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

Chapter 1

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


No credit to her. regarding her with a look of gentle inquiry. Absolutely nothing. shoving the card into her pocket. No pictures of acrylic landscapes or sunflowers. Ouch.missing items off. There never was. ‘I’m sorry. It was worse than the dentist's.. or searching and abrasive and tell her to get out more? It would be interesting to find out. She could feel her spot throbbing. Would Dr Bradley think so? What would she be like? Would she be gentle and smiley. 'I didn't mean to startle you. and it must not be allowed to get worse. Lynn supposed it might be. Her appointment was for two thirty. It was not a good one. ‘Q’ was hard as well. By focusing intently. Two twenty-seven. A sense of adolescent angst descended on Lynn like a personalized raincloud . Why did it have to come now? Bloody marvellous . ‘Mrs Davies? Come this way please. 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. matching her footsteps to the slow. This is madness. Lynn rose to her feet abruptly. A woman was standing about four metres away. Lynn. Lynn recognized that feeling. no leaflets about cystitis or five portions a day. 'Miles away.' ' 'S all right.thirty-four and she still had spots.' mumbled Lynn. or doing violence to your doctor. Lynn sighed. But really . measured pace.' She looked up.what on earth did it matter if Dr Bradley liked her or not? She was just there to do a job. Experimentally she touched her face with her finger. not even an ancient Telegraph supplement or a Hello magazine with the cover off. but it came in handy. Lynn consulted her watch. except in lists of names. Well. no posters warning you of the penalties for drink driving.’ the therapist said. back past the turn-off she had come 6 . Della never had spots. And nowhere to put it if there was. of course.' She followed the tall figure along the corridor. she thought. To distract herself she hurriedly took out her appointment card and began to look for the letters of the alphabet in sequence. Sort of. But then Della wouldn't. Lynn managed to get to 'F' when she was jolted back into her surroundings by the sound of a quiet voice. And what would Dr Bradley think of her? Would she like her? Surely she would? Most people did. knowing in advance that there would be no ‘J'.

She couldn't help noticing that on the coffee table nearby there was an open box of tissues. . To stem the flow. 'Dr Bradley. someone a little more motherly perhaps. to assess your difficulties and whether we can be helpful to you . surely? Lynn was not entirely sure she liked the look of her. airy office into which Dr Bradley serenely ushered her. sharp-featured stranger. with a cloudy mass of reddish curly-permed hair and granny glasses. to a door inset into an alcove into the passage just beyond it. Tia Bradley and I am a clinical psychologist . Dr Bradley gestured towards the the corner. The therapist was looking at her. . I understand all that. Shut up.or a parallel universe. How strange that granny glasses always seemed to make people look younger. . Lynn breathed again. She wore her skirts shorter than Lynn did.or a solid wall . she said quickly. But against her expectations. where there were two low chairs set at an angle to each other. no miracle cures . This was better. Lynn had never liked this style of chair. There were bookcases full of books and a desk at the window with some flowers on. Perhaps she should get some. . . She found herself fantasizing that the door would somehow open back into the corridor she had just walked down . . . psychological therapies service . the chair was surprisingly comfortable and after a moment she relaxed. . and Lynn instinctively took the one with its back against the wall. thought Lynn. Quick. . at which Dr Bradley paused. She sat with her legs crossed at the ankle. Look alert! ‘ .through.too young to be a consultant. slanted sideways. Sit up! The therapist was speaking. stop staring. I can't handle this. . and Lynn looked at her for the first time. Listen. hurriedly relaxing her grip on the arms when she saw her knuckles showing white. She seemed very young .’ Too many words! thought Lynn. the top one pulled out. She would have preferred someone slightly older. . with bare wooden arms that always reminded her of bones poking though skin. shut up! Her head was beginning to spin. short term . not this angular. and her hands resting lightly in her lap. Dr Bradley was thin. referred by your doctor . How strangely this building was laid out. But it opened instead into a light. . I know 7 . The therapist seated herself opposite. . not older. .

so . just grade them from nought to four. I knew that. Mrs Davies. There's about thirty of them. Sorry.not entirely successfully.' 'Oh yes. I'm not expecting that. I wish I hadn't come! 'Oh.' 'You would like me to call you Lynn? And what would you prefer to call me?' Lynn hesitated. It's just about general situations in your life which might be indicators of levels of well-being or stress. May I continue?' The therapist paused courteously and waited for Lynne’s permission to speak. unless you have any objection?' Again a silence This time Lynn was ready. 'Would you feel comfortable calling me Tia?' 'Tia? Oh yes. it is an unusual name. please! Call me Lynn. Yes. isn't it? So then Lynn. Their doctorate is a PhD qualification. Take your time. May I begin by asking you to fill in a questionnaire. sorry. . .' 'I appreciate that. 'Me? Oh. There are no right answers.. I may use some of the material from these sessions with my students.' 8 . . changing the names. like psychiatrists who have first studied medicine.' Pause. of course. . 'Do you teach here. no. that's all. or since I also teach. then? Or at a university? What kind of a doctor are you?' 'Clinical psychologists are not medical doctors. yes. Sure!' ‘ sessions last fifty minutes . of course. Lynn seized the chance to gather her wits . And oh. some people fill in all noughts. it's agreed we will use first unusual. but I do need to explain adequately the procedures and guidelines which govern our time together. That is. Mrs Davies. No objection.why I am here. I just need to talk to someone. and that you can't work miracles. that's fine! What a pretty name .thoroughly? Is my makeup sweating off? Can she see my spot? Oh god. Where is it from?' 'Thank you. confidential unless I feel I need to share things you have told me which could result in harm to yourself or others . I'm not thinking straight. Does she always talk so quietly? In such a measured way? Why does she look at me so . er.

That would do. she bent to her task. She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so foolish. and was disconcerted to meet a thoughtful. that was an easy one! Not at all. starting halfway down the page? For goodness' sake . Why was this happening now? She didn't need to feel like this.' Well. . She fell asleep instantly. What about the times when she woke up at five in the morning. But wait a minute. ‘ . Yes. and couldn't get back again. She scribbled out the 'two'. better get this over with. put in her place. Hurriedly Lynn located the first question. almost. Oh well. how much were you distressed by . ?' glanced down and read a question at random. Lynn glanced down at the title: Brief Symptom Inventory. Next question.start at the beginning! She looked up once more and saw that that Tia was still regarding her closely. And all the time she could feel Tia's eyes on her.' That was a two. If there was one thing she hated it was controlling people. At length Lynn finished. I don't want to fill this in. put anything! How did they grade it? She checked the top line. After looking up once more and meeting that unnerving stare 9 .Lynn took the folded sheet of A4. unblinking gaze. . Except it was meant to be how she'd felt over the last week. But wait a minute! What was she doing. Lynn could feel herself colouring. But she was on someone else's turf now. controlled! That put Lynne’s back up straightaway. She opened it. Did that count? There seemed no provision for it on the sheet. 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. What was average? 'Moderately. Oh. It was so wrong. read the top line: 'During the past week. dammit! a professional in her own right. she put a line through the four and filled in the two again. She glanced up at Tia. I feel like a kid at school myself. Lynn hastily bent her head to study the sheet again. . Usually anyway. To her annoyance. This woman was talking so calmly and quietly. Damn! Angrily. right at this moment it was 'extremely'. This was going to take longer than she thought. she thought. 'Trouble falling asleep. nervousness or shakiness inside?' Well. She was a teacher. This situation was ridiculous. She valued them too much. Lynn never ever tried to control people herself. controlled. She scribbled in the four with some agitation.. Sighing inwardly. that was it. Irritated.

Or sometimes I just sit.' 'Over what?' 'Over the . Lynn forced herself to sit up. it's like this. I feel so down. No baby. 'Ah. well. I can't seem to snap out of it. suddenly gripped by the need to confide in someone without actually giving anything away. I've been feeling really . I should be. What are you doing here? that steady gaze seemed to say.the . You can't lose what you 10 . . well. . She felt depressed and agitated both at once. Now Tia was sitting forward. So I shouldn't feel like this. . really .' Tia was saying. tell me what brings you here. actually . 'Now Lynn. there was no baby. in front of this nonchalantly elegant woman. just cells. thirty-seven days. that she was balancing a writing block on her knee and saying. . to meet Tia's gaze. . There was nothing there. It wasn't like there was a baby. 'There's plenty of time. Sometimes they just don't grow you know. who already seemed to dislike her. almost. . . I can’t seem to pull myself listen to her. .she’d given up and kept her head down. As Tia took it. Tia considered this. Well. but how could she. I should be over it by now. Where to start? Anywhere. . She wanted to flop in the chair and be pathetic. sort of low. It wasn't like I lost anything. Just start anywhere. Maybe it was going to be all right after all. .' Lynn felt a tiny spark of hope. and it wasn't as if there was a baby there. looking concerned and ready to listen . Time? What time? Time was ticking away. . to hand back the form and the folder she'd used to rest on with a smile. It's been over a month now.' Lynn stopped abruptly. 'No baby?' ‘No. Why are you wasting my time? I can't believe this is happening! She doesn't like me. I was only three months. It was cells..miscarriage. lately. I cry a lot when I'm on my own. . . Lynn! Wow! She opened her mouth to speak and nothing happened. and I haven't even said anything yet! Fighting down rising panic. Don't you see? It wasn’t like anything died. er . well. . . really . I . she noticed that Tia was smiling back. I think I should.

yes. she couldn't just talk! There had to be a 11 . Our hopes and dreams you mean? Our plans for the future?' 'Something like that. she could do that! Really. 'So really. But suppose – just suppose . He says it was very sad. the ones behind had all crashed into it like a motorway pile-up. but really and truly we have to look to the future. She was not coping. So far all she'd done was ask idiotic.' 'Mark?' 'My husband. and when it did Lynn felt slightly winded. But that was what she was here for. Lynn wanted to tell Tia what it had been like. Tia wasn't helping. 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. Lynn didn't know what to say. Dammit. ‘Oh well. which lengthened. but once her first thought had come to a dead halt. She recovered almost immediately.this woman had had a miscarriage too. You can certainly do that. She would feel even more guilty about telling her then. A worse one than hers.never had. Only in our heads. it was a bit disappointing! 'Can you perhaps lose what you might have had?' It took a moment for this question to penetrate. asking questions like this. you can do that. trying to make Tia understand.' There was a pause. There seemed nothing else to add. But he was very upset when it happened. How could she check that out? She noticed Tia wore a thin gold band on her wedding finger. That was what her mind felt like right now – a motorway pile-up. but I knew he was. how to continue. or just looking at you? Why.' 'Well.' Lynn stared at Tia defiantly. yes. Mark is. that was a loss of course. but not a real loss. She was just sitting there looking at Lynn encouragingly.' 'Can't you?' ‘No. What a stupid question! Tia seemed pretty slow on the uptake for a clinical psychologist. And how could she inflict the gory details on this stranger? That seemed so self-indulgent. I should be over it by now. obvious questions! Was this how these people earned their money. speaking energetically. He didn't say much.

leaving her to feel 12 . never contributing. 'Are you married. 'As you see. They need to be free just to talk and think about themselves. when people are experiencing difficulties or stressful situations. economic gesture. 'Why? To build a relationship of course. What kind of a conversation was this. Lynn felt nothing of the sort. You see. never helping her out.get to know each other.' After a few moments. and that it was now up to Lynn to respond. Yes! I can't just talk to you about personal things . Why?' 'Let me explain a little bit about the counselling relationship. It's not quite like other relationships. She felt very unhappy. absently twiddling her own wedding ring round and round. What was going on? Why did it feel so strange? Lynn regarded her hands. Tia said carefully. a graceful. 'Have you ever had counselling before?' 'No. Can't we sort of get to know each other a little bit first?' 'Why?' This was getting downright irritating.' Damn. Lynn noticed that Tia's fingers were slender and tapering. 'Any kids?' 'Is that important?' 'Well. Tia?' Tia motioned with her left hand. answering questions with questions.just like that.relationship! She said experimentally.' There was another silence. To . no.' 'Oh. She folded her own hands more tightly on her lap and tried . Tia had explained nothing. She should have anticipated that. her nails translucent ovals. 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. Tia was looking at her expectantly. leaving gigantic gaps in conversation. She seemed to think that by saying this she had explained something very important.

This made no sense to Lynn. She would go along with it. But the alternative was too terrifying to contemplate.a bit messy. exchanging information. 'So it's all right?’ she said again. 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. She was used to being open and honest. Tia seemed so laid-back. or death. And yet she had to. nodding agreement. thaw her out a bit. things like sex. But maybe. And that would be nice. 'The miscarriage was . Lynn said tentatively. Very well. Lynn. But she couldn't just talk about the miscarriage. the chance to know her as a person. yet wanting to hear it from Tia.very defensive. ‘What about. just maybe.' This felt reassuring. And there was something about Tia that appealed. denying. knowing the answer. if she was herself. and she would try to share even if Tia didn't. Tia was a very interesting person.' said Tia. She needed help and she knew it. her. building 'You too?' sort of relationships.' Oh god! So much blood! 'Mmm. which Lynn couldn't as yet quite define. Even Mark – especially Mark – had no idea how bad it was sometimes. Tia seemed to be a very withholding sort of person . Curiosity stirred within Lynn. She had to go along with this. She had no choice. She glanced at her.. 'No. that she wasn't a threat. And then they would have a proper relationship. How confusing! What could she do? Lynn came to a decision. Lots of blood and so forth. and saw with a start that she was once again being closely observed. Could she hack it? She didn't know. Not yet. 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. friendly and natural. sharing. help her see that sharing was good. so at ease. um. or hating people. That was what she was there for. networking.lonely and foolish? Tia was deliberately refusing to engage. How long had Lynn been quiet? She didn't know. for instance?' 13 . I'm not squeamish. because actually she did quite like Tia. it might just draw Tia out.

she nearly died twice.. Be careful.' she said. It's all right to talk about anything you want. and hating people. She had fibroids and she told me that when she was six months pregnant she bled for days. just might be able to talk to someone about it. 'It's all right to talk about blood.imagine that. had she chosen those examples to cite to Tia . and the old biological clock was and hating and death? They were just words plucked out of the air. She'd read something into it. These psychologist types always did. She looked up. It seemed to have the ring of truth. that's all. She was in a lot of pain too. and sex. Lynn felt a bit thrown by this.they didn't. I . 'I'm only saying.Tia said slowly and emphatically. It never occurred to me that anything could go wrong. Tia was making a note on her pad. Tia waited a while and then said. Oh. she was forty when she had me . but Tia wouldn't know that. But she never complained . But just for this moment. Could that someone be Tia? She looked at her consideringly.' Lynn paused for breath. prematurely. Of course my mum had had trouble with me too. in those days. and grief. you see. Lynn took a deep breath and plunged in. Be careful! You don’t know this woman. oh why. Only child actually. the room ever so slightly warmer. Forty.we . but mixed in with the warmth were stabbing icicles of caution. so we wanted to get a move on. without the least sign of impatience. She really wanted me . She was just getting warmed up. The chair felt ever so slightly more comfortable. 'We'd been married a year. at my age. and loss. 'I just think my mum was really brave.' Lynn considered this. and I was born. twenty-seven hours. had my head jammed behind the pubic bone 14 .' she commented. but could it be so? Could it really be all right . She held on. 'So you had a miscarriage?' It was now or never.really badly. All that glitters is not gold. She had a very difficult labour too.after all this time. First child too. It was their job. and death. I was badly positioned. Lynn felt that finally now she might. Silly really. It was very painful. I think. just to talk? And why. 'You seem to find it easier to talk about your mother's pregnancy than your own.were so pleased when I found out I was pregnant.

. It wasn’t working.and you didn't have yours. Lynn said. The pause lengthened and then lengthened again while she tried to think what to say next. I felt . This narrative seemed to be flowing rather too quickly. 'My mum was a brave woman. 'You cow!' But Tia didn't look cow-ish.' she said. then back at Tia. . .' This stopped Lynn dead. Somehow this didn't feel like a very satisfactory answer.' she said at last.' sort of way. I felt . .and in the end they . 'I'm sorry. ' Yet again she stopped. 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. Tia waited. She could only remember irrelevant disjointed things. wondering what the view from the window was like. 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 . No more.' said Tia. . .' said Lynn less confidently. 'But your mum had her baby . 15 . 'I felt. . . I'd had a funny feeling all day . She gazed round the room. She had lived through it so many times.' Again she stopped.sort of flooding. . 'All right. She was at the hospital already. . Lynn looked at Tia and thought. She looked sort of neutral.' Tia said softly. thinking what to say next. 'I went to the bathroom. She wasn't so sure she liked Tia after . ' she stopped. like how tired the young doctor who had examined her had looked. you know . leaking. she knew there was. She felt totally exhausted. There must be more to it that this. and how angry Mark had been at the sympathy cards. 'One evening. 'That's really unfair. 'You want me to tell you about my miscarriage?' She wasn't so sure she wanted to now. and as I was standing there. Tia raised her eyebrows and gave a brief smile in a 'You can if you want to. 'like I was .' 'She went through a lot. This was harder going than she had thought it would be.' Tia said nothing. . I was cooking the dinner . Lynn said in a voice that trembled slightly. That was it. She looked at Tia. 'and it all came away .' Lynn continued drearily. Once again. Tia regarded her levelly. . and how creased her lab coat had been. her brain seemed to have turned to cotton wool. .

. Lynn said. that’s all. with a smile like that. unexpectedly.Tia was looking at her understandingly. She was sure of it. 'I think it would be beneficial if we met again . But Tia was speaking. yawned before her. Well. Lynn was instantly diverted and rather charmed. Lynn could tell a good story. An abyss. Suppose Tia said that meant that Lynn was all right. It was like the sun coming out. Tia was once more the Therapist.’ ‘There's plenty of time. To go out for a drink together after work. Tia smiled. or whatever you like. it's not difficult! It just isn’t working. when Tia. What a nice smile! Maybe Tia did have friends after all. No. at first disconcerted. Lynn had found herself laughing as she had been talking. Suppose she said Lynn didn't need to see her. . 'I'll tell you how I met Mark'. . There had been a real rapport developing between them. 'Whether to meet again?' 'Whether?' What did Tia mean? They'd been getting on so well. said. Now with no warning. as far as Lynn could tell. 'We have just five minutes left. and then aghast. and terrifyingly fast. Whatever you like. She relaxed back into it thankfully and let out her breath in a big sigh. 'It was quite funny really. Tell me a little more about yourself . .shall we arrange for three more sessions . Though she said it herself. could cope. who had been in full flow.' Lynn. isn’t it?’ ‘No. She couldn't help wondering what it would be like to have Tia as a friend.' 'Plenty of time. or Mark . the one who had power to give or withhold. to laugh together and put the world to two-weekly intervals?' 'Two-weekly?' said Lynn stupidly. vast and cataclysmic. was saying. sort of smile. had been listening with every appearance of enjoyment and making the odd note. At this.' It seemed only a few minutes later. 16 . Actually. . everything had shifted. It was a start. who. . that Lynn hadn't even known was there. Maybe we could think now about whether to meet again. stopped. she couldn't quite imagine that far but she was sure Tia had a sense of humour. and she had made Tia begin to smile once or twice more.' Lynn became aware of the chair holding her. She could see it in her eyes. . 'This is very difficult for you.

Are Tuesdays at 2. until she was finally able to say. Lynn.Tia regarded her seriously. 'That is the usual time between sessions. she heard the door close firmly behind her. 17 .' said Lynn again. 'I'll see you in two weeks' time then. She watched Tia write down the details on the card and hand it to her. She left the office feeling as light as air. It was only when Tia raised her eyebrows inquiringly that Lynn became aware that a response was needed. was walking to the door. 'Fine. smiling back warmly in return. 'that's fine. then Tia was standing up.' 'Two weeks it is!' said Lynn. 'Today is Tuesday. yes. Time off from school for hospital appointments could hardly be disallowed.30 convenient to you?' 'Oh yes. and as she walked down the corridor. She replayed the conversation in her head.' Tia magicked an appointment card from somewhere and said.' Convenient? She would make it convenient.' The relief that spread through Lynn was so great that at first she could not speak. That would be fine. and this was important. was opening it for her and saying with a smile.

. Well. or as much of it as she could remember. Not conventionally pretty. Lynn always liked making people laugh. 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. you can’t judge a book by the cover. Involuntarily. A generous. Laughing was very important. but there was something. Green eyes. and concentrated instead on recalling as much of Tia as she could remember.and heaved a sigh without realising it. Hadn't they? She'd thought they had at the time.that. probably. Unless she made a special effort she looked so bloody miserable. Lynn caught sight of herself in the reflective glass of the carriage window .Chapter 2 Lynn travelled home on the grimy tube with her head buzzing. mobile mouth. . She hardly noticed her fellow passengers or the stations streaming by. Tia’s eyes beat her mournful cow's eyes . Graceful . .and her mouth! That was the worst. Tia’s nose won. Dark unruly hair made worse by the window. was she? Lynn couldn't remember. It seemed a long time since Lynn had had anything of interest to occupy her thoughts besides . But how was it she used to laugh so much? And people had laughed with her. The oppressive grey fog of autopilot which normally hung over her was being shot through with tiny bolts of fizzy lightning. She was occupied internally with reliving her time with Tia. Not now. But lately. Likewise. She compared her blobby nose with Tia’s thin one. in the surgical sense of the word? Or was she a warm. She'd never really given it much thought before. people had been coming up to her and saying 'Cheer up! It may never happen!' What would 18 . Tia had seemed to move quite slowly and had sat very still. as Lynn herself did? Or was she both? Lynn shook her head and gave up. She pondered the paradox that was Tia. caring human being who wanted to help people. There was a sort of concentrated look about her. Was Tia a cold clinical psychologist. . It kept things at bay.two images unpleasantly overlapping . So this was counselling. And she could never be bothered to straighten it now.

but all that remained now of those eager. Miscarriages were two a penny these days. she could feel tears in her eyes. Lynn felt the carriage begin to slow down and she mechanically arose. found herself reflecting. Aware yet unaware. Now it suited her. wasn't the end of the world. nobody ever need see their neighbours in North London if they didn't want By the top of the second escalator. which which equally unthinkingly increased the space minutely to accommodate her body shape. Tia seemed to enjoy talking to me. deep down. just a necessary survival mechanism . But it all seemed too much effort now. hopeful encounters were residual polite hellos when they surprised each other on the stairs. At least she couldn't see the spot now! She touched it. She'd been fine before. get back her joie de vivre. Lynn was all right. Anyway. Her legs felt like lead. Her pace slowed. above and below. She grimaced. It had taken her a while to realise that it was nothing personal. Despite herself. thankful that it was only on the first floor. What was the point of it all. 19 . You're not living in a bloody soap. especially an easy one like hers. She scowled at her image in the window. of her very survival descending upon her again. the tube felt stifling. Except that she wasn't. stop being so bloody dramatic! she chided herself angrily. really? What was the point? Oh. As she walked along the street and drew near to their apartment. always had been. There were two other flats. A miscarriage. as she walked up the steps to the huge Victorian front door.they do if she said. I can't be completely losing my touch! The thought was a momentary breath of fresh air. at least. the mass moved on. she inserted herself with mindless ease into a miniscule cavity within the many-legged organism flowing past her. It was less people to explain to. Lynn had tried very hard when they first moved in. Tears of self-pity. It was still there. 'It already has!'? But it hadn't happened. Lynn felt the dragging weight of her everyday existence. that was just her perception. Everything came crowding in. Think of something else. she told herself fiercely. She had to get a grip. but they rarely saw the occupants. Get real! This is life! This is as good as it gets! She let herself in and climbed the stairs to their flat. As the doors slid open.

Her writing was angular. eliminating all traces of Gina. It wasn't working now. And it was never worth it when you did. Lynn's was rounded. somehow distinctive. 'What's this you wrote. Not that she was a dishonest person anyway. to have a shared moment of intimacy. . granted. until now. That was better! But what was it that Tia knew? Would she ever get to know her and find 20 . looping. In fact she was a very honest person. slightly italic. possibly (possibly!) the most honest person she knew. to invade her space. She felt that she couldn't breathe properly. slightly chaotic. however cheaply bought. rather like Tia herself. miss?' The card made Tia seem more tangible. 'Could you perhaps lose what you might have had?' Suddenly. Lynn resolutely forced herself to remember how lucky they were to have this flat. though she purposely made it very easy to read. Much better to make them laugh. for the kids. Anyway – laughing was scientifically proven to be therapeutic.As she let herself in. anyway. Even at the cost of real intimacy. The very pattern on the wallpaper seemed larger. She looked around. The wallpaper receded. She shook her head to clear it. as though it was trying to get closer to her. Their reaction was always so disappointing. Desperately she tried to relive it. 'It wasn't like I lost anything!' Heard again Tia's quizzical comment. Lynn put it carefully away inside her purse and thought of the session. And Mark had been so worried it wouldn’t work! A few little changes when she moved in. She knew! Tia knew! In some way that Lynn couldn't quite grasp. heard herself say again. Four happy years . Hadn't Norman Collinson cured himself of ankylosing spondilitis by laughing? Well then! She concentrated again on Tia. The room seemed smaller. Lynn's meeting with Tia seemed unreal. Tia knew about her . but she didn't particularly like it. she wasn't sure what . . Tia wrote in black. fighting her way past people's deadened comprehension to make them understand. it clicked.knew something. They were always saying. In the pointless ordinariness of her surroundings.without her having to explain in lots of dreary words. She had to. She pulled out the appointment card she had been given and studied it with a teacher's eye. but that was only to be expected. to re-experience the buzz she had felt. of real honesty? Now where had that thought come from? Lynn didn't know.

She had still so much schoolwork to prepare. surely? Lynn glanced at her watch and was horrified. that was a wonderful meal. Mark. sort of. Anything there? No dark green or yellow or red of shiny rounded life. She looked at the vegetable rack. What did you put in that sauce . was very bad. The darkness. .why did this conversation grate on her so much? She struggled not to get more irritated by his look of concern.' Tia saying. as she was clearing the plates away. And why had her brain just cut out for no reason so often? Oh god. 'And Lynn. What kind of image had she presented to Tia? Not immediately attractive. It's all right to talk . 21 . herself. 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. she'd shown interest.' He was so kind.' Pause. 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. . 'You know I love you. with only a few days left until term started. I know. just a few withered old mushrooms. . Lynn turned hastily away. she'd asked questions. Lynn felt the stirrings of appetite. looking at her sadly with their papery old ladies’ faces. She focused on the fragments of conversation she could remember: 'As you see . and Mark would be back by six-thirty wanting to know how the appointment had gone. . Later that evening. . left the flat to go to the Italian deli on the corner. I love your cooking.well. and with more energy than she knew she possessed. What would she tell him? What could she cook for dinner? For the first time in a while. building up to it as she had known he would. that was for sure. Mark arrived home to the aroma of pesto and pasta. it was so good to see you cooking again.' Pause. and then. she'd made Tia smile . Tia looking. 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. 'Lynn. don't you?' 'Yes. when it came. really came.out? As she drifted round the flat. But your mum had her baby. Tia was great. so caring . Mark asked Lynn the question she had been dreading. Is that important? . That wasn't too bad for a beginning. anyway. but it was early days.

I thought she'd analyse me. Anyway. .' Why did she say that? She was going to see her . . . Lot of work though. right. all her fault. . thinking how much she wanted a drink. these past weeks.' 'Oh.' 'How's that new . Mark didn't seem to mind. well. Usually she just had a glass or two at weekends. I'd say. . client account coming on?' 'Which one?' 'You know! You were telling me last night. and didn't it say somewhere or other.' This seemed to satisfy Mark. the Murchison one. more like your old self again. I don't know. . . but lately . Though frankly. Lynn thought that was going too far. how was your day?' 'Oh. as 22 . . meaningful silences. I suppose. Bit of a psychologist type.'I know you've been . down. 'So. . You know. I'm not sure. . 'Take a little wine for your stomach's sake'? . . 'You went to see that . . so-so. . and now she was making him watch every word. didn't you? Did you find it . but she didn't. Probably fairly typical.' 'Oh. woman today. . shared so much. . the heavy stare. so she went on with a kind of faux brightness. 'Will you be going to see her again?' 'I think so. I suppose. They’d laughed a lot. . She's a consultant clinical psychologist. What's she like?' 'What’s she like? All right. I've brought some home tonight. Fine. But how would he know that? This conversation was her fault. good . most nights.' Damn! The name had gone. that's good!' 'Her name's Dr Bradley. if she was honest. It's hard to say. . helpful at all?' Her name was Tia. did it really matter? It helped her sleep.' Lynn sat down again and fingered her wine glass absently.' Another pause. . She didn't seem to say much. I think so. ' . . well. . ask personal questions. wasn't she? 'Um. but tonight you seemed just a little bit more. 'Mark. he drank too! Sometimes he opened a second bottle. conversed so easily and naturally. . .whatever that meant. but wanting to mean it.

she’d said there were no miracle cures. But for how long? Lynn was vaguely aware of something about a time limit. But it wasn't his fault! He was doing the right thing and she wasn't – that's all there was to it..' 'Yes. actually . I thought you were cutting it a bit fine. you know. It hadn't been as bad as she'd feared. But then she didn't expect them. Oh yes. 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. Yeah. I've got some school work to do too.a matter of fact . Time's running out.' 'Oh.' The study. some dessert?' 'I never said you had. can you bring it through?' He was already up and moving off. And most of the school work's done. It was the study now. She found herself cursing Mark for so unawarely moving on with his life and leaving her so far behind. It was just nice to have someone to talk to. Do you want a coffee.I haven't been sitting on my backside all day. We’re back on Thursday. 'I'll make a start on this in the study. But was that because they hadn't really engaged at all? They didn't engage much these days. Any of that chocolate ice cream left?' 'Sure.big day tomorrow. She bowed her head and managed to speak normally. resolutely squashing all reaction to Mark's last comment. most of it's done. Lynn felt as though she had been hit with a brick. They didn't know how to reach each other. she reflected on the conversation as a whole. every day.' As Lynn did the washing up. they were too afraid of hurting the other by saying the wrong thing. Do you want it in here?' 'No. 'OK. since the miscarriage. But then.' (Thanks very much!) 'Do you want a hand with the washing-up?' 'No. Perhaps Tia could help with that? Mind you. coffee would be nice. if Tia saw she was 23 . About ten minutes?' 'Fine.

Lynn had never ceased to give thanks to the Powers that Be 24 . Always wondering if she was saying the right thing and worrying if he was thinking about Gina. the expensive wood of the fitted units. in a way. Gina was a total bitch and she walked out on me for my best friend. totally committed to you. Or did she? But surely they weren't allowed to just do that? She'd have to ask her. And I love you for being you. and your Mum not there! But she had been well enough to be glad when they told her. And marrying abroad had been different. either with Lynn or with Mark. had not seemed like marrying at all. Every time. And it had lasted quite a time. Gina may have been a bitch. since by that time Mum had been too ill to come. his tone had become more bracing. had said. the granite work surfaces. I am totally. .helping her . she didn't seem the sort just to abandon her. In one sense it didn't matter where. Always asking Mark if Gina did this or that. 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. To be married. Best thing she ever did for me. half laughing. how quick to reassure her. which assuaged Lynn's so sore heart. afraid that Mark was making comparisons and finding her wanting. 'Look Lynn. Lynn stared thoughtfully into the washing up water. and Mark had not. Dear good Mark! How patient he had been. willing herself to recapture the small but definite delight she used to take in the aromatic smell of the coffee. . 'So he's made an honest woman of you at last!' . I have been for the past two years. Eventually Mark. but she had good taste.' And so they had got married in Cyprus. She's history now and I'm sick of the sound of her name! You are the one I love. How insecure she'd been! She could admit it now. for god's sake! Maybe that will convince you. in case you hadn't noticed! Marry me. The kettle boiled and she poured it into the cafetiere. half goaded beyond endurance. But eventually. though Lynn had been able to hide it. Mun had died shortly after. I never asked Gina to marry me! Never wanted to. It had not been easy. She thought back to those early days of their relationship. not Gina! Now give it a rest! But she hadn't been able to. showed her the ring and the photos. 'Look. well enough to say. you and you alone.which had not gone down at all well.

Della Heworth here.' Then Della's voice. Gradually she began to pull them towards her and to leaf through them in a desultory fashion. It's been a while . willowy. with her books and papers round her and the laptop on the coffee table. That had been seven years ago. immersed in his spreadsheets. it's Lynn. immaculate. Oh. . except for now. It seemed inappropriate somehow. It was her usual response. You'll do fine! Shaking her head. actually she couldn't remember when. 'Darling.’ 'Hi Dell!' said Lynn. so affirming. . Lynn took the coffee and ice cream in to Mark. 'Hello. How many others had made that same mistake and how wrong it was! How unbelievably wrong and stupid! Perhaps – new and terrible thought . 'Lynn. 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. well . how bitter was that? But the doctor had been so positive. she padded back to the kitchen for the wine bottle and her empty glass. . She hadn't talked to Della for. . Arenicola and Nereis. how are you? I was worried when I didn't hear anything.that Mum had lived long enough to see them wed. 'Lynn! It's Lynn!' Then. . restored to full clarity. 25 . then retired to the living room and sat hunched up on the sofa for a while. Something was missing.' She left the sentence unfinished. yet tonight she paused momentarily. 'How are you doing?' There was a delighted squeal down the end of the they could never factor a baby into their life. blonde. How they'd ever become friends. slightly muffled. Lynn couldn't imagine. It must be a marriage of two minds. Lynn dwelt wistfully on a mental picture of Della. It would be nice to hear her voice. The ringing tone stopped and she heard Della's precise. with hardly a cross word. to reduce her concentration such a low ebb that she decided to phone Della. Seven happy years. It took just ten minutes of pondering the physiology of Lumbricus. as though the mouthpiece of phone had only been partially covered. . In the moments it took for the phone line to connect. . husky voice. she might even tell her about Tia. . 'You were only trying for three months? That's very good! There's plenty of time yet. Della .

now that you're surfacing. . I'm . darkening the door of a church to light a candle for her was strangely moving. and the flowers.' (Why had she said that!) ‘I mean I feel a bit better. . . Fortunately. 'Oh well.she .charge?' 'Well. Listen Lynn. you know. . let me put in a word for you with mine.' 'Thank you.' Did she want to? Lynn wasn't sure. He's really busy. It really helped me pull myself together. But words are pitifully inadequate at a time like this. . or you and Mark could come for a meal?' 26 . Thanks for the card . . Usually she bowed instantly to Della's unspoken superiority in the femme du monde business.'Oh. Della bailed her out. do you want to talk about it a little bit? I didn't like to ask before. .' 'Thanks. .' 'I am glad!' Della sounded it too. 'Oh good! Lynn. It's been such an awful. would you like to meet up? Drop round for coffee. We were so sorry . a lapsed Catholic who didn’t care who knew it. you know what the National Health's like! Look. We were thinking of you. She was surprised to hear herself sounding so firm.' Her voice too trailed off. 'You poor darling.' 'Oh. 'Well.I'm all right now. I've been concerned about you. . oh yes. I think I'll stick with Ti . that is such a wise thing to do! I saw one after my divorce. 'Really Lynn. awful time for you. I even went to church and lit a candle for you. Della heard her resolution and ceded the point. so much.the one I've got for the time being. The idea of Della.' 'The National Health!' There was a tiny snort of amusement in Lynn's ear. 'Look. I wish there was something we could have done. 'I'm seeing this therapist. Now that we've made contact. 'It's been a difficult time . both of you.' said Lynn. She could not remember why she was phoning. . . obscurely touched. How much does he . It somehow suggested a vulnerability which hitherto had not been particularly noticeable.' said Lynn. but I'm sure I .' 'It was nothing. if you're sure .' said Lynn. actually it's on the National Health.' she said. tentatively. .

Della was too warm. Or if you never want to talk about it. and sent her to the bathroom to splash her face with cold water. it's your show.' she said. Lynn. 'Of course. my love. I really do. 'I've got too much work to do at the moment. that's OK too. and almost invariably so busy. Aloud she said. Normally she jumped at the chance to spend time with Della. Just do what you feel you want to. Love you ' Laying back on the sofa. it occurred to Lynn that it would be a good idea to go to bed. that now it was a relief to just let them run. Now she was hanging back. . I appreciate it. but it was a heaviness she recognised. Della was warm and funny and wise . . She had to back off. thought Lynn.' But not about miscarriages. but not before she heard Della say 'God bless. She did not reason her pain. Della. and it was the physical discomfort which finally drew her to a sniffing halt several minutes later. Could we . wondering at her own hesitation. It 27 . give herself time to think. just a heaviness.if you can. This was too rich a meal. 'Thanks Dell. You take your time. could we fix something up when we get back to school?' For the second time. . savoured it like a rich wine or a perfectly ordered dinner. twisting the phone cord round her finger. .Lynn considered this. too caring. too available. coupled with a desire to terminate the conversation was welling up inside. but not enough to make Lynn feel that she was acting in any way strangely. Della was surprised. uncomfortably aware that her voice was beginning to thicken with emotion as she was speaking.' And then she found she was crying in earnest and hung up the phone quickly. I'll get back to you. While in the bathroom. She'd fought them off so many times before as being an extreme reaction to a less than extreme stress. 'I can't talk about it just yet. Take the advice of one who knows. it was just a primal ache. and Auntie Della will be waiting with the tissues whenever you want. She couldn't see Della just yet. She usually delighted in Della's company. and she let just enough show in her voice to let Lynn know her solicitude. Lynn gave herself up to the luxury of tears. But it is good to talk . She felt no relief. Desperation gave her a measure of control. Sadness.

plodded back to the study. Why. she hadn't done as much work as she'd planned. And Mum would have been right. True. what a rock to lean on! But not any more. gave a tired grin that broadened into a real one. she always was. 28 . She didn't like this new Lynn who was such a burden. Then she could get back to being the old Lynn.she needed to get it unscrewed as soon as possible.was only eight thirty. and she missed her.just tough it out . the fun-to-be-with. said. her mind had gone blank again.think I'll call it a day. I'll-sort-it Lynn that people liked. threw off every item of clothing into the linen basket and slid into the bath. She could imagine in advance the sour looks from the other members of staff as they scanned the sittings board.' Feeling cheered by the encounter. What a tower of strength she'd didn't really hurt. that he would what? She had no idea. not done any really. she could tell. He didn't say anything. A familiar voice in her head said bracingly. Lynn returned to the bathroom and started to run the bath. Soon he would be so sick of her that he would . 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. this was her life . did it hurt so much? And yet . opened the door and said. If she was honest.hang on until it was over. these rituals complete. added a large amount of the much too expensive bath essence that Mark had insisted on getting her last month for no apparent reason. 'Do you need the bathroom? I feel knackered .' Mark looked up. . half the time she couldn't care less. 'What can't be cured must be endured!' Lynn smiled despite herself. She laid out a clean nightshirt. who cried so much. oh why.and yet . . the Lynn that Tia would like if only she knew her. Caring was all too much effort. Where had that Lynn gone? She hadn't seen her for a long time. but dammit. Lynn sighed. poured some lavender oil in the little burner and lit the candle underneath. There was no other way. but his patience was wearing thin. and then. go ahead. but she could phone up Brian tomorrow and crib his notes. She decided on a really deep one. But she had to go through with it. but she could have a bath first. 'Sure. Oh Mum. then put the largest. had to . fluffiest bath towel she could find on the towel rail. how I miss you! she thought. and neither did Mark.

grabbed the loofah and an exfoliating bar (seaweed and kelp) and scrubbed furiously. From nowhere a vast longing welled up within her. causing the water to swirl dangerously. She'd only taken three. a yearning to be held and soothed like a child by some vast maternal presence. You weren't meant to take them with alcohol but that had been hours ago. the bath sheet felt as comforting as it should. 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.As soon as she lay down she knew it was a mistake. She felt seriously disturbed. After a while she let them. Lynn could feel a prickling of sweat on her face. This must not be! She sat up abruptly. the only part of her above water. Afterwards. and later in bed. and thoughts of Tia intruded. luxuriously soaking in perfumed water with scented air around her. it wasn't quite funny enough. She took a sleeping tablet and lay awake waiting for it to take effect. for crying out loud! What was going on? Thoughts of Tia no longer intrigued or comforted. These had been prescribed for emergency use by her doctor about a week after the miscarriage. finishing off with a cool shower. and now she felt desperate enough to take one after she'd just seen a therapist. Eventually she fell into a troubled sleep. she looked down at her naked body and without warning felt hopelessly vulnerable and childlike. Lynn sat reading a novel. Instead of feeling deliciously pampered and in charge. It was altogether so unsatisfactory and so far from her hopes that again a few involuntary tears mingled with the water on her face. 29 . Although it was funny.

' she couldn't bring herself to say the words. After he'd kissed her and left. 'Completely forgot'. .you knew what you were getting) and plied him with gentle questions at discreet intervals.' He looked puzzled for a moment and then light dawned. His face cleared. . 'Oh Mark! Sorry! Sorry! I . 30 . she hoped. It made no difference that Lynn was aware of. . if not weeks.' 'Yes . good Mark! He asked for so little. He'd been working on this for days. See you tonight. Or someone would tell him at work. bony face was anxious as he tenderly placed it on the bedside cabinet.oh. but so reliably good . your hair. and oh Mark .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. I'm doing my presentation this morning. what a cow she was! Of course. His hair was slightly sticking up. it's in the bag! Have a good day. A wave of remorse swept over her as she noted the shadows under his eyes. but he'd see it in the mirror in the hall . Lynn was ready.' Oh dear Volkswagons . He laughed. . Lynn lay alternately cursing her throbbing head and her own cowishness. 'No sweat. Dear. His dark. By late afternoon Lynn was surfacing and an hour's manic rushing around meant that when Mark returned that evening. it was the presentation today! What time had he come to bed last night? She hadn't even heard him come in. She pressed a lager into his hand as soon as he'd dumped his briefcase. and rubbed his hand back over the crown of his head. served a simple but elegant meal (Marks was pricy. 'I . 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. I hope it goes well!' There was no mistaking her sincerity. 'Got to dash. . .

Alan had been impressed. Fortunately it was a nine o’clock start today. it had gone fine. drinking tea. he was quite amenable to being talked round. . What was she doing now? Was she up too. and a panic button went off inside her head. and she still had to walk to the station to catch the tube. Yes. Now she was struggling to get out of the chair. Yes. But the spell was broken. willing herself to move as the minutes ticked by. Now there was only a staff meeting in the morning separating her from teaching in the afternoon.Yes. As she pointed out. thoughts of Tia appeared in Lynn's mind.on holiday apparently. 'Darling.' she said. and how it could have been so much worse. and the toast turned to cardboard in her mouth. At least.celebrate in style!' she said. he was pleased with how it went. Patti Travers hadn't been there with her awkward questions . at six-thirty? Was she drifting round her own flat . In the kitchen. girl!' said the little voice in her head. She wished now that they hadn't had their training days at the end of last term. the full force of what was awaiting began to dawn on her. a sure sign he felt like celebrating. and the train of thought died. as she planted a kiss on his sweaty forehead. She intercepted a glance from him that had a hint of speculation about it. . the PowerPoint had hit the spot. 'Sorry darling. She sat there in a stupor. in a kimono or a terry towelling bathrobe? In the shower or still in bed. She shuddered. they’d just had one with the meal. smiling smugly and drinking port. or full of pine and chintz? Minimalist. She hastily told herself that it was only one period. Inexplicably. . got to get to school early. probably. No. 31 . However. He sat there. And what was her husband like? Lynn suddenly shivered. Yes. ‘I’m back at school tomorrow. that had been the plan. but she usually travelled before the rush hour. let's open a bottle of really nice wine . Mark wasn’t so sure. or black coffee? Was her house chrome and glass and minimalist. Lynn could tell he was too. house . and enjoying Lynn's attentions. Lynn had very little to drink. . and concentrated on thinking how lucky she was to have such a gentle introduction. it was Lynn who brought Mark a cup of tea as he lay in bed.' Thus it was that the following morning. 'Count your blessings. or he seemed to be. And she wanted to get in early today so that she could meet the other staff in installments.

the same chairs. Otherwise you could never put your coffee cup down. It was better to be on the spot.there was plenty of time! Even if it was in the lower tables. same old – except that everything looked unnaturally clean and clutter-free. She closed her eyes and sat back. She relaxed back again and sighed with relief as she felt a momentary reprieve from the tension that was knotting inside her. . in the old grammar school building. Lynn didn't like those chairs. the same woefully inadequate teachers' lockers along two sides of the room. the same marking tables at one end.She rose. the white board 32 . It had been fun. They used to play a game when she was a kid. she could easily get there by nine. The lower school staffroom. Definitely too early. They were too low. . She sat down in a chair. armed and armless.very large . as would the two nearest the staffroom door. They were only sat in as a last resort when all the others were taken – for obvious reasons. Lynn moved hastily on. Lynn noticed things like that. arranged around two large . The one that Brenda (18 stone plus) habitually sat in would have got a 2. merely an accident of positioning. panic overwhelmed her. and you had to shuffle forward on your backside to reach the coffee table or else perch uncomfortably on the edge. it was the right building. The hall in the new building was much bigger. giving chairs marks out of 10. These chairs would have got 3 out of 10. wasn't it? She sat bolt upright. ready to face the onslaught when it came. Yes. the staffroom was empty. Anyway. Where was the impedimenta and accumulata of the teaching profession? Where were the piles of partly marked exercise books. She was too early. But . she'd only be at home. When Lynn got to school. Same old. grabbed her bag. shouted. though their proximity to it was not their fault. It was all there. stacked open. How bare and strange the staffroom always looked at the start of the autumn term! Yes. There was still nearly an hour to go before the staff meeting. She had caught the habit from Mum. But hang on! . the same tea and coffee-making facilities and sink unit at the other. and. What did it matter though? If she wasn't here. and left the flat. as Lynn well knew. She'd phone through and check in just a minute. 'Bye!' in the direction of the bedroom. for a few moments. It took new staff about a week to work out why. which she was sure it wasn't. of course it was here. was a fifteen minute walk away.

There were footsteps. notices which had once proudly kept their distance. . knowing that seeing John Quincy's name (maths) would make it all too easy.a letter.' And he'd written her a very nice letter too . Brian. For a second. the sprinkling of blue and black pens. the door opened and a group of two men. she gave up. she could see before she was seen. a momentary advantage. items of clothing and bits of paper with vital messages illegibly scribbled thereon? And how tidy the notice board looked. she got up and went to look at the notice board with its impersonal. a door slammed. coming nearer. Lynn knew. Her stomach lurched. Soon. . so sorry to hear . the head. It was no good. Alan. They must have met in the car park and waited for each other. Lynn sat trying to read. At the end of the corridor. time hung suspended. . All eyes connected.How dreadful. Fran. . . of footsteps. Lynn. . feeling her apprehension mounting with every minute. Awfully sorry . Here at least. it would be liberally covered with notices held on with inadequate amounts of pins. staring at the printed pages. 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 . . with actual space on it. Lynn got out the brown envelope with the bulky sheaf of briefing notes that Graham. uninteresting beginning-of-term messages. the women first. Her whole inner being was fixed on the corridor outside. Jean. skipping over the circular letter at the beginning ' . She herself had been guilty on more than one occasion of filching pins from existing notices to tack up her own. three women came through. and the condolences began. communally sharing pins.markers. 'Oh. . By the end of term. as Lynn knew from bitter experience). would be huddled together. How are you? . the odd unbent paper clip. so 33 . That showed sensitivity. not a card. waiting for the sound of voices. had sent to every member of staff about two weeks previously. . (never a red one. secure and self-supporting. or if they were really desperate. In the end. Myra. sequencing letters in alphabetical order. She avoided the page with the list of staff. and sat. and then people flowed forward. the vast amounts of dirty coffee cups. Finally.

and hums of conversation broke out in other parts of the room. she stood up straight and turned full face to Della. She could not.' Lynn was taken completely unawares. they've forgotten to fill the urn again. Della was preoccupied. enabled Lynn to pull herself together more quickly than anything else Della could have said. So sorry .sorry .' 'Better now. Adrenaline pumped through her. this time looking directly at her.' said Della. .' she said absently without turning round. 'You look very pale. thanks. it stopped. 'Hello!' she said again. 'Hello. 'That's all right. Lynn found herself looking at kind. 'Hi Dell!' she said. .' 'Yes. 'How bloody annoying. She walked over to stand by the hot water urn. apart from a few latecomers yet to arrive. A whiff of a familiar perfume made her turn her head. 'Are you sure you should be back at school yet? Do you want to sit down? Shall I make you a coffee.' Every time there was a lull. leaning against the lockers. . Pushing herself away from the lockers. People's sad faces relaxed as they moved away. glad of a respite to get her bearings. 'Oh Lynn. the door opened again and more people drifted in. something about the way Della expressed her concern . . Winded. How are you feeling now? . simply could not. Lynn still standing by the notice board.' Then she recognised the voice and swung round to face her. It was over. She found her voice and gave a dismissive ‘I’m all right' sort of laugh. So sorry. . by and large. . Why on earth did Della say that to her when she had already expressed her sympathy? It felt like a kick in the gut. I'm so sorry you lost your baby. 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.' 'Thank you. discuss the miscarriage with Della here and 34 . sit with you?' Thankfully.the list of questions and the 'poor little you' tone. she took refuge in a small smile and a slight shrug. concerned faces and saying over and over. just she thought that it would never stop and she would be there repeating the same things for the rest of her life. moved slowly and somewhat unsteadily away. The staffroom buzzed and heaved with the inordinate number of staff present and nobody took any notice of her.' and then.

