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Conversations with Tia
A novel by Louise Vanstone
The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates
For Sue, of course. Who else?
This is a work of fiction. All the names, characters, places and events portrayed are products of the author's imagination, or if real are used fictitiously. The author asserts her moral right to be regarded as the creator of this novel, and no part of it is to be reproduced by any means for private or public use without due acknowledgment of its provenance.
The phone rang and Lynn reached for it. As she did so, she found herself smiling – remembering that other phonecall so long ago . . . when it all began
You could tell straightaway that this was a place where nothing ever happened. People just waited here for their lives back. And since there was only one chair, presumably they waited on their own. It was on this chair that Lynn now sat. It was a plain wooden chair with a padded back and seat. The woman (receptionist? secretary?) had shown her through and then said, smiling, 'Please take a seat. I'll tell Dr Bradley you are here.' Even as Lynn said thank you, she found herself speaking to an empty space in which the smile still somehow lingered, like the Cheshire Cat's. She blinked and looked around. The secretary had relocated, sans smile, to an office, from whence Lynn could see her through the open door saying into the phone, ‘Dr Bradley? Mrs Davies is here.' For something to do, Lynn examined her surroundings. Everything seemed to confirm her earlier suspicion that she had fallen into a grey hole in a forgotten corner of the universe. The whole place, a sort of widened space at the end of a corridor, like an afterthought on the part of the planners, had managed to turn 'featureless' into an art form. It was clean enough, but there was nothing there - unless you counted a large 'No smoking' sign on the wall. Lynn mentally ticked the
Ouch. not even an ancient Telegraph supplement or a Hello magazine with the cover off. ‘Q’ was hard as well. back past the turn-off she had come 6 . No pictures of acrylic landscapes or sunflowers. Lynn supposed it might be. Absolutely nothing. Why did it have to come now? Bloody marvellous . And what would Dr Bradley think of her? Would she like her? Surely she would? Most people did.’ the therapist said. measured pace. And nowhere to put it if there was.. There never was. Lynn recognized that feeling. no posters warning you of the penalties for drink driving. Would Dr Bradley think so? What would she be like? Would she be gentle and smiley. Della never had spots. Sort of. This is madness.missing items off. She could feel her spot throbbing. Lynn. or doing violence to your doctor.' mumbled Lynn. Lynn consulted her watch. Lynn rose to her feet abruptly. 'Miles away. but it came in handy. No credit to her. Two twenty-seven. of course. regarding her with a look of gentle inquiry. no leaflets about cystitis or five portions a day. A woman was standing about four metres away. What am I doing here? What am I expecting? Why am I making such a fuss? Was she making a fuss? Lynn couldn't tell. Lynn managed to get to 'F' when she was jolted back into her surroundings by the sound of a quiet voice. 'I didn't mean to startle you. Experimentally she touched her face with her finger. or searching and abrasive and tell her to get out more? It would be interesting to find out.what on earth did it matter if Dr Bradley liked her or not? She was just there to do a job. To distract herself she hurriedly took out her appointment card and began to look for the letters of the alphabet in sequence. Well. matching her footsteps to the slow. But really .' ' 'S all right. ‘Mrs Davies? Come this way please. and it must not be allowed to get worse. except in lists of names. she thought. But then Della wouldn't. Her appointment was for two thirty. shoving the card into her pocket.thirty-four and she still had spots.' She followed the tall figure along the corridor. It was not a good one. ‘I’m sorry. knowing in advance that there would be no ‘J'. It was worse than the dentist's. Lynn sighed.' She looked up. A sense of adolescent angst descended on Lynn like a personalized raincloud . By focusing intently.
referred by your doctor . Dr Bradley gestured towards the the corner. But it opened instead into a light. with a cloudy mass of reddish curly-permed hair and granny glasses. . Listen. no miracle cures . How strange that granny glasses always seemed to make people look younger. . I understand all that. . Lynn had never liked this style of chair. not this angular. . She found herself fantasizing that the door would somehow open back into the corridor she had just walked down . Dr Bradley was thin. 'Dr Bradley.’ Too many words! thought Lynn. Look alert! ‘ . There were bookcases full of books and a desk at the window with some flowers on. I know 7 . Shut up. . stop staring. Quick. Tia Bradley and I am a clinical psychologist . . I can't handle this. . and Lynn looked at her for the first time. with bare wooden arms that always reminded her of bones poking though skin. . But against her expectations. airy office into which Dr Bradley serenely ushered her.through. To stem the flow. and her hands resting lightly in her lap. She sat with her legs crossed at the ankle. She wore her skirts shorter than Lynn did. thought Lynn. . where there were two low chairs set at an angle to each other. This was better. The therapist seated herself opposite. She couldn't help noticing that on the coffee table nearby there was an open box of tissues. She seemed very young .too young to be a consultant. .or a parallel universe. at which Dr Bradley paused. to a door inset into an alcove into the passage just beyond it. and Lynn instinctively took the one with its back against the wall. . hurriedly relaxing her grip on the arms when she saw her knuckles showing white. . the chair was surprisingly comfortable and after a moment she relaxed. . short term . The therapist was looking at her. She would have preferred someone slightly older. the top one pulled out. not older. someone a little more motherly perhaps. Sit up! The therapist was speaking. Perhaps she should get some.or a solid wall . surely? Lynn was not entirely sure she liked the look of her. she said quickly. sharp-featured stranger. psychological therapies service . slanted sideways. shut up! Her head was beginning to spin. How strangely this building was laid out. to assess your difficulties and whether we can be helpful to you . . Lynn breathed again.
then? Or at a university? What kind of a doctor are you?' 'Clinical psychologists are not medical doctors. There are no right answers. 'Me? Oh.' 'You would like me to call you Lynn? And what would you prefer to call me?' Lynn hesitated. of course. Their doctorate is a PhD qualification. There's about thirty of them. . sorry. It's just about general situations in your life which might be indicators of levels of well-being or stress. I wish I hadn't come! 'Oh. No objection. Mrs Davies. like psychiatrists who have first studied medicine. or since I also teach. And oh.not entirely successfully. that's all. it is an unusual name. Lynn seized the chance to gather her wits . Does she always talk so quietly? In such a measured way? Why does she look at me so . changing the names. Mrs Davies. er. I'm not expecting that. Sure!' ‘ sessions last fifty minutes . That is.' 'Oh yes. . some people fill in all noughts. that's fine! What a pretty name . May I begin by asking you to fill in a questionnaire. 'Do you teach here. Yes. Sorry. I'm not thinking straight. please! Call me Lynn. 'Would you feel comfortable calling me Tia?' 'Tia? Oh yes. I just need to talk to someone.. just grade them from nought to four. but I do need to explain adequately the procedures and guidelines which govern our time together. I may use some of the material from these sessions with my students. unless you have any objection?' Again a silence This time Lynn was ready.' 'I appreciate that.so . it's agreed we will use first names.' Pause.so unusual. I knew that. of course.thoroughly? Is my makeup sweating off? Can she see my spot? Oh god. Where is it from?' 'Thank you.why I am here. and that you can't work miracles.' 8 . May I continue?' The therapist paused courteously and waited for Lynne’s permission to speak. . confidential unless I feel I need to share things you have told me which could result in harm to yourself or others . yes. no. . Take your time. isn't it? So then Lynn.
and couldn't get back again. Damn! Angrily. But wait a minute! What was she doing. Oh. read the top line: 'During the past week. After looking up once more and meeting that unnerving stare 9 . Next question. 'Trouble falling asleep. She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so foolish. This woman was talking so calmly and quietly. she put a line through the four and filled in the two again. But she was on someone else's turf now. This was going to take longer than she thought. unblinking gaze. dammit! a professional in her own right..Lynn took the folded sheet of A4. and was disconcerted to meet a thoughtful. She was a teacher. I don't want to fill this in.start at the beginning! She looked up once more and saw that that Tia was still regarding her closely. She fell asleep instantly. starting halfway down the page? For goodness' sake . She glanced up at Tia. . . Lynn could feel herself colouring. controlled! That put Lynne’s back up straightaway. Why was this happening now? She didn't need to feel like this. 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. almost. controlled. At length Lynn finished. ?' glanced down and read a question at random. She valued them too much. It was so wrong. Except it was meant to be how she'd felt over the last week. What was average? 'Moderately. That would do. Lynn never ever tried to control people herself. she thought. that was an easy one! Not at all. . To her annoyance. Irritated. nervousness or shakiness inside?' Well. ‘ . that was it. She scribbled in the four with some agitation. Lynn hastily bent her head to study the sheet again. better get this over with.' That was a two. she bent to her task. I feel like a kid at school myself. Sighing inwardly. What about the times when she woke up at five in the morning. right at this moment it was 'extremely'. Usually anyway. But wait a minute. Oh well. Did that count? There seemed no provision for it on the sheet. how much were you distressed by . put anything! How did they grade it? She checked the top line. This situation was ridiculous. Hurriedly Lynn located the first question. And all the time she could feel Tia's eyes on her. Lynn glanced down at the title: Brief Symptom Inventory. She scribbled out the 'two'. put in her place. If there was one thing she hated it was controlling people. Yes. She opened it.' Well.
I've been feeling really . . Maybe it was going to be all right after all. well. it's like this..' Lynn felt a tiny spark of hope. and I haven't even said anything yet! Fighting down rising panic.' Lynn stopped abruptly. actually . . . It wasn't like there was a baby. It's been over a month now. . 'Ah. really . No baby. looking concerned and ready to listen . that she was balancing a writing block on her knee and saying. and it wasn't as if there was a baby there. What are you doing here? that steady gaze seemed to say. So I shouldn't feel like this. there was no baby. lately. . just cells. . well. I . As Tia took it. I think I should. . Time? What time? Time was ticking away. she noticed that Tia was smiling back. suddenly gripped by the need to confide in someone without actually giving anything away. Sometimes they just don't grow you know. Where to start? Anywhere. thirty-seven days. Now Tia was sitting forward. I was only three months.' Tia was saying. . It was cells. almost. well. who already seemed to dislike her.' 'Over what?' 'Over the . I can’t seem to pull myself together. She felt depressed and agitated both at once. sort of low. . . I can't seem to snap out of it. I should be over it by now. to meet Tia's gaze. Don't you see? It wasn’t like anything died. Lynn! Wow! She opened her mouth to speak and nothing happened. You can't lose what you 10 . . 'Now Lynn. It wasn't like I lost anything. tell me what brings you here. Or sometimes I just sit. .miscarriage. Just start anywhere. She wanted to flop in the chair and be pathetic. 'No baby?' ‘No. Tia considered this.the .to listen to her. Well. er . I feel so down. really . There was nothing there.she’d given up and kept her head down. Why are you wasting my time? I can't believe this is happening! She doesn't like me. Lynn forced herself to sit up. 'There's plenty of time. . I should be. in front of this nonchalantly elegant woman. but how could she. to hand back the form and the folder she'd used to rest on with a smile. I cry a lot when I'm on my own. . .
but I knew he was. 'So really. What a stupid question! Tia seemed pretty slow on the uptake for a clinical psychologist. she couldn't just talk! There had to be a 11 . He says it was very sad. Our hopes and dreams you mean? Our plans for the future?' 'Something like that. Mark is.' 'Can't you?' ‘No. There seemed nothing else to add. yes. she could do that! Really. yes. Lynn didn't know what to say.never had. obvious questions! Was this how these people earned their money. I should be over it by now. You can certainly do that. Tia wasn't helping. trying to make Tia understand. But he was very upset when it happened. but not a real loss. you can do that. But suppose – just suppose . 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. And how could she inflict the gory details on this stranger? That seemed so self-indulgent. how to continue. but really and truly we have to look to the future.' Lynn stared at Tia defiantly.' 'Well.this woman had had a miscarriage too. or just looking at you? Why. So far all she'd done was ask idiotic. Only in our heads. She recovered almost immediately. which lengthened. speaking energetically. She would feel even more guilty about telling her then. A worse one than hers. She was not coping. That was what her mind felt like right now – a motorway pile-up. but once her first thought had come to a dead halt. Lynn wanted to tell Tia what it had been like. ‘Oh well. asking questions like this. and when it did Lynn felt slightly winded. Dammit. the ones behind had all crashed into it like a motorway pile-up. He didn't say much. But that was what she was here for. it was a bit disappointing! 'Can you perhaps lose what you might have had?' It took a moment for this question to penetrate.' There was a pause.' 'Mark?' 'My husband. that was a loss of course. How could she check that out? She noticed Tia wore a thin gold band on her wedding finger. She was just sitting there looking at Lynn encouragingly.
a graceful.' After a few moments. no. 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. leaving her to feel 12 . Can't we sort of get to know each other a little bit first?' 'Why?' This was getting downright irritating. 'As you see.just like that. Tia?' Tia motioned with her left hand. absently twiddling her own wedding ring round and round.' Damn. It's not quite like other relationships. 'Any kids?' 'Is that important?' 'Well. What was going on? Why did it feel so strange? Lynn regarded her hands. and that it was now up to Lynn to respond. Tia had explained nothing. never contributing. her nails translucent ovals. 'Why? To build a relationship of course. She folded her own hands more tightly on her lap and tried again. She seemed to think that by saying this she had explained something very important.' There was another silence. Lynn felt nothing of the sort.to . Tia was looking at her expectantly.get to know each other. Why?' 'Let me explain a little bit about the counselling relationship. You see. What kind of a conversation was this. They need to be free just to talk and think about themselves. She felt very unhappy. answering questions with questions.relationship! She said experimentally. economic gesture.' 'Oh. 'Are you married. She should have anticipated that. leaving gigantic gaps in conversation. never helping her out. Lynn noticed that Tia's fingers were slender and tapering. Tia said carefully. To . 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 had no choice. She glanced at her. But she couldn't just talk about the miscarriage. And yet she had to.. Very well. help her see that sharing was good. Lynn said tentatively. for instance?' 13 . How confusing! What could she do? Lynn came to a decision. thaw her out a bit. or death. Tia seemed so laid-back. This made no sense to Lynn. She would go along with it. that she wasn't a threat. She needed help and she knew it. She was used to being open and honest. the chance to know her as a person.' said Tia. Not yet. building 'You too?' sort of relationships. things like sex. nodding agreement. Lots of blood and so forth. it might just draw Tia out. friendly and natural. because actually she did quite like Tia. And then they would have a proper relationship. I'm not squeamish.' Oh god! So much blood! 'Mmm. Tia seemed to be a very withholding sort of person . 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 had to go along with this. That was what she was there for.' This felt reassuring. knowing the answer. exchanging information. or hating people. just maybe. 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.lonely and foolish? Tia was deliberately refusing to engage. But maybe. 'So it's all right?’ she said again. Could she hack it? She didn't know. denying.a bit messy. And there was something about Tia that appealed. um. which Lynn couldn't as yet quite define.very defensive. Lynn. 'The miscarriage was . Tia was a very interesting person. yet wanting to hear it from Tia. And that would be nice. if she was herself. 'No. and saw with a start that she was once again being closely observed. sharing. ‘What about. But the alternative was too terrifying to contemplate. her. so at ease. networking. and she would try to share even if Tia didn't. How long had Lynn been quiet? She didn't know. Curiosity stirred within Lynn.
The chair felt ever so slightly more comfortable. Be careful. First child too. Silly really. Lynn took a deep breath and plunged in. All that glitters is not gold. had she chosen those examples to cite to Tia . and loss. you see. 'You seem to find it easier to talk about your mother's pregnancy than your own. Tia was making a note on her pad. Of course my mum had had trouble with me too. that's all. 'It's all right to talk about blood. the room ever so slightly warmer. She was just getting warmed up.really badly. 'I'm only saying. and death. and I was born. Only child actually. and grief.we . just to talk? And why. It seemed to have the ring of truth.. It never occurred to me that anything could go wrong. but mixed in with the warmth were stabbing icicles of caution. Tia waited a while and then said. at my age. She had fibroids and she told me that when she was six months pregnant she bled for days. 'We'd been married a year. just might be able to talk to someone about it. Lynn felt that finally now she might.' she said. but Tia wouldn't know that. had my head jammed behind the pubic bone 14 . and hating people.' Lynn considered this. Could that someone be Tia? She looked at her consideringly. It was their job. She really wanted me . It was very painful. She held on. 'I just think my mum was really brave.were so pleased when I found out I was pregnant.Tia said slowly and emphatically. But she never complained . Forty. in those days.imagine that.they didn't. oh why.' Lynn paused for breath. I . I was badly positioned. She'd read something into it. 'So you had a miscarriage?' It was now or never. But just for this moment. It's all right to talk about anything you want. she was forty when she had me .after all this time. These psychologist types always did. Be careful! You don’t know this woman. without the least sign of impatience. so we wanted to get a move on.sex and hating and death? They were just words plucked out of the air. and the old biological clock was ticking. twenty-seven hours. She looked up.' she commented. Oh. but could it be so? Could it really be all right . She had a very difficult labour too. she nearly died twice. Lynn felt a bit thrown by this. and sex. She was in a lot of pain too. prematurely. I think.
'I'm sorry. 'You want me to tell you about my miscarriage?' She wasn't so sure she wanted to now. Lynn said. Somehow this didn't feel like a very satisfactory answer. Tia raised her eyebrows and gave a brief smile in a 'You can if you want to. thinking what to say next. This narrative seemed to be flowing rather too quickly. It wasn’t working. .and in the end they . Lynn said in a voice that trembled slightly.' she said.' said Tia.' Again she stopped. 15 . and how creased her lab coat had been. she knew there was.' said Lynn less confidently. She looked sort of neutral. She had lived through it so many times. She wasn't so sure she liked Tia after all. . 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 . 'My mum was a brave woman. . 'All right. There must be more to it that this. wondering what the view from the window was like.' sort of way. I'd had a funny feeling all day .' Tia said nothing. I felt . 'I went to the bathroom.' Lynn continued drearily. you know .you . . She gazed round the room. I felt . 'I felt. Tia regarded her levelly.' Tia said softly. This was harder going than she had thought it would be. her brain seemed to have turned to cotton wool. Tia waited. 'and it all came away . . 'You cow!' But Tia didn't look cow-ish. . ' Yet again she stopped. . 'But your mum had her baby . 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. . She was at the hospital already. 'One evening. . She could only remember irrelevant disjointed things. I was cooking the dinner . . leaking.' This stopped Lynn dead. Lynn looked at Tia and thought.sort of flooding. Once again. The pause lengthened and then lengthened again while she tried to think what to say next. That was it. . 'That's really unfair. and as I was standing there. .' she said at last. . No more.' 'She went through a lot. She felt totally exhausted. She looked at Tia. like how tired the young doctor who had examined her had looked. and how angry Mark had been at the sympathy cards. ' she stopped. 'like I was .and you didn't have yours. then back at Tia.
. But Tia was speaking. she couldn't quite imagine that far but she was sure Tia had a sense of humour. Whatever you like. Lynn could tell a good story. 'I think it would be beneficial if we met again .’ ‘There's plenty of time. at first disconcerted.shall we arrange for three more sessions . . Lynn was instantly diverted and rather charmed.at two-weekly intervals?' 'Two-weekly?' said Lynn stupidly. could cope. Suppose Tia said that meant that Lynn was all right.' It seemed only a few minutes later. Well. stopped. it's not difficult! It just isn’t working. and then aghast. Lynn said. 'Whether to meet again?' 'Whether?' What did Tia mean? They'd been getting on so well. that Lynn hadn't even known was there. She relaxed back into it thankfully and let out her breath in a big sigh. No. yawned before her. She was sure of it. had been listening with every appearance of enjoyment and making the odd note. To go out for a drink together after work. that’s all. It was like the sun coming out.' Lynn became aware of the chair holding her. to laugh together and put the world to rights. What a nice smile! Maybe Tia did have friends after all. Tell me a little more about yourself . as far as Lynn could tell. and terrifyingly fast. Suppose she said Lynn didn't need to see her.' 'Plenty of time. and she had made Tia begin to smile once or twice more. unexpectedly. Tia smiled. 16 . or whatever you like. . said. vast and cataclysmic. when Tia. with a smile like that. Tia was once more the Therapist.. She could see it in her eyes. An abyss. was saying. Maybe we could think now about whether to meet again. 'This is very difficult for you. 'I'll tell you how I met Mark'. At this. . the one who had power to give or withhold. 'It was quite funny really. . who had been in full flow. It was a start.Tia was looking at her understandingly. 'We have just five minutes left. everything had shifted. . sort of smile. isn’t it?’ ‘No. Lynn had found herself laughing as she had been talking.' Lynn. or Mark . Now with no warning. She couldn't help wondering what it would be like to have Tia as a friend. There had been a real rapport developing between them. Actually. who. Though she said it herself.
until she was finally able to say. and this was important.30 convenient to you?' 'Oh yes. 17 .' Tia magicked an appointment card from somewhere and said.Tia regarded her seriously. yes. 'Fine. 'Today is Tuesday. was opening it for her and saying with a smile. 'That is the usual time between sessions. Lynn. and as she walked down the corridor. then Tia was standing up.' said Lynn again. Time off from school for hospital appointments could hardly be disallowed. It was only when Tia raised her eyebrows inquiringly that Lynn became aware that a response was needed.' 'Two weeks it is!' said Lynn. That would be fine. She left the office feeling as light as air. 'I'll see you in two weeks' time then.' The relief that spread through Lynn was so great that at first she could not speak. She replayed the conversation in her head. she heard the door close firmly behind her. She watched Tia write down the details on the card and hand it to her. Are Tuesdays at 2. 'that's fine. smiling back warmly in return.' Convenient? She would make it convenient. was walking to the door.
and her mouth! That was the worst. . A generous. Dark unruly hair made worse by the window. She compared her blobby nose with Tia’s thin one. There was a sort of concentrated look about her. Unless she made a special effort she looked so bloody miserable. Not conventionally pretty. Involuntarily. Was Tia a cold clinical psychologist. So this was counselling. people had been coming up to her and saying 'Cheer up! It may never happen!' What would 18 . as Lynn herself did? Or was she both? Lynn shook her head and gave up. . Tia’s nose won. Lynn caught sight of herself in the reflective glass of the carriage window . . or as much of it as she could remember. And she could never be bothered to straighten it now. Well.that. She was occupied internally with reliving her time with Tia. Likewise. Not now. Graceful . you can’t judge a book by the cover. in the surgical sense of the word? Or was she a warm. But how was it she used to laugh so much? And people had laughed with her. Tia had seemed to move quite slowly and had sat very still. 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. But lately. and concentrated instead on recalling as much of Tia as she could remember. caring human being who wanted to help people.Chapter 2 Lynn travelled home on the grimy tube with her head buzzing.two images unpleasantly overlapping . It seemed a long time since Lynn had had anything of interest to occupy her thoughts besides . probably. . It kept things at bay. She pondered the paradox that was Tia. She hardly noticed her fellow passengers or the stations streaming by. The oppressive grey fog of autopilot which normally hung over her was being shot through with tiny bolts of fizzy lightning. She'd never really given it much thought before. Green eyes.and heaved a sigh without realising it. mobile mouth. Laughing was very important. was she? Lynn couldn't remember. 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. but there was something.
It was less people to explain to. Lynn felt the dragging weight of her everyday existence. It had taken her a while to realise that it was nothing personal. above and below. nobody ever need see their neighbours in North London if they didn't want to. just a necessary survival mechanism . She'd been fine before. Lynn had tried very hard when they first moved in. stop being so bloody dramatic! she chided herself angrily. deep down. You're not living in a bloody soap. of her very survival descending upon her again. What was the point of it all. Tears of self-pity. she could feel tears in her eyes. really? What was the point? Oh. but they rarely saw the occupants. Lynn felt the carriage begin to slow down and she mechanically arose. She had to get a grip. get back her joie de vivre. 'It already has!'? But it hadn't happened. She grimaced. Tia seemed to enjoy talking to me. she told herself fiercely. the mass moved on. A miscarriage. thankful that it was only on the first floor. Despite herself.here. found herself reflecting. But it all seemed too much effort now. Aware yet unaware. I can't be completely losing my touch! The thought was a momentary breath of fresh air. especially an easy one like hers. By the top of the second escalator. She scowled at her image in the window. At least she couldn't see the spot now! She touched it. Lynn was all right. that was just her perception. Her pace slowed. Except that she wasn't. Now it suited her. hopeful encounters were residual polite hellos when they surprised each other on the stairs. As she walked along the street and drew near to their apartment. wasn't the end of the world. It was still there. Everything came crowding in. Get real! This is life! This is as good as it gets! She let herself in and climbed the stairs to their flat. at least. as she walked up the steps to the huge Victorian front door.they do if she said. the tube felt stifling. always had been. Her legs felt like lead. Think of something else. Anyway. As the doors slid open. 19 . Miscarriages were two a penny these days. she inserted herself with mindless ease into a miniscule cavity within the many-legged organism flowing past her. which which equally unthinkingly increased the space minutely to accommodate her body shape. but all that remained now of those eager. There were two other flats.
