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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

was opening it for her and saying with a smile. was walking to the door.' Convenient? She would make it convenient. she heard the door close firmly behind her. 'I'll see you in two weeks' time then.' Tia magicked an appointment card from somewhere and said.' 'Two weeks it is!' said Lynn. 17 . then Tia was standing up.Tia regarded her seriously. She replayed the conversation in her head. Time off from school for hospital appointments could hardly be disallowed. That would be fine. Are Tuesdays at 2.30 convenient to you?' 'Oh yes. smiling back warmly in return.' The relief that spread through Lynn was so great that at first she could not speak. and as she walked down the corridor.' said Lynn again. 'that's fine. It was only when Tia raised her eyebrows inquiringly that Lynn became aware that a response was needed. 'Today is Tuesday. She left the office feeling as light as air. 'That is the usual time between sessions. Lynn. She watched Tia write down the details on the card and hand it to her. yes. and this was important. until she was finally able to say. 'Fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'No sweat. and oh Mark . what a cow she was! Of course. . 'Oh Mark! Sorry! Sorry! I .' 'Yes . but so reliably good . I hope it goes well!' There was no mistaking her sincerity. 'Got to dash. Lynn was ready.' Oh dear god. 'Completely forgot'. He laughed. By late afternoon Lynn was surfacing and an hour's manic rushing around meant that when Mark returned that evening. She pressed a lager into his hand as soon as he'd dumped his briefcase. good Mark! He asked for so little. but he'd see it in the mirror in the hall . if not knew what you were getting) and plied him with gentle questions at discreet intervals. . . Dear. His dark. bony face was anxious as he tenderly placed it on the bedside cabinet.' she couldn't bring herself to say the words. I'm doing my presentation this morning.Chapter 3 Lynn surfaced next morning with what felt like a king-sized hangover to find Mark hovering over her with a cup of tea. His hair was slightly sticking up. . she hoped. Or someone would tell him at work. Lynn lay alternately cursing her throbbing head and her own cowishness. 30 . He'd been working on this for days. it was the presentation today! What time had he come to bed last night? She hadn't even heard him come in.' He looked puzzled for a moment and then light dawned. and rubbed his hand back over the crown of his head.oh. His face cleared. 'I . A wave of remorse swept over her as she noted the shadows under his eyes. See you tonight. and he worked so hard! What had she done to deserve him? Apart from the necessary phone call to Brian she spent most of the day in bed. . served a simple but elegant meal (Marks was pricy. It made no difference that Lynn was aware of. it's in the bag! Have a good Volkswagons . your hair. . After he'd kissed her and left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She wanted to tell Tia about her mother. But you do understand. for brief therapy? We’ve looked at some important issues today. We would be in a stronger position to assess your counselling needs and we would have more time to do it in. Mum was so wonderful. 'Oh please. A jibber's a horse that refuses at fences. we've got a few minutes left?' The thought of only two more sessions with Tia seemed too awful to bear. it would really be better if we discussed it during the next session rather than at the end of this one. and she could tell Tia didn't think so! .with me. we have just five minutes of this session left. They were on holiday in Italy and he just walked out of the hotel and never came back.' 'Oh!' Lynn cried in distress. I know it!' She could not keep the desperation out of her voice. But my feeling is that there may be other issues around for you here and if the next 59 .' Lynn didn't agree at all.' 'Oh!' Lynn cried again. She had so much to say. 'Lynn. Tia was implacable! Lynn felt completely helpless. And now she'd have to wait another two weeks! 'And our next session is the second of the three sessions we agreed. don't you. I think you may find that things have shifted a bit for you. You've come to a deeper understanding of your baby and it has helped you to begin to grieve.and she and Tia weren't even friends yet! 'Well. She taught me not to whine. She said. Can you imagine that? But I respected her. there was nothing she could do. 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. 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. 'Only two more! Couldn't we agree some more sessions now. that this is a crisis clinic. please! Two's not enough. she cried out. Tia looked at her carefully for some moments. Tia held all the cards! Against hope. “What can’t be cured must be endured”. I was about ten before I cottoned onto what she was talking about .' Tia said. even more woefully. That was one of her sayings – she had lots of them. "Never say your mother bred a jibber!" she'd say. 'I think we would need two more sessions to end properly. seemed hardly to have started. take life's knocks and get up again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