' She managed a weak grin. and if a fortnight Friday was her first free day. but it should be OK. How does that sound?' Lynn felt a bit lost. And you'll have seen your therapist again by then so you can tell me all about it. fine! Why not!' 'Let's think. She must do something.I forget what.I've got about twenty things to do. First it was 'soon'. 'I think so. ‘I’ll have to check with Mark. . This was the Lynn she knew and loved. 'A new woman eh?' she mused.' Lynn said slowly.' 'Yeah. Yeah. wait. . though she felt slightly ruffled. ‘I’ll put a note in your pigeon hole confirming it. We're in Portsmouth this weekend. But that's the only way they'd do it. She had the most hectic social schedule of anyone Lynn knew. Damn! How about the Friday after? I know it's a long way off. wait! It's the squash club's annual dinner and we’re doing something on the Saturday . Why did Della assume that she would want to tell her about her therapist? Though actually. It's been ages . 'Mark must have been surprised!''ll be legal and binding!’ 'Great!' Lynn echoed. then it was two weeks tomorrow. . smiling her appreciation. Lynn had no idea. Lynn still looked pretty fragile. . a fortnight tomorrow seemed a long way off . come round for dinner soon? You and Mark. How she fitted it in with being head of department. 'Look. Della had had therapy. You'll have to come then . But she undoubtedly managed it somehow. But that was how Della organised her life. then that was how it 'Got to run . ‘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. she would quite like to. Coffee has been implicated in 35 . . It just wasn't her. it would be interesting to know what she thought. 'I think we can squeeze you in. Next Friday? No. but it will give me the chance to lay on something really nice.' Della recognised the response and inwardly approved.' The irony of this was not lost on Della. . But still . She hated seeing Lynn looking droopy and depressed. Deryk will be so pleased to see you. 'Great!' she said.

And acting. full of Polly. Lynn was sick of people just being kind. Polly was the lower school lab technician. with her floppy hair and glasses and her perpetually worried look that Lynn loved dispelling with a joke. Resisting the urge to snap back. I could do with some fresh air. Then she joined the general exodus to the main hall. It had been a challenge to thaw her out but it had been 36 . shouted – no. Sipping her coffee. a bit too meaningfully. they could always say it was for an experiment. After lunch. It seemed funny without Polly but she wouldn't get back from holiday until tomorrow. too shy to even look Lynn in the face! Amused.' 'What?' 'It's a fact. . I read it in the Tea Drinkers' Weekly and Doughnut Dunkers' Gazette. amongst other things.' What was the point? He was just being kind. 'No thanks. Lynn located the kettle. What a load of rubbish Della talked! But it was entertaining rubbish at least. How awkwardly Polly had offered her hand to shake. Lynn thought. 'Want a lift?' Brian had said. she wanted to borrow his notes. not a bloody lifethreatening disease and I had it over a month ago!' Lynn had replied sweetly. anyway. was what Della taught . cluttered prep room. Della moved away.premature loss of libido. 'No thanks! It's just a miscarriage. Lynn made some coffee and sat in the homely. took you to one side and discreetly whispered. tights sheer but not too sheer. But. Everything about her. getting some milk on the way. lipstick bright but not too bright. of course. jewellery chunky but not too chunky. 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. where her class was. now abandoned. here in this prep room. Lynn went straight to the science prep room and put the milk in the fridge. but empty.' Smiling. earrings dangly but not too dangly. Lynn had wanted to hug her on the spot. ‘thespian’. Brian. And anyway. though she couldn’t help noting with annoyance that someone had borrowed her cat mug again. oh. Some people would have 'He meant well' engraved on their tombstone. as though that somehow excused everything. . though Polly was not there. Lynn walked to the lower school. filled it up and savoured a much-needed cup of coffee. Lynn relived their first meeting.

Sometimes Lynn couldn't help feeling a bit jealous. which swelled when they saw her. She'd had them last year too. found herself nodding off . How about you? Ready for some work?' Predictably. Strange that after her accidious cultivation of Polly and the time she had spent gently drawing her out. Polly doted on her .worth it.dear Polly! She was such a simple soul! Lynn checked that her lab slips for the next two weeks were up. She was very tongue in cheek was Della. 'Hello. Aloud she said.and though she was still earnest and awkward. it was now she who missed Polly.wandered round some more. It was usually the other way round. she was not so shy. had another cup of coffee. It was a useful attribute for a teacher. Saw a therapist. Polly's chief talent was listening. She was so accepting . strolled round the labs. just at the moment. 'Fine thanks. mused Lynn. sat and thought. who. They were a nice bunch. of course. It took a lot to make her speak her mind. also 37 . but her pupils had a healthy respect for her tongue. Well. But it was Polly that Lynn wanted now. Not that Della didn't listen too. She always had the most Christmas cards and presents of all the staff in the school. Lynn waited for it to die down a bit. No one ever crossed Della twice.’ then had to eyeball the humorist. and went outside to meet her class. Got depressed. Lynn regarded her as one of her successes. Polly had repaid all Lynn's efforts . What a contrast Polly was to graceful. 8R. and then said amiably. 'Well. But Polly's company was very restful. 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. one of Lynn's favourite classes in fact. She looked round and sighed.a bit too much at times. Miss!' 'Have a good holiday?' 'Do anything then?' Not much. urbane Della. this produced a loud groan. thought Lynn. Had a miscarriage. heard a noise as of approaching thunder coming up the stairs. with her clarity of mind and her easy warmth and witty ripostes. I'm not letting you in until you are. They were untidily assembled outside the lab with much pushing and shoving and noise.this would never do! .

by the window.predictably. Lynn stood in the doorway so that they had to go through in single file. we've got a lot to get through this term. it's over there. draw the diagram underneath and then answer in your books the questions I am about to write on the board. . you said we would be doing a practical first lesson. 'Stephanie. . from the effort of mentally imposing her will on them. Make sure you answer in sentences. and she hadn't even started teaching them yet. Already Lynn could feel herself becoming drained from the encounter with their sheer animal exuberance. . Sara. 'Yes. Ben. if we don't waste time . . then left her position when about half were in. hel-lo? . just leave them . . . Write out the paragraph headed "Steam turbines". Union rules. taking down the stools on the benches. Lynn was a popular teacher.' A disappointed mumble surfaced and a dissonant voice was heard.' 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.' 'But couldn't you . so there's no one to set out any practicals. chattering away like monkeys as they unpacked their bags. 'But Mrs Davies. But she did today. Her lessons were looked forward to and she seldom disappointed them. . isn't it? Bin it . . give out the text books. said. you've seen them before. but we can do it. . OK. 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 . When you get them . you said . . but the lab technician is still away. they're gas taps. Yes. sitting on them. The class looked at her expectantly. sweetheart. Patrick. 'Afternoon everyone. your hair looks fine.' Lynn said. ‘Suits me fine!’ There was muttering and shuffling as they got into a semblance of order. got that? Page 32. Kevin. .?' 'Definitely not. . bit early to be chewing gum. Now. Put the comb away.' She paused. Now then . I know I said. when you get them turn to page 32. I’m sorry. She's back tomorrow. and stood at the front watching them finishing coming through. welcome to the first science lesson of the term.

and very bright. After a while it dawned on her that she was still wearing her coat.’ (Not much!) Mark sat down beside her and put his arm round her. They were so distressing that she turned immediately to the crossword on the back page. It was going to be a long lesson. . 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. Mark found her there. I’ve handed my notice in. Individual pupils looked up reproachfully but she stared them down. 'How was your day?' 'Oh. You?’ She longed to say. The end of Lynn's imaginings about . There was always one in every class. but nothing major. so she got up and hung it in the hall. When he felt her shift restlessly beneath it. hair invariably worn in a severe ponytail. ‘What’s for dinner? I’ll get it. She stuffed the food she had grabbed up at the supermarket in the freezer and the fridge. Laboriously. Nicole was the first to begin writing. Already Ryan. . diagnosed ADHD. She sat down again and looked at the newspaper headlines. disorientated. When she got home that night. he got up and moved towards the kitchen.’ 39 . . and it looked like it was hurting. Lynn was shattered. when he came in from work. concentrating on the words. giving it her best shot. She looked at him with such an air of bruised fragility that his heart went out to her. Faithful Nicole! Lynn 's heart warmed towards her. one of several in this class. Tall and merry. the future . ‘Yeah. Lynn sighed. She said. could have been worse. This was very bad teaching and she knew it. He said her name and she came to. 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. Few problems. ‘Bloody awful. had always ended. no more. and Nicole was the one that made 8R shine more brightly for Lynn. she made a cup of tea and sat down in the kitchen. She had spent too much but she was in no mood to let it bother her. on the female side. She should have at least prepared worksheets. half asleep. head industriously down.’ but temporised with.bench. Now. with the likes of Nicole. was poking his neighbour with his pen. . articulate but not too cheeky . all right.

. but if not. In bed. She was so bloody touchy these days. but contented himself with looking at her now and then in what he hoped was a sympathetic way. Mark said nothing. It was getting very tiring. 40 . Lynn thought of Tia for almost the first time that day. Fridge and freezer. He called from the kitchen as she heard the microwave door click shut.' She hoped Mark was reading the instructions correctly.' Mark had heard only the first two sentences. 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. nothing. did it really matter? She spent the evening in a fog of depression. I'd forgotten we were going to eat it tonight. I didn't mean to put it in the freezer actually. and went to bed as early as possible. She took another sleeping tablet and fell asleep still wondering.'Lasagne and mange-tout. . He knew that any attempt at conversation would be rebuffed. 'What's that?' 'Oh .

Chapter 4

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


. I got. 'Tell me all about it.' She began to talk. . 'Only if you want to. and then looked across the table at Lynn.' Lynn considered. After two minutes. I was coming up to the three months. . blinking behind her glasses as she waited for her to continue. She paused. afterwards . It had been at the hospital . By tacit agreement. Lynn's with chocolate. . .' Then she remembered. Polly settled herself comfortably. Lynn didn't reply immediately.' she said. It was in her. 46 . aware that she was repeating herself. Polly's with some sort of cottage cheese mixture. As they reached for their coffees. they never did 'sensible eating' here.all for nothing! She felt a surge of irritation. . 'It was in the holiday. . . I thought you didn't take sugar now.' she said. that kind of preperiod ache? But it never occurred to me . that it was taking too long. but . And now she was back on the sugar. . She was gazing into her coffee cup. 'Now. 'Well. Lynn thought this was a total waste of time. She began to listen to what she was saying. it was a good enough one. All that effort . Lynn. with every expression of sympathy. Polly said in surprise.the contents of last week's newspaper. but it was still part of the fun. Lynn finally found a door. 'Yes. They had filled croissants.' She paused again. she felt that something was definitely wrong.' she said finally. It did seem odd. 'You're putting sugar in?' 'Only in coffee. Lynn began to panic. groping for a way in. and it took you ages to give it up. How long had she been doing that? 'Oh well. After a minute.' she added hastily. 'Just this once.' Lynn said. What was it? It was not Polly. who was listening perfectly. it was like this . They were both hungry. Considering the highly calorific nature of croissant dough.' and then blushed crimson at the forthrightness of the phrase. when she didn't care any more. she felt that something was not quite right. . lost in her own thoughts. you know. Lynn risked a glance at her. searching for the right words to begin. at length. and in an agony lest Polly should interrupt. about two weeks after we broke up. Polly was sitting very still. 'Well. and when the food came they gave it their full attention.

That was how it seemed to her now. It was cold now. but she couldn’t. when Lynn had ground to a halt. People had said nothing . She was talking brightly. and it dawned on her that this was an edited account. nothing of comfort. and flowers.' she said at last. When I got to school. We got loads of cards . What had they said? 'They said they were sorry. the fact that there was no baby. 'If there had been a baby. . Nothing that told her they could feel her pain. . and too sweet. she forced herself to look at Polly. animatedly playing down the gory bits. She began to remember exactly what they had said. slowly at first and then faster and faster until it began to reach explosion point. The vague feeling of irritated puzzlement and unsatisfactoriness inside her began to coalesce into something darker. people were very sympathetic. ' Lynn's anger seemed to explode through the top of her head.' Polly was saying kindly.' She paused. 'And damn you too. and began to boil over. yes. She didn’t know how else to say it. What was positive about having a miscarriage? She took a sip of coffee. She stopped. 47 .' Now it was Lynn's turn to be puzzled. 'You seem to have a very positive attitude to all this. At length Polly said. Polly was still listening hard. stop her feeling. It's nature's way .describing. Oh damn them! Damn them all! The rage filled her to overflowing. like mercury rising up a thermometer. the more she could feel a sense of hot fury swirling up inside her. With a gargantuan effort. more solid. feeling more sure of her ground. words to shut her up. Yuck. She was majoring on the care of the staff. 'People were very kind. Just words. it probably couldn't have lived. 'What a stupid bloody thing to say! What do you know about it. 'Well. . She put the cup down and wiped the froth from her lips. . They said . leaving out the emotion entirely. That's very good. to concentrate on what she was saying. Lynn. as if she didn't know how to react.nothing of value. but she was looking puzzled. The more Lynn thought about it. Lynn thought about stopping. 'So it's all for the best. the support she had been given. nothing she could hold on to.' she said eventually. Polly!' she heard herself shout. so that her discomfort and pain didn't make them feel bad. . Or it would have been deformed.

I know! I don't know what got into me. I'm sorry . I know. 'Polly. I'm sorry! I don't know what got into me. and she was scrubbing away tears. 'I didn't deserve that. Her face was swollen and blotchy. After a couple of hour-long seconds. for god's sake!' Polly stopped in mid-sentence. much as she wanted to. could not believe what she had said.' Lynn was beside herself with remorse. The cafe went quiet. please don't cry!' Something of her wretchedness seemed to penetrate Polly's misery. truly I don't! Oh please forgive me! I'm so sorry! I'm under such a strain these days.oh. and Lynn could feel them shaking beneath her grip. . she was doubly so now. I'm seeing a therapist. she couldn't work out why on earth she had said what she did. What did I say . She looked up. something Lynn had never actually seen happen before. Her jaw dropped. and regarded her with a look of total unbelief. Lynn watched her struggling to regain control before she added with an odd dignity. I say mad things. when all I wanted to do was help you. Lynn had never seen her cry. 'I was only trying to help. Horrified. so after a little while she lifted her head to look at Polly. She looked at Polly's tear-stained face and reached across the table to grab her hands. oh Pol! Don't cry! Oh. Heads at adjacent tables cause that?’ Her lip was trembling. 'I don't understand. but Polly and Lynn still sat staring at each other.' she said patronising cow? What do you know about anything? You're still living with your mother. then turned quickly back. If she was aghast before. ' Polly . I'm not myself. Lynn. Oh please believe me! Please forgive me!' 48 . . Polly made a half-hearted attempt to withdraw them. too. All her anger seemed to have vaporised in that explosion. Something had happened which could not be reversed. She couldn’t gaze at it for ever. please don't cry! I'm sorry. the hum of conversation resumed. Trembling. Polly had her head down and her shoulders were shaking. and in the face of Polly's distress. she lowered her head and stared at the table cloth. which were convulsively clasping a wad of tissues. She held on tighter. which strangely enough looked the very same as it had before she had spoken.

Lynn could feel them. She managed a small smile. 'That's all right Lynn. 'Polly. it really is.' said Polly humbly. She returned the pressure of Lynn's hand. with her agonising shyness. Lynn. That's what friends are for.) 'I know I can't really understand how you're feeling. And for putting up with me. Thanks for listening. The Quickfit apparatus was already set up. having been delivered by a member of staff travelling to the lower school during break. had put her through.I'll just sort the bill out. 'Just remembered. They would never come to this cafe again.I don't deserve it. Polly. Can I drop you off?' 'Sure. looking at her. As they were driving back to school. As they were leaving. Instead. Thanks. she drove quickly to her own house. 'so it's all right.' After Lynn had got out. I needed to talk – everything's all churned up inside . and then withdrew her own. to grope. How could Polly do it? Did she really mean it? She seemed to. you are so kind! So forgiving! Thank you so much . Lynn didn't dare say any more.' She broke off. anyway. for her purse.' 'Polly. realised that Polly actually meant it. 49 . Polly did not drive to the upper school. was surviving.' Lynn let her. was amazed to encounter Polly's steady gaze. I said.' 'Polly.Polly heard her sincerity and was programmed to respond. somehow. although her hands were still shaking. I've got to nip to the upper school to pick up that Quickfit for Bill. but the situation was still horribly fragile. thanks to her. rather blindly. 'Course I forgive you! We've said worse than that to each other!' (Have we? thought Lynn. Polly said suddenly. Polly. she tried again. but thank you!' Polly did not trust herself to reply. It was incredible. 'Time to go . the death blow that Lynn had nearly dealt their friendship. would never recover from this ordeal that she. not knowing what to say to make it right. It was all spoilt now.' Lynn. let me! It's the least I can do!' 'No! My treat. thanks.

gulping down big bites alternately with the macaroni cheese. She kept it there because they ate butter so seldom. By the time Polly got to school. I'm so sorry. while taking the butter out of the freezer. Thankfully. She put the other one in her pocket. She was glad she did. folded it over. Nothing else in the pantry. But the bag kept sliding about when she tried to put her hand in. Oh please forgive me! I just can't help it. Polly crammed the last of the bread into her mouth and got into the car. It’s no more than you deserve for not letting Him help you. Grabbing a fork from the draining board. she wedged it between her knees. in sheer frustration. and began to chew it. Then another. . frosted flakes. she moaned quietly in anguish. With the seat belt on. Wait! A third of a box of cereal . She grabbed that too. Polly headed for the kitchen without pausing to take off her coat. Polly took the butter over to the bread bin. so in the end. the carer would have given mum her lunch and gone by now and mum would be asleep in front of the TV. she checked the pantry and found a packet with Weight watchers chocolate bars in. I just can't help it!' Polly piled the frozen butter shavings onto the bread. and got out some white sliced bread. she began to eat it.Once inside. stuffed it in her pocket and headed out of the door. the urge to eat had subsided. Look at you! 50 . Then she remembered to check the kitchen in case mum came in. and the familiar voice began in her head. She ripped the wrapper off one and stuffed it whole in her mouth. She forgot about the Weight watchers bar in her pocket as she began to feel bloated and sick. Hardly knowing what she was doing. You will die of obesity and God will let you. She took a sharp knife and began to shave off thin slivers of frozen butter. In between mouthfuls. 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. She worked quickly and methodically. and as she worked she continued to fork the cold macaroni into her mouth. 'Oh Lord. Polly opened the fridge door and took out some cold macaroni cheese in a bowl. ‘Call yourself a Christian? Where's your self-control. she couldn't reach the cereal bag still in her pocket. so she put it on the passenger seat and attempted to eat from it while driving. Good! She grabbed the waxed paper bag from the carton. Then another slice. As she locked the front door. .

Once again she ushered her through. Once again she was waiting for Tia. Lynn was sitting on the same chair in the drab corridor. When Tia saw her looking. 'Lynn. and said. Tia seated herself opposite her and said. Once again the attentive receptionist had asked her to take a seat. 'Mrs Davies is here'.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. 'This is the first of the three sessions we agreed 51 . unbidden. she stopped.' Then she waited until Lynn had almost reached her and turned and led the way to her office. had telephoned through to somewhere. Chapter 5 Once again. and Lynn. At two thirty precisely she heard the soft click of the door at the end of the corridor and turned to see Tia approaching. This time Lynn was more alert. sat in the same seat she had sat in two weeks ago.

they made you feel angry. made a concerted rush to escape.' ‘Why's that?’ This simple question helped Lynn to focus. how could she get it back? She didn't think she could. 'To tell the truth. I didn't know what to do. Tia was looking concerned. Her chance had gone. Actually.' She wanted to add. She knew now what she wanted to say. I don't know why. it's been really hard work. it was a relief to talk. They simply were not there. Oh. What kind of training do you do? How did you become interested in it?’ Somehow.' Silence. filled Lynn's mind. Into the silence that followed. how have you been?' All the events of the past two weeks. . about everything. Hardly knowing what she was doing. ‘So . 'Yes.’ Lynn resigned herself to go with the flow. 'Although people were kind. but I felt so angry. They made me . She'd need to be quicker next time. now. how does counselling work then? Can you tell me something about it? I know very little. now she'd got started. more importantly. it's been bloody awful.well. And then her mind blanked completely. my friends. Tia said. Lynn hastily averted her gaze again. Lynn looked away and mumbled in a rush. So. bugger. How on earth had that happened. She’d had a lot of carefully thought out questions first. Della. God! Why did Tia keep doing this to her! She'd had it all so carefully prepared.' There was a pause during which Lynn suddenly remembered with annoyance what she had actually planned to say to Tia. Tia's enquiry had sent it completely out of the window. What a relief. her thoughts scattered like cockroaches under the cupboard when the kitchen light was turned on.together. Actually. She hadn’t meant to start with that at all. but it felt so wrong. very angry. 'I . and. and got hopelessly jammed in the doorway from her brain to her mouth. but now Tia was actually looking at her. it's been really difficult. . She risked a glance at Tia. Polly. 'People were so kind. about Tia. ‘And you made me feel 52 . but I don’t know why. her thoughts about the miscarriage.

’ but she hadn’t got the bottle. having to cover me for another miscarriage. I started my period last Monday!' To Lynn's dismay she found herself wanting to cry. it wasn't as though I wasn't expecting it. Oh. Oh. 'Funny about the anger though . I feel so angry with myself!' ‘With yourself?’ Lynn thought about what she had just said. It wasn't even painful.I mean being angry with other people when they were being so kind. It was just . . but it felt like . at the whole lot of them.' It was not an ideal choice of distraction. That's not like me.well . smothered under a flame-retardant blanket of guilt.all right.oh. When I saw the blood. I should have been ready for it. as my old mother would say. had been smouldering for days. . I just went to pieces. and now she felt so tired. . ‘Should I talk about it?’ ‘Whatever you like. She had coped by resolutely thinking of something else. I suppose that was because of the D and C. This would never do! She concentrated fiercely on Tia’s hands. I had to have two days off school. . I . well. To distract herself. that's one benefit I didn't expect from a miscarriage.' Lynn could feel herself trembling at the memory.I . but I felt so strange. but it was so . at Polly. and then looked up. 'I . seeing the blood again. But here she was in Tia's office.' 'Yeah . it was just a period.oh Tia. I couldn't go in. 'Sorry. she said as conversationally as she could. Tia was regarding her with an air of polite expectation.angry too. I bet they hated me at school though. it was awful. But it had taken a lot of energy. noticing a rather nice green and silver ring. Was she angry with herself? She supposed she was – losing patience with her own inability to take it in her stride. not thinking about it. I think so.' 'It's all right. and wisps 53 . But I . ’Yes. The anger she was feeling at Della. it brought it all back. anyway. She wasn’t entirely sure it was true now.well.’ said Tia. Every cloud has a silver lining. putting it on hold until she could see Tia and ask her what she thought of it. weird. I didn't even phone any work through.

it was to herself. . 'Anger is a very normal emotion in these circumstances. She continued hurriedly. It's nature's way. 'You felt that there was nothing there . She sat up. Nothing! Just emptiness!' Emptiness." I felt . Tia said. and Polly said. So are a lot of others. She had felt so empty. to make it all right. 54 .How the hell did she know! What right did she have to say it was better for it to have died. it probably couldn't have lived or it would have been born deformed. . It seemed too terrible to say aloud. positively billowing out from under the blanket. She said. Poor Polly! She could see again that look of stricken disbelief on her face. said she was bloody patronising. more manageable. She was aware that she was close to losing it. called her a stupid cow.there was no baby. It felt very bad. Tia seemed unaware of her inner turmoil. I shouted at her.' She broke off. Can you tell me about the times when you felt angry?' Lynn felt OK once more. everybody looked . in a hissing undertone. that there never had been anything. trying to remember. 'Well. about something. "If there had been". When she spoke again. She wasn't sure what she really thought about that.of smoke were finally emerging. 'I'd been feeling very angry anyway. aware of Tia's eyes resting on her. "If there had been a baby. It wasn't all right. . 'Stupid. holding it in. 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. She trailed off and sat staring into space. the worst one was Polly. The smouldering pile of anger looked smaller. She and Polly had hardly spoken since. and Lynn was powerless to stop them. 'But . pleading silently for help. and said mildly. clasping her arms around her emptiness. to say it didn't matter. . useless failure! Thinking you were pregnant! Congratulating yourself! On what? On nothing.I thought . she said. in a cafe. After a while. galaxies of emptiness inside her. I really freaked out. she came to. She stopped trembling. She leaned forward. She said obediently. She had felt as empty as the universe. She looked at Tia. you'd be surprised. Oh Polly! Lynn said slowly. But there wasn't! There wasn't!' Lynn found herself whispering. and then her heroic efforts to minimise the outburst. She had oceans. a little self-consciously. and gently rocked back and forth. But it did matter.

'But how do you know?' 'Lynn. She remembered the feeling. smiling at her. but pleasantly so. She'd save that to think about later. didn't understand how simple it made everything. but kindly. and suddenly. it seemed safe to do that here. you were really empty. in Tia’s bright room. when the sperm met the ovum. Tia continued. the wriggling sperm. she understood. but right back at the start. It touched something. true. 'Oh. you just told me.' Tia said gently. There was no baby. . the penetration. When you’d thought you were full of growing life. the doctor saying. when she told Mark.' Lynn felt foolish. and then a ball of cells . The baby didn't grow'. Tia. looking at her anxiously to see how she would take it. what then? There must have been a baby! Even if it had only been there for one cell division. What was Tia saying now? She relived the miscarriage. Somehow. almost of relief. for ten minutes . By the time the miscarriage occurred. She thought about it all. There was nothing to mourn. but when had there started to be no baby? Into her teacher's mind came a vivid picture of fertilisation. had deceived yourself. She had thought he would be relieved too. Are you so sure that it was like that . Instead he had been bewildered. 'But the emptiness. a fragile bubble of joy rising within her that was burst almost instantly by the crushing awareness that the baby had not survived. then four.the whole time?' Lynn thought.That you'd been deceived. ‘Are you so sure it was like that – the whole time?’ Tia’s question echoed in her head. there had been only an undifferentiated mass of cells. only their disappointment to contend with. which should have been the safest place in the universe for the tiny 55 . 'There was no baby. There had been no baby then. . She thought back further. and her frustration at his obtuseness.' 'Yes!' said Lynn. 'Yes! That's it!' She looked at Tia wonderingly. Her womb.for ten seconds – for one second! There had been a baby! Her baby! She felt a sudden surge of wonder. the fussy time-lapse cinematography showing the ovum dividing into two.

'The baby . red-faced state. wasn't it? Even if it was only for a minute. But one thing stood out. was not safe enough. It was such a nice feeling. she know she was there. Confusion overtook her.hugely. it was there?' 'Yes.was there. and shake her whole body. The thoughts all became too much for her and she leaned back in her chair. working her way steadily through them. She could feel whatever was inside her changing from an agonizing laceration into a steady ache.' said Tia. horribly. . Lynn exhausted the tissues in her bag. Eventually the violence of the sobs grew less and Lynn's tears became punctuated by sighs. she suddenly thought clinically. The pile of used tissues on her lap grew. aching sobs that seemed to knot her stomach in spasms. Lynn finally finished. .' Lynn bent her head and cried. It was not unlike being sick. It felt so safe to cry in Tia's quiet presence. The ruin of her make-up had been completed by the first minute. With her head down. eyes closed. 'The baby was there. and looked up. and smiled tremulously. or what Tia thought of her. She opened her eyes and repeated it to Tia to see if she had got it right. flowing round the pain. and turned to the open box of tissues on the table. and even though she was dimly conscious of Tia sitting perfectly still and making no move towards her. They exchanged a long look and it was only then that Lynn became aware of her blotchy. She cried for a long time. She looked at Tia gratefully. Anguish gripped her and she cried with racking. in a way she had not cried since she was a child. She could not remember feeling like this before. without warning they welled up again within her. But it must have. but Lynn didn't care. The sobs seemed to die down and just when Lynn thought it was over.did exist . All she could do was to ride them out as best she could. If it ever reached the uterus. She knew that something of value had just been 56 . She could hear herself gasping and grabbing in breaths between them. was a curious feeling of security. It did not occur to her to think about her red eyes.growing life. Something (she shuddered) must have implanted to stimulate hormone production and the thickening of the uterus wall. She was powerless to stop them. Tia made no attempt to say or do anything to stop her. Something inside her was hurting . she could not see her. Creeping in.

Lynn felt glad that Tia was in charge. She looked as though she could sit there all day like that. 'What happened just now?' 57 . 'I don't. 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. Eventually she felt herself drifting slowly upwards and reluctantly poked her head above the surface into the bright world around her. alert. Lynn suddenly felt a resurgence of curiosity about this strange and fascinating world about which Tia knew so much and she knew so little. She glanced at the clock on the wall. Lynn realised that Tia knew what to do even if she didn't. She'd think about what it all meant later. She sat back in the chair and closed her eyes. Where had the time gone? How could she make the most of what was left? As she reflected. froglike down into the silent shadiness at the bottom of the pond. But did she actually need to do anything? Tia was sitting there as relaxed as ever. 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. Lynn. hands resting loosely on her lap. with genuine bewilderment.' It was clear to Lynn that she would get nowhere with this particular line of questioning. Tia had apparently not moved a muscle. She said. but Lynn didn't want to think about herself . if necessary. Tia didn't look at all bothered. Nothing was said for a few minutes.' she said. There was Tia. How could she look so cool. This was amazing. It had not gone away. Tia?' Tia looked at Lynn with a faint air of 'Why are you asking me this?' 'No. She wasn't sure she was even thinking anything. regarding her with composure as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Lynn became aware of Tia's well-cut slacks and sandals and the bright hoop earrings shining through Tia's hair. But mingled with it was a measure of release.transacted. Twelve minutes to go. when she.she felt exhausted. something of the emotion she had felt only moments ago washed over her. ready to engage. 'Do you live around here. It meant that she didn't have to do anything. but now the moment was over she felt uncomfortable and she was not sure what to do or say next. so she paused to regroup. Tia was in charge. and Lynn sank.

She looked at Tia. . Tia looked back. I mean. and went on hurriedly. My dad left her when she was three months pregnant 58 .Tia gave her an approving nod . She knew she would be able to cry later.Tia said. and then I realised there was a baby after all .' 'So my baby was real. She was so alive. 'You did. Lynn felt again the sense of awe she had felt earlier. 'You would have liked my mother. Not just feeling sad because my my future was different. I felt .' Lynn paused to think about it. 'My mum. . wasn't it? I was grieving for my baby. 'You know. she died a few years ago. . "See. I wanted to be just like her. isn't it?' There was another pause which Tia did not fill. . That's odd. lost . decided not to. tasting the unfamiliar words. She would cry later. Mum. ' 'Yes. and then I cried?' 'Yes. when I had the . ‘You said she was a fighter?' 'Yes.' ‘Mmm?' '. she was such a fighter. She had to be. . I felt like I'd really let my mum down. . But they could wait. She had me against the odds. . looked up to her. 'What do you think happened?' Lynn replayed it in her mind. Somehow say. lost the baby. . .' She hesitated for what seemed an age ' the baby' . . She was tough though. . really there?' 'Yes it was. . and then I realised it was to do with the fact that there was no baby . . but softly. . I was telling you about what Polly said . of grief.' Lynn repeated. 'I felt such a failure. such a pain. It was grief. pain . but because my baby was gone. After a while she responded hesitantly." ' ‘That's one reason for having a baby.' 'And I felt .' agreed Tia. wasn't it? Really. . She had such a sense of humour. I can do it too. .' Tia said drily. What on earth went on inside Tia's head? What did she know? She said. 'Well. .' . . I really admired her. you know.' Lynn felt tears welling up again.

'I think we would need two more sessions to end properly. I know it!' She could not keep the desperation out of her voice. 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. She had so much to say. She said. But you do understand. I was about ten before I cottoned onto what she was talking about .' Tia said. They were on holiday in Italy and he just walked out of the hotel and never came back. You've come to a deeper understanding of your baby and it has helped you to begin to grieve. it would really be better if we discussed it during the next session rather than at the end of this one.' 'Oh!' Lynn cried in distress. We would be in a stronger position to assess your counselling needs and we would have more time to do it in. A jibber's a horse that refuses at fences.and she and Tia weren't even friends yet! 'Well. 'Only two more! Couldn't we agree some more sessions now. 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 . seemed hardly to have started. Tia held all the cards! Against hope. Mum was so wonderful. 'Lynn. take life's knocks and get up again. there was nothing she could do. and she could tell Tia didn't think so! . "Never say your mother bred a jibber!" she'd say. that this is a crisis clinic. she cried out. we have just five minutes of this session left.' Lynn didn't agree at all.' 'Oh!' Lynn cried again. “What can’t be cured must be endured”. please! Two's not enough. we've got a few minutes left?' The thought of only two more sessions with Tia seemed too awful to bear. She taught me not to whine. That was one of her sayings – she had lots of them. Can you imagine that? But I respected her. I think you may find that things have shifted a bit for you. don't you. 'Oh please. 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. for brief therapy? We’ve looked at some important issues today. even more woefully. She wanted to tell Tia about her mother. Tia looked at her carefully for some moments.with me.

Tia was passing her a waste bin from by the desk behind her.' Lynn was standing up too. When Mark came home late that evening. 'Our next session then.' and Lynn was dropping them in. saying. and saying in her quiet. scrabbling at the mounds of tissues on her lap. saying. there seemed so much to think about. The second session was over. 'Here. . about what she might say to her in the sessions to come. is two weeks from today. Lynn walked through the door. it's in the microwave.two sessions highlight anything then it may be worth considering referral for some longer term counselling. then added. I'm picking it up tomorrow – I hope.' Tia's smile seemed to be saying. 'Will you be long with the laptop? Mine's playing up . away from Tia's affirming presence) about Tia. on legs that felt slightly wobbly. A reprieve! She had gained a reprieve. Don't be afraid. 'I understand. 'And now I am afraid our time really is up. 'longer term counselling'. . 'Your dinner's ready. * * * Lynn walked down the corridor with her thoughts buzzing. Tia was already standing up. She knew it. Surely she needed to talk to Tia for much longer than two sessions.I’ve had to drop it off to get it sorted.' As he got it out he said. one of these days. She felt so achingly. The next two sessions need not be the last ones. But she didn't need to. . once again heard it close with a firm click before she had gone three paces. Why did she always seem to leave with more in her head than she came in with? Once again. I’ll see you then. measured way. ‘You know what we ought to do. Then Tia was walking with her to the door.’ He paused. about the miscarriage (she didn't feel like saying 'baby' -.' Once again. at two thirty. I've had mine.' All Lynn heard clearly was the phrase. Lynn. . saw again that Tia was smiling. She had no memory of the journey home. deeply.' Lynn turned to say goodbye. yet . thankful that she could hardly speak. he found Lynn busily typing a letter. We ought to get a video and order in a pizza like we 60 . 'It's all right. holding it open.

I never expected to cry so much but it felt very safe. There was more in the same vein. laughter lines . I won't be long. so stream-of-consciousness. Hey. but Lynn felt a growing distaste as she read it.' she said. a fork in one hand. Older than she had first thought . After half an hour. I hardly ever use it. slightly freckly skin that often goes with reddish hair. Good bone structure.' 'That would be nice. 'You should have said. Definitely hazel eyes. Do you need it right away?' 'Not yet. trying not to show his anger. Mark waited in vain for the computer to be free. Her turbulent. around the eyes . come on! This wasn't getting her letter done. she remembered the close-up of Tia when she had left. come on. the remote in the other. It was very weird. Tia was an extremely intelligent. 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.used to. At first. Then you expect me to pretty them up for you and 61 . As Lynn thought of her. . . Back in the living room. complex feelings seemed incapable of being expressed other than very simply. Only for the odd worksheet. First of all I want to thank you though because it was very helpful.' He ate his meal restlessly in front of the television. Take your time. he started looking round the door. Fine lines . She scrubbed the beginning and started again. I feel more in touch with my feelings about my baby. You made me feel safe.' floated back. you seem to understand so much. That translucent. I feel I can trust you with anything. Mark came in. ‘I’ve said I won’t be a minute!’ By nine o'clock. 'I did. but Lynn recognised it in his heavy breathing and abrupt movements. It seemed so adolescent. Lynn didn’t even notice. . . aware person.’ 'Oh. the floppy discs waiting to be used on the coffee table serving as a focus for his increasing annoyance. .’ ‘I know. 'No. Lynn was finally satisfied. Then she responded to his ‘Nearly finished?’s with growing exasperation. Back in the spare bedroom cum study. you bloody technophobe. .

a willingness not to write again if necessary. she had a bit of a block when it came to computers. I’ve finished now. please tell me so next session. OK. plus a subtle acknowledgment of Tia's fixation with time. but if it was up to you.coded message: Tia. instead of leaving it to me!’ That stung. and stop making a fuss. It’s nearly the year 2K. Chris would – he was always ready to help anyone. Miserable sod! How often did she use the laptop? Hardly ever! There was one at school – well. but she felt it struck just the right note: Dear Tl I hope you don't mind my writing to you. And Mum had never been keen on technology either. inwardly seething. (A good start. (Another Brownie point or two . she'd not read hugely. Now in the living room. Lynn thought. the printed page. An explanation of why she was writing. she'd been too busy. Lynn grabbed her letter and disc from the computer and walked out. That's what Mum would have said.print them out. 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. It was not very long. 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. simply refused to understand her love of books. they ruled the bloody world. She’d thought he didn’t mind. well. but Mark refused. but Mum had read enough for two. Lynn looked at the letter she had written to calm herself down. Lynn was sick of the times they'd had this conversation. So. Computers were a necessary evil. Good servants.' ‘Yes I have. As if I haven’t got enough to do. the written word. we'd still be using quill pens. Your insights enabled me to realise that I had not properly grieved for my baby. You should go on a course. 62 . And I do know how to print things out’ said Lynn stubbornly. and it was such a release to be able to express my emotion so freely in front of you. but poor masters. Sodding computers. not literature anyway. ‘You should do it more often then. You haven't even mastered the Internet. If it's not appropriate.) The letter continued: / really found this last session so helpful.

was it? To want people to like you? Not just to kindly help are doing such a good job. Sincerely Lynn had wrestled much over how to end the letter. liked making friends anyway – everyone was interesting in their own way. Lynn liked the way she thought. Aren’t you trying rather hard to get the friendship of this woman you’ve only met twice? What’s so special about her? much. so cleanly. her clear thinking. a parasite. bringing so much healing? Surely she would extend the time . I do so hope that we can fit it into the remaining time. .it should be 'need' Lynn would have to reprint it when Mark had finished) to say. And Tia was pretty fascinating. recognition of the time limits. come on! Tia was just an interesting person. Don't let's make anything out of it! Lynn liked people. a sort of mutuality between her and Tia. She wanted to meet Tia somehow on more mutual terms .to laugh and joke and exchange views as equals. intriguing. As she read the letter through again. then dismiss her from her mind and her life. I realise that I have so much more that I want (Drat . Oh. How could that be? It seemed a hopeless minimally. that was all. . she so wanted Tia to like her! That wasn’t wrong. . Lynn had never met anyone who thought that way before . more interesting case. See what a difference you are making to me. when it was doing so much good. someone to be dealt with as quickly as possible before she moved on to the next. (A nice touch . so that Tia would not regard her as inferior. but she wanted that truth to convey a restrained strength.) As I reflect. but something had told her that Tia would regard this as the fulsome gushing of a needy person. .? ) Thank you . and a plea to her better nature. Where was the harm in that? 63 . How could she deny Lynn access to her wisdom. Lynn wanted Tia to notice her. Lynn felt that everything she had said in the letter was true. say how much it had meant to her. Part of her wanted to thank Tia rather more strongly. It was . a little monitor went off in Lynn's mind.again. set by Tia. not even Della. it's your insights that have enabled me to grieve. I look forward to our next session together.

She thought of her own willingness to accept Tia's insights. the look Tia had given her when they had parted. Lynn posted the letter on the way to the tube. Mark was still working when she went to bed at eleven. to learn. surely? Their talking together. .offer more counselling . Tia smiling. She could not resist putting on a first class stamp. almost laughing at her. there was hope. Her honesty . really . it was nice.against what had seemed to be her better judgment.Tia couldn't fail to be impressed with that. She got up early to reprint the emended letter in the morning.Lynn relived the session again. Yes. she had made Tia change her mind . Most of all. She had no idea when he finished. 64 . recalling their interactions. . with mingled dread and pleasurable anticipation.

but Lynn overrode her.well . With this thought in mind. Polly. as she approached. 'Oh .' 'Ciao. but she dimly sensed that this was just the start. Poor Polly. she was aware of new desires emerging within her. Polly had been insensitive.Chapter 6 As Lynn entered school that morning. She looked anxious. 'No.hello. 'But it wasn't your fault. but scarcely more than this. And you . Her face was neither friendly nor unfriendly. That wasn't strictly true. felt a rush of affection. She couldn't go on like this. was bent over the prep room table with her back to her. 'Polly.' Polly straightened and turned to meet her. ('Toast?' 'No thanks. new resolves to sort out her future and her past. 'Polly . wait. let that pass. a therapist I mean. I'm off now.I'm seeing someone. she knew. You see.oh Polly. standing there so meekly to hear what she had to say.’ said Polly. That's a part of grief. something had been laid to rest.') What kind of relationship was that? And as for Polly .' Polly tried to interrupt. She had to make it all right.’ ‘Sure. and I’m beginning to 65 . let me finish! It was my fault. I hadn't properly grieved. She realised with chagrin that she had hardly spoken two sentences to Mark since the previous evening. She. all my fault.can we talk? I mean about the other day. you know. and yet it was Polly who waited like a child for a rebuke.I felt angry.' That at least was true.we've got to . I just had say again how sorry I am about what happened. But it wasn't you I was angry at. She just waited.' 'Ciao then.' Lynn called. I was . 'I understand more now. Lynn. had been at fault.and I let you have it. as usual. she climbed the stairs to the science labs and prep room. Lynn.sort of touched on something . But she hadn't meant to be. looking at her.' Lynn paused momentarily. 'Polly . lab coat unfastened and swinging open. apart from a grunted exchange of information and farewell. Oh well.she really had to sort it out with Polly. In the session with Tia the previous day. I'm .

Polly smiled. you're worse than ever. 'Let's go out for a sandwich this lunchtime. Mark was home late. . Please forgive me. as he was taking his coat off.' she wasn't you I was angry at. His face was shadowed. . In everything that Lynn had been saying. yet amazed relief. it wasn't your fault. I don't know what’s going on myself. They did not go to the Cafe Noir. I've been trying to be patient. Polly had heard just one thing . dissolving and dissipating the chilling hurt that had been nagging at her ever since That Day. open countenance was beaming. 'Look. but she needed to put it right.' she said.' Oh god! Hadn't she told him? She said quickly. The miscarriage was bad enough.' Polly beamed more widely.' 66 . Everything was all right again. It wasn't her fault. 'It really doesn't matter any more. as she had once said before. But if someone had said to her in public what she had said to Polly . On impulse. but ever since you've been seeing this woman. A warm feeling was spreading within Polly's guts. Apparently it's been booked for two weeks. It really didn't matter to her now: she could hear it. Lynn recognised the authenticity in Polly's voice and was slightly awed by it. Now her forgiveness of Lynn had a deeper resonance. Lynn said. we've got to talk. He burst out. 'I saw Deryk at the gym. That evening. Before. He said he was looking forward to Friday. so deserved! She came and stood by him and said repentantly. You’re just not there anymore.' As Lynn spoke.understand. forgiving Lynn had been something Polly Had To Do because Polly had clearly done something very wrong. But this time she meant it in a different way. 'I'm sorry. It was deserved . . 'It's all right. !' Polly's squarish. And I know that I hurt you so badly and I'm really really sorry. I acted as though I knew what he was talking about. He came in the door and said. She didn’t know what. Lynn. genuinely. but we can't go on like this. 'Oh yes! Della invited us round for a meal on Friday! Didn't I mention it?' 'No!' said Mark. she could see that Polly's face was changing from a look of apprehension to an expression of muted. What's going on?' Lynn felt rebuked.

* * * 67 . . The moment hung in the air while Mark waited in an agony of suspense. in Mark's arms.'I told you. . Had he got it wrong again? Lynn felt his body beginning to tense and made a split second decision. Lynn. So that was a no-no. but managed not to translate it into any bodily reaction. but how much longer is this going to last. Please give me just a bit more time to try to sort it. even eager a moment ago. On impulse she moved closer to him. What was the matter now? She had seemed so willing. I know I'm not much company at the moment. You know I don't mean to hurt you. and put his arm around her. Mark heard what she said.. Things are happening I don't understand but I know I've got to go through with it. felt only thankfulness. ' Inside her head. As for the miscarriage . felt her soft nearness. catching the characteristic scent of her shampoo and cologne. I've been trying to be patient. . I can't go back now. Mark murmured. What was left? Not much. Smiling.' She didn't know what else to say. She inhaled his smell . The shutters came down whenever she had tried to talk about it. He dropped his briefcase. had obviously meant something to him.the sweaty city office odour replaced by the smell of fresh cotton and the piney shower gel they used at the gym. Lynn froze. she took his hand and placed it on her breast. It seemed so inadequate. . insufficient though it had seemed to her. Whatever she had said. Still holding her. . . to try by her closeness to convey that she loved him. She could feel herself almost sagging with relief against him. for god's sake!' 'I don't know. I don't know! Everything's such a mess and I'm thinking about it such a lot. 'It's been a long time. She leant against him. that was over and done with as far as he was concerned. but how could she? Her time with Tia was too precious . Lynn . the baby . heard the apology in it. put his other arm around and bent his share.and too painful . She'd told him nothing.

Friday night found Lynn and Mark standing outside Deryk and Della's flat in St John's Wood. then departed to tend to the flowers. Lynn! Well. so casually? No. wait. with their feet in the Heworth's deep shag pile carpet. in the way that people who have no children can get away with. come in.the little maker's fingers long since turned to dust. Drinks. A subtle perfume hung for a second in the September air. She always appreciated coming to Della's and Deryk's immensely. Oh. in a simple jersey dress that showed her figure to perfection. How did they dare have up on the wall like that. aged seven years’. She looked around. It was a bit like one of those memory games. Deryk was a self-made businessman. 'Look. what lovely flowers! Thank you. when Della appeared with the flowers artfully arranged in a tall vase. Lynn always enjoyed spotting what new trophy they had added since last time. 1663 ‘Harriet Cooper. you're here. The Lowry? No. haloed in soft light. I love your carpet so much!' 'Of course!' said Della. so delicate . Mark rang the doorbell. there was a tiny wire running down behind the bookcase.’ To prove the point. filthy rich but not pretentious. come in! Let me take your coats. ‘I’m not wearing mine. That was why he used the same fitness club as Mark. they were pious in those days! And 68 . and Lynn said. mingling with the night scents of the still blooming flowers in the beds around. as she had done before. They entered and Della whisked their coats away. she kicked them off. So faded. Della appeared in the doorway. You couldn't see it unless you looked. They were born hosts and their flat was large and full of interesting things arranged in odd corners and on low shelves. Heavens. Drinking her Shiraz. That child's sampler. Lynn tried not to be jealous. 'Oh good. That pirate's treasure chest thing? No. Thank you so much!' Her thanks were genuine. these flowers are perfect for this vase. 'I must take my shoes off. They had just seated themselves in the Heworth's comfortable sofa. Deryk!' she called over her shoulder. Della loved flowers. Della. what was the date? Lynn stood up to see more clearly . while Deryk materialised and benignly ushered them through to the lounge. Lynn looked around.