She looked around. And Mark had been so worried it wouldn’t work! A few little changes when she moved in. but she didn't particularly like it.without her having to explain in lots of dreary words. rather like Tia herself.knew something. They were always saying. it clicked. . Lynn's meeting with Tia seemed unreal. to have a shared moment of intimacy. 'It wasn't like I lost anything!' Heard again Tia's quizzical comment. Even at the cost of real intimacy. as though it was trying to get closer to her. fighting her way past people's deadened comprehension to make them understand. slightly italic. The room seemed smaller. It wasn't working now. Anyway – laughing was scientifically proven to be therapeutic. Tia wrote in black. to re-experience the buzz she had felt. somehow distinctive. Desperately she tried to relive it. 'Could you perhaps lose what you might have had?' Suddenly. heard herself say again. of real honesty? Now where had that thought come from? Lynn didn't know. Lynn's was rounded. eliminating all traces of Gina. In the pointless ordinariness of her surroundings. She shook her head to clear it. Hadn't Norman Collinson cured himself of ankylosing spondilitis by laughing? Well then! She concentrated again on Tia.As she let herself in. She pulled out the appointment card she had been given and studied it with a teacher's eye. Much better to make them laugh. The very pattern on the wallpaper seemed larger. to invade her space. 'What's this you wrote. though she purposely made it very easy to read. slightly chaotic. possibly (possibly!) the most honest person she knew. She had to. looping. She knew! Tia knew! In some way that Lynn couldn't quite grasp. She felt that she couldn't breathe properly. Four happy years . Her writing was angular. The wallpaper receded. Lynn resolutely forced herself to remember how lucky they were to have this flat. miss?' The card made Tia seem more tangible. for the kids. but that was only to be expected. granted. And it was never worth it when you did. she wasn't sure what . Tia knew about her . In fact she was a very honest person. . until now. anyway. Lynn put it carefully away inside her purse and thought of the session. Not that she was a dishonest person anyway. Their reaction was always so disappointing. That was better! But what was it that Tia knew? Would she ever get to know her and find 20 . however cheaply bought.
out? As she drifted round the flat. she'd asked questions. Anything there? No dark green or yellow or red of shiny rounded life. . building up to it as she had known he would. really came. herself. as she was clearing the plates away. . it was so good to see you cooking again. don't you?' 'Yes. Tia smiling. That wasn't too bad for a beginning.it was great. 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. Mark arrived home to the aroma of pesto and pasta. left the flat to go to the Italian deli on the corner. She had still so much schoolwork to prepare. was very bad. She looked at the vegetable rack. . with only a few days left until term started.' Pause. 'You know I love you. that was a wonderful meal. She focused on the fragments of conversation she could remember: 'As you see .' He was so kind. Tia looking.' Tia saying. What did you put in that sauce . . she'd made Tia smile . But your mum had her baby. just a few withered old mushrooms. looking at her sadly with their papery old ladies’ faces.well. sort of. It's all right to talk . when it came. surely? Lynn glanced at her watch and was horrified. . anyway. Lynn turned hastily away. 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. so caring . 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. Mark asked Lynn the question she had been dreading. but it was early days.' Pause. she'd shown interest. I know. and Mark would be back by six-thirty wanting to know how the appointment had gone. and with more energy than she knew she possessed. Mark. And why had her brain just cut out for no reason so often? Oh god. that was for sure. 21 . What would she tell him? What could she cook for dinner? For the first time in a while. 'And Lynn. What kind of image had she presented to Tia? Not immediately attractive. The darkness. Later that evening.why did this conversation grate on her so much? She struggled not to get more irritated by his look of concern. Lynn felt the stirrings of appetite. Is that important? . and then. I love your cooking. 'Lynn.
Fine. meaningful silences. 'You went to see that . woman today. . I've brought some home tonight. well. 'So. . down. She didn't seem to say much.' This seemed to satisfy Mark. as 22 . You know.whatever that meant. . but wanting to mean it. . . I'd say. What's she like?' 'What’s she like? All right.' Why did she say that? She was going to see her . Bit of a psychologist type. It's hard to say.' 'Oh. I thought she'd analyse me. . Probably fairly typical. how was your day?' 'Oh. thinking how much she wanted a drink. . client account coming on?' 'Which one?' 'You know! You were telling me last night. . . but lately .' Another pause. . Anyway. . Lynn thought that was going too far. 'Take a little wine for your stomach's sake'? . wasn't she? 'Um. . shared so much. the Murchison one. . Though frankly. but she didn't. . good . conversed so easily and naturally. ask personal questions. didn't you? Did you find it . if she was honest. . I'm not sure. and now she was making him watch every word. but tonight you seemed just a little bit more. most nights. helpful at all?' Her name was Tia. . . right. I don't know. so-so. 'Mark.' Lynn sat down again and fingered her wine glass absently.' 'How's that new . . these past weeks. I suppose. . he drank too! Sometimes he opened a second bottle. She's a consultant clinical psychologist. well.' 'Oh. did it really matter? It helped her sleep. But how would he know that? This conversation was her fault. 'Will you be going to see her again?' 'I think so.'I know you've been . ' . the heavy stare. I suppose. Mark didn't seem to mind. .' Damn! The name had gone. more like your old self again. I think so. . all her fault. Usually she just had a glass or two at weekends. Lot of work though. . They’d laughed a lot. and didn't it say somewhere or other. so she went on with a kind of faux brightness. that's good!' 'Her name's Dr Bradley.
It was the study now.. can you bring it through?' He was already up and moving off. Do you want a coffee.big day tomorrow. she reflected on the conversation as a whole. She found herself cursing Mark for so unawarely moving on with his life and leaving her so far behind. resolutely squashing all reaction to Mark's last comment. But then she didn't expect them. Perhaps Tia could help with that? Mind you. It hadn't been as bad as she'd feared. We’re back on Thursday.' 'Yes. And most of the school work's done. Do you want it in here?' 'No. 'OK. Yeah. I've got some school work to do too. since the miscarriage. But was that because they hadn't really engaged at all? They didn't engage much these days. About ten minutes?' 'Fine. Time's running out. She bowed her head and managed to speak normally.a matter of fact .' The study. But it wasn't his fault! He was doing the right thing and she wasn't – that's all there was to it. It was just nice to have someone to talk to. if Tia saw she was 23 . coffee would be nice.' (Thanks very much!) 'Do you want a hand with the washing-up?' 'No. most of it's done. Oh yes. she’d said there were no miracle cures. 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. actually . Lynn felt as though she had been hit with a brick. some dessert?' 'I never said you had. Any of that chocolate ice cream left?' 'Sure. they were too afraid of hurting the other by saying the wrong thing. you know.' As Lynn did the washing up. But then.' 'Oh. They didn't know how to reach each other. I thought you were cutting it a bit fine. But for how long? Lynn was vaguely aware of something about a time limit.I haven't been sitting on my backside all day. 'I'll make a start on this in the study. every day.
the expensive wood of the fitted units. Eventually Mark. Dear good Mark! How patient he had been. Best thing she ever did for me. I have been for the past two years. She thought back to those early days of their relationship. half laughing. I never asked Gina to marry me! Never wanted to. how quick to reassure her. since by that time Mum had been too ill to come. totally committed to you. either with Lynn or with Mark. The kettle boiled and she poured it into the cafetiere. 'Look. And it had lasted quite a time.which had not gone down at all well.helping her . well enough to say. . willing herself to recapture the small but definite delight she used to take in the aromatic smell of the coffee. had said. Always asking Mark if Gina did this or that. And I love you for being you. Mun had died shortly after. Gina may have been a bitch. It had not been easy. 'Look Lynn. In one sense it didn't matter where. half goaded beyond endurance. she didn't seem the sort just to abandon her. 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. Or did she? But surely they weren't allowed to just do that? She'd have to ask her. Always wondering if she was saying the right thing and worrying if he was thinking about Gina.' And so they had got married in Cyprus. Lynn stared thoughtfully into the washing up water. She's history now and I'm sick of the sound of her name! You are the one I love. which assuaged Lynn's so sore heart. though Lynn had been able to hide it. To be married. the granite work surfaces. for god's sake! Maybe that will convince you. I am totally. in a way. in case you hadn't noticed! Marry me. showed her the ring and the photos. Gina was a total bitch and she walked out on me for my best friend. But eventually. 'So he's made an honest woman of you at last!' . not Gina! Now give it a rest! But she hadn't been able to. and Mark had not. afraid that Mark was making comparisons and finding her wanting. Lynn had never ceased to give thanks to the Powers that Be 24 . had not seemed like marrying at all. Every time. and your Mum not there! But she had been well enough to be glad when they told her. but she had good taste. . How insecure she'd been! She could admit it now. his tone had become more bracing. you and you alone. And marrying abroad had been different.
with her books and papers round her and the laptop on the coffee table. willowy. blonde. 'How are you doing?' There was a delighted squeal down the end of the phone. 'Lynn! It's Lynn!' Then. so affirming. It's been a while . it's Lynn.that Mum had lived long enough to see them wed. Lynn took the coffee and ice cream in to Mark. she padded back to the kitchen for the wine bottle and her empty glass. slightly muffled. restored to full clarity. . Gradually she began to pull them towards her and to leaf through them in a desultory fashion. husky voice. as though the mouthpiece of phone had only been partially covered. Lynn dwelt wistfully on a mental picture of Della. actually she couldn't remember when. 'You were only trying for three months? That's very good! There's plenty of time yet. You'll do fine! Shaking her head. It would be nice to hear her voice. 'Hello. . 'Lynn. then retired to the living room and sat hunched up on the sofa for a while. with hardly a cross word. Oh. She hadn't talked to Della for. immaculate. That had been seven years ago. how are you? I was worried when I didn't hear anything.now they could never factor a baby into their life. to reduce her concentration such a low ebb that she decided to phone Della. .' She left the sentence unfinished. . she might even tell her about Tia. How many others had made that same mistake and how wrong it was! How unbelievably wrong and stupid! Perhaps – new and terrible thought .’ 'Hi Dell!' said Lynn. immersed in his spreadsheets. It took just ten minutes of pondering the physiology of Lumbricus. well . The ringing tone stopped and she heard Della's precise. 'Darling. Arenicola and Nereis. . except for now. how bitter was that? But the doctor had been so positive. It was her usual response. It seemed inappropriate somehow. Della . yet tonight she paused momentarily. . . 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. Something was missing. . How they'd ever become friends. Della Heworth here. It must be a marriage of two minds. Lynn couldn't imagine. Seven happy years. 25 .' Then Della's voice. In the moments it took for the phone line to connect.
' 'Oh. 'It's been a difficult time . do you want to talk about it a little bit? I didn't like to ask before.' (Why had she said that!) ‘I mean I feel a bit better.' 'Thank you. but I'm sure I . She was surprised to hear herself sounding so firm.' 'The National Health!' There was a tiny snort of amusement in Lynn's ear. darkening the door of a church to light a candle for her was strangely moving. 'You poor darling. . now that you're surfacing.' she said. We were thinking of you. . Della heard her resolution and ceded the point. . .the one I've got for the time being. a lapsed Catholic who didn’t care who knew it.I'm all right now.'Oh.' 'It was nothing. Listen Lynn. The idea of Della. Thanks for the card . . you know what the National Health's like! Look. awful time for you. . I wish there was something we could have done.' Her voice too trailed off. so much. obscurely touched. you know. and the flowers. if you're sure . let me put in a word for you with mine. 'Really Lynn. tentatively. or you and Mark could come for a meal?' 26 . He's really busy. But words are pitifully inadequate at a time like this. It really helped me pull myself together. 'Oh well. I've been concerned about you.' said Lynn. would you like to meet up? Drop round for coffee. I'm . that is such a wise thing to do! I saw one after my divorce. 'I'm seeing this therapist. 'Oh good! Lynn. actually it's on the National Health. . Della bailed her out.she . How much does he .' 'Thanks.' said Lynn. both of you. . . . Now that we've made contact. We were so sorry . 'Well. She could not remember why she was phoning.' said Lynn.' 'I am glad!' Della sounded it too. Fortunately.' Did she want to? Lynn wasn't sure. It's been such an awful. It somehow suggested a vulnerability which hitherto had not been particularly noticeable. I think I'll stick with Ti . oh yes. . 'Look. I even went to church and lit a candle for you. . Usually she bowed instantly to Della's unspoken superiority in the femme du monde business.charge?' 'Well.
This was too rich a meal. Della was too warm. She had to back off. it was just a primal ache. Della was warm and funny and wise . It 27 . coupled with a desire to terminate the conversation was welling up inside.' And then she found she was crying in earnest and hung up the phone quickly. Della. could we fix something up when we get back to school?' For the second time. .' she said. . 'I've got too much work to do at the moment. and almost invariably so busy. Lynn gave herself up to the luxury of tears. too available.' But not about miscarriages. and sent her to the bathroom to splash her face with cold water. While in the bathroom. that's OK too. twisting the phone cord round her finger. Lynn. Just do what you feel you want to. Sadness. She felt no relief. 'Of course. She couldn't see Della just yet. I appreciate it. wondering at her own hesitation. savoured it like a rich wine or a perfectly ordered dinner. You take your time. Could we . Or if you never want to talk about it. but not before she heard Della say 'God bless. that now it was a relief to just let them run. . 'Thanks Dell. She'd fought them off so many times before as being an extreme reaction to a less than extreme stress.Lynn considered this. Della was surprised. I really do. . Desperation gave her a measure of control. just a heaviness. and Auntie Della will be waiting with the tissues whenever you want. Aloud she said.if you can. my love. uncomfortably aware that her voice was beginning to thicken with emotion as she was speaking. it's your show. but not enough to make Lynn feel that she was acting in any way strangely. Now she was hanging back. Take the advice of one who knows. She usually delighted in Della's company. but it was a heaviness she recognised. 'I can't talk about it just yet. Love you ' Laying back on the sofa. and she let just enough show in her voice to let Lynn know her solicitude. Normally she jumped at the chance to spend time with Della. She did not reason her pain. it occurred to Lynn that it would be a good idea to go to bed. I'll get back to you. give herself time to think. too caring. and it was the physical discomfort which finally drew her to a sniffing halt several minutes later. thought Lynn. But it is good to talk .
but dammit. plodded back to the study. and then. Oh Mum. Where had that Lynn gone? She hadn't seen her for a long time. then put the largest. but she could have a bath first. 'Sure. did it hurt so much? And yet .think I'll call it a day. her mind had gone blank again. 'Do you need the bathroom? I feel knackered . but his patience was wearing thin. I'll-sort-it Lynn that people liked.was only eight thirty. and she missed her. True. the Lynn that Tia would like if only she knew her.it didn't really hurt. 'What can't be cured must be endured!' Lynn smiled despite herself. Then she could get back to being the old Lynn. what a rock to lean on! But not any more.' Mark looked up. . Caring was all too much effort. What a tower of strength she'd been. Lynn sighed. go ahead. threw off every item of clothing into the linen basket and slid into the bath. A familiar voice in her head said bracingly. oh why. Why. She could imagine in advance the sour looks from the other members of staff as they scanned the sittings board. She decided on a really deep one. added a large amount of the much too expensive bath essence that Mark had insisted on getting her last month for no apparent reason. half the time she couldn't care less. how I miss you! she thought. Lynn returned to the bathroom and started to run the bath. she could tell. And Mum would have been right. gave a tired grin that broadened into a real one. opened the door and said. There was no other way. If she was honest. But she had to go through with it. 28 . said. . He didn't say anything. not done any really.just tough it out . who cried so much. she always was.and yet . that he would what? She had no idea. this was her life . She laid out a clean nightshirt.hang on until it was over. poured some lavender oil in the little burner and lit the candle underneath. What was the matter with her? She should have thought of that before! And she must let Myra know that she would need every alternate Tuesday afternoon off for the foreseeable future. fluffiest bath towel she could find on the towel rail. she hadn't done as much work as she'd planned. She didn't like this new Lynn who was such a burden. the fun-to-be-with. but she could phone up Brian tomorrow and crib his notes. and neither did Mark.' Feeling cheered by the encounter. these rituals complete.she needed to get it unscrewed as soon as possible. had to . Soon he would be so sick of her that he would .
the only part of her above water. finishing off with a cool shower. She'd only taken three. She took a sleeping tablet and lay awake waiting for it to take effect. and now she felt desperate enough to take one after she'd just seen a therapist. From nowhere a vast longing welled up within her. and thoughts of Tia intruded. Eventually she fell into a troubled sleep. Lynn could feel a prickling of sweat on her face. and later in bed.As soon as she lay down she knew it was a mistake. for crying out loud! What was going on? Thoughts of Tia no longer intrigued or comforted. it wasn't quite funny enough. Instead of feeling deliciously pampered and in charge. Although it was funny. luxuriously soaking in perfumed water with scented air around her. 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. Lynn sat reading a novel. These had been prescribed for emergency use by her doctor about a week after the miscarriage. This must not be! She sat up abruptly. After a while she let them. You weren't meant to take them with alcohol but that had been hours ago. It was altogether so unsatisfactory and so far from her hopes that again a few involuntary tears mingled with the water on her face. She felt seriously disturbed. 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. causing the water to swirl dangerously. Afterwards. she looked down at her naked body and without warning felt hopelessly vulnerable and childlike. 29 .
. After he'd kissed her and left. it's in the bag! Have a good day. 'Completely forgot'. she hoped. By late afternoon Lynn was surfacing and an hour's manic rushing around meant that when Mark returned that evening. A wave of remorse swept over her as she noted the shadows under his eyes. He'd been working on this for days. I hope it goes well!' There was no mistaking her sincerity. I'm doing my presentation this morning. He laughed. and oh Mark . bony face was anxious as he tenderly placed it on the bedside cabinet. 30 . 'Got to dash. .' she couldn't bring herself to say the words.' Oh dear god. if not weeks. but so reliably good . Or someone would tell him at work.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.' He looked puzzled for a moment and then light dawned. It made no difference that Lynn was aware of. . Dear. what a cow she was! Of course. . 'I .you knew what you were getting) and plied him with gentle questions at discreet intervals. 'No sweat. 'Oh Mark! Sorry! Sorry! I . Lynn lay alternately cursing her throbbing head and her own cowishness. His dark.oh.' 'Yes . Lynn was ready. His face cleared. . 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. but he'd see it in the mirror in the hall . your hair.like Volkswagons . and rubbed his hand back over the crown of his head. She pressed a lager into his hand as soon as he'd dumped his briefcase. served a simple but elegant meal (Marks was pricy. See you tonight. . good Mark! He asked for so little. it was the presentation today! What time had he come to bed last night? She hadn't even heard him come in. His hair was slightly sticking up.
and she still had to walk to the station to catch the tube. girl!' said the little voice in her head. he was pleased with how it went. At least. In the kitchen. it was Lynn who brought Mark a cup of tea as he lay in bed.Yes. got to get to school early. Now she was struggling to get out of the chair. . She intercepted a glance from him that had a hint of speculation about it. and enjoying Lynn's attentions. Yes. the full force of what was awaiting began to dawn on her. Yes. as she planted a kiss on his sweaty forehead. they’d just had one with the meal. And what was her husband like? Lynn suddenly shivered. thoughts of Tia appeared in Lynn's mind. the PowerPoint had hit the spot. he was quite amenable to being talked round. Lynn could tell he was too. that had been the plan. and a panic button went off inside her head. 31 . 'Sorry darling. at six-thirty? Was she drifting round her own flat .celebrate in style!' she said.' Thus it was that the following morning. However. let's open a bottle of really nice wine . She sat there in a stupor. and how it could have been so much worse. Yes. or he seemed to be. 'Darling. No. . probably. Inexplicably. . Patti Travers hadn't been there with her awkward questions . it had gone fine. a sure sign he felt like celebrating. Now there was only a staff meeting in the morning separating her from teaching in the afternoon. and concentrated on thinking how lucky she was to have such a gentle introduction. . ‘I’m back at school tomorrow. Fortunately it was a nine o’clock start today. As she pointed out.on holiday apparently. willing herself to move as the minutes ticked by. What was she doing now? Was she up too. Alan had been impressed. 'Count your blessings.' she said. but she usually travelled before the rush hour. house . drinking tea. He sat there. or black coffee? Was her house chrome and glass and minimalist. And she wanted to get in early today so that she could meet the other staff in installments. and the train of thought died. She shuddered. But the spell was broken. She hastily told herself that it was only one period. smiling smugly and drinking port. Mark wasn’t so sure. in a kimono or a terry towelling bathrobe? In the shower or still in bed. She wished now that they hadn't had their training days at the end of last term. Lynn had very little to drink. and the toast turned to cardboard in her mouth. or full of pine and chintz? Minimalist.
as Lynn well knew. . What did it matter though? If she wasn't here. shouted. Same old.She rose. She'd phone through and check in just a minute. of course it was here. the same chairs. giving chairs marks out of 10. the same tea and coffee-making facilities and sink unit at the other. But . the same woefully inadequate teachers' lockers along two sides of the room. Yes. in the old grammar school building. Lynn didn't like those chairs. It took new staff about a week to work out why.there was plenty of time! Even if it was in the lower school. she could easily get there by nine. She relaxed back again and sighed with relief as she felt a momentary reprieve from the tension that was knotting inside her. She closed her eyes and sat back. It was better to be on the spot. Lynn moved hastily on. stacked open. same old – except that everything looked unnaturally clean and clutter-free. 'Bye!' in the direction of the bedroom. She sat down in a chair. Where was the impedimenta and accumulata of the teaching profession? Where were the piles of partly marked exercise books. Anyway. She had caught the habit from Mum. It was all there. How bare and strange the staffroom always looked at the start of the autumn term! Yes. which she was sure it wasn't. and you had to shuffle forward on your backside to reach the coffee table or else perch uncomfortably on the edge. These chairs would have got 3 out of 10. the staffroom was empty. Definitely too early. was a fifteen minute walk away. as would the two nearest the staffroom door. There was still nearly an hour to go before the staff meeting. ready to face the onslaught when it came. They were too low. .very large . She was too early. Otherwise you could never put your coffee cup down. armed and armless. Lynn noticed things like that. The hall in the new building was much bigger. When Lynn got to school. it was the right building. for a few moments. They used to play a game when she was a kid. But hang on! . merely an accident of positioning. the white board 32 . wasn't it? She sat bolt upright. The lower school staffroom. The one that Brenda (18 stone plus) habitually sat in would have got a 2. arranged around two large . she'd only be at home.coffee tables. and left the flat. It had been fun. and. They were only sat in as a last resort when all the others were taken – for obvious reasons. though their proximity to it was not their fault. the same marking tables at one end. panic overwhelmed her. grabbed her bag.
three women came through. Alan. Lynn knew. the vast amounts of dirty coffee cups. uninteresting beginning-of-term messages. . or if they were really desperate. Brian. . and I know you will want to extend every sympathy to our friend and colleague Lyndsey Davies who sadly suffered a miscarriage earlier this holiday . and then people flowed forward. How are you? . By the end of term. . Myra. skipping over the circular letter at the beginning ' . and sat. 'Oh. a momentary advantage. . All eyes connected. communally sharing pins. For a second. knowing that seeing John Quincy's name (maths) would make it all too easy. . the door opened and a group of two men. the odd unbent paper clip. . Finally. . she gave up. Soon. it would be liberally covered with notices held on with inadequate amounts of pins. Lynn sat trying to read. not a card. Here at least. she could see before she was seen. the women first. time hung suspended. feeling her apprehension mounting with every minute. In the end. had sent to every member of staff about two weeks previously. the sprinkling of blue and black pens. Awfully sorry . staring at the printed pages. the head.' And he'd written her a very nice letter too . There were footsteps. She herself had been guilty on more than one occasion of filching pins from existing notices to tack up her own. sequencing letters in alphabetical order. Fran. . notices which had once proudly kept their distance. and the condolences began. so sorry to hear . as Lynn knew from bitter experience). Lynn got out the brown envelope with the bulky sheaf of briefing notes that Graham. a door slammed. coming nearer. waiting for the sound of voices. . Lynn. items of clothing and bits of paper with vital messages illegibly scribbled thereon? And how tidy the notice board looked. (never a red one. That showed sensitivity. They must have met in the car park and waited for each other. would be huddled together. secure and self-supporting. She avoided the page with the list of staff. Her whole inner being was fixed on the corridor outside. Her stomach lurched.How dreadful. she got up and went to look at the notice board with its impersonal.markers. Jean.a letter. with actual space on it. of footsteps. so 33 . It was no good. At the end of the corridor.
