said. "Stay there until I say you can come out . I had a happy time there. all quite a bit older than me and they all made a fuss of me. then continued. How could she like me? How could anyone like me? Anyway. She had three kids. I don't remember their names but I remember that I sat on people's laps a lot. ‘I didn't see my mother for six weeks because there were complications .peritonitis set in and they thought she was going to die. What happened to the little girl next? She read on with interest. This was some other little girl she was writing about. but I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew someone was waking me up – but it wasn't my Mum. and sort of threw me into my bedroom and it was dark." And she went downstairs and I just didn’t know what to do. 'After six weeks my Mum came back and she was very thin and pale and I didn't 242 . wet as I was. Lynn smiled as she read that bit. Come to think of it. I had a nice time at my Auntie Gwen's.bewildered then because I had thought that it was me that was hurting. ‘And you've made my pain come back!" and she grabbed me out of the bath. but she didn’t want me. 'After a while I crawled into bed as I was and I could hear her moaning and crying downstairs. I wanted her.I was in another place. because I had made her hurt her hand. I guess they didn't know all those bad things about me.I don't want to see you again until you’re a human being again. and I had made her pain come back. Lynn considered this. that's the only way I can describe it . and if she had died. I would have killed her. And she would have died not liking me because I had purposely broken her ornament and said she was stupid and bitten her and I was an animal. I lay awake in the dark for what seemed forever. not a proper human being at all. I was in another place. not her. that was rather how she felt now. I learned later that my mother had been rushed into hospital in the night with a perforated appendix. And I thought she was going to die. My Mum had gone and I was taken to stay with my Auntie OGwen in Wales. And then she clutched at her stomach and sort of screamed out. it was the next door neighbour. I knew that it would have been my fault. It seemed rather a strange thing to say but it was the only way she could think of to explain how she felt.
though Lynn wasn't sure why she thought this. The letter appeared to have been written a bit childishly too. I'll see you next week as you said I could.recognise her at first. She folded the letter and put it in an envelope. and I was pleased to see her too. And I was always a bit scared after that because I knew I was very powerful and I could scare people and nearly kill them without even trying. and I think I would like to see you sooner rather than later. So I was always very careful then to get it right and not to say or do anything to make the monster come back or to hurt my Mum – I'm not sure which. Lynn couldn't help feeling glad. That’s how it seemed to me then. anyway. it was all over now. So I might do something by accident to make my mum go away again and then she might never come back. though actually she wasn't sure if she liked her either.and I couldn't help wondering if the monster was still there inside her and if it would come back if I was naughty again. She signed the letter simply. She would go out for a walk and post it later. She couldn't believe it.no more. so unless you hear anything from me to the contrary. and a sort of monster person ihad come n her place. Anyway. you'll appreciate I feel a bit weird remembering all this. She couldn't help feeling sorry for the little girl in the story. She could only hope that the strange anaesthetic effect of the last few days would last a long time and keep her numb and light-headed. Only a few more days and then . but that couldn't be helped. Right now she needed to lie down. That way she would be able to cope. Tia. That little girl. But it was funny because I couldn't forget that somehow I had made her go away. Lynn sighed as she read this. Anyway. had gone. whoever she was. debated on scrawling ‘Thanks for everything' or ‘I really appreciate all you've done' and decided to save it for a farewell card. ‘Lynn'. She seemed a very stupid little girl. 243 . Lynn chewed her lip. but she was very loving and so pleased to see me. She reread the final paragraph.
' said Tia. to this person that I know nothing about but I long to be friends with. It was bizarre. ‘I got your letter.was it just a few days ago? It seemed much longer now. focused. She thought. the despair. She looked as thin and angular as ever. ‘Yes.' In fact. sitting opposite her. She had imagined a thousand things. she sounded normal. and focused. who means so much to me. nothing I can do about it. Time and tide wait for no man. nothing. Even more amazing. Lynn could feel the helplessness. elegant. missing nothing. and that's it. She's not dying. Even nodding and simply replying.' A bitter exhaustion welled up within her.' Lynn.' would have done. taste it like bile in her mouth. She could think of nothing to say. her mind could hardly think them. the inevitability. or moving away. but not this. ‘Ah. ‘I knew you'd say that. but her lips refused to frame the words. She looked at Tia. And there is nothing. she'd rehearsed it several times. Today. in this day and age. poised. except . She could feel it hurting her chest. can this be happening? I've just got to say goodbye. She looked helplessly at her. wanted to smile and say. It's bloody mad. The moments ticked by. Tia was wearing a black vee-neck sweater and a bottle-green skirt. talking nineteen to the dozen. to remember the letter she had written . not wanting to waste a precious moment . She had imagined herself holding forth. from imprinting this image of Tia on her heart for ever.the Lynn-that-might-have-been engaging with the Tia that-might-have-been. ‘How. with 244 . yes. from drinking in every detail of this encounter. ‘Today is the day we say goodbye to each other. her throat. Her facial muscles felt paralysed and she seemed to be doing things in slow motion. It's over. It was so odd. Tia looked at her. In fact. Tia spoke again. Lynn shook herself free of the spell that seemed to being cast over her. still. She sat like a model. So perhaps.Chapter 21 ‘So.' Amazing! She could speak.' Your letter? What letter? Lynn wrenched her mind away from the here and now. inexorable as the tide. There's no reason for it. had Tia.The Rules. the letter.