. the pinky. they need the money so desperately . He swore they were as rare as hens' teeth. The biologist in her felt affronted at the unnecessary sacrifice of biodiversity required to grace a rich person's sideboard. Lynn wasn’t sure what to feel about this. She’d never seen one so close before. Paid a local an absolute fortune to dive for it. .had a bag of 'em!' 'I don't know about "as common as muck. Della responded with some animation. 'Has everything here got an anecdote attached?' 69 . it was beautiful . How people could choose to believe that these giant marine molluscs died natural deaths. . and maybe she was right. 'My dear Lynn. these people are very poor.yet there was a sort of innocence and modesty about it somehow. Lynn wondered where Della had got it. 'Our last holiday in the West Indies. 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 . pearly opalescence in perfect contrast to the glowing richness of the wood of the sideboard below it. It wasn’t Deryk’s thing . On the other hand. You could hardly blame them. 'The very idea!' 'Isn't the sale of these shells . The people were poor. was the shell still inhabited when you got it?' 'Heavens no!' said Della with a shudder. .illegal? They are quite rare.any money! I assure you Deryk paid handsomely for that!' Lynn felt slightly taken aback. get real! The thing was dead and gone when we bought it." ' murmured Lynn. 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. up he came with it. Della hardly ever expressed herself without being amusing in some way.well . Someone else would have if we hadn't. She turned to Della who had come to stand beside her.' he said. She bent over it. . aren't they?' She had touched a nerve. 'Ah yes. Deryk saw her looking. and her eye fell on a large and very beautiful shell.' she acknowledged. . their shells just 'happened on' by collectors was beyond her. quite unlike her usual languid tones. After about ten minutes. and anyway. was that a tiny bloodstain in the corner? She shivered and turned away. 'It's very beautiful. 'So. She clearly had strong feelings about this . so beautiful.

. and she was right. Lynn as aware too. After a while. that no matter how much they ate. and then decided not to. Lynn’s pleasure in it began to be shadowed with a feeling of unease. and they were fried with something which Lynn couldn't quite place but which was very nice. generous but extravagant. not to slow down his eating. In between 70 . a vast amount would end up in the bin.' said Della. 'Are we ready to eat now?' and without waiting for an answer rose gracefully and drifted towards the dining room. laid them on the table. Della said. . . Della's usual good humour was restored. 'More or less. Deryk said they were just very large prawns. 'But we don't tell them all to everybody. Lynn contemplated asking Della about the little needlewoman. and therefore seemed ageless.She had said the right thing. . well . smiling. Somehow it was something she had never thought about . But then he must be at least fifty. Was that how he had got that slight paunch? For a man who worked out regularly he was quite . Mark and Lynn enjoyed it tremendously. She’d probably find out she’d been burned as a witch or something. She too. Maybe because she had a touch of Jean Harlow about her. but somehow she'd expected it to be a little bit different from this. and made them three-D. It was as though Della had ripped out the cookery section pages of the Sunday supplement magazines. It tasted sublime. probably her pale blonde hair. The meal looked delicious.but that was Della's style. thick-set.' she said. Lynn had noted with seemed almost rude to think about Della's age. and she'd been looking forward to it so much . . Too boring. Della would have gladly given her one. 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. but because he was already on his third glass of wine. Somehow. She had to glare at Mark to slow down his eating. Lynn could never bring herself to ask for a doggy bag. You couldn't have one without the other. ‘Come and sit down. but as the meal progressed. she wasn't sure how. It was lovely here and Della and Deryk were so welcoming and considerate. had been frowning at Deryk.’ For a moment. but she would have been amused. So they did. It seemed a terrible waste . How old was Della then? With a slight shock Lynn realised that she must be in her early forties. . because she knew from experience that a starter this size would herald a generous meal.

She could not imagine elegant Della and worldly-wise Deryk in a hot sweaty church service with lusty Pentecostal singing. 'Rachel sent us those .' she said again. 'Unusual salad servers.. don't they Deryk?' Something clicked in Lynn's memory. so poor. 'Oh. frowning. Deryk?' 'Um. 'We met Rachel and Samson . 'They didn't get our present though. actually. ' 'Samson?' 'Yes. they are. didn't you? I never realised you were so personally involved. We've sort of exchanged gifts at Christmas and so on ever since.Mark and Deryk talking Stock Markets and politics and personal trainers (Mark was beginning to loosen up.' 'So you went to a service. 'That's what that appeal for old school sweatshirts and pens and pencils was for about three years ago. then?' said Lynn curiously. We've got a tape of a church service we went to.' said Della.’ 'What’s that about school sweatshirts?' said Deryk.was it last Christmas. It seemed the right thing to do. Bloody thieving postal service over there!' Della elaborated. 'Ah yes. 'They sing well there.they'd asked. They're lovely people. you know. and yet so incredibly generous. Della coloured faintly.' 'So you believe in God?' Lynn could not resist asking. Lynn noted thankfully . .. There's a school there. . 71 . it was quite fun.must be the wine ) and Della and Lynn talking school and diets and personalities. They put us to shame.and their family in the Gambia about four years ago and got friendly.' Mark said. they've all got Biblical names over there .' Della looked uncomfortable. 'Oh well. the anecdotes went relentlessly on. that sort of thing. 'Well. looking interested. All believe in God. Very religious and morally upright.' said Deryk.’ said Della hastily. When in Rome . you got quite a lot. nothing much. not really personally . that's all. You were making it when I came.

that is. And it did not go 72 . . whose mind now seemed elsewhere. though now she remembered . . 'Deryk darling.' She stopped suddenly. The milkman is still alive. His remark got the response he was clearly hoping for. suddenly appearing pointing the whisk threateningly at Deryk. ‘I like to keep my options open. Perhaps she was thinking about God. 'Well.'Of course!' said Della. .' Deryk guffawed.' 'So you admit it was the wrong drawer? And by the way. you’ve got cream on your nose. .and how to use it!' 'So do I!’ 'Let's face it.' Casting a comically rueful ‘See-what-I-have-to-put-up-with’ look at Lynn and Mark. Something about the way she ended suggested to Lynn that if she ever talked about her religious beliefs. and Della seemed to talk freely on any subject. ‘That's why I bought a few voodoo dolls as well . thought Lynn. Della's voice floated indignantly through the doorway. their version of them anyway. Somehow she had never thought to wonder if Della believed in God. The subject had never arisen. Deryk subsided. nervous breakdown when I put it in the wrong drawer. Della wiped it off with an impatient gesture. Not for the first time she reflected that although she and Della had been friends ever since she had joined the staff. I repeat. 'Little woman be blowed! At least I know where the whisk is . 'The sound of the little woman at work!' His face was slightly flushed and he spoke loud enough for Della to hear. 'That's what I like to hear!' said Deryk. and even then you nearly had a nervous breakdown.’ She left the table and the sound of whirring emanated from the kitchen. 'the only thing you know how to use is the corkscrew. I believe there's something in control.’ said Della suddenly.I forgot to whisk the cream. She glanced at Della. That reminds me . a Higher Power. the reality was that she knew almost nothing about what Della really thought. Deryk wasn’t usually this bad. Lynn and Mark exchanged covert glances. They didn't work very well though. I get a better standard of repartee from my year sevens. Lynn felt amazed. Her feeling of discomfort increased. He was clearly enjoying this exchange.' said Della. it would not be in response to other people's questions. do shut up.

This was her opportunity. Lynn couldn’t help feeling touched. 'I stopped when . That was so typical of her. She must have bought them especially. . 'Now when I had my miscarriage . yes. Lynn and Della sat side by side on the sofa and Della said. after the D and C .' Deryk had already offered Mark a cigar. you wouldn't be able to smoke in the hospital. 'The hospital . Deryk passed the port around. I know all about 'em. Unseen by Deryk or Mark she grabbed Lynn's hand and held it.away through the dessert or the cheese and biscuits or the coffee. while she said to Deryk 73 . She wanted . . .' and smiled despite herself. Oh god! she thought. Everybody waited. to get some relief. . As she listened to the banter and discussion she had less and less heart to join in and her feeling of alienation grew. There was a room . Well. and Lynn took it. Della glanced at her thoughtfully and said. but she had to live with Deryk after tonight. She would just have to make it up to Lynn some other time. He and Mark were well away now. Lynn noticed. As they drank coffee in the lounge. Lynn was hurting she knew. turning towards her. 'And of course. . what did she want? She wanted to talk about herself and her pain. Rescue me! her eyes begged Della. What was going wrong? Lynn asked herself. .' she murmured. I've lived with your PMS for years!' Della thought fast. . you could smoke. She had to make a decision. 'Cigarette? I remember you used to indulge after meals occasionally.' She paused. . She knew Della did not smoke herself and the packet was unopened.' It was her opening.' This time it was Deryk who broke the silence. But how? She imagined herself butting in on the conversation. She could not finish. 'D and C? Did you have FforbesTaylor? He did my snip. . but not decisively enough. . 'This is gynaecology. . 'No thanks.’ 'Deryk!' said Della warningly. The silence grew. some comfort. It seemed in such bad taste. Butt out!' 'Gynaecology? Women's problems. but she could not speak.

She shrugged into the coat Deryk had fetched and now held out for her and turned to go. he was moving. It's been a long week. What on earth was going on? Why was Della holding her hand. Mark. Della. giving a creditable imitation of a yawn. 'Is that the time? I think we ought to think about making a move. and it will be HRT next. 'Yes. as though she cared. wrestling her hand from Della's frantic grip. He cursed Deryk and Della and their endless need to be a double act. became aware that she was suddenly struggling. He had to act quickly to get Lynn away. Even as he thought. It was over. Lynn felt as if she was in a bad dream.' 'Must you?' said 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. Lynn. Looking from one to the other.' 74 . Tia! The very thought of her made Lynn want to cry. Della also rose. Lynn. 'It's been so good to see you. Della! Don't bother going through the motions now! When push comes to shove you're just not there for me. still holding her hand. . What the dickens was happening now? She'd been all right a few minutes ago.menacingly. never. I'm not risking the National Health!' Deryk chortled appreciatively. now she was white and desperate.' 'The tube's fine . as though they had just flipped from being in one soap-opera on TV to a completely different one on the other channel. She hadn't even mentioned Tia. glancing at his watch. never get relief. She could never talk now. But you do look a bit done in. She leant back against the cushions. ‘I’ll run you home. . That will cost you plenty. Too bloody late. standing up. was now laughing at Deryk's sally about the gynaecologist who decorated his hall through his letterbox. The evening was over as far as she was concerned. spent. watching Lynn on the sofa.' ‘I feel it!' said Lynn. Her chance was over. summoning her strength to stand up. and yet was doing this to her? She had been so looking forward to this evening and it had vanished before her very eyes.

her hand on his knee. traffic.' 'It doesn't matter. had he said to make her look so grateful? They drove back in silence. Here we are. I've got the car out ready. a hint of petulance in his voice. Deryk 's voice came sleepily from the bedroom. When she got back. then went into the flat.' Della lingered outside long enough to see them enter the house. It's what we pay her for. 'What are you doing? I'm waiting!' 'Just coming. Della. waited a little while until their light went on. if you like. Won't be a moment my sweet. I insist! It's no trouble. I couldn't say no to her – she was in a bit of a state. all trace of tiredness gone.' said Mark. 'Leave that my darling. glancing at them in the driver's mirror. his voice sharper.' There was complete silence from the bathroom.’ Della flashed him a dazzling smile. all right.' 'You're welcome. Lynn leaning against Mark's shoulder in the back seat.oh.' 'Oh. Good to see you.' 'Oh but . then drove off round the corner and parked up for twenty minutes. What. Just making myself beautiful!' Five minutes later. I got away as soon as I could.' As she started stacking the dishwasher. And thanks for a lovely evening. she put the car away. Deryk tried again. 'What took you so long? I've been expecting you. See you on Monday. ‘I’m sorry we didn't get the chance to talk.' 'But I know you . darling. we could talk now.' ‘It DOESN'T matter. . And did no one notice my deliberate abstemiousness over dinner? I am disappointed!' 'I did. ‘Thanks. The cleaner will do it in the morning. And Lynn wanted to talk – you know. 75 . Lynn. and come to bed now. Mark wondered." ' 'Night. Two minutes later.'No! Please. OK?' ‘OK. said softly. 'Night. he called out. As she quietly closed the door. he called once more. the miscarriage. anyway.

like last time?' Della came to bed. 76 . damn you! Now! Or would you prefer me to come and fetch you.'Come to bed.

secure in their cosy. darkness. nearer to being sorted. sort of kindness. sycophantic. How could she not? And it had started so well. adolescent love. That was the effect that seeing Tia had on Lynn. Most of the time anyway. Della was no fool . But then again. At least Della might have spared her the heavy byplay. genuinely cared. The crying she'd done.sacrificed. But even that was cold comfort. Lynn was sure of that. Della had seemed somehow artificial .a necessary stage on the road to wholeness. but whatever it was it took total precedence over Della standing with Lynn in her anguish. How amazing Tia was! Beside her. to flaunt her highly-charged sexual relationship with Deryk. At the memory of the previous though everything was done for effect. together. The previous six hours had been a confused hotch-potch of tossing and turning.and then what? Probably nothing. Della knew how much pain she was in. dozing and quiet tears that made the pillow sticky. all served on a bed of the malaise caused by imbibing too much rich food and wine. that was the only word for it .nearly two weeks' time . things had seemed brighter. Mark's intermittent sleep-driven mumblings. What she saw in him Lynn would never know.over-elaborate . therapeutic . Somehow. in two weeks. The only bright thread running through the whole seething mixture had been the thought of seeing Tia in . did she care? She certainly hadn’t shown it last night. clearer.what . lured in by comfort and kindness . Lynn knew it would have to. had seemed cleansing. The night had felt endless.Chapter 7 Saturday morning dawned eventually. Of course it wasn't. Della knew how much she'd been counting on that evening. interspersed with surges of bitter anger and despair. One hour. laughing and teasing each other in the darkness. though bitter.and telling her what it felt like. after seeing Tia on Tuesday. trips to the bathroom. drinks of water. and then one hour more . all Lynn's anger boiled up again. At intervals in the night she imagined Deryk and Della's need to be the centre of attention. How did a woman of Della's intellectual calibre tolerate it? She actually did seem to find it enjoyable. She would understand.well. Della was genuine.god 77 . Then to be sacrificed like that .

just a little bit. an unexceptional C of E that went by the name of St Saviour's. 'Well. I don't know . It had been a good time. Surely what she'd said . .things you never thought before.knows she wasn't expecting Della to magically make it all better. 'She doesn't. 'It doesn't sound like she says very much. about Tia and Polly had screwed up her face with the effort to understand.things. it's what she leaves out. by which she supposed they meant Jesus.' she'd said. yes.' Lynn knew Polly went to church. About the baby I suppose. Lauren's amazing. It's not what she says. and yet she still deliberately chose to not be there for her. but caring and trying to get it right. They had really talked . But when she does speak . there's Lauren. Lynn had always thought that this was a strange name. and the Saviour. . Polly?' Lynn waited for Polly to say no.' 'Such as?' 'Oh.' Lynn couldn't explain it. That was what made it worse .' Polly had said. to flirt with Deryk instead. surely? So how could you have Saint Saviour's? She had tried asking Polly about this. But Polly had surprised her. 'Don't you know anyone like that. She tried one last time. 'Lauren?' 'Yes. Blundering on and putting her foot in it.tried to say . Saints were saints. .oh . She could see that Polly wasn't convinced. she knew. the Saviour. . about a lot of things. just to listen a little bit.about Tia would have indicated even to Polly that Tia was in a class of her own. There was only one Tia. was. 'But she makes you think . but it had been so hard to explain to Polly exactly the effect that Tia had had on her. She goes to my church. Perhaps that was worth more? Lynn thought again of her lunchtime sandwich with Polly earlier in the week and her feelings softened.Della knowing. Lynn had told Polly a bit. but Polly grew pinkly 78 . And holding her hand while she did it! Lynn ground her teeth in the darkness. Perhaps she was better off with Polly's not knowing. well. Surely she could have done that? But no.' agreed Lynn.

' Polly's face took on a soulful look. Now here was Polly mentioning church of her own accord. in terms of everyday direness. 'That's really good. You can feel him. and Lauren.' This sounded even more suspicious. Lynn was just about to say. Polly?' ‘Well. Polly's face was so expressive.’ she had said. 'David's not been there very long. She had no social life and her job at school was thankless and not particularly well-paid. David. She was not particularly prepossessing – homely. and Polly had felt safe again and gone happily back to school with Lynn. she's really special. well. when the subject of God or religion was mooted. She was unmarried. 'That’s good. . as though the thought of feeling God there gave her pleasure. ashamed. 'Oh yes!' she said. It sounded vaguely suspicious. and they had laughed and talked of other things. but he's getting things moving. Lynn had watched her. Life couldn’t do much more to her really. and it's . really . but the minister. Polly. unsure of how to continue.defensive and earnest. lively. he's very good.' Then the sun had come out again in Polly's face. you know. Polly had so little of value in this world. Lynn said.' Lynn didn't know. it's not very big. doesn't he. and Lynn could not resist pursuing the topic a little further. 'Lively'. Polly?' Polly brightened. On impulse. in her twenties – late twenties. and Lynn had never had the heart to press the issue. Lynn stopped.although her face did have a way of lighting up when she laughed that Lynn found very endearing. 'And. Lynn suspected and lived with her invalid mother. 'Yes he does!' And then the brightness dimmed as though by speaking so freely she had uttered some blasphemy and she stopped. in a worried sort of way. God's there .' when she noticed that Polly's face had changed again. Lynn had 79 . 'God makes you feel happy. She looked peaceful and happy.the Holy Spirit. like a dog with fleas. and Lynn had the sudden horrible suspicion that that was how she herself looked when she talked about Tia. 'What's your church like. 'You mean like pins and needles.

Join a dating agency! But do something! You can't expect them to come to you. She remembered Polly's face when she had said. Strong winds had buffeted her from all directions throughout the night. Jealous? Of Polly? He had to be joking! No. 'You're jealous!' Lynn was incredulous and indignant.peace .the miscarriage. 'If you want a man. and she felt spent from trying to stand against them. this dreary Saturday morning. at least. girl! Get yourself out to the clubs and discos. Pol!' Lynn had said. No matter where she looked.felt a sort of restoration. he wasn't joking. an unfamiliar sensation came over her that she struggled to define. school. 'You're still young. with a laugh. and so soon over – and now thoughts of Polly and her God. Mixed in with all the dross. but who would want peace at such a price? Slavish obedience to a vengeful. New and strange was a welcome relief from the old and intolerable and she pondered it as she got up and showered and dressed. You'd make a lovely mum!' 80 . As Lynn turned it all over in her mind. Yes. perhaps. It had been such a normal sort of conversation. Della (she shuddered) Tia . Lynn felt sweaty and tousled. He listened intently. Mark. Lynn started to demur indignantly. At last he said. Polly might have nothing Lynn wanted. humanly speaking. peace? Oh. Go to evening classes at the college. nothing gave her any comfort . but then little. Polly had once confided to Lynn her desire to get married and have children. Except.for all it was due to an irrational and antique mindset of pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die. you've got to go where they are. with a pain like sinus trouble in her head from lack of sleep. there's a few good lads out there . patriarchal being who demanded everything and gave nothing in return. 'Oh yes!' and was silenced. But nothing felt normal now. feeling. but she had one thing that Lynn hadn't got . She told Mark about this new strange feeling that she couldn't define when he came back from his run. glad to give his attention to anything that took Lynn's mind off the night before. with the papers from the corner shop. Again. physically better for making the effort.find yourself one. his hair still wet from the shower. 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.

you're a good. All that Saturday. the image of Polly's face came back to Lynn now. she said to Mark. Polly did have peace from whatever source. not that Lynn could tell.Polly had looked anxious.' But she did know. you could package it a touch more enticingly’ – Polly’s eyes had widened – ‘Oops! Sorry. and whispered as though confessing a sexually transmitted disease. but at the same time chagrined that Mark should think it such a surprising idea. had not taken offence at that at all. and Lynn had felt that she had reasonably said enough on the subject for the time being. . kind. But it was better than admitting to Mark that her considerations about church were linked to Polly. of course. Granted. an absolute nonentity. anyway. Della had nothing to do with it. That was a bit sneaky.' Mark burst out laughing. 'You're not a Moonie are you? Or some Exclusive whatever? Well. 'You! In church! That'll be the day!' Lynn said primly. Mark saw she was serious. But perhaps Polly's standards weren't very high? On impulse. You can't expect everyone to adhere to your narrow. Pol! No offence!' Polly. 'Hang on a minute! After all. and religion. She would go to St Saviour's. There's plenty of good men out there who would love you.' She paused. why can't I?' She thought about what she'd said. in the nicest possible way. I'll have to think about it. amazed to hear herself talking about going to church. 'Oh.' Lynn had had no patience with this. But she had clammed up on the subject of men . the thought of what lay ahead hung over Lynn like a dripping 81 . but I couldn't marry someone who didn't believe the same as I did. 'I think I'll go to church on Sunday. not Della. rigid belief system. then! Don't be so fussy. even though Mark might possibly have worked that one out. I don't know. 'Where will you go?' 'Oh. He said. . generous person with a lot to offer. . But still. 'I feel extremely offended by your godless attitude. being Polly. if Della can do it. . and . He thought that Polly was one of Lynn’s lame ducks. who was Lauren? Nobody could compare with Tia.

and had begged to be allowed to meet her outside to 'take you in and introduce you to people. mind! She could easily have decided to come on her own . right on the end of the tube line. even when next day she stood outside the ugly. beaming happily. it did have something to do with Polly that she was there at all. It was 82 . or Della's endurance of lusty Pentecostal singing in the Gambia. a surprising distance from Polly's home. now. Oh well. but she had to own Polly's right to own her. 'Hi Polly. In fact. but for the liberal use of slightly shabby red carpet. Polly had been surprised and delighted when Lynn had phoned to ask the time of the service. It was quite large. and Polly. Lynn sighed.' said Polly. and won. Inside. waiting to Velcro herself to Lynn for the duration of the service. Lynn just had time to register these impressions before Polly appeared at her elbow. or Polly's shining face intervened. Victorian monstrosity. not wholly pleasant. church. subdued but not defeated. receiving a couple of bundles of papers in return. She wished she had. there was a distinct impression of light and warmth.or gone to another. emerging from some shadowy corner where she had clearly been lurking. and there would have been a good deal of echoing space. the concession that she would sit by her to 'help' her. A dozen times she nearly changed her mind. Sometimes Polly was so adolescent in her outlook. square. the church looked completely different. but at least the smell of the place was agreeable and not too musty. From the way the woman turned her head to look at Lynn. couldn't grudge it to her. What this meant. but the thought of Mark's laughing face. too late! She braced herself and marched in. Lynn dared not even conjecture. Polly was clearly telling her about her. Lynn.' 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. Not much. 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. After all. She still couldn't quite believe that she was doing it. The ceiling still seemed impossibly high. and the place seemed full of people and the noise of their talking. anonymous. when she saw her evident happiness and pride. had played for.umbrella. Where do we sit then?' 'Wait a minute.

Pol.sweet. 'Those two lads over there at the front . She smiled at the woman. As Lynn looked around. much less if she believed in God. visibly disappointed. The girl with the violin. She briefly wondered if she should do the same. The one that's just come in . 'You mentioned her.and Jill is . thought of Tia. Lynn found it fascinating to speculate. who smiled back. and stealing a glance at her. She had wanted to see if this unknown Lauren was worthy of Polly's evident adulation of her. that's all. she's lovely.' 'Wrap up. Tia. they are the music group really. David's sons. or pretend to pray. but it would be fun to try to find out. go shopping? It was pretty nearly next to impossible to imagine Tia doing anything normal or routine. They've made such a difference to the music group actually. 'Let me get my breath back. her laconic comments . her appearance of total relaxation. but wearing.' she said. He hasn't robed yet .in his shirtsleeves . Why do you ask? 'Just wondered. as she carried out some mundane household task. .the one on the keyboards and the one with the guitar. that's Marcy.' She too felt strangely let down. 'Oh. will you? Oh which one's Lauren?' Polly looked round. Now Lynn found herself asking. and a rather more interesting game to play than any of the other distractions she employed when things got a bit too much. that's David. . Does Tia do this? Watch TV.sorting out the microphones. vacuum the carpet. praying. Lynn registered that Polly was silent. To comfort herself. She just was. But pray to whom. empty the washing machine. just because she was in a church? If there was a God. they're Tim and Josh. she was 83 . or what? She hardly knew what she was doing there anyway. Often Lynn wondered. she.' said Lynn indulgently. Does Tia go to church? Sit in a pew? Believe in God? Somehow she thought not. She often did this now and she accepted it. Polly returned and led Lynn to the comparative safety of a pew near the back. Polly kept up a running commentary.' said Lynn. her measured gaze. Pray. 'Lauren's not here. was disconcerted to see her with her head down. with her articulated grace of movement.

She hung on. Lynn did a double take there.' she whispered to Polly. staring fixedly in front. she turned her attention to the papers and book in her hand. . The book was entitled Common Worship.' Polly had merely nodded without looking at her.certain he wouldn’t think much of that. gazing at the words of the hymns (were they hymns?) projected onto a screen from an OHP and swaying. What surprised Lynn most was the music. She was completely caught up in it. Lynn noticed. for a few die-hard old dears in hats. though this seemed optional. . with secret delight. in the name of all that was holy. The papers included a copy of the parish magazine entitled The SS News. When the songs ended. and looked totally incomprehensible. and was still bemusedly turning them over when Polly woke up and found the place for her in the Common Worship book. and in the end she gave up and just let Polly show her. Everyone under the age of forty seemed to know what they were doing. who stood rigidly to attention like soldiers.except. obviously not enjoying it one little bit. and occasionally kneeling. enraptured. but people seemed genuinely to mean them . even a touch too personal. Lynn felt as though she had entered another culture. Lynn thought. to psalms and whatnot. they could come up with something better than that! There was also some sort of regional newsletter. Lynn found that a little bit spooky. It was a very interesting experience. Reading through them. but surely. So that one could wait until Polly surfaced. 'I though it would be all dirgey. 'When in Rome . ‘That girl on the violin certainly can play. the other members of the congregation. She felt extremely thankful that they were near the back. St Saviour's was a bit of a mouthful.' to help her though the worst bits. So that was sorted! Relieved. as they sang. who had either been 84 . The service seemed to involve quite a lot of flipping back and forth in the book. remembering Della's murmured. Lynn had to acknowledge that quite honestly. to be part of a group like this. Granted. gritting her teeth. since it also appeared to involve a lot of standing up and sitting down. and a couple of flyers for some forthcoming Christian entertainment events. she was glad that Polly was there. The words of the hymns she thought were a little on the emotional side.

The sermon seemed long and. She stole another glance at her watch. in red and gold. returned abruptly to normal. the preacher was sincere. He even made a few jokes which the audience seemed to love. A bit amateurish in design. Lynn was both fascinated and repelled. and there was much riffling though pages by certain people who had brought bibles with them. This seemed to work. Doves and flames and water images featured heavily. None that she could see from where she was sitting were Polly's age. He quoted the bible a lot. This was going on for ever! She imagined Tia sitting in the pew in front of her. His scornful incredulity at the thought of her going to church made her feel 85 . She didn't want to think about Mark . Surveying the scene. anyway. a bit too up close and personal. but this was a bit too close for comfort. Lynn tried to follow what was said. she had a new insight into why Polly was unattached. depending on the beat of the song. At least they were something to look at. blue and silver. but there was a little too much about Jesus in it for Lynn's taste. and would probably listen intently to the preacher. When they had a time where anybody could pray. listening. What she would make of it would be another matter. Without doubt. She didn’t really like it. Then Lynn imagined Mark sitting with her. which Polly had referred to as 'banners'. but gave up after a while and gazed around. and frowned. like the rest of the service. but overall the effect was pleasing. and then she realised it was because Tia did listen. and green.he made her angry. She was glad when the sermon started. Polly 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. Lynn decided generously. The women outnumbered the men by about three to one and most of the men there looked spoken-for. and seemed a caring.apparently jumping up and down on the spot with excitement or singing with eyes shut as though in mystic trances. There were a lot of appliqued wall-hangings in the pillars. 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. Was this what the C of E was like now . laid-back sort of person.

delighted. And the vicar seemed sincere.absolutely bloody furious. which 86 . furiously concentrating on not feeling depressed. She did this by pretending she was Tia listening to the sermon and imagining what Tia would do. and besides. There seemed to be a lot of people milling around. but that was all. and yet .' She heard herself adding. but she was observing an experiment now. Patronizing sod! And yet . 'I enjoyed the singing. as Tia. . what was she doing there? What had she expected to find? Whatever it was. she hadn't found it. 'People seemed to quite enjoy it.' As they stood drinking. . Polly looked pleased. Being Tia worked so successfully that now Lynn. No one asked her why she had come. remained outside in the dark! She spent the rest of the sermon. while she. lucky Polly. Polly asked the question that Lynn had been dreading. Pol. . In for a penny. Lucky. They all seemed concerned that she'd enjoyed the service. she could not deny the veiled longing she saw in Polly's eyes. now mercifully nearly over. it was quite nice and warm in here. actually. 'Just a quick one then. had enough clinical interest in the proceedings to acquiesce to Polly's seemingly casual but deeply charged suggestion that she stay for a coffee. She didn’t feel quite like going outside yet. smiling and nodding. An interesting sociological experience certainly. . Have you got time to say hello to one or two people?' Lynn had. Then the service was finally over and they were filing to the back of the church for a cup of coffee. The service was a bit longer than I thought. nay. Lynn glanced at Polly. in for a pound as Mum used to say. Lynn. And besides. sitting rapt beside her and a wave of desolation rose up to engulf her. almost against her will. Lynn could hardly imagine anything she would personally like less. 'I'm so glad you liked it. 'How did you enjoy the service?' Lynn briefly rehearsed the good points in her head and then said honestly.' She had said enough. to be sitting there so secure and on the inside.

and began edging purposefully towards the door. 87 . apparently guarding it. whom she. Afterwards. Lynn. coupled with a strange pang of jealousy. had clearly been a figment of Polly’s imagination. The 'one or two'. She tired long before Polly did. Then she realised that he was considering her with a shrewd yet puzzled glance. He's by the door.greatly relieved her. Lynn noted. for her part. 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. 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 of the flapping lab coat and anxious expression. that she wondered why she had worried. introducing her to as many people as she could. Polly registered Lynn's intention and fired her last salvo.' Too late. and to her surprise. Damn! She shook his hand as Polly introduced her. 'Let me introduce you to David. seemed to be not only well-known. Was this really good old Pol. as though uncertain what to make of her. chatting vivaciously. Then she saw that his eyes were on her with a kindly interest and that his hand was outstretched in welcome. although she could easily have said she'd come out of interest because she knew Polly. he had simply forgotten to let go. this seemed such an obvious thing to say. Polly. Lynn decided. and that he had short wiry hair. Lynn felt a sense of pride in her friend. he did not let go immediately. as she thought about it. but greatly liked. was touchingly proud of Lynn. with a bald patch on top which was was beaded with sweat. noting as she did so that he was not as tall as she had thought. So the prolonged handclasp was nothing personal. Polly.someone would find it later . She stepped back. and was in her element. Lynn realised that David was indeed by the door. It was a firm and satisfying grip. abandoned her coffee cup on the nearest horizontal surface . and that she had almost trodden on him.

But why the disappointment? Why this despondency.why.' This was unpleasantly unsubtle.' He said simply.Lynn pulled her hand free. Politely refusing Polly's offer of a lift home. What a totally unsatisfactory encounter! She needed time to recover. . As she sat in the tube going home. but very positively. He accepted her compliment at face value and replied 'I'm glad you found it so. in his way. hoped for something. Lynn could not tell. Polly seemed delighted with her reply . yearned for that peace that Polly had. She was sick.' and rested his hand against the side of her upper arm. briefly. Lynn tried to analyse what was happening inside. this sense of loss? What had she expected.he'd just been being kind. Maybe it was Polly's face. against the odds. of hurting. .' Whether he perceived the irony or not. vicar. This time the space invasion felt intolerable.' Inwardly Lynn was seething. Thanks. and I need a bit of space. Lynn searched her mind for a remark which was polite but also totally crushing but she was too slow. most interesting. decided on the latter. She wanted. Lynn could not think. 'The service has given me a lot to think about. 'How's Lauren?' Lynn felt a sense of summary dismissal. The service was .' and found herself saying instead. 'Thank you for your warm welcome. and said with a touch of irony. and he was calling with some urgency to someone over her shoulder. so sick. I hope you'll feel able to come back. she headed for the tube. His expression changed. from the service. Mum! Thanks 88 . 'I don't know. Pol. and she wasn't even there! She heard part of the reply as she moved outside. Lynn felt backed into a corner. don't get. from the vicar? The strength of her feeling now was an indication that she had. Them as ask. uncertain whether to be irritated or amused. . Why this anger? It wasn't the vicar's fault . 'Poorly today but she sends her .' This at least was true. Bloody Lauren again! Interrupting. 'I don't think so. he disengaged. She opened her mouth to say. Even as she opened her mouth. 'I hope you do.

to have a peace as simple as Polly's. so she gave up and concentrated instead on spotting the tube station with the longest number of letters in. she'd have to have a mind as simple as Polly's. in sequence. . and that she certainly did not want! This thought afforded her some grim amusement.that. 89 . on the clothes of the people in the seats around her. and kept darker emotions at bay until she got home . and seeing how many times she could spot the colours of the rainbow. She didn't even manage it once.a lot! That's all I need at a time like this! Anyway.

the old dears didn't join in. Look. I'm not sure I ought to let you go back there. He sat opposite her while they ate. 'Maybe you should. But Mark refused to stop laughing.' 'Well. instead of uniting them. and they were very nice to me. this was good. At first Lynn told him honestly of her impressions and the people she had met.Chapter 8 Mark was waiting for Lynn when she got home. Mark. of course. They may be simple.' 'Will you lay off the sniping now?' What did he know for god's sake? He hadn't even been there. determined to extract the last drop of satisfaction from her failure to find what she had needed from the service.only in fun. and there were people our age there. and at least I'm not despising them. They don't do anybody any harm. but they mean well. was a balm to assuage the rawness of the pain she chose to let remain undefined. 'I told you . He had cooked lunch. Their laughing together enabled her to distance herself a little from it. and in frustration she struggled up from the table and rushed from the 90 .' 'More fool them! They should get a life. and gradually this. Something snapped inside Lynn. You could end up brainwashed and clapping and dancing along with the rest of them!' Mark started laughing again at the very thought.' This was a side of Mark she hadn't seen before. but at least I went there. you bloody Neanderthal! I'll go if I want!' All the things she wanted to say rose up to choke her. 'You patronizing bastard! What right have you to sit there so smugly. gloating over your superiority? And don't you bloody lay down the law to me about going there. it's not my thing. began to drive a wedge between them. nothing malicious. 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. 'Those happie-clappies are a mixture of frustrated old spinsters and crazy mixed-up kids . 'Told you you wouldn't like it!' he's a cheaper fix than drugs. This was not so good. unable to resist drawing it ever so slightly larger than life .

room. Who was this callous. and Lynn hadn't even noticed. And she didn't care. as though she didn't recognise him any more.but she hadn't meant any harm. hacked apart and bleeding . They weren't one flesh in two bodies any more . My god! She could do without grief like this! Into these bitter reflections came Mark. had pleased least she was. the laugh still in his throat. with whom she shared a house and a bed? Surely he hadn’t always been like this? She mused on the past. 'I'm sorry. It was gone now.he'd enjoyed being such a bastard. clearly recognising that he had transgressed and not sure how. but only that she had not found it. She couldn't even summon up the energy to mourn the loss. so much to desire. I'm sure they're very worthy people . pulling his skin this way and that to accommodate the razor. the love they'd felt. It was horrible. for being such a fool as to go and look for something there . mocking stranger. Mark looked and spoke the same.' ' Don't call me Lynny! You know I hate it!' 'Since when?' 'You know I hate it! I always have.' 'You never said!' 91 . his scorn had been for her too. Lynny. she knew . so much to admire.she knew not what it was. the closeness they'd shared? When they had first met. how different it had been! How wonderful! There had been so much to talk about. they were Siamese twins. Where had it all gone.or if they were. then married. but an alien life-form had invaded his body and it had just showed itself in their last conversation. awkwardly stroking her hair. In their bedroom. They had felt they could never look their fill. never learn enough. all gone. even if she was bleeding. Why had it all gone so wrong? She had been partly to blame. Lynn lay face down on the bed. It seemed so distant now. sitting on the side of the bed. . Even watching Mark shave in the mornings. . Not like Mark . leaving her food half eaten and Mark sitting amazed. I didn't mean to touch you on the raw. And somehow. She wanted to be on her own. but wanting to make it all right.

her mantra for calm. Which she'd appreciated. 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. even if Mark had stayed. At first. 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. You'll have to do better than this. One minute you're all over me. But wasn't that what they called empathy? But perhaps he hadn't liked it? But he'd always laughed when he said it. Opposites attract. I never know where I am with you. sad. 'Hang on.'Well. What the hell had happened there? He too had felt the violence of the encounter. Lynn. "I'm so precious" act all the time? When you had the miscarriage you acted like it was yours and yours alone. touch me not. you started to hate what had attracted you. Stop being so bloody selfish . And yes. happy. she did have a rapid response mechanism to events and situations. I'm saying now!' 'All right. he was right! A man could only take so 92 . Your mood swings are driving me mad.' He left abruptly. His 'mood-chameleon' he used to call her. touch me. / had no feelings . He'd said so. but dammit. she'd said .that was over two months ago and I'm still treading on eggshells the whole sodding time. sad. leaving Lynn wide-eyed with shock on the bed. you hang on! Or level out.I'm running out of patience. laughingly saying that she was able to absorb the emotional colour of any situation and pass it off as her matter what happened. the next you're treating me like crap. Happy. But then it seemed. How weird was that? Oh sod it! She didn't want to think about it any more. She wouldn't have known what to say. She let her thoughts drift towards Tia. Was she really that bad? She'd always been sensitive to atmosphere. but Mark had liked that. * * * In the study. hang on!' 'No. Mark sat staring miserably at the computer screen.

and Lynn. He had got back to the ward just as Lynn was finishing a conversation with the doctor who was sitting on the bed. they expected you to be sodding mind readers! Images of Lynn. just a mass of cells . He could see that look now. tear-stained and vulnerable on the bed. holding her hand while they waited. trying so hard to be brave in the dimly lit ward. returning home to the chaotic hell of the bedroom and bathroom. He recognised them all individually. Then lying awake waiting. jostled with the memories he was doing his best to erase from his memory forever. 93 .' Mark had sat down on the spot she had just vacated. drained of all hope or joy. And at what point during the years he had known her. the very worst was seeing Lynn in hospital the next day. listening openmouthed to his diatribe.much. evidence of his haste in packing an overnight bag for her . stopping the car while Lynn opened the door and leant out to be sick. Please don't make me have to repeat it. then leaving her there. 'Mark. He hesitated by the door. surreal quality of the brightly lit accident and emergency unit at four in the morning. I've just told you. there was no baby?' Lynn had looked at him pityingly. her hair in overnight bag that was six months too soon. 'So you see. concluding with. in fact it's very common. and she saw him. for the doctor. it's hard enough once. and she was holding Lynn’s hand. the nightmare drive to the hospital that night. they flooded in now. The doctor looked very young but very professional. there was no baby. Mark groaned aloud as he remembered. Mark had struggled to make sense of the words. Mr Davies. I was just going. the bizarre. as though he was mentally deficient. and they're going to give me a D and C tonight and I'll be home tomorrow. waiting for the dreary day's dawning. talking very fast. she white-faced and trying not to groan with pain. it was just combined in sentences they didn't add up. 'Let me get this straight. not knowing quite what to do. 'Do come happens sometimes. had begun to explain all that had happened since she last saw him. But the worst. had she started to hate being called 'Lynny'? Why didn't she say at the time? Bloody women. Against his will.

She had obviously been crying.this? No baby? How the hell could there be no baby? For god's sake. his legs. Lynn heard the door slam as he flung out. everywhere was accessible in London by tube.I can't eat until after. It had been the strangest afternoon of his life as they sat there saying nothing .' 'After?' 'After the D and C.' Had she? Mark couldn't remember.what was there to say? . and Mark had gone home again to the oh-so-empty flat. That was another thing he had against Lynn her refusal to consider a car. Mark visualised again the car he would get when they eventually got around to buying one. 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. Perhaps it was OK to ask about that? 'Oh yes. but she didn't seem to be in pain any more. The world went on around him while he sat quietly on the bed. They gave me some Pethidine early this morning but I'm fine now. so there was literally no parking space where they lived. as he waited for the tube. To divert his thoughts. I'll be ready then. he would not ask again. A D and C to clear it out? Was that it? The end of all their hopes was .and holding hands. I can't eat until after it. But that was all over now. and the car park cost an arm and a leg and was further away from the house than the tube station.but right now. Clear what out? Mark didn't like to ask any more. OK. until it was time for Lynn's pre-med.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. The anger flowed like lava into his arms. I'm hungry though . didn't want to know any more. OK. There was no baby. With impatient movements he closed down the computer and grabbed his gym bag. and yes. they'd had a baby last night and now there was no baby? They were going to clear it out. After a few moments he was able to look at Lynn. Not in any pain. so come for me about eleven. Mark longed to chuck his gear on the back seat of a nice little BMW or Audi and just roar off 94 . but it was so damned inconvenient! They hired a car for holidays and visiting friends and family .there was only his mother anyway . He knew enough now. I told you.

where. Of course. Deryk greeted him jovially. she's all right. Deryk caught the look and attributed it to his own conversational skills. Well. As they talked. only at a minimal level.oh. But Lynn. You looked a bit down in the mouth when you came in. And they had nothing to save their money for. 'That's better. She refused to learn to use one . now.he'd be away somewhere . Then she snapped out of it. that he had to lug all his kit onto the tube on a Sunday afternoon . OK. Why.somewhere. A vigorous workout was just what he needed. and contrasted his etiolated pallor with Deryk's stocky. He felt foolish not having one.and then back again? It took all the pleasure out of going. He grinned despite himself. As he changed. How's the wife?' 'Lynn . Della moped on about hers until I had a word with her. I suppose. that wasn't his style. she didn't want to drive and she didn't want him driving either. with the money they had. Mark couldn't help catching sight of them both in the mirror. It was the same with computers. Well. but my god! was he glad he'd never known her at full throttle! But she'd never be dead while Lynn was alive. was it.the bossy old cow. he saw Deryk come out of the shower. he seemed very cock-a-hoop. towelling his hair dry. Lynn .more . Mark was extremely thankful to get to the gym.' 'Women . Why.they're all the same. hers wasn't exactly a miscarriage. he didn't know exactly. I told her 95 . grizzled bullishness. It was that bloody mother of hers with her anachronistic ways. if he had a car. for god's sake? It was like she was stuck in a time warp . You had to be on the QV but it still wasn't impossible. Still moping over the miscarriage?' 'I suppose was Lynn. Nobody wants to prang their car if they can help it. Actually.or at least. Nothing to do with economics . people tended to cut you up a bit and the road layout was terrible. he wouldn't be going to the gym . Mark could never understand why Lynn thought she was so wonderful . he supposed.that she was frightened to engage somehow.she basically was afraid of driving in London. He'd only met her a few times and she'd been failing then. What was it with her? They needed a car.' 'She looked pretty miserable on Friday.

I'll tell you another way where they're all the same .' 'Mind you. And just when she'd seemed to be getting over it.' 'Well. pity mingling with dislike. and Della's languidly acerbic dismissal of Deryk's petulance and heavy humour and felt like laughing himself. Or you can always bribe them. Not too heavy .and the whole bloody thing had gone off exponentially. Lynn was an intelligent woman. she's like a magpie a magpie with bloody expensive tastes!' Deryk walked away still chuckling. Poor old Deryk." She didn't like it. Right then. get them a little present . "You made your bed and now you lie on it. but I was right. It's just that a lot 96 . You will probably be surprised to get another letter from me so soon. surely? He had as many rights. Now she'd started going to church! Where would it end? He wanted their life back. He was demonstrably powerful enough in the boardroom if not in the bedroom. * * * Back at home. Dear Tia. after all. ' Mark did not want to know Deryk's theories on women. Sometimes you have to take a firm line. Maybe he'd been patient long enough.but you have to let them know who's boss. What was it Deryk had said? A firm line? No harm in that. Let him have his dreams. my girl. or they'll get away with murder if you let 'em. and Mark looked after him.what was her name? He couldn't remember . . Lynn was sitting hunched over the computer. Lynn . as much invested in this marriage as Lynn did. He'd have need to be. He set the treadmill at 14 k/h and ran until he was exhausted. And he'd just sat around taking it! Maybe she wasn't going to snap out of it on her own. But perhaps there was a tiny grain of truth in what Deryk had said. What planet was Deryk on? Like children? Mark thought back to Friday night. she'd started seeing that counsellor woman . Expensive tastes became works with Della like a charm. but Deryk continued. . 'They're like children . but lately her emotional output was off the top of the scale.straight. the letter ran.doesn't do to let them get away with too much.

or Marianne. . She dared not think about Della. I keep thinking. but dammit. Tia? It was probably irrelevant and intrusive and Tia wouldn't reply. letting the noise and distraction anaesathize her. I had a massive row about it with my husband and I don't even know why. . She transmuted them into: / desperately need some help in clarifying my thoughts. She hastily erased it. Afterwards she walked around Leicester Square and Covent Garden for a couple of hours. She dared not think about Mark. but I can't seem to talk about the miscarriage to anybody. or the church service. or what I want or expect people to do. or Polly. and then over lunch. took the tube to the hospital to deliver it through the door of the department by hand. . 'What would my mother do?' and then I think 'What would Tia do?' but it doesn't seem to help. London was a lot safer than people thought if you knew where to go. I feel desperate! Lynn read over the last two sentences and again was appalled. don't even know why. Lynn paused to re-read the last sentence and was horrified. turning her chair at an angle to face the crowded pavement and away from the two other people who shared her table. just for something to do.of things are happening at the moment and I can't keep pace with them. She got a drink at a pavement bar and watched the world go by. Lynn sat there mindlessly. I don't know what I'm looking for. Sincerely Lynn read it over and on impulse added a PS Do you believe in God. and any help you could give me would be appreciated. Please help me. I even went to church this morning to see if it would help. Everything seems such a mess. and. The misery of this thought washed away any last shreds of reserve or discernment and she hurried the letter into an envelope. and I thought that things were working out. I feel so greedy and selfish and self-centred and I can't seem to do anything about it. or 97 . Why not? Nothing to go home for. she had nothing to lose! There were only two more sessions anyway. After the last session I felt so good. but it didn't seem to. If only it had occurred to her earlier she could have phoned up Lorna. even my two best friends.

' Grateful though she was for this olive branch. Consultant Clinical Psychologist. I'm on my way back now. 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. decided against another and rose heavily to her feet. The first was the pile of marking she had intended to do for her first period lesson. 'Lynn! Where the hell are you? I've been ringing you for hours!' (Surely not hours. Mark?) 'I'm having a drink in a bar in Covent Garden. Mark said. The second was the thought that she had not marked the letter entitled Dr Tia Bradley. by the time they got here it would be 9 o'clock and she ought to be getting back soon. Some minutes later she finished her drink. she supposed. It was the second thought that worried her most.Declan or someone to meet her for a drink. 'Good to see you back. She got her mobile out and switched it on thoughtfully. Lynn could not bring herself to respond in kind. and then went hastily to bed. It was too late now anyway.' She switched the call off mid-reply. When Lynn got in. Within a minute it rang and Mark's voice came through. So she looked at him and smiled as gratefully as she could to show that she had heard and appreciated it. and yet too short. The journey home seemed interminable. 98 . as 'confidential'. loud with anxiety. and then the phone so that he couldn't ring back and settled back in the uncomfortable slatted chair. Why?' 'Why? Why! I've been bloody worried. The moment she vacated her place. As sleep mercifully overtook her. she remembered two things. that's why!' 'Sorry Mark. I just popped out for a wander round and a drink.