. they've forgotten to fill the urn again. it stopped. .' and then. she took refuge in a small smile and a slight shrug.' Lynn was taken completely unawares. How are you feeling now? .' said Della. She walked over to stand by the hot water urn. thanks. she stood up straight and turned full face to Della. It was over. Lynn still standing by the notice board. 'Hello!' she said again. glad of a respite to get her bearings. concerned faces and saying over and over. 'That's all right. . I'm so sorry you lost your baby. Pushing herself away from the lockers. So sorry.' she said absently without turning round. Della was preoccupied. So sorry . this time looking directly at her. 'You look very pale.' 'Better now.the list of questions and the 'poor little you' tone. Adrenaline pumped through her. People's sad faces relaxed as they moved away.sorry . 'How bloody annoying. Lynn found herself looking at kind. the door opened again and more people drifted in.' 'Thank you. something about the way Della expressed her concern . . A whiff of a familiar perfume made her turn her head. Winded. 'Are you sure you should be back at school yet? Do you want to sit down? Shall I make you a coffee. just she thought that it would never stop and she would be there repeating the same things for the rest of her life. simply could not. She found her voice and gave a dismissive ‘I’m all right' sort of laugh.' Every time there was a lull. by and large. Why on earth did Della say that to her when she had already expressed her sympathy? It felt like a kick in the gut. She could not. discuss the miscarriage with Della here and 34 . 'Oh Lynn.' Then she recognised the voice and swung round to face her. 'Hi Dell!' she said. sit with you?' Thankfully. and hums of conversation broke out in other parts of the room. leaning against the lockers.' 'Yes. 'Hello. . The staffroom buzzed and heaved with the inordinate number of staff present and nobody took any notice of her. apart from a few latecomers yet to arrive. 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. enabled Lynn to pull herself together more quickly than anything else Della could have said. moved slowly and somewhat unsteadily away. .
and if a fortnight Friday was her first free day. 'I think so. .' Lynn said slowly. Lynn still looked pretty fragile. . ‘I’ll put a note in your pigeon hole confirming it. then it was two weeks tomorrow. but it will give me the chance to lay on something really nice. wait! It's the squash club's annual dinner and we’re doing something on the Saturday . Della had had therapy. . smiling her appreciation.' Della recognised the response and inwardly approved. Next Friday? No. then that was how it was. You'll have to come then . ‘I’ll have to check with Mark.' 'Yeah. 'Got to run . Damn! How about the Friday after? I know it's a long way off. But still . She must do something. wait. . How does that sound?' Lynn felt a bit lost. She hated seeing Lynn looking droopy and depressed.' The irony of this was not lost on Della. Lynn had no idea.' She managed a weak grin. . 'Great!' she said. Yeah. Deryk will be so pleased to see you. 'I think we can squeeze you in. First it was 'soon'. Coffee has been implicated in 35 . 'Look. ‘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. come round for dinner soon? You and Mark. a fortnight tomorrow seemed a long way off . fine! Why not!' 'Let's think. How she fitted it in with being head of department.it'll be legal and binding!’ 'Great!' Lynn echoed. We're in Portsmouth this weekend. But that's the only way they'd do it. This was the Lynn she knew and loved. though she felt slightly ruffled. It just wasn't her. . It's been ages . 'A new woman eh?' she mused. 'Mark must have been surprised!' Nevertheless. But she undoubtedly managed it somehow. But that was how Della organised her life.I forget what. And you'll have seen your therapist again by then so you can tell me all about it. she would quite like to. She had the most hectic social schedule of anyone Lynn knew. Why did Della assume that she would want to tell her about her therapist? Though actually.I've got about twenty things to do.now. but it should be OK. it would be interesting to know what she thought.
'No thanks. 'Want a lift?' Brian had said. full of Polly. Lynn relived their first meeting.premature loss of libido. tights sheer but not too sheer. amongst other things. not a bloody lifethreatening disease and I had it over a month ago!' Lynn had replied sweetly. And acting.' What was the point? He was just being kind. Everything about her. Sipping her coffee.' 'What?' 'It's a fact. jewellery chunky but not too chunky. with her floppy hair and glasses and her perpetually worried look that Lynn loved dispelling with a joke. a bit too meaningfully. Lynn had wanted to hug her on the spot. And anyway. ‘thespian’. where her class was. here in this prep room. Brian. Lynn was sick of people just being kind. How awkwardly Polly had offered her hand to shake. anyway. Lynn made some coffee and sat in the homely. earrings dangly but not too dangly. Lynn located the kettle. Della moved away. After lunch. It seemed funny without Polly but she wouldn't get back from holiday until tomorrow. was what Della taught . though Polly was not there. cluttered prep room. I read it in the Tea Drinkers' Weekly and Doughnut Dunkers' Gazette. Polly was the lower school lab technician. 'No thanks! It's just a miscarriage. she wanted to borrow his notes. What a load of rubbish Della talked! But it was entertaining rubbish at least. Lynn went straight to the science prep room and put the milk in the fridge. 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. Lynn thought. Lynn walked to the lower school. but empty. took you to one side and discreetly whispered. too shy to even look Lynn in the face! Amused. . Resisting the urge to snap back. of course. lipstick bright but not too bright. oh. shouted – no. . though she couldn’t help noting with annoyance that someone had borrowed her cat mug again. Then she joined the general exodus to the main hall. But. It had been a challenge to thaw her out but it had been 36 . filled it up and savoured a much-needed cup of coffee. Some people would have 'He meant well' engraved on their tombstone. I could do with some fresh air. now abandoned. they could always say it was for an experiment. getting some milk on the way. as though that somehow excused everything.' Smiling.
heard a noise as of approaching thunder coming up the stairs. It was a useful attribute for a teacher. She looked round and sighed.this would never do! . also 37 . Polly doted on her . She was so accepting . this produced a loud groan. 8R. Sometimes Lynn couldn't help feeling a bit jealous. thought Lynn.’ then had to eyeball the humorist. who. sat and thought. What a contrast Polly was to graceful. 'Well. Miss!' 'Have a good holiday?' 'Do anything then?' Not much. Saw a therapist. Had a miscarriage. How about you? Ready for some work?' Predictably. 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. Lynn waited for it to die down a bit. one of Lynn's favourite classes in fact. Strange that after her accidious cultivation of Polly and the time she had spent gently drawing her out. 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. Aloud she said. Well. and went outside to meet her class. It was usually the other way round. They were a nice bunch. which swelled when they saw her.wandered round some more.worth it. had another cup of coffee.and though she was still earnest and awkward. She always had the most Christmas cards and presents of all the staff in the school. But it was Polly that Lynn wanted now. Lynn regarded her as one of her successes. mused Lynn. 'Hello. just at the moment. She was very tongue in cheek was Della. found herself nodding off .a bit too much at times. I'm not letting you in until you are. It took a lot to make her speak her mind. she was not so shy. She'd had them last year too. No one ever crossed Della twice. Got depressed. Polly's chief talent was listening. But Polly's company was very restful. Not that Della didn't listen too. urbane Della. but her pupils had a healthy respect for her tongue. Polly had repaid all Lynn's efforts . it was now she who missed Polly. 'Fine thanks.dear Polly! She was such a simple soul! Lynn checked that her lab slips for the next two weeks were up. of course. strolled round the labs. and then said amiably.
you said . got that? Page 32.' 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. taking down the stools on the benches. ‘Suits me fine!’ There was muttering and shuffling as they got into a semblance of order. they're gas taps. sweetheart. She's back tomorrow. Already Lynn could feel herself becoming drained from the encounter with their sheer animal exuberance. but we can do it.' A disappointed mumble surfaced and a dissonant voice was heard. chattering away like monkeys as they unpacked their bags. said.' Lynn said. . welcome to the first science lesson of the term. . 'Afternoon everyone. . when you get them turn to page 32. . 'But Mrs Davies. . . Yes. I know I said. by the window. Union rules. hel-lo? . When you get them . Kevin. so there's no one to set out any practicals. . then left her position when about half were in. Ben. you said we would be doing a practical first lesson. Her lessons were looked forward to and she seldom disappointed them. isn't it? Bin it .predictably. 'Yes. sitting on them. Patrick. give out the text books. Put the comb away. we've got a lot to get through this term. OK. and stood at the front watching them finishing coming through. Lynn was a popular teacher. but the lab technician is still away. from the effort of mentally imposing her will on them. your hair looks fine. Now then . Now. just leave them . you've seen them before. Lynn stood in the doorway so that they had to go through in single file. I’m sorry. .' 'But couldn't you .?' 'Definitely not.' She paused. Sara. Make sure you answer in sentences. . 'Stephanie. . The class looked at her expectantly. and she hadn't even started teaching them yet. bit early to be chewing gum. 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 . . draw the diagram underneath and then answer in your books the questions I am about to write on the board. Write out the paragraph headed "Steam turbines". if we don't waste time . it's over there. . But she did today.
head industriously down. Now. There was always one in every class. . Laboriously. disorientated. she made a cup of tea and sat down in the kitchen. he got up and moved towards the kitchen. She sat down again and looked at the newspaper headlines. Individual pupils looked up reproachfully but she stared them down. Already Ryan. was poking his neighbour with his pen. She should have at least prepared worksheets. I’ve handed my notice in. diagnosed ADHD. 'How was your day?' 'Oh. It was going to be a long lesson. hair invariably worn in a severe ponytail. one of several in this class. Mark found her there. giving it her best shot. no more. When he felt her shift restlessly beneath it.and very bright. the future . This was very bad teaching and she knew it. Lynn sighed. . articulate but not too cheeky . but nothing major. He said her name and she came to. on the female side. ‘What’s for dinner? I’ll get it. half asleep. She stuffed the food she had grabbed up at the supermarket in the freezer and the fridge. Nicole was the first to begin writing. all right. They were so distressing that she turned immediately to the crossword on the back page. so she got up and hung it in the hall. and it looked like it was hurting. .bench.’ (Not much!) Mark sat down beside her and put his arm round her. The end of Lynn's imaginings about . After a while it dawned on her that she was still wearing her coat. She said. with the likes of Nicole.’ but temporised with. 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. . ‘Bloody awful. could have been worse. Few problems. You?’ She longed to say. When she got home that night. Tall and merry. 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. She looked at him with such an air of bruised fragility that his heart went out to her. Faithful Nicole! Lynn 's heart warmed towards her. Lynn was shattered. She had spent too much but she was in no mood to let it bother her. and Nicole was the one that made 8R shine more brightly for Lynn. had always ended. ‘Yeah. concentrating on the words.’ 39 . when he came in from work.
Lynn thought of Tia for almost the first time that day. did it really matter? She spent the evening in a fog of depression. nothing. 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. and went to bed as early as possible. Fridge and freezer. He called from the kitchen as she heard the microwave door click shut. I didn't mean to put it in the freezer actually. She took another sleeping tablet and fell asleep still wondering. . but if not. I'd forgotten we were going to eat it tonight. She was so bloody touchy these days. . 'What's that?' 'Oh . In bed. but contented himself with looking at her now and then in what he hoped was a sympathetic way. He knew that any attempt at conversation would be rebuffed. Mark said nothing. It was getting very tiring.' She hoped Mark was reading the instructions correctly. 40 .' Mark had heard only the first two sentences.'Lasagne and mange-tout.
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
She was gazing into her coffee cup. blinking behind her glasses as she waited for her to continue. Polly was sitting very still. but it was still part of the fun. By tacit agreement. I was coming up to the three months.' She paused again. . searching for the right words to begin. that kind of preperiod ache? But it never occurred to me . lost in her own thoughts. They had filled croissants. afterwards . 'It was in the holiday. After a minute. . you know. It did seem odd. 'Tell me all about it. and then looked across the table at Lynn. and when the food came they gave it their full attention. And now she was back on the sugar. . Polly said in surprise.' she added hastily. They were both hungry.all for nothing! She felt a surge of irritation. and in an agony lest Polly should interrupt. It was in her. about two weeks after we broke up. it was like this . I got. All that effort . aware that she was repeating herself. How long had she been doing that? 'Oh well. it was a good enough one. 46 . 'Yes. .' She began to talk. with every expression of sympathy. she felt that something was definitely wrong.' she said finally.' Then she remembered.' she said. . they never did 'sensible eating' here. I thought you didn't take sugar now. . Lynn didn't reply immediately. It had been at the hospital . 'Well. As they reached for their coffees. Lynn's with chocolate. . 'Now. 'Only if you want to. .the contents of last week's newspaper. Lynn thought this was a total waste of time. . 'Well. that it was taking too long. After two minutes. when she didn't care any more. She began to listen to what she was saying. Polly's with some sort of cottage cheese mixture.' she said. Lynn began to panic. Lynn risked a glance at her. . but . 'You're putting sugar in?' 'Only in coffee. she felt that something was not quite right. What was it? It was not Polly. She paused.' Lynn considered. at length. and it took you ages to give it up.' Lynn said. Lynn finally found a door. Considering the highly calorific nature of croissant dough. Polly settled herself comfortably. who was listening perfectly.' and then blushed crimson at the forthrightness of the phrase. groping for a way in. 'Just this once. Lynn.
'What a stupid bloody thing to say! What do you know about it.' Polly was saying kindly. Yuck. it probably couldn't have lived. .' she said eventually. She was majoring on the care of the staff. 'If there had been a baby. When I got to school. the support she had been given. ' Lynn's anger seemed to explode through the top of her head. 'People were very kind. That's very good. .describing. slowly at first and then faster and faster until it began to reach explosion point. and it dawned on her that this was an edited account. 'Well. She stopped.' Now it was Lynn's turn to be puzzled. the fact that there was no baby.' She paused. The vague feeling of irritated puzzlement and unsatisfactoriness inside her began to coalesce into something darker. What had they said? 'They said they were sorry. as if she didn't know how to react. Lynn. Lynn thought about stopping. That was how it seemed to her now. and flowers. more solid. . yes. feeling more sure of her ground. so that her discomfort and pain didn't make them feel bad. she forced herself to look at Polly. . They said . Just words. She was talking brightly. We got loads of cards . leaving out the emotion entirely. She put the cup down and wiped the froth from her lips. What was positive about having a miscarriage? She took a sip of coffee. 'And damn you too. Polly!' she heard herself shout. . She didn’t know how else to say it. She began to remember exactly what they had said. Or it would have been deformed. nothing of comfort. animatedly playing down the gory bits. and began to boil over. 47 . It's nature's way . The more Lynn thought about it. and too sweet. 'So it's all for the best. when Lynn had ground to a halt. At length Polly said. 'You seem to have a very positive attitude to all this. like mercury rising up a thermometer. but she couldn’t.nothing of value. With a gargantuan effort. stop her feeling. nothing she could hold on to. but she was looking puzzled. Oh damn them! Damn them all! The rage filled her to overflowing. words to shut her up. It was cold now. people were very sympathetic. Nothing that told her they could feel her pain. the more she could feel a sense of hot fury swirling up inside her.' she said at last. People had said nothing . to concentrate on what she was saying. Polly was still listening hard.
.you patronising cow? What do you know about anything? You're still living with your mother. Trembling. 'I was only trying to help.' Lynn was beside herself with remorse. 'I don't understand. Polly made a half-hearted attempt to withdraw them. I'm seeing a therapist. so after a little while she lifted her head to look at Polly. All her anger seemed to have vaporised in that explosion. She couldn’t gaze at it for ever. 'I didn't deserve that. oh Pol! Don't cry! Oh. please don't cry! I'm sorry.to cause that?’ Her lip was trembling. please don't cry!' Something of her wretchedness seemed to penetrate Polly's misery. much as she wanted to. which strangely enough looked the very same as it had before she had spoken. and Lynn could feel them shaking beneath her grip. . she was doubly so now. Heads at adjacent tables turned. ' Polly . when all I wanted to do was help you. If she was aghast before. Horrified. Oh please believe me! Please forgive me!' 48 .' she said awkwardly. for god's sake!' Polly stopped in mid-sentence. could not believe what she had said. then turned quickly back. The cafe went quiet. and she was scrubbing away tears. Polly had her head down and her shoulders were shaking. which were convulsively clasping a wad of tissues. Lynn watched her struggling to regain control before she added with an odd dignity. She looked at Polly's tear-stained face and reached across the table to grab her hands.oh. something Lynn had never actually seen happen before. Lynn. she lowered her head and stared at the table cloth. I'm not myself. Lynn had never seen her cry. I say mad things. Something had happened which could not be reversed. too. She held on tighter. but Polly and Lynn still sat staring at each other. Her jaw dropped. She looked up. I know! I don't know what got into me. I'm sorry! I don't know what got into me. 'Polly. and regarded her with a look of total unbelief. she couldn't work out why on earth she had said what she did. I know. Her face was swollen and blotchy. After a couple of hour-long seconds. the hum of conversation resumed. truly I don't! Oh please forgive me! I'm so sorry! I'm under such a strain these days. I'm sorry . What did I say . and in the face of Polly's distress.
for her purse.' said Polly humbly.I don't deserve it. rather blindly. Thanks for listening. She returned the pressure of Lynn's hand. As they were leaving. The Quickfit apparatus was already set up. although her hands were still shaking. not knowing what to say to make it right. you are so kind! So forgiving! Thank you so much . it really is. and then withdrew her own.I'll just sort the bill out. Lynn. looking at her. 'Polly.' 'Polly. As they were driving back to school. thanks. 'Time to go .' After Lynn had got out.Polly heard her sincerity and was programmed to respond. Instead. And for putting up with me. anyway. It was all spoilt now. That's what friends are for. It was incredible. with her agonising shyness. realised that Polly actually meant it. Polly said suddenly. was surviving. but thank you!' Polly did not trust herself to reply. I've got to nip to the upper school to pick up that Quickfit for Bill. thanks to her. 'so it's all right. let me! It's the least I can do!' 'No! My treat. I said. was amazed to encounter Polly's steady gaze. Lynn didn't dare say any more. 49 . to grope. I needed to talk – everything's all churned up inside . somehow.' She broke off. Polly. Polly. How could Polly do it? Did she really mean it? She seemed to.) 'I know I can't really understand how you're feeling.' Lynn. Polly did not drive to the upper school. having been delivered by a member of staff travelling to the lower school during break. but the situation was still horribly fragile. Lynn could feel them. she tried again.' 'Polly. They would never come to this cafe again. 'That's all right Lynn.' Lynn let her. 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. she drove quickly to her own house. She managed a small smile. 'Just remembered. would never recover from this ordeal that she. Can I drop you off?' 'Sure. Thanks. had put her through.
She worked quickly and methodically. and as she worked she continued to fork the cold macaroni into her mouth. I just can't help it!' Polly piled the frozen butter shavings onto the bread. she checked the pantry and found a packet with Weight watchers chocolate bars in. . By the time Polly got to school. Look at you! 50 . Wait! A third of a box of cereal . Polly crammed the last of the bread into her mouth and got into the car. so she put it on the passenger seat and attempted to eat from it while driving. Nothing else in the pantry. and began to chew it. she wedged it between her knees. Oh please forgive me! I just can't help it. She was glad she did. so in the end. she moaned quietly in anguish. . It’s no more than you deserve for not letting Him help you. She grabbed that too. in sheer frustration. 'Oh Lord. Hardly knowing what she was doing. But the bag kept sliding about when she tried to put her hand in. gulping down big bites alternately with the macaroni cheese. Thankfully. Polly headed for the kitchen without pausing to take off her coat. Then she remembered to check the kitchen in case mum came in. As she locked the front door. She took a sharp knife and began to shave off thin slivers of frozen butter. Then another.Once inside. Good! She grabbed the waxed paper bag from the carton. Grabbing a fork from the draining board. She kept it there because they ate butter so seldom. Polly took the butter over to the bread bin. She put the other one in her pocket. Then another slice. ‘Call yourself a Christian? Where's your self-control. frosted flakes. 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. I'm so sorry. folded it over. and the familiar voice began in her head. Polly opened the fridge door and took out some cold macaroni cheese in a bowl. the carer would have given mum her lunch and gone by now and mum would be asleep in front of the TV. she began to eat it. She forgot about the Weight watchers bar in her pocket as she began to feel bloated and sick. You will die of obesity and God will let you. With the seat belt on. In between mouthfuls. the urge to eat had subsided. she couldn't reach the cereal bag still in her pocket. stuffed it in her pocket and headed out of the door. while taking the butter out of the freezer. She ripped the wrapper off one and stuffed it whole in her mouth. and got out some white sliced bread.
'This is the first of the three sessions we agreed 51 . Once again she ushered her through. Once again she was waiting for Tia. Chapter 5 Once again. 'Mrs Davies is here'. When Tia saw her looking. Lynn was sitting on the same chair in the drab corridor.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. Once again the attentive receptionist had asked her to take a seat. At two thirty precisely she heard the soft click of the door at the end of the corridor and turned to see Tia approaching. Tia seated herself opposite her and said. and said.' Then she waited until Lynn had almost reached her and turned and led the way to her office. she stopped. and Lynn. This time Lynn was more alert. 'Lynn. had telephoned through to somewhere. sat in the same seat she had sat in two weeks ago. unbidden.
. but it felt so wrong. And then her mind blanked completely. Her chance had gone. 'Yes. it was a relief to talk.' There was a pause during which Lynn suddenly remembered with annoyance what she had actually planned to say to Tia. about everything. 'To tell the truth. Actually. Lynn looked away and mumbled in a rush.um . now.' ‘Why's that?’ This simple question helped Lynn to focus. but now Tia was actually looking at her. She risked a glance at Tia. Tia's enquiry had sent it completely out of the window. They simply were not there. What kind of training do you do? How did you become interested in it?’ Somehow. She knew now what she wanted to say. God! Why did Tia keep doing this to her! She'd had it all so carefully prepared. Hardly knowing what she was doing.' Silence. Polly.together. how does counselling work then? Can you tell me something about it? I know very little. Della. 'People were so kind. Oh. I didn't know what to do. more importantly. 'I . . it's been really difficult. Into the silence that followed.’ Lynn resigned herself to go with the flow. filled Lynn's mind. but I felt so angry. Tia said. they made you feel angry. about Tia. it's been bloody awful. She hadn’t meant to start with that at all. very angry. What a relief. her thoughts scattered like cockroaches under the cupboard when the kitchen light was turned on. Lynn hastily averted her gaze again. and got hopelessly jammed in the doorway from her brain to her mouth. Actually. how could she get it back? She didn't think she could.' She wanted to add. my friends. ‘So . She'd need to be quicker next time. I don't know why. her thoughts about the miscarriage. So. They made me angry. Tia was looking concerned. now she'd got started. made a concerted rush to escape. it's been really hard work. She’d had a lot of carefully thought out questions first. How on earth had that happened. ‘And you made me feel 52 .well. bugger. but I don’t know why. and. 'Although people were kind. how have you been?' All the events of the past two weeks.