well. .' Lynn felt hurt. Tia's look softened. Lynn. ‘Yes.' Lynn looked at Tia in surprise. what got into her at times? But how to begin? ‘I . I read your letter several times over. thank heaven! That was what she wanted to talk about. She was leaning forward. as though feeling for each word. Something of what Lynn felt must have showed in her face. ?' ‘I know.' Something clicked. Like it was my fault.' ‘Does the fact it wasn't her fault stop it being a bad thing to happen? What did it feel like to you?' ‘I told you. I know! Thought about longer term counselling? No!' Tia was silent. ‘But she came back. Like there was a monster there that would come back if I wasn't careful. . I'm not sure what to say. ‘Did you? Did you really read it several times over? Really?' ‘Yes I really did. it was all coming back now. It seemed real when I was writing it. said you wanted to talk about it today. or even this morning.some difficulty. It wasn't a very good thing to happen to a four year old. there's not a lot of time left. Lynn. for Tia. .' Lynn heard only one thing. She couldn't help being ill. I just wondered how you felt about it when you remembered. ‘When you were four. Like I'd nearly killed her. was it?' ‘It was a very bad thing to happen to a four year old. Then she said. speaking unusually energetically. on what Tia was saying. ‘ . ‘Just the same?' 245 . . It wasn't her fault. Honestly. your mother left you . and now you're leaving me too! It's just the same!' cried Lynn despairingly. ‘I didn't forget what you'd written. . This was a big issue to raise as we are coming towards the end of our time together. Didn't Tia remember what she'd put in the letter? She must have read it only yesterday. Have you . .' Yes.
what did it matter now? She'd let Tia have that one. she had to risk it. ‘What do you think?’ said Tia.was it?' She looked at Tia appealingly. are you?' She shut her eyes and waited. I thought it was my fault. Lynn thought. .' Suddenly. ‘No. But it wasn't my fault . She looked at Tia. . heard Tia's quiet voice. . That can’t be my fault can it?' she said in a whisper. . At length she said slowly.' Lynn stopped. And that had been too bad to be contemplated. . I know it's crazy. . But I knew in advance that you were going away. not choosing to leave me . It had been that or leaving after only having seen Tia for three sessions. .‘Yes!' ‘Why do you say that?' ‘Well. She didn’t choose to leave. It's no one's fault. Oh well. looked back.' she conceded. had to know. ‘And when my mother went away. . Tia was saying it.' she said wearily. She had a burst appendix.' said Lynn. It was a stupid question – so stupid – Tia might be angry if she even asked it. felt a question forming like a bubble in her mind. to punish me . because you . I've got to ask this. ‘it wasn't my fault.' But Lynn felt unnerved by this new idea. Lynn thought hard.' ‘We agreed it. But . But that wasn't fair. I know it. A burst appendix was no one’s fault. But against her will. even though it was so stupid. phrase by phrase. a new and awful thought struck Lynn. but . ‘We agreed it. But . she'd been desperate. Does it 246 . I don't hate you. ‘My mother went away suddenly . . but she wasn’t sure she entirely believed her. Looked away. It's just the way things are. hate me . you're not . But she couldn’t stop herself.' Tia said. . She opened her mouth. ‘No. No . but this was different somehow. ‘Well. she'd agreed it too. . maybe not just the same. . it's . My going away isn’t your fault.you agreed it. ‘Tia. shut it. . . ‘No. Tia's eyebrows arched enquiringly.with no warning.you're going away. But Tia's steady gaze gave her the courage to articulate it.