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. washed her hands before. . extracted one and nibbled it slowly. for obvious reasons.Chapter 9 'So should I just ask her if she believes in God. Polly. was now being asked this question by someone she was fairly sure did not believe in God about someone she knew absolutely nothing about. a point of reference or something. Polly considered while she chewed. an activity which was officially frowned on. 'I don't know if I believe in God myself. They were eating lunch in the prep room. to give herself time to think. 'Why do you want to know?' Good question! Why did she want to know? Now it was Lynn's turn to consider. Lynn.' Polly extracted another piece of apple and ate it thoughtfully. But things seem in such a mess at the moment that I've got to – oh .I don't know. find somewhere to start from. 'Then you would too? How many times have you seen this counsellor?' ‘Twice. Nothing seems fixed anymore. . ' she paused. It seemed ironic that she. but I do respect her intelligence. Then she said. Polly. a person who longed above all things to know whether people she met believed in God but never dared ask them. it 99 . 'I don't know. and slid her hand carefully into a sandwich bag containing quarters of apple. I know hardly anything . was eating her sandwiches from a plate she kept specifically for that purpose on the shelf where the evaporating dishes were stored.' She corrected herself. 'Lynn. who had learned her trade at a CFE.' she said at last. If she believed in God . during and after and nervously took every hygienic safeguard she could. Pol? Or wait to see if she says anything? Or what?' Polly blinked. ‘I know nothing about Tia.

I don't need to know anything about her. ‘Tia doesn't say much. Then Lynn said slowly. Looking at Polly's I'm-puzzled-but-explain-to-me-and-I’ll-understand expression.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. in a way. Hastily she said. she could see where Lynn was coming from. ask then?' This simple statement of the obvious gave Lynn great relief. and if she doesn't.' She stopped.' 100 . Not in the way that Lynn was. I just want to. . What heavy weather she was making of everything at the moment! 'Right. She had been going to say. He's started singing to himself now. right? If that's so.' (Polly winced inwardly. anyway . Besides. Where did that leave her? But she knew she wasn't a thinking person. She sighed.well .’ but she didn't. I wouldn't care about what my GP thought. not hers . You're absolutely right. Still she tried to unravel it. 'You're right. 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'm seeing Tia for my benefit.oh. so why should I care about what she thinks? But I .I wonder if Michael Strangely is back yet? I've got him later. as a thinking person. then realised she had left the sentence in mid-air.that was being laid to rest. Lynn felt in exactly the same boat. You're going to Tia because of the miscarriage. If I knew that she. shouldn't you be . for her own satisfaction as much as Polly's. and she knows more than she lets on. . 'Why don't you wait to see if she says anything about God. '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?. So she said. '. There was a short pause while they took it in. but what she says makes me think. I'll do that! I wonder if .seems to me that there's something a bit strange happening here. it's so hard to explain!' And it was.' Polly wanted to ask. She'd already said enough for one conversation. believed in God .) 'Then I could think " Why does she believe in God?" and it would be a start. But what to? Not to the miscarriage . 'If Tia has written any books?' but the look on Polly's face told her it was time to change the subject. Polly.tap into that wisdom I suppose. I feel that she's very wise. how can I say? .

He's harmless.' Polly's face was creased with a familiar anxiety. The singing drives me nuts though. in Andy Powell's form. 'That's OK.' 'Can't he go for special help?' 'I wish! He does for maths and English. and an image of his worried face. flashed before her mental sight. 'I guess there's a few kids around like him. but a total pain. Bloody Chris. bulldozing other people out of the way until he gets to the front.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. Half a set will do. Doesn't he go along corridors sideways. 'You asked for the picture cards and string to do food webs. . You can't blame them. Unfortunately he also helps himself to other pupils' pens and pencils then using them to draw over their books. But he's not aggressive or wantonly malicious. I meant to say earlier. None of the other kids want to work with him. I think he thinks he's singing the words of the text book but he can't actually read. Sometimes I think he's more lonely in a class full of children that he would be on his own. so untypical of him. the kids call him "Crabman'" and when he reaches the queue for lessons. but Chris only asked this morning. he just marches to his own drumbeat . It was rarely that a day passed without some sort of juggling act being necessary. it's Michael Strachley. Why can't he get his act together? Then she remembered her conversation with him last term. but Chris has asked for them too. I don't mind him . Sorry. so he'll stay in normal lessons until the classes are set in year nine. . I don't suppose you could share. he just keeps going like a tank. I'm getting the kids to bring pictures of their own in 101 . could you? You could half a set each. But his parents are somewhat intellectually challenged themselves and they insist there's nothing wrong with him. I've got him this afternoon.'Michael Strangely .is that his real name?' 'No.' 'I know him. with his back to the wall?' "Yes.' 'Poor Michael!' said Polly feelingly. one that nobody else can hear. Pol. They had not yet spoken this term so she said.' The thought of the afternoon class triggered a problem that she needed to air. or have them for half a lesson. hands and clothes. thought Lynn.

Then he stopped suddenly and looked embarrassed. and we're making our own. smiling broadly. his bright curly hair the most visible thing about him. looking round.' 'Skip it. I'll still need the string. I might add.both members of the science staff. He glanced up. But hey. you know any other teachers who have their own room just for them?' 'No. huddled over some marking. startled.' she added.' 102 .' said Lynn. Chris. .' she added.appreciated. somewhat self-consciously. and she noticed how very even his teeth were. 'So. moving the books to one side to give her more room. 'That's history now. But thanks anyway . as she sat on the table by the books. 'I never saw you properly to say . though. and Lynn thanked her stars that she had changed the subject. well. He laughed outright then. so I just need some for a back-up. saw that it was her and gave a sheepish grin. 'Nor any who'd want it. Life goes on.' said Lynn briefly. she had things on her mind too. 'Yeah.Lynn berated herself for her forgetfulness. that reminds me. He was there.' she said. I assure you. you tracked me down. 'Not difficult. He'd think she didn't care.' Polly visibly relaxed.' he said. and putting the pipe into an ashtray nearby.' said Lynn lightly. in fact. I'll just nip out and catch him in the smokers' room. what a very nice mouth he had in general. puffing his pipe furiously. as she knew he would be. 'You and Brian are the only members of staff who smoke .which was the size of a walk-in cupboard and constituted a grade one fire hazard if anyone was actually in there smoking . Lynn thought. and his smile grow to match hers. . and put his arms behind his head. 'I need a word with Chris myself.from magazines. Back in five minutes. 'You ought to give that thing up. She'd meant to see Chris earlier and completely forgotten.' Hurrying along to the smokers' room . who ought to know better!' She saw him relax. He stretched. She really must learn to shut up about Tia! What got into her at times? 'Actually.

Like the loss of . He hesitated.' But that was really crass. She saw pain shiver across his face and vanish. think. She thought.' followed by something like 'Don't worry. Into it. Nobody knows! I keep replaying and replaying it. Lynn found herself wondering about the colour of hair elsewhere on his body and mentally shook herself. Sandra's left him. how have you been?' She'd picked that expression up from somewhere lately and liked it. flanking the pile of half marked books. There wasn't much room between the chair and the wall. and Lynn was a quick learner. She told me she was going to. That would be most unwise. She's told me that. I'm so sorry! I don't know what to say. Lynn resisted the impulse to take one of his hands in hers. 'So. 'That's quite a loss. I'm sure she'll come back. 'She left me. 'Quite a loss! You don't know. but I never thought she would. She just 103 . It suddenly occurred to her that sitting on the table looking down on him was a bit too much like looming over him. staring bitterly ahead.' The silence that followed was comfortable. Tia didn't say things like that. . That was pre-Tia.' Lynn emitted a soft 'Ooh' of sympathy. flatly.' or even 'Maybe you're better off without her. The short hairs on the backs of his hands and forearms glinted red. Think.'That's OK. There's no other man. Chris didn't seem to notice. And she could use it with Chris. . clearly wondering how much to say. how? I don't know . .' 'Yeah!' said Chris savagely. because she knew him very well. That a loss. what should she say? She would normally have said. . Lynn said. . What did Tia do? She helped me . somehow! Aloud she said. and it freed the person to answer any way they wanted. He sat there. so she squashed into the chair at the other side of the table. It was so useful. and I believe her. his forearms on the table in front of him. . like my loss. and she couldn't help sensing that the clumsiness of this manoeuvre rather destroyed the delicacy of the moment. 'Chris. Then he replied.

It's worth a try! God knows / can't do anything. God almighty. ? Oh.what he was trying to contain! And now it was all spilling out. registered that he had done so and paused.she just hangs up on me. pleading gaze. 'It's all right. 'I'd be glad to help if I can. would it help if / tried to talk to Sandra . 'Look. 'I think a lot of you. Then maybe. she says. Chris. 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. looking at him earnestly in return. warm.sort of woman to woman .won't say anything.' 104 . Then he turned to her. How could Sandra .wants time to think. then deliberately let go. honest. you know. Chris. what am I meant to do when I don't even know what I'm meant to have done!' Lynn listening. and now his head was in his hands and it almost looked as if he was trying not to cry. and I like Sandra too. 'Maybe it would work. Maybe she's as puzzled as you are about what's going on. I hate to think of you carrying all this pain. 'Oh Lynn! Would you. Lynn reached out and gently touched his curly mop. Maybe you could. open. staring ahead for a moment. was torn between a pang of fellow feeling for Sandra. He related well to everybody. But think about what? What have I bloody done ? She won't talk to me . He was shaking his head as though to try to clear it. by his intense. He did the same. Poor Chris! What he was going through .' said Lynn. would you really?' He grabbed her hand with both of his.' she said. She had to do something. . Couldn't Sandra see what she was doing? Chris was universally liked. you could work something out.' His face clouded with the memory and he shook his head. despite his best efforts.' Chris sat up abruptly. Unable to stop herself. She could feel herself stirred by his emotion. refuses to answer my texts. unsure what to do. funny and a good teacher. it would give you a bit of a clue as to where she's coming from. I can't even talk to her . as her words sank in. never mind! She briefly returned his grip with both her hands. His face was alight with hope. Lynn.try to find out something? Maybe she needs someone to talk to.

' Again. She might not want to speak to me anyway. give you a bit of a hand on the way. I hope I can help! she thought. What's that perfume you've got on Lynn? It’s really nice. I'll phone. with some degree of dignity. to his marking and his unlit pipe.' she mused. Lynn. You and Sandra love each other. and it was certainly a handy distraction from her own troubles. But maybe I can. it occurred to her that 'I'll let you know' might have been better. with a hint of mischief. His eyes had lost their look of anguish and his usual air of jaunty merriment was clearly on the way back. he leaned over and kissed her lightly on the cheek as she struggled . Clearly. Give me a few days though. I could send her some of that.' said Lynn.I've got a few things on myself and I need to think what to say. 'You won't forget. as she made her way back to the prep room.what . But he certainly seemed to have been helped by their I feel like you're my only hope. out of the seat. well. scribbling down Sandra's mobile number on a piece of paper which he presented to her with a flourish. 'People trust you. Yes. and even as she finished. / trust you. he was such a sweetie. His accent. with a smile. Sandra means everything to me.' 'She'll want to speak to you.' She smiled inwardly at his words. 'No Chris. This is just a temporary hiccup I'm sure. but rushed to disclaim them. Laughing.' she added formally. she told him. Lynn. Afterwards. She looked at him. 'You're a darlin'!’ To her amazement.’ What an idiot he was! He was definitely feeling better. as she left him. Oh. 105 . It was so good to help people.anti-climax! . now Lynn? Promise?' 'I promise. she felt absurdly pleased. a look of pleading swept over his face again and he said anxiously. I've . Lynn.' she wriggle. She sighed. It was all she could think of to say. though he rather spoiled the effect by saying anxiously 'Don't lose it!'. he was more in control.' 'I know.'So you'll . Dear old Chris. 'Maybe I didn't buy Sandra enough presents. always more pronounced when he was upset. 'What a mess. She was so fond of him. 'I won't forget this.' he said confidently. was receding again. and then grimacing at himself for saying it. 'I'll be in touch. He said.

Polly?' she asked.Back in the prep room. Della had seen her looking and put up a hand to touch one. her best friend.' 'Those earrings!' said Gillian. does it?' asked Lynn smiling. Lee. 'Mrs Heworth is excellent!' said Gillian. 'Oh a lot better!' she said. She was crying. 'New?' asked Lynn. 'I wish I was like her! 'Yeah!' agreed Emma. a little self-consciously. and indeed there was a general air of cheerful anticipation pervading the form.' Lynn felt a pang of concern. She felt pleased that Nicole had felt able to come to her. compounded by her over-protective father. of course. she'd catch up with her later. Not that she could do much.' 106 .' said Della. but Daniel and Gillian both laughed as they went past. but she could listen. 'Been up to no good again?' 'We're making a video in English!' said Lee happily. 'Yes. modern designer ones with emerald chips in that must have cost a fortune. She herself had noticed the earrings earlier in the week. she surmised. I told her I'd tell you. Oh well. 'Makes a change from Russian then. but the question slipped out naturally. and the conversation revolved around new drugs and diet and bath hoists until the afternoon bell for registration caused them both to start guiltily. Lynn to flee through the lab to let her form in while Polly washed up her plate. 'How's your mum doing these days.' Polly beamed. The reply was lost as they clattered down the stairs. 'You look very pleased with yourself.' said Lynn conversationally after the register had been taken and the form were filing out the door. 'Nicole was up here looking for you. Level-headed Nicole! What could be the matter with her? Boyfriend trouble. 'I wish I looked like her. She hadn't meant to say anything after Friday night. but Lynn could guess the rest. 'Deryk bought them for me on Saturday. She remembered something else. taking no offence. 'You were saying the other day that her Parkinson's had flared up. Polly had a message for her. She knew Lee wouldn't get it.

' Overtook you. 'Don't worry about it. just maybe. Like the tide. I couldn't sell myself for earrings. And from the look on Della's 107 . 'about Friday night. nor out. 'They're lovely. if she knew she was doing it. and thought for the hundredth time what a strange person Della was. For someone who was so manifestly in control of her life. Really.' Then she seemed to come to. . but really. and could find it in her heart to feel sorry for Della. Yes.'Really? What was the occasion?' An unreadable expression crossed Della's face momentarily. . Anyway. she seemed to have no ultimate direction or destination .neither in. He may have a superb business brain and his heart was in the right place.' said Della complacently.' she said urgently. she didn't know how Della could stand it.he wouldn't mind registering Lynn's class. 'Oh. 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.I mean. But she had had time to think. But unlike the tide. kindly.' Lying cow! she had said to herself. They both had a free period the next Friday afternoon and Della had suggested a long lunch . 'I like my pretty things. Lynn agreed. But she had said. it was a strangely driven and aimless way of living . So . three days after she had seen Tia. Brian didn't have a form . I feel better about it now. thought Lynn. Dell! The time just wasn't right then. you mean. And yet Della seemed happy enough.' You bitch! thought Lynn. Maybe. no occasion. Aloud she said. she thought.' 'Yes.Lynn had given Della another chance. and then she drew back. Della was always best on a one-to-one.take her or leave her. But that was Della . She approached. 'Lynn.if they didn't have to cover for anyone. again and again. Deryk was amazingly childish at times. I didn't mean it to be that way. this time she could tell Dell a bit of what was really going on in her life. and drew back. But she was rewarded by the look of relief that had flashed across Della's face. approached. It wasn't . of course. next Friday. Events just overtook us.

face. 108 . it seemed that she might have a few things that she wanted to tell Lynn.

Her look had a slight. expected her to say that. Was it an office? Or a surgery? Or what? It was very plain. Then she had made the remark about the letters. ‘Good. they were the only spots of colour in an otherwise beige and grey world. an in-tray and an extremely tidy pile of papers. Apart from Tia herself. Lynn hoped Tia would say more about them. The bookcase had books and files in. ‘I read them very carefully. After a second or two. glancing around the office.' said Tia.' Lynn had almost. she repeated it. but the titles were too far away to read. Tia had shown her carefully in. but not quite. No . It all looked terribly functional. What did you think of them?' Tia looked at Lynn. Tia broke the silence. One was red and rangy. but she didn't. Tia was seated with her back to her desk and Lynn couldn't see what was on it apart from a computer terminal.' said Lynn.not all right. ‘What do you expect me to say?' quality about it. There are a lot of things going on in your life that you are trying to sort out at the moment. Again. They looked hand-made. To buy some time. 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. Lynn waited.' They were once again seated in Tia's room.Chapter 10 ‘I got your letters. ‘This is the second of the three additional meetings we agreed together. aren't there?' 109 . and the other was green-blue. ‘So . ‘Good. So what did you think?' ‘About what?' ‘Of the have you been?' Lynn's thoughts were still on the letters. and said. ‘All right.

Where on earth was this coming from? ‘I did get the letters and as I said. Lynn could not imagine her having unformed ideas about anything. .yes I do. I wanted to write to you again. ‘Do you believe in God.This was no answer. Tia?' Tia was not disturbed by this question.' There seemed no way forward.oh. It occurred to Lynn that she had not been specific enough. Oh thank you! I mean . Tia said softly.' ‘Oh. I probably should.I'm just sick of everything! I'm sick of Mark giving me a hard time. but I didn't know if I should. it is allowed to write while you are seeing me. I told you in my letter that I'd gone to church . room. And yes. When I got back from Polly's church he was so patronising about the people who went there.' said Tia simply. good. ‘My ideas about God are' . Tia?' ‘Not really. After a few moments. Although she had anticipated this. Tia wanted her to set the agenda.well. and that Mark and I fell out about it big time. Lynn had not been able to resist hoping that Tia might say something and the sharpness of her disappointment took her by surprise. ‘Perhaps you have a reason for asking that question?' This was better.' What did that mean? From her experience of Tia.' ‘I . everything seems to be sort of slipping away. She gazed meditatively into the middle distance and spoke carefully. ‘So you don't believe in God then?' ‘I don't know. She came to the point.she hesitated – ‘unformed. Her mind could move around again.oh . Fair enough. I didn't know if it's allowed.oh.' Lynn stopped in confusion as she heard her voice beginning to rise. I . She had no idea at all what to say next. Lynn felt released from the mental strait jacket that always seemed to envelop her when she set foot into Tia's . . I didn't even know if you got the letters . She tried again. He hadn't even been 110 . There was no mistaking the ring of truth. I read them very carefully. What do you say to someone who says they don't know? ‘But don't you ever think about it. the Sunday before last. ‘Yes . but my life is very busy at the moment.

desperately want find out. well-modulated voice. so disappointed!' ‘You were disappointed?’ ‘Yes.' She paused. .' she said hastily. . there was just . We've made it up now. At the moment it feels like there's no one to hold on to. Mark and I went round for a meal last week. that was really there. what right had he to be so superior? And they were nice people.' she added. she heard Tia's quiet. and she just flirted with her husband. but – but I was so . but she's a simple soul. How very let down you must have felt. If he was there. nothing. .by everybody. But there was nothing might find something of worth. . . .' A picture of Polly's honest. ‘Polly's a very loyal person.' 111 .nothing. I suppose I couldn't help wondering . ‘So where you thought . no one to trust. I told you about Polly. all evening. nice genuine people. I expected more of Della.and maybe not even God will . .there. and I so wanted to tell her about the miscarriage . Then she had the nerve to try to get me to talk in the car on the way home. ‘Nothing that I could see anyway. Except he’s not there.hoped . .' she amended.if he's there at all. even God. But Della. It’s hard to explain. can he? Not just Mark. That's a pretty lonely place to be. It was a bit late by then! There's nobody. really really disappointed. and about you . I wanted to know if it was true. In the pause that followed. You've got things that you desperately want to say. I'm aware that I can't expect very much of her. Then she realised that it would be very difficult to see God. ‘So wherever you go. . She just doesn't know what it feels like. and she felt pang at betraying her. Only a lot of people worshiping . I wanted to find out if there was something I could trust. no one seems able to recognize that you are hurting inside. wherever you look. but people either can't or won't listen to you . something reliable you could hang on to to get you through. nobody I can trust!' Lynn finished on a wail and closed her eyes. so he can’t let me down. . ‘Or feel. People who believe in God are always banging on about how wonderful he is. absolutely! I did feel let down . ‘I mean very much intellectually. now. really embarrassingly. caring face flashed into Lynn's mind.' ‘Yes.

Lynn felt somehow wrong-footed by it. Lynn took her time. or the result of artful plucking. but the skirt was short and the fabric did not have enough play in it. Tia was waiting. and looked away embarrassed. It suddenly occurred to Lynn.' and ‘Um. Tia said. Our friendship – my need – counted for nothing! Why did she do it?' 112 . Lynn thought of Della and her offer to listen. here. it is’ said Lynn reflectively. Tia was wearing a well-cut sandy-colored skirt with a chased leather belt and a lime green open-necked shirt. ready. . as it were. When she had finally finished. How artificial and studied it seemed in comparison to this simple being. aware. And when she spoke. But understand what. that although Polly and Della would not understand.just there. it seemed to Lynn that this moment. with Tia. she found time to wonder if Tia's finely arched brows were natural. it still felt all right. I felt abandoned! I watched her do it. attentive. and transmuted her skirt pleating into an imaginary fluff-picking exercise. and yet chose to abandon you in favour of Deryk. if any. when Tia was smiling at her so encouragingly? She looked down. and tried to pleat the edge of her skirt with her fingers. But it clicked that Tia had said it. you see's. it was not entirely what she had planned to say. Tia was still there. Even though several ‘Well.. She opened her eyes. completely For a split second. as though answering her own train of thought. Her slightly freckled . Tia would.' said Tia.just over the nose . It felt all right. until Lynn became conscious she had been staring too long. ‘Let me see if I’ve heard right. The bits about Della certainly were. But Tia wore very little makeup. Tia returned Lynn's gaze perfectly had a creamy glow that only required a hint of blusher to highlight the cheekbones. ‘Take your time. Lynn described the dreadful dinner party and her feelings of betrayal and Tia listened without comment. For a moment.‘Yes. But her eyes flicked back again almost immediately. was the only real moment there was. when she herself didn't know what she wanted to talk about? Why on earth did she feel so self-conscious. even though your need was greater?' ‘Yes. Even at this moment of rescue. Your perception of Della was that she knew what she was doing. it's like thistle’s' tentatively emerged and tottered a few steps towards Tia before falling into oblivion in the space between them.

Instead she said gently. You listened so well. like. Tia only did concrete statements.' to finish the exchange off. that I did have a right to grieve. She was burbling. She said. She saw that Tia registering her anxiety. she noticed with pleasure that Tia had called her by name. ‘Yes. Lynn peeked at the clock and saw that the time said 3. rather than heard the implied rebuke.05. but even in the hearing. You made me see that there was a baby. You described the evening very well. ‘I know you don't make 113 . ‘You may get some light on the situation then. dammit! For a moment she felt embarrassed. '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. Only another fifteen minutes left! Where had the time gone? She said hurriedly. you worked it out for yourself. Thank you! Thank you so much!' Lynn could hear the emphasis and emotion in her voice. so sympathetic! You were wonderful.' She waited for Tia to make a further comment. leaning forward and sweeping away a lock of hair that had fallen over her eyes. that's right. ‘That would be good. she rushed in to counter any wrong assumptions Tia might have about what she had meant to convey. It's not really my brief to make people see things. Lynn noticed every time Tia spoke her name. Lynn. Tia didn't do abstract conventialities. I never saw that before. 'People always have reasons for doing things.. so what! Tia deserved it! She'd been bloody fantastic.This was not the sort of question Tia answered. I suspect there was quite a lot going on for Della that night as well.' Lynn was instantly diverted. ‘I never thanked you for the last session. though she could not for the life of her work out what Tia had done wrong. I listened. Tia heard Lynn out. then realised she would wait for ever. From what you couldn't really describe it as a compliment. During the next pause. Oh. Nevertheless. you were so understanding. the words tumbling out. She hesitated before replying. a long lunch-break. ‘I didn't make you see anything. and as you talked. 'I've no idea.' or. but gave no overt sign of pleasure at this eulogy. It was so good! So helpful! I felt I could properly grieve.' Lynn felt. 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 . Tia looked back with her wide-eyed . isn't it.' ‘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. ‘Shouldn't you be talking to her about you and your problems and not worrying about what she thinks.' Lynn felt as though the ground had been knocked from under her feet.' ‘Us’ meant 114 . She had got it right. but I don't know why.that my approval might be important to you. She sat back. it's more useful when people can express how they feel about things without worrying what other people might think. I didn't mean to say that. surely it's normal for people to care about what other people think of them?' ‘Yes it is. ‘Yes. well. ‘Let's try'.' Lynn felt rescued. ‘Sorry?' ‘I said. "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. Tia said.' Indignation and a sense of desolation struggled together for supremacy inside Lynn. She looked at Tia. Lynn' heart ached. Lynn. I know you don't work that way.that I was able to think clearly in your presence and I saw that the baby was real. satisfied. 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. She felt herself tense with panic. therapist's gaze. ‘When you said that. I have the feeling . ‘It's important to you that you get it right when you talk to me. Now I can let go. I meant that you opened my eyes . Tia had said. Thank you. That was saying ‘Let us try. The sense of desolation won. She felt tears prick her eyes.people see things.perhaps I'm wrong . but in situations like this. She said defensively.' ‘Let's try to stay with that sense of loneliness for a little while.' Lynn saw to her relief that Tia was smiling again. I felt lonely.

‘What are you saying? That I can't trust you? But you must be able to be trusted. Or trust her. ‘I am simply saying that you don't know anything about me.' Again. And she had said ‘Lynn' too. But I do want your approval. I feel I can trust you. Perhaps Friday will help. is nearly up . Tia looked as if she might have questioned the logic of this last statement.' Even as she said it. Encouraged. the use of her name. that is. from the things you've said to me. ‘Well. had wanted it.' ‘But you don't know anything about me.which by the way. I don't worry about Polly's approval. You seem wise and good. And if I think you are wise. can I. That all you know of me is what you see and hear in this fifty minutes we have together . I still like her. She didn't even remember thinking it. Lynn gasped. 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.' Again.I do want people's approval. and yet she recognised the voice as hers. much less saying it. I like the way you talk. ‘Whose approval do you want?' ‘My mother's!' The words came out immediately in a knee-jerk response. She said sharply. Lynn felt fear volt through her.or rather. That made Lynn feel better. so why should she be so surprised? Who didn't want their mother's approval? She was still mulling 115 .that's all I'm saying. but instead she said unexpectedly. but I'm not so sure about that any more. she realised with a sense of shame that it was true. but I don't respect her. I think you are a wise person. and I think I can trust you. Eventually. It was a life-jacket in a stormy sea. She said stubbornly. People whose approval I think is worth having. Inwardly. Lynn obediently tried to recapture the feeling of isolation she had felt. at least I think I do. Yes. she did want it .I think . I used to want Della's approval. Lynn. Otherwise you'd never be in this job. I can't help wanting your approval. it was true.her and Tia. That was Lynn's name. she was dismayed to hear her voice rising as she spoke. That meant that somehow Tia was in it with Lynn. What had made her say that? It was as if she heard it in retrospect. she forced herself to consider it. even if I don't know you?' Fractionally. After the first shock. ‘I think . Lynn said slowly.

Sometimes it's good to explore things at leisure and not feel pressured by time constraints. read or seen about it came tumbling into her brain in a kaleidoscopic jumble. and it . Psychotherapy! All that she'd heard. I think that there may be issues around that mean that you would benefit from longer term counselling than I can offer. ‘What 's going on for you now?' ‘Not the last! Too screwed up!' Hell. I need to remind you it is our last one together when we will say goodbye. This . I'm sorry.' ‘What are you talking about!' ‘There's a place in London called Sycamore House which is a regional psychotherapy centre .is brief therapy.' ‘Psychotherapy!' ‘Yes. At least she hadn't said 'nutcases'. that wasn't even English! Tia contemplated her thoughtfully. 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. ‘So. Lynn. I think it may be worth hanging onto that thought and bringing it with you to our next session.' Lynn's head was spinning. 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 not with me. Images of Frazier jostled with pictures of 116 . your mother's approval is very important to you. yes. ‘It can be.this over when she heard Tia's voice say.' ‘But isn't psychotherapy for mentally ill people?' said Lynn before she could stop herself. and it is outside the remit of this unit to change the amount of time we can offer you. ‘You offered me more time!' ‘More time. I think that it might be worthwhile discussing that in the last session.' Not again! Lynn's heart contracted in agony.what we're engaged in here .' ‘But you offered me!' Lynn cried in despair. psychotherapy. ‘Lynn.

Yes. You look horrified. She slumped in the chair. Didn't you hear me say that it was for troubled people who need time to talk?' ‘'s for really bad . but there was a finality about it that Lynn was in no mood to appreciate. Tia was still monitoring her closely.pressed into it by unknown G forces. Read it. 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. I'm not like that.' Lynn stopped. ‘Yes you did. What a long time ago that first meeting seemed now. It was helping too.for a little while.' Lynn took it without thinking.she's got nothing to do with it. She said. but it wasn't. The ‘but' hung in the air. but .I thought I could talk to you. She became aware that Tia was smiling at her reassuringly. Words like ‘schizophrenic' and ‘repression' and ‘ECT' came into her head. She could hear her speech coming in short staccato phrases. She felt as though she was drowning in it all. ‘No! Psychotherapy's not for me .people. ‘Lynn .to talk to you .chosen to misunderstand . ‘Here's some information about it.’ ‘I'm very sorry if I gave you that impression. I just wanted . and part of her listened to her delivery with a kind of detached interest. It was all over. ‘Are you sure about that? I can see that this has come as a shock to you. My mother . Tia held out a folded leaflet.' Tia's habitual expression of quiet seriousness had returned.things. she saw it all now. She'd thought that somehow it would be different for her.' Lynn searched her memory. Her smile looked very kind. She'd thought she'd misunderstood . What was there to say? Tia had told her.' 117 . Tia had mentioned it.oh god.come back. see what you think. She had the sudden fantasy that she would never be able to get up again.I mean ill . She saw people lying meekly on couches being talked to soothingly by people sitting out of their sight. then reacted. but I thought . about .Freud and great grey rooms full of shambling psychotic inmates milling round supervised by authoritative people in white coats.

' Tia looked at her as though she was not seeing her. She gazed thoughtfully at a space on the wall above Lynn's left shoulder. yes. ‘Very well. The moments dragged on. Finally Tia looked at her. But Lynn.go to this place?' ‘It's an option. we would still have to say goodbye at the end. ‘Well. ‘I can get things sorted out . . ‘I do understand that!' she said. And after them there will be no more. Lynn had to exert every particle of self-control not to beg and plead and cajole. There is nothing I can do to give you any more time. so it was not worth having. 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.' Tia was looking at her very seriously. unsmiling.‘You . She perceived only that she had won something. ‘I will give you the two extra sessions you ask for. But I must stress that it is your responsibility to structure them. Six sessions is the maximum I can offer. She looked down at her nails. . . This is your choice. You must understand that. But what did she understand? It felt so bewildering. She dared not.' she said. time. more .I can! Please.' ‘But how could they do that? I'm getting things sorted out!' Tia didn't answer. how could they?' Tia still said nothing. We will have to end there whatever happens. Lynn felt like crying.' ‘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. It's up to you. But losing would have been death. . Lynn felt absolutely desperate.' ‘So I could see you for two more sessions after the next one?' ‘Theoretically. I . . so whatever she was feeling now must be better than that mustn't it? 118 . It would make Tia say no. oh please give me two more sessions. need .you're recommending that I do this . but that the thing she had won was without Tia's approval. .

She'd started almost as soon as they'd sat down. our time for today is over. as usual. she had not envisaged the session ending like this. ‘I'll see you in two weeks' time then. ‘I'm sorry. Tia walked towards the door and held it open. and once again heard the door close firmly behind her before she had gone three paces. That was two cards she had now. She wore a beige woolly cardigan and a long grey skirt and she was absorbed in the paper. The woman was about thirty. Here was Tia's spiky writing again. Lynn could only feel utter desolation.Tia was scratching down something on an appointment card.and were consuming panini caldi and large lattes and talking animatedly. What was Della getting at? What did she want her to notice? The woman was just doing the crossword. Lynn. and said. She had to struggle to focus on it. amazed that she could do it so naturally.' Today. Beige 119 . just like last time. Chapter 11 Lynn couldn't believe it. smiling. her smile did not reach her eyes. In her most wild imaginings. Della was doing it again.’ Lynn looked at it with a dull curiosity. Lynn too stood up. ‘Look at that woman over there.Lynn had not been there since that ill-fated lunch with Polly . She tried to smile back but she had nothing to smile with. maybe it was the clothes. They were sitting in the Cafe Noir . with a thin intelligent face and shoulderlength mid-brown hair. As Lynn walked across to it. She walked through the doorway.' Tia rose to her feet. cut straight with a fringe. ‘Here are the dates of our remaining two sessions after the next one. Lynn considered. Tia looked down at her. What do you make of her?' Lynn looked. At least Della was.

‘And that couple over there. but she didn’t.' ‘No offence. ‘I thought clothes were meant to reflect your personality. .prehensile mind.' observed Lynn. meanwhile. had moved on. of course' she added. There was no way she could have overheard . darling.what was the word? . . The author said . .it was not a good combination. ‘Don't knock it.' ‘In a caring way. before she could stop herself. in fact they can even . but we've all got our ways of communicating affection. ‘They're laughing a lot.' Did you see it? I was riveted.' said Lynn briefly. coffee cups and buzz of conversation she caught the word ‘Bunnykins.' said Della.' ‘Yes. but the lad's blond profile was clearly visible as he talked animatedly non-stop.' she said at last.' she continued. lack of imagination . Lynn felt caught out and rather ashamed. Della had such a .' said Della triumphantly. They're besotted with each other!' Lynn looked. ‘I teach biology. The woman felt Lynn’s gaze. as she caught Lynn's look. almost against her will. Deryk calls me a slug sometimes. ‘I read this fascinating article in the New Scientist a while ago entitled ‘Slugs Clean my House.' ‘Precisely. The girl's long hair hung like a curtain. could she? Della. She had a gentle face. . .and grey . ‘Dressed by a committee. ‘Fascinating! Look at them leaning forwards across the table and mirroring each other's gestures. 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 . but she had to stop Della somehow. looked up and smiled. Once Della got started. . she was capable of carrying on for hours.' A lull in the background buzz coincided with the laughter of the couple near them. She waited resignedly for Della to move in for the kill again. It was true. ‘Did you know that slugs and octopi are sort of cousins? But that octopi are much more intelligent. not a whit abashed. . ‘As a term of endearment it expresses a certain . She didn't want to talk about the couple. .' ‘Bunnykins!' Lynn repeated. obscuring her face.' she said. delicately picking a dangling sliver of roast red pepper from her sandwich and deftly eating it.

it didn't show in her next comment. 'Della – your wrist. Lynn thought she detected a certain wistfulness in the look. As Lynn tried not to watch her. she noticed that her trademark wide bracelet on that arm was being worn over a bandage. ‘Just eat it!' thought Lynn.?' 'No it's nothing. She rather envied them herself.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. . ‘Yes. . aren't they?' she said. 'They're holding hands now. ‘Laughter is a way of conveying intimacy without commitment. Lynn's head was throbbing with the need to unload. making easy connections.conversational branch.' 'What? Oh . .' it. Shouldn't you . but right now. . even to someone as unpromising as Della. Ah. It's fine I tell you! Don't fuss!' 'Okay! Sorry I asked. It's fine. isn't it. and that it had made the bandage slip down. 'But it looks infected. while you were left on the ground. It looked extremely sore. really?' She spoke as though she was thinking aloud. Her glance lighted again on the couple who were still sharing so publicly their appreciation of a private joke. It was very entertaining. Trapped my hand in the – er .' An uneasy silence fell. How could she begin to turn the conversation round to more personal matters? Fortunately. Della looked around. ‘You can share a moment of laughter without ever She hastily pulled her sleeve down over 121 . Della held up the piece of courgette and absently began to nibble the cheese. She could get from ‘a’ to ‘e=mc2’ in three moves. struggling to keep up and hoping she'd come down to earth at some point. She always finished eating before Della. She didn’t want to talk about slugs. Della was diverted. It had a long strand of melted cheese attached.drawer and the bracelet dug in and left a mark. ‘Don't keep playing with it!' She took a determined bite of her own prawn and avocado sandwich. touch . Nearly better. oh that! It's nothing. But if they had anything Della wished that she had. reveal a thin purplish weal that was oozing pus.

how unlike her own! . except as a way of getting Della off the subject of slugs. ‘I wonder if they've had their first big row yet?' ‘I wonder.knowing someone else.' said Lynn. ‘Sorry. And when you do know them. ‘Intimacy without commitment .' she said sheepishly. it's too late. it changed the awareness of Tia from a dull ache into sudden searing pain. though Lynn couldn’t think why. but at the end of the day. Della was sitting bolt upright. It was too much effort.’ How had she got there? You really had to be a pretty agile conversationalist to keep up with Della. Laughter is very deceiving. she still couldn't bear to think about how the last session they'd had ended. Lynn was reminded of a piece of Dresden china. and then laughed herself instead. in another person. and her eyes were glittering with what. What was the matter with Della these days? Then a phrase that Della had used caught her attention.there must! She would ask Della.she couldn't help wondering how Della's make-up stayed so intact under such extremes of emotion. But there must be a way through . I wonder if those two really know each other?' She paused as if to say something else.Della never. She had no interest in the couple whatsoever. It was bloody annoying. Her habitual graceful languor was you think there is such a thing?' ‘Definitely!' said Della. The flush subsided and Della's fixed gaze returned to normal as she looked at Lynn. she delivered the most amazing non sequiters at times. and it spoilt her make-up. Tia was the one person that Lynn wanted to talk about most. Della would think 122 . Tell me about your Tia. Lynn would have described as anger. Even as Lynn admired the effect of anger on Della . ever. ate corn on the cob. with such sudden savagery in her voice that Lynn looked at her in surprise. Horribly and inexplicably. A lock of pale hair had fallen over her forehead. staring into the middle distance. her smooth. smiling apologetically. This was a complete lie. and managing to look absolutely charming as she did so. Only Della never got angry.' ‘Tell me about your Tia. air-brushed complexion was flushed a delicate pink and her perfectly painted lips were pressed together. One thing she felt sure of . ‘I can't imagine what I was thinking of. 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.

But she listens. and gave a few more details of her exchanges with Tia. what she does say packs such a punch.' ‘She doesn't seem to say a lot though.' Lynn felt a bit annoyed by the unknown Jim. . What was he doing here? They were talking about Tia. . Actually he was nothing like Deryk! Nothing like! But he was like him to look at. And when she looks at me. before I met Deryk actually. But not just yet.that was then. does she?' ‘That's the point. what she said. oh. ‘Anyway . a flicker of pain crossed her face.' said Lynn at last.what she looked like. Nevertheless.' ‘Jim?' ‘A therapist I went to see . he was like Deryk. ‘No. . I remember. of what Lynn had said to her. or Lynn thought it did. to Lynn’s way of thinking. it's as though she can read my mind. ‘What was Jim like?' ‘Jim? Oh. ‘Mind if I just ramble?' Della's composure had now completely returned.' Della's face darkened. and a bit. what Lynn thought about her.' Lynn thankfully did so. And she is so wise. ‘I've never met anyone like her before. She doesn't waste a word. And he was . spooky.of something. She nodded and sipped her coffee. ‘Ramble away!’ she said benignly. Lynn said to Della. Jim did that.damn them! . . just a little bit. . and said. But she must have been mistaken. ‘Tia is such an interesting person. this is now.very helpful. Go on about Tia. because then Della looked her normal self. Really listens.required the conversational ball to be batted back over the net . way long ago . Though she hardly seems to say anything in the sessions. good manners .' Della looked at her understandingly. It was 123 . .at least. It's really . and fill Della in with the general picture first. while Lynn did the same and thought aloud about Tia . briskly for her.' For just a moment. She doesn't. She'd just block that memory off. ‘Yes.

Tia sounds lovely. it did not seem like the Della that Lynn knew. ‘But wait a minute! Tia's not like that.such a relief to talk about it. But when she got to the point where Tia had recommended psychotherapy. Of course she cares. She sees you as an individual. Again. ‘Do you think Tia likes me.' This felt brutal. Instead. How could she be in that job if she didn't care?' That's not what I asked. She cares. Intimacy without commitment. she does! I'm sure of it! Everyone is an individual.' Even this was not comforting enough. I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Look. Suddenly she 124 . Della?' Della considered this carefully. But not to you. You're a client to them . Della seemed to soften suddenly. They're objective. That's all I meant. ‘You have to remember. She laughs . weakly.' ‘Don't be so defensive.' Lynn stopped.' Lynn felt appalled. she said. ‘But surely they're human. Lynn stopped. It's not always like that. I was thinking aloud. They're all different. thought Lynn. look at it from their point of view.' ‘What do you mean?' ‘Well.the raw material on which they practice their craft. not as a case study. I've hurt you. Why was she speaking so forcefully? All of a sudden.' ‘They're human. She does. that "like" isn't really in these therapists' vocabulary. ‘I just wanted Tia to like me as a person. you're hurting. She couldn't talk about that yet. She broke off a bit of her sandwich and ate it daintily before replying. They can't afford to relate deeply to every damaged waif and stray that crosses their path. It sounded like vivisection. stricken. I remember somebody said that to me once. but Lynn couldn't think why. Lynn. Lynn was hurting badly. They don't take their work home with them. seemed aware that something was going wrong in the conversation. all right. to see me as a person. ‘Lynn. She said. I'm sure she really understands you. She’s warm and friendly. Aloud. she asked the question which had occupied her thoughts for days. Was that why that comment had resonated so strongly? Because it was true of Tia and her? Oh god. this was awful.

these psychotherapy types.' Against her will. She's the only one that could come up with any ideas.get a look inside.self-disclose. But she couldn't resist one last try. forcing the words out.' ‘Oh.wanted to change the subject. if she's there full-time or if she works elsewhere. brief therapy!' said Della knowledgeably. Della would say no. Do you see anyone else around . She knew with her guts that if she did. She felt deflated and very down-hearted. as if marshalling lists of points in her head. ‘Could Tia and I ever be friends?’ But she couldn't ask that now. ‘I doubt it! They're very cagey. ‘But I've got to ask Della's advice about what to do now. They don't . finding out more about her.' ‘Ah. ‘Let's see. she added. get rid of your 125 . See if you can find out where she parks her car .' said Lynn. I wouldn't give much for your chances for making connections but there's ways and means of finding out things. ‘The last thing Tia said to me was that I can only have three more sessions with her. Pump the receptionist. Quite honestly. Any stickers . ‘There's two ways forward. She was not going to get what she wanted from Della. Read my lips. And number plates are always traceable if you know where to go. and that would be unendurable. She gave her a measured glance and said consideringly. Lynn.cleaners or such? They probably wouldn't know very much but they'd be easier to talk to. If I'll ever know anything about her?' Della laughed.what's the word .you know – ‘Friend of something or other' or something like that. She sounded more assured. you're good at that. and then said in a businesslike way. ‘I told you you should have gone private!' Lynn hated her. ‘I don't know what to do. Find out how long she's worked for her. Again she said. Della finally seemed to get the message. It's what they call brief therapy. ‘I don't know what to do. Into her sadness came the desperate thought.' So Lynn said. Make friends with her. Della! Don't make me beg. And for crying out loud. She realised now that what she had wanted to ask Della most of all was. and making connections with her. ‘I wonder what Tia is like as a person.' She paused.' Inside she was pleading.

Who had she checked up on in her purple past? Deryk. If you've only got three more sessions then you've got to structure them carefully. Draw up a plan of what you want to ask. ‘Right. Start reading up on psychology and counselling. even though Della was so drop-dead gorgeous.' But the horrible truth was that Tia had looked at her like that. It was horrible. I can't stop you . See if you can get a look at her desk. connections. now. and saying. 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. But I'm warning you. Unless she's divorced.technophobia! Look her up on the Net . it's your choice. films. some honesty . it will be damned difficult. She imagined Tia looking at her coldly. I wonder if she does private work? You could ask. She's a psychologist isn't she? She might be in some directory or other. Force her to respond to you as a person .this was repellant! This was spying! Did Della really think that she. 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. 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! . on equal terms. And the way she reeled it off. Lynn was so far gone that she would use such means to get information? Clearly so. Mention books you've read.Bradley? Oh. . she felt first intrigued. who had been most amused by it all. I assume you must have tried the phone book. what you want to achieve in each see you as an adult. isn't she? Hmm. Too many. her bookcase. you're on a loser there then. You could tell Deryk was a ladies' man. ‘Well. pat. Ask her if she's seen them. But she'd almost certainly be ex-directory anyway. Della was talking like a cheap private eye. Make her want to be friends with you. then fascinated.Google her or something. 126 . and finally. or lying. .' As Lynn listened. then somehow chilled. according to Mark anyway. Don't act so much like a dying duck in her presence. as though she didn't know her. of course. totally revolted.there was a plethora of nubile secretaries at Deryk's office that he enjoyed eyeing up.not that she knew it anyway. But this . What's her surname . (But even if you did. the last time they'd met. and she's married. probably .

Della happily. I wish it hadn't been an internal promotion. Oh. She said. Tia had had enough of her. Surely it couldn't all be wrong . ‘Mark? He's OK. How is Audrey a bitch?' 127 . ‘Yeah. 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. She forced a smile. Della. ‘Hey. I wish he'd gone elsewhere. for a long time.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. 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 looked at Della. What a bizarre way of thinking Della had! So cold. so clinical. She's an absolute bitch. yes. What was the point? As she struggled to think of something to say. thanks. cautiously. You've given me something to think about. Audrey.) Over large cappuccinos this time they mutually considered their next topic of conversation. She consulted her watch.' That. but she did want to know her! She wanted to know her so badly. She had to say something. she'd fought for two more sessions that Tia didn't want her to have. Della was looking pleased with herself and clearly waiting for a response. She hadn't taken Tia's advice about that psychotherapy place. Della looked gratified and pleased to see Lynn looking more like her old self. Lynn desperately.' ‘Hmm. It seemed an age since she had seen him. although it was only that morning.It was all over. She was sick of talking about Tia now.except about what coffee to drink. Very busy at work though. She longed for silence. But what had made her become like it? Deryk? She would never see Della in the same light again after this.' What could she tell Della about Mark? Oh yes. Lynn felt torn between anger and pity. The moment dragged on. at least. was true. Della said suddenly. ‘How's Mark doing?' Mark? Oh. we've still got a little while.

‘You and Mark aren't getting on too well at the moment. She felt so desperate that soon she would be buttonholing complete strangers in the street and telling them. Yes. almost amused. I've no idea. but he doesn't seem to care. In view of the glimpse she'd just had of Della's Machiavellian thought processes. ‘I'm sorry to hear that. had taken this statement at face value and left it there.Too late. She and Della went back a long way. ‘No. Della was looking at her enquiringly. how to get it back. do you know. And she. she probably had. absolutely hopeless! But Della looked as if she had understood . Lynn. Seeing at Della looking concernedly across the table at her it was hard to believe she'd said what she had about Tia. as well? Surely there was nothing funny in what Lynn had said? But when Della spoke. I never thought to ask. I'd always thought that you and Mark were the ideal couple .as if he's jealous of her in some way isn't that crazy?' Oh damn. All her defences were crumbling. It's almost as if . ‘I've had enough of Audrey .' 128 . . But why did she look . Isn't that awful?' Della said shrewdly. what Lynn was trying to say. just to keep the conversation light and frothy. Lynn realised what she had done. . he can see how much good seeing Tia is doing me. I don't know what to do.this is the weird thing. yes. ‘Did you know that I . for clarification on Audrey's bitchiness. are you?' Split-second decision. quite deeply. Why had she said that? She hadn't meant to say it at all. And Della had asked about Mark. Lynn said. Ever since the miscarriage. And. like the cappuccinos.' That was what he had said. did Lynn want to talk about personal things any more? Actually. She had no idea why Audrey was a bitch. Humiliation engulfed her. oh bloody hell. She had simply regurgitated what Mark had said the previous night in reply to a routine inquiry about work. we've sort of drifted apart. . ?' And old habits died hard. to her much in love. Now it had got all heavy again. as Della had done.she's an absolute bitch. She said the first thing that came into her head. there was sorrow in her voice. And . Perhaps Lynn had taken it a bit too seriously. . . not even asked. she did. ‘Della. she'd mentioned Tia too! She was hopeless. Maybe it was worth talking about a bit more .