' 'Well. Mark. 'I told you . 'Told you you wouldn't like it!' he said. This was not so good. it's not my thing. and gradually's a cheaper fix than drugs. unable to resist drawing it ever so slightly larger than life . determined to extract the last drop of satisfaction from her failure to find what she had needed from the service. You could end up brainwashed and clapping and dancing along with the rest of them!' Mark started laughing again at the very thought. They don't do anybody any harm. and at least I'm not despising them. began to drive a wedge between them. gloating over your superiority? And don't you bloody lay down the law to me about going there. Something snapped inside Lynn.' 'More fool them! They should get a life. this was good.Chapter 8 Mark was waiting for Lynn when she got home.the old dears didn't join in. Their laughing together enabled her to distance herself a little from it. of course. 'Maybe you should. They may be simple.only in fun. but at least I went there. He sat opposite her while they ate.' This was a side of Mark she hadn't seen before. Look. 'You patronizing bastard! What right have you to sit there so smugly. you bloody Neanderthal! I'll go if I want!' All the things she wanted to say rose up to choke her. but they mean well. and there were people our age there. He had cooked lunch. was a balm to assuage the rawness of the pain she chose to let remain undefined. But Mark refused to stop laughing.' 'Will you lay off the sniping now?' What did he know for god's sake? He hadn't even been there. 'Those happie-clappies are a mixture of frustrated old spinsters and crazy mixed-up kids . At first Lynn told him honestly of her impressions and the people she had met. and they were very nice to me. I'm not sure I ought to let you go back there. 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. and in frustration she struggled up from the table and rushed from the 90 . instead of uniting them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. so what! Tia deserved it! She'd been bloody fantastic. ‘I never thanked you for the last session. Lynn noticed every time Tia spoke her name. ‘I didn't make you see anything. Tia heard Lynn out. She was burbling.' Lynn was instantly diverted. a long lunch-break. so sympathetic! You were wonderful. Nevertheless. From what you say. ‘I know you don't make 113 . rather than heard the implied rebuke. dammit! For a moment she felt embarrassed. Thank you! Thank you so much!' Lynn could hear the emphasis and emotion in her voice. Tia only did concrete statements. She said. ‘Yes. the words tumbling couldn't really describe it as a compliment. leaning forward and sweeping away a lock of hair that had fallen over her eyes. You listened so well. It's not really my brief to make people see things. Lynn peeked at the clock and saw that the time said 3. you worked it out for yourself. Instead she said gently. though she could not for the life of her work out what Tia had done wrong. she noticed with pleasure that Tia had called her by name. 'I've no idea.05. 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 .' She waited for Tia to make a further comment. and as you talked. but even in the hearing. I suspect there was quite a lot going on for Della that night as well. that's right. It was so good! So helpful! I felt I could properly grieve. During the next pause.' Lynn felt.' to finish the exchange off. like.This was not the sort of question Tia answered. then realised she would wait for ever. but gave no overt sign of pleasure at this eulogy. ‘You may get some light on the situation then. ‘That would be good. You described the evening very well. I never saw that before. I listened. 'People always have reasons for doing things. Lynn. Oh. She hesitated before replying. Tia didn't do abstract conventialities. You made me see that there was a baby. you were so understanding. she rushed in to counter any wrong assumptions Tia might have about what she had meant to convey. She saw that Tia registering her anxiety. Only another fifteen minutes left! Where had the time gone? She said hurriedly. '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. that I did have a right to grieve.' or.