' and realised that was true too. or she could believe her own notoriously unreliable feelings. feeling utterly and foolishly four-ish. ‘I don't think you hate me. then she was a bloody good actress! She said. do you think I hate you?' ‘Yes! No! I don't know!' Tia's voice came again. who as far as she knew had never lied to her. she looked at Tia from between her fingers. ‘It would be a triumph if you could open your eyes. She could choose to be four. but at least she was doing what the thirty four year old told her. heard Tia ask again. For good measure. A silence that had plainly.' There was a silence. She sat there with her eyes shut. The four year old was still there.' and as she said it. feeling that nothing in the world could induce her to open them again. bent her head floorwards and opened her eyes. this time with a slight edge of firmness in it.' Ulp! Lynn covered her face with her hands. It was totally up to her. automatically sat up straighter in her chair. To Lynn's surprise. still with her eyes shut. Then. After a while she heard Tia say softly. 'And what did you hear me say?' Lynn. She could believe Tia. ‘Lynn.seem to you that I hate you?' Lynn could feel tears seeping under the lids of her closed eyes. As the moments ticked by. The 247 . do you believe that I tell the truth?" 'Oh. still with her hands over her face. Lynn. more gently. or she could choose to be thirty-four. ‘Well then!' hanging in it. yes. If Tia did indeed hate her. She thought of Tia's smile. and at least it worked. realised that she had a choice. Finally. she saw Tia was regarding her in the manner of a fond parent who has just watched their child survive a walk-on part as a sheep in the school Nativity play. and it was a real choice. ‘That you don't hate me. Tia was not in the hating business. she knew for certain that it was true. ‘Lynn. Tia!' Lynn was sure of this. she removed her fingers one by one and looked Tia in the face. she added. ‘I don't think my mother hated me either.
laughed again. Wow! A shaft of happiness split her misery wide open and she could feel a fatuous grin spread over her lips that she was powerless to stop. All the rules were being broken today. Numbly. Tia saw it and her lips twitched in response. paused. highlighted her delicate cheekbones and the dusting of freckles over her nose and reflected off her glasses. laughing sixth former. Lynn had never really heard Tia laugh out loud so spontaneously before. Old habits died hard. totally unexpectedly. What did? Lynn couldn't be bothered to ask. I'm sure. But Tia had.' she added. oh surely. Lynn was reminded of Sandra's silvery laugh. Tia laughed out loud.' she said sympathetically. Have you ever considered contact lenses Tia?' she suddenly found herself asking. 'that you know about only too well. Della had said they never did that. I'm afraid. not really. Tia gazed unconcernedly back. Now she had pushed it past the limit with her noseyness and Tia would teach her a lesson with a few well chosen words and coolly withdraw. Sixth formers think they are above such things.Tia .' Tia hesitated.' Incredulously. What had she done? She and Tia had just shared a transcendent moment and Tia had graciously answered a question she didn't have to. She had a sudden mental picture of Tia as a willowy. what was that word? Self-disclosed. to her. ‘Whatever made you think of that? No. effortlessly tossing off her homework. But Tia's laugh had golden tones. ‘It takes a long time. with genuine amusement.had. Lynn looked at Tia.due to flagrant flouting of school rules concerning safety goggles in labs.winter sunshine gilded the outline of Tia's hair like a golden pot scourer. Surprised. ‘Yes . seeming to feel that this was not enough. Lynn slumped in her chair and beamed back. and added. she must like her. She'd done it again. ‘My eyes aren't suitable. Lynn went cold inside. Surely then. She should have left it there. She sat there in a happy daze until 248 . the one all the lads fancied.' ‘Corneal scarring?' As soon as she said it. and with a social life that was the envy of every girl in her class. she waited for it all to go wrong. Something. and then. Tia . Tia threw Lynn a quizzical look.
being there with her.' she added. It was a depressing repeat of the previous session. She nodded in recognition. but she could come up with nothing to say. Tia did understand. like my brain’s frozen. able to flex this way or that depending on whatever Lynn said. That made sense The silence continued.' said Lynn. for her. Tia seemed to Lynn like a gymnast or a ballet dancer.a look at the clock revealed that time was passing far too swiftly.' 249 .darkness. and then .' said Tia. How could she put that into words? How could she say ‘thank you' to Tia in a way that would have some resonance for her. She could sense Tia's tuned-in-ness to her change in state. and you've come a long way. and she was touched in the midst of her anguish. . ‘and we've had a real relationship. Lynn's mind thrashed around in the numbness like someone trying to take off a sweater under three layers of overcoats. was bearable. sycophantic mouthings. stricken. ‘You've been really . waiting patiently. her whole psyche tuned to Lynn's needs. present.' she said despondently. she was sorry. oh. ‘Oh Tia. She looked at Tia. It was amazing her brain was working at all. She knew Tia didn't need her apology. It was unbelievable.' responded Tia. The numbness returned. so supple. She looked at Tia.' Lynn added. so effortlessly balanced. She looked hopefully at Tia. ‘Anger is a part of real relationships. thanks for being there for me. Dammit. Whatever it had been like for Tia. or didn't say. From time to time she glanced at the clock and then back at Tia. Less than half an hour left of Tia's bright presence. Lynn. that wouldn't just sound like silly. Each time Tia looked reliably the same and her gaze held Lynn's peacefully as though even this was OK. . for her it had been really special. could hold it so lightly. She hoped Tia would understand. We've worked very hard together.so hard! ‘I feel kind of numb.' she blurted out at last. ‘And I'm sorry for losing my rag last time. ‘Grieving will come later.' It was the only way she could think of to describe it. ‘Mmm. Lynn could too. ‘I guess so. Damn! She hadn't meant to say that. But it was still hard . the time ticked away. after a while.' she said. she wanted to leave with some dignity! But. And because Tia could bear it. to what was going on right now. ‘Thank you.