‘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.'


Chapter 12

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.


Lynn could bear it no longer. in my experience. Maybe because it was all so long ago. ‘What?' she said finally. She could have bitten her tongue out. much much harder to do. Too late. ‘Well .that's all. but it is no substitute for getting completely trollied! My goodness. Lynn realised that Della hadn't regained her composure at all. She leaned forward. ‘Did you ever think of doing something . thought Lynn. drastic?' Della didn't appear to connect. Though I must say.the bank of a very large canal. I was just .and yet how meaningless it is when you say it. '? The silence became intense. She had to know. ‘Suicide?’ Then seeing Lynn's expression. Once again.take his relatives to court.ending it all?' The moment Lynn said it. This was such a new Della. focusing with an effort on Lynn. . the parties I went to!' Della laughed reminiscently. ‘You mean . she knew it was the wrong thing to say. going to bed early with a hot water bottle is all very well.what an ugly word it is .Lynn couldn't help being fascinated.low . don't take me so seriously! Suicide is such an easy word to say (not for me. She paused. Avril caught me unawares. Lynn! Your imagination! Suicide!' She paused. and said musingly. with a curiosity she was unable to repress. How did she do it? She seemed all right now. I coped.' said Lynn. ‘Really. ‘Suicide . 'Ending it all?' said Della. ‘Oh Lynn. and then said. First love and all that. Lynn had the awful sense of having got it completely know .suicide?' She spat the word out in a quiet hiss.' Lynn was now completely lost and Della saw it. What had she meant when she had said ‘For a while. . 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 . and again. Suicide . I’m still here. I . . ‘What did she look like?' She couldn't help wondering where Della's taste in women lay. suicide . Oh god. as if listening to herself. thought Lynn) but so much harder to do. Della seemed to have recovered her composure with remarkable ease. suicide .massacre of a Native American population. she softened. ‘Oh. in fact quite buoyant.

But she. the one that could still recall the details of that bruising encounter so many years ago. though.' With every sentence. 135 .' She paused. much plumper. Lynn could only be thankful.' said Della. As they journeyed back to school in silence.' Della paused as though this thought had hit her for the first time. ‘It's OK. Della had reacted so strongly to what her remark about suicide. ‘I didn't mean to pry. Avril looked a bit like you.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. She added. She cursed her insatiable noseyness and wished with all her heart that this conversation had never started. the men I got through! Did I ever tell you about Felix when I was in Paris? Maybe that should wait until another time. ‘Oh all right! She . the one she had so foolishly let Lynn see. as though by doing so. ‘I'm sorry. Everyone I meet reminds me of someone else! That must be why I told you about Avril. She looked ever so slightly older and more tired. she could distance herself from that other Della. then had a couple of rather unsatisfactory flings so I thought it was time to go straight again heavens. hadn't actually used the word .know all the gory details!' Then Della seemed to wilt and shrugged as though it hardly mattered now.' she said. 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. ‘But she was nothing like you inside.' She couldn’t think of anything else to say. Too strongly.quite a bit like you. ‘After all. Lynn. almost fat. I must be getting old.had she? But Della had denied it anyway. Della's usual urbane and amiable persona came more to the fore. She hadn't wanted to know that. ‘I've said that before today. She was plumper. Lynn pondered this most bewildering lunch hour and what Della had said. I did rather invite it by telling you in the first place. she could feel Della becoming quieter and more withdrawn. Actually. now I come to think of it. I was celibate for quite a while after that. ‘Actually. There! Will that do?' Why had Della added that last line? Lynn felt contaminated by it. 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. Yes . But as they paid the bill and left.

Wasn't it amazing how otherwise educated people could deceive themselves so completely when their emotions where involved. 'And maybe there's something inside you that doesn’t want to know too much. because Della thought that she felt about Tia how 136 . Much better to work it out from first principles. Della had told her about Avril because she had told her about Tia . But . thinking about it just like Tia would have. Tia would help her to understand what was going on there. Was it because. That would be ironic.make it too clinical. as Della had said. It was because she had told her about Tia. Analysing the relationship she had with Tia would sort of spoil it somehow .And then sort of glossed over it. But it was as they entered the school gates. What would Tia have made of it? And here she was. very interesting. Then it would be a point of contact . she hadn't really got very far in working out what was happening in Della. Didn't they call that denial. as Lynn sat on the loo. Where ignorance is bliss . That was a kind of denial too. wasn't it? Hmm. or something? And saying that her feeling at Avril's betrayal was just a first love kind of reaction .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 Della had said she should make. . But something didn’t feel quite right about doing that – just yet. It was always best to know the truth. In the staff cloak room. Well. Why had telling Della about Tia made the difference? As she was washing her hands. that wasn't true! She was a very honest person. . Perhaps she could ask Tia about it. thinking about people and trying to work out how they ticked was so fascinating. Lynn suddenly went cold as it dawned on her why Della had told her about Avril.' said a little voice in her ear.trivialising it when she clearly felt it really deeply all those years later. she looked like Avril? Could be. it clicked. She really ought to start reading up on this counselling business. Lynn felt pleased. Surely she discussed cases with her students all the time. her mind was racing. But Della had seemed to think it might have worked too . She and Tia had a lot in common really. .in the face of the evidence how on earth could she hold onto that idea? Even Lynn could see how Avril had used her. Anyway.

god! No wonder she thought Tia was so wonderful. and thankfully aware of the solid support of the wall behind her. It was just too dangerous.' ‘No! That's not true!' And Lynn found to her relief. Oh. 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. mostly.what did she actually want Tia to do? She didn't dare dwell on it. I have! Well. . You've wanted to try it with Tia. thought about her all the time! No wonder. some of them. Lynn could feel her mind 137 . The idea of sex with Tia was a new and horrible thought. instead of comforting her. But why should she feel about Tia like that? No reason.Della had felt about Avril. . I like men like that!' ‘What about the sex?' ‘Well. That time in the -' ‘You've wondered how it would be with a woman. unless . She was gay. what about it?' ‘You've never really enjoyed it. It had never occurred to her. so special. So. in touch with their female side. She just didn’t want to go there. ‘Not very masculine. realisation swirling around her. . But after a moment's relieved reaction. But. no. practically worshiped her. She felt as weak as water. ‘If you're gay. though. . unless . this awareness caused her thoughts to take a new and alarming turn. have you?' ‘I have. she was a frigid one! A dishonest one. haven't you?' ‘Haven't we all?' ‘But you've wanted to try it. were they? Downright effeminate. She leant against the wall. that it wasn't true. she was gay too! Lynn felt as though she'd just been hit by a lorry. not in touch with her true self! Think! Think! Don't panic .' ‘They were just sensitive. she couldn't be gay! The little voice of reason whispered in her ear. and the thought of it now repulsed her. caring men. it all connected now! She saw it all. she wasn't only a lesbian then. but look what they were like. Oh.' said the voice in her other ear triumphantly.

Lynn continued leaning against the wall by the hot air drier. remembering that scene near the end. who had sacrificed everything for her. Well. Mum had said it before she died.never give up. like a pile of grey ash with just the spark of her spirit glowing through.shutting down. In the awfulness of the last session with Tia. ‘I'm proud of you.there's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip. that she'd passed on to Lynn. You'll never set the Thames on fire. but a caring mother whom she deeply admired . like the lights going out in a building. Lynn paused to think of her mother. Something was being replayed in her memory and she was straining to catch it. Absent father. You can't afford to . hoping that no one would come in. Nothing wrong with that. Quick. in fact. Disapproval.' Lynn's mum had sighed. love.oh.pretty good.was that it? It was nothing! She had had her mother's approval.' Lynn had valued that exchange. Tia had said it. Slow and steady wins the race . Even the lightest touch hurt her mother now. Wasn't gayness meant to be linked to the way you were brought up? Mentally. something had been said that she'd glossed over. Normal childhood . but all she could remember was gainsaying Tia and feeling her disapproval.' Lynn wanted to hug her. she was such a loss! There was something lurking at the back of Lynn's mind that had some bearing on this. that wasn't good. What was it? Lynn couldn't quite remember.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. Mind you – hard to live up to when you were only a kid.high standards. Lynn began to trawl through her life. Remember that. try another tack. ‘He's a good man for all I don't think he'll make old bones. but you've done your best with what you had. nothing wrong there. but she didn’t dare. It was so wonderfully typical of Mum . looking shrunken and frail in the hospital bed. to hold her close. pale and flaky in layers. That was it! ‘Whose approval do you really want?' ‘My mother's!' Wait though . taught her so much . And her mother 138 . done so many things with her.

Lynn longed to be a mother. ‘You come of good breeding stock. or whatever the term was (and Mum would have freaked at that .wishing she was like her. Otherwise why did lovers carve their name on trees? Funny. as was her habit these days. It's what we were made for. Another new and worrying thought came. though I won't be there to see them. Love wants commitment. If she was Tia.' her mother had gone on. touched and irritated at the same time. Funny really. wishing she looked like her . now she came to think of it.she could admit that now .' (Ouch! thought Lynn. Tia would have seen through her wanting her approval. .) 'I want lots of grandchildren. oh loss! She quickly replaced it. wishing she was her. saying she was wonderful. What did it matter? But all the same. Especially after her mother's account. with a picture of Tia. or fat men who wore shorts . or people who didn't wash their hands after using the toilet.a schoolgirl crush? Oh. would Tia have picked it up by now? Would Tia have read it in her admiration . But there were always epidurals. Commitment and permanency. failure. as though she almost couldn't bear the sight of her. Her mother had been typical of her generation. who would be Tia for her? 139 . No. . . Mum had no time for homosexuals. and you've got good child-bearing hips. (or did) Tia think of her regarding this . what a horrible thought! Fresh misery washed over Lynn. But that didn't help now. though she was terrified.oh. ‘Get him to make an honest woman of you. hang on a minute.' Lynn had said. But it hadn't been very high during the miscarriage. At the memory.amongst others – quite a lot of others) if she was. lesbian business? If she was a latent lesbian. a shudder went through her .' Lynn had promised. that couldn't be right. It had hurt intolerably. Ice-cool Tia . It had been only a week later that Mark had proposed – if you could call it that.had never been what you'd call touchy-feely anyway. of the pain of childbirth. ‘I will. ‘but there's no guarantees.' That was easy to promise.looking at her so coldly.' ‘I'll try.completely freaked. because her pain threshold was normally very high. she had decided. she had to admit.' her mother had added. And have lots of children. . What would.

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.then nothing. They'd certainly worked hard at it! But all the timing and thermometers and pillows under her bum had. please god. One swallow didn't make summer. telling her this? And Mark. But it hadn't always been that way. And she was still sure the pictures in that 140 . She'd have to go soon. . She felt suicidal. well. when she was pregnant. And she only had three more sessions . never suspecting? But. . And Della! What of Della! What did Della want of her. though next time (if there ever was a next time) she'd suggest they try the smooth one instead.actually that hadn't worked terribly well. and it had been awful to get off the sheets. But she hadn't finished thinking! Oh. It seemed like two other people now. 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. Memories of the showers they'd had together jostled with recalling the experiments with chocolate spread . then Tia would look at her with affection and love instead of that cold therapist's stare.This was getting a bit complicated! Lynn shifted her position. How could she lived for thirty-four years. 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. the drier switch was digging into her back. looking back. Perhaps they should have got the proper stuff from a sex shop or something. after the miscarriage. and a bit before. there were questions . where did that leave their relationship? But wait a minute! How did she know she was gay? If she really was. don't let anyone come in! But if she was like Tia. How was she going to teach this afternoon? Thank heaven it was sixth form. she could hide in the prep room. But getting pregnant had been OK sort of. but there had been a secret frisson of pleasure in buying Nutella so openly in the supermarket. If she was gay. taken the spontaneity out of it. But the peanut butter had worked pretty well.

It was true. She was hopelessly in love. Lynn thought again of Della and her cold-blooded analysis of ways to obtain information about Tia. 141 .book had been computer generated. So she couldn't have been gay. they'd done lots of things that had been fun. That was a given. appraising the possibilities. But Tia never would touch her. Oh Tia. Somehow she knew that.she might as well admit it . Nobody could do that without years of training! Worse than yoga. Lynn was plunged straight back into a most unwelcome present. How could she explain this infatuation with Tia. Against her better judgment she began reviewing what Della had said. But it had been fun trying. this longing . She couldn't bear to part with Tia.for Tia to touch her. Oh. just couldn't. She was behaving like someone in love. could she? Otherwise how could she have enjoyed it? But what was happening now? Why was it all so different? With an icy shock. with the problem still unresolved. Tia! Lynn broke down and wept. She sighed for those days.

but she had to do something.Chapter 13 Somehow Lynn got through the day. in a nervous sort of way. She recalled the fact that she had only known Tia for three hours. that Tia was only a therapist (what she meant by only she wasn't quite sure). waiting for Mark. She pleaded a headache and left early . quite skinny. She picked it up and saw it had Sandra's mobile number written on it. It was hard work. and they had hardly spoken. Lynn paused. and besides. She didn't want to phone Sandra. because doing things distracted you. trying to recall what little she remembered of Sandra. didn’t she? She thought she did. Halfway through. .how long had it been since her glib offer of help? Days at least. She concentrated. was in charge of her life. no one contradicted her. Sandra . Sitting at home. in a pub a little less than a year ago. she just couldn't remember. It was time to make her promise more than just a way of increasing her own feel-good factor. and so she decided that she had to do. she really didn't want to. but she'd giggled a lot. . because she needed to keep thinking it all the time. This worked.looking at her face. Chris in turn had seemed 142 . that she. friendly outgoing Lynn she'd been before the miscarriage. Her mind flashed back to the scene with Chris . but then the memory of Chris's face intervened and stiffened her resolve. every second. she liked helping people . It worked because she held in front of herself an image of the happy. as well as think. decided to behave as though she was still the same person. perhaps longer. with a bottle of wine invitingly open (and by the time he came in. a piece of paper fell out. two-thirds empty) she began to summon up all her powers of rational thinking. She couldn't help feeling that she'd bitten off more than she could chew this time. Lynn found her address book and started thumbing through it. . mousy hair. and that she had a life to be in charge of. Sandra had said next to nothing. Lynn. and. before she met Tia. once again. mainly at comments Chris had made. She'd only met her once. . after a fashion. As she switched on her mobile. taller than average. Her heart sank . There was a world out there that she needed to get in touch with.

the hair's right. There was silence at the other end. ‘So you phoned to commiserate. ‘Above medium height.devoted to her. ‘Well. There was no easy way to say this.' she conceded. during which Lynn died the death.' she said with some hesitation. it's Lynn Davies.' Pause. medium height. We met at The Apple and Serpent at a Christmas Do last year – the science department from the school where Chris works. Suppose she’d dialled the wrong number by mistake. She couldn't actually remember anything particularly positive about Sandra. Lynn thought as fast as she was able under the circumstances. you're honest. sorry. 'Let me see . then tried again a minute later. There was another chuckle. smiley. That was very nice of you. Am I right?' ‘Well.' 143 . um. We met once about a year ago. ‘Always laughing. Lynn took a deep breath and just said it. ’I heard that you and Chris had split up. a silvery laugh of genuine humour.' There was a split second of incredulous silence. ‘I'm still the same height. very slim. rehearsed a little speech. not letting her out of his sight. Sandra seemed to find this very funny. Then there was silence. though there hadn't been that many to choose from. at least. ‘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. god! Then Sandra's voice came over the phone. ‘He didn't tell me any details though. The phone was ringing.' She stopped. ‘Well.dark wavy hair. Lynn wished she'd thought what to say. Then she thought she ought to return the compliment. Chris didn't put you up to it by any chance?' There was an unmistakable edge to her voice. and I phoned to say I'm sorry.' said Lynn doubtfully. ‘Did you just ring me and then cancel?' ‘Yes.' There was another pause. and then.' she finished. hi. hesitant. Chris was the one who'd told me you'd split up. always making jokes. and apparently riveted to her every word. Oh.' Lynn’s heart flopped with relief but she could feel herself blushing too. dark hair . Suppose Sandra had got a new phone and given this one to her mother.' Pause.' ‘I remember. ‘Sandra. What did you say your name was?' ‘Lynn Davies. amazingly. suspicious. She quickly cancelled.

Sounds like we both remember what we look like. but quite honestly.00?' ‘Fine. She hoped she wasn't going as a double agent. but . ‘Right. I don't know. There's no man involved.' said Lynn. Tomorrow any good? Say 6. ‘Well.' Lynn's voice trailed away. She'd see what she could find out.' Well. . If this Sandra looked different now. Sandra was clearly thinking this over and it seemed to be a good enough answer for her. I'm bloody lonely without the bastard. it was nice of you to phone. When Sandra spoke. What do you want to do? If you’d like to get together. there had to be of course.' ‘The Apple and Serpent? OK then. . what experience had she in doing it at all? She waited in suspense. I look nothing like I used to!' ‘Oh. ‘See you there.This at least was true. nothing venture. But maybe Sandra was suffering too. . ‘That's really sweet of you. because I'm telling you. you know. nothing gain . but how he still loves me. I must say.or something like that. She was doing this all wrong. she certainly sounded different too. intrigued. How's he doing?' This was promising. I don't see him much. poor Chris. we could meet at the pub again. her voice sounded mollified. were there? Well.' She rang off. . 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 . The Asp it is then. hard to say. but oh. Lynn could hear her voice changing through hesitant to aggressive. But I hope you look the same. . somewhat taken aback by this speedy acceptance of her offer. 144 . Poor Sandra too! She had to do something. I was wondering how you were . right. Very different. So. if you'd like to meet up for a drink or something . When she spoke again.telling everyone what a cow I am. I just couldn't take any more of his crap!' ‘Er. if she could. feeling agreeably diverted from her own misery.' said Lynn. there were two sides. . but what to say now? ‘Erm. I look the same. ‘Look.

' She vanished. Lynn didn't remember it being as crowded as this. cut very short. full mouth . ‘you and Chris seemed so happy. Who else would know her name? Sandra had been right about the height.' said Lynn. What else had they in common but the fact that they both knew Chris and that he and Sandra had split up. I can't believe .very chubby. coats secured over the shoulder by a thumb in the collar. and. I'll be right back. mascara'd. the pavement was ten deep in shirt-sleeved city workers. Lynn got a glass of wine and waited. it was true in a way. ‘Do you good. Huge round earrings. Sandra smiled grimly.' Well.' she said. Sandra smiled.' he said. Mark looked pleased. despite their expansive gestures. As usual. Got my mobile if you need me. The Asp was down a back street off the Central Line. . She looked around at the earnest laughing groups of young men and women in business suits. Dark slitty eyes. Back about ten.then. the men cradling their pints carefully. Eyebrows plucked to infinity and beyond and then pencilled in. the women tossing their hair back. a place where you could still converse without lip-reading . Sandra was clearly spitting nails. clearly enjoying Lynn's efforts to mask her surprise. just when uncertainty was toppling over into doubt.' She shook her head. . maroon nails. After ten minutes. a nose stud and one below her lower lip. round cheeks. ‘to meet an old schoolfriend. She wished she'd been more specific about the exact location. Several ear-piercings. Magenta hair. yabbering away about matters vital to them. There at her shoulder stood someone whom she supposed to be Sandra. ‘We were . The rest was negotiable. ‘That time I met you here. ‘Yes. amazingly for London.though lip-reading helped. Lovely skin. Lynn decided. Let me get a drink. to return a few minutes later with a pint of something. I've changed. or holding them high as they 145 . No point in making small talk.The next night Lynn told Mark where she was going.lipstick and paint. Clothes courtesy of Camden Lock. she felt a touch at her elbow. adding. ‘You haven't though.' she said. Sandra was now chubby . ‘Lynn?' Lynn turned.

' she said. 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. Well. the one I call him. To her surprise. . He devotes his life to making people happy. Maybe it had been a mistake to come back to this pub. I'm just so desperate. isn't he? Listens well. the name I've always known him by. All very well and good if you work with him. it didn't seem to matter.' She peered at Lynn as if she was seeing her for the first time. This time a response was required. ‘Tell me honestly. funny. Lynn said. Cute. It was usefully private but Lynn felt claustrophobic. Everybody happy. He's friendly.moved through the press of people. ‘You mean. . and Lynn became aware that the drink Sandra was holding was not the first she had had 146 . What more could I want?' She started to laugh mirthlessly. Oh it sounds so stupid when you say it! Cormac is nice. ‘Don't you notice how he behaves?' Then she made a gesture of resignation.makes people think of leprechauns. warm . I know he calls himself Chris at school. Now she was here. kind man. meaningless.while he's talking to you. Not so bloody good if you live with him!' She paused. Cormac. Will the real Cormac O'Doyle please stand up? . She was coming to terms with this now as an integral part of her overall inadequacy. talks about his feelings. ‘Yeah. ‘Yes. looks at you soulfully with those soft Irish eyes? Makes you feel really important.' Sandra snorted angrily. ‘I can't believe I'm telling you this. I've no patience with that any more. Including me. a really good. Sandra looked at Lynn closely. 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. special . How can you argue with that? What an ungrateful cow I am. says Cormac sounds too Irish . ‘Well. So she said nothing. We hardly spoke two words when we met last year. he's like that at home?' ‘All the time. why should you? It took me a while to fall in. ‘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. Then he goes and does it to somebody else.If there is one. Cormac! That's his real name. and he doesn't even remember what he said to you five minutes ago. she hadn't remembered the noise level quite as high as this.

Somebody had to take care of this child.' she said. A little girl was looking at her. torn between pity and exasperation and thankful they were in a corner where no one could really see them.' said Lynn firmly. She was going to cry now . Sandra finished. It's a relief. Her face looked an absolute mess. ‘Would you prefer some soup or something?' ‘Soup? God.' she found herself adding anxiously. I'll come. ‘I've got a couple of friends.' She looked at Lynn pathetically. Lynn said.' Sandra started to laugh shakily. ‘I never said he didn't. I don't think I could take his whining. Diversion tactics were called for. She looked much better. She said. ‘It's all right. Or was it?' ‘We'll get a pizza on the way.oh. I love you" crap. ‘Why don't you splash some water on your face in the Ladies? I'll wait here.' Sandra was gone a little while.' Some instinct made her ask. Gone was the confident exterior. Lynn was relieved. Will you come back with me? I just want to hole up indoors. Lynn stood by supplying tissues. sniffing.' ‘OK. I'm house-sitting for them in Tottenham.' ‘Look. ‘Sorry.' ‘So he does love you?' Sandra looked at her with frustration in her face. In a minute she would start crying. ‘When was the last time you ate?' ‘Oh. I don't know. what have I done. 147 . and said drearily. the well made-up face. I said . Nor the second. They're away in the States for a couple of months. Maggie and Liam. ‘Yes. Eventually. "Come back to me. ‘That's if you like pizza. ‘So where did you go when you moved out?' It worked.that day. no! Pizza will be fine. and Lynn felt slightly more hopeful that the evening wouldn't end in disaster.and she did. and when she returned Lynn could see she had applied some make-up. Cormac doesn't know where I am. I need to think. what's the use?' Her face crumpled. Sandra came to. more in control. I don't want to stand around crying in public. Yesterday some time.

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?'


Well. ‘We were having such a nice time. All the way home in the taxi. on her watch. ‘We'll have to do it again. How will you get home?' ‘Taxi. though her head was swimming and she hardly knew what she was doing. She said. contralto.‘Oh. It was late. with one hand on the wall. only about how angry Mark would be if she didn't get home as soon as possible. ‘I've got to go. I don't know. then some Scott Joplin. To her delight Sandra joined in. She had a vague memory of him helping her to pick up the contents of her purse from the pavement. How surreal it was to see someone looking like Sandra making such amazingly beautiful sounds. Going up the stairway to their flat. we were!' said Lynn. Then Sandra played something Lynn knew and she couldn't resist singing along. then some Beethoven. it was only useful in emergencies. but a glance at her mobile phone revealed the reason. Very late. 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. It must be getting late. Somehow she managed to pay off the cabbie. Lynn approached the 153 . singing in a rich.' Sandra did. Sandra was disappointed. She would have to go immediately and she said as much to Sandra. A good servant but a poor master. Too late. She didn't seem to need music. then some jazz that Lynn couldn't identify. unable to get back on track for laughing. frequently ending in a riot of mischords and broken harmonies. It was very definitely after 10 o'clock. Eventually Lynn said. Lip studs and Chopin just wouldn't go together normally. She played a Chopin nocturne. Surprise me.' said Lynn. Well. Lynn listened entranced. with an effort. she wouldn't switch it on now. She wondered why he hadn't phoned. She didn't dare think about the cost.' She focused. Lynn came over and stood by the piano and they played and sang. drunken. Lynn's thoughts kept switching from the pleasure of her time in the flat with Sandra to the unpleasant revelations about Chris/Cormac. She hated the bloody thing.' ‘We will! Definitely! I feel so much better.' ‘We were.

over breakfast. as overcome with lust. you wouldn't. The thought of actually getting the key out. ‘Oh Mark. ‘I don't remember that bit. ‘What do you mean?' ‘You passed out on me. would you?' They looked at each other and burst out laughing. the problem was solved when the door was opened by Mark.' ‘Well. fitting it in the lock and turning it seemed far beyond her meagre powers. As she saw him waiting for her and then coming towards her to grab her. you were pretty bloody useless in bed last night. I do love you!' she cried. ‘Well. the contrast between his patient.' Lynn's brow wrinkled. Mark said conversationally. The stairs seemed hard enough work as it was. * * * The next day.' ‘I don't remember that bit either. she collapsed into his arms.door with some anxiety. However. You passed out under me. then.' ‘OK. waiting love and Chris's strange perspective welled up within her. smiling in spite of himself as the recognition of her sorry state dawned on him.' ‘Oh. 154 .' Lynn was concentrating on buttering a piece of toast without it making too much noise.

' just . no. not thinking. no engaged tone. An hour earlier she had rung David. I wanted the North London Satanists society. She'd acted on impulse what the hell. Lynn had nearly dropped the phone when he had answered. I'm Lynn Davies. She'd just felt like it . not caring. Can I help you?' For a split second she imagined herself saying ‘Sorry. St Saviour's Vicarage.' but instead heard herself say. .Chapter 14 Lynn was pacing up and down the road that St Saviour's church was in. ‘Hello. this is David Mowbray. I must have the wrong number. . 155 . She recognised his voice. ‘Hello. the vicar. him. but now she was here she wondered whatever had possessed her to do it. No answerphone message. ‘I'm sorry you have dialled a wrong number.almost wondering if he was a real person outside the Sunday morning service. regretting her phone call and wondering what she should do. not planning what to say if anyone answered the phone.

I came to a service at your church last Sunday and I'm beginning to think about God. 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.after all he'd 156 . She waited.' ‘Yes. She'd always prided herself on her openness. Can I come and talk to you about it?' Oh. bloody hell! If phoning was stupid to start with. ‘Come in. 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. ‘Lynn Davies? I remember you. this must be off the top end of the scale of total madness. yes. You know where to come?' ‘I think so. what had she got to lose? Now Lynn was outside the vicarage. weren't you? Sure. You can't miss it .' ‘It's the ugly Victorian pile right next to the church. In an hour then. come in!' Why Lynn was surprised that David opened the door she couldn't imagine . See you then. Lynn stared at it as though it might come to life and tell her what was going on. Right. but something horrible now was happening inside her head.' The phone went 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. ‘Er. Sometimes she was such a silly cow. 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. In about an hour's time?' ‘Fine. Again she thought. she was completely losing it . Doesn't happen often. She wasn't just being open. You were with Polly.though some people try .' ‘OK.

How original is that?' Not very. We met at church . had a slow west country burr. but David was indicating a seat and saying. but Alison didn't really fit the bill. thought Lynn. For the tenth time she was regretting coming.but she was. Her smile as she spoke was warmly professional. sturdy build. Lynn was not sure what vicars' wives should look like. holding it open for her. quite large. Nice to meet you too.' she thought.' ‘I'll just give Alison a shout’ he said. Bath! That was useful . It looked so fresh and sunny and tranquil that Lynn couldn't help wishing that she was there instead of being where she was. whatever it was. It was a study. when she spoke. with two shabby easy chairs by a gas fire which was not on. book-lined. ‘White. I met David when he was a student in Bristol. and her face wore an expression that was at once benign and shrewd. He showed her through a wide entrance hall into a room by the front door. I was born in Bath. 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 not from these parts?' ‘No.' She moved forward with her hand outstretched. ‘You haven't met my wife. have you?' He crossed to the still open door and yelled through it. no sugar. The mantelpiece contained artifacts of a vaguely seafaring nature with a preponderance of wood and brass showing. please' said Lynn. Her thick fair hair was styled in an expensive looking cut that probably needed manicuring every two weeks. She wore jeans and a baggy sweatshirt which did not disguise her muscular.answered the phone . Her voice.she'd spent a week's holiday at Lisa's 157 . ‘Hi. was aware of her own inner caution. and Lynn shook it. ‘Hi. as he clicked the fire on. and Lynn. and above it was a landscape in watercolours. He was in a clerical shirt without the collar and his wiry hair was up on end. smiling back.a church in Bristol called Pip'n'Jays I sometimes went to. you must be Lynn. ‘You're no fool. ‘Tea? Or would you prefer coffee?' ‘Coffee. Pleased to meet you. ‘Ali! Got a minute?' Footsteps sounded and Alison appeared.

She turned her attention back to David.once when she was a kid and they'd gone to Bath a couple of times. you know. and the old familiar disappointment came stealing over her. Back in a minute. A series of useful connected topics were buzzing in her mind. did I? I mean. Lynn followed suit. and he gazed back innocently. He gestured again to an easy chair and sat down himself. ‘Hang on. . I live near Camden Town. Aloud she said.' ‘Sounds quite reasonable to me. I’ve only just sat down! Back off will you? Memories of his unpleasant space invasion at the church door flooded back. I don't believe in him. Jane Austen. they were interrupted by the phone ringing. ‘You said on the phone that you wanted to talk about God?' ‘Oh. Dammit. ‘I told you.' She disappeared and Lynn was left. talking about God was personal. What was she doing here? What had she expected to find? This man had 158 . a few opening preliminaries. disconcertingly. What was this? What about a bit of small talk. how nice west country accents were. A clear run through on the tube then.' Then. whether Alison had ever been to Midsomer Norton.' ‘Right.' Lynn looked at him suspiciously.' ‘Ah. but I'd just like to know if he's there. smiling at her puzzlement. yes I did. How nice it would have been to see that appraising expression melt into friendliness. I just want to know. straight in. ‘What's it like growing up in a tourist spot?' Before Alison could reply. the Roman ruins. both in the study and somewhere else in the house. Was it tea or coffee by the way?' ‘Coffee please. All of a sudden she felt very wary of telling David anything. I'll just get that. . like discussing whether Waitrose was better than Sainsburys. she could tell. Lynn felt extremely irritated. You couldn't just do it. hold on a minute. Damn! She'd been all ready to talk. ‘You've come far?' ‘No. what will you do about it?' Hey. But if you find he is there. Alison was starting to warm to her. which was the name of the village where Lisa had lived . establishing a few friendly connections? He was just like bloody Tia.

no answers.' Lynn nodded. but it was still too soon to talk about God.sorry.' she ended defensively. ‘I'm only asking because when people who perhaps have not been particularly interested in whether there is a God or not. cream in a jug. She's fitter than I am though. I suppose most people do at one time or another. When we can. for he leaned forward. right. ‘You play squash?' ‘Yes. and so did she. ‘Your sermon on Sunday. She said. I see. ‘I think they do. He sat back again. I have found myself wondering lately what the point of everything is. It's true.' Lynn didn't really want to talk about Alison. it made me think . Alison put the tray down. despite the weightiness of a solid wall of books behind her. She felt partly reassured. sugar and a plate of what looked like homemade biscuits. 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. sure . suddenly wonder if there is. just let the silence rest between them and Lynn was beginning to say. ‘Could you . there is usually a reason for it. He seemed to sense her disengagement. and said quite gently. though some of them were paperbacks. If there's anything more to life than meets the eye.?' ‘What? Oh.' when Alison's footsteps were heard in the hall and she came in through the half open door with a tray. That was reasonable. only questions. She let her gaze wander round the room.' ‘Oh. and if there's anything up there. .' Lynn removed the flower vase and looked around for somewhere to put it. a cafã´tiere of coffee.' He said nothing more. She stood by Lynn and gestured with the tray. It was daintily laid with a lace tray cloth. So does Alison. . She could understand that. David reached over and took it from her and shoved it on top of the mantelpiece.’ ‘Er. ‘About the God stuff. but only partly. It had a light and airy feel. gives me a hard time. finding some ease of spirit in its faded comfortableness. 159 . David surveyed it with interest.

just now." What did you mean?' ‘What did I mean?’ Now it was David’s turn to think. ‘And that's not the only kind of truth there is. you wouldn't have got this if I'd been doing it. poured and handed her a mug. but I can't help thinking that a couple of cups would help. there's a lot of truth in this old world of ours. . as though he had been going to say something and then changed his mind. I seem to remember . . where according to known laws. Your said. sitting there benignly in his shirtsleeves.' she said. He continued on another tack. Lynn took hers. though obscurely pleased that Alison had forgotten the mugs. ‘You were saying?' ‘ . ‘Well. shall we?' said David. things behave reliably and you can test hypotheses. She looked at David. it's the truth we already know. the way I see it. you were talking . about things not being straightforward. You said .how nice! and sipped it. Of course. .' Lynn closed her eyes the better to recollect. ‘I hate cool coffee. don't you. if you know where to look. and was gone again before Lynn could think what to say. She declined a biscuit and sat there feeling the odd sort of contentment that one sometimes gets with hands cupped round a hot drink.‘Well. added cream . He took his time. There's scientific truth. about truth. That. . ‘ .' ‘Hang on a minute . 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 . the gas fire and the picture were the only things of comfort in the room. Well.Yes. "The greatest enemy of truth is not lies. when you get down to the heart of it. 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. The rest felt very alien. thought. He pushed the plunger down. ‘I'm having coffee with the vicar!' and stifled an insane urge to laugh. ‘Let's have the coffee now.what were you going to say?' ‘When? Oh. There's . . It smelt wonderfully aromatic and it was very hot. it's not quite so straightforward as that .' He stopped.' Lynn looked up just in time to see Alison poke her tongue out at him. . before she laughed and said.

like Schrodinger’s cat?' ‘Yes.' said Lynn briefly. She took a mouthful of coffee. well. and also. in life itself. ‘Truth is more common than we think. profoundly real. she felt a sudden chill within. . ‘Yes. There's a lot of it about. in literature. flushed.reality . 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. and washed it down with a great draught of coffee that surely must have been much too hot. But if your hands are already full of truth. That wasn't what she wanted to hear. Surely the message he was giving her was that when you looked at the heart of things . This homely diversion brought Lynn the relief she needed.but that's true in other fields as well. All sorts. Some people have a lot of it. She didn't want to be sidetracked. make no mistake about it.but you can't use the same yardstick for measuring them all. secretly entertained.' ‘You mean you don't know what's really happening . sorry. All these truths mesh in at a deep level. in art. 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 put down his mug and sat purposefully upright. ‘There's spiritual truth too. or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. This sounded little bit glib. looking at her carefully to monitor whether or not he was boring her. But what choice had she? She was here now. in science. and she had asked. She half expected him to wipe the back of his mouth with his hand.' said Lynn pointedly. like a chunk from another sermon. wherever you look. You were saying?' David took a biscuit. ‘Go on. Truth cannot contradict truth . chewed.' he paused and said simply. inserted it whole into his mouth. ‘Men!' she thought. swallowed.there was nothing really there. Clearly he was warming to his theme and did not want to be distracted with the mundanities of eating and drinking. The point is this . All very well on Sundays . in music . You're a scientist?' ‘Biology.but it wasn't Sunday. And their truth is real. surprisingly.' ‘I believe I've heard that argument before. He felt the implied rebuke and.the very heart . .

Lynn looking around.' David rested back against his chair. She looked at it. 162 . . . It's a favourite poem of mine. The way that in order to be true to ourselves.' He took the frame from her and read. " Each mortal thing does one thing and the same. Josh had done it? That loutish lad she had last seen playing a bass guitar with a marked lack of co-ordination. . she saw her life as small and contained. all in one go. Goes itself .' David reached up. She still didn't understand it. She did not know what to say. to be truly what we were meant to be.' she said. we have to be like Christ. . to be what they really are inside. the beguiling incomprehensibility of the words. It was indeed lovely. Deals out that being indoors each one dwells. encouraged. beautifully written in calligraphy and illuminated with gold leaf. She took it. unconsciously mirroring David.This simple question hit Lynn between the eyes and then opened a door inside her head. . mercifully saying nothing. Selves. Through it. selecting only the truths she wanted to hear. In an instant. took it down and handed it to her. 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. marvelling at its delicate beauty. in green and gold and blue and vermillion. slowly. One never could tell . then again. ‘I'll think about that. dragonflies draw flame" . good point. She was winded.the essential truth of the nature of things. the ones which reinforced the truths she already knew. . eager to examine it more closely. ‘That's lovely. animals. she caught a glimpse of something but it was gone before she could see what it was. well. Her enquiring mind and the outgoing curiosity of which she had always been secretly proud suddenly seemed now somehow now to be tunnel vision. confined. To give herself time to think. No fakes. Birds. It was a poem. How do you make room in your life for the truth you don't yet know? There was so much truth. She felt challenged. There was too much truth. enclosed. They were made that way. ‘Yes. have to be true to themselves. ‘What fascinating words. ‘ "As kingfishers catch fire. rebuked." ' She read it aloud. What do they mean?' ‘I suppose it's what we were talking about . Then it goes on to talk about us. what is it?' ’My son Josh did it. silently.

I overreacted. Things are getting to me for no reason. ‘I've said something to upset you. I don't know . And now he was dragging God into it. coupled with a disgust at her own lack of control. The door slammed shut in her face. something glowing with wonder .just beyond. Besides it would look very odd just to walk out just like that. Just when she was getting so close! She could have wept with frustration. spoiling it all. desperately replaying the last few moments of conversation in his head. The darkness felt overwhelming. The thought suddenly occurred to her. to the Father through the features of men's faces" ' Lynn listened in growing dismay. .‘"For Christ plays in ten thousand places. and lovely in eyes not his. of sitting here. in this claustrophobic room. He was going too fast. too much probably. killed it dead with his stupid words. all conversations with anybody anywhere. listening to him talking another language suddenly came over her. She was a million miles from nowhere in a barren wasteland in the dark.' ‘What. ‘I'm sorry.' Lynn could see him in his mind. I'm not feeling myself these days. the pointlessness of the whole world. . Lynn had to get out. Now. right this minute?' David looked suddenly alarmed. Oh! A terrible sense of the pointlessness of this conversation with David. This is what depression is like. She could feel herself sinking fathoms further down into it. As she had been reading it. What was he talking about now? How did he get there? She hadn't read that bit. She put down her mug and stood up abruptly. done nothing wrong. extrapolated itself into the pointlessness of all conversations with him. ‘I'm the one that should be sorry. I'm thinking a lot .' 163 . lovely in limbs. I've got to go. she couldn't follow him. . He had meant well. . He'd taken the poem from her. what it was that he had said. This Is Depression. A weary pity overtook her. I'm sorry. into those beautiful words and completely ruining them. trying to work out what had gone wrong. She sat down again and smiled wanly. there had been such a sense of getting nearer to something really important. And now it was gone.just behind .

And it has. ‘It was the poem. and maybe we could listen to you . It's all a waste of time. very often in fact. but she owed him something. oh. I don't know "going themselves" or something. hasn't it?' Lynn looked at David almost fearfully. Life's got to have a meaning. as though . you are thinking about big things at the moment.that there's more in this than meets the eye. I don’t know anything about you but I can't help feeling that you are hurting a bit inside too . half afraid he might contradict her and say. Rubbish. . It didn't seem to match the poem. He said nothing. hating herself for saying it. She braced herself for the God bit. ‘And what you said. ‘Lynn.' Lynn at last found her voice. Alison! She'd rather die! She suddenly realised that she did not like Alison at all. . ‘Nope. it got to me. He continued. yet wanting to be as honest as she could. as though life might have a meaning after all. He could not be serious. I didn't understand what you meant.' ‘Oh yes. I caught a glimpse of things behind things.' A bit! thought Lynn. . just watched her intently. but it didn't come. Instead he said. and things. ‘I wonder if you'd like to come round sometime and talk to myself and Alison . ' Lynn could feel herself losing it again. Life's got to have a meaning.' she said reluctantly. .' He said it so confidently that Lynn found herself wincing inside. when it said about kingfishers. It seemed the hardest thing in the world to do when all she wanted to do was go. It was very odd. ‘That poem. ‘.She watched David's look of anxiety become replaced by a look of calculating concern. did not trust her . There's no meaning. And I felt sort of spooked.' ‘You and Alison! What for?' ‘Ali is a trained counsellor and I've a bit of training myself. ‘But why Alison? What's she got to do with it? You're 164 . . not believing in God is about emotional issues. not intellectual ones . . It was as though . waiting for her to continue. hating him for making her say it. . .in fact she was a cow.' she added. sometimes.

and Lynn became aware of what he was saying.' This was said with the barest possible twitch of his lips. 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. but. Thanks. And unfortunately in my job. if there was a god. And I have to acknowledge my own fallibility. You are a very attractive woman. she couldn't quite believe it. Despite herself. in their way. 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. even though. for example. Even though. 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 . ‘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. or did she detect the hint of a look of caution in his eyes when she said that? But he answered evenly enough. straight-faced. and two people can be a lot better at listening than one . I do realise how remote that possibility is. and knowing how busy you and Alison are (playing squash!) it's a generous one too. I'm a vicar. people are always ready to make something out of nothing. There was no way in the world she would trust herself to these amateurs. People can become quite vulnerable. ‘When people talk deeply about emotional issues. God. David's face remained expressionless. Oh really! What hard work everything was! What bloody hard work! And made worse by people like him. ‘Remembering what I see in the mirror in the mornings. Wow.the one I've come to see!' Was it imagination. I recognise that as a genuine offer. actually. Like Polly. it's surprising what kinds of things come up. Lynn said slowly and formally. still less his ball-breaking wife. ‘Thank you David. I don't counsel for a living. yes.' He looked at her carefully. give her Tia every time. But I don't think it would be helpful at the moment. He said. she couldn't help being flattered at the compliment and disarmed by his admission of his own humanity. well. but no thanks. nevertheless. they were probably quite good for some people. it is something that I have to take into account. to give herself time to think. must be laughing his head off. It was definitely time to go now.

' She extended her hand. she still liked him. it doesn't mean I'm never coming back again. he liked her.' David's smile broadened. David had no choice but to take it. And against the odds. if you don't mind. I don't mind.' David let go of her hand and smiled.' Lynn said. ‘I’m glad you came Lynn. looking uncertain.' She added on impulse. ‘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. You're a deep thinking person. Lynn could tell. How funny life was! She smiled back and said ‘No.present. 166 . And I'll think about what you said.' What a quaint old-fashioned phrase! He liked her. ‘It's nice to know I haven't blown it completely. In spite of the hard time she'd given him. You won't mind if I remember you in prayer sometimes?' ‘Remember you in prayer. ‘Thanks for your time. I'll see you out. If you don't see me in church on Sunday. He said. and I think you'll make it.' At the door. it was lovely. he paused. ‘I'm still doing a lot of thinking. meaning it. 'And thank Alison for the coffee. ‘Thanks' he said. and vanished.

Lynn felt that she hated the idolised Lauren in advance.? It was creepy. who inspired so much devotion. Why on earth had she said that at the end! He was just trying to be nice. ‘Here we go again. about tomorrow. calling over her shoulder. dammit! That was settled. she seemed almost to have the status of divinity in Polly's mind. If she asked her for a reason . it was his job. so that he didn't feel bad. She'd phone Polly.' said Polly wistfully. she'd tell her. His reaction was predictable. Against her will. Mark.' She did. but Lauren's going to be there! I wanted you to meet her!' Lauren.' she answered slowly. ‘Oh. You 167 . were extremely mixed. she felt like she'd had enough. But he couldn't have minded too much. ‘Lauren's a fantastic person. but quite honestly now. as she left the vicarage. that bloody god-stuff! Haven't you had enough yet?' ‘I rather think I have. She'd talked about going to church to please him. ‘How's Lauren?' What was this paragon like. Lynn was sure it wasn't allowed in a Christian church. that's all. ‘Right! Knock it on the head then!' ‘I will. didn't want to talk god-talk. when she got home. There was the silence of consternation on the other end. just wanted to hide away somewhere and lick her wounds. Lynn felt that she wanted to meet her. I'm going to phone Polly now and tell her. ‘You're not so bloody marvellous. From what Polly said about Lauren.' There she went again. give her psyche . tell her. She remembered how David had lost interest in her at the door of the church. and then Polly's anguished voice. Lynn wanted to know more.Chapter 15 Lynn's thoughts. A fantastic person. and after all.or whatever . finally asked. otherwise he wouldn't have laughed.well. ‘Where'd you go then?' She told him. I just did. He kept glancing at her. tell her no. ‘Why do you want me to meet Lauren?' ‘Oh.time to recover. was quiet. She didn't want to go to church.

his eyes bewildered. Maybe she'd go just once more. All through the tube journey next morning Lynn kept asking herself why she was doing it. Lauren? Huh! But still Lynn couldn't help wondering what Lauren was actually like. It felt intolerable. Lynn ran after him and threw her arms round him. but nothing came. She couldn't do this to him. How easily Polly was pleased! She said goodbye and rang off. she'd be on her way to church herself stuff. ‘OK. How wrong I was! Will somebody just tell me what's going on!' He shook his head slowly.she smiled at the memories . trying to convey her love for him. holding him tightly. I'm sorry.' He hugged her and let her go.even Sandra. her mother. ‘Sure. was pretty divine herself. It was the best way.a dumb woman communicating with a deaf man. Hey. she supposed. just turned away. oh please. able to invoke such delight by her simple consenting to be there. Mrs Pankhurst. Human curiosity. ‘Oh please. Lynn. ‘It's the last time. The memory of Mark's face continuously alternated with Polly's. Just someone I wanted to meet. When she was nearly there she made a decision. She was mute . her Auntie Gwen .' ‘Oh Lynn! What's going on? Oh for goodness sake! I thought the miscarriage was bad enough. Lynn felt as though she. Gandhi.' There were plenty of amazing people around. I really thought after last Wednesday that I'd got you back. give me more time. but when she got there she'd say that Mark was ill and she had to go back. Anyway. She really liked Sandra. Lynn wished someone would tell her what was going on too.' ‘Well. ‘You've sorted it then. And I thought. His expression was unreadable. Sandra was a good person. then that . his face expressionless. She couldn't tell Polly. she was on the tube and there was no signal on her mobile.' He made no reply. all the people she'd known in the past who'd been kind to her. actually. She couldn't stay.' ‘You will? Oh that's wonderful!' Polly's naive joy was transparent. I thought I'd give it one more try.that therapist. Lynn. just as Mark came in. I'll come. 168 .' She longed for the words that would reach him. not crap . enable him to understand. Trust me.don't have to be a Christian to be fantastic. now this church crap.