' It was not an ideal choice of distraction.all right. .' Lynn could feel herself trembling at the memory. she said as conversationally as she could. .’ but she hadn’t got the bottle. I couldn't go in. It wasn't even painful. When I saw the blood. I should have been ready for it. at the whole lot of them. Oh. .' 'It's all right. and then looked up. But here she was in Tia's office. but I felt so strange. The anger she was feeling at Della. not thinking about it. and now she felt so tired.oh. I think so. ‘Should I talk about it?’ ‘Whatever you like. This would never do! She concentrated fiercely on Tia’s hands. seeing the blood again. anyway.angry too. . it wasn't as though I wasn't expecting it. well. But it had taken a lot of energy. 'Sorry.well.oh Tia. noticing a rather nice green and silver ring.I mean being angry with other people when they were being so kind. She had coped by resolutely thinking of something else. weird.’ said Tia. Tia was regarding her with an air of polite expectation. I didn't even phone any work through. had been smouldering for days. I just went to pieces. Every cloud has a silver lining.well . I had to have two days off school. She wasn’t entirely sure it was true now.like another miscarriage. putting it on hold until she could see Tia and ask her what she thought of it. To distract herself. at Polly. Was she angry with herself? She supposed she was – losing patience with her own inability to take it in her stride. I suppose that was because of the D and C. 'I . 'Funny about the anger though . But I . I . having to cover me for that. but it was so . and wisps 53 . ’Yes. Oh. but it felt like . as my old mother would say. I feel so angry with myself!' ‘With yourself?’ Lynn thought about what she had just said.' 'Yeah . I bet they hated me at school though. it was awful. that's one benefit I didn't expect from a miscarriage.I . I started my period last Monday!' To Lynn's dismay she found herself wanting to cry. it brought it all back. smothered under a flame-retardant blanket of guilt. It was just . it was just a period. That's not like me.
she came to. positively billowing out from under the blanket. 'Anger is a very normal emotion in these circumstances. trying to remember. She wasn't sure what she really thought about that. She had oceans. clasping her arms around her emptiness. Oh Polly! Lynn said slowly. It wasn't all right. and Lynn was powerless to stop them.there was no baby. aware of Tia's eyes resting on her. a little self-consciously. She looked at Tia. She trailed off and sat staring into space. in a hissing undertone. It's nature's way. and gently rocked back and forth. She had felt so empty. . it probably couldn't have lived or it would have been born deformed. 'Well." I felt . It seemed too terrible to say aloud. She leaned forward. pleading silently for help. But there wasn't! There wasn't!' Lynn found herself whispering. The smouldering pile of anger looked smaller.How the hell did she know! What right did she have to say it was better for it to have died. It felt very bad. Nothing! Just emptiness!' Emptiness. After a while. "If there had been". . and then her heroic efforts to minimise the outburst. called her a stupid cow. She and Polly had hardly spoken since. the worst one was Polly. 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. 'Stupid. said she was bloody patronising. I really freaked out. in a cafe. She stopped trembling. galaxies of emptiness inside her. She continued hurriedly. and Polly said. 'But . When she spoke again. Tia seemed unaware of her inner turmoil.of smoke were finally emerging.' She broke off. and said mildly. more manageable. Can you tell me about the times when you felt angry?' Lynn felt OK once more. to say it didn't matter. you'd be surprised. 'You felt that there was nothing there . Tia said. it was to herself. She said. . Poor Polly! She could see again that look of stricken disbelief on her face. She had felt as empty as the universe. that there never had been anything. everybody looked . "If there had been a baby. 54 . She sat up. So are a lot of others. useless failure! Thinking you were pregnant! Congratulating yourself! On what? On nothing. holding it in. But it did matter.I thought . she said. to make it all right. 'I'd been feeling very angry anyway. I shouted at her. about something. . She said obediently. She was aware that she was close to losing it.
you were really empty. Somehow. then four. looking at her anxiously to see how she would take it. the penetration. Tia continued. Instead he had been bewildered. . There was nothing to mourn. smiling at her. When you’d thought you were full of growing life. and suddenly. She thought about it all. and her frustration at his obtuseness.' Tia said gently. Are you so sure that it was like that . but pleasantly so. She thought back further. almost of relief. It touched something. ‘Are you so sure it was like that – the whole time?’ Tia’s question echoed in her head.' Lynn felt foolish. you just told me.for ten seconds – for one second! There had been a baby! Her baby! She felt a sudden surge of wonder.That you'd been deceived. she understood.' 'Yes!' said Lynn. the fussy time-lapse cinematography showing the ovum dividing into two. Her womb. She had thought he would be relieved too. . which should have been the safest place in the universe for the tiny 55 . the doctor saying.the whole time?' Lynn thought. didn't understand how simple it made everything. but kindly. 'There was no baby. By the time the miscarriage occurred. 'Oh. what then? There must have been a baby! Even if it had only been there for one cell division. when she told Mark. She remembered the feeling. it seemed safe to do that here. but when had there started to be no baby? Into her teacher's mind came a vivid picture of fertilisation. true. when the sperm met the ovum. in Tia’s bright room. 'But how do you know?' 'Lynn. had deceived yourself. Tia. There was no baby. 'Yes! That's it!' She looked at Tia wonderingly. The baby didn't grow'. 'But the emptiness. there had been only an undifferentiated mass of cells. but right back at the start. What was Tia saying now? She relived the miscarriage. for ten minutes . a fragile bubble of joy rising within her that was burst almost instantly by the crushing awareness that the baby had not survived. and then a ball of cells . only their disappointment to contend with. the wriggling sperm. She'd save that to think about later. There had been no baby then.
growing life. She looked at Tia gratefully. eyes closed. Lynn exhausted the tissues in her bag. wasn't it? Even if it was only for a minute. it was there?' 'Yes. She was powerless to stop them. The thoughts all became too much for her and she leaned back in her chair. They exchanged a long look and it was only then that Lynn became aware of her blotchy. All she could do was to ride them out as best she could. was a curious feeling of security. . It did not occur to her to think about her red eyes. she suddenly thought clinically. She cried for a long time.' Lynn bent her head and cried. She could feel whatever was inside her changing from an agonizing laceration into a steady ache. It felt so safe to cry in Tia's quiet presence. It was not unlike being sick. and looked up. horribly. working her way steadily through them. The ruin of her make-up had been completed by the first minute. Lynn finally finished.was there. 'The baby was there.hugely. she could not see her. but Lynn didn't care. If it ever reached the uterus. But one thing stood out. She opened her eyes and repeated it to Tia to see if she had got it right. The sobs seemed to die down and just when Lynn thought it was over. in a way she had not cried since she was a child. flowing round the pain. The pile of used tissues on her lap grew. and turned to the open box of tissues on the table. and shake her whole body. and smiled tremulously.did exist . without warning they welled up again within her. Tia made no attempt to say or do anything to stop her.' said Tia. and even though she was dimly conscious of Tia sitting perfectly still and making no move towards her. It was such a nice feeling. she know she was there. Anguish gripped her and she cried with racking. or what Tia thought of her. Confusion overtook her. aching sobs that seemed to knot her stomach in spasms. . She could hear herself gasping and grabbing in breaths between them. Something inside her was hurting . She knew that something of value had just been 56 . 'The baby . Something (she shuddered) must have implanted to stimulate hormone production and the thickening of the uterus wall. red-faced state. But it must have. Eventually the violence of the sobs grew less and Lynn's tears became punctuated by sighs. was not safe enough. She could not remember feeling like this before. Creeping in. With her head down.
if necessary. 'I don't. 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.' she said. 'Do you live around here. regarding her with composure as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Nothing was said for a few minutes. when she.transacted. and Lynn sank. froglike down into the silent shadiness at the bottom of the pond. But did she actually need to do anything? Tia was sitting there as relaxed as ever. Lynn realised that Tia knew what to do even if she didn't. She said. but Lynn didn't want to think about herself . Tia?' Tia looked at Lynn with a faint air of 'Why are you asking me this?' 'No. Tia had apparently not moved a muscle. with genuine bewilderment. She looked as though she could sit there all day like that.' It was clear to Lynn that she would get nowhere with this particular line of questioning. alert. Lynn suddenly felt a resurgence of curiosity about this strange and fascinating world about which Tia knew so much and she knew so little. 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. How could she look so cool. Lynn. But mingled with it was a measure of release. Eventually she felt herself drifting slowly upwards and reluctantly poked her head above the surface into the bright world around her. She'd think about what it all meant later. This was amazing. She glanced at the clock on the wall. Lynn became aware of Tia's well-cut slacks and sandals and the bright hoop earrings shining through Tia's hair. She wasn't sure she was even thinking anything. ready to engage. It had not gone away. Lynn felt glad that Tia was in charge. so she paused to regroup. Where had the time gone? How could she make the most of what was left? As she reflected. hands resting loosely on her lap. Twelve minutes to go.she felt exhausted. 'What happened just now?' 57 . but now the moment was over she felt uncomfortable and she was not sure what to do or say next. Tia didn't look at all bothered. There was Tia. something of the emotion she had felt only moments ago washed over her. It meant that she didn't have to do anything. Tia was in charge. She sat back in the chair and closed her eyes.
.' She hesitated for what seemed an age ' the baby' . That's odd. ‘You said she was a fighter?' 'Yes. I felt like I'd really let my mum down.' 'And I felt . and then I realised it was to do with the fact that there was no baby . tasting the unfamiliar words. but softly. such a pain. She was tough though. looked up to her. . .' Lynn paused to think about it.' Tia said drily. 'You did. she died a few years ago. But they could wait. I mean. I really admired her. . lost the baby. pain . She was so alive. What on earth went on inside Tia's head? What did she know? She said.' Lynn felt tears welling up again. wasn't it? I was grieving for my baby. She had me against the odds.' 'So my baby was real. 'My mum. ' 'Yes. 'What do you think happened?' Lynn replayed it in her mind. decided not to.Tia gave her an approving nod . you know. but because my baby was gone.Tia said. 'Well. She had such a sense of humour. Tia looked back. I wanted to be just like her. isn't it?' There was another pause which Tia did not fill. "See. . She knew she would be able to cry later. She had to be. Mum. .' ‘Mmm?' '. wasn't it? Really. . She would cry later. . Lynn felt again the sense of awe she had felt earlier. She looked at Tia. . I can do it too. lost . 'I felt such a failure. when I had the . . My dad left her when she was three months pregnant 58 . It was grief. . . . . Not just feeling sad because my my future was different." ' ‘That's one reason for having a baby. she was such a fighter. I felt . really there?' 'Yes it was.' agreed Tia. 'You know. . of grief. 'You would have liked my mother. .' . I was telling you about what Polly said . After a while she responded hesitantly. and went on hurriedly. and then I realised there was a baby after all . . and then I cried?' 'Yes. .' Lynn repeated. Somehow say.
We would be in a stronger position to assess your counselling needs and we would have more time to do it in.with me.and she and Tia weren't even friends yet! 'Well. She taught me not to whine. She had so much to say. Tia was implacable! Lynn felt completely helpless. She said. we've got a few minutes left?' The thought of only two more sessions with Tia seemed too awful to bear. I think you may find that things have shifted a bit for you. 'Lynn.' 'Oh!' Lynn cried in distress. And now she'd have to wait another two weeks! 'And our next session is the second of the three sessions we agreed. Where had the time gone? Fifty minutes wasn't long enough! They could at least give her an hour! She seemed to have said nothing. But my feeling is that there may be other issues around for you here and if the next 59 . Can you imagine that? But I respected her. seemed hardly to have started. and she could tell Tia didn't think so! . “What can’t be cured must be endured”. even more woefully. there was nothing she could do. that this is a crisis clinic. Tia held all the cards! Against hope. it would really be better if we discussed it during the next session rather than at the end of this one. 'Oh please. Mum was so wonderful. 'Only two more! Couldn't we agree some more sessions now. don't you. 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. A jibber's a horse that refuses at fences. we have just five minutes of this session left. Tia looked at her carefully for some moments. I was about ten before I cottoned onto what she was talking about . take life's knocks and get up again. She wanted to tell Tia about her mother.' 'Oh!' Lynn cried again. They were on holiday in Italy and he just walked out of the hotel and never came back. I know it!' She could not keep the desperation out of her voice. You've come to a deeper understanding of your baby and it has helped you to begin to grieve.' Lynn didn't agree at all. she cried out. "Never say your mother bred a jibber!" she'd say.' Tia said. 'I think we would need two more sessions to end properly. But you do understand. for brief therapy? We’ve looked at some important issues today. That was one of her sayings – she had lots of them. please! Two's not enough.
'longer term counselling'. scrabbling at the mounds of tissues on her lap. thankful that she could hardly speak. deeply. 'Our next session then. away from Tia's affirming presence) about Tia.two sessions highlight anything then it may be worth considering referral for some longer term counselling. . he found Lynn busily typing a letter. She knew it. When Mark came home late that evening. measured way. But she didn't need to. Don't be afraid. Then Tia was walking with her to the door. there seemed so much to think about.' All Lynn heard clearly was the phrase. Lynn. yet . I'm picking it up tomorrow – I hope. * * * Lynn walked down the corridor with her thoughts buzzing.' Once again. ‘You know what we ought to do. .' As he got it out he said.I’ve had to drop it off to get it sorted. Tia was passing her a waste bin from by the desk behind her.' Lynn turned to say goodbye. about the miscarriage (she didn't feel like saying 'baby' -. Why did she always seem to leave with more in her head than she came in with? Once again. . about what she might say to her in the sessions to come. . I've had mine. is two weeks from today. The second session was over. She felt so achingly. We ought to get a video and order in a pizza like we 60 . and saying in her quiet.' and Lynn was dropping them in. saying. on legs that felt slightly wobbly. Lynn walked through the door. Tia was already standing up. 'Your dinner's ready. She had no memory of the journey home. then added. A reprieve! She had gained a reprieve.' Lynn was standing up too. 'Here. 'I understand. one of these days. saw again that Tia was smiling. holding it open. 'And now I am afraid our time really is up. 'It's all right.' Tia's smile seemed to be saying.’ He paused. it's in the microwave. I’ll see you then. at two thirty. 'Will you be long with the laptop? Mine's playing up . once again heard it close with a firm click before she had gone three paces. Surely she needed to talk to Tia for much longer than two sessions. saying. The next two sessions need not be the last ones.
.used to. 'You should have said. I won't be long. 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. Do you need it right away?' 'Not yet. Lynn didn’t even notice. It seemed so adolescent. slightly freckly skin that often goes with reddish hair. I never expected to cry so much but it felt very safe. At first. After half an hour. Then she responded to his ‘Nearly finished?’s with growing exasperation. Good bone structure. First of all I want to thank you though because it was very helpful. you bloody technophobe. .' she said. Tia was an extremely intelligent. . Older than she had first thought . That translucent. She scrubbed the beginning and started again. I feel more in touch with my feelings about my baby. Mark waited in vain for the computer to be free. but Lynn felt a growing distaste as she read it. so stream-of-consciousness. . he started looking round the door. come on! This wasn't getting her letter done. I feel I can trust you with anything.' He ate his meal restlessly in front of the television. 'I did. There was more in the same vein. aware person. . Back in the living room. come on. the floppy discs waiting to be used on the coffee table serving as a focus for his increasing annoyance.’ 'Oh. Hey.’ ‘I know. complex feelings seemed incapable of being expressed other than very simply. she remembered the close-up of Tia when she had left. but Lynn recognised it in his heavy breathing and abrupt movements. You made me feel safe. I hardly ever use it. Only for the odd worksheet. trying not to show his anger. As Lynn thought of her. . 'No. It was very weird.' floated back. laughter lines . Lynn was finally satisfied. Mark came in. a fork in one hand. Take your time. Back in the spare bedroom cum study. ‘I’ve said I won’t be a minute!’ By nine o'clock. Definitely hazel eyes. you seem to understand so much. Then you expect me to pretty them up for you and 61 .' 'That would be nice. Fine lines . the remote in the other. around the eyes . Her turbulent.
I’ve finished now. Lynn grabbed her letter and disc from the computer and walked out. but Mum had read enough for two. Now in the living room. 62 . Chris would – he was always ready to help anyone. If it's not appropriate. 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. they ruled the bloody world. simply refused to understand her love of books. Your insights enabled me to realise that I had not properly grieved for my baby. Miserable sod! How often did she use the laptop? Hardly ever! There was one at school – well. the printed page. ‘You should do it more often then. An explanation of why she was writing. please tell me so next session. Lynn thought. Good servants. (Another Brownie point or two . Sodding computers. And Mum had never been keen on technology either. but Mark refused. (A good start. well. but poor masters. a willingness not to write again if necessary. Lynn looked at the letter she had written to calm herself down.coded message: Tia. but she felt it struck just the right note: Dear Tl I hope you don't mind my writing to you. not literature anyway. OK. and it was such a release to be able to express my emotion so freely in front of you. but it seemed the ideal way to clear my mind of all the background chatter so that the time in the last two sessions can be used to best advantage. It was not very long. Computers were a necessary evil. That's what Mum would have said. she had a bit of a block when it came to computers. inwardly seething. the written word. but if it was up to you.) The letter continued: / really found this last session so helpful.' ‘Yes I have. we'd still be using quill pens. she'd not read hugely. It’s nearly the year 2K. You should go on a course.print them out. Lynn was sick of the times they'd had this conversation. plus a subtle acknowledgment of Tia's fixation with time. She’d thought he didn’t mind. You haven't even mastered the Internet. instead of leaving it to me!’ That stung. And I do know how to print things out’ said Lynn stubbornly. she'd been too busy. and stop making a fuss. As if I haven’t got enough to do. So.
I realise that I have so much more that I want (Drat . then dismiss her from her mind and her life.again. come on! Tia was just an interesting person. How could she deny Lynn access to her wisdom. And Tia was pretty fascinating. so cleanly.) As I reflect. . she so wanted Tia to like her! That wasn’t wrong. Part of her wanted to thank Tia rather more strongly. that was all. I do so hope that we can fit it into the remaining time. . . Lynn liked the way she thought.to laugh and joke and exchange views as equals.so minimally. Don't let's make anything out of it! Lynn liked people.so much. Lynn had never met anyone who thought that way before . but she wanted that truth to convey a restrained strength. a sort of mutuality between her and Tia. 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. intriguing. As she read the letter through again. a little monitor went off in Lynn's mind. How could that be? It seemed a hopeless task. was it? To want people to like you? Not just to kindly help her. when it was doing so much good. it's your insights that have enabled me to grieve. She wanted to meet Tia somehow on more mutual terms . It was . Oh. so that Tia would not regard her as inferior. say how much it had meant to her. (A nice touch . Sincerely Lynn had wrestled much over how to end the letter. more interesting case. bringing so much healing? Surely she would extend the time . her clear thinking. but something had told her that Tia would regard this as the fulsome gushing of a needy person. recognition of the time limits.it should be 'need' Lynn would have to reprint it when Mark had finished) to say. liked making friends anyway – everyone was interesting in their own way.? ) Thank you .you are doing such a good job. and a plea to her better nature. a parasite. . Lynn felt that everything she had said in the letter was true. Where was the harm in that? 63 . set by Tia. I look forward to our next session together. someone to be dealt with as quickly as possible before she moved on to the next. not even Della. Lynn wanted Tia to notice her. See what a difference you are making to me.
She thought of her own willingness to accept Tia's insights. there was hope. Most of all. Lynn posted the letter on the way to the tube.Tia couldn't fail to be impressed with that. She got up early to reprint the emended letter in the morning. it was nice. to learn.Lynn relived the session again. Her honesty . Mark was still working when she went to bed at eleven. recalling their interactions. Tia smiling. surely? Their talking together. 64 . . . with mingled dread and pleasurable anticipation. Yes. the look Tia had given her when they had parted. She could not resist putting on a first class stamp. she had made Tia change her mind .against what had seemed to be her better judgment. really . She had no idea when he finished. almost laughing at her.offer more counselling .
But she hadn't meant to be. but she dimly sensed that this was just the start. wait. You see. apart from a grunted exchange of information and farewell.she really had to sort it out with Polly.I felt angry.' 'Ciao. but Lynn overrode her. but scarcely more than this. I'm . standing there so meekly to hear what she had to say. new resolves to sort out her future and her past. I'm off now. lab coat unfastened and swinging open.sort of touched on something .oh Polly. as she approached. looking at her. That wasn't strictly true. She looked anxious.' Polly tried to interrupt. let me finish! It was my fault. ('Toast?' 'No thanks.I'm seeing someone.’ said Polly.we've got to . 'Polly . That's a part of grief. 'But it wasn't your fault. had been at fault. as usual. a therapist I mean. I was . She realised with chagrin that she had hardly spoken two sentences to Mark since the previous evening. she knew. She couldn't go on like this. felt a rush of affection. Oh well. 'I understand more now.' Polly straightened and turned to meet her. And you . Lynn. I just had say again how sorry I am about what happened.' Lynn called. let that pass. all my fault. She had to make it all right.' That at least was true. was bent over the prep room table with her back to her. I hadn't properly grieved.') What kind of relationship was that? And as for Polly . something had been laid to rest. In the session with Tia the previous day. she was aware of new desires emerging within her. and yet it was Polly who waited like a child for a rebuke. She just waited. She.' Lynn paused momentarily. 'Polly. Her face was neither friendly nor unfriendly.Chapter 6 As Lynn entered school that morning. But it wasn't you I was angry at.hello. she climbed the stairs to the science labs and prep room. 'Polly . With this thought in mind.' 'Ciao then. Polly. Polly had been insensitive. and I’m beginning to 65 . Poor Polly. 'Oh .well . Lynn. 'No.’ ‘Sure. you know.and I let you have it.can we talk? I mean about the other day.
it wasn't your fault. . That evening. Lynn recognised the authenticity in Polly's voice and was slightly awed by it. What's going on?' Lynn felt rebuked. Polly had heard just one thing . I've been trying to be patient. you're worse than ever. yet amazed relief. 'It really doesn't matter any more. On impulse. but she needed to put it right. In everything that Lynn had been saying. His face was shadowed. 'I saw Deryk at the gym. open countenance was beaming. It really didn't matter to her now: she could hear it.' As Lynn spoke. we've got to talk. 'Look.it wasn't you I was angry at.' she added. she could see that Polly's face was changing from a look of apprehension to an expression of muted. Apparently it's been booked for two weeks. He came in the door and said. but ever since you've been seeing this woman. forgiving Lynn had been something Polly Had To Do because Polly had clearly done something very wrong. Polly smiled. She didn’t know what.' 66 . as she had once said before. 'Let's go out for a sandwich this lunchtime. I acted as though I knew what he was talking about. 'I'm sorry. Lynn. Everything was all right again. They did not go to the Cafe Noir.' Oh god! Hadn't she told him? She said quickly. 'It's all right. The miscarriage was bad enough. He burst out.' she said. You’re just not there anymore. Please forgive me. as he was taking his coat off. . But this time she meant it in a different way. dissolving and dissipating the chilling hurt that had been nagging at her ever since That Day. He said he was looking forward to Friday. !' Polly's squarish.' Polly beamed more widely. It wasn't her fault. genuinely. Before. A warm feeling was spreading within Polly's guts. 'Oh yes! Della invited us round for a meal on Friday! Didn't I mention it?' 'No!' said Mark. It was deserved . so deserved! She came and stood by him and said repentantly.understand. but we can't go on like this. I don't know what’s going on myself. But if someone had said to her in public what she had said to Polly . Lynn said. And I know that I hurt you so badly and I'm really really sorry. Now her forgiveness of Lynn had a deeper resonance. Mark was home late. .
Mark heard what she said. in Mark's arms. Smiling. Whatever she had said. she took his hand and placed it on her breast. I know I'm not much company at the moment. I don't know! Everything's such a mess and I'm thinking about it such a lot. As for the miscarriage . Lynn. Please give me just a bit more time to try to sort it. Mark murmured. She could feel herself almost sagging with relief against him. What was left? Not much. but how could she? Her time with Tia was too precious . She'd told him nothing. Things are happening I don't understand but I know I've got to go through with it. but how much longer is this going to last. insufficient though it had seemed to her. Lynn froze. 'It's been a long time. Lynn . . Still holding her.and too painful . * * * 67 .. to try by her closeness to convey that she loved him.to share.'I told you. On impulse she moved closer to him. the baby .' She didn't know what else to say. even eager a moment ago. . You know I don't mean to hurt you. ' Inside her head. had obviously meant something to him. She inhaled his smell . She leant against him. It seemed so inadequate. for god's sake!' 'I don't know. I can't go back now. felt only thankfulness. I've been trying to be patient.the sweaty city office odour replaced by the smell of fresh cotton and the piney shower gel they used at the gym. What was the matter now? She had seemed so willing. put his other arm around and bent his head. but managed not to translate it into any bodily reaction. felt her soft nearness. . and put his arm around her. . heard the apology in it. catching the characteristic scent of her shampoo and cologne. So that was a no-no. The shutters came down whenever she had tried to talk about it. Had he got it wrong again? Lynn felt his body beginning to tense and made a split second decision. . that was over and done with as far as he was concerned. . He dropped his briefcase. The moment hung in the air while Mark waited in an agony of suspense.
what lovely flowers! Thank you. in the way that people who have no children can get away with. so delicate . wait. That was why he used the same fitness club as Mark. Drinking her Shiraz. Della appeared in the doorway. Lynn tried not to be jealous. She looked around. 'Look. So faded. Deryk was a self-made businessman. Della loved flowers. 1663 ‘Harriet Cooper. there was a tiny wire running down behind the bookcase.Friday night found Lynn and Mark standing outside Deryk and Della's flat in St John's Wood. come in! Let me take your coats. as she had done before. filthy rich but not pretentious. then departed to tend to the flowers. You couldn't see it unless you looked. mingling with the night scents of the still blooming flowers in the beds around. when Della appeared with the flowers artfully arranged in a tall vase. She always appreciated coming to Della's and Deryk's immensely. aged seven years’. haloed in soft light. Mark rang the doorbell. 'I must take my shoes off.the little maker's fingers long since turned to dust. Oh. they were pious in those days! And 68 . you're here. It was a bit like one of those memory games. How did they dare have up on the wall like that. They entered and Della whisked their coats away. Heavens. I love your carpet so much!' 'Of course!' said Della. come in. Thank you so much!' Her thanks were genuine. They had just seated themselves in the Heworth's comfortable sofa. what was the date? Lynn stood up to see more clearly . Lynn looked around. Deryk!' she called over her shoulder. Della. with their feet in the Heworth's deep shag pile carpet. Lynn! Well. The Lowry? No.’ To prove the point. so casually? No. They were born hosts and their flat was large and full of interesting things arranged in odd corners and on low shelves. Lynn always enjoyed spotting what new trophy they had added since last time. she kicked them off. these flowers are perfect for this vase. A subtle perfume hung for a second in the September air. ‘I’m not wearing mine. That pirate's treasure chest thing? No. while Deryk materialised and benignly ushered them through to the lounge. Drinks. That child's sampler. and Lynn said. 'Oh good. in a simple jersey dress that showed her figure to perfection.
up he came with it. and maybe she was right.well . so beautiful. . was the shell still inhabited when you got it?' 'Heavens no!' said Della with a shudder. was that a tiny bloodstain in the corner? She shivered and turned away. Della responded with some animation. it was beautiful . How people could choose to believe that these giant marine molluscs died natural deaths. Lynn wondered where Della had got it. and her eye fell on a large and very beautiful shell.illegal? They are quite rare. She clearly had strong feelings about this . Paid a local an absolute fortune to dive for it." ' murmured Lynn. their shells just 'happened on' by collectors was beyond her. 'Our last holiday in the West Indies. get real! The thing was dead and gone when we bought it. Someone else would have if we hadn't. they need the money so desperately . these people are very poor. After about ten minutes. 'Has everything here got an anecdote attached?' 69 . She turned to Della who had come to stand beside her. She bent over it. Deryk saw her looking. the pinky.had a bag of 'em!' 'I don't know about "as common as muck. 'It's very beautiful. The people were poor. . It wasn’t Deryk’s thing . 'So. 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 . Della hardly ever expressed herself without being amusing in some way.' he said. . 'Ah yes. pearly opalescence in perfect contrast to the glowing richness of the wood of the sideboard below it. 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. You could hardly blame them. . The biologist in her felt affronted at the unnecessary sacrifice of biodiversity required to grace a rich person's sideboard.any money! I assure you Deryk paid handsomely for that!' Lynn felt slightly taken aback.' she acknowledged. and anyway. Lynn wasn’t sure what to feel about this. aren't they?' She had touched a nerve. quite unlike her usual languid tones. On the other hand. .yet there was a sort of innocence and modesty about it somehow. . She’d never seen one so close before. He swore they were as rare as hens' teeth. 'The very idea!' 'Isn't the sale of these shells . 'My dear Lynn.