but now she had. Strangely it had reminded her of Tia – lovely and minimalist. nodding her head for emphasis.she was laughing a lot today! This was the moment. ‘Will you .A real relationship. She wished she hadn't thought of it. She had come a long way. that was nice! The sun was definitely shining now. Out of sight is not out of mind' and signed it. ‘I will certainly remember you. I almost forgot. And it was true. dragging a card and small black plush-covered box out of her pocket and passing them to Tia as nonchalantly as she could. She took them and held them on her lap.' she said mendaciously. But Lynn could feel another question trembling on her lips. wow! ‘And I will certainly remember you. she couldn't leave it unsaid. On the card Lynn had written 'Thank you Tia. Lynn was in agony. ‘Oh. A question that frightened her.' said Tia emphatically. 'Lynn'. flowers die. That was all. whoever he was. The card was a photograph of some meadow flowers. Oh.will you remember me. Though she would hardly describe Tia as 'see-through'. looking at them.' 'For me?' Tia looked surprised. Lynn. Tia?' Oh please don't let Tia do one of her ‘What do you think?' kind of responses! She couldn't bear it.' replied Lynn solemnly. with little verse from a poem inside that she'd always liked . Hours fly.by Henry van Dyke. Were therapists allowed to accept gifts? Would Tia want to accept it? Suppose she refused it? What would that feel like? Was she willing to take the risk? 250 . new ways Pass by Love stays. New days.' Oh. On an impulse (some impulse! It wasn't cheap) she bought it and for the next three days agonised over whether to give it to Tia or not. For some reason this made Tia laugh again . The box contained a pendant – three cubes of crystal glass held withing a simple silver filigree on a silver chain. ‘For you. ‘Oh yes.
Tia had not said that she would keep the pendant – or the card – but that was not the issue. Then. What mattered was that Lynn had given them to her and she had accepted. That was the most she had dared hope for. ‘Thanks again. Now she waited to see what would happen. Tia reached out her other arm and lightly touched Lynn's in return. as though what Lynn had said was perfectly right and true. It said 3. In her mind she had imagined Tia saying 'Thank you' and putting the card and the box to one side. Tia put the card and the box carefully on the desk behind her and turned back to Lynn. Lynn wasn't prepared for that. simply couldn't bear it now if Tia said ‘Our time is up. Then Lynn looked at the clock. Lynn was satisfied.' Tia ignored her. her touch lingering fractionally on Lynn's sleeve. It was hers to do with as she chose. ‘Time to go.' As Lynn heard herself saying the words. She opened it and read the verse inside and the inscription inside and smiled again. and silently accompanied Lynn to the door. What she did with the pendant now was not important. 'Thank you Lynn. she caught herself pleading inside. she reached out and lightly touched Tia's arm. and. Now here was Tia opening the card. please stop me Tia!' But Tia didn't. “Thank you Lynn. After what seemed an age. She gazed at the pendant inside. She couldn't bear it. stop me. At the door. There was a moment of quiet that seemed to fill the whole room. She looked at the picture on the card. Otherwise she would spend her life wondering if she might have accepted it and regretting she hadn't dared try. She felt the adrenalin jolt unpleasantly through her body. She stood up.' She began to open the card. Tia. though she could hardly get the words out. and she smiled. slowly and thoughtfully she opened the box. Even if Tia refused it at least she would know. It's beautiful.' was all she could think of to say. What mattered was that Lynn had given it to her. Lynn turned back to Tia.' Lynn knew she meant it. scarcely knowing what she was doing. brimful of emotion. ‘Oh. To her amazement.Finally she decided 'Yes'. ‘Oh.' She had to in first! She suddenly found herself on her feet saying. Finally she looked up at Lynn. looking serious. don't open it now! Wait till I've gone. She had not refused. Tia looked up. 251 .20.