She had got it right. it's more useful when people can express how they feel about things without worrying what other people might think. ‘When you said that. therapist's gaze. She said defensively.' Lynn felt rescued. but in situations like this.' ‘Us’ meant 114 . That was saying ‘Let us try.that my approval might be important to you. isn't it. I meant that you opened my eyes . "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 had said. I didn't mean to say that. She felt tears prick her eyes.' ‘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. She looked at Tia. Now I can let go. Tia said. 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 sat back.' Lynn saw to her relief that Tia was smiling again.that I was able to think clearly in your presence and I saw that the baby was real. ‘It's important to you that you get it right when you talk to me. I know you don't work that way. I felt .' Lynn felt as though the ground had been knocked from under her feet. but I don't know why. Lynn' heart ached. ‘Yes.' Indignation and a sense of desolation struggled together for supremacy inside Lynn. ‘Let's try'. Tia. She felt herself tense with panic.' ‘Let's try to stay with that sense of loneliness for a little while. Thank you. satisfied. Tia looked back with her wide-eyed neutral. ‘Shouldn't you be talking to her about you and your problems and not worrying about what she thinks. Lynn. surely it's normal for people to care about what other people think of them?' ‘Yes it is. well. ‘Sorry?' ‘I said. The sense of desolation won. I have the feeling .you .perhaps I'm wrong .people see things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?'


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

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

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

after all he'd 156 . she was completely losing it .' 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.' ‘OK. come in!' Why Lynn was surprised that David opened the door she couldn't imagine . ‘Come in. She'd always prided herself on her openness. this must be off the top end of the scale of total madness. bloody hell! If phoning was stupid to start with. what had she got to lose? Now Lynn was outside the vicarage.though some people try .' ‘Yes. but something horrible now was happening inside her head. In about an hour's time?' ‘Fine.' ‘It's the ugly Victorian pile right next to the church. Lynn stared at it as though it might come to life and tell her what was going on. Again she thought. She wasn't just being open. She waited. Can I come and talk to you about it?' Oh. Right.' The phone went dead. But really. ‘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. You know where to come?' ‘I think so. yes. old ladies who told you about their bowel movements or what they really thought of you under the impression that they were only thinking when really they were speaking aloud. ‘Lynn Davies? I remember you. You were with Polly.I came to a service at your church last Sunday and I'm beginning to think about God. What have I got to lose? She marched up the narrow pathway between funereal overgrown trees and bushes and resolutely rang the bell. You can't miss it . In an hour then. Doesn't happen often. See you then. weren't you? Sure.

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

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

She felt partly reassured. . just let the silence rest between them and Lynn was beginning to say. David reached over and took it from her and shoved it on top of the mantelpiece. I suppose most people do at one time or another. She's fitter than I am though. Alison put the tray down. it made me think . despite the weightiness of a solid wall of books behind her.' Lynn didn't really want to talk about Alison. So does Alison. suddenly wonder if there is. It was daintily laid with a lace tray cloth.' Lynn nodded. and if there's anything up there. but it was still too soon to talk about God. It's true.' Lynn removed the flower vase and looked around for somewhere to put it. ‘I think they do. She could understand that. sugar and a plate of what looked like homemade biscuits. only questions. David surveyed it with interest. 159 . a cafã´tiere of coffee. there is usually a reason for it. ‘You play squash?' ‘Yes. ‘I'm only asking because when people who perhaps have not been particularly interested in whether there is a God or not.' ‘Oh.?' ‘What? Oh. for he leaned forward. finding some ease of spirit in its faded comfortableness. and said quite gently.' He said nothing more. sure . She said. He seemed to sense her disengagement. ‘About the God stuff. ‘Your sermon on Sunday. . gives me a hard answers. It had a light and airy feel. I have found myself wondering lately what the point of everything is. and so did she. but only partly. If there's anything more to life than meets the eye. She let her gaze wander round the room. ‘Could you . though some of them were paperbacks. right.' she ended defensively. cream in a jug. I see.' when Alison's footsteps were heard in the hall and she came in through the half open door with a tray. She stood by Lynn and gestured with the tray.sorry. That was reasonable. He sat back again.’ ‘Er. 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. When we can.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