Somehow it was something she had never thought about . a vast amount would end up in the bin. Della's usual good humour was restored. and she was right. . 'Are we ready to eat now?' and without waiting for an answer rose gracefully and drifted towards the dining room. Too boring. but somehow she'd expected it to be a little bit different from this. well .' said Della. . 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. generous but extravagant. . The meal looked delicious. . and she'd been looking forward to it so much . not to slow down his eating. Was that how he had got that slight paunch? For a man who worked out regularly he was quite . had been frowning at Deryk. and made them three-D. Deryk said they were just very large prawns. Somehow. 'More or less.but that was Della's style. and therefore seemed ageless. Lynn had noted with amusement. You couldn't have one without the other. After a while. But then he must be at least fifty. How old was Della then? With a slight shock Lynn realised that she must be in her early forties. . ‘Come and sit down. It was lovely here and Della and Deryk were so welcoming and considerate. In between 70 . It tasted sublime. So they did.it seemed almost rude to think about Della's age. but she would have been amused. laid them on the table. and then decided not to. 'But we don't tell them all to everybody.She had said the right thing. . Lynn contemplated asking Della about the little needlewoman. Della said. She’d probably find out she’d been burned as a witch or something. Lynn as aware too. and they were fried with something which Lynn couldn't quite place but which was very nice.' she said. She had to glare at Mark to slow down his eating. She too. but because he was already on his third glass of wine. thick-set. Lynn could never bring herself to ask for a doggy bag. Della would have gladly given her one. but as the meal progressed.’ For a moment. It seemed a terrible waste . Lynn’s pleasure in it began to be shadowed with a feeling of unease. Maybe because she had a touch of Jean Harlow about her. It was as though Della had ripped out the cookery section pages of the Sunday supplement magazines. that no matter how much they ate. because she knew from experience that a starter this size would herald a generous meal. Mark and Lynn enjoyed it tremendously. probably her pale blonde hair. she wasn't sure how. smiling.
'We met Rachel and Samson .’ 'What’s that about school sweatshirts?' said Deryk. Very religious and morally upright. they've all got Biblical names over there . 'They sing well there. you got quite a lot. There's a school there. We've got a tape of a church service we went to. the anecdotes went relentlessly on.and their family in the Gambia about four years ago and got friendly. 71 .must be the wine ) and Della and Lynn talking school and diets and personalities.they'd asked. When in Rome . and yet so incredibly generous. didn't you? I never realised you were so personally involved. 'Oh well. actually. You were making it when I came. 'Rachel sent us those .' Mark said. 'Oh. you know. frowning.Mark and Deryk talking Stock Markets and politics and personal trainers (Mark was beginning to loosen up. Della coloured faintly. that's all. 'That's what that appeal for old school sweatshirts and pens and pencils was for about three years ago. then?' said Lynn curiously. nothing much. All believe in God. 'They didn't get our present though.' said Della..' 'So you believe in God?' Lynn could not resist asking. . ' 'Samson?' 'Yes. they are.' she said again. She could not imagine elegant Della and worldly-wise Deryk in a hot sweaty church service with lusty Pentecostal singing.. don't they Deryk?' Something clicked in Lynn's memory. Lynn noted thankfully .' said Deryk. It seemed the right thing to do. 'Ah yes.was it last Christmas.’ said Della hastily. 'Unusual salad servers. that sort of thing.' 'So you went to a service. so poor. . We've sort of exchanged gifts at Christmas and so on ever since. Bloody thieving postal service over there!' Della elaborated. Deryk?' 'Um. They put us to shame.' Della looked uncomfortable. it was quite fun. They're lovely people. not really personally . 'Well. looking interested.
it would not be in response to other people's questions. The subject had never arisen. that is.' said Della.I forgot to whisk the cream. thought Lynn. Deryk wasn’t usually this bad. Something about the way she ended suggested to Lynn that if she ever talked about her religious beliefs. nervous breakdown when I put it in the wrong drawer. His remark got the response he was clearly hoping for. the reality was that she knew almost nothing about what Della really thought.’ said Della suddenly. 'the only thing you know how to use is the corkscrew. I repeat. They didn't work very well though.’ She left the table and the sound of whirring emanated from the kitchen. suddenly appearing pointing the whisk threateningly at Deryk. Lynn felt amazed. He was clearly enjoying this exchange. a Higher Power. Perhaps she was thinking about God. and Della seemed to talk freely on any subject. you’ve got cream on your nose. And it did not go 72 . . That reminds me . Della wiped it off with an impatient gesture. I get a better standard of repartee from my year sevens. whose mind now seemed elsewhere. ‘I like to keep my options open. Not for the first time she reflected that although she and Della had been friends ever since she had joined the staff. She glanced at Della. Her feeling of discomfort increased. ‘That's why I bought a few voodoo dolls as well . Della's voice floated indignantly through the doorway. 'The sound of the little woman at work!' His face was slightly flushed and he spoke loud enough for Della to hear. though now she remembered . . . and even then you nearly had a nervous breakdown.' Casting a comically rueful ‘See-what-I-have-to-put-up-with’ look at Lynn and Mark. Lynn and Mark exchanged covert glances.'Of course!' said Della. their version of them anyway. The milkman is still alive.and how to use it!' 'So do I!’ 'Let's face it.' She stopped suddenly. do shut up. Deryk subsided. Somehow she had never thought to wonder if Della believed in God.' Deryk guffawed. 'Deryk darling. . 'Little woman be blowed! At least I know where the whisk is .' 'So you admit it was the wrong drawer? And by the way. I believe there's something in control. 'Well. 'That's what I like to hear!' said Deryk.
. some comfort. 'This is gynaecology. She had to make a decision. The silence grew. As she listened to the banter and discussion she had less and less heart to join in and her feeling of alienation grew.away through the dessert or the cheese and biscuits or the coffee. It seemed in such bad taste. Lynn and Della sat side by side on the sofa and Della said. 'D and C? Did you have FforbesTaylor? He did my snip. turning towards her. .' Deryk had already offered Mark a cigar. . Rescue me! her eyes begged Della. . 'Now when I had my miscarriage . you wouldn't be able to smoke in the hospital. 'And of course. . This was her opportunity. but she had to live with Deryk after tonight. Lynn couldn’t help feeling touched. what did she want? She wanted to talk about herself and her pain. She would just have to make it up to Lynn some other time. . but not decisively enough. I've lived with your PMS for years!' Della thought fast. That was so typical of her. Oh god! she thought. while she said to Deryk 73 . 'Cigarette? I remember you used to indulge after meals occasionally. 'I stopped when . Well.' She paused. . Deryk passed the port around. yes. . Unseen by Deryk or Mark she grabbed Lynn's hand and held it. Lynn noticed. . Della glanced at her thoughtfully and said.' and smiled despite herself.' she murmured. after the D and C . you could smoke. Everybody waited. Lynn was hurting she knew. She could not finish. I know all about 'em.' It was her opening. What was going wrong? Lynn asked herself. and Lynn took it. . He and Mark were well away now. Butt out!' 'Gynaecology? Women's problems. 'No thanks. As they drank coffee in the lounge. She wanted . . to get some relief. but she could not speak. But how? She imagined herself butting in on the conversation. She knew Della did not smoke herself and the packet was unopened.’ 'Deryk!' said Della warningly. There was a room .' This time it was Deryk who broke the silence. She must have bought them especially. 'The hospital .
Mark. Della also rose. never. She leant back against the cushions. Too bloody late. wrestling her hand from Della's frantic grip. Tia! The very thought of her made Lynn want to cry. What the dickens was happening now? She'd been all right a few minutes ago. watching Lynn on the sofa. he was moving.menacingly. never get relief. glancing at his watch.' 'The tube's fine . standing up. as though she cared. What on earth was going on? Why was Della holding her hand. Lynn. 'Is that the time? I think we ought to think about making a move. He had to act quickly to get Lynn away. spent. Lynn. . Even as he thought. Della! Don't bother going through the motions now! When push comes to shove you're just not there for me. Lynn felt as if she was in a bad dream. I'm not risking the National Health!' Deryk chortled appreciatively. She hadn't even mentioned Tia. That will cost you plenty. giving a creditable imitation of a yawn. now she was white and desperate. . Her chance was over. 'Yes. still holding her hand. became aware that she was suddenly struggling. 'It's been so good to see you.' 'Must you?' said Della. as though they had just flipped from being in one soap-opera on TV to a completely different one on the other channel. She could never talk now. She shrugged into the coat Deryk had fetched and now held out for her and turned to go.' ‘I feel it!' said Lynn. and yet was doing this to her? She had been so looking forward to this evening and it had vanished before her very eyes. He cursed Deryk and Della and their endless need to be a double act.' 74 . It was over. The evening was over as far as she was concerned. It's been a long week. She had a sudden picture of a tiny ember in a vast sea of grey ash giving a last faint glimmer and winking out. was now laughing at Deryk's sally about the gynaecologist who decorated his hall through his letterbox. ‘I’ll run you home. Della. and it will be HRT next. Looking from one to the other. summoning her strength to stand up. But you do look a bit done in.
he called once more. had he said to make her look so grateful? They drove back in silence.' 'Oh. . The cleaner will do it in the morning. 'What are you doing? I'm waiting!' 'Just coming. Mark wondered. And did no one notice my deliberate abstemiousness over dinner? I am disappointed!' 'I did.' Della lingered outside long enough to see them enter the house. Lynn. all right. Just making myself beautiful!' Five minutes later. a hint of petulance in his voice.’ Della flashed him a dazzling smile.' said Mark.'No! Please. Lynn leaning against Mark's shoulder in the back seat. Here we are. See you on Monday. 75 . I got away as soon as I could.' As she started stacking the dishwasher. anyway.oh. waited a little while until their light went on. And Lynn wanted to talk – you know. the miscarriage.' 'Oh but . darling. It's what we pay her for. Deryk tried again. 'Night. I've got the car out ready. glancing at them in the driver's mirror. her hand on his knee. then drove off round the corner and parked up for twenty minutes." ' 'Night. his voice sharper. 'Leave that my darling. traffic. he called out.' 'It doesn't matter.' 'But I know you . And thanks for a lovely evening.' ‘It DOESN'T matter. OK?' ‘OK. she put the car away. said softly.' There was complete silence from the bathroom. ‘I’m sorry we didn't get the chance to talk. all trace of tiredness gone. we could talk now. Good to see you. Won't be a moment my sweet. As she quietly closed the door. When she got back.' 'You're welcome. Della. 'What took you so long? I've been expecting you. ‘Thanks. and come to bed now. if you like. I insist! It's no trouble. I couldn't say no to her – she was in a bit of a state. then went into the flat. Two minutes later. Deryk 's voice came sleepily from the bedroom. What.
damn you! Now! Or would you prefer me to come and fetch you. 76 . like last time?' Della came to bed.'Come to bed.
nearer to being sorted.well. Somehow. secure in their cosy. Della was no fool .Chapter 7 Saturday morning dawned eventually. interspersed with surges of bitter anger and despair. Della knew how much she'd been counting on that evening. adolescent love. Lynn was sure of that. Mark's intermittent sleep-driven mumblings. How could she not? And it had started so well. and then one hour more . that was the only word for it . did she care? She certainly hadn’t shown it last night. Of course it wasn't.and telling her what it felt like.to Della's need to be the centre of attention. Della had seemed somehow artificial . But even that was cold comfort.sacrificed. together. At the memory of the previous evening.nearly two weeks' time . darkness. therapeutic . after seeing Tia on Tuesday. things had seemed brighter. One hour. At least Della might have spared her the heavy byplay. all Lynn's anger boiled up again. drinks of water.a necessary stage on the road to wholeness. How did a woman of Della's intellectual calibre tolerate it? She actually did seem to find it enjoyable. though bitter. to flaunt her highly-charged sexual relationship with Deryk. The night had felt endless. How amazing Tia was! Beside her. laughing and teasing each other in the darkness.as though everything was done for effect. The only bright thread running through the whole seething mixture had been the thought of seeing Tia in . That was the effect that seeing Tia had on Lynn. Lynn knew it would have to. But then again.god 77 . Della was genuine. sycophantic. Most of the time anyway. clearer. trips to the bathroom. What she saw in him Lynn would never know. had seemed cleansing. The previous six hours had been a confused hotch-potch of tossing and turning. lured in by comfort and kindness . The crying she'd done.and then what? Probably nothing. all served on a bed of the malaise caused by imbibing too much rich food and wine. She would understand.what . genuinely cared. sort of kindness. Then to be sacrificed like that . in two weeks. At intervals in the night she imagined Deryk and Della. Della knew how much pain she was in. dozing and quiet tears that made the pillow sticky. but whatever it was it took total precedence over Della standing with Lynn in her anguish.over-elaborate .
She goes to my church.knows she wasn't expecting Della to magically make it all better.oh . .' Lynn knew Polly went to church. 'Don't you know anyone like that. surely? So how could you have Saint Saviour's? She had tried asking Polly about this. but Polly grew pinkly 78 . 'She doesn't. she knew. Surely what she'd said . just a little bit. but caring and trying to get it right. . It had been a good time. And holding her hand while she did it! Lynn ground her teeth in the darkness. it's what she leaves out. but it had been so hard to explain to Polly exactly the effect that Tia had had on her. She tried one last time.things you never thought before. But when she does speak . 'Well.' agreed Lynn. there's Lauren. That was what made it worse .Della knowing. It's not what she says. and the Saviour. was. just to listen a little bit. There was only one Tia. 'Lauren?' 'Yes. Perhaps that was worth more? Lynn thought again of her lunchtime sandwich with Polly earlier in the week and her feelings softened. about Tia and Polly had screwed up her face with the effort to understand. an unexceptional C of E that went by the name of St Saviour's. About the baby I suppose. Surely she could have done that? But no. They had really talked . . about a lot of things. Lynn had told Polly a bit. Perhaps she was better off with Polly's not knowing. Saints were saints. 'It doesn't sound like she says very much. Blundering on and putting her foot in it. Lynn had always thought that this was a strange name. and yet she still deliberately chose to not be there for her. Lauren's amazing. yes. .tried to say . well.about Tia would have indicated even to Polly that Tia was in a class of her own.' Polly had said.' she'd said. to flirt with Deryk instead. But Polly had surprised her. She could see that Polly wasn't convinced.' 'Such as?' 'Oh. by which she supposed they meant Jesus.things. 'But she makes you think . Polly?' Lynn waited for Polly to say no. I don't know .' Lynn couldn't explain it. the Saviour.
she's really special. but the minister.' This sounded even more suspicious. in terms of everyday direness. Lynn had watched her. and Lynn could not resist pursuing the topic a little further. 'Yes he does!' And then the brightness dimmed as though by speaking so freely she had uttered some blasphemy and she stopped.’ she had said. and Lauren. like a dog with fleas. David.although her face did have a way of lighting up when she laughed that Lynn found very endearing. 'That’s good. lively. as though the thought of feeling God there gave her pleasure. On impulse. 'Lively'. Lynn said. and Lynn had the sudden horrible suspicion that that was how she herself looked when she talked about Tia. She was not particularly prepossessing – homely. Polly?' ‘Well. but he's getting things moving. 'That's really good. and it's . and Polly had felt safe again and gone happily back to school with Lynn. 'And. he's very good. Lynn suspected and lived with her invalid mother. 'David's not been there very long. doesn't he. 'Oh yes!' she said. in her twenties – late twenties. Now here was Polly mentioning church of her own accord. Polly's face was so expressive. ashamed.the Holy Spirit. really . when the subject of God or religion was mooted. It sounded vaguely suspicious. 'You mean like pins and needles. you know.' when she noticed that Polly's face had changed again. . well.' Polly's face took on a soulful look. She looked peaceful and happy. 'God makes you feel happy. Lynn stopped. Polly.' Then the sun had come out again in Polly's face. and they had laughed and talked of other things. You can feel him. Lynn had 79 . She had no social life and her job at school was thankless and not particularly well-paid. and Lynn had never had the heart to press the issue. She was unmarried. it's not very big. Polly?' Polly brightened. God's there .' Lynn didn't know. Polly had so little of value in this world. Lynn was just about to say. Life couldn’t do much more to her really. unsure of how to continue.defensive and earnest. in a worried sort of way. 'What's your church like.
At last he said. Yes. 'You're still young. patriarchal being who demanded everything and gave nothing in return. She remembered Polly's face when she had said. Polly had once confided to Lynn her desire to get married and have children.for all it was due to an irrational and antique mindset of pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die. 'If you want a man. But nothing felt normal now. Della (she shuddered) Tia .the miscarriage. Go to evening classes at the college. he wasn't joking. Join a dating agency! But do something! You can't expect them to come to you.so little. You'd make a lovely mum!' 80 . Except. with the papers from the corner shop. Jealous? Of Polly? He had to be joking! No. Strong winds had buffeted her from all directions throughout the night. Mixed in with all the dross.felt a sort of restoration. 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. Pol!' Lynn had said.peace . He listened intently. feeling. New and strange was a welcome relief from the old and intolerable and she pondered it as she got up and showered and dressed. school.find yourself one. 'You're jealous!' Lynn was incredulous and indignant. humanly speaking. peace? Oh. perhaps. this dreary Saturday morning. glad to give his attention to anything that took Lynn's mind off the night before. Polly might have nothing Lynn wanted. his hair still wet from the shower. Mark. 'Oh yes!' and was silenced. there's a few good lads out there . Lynn felt sweaty and tousled. and she felt spent from trying to stand against them. but she had one thing that Lynn hadn't got . nothing gave her any comfort . at least. you've got to go where they are. No matter where she looked. with a laugh. with a pain like sinus trouble in her head from lack of sleep. physically better for making the effort. She told Mark about this new strange feeling that she couldn't define when he came back from his run. but then stopped. Lynn started to demur indignantly. and so soon over – and now thoughts of Polly and her God. but who would want peace at such a price? Slavish obedience to a vengeful. an unfamiliar sensation came over her that she struggled to define. As Lynn turned it all over in her mind. It had been such a normal sort of conversation. girl! Get yourself out to the clubs and discos. Again.
Polly had looked anxious. if Della can do it. You can't expect everyone to adhere to your narrow. being Polly. and religion. even though Mark might possibly have worked that one out. 'You! In church! That'll be the day!' Lynn said primly. . then! Don't be so fussy. Polly did have peace from whatever source. amazed to hear herself talking about going to church. not that Lynn could tell. But she had clammed up on the subject of men . . but I couldn't marry someone who didn't believe the same as I did.' Lynn had had no patience with this.' Mark burst out laughing. you could package it a touch more enticingly’ – Polly’s eyes had widened – ‘Oops! Sorry. 'Hang on a minute! After all. why can't I?' She thought about what she'd said. Della had nothing to do with it. He thought that Polly was one of Lynn’s lame ducks. I don't know. and Lynn had felt that she had reasonably said enough on the subject for the time being. Granted. I'll have to think about it. 'Where will you go?' 'Oh. who was Lauren? Nobody could compare with Tia. generous person with a lot to offer. 'I think I'll go to church on Sunday. not Della. There's plenty of good men out there who would love you. .' But she did know. and . you're a good. of course. . in the nicest possible way. she said to Mark. That was a bit sneaky. an absolute nonentity. the thought of what lay ahead hung over Lynn like a dripping 81 . But it was better than admitting to Mark that her considerations about church were linked to Polly. Mark saw she was serious. but at the same time chagrined that Mark should think it such a surprising idea. kind. 'I feel extremely offended by your godless attitude. Pol! No offence!' Polly. All that Saturday. She would go to St Saviour's. the image of Polly's face came back to Lynn now. and whispered as though confessing a sexually transmitted disease. had not taken offence at that at all. But still.' She paused. He said. 'Oh. But perhaps Polly's standards weren't very high? On impulse. anyway. rigid belief system. 'You're not a Moonie are you? Or some Exclusive whatever? Well.
A dozen times she nearly changed her mind. waiting to Velcro herself to Lynn for the duration of the service.or gone to another.' 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. 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. but she had to own Polly's right to own her. but at least the smell of the place was agreeable and not too musty. It was 82 . receiving a couple of bundles of papers in return. right on the end of the tube line. The ceiling still seemed impossibly high. couldn't grudge it to her. not wholly pleasant. Lynn sighed. and there would have been a good deal of echoing space. Lynn just had time to register these impressions before Polly appeared at her elbow. even when next day she stood outside the ugly. Lynn dared not even conjecture. too late! She braced herself and marched in. and Polly.umbrella. emerging from some shadowy corner where she had clearly been lurking. anonymous. but for the liberal use of slightly shabby red carpet. After all. What this meant. when she saw her evident happiness and pride. or Polly's shining face intervened. She wished she had. a surprising distance from Polly's home. now. subdued but not defeated. there was a distinct impression of light and warmth. Inside. but the thought of Mark's laughing face. It was quite large. or Della's endurance of lusty Pentecostal singing in the Gambia. In fact. and won. church. had played for. 'Hi Polly. the church looked completely different. Polly was clearly telling her about her. She still couldn't quite believe that she was doing it. it did have something to do with Polly that she was there at all. square. and had begged to be allowed to meet her outside to 'take you in and introduce you to people. Victorian monstrosity. Where do we sit then?' 'Wait a minute. Oh well. the concession that she would sit by her to 'help' her. beaming happily.' said Polly. From the way the woman turned her head to look at Lynn. Not much. Sometimes Polly was so adolescent in her outlook. Polly had been surprised and delighted when Lynn had phoned to ask the time of the service. and the place seemed full of people and the noise of their talking. mind! She could easily have decided to come on her own . Lynn.