Tia. The pain seemed unreal . Tia's face danced in front of Lynn's mental vision. Could not. But it wouldn't stay away. * * * Lynn had no thoughts as she walked from the entrance of the psychotherapy unit across the windy courtyard to the main gate. But they were skewed now. She was home now. ‘Grieving will come later' Tia had said. Even if they never met again. the way she touched her arm. Pain and joy churned together like the clothes in a washing machine. In vain she invoked memories. Tia was always right. smiling back determinedly at Tia's chin. . She put it away from her. It was for later. would she have minded if I'd hugged her goodbye? Remembering that touch. . This time she did not hear it close until she was halfway down the corridor. Did like her. ‘I don't hate you .' All the way home. ‘You're welcome. it's beautiful .' Tia touched me.‘You are most welcome. and Tia touching her back saying. ‘I could have hugged her goodbye. I won't forget you . only feelings. Tia was right. Into Lynn's happy recollections lanced a shaft of agony. Lynn did not bother to work out how she knew this. Tia had said so. She could see Tia was smiling. Tia did like her. the joy was uppermost.she almost laughed at the thought that she had seen Tia for the last time. She adjusted her bag more firmly on her shoulder and walked up the stairs to the flat. . It simply could not be so. Thank you. .' said Tia. 252 . I wish you well. . . . . ‘I could have hugged her goodbye. It was enough..' But then – it would have been nice (she supposed) but did it really matter? Really? She remembered Tia's smile. Tia did like her. as Tia was part of her. Lynn's sore heart was comforted. her smile as she said 'Out of sight is not out of mind'.' ‘Bye. The joy was engendered by the simple knowledge that Tia did like her. she thought. We've had a real relationship. Then she squared her shoulders and walked out of the door. Lynn thought not. Out of sight is not out of mind. She remembered touching Tia's arm.' she thought desolately. Grieving. Out of sight is not out of mind. but puzzlingly. but simply replayed parts of the conversation over and over in her head. she was part of Tia. . in some tiny way. ‘Goodbye Lynn.' said Lynn.
It was Della's. won't you? Just for a little while. stepped towards her. . Lynn could smell her perfume.As she rounded the corner. This was what came of being 253 . and kissed her full on the mouth.' she said. she swung round. ‘Sure Dell. I've finally left him' in a kind of semi-hysteria. expensive leather suitcase. ‘I've left Deryk. This had never occurred before. What the . Over Della's shoulder. I couldn't take any more. Lynn could see that the front door was uncharacteristically open. . As Della saw his look. Della was standing with her back to the door facing Mark. haunted eyes. ‘Left Deryk?' Lynn echoed. This Della was haggard. and shaking. sounding placating. She saw that the door was ajar because of something blocking it. You'll take me in. As she approached the door. . She couldn't make sense of what Della was saying. embraced her. Lynn saw Mark's face looking amazed. and another voice. ‘I couldn't take any more. stepped past the case and into the hallway. When she saw Lynn. . Lynn. I've left him. with smudged make-up and dark.aniseed? Automatically she put her arms around Della. What could have happened? Burglars? Lynn felt the hairs on her neck prickle and she mounted the remaining steps more quickly. Gone was the immaculately coiffed. It was a large. and tried to kiss her again. and found their lips colliding. a woman's.' before Della was hanging round her neck and burbling.' she croaked. and before Lynn could stop her. Lynn realised that Della was afraid. You're the only one I can think of. and something else . Lynn reached the doorway. who looked past her towards Lynn as she approached. sounding shrill. She was weeping into Lynn's shoulder . She looked different. in her efforts to turn her head slightly out of the way.' Della was weeping in earnest now. ? Then Lynn recognised the voice. urbane and sparkling Della that Lynn knew. she could hear voices. I came to you. Della's arms tightened around her. ‘Lynn! Thank heavens. thank you!' said Della. All she could think of was ‘So this is what it's like to be kissed by a woman. ‘Oh thank you. a look of immense relief flooded her face. One of them was Mark's.
she succeeded.left-handed. Mark reached behind her. and as though their lips were glued together. and meeting no response relaxed it altogether. his face a mask of disbelief. She reached out and touched his shoulder. She guided Della to the settee in the lounge. the case by his side on the floor.Lynn did it. Moving as one in a dream. no! Let me explain!' 254 . warily. . Something about the rigidity of his posture rang alarm bells in her mind. It took all her courage to do it. On the receiving end of Lynn's vice-like grip. Mark was standing with his back to her. ‘What fool I’ve been . say something to break the spell. full and hard.' ‘I know. took the case. ‘It will just be for a little while. His eyes glittered. She had to speak to him. She was clearly at the end of her tether. shoved a box of tissues into her hand. What to do? In the face of Della's ruination and despair she couldn't abandon her. you and Della. ‘Won't be a minute. Della abandoned her efforts to embrace her and merely stood there weeping. and murmuring. All this time. but surely Della didn’t .' said Della. out of the corner of her eye she saw Mark standing like a statue. Della was kissing her again. I know. . Lynn had to do something. took it into the study. ‘Mark.' made a dash for the study and shut the door behind her. The problem was that this prevented her doing the one thing she really wanted to do. Lynn tentatively relaxed her hold slightly. ‘Mark. can you take Della's bag into the study? We'll get the futon out. She put out a hand to grab the side of the desk. though she had to hold Della's arms down to do it. Dell.' To Della she said gently. and I never realised. and.what a bloody fool. She struggled to free herself from Della's kiss and pythonesque embrace and after what seemed an eternity. She could never tell which way to turn. To her consternation. what a bloody fool! You must have been laughing your heads off. which was to hold Mark. My god. God. The only humane thing to do seemed to be to continue to hold her gently and. ‘Mark?' He turned his head to look at her.' Lynn could feel her knees actually buckling in terror. with his face set in stone.