Lynn thought of Polly's not infrequent references to her. She was standing. She felt an unaccountable pang of anti-climax. In the absence of any physical description of Lauren whatsoever. this made her think of Chris. she'd only wanted to meet her to satisfy her curiosity. She had to make some choices. She had a high. of course Lynn. ‘Yes. Then she saw Polly waiting for her outside the church. She repeated the lines. ‘And I'm Lauren. but what could you expect from Polly? Silly of her to fall for it. Lynn was reminded of a sparrow being mobbed by a flock of budgies. a bit like Tia. Fantastic? She'd reserve judgment. . For some reason. for feeling it. she had imagined someone. ‘You must be Lynn. I understand. who she'd managed to avoid in the last couple of days at school. wide. Oh well.' said Lynn. Lauren looked different close to. ‘Oh. Polly wilted. but you can say hello to Lauren before you go! There she is!' Lynn turned. Lauren was dressed in brown with very short dark brown hair. That couldn't be bad. The tube stopped and Lynn got out. It made you want to stroke it. Her dark hair was cut short.' Lynn swung round again with a start. Really. and stuck up like fur. ‘nondescript’ was the word that came to mind. and foolish too.just couldn't. But at least she'd met Sandra. well. Disappointing really. ‘Oh. I just came over to say hello. Someone with some presence anyway. from what Lynn could see. put him first. . All the way to St Saviour's she was rehearsing her lines. barely visible. Lauren thinks . She shuddered. a force to be reckoned with. ‘Well. Lauren wore the sort of earrings Della wore.' said a voice behind her. and her eyes 169 . and now she'd done it. in the middle of a very lively crowd of what looked like year sevens . Lauren? How did she get here? Her eyes connected with the top of Lauren's head and travelled down. rallied and said. very short. but the day of reckoning was looming there. How did she get into these messes? She hadn't got a clue what to say. She turned her attention back to Polly. . unlined forehead. not this dowdy person. very.' And then she caught sight of something over Lynn's shoulder and her face brightened. .' But Lauren didn't seem to be saying anything. Lauren says . Polly pointed .

more for something to say than anything else. still smiling. of course. what fun to meet you! You look like the sort of person that I really like!' Lynn felt thoroughly approved of. Lauren's face changed completely.were the deepest. don't you think?' ‘Oh yes. It was as though a billboard had switched pictures while Lynn had blinked. brightest brown Lynn had ever seen. as though Lauren knew how Lynn had felt about her. ‘Oh.' ‘Have you? I wonder why?' said Lauren. ‘I've been looking forward to meeting you. But that was impossible. She temporised with. Lynn barely had time to register this before Lauren smiled. had that might make make her attractive to people .' said Lynn. And it was for her. ‘I'm Lynn. and the reasons Lynn might have for wanting to meet her. it seemed a genuine question – not to do with the qualities that she. Lauren. Lynn found herself smiling back all over her face. said. There was something about Lauren that rang true. not least because Lynn hardly knew herself. mirror images of a curvy.. But for Lauren. ‘Definitely. her eyes crinkled and smiling.' she paused. but about Lynn. which might be nothing to do with Lauren and everything to do with Lynn. ‘Yes.' she said.' she said. Lynn replied conventionally. ‘I've wanted to meet you. But one thing stood out. and her eyes that seemed to look into Lynn's very soul. She was going to say. Lauren's smile. you came with Polly?' 170 . Almost.' but it wasn't exactly true. ‘People round here seem to think very highly of you. Had she imagined then. ‘Hmm. In another woman it would have been a cue for something complimentary to be said. teasing smile that lit up her whole face. Yes indeed.' Lauren laughed. I've . It was impossible not to. Her eyebrows were straight at the top and then dived down sharply at the outer corners. If Lynn had been able to see only Lauren's eyes. they gave her features an expressive melancholy. she would have known exactly what Lauren's smile was like. that look of sadness? She must have. in fact. became two tiny. Enhanced by the droop of her eyelids.' ‘So. Nevertheless. It's always better to form your own opinions.

But I thought it might be easier to find a postcard of a kangaroo. I tell you what. 'Actually.' 'Was it far?' Lynn told her. Pol. His face spoke for him. Must have taken a while. would you mind doing that for me? I'd be so pleased. 'or – counting things. 'Yes.'No..she dug in her pocket and produced a pound coin – 'you could buy me a postcard of one if you can find it. He pocketed the coin and marched off proudly. Tim. no. I'm afraid it is. 'Do you really like kangaroos?' asked Polly. And sometimes I . What a co-incidence – I do just the same! I love looking at people. 'My goodness – that's quite a way. One of the budgies – quite a small one . distracted. 'Where were we?' Lynn made a disclaiming gesture. I think they are wonderful. Lauren?' he cried in a tone of anguish. 'Is it true you can't come to the zoo with us next week?' Lauren smiled down at him. Lauren!' he said. 'is it true.' It was odd to hear Polly called by the name that Lynn had only ever heard herself use.had run over and was tugging Lauren's sleeve. who was standing by.' Lynn said honestly. She'd met Lauren now and she needed to get back. 'On the tube. Were you looking forward to me coming?' He said nothing.' Even as she said it she wished she'd said 'Reading'. all sunshine now. 'Would you do something for me? I really wanted to see the kangaroos.' 'Of course I will. Wombats are my preferred marsupial. Lauren turned back to Lynn.' Lynn wanted to make that clear straight away. 171 . How do you pass the time on the tube?' 'By looking at other people. they are so interesting.' said Lauren. I'm very sorry.' She stopped. Would you mind terribly looking out for them for me and telling me about them when you come back? And maybe' .

‘Oh. they could hear the music group sounding more melodious. And as a bonus. At home.' Lynn. It didn't feel at all nice. Lynn felt oddly alone and excluded. Lynn. Lauren. people were going in. Mark was surprised to see her back so early. she had seen Lauren. reflecting on the encounter. Lynn tried to identify the mystery emotion she'd felt at seeing Lauren and Polly talking. During the ride home. The service was starting. Lauren looked at her inquiringly. and the most she could permit herself to acknowledge was that it was something not a thousand miles away from a wistful envy. ‘See you tomorrow. It seemed like a sort 172 . watching with interest. it sounded genuine anyway.' Polly flushed beetroot and beamed. When he learned that she'd come back early for him. ‘You're not staying for the service then?' Lynn explained. Whatever next! And Lauren seemed to think quite highly of her too. They all thought the others were wonderful . She said as much to Polly. his smile of delighted surprise was ample repayment for any inconvenience incurred. ‘I'm sorry. and then she wished she hadn't. No point in telling him that. It would make her departure less obvious. Sure. Lauren looked at her keenly for a moment then turned her attention to Polly who was now talking to her again. Pol.yeah. and something else that she couldn't quite identify. thanks.' Watching them enter the church together. and Lynn felt a glow of virtue from having made the decision to come home before she'd seen her. It was strange to hear of Polly in such an unfamiliar role.' Whatever Lauren meant by sorry. ‘Will you be at the prayer meeting on Wednesday?' ‘I hope so. she headed back to the tube.Let Polly take over.' ‘Oh .a real mutual admiration society! Hey. felt both fascinated and repelled. she had to go. Lauren and Polly turned away. Resolutely. Perhaps that was how these Christians got their kicks. Are you leading it again? I loved that reading you used last time – and you read it so well. leading the prayer meeting.

Sometimes she thought they were too boring and predictable. but wanting to make it all right.' Lynn looked at him sorrowfully. Lynn and Mark were talking after half an hour of home entertainment. 173 . somehow. Lynn reflected. Mark said. and in comfort. or even what she had said to her in the sessions. unable to interpret the sigh.of reward. it would completely freak him out. And now she had so many. laughed and started kissing him back.' said Lynn. Oh. and it wasn't really helped by Mark being so much taller than she was. She sighed.shower? And were you meant to keep the water running? It all had got a bit slippery.' Mark agreed expansively. Presently they lay back again. hands behind his head. She remembered that time so long ago in the shower. at least today she'd made up for yesterday. Later that day in bed. ‘I think I might try to read up a bit about this psychology stuff. Perhaps all people did in the shower was .' Lynn began cautiously. Mark was looking very pleased with himself. It had felt rather odd to have dinner at the table so soon afterwards. what a devious person she was! There was no honesty in her. She loved that look. ‘You want some coffee?' ‘Mmm. and wow. had it hurt her back! Anyway. Those two sentences had been all she could bring herself to say about the subject. as though they'd been married for twenty years instead of two.' ‘Probably a good idea. rolled over. contemplating the ceiling. But now and then it was nice to stick with the tried and true. nice.‘ Help you get the most out of it. Mark. ‘I really know so little about it. She could never tell him what was going on in her head about Tia.well . And maybe now she'd just said that to prepare him for finding the place knee-deep in stuff about psychology. It had the effect he desired. It hadn't really been successful. It had been quite fun really. She and Mark had never had secrets before. Lynn summoned her reserves of energy. Then there was that time they'd tried it in the kitchen. He was lying on his back. pulled her towards him and started nuzzling her neck. A bit of background reading never hurts.

'The Interpretation of Dreams. entitled ‘Calculating coefficients of correlation'. Mark. Bloody hell! The book was all like that. loaded with incomprehensibility. Lynn picked up the Freud book herself. She put the book to one side. ‘What's a t-test then?' ‘Give me that back!' said Lynn. was there any sex? Just curious. Her respect for Tia increased exponentially. It even felt heavier than it should. after dinner had been cleared away. Wasn't he the one who was always banging on about sex?' He started to thumb through it. He picked one up at random and opened it. Surely Tia was into Freud? He was the one that started it all off after all. * * * The next evening. wasn't he? So . But then Tia never mentioned anything very much. She should really have looked at it in the library. Statistical Methods in Psychology. or would be if she had the time. he put it back on the table and swaggered off. Lynn said ‘Right!' and dumped a pile of books on the table. 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.' She snatched it from him and looked at the page. ambling by.Mark got blithely up and went out. To those in the know. . . of course. She looked at another page. 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. The book was quite easy to read. Too late. Even the sight of his back was irritating.' he read with interest. Grinning. A sentence caught her eye 'Differences of this kind also apply to the weakening of a mode of imagination that originally was 174 . ‘Oh sod off!' said Lynn exasperated. She could hear him whistling in the kitchen. it explained the huge inequality between her coursework marks and her exam results. All these dreams about weeing and eating and stuff. then another about chi-squares. but it seemed a bit weird. Tia had never mentioned sex. Mark picked up another one. ‘Freud. looked interested. ‘How should I know? I only got it today.

But if she did she'd make sure she never dreamed any of the stuff he talked about . She never dreamed anyway. She went to bed. ‘Ye-up. Did all men regard puns as the acme of humour. or Lynn was very dense. still intent on penetrating its bulbous mysteries. 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.though quite how she'd do that she wasn't exactly certain. Mark found her in the kitchen wrestling with what he took to be a large. By the time Lynn got to the last three books entitled Attachment. which Lynn put on the toaster without comment. ‘You're kidding! ''Butter nuts squash'' . When he returned home from work. Luckily she had heard him come in or he would have sent her through the roof.' muttered Lynn grimly. not for the first time. she noted with some anxiety) had brought her close to desperation and she threw herself into cooking the dinner to occupy herself. knife in hand. He came up quietly behind her and put his hands on her shoulders.' Lynn read the paragraph it was in three times but it made no difference.' and ‘get a move on’ at home? Nevertheless she gave a reluctant smile to show she appreciated his humour. . Half a night and half a day of thinking (she had to make some effort to teach . All next day. ‘I've got something for you. but not enough to encourage him to continue. Psychology as the Behaviourist Views It and The Philosophy of Psychology met with a similar fate to The Interpretation of Dreams. Lynn puzzled over the conundrum that Tia was a clinical psychologist. He gave her a bag. she couldn't have cared less if they'd told her how to win the lottery. pale orange lightbulb. fumbling in his briefcase. Principles of Topological Psychology. Did Jeremy Paxman? Or did he only ever say. don't take the pith out of me!' he squealed in mock alarm as she turned on him threateningly.strongly visual. Separation and Loss. Probably both.' Mark said quickly. What else can you expect if you skim read? she thought. . wondered Lynn. 175 . But she had no time to do very much else. Either Tia was very clever. ‘What's that?' ‘Butternut squash. Nicole was away.sounds painful! Hey.

it made feeling happy about reading a poxy little book on psychology look pretty bloody stupid.‘Aren't you going to open it then?' She did so. ‘So it was Milgram who was the electric shock man. Mark smiled smugly. and then no more. Lynn read the book. a little bit. though Nicole was probably nothing serious . as Lynn finished the book and set it down with a sigh of satisfaction. I read about that. she didn't know.oh shut up! But with all these realities kicking in. her relationship with Mark was still pretty unsatisfactory and she didn't know what to do about it. ‘I can understand this.why. things were looking up. Yes.' she said with surprise. Lynn looked at them. And the reality was that she only had three more sessions with Tia. and where Tia fitted in. she hoped. ‘Yes. 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. As she was sinking under the weight of this. 176 .' 'Skinner and Pavlov are important in psychology too. She knew more than she thought she did. the phone rang. After dinner. The reality was that she felt confused and ambivalent about her relationship with Tia. The reality was that she didn't know what the hell to do about Chris or even Nicole. The reality was that she felt jealous of Polly for knowing Lauren and that felt really wrong. Inside was a book called Introducing Psychology. But it was still her job to sort it. but what do I do with it?' And she didn't know. the question suddenly flashed through her mind. The reality was . I'd always thought it was an odd name. ever. Mark. keeping up a running commentary to Mark. The reality was that her relationship with Della now felt decidedly unsafe after Della's confession in the cafe. So this was psychology. and therefore with other women. Reality suddenly kicked in hard. . It had lots of pictures inside. Mark. The reality was that though somehow she felt more able to leave the miscarriage behind.' Lynn grew quieter as she recognised more and more old friends. 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 . . I guess that makes sense. listening.' ‘The Bobo doll man isn't called Bandanna after all. now in the study. Towards the end of the evening.

) ‘Well. ‘It's for you. How nice it would be to go round to Lauren's and talk to her.' Lauren laughed. ‘Who is it?' she mouthed. ‘Good. I was just phoning to ask if you'd like to come round for a coffee . ‘Hello. but instead a voice she didn't recognise said. I still manage to arrive late though. Very handy for church. good. Lynn felt her equilibrium return. after Saturday you'll know one more. said. ‘That sounds fine.' As she took the number. ‘That would be very nice. Trying to keep the astonishment out of her voice she said. Fine. It was much more tiring than the other way round. I got your phone number from Polly.' The phone went dead.some time?' Lynn nearly dropped the phone. Lime Avenue. It's nice of you to ask.I think I could manage that. ‘I was wondering how you are fixed for next Saturday. covering the mouthpiece. ‘Don't know. won't you?’ said Lauren.' ‘Afternoon? About three? It's 23. ‘Thanks again. Bye. Lynn laughed too.' said Lauren again. Well-spoken. As she dragged herself to the bathroom to take her makeup off. I don't know many people at St Saviour's.' he mouthed back. no. ‘I'll look forward to it too. Lauren's call had come at just the right moment.' It was the last person Lynn expected to hear.' (What a hypocrite she was. hearing 177 . Let me give you my phone number in case you need it. ‘No.' ‘Oh.answered it. As she hung up the receiver. The road right by St Saviour's.' ‘Wait! I'll get a pen. In fact she felt rescued. She began to feel happy again.' ‘Bye.' Lynn went to answer it.' Hoping against hope it was Sandra inviting her round. As if she cared how many she knew.' ‘I . Don't know the voice. I'll look forward to it. It was this sudden switching from despair to hope that did it. She was never going back. Lynn suddenly felt the need to sit down. this is Lauren. I hope it's not too late to phone.or tea . Lynn took the receiver.' she said formally. ‘A woman.

' ‘Goodnight. You won't get this chance again. I've got a few things to do. and it would be nice for us to do something together. She was already in bed when Mark came through. I have been working hard. she suddenly thought of Mark. honestly. Mark. and I've not been much company. yes. almost a sense of gratitude. What would he say? Oh blow! And it had all been going so well between them. Say if you'd rather not. It would mean leaving you early on Saturday and probably not getting back until late Sunday afternoon. Lynn said softly. I must admit. He said carefully. for the 178 .' ‘I think it's a great idea! Do you good! You've been working hard lately. she could not help feeling relief. ‘Have you had any thoughts about what we might do at the weekend. but. and as he turned the light out and settled down beside her. Mark?' She felt hesitation run along his body and wondered with some trepidation what was coming next. go off enjoying myself leaving you feeling miserable.' ‘Oh Lynn. And she'd always thought of herself as the caring one in the relationship. Despite hating herself for her hypocrisy.again Lauren's voice in her head. but I don't want to leave you on your own. you go. Was there no end to this voyage of self-discovery through her own self-centredness? 'No Mark. and I'll be glad to think of you up there in Newcastle.' (For what?) ‘I know you've been low lately. Chica. ‘I was picking the right moment. I'll be fine. I did want to go. well. It had seemed a straightforward enough question. 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're wonderful! Thanks! Thanks for being so understanding.I mean. I mean it. listening to Mark's rhythmic breathing.' Lynn stayed awake for quite a while. that’s settled then! You’ll enjoy it. Goodnight.’ ‘Well.' ‘Yes . I'm not such a selfish bastard as that!' Ouch! She was touched by his caring. You go.

179 .way things had turned out. She thought of Lauren asking her round for tea and fell asleep. Now she wouldn't have to tell him.

took her by surprise. . . Well. Was Lauren in the garden . Lauren saw Lynn looking and explained. and drew Lynn in. Lynn had formed an impression of Lauren that was somehow to do with discipline and wisdom and inner control. So Lauren had children. chaos really. But Lauren. It was probably unwise of me . Lynn rang the bell and waited. When she saw Lynn she said nothing.' ventured Lynn. It was also surprisingly untidy. ‘There seems a lot of it. ‘I offered to do the second team's as well. . Lynn was sure. She moved more slowly than Lynn remembered . in the shady hall. Lauren would have remembered. more for something to say than anything else. Was it working? Yes. Once inside. It's my week to wash the strip. . she could not say.Chapter 16 Lauren's house was a surprisingly ordinary-looking semi in a tree-lined avenue. Nothing happened. not even what she was like as a person. After a minute she rang the bell again. . but this . except for her pale face.well . Relieved. And it smelt. reached forward. feeling nervous. which looked and smelt as though it had recently been in close contact with damp earth. Lynn heard the door begin to open. . seemed quite unconcerned. small and neat and dark. Why. It was littered with piles of sports clothing of a masculine nature. but no one had ever said anything. . picking her way between the piles.' Somehow Lynn had not expected this. It occurred to her that she actually knew nothing about Lauren at all. Lynn smiled back and entered the house. or perhaps the hall was very long. The gate creaked and the lawn was full of daisies encroaching untidily onto the path. . And leaving it in the hall . . . or out? Had she forgotten? No. in piles? There seemed masses of it. and Lauren herself was standing there. she could hear it.although I 180 . why not. She had made the invitation so definitely. ‘My son's in the junior team at school. Could she have been called away unexpectedly? Suppose she wasn't in? Before she had time to really start worrying. but her face creased delightedly and she threw the door open. the hall looked bigger and darker. The wooden door was studded with bolts and had a diamond-leaded pane in the middle.

‘Is this all right? It's my favourite room. with dark smudges of fatigue under her eyes. she didn't look very well.' She waved her hand as though to wave it away. It seemed to have only one ear. there were flowers and shapeless painted lumps of clay. There was a lot more pine. On each side of the Aga were shelves with an assorted mugs cups hanging and cupboards below cluttered with odds and ends.didn't expect them to dump it in the hall. Lauren? Is this a good time to call?' ‘I'm fine. could see why. better 181 .' said Lauren. but she did want to talk to Lauren. It was a large room. 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. Behind it was a chair against the wall. Lynn registered the fact that Lauren had been waiting for her to stop looking around. You couldn't ignore the dust in this room. I've taken something for it. She hadn't heard it the first time because she'd been working and listening to music. 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. We have a perfectly good utility room. ‘It's a headache. shabby. thought Lynn.' Lauren’s voice brought her back.' Lauren said this with total unconcern. On the larger windowsill. 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. In fact. ‘It's lovely to see you. looking at her properly for the first time in the pale brightness of the kitchen. She didn't want to intrude. but good quality. together with nameless sprouty things hanging limply out of jam jars. over the sink. and it let a lot of light in. and Lynn felt reassured. where Lauren had evidently been sitting. The effect was slightly odd. with a start. I get them now and then. One paw was dangling over the edge and it looked as though the rest of it might follow any second. She sounded confident. saw that her face had a bruised look. ‘Are you all right. So that was why she had taken so long to answer the bell. but it will go. Lynn wondered what sort of work she did. There was no mistaking the warmth of her greeting. so Lynn mentally shrugged her shoulders and followed Lauren through a stripped pine door into a room which turned out to be the kitchen. but pleasing.' Lynn. looking round. but Lynn. Lynn said with concern. Still.

Lynn loved cats. And you?' 'I call him "ET" ' 'Extra Terrestrial?' 'Equilateral Triangle. ET?' Lauren leaned over the cat as she spoke. just a headache. With milk. Jamie calls him "Blob". all rather abusive.' 'I see.' Again. 'What's your cat's name?' she asked. You'd understand if you saw him sitting up.check it out. but Mark was allergic to them. her mother had had them. and Dom calls him "Megalino Maxissimo" or "El Fatto the Gato". Even the white bits on the furry balloon draped over the chair looked clean.' She smiled. Alec calls him "Bulb". Lynn had a lot of sympathy for migraine sufferers. ‘What would you like to drink? Tea? Coffee? A cold drink?' Not a migraine. ‘It's not a migraine is it?' she asked. Migraines totally incapacitated people so they couldn't talk to you. He sleeps day and night. she didn't want Lauren to suffer pain. because he wanted a dog instead. ‘No. Isn't that right. with bone china mugs. she sounded as if she meant it. A rhythmic throaty rumble briefly replaced the asthmatic wheezing and it stretched and flexed the dangling paw 182 .' said Lauren. Lynn knew about migraines. Andrew calls him a lot of different names.Lauren was already looking better. She gave it a careful stroke. and besides. ‘it's not a migraine. ‘Tea please.' ‘That's how I drink it. The tea was served in a fat teapot with flowers on. He thinks he's being clever because 'gato' is Spanish for cat.' said Lauren. Lynn felt relieved. The only thing he really responds to is the sound of a tin opening.' ‘Earl Grey or ordinary?' ‘Earl Grey please.' 'And does he answer to any of these names?' 'Hard to say. It didn't stir. and she knew how bad they could be. Everything was spotlessly clean. 'It depends who's talking to him. and not too bad either . ‘I'm so pleased you could come.

'He never falls off. Wow. that was the wrong word. Lauren. how it should be. looking at Lauren who was sitting facing her across the table and regarding her with that slight. Somehow it didn't slide off the cushion. No hidden agendas. but somehow approving smile. the cat shuffled round in its sleep and settled its bulk more securely on the seat. ‘So. . She discovered that they both liked jazz piano.' she said. was a very animated talker. entertaining people. .perilously but did not open its eyes. Lauren. there was no more space for it there anyway. Lynn. she'd always been good at that. Lynn learnt quite quickly that Lauren's boys were sixteen. It almost seemed a pity to speak. It was Lauren who broke it. Lynn resisted the impulse to try to shove it further back on the chair. made it so. seemed to have a potentiality for creativity and growth in it. who had been sitting forward tensely. And her face was a joy to watch. Lynn had not thought of it like that. as though she had trouble putting words together. And she'd been sick on the ferry. At first Lauren was slow and thoughtful. ‘you teach at Polly's school?' Polly's school. but Lauren laughed so easily. ‘Yes. Mutual . fourteen and eleven. Lauren would see it that way. under Lynn's friendly questioning. Not that Lynn had any trouble communicating. she soon came alive. She used gesture and facial expression sparingly but meaningfully. once she trusted you. Lynn felt that she could think good thoughts in that silence. and Lynn.and that Alec was a doctor. sat back in her own chair and relaxed. Oh it was nice to share. Lynn loved that – when people laughed! Not that Lauren didn’t talk too. so expressive. It was very easy. listening. Italian food and going to the theatre and that neither of them liked cruelty or waiting in queues. 'Don't worry. felt rested at last. But she would love to go to Italy 183 . However. that she had been a teacher once . broken only by the cat's breathing. and started to talk about it.' said Lauren.' As if in response. No. She'd been to India twice but nowhere on the continent unless you counted a day trip to France when she was at school. It was peaceful room.' she said. as though she brought her whole self to the encounter. The very silence. Surely Polly worked at her school? But of course. You felt you really knew her.primary .

But as time went by. .' ‘It's not important . ‘Sometimes.I don't think so. You don't know the author. somehow. Sorry .' said Lauren. But she could tell Lauren about her search for God and her puzzlement over Polly's simplistic faith. ‘All what?' ‘All that god stuff you get in church. . surely you as a thinking person. 'but not in the way you might think I do. looking amused. not exactly everything -she couldn't talk about Tia yet.just something I heard someone say. that's maybe not such a simple answer'.' ‘I think the simplest answer is that I do. but not so . She fixed her eyes on Lynn and sat there .. she wasn't so puzzled by that. that's all.' The conversation flowed. so still. Polly was a pretty simple person (not that she said that to Lauren of course). she added as an afterthought.' 'Actually. . I suppose. ‘Do you ever read poetry.well. surely you can't believe it all!' Lynn found that she really wanted to know. I wondered. Why?' ‘Have you ever heard a line in a poem about a nine hundred years' name?' ‘Hmm. Sometimes she nodded thoughtfully. Lauren?' she asked. ‘But surely Lauren. Maybe something like "Gravy"?' ‘Gravy? Could be Graves. Before she was aware of it. I’m afraid. I suppose?' ‘I can't remember. 184 . as though Lynn was telling her the secrets of the universe. as though she was committing what Lynn was saying to memory. or her face creased into a smile of delighted recognition. Lynn liked that too. I’m not much of a reader. clinical . They took turns. It felt every bit as good as Lynn had thought it would. she was telling Lauren about . Well. . Sort of like Tia. but most of the time she just seemed to sort of absorb it. That reminded Lynn of something. And actually Lauren was a pretty good listener too. . My mother was though. Lynn found herself throwing caution to the winds.such a wonderful poetical language. .

well people like David. She didn't keep confronting you and making you feel uncomfortable. shouting shouting at Lauren. 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. You could ask her questions and she wouldn't fob you off like Tia. then it is mysterious and beautiful and special.' 'Well . But it seems to me that if there is anything there.' She hesitated a moment and then went on. Lauren was not difficult to talk to. only listened. ‘All of it? You believe in all of it!' ‘It depends on what you mean by "all" – or “believe” for that matter. What actually did she mean by ‘all'? It suddenly dawned on her that she wasn't sure what Christians believed anyway. But there was a certain weirdness about it all that she wasn’t ready to tangle with just yet. It makes me think that they are the stupid ones for being so naive.' Lynn admitted. 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. . So Lynn could ask her about God and not feel stupid. who'd done nothing wrong.Predictably. ‘I'm not sure. 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.said what 185 . somehow. Perhaps she needed to find out more. she wasn't withholding. ‘It makes me feel angry.' Lynn wasn't certain what to say. But she'd said it now . ‘And you believe it all too. You preach an all-powerful loving God who lets people die in agony a thousand times a day. She shared things. You just said so! My god! How can you be so naïve. How can that be true?’ She looked at Lauren who was regarding her thoughtfully. they make it seem so ordinary and they make me feel stupid for even asking. ‘I don't know very much about it. ‘But when I talk to people like . Science has proved the bible wrong over and over again. or how much she actually wanted to know in detail. so stupid?' Too late. Lynn had zoned in on the bit she'd heard that had most emotional content for her. . It felt so easy. actually. But at least she could talk to Lauren..' Memories of how she had felt talking to David welled up and without thinking she raised her voice.

how could she stop it? She hated feeling like this. But just lately. though actually they usually did. It mattered very much too much. She'd burnt her boats. Actually laughed. I value . you said what you really felt . ‘You've wanted to say that for a long time.she'd really thought. She'd said 'My god!' as well. aren't you? I can see it in your face.and it was all her fault. ‘I had to say that. Lynn never. she could have bitten her tongue out. ‘It's quite simple. And then you were afraid of my disapproval. She was doomed. with Tia. ‘I feel so pleased that you've been able to say it to me. childish thing to say! What was wrong with her today? And what did it matter anyway? It had never mattered before. Just now. ‘And I do like you. and now with Lauren. but she remembered Polly wincing as though she'd been stuck through with pins whenever she heard anybody say it. And to Lynn's astonishment. Lauren looked at her understandingly. You're confused. haven't you?' said Lauren. never be her friend .being real. What on earth had she said that Lauren could possibly find funny? But it wasn't that kind of laugh. and paradoxically. Just a word.' Lynn felt so amazed that she said the first thing that came into her head. never. it did matter. the more she wanted them to like her. Lynn felt completely a cost to yourself. ‘You don't mind? You still like me then?' Again.' Lynn nodded mutely. never needed people to like her.' said Lauren emphatically. trying to look confidently at Lauren but miserably aware that inside she felt horribly afraid. Their relationship was over. her curving smile making her eyes crinkle and dance. What a stupid. Lauren laughed instead. She had to stick with it.very highly . She waited for Lauren to tell her so. What was happening? Was it the miscarriage? Was it depression? And more to the point. It was a gurgle of approval as though Lauren thought that Lynn had done something very well. Lauren would never like her now. I think another cup of tea is called for.completely wrecked it. More than ever now. Isn't that 186 . 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 . the less likely it seemed that they ever could.' she added. ‘I don't mind.

Will you come?' Lynn liked this direct approach. and perhaps some of mine might give you a different angle to consider.' ‘Good!' said Lauren. Lynn couldn't be bothered to anyway. it seemed. It made sense . was reminded of that living. ‘I'd like you to come again. It reminded her of Tia. let me see . Perhaps it had come back.' There was no necessity to say any more on the subject. she'd said so. 187 .right?' Lynn nodded again. as she gazed into the distance seemed to be full of quiet. Lynn suddenly remembered the headache. She let it out with a sense of relief. take a chance. She laughed again and this time Lynn couldn't help smiling too. ‘I'm away . She should go home. She stood up too. Then the moment passed. Lauren made the tea and they drank it without needing to talk. For a second she did not look like Lauren at all.' she said. She finished her tea and stood up. Lynn. spacious kitchen. Lauren looked at her. ‘Mmm. too quickly. for she grabbed hold of the edge of the table to steady herself. sun-breathed thoughts. Lauren would like her to come again. ‘Yes. It felt so comfortable to be tired in Lauren's presence. doesn't it?' Lauren said. I'd like to come again. Lauren directed her gaze at Lynn over the top of her mug. oh.' she said. in her peaceful.' Lynn found that she had been holding her breath. wanted to come again too. So she would.about two weeks. She felt too weary. she. growing silence she had encountered when she first entered the room. looking at Lauren. ‘Why should I disapprove of people who are honest? I am glad you felt safe enough to trust me. In fact she felt completely exhausted. No messing about. from the start of next week for probably. ‘It does. in at the deep end. She looked at Lauren. ‘I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about God. Her brow creased.sort of. And that was great. Lynn. because. and I hope that you will go on being honest with me. Lynn wondered what they were. ‘That feels better. with the sunlight streaming through the windows and the cat still asleep on the chair. I like it. But she didn't want to. if you want to. Lauren's eyes.

‘Church Fun Day. Lauren touched Lynn's arm and then. By common consent they moved towards the door. Lauren smiled and waved too. Lynn looked back and waved. lightly and unexpectedly. As she glanced up at the clock above it. She looked around for her tea mug but it was at the other end of the table. 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. She'd have a measure of control. She wouldn't be waiting at the end of a line for someone who didn’t get in touch. Lynn felt a lurch in her stomach. And Alec is on duty at the hospital. * * * Lauren stood watching Lynn go down the garden path. who. measuring the distance with her 188 . Lynn didn't know. Where had the time gone? What had Lauren done with her kids? She glanced at Lauren. uncannily reading her thoughts. When Lauren reached the kitchen she sat down carefully in the chair Lynn had just vacated. ‘Perfect. Shall I phone you?' That at least would give her the initiative. Swallowing her disappointment. Lynn said. hugged her. occasionally reaching out a hand to steady herself against the wall. said. When she got to the gate. 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. She waited until Lynn was out of sight then she closed the door. She and Lauren were friends.' said Lauren. or anything else. ‘That would be fine. It was what Della had said about the dinner. 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. Couldn't they arrange it now? It felt as though Lauren didn't want to see her. Lynn didn't notice the football strips on the way out .' For some reason this thought amused them both . Two weeks! It felt like the sort of thing Tia would say. .why.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. It was over in an instant. But a glance at Lauren's face dispelled that fear. Lynn was astonished to see that she had been there for over two hours. .

eventually coming to the unpalatable conclusion that she wanted to find out more about this god that Lauren seemed to believe in. even to her. Lynn kept a weather eye out for Lauren. As she did so. but she couldn't see her. She rested her elbows on the table. she glanced at the clock above the door as Lynn had done. This time Lauren's sigh was one of thankfulness.Polly was certainly thrilled to bits when she phoned her to tell her. And if she happened to see Lauren there. for some time. and then a little more. It had about an inch of tea left in 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. she gingerly moved her head a fraction.. and began to think. She picked up the mug and swigged back Lynn's tea. well. Lynn decided to go to church again. put her chin on hands. Occasionally she opened her eyes to check the time. Maybe it was for Polly's sake . Lynn was pretty amazed herself. She explained it by saying that she hadn't given it a fair trial. it would only be civil to say hello. After about half an hour. She grimaced.eyes. * * * Next day was Sunday. As she did so she caught sight of Lynn's mug. She remained in this position. She looked thoughtfully at them. Eventually Lauren popped the blister pack and took out two capsules. she reluctantly decided 189 . They were rather large. 'I knew you wouldn't be able to keep away!' Lynn was extremely irritated by it. Her smile returned. which was rather nearer than hers. as though to say. To Mark's consternation. She leaned forward and ran the fingers of both hands over her cropped hair. She put them in her mouth and tried to swallow them. washing the capsules down. even breaths and keeping her head very still. She reached out and pulled it to her. and all during the boring notices she scanned the pews without success. without success. but this sounded pretty lame. but it forced her to examine her motives for going. Before the service began. breathing very short. and then closed her eyes and rested her head against the high back of the chair. In the end.

Polly. Polly was away with the birds. she hadn't asked. Wasn't there something about attendance at church on Sunday being compulsory? Maybe even twice? And how come Lauren had said something to Polly . Lauren was a fully paid-up member of the Christian Club. Surely they didn't just arbiter ally take a day off if they felt like it. in fairness.but not to her when she'd only seen her the day before. 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.doesn'tknow-any-better and the you'll-put-her-off-Christianity-for-ever-if-you-show-any. It was an awful song. Some things were sacred. and Lynn's timing was way off. the ask Polly. Polly felt Lynn's peevedness and felt puzzled in turn. But it was common knowledge anyway. and completely ignored her. get with it! she thought. When this happened twice.annoyance reactions. But she couldn't help feeling peeved. What was Lauren to Lynn? Did she even know her? Polly had enjoyed talking to Lauren at the Wednesday Bible study. Couldn't it wait until coffee? Apparently not. anyway. swaying as she sang the first song. Polly would know. So she answered very politely. felt extremely irritated by Lynn's thoughtlessness. rudely awakened from her happy state. ‘How do you know?' she asked. ‘Why isn't Lauren here?' she demanded. Honestly. 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. Although. how could she? She'd only been coming to 190 . from the way Lynn was looking. Couldn't she even have waited until the end of the song? However. Surely Lynn knew? But then. in the service.' Lynn was puzzled. that's what she told me she was going to do. the exasperated Lynn grabbed Polly's shoulder and shook it hard. ‘I think that Lauren's gone out for the day with her family. and she would have to share that with Lynn now. At least. since Lynn had asked so abruptly.Polly! . she'd just assumed. ‘Where's Lauren?' She hissed. all monotonous and clappy.

But only then.' she added somewhat unnecessarily. Lauren's slowness. Lynn was in shock. Lauren looked so . And she would hardly lie. Lauren had cancer. Lauren! . Actually. her headache. Lynn felt in anguish. had cancer. 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. She's had the cancer a while now. .' Lynn still looked stunned so Polly continued. Everybody knows about it. Lauren . ‘Do you know what's causing it?' Because when she had asked questions. She hadn't said. normal. Her headache! But why hadn't she said anything? Lynn had asked her about it. As the thought sank in. She didn't seem to want to ask any more questions. Lauren . . Polly turned back to her worshipping. But she hadn't asked the right question. Actually had cancer. Lynn sat down in the pew. Lynn looked up and nodded dumbly. cancer. In the meantime. Sitting in the pew. Brain cancer. She would ask later. . She glanced sideways up at Polly. Lynn began to replay the events and conversation of the previous afternoon. ‘Well. Didn't you know?' Cancer! Appalled. They think they've got it in time. Everybody knew. . Lauren had replied very readily. Relieved. . Surely it couldn't be true. . who was lustily singing as though she hadn't got a care in the world. . Polly's compassion reasserted itself. She added hastily. . To anything. you know. even though it's brain cancer. What a good thing they usually sang this chorus eight or nine times.' ‘Chemo?' ‘Yes. ‘They're hopeful. she starts the chemo again tomorrow. It was too awful. . She had never actually volunteered anything.had .church for five minutes. she's got cancer. Polly realised that she had not been gentle enough. so the family wanted a day out together while she still feels well enough. . Yet Polly had said it so matter-of-factly. She would have to tell Lynn gently. unable to think of anything to say. She had let 191 . 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.

‘Oh yes. Lynn felt better. What must they be 192 . I wish you'd told me. the way Tia never self-disclosed. I would have if you'd asked!' It was so unexpected that Lynn found herself laughing with her.' Or. her laugh. ‘I'm not looking forward to the chemo on Monday. Oh. ‘See. Why didn't she tell me? Lynn wondered again. as it had before. her approving look. Did Lauren think she knew . Lynn felt she hated Tia now.' That wasn't Lauren's style. ‘Oh Lauren. And Lauren's laugh said. Now Lynn thought about it. cancer gives you terrible headaches. I do like you. And Lauren didn't want to talk. by the way.if everyone else did. that felt horrible. bright eyes fixed on hers. I've got cancer you know. Suddenly Lynn had a picture of Lauren looking at her in her thoughtful way.' ‘Chemo?' ‘Yes. from the secret sadness that dominated her life. her three boys. If someone tells you that. mentioned her cancer. She died. but for how much longer. because Lauren had wanted to see her. if Lauren had cancer? And what about her family? All of a sudden. . somehow.' Lauren had said that she liked her. so shut out from Lauren's confidence. But she could have said! But how could she have said? ‘Oh. even though she'd spent two hours with her and she'd thought they were friends. her smile. for doing that. Lynn's heart stopped still. If Lauren had done that. She remembered Lauren's dark. I've got cancer. Lauren's husband. after the chemotherapy. But Lynn still couldn't help wishing that Lauren had told her . Not knowing made Lynn feel so lonely. the youngest eleven. Common courtesy demands that you give the person a chance to talk about it if they want. an aunt of mine had that. then the whole of the rest of the conversation would have had to be about it. But how could you have brain cancer and not mention it once in a two-hour conversation? At the memory of that conversation. Alec.' End of subject. And Lauren had initiated another meeting. ‘But Lynn. That shone out like a beacon. It felt like Tia. . except Lynn.Lynn make all the running. Maybe it wasn't so bad. her stillness. and then suddenly smiling all over her face and saying.' she thought desolately. that everybody knew about. No one could ever take that away. the way they had the day before. you don't just say.' Or. Lauren didn't seem worried. ‘Yes.

going through? And she had only just thought of them! All she'd thought of first was how Lauren's illness affected her. 193 . Oh god. I just heard today. ‘But you said you didn't know her very well. Lauren.' ‘Have I ever met her?' ‘No. The rest of the day before had passed in a haze of misery and disbelief. which merged drearily into a restless. He was relieved to find out that it was not. but still puzzled over Lynn's grief. as she came to. Drowsily. Mark would never understand that. Life was full of them these days. tear-filled night. she's an old schoolfriend. coming home full of the match. she remembered why.' Lynn couldn't bring herself to say that she'd only really met her herself the day before.' ‘No. I haven't seen her for years. Chapter 17 Lynn woke on the Monday morning aware of a heavy dragging ache in her heart. Mark. had been amazed to see her so distrait and distressed and immediately assumed that it was something he'd done. 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. Another deception. What kind of a monster was she? A deep sense of shame engulfed her.

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. ‘God does heal people. hastened to reassure her. Lynn. She hated herself. We all love her too much. Lynn sought out Polly.' Lynn. What kind of faith was this? What kind of God? She had no words to say. Besides we're all praying. I admit it sounds serious. We all love her too much. She wrote a book about it. even if they chose to call it prayer? She smiled. And who knew what effect the power of positive thinking could do. Well.' Lynn saw that she should put up or shut up.‘Well. The chemo worked before and it cleared up for a year. Doesn't sound like you know too many details. ‘Oh. thought perhaps Polly was right. ‘Oh. Who knows? God moves in mysterious ways. it was good.' ‘But Polly. we're all praying for her at church and she's doing very well. And Lauren’s cancer did go away before when we prayed. Three at least. Several people have had words from the Lord that she won't die. They don't think it's come back so badly now. come on. She can't. God wouldn't let Lauren die because they all loved her too much. ‘So. people do die. You've got enough to worry about as it is. even people who pray. We won 3-1. God won't let her.' Polly looked panicky. Polly was low on details.' 194 . I know people who've been healed. but Lauren's such a fighter. At the first opportunity at school. I've read it. ‘Maybe you're right.' His irritation showed when he saw that Lynn remained unconsoled. Who knew? Cancer did go away sometimes. Compartmentalise a bit. you know. She repeated.' But Lynn could see that there was no pleasure for him in talking about it any more. two anyway. but she's not dead yet. Polly. like a mantra. ‘God won't let Lauren die. but high on optimism.’ she added somewhat uncertainly after a pause. And he'd come in so happy. how was the match?' ‘Oh. seeing her look.' Lynn turned away to hide her expression. Polly. it might not be as bad as you think. Now it's come back. She shut up. listening. before continuing more positively. ‘One I do know for definite.

Yes.what was it . It helps with the transference.' 195 . Now that they were face to face. ‘You didn't embarrass me. That's when you transfer feelings you've really got for other people on to them .not self-disclosing?' She thought she knew already but it was a diversion. ‘Therapists never tell you anything about themselves. that's better. They're a blank screen or a blank sheet of paper or something. Lynn knew that that conversation in the Cafe Noir had been on Della's mind too. Lynn had been so dreading this meeting. She couldn't avoid Della for ever.' she added.' ‘Blank screen?' It conjured up pictures of a broken TV. but looking at her she realised that it was just Della. It worked. but why? 'Well the idea is that they present a sort of blank screen . Della was looking rather wan. she said hurriedly. And surely.' ‘Transference?' ‘Yes. must love Lauren? How could he not? That lunchtime. it felt easier. She saw Della getting something out of her bag. if you like. her old friend Della.' she said. ‘What did you mean in the cafe about . Della loved explaining things. Lynn went to the staffroom. She felt better. to change the subject. Sort of fantasise. went over. It was now or never. god. Della looked up. I think it's overdone (‘Me too!' thought Lynn). ‘Yes. for Della looked suspiciously bright-eyed at this. write your own agenda about them. that's really important. Then. Looking at her face. remembering Lauren. Some therapists work like that anyway – not all of them.yes. She gritted her teeth. The idea is that if you don't know anything about them then you can as it were. and felt better.' she said wryly. and said hello. Lynn decided to choose to be reassured. if there was a god. ‘I'm sorry if I embarrassed you with my revelations the other day.Polly looked as pleased as if Lynn had just made a public declaration of faith from the pulpit of Westminster Abbey. Or project your own image . Personally. She nodded. ‘I was glad you felt able to trust me.the therapist. for Della.

how shall I say? 196 . She watched her go. judging by the amount of instructions per second her brain usually seemed capable of. now she thought about it. Something to do with working through the bad feelings or something. ‘Transference? Well. she was in new and risky territory. Oh damn! She'd meant to ask Della about the poem. Something told her that Della knew more than she let on. My Last Duchess. Lynn was sure she'd heard the word before . Although if it did make sense. turning the conversation with her over in her mind. thought Lynn. How does it fit in?' Della thought briefly. Sorry. It's quite a chilling poem about a duke who marries a peasant girl who's a bit too simple for his tastes. All of a sudden. Where did you hear it?' ‘Oh.' Della seemed uncomfortable. But this transference thing . it's important because you .along with words like ‘repression' and ‘complex'.well you . But that's the only line I know. The implication is that he has her killed so that he can remarry. . . somewhere. Playing for time was not Della's style . Can we talk about this later?' ‘Sure. .they did have some sort of meaning after all.especially in view of her self-inflicted crash course in psychology . ‘ "She had a heart . I can't remember now. she was forced to concede . Before . but probably.‘Why is that important?' Lynn felt excited. Is that the time? Heavens. ‘Oh. Lynn's chance came later that day when she saw Della by the staff lockers. . It was really irritating her now. I don't know.she never needed to. closed her eyes and quoted softly. she might wish it hadn't. 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.Tia . .oh. but it might. Lynn. This didn't make sense yet.' ‘ "Nine hundred years' name"? Yes. Lynn sensed she had touched on a raw nerve there. I must fly! Though that would convince my year sevens I'm a witch. . it's Browning. she'd dismissed them as psychobabble.

Lynn was used to it now. The faded sunshine still came through the window although it was October now. This time she didn't even say Lynn's name. It was the same. As a teacher she recognised the value of open questions. . Della was looking at her curiously. Chris ranked Sandra's gift of her virginity with anybody's gift. No words were exchanged until once again Lynn was sitting opposite Tia in the room. again she stopped and waited. She ranked my gift of a nine hundred years' old name With anybody's gift" Does that help?' ‘Oh yes. Tia's elegant. What a lot 197 . too easily amused. With anybody's gift. Lynn rose and went to meet her and Tia turned and silently led the way to her room. ‘So. And now Tia again. leaving Lynn wondering what she was going to say to Chris. and yet not the same.' said Tia. .' said Lynn. whereas ‘Tell me how you are feeling. she finished getting the books from her locker and departed with a wave and a cheery smile. angular form materialised out of the door at the end of the corridor and she walked towards her. David and Lauren kaleidoscoped through her mind. Sandra. so all things considered . Lynn following two steps behind. That explained a lot. and ‘What have you been up to then?' sounded a bit too jolly. it fitted the bill pretty well. It seemed so formulaic. Poor Sandra. so stereotyped now. was pounding. 'How have you been?' Lynn found herself wishing Tia would start with something else. On the other hand.' sounded a bit too intrusive. Seeing nothing further was forthcoming. * * * It was Thursday afternoon. Was it only two weeks since the last session? Thoughts of Chris. When she saw Lynn looking. Lynn paused to reflect.Too soon made glad. Lynn's heart as usual.

knew.' Lynn watched her collect her thoughts carefully. This blank screen thing could be overdone. It was some moments before Lynn could speak. tell me more about this transference. I heard the word somewhere.with someone else which you've now transferred onto me. if you feel able to do so. So transference was about feelings. She stared at Tia speechlessly. what a lot she knew.' Tia said meditatively. now. Tia returned the gaze absolutely steadily. looking down at her hands. Lynn felt like an absolute child. staring at her. It's more important to discuss the feelings you have about me. somewhat huskily. ‘What are you thinking?' Torn between ‘You are beautiful' and ‘What is transference?' Lynn opted for the latter. she must be! Tia said. Now that Lynn was sitting opposite her. Lynn. She felt much older . Inappropriate feelings you can’t explain.or have .' Lynn gasped inwardly. Tia blinked.oh. How does it work then?' ‘We are not really here to discuss transference theoretically. Why did Tia have to be so bloody superior? Why couldn't she just tell her? Della was right. ‘Transference is a big subject. I guess. What feelings? Where did they come from? She didn't understand.and yet she knew nothing. then up. And Tia knew that she had feelings for her. ‘Oh I don't know. and it just made things worse. Just noseyness. but my guess is that in this context it can be used to mean the feelings you have for me or about me. ‘Where did that come from?' Lynn felt herself reddening. feelings which may seem inappropriate to you but which you can't explain. But she'd asked. and Lynn loved her. it seemed that they didn't feel right to her. Tia told her things but then never explained them. She must be a lesbian. except that Tia was beautiful. That summed it up in a nutshell. But did Tia know what they were? Lynn hoped not . and Tia wasn't going to tell her. ‘It can mean a lot of things.' Tia looked at Lynn firmly. worse than she'd ever felt before. would never 198 . Feelings that belong to a relationship you've had . how she hoped not! She could feel a flush of shame. said. suffusing her face and neck. Finally she said. feeling like this. ‘So. Then she said.of experiences she'd had.