The girl with the violin. they are the music group really. her laconic comments . as she carried out some mundane household task. visibly disappointed. Now Lynn found herself asking. will you? Oh which one's Lauren?' Polly looked round. She often did this now and she accepted it. Tia.' she said. 'Let me get my breath back. go shopping? It was pretty nearly next to impossible to imagine Tia doing anything normal or routine. But pray to whom. and stealing a glance at her. 'Those two lads over there at the front . 'Oh. Does Tia go to church? Sit in a pew? Believe in God? Somehow she thought not. she. and a rather more interesting game to play than any of the other distractions she employed when things got a bit too much. that's David.' said Lynn.sweet. Pol. She briefly wondered if she should do the same. Pray. but wearing. but it would be fun to try to find out. She smiled at the woman. her appearance of total relaxation. They've made such a difference to the music group actually. much less if she believed in God. Often Lynn wondered. Does Tia do this? Watch TV. She had wanted to see if this unknown Lauren was worthy of Polly's evident adulation of her. she was 83 . The one that's just come in . To comfort herself. her measured gaze. . 'Lauren's not here. 'You mentioned her. empty the washing machine. she's lovely. that's all. or what? She hardly knew what she was doing there anyway. As Lynn looked around. thought of Tia.' She too felt strangely let down. Polly kept up a running commentary. with her articulated grace of movement.in his shirtsleeves . that's Marcy. was disconcerted to see her with her head down. praying.the one on the keyboards and the one with the guitar. or pretend to pray.' said Lynn indulgently. Lynn registered that Polly was silent. vacuum the carpet. Why do you ask? 'Just wondered. David's sons. Polly returned and led Lynn to the comparative safety of a pew near the back. who smiled back.and Jill is . they're Tim and Josh. She just was. . just because she was in a church? If there was a God. He hasn't robed yet .sorting out the microphones.' 'Wrap up. Lynn found it fascinating to speculate.
but people seemed genuinely to mean them . obviously not enjoying it one little bit. enraptured. Lynn thought. gritting her teeth. to be part of a group like this. though this seemed optional.' she whispered to Polly. The book was entitled Common Worship. staring fixedly in front. When the songs ended. who had either been 84 . since it also appeared to involve a lot of standing up and sitting down. The service seemed to involve quite a lot of flipping back and forth in the book. Lynn felt as though she had entered another culture. ‘That girl on the violin certainly can play. St Saviour's was a bit of a mouthful.certain he wouldn’t think much of that. 'When in Rome . and a couple of flyers for some forthcoming Christian entertainment events. who stood rigidly to attention like soldiers. to psalms and whatnot. The words of the hymns she thought were a little on the emotional side. Lynn did a double take there. 'I though it would be all dirgey. and occasionally kneeling. and in the end she gave up and just let Polly show her. The papers included a copy of the parish magazine entitled The SS News. Reading through them. remembering Della's murmured. with secret delight. What surprised Lynn most was the music.' to help her though the worst bits. . even a touch too personal. She hung on. as they sang. but surely. Lynn found that a little bit spooky. . the other members of the congregation. Everyone under the age of forty seemed to know what they were doing. she was glad that Polly was there. It was a very interesting experience. they could come up with something better than that! There was also some sort of regional newsletter. gazing at the words of the hymns (were they hymns?) projected onto a screen from an OHP and swaying. and looked totally incomprehensible. for a few die-hard old dears in hats. and was still bemusedly turning them over when Polly woke up and found the place for her in the Common Worship book. she turned her attention to the papers and book in her hand.' Polly had merely nodded without looking at her.except. So that was sorted! Relieved. Lynn had to acknowledge that quite honestly. She was completely caught up in it. in the name of all that was holy. Lynn noticed. So that one could wait until Polly surfaced. Granted. She felt extremely thankful that they were near the back.
returned abruptly to normal. Polly included. but overall the effect was pleasing. but this was a bit too close for comfort.so tribal? It was one thing to watch it on TV (not that she did) when you could get up to make a cup of tea when it got a bit heavy or the adverts came on. Lynn decided generously. a bit too up close and personal. She was glad when the sermon started. and there was much riffling though pages by certain people who had brought bibles with them. She didn’t really like it. He even made a few jokes which the audience seemed to love. The women outnumbered the men by about three to one and most of the men there looked spoken-for. Surveying the scene. and then she realised it was because Tia did listen. anyway. and would probably listen intently to the preacher. laid-back sort of person. and frowned.he made her angry. There were a lot of appliqued wall-hangings in the pillars. When they had a time where anybody could pray. The sermon seemed long and. but gave up after a while and gazed around. which Polly had referred to as 'banners'. Doves and flames and water images featured heavily. like the rest of the service. the people who did so prayed very fervently and intimately as though God were sitting in the pew next to them with his arm round them. At least they were something to look at. but there was a little too much about Jesus in it for Lynn's taste. Without doubt. Lynn tried to follow what was said. listening. she had a new insight into why Polly was unattached. This was going on for ever! She imagined Tia sitting in the pew in front of her. A bit amateurish in design. depending on the beat of the song. Lynn was both fascinated and repelled. He quoted the bible a lot. None that she could see from where she was sitting were Polly's age. She didn't want to think about Mark . blue and silver. She stole another glance at her watch. the preacher was sincere. Then Lynn imagined Mark sitting with her. and seemed a caring. and green.apparently jumping up and down on the spot with excitement or singing with eyes shut as though in mystic trances. What she would make of it would be another matter. Was this what the C of E was like now . His scornful incredulity at the thought of her going to church made her feel 85 . This seemed to work. in red and gold.
Patronizing sod! And yet . . Pol. . No one asked her why she had come. had enough clinical interest in the proceedings to acquiesce to Polly's seemingly casual but deeply charged suggestion that she stay for a coffee. and yet . And the vicar seemed sincere. now mercifully nearly over. Lucky. Polly looked pleased. but she was observing an experiment now. The service was a bit longer than I thought. 'People seemed to quite enjoy it. almost against her will. She didn’t feel quite like going outside yet. sitting rapt beside her and a wave of desolation rose up to engulf her. she hadn't found it. but that was all. . furiously concentrating on not feeling depressed. and besides. Polly asked the question that Lynn had been dreading. In for a penny. as Tia. to be sitting there so secure and on the inside. 'How did you enjoy the service?' Lynn briefly rehearsed the good points in her head and then said honestly. smiling and nodding.' She heard herself adding. Then the service was finally over and they were filing to the back of the church for a cup of coffee. Lynn. Lynn glanced at Polly.' She had said enough.' As they stood drinking. lucky Polly. They all seemed concerned that she'd enjoyed the service. actually. Lynn could hardly imagine anything she would personally like less. 'I'm so glad you liked it. what was she doing there? What had she expected to find? Whatever it was. There seemed to be a lot of people milling around. 'I enjoyed the singing. . it was quite nice and warm in here. remained outside in the dark! She spent the rest of the sermon. delighted. Have you got time to say hello to one or two people?' Lynn had. Being Tia worked so successfully that now Lynn. She did this by pretending she was Tia listening to the sermon and imagining what Tia would do. while she. she could not deny the veiled longing she saw in Polly's eyes. And besides. nay. in for a pound as Mum used to say. An interesting sociological experience certainly.absolutely bloody furious. 'Just a quick one then. which 86 .
someone would find it later . and was in her element. seemed to be not only well-known. Polly. Damn! She shook his hand as Polly introduced her. Then she saw that his eyes were on her with a kindly interest and that his hand was outstretched in welcome.greatly relieved her. She tired long before Polly did. Polly. Lynn decided. Lynn felt a sense of pride in her friend.' Too late. as she thought about it. and that she had almost trodden on him. he had simply forgotten to let go. She stepped back. whom she. but greatly liked. apparently guarding it. 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. although she could easily have said she'd come out of interest because she knew Polly. 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. as though uncertain what to make of her. Then she realised that he was considering her with a shrewd yet puzzled glance. with a bald patch on top which was was beaded with sweat. was touchingly proud of Lynn. It was a firm and satisfying grip. Polly registered Lynn's intention and fired her last salvo. coupled with a strange pang of jealousy. Was this really good old Pol. The 'one or two'. So the prolonged handclasp was nothing personal. noting as she did so that he was not as tall as she had thought. He's by the door. had clearly been a figment of Polly’s imagination. for her part. Afterwards. Lynn noted. he did not let go immediately. 87 . 'Let me introduce you to David. and to her surprise. introducing her to as many people as she could. chatting vivaciously. and that he had short wiry hair. Lynn. this seemed such an obvious thing to say. abandoned her coffee cup on the nearest horizontal surface .and began edging purposefully towards the door. that she wondered why she had worried. she of the flapping lab coat and anxious expression. Lynn realised that David was indeed by the door.
yearned for that peace that Polly had.' He said simply. He accepted her compliment at face value and replied 'I'm glad you found it so. but very positively. from the vicar? The strength of her feeling now was an indication that she had. She opened her mouth to say. She wanted. in his way.he'd just been being kind. As she sat in the tube going home. Polly seemed delighted with her reply . Why this anger? It wasn't the vicar's fault . decided on the latter. Bloody Lauren again! Interrupting.why. vicar. Thanks. 'I hope you do. and said with a touch of irony.' and found herself saying instead. The service was . Lynn tried to analyse what was happening inside. 'I don't think so. Politely refusing Polly's offer of a lift home. Maybe it was Polly's face. Mum! Thanks 88 . he disengaged. . What a totally unsatisfactory encounter! She needed time to recover. His expression changed. uncertain whether to be irritated or amused. don't get. and I need a bit of space. But why the disappointment? Why this despondency.' This at least was true.' Whether he perceived the irony or not.' This was unpleasantly unsubtle. briefly.' and rested his hand against the side of her upper arm. . against the odds. Them as ask.' Inwardly Lynn was seething. 'I don't know. 'Thank you for your warm welcome. Lynn could not tell. 'The service has given me a lot to think about. Lynn felt backed into a corner. hoped for something. Pol. I hope you'll feel able to come back. so sick. This time the space invasion felt intolerable. Lynn could not think. of hurting.Lynn pulled her hand free. Even as she opened her mouth. . from the service. and she wasn't even there! She heard part of the reply as she moved outside. she headed for the tube. and he was calling with some urgency to someone over her shoulder. most interesting. 'Poorly today but she sends her . Lynn searched her mind for a remark which was polite but also totally crushing but she was too slow. 'How's Lauren?' Lynn felt a sense of summary dismissal. She was sick. this sense of loss? What had she expected.
a lot! That's all I need at a time like this! Anyway. 89 . so she gave up and concentrated instead on spotting the tube station with the longest number of letters in. and kept darker emotions at bay until she got home . and seeing how many times she could spot the colours of the rainbow.that. She didn't even manage it once. and that she certainly did not want! This thought afforded her some grim amusement. to have a peace as simple as Polly's. on the clothes of the people in the seats around her. . in sequence. she'd have to have a mind as simple as Polly's.
was a balm to assuage the rawness of the pain she chose to let remain undefined. But Mark refused to stop laughing.' This was a side of Mark she hadn't seen before. He had cooked lunch. and at least I'm not despising them. and gradually this. He sat opposite her while they ate.' 'More fool them! They should get a life. 'Maybe you should. 'Those happie-clappies are a mixture of frustrated old spinsters and crazy mixed-up kids .the old dears didn't join in. but they mean well. You could end up brainwashed and clapping and dancing along with the rest of them!' Mark started laughing again at the very thought. 'You patronizing bastard! What right have you to sit there so smugly. They don't do anybody any harm. gloating over your superiority? And don't you bloody lay down the law to me about going there. 'Told you you wouldn't like it!' he said. determined to extract the last drop of satisfaction from her failure to find what she had needed from the service. this was good. of course. Their laughing together enabled her to distance herself a little from it. and in frustration she struggled up from the table and rushed from the 90 . instead of uniting them. nothing malicious. At first Lynn told him honestly of her impressions and the people she had met. 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. it's not my thing. Mark. and they were very nice to me. This was not so good. began to drive a wedge between them.Chapter 8 Mark was waiting for Lynn when she got home. Something snapped inside Lynn.' 'Well. Look.only in fun.it's a cheaper fix than drugs. They may be simple. I'm not sure I ought to let you go back there. and there were people our age there. but at least I went there. unable to resist drawing it ever so slightly larger than life .' 'Will you lay off the sniping now?' What did he know for god's sake? He hadn't even been there. 'I told you . you bloody Neanderthal! I'll go if I want!' All the things she wanted to say rose up to choke her.
Not like Mark . It was gone now.or if they were. as though she didn't recognise him any more. how different it had been! How wonderful! There had been so much to talk about. They had felt they could never look their fill. leaving her food half eaten and Mark sitting amazed. She wanted to be on her own. the love they'd felt. mocking stranger. 'I'm sorry. It seemed so distant now. Who was this callous. but only that she had not found it. I'm sure they're very worthy people . the closeness they'd shared? When they had first met. And she didn't care. awkwardly stroking her hair. In their bedroom. They weren't one flesh in two bodies any more . and Lynn hadn't even noticed. My god! She could do without grief like this! Into these bitter reflections came Mark. so much to admire.' ' Don't call me Lynny! You know I hate it!' 'Since when?' 'You know I hate it! I always have. She couldn't even summon up the energy to mourn the loss. so much to desire. I didn't mean to touch you on the raw. but wanting to make it all right. the laugh still in his throat.but she hadn't meant any harm. his scorn had been for her too. Mark looked and spoke the same.' 'You never said!' 91 . pulling his skin this way and that to accommodate the razor. Lynn lay face down on the bed. but an alien life-form had invaded his body and it had just showed itself in their last conversation. sitting on the side of the bed. had pleased her.he'd enjoyed being such a bastard. Lynny.she knew not what it was. she knew . they were Siamese twins. never learn enough. . with whom she shared a house and a bed? Surely he hadn’t always been like this? She mused on the past. clearly recognising that he had transgressed and not sure how. And somehow. Where had it all gone. Why had it all gone so wrong? She had been partly to blame. It was horrible. .room. all gone. for being such a fool as to go and look for something there . hacked apart and bleeding . even if she was bleeding. Even watching Mark shave in the mornings.at least she was. then married.
I'm saying now!' 'All right. leaving Lynn wide-eyed with shock on the bed. you hang on! Or level out. sad.' He left abruptly. hang on!' 'No. touch me. Happy. she'd said . One minute you're all over me. Lynn.'Well. * * * In the study. you started to hate what had attracted you. laughingly saying that she was able to absorb the emotional colour of any situation and pass it off as her own. Which she'd appreciated.I'm running out of patience. Was she really that bad? She'd always been sensitive to atmosphere. Opposites attract. Mark sat staring miserably at the computer screen. the next you're treating me like crap. 'Hang on. happy. But wasn't that what they called empathy? But perhaps he hadn't liked it? But he'd always laughed when he said it. 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. She wouldn't have known what to say. But then it seemed. Your mood swings are driving me mad. She let her thoughts drift towards Tia. At first. but Mark had liked that. touch me not. her mantra for calm. I never know where I am with you. / had no feelings . He'd said so. His 'mood-chameleon' he used to call her. Stop being so bloody selfish . have it your way! I suppose "patronizing bastard" is totally acceptable as a term of endearment! What gives you the right to do this tragedy queen. You'll have to do better than this. he was right! A man could only take so 92 . "I'm so precious" act all the time? When you had the miscarriage you acted like it was yours and yours alone. How weird was that? Oh sod it! She didn't want to think about it any more. And yes. but dammit.that was over two months ago and I'm still treading on eggshells the whole sodding time. even if Mark had stayed.no matter what happened. she did have a rapid response mechanism to events and situations. What the hell had happened there? He too had felt the violence of the encounter. sad.
waiting for the dreary day's dawning. listening openmouthed to his diatribe. drained of all hope or joy.an overnight bag that was six months too soon.' Mark had sat down on the spot she had just vacated. returning home to the chaotic hell of the bedroom and bathroom.it happens sometimes. the nightmare drive to the hospital that night. He could see that look now. the bizarre. He had got back to the ward just as Lynn was finishing a conversation with the doctor who was sitting on the bed. 'Do come in. 'So you see. they expected you to be sodding mind readers! Images of Lynn. surreal quality of the brightly lit accident and emergency unit at four in the morning. jostled with the memories he was doing his best to erase from his memory forever. for the doctor. I was just going. it was just combined in sentences they didn't add up. Please don't make me have to repeat it. 93 . had she started to hate being called 'Lynny'? Why didn't she say at the time? Bloody women. concluding with. they flooded in now. I've just told you. evidence of his haste in packing an overnight bag for her . 'Let me get this straight. not knowing quite what to do. as though he was mentally deficient. and she saw him. in fact it's very common. there was no baby. stopping the car while Lynn opened the door and leant out to be sick. and she was holding Lynn’s hand. But the worst. and they're going to give me a D and C tonight and I'll be home tomorrow. there was no baby?' Lynn had looked at him pityingly. the very worst was seeing Lynn in hospital the next day. and Lynn. 'Mark. talking very fast. had begun to explain all that had happened since she last saw him. Mr Davies. it's hard enough once. she white-faced and trying not to groan with pain. holding her hand while they waited. The doctor looked very young but very professional. And at what point during the years he had known her. just a mass of cells . trying so hard to be brave in the dimly lit ward. He recognised them all individually. her hair in disarray.much. Mark had struggled to make sense of the words. He hesitated by the door. tear-stained and vulnerable on the bed. then leaving her there. Against his will. Then lying awake waiting. Mark groaned aloud as he remembered.
' 'After?' 'After the D and C. They gave me some Pethidine early this morning but I'm fine now. Lynn heard the door slam as he flung out. There was no baby. Not in any pain. but she didn't seem to be in pain any more. 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. his legs. A D and C to clear it out? Was that it? The end of all their hopes was .there was only his mother anyway . It had been the strangest afternoon of his life as they sat there saying nothing . Mark longed to chuck his gear on the back seat of a nice little BMW or Audi and just roar off 94 . OK.this? No baby? How the hell could there be no baby? For god's sake. Mark visualised again the car he would get when they eventually got around to buying one. That was another thing he had against Lynn her refusal to consider a car.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. as he waited for the tube. OK. he would not ask again. I can't eat until after it.what was there to say? . Perhaps it was OK to ask about that? 'Oh yes.but right now. Clear what out? Mark didn't like to ask any more. She had obviously been crying.I can't eat until after. I'm hungry though . The world went on around him while he sat quietly on the bed. didn't want to know any more. and yes. I'll be ready then.and holding hands. But that was all over now. everywhere was accessible in London by tube. so there was literally no parking space where they lived. and Mark had gone home again to the oh-so-empty flat. but it was so damned inconvenient! They hired a car for holidays and visiting friends and family . I told you.' Had she? Mark couldn't remember. After a few moments he was able to look at Lynn. and the car park cost an arm and a leg and was further away from the house than the tube station. they'd had a baby last night and now there was no baby? They were going to clear it out. The anger flowed like lava into his arms. until it was time for Lynn's pre-med. so come for me about eleven. To divert his thoughts. With impatient movements he closed down the computer and grabbed his gym bag. He knew enough now.
Then she snapped out of it.or at least.the bossy old cow. As they talked. now. with the money they had.she basically was afraid of driving in London. she didn't want to drive and she didn't want him driving either. she's all right.it was Lynn. Still moping over the miscarriage?' 'I suppose so. for god's sake? It was like she was stuck in a time warp . people tended to cut you up a bit and the road layout was terrible.where. Well. Mark couldn't help catching sight of them both in the mirror. She refused to learn to use one . but my god! was he glad he'd never known her at full throttle! But she'd never be dead while Lynn was alive.somewhere. grizzled bullishness. But Lynn. hers wasn't exactly a miscarriage. Nothing to do with economics . It was the same with computers. Deryk greeted him jovially. You looked a bit down in the mouth when you came in.that she was frightened to engage somehow. It was that bloody mother of hers with her anachronistic ways. that wasn't his style. Of course. And they had nothing to save their money for. What was it with her? They needed a car. Lynn . You had to be on the QV but it still wasn't impossible. I suppose. As he changed. Nobody wants to prang their car if they can help it. he saw Deryk come out of the shower. He'd only met her a few times and she'd been failing then. Mark was extremely thankful to get to the gym. towelling his hair dry. if he had a car. How's the wife?' 'Lynn .' 'Women . He felt foolish not having one.and then back again? It took all the pleasure out of going. A vigorous workout was just what he needed. he wouldn't be going to the gym . Well. Actually. Deryk caught the look and attributed it to his own conversational skills. 'That's better. Why. Mark could never understand why Lynn thought she was so wonderful . he seemed very cock-a-hoop. Della moped on about hers until I had a word with her. and contrasted his etiolated pallor with Deryk's stocky. was it. OK.oh. that he had to lug all his kit onto the tube on a Sunday afternoon . He grinned despite himself. he supposed. he didn't know exactly.' 'She looked pretty miserable on Friday. Why. I told her 95 .he'd be away somewhere . only at a minimal level.they're all the same.more .
It's just that a lot 96 . and Mark looked after him. Sometimes you have to take a firm line. after all. Poor old Deryk. my girl.and the whole bloody thing had gone off exponentially. or they'll get away with murder if you let 'em. He was demonstrably powerful enough in the boardroom if not in the bedroom. What was it Deryk had said? A firm line? No harm in that. Expensive tastes became Della. Let him have his dreams. . What planet was Deryk on? Like children? Mark thought back to Friday night.it works with Della like a charm. 'They're like children . surely? He had as many rights. get them a little present . the letter ran. He set the treadmill at 14 k/h and ran until he was exhausted. as much invested in this marriage as Lynn did. And just when she'd seemed to be getting over it. Lynn . but lately her emotional output was off the top of the scale. * * * Back at home." She didn't like it. she's like a magpie a magpie with bloody expensive tastes!' Deryk walked away still chuckling. He'd have need to be. but Deryk continued. Now she'd started going to church! Where would it end? He wanted their life back. she'd started seeing that counsellor woman . And he'd just sat around taking it! Maybe she wasn't going to snap out of it on her own. Or you can always bribe them.but you have to let them know who's boss. Lynn was an intelligent woman.what was her name? He couldn't remember . Lynn was sitting hunched over the computer. . You will probably be surprised to get another letter from me so soon. Not too heavy .straight. and Della's languidly acerbic dismissal of Deryk's petulance and heavy humour and felt like laughing himself. "You made your bed and now you lie on it. Dear Tia.' 'Mind you. Maybe he'd been patient long enough. pity mingling with dislike. But perhaps there was a tiny grain of truth in what Deryk had said. ' Mark did not want to know Deryk's theories on women. but I was right. Right then.doesn't do to let them get away with too much. I'll tell you another way where they're all the same .' 'Well.
Afterwards she walked around Leicester Square and Covent Garden for a couple of hours. just for something to do. She got a drink at a pavement bar and watched the world go by. turning her chair at an angle to face the crowded pavement and away from the two other people who shared her table. Everything seems such a mess. or 97 . Why not? Nothing to go home for. She dared not think about Della. . letting the noise and distraction anaesathize her.of things are happening at the moment and I can't keep pace with them. I had a massive row about it with my husband and I don't even know why. Sincerely Lynn read it over and on impulse added a PS Do you believe in God. Tia? It was probably irrelevant and intrusive and Tia wouldn't reply. but I can't seem to talk about the miscarriage to anybody. Please help me. I feel so greedy and selfish and self-centred and I can't seem to do anything about it. or Polly. She hastily erased it. and. or what I want or expect people to do. took the tube to the hospital to deliver it through the door of the department by hand. If only it had occurred to her earlier she could have phoned up Lorna. After the last session I felt so good. The misery of this thought washed away any last shreds of reserve or discernment and she hurried the letter into an envelope. but it didn't seem to. but dammit. Lynn paused to re-read the last sentence and was horrified. She transmuted them into: / desperately need some help in clarifying my thoughts. I feel desperate! Lynn read over the last two sentences and again was appalled. 'What would my mother do?' and then I think 'What would Tia do?' but it doesn't seem to help. and any help you could give me would be appreciated. don't even know why. I even went to church this morning to see if it would help. or the church service. or Marianne. She dared not think about Mark. I don't know what I'm looking for. . and I thought that things were working out. she had nothing to lose! There were only two more sessions anyway. I keep thinking. and then over lunch. even my two best friends. Lynn sat there mindlessly. London was a lot safer than people thought if you knew where to go. .