please . She backed away. made worse by the fact that she hadn't even seen it coming. your phone switched off . down the stairs and out into the darkened street.‘Explain what! All that sneaking off. But not fast enough to avoid hearing Mark's parting shot. She needs you. You certainly had me fooled!' This was more terrible than anything Lynn could have imagined. ‘Mark . you had me fooled.' ‘Please what? It's over. past the open living room door and Della's hunched back.then that one you said you went to see in Tottenham . then turned and fled.' A sense of unreality came over Lynn.and I swallowed the lot! And in between-times you granted me a few sexual favours to throw me off the scent and keep me happy.your old school friend the church stuff . 'At least Gina left me for another man!' 255 . through the open doorway. Go back to your lover. Well.
Mechanically. incongruously.' He stared at her uncomprehendingly for several moments. A nurse. bright. but she could hardly refuse. ‘You've come to see Lauren. Despite the fact that his eyes were full of pain and he appeared as though he hadn't slept for days. sterile. 256 . It couldn't be Lauren there. The nurse spoke briefly to a man by the side of the bed and he looked up. She hesitated outside it. She followed him in. he looked at Lynn and gave a small gentle smile. It felt dry and firm. Lynn caught a glimpse of a small. He clearly had no idea who she was.' Lynn was not sure if she wanted to see Lauren like this. Inside there a small figure in a bed. with half-moon glasses. and came out. ‘I'm Lynn. clearly going though mental lists. intimidating. very brightly lit room that seemed full of people. that she could hardly see. she murmured. had given her. A sob caught in her throat. a small.' and held out his hand. As she opened the door to the side ward. It just couldn't be. she shook it. a plastic hospital jug and beaker and. Hardly knowing what she was saying. doll-like image was so horribly unlike her last memory of Lauren. and then said. automatically glancing round the room. that it seemed to Lynn there must be some mistake. full of life. This must be Alec. ‘Ah. whisking by with a tray of dressings and kidney bowls had taken pity on her. It was very bare. bright. Wait – I'll just see. Come in then. Lynn had known only Lauren's first name. The glimpse of that still. whom she had never met.' he said. but not too firm. saw Lynn. Lynn. She's got family with her. elderly. The bananas clawed their stubby yellow fingers with black nails over some bright orange satsumas and horribly pale-looking Golden Delicious..Chapter 22 Lynn found the ward. warm. ‘Mrs Grainger? In the side ward near the door. grieving soul with a pinny on. He was tall and thin. She let go. but the description had been enough. checking again the name on the wall with the one the neighbour. ‘I'm Alec. a bowl of fruit.' By the open entrance to the ward. surrounded by tubing and wired up to a monitor which she supposed it must be Lauren. On the locker there were three cards.
but her condition isn't stable enough to do a scan yet. I 257 . ‘It was good of you to come. but Lynn hardly noticed them. the red marks left by the mask on Lauren's skin. It was pretty obvious Lauren wouldn't be eating any of it. Lauren looked very peaceful and somehow very young. It depends if . Involuntarily. she turned to face Alec. she noted the delicate veining on Lauren's eyelids. The situation seemed unreal. Thank you. he picked up Lauren's hand. You're a friend of Lauren's. ‘What a lovely man. We'll know more if – when – they can do a scan. Hardly aware of what she was doing.' As he spoke. Good of her to come? How could she not? As she registered his gentleness. We never give up hope. he said consideringly. her cropped head on the pillow. and there was the same kindness in his eyes that she had seen in Lauren's. As though registering everything photographically.. She turned again to Alec and asked. aren't you? She spoke of you. he did not treat the remark with the contempt that it deserved. All the lines seemed to have gone from her face. his concern for her. She looked so vulnerable and child-like. They think it was an aneurism . the thought flashed through her mind before she could stop it. ‘She collapsed.' This completely took the wind out of Lynn's sails. ‘Will she be all right?' To her amazement. Instead. ‘It depends. the one without the drip in. as though she was asleep. idiotically.that Lynn could not bear it. Three spotty tear-stained adolescents glowered at her from the other side of the bed. She had an oxygen mask over her mouth and nose. and held it cares singly.a blood clot . Her eyes were inexorably drawn to the still figure making a barely discernible mound beneath the white sheet. We'll see. even in the midst of his own agony.The vivid colours of the fruit seemed obscenely incongruous in the grubby sterility of the room.' He smiled at her again. with a question in her eyes. the way her lips were just parted beneath it. Lynn did not know what she was expected to do.' his voice shook slightly ' if it's stopped bleeding yet. If Lauren dies. and she was breathing rhythmically with a very slight snore.in the brain. the pallor of her cheeks. the hair damply matted flat against her scalp looking more like a cap than ever. Lynn turned back to look at Lauren. as though he could not bear to be not touching her.