What would you say?' Tia raised an eyebrow. "What makes you say that"?' she said mildly. ‘Oh. Lynn found herself crying. ‘Suppose I called you a stupid cow. What was it about Tia that always made 199 . and you can't give me a reason. is it? There's no one else in the room. She'd had enough of Tia. ruined beyond repair. 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. so that all her facial expressions were clearly visible. she couldn't really tell what it meant.' To her horror. The situation felt irretrievably spoilt. you still insist that I do think you are. Lynn?' ‘Yes you do think so. but not exactly not smiling either. Actually. very briefly. She wanted to rattle Tia's cage. Tia. Do you feel stupid?' ‘No! Yes! Yes. don't you?' ‘Why on earth. The other part was enjoying it. ‘I'm doing it.' said Lynn. And this is a stupid conversation!' Part of Lynn was amazed at the anger she felt. Her curly hair framed her face.wrong-footed. isn't it? Is that what you're saying? It's not you.and . She felt tantalised. ‘I suppose I'd have to say. It was so superior. I am stupid. What did Tia think? What did she bloody think? ‘You think I'm the stupid one. That was worse. And you’re sure it's me?' ‘Well.tell her.' said Tia calmly. This was awful . it's not had it happened? How had they got from ‘How have you been?' to this in about ten seconds flat. On impulse Lynn leant forward and said. I bloody do! I feel incredibly stupid . She felt in despair. not exactly smiling. Lynn hated that look. Tia was watching her attentively. ‘should I think you are stupid. Or is it me? It is me. ‘So. it's me. It was so frustrating. although I've asked you why on earth I should think you are stupid. Tia continued to look at her. And you're doing it.

‘Take your time. people often do feel stupid although they are not. She shut her eyes and chewed her lip with concentration. don't rush. What was it now? What's the time.' Tia was talking very calmly and gently.her feel about five? She was a mature adult everywhere else.' Lynn sat up. she said. Lynn shut her eyes again. She had rushed home from school because she wanted to tell her mother something. . actually. After a pause. There's no one here but you and me. Then she said slowly. Tia was still there. people feeling stupid?' ‘Well. Let's approach it from another angle. She was in a room .' What was Tia trying to say? It didn't add up. It was so strong that she opened her eyes to escape it and looked at Tia. She could feel a darkness like a cloud descending on her. Lynn loved it when Tia talked like that. in their first house. Close your eyes if it helps. . ‘You mean . But her mother wasn't laughing. and as she neared the punchline. ‘It could be someone else. . She saw the small overstuffed settee. . . 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 not what I meant here. ‘But that's ludicrous. bloody hell! Tia was regarding her thoughtfully. don’t rush’ she repeated. Oh. She was telling it to her mother. . . wiping her eyes. Her steady encompassing gaze imparted a sense of stability to Lynn. the rug on the floor. she could hardly speak for laughing. and as Lynn had looked to 200 . Almost immediately she regretted it. She was coldly furious. one had a gun One had a pancake up his bum. It was a joke poem someone had told her and it was so funny.' said Tia. ‘What. Can you think of a time when you had this feeling before? Just take your time. where was it? . It doesn't have to be you or me. Gingerly. and a wave of anxious emotion. half past nine See the soldiers in a line One had a musket.

unable to keep the surprise out of her voice.her. Relief poured over her. well. vulgar little girl. Tia was smiling at her. and fear of her mother's increased wrath if she got her clothes wet had driven Lynn indoors. it had started raining. to see her reaction. she compared her thumbnails. ‘Sarah helped Emma up in the playground today when she fell over. and said in a whisper. but she couldn't.' 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. in the safety of Tia's office. She was just a faceless blur. but because she hadn't wanted to face her mother again. ‘What's happening for you now? Her voice sounded so normal and matter of fact that Lynn automatically looked up. looking at the floor and hoping she was doing it right. Tia said. experienced again that feeling of humiliation and disappointment. ‘That's better! Now you’re my good girl!' She felt a bit like that now. I will be extremely angry.’ Lynn shuddered at the memory. She felt terribly. . After a while. not because she couldn't think of anything nice. She shrank down in her chair to get away from her mother's face. she had said in a voice colder than ice. now watching the incident as though on a video. though she couldn't see on the screen exactly how her mother had looked. in Tia's office. and if you ever tell me anything like that again. ‘Yeah. She wanted to open her eyes to escape. Here.' She broke off. and don't come back until you can think of something nice to tell me. For something to do. Now go away. Lynn quivered involuntarily as she relived the terror that had trembled through her as she inched her way up to her mother. Her mother had swept her up in a pleased hug and said with warm approval.' she said. terribly foolish and sad. . She remembered that eventually. How strange that she’d forgotten it until now! But there was a lot of her childhood that was hazy. ‘You are a stupid. then her hands. I remembered my mother calling me stupid when I was five. with Tia looking at her so 201 . and the sense of having done something terribly terribly wrong. Lynn. Lynn had crept away and stayed in the garden for two hours. she could remember how it had ended. ‘I remembered . because then she would have to look at Tia.

She had a sudden picture in her mind of a giant ball of coloured threads. In fact. thinking aloud. sometimes not very good ones. it's all transference then?' Tia smiled. . It was OK to do that in Tia's room. Lynn's mind was racing. And how could she have forgotten it so completely? She stared at Tia. If she could just get hold of this . ones that we'd prefer to forget.' ‘As I said. 202 . Lynn felt pretty pleased with herself now. that she had never been able to explain . my mother calling me stupid? And me thinking it was you . ‘So . therapeutic relationships are not like other relationships. she had a tremendous sense of wellbeing. ‘So you don't think I am stupid?' Tia gave her a look. . .benignly. the rest dark and unhappy.brightly coloured.' she said. But it was still puzzling. for some reason. You are nothing like my mother. . palms up. ‘I behave towards you as though you are like my mother?' Tia made the same ‘maybe' gesture.' ‘So . Lynn thought about the incident.just a few . in a ‘maybe' kind of gesture. Tia gave her space. It didn't seem so bad now. It seemed chaotic and full of feelings that came from nowhere. ‘Nothing's ever all anything. ‘Lynn. just horribly black ones impenetrably woven together into a solid mass. ! She said. She sat there. ‘But why . They seemed hopelessly entangled. some . ‘But I still don't really understand. transference is a big subject. and let it wash over her for a while. The ball was her life.?' ‘Why here?' Tia finished off for her. . The ball was as big as a house. that's transference?' Tia opened her hands. Lynn knew intuitively that there were no coloured threads on the inside of the ball. She said hopelessly.especially since she had met Tia. .' Lynn thought back over her life. . Sometimes they enable us to get in touch with all sorts of feelings from the past.

they're not real. ‘But . unable to keep the despair out of her voice. and that you had to take responsibility for what we talked about. She said gently. As she stared at the floor the carpet distracted her. don't you?' Lynn did understand. You understand what I'm saying. Lynn became a real person. It was incredibly lonely. Lynn felt like a ghost herself. It's like ghosts. a sort of tawny colour. Several more minutes passed.‘But you are not like my mother?' ‘What was your mother like?' said Tia. The world grew solid again. it's not a real thing is it then. Tia could see that. I'm feeling things I should feel towards my mother.' The words seemed to hang for a moment in the air between them. You need to think very carefully how you wish to structure your remaining time with me. Tia said quietly. Their eyes met. ‘Perhaps that's enough for for now. Chief among the emotions was a kind of puzzled relief that this explained .partly anyway . Her guts twisted. She felt drowned in thoughts and emotions. She wasn't completely convinced yet. this transference? This . It seemed a long way away. Lynn didn’t hear this. ‘Lynn. There is a very real risk that you may uncover things which cannot be adequately dealt with in the time we have left. and you may be left with some painful issues still unresolved at the end. and they seemed to be taking her to a place that she didn't want to go to. But I have to remind you that we have only two sessions left after this one. but . . . about to be blown away. ‘Transference is real. Finally she looked up at Tia. Into this jumble inside her head broke Tia's voice. but she's not here.' For a moment.and what to do with them. able to think once more. You've had a 203 . but not for long enough. There seemed no way out. and I did explain to you that I cannot give you any more time. . ‘I don't know what to do!' she cried out. Issues that it would be of benefit for you to explore with somebody in a safe environment. existing only in Tia's imagination. insubstantial. I have the sense there may be more issues here to do with your mother. substantial and reassuringly three-dimensional. But it still left her with the huge problem of the feelings themselves .her feeling for Tia. . quite nice. It was a plain carpet.these emotions that I feel . She was locked into her own thought processes.

. Then she stopped. illness. She could do that now. I know there are.lot of things to think about today. She released her death grip on her forearms and let her hands relax. . ‘Though I don't know why I should be so bothered. Lynn could feel her stomach unknotting. Was Tia saying that the session was over? Her insides lurched again. In the meantime. leaning forward.' she added.' knowing that Tia could hear the betraying quaver in her voice. I'm sorry.' Involuntarily. She could tell Tia about Lauren! So Lynn told Tia about Lauren. 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. Lynn. and then got curious. ‘Seeing Della was before Lauren. that Polly had told her . I didn't mean you to think I was suggesting that you have to leave right now. It was amazing how much you could 204 . What I meant was that you don't have think about what to do here and now .' Tia was looking at her very compassionately. It said 2. ‘Yes. and disliked her on the spot. and she involuntarily clasped her arms over her stomach. and how well they'd got on and she'd felt they were friends. Lauren came into Lynn's mind and she became aware of Tia sitting slightly more upright. she must not waste this precious time with Tia by just staring at her! Suddenly.' she finished. . This is your time and you're entitled to all of it. She described how she'd gone to Lauren's house. . about how she'd heard Lauren’s name. Lynn glanced at the clock. about Lauren's . Then Lynn told Tia briefly. She would put things away to think about later.55 pm. ‘There are still twenty-five minutes to go. quite a few of my friends are gay. This was all so draining. She took a deep shuddering breath and then another more relaxed one as she slumped back into the chair. Tia's gaze still held hers and Lynn quietly looked until she felt her strength returning. and looked at Tia appealingly. She said. feeling that somehow Tia ought to know this. . it might be better just to let these new ideas and feelings sink in a bit before you think them through. . She explained how she'd gone to church the next day and how she'd discovered that Lauren . ready to listen. and then met her. . .

Now. as Lynn ground to a halt. Lynn said nothing either. At the door. Lynn.' agreed Lynn glumly. Lynn.' Tia laughed.' said Lynn.say in twenty minutes if you just solidly held forth and hardly paused for breath. Tia said. saw it said 3. she knew the time was nearly up. Tia glanced up at the clock. and walked though. And it feels pretty frightening. 205 . ‘You're on a roller-coaster aren't you? You're hanging on with your eyes shut. But she felt heard.' That was it exactly! ‘Yes. She said nothing. They both stood up. as though she sensed the importance of what Lynn was saying and didn't want to stop the flow. she sat back and exhaled as though she'd been holding her breath the whole time and said. and every time you open them to try to get your bearings you get a different view. and had a comforting sense of being warm and well-fed. Tia had said nothing at all. What would Tia make of it all? Throughout the time Lynn had talking. ‘See you in two weeks' time then.22. Tia had given her extra time. And I want to get off. following her gaze. After a little while. Lynn felt really special. ‘And sometimes when I open my eyes everything is upside down and I feel sick.' ‘Sure.

Finally. body and spirit section. was that the time? In panic. There were hundreds (well. but she counselled. Perhaps she should try it. she decided to head home. shut up!) Heavens. as usual. so what! She rushed with it to the counter. Maybe she wanted too much. And there were books about counselling too. saw the word 'mind' and ended up in the mind. Lynn called in at large bookshop on the way. just to check if they really did have the same books as the ones she'd got from the library. Perhaps it all worked if only you believed in it hard enough. She resolutely determined that she would take Tia's advice and not think about things too much until the dust had settled. Lynn hastily asked an assistant where the psychology books were and sighed with relief to be directed to several well-filled shelves. Oh. Well. still not thinking about things too much. Something clicked. Become Who You Were Meant to Be Through Colour Therapy. This one was expensive too. Lynn had a mocha in a cafe and tried to read the paper there. She didn't know. Heavens. but it was much harder than she thought. she grabbed a book up. picked up another that looked more readable. Ten Pain-free Steps to Total Well-Being. Oh. was that the price? She thrust it back.Chapter 18 Lynn left the counselling rom. you are stupid. rushed home. with conflicting feelings. yes! Here were the Attachment and Loss books. rushed to the tube. 100 Ten-minute Spells for Busy People. where she gazed at the books on self-help with some fascination. Ah. It was a bit spooky. She ran her finger down the spines of the books: Think Your Way to Happiness. How stupid of her not to think of that! (‘See. She looked around for books on psychology. nearly) of references to transference. She wanted to believe in something because it was true. Did people really believe all this? Maybe this was where god was. not because it made her feel good. counselling! Tia might be a clinical psychologist. She didn't 206 . Of course. She turned to the index at the back. it wasn't for her then. Maybe they were rubbish and didn't exist in the real world. Feng Shui Saved My Life. But the scientist in her couldn't help wondering where the evidence was that any of it worked.' a little voice said.

Eventually she made out. Lynn couldn't say no. After dinner. ‘Good book then?' he inquired. these days. Chris. Will contact u wen I get bak. Mark glanced up from the FT. ‘Soz not 2 b in tuch. Lynn decided. He was treading very warily. When she got home.' It could only be from Sandra. She turned back to the book. Stayin here til I gt a tan.dare get it out to read on the tube. * * * At school next day. saw her in the staffroom at lunchtime and rushed over. Lynn smiled. 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. which appeared to be composed by three different people all trying to write it at the same time. The stamp was Greek but the picture could have been anywhere. then smiled again. ‘Let's go to the pub. with some difficulty. She looked at the postcard again. that which Lynn had been dreading finally happened. Lv Sandra. but made no comment. She could hardly blame him. There would have been no answer and she would have wondered. And if she hadn't thought of anything to say by now. whom she had somehow by a miracle and quite a bit of forward planning managed to avoid. 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. ‘All tuned up and ready to play. Mark raised his eyebrows when he saw the title. When she reached the section on the client's idealisation of the counsellor she ground her teeth. It cud b a lng time.' said Lynn. there was 207 . the post had come.' The ‘will' was underlined three times. It was only six stops. then sighed. She was glad now she hadn't tried to phone her. ‘Have you seen Sandra yet?' he asked anxiously. Lynn turned it over and looked at the message on the back. anyway. She put the postcard on the mantelpiece. Lynn finally started reading the book on counselling.

I can't tell you that. she could not resist the pleading in his eyes. you saw her. How did she look?' He listened to the description. he took the pipe out and said simply. Chris . . . why?' ‘It's not a question of sides. for god's sake. About her relationship with you. puffing at his pipe greedily. She nodded resignedly. She asked me not to tell guarantee that she would in the foreseeable future. took out his pipe. ‘Can we go somewhere and talk?' Again. How to convey what Sandra had expressed without betraying confidence? After all. Chris stayed lounging against the wall. lit it at the second go and said.' ‘What do you mean. which was a lot less than what had actually transpired. probably just as well) her anger against him was evaporating. ‘And what did she say?' ‘She told me she loved you too. When Lynn had told him everything she felt she safely could. you're on her side? Why.' Lynn was pretty sure that Sandra had said that. 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. space? I gave her all the bloody space she wanted!' ‘Space to think. ‘Maybe it's a man-woman thing. ‘I do love her you know. She's given 208 . but was that important? Now that she was actually face to face with Chris (she still couldn't get her head round ’Cormac'. He paused consideringly and then said with studied nonchalance. . Chris. .' ‘Ah. Desperation gave her fluency. She needs space. ‘So. I told her. He led her to the smokers' room. she'd never thought to ask . dropping bits on the floor. trying to get it to draw. Lynn was sorry now she'd kept him waiting. She feels very strongly about you. She couldn't remember if she'd said it in so many words. ‘And where exactly is this place she’s staying at?’ ‘I'm sorry Chris.' said Lynn. Sandra had not given her permission .' Lynn was thinking hard. His anguish overlaid Sandra's anguish. gender know. to share anything. Did you tell her that?' ‘Yes. stuffed it untidily.

for as long as we can. I'd much 209 . There . it's a vile world. Be happy.) ‘A woman wants to be special to the man she . if he's there.' he said bitterly. an uncaring sadist. that's it. ‘Oh. His face was red. Sex makes people happy. She could see him forcing himself to speak more slowly.!' ‘Well. It was a bit scary. What the hell does it matter?' ‘What does it matter! What about STIs. did she?' Lynn watched him struggle for words. A vile.' A veil came over Chris's face. "A man's love is of his life a thing apart. ‘What's to believe? God. AIDs . everyone we can. Any happiness. She couldn't be that stupid. if he's there. No. but trying to speak calmly.' ‘My god! You are totally screwed up!' ‘No. to nothing. we've all got to die of something. We're all in it together. any warmth. lets the good die. Let's make other people. dark world. cruel. is a sadist. he was beginning to sweat and his accent was thick enough to cut with a knife. make others happy. keeps the bad alive. ‘Look. You know.nothing . as though to a child. ‘So you don't believe in god then?' ‘Believe. From nothing. this is a vile cruel world. we're all we've got. before we are dispersed into eternal nothingness. It's a cold. for god's sake let's stay in the sunshine. ‘I repeat. no! I'm sorry. but while we're here. 'tis a woman's whole existence. I repeat. We need to stick together.' ‘What are you talking about? She is special to me. she told you about that. Haven't I just told you!' ‘And what about you to her?' ‘What do you mean?' ‘She doesn't want to share you. as happy as we can.herself to you and only you. So she did know some poetry. before you're gone. unfair world. god. 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. getting more angry every moment. and all we've got to keep us going is our own body heat. Eventually he said tightly. is up to us." ' (Surely that was from a poem somewhere. is as vile as the rest.else'. let's be as happy as we can. and we are here for a blink. any joy.

as though this was something that he had learned by rote a long time ago.' Despite himself Chris couldn't help a sob catching in his throat. So she just sat and waited. Lynn sat there rigid with shock and pity. he can answer prayers. She thought it must be Tia's because it wasn't a smiley voice. Eventually. right?' ‘I suppose so.rather believe that he's not there. "I'm sorry. Looking back. Only she didn't smile very much because she was being bullied at school.' ‘Why do you say that? About god being a sadist?' ‘If god's there and he can do anything. He cried as though he would never stop. looked directly at her and through her. She didn't know what to do. So she very quietly hanged herself. ‘Marie had very straight brown hair and a lovely smile. Lynn could see him concentrating on trying to breathe evenly. ‘She left a note. I never told you about Marie. ‘My little sister. and said in in measured tones.' Chris repeated. Chris was clearly struggling for composure. My elder brother Seamus found her. It said.' Lynn sat down. And Marie was never one to make a fuss. I think she tried to tell us but we didn't really catch on to what she was saying. she came and stood awkwardly 210 ." She was nine years old. ‘Why do anything?' said a voice inside her head. It was much less common in those days and she went to a very good school. did I? Sit down. When he spoke again. his voice was thick. So did he. The tears dripped down through his fingers. The room grew very quiet. I asked God to help me but he didn't. The awkwardness of the lack of space in the room didn't seem to matter now. It makes things less complicated. She didn't know if it was Tia's or Lauren's. with racking sobs that shook his whole body.' ‘Then why didn't he answer Marie's?' ‘Who's Marie?' ‘Marie? Marie was my little sister. Chris eventually won the battle.' Chris buried his head in his hands and cried in earnest then.

She guessed that no one else at school knew about it either. He continued crying for some moments longer and then gave a couple of honking sniffs. who wouldn't be in until later. frightening Chris was gone. She saw his clasped hands on the table. his anger. reached round and placed her hand on his forearm. Something told her that Chris didn't want an answer anyway. Standing behind him. he must be a f***ing sadist because otherwise. smelling his aftershave. They seemed so banal. While Chris was sorting himself out. ‘Never thought I'd tell that to anyone here. seemed too intimate once he had stopped crying. Then. It felt risky but it was all she could think of to do. Lynn quite admired him.hard. ‘That's why. He was staring stonily ahead now. Now you know something about me no one else knows. as though her gesture of compassion had given him courage to be angry again he said. Amazingly. out of earshot of all but the cleaners. so close. The unfamiliar rigidity of his face began to melt back into his familiar. She suspected that he was trying very hard not to break down again. she slipped back into the seat opposite him. She felt the wetness of his tears on her skin. how about that?' he said at last. Chris sat up and looked straight at Lynn. his face a mask. ‘Well. why the f*** didn't he f***ing well do something when Marie f***ing prayed to him?' For a brief instant. Secretly. and on impulse she leaned forward and placed her hand over them. Chris reached over and convulsively grasped it.behind him. it did the trick. if there's a f***ing god. She felt overwhelmed. He made a passable attempt at a wink. and concern because the change back had been so quick. Lynn thanked her stars that the smokers' room was at the back of the school. With one hand.' crossed Lynn's mind but she couldn't bring herself to utter the words.' Lynn was torn between a huge feeling of relief that the strange. holding the sodden handkerchief between them. He surely couldn't switch back. pliable features. It didn't look like the Chris she knew. grabbed his handkerchief out of his pocket and began a vigorous mopping up operation. Gradually the twinkle returned. his vulnerability. the thought of saying ‘I don't know. his eyes still red. Chris gripped her hand back . feeling his grief. just like that? What he'd told her was awful .awful! And yet how could she allude to it when she 211 . This was a side of Chris that she had no idea existed.

my pipe's gone out again. or got home from work. 212 .' She couldn't imagine it. ‘Look. I've put it behind me now. . now. It won't change a thing. But she wasn't sure she trusted whatever he meant by relaxed any more. the present moment. She wondered if Tia felt exhausted after a session with her was over. It's all we've got. you won't tell her. But time's a great healer. but not how she died. Marie will still be dead. accident . But . But please do think about telling Sandra. She felt exhausted. his choice. . The moment was over. ‘Time's not a great healer. "Leave the dead to bury their dead" as the good book says. darling . If Tia went to the cupboard and poured herself a whisky.' A look of alarm flashed across his face. And it wouldn't make any difference now. . be happy!' Lynn thought. Or . or maybe see someone else . It's not my story to tell. . you do love to talk as though that makes it all all right. You women.' ‘I won't tell anyone else Chris. ‘Fix me a g and t.sensed that he so clearly didn't want to? She said.' But she didn't know how to say it without making him angry. Her musings were interrupted by Chris saying in a tone of wonderment. Not a bloody thing. kicked her shoes off and curled up on the sofa calling to some invisible person. . ‘A counsellor you mean? They offered at the time. . And you won't tell anyone else? I can't believe I just told you myself . .' He grinned. . .I don't know what came over me. and then relaxed. It's done nothing for you. I swear it goes out more than I do!' Despite herself. but it wouldn't have made any difference. The old invulnerable Chris was back. It was all a long time ago. Lynn laughed. ‘In the name of all that's holy. The shutters were up again.a stiff one. will you Lynn? It's over I tell you. Oh well. ‘Not even Sandra?' Momentarily his face hardened again. someone qualified to listen.' ‘Don't you think she ought to know? It might help her to understand. And now is what counts. poor Sandra. Don't worry. .' ‘Understand what? There's nothing to understand. ‘Sandra? She knows Marie died in an .

or herself. ‘Are you all right now. ‘Della's not like that now. You know!' 213 . When you weren't here I saw Mr O'Doyle. Not that it took much doing.' ‘Michael?' ‘Michael Strachley. Her feelings about Lauren’s cancer she dealt with by the mantra ‘Positive thinking gets positive results'. and you were away after that. watching Nicole's face. She only had so much energy. Nicole stood by the door. so she didn't bother with strategies for dealing with her feelings about Mark. This all took a lot of energy. ‘It's all right now. ‘Yeah.' said Nicole.' Chris! What had he done! ‘Do you want to tell me about it?' ‘Well. Lynn also tracked Nicole down. I'll get re-referred in three months' time with stress'.' (which was clearly true). She was married to him after all. Lynn drew her to one side. her head hanging. Lynn was content to immerse herself in planning and doing and to leave the thinking and feeling for a few days. Nicole?' she asked. and he was really nice and he sorted it. ‘I'm sorry I wasn't here when you came last week. ‘How vulnerable they are at this age!' thought Lynn. 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. Clearly she had thought that Lynn hadn't cared. and her feelings about Della she dealt with by saying. Priorities. it was Michael. her feelings about Tia (she was particularly pleased with this one) she dealt with by saying.' Nicole brightened up when she realised that Lynn had remembered her. and he seemed to appreciate it. of course. that could afford to wait just a little while. ‘If I can't cope.* * * The week trickled sluggishly by. She simply asked her to wait for her after the lesson. She particularly went out of her way to listen to him more. Not that she neglected him.

But you weren't here. He doesn't know any better. Watch how you go. But Mr O'Doyle was.' ‘See you.’Oh yes. swinging her bag. ‘So I came to tell you.the year elevens . ‘Understandably. He was really crying. He checked that Michael was all right and he sorted Kyle out.' ‘Anyway.' ‘Well. so hard he cracked his head off the pole bit where you go downstairs.champion of justice. They took it for about two seconds and then Kyle just picked him up and threw him right down the aisle. but Mr O'Doyle was class. But it didn't do any good. I was sitting up the top at the front with my friends and all the bad lot were at the back smoking . Good old Chris . She went back into the prep room. * * * 214 . you know. He got a week's suspension because he'd had so many warnings.' ‘Do they?' said Lynn drily.Kyle Sanders and his know he's not right in the head really . And he's so good-looking too. I'm sure. Good!' said Nicole fiercely. and he was really good.' ‘You're welcome. I'd like to kick him where it hurts myself!' ‘Hey.' ‘It was on the school bus. Miss!’ Lynn watched Nicole go jauntily along the corridor. ‘Oh. her eyes sparkling at the very memory. ‘I hate him.' said Nicole bitterly. All the girls fancy him.' ‘Yes?' ‘And Michael . She shook her head. People like him should be locked up. Go on. everybody's friend.he went up to them at the back and started telling them that they shouldn't smoke. I would!' Then Nicole softened. So I picked Michael up and when he stopped crying I went and had a go at Kyle. thanks for asking. steady on.

He was not disappointed. church had felt like a real no-no. . Mark might make some connections . though it would have been lovely to have seen Lauren. hang on! If the cancer thing came out.' Lynn's heart was singing.’ said Lauren. ‘How are you fixed for evenings?' ‘Monday. well. She'd phone her at the weekend.eightish?' ‘Fine. . you could hardly get near her!' But Lauren had asked after her. She heard Lauren's welcome voice. Well. It was a signal for cautious optimism. I think God's healing her!' Lynn was so thankful she had to sit down. ‘I'll come to you. * * * Lynn waited until Saturday afternoon. as usual. but Polly didn't notice. 'Lynn.Lynn couldn’t face going to church on Sunday (what for?) so she had to wait for Monday for Polly to burst unaware she was! . hurriedly Lynn said. This decision not to go was vindicated when she heard Polly say happily. 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. had few details . Mark heard Lynn singing in the bath and grinned. good to hear you. 215 . . That night. Lynn would have to share her. . Polly. after Chris. and rang off. Not that she'd have gone to church. Though would it really matter? It would be nice to be able to . She couldn't help feeling that he had a point.' said Lauren. ‘And she asked after you. eyes shining. but somehow. Tuesday or Friday?' ‘How about Monday . ‘There were crowds of people round Lauren. 'Lauren was at church on Sunday! She says she feels a lot better. if that's all right?' ‘Sure.but she did know that Lauren had gone away for a few days with Alec and the boys. then phoned Lauren.' ‘I'll look forward to it.

And she did. I'm not sure if we should 216 . 'Let's go into the living room. on reflection. Alec sweeps the chimney. Lauren saw Lynn's look of surprise. Lynn had more confidence that Lauren would answer the door. ‘Alec's working and the boys are out. the hall was clutter-free. The most interesting thing about the sitting room was the open fire burning in the grate. Again.' she said. her smile welcomed Lynn in. ‘It's a bit of a luxury .Chapter 19 This time as she waited.' she added. I'll stick on the biggest log in your honour.' ‘Not that that makes any difference. ‘We'll have to give it up soon. wearing trousers and a camel-coloured sweater of very soft wool. Unlike before.' said Lauren.

Lauren raised her eyebrows. as the rough-textured piney log that Lauren put on began to crackle. but quite pleasant on the whole.' Lynn couldn't think why. ‘I think it's beautiful. ‘I never thought of that. bonfires are allowed. wreathing patterned vapour: the pinky-violet glowing ash that was beginning to form in the incandescent depths. She half expected the whole fire to sigh and flop over. Perhaps next time . . . well. but I think. then vanished. . I think. Lauren's smile encompassed both Polly and her. She looked at the fire. ‘Make yourself at home. And we do have a back boiler. Back in a tic. What can I get you? Tea? Coffee? Something stronger?' ‘You drink?' said Lynn almost involuntarily.' she added hastily. and Lynn sank into a comfortably yielding three-seater sofa near the fire. A bit sixties-ish. ‘Coffee please. the lights were dim and there were candles burning on the mantelpiece. noting the small spurty flames that appeared in the wood briefly. the large bright ones that burnt with a steady crackle and lovely. like a child getting comfortable in bed. with little puffs of smoke.burn logs or not.’ Somehow the thought of Lynn and Lauren swigging chardonnay didn't seem quite right. How lovely the flames were! Her experience of flames was mostly limited to Bunsen burners in the lab. "Well. 217 . . ‘Polly's the only other Christian I properly know. It had a Prussian blue throw over it with suns and moons on. She hardly noticed when Lauren came back with a tray loaded with coffee and mugs and biscuits. It's not often you can find something that appeals to four separate senses at once. And how noisy it was! There were crackles and sighs and pops and little whistling squeals and groans. How odd that something that was dead should give more of an impression of being vitally alive than a lot of living things did. Lauren looked pleased. It was magic. Lynn studied the fire closely." It's a nicer focal point than a TV flickering in a corner. I have terrible debates with my conscience at times.' she said. Lynn decided. better than TV. It was .' Lauren vanished.

I wanted to talk and enjoy the company of someone who didn't know. ‘Wonderful. drawing her legs up underneath her so that she was facing slightly towards Lynn. though I did have a bit of a headache.' ‘Thank you. Lauren had that effect on her.' Lauren regarded her with an unfathomable expression. 218 . and .' said Lynn. And I did. She said slowly. I guessed you'd have a reason. aren't they?' ‘Mmm. and even the pharmacist at the chemist knows. Lynn rushed to reassure her with words. ‘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. and it makes sense to me. . I'm feeling better. and then looked rather anxiously at Lynn and spoke tentatively.' Suddenly. I'm sorry .' ‘That’s OK.' she said simply. her brain filled up and overflowed into her mouth. then plunged in. and all my friends and family know.' she said.Lauren put the tray on a low table nearby. I get so tired of talking about it. ‘It's like this. Lynn realised Lauren was trying to work out how much to say to her. I felt that if only I'd known. and then stopped to think about how she really did feel. I suppose . because .' Lynn was unsure how to continue. but it was your choice not to tell me. She seated herself on the other end of the settee. ‘Yes. groping for the words. ‘But not actually better?' Lynn felt dismayed. and the boys know. because. like a guilty child. I know I've got cancer. ‘Well. Lauren looked embarrassed. and it was very good. ' She paused. I think I'd feel like that too.did you feel very deceived?' Lauren looked rather crestfallen. but serious.just for once . She couldn't resist saying ‘But Polly and the others seem think you've been healed or something. She blinked a few times. ‘Fires are very watchable. ‘We'll leave it for a minute. . . She turned towards Lauren. I didn't think you'd find out so quickly. ‘No. not really. but with truth.' said Lauren drily. . ‘I felt so normal when you came. It was not sad. ‘Polly said you said you were feeling better. I might have been a bit more sensitive. I would have told you tonight. and Alec knows. and everyone at church knows.' she ventured.

as though she'd never considered that question before. Lauren looked at her. ‘God is . ‘Oh yes. but she was too worked up to listen to the answer. ‘Yes.' Lynn didn't know whether to ask her about it or not. Doesn't he care?' cried Lynn hotly. 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. ‘Don't you care about dying?' and then froze aghast. of course I care. I care.' ‘Then why doesn't he . She said slowly. what was God like when he became human?' This metaphysical twaddle was utterly opaque to Lynn. They couldn't do the chemo after all. can't he?' ‘Of course.‘They would like to think that.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. He is other. he cares. . Maybe talking about god was a better bet.' ‘Caring is caring whether you're god or human!' ‘Yes." ' ‘Meaning?' said Lynn. thinking aloud. I care very much. but I'm not so certain.' ‘I can understand that. She didn't want Lauren to die. They've done some new tests and I've got to go for the results on Monday. My blood count was too low. . I don’t quite follow the god-talk. but the frown was not for Lynn. . . different . frowning. Lauren had as good as told her she was dying. The Chinese have a saying. "When the Almighty falls into the sea. and now she was spouting meaningless god-talk. ‘Meaning. She thought of Lauren. it becomes a fish. He cares very much. She thought of Chris and his little sister Marie. ‘But god can heal.if he's god. She wanted god to heal her. She said.' 219 .' ‘But how can he? He . but you have to compare like with like. And sometimes I feel very angry.

as she saw Lynn's look. They hate God. She didn't want to know what Lauren meant. Well. ‘I haven't just given up. ‘You can't say or think anything I haven't said or thought before. I've won too.' ‘But you're giving up! You've got to fight it!' Lynn heard herself say. You use the word "dying". and how they want me to stay.‘I feel angry. to be sure. you know. What on earth was she talking about.' she added. oh dear. But Lauren didn't seem to mind. Oh no! She was doing it again!. ‘sometimes you win by dying. And because he won. ‘when I see how frightened Jamie and Andrew and Dom are of me leaving them.' Lauren went leaving Lynn to mull over the utter incomprehensibility of what she had heard. I might have to go and make some fresh. Or at least. and there's hours to go before it's light. I forgot all about it. when it's just me. sometimes at night. and I don't think I can. and returned with more coffee and a very large plate of cheese and biscuits. you know. teasing Lauren smile that made her eyes crinkle her. 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.' Lynn stared. ‘Oh dear. 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. and I wish I could die to escape it. maybe it's true. when the pain is very bad. ‘Would you 220 . God-talk. Now she was laughing in earnest. And I feel desperate. ‘Sometimes.' said Lauren.' she said.' said Lauren. ‘Don't you think it's time for coffee? I do.' said Lauren.' How could someone laugh about dying? Lynn looked at her bewildered. But dying isn't the worst thing there is. And I feel frightened. ‘It's all right.' she said. And do you want anything to eat? I'm starving. ‘But giving up isn't quite the same as yielding up. not to me. I'm sorry!' she cried frantically. And I feel very tired inside and I rather wish it was all over at times. We're all dying.' ‘Sorry. And I'll try not to talk the God-talk if it doesn't scratch where you itch. because of this. half-humorously. what a mess it all is. smiling the curvy. sometimes. Someone I know did. awake.

She’d never seen that before. . When she'd finished Lynn hoped she wouldn't offer her any. . Lauren put another log on the fire and they watched it burn in silence.' ‘But the rind . then watched in fascination as Lauren took several digestive biscuits and buttered them thickly. ‘You eat the rind?' she said curiously. selecting a biscuit and taking a careful bite.' said Lynn. ‘Sure? I think I’ve brought the contents of the fridge in. honestly. Searching round for something to distract her from her acute discomfort. It's the best bit. ‘Not really. and it took some time. you mean?' she said coolly. Well. considering each different variety of cheese. isn't it .' Lynn added her prayers to the long list of those before her who had wished the floor would open and swallow them up. she noted with surprise that Lauren did not take the rind off from the San Paulin or the Stilton . ‘I can't say I'm bothered.' Their eyes met and they burst out laughing. ‘Not watching your weight then?' Lynn could not resist saying jokingly.' said Lauren. even as a child. I’m fine. then added a large chunk of cheese to each one before topping them all with mango chutney.' ‘No. Lauren was strange in some ways. . ‘I always have done. ‘Yes. ‘I'm going to see a counsellor. ‘The chemo takes care of that.' she added quickly. .’ Lynn took the cheese. As they moved from laughter to smiling at each other. I like the crusts on the bread too.' ‘Oh good! I hate eating alone. as though that was important. Lauren did this very slowly and methodically.or any cheese come to that. ‘I'm fine. 221 .like some?' she asked. ‘Carcinogens. ‘On the NHS.' said Lynn suddenly. OK. dangerous to do that? Aren't there harmful chemicals in it?' Lauren shot her a look. just a piece of cheese then. How odd. Lynn felt a sense of delight inside.' said Lauren.

Lauren was a Christian after all. . ‘Actually. So good. Lynn felt a sense of unease.' Even as she said it.' said Lynn dolefully. ‘Why. she noted thankfully that she still wasn't frightened. They had funny ideas. Bit of a cliché but there's truth in it. ‘Can you talk about it?' And Lynn could. I don't think I can bear it!' ‘Why's that?' ‘She's good. I value her highly and I don’t want to stop seeing her. But I'll have to stop seeing her soon. it was Lauren she was saying this to.but it was still a jumbly mess in which Tia featured heavily. She glossed over some bits .' she added hastily.' said Lynn despairingly. After all. And when she finally ground to a halt. after all. you mean?' ‘No! Not like fairies! So. Lauren asked simply. I saw a counsellor once and I loved her. ‘I mean. not Polly or David what-his-name.but. ‘There's a saying that grief is the price we pay for love. ‘god-given' (in her eyes) opportunity for her to drag religion into it.really well.well . this was before you were a Christian. It was only Lauren. Surely you don't believe in them?' ‘Like fairies. But it was still a risk. This was getting dangerous. oh why. .’ Lauren nodded slowly and understandingly.Lauren looked interested. I sort of love her. It was nice to sit and feel the wonderfully comfortable sofa and not be afraid of what Lauren might say. . and how she hoped that Lauren would not disappoint her. ‘Just when you thought you were getting somewhere?' ‘Yes .the miscarriage seemed almost irrelevant now .' ‘Not in a sexual way. But Lynn felt so desperate to talk about it that it was worth the risk.' ‘You saw a counsellor? And you loved her? But you're a Christian. ‘How's it going?' ‘It's going well . . What Lauren said was a surprise. ‘is this happening to me? I don't understand it. She might get all preachy and start talking about Jesus or something. Who knew what they thought about things like that? ‘Love’s too strong a word’ she added. I really like her. She put down the biscuit. Lauren might see it as a . right?' 222 . oh Lauren. as an afterthought.' Lynn hesitated.

He was the founder of Gestalt psychology.' ‘And your counsellor smoked?' ‘Incessantly. and wore big gold earrings.protect you?' ‘From what? From life?' Lynn suddenly remembered the cancer. I think she modelled herself on Perls a bit too literally. I'm sorry. She changed tack. chain-smoking the whole time. I'd been a Christian for years.' ‘I can't help wondering what you saw her about.' ‘You said you loved her?' Lynn remembered. ‘But it's a long story and maybe I could tell you next time we meet.' ‘But didn't god .' It didn't.' ‘ And was it confrontational?' ‘Yes. ‘But this counsellor . ‘It's a kind of counselling where you deal with things in a very direct way. very! And she smoked like a chimney. Inside. ‘She was a Gestalt counsellor. She swore as well. I'm conscious that I've successfully deflected the attention from you.' Lauren hesitated. I thought she was wonderful. It can be quite confrontational.she was a Christian?' ‘Definitely not!' said Lauren. ‘I don't in the least mind you knowing. not me.' she said at last.‘I wonder why you would think that? No. And I was a complete mess. and you're the one who's hurting at the moment. laughing. I only told you really to let you know that I understand a little bit about the pain of that kind of loss. There's quite a well-known video of him counselling a client. she suddenly felt much easier 223 . I know I shouldn't ask.' ‘Pearls?' What on earth did Lauren mean? ‘Fritz Perls. if that means anything to you. It's none of my business.

And it was Lauren. Look at her now! It seemed to Lynn that Lauren had just dealt her a death blow. Lynn was still alive. and mixed in with the pain she could feel something from Lauren flowing into her.' But it did help.' Lynn stiffened involuntarily. regarding her with such concern.' Let go? This was not so good. ‘But how could you bear it?' she found herself asking. But this counsellor couldn't have been like Tia. of all people. It was a total mystery and she wasn't sure it was really happening. We could never have been friends. .and I did . ‘Oh yes. ‘I knew God loved her more than I did. She concentrated on feeling the sofa beneath her.' ‘A year? And then . Of all the words Lynn dreaded hearing. that was it? After all that you'd shared?' ‘Yes. She thought. sitting there so composedly. somehow so free. ‘How long did you see her for?' ‘A year. That was what made it possible to let go. How could she be so unconcerned about it? A sense of unreality came over Lynn. How could this be? Lauren's words hurt just as much as if they had come from Della but they did not destroy her. until she felt able to speak. on looking at the fire. Lauren made it. She said she loved her. That felt very good. 'It probably doesn't. Lynn didn't want to hear this. Although I might have shared my life with her .about her feelings for Tia. so caring.' Counselling isn't friendship. Lauren would never have been able to let her go so easily. Lynn looked at Lauren. 'I cried for three months. those ones came top of the list.' she said. I absolutely delighted in though they meant nothing! But Lauren said she'd seen this woman for a year. And Lauren would tell her her story next time they met. . so real. yet amazingly. Lauren was watching her compassionately. saying them! And so casually . something strong and good. if it helps you to know that. Tia was wasn't reciprocated. Sod that! she thought. She survived. Counselling isn't friendship. I never saw her again. 224 . on chewing her lip thoughtfully.

' For a moment Lynn remembered David. but it surprises me that you let her. She ought to do the same.' said Lauren. 'I need more coffee .it was all so bewildering.' ‘She had truth. Normally it's red wine for me. But I pray for her now and then. She felt as weak as a kitten. ‘Was it long ago?' she asked. much as she wanted to. become a Christian?' ‘I've no idea. almost unable to move. ‘Well. I do hope I do!' Lynn felt stressed. Lynn felt ashamed. That surprises you?' ‘No. but couldn't think why. . Lauren accepted her. But . you know .do you want any? And I think I'll start hitting the Baileys.' ‘You say she helped you though? Even though she didn't believe in god?' ‘Oh yes. They nearly did it too. after all. Kalia helped me through it so that I was able to forgive them. If I met them now I would hug them . so she couldn't just change the subject totally.and if I ever see them in heaven I will. This talk of forgiveness and heaven was more than she could handle. ‘All truth connects.Lauren noticed her look. . But it was clearly important to Lauren who was now looking rather damp about the eyes. leaning forward and grasping Lynn's hand firmly. 'And now. ‘Just over twenty years ago. What she wanted most in the whole world now was to change the subject. Much more practical.something of what you're going through' said Lauren. But I can't forget her. She is still very dear to me. especially on top of the body-blow she had just been dealt. She still needed to know more. It didn't affect the awful situation I was in – but then it wouldn't.a little bit . Truth cannot contradict truth. I think it doesn't so much show you how to sort your life – more like help you live with the mess. What could she say? ‘Did your counsellor ever . you did ask. but again she had the strange sensation of strength flowing from Lauren into her. 'So I do appreciate . still holding her hand.' she said apologetically. . . but sometimes 225 . I was very damaged and angry and she helped me tremendously. Counselling's not like that.' said Lauren cheerfully.. It was when someone I loved and trusted set out to destroy me. Lynn returned the pressure with interest.

Lynn found herself casting covert glances at Lauren. So what! Will you join me? Or would you prefer wine?' Lynn couldn't help grinning at Lauren's matter of factness. ‘wine would be nice. getting more and more absurd. leaving Lynn to watch the flames begin to rise. How could this be? And at what point during the evening had she stopped watching what she said.only Baileys will do. They finished up seeing pictures in the fire. after a moment's reflection. seemingly 226 .' ‘ ”Take a little wine for your stomach's sake”. trying to get it right? That had never happened before.' she added. The intensity of the moment lightened instantly and popped like soap bubbles in the air around them.' said Lauren blandly. unselfconscious and animated in the firelight. Lauren came back. ‘Where's that from?' ‘The bible. Amazingly she still felt OK. Thinking about Tia hurt just as much but she knew now it was all right to love. ‘Athough perhaps you're meant to rub it on. They let the conversation go where it wanted. They swapped teaching anecdotes and finished each other's sentences. and they knew it.' she said. That's exactly the reason I drink it.' said Lauren. The main business of the evening was now over. She could hurt in Lauren's presence quite safely. giving her hand a final squeeze and letting go. I read somewhere that it's a preferred drink of some twenty-somethings because it provides the alcohol but still tastes like sweeties. Lynn paused. ‘All right. like a puppy running through a meadow. all right to grieve. As they talked. amazed. The wine tasted of summer. How had Lauren done it? Lynn had no idea. ‘Fortunately it doesn't specify. They drank quite a lot of it. and followed it to see where it went. Everything made them laugh.' Lynn was still trying to work this out when Lauren put another log on the fire and departed.' ‘Is it?' ‘Oh yes. though my twenty-something days are lost in the mists of time. normal even. please. After a few moments. Lynn gingerly felt her psyche as an adult who slips on the ice might check themselves for broken bones.

And she thought about the thing growing inside Lauren's head. and a chill ran through her. that it looked so alive. so bright. . caught unawares. Lauren sensed her change of mood and turned to her.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. Lauren said. ‘I've enjoyed this evening tremendously. and somehow. and Lauren got Lynn's coat.dead . it's time to go. but of Lauren laughing. hasn't it?' agreed Lauren. so afire with life. They quietly finished their coffee.' ‘The next time!' said Lynn. wrapping her coat tightly around her as protection from the frosty air. the thing that should not be there. . But even as Lynn responded in kind. I didn't want this evening to end. . the last sound she heard was not the sound of Lauren's door closing. I was just thinking . ‘It's me who ought to be thanking you. but the truth was that it was really dead. getting bigger and bigger. and said. and constantly pleasing to watch. . Lynn. ‘I'll be in touch.' Lauren thanking her? For what? Lynn said with equal sincerity. It seemed an appropriate note on which to end.' ‘It's been to enjoy each moment to the full. with unexpected emphasis. ‘since we've both so clearly benefited from it. Was that the true picture? Lauren looked so well at this moment. as she released her. I'll be waiting for you. ‘Um . she suddenly remembered her earlier impressions of the fire. Lynn. so glowing. Lynn decided. but was she really . Lauren hugged her unexpectedly closely. 227 . ‘Here's to the next time we meet. Lynn closed her eyes to escape the sight of the fire which now seemed strangely dark and malevolent. She was a bit like the fire. constantly changing.' said Lauren cheerfully. ‘You're very quiet all of a sudden.' They were at the door. Thank you so much. As they walked to the front door. This evening has meant more to me than I can tell you. as though it was a toast.' As she walked down the path.' ‘Am I?' said Lynn.' ‘Then we'll definitely have to do it again. Lauren. mimicking life.

228 .