Consultant Clinical Psychologist. As sleep mercifully overtook her. 'Good to see you back. Mark?) 'I'm having a drink in a bar in Covent Garden. It was the second thought that worried her most. she supposed. decided against another and rose heavily to her feet. Mark said. Some minutes later she finished her drink. by the time they got here it would be 9 o'clock and she ought to be getting back soon. loud with anxiety. as 'confidential'. and then the phone so that he couldn't ring back and settled back in the uncomfortable slatted chair. and yet too short. I'm on my way back now. Within a minute it rang and Mark's voice came through. The second was the thought that she had not marked the letter entitled Dr Tia Bradley. It was too late now anyway. I just popped out for a wander round and a drink. she remembered two things. that's why!' 'Sorry Mark. So she looked at him and smiled as gratefully as she could to show that she had heard and appreciated it.' She switched the call off mid-reply. Why?' 'Why? Why! I've been bloody worried. The first was the pile of marking she had intended to do for her first period lesson.' Grateful though she was for this olive branch. 98 . 'Lynn! Where the hell are you? I've been ringing you for hours!' (Surely not hours. and then went hastily to bed. She got her mobile out and switched it on thoughtfully. When Lynn got in. 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. Lynn could not bring herself to respond in kind. The journey home seemed interminable. The moment she vacated her place.Declan or someone to meet her for a drink.
who had eaten whole Chinese takeaways in the most unsavoury and chemically hazardous conditions while experiments were running and the fumes from concentrated sulphuric acid digestions were dissolving her lab coat. It seemed ironic that she.' Polly extracted another piece of apple and ate it thoughtfully. They were eating lunch in the prep room. Lynn. Polly considered while she chewed. 'Then you would too? How many times have you seen this counsellor?' ‘Twice. it 99 . for obvious reasons. I know hardly anything .' She corrected herself. 'I don't know. Polly. to give herself time to think. Nothing seems fixed anymore. 'Lynn. washed her hands before. ' she paused.' she said at last. a point of reference or something. 'Why do you want to know?' Good question! Why did she want to know? Now it was Lynn's turn to consider.Chapter 9 'So should I just ask her if she believes in God. Pol? Or wait to see if she says anything? Or what?' Polly blinked. Polly. a person who longed above all things to know whether people she met believed in God but never dared ask them. Then she said.I don't know. If she believed in God . was now being asked this question by someone she was fairly sure did not believe in God about someone she knew absolutely nothing about. extracted one and nibbled it slowly. during and after and nervously took every hygienic safeguard she could. find somewhere to start from. But things seem in such a mess at the moment that I've got to – oh . . but I do respect her intelligence. and slid her hand carefully into a sandwich bag containing quarters of apple. . 'I don't know if I believe in God myself. an activity which was officially frowned on. was eating her sandwiches from a plate she kept specifically for that purpose on the shelf where the evaporating dishes were stored. ‘I know nothing about Tia. who had learned her trade at a CFE.
She sighed. 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. ‘Tia doesn't say much. 'If Tia has written any books?' but the look on Polly's face told her it was time to change the subject. What heavy weather she was making of everything at the moment! 'Right. I feel that she's very wise. If I knew that she.' 100 . You're absolutely right. for her own satisfaction as much as Polly's.I don't need to know anything about her. then realised she had left the sentence in mid-air.' Polly wanted to ask. and she knows more than she lets on. I'm seeing Tia for my benefit.' She stopped.tap into that wisdom I suppose.well . Polly. I'll do that! I wonder if . Looking at Polly's I'm-puzzled-but-explain-to-me-and-I’ll-understand expression. But what to? Not to the miscarriage .that was being laid to rest.) 'Then I could think " Why does she believe in God?" and it would be a start. how can I say? . There was a short pause while they took it in.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. Besides. So she said.oh.I wonder if Michael Strangely is back yet? I've got him later. right? If that's so. shouldn't you be . 'You're right.’ but she didn't. believed in God . 'Why can't you just work out for yourself whether to believe in God or not? Why do you need Tia's permission to do it?. and if she doesn't. ask then?' This simple statement of the obvious gave Lynn great relief. Lynn felt in exactly the same boat. . She had been going to say. He's started singing to himself now. . I wouldn't care about what my GP thought.' (Polly winced inwardly. anyway . Where did that leave her? But she knew she wasn't a thinking person. as a thinking person. not hers . She'd already said enough for one conversation. '.seems to me that there's something a bit strange happening here. it's so hard to explain!' And it was. so why should I care about what she thinks? But I . 'Why don't you wait to see if she says anything about God. You're going to Tia because of the miscarriage. Then Lynn said slowly. I just want to. but what she says makes me think. Hastily she said. Not in the way that Lynn was. Still she tried to unravel it. she could see where Lynn was coming from. in a way.
'That's OK. bulldozing other people out of the way until he gets to the front.' 'Poor Michael!' said Polly feelingly. . but a total pain. or have them for half a lesson. 'You asked for the picture cards and string to do food webs. so he'll stay in normal lessons until the classes are set in year nine. Pol. I think he thinks he's singing the words of the text book but he can't actually read.'Michael Strangely . Doesn't he go along corridors sideways. hands and clothes. Bloody Chris. You can't blame them. Half a set will do. I've got him this afternoon.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.' Polly's face was creased with a familiar anxiety.' The thought of the afternoon class triggered a problem that she needed to air. They had not yet spoken this term so she said. flashed before her mental sight.' 'I know him. Why can't he get his act together? Then she remembered her conversation with him last term. he just keeps going like a tank. Sorry. He's harmless. one that nobody else can hear. but Chris only asked this morning. I meant to say earlier. Sometimes I think he's more lonely in a class full of children that he would be on his own.is that his real name?' 'No. None of the other kids want to work with him. The singing drives me nuts though. it's Michael Strachley. and an image of his worried face. but Chris has asked for them too. It was rarely that a day passed without some sort of juggling act being necessary. with his back to the wall?' "Yes.' 'Can't he go for special help?' 'I wish! He does for maths and English. I don't suppose you could share. the kids call him "Crabman'" and when he reaches the queue for lessons. could you? You could half a set each. I don't mind him . . thought Lynn. so untypical of him. But his parents are somewhat intellectually challenged themselves and they insist there's nothing wrong with him. But he's not aggressive or wantonly malicious. I'm getting the kids to bring pictures of their own in 101 . Unfortunately he also helps himself to other pupils' pens and pencils then using them to draw over their books. 'I guess there's a few kids around like him. he just marches to his own drumbeat . in Andy Powell's form.
so I just need some for a back-up. well. 'I never saw you properly to say . Then he stopped suddenly and looked embarrassed. huddled over some marking.' 102 .appreciated. and his smile grow to match hers. 'I need a word with Chris myself.' he said. you know any other teachers who have their own room just for them?' 'No.' said Lynn. in fact. He was there. But hey. and Lynn thanked her stars that she had changed the subject.' Hurrying along to the smokers' room . what a very nice mouth he had in general. looking round. 'You ought to give that thing up. 'Not difficult. and she noticed how very even his teeth were. Chris. 'That's history now. Lynn thought.both members of the science staff. as she knew he would be.' said Lynn lightly.' 'Skip it. smiling broadly. He'd think she didn't care. 'So.' she added. saw that it was her and gave a sheepish grin. you tracked me down. and putting the pipe into an ashtray nearby.Lynn berated herself for her forgetfulness. Life goes on. I'll still need the string. I assure you. Back in five minutes. He glanced up. . puffing his pipe furiously.which was the size of a walk-in cupboard and constituted a grade one fire hazard if anyone was actually in there smoking . as she sat on the table by the books. 'You and Brian are the only members of staff who smoke . . who ought to know better!' She saw him relax. I might add.from magazines.' said Lynn briefly. He stretched. She really must learn to shut up about Tia! What got into her at times? 'Actually. 'Yeah. and we're making our own. she had things on her mind too. that reminds me. But thanks anyway . his bright curly hair the most visible thing about him. moving the books to one side to give her more room. He laughed outright then. 'Nor any who'd want it. I'll just nip out and catch him in the smokers' room. though.' she said.' she added. She'd meant to see Chris earlier and completely forgotten. startled.' Polly visibly relaxed. somewhat self-consciously. and put his arms behind his head.
staring bitterly ahead. like my loss. somehow! Aloud she said. . and she couldn't help sensing that the clumsiness of this manoeuvre rather destroyed the delicacy of the moment. She thought. . his forearms on the table in front of him. Then he replied. That was pre-Tia.' 'Yeah!' said Chris savagely. Lynn found herself wondering about the colour of hair elsewhere on his body and mentally shook herself. That a loss. how have you been?' She'd picked that expression up from somewhere lately and liked it. . so she squashed into the chair at the other side of the table. And she could use it with Chris. She's told me that. It suddenly occurred to her that sitting on the table looking down on him was a bit too much like looming over him. Chris didn't seem to notice. That would be most unwise. what should she say? She would normally have said. . There wasn't much room between the chair and the wall. Like the loss of . He hesitated. Into it. but I never thought she would. She just 103 . and Lynn was a quick learner. 'She left me. Nobody knows! I keep replaying and replaying it. . Think. There's no other man. . how? I don't know . She told me she was going to. 'That's quite a loss. clearly wondering how much to say. I'm sure she'll come back. She saw pain shiver across his face and vanish.' or even 'Maybe you're better off without her. Tia didn't say things like that. and I believe her.' followed by something like 'Don't worry. flanking the pile of half marked books.' But that was really crass. The short hairs on the backs of his hands and forearms glinted red.' Lynn emitted a soft 'Ooh' of sympathy. I'm so sorry! I don't know what to say. think. 'Chris. Sandra's left him. Lynn said. and it freed the person to answer any way they wanted. flatly. It was so useful. because she knew him very well.'That's OK.' The silence that followed was comfortable. He sat there. What did Tia do? She helped me . 'So. Lynn resisted the impulse to take one of his hands in hers. 'Quite a loss! You don't know.
I hate to think of you carrying all this pain. He did the same. His face was alight with hope. warm.' Chris sat up abruptly. looking at him earnestly in return. would you really?' He grabbed her hand with both of his. Lynn reached out and gently touched his curly mop. open. 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. then deliberately let go. unsure what to do. refuses to answer my texts. He was shaking his head as though to try to clear it. Couldn't Sandra see what she was doing? Chris was universally liked.sort of woman to woman . 'I think a lot of you. and I like Sandra too. never mind! She briefly returned his grip with both her hands. I can't even talk to her .try to find out something? Maybe she needs someone to talk to. Chris.' said Lynn. Maybe she's as puzzled as you are about what's going on. It's worth a try! God knows / can't do anything. funny and a good teacher. you know. How could Sandra . she says.' 104 . 'Oh Lynn! Would you. Then maybe.she just hangs up on me. by his intense. Then he turned to her. 'Maybe it would work.' His face clouded with the memory and he shook his head. you could work something out. pleading gaze. She had to do something.what he was trying to contain! And now it was all spilling out. . registered that he had done so and paused. Unable to stop herself.wants time to think. God almighty. would it help if / tried to talk to Sandra . and now his head was in his hands and it almost looked as if he was trying not to cry. 'It's all right.' she said. But think about what? What have I bloody done ? She won't talk to me . honest. Maybe you could. it would give you a bit of a clue as to where she's coming from. ? Oh. Poor Chris! What he was going through . 'I'd be glad to help if I can. despite his best efforts. She could feel herself stirred by his emotion. was torn between a pang of fellow feeling for Sandra. Lynn. as her words sank in. Chris. He related well to everybody. what am I meant to do when I don't even know what I'm meant to have done!' Lynn listening.won't say anything. 'Look. staring ahead for a moment.
what .anti-climax! . Give me a few days though. I've . But he certainly seemed to have been helped by their talk. His accent. 'I won't forget this. 'You're a darlin'!’ To her amazement.' she added formally. She looked at him. give you a bit of a hand on the way. I hope I can help! she thought.' 'She'll want to speak to you. now Lynn? Promise?' 'I promise.to wriggle. 'People trust you. 'No Chris. Yes. She might not want to speak to me anyway. She was so fond of him. But maybe I can. Lynn. His eyes had lost their look of anguish and his usual air of jaunty merriment was clearly on the way back. a look of pleading swept over his face again and he said anxiously. and even as she finished. 'You won't forget.' she mused. was receding again. though he rather spoiled the effect by saying anxiously 'Don't lose it!'. This is just a temporary hiccup I'm sure. Laughing. he leaned over and kissed her lightly on the cheek as she struggled . 105 . Sandra means everything to me. What's that perfume you've got on Lynn? It’s really nice. Dear old Chris. You and Sandra love each other. 'I'll be in touch. It was all she could think of to say. and it was certainly a handy distraction from her own troubles. but rushed to disclaim them. with a smile.'So you'll . 'Maybe I didn't buy Sandra enough presents. Lynn. as she made her way back to the prep room. out of the seat.’ What an idiot he was! He was definitely feeling better. / trust you.' 'I know. he was such a sweetie.phone? I feel like you're my only hope. He said. well. as she left him. I'll phone.' Again. Oh. with a hint of mischief. to his marking and his unlit pipe.' she said. she told him. she felt absurdly pleased. Lynn.' he said confidently. and then grimacing at himself for saying it. he was more in control.' She smiled inwardly at his words. always more pronounced when he was upset.I've got a few things on myself and I need to think what to say.' said Lynn. Afterwards. It was so good to help people. scribbling down Sandra's mobile number on a piece of paper which he presented to her with a flourish. She sighed. Clearly. I could send her some of that. with some degree of dignity. 'What a mess. it occurred to her that 'I'll let you know' might have been better.
Polly?' she asked. her best friend. She was crying. She hadn't meant to say anything after Friday night. She knew Lee wouldn't get it.Back in the prep room. 'Makes a change from Russian then. of course. 'Oh a lot better!' she said. 'New?' asked Lynn. I told her I'd tell you.' 'Those earrings!' said Gillian. she'd catch up with her later. 'Mrs Heworth is excellent!' said Gillian. and the conversation revolved around new drugs and diet and bath hoists until the afternoon bell for registration caused them both to start guiltily.' 106 .' said Della.' Polly beamed. 'How's your mum doing these days. 'Yes. 'Nicole was up here looking for you. Oh well. 'Deryk bought them for me on Saturday. She felt pleased that Nicole had felt able to come to her. taking no offence. but Lynn could guess the rest. Lee. modern designer ones with emerald chips in that must have cost a fortune. 'I wish I was like her! 'Yeah!' agreed Emma. but the question slipped out naturally. Della had seen her looking and put up a hand to touch one. She remembered something else. Lynn to flee through the lab to let her form in while Polly washed up her plate. but she could listen.' Lynn felt a pang of concern. does it?' asked Lynn smiling. 'You were saying the other day that her Parkinson's had flared up. She herself had noticed the earrings earlier in the week. The reply was lost as they clattered down the stairs. Not that she could do much. 'I wish I looked like her. Level-headed Nicole! What could be the matter with her? Boyfriend trouble.' said Lynn conversationally after the register had been taken and the form were filing out the door. and indeed there was a general air of cheerful anticipation pervading the form. she surmised. 'Been up to no good again?' 'We're making a video in English!' said Lee happily. compounded by her over-protective father. 'You look very pleased with yourself. Polly had a message for her. but Daniel and Gillian both laughed as they went past. a little self-consciously.
' Overtook you. 'They're lovely. She approached. But she had said. Deryk was amazingly childish at times. 'I like my pretty things.he wouldn't mind registering Lynn's class.' she said urgently. three days after she had seen Tia. Anyway. But she had had time to think. Maybe. But she was rewarded by the look of relief that had flashed across Della's face. thought Lynn.if they didn't have to cover for anyone. next Friday. 'about Friday night. she didn't know how Della could stand it.neither in. And from the look on Della's 107 . and drew back. Lynn agreed.take her or leave her. she seemed to have no ultimate direction or destination . 'Don't worry about it.' Then she seemed to come to. Aloud she said. but really. He may have a superb business brain and his heart was in the right place. this time she could tell Dell a bit of what was really going on in her life. I didn't mean it to be that way. . no occasion. It wasn't . it was a strangely driven and aimless way of living .' Lying cow! she had said to herself.' said Della complacently.'Really? What was the occasion?' An unreadable expression crossed Della's face momentarily. Like the tide.' 'Yes. nor out. if she knew she was doing it. Dell! The time just wasn't right then. But that was Della . Della was always best on a one-to-one. 'Lynn.' You bitch! thought Lynn. kindly.Lynn had given Della another chance. I couldn't sell myself for earrings. and thought for the hundredth time what a strange person Della was. I feel better about it now. and turned to Lynn as though she had only just realised who she was talking to. and then she drew back. again and again. Yes. Brian didn't have a form . And yet Della seemed happy enough. They both had a free period the next Friday afternoon and Della had suggested a long lunch . of course. quickly superseded by a look that Lynn could only describe as smug. 'Oh. approached. . you mean. But unlike the tide. Events just overtook us.I mean. just maybe. she thought. So . and could find it in her heart to feel sorry for Della. For someone who was so manifestly in control of her life. Really.
108 . it seemed that she might have a few things that she wanted to tell Lynn.face.
‘What do you expect me to say?' quality about it. an in-tray and an extremely tidy pile of papers. but the titles were too far away to read. What did you think of them?' Tia looked at Lynn. Lynn hoped Tia would say more about them. Was it an office? Or a surgery? Or what? It was very plain. The bookcase had books and files in. One was red and rangy. No . Lynn waited. 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. It all looked terribly functional. ‘Good. expected her to say that. Again. but not quite. they were the only spots of colour in an otherwise beige and grey world.how have you been?' Lynn's thoughts were still on the letters. So what did you think?' ‘About what?' ‘Of the letters. and the other was green-blue. Tia was seated with her back to her desk and Lynn couldn't see what was on it apart from a computer terminal. glancing around the office.' said Tia. ‘I read them very carefully. ‘So . Apart from Tia herself. Then she had made the remark about the letters. ‘All right.' They were once again seated in Tia's room. To buy some time. but she didn't. aren't there?' 109 . and said. Tia broke the silence.' Lynn had almost. There are a lot of things going on in your life that you are trying to sort out at the moment.not all right. Tia had shown her carefully in. she repeated it.Chapter 10 ‘I got your letters. They looked hand-made. ‘This is the second of the three additional meetings we agreed together.' said Lynn. Her look had a slight. After a second or two. ‘Good.
. ‘Perhaps you have a reason for asking that question?' This was better. I probably should. Tia said softly. ‘Do you believe in God. Where on earth was this coming from? ‘I did get the letters and as I said.oh . She came to the point.' Lynn stopped in confusion as she heard her voice beginning to rise. good.oh. it is allowed to write while you are seeing me. There was no mistaking the ring of truth.she hesitated – ‘unformed. He hadn't even been 110 . Tia?' ‘Not really. She gazed meditatively into the middle distance and spoke carefully. And yes. but my life is very busy at the moment. ‘My ideas about God are' . I . Lynn had not been able to resist hoping that Tia might say something and the sharpness of her disappointment took her by surprise.yes I do.I'm just sick of everything! I'm sick of Mark giving me a hard time. I wanted to write to you again. When I got back from Polly's church he was so patronising about the people who went there.well. ‘Yes .oh. Lynn felt released from the mental strait jacket that always seemed to envelop her when she set foot into Tia's . the Sunday before last.' ‘I . room. It occurred to Lynn that she had not been specific enough.This was no answer. She had no idea at all what to say next. Tia?' Tia was not disturbed by this question. I read them very carefully. I didn't know if it's allowed. Lynn could not imagine her having unformed ideas about anything. I didn't even know if you got the letters . She tried again.' What did that mean? From her experience of Tia.' There seemed no way forward.' said Tia simply. Although she had anticipated this. Her mind could move around again. Tia wanted her to set the agenda. Fair enough. I told you in my letter that I'd gone to church . and that Mark and I fell out about it big time. Oh thank you! I mean . After a few moments. but I didn't know if I should. everything seems to be sort of slipping away.' ‘Oh. ‘So you don't believe in God then?' ‘I don't know. . What do you say to someone who says they don't know? ‘But don't you ever think about it.
nothing. Except he’s not there. I told you about Polly. no one to trust.there. ‘I mean very much intellectually. and she felt pang at betraying her. How very let down you must have felt. . Only a lot of people worshiping . can he? Not just Mark. If he was there. It’s hard to explain. ‘So where you thought . desperately want find out. but people either can't or won't listen to you . but – but I was so . . all evening. Then she had the nerve to try to get me to talk in the car on the way home. .' She paused. . In the pause that followed. she heard Tia's quiet.nothing.' ‘Yes.and maybe not even God will . ‘Nothing that I could see anyway.if he's there at all. I wanted to know if it was true. Then she realised that it would be very difficult to see God. . that was really there. and I so wanted to tell her about the miscarriage .' she said hastily. ‘Polly's a very loyal person.by everybody. That's a pretty lonely place to be. I expected more of Della. wherever you look. . You've got things that you desperately want to say. and about you . She just doesn't know what it feels like. I'm aware that I can't expect very much of her.' she amended.you might find something of worth. there was just . and she just flirted with her husband. .' 111 . so he can’t let me down. caring face flashed into Lynn's mind. But there was nothing there. People who believe in God are always banging on about how wonderful he is. . I wanted to find out if there was something I could trust. At the moment it feels like there's no one to hold on to. so disappointed!' ‘You were disappointed?’ ‘Yes. But Della. really embarrassingly. Mark and I went round for a meal last week. I suppose I couldn't help wondering . what right had he to be so superior? And they were nice people. It was a bit late by then! There's nobody.' she added. well-modulated voice. nobody I can trust!' Lynn finished on a wail and closed her eyes. . something reliable you could hang on to to get you through. nice genuine people. ‘So wherever you go. really really disappointed. even God. absolutely! I did feel let down . but she's a simple soul. no one seems able to recognize that you are hurting inside. We've made it up now.' A picture of Polly's honest. now. . ‘Or feel.hoped .
until Lynn became conscious she had been staring too long. ready. it was not entirely what she had planned to say. you see's. it's like thistle’s' tentatively emerged and tottered a few steps towards Tia before falling into oblivion in the space between them. How artificial and studied it seemed in comparison to this simple being.skin had a creamy glow that only required a hint of blusher to highlight the cheekbones. when Tia was smiling at her so encouragingly? She looked down. and yet chose to abandon you in favour of Deryk. Tia was waiting. attentive. ‘Let me see if I’ve heard right. When she had finally finished. it seemed to Lynn that this moment. She opened her eyes. she found time to wonder if Tia's finely arched brows were natural. if any. and transmuted her skirt pleating into an imaginary fluff-picking exercise. Tia was wearing a well-cut sandy-colored skirt with a chased leather belt and a lime green open-necked shirt.. Lynn took her time. The bits about Della certainly were. I felt abandoned! I watched her do it. Lynn thought of Della and her offer to listen.just there.' said Tia. But it clicked that Tia had said it. that although Polly and Della would not understand. . Even though several ‘Well.‘Yes. It suddenly occurred to Lynn. Her slightly freckled . it still felt all right. Tia would. ‘Take your time. For a moment. Tia returned Lynn's gaze perfectly steadily. And when she spoke. aware. and tried to pleat the edge of her skirt with her fingers. It felt all right. Lynn felt somehow wrong-footed by it. But Tia wore very little makeup.' and ‘Um. as it were. it is’ said Lynn reflectively. but the skirt was short and the fabric did not have enough play in it. Your perception of Della was that she knew what she was doing. But her eyes flicked back again almost immediately. as though answering her own train of thought. even though your need was greater?' ‘Yes. Even at this moment of rescue. when she herself didn't know what she wanted to talk about? Why on earth did she feel so self-conscious. Tia was still there. or the result of artful plucking. here. was the only real moment there was. Our friendship – my need – counted for nothing! Why did she do it?' 112 . But understand what. Tia said. Lynn described the dreadful dinner party and her feelings of betrayal and Tia listened without comment. with Tia.just over the nose . completely For a split second. and looked away embarrassed.
She hesitated before replying. that's right.' Lynn was instantly diverted. rather than heard the implied rebuke. she noticed with pleasure that Tia had called her by name. Tia didn't do abstract conventialities.. ‘Yes. you were so understanding. dammit! For a moment she felt embarrassed. 'Why? What do you think was going on for Della?' Tia came as near to looking annoyed with herself as Lynn had ever seen her. It's not really my brief to make people see things. Thank you! Thank you so much!' Lynn could hear the emphasis and emotion in her voice. During the next pause. Nevertheless. ‘You may get some light on the situation then. Tia heard Lynn out. Lynn peeked at the clock and saw that the time said 3. though she could not for the life of her work out what Tia had done wrong. and as you talked.05. the words tumbling out. I suspect there was quite a lot going on for Della that night as well. She said. I listened. 'I've no idea. a long lunch-break. You listened so well. Tia only did concrete statements. Only another fifteen minutes left! Where had the time gone? She said hurriedly. 'People always have reasons for doing things. It was so good! So helpful! I felt I could properly grieve. but even in the hearing. like. Oh.' to finish the exchange off.' Lynn felt. she rushed in to counter any wrong assumptions Tia might have about what she had meant to convey. ‘I never thanked you for the last session. that I did have a right to grieve.you couldn't really describe it as a compliment. I never saw that before. Lynn noticed every time Tia spoke her name. leaning forward and sweeping away a lock of hair that had fallen over her eyes. Lynn.This was not the sort of question Tia answered. ‘I know you don't make 113 . ‘I didn't make you see anything. You made me see that there was a baby.' She waited for Tia to make a further comment. you worked it out for yourself. She was burbling. but gave no overt sign of pleasure at this eulogy. ‘That would be good. She saw that Tia registering her anxiety. so what! Tia deserved it! She'd been bloody fantastic. You described the evening very well. Instead she said gently. then realised she would wait for ever. From what you say. so sympathetic! You were wonderful.' or. 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 .