But movement caught her eye and she looked beyond Alec to the unprepossessing youths. It was time to go. her voice a whisper. She'd never said anything like that before. and was surprised at the sound of her voice. ‘Thank you. still sending her hate messages and patently longing for her to go and the thought. as Alec was doing.I'll pray for you all. Lauren had given no sign at all that she had any awareness of Lynn's presence. It felt cool and damp and bird-like.. as if she'd said something really valuable. Lauren. in the presence of those scowling . she saw Alec's smile broaden. She was so close that she could have brushed her lips against Lauren's cheek. suffering children. Lynn straightened up.' she found herself saying. ‘I'll pray for you too. ‘I'll see you again.' but how could she. She turned to him. who had so much more right to grieve than she did? It was all too horribly public. said. To her surprise.' she said. if the situation had not been so awful. Oh God. He nodded to her without speaking. I'm not taking them on too!' flashed up.' She couldn't believe she'd thought it. ‘Thank you for letting me see her. help me! Nothing happened. or would have. She would have loved to stay and gaze at Lauren. She put her hand on Lauren's shoulder and squeezed it ever so ever so gently. to show she cared. with an old-fashioned courtesy and she shook it. ‘Thank you. Alec held out his hand again.' she said. ‘I love you. I am evil! Oh God. Wonderingly. Lynn looked back at Lauren. leant towards her. hardly knowing what she was saying. The idea was so ludicrous that she had to smile.' again to no one in particular. and as she walked away. to hold her hand. She was intruding. ‘Bye. ‘I . and turned to go.' Still not knowing what to do. as though by doing this she was again touching Lauren by proxy. glad of his touch. It was over. We'd appreciate it.' What she really wanted to say was. but the oxygen mask precluded that. he was already bending back over the bed. * * * 258 .' She groped for something to say to show her appreciation. but he was already holding it.could divorce Mark and marry Alec. God is the bottom line in all this. ‘No thanks. It was generous of you at such a time.
A voice came into her head like a shaft of light. In her life. sodden miserable leaves. Now I've screwed up my marriage. . oh God. This voice was quiet. had spoken to her? As she sat there she became aware that if it was God. rigid with shock.what a mess! What a mess! God. he had said exactly the right 259 . God . God?' No answer came into her mind. you must hate me! I know I would if I were you!' Even as she was thinking this. When she had heard it say But I am not you. And all the time I was all the things I hate – it was me trying to control the sessions with Tia. screwed up everything . but crystal clear.’ Lynn sat. that was screaming in despair inside her. but she felt a sense of affirmation in the air around her. Lynn spoke aloud. ‘Is that you. forced him to fit his life round mine – and so secretive. so caring. Lynn had listened to many voices in her head. not her! I messed Mark up. Lynn shakily began to process what had happened. gentle. come from? Hardly knowing what she was doing. such a nice person. it had overlaid the thoughts she was thinking so completely that it finished before she did. but never to one that had done that. so manipulative! .thinking my need to be needed was a desire to help people. But what did it mean . . and very much in control. While Mark . I am in agony! Oh what a fool I've been! God if you are there. After a couple of seconds of absolute silence. Her heart felt as damp and dull and lifeless as the air around her. quiet. She found herself still speaking the last sentence in her head.Lynn sat in the park by the hospital. . unable to stop herself. screaming to Lauren's God. It was a voice you didn't mess with. her mind wiped empty of all thought. . you must despise me! All the time I thought I was so clever. except for something deep down that would not be silenced. . something inexplicable happened. That voice had interrupted her. ‘But I am not you. .! Oh my God! Have I ever been real? I thought I was being so honest and I've been living such a lie. The dull lowering sky mirrored the dull black earth covered with dull brown. God . ‘Oh God. screwed up my life. unlike anything she had ever experienced in her life before.But I am not you? And where did this incredible sense of safety and well-being.