why. So this was psychology.' Lynn grew quieter as she recognised more and more old friends. Inside was a book called Introducing Psychology. but what do I do with it?' And she didn't know. now in the study.‘Aren't you going to open it then?' She did so.' she said with surprise. ‘I can understand this. Lynn looked at them. The reality was that she didn't know what the hell to do about Chris or even Nicole. After dinner. . as Lynn finished the book and set it down with a sigh of satisfaction. her relationship with Mark was still pretty unsatisfactory and she didn't know what to do about it.oh shut up! But with all these realities kicking in. she wasn't so stupid after all! And it talked about therapy too. the question suddenly flashed through her mind. ‘Yes. keeping up a running commentary to Mark. it made feeling happy about reading a poxy little book on psychology look pretty bloody stupid. And the reality was that she only had three more sessions with Tia. Mark. and therefore with other women. She knew more than she thought she did. 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. though Nicole was probably nothing serious . The reality was . But it was still her job to sort it. As she was sinking under the weight of this.' ‘The Bobo doll man isn't called Bandanna after all. The reality was that she felt confused and ambivalent about her relationship with Tia. The reality was that she felt jealous of Polly for knowing Lauren and that felt really wrong. Reality suddenly kicked in hard. and then no more. Towards the end of the evening. the phone rang. she hoped. Mark smiled smugly. 176 . I guess that makes sense. things were looking up. I read about that. ever.' 'Skinner and Pavlov are important in psychology too. and where Tia fitted in. The reality was that though somehow she felt more able to leave the miscarriage behind. ‘So it was Milgram who was the electric shock man. The reality was that her relationship with Della now felt decidedly unsafe after Della's confession in the cafe. I'd always thought it was an odd name. Mark. Lynn read the book. listening. The reality was that she wanted to know if god was really there but she never wanted to go to church again or talk to anyone remotely Christian . It had lots of pictures inside. a little bit. Yes. she didn't know. .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

she sat back and exhaled as though she'd been holding her breath the whole time and said.' Tia laughed. Tia glanced up at the clock. At the door. and walked though. as though she sensed the importance of what Lynn was saying and didn't want to stop the flow. Lynn. and had a comforting sense of being warm and well-fed. And it feels pretty frightening. Tia had said nothing at all. and every time you open them to try to get your bearings you get a different view. Tia had given her extra time. ‘And sometimes when I open my eyes everything is upside down and I feel sick. Lynn felt really special. following her gaze.' agreed Lynn glumly. Lynn said nothing either. as Lynn ground to a halt.' That was it exactly! ‘Yes. she knew the time was nearly up. Tia said. ‘See you in two weeks' time then. Lynn.say in twenty minutes if you just solidly held forth and hardly paused for breath. 205 . After a little while. And I want to get off. ‘You're on a roller-coaster aren't you? You're hanging on with your eyes shut. saw it said 3.22. What would Tia make of it all? Throughout the time Lynn had talking.' said Lynn.' ‘Sure. They both stood up. She said nothing. But she felt heard. Now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

228 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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

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

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

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

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

Lynn. was it?' ‘It was a very bad thing to happen to a four year old. Lynn. ‘When you were four. It seemed real when I was writing it. it was all coming back now. Honestly. . or even this morning. ‘Did you? Did you really read it several times over? Really?' ‘Yes I really did. Have you . . She couldn't help being ill. said you wanted to talk about it today. I know! Thought about longer term counselling? No!' Tia was silent.' ‘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.well. and now you're leaving me too! It's just the same!' cried Lynn despairingly. ‘But she came back. I read your letter several times over. your mother left you . It wasn't a very good thing to happen to a four year old. . .some difficulty. Then she said. ‘Yes. what got into her at times? But how to begin? ‘I . Didn't Tia remember what she'd put in the letter? She must have read it only yesterday. I just wondered how you felt about it when you remembered.' Lynn looked at Tia in surprise.' Something clicked. ‘I didn't forget what you'd written. for Tia. Something of what Lynn felt must have showed in her face. thank heaven! That was what she wanted to talk about. Tia's look softened. there's not a lot of time left. ‘Just the same?' 245 .' Yes. She was leaning forward. It wasn't her fault. ?' ‘I know. Like there was a monster there that would come back if I wasn't careful. . as though feeling for each word.' Lynn felt hurt. Like I'd nearly killed her.' Lynn heard only one thing. on what Tia was saying. I'm not sure what to say. . ‘ . Like it was my fault. speaking unusually energetically. This was a big issue to raise as we are coming towards the end of our time together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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