. Tia. It's up to you. One week or six weeks? She 229 . She couldn’t help staring. Lynn had never seen Tia do this before. In one week's time or six weeks' time. . . Tia looked much more vulnerable. . ‘What made you think of that?' Lynn didn't want to mention Lauren . thanks. but I will not be here then. She replaced them and became Tia again. if you liked. for god's sake? And over Christmas too. is it?' she asked before she could stop herself. She'd never survive. Without her glasses and with her head bent. I am not leaving until the end of next week .Chapter 20 ‘So. It didn't seem much of a choice. . Bloody thanks! Do you think I don't know that? ‘Yes.' she said.' Tia took off her glasses and polished them. but afterwards it occurred to her that this would probably have been a perfectly reasonable thing to say. ‘I mention this because I am afraid I need to change the date of our next meeting.' (‘Come back?' thought Lynn) ‘then the Christmas holiday will intervene and we will not be able to meet again until January. It occurred to Lynn that she looked uncharacteristically weary. I know. .' (‘Leaving?' thought Lynn) ‘and so. In one week it could be all over . ‘If we wait until I come back . Tia smiled wanly. This will mean you waiting about six weeks for our final session. Tia she shrugged apologetically and said nothing. six weeks . ‘No.' Oh. never see Tia again. . we could meet again at the same time next week for the final session. .' said Tia. On the other hand . how could she wait six weeks with her nerves strung as taut as this. On the other hand. She was reminded of Lauren and how tired she had looked when she first met her. ‘I need to take leave of absence for a month. Our next meeting is in two weeks' time. Tia.' Alarm bells went off in Lynn's head. it's not cancer.somehow it didn't seem right . ‘this is the last session before we meet to say goodbye. ‘It's not cancer.' She paused.' ‘It's all right. I am sorry to have to present you with this choice.' But it wasn't all right.and then . I'm afraid the circumstances are out of my control.

Tia was such a cow. ‘That's how you see me. Tia said. Something in Lynn snapped. and Lynn didn’t care any more about getting it right. Her habitual expression. Staying in control. never giving any bloody thing away!' Tia took it without a flicker. She looked at Tia. the effect that her words were having. Tia. how to pace herself. Having just ruined everything.for six weeks! Oh hell! Tia. she looked more Tia-ish. ‘You can tell me at the end of the session. ‘I'll remember you. Lynn felt that she had imagined the tired smile and the fragile. One week or six weeks.' Now that she had told Lynn the bad news. apparently indifferent to the bombshell she had just delivered. Why? Lynn felt completely wrecked. ‘No.rack . . what to say. Always getting it right. She couldn't think what to get in a week. Tia. just to say . She couldn't think now.' But a week wasn't long enough. What was it about Tia that produced these extremes of emotion in her? She was perfectly normal everywhere else. her frail feeling of control gone.’ Yeah. unyielding. right. more composed. She'd wanted to get Tia a present. making you feel awkward and angry. almost amusement. ‘I wonder what you’re thinking right now?' The volcano erupted. impervious. good guess! I am angry! You sit there so smug. defenceless Tia she'd seen. It shouldn't make a difference but it did. I wonder what you’re thinking. But six weeks! She couldn't endure this . always saying the right sodding thing. she didn't know what. Wrong-footing you. Just a little something. She felt anger rising within her. I wonder if that feeling rings 230 . .didn't want to think about it. she was watching with cool clinical disinterest. what she would do in the two weeks. it seemed to Lynn. This was the Tia she knew. She'd had it all worked out. 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. a sort of serious but ready-to-smile attentiveness had now completely returned. The anger grew hotter. What do you think about it all?’ ‘I think you are angry. or a card. was observing her closely. as usual. and. so bloody perfect. if you like.

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. then she could bear it. We have to say goodbye. having to sit there and take it from angry clients. In the midst of it all. but she wasn't falling for it this time. to say. But bloody hell! It was her job. when she thought about it.' That registered. . What was 231 . It made it so much better than the other time. and stop giving me a hard time!' always having to think of what to say to help them. no one else! She refused to be diverted. Maybe she did feel something. for god's sake?' To this Tia said nothing.Tia making her angry. ‘Sod off. That transference thing! Where had she felt it before? Very clever. Grief meant you were sad. This is normal for you! Bloody hell Tia. She was being paid for it! The anger flooded back. And she was looking at Lynn. The bad time she never thought about. or something like it. What did she feel? Actually. 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. What must it be like for her? What an awful job she had at times. Oh no! It was Tia . . Anger is a is a part of grief. I forgot. Lynn had heard that once before. Why hadn't she noticed that before. did care.any bells for you?' Lynn stiffened. leaving her feeling tired too. even a little bit . You are angry. she tried to listen. really really sad. Tia looked so sad. But when she glanced at Tia. ‘Oh. having to be there for them.something icy gripped Lynn's guts and made it hard to breathe. when . wasn't she? She stopped and allowed herself to feel. Oh god! And Tia wasn't helping. When? Her brain felt muzzy. she did feel sad inside. What was Tia trying to say? Grief. didn't it? But she was angry. never able to retaliate or defend herself. ‘Yes! Why do you do it? Why can't you just be normal. She felt a sudden pang of pity for Tia. Lynn's anger ebbed away. Her face had a patient look and the fatigue Lynn had seen at first seemed evident again. she saw something in her face that mirrored her own feeling. Yes.

I feel kind of glad too.' ‘I'm feeling sad. I'm not even sure what it is. Can you stay with it just a little while and see how it feels?' In Tia's calm presence. ‘I'm sharing it with you.and painful?' Lynn felt a wild. oh I don't know . 232 . It's not your problem. It's something to do with going away and being frightened. ' she added pointedly. ‘Yes. oh Tia. What am I going to do?' ‘You don't know what it is and you feel too frightened to think about it. . But. It was something so nameless and so painful that Lynn couldn't bear it. Quick! Distraction! Lynn said hurriedly to Tia.' Again. ‘I'm feeling your sadness. but even with the door shut she could sense it moving behind. Lynn felt her fear being contained. I feel frightened. But you've only just been made aware of it. and to be honest. I can't face thinking about it here. No! Not here. ‘Thank you. Lynn. Something I'd completely forgotten.' She paused and groped for her handkerchief.this? Something was stirring in the furthest recess of Lynn's memory.' ‘Last time?' ‘Something's stirring in my memory. Is it OK to say that? It's like you're sort of. . . It's so horrible and painful I'm afraid to think about it. from really early on. not now! Not on top of this pain she was feeling.' Lynn could see it was true. sharing it with me. The thudding of her heart began to slow down and she took a deep breath.' ‘But it's horrible . No one had ever said anything quite like that to her before and she didn't know what to say. ‘But in a funny way. It's too vague and indistinct to pinpoint now. She felt deeply moved. ‘You look unhappy.' said Tia. ‘I don't want you to feel sad.' ‘Yes. Eventually she mumbled. Her anger had evaporated. with Tia looking at her and speaking so quietly. jerky panic begin to overwhelm her.' said Tia. I don't feel so lonely now. She exerted all her strength to shut the door on it. Tia. ‘Yes. I can't bear to think about it now. then went on. It's so different from last time. I've got too much else to think about now. She smiled tremulously. Maybe it will come clearer later. . Lynn didn’t know what to say.

when she was not with Tia. this being allowed to choose when to come. as if thinking aloud. Again. keep it open like that? Are you allowed?' Tia gave her a look. filled Lynn with new alarm. ‘But how long will it take?' Tia made a ‘you tell me' sort of gesture. Then she said slowly.' she said more happily. Somehow. You'll appreciate that I can't keep a space open for you indefinitely. She didn't feel quite so hopeless now.' she added. ‘Sometimes things like this. Lynn was touched. Her mind refused to engage. ‘You can either come to see me in a week's time. I think it might come clearer. Tia seemed to really want to help her. ‘I could send it to you. and the fact that Tia would keep the session time free for her next week. ‘OK. Tia's calm acceptance of what seemed to Lynn to be a completely bizarre experience reassured her. ‘Can you do that though? I mean.' Tia agreed. once we become aware that they're there.' was all she said.' The thought of it coming clearer. What I can do is keep the next week's slot open for you. ‘Suppose I remember and you're not there?' ‘That seems likely. or in six weeks. She refocused on Tia and looked at her appealingly. ‘Why don't you write it down?' Write it down! Another good idea. Tia could handle this coolly. What do you want to do?' ‘Like I said. if you want to take it up. just start coming into our mind bit by bit and we begin to build up a picture. Do you feel able to wait and see what happens?' Again. It was clinging like a monkey to the patterned wallpaper behind Tia's head. even if she chose not to turn up seemed to make a difference. I believe I am allowed to do that. while Tia was with her. She tried with all her might to think what it might be now. but not here. ‘Yes. Lynn felt immensely comforted. If you don't turn up. elsewhere.‘Hmm. but without success. So could she. I will assume that you will be coming in January and send you an appointment accordingly. She nodded. Another thought struck her. When I write things down 233 .

that actually there were worse ways of spending the time she had left with Tia than by looking at each other .' ‘Oh. and Tia looked amused too. Lynn kept going to say things. She imagined herself writing a letter to Tia which she would eventually get. they sat in silence for a while. and then Lynn's mind cut out and she couldn't think what to say. So she told her. ‘I'll get it then. She couldn't even think about her. and now.' said Tia reassuringly. 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. minutes of her and Tia that she could use properly when she had something that she really wanted to say. And she'd had so much to say! She had planned to tell Tia more about her mother. But bear in mind that I'm not around after the end of next week. whether the time was spent in silence or talking.' Lynn had forgotten. and Tia agreed. So Lynn told Tia this too. And she could never say everything she wanted to anyway because no matter what she talked about. Then another. And then it struck her that. but then finding she had more to say and writing another one. and what did it matter because soon it would be over whatever happened. her mother was the last person she wanted to talk about. and she would have to read them all.' ‘You can if you like. The icy hand that had relaxed its hold on her heart tightened it again. She was too drained to think clearly now. And she told Tia this. it was still ticking away. This struck her as so ludicrous that she chuckled out loud. She looked at Tia and received strength. ‘What's the joke?' said Tia. 234 . and Tia raised her eyebrows and looked alert. when you get back?' ‘Oh yes. Lynn watched the minutes ticking by in silence. considering how much she loved her mother and how proud she was of her. Tia might get enough for a book by the time she got back. for some reason. 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. won't you. no. It was very odd. and Tia looked sympathetic and nodded.' A cheering thought struck Lynn. ‘You'll get it eventually's like I'm talking to you. and then Lynn and Tia looked at each other again and it occurred to Lynn.they could be arguing for instance. After that.

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.


Mark had agreed. and she had only just managed to control it by saying that she would phone him instead. She got up and went though to the lounge. sat back exhausted and dozed fitfully for an hour. As she did so. Lynn surfaced from sleep to find that her mind had beaten her to it. looked at what she had written. somehow the night's sleep had helped her to remember more details. That was what it felt like. that was Mark. she began to cry. Sitting on the sofa. Fortunately. and. 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. and decided to go to bed. she phoned and told Mark that as well. Well. she began typing. Still. then went to bed and crashed out. This took quite a long time. so they had compromised. Dear Tia she read. When she had finished she phoned Mark. Except for welcome offers of tea or coffee. Armed with a pen and pad. * * * The next morning. She knew deep down he cared. here's 240 . Then she came to. She checked it one last time. This had infuriated Lynn almost beyond endurance. By 3 o'clock it was ready to post to Tia. his total refusal to listen to her or to understand what was happening inside her head. Now they made sense. Lynn began to jot down words and then phrases at random as they occurred to her. Mark left her mercifully undisturbed. expanding.Mark had asked Lynn what she wanted to do that night. above all. She fetched the jumbled notes of the night before and began reading through them. It had clearly woken up some time previously and was already in gear. Feeling very virtuous. and she had truthfully said that she wanted to be on her own to try to recall what had happened. Guilt at what she was putting him through was only outweighed by the anger she felt at his inability to trust her. Mark had not wanted to leave her alone. things she hardly knew she'd remembered. I' had an accident in the bathroom the other night which reminded me of something that happened when I was about four. You remember I'd told you my Mum was very ill at that time. clarifying.

And it hurt so much. 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. She described the incident in the bathroom. My Mum was very upset and shouted that I'd done it on purpose. The page she was looking at was shaking and it seemed to be rather blurry too. . Well. Images of her mother that evening swam up into view and she fought them down. you wet yourself like an animal. It felt like forever. my mother said it to me all the time. has it? I said. She kept telling me to put it down. and her breath was coming in gasps. I was so frightened I had wet myself.’ And then she said. and she was panting with exertion and she said. I could feel a warmth running down the inside of my legs. After a few minutes she resumed reading. I think she thought I'd drop it. her face was all red and twisted. Then she stopped but it still kept hurting. I turned my head and bit her hand as she held my upper arm.I think a sort of clown thing my mother had got from somewhere . you've made me hurt my hand on you. but there was no escape. She went into a sort of a frenzy then – she couldn't stop. My mother was giving me a bath. Well. As I stood up for her to dry me. And that made something really horrible happen. looking around the room for something else to focus on." and she made me look at her hand and it was all red. This was so hard to slipped through my fingers and shattered into the bath. She stared fiercely at the picture over the fireplace and concentrated on breathing evenly. and I felt so I didn't 241 . you’re an animal! You bite. I tried to wriggle and pull away. and there was nothing I could do. I picked it up and my mother got very upset. Lynn stopped reading for a little break. ‘Don't be so stupid. it made my mum change into another person. all purple and red.nothing's changed. She's never done that before and it know that Venetian glass. Lynn paused to regroup. She didn't even look like my mother any more.' know it was a bad thing to say. ‘You animal. and continued: It was in our first house. ‘. I saw an ornament on a shelf. She summoned her resources and read on: It made my Mum very angry.what happened. I did drop it . I was so frightened that it made me do something even more stupid. It was really ugly . that's what it felt like. "Look. . I don't know how long she did it for.

" And she went downstairs and I just didn’t know what to do. all quite a bit older than me and they all made a fuss of me. that was rather how she felt now. I guess they didn't know all those bad things about me.bewildered then because I had thought that it was me that was hurting. but I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew someone was waking me up – but it wasn't my Mum.I don't want to see you again until you’re a human being again. I had a nice time at my Auntie Gwen's. I had a happy time there. because I had made her hurt her hand. I lay awake in the dark for what seemed forever. 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 didn't see my mother for six weeks because there were complications . not a proper human being at all. My Mum had gone and I was taken to stay with my Auntie OGwen in Wales. not her. wet as I was. ‘And you've made my pain come back!" and she grabbed me out of the bath.peritonitis set in and they thought she was going to die. What happened to the little girl next? She read on with interest. I don't remember their names but I remember that I sat on people's laps a lot. and I had made her pain come back. and if she had died. then continued. I would have killed her. And I thought she was going to die. "Stay there until I say you can come out . This was some other little girl she was writing about. It seemed rather a strange thing to say but it was the only way she could think of to explain how she felt. How could she like me? How could anyone like me? Anyway. I was in another place.I was in another place. I knew that it would have been my fault. Come to think of it. Lynn considered this. that's the only way I can describe it . otherwise they wouldn't have. and was given lots of sweets. but she didn’t want me. Lynn smiled as she read that bit. 'After six weeks my Mum came back and she was very thin and pale and I didn't 242 . I learned later that my mother had been rushed into hospital in the night with a perforated appendix. I wanted her. And then she clutched at her stomach and sort of screamed out. and sort of threw me into my bedroom and it was dark. She had three kids. it was the next door neighbour. and she said. 'After a while I crawled into bed as I was and I could hear her moaning and crying downstairs.

whoever she was. and I was pleased to see her too. I'll see you next week as you said I could. So I might do something by accident to make my mum go away again and then she might never come back. She signed the letter simply. though Lynn wasn't sure why she thought this. but that couldn't be helped. Anyway. Right now she needed to lie down.recognise her at first. it was all over now. had gone. Lynn sighed as she read this. She reread the final paragraph. Tia. The letter appeared to have been written a bit childishly too. so unless you hear anything from me to the contrary. 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. and I think I would like to see you sooner rather than later. But it was funny because I couldn't forget that somehow I had made her go more. She seemed a very stupid little girl. and a sort of monster person ihad come n her place. She would go out for a walk and post it later. She couldn't believe it. 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. you'll appreciate I feel a bit weird remembering all this. ‘Lynn'. 243 . but she was very loving and so pleased to see me. Lynn couldn't help feeling glad. Lynn chewed her lip. That way she would be able to cope. anyway. She couldn't help feeling sorry for the little girl in the story. That little girl. She folded the letter and put it in an envelope. Anyway. 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. 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. Only a few more days and then . That’s how it seemed to me then. debated on scrawling ‘Thanks for everything' or ‘I really appreciate all you've done' and decided to save it for a farewell card.

missing nothing.was it just a few days ago? It seemed much longer now. She looked at Tia.the Lynn-that-might-have-been engaging with the Tia that-might-have-been. It was bizarre. It's bloody mad. She had imagined herself holding forth. She looked helplessly at her. the letter. ‘I knew you'd say that. ‘Ah. She could feel it hurting her chest. She looked as thin and angular as ever. There's no reason for it. taste it like bile in her mouth. Today. Tia looked at her. not wanting to waste a precious moment . her throat. poised. ‘Today is the day we say goodbye to each other. nothing.' A bitter exhaustion welled up within her. from imprinting this image of Tia on her heart for ever. talking nineteen to the dozen. still. She could think of nothing to say.The Rules. she sounded normal. to this person that I know nothing about but I long to be friends with. ‘Yes. sitting opposite her. with 244 . The moments ticked by. Even nodding and simply replying. Time and tide wait for no man. and focused. And there is nothing. ‘I got your letter. It was so odd. wanted to smile and say.' Your letter? What letter? Lynn wrenched her mind away from the here and now. but not this. ‘How. in this day and age. inexorable as the tide. can this be happening? I've just got to say goodbye. the despair. She had imagined a thousand things. Tia spoke again. So perhaps. and that's it. had Tia. focused.' Amazing! She could speak. but her lips refused to frame the words. from drinking in every detail of this encounter. Even more amazing. she'd rehearsed it several times. She's not dying. It's over. Lynn shook herself free of the spell that seemed to being cast over her. Tia was wearing a black vee-neck sweater and a bottle-green skirt. In fact. yes. or moving away.' In fact. elegant. except . Lynn could feel the helplessness. She sat like a model. who means so much to me.' would have done. the inevitability.' said Tia.' Lynn.Chapter 21 ‘So. to remember the letter she had written . nothing I can do about it. She thought. Her facial muscles felt paralysed and she seemed to be doing things in slow motion. her mind could hardly think them.

‘Just the same?' 245 . Didn't Tia remember what she'd put in the letter? She must have read it only yesterday. on what Tia was saying. or even this morning. ‘Did you? Did you really read it several times over? Really?' ‘Yes I really did. there's not a lot of time left. ‘ . I read your letter several times over. It seemed real when I was writing it. Like there was a monster there that would come back if I wasn't careful. and now you're leaving me too! It's just the same!' cried Lynn despairingly. Like I'd nearly killed her. I just wondered how you felt about it when you remembered. it was all coming back now.' Lynn heard only one thing. It wasn't her fault. what got into her at times? But how to begin? ‘I . Something of what Lynn felt must have showed in her face. . Lynn. as though feeling for each word. Then she said. . ‘When you were four. Tia's look softened.well. . She was leaning forward. for Tia.' Lynn felt hurt. ‘Yes. It wasn't a very good thing to happen to a four year old.' Lynn looked at Tia in surprise. . said you wanted to talk about it today. Lynn. Like it was my fault. . was it?' ‘It was a very bad thing to happen to a four year old. your mother left you . thank heaven! That was what she wanted to talk about. I'm not sure what to say. ‘But she came back. ?' ‘I know. speaking unusually energetically.' Yes.' Something clicked. Have you . She couldn't help being ill. . This was a big issue to raise as we are coming towards the end of our time together.' ‘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. Honestly. ‘I didn't forget what you'd written.some difficulty.

It was a stupid question – so stupid – Tia might be angry if she even asked it.' said Lynn. Looked away.' she conceded. It's just the way things are. to punish me . felt a question forming like a bubble in her mind.' But Lynn felt unnerved by this new idea. are you?' She shut her eyes and waited. At length she said slowly. Lynn thought hard. I don't hate you. ‘No. a new and awful thought struck Lynn. It's no one's fault. looked back. She didn’t choose to leave.' Tia said.with no warning. I know it's crazy.' Lynn stopped. .' ‘We agreed it. I've got to ask this. She looked at Tia. I thought it was my fault. That can’t be my fault can it?' she said in a whisper. It had been that or leaving after only having seen Tia for three sessions. but this was different somehow. what did it matter now? She'd let Tia have that one. you're not . . shut it. it's . had to agreed it. But against her will. . . And that had been too bad to be contemplated. . Oh well. But Tia's steady gaze gave her the courage to articulate it. But . Tia's eyebrows arched enquiringly. . She opened her mouth. maybe not just the same. She had a burst appendix. . not choosing to leave me . But I knew in advance that you were going away. ‘My mother went away suddenly . But .was it?' She looked at Tia appealingly. . ‘Well. ‘No. Does it 246 . My going away isn’t your fault. she had to risk it. but . . Tia was saying it. But it wasn't my fault . But she couldn’t stop herself. ‘What do you think?’ said Tia.' she said wearily. A burst appendix was no one’s fault. she'd been desperate. . ‘We agreed it. ‘it wasn't my fault. . . because you . hate me .‘Yes!' ‘Why do you say that?' ‘Well. ‘No. . .''re going away. No . Lynn thought. she'd agreed it too. phrase by phrase. but she wasn’t sure she entirely believed her. ‘Tia. heard Tia's quiet voice. I know it. But that wasn't fair. ‘And when my mother went away. even though it was so stupid.

‘That you don't hate me. she removed her fingers one by one and looked Tia in the face. do you think I hate you?' ‘Yes! No! I don't know!' Tia's voice came again. To Lynn's surprise. ‘It would be a triumph if you could open your eyes. who as far as she knew had never lied to her. Tia was not in the hating business. The 247 . ‘I don't think you hate me. realised that she had a choice. She sat there with her eyes shut. If Tia did indeed hate her. this time with a slight edge of firmness in it. 'And what did you hear me say?' Lynn. then she was a bloody good actress! She said. For good measure.seem to you that I hate you?' Lynn could feel tears seeping under the lids of her closed eyes. she knew for certain that it was true. It was totally up to her. She thought of Tia's smile. ‘Lynn. do you believe that I tell the truth?" 'Oh. or she could believe her own notoriously unreliable feelings. bent her head floorwards and opened her eyes. still with her hands over her face.' and realised that was true too. and it was a real choice. feeling that nothing in the world could induce her to open them again. or she could choose to be thirty-four. she added. heard Tia ask again. ‘Lynn. she looked at Tia from between her fingers. yes. more gently. The four year old was still there. ‘Well then!' hanging in it. As the moments ticked by. After a while she heard Tia say softly. She could choose to be four.' Ulp! Lynn covered her face with her hands. Tia!' Lynn was sure of this. Then. still with her eyes shut. and at least it worked. feeling utterly and foolishly four-ish. but at least she was doing what the thirty four year old told her. She could believe Tia.' and as she said it. automatically sat up straighter in her chair. ‘I don't think my mother hated me either.' There was a silence. Finally. A silence that had plainly. 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. Lynn.

' Incredulously. Lynn went cold inside. effortlessly tossing off her homework.Tia .' Tia hesitated. with genuine amusement. Della had said they never did that. to her. what was that word? Self-disclosed. 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. Lynn slumped in her chair and beamed back. and then. She should have left it there. She had a sudden mental picture of Tia as a willowy. seeming to feel that this was not enough. What did? Lynn couldn't be bothered to ask. Tia threw Lynn a quizzical look.winter sunshine gilded the outline of Tia's hair like a golden pot scourer. Numbly. ‘Yes . Have you ever considered contact lenses Tia?' she suddenly found herself asking. Sixth formers think they are above such things.' she added. and added. Lynn had never really heard Tia laugh out loud so spontaneously before. I'm afraid. paused.had. ‘My eyes aren't suitable. ‘It takes a long time. Tia . and with a social life that was the envy of every girl in her class. Surely then. She'd done it again. ‘Whatever made you think of that? No.due to flagrant flouting of school rules concerning safety goggles in labs. Tia laughed out loud. highlighted her delicate cheekbones and the dusting of freckles over her nose and reflected off her glasses. I'm sure.' she said sympathetically. laughing sixth former. oh surely. 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. All the rules were being broken today. But Tia had. But Tia's laugh had golden tones. Lynn was reminded of Sandra's silvery laugh. Surprised. laughed again. 'that you know about only too well. she must like her. Something. Lynn looked at Tia. 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. the one all the lads fancied. Old habits died hard. Tia gazed unconcernedly back. not really.' ‘Corneal scarring?' As soon as she said it. she waited for it all to go wrong. Tia saw it and her lips twitched in response. She sat there in a happy daze until 248 . totally unexpectedly.

‘Thank you. Dammit. the time ticked away. It was amazing her brain was working at all. She could sense Tia's tuned-in-ness to her change in state. Lynn's mind thrashed around in the numbness like someone trying to take off a sweater under three layers of overcoats. She looked hopefully at Tia. It was a depressing repeat of the previous session. The numbness returned. stricken. so supple. And because Tia could bear it. We've worked very hard together.' responded Tia.' 249 . Damn! She hadn't meant to say that.' said Lynn.' It was the only way she could think of to describe it. Each time Tia looked reliably the same and her gaze held Lynn's peacefully as though even this was OK. she wanted to leave with some dignity! But. From time to time she glanced at the clock and then back at Tia. She knew Tia didn't need her apology.' said Tia. She nodded in recognition. Lynn could too.' she said despondently. for her. That made sense The silence continued.' she said. ‘Oh Tia. ‘And I'm sorry for losing my rag last time. she was sorry. .' she added. and you've come a long way. thanks for being there for me. that wouldn't just sound like silly. ‘Anger is a part of real relationships. Tia seemed to Lynn like a gymnast or a ballet dancer. sycophantic mouthings. Less than half an hour left of Tia's bright presence. ‘and we've had a real relationship. She looked at Tia. for her it had been really special. She hoped Tia would understand.a look at the clock revealed that time was passing far too swiftly. ‘Mmm. .' Lynn added. like my brain’s frozen. She looked at Tia. present. Whatever it had been like for Tia. was bearable. Tia did understand. could hold it so lightly.' she blurted out at last. 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. ‘You've been really . waiting patiently. after a while. It was unbelievable. oh.darkness. But it was still hard . ‘I guess so. and she was touched in the midst of her anguish. Lynn. and then . or didn't say. to what was going on right now. being there with her. so effortlessly hard! ‘I feel kind of numb. ‘Grieving will come later. her whole psyche tuned to Lynn's needs. but she could come up with nothing to say. able to flex this way or that depending on whatever Lynn said.

And it was true. She wished she hadn't thought of it. Strangely it had reminded her of Tia – lovely and minimalist. nodding her head for emphasis. new ways Pass by Love stays. looking at them. but now she had. Oh. ‘For you. She had come a long way.' said Tia emphatically. Lynn. Tia?' Oh please don't let Tia do one of her ‘What do you think?' kind of responses! She couldn't bear it. She took them and held them on her lap. The box contained a pendant – three cubes of crystal glass held withing a simple silver filigree on a silver chain. A question that frightened her. Lynn was in agony.A real relationship. 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. On the card Lynn had written 'Thank you Tia. ‘Will you . flowers die. Out of sight is not out of mind' and signed it. For some reason this made Tia laugh again . ‘Oh yes.' Oh. I almost forgot. 'Lynn'. ‘Oh. New days. wow! ‘And I will certainly remember Henry van Dyke. that was nice! The sun was definitely shining now. That was all. But Lynn could feel another question trembling on her lips. Though she would hardly describe Tia as 'see-through'.' 'For me?' Tia looked surprised.' replied Lynn solemnly. Hours fly. whoever he was.' she said mendaciously. The card was a photograph of some meadow flowers. dragging a card and small black plush-covered box out of her pocket and passing them to Tia as nonchalantly as she could.she was laughing a lot today! This was the moment. she couldn't leave it unsaid. 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 . with little verse from a poem inside that she'd always liked .will you remember me. ‘I will certainly remember you.

' Lynn knew she meant it. That was the most she had dared hope for. ‘Oh. She gazed at the pendant inside.' was all she could think of to say. don't open it now! Wait till I've gone. though she could hardly get the words out. At the door. What mattered was that Lynn had given them to her and she had accepted. she reached out and lightly touched Tia's arm. To her amazement. Tia reached out her other arm and lightly touched Lynn's in return. Tia looked up. Then. looking serious. It was hers to do with as she chose. slowly and thoughtfully she opened the box. scarcely knowing what she was doing.' As Lynn heard herself saying the words. She felt the adrenalin jolt unpleasantly through her body. She looked at the picture on the card. In her mind she had imagined Tia saying 'Thank you' and putting the card and the box to one side. 251 . 'Thank you Lynn. She stood up. “Thank you Lynn. ‘Thanks again. simply couldn't bear it now if Tia said ‘Our time is up.20. What mattered was that Lynn had given it to her. and she smiled. Tia had not said that she would keep the pendant – or the card – but that was not the issue. Lynn wasn't prepared for that. and silently accompanied Lynn to the door. She couldn't bear it. Then Lynn looked at the clock. She had not refused. ‘Time to go. She opened it and read the verse inside and the inscription inside and smiled again. she caught herself pleading inside. Finally she looked up at Lynn. Lynn turned back to Tia. Otherwise she would spend her life wondering if she might have accepted it and regretting she hadn't dared try. After what seemed an age. her touch lingering fractionally on Lynn's sleeve. Even if Tia refused it at least she would know. It's beautiful. and. It said 3. Tia. Now here was Tia opening the card.' She had to in first! She suddenly found herself on her feet saying. What she did with the pendant now was not important.' Tia ignored her. please stop me Tia!' But Tia didn't.' She began to open the card. ‘Oh. brimful of emotion. Now she waited to see what would happen. There was a moment of quiet that seemed to fill the whole room. stop me. Tia put the card and the box carefully on the desk behind her and turned back to Lynn.Finally she decided 'Yes'. Lynn was satisfied. as though what Lynn had said was perfectly right and true.

But they were skewed now. Did like her. Tia did like her. She could see Tia was smiling. the way she touched her arm. She remembered touching Tia's arm. * * * Lynn had no thoughts as she walked from the entrance of the psychotherapy unit across the windy courtyard to the main gate. she thought. Into Lynn's happy recollections lanced a shaft of agony.' she thought desolately.' All the way home. She adjusted her bag more firmly on her shoulder and walked up the stairs to the flat. Lynn thought not.. Tia was right. Tia had said so. She put it away from her. .' But then – it would have been nice (she supposed) but did it really matter? Really? She remembered Tia's smile. in some tiny way. she was part of Tia. . 252 .‘You are most welcome. . Out of sight is not out of mind. The joy was engendered by the simple knowledge that Tia did like her. It was enough. But it wouldn't stay away. In vain she invoked memories. as Tia was part of her. ‘I could have hugged her goodbye. ‘Grieving will come later' Tia had said. . Thank you.' ‘Bye. Could not. Tia did like her. Lynn's sore heart was comforted. and Tia touching her back saying.' Tia touched me. I wish you well. Tia. Even if they never met again. it's beautiful . Tia was always right. I won't forget you . would she have minded if I'd hugged her goodbye? Remembering that touch. ‘You're welcome. ‘I don't hate you . It simply could not be so. the joy was uppermost. . Out of sight is not out of mind. . . her smile as she said 'Out of sight is not out of mind'. ‘I could have hugged her goodbye. ‘Goodbye Lynn. Lynn did not bother to work out how she knew this. We've had a real relationship. Tia's face danced in front of Lynn's mental vision. but puzzlingly. smiling back determinedly at Tia's chin. . but simply replayed parts of the conversation over and over in her head. Then she squared her shoulders and walked out of the door.' said Tia. Grieving. .she almost laughed at the thought that she had seen Tia for the last time. This time she did not hear it close until she was halfway down the corridor. It was for later. Pain and joy churned together like the clothes in a washing machine. only feelings.' said Lynn. The pain seemed unreal . She was home now.

' before Della was hanging round her neck and burbling. stepped past the case and into the hallway. embraced her. This had never occurred before.' she said. haunted eyes. What could have happened? Burglars? Lynn felt the hairs on her neck prickle and she mounted the remaining steps more quickly. You'll take me in. What the . I've finally left him' in a kind of semi-hysteria. ‘I've left Deryk. ‘I couldn't take any more. One of them was Mark's. in her efforts to turn her head slightly out of the way. It was Della's. Lynn saw Mark's face looking amazed.' Della was weeping in earnest now.aniseed? Automatically she put her arms around Della. and another voice. and found their lips colliding. As Della saw his look. won't you? Just for a little while. Lynn reached the doorway. and shaking. Della's arms tightened around her. ‘Left Deryk?' Lynn echoed. I couldn't take any more. This Della was haggard. Over Della's shoulder. She couldn't make sense of what Della was saying. urbane and sparkling Della that Lynn knew. thank you!' said Della. Lynn realised that Della was afraid. . she could hear voices. a woman's. Lynn could see that the front door was uncharacteristically open. who looked past her towards Lynn as she approached. As she approached the door. ‘Lynn! Thank heavens. . and kissed her full on the mouth. ? Then Lynn recognised the voice. She was weeping into Lynn's shoulder . stepped towards her. and something else .' she croaked. When she saw Lynn. I've left him. . she swung round. She saw that the door was ajar because of something blocking it. This was what came of being 253 . . It was a large. Lynn. I came to you. ‘Oh thank you. sounding placating. ‘Sure Dell. expensive leather suitcase. sounding shrill. and tried to kiss her again. All she could think of was ‘So this is what it's like to be kissed by a woman.As she rounded the corner. She looked different. a look of immense relief flooded her face. Gone was the immaculately coiffed. Lynn could smell her perfume. and before Lynn could stop her. with smudged make-up and dark. Della was standing with her back to the door facing Mark. You're the only one I can think of.

‘Mark?' He turned his head to look at her. warily. Lynn tentatively relaxed her hold slightly. She reached out and touched his shoulder. She had to speak to him. she succeeded. The only humane thing to do seemed to be to continue to hold her gently and. ‘It will just be for a little while. My god. the case by his side on the floor. which was to hold Mark. and I never realised. but surely Della didn’t . took the case.' ‘I know. What to do? In the face of Della's ruination and despair she couldn't abandon her. and. On the receiving end of Lynn's vice-like grip. I know. shoved a box of tissues into her hand. Mark reached behind her. His eyes glittered. Della was kissing her again. his face a mask of disbelief. She put out a hand to grab the side of the desk. Something about the rigidity of his posture rang alarm bells in her mind. what a bloody fool! You must have been laughing your heads off. say something to break the spell. can you take Della's bag into the study? We'll get the futon out. It took all her courage to do it. and murmuring. out of the corner of her eye she saw Mark standing like a statue. Lynn had to do something. She guided Della to the settee in the lounge.' Lynn could feel her knees actually buckling in terror. ‘What fool I’ve been . no! Let me explain!' 254 . Della abandoned her efforts to embrace her and merely stood there weeping. took it into the study.left-handed. . She struggled to free herself from Della's kiss and pythonesque embrace and after what seemed an eternity. ‘Mark. .what a bloody fool. God. To her consternation. though she had to hold Della's arms down to do it. and as though their lips were glued together.Lynn did it. you and Della. Dell.' made a dash for the study and shut the door behind her. She could never tell which way to turn. ‘Won't be a minute.' said Della. Moving as one in a dream. All this time.' To Della she said gently. ‘Mark. full and hard. and meeting no response relaxed it altogether. Mark was standing with his back to her. with his face set in stone. She was clearly at the end of her tether. The problem was that this prevented her doing the one thing she really wanted to do.

'At least Gina left me for another man!' 255 . your phone switched off . She needs you.please . ‘Mark .' A sense of unreality came over Lynn.‘Explain what! All that sneaking off.then that one you said you went to see in Tottenham . down the stairs and out into the darkened street. Well. then turned and fled.' ‘Please what? It's over. She backed away. through the open doorway. you had me fooled. Go back to your lover. But not fast enough to avoid hearing Mark's parting shot. You certainly had me fooled!' This was more terrible than anything Lynn could have imagined.your old school friend the church stuff . past the open living room door and Della's hunched back. made worse by the fact that she hadn't even seen it coming.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.

She hesitated outside it. It couldn't be Lauren there. It felt dry and firm. surrounded by tubing and wired up to a monitor which she supposed it must be Lauren. ‘Ah.' He stared at her uncomprehendingly for several moments. She followed him in. clearly going though mental lists. elderly. doll-like image was so horribly unlike her last memory of Lauren. bright.. checking again the name on the wall with the one the neighbour. This must be Alec. but she could hardly refuse.' he said. a plastic hospital jug and beaker and. sterile. saw Lynn. 256 . Lynn. incongruously. but not too firm. ‘Mrs Grainger? In the side ward near the door. The bananas clawed their stubby yellow fingers with black nails over some bright orange satsumas and horribly pale-looking Golden Delicious. She's got family with her.' By the open entrance to the ward. Despite the fact that his eyes were full of pain and he appeared as though he hadn't slept for days. but the description had been enough. He clearly had no idea who she was. bright. ‘I'm Alec. He was tall and thin. ‘You've come to see Lauren. that she could hardly see. On the locker there were three cards. and then said. a bowl of fruit. a small. that it seemed to Lynn there must be some mistake. and came out. It just couldn't be. automatically glancing round the room. Wait – I'll just see. Lynn caught a glimpse of a small. warm. she shook it. had given her. full of life. A nurse. with half-moon glasses. intimidating. Lynn had known only Lauren's first name.' and held out his hand. Come in then. very brightly lit room that seemed full of people. whom she had never met. whisking by with a tray of dressings and kidney bowls had taken pity on her. She let go. Mechanically. grieving soul with a pinny on.' Lynn was not sure if she wanted to see Lauren like this. As she opened the door to the side ward. Inside there a small figure in a bed. It was very bare. he looked at Lynn and gave a small gentle smile.Chapter 22 Lynn found the ward. A sob caught in her throat. The nurse spoke briefly to a man by the side of the bed and he looked up. ‘I'm Lynn. The glimpse of that still. Hardly knowing what she was saying. she murmured.

I 257 . but her condition isn't stable enough to do a scan yet. idiotically. It was pretty obvious Lauren wouldn't be eating any of it. and she was breathing rhythmically with a very slight snore. ‘She collapsed. but Lynn hardly noticed them. If Lauren dies.' As he spoke. Thank you. his concern for her. She turned again to Alec and asked. he said consideringly. Three spotty tear-stained adolescents glowered at her from the other side of the bed.that Lynn could not bear it. the hair damply matted flat against her scalp looking more like a cap than ever. ‘It depends. We'll the brain. As though registering everything photographically. aren't you? She spoke of you. he picked up Lauren's hand. ‘What a lovely man. even in the midst of his own agony. she turned to face Alec. the pallor of her cheeks. and held it cares singly.' his voice shook slightly ' if it's stopped bleeding yet. Lauren looked very peaceful and somehow very young. he did not treat the remark with the contempt that it deserved. she noted the delicate veining on Lauren's eyelids. She looked so vulnerable and child-like. Involuntarily. with a question in her eyes. as though she was asleep. Good of her to come? How could she not? As she registered his gentleness. Lynn turned back to look at Lauren.' He smiled at her again. They think it was an aneurism . and there was the same kindness in his eyes that she had seen in Lauren's. You're a friend of Lauren's. ‘It was good of you to come. her cropped head on the pillow. Instead. We'll know more if – when – they can do a scan.' This completely took the wind out of Lynn's sails. the red marks left by the mask on Lauren's skin. as though he could not bear to be not touching her. The situation seemed unreal.The vivid colours of the fruit seemed obscenely incongruous in the grubby sterility of the room. the one without the drip in. Hardly aware of what she was doing. We never give up hope. It depends if .a blood clot .. Her eyes were inexorably drawn to the still figure making a barely discernible mound beneath the white sheet. Lynn did not know what she was expected to do. the thought flashed through her mind before she could stop it. She had an oxygen mask over her mouth and nose. the way her lips were just parted beneath it. ‘Will she be all right?' To her amazement. All the lines seemed to have gone from her face.

She would have loved to stay and gaze at Lauren. She'd never said anything like that before. in the presence of those scowling . still sending her hate messages and patently longing for her to go and the thought. ‘I'll pray for you too.' but how could she. as Alec was doing. suffering children. to hold her hand. who had so much more right to grieve than she did? It was all too horribly public.' she found herself saying. It was over. Lynn straightened up. We'd appreciate it. if the situation had not been so awful.could divorce Mark and marry Alec. ‘Thank you.' What she really wanted to say was. said. She was intruding. ‘No thanks. ‘Bye. as though by doing this she was again touching Lauren by proxy. ‘I . she saw Alec's smile broaden. The idea was so ludicrous that she had to smile. Wonderingly. She was so close that she could have brushed her lips against Lauren's cheek. he was already bending back over the bed. She turned to him. leant towards her. It felt cool and damp and bird-like. her voice a whisper. He nodded to her without speaking.' she said. hardly knowing what she was saying. but the oxygen mask precluded that. It was time to go. Oh God.' again to no one in particular. or would have. ‘Thank you.' She couldn't believe she'd thought it. I am evil! Oh God. help me! Nothing happened. and turned to go. glad of his touch. She put her hand on Lauren's shoulder and squeezed it ever so ever so gently. It was generous of you at such a time.' Still not knowing what to do. ‘I love you.. Alec held out his hand again. * * * 258 . and as she walked away. ‘Thank you for letting me see her. ‘I'll see you again. I'm not taking them on too!' flashed up.' she said. and was surprised at the sound of her voice. to show she cared.I'll pray for you all. To her surprise. but he was already holding it. Lynn looked back at Lauren. as if she'd said something really valuable. Lauren had given no sign at all that she had any awareness of Lynn's presence.' She groped for something to say to show her appreciation. with an old-fashioned courtesy and she shook it. Lauren. God is the bottom line in all this. But movement caught her eye and she looked beyond Alec to the unprepossessing youths.

unlike anything she had ever experienced in her life before. Lynn had listened to many voices in her head.! Oh my God! Have I ever been real? I thought I was being so honest and I've been living such a lie. had spoken to her? As she sat there she became aware that if it was God. . In her life. but never to one that had done that.what a mess! What a mess! God. he had said exactly the right 259 . so caring. Her heart felt as damp and dull and lifeless as the air around her. The dull lowering sky mirrored the dull black earth covered with dull brown. gentle. And all the time I was all the things I hate – it was me trying to control the sessions with Tia. but crystal clear. rigid with shock. screwed up my life. This voice was quiet. screwed up everything .But I am not you? And where did this incredible sense of safety and well-being. forced him to fit his life round mine – and so secretive. ‘Oh God. so manipulative! . Lynn shakily began to process what had happened. but she felt a sense of affirmation in the air around her. . except for something deep down that would not be silenced. not her! I messed Mark up. I am in agony! Oh what a fool I've been! God if you are there. She found herself still speaking the last sentence in her head. When she had heard it say But I am not you. God . That voice had interrupted her. you must hate me! I know I would if I were you!' Even as she was thinking this. unable to stop herself. But what did it mean .Lynn sat in the park by the hospital. A voice came into her head like a shaft of light. it had overlaid the thoughts she was thinking so completely that it finished before she did. sodden miserable leaves.thinking my need to be needed was a desire to help people. God?' No answer came into her mind. . come from? Hardly knowing what she was doing. . oh God. Now I've screwed up my marriage. that was screaming in despair inside her.’ Lynn sat. ‘Is that you. you must despise me! All the time I thought I was so clever. quiet. After a couple of seconds of absolute silence. and very much in control. ‘But I am not you. such a nice person. God . . something inexplicable happened. While Mark . Lynn spoke aloud. her mind wiped empty of all thought. screaming to Lauren's God. It was a voice you didn't mess with. .

. She just felt stronger. Eventually she stirred and began to think of Mark. (who had said that?). so will you kindly stop trying to behave as if you are?' Lynn sat marvelling at the wonder of it. 'I can't be pigeon-holed.' But the odd thing was that the pain had still felt as bad. He was God. They hurt just as much. Nothing – no saying of her mother's – had worked. who had been holding her hand.only much better. (could she be imagining this?) there was amusement in it too. The message implicit was ‘I am not you.this God whom she didn't know. It was only later that it had dawned on Lynn that it was actually the drug that had effected 260 . It felt wonderful. My tiny little one. ‘Did you think I was like you?' the voice was saying. I can cope with the pain now. This was a bit much even by her standards. perhaps it was. other. of the endings with Tia and Lauren. Lynn had said to Mark. Somehow these things seemed different. are not Me. She pondered this new mystery. God had spoken to her . subsumed in the totality of this now experience. knew her.' ‘Pethidine?' Lynn had said. But it wasn't that they were any less important. I am Me. she could feel it inside.' The nurse had heard her and said. and was holding her right now. of Della. It was the impact of another personality meeting. On the other hand. he was different. the way Lauren would have said it . Of course he wasn't her. and you. meshing with hers. ‘I'll give you a shot of Pethidine. It was real.' But so softly.thing. and injected her thigh. or actually any less painful. the way Lauren had. And. contained in the tiny box of your expectations. when the contractions were coming on top of each other and hurting like hell. There was no need to question it. He was laughing at her. Lynn didn't know how long she sat there. into Lynn's mind flashed a scene from her miscarriage. How could this be? Suddenly. ‘Isn't that the truth drug?' The nurse had laughed. ‘I don't really know if I can take much more. She had murmured to Mark. Within a few minutes. Perhaps it wasn't long. 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.. it was true. She had tried everything to take her mind of the pain. ‘I wish I hadn't made a fuss. simply experiencing it.

that she felt so approved of. not saying goodbye. she sensed laughter in the air around her. so alive. * * * Lynn stood up. All the things Lauren was going to tell her. so valued? But she did. had already gone. all the things they might have shared. ‘Yeah. And just as the worst wave of anguish yet rolled in to engulf Lynn she suddenly had a picture of Lauren in her head. She knew in her heart that she would never see her again. maybe she had. And how could it be. in the hospital bed. reluctant as she was to think about it. laughter that combined amusement and authority and tenderness. but it was unmistakable. Lauren simply had not been there. Suddenly. It was not as she had last seen her. though she couldn't think why. doubtfully. how could it. ‘The next time. The Pethidine was working. The pain was just as bad. Maybe Lauren had caught it from him. she'd better try to work out what to do when she got there. but waiting to welcome her in. She had not met Lauren in the hospital. She was no longer knowable because she no longer existed. like a child. I'll be waiting. laughing and saying ‘Here's to the next time we meet. She thought. She'd better get herself home before anyone noticed how oddly she was behaving. but now. but Lauren standing by her front door. It was solidly there. she felt like laughing herself.’ It had seemed a strange remark at the time. all that Lauren meant. all gone! Because Lauren and all that Lauren was. Yes. the pure joy of simply being with her. The leaves around her feet that had seemed so dingy before were still dingy. Lynn felt a a bolt of agony lance through her. but she could cope. not any more. At the memory of Lauren and how she had left her in the hospital. Lauren. and unbidden. and reached out in panic to this new awareness within her.that change. Lynn shivered again. whom she loved so much. It lasted fractionally. Despite herself. The 261 . ‘God laughs?' and then she remembered that Lauren had laughed a lot. Aloud she said. and. but what if the Pethidine runs out?' Just for a moment. the image of Lauren at her front door changed to one of Lauren at another door. And that was how it felt now.’ Lynn whispered.

I wonder if it's worth thinking about prioritising?' It was Tia's voice. but whom? Oh well. She would ask – beg . . your client has arrived. . sod Tia! She’d soon find out! Lynn picked up the phone. Actually. Della would have to go . But inside her the sun was shining through. How she was going to do it all she didn't know. and find someone to talk to about God . there are some big issues to think about here. .a measured. frowning. She heard Debbie's voice. find out how to get referred as Tia had suggested. she heard a voice in her head . As she walked home through the park she began to make plans. And she would definitely look around for a course in counselling . 'Lynn. Everything! And she would phone up Relate. wellmodulated voice. . Shall I send her up?' 262 . Lynn's head was buzzing . Don't take on too much. and soon. So . And she would tell him everything.and she knew she needed to get going on it right away! There was no time to lose. still smiling. immediately. but do it she would! As Lynn was still lowering.Mark to listen just one more time.she was hooked now.’ Was it Tia's voice? Was it too much? Oh. . Don't bite off more than you can chew. ‘Lynn. the air was still damp.what was Tia saying? ‘Steady on. somehow . Maybe she should go to her doctor. saying. she’d find someone. .

263 . may appear. and at some point the third volume in the series. Della's Story is a work in progress. Lauren.Author's note Conversations with Tia was originally conceived as part of a trilogy.

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