They hurt just as much. when the contractions were coming on top of each other and hurting like hell. Of course he wasn't her. and injected her thigh. contained in the tiny box of your expectations. Perhaps it wasn't long. the way Lauren had. But it wasn't that they were any less important. ‘I wish I hadn't made a fuss. (who had said that?). There was no need to question it.' The nurse had heard her and said. On the other hand. (could she be imagining this?) there was amusement in it too. or actually any less painful. Somehow these things seemed different. of Della.' But the odd thing was that the pain had still felt as bad. I am Me. the way Lauren would have said it . God had spoken to her . he was different. perhaps it was. It was the impact of another personality meeting. ‘I'll give you a shot of Pethidine.only much better. How could this be? Suddenly. and was holding her right now. She had murmured to Mark.. Lynn didn't know how long she sat there. Lynn had said to Mark. of the endings with Tia and Lauren. I can cope with the pain now. subsumed in the totality of this now experience. 'I can't be pigeon-holed. Within a few minutes. into Lynn's mind flashed a scene from her miscarriage.' But so softly. ‘I don't really know if I can take much more. He was laughing at her. ‘Isn't that the truth drug?' The nurse had laughed. other. meshing with hers.thing. She had tried everything to take her mind of the pain. It was only later that it had dawned on Lynn that it was actually the drug that had effected 260 . My tiny little one. This was a bit much even by her standards. with her hang-ups and mood-swings and her refusal to see to what was happening in front of her and her smallness and her oh-so-fallible humanness He didn't behave like her. She pondered this new mystery.' ‘Pethidine?' Lynn had said. It was real. it was true. Eventually she stirred and began to think of Mark. and you. are not Me. so will you kindly stop trying to behave as if you are?' Lynn sat marvelling at the wonder of it. The message implicit was ‘I am not you. she could feel it inside. It felt wonderful. ‘Did you think I was like you?' the voice was saying. He was God. Nothing – no saying of her mother's – had worked.this God whom she didn't know. knew her. She just felt stronger.. And. simply experiencing it. who had been holding her hand.
but now. so alive. Lauren simply had not been there. Despite herself. she sensed laughter in the air around her. so valued? But she did. Lynn shivered again. The pain was just as bad. but it was unmistakable. she felt like laughing herself. doubtfully. She knew in her heart that she would never see her again. She had not met Lauren in the hospital.that change. And just as the worst wave of anguish yet rolled in to engulf Lynn she suddenly had a picture of Lauren in her head. and unbidden. * * * Lynn stood up.’ It had seemed a strange remark at the time. all that Lauren meant. the pure joy of simply being with her. And that was how it felt now. whom she loved so much. though she couldn't think why. It lasted fractionally. but what if the Pethidine runs out?' Just for a moment. She'd better get herself home before anyone noticed how oddly she was behaving. ‘The next time. She thought. how could it. Maybe Lauren had caught it from him. It was not as she had last seen her. but Lauren standing by her front door. The leaves around her feet that had seemed so dingy before were still dingy. Yes. reluctant as she was to think about it. not any more. but waiting to welcome her in. ‘Yeah. all gone! Because Lauren and all that Lauren was. ‘God laughs?' and then she remembered that Lauren had laughed a lot. all the things they might have shared. maybe she had. Aloud she said. and. At the memory of Lauren and how she had left her in the hospital. not saying goodbye.’ Lynn whispered. in the hospital bed. And how could it be. that she felt so approved of. It was solidly there. Lauren. laughing and saying ‘Here's to the next time we meet. Lynn felt a a bolt of agony lance through her. Suddenly. and reached out in panic to this new awareness within her. the image of Lauren at her front door changed to one of Lauren at another door. The 261 . The Pethidine was working. I'll be waiting. like a child. All the things Lauren was going to tell her. had already gone. she'd better try to work out what to do when she got there. but she could cope. She was no longer knowable because she no longer existed. laughter that combined amusement and authority and tenderness.
She would ask – beg . So . . there are some big issues to think about here. Don't bite off more than you can chew. sod Tia! She’d soon find out! Lynn picked up the phone. Lynn's head was buzzing . but do it she would! As Lynn hesitated. . somehow . .a measured. saying. frowning. Maybe she should go to her doctor.Mark to listen just one more time. wellmodulated voice. Don't take on too much.what was Tia saying? ‘Steady on. Everything! And she would phone up Relate. She heard Debbie's voice. ‘Lynn. And she would definitely look around for a course in counselling . immediately.’ Was it Tia's voice? Was it too much? Oh.she was hooked now. As she walked home through the park she began to make plans. Della would have to go . And she would tell him everything. . your client has arrived. . Actually. How she was going to do it all she didn't know. and find someone to talk to about God . Shall I send her up?' 262 . she’d find someone.sky was still lowering. the air was still damp.and she knew she needed to get going on it right away! There was no time to lose. But inside her the sun was shining through. find out how to get referred as Tia had suggested. . she heard a voice in her head . and soon. still smiling. 'Lynn. but whom? Oh well. I wonder if it's worth thinking about prioritising?' It was Tia's voice.
may appear.Author's note Conversations with Tia was originally conceived as part of a trilogy. and at some point the third volume in the series. Della's Story is a work in progress. Lauren. 263 .