‘When you said that.' Lynn felt as though the ground had been knocked from under her feet. I have the feeling .' ‘Us’ meant 114 . 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. Lynn' heart ached. it's more useful when people can express how they feel about things without worrying what other people might think. Tia had said. Thank you. ‘Yes. Now I can let go. She said defensively. ‘Sorry?' ‘I said.no . I know you don't work that way. satisfied. but in situations like this. Tia looked back with her wide-eyed neutral. I meant that you opened my eyes .perhaps I'm wrong .' ‘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. therapist's gaze. She felt tears prick her eyes.' Lynn saw to her relief that Tia was smiling again. She felt herself tense with panic. Tia. I didn't mean to say that. She had got it right.that my approval might be important to you. ‘Shouldn't you be talking to her about you and your problems and not worrying about what she thinks. isn't it. surely it's normal for people to care about what other people think of them?' ‘Yes it is. That was saying ‘Let us try. She sat back. ‘It's important to you that you get it right when you talk to me. ‘Let's try'.that I was able to think clearly in your presence and I saw that the baby was real. "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. The sense of desolation won. well. She looked at Tia. Lynn.' Lynn felt rescued.' ‘Let's try to stay with that sense of loneliness for a little while. I felt lonely.people see things. Tia said.you .' Indignation and a sense of desolation struggled together for supremacy inside Lynn. but I don't know why.
I think you are a wise person. She said stubbornly. Yes. at least I think I do. That was Lynn's name. I like the way you talk.' Even as she said it. Tia looked as if she might have questioned the logic of this last statement. Eventually. Encouraged. I don't worry about Polly's approval. Otherwise you'd never be in this job. That all you know of me is what you see and hear in this fifty minutes we have together . What had made her say that? It was as if she heard it in retrospect. from the things you've said to me. I still like her. Inwardly. ‘I think . ‘Whose approval do you want?' ‘My mother's!' The words came out immediately in a knee-jerk response. And if I think you are wise. but I don't respect her. ‘What are you saying? That I can't trust you? But you must be able to be trusted. had wanted it. Lynn gasped. even if I don't know you?' Fractionally. but instead she said unexpectedly. I feel I can trust you. she realised with a sense of shame that it was true. ‘Well. 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. and I think I can trust you. she forced herself to consider it. she did want it . She didn't even remember thinking it.' Again. And she had said ‘Lynn' too. can I. Lynn.which by the way. it was true. much less saying it. That meant that somehow Tia was in it with Lynn. Or trust her. Lynn obediently tried to recapture the feeling of isolation she had felt. It was a life-jacket in a stormy sea. After the first shock. that is. I can't help wanting your approval. People whose approval I think is worth having. I used to want Della's approval. Perhaps Friday will help. but I'm not so sure about that any more.that's all I'm saying. Lynn said slowly. the use of her name. She said sharply. You seem wise and good.I do want people's approval. Lynn felt fear volt through her. is nearly up .' ‘But you don't know anything about me. That made Lynn feel better. ‘I am simply saying that you don't know anything about me.' Again.her and Tia. she was dismayed to hear her voice rising as she spoke.or rather. so why should she be so surprised? Who didn't want their mother's approval? She was still mulling 115 . But I do want your approval. and yet she recognised the voice as hers.I think .
read or seen about it came tumbling into her brain in a kaleidoscopic jumble.' ‘What are you talking about!' ‘There's a place in London called Sycamore House which is a regional psychotherapy centre .is brief therapy. I need to remind you it is our last one together when we will say goodbye. ‘What 's going on for you now?' ‘Not the last! Too screwed up!' Hell. psychotherapy.' Lynn's head was spinning. I think that it might be worthwhile discussing that in the last session.what we're engaged in here . ‘It can be. ‘You offered me more time!' ‘More time. ‘So.this over when she heard Tia's voice say. Lynn. Why did these sessions with Tia give her such mixed emotions? Why couldn't she just feel peace at unloading her problems and talking things through? Why did it have to hurt so much? It didn't make sense! But Tia was speaking again. your mother's approval is very important to you. and it is outside the remit of this unit to change the amount of time we can offer you. I think that there may be issues around that mean that you would benefit from longer term counselling than I can offer. Psychotherapy! All that she'd heard.' ‘Psychotherapy!' ‘Yes. yes. I'm sorry. that wasn't even English! Tia contemplated her thoughtfully. but it is also for troubled people with deep-seated difficulties who need more time to talk things out and to think than I can give you.' ‘But you offered me!' Lynn cried in despair. Images of Frazier jostled with pictures of 116 . ‘Lynn.' ‘But isn't psychotherapy for mentally ill people?' said Lynn before she could stop herself. At least she hadn't said 'nutcases'. and it .' Not again! Lynn's heart contracted in agony. This . Sometimes it's good to explore things at leisure and not feel pressured by time constraints. I think it may be worth hanging onto that thought and bringing it with you to our next session. But not with me.
Read it.come back. She became aware that Tia was smiling at her reassuringly. 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.things. The ‘but' hung in the air.for a little while. and part of her listened to her delivery with a kind of detached interest.' 117 . You look horrified.' Lynn stopped. Tia had mentioned it.she's got nothing to do with it. Yes. ‘No! Psychotherapy's not for me .I mean ill .' Lynn searched her memory.' Tia's habitual expression of quiet seriousness had returned.oh god. but there was a finality about it that Lynn was in no mood to appreciate. ‘Lynn .’ ‘I'm very sorry if I gave you that impression. She could hear her speech coming in short staccato phrases. She saw people lying meekly on couches being talked to soothingly by people sitting out of their sight. about . It was all over.people. Didn't you hear me say that it was for troubled people who need time to talk?' ‘Yes.pressed into it by unknown G forces.it's for really bad . My mother . What was there to say? Tia had told her.Freud and great grey rooms full of shambling psychotic inmates milling round supervised by authoritative people in white coats. She had the sudden fantasy that she would never be able to get up again. What a long time ago that first meeting seemed now. Tia was still monitoring her closely. ‘Are you sure about that? I can see that this has come as a shock to you. but I thought . She slumped in the chair. She'd thought she'd misunderstood . see what you think. Her smile looked very kind. She felt as though she was drowning in it all. Words like ‘schizophrenic' and ‘repression' and ‘ECT' came into her head.chosen to misunderstand . She said. I just wanted . I'm not like that. but . but it wasn't. she saw it all now. ‘Yes you did.' Lynn took it without thinking. Tia held out a folded leaflet. then reacted.to talk to you .I thought I could talk to you. ‘Here's some information about it. She'd thought that somehow it would be different for her. It was helping too.
time. And after them there will be no more. The moments dragged on. Lynn felt absolutely desperate. ‘I do understand that!' she said. . and there is the possibility that the sessions would uncover things that might make it more difficult to do that. oh please give me two more sessions.' she said. But losing would have been death.' ‘But how could they do that? I'm getting things sorted out!' Tia didn't answer. This is your choice. She was bargaining for her very life. Lynn had to exert every particle of self-control not to beg and plead and cajole. . But I must stress that it is your responsibility to structure them. need .‘You . ‘I can get things sorted out .' ‘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. We will have to end there whatever happens. . but that the thing she had won was without Tia's approval. so it was not worth having. so whatever she was feeling now must be better than that mustn't it? 118 . ‘I will give you the two extra sessions you ask for. . It would make Tia say no. She looked down at her nails. I . we would still have to say goodbye at the end. But Lynn. You must understand that.I can! Please. Six sessions is the maximum I can offer.' Tia was looking at her very seriously. There is nothing I can do to give you any more time.' Tia looked at her as though she was not seeing her. .go to this place?' ‘It's an option. She dared not. ‘Very well. yes. more .you're recommending that I do this . She gazed thoughtfully at a space on the wall above Lynn's left shoulder. Lynn felt like crying. She perceived only that she had won something. But what did she understand? It felt so bewildering. unsmiling. . Finally Tia looked at her. ‘Well.' ‘So I could see you for two more sessions after the next one?' ‘Theoretically. how could they?' Tia still said nothing. It's up to you.
and said. Tia looked down at her. She tried to smile back but she had nothing to smile with. ‘I'll see you in two weeks' time then.Lynn had not been there since that ill-fated lunch with Polly . with a thin intelligent face and shoulderlength mid-brown hair. just like last time. Della was doing it again. cut straight with a fringe. ‘I'm sorry. smiling. That was two cards she had now. amazed that she could do it so naturally.’ Lynn looked at it with a dull curiosity.and were consuming panini caldi and large lattes and talking animatedly. What was Della getting at? What did she want her to notice? The woman was just doing the crossword. As Lynn walked across to it. In her most wild imaginings. Here was Tia's spiky writing again. she had not envisaged the session ending like this. Tia walked towards the door and held it open. She'd started almost as soon as they'd sat down. What do you make of her?' Lynn looked. She wore a beige woolly cardigan and a long grey skirt and she was absorbed in the paper. Lynn considered. as usual.Tia was scratching down something on an appointment card. ‘Here are the dates of our remaining two sessions after the next one. Lynn. our time for today is over. They were sitting in the Cafe Noir . Lynn too stood up.' Tia rose to her feet. Beige 119 . Chapter 11 Lynn couldn't believe it. ‘Look at that woman over there. and once again heard the door close firmly behind her before she had gone three paces. maybe it was the clothes. She walked through the doorway. her smile did not reach her eyes. At least Della was. Lynn could only feel utter desolation. She had to struggle to focus on it.' Today. The woman was about thirty.
could she? Della. . . ‘They're laughing a lot.prehensile mind.' ‘Precisely. ‘I teach biology.' Did you see it? I was riveted. It was true. ‘As a term of endearment it expresses a certain . she was capable of carrying on for hours. delicately picking a dangling sliver of roast red pepper from her sandwich and deftly eating it. ‘Dressed by a committee. of course' she added. The author said . but we've all got our ways of communicating affection.' she said at last. darling. ‘And that couple over there. had moved on. .it was not a good combination. Once Della got started. The girl's long hair hung like a curtain. They're besotted with each other!' Lynn looked. as she caught Lynn's look. 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 .' observed Lynn. ‘Did you know that slugs and octopi are sort of cousins? But that octopi are much more intelligent.' ‘In a caring way. The woman felt Lynn’s gaze. She didn't want to talk about the couple.' said Lynn briefly. obscuring her face. looked up and smiled. .' ‘Yes. almost against her will. Della had such a .' she said.and grey . but she had to stop Della somehow. She waited resignedly for Della to move in for the kill again. coffee cups and buzz of conversation she caught the word ‘Bunnykins. meanwhile. before she could stop herself. She had a gentle face.' ‘Bunnykins!' Lynn repeated. but she didn’t. . There was no way she could have overheard . ‘Don't knock it.' ‘No offence. Lynn felt caught out and rather ashamed. ‘I thought clothes were meant to reflect your personality. . ‘Fascinating! Look at them leaning forwards across the table and mirroring each other's gestures. not a whit abashed.' A lull in the background buzz coincided with the laughter of the couple near them.' said Della triumphantly.' she continued. .what was the word? . in fact they can even . ‘I read this fascinating article in the New Scientist a while ago entitled ‘Slugs Clean my House. . Deryk calls me a slug sometimes. lack of imagination .' said Della. but the lad's blond profile was clearly visible as he talked animatedly non-stop.
Della held up the piece of courgette and absently began to nibble the cheese. It had a long strand of melted cheese attached. she noticed that her trademark wide bracelet on that arm was being worn over a bandage. It was very entertaining. but right now.conversational branch. How could she begin to turn the conversation round to more personal matters? Fortunately. She could get from ‘a’ to ‘e=mc2’ in three moves. It looked extremely sore. Ah. Her glance lighted again on the couple who were still sharing so publicly their appreciation of a private joke. and that it had made the bandage slip down.' 'What? Oh .' An uneasy silence fell. isn't it. really?' She spoke as though she was thinking aloud. while you were left on the ground. She rather envied them herself. Lynn thought she detected a certain wistfulness in the look. Trapped my hand in the – er . As Lynn tried not to watch her. . ‘Don't keep playing with it!' She took a determined bite of her own prawn and avocado sandwich. ‘Yes. Lynn's head was throbbing with the need to unload. aren't they?' she said. Della was diverted.?' 'No it's nothing. struggling to keep up and hoping she'd come down to earth at some point. making easy connections. She always finished eating before Della. ‘Just eat it!' thought Lynn.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. Shouldn't you . But if they had anything Della wished that she had. 'Della – your wrist.' it. ‘You can share a moment of laughter without ever She hastily pulled her sleeve down over 121 . . . She didn’t want to talk about slugs. it didn't show in her next comment. Nearly better. It's fine. . 'They're holding hands now. oh that! It's nothing. touch . Della looked around.drawer and the bracelet dug in and left a mark. reveal a thin purplish weal that was oozing pus. even to someone as unpromising as Della. ‘Laughter is a way of conveying intimacy without commitment. 'But it looks infected. It's fine I tell you! Don't fuss!' 'Okay! Sorry I asked.
Della was sitting bolt upright. she still couldn't bear to think about how the last session they'd had ended. but at the end of the day. Horribly and inexplicably. Laughter is very deceiving. ‘Intimacy without commitment . and it spoilt her make-up.there must! She would ask Della. air-brushed complexion was flushed a delicate pink and her perfectly painted lips were pressed together.' she said sheepishly.' said Lynn.Della never.do you think there is such a thing?' ‘Definitely!' said Della. Lynn would have described as anger.knowing someone else. And when you do know them. it's too late. She had no interest in the couple whatsoever. Tia was the one person that Lynn wanted to talk about most. ate corn on the cob. Lynn was reminded of a piece of Dresden china. except as a way of getting Della off the subject of slugs. Only Della never got angry. with such sudden savagery in her voice that Lynn looked at her in surprise. and then laughed herself instead. It was bloody annoying. What was the matter with Della these days? Then a phrase that Della had used caught her attention. ever. ‘Sorry.how unlike her own! . smiling apologetically. But there must be a way through . This was a complete lie. though Lynn couldn’t think why. Her habitual graceful languor was gone. she delivered the most amazing non sequiters at times. Della would think 122 .’ How had she got there? You really had to be a pretty agile conversationalist to keep up with Della. Tell me about your Tia. in another person. A lock of pale hair had fallen over her forehead. One thing she felt sure of . but what to say? She'd spent a sleepless night trying to come to terms with the fact of only three more sessions and how to use them to best advantage. I wonder if those two really know each other?' She paused as if to say something else. and her eyes were glittering with what. her smooth.she couldn't help wondering how Della's make-up stayed so intact under such extremes of emotion.' ‘Tell me about your Tia. ‘I can't imagine what I was thinking of. staring into the middle distance. Even as Lynn admired the effect of anger on Della . It was too much effort. The flush subsided and Della's fixed gaze returned to normal as she looked at Lynn. ‘I wonder if they've had their first big row yet?' ‘I wonder. and managing to look absolutely charming as she did so. it changed the awareness of Tia from a dull ache into sudden searing pain.
. But she must have been mistaken. Go on about Tia. ‘What was Jim like?' ‘Jim? Oh. . But not just yet. Nevertheless.required the conversational ball to be batted back over the net . good manners . ‘No. And when she looks at me.that was then. before I met Deryk actually.' ‘She doesn't seem to say a lot though. way long ago . Really listens. She doesn't.' Lynn thankfully did so. because then Della looked her normal self. what she said.very helpful. Actually he was nothing like Deryk! Nothing like! But he was like him to look at. She nodded and sipped her coffee. Lynn said to Della.' ‘Jim?' ‘A therapist I went to see .' Della looked at her understandingly. just a little bit. what she does say packs such a punch. he was like Deryk. or Lynn thought it did. . oh. And she is so wise.' For just a moment. ‘Anyway . ‘Ramble away!’ she said benignly.what she looked like. It was 123 . ‘Tia is such an interesting person. of what Lynn had said to her. while Lynn did the same and thought aloud about Tia . this is now. . and fill Della in with the general picture first. It's really . ‘I've never met anyone like her before.' Lynn felt a bit annoyed by the unknown Jim. And he was . But she listens. Though she hardly seems to say anything in the sessions. . and gave a few more details of her exchanges with Tia.' Della's face darkened. She'd just block that memory off.of something. What was he doing here? They were talking about Tia. spooky. and a bit. Jim did that. it's as though she can read my mind. a flicker of pain crossed her face. does she?' ‘That's the point. what Lynn thought about her.damn them! .at least. I remember. and said. ‘Yes. She doesn't waste a word. to Lynn’s way of thinking. briskly for her. ‘Mind if I just ramble?' Della's composure had now completely returned.' said Lynn at last. .
They're objective. stricken. You're a client to them . that "like" isn't really in these therapists' vocabulary. Again.' Even this was not comforting enough. Why was she speaking so forcefully? All of a sudden. Was that why that comment had resonated so strongly? Because it was true of Tia and her? Oh god. I was thinking aloud. Tia sounds lovely. ‘But surely they're human.' This felt brutal. she does! I'm sure of it! Everyone is an individual. She said. to see me as a person. But when she got to the point where Tia had recommended psychotherapy. all right. She does. It sounded like vivisection. Instead. They don't take their work home with them. Aloud. ‘You have to remember. I'm sure she really understands you. ‘But wait a minute! Tia's not like that. They're all different. you're hurting. Lynn. She’s warm and friendly. look at it from their point of view. thought Lynn. How could she be in that job if she didn't care?' That's not what I asked. That's all I meant. Della?' Della considered this carefully.' ‘What do you mean?' ‘Well. Della seemed to soften suddenly. seemed aware that something was going wrong in the conversation. she asked the question which had occupied her thoughts for days. It's not always like that. Suddenly she 124 .such a relief to talk about it. it did not seem like the Della that Lynn knew. Intimacy without commitment. ‘Do you think Tia likes me.' Lynn stopped. this was awful. She sees you as an individual. She broke off a bit of her sandwich and ate it daintily before replying. not as a case study. Lynn was hurting badly. They can't afford to relate deeply to every damaged waif and stray that crosses their path.' ‘Don't be so defensive.the raw material on which they practice their craft.' ‘They're human. Of course she cares.' Lynn felt appalled. ‘I just wanted Tia to like me as a person. But not to you. she said. but Lynn couldn't think why. She laughs . ‘Lynn. Lynn stopped. I've hurt you. I remember somebody said that to me once. She couldn't talk about that yet. weakly. She cares. I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Look.
‘There's two ways forward. She realised now that what she had wanted to ask Della most of all was. Pump the receptionist. ‘I don't know what to do. She's the only one that could come up with any ideas. as if marshalling lists of points in her head.what's the word . and that would be unendurable. she added. She sounded more assured. Read my lips.' Against her will. Quite honestly. And number plates are always traceable if you know where to go. They don't . Find out how long she's worked for her.' ‘Oh. Lynn.' Inside she was pleading. She knew with her guts that if she did. Do you see anyone else around . If I'll ever know anything about her?' Della laughed.' She paused. if she's there full-time or if she works elsewhere.self-disclose. ‘I don't know what to do. She gave her a measured glance and said consideringly. Make friends with her. ‘The last thing Tia said to me was that I can only have three more sessions with her. She was not going to get what she wanted from Della. Della! Don't make me beg. and then said in a businesslike way. It's what they call brief therapy. Della finally seemed to get the message.' said Lynn. ‘I wonder what Tia is like as a person. and making connections with her. brief therapy!' said Della knowledgeably.you know – ‘Friend of something or other' or something like that.' ‘Ah. you're good at that. She felt deflated and very down-hearted.' So Lynn said. Della would say no.cleaners or such? They probably wouldn't know very much but they'd be easier to talk to. ‘I doubt it! They're very cagey. finding out more about her. And for crying out loud. get rid of your 125 . I wouldn't give much for your chances for making connections but there's ways and means of finding out things. Any stickers . ‘But I've got to ask Della's advice about what to do now.wanted to change the subject. these psychotherapy types. Into her sadness came the desperate thought. ‘I told you you should have gone private!' Lynn hated her. But she couldn't resist one last try.get a look inside. ‘Could Tia and I ever be friends?’ But she couldn't ask that now. Again she said. ‘Let's see. See if you can find out where she parks her car . forcing the words out.
on equal terms. She imagined Tia looking at her coldly. What's her surname . you're on a loser there then. according to Mark anyway.technophobia! Look her up on the Net . connections. .Bradley? Oh. and finally. ‘Well. Force her to respond to you as a person . But what kind of vibes had she given off then to make her think so? What was she turning into? Her relationship with Tia had some integrity. who had been most amused by it all.' As Lynn listened. Don't act so much like a dying duck in her presence. now. . Lynn was so far gone that she would use such means to get information? Clearly so. She's a psychologist isn't she? She might be in some directory or other. But she'd almost certainly be ex-directory anyway. But I'm warning you. as though she didn't have to think about it. I assume you must have tried the phone book. it's your choice. But this . It was horrible.not that she knew it anyway. And the way she reeled it off. her bookcase. as though she didn't know her.this was repellant! This was spying! Did Della really think that she. or lying. what you want to achieve in each one. then somehow chilled. the last time they'd met.Google her or something. See if you can get a look at her desk.' But the horrible truth was that Tia had looked at her like that. films. then fascinated. Start reading up on psychology and counselling. probably . she felt first intrigued. some honesty . ‘Right.to see you as an adult. isn't she? Hmm. Who had she checked up on in her purple past? Deryk. pat. I can't stop you . Draw up a plan of what you want to ask. Make her want to be friends with you. If you've only got three more sessions then you've got to structure them carefully. I wonder if she does private work? You could ask. totally revolted. Ask her if she's seen them. and saying. 126 . even though Della was so drop-dead gorgeous. it will be damned difficult. Della was talking like a cheap private eye. Unless she's divorced.there was a plethora of nubile secretaries at Deryk's office that he enjoyed eyeing up. of course. Too many.didn't it? How on earth could she contaminate it by such means? Trace her number plate! . You could tell Deryk was a ladies' man. (But even if you did. 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. Mention books you've read. and she's married.
Della said suddenly.except about what coffee to drink. for a long time. cautiously. yes.' ‘Hmm. Mark! How was he doing? Lynn had to think. ‘Since he got promoted to Financial Director one of the other accountants has turned very snotty. although it was only that morning. She consulted her watch. How is Audrey a bitch?' 127 . Oh. She longed for silence. Lynn desperately. She had to say something. I wish it hadn't been an internal promotion. She's an absolute bitch. The moment dragged on. we've still got a little while. Surely it couldn't all be wrong . at least. 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 . thanks. Della was looking pleased with herself and clearly waiting for a response. but she did want to know her! She wanted to know her so badly.It was all over. Della looked gratified and pleased to see Lynn looking more like her old self. ‘Yeah. Lynn looked at Della.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. Della happily. ‘Hey.) Over large cappuccinos this time they mutually considered their next topic of conversation. Very busy at work though.' What could she tell Della about Mark? Oh yes. But what had made her become like it? Deryk? She would never see Della in the same light again after this. You've given me something to think about. I wish he'd gone elsewhere. Della. What was the point? As she struggled to think of something to say. was true. Tia had had enough of her.' That. ‘Mark? He's OK. Lynn felt torn between anger and pity. It seemed an age since she had seen him. She hadn't taken Tia's advice about that psychotherapy place. so clinical. She was sick of talking about Tia now. What a bizarre way of thinking Della had! So cold. she'd fought for two more sessions that Tia didn't want her to have. She said. Audrey. She forced a smile. ‘How's Mark doing?' Mark? Oh.
absolutely hopeless! But Della looked as if she had understood . how to get it back. Lynn realised what she had done. quite deeply.' That was what he had said. had taken this statement at face value and left it there. there was sorrow in her voice. ‘I'm sorry to hear that. as Della had done. .Too late. not even asked. yes. In view of the glimpse she'd just had of Della's Machiavellian thought processes. she probably had. It's almost as if . ‘I've had enough of Audrey . we've sort of drifted apart. . what Lynn was trying to say. . I don't know what to do. And she. ?' And old habits died hard. ‘Della. oh bloody hell.she's an absolute bitch. I'd always thought that you and Mark were the ideal couple . Seeing at Della looking concernedly across the table at her it was hard to believe she'd said what she had about Tia. almost amused. And . Lynn. She had no idea why Audrey was a bitch. All her defences were crumbling. she did. Maybe it was worth talking about a bit more . . But why did she look . she'd mentioned Tia too! She was hopeless. he can see how much good seeing Tia is doing me. ‘No. like the cappuccinos. for clarification on Audrey's bitchiness. Isn't that awful?' Della said shrewdly. Why had she said that? She hadn't meant to say it at all. as well? Surely there was nothing funny in what Lynn had said? But when Della spoke. And. to her shame. Della was looking at her enquiringly.so much in love. Ever since the miscarriage. She had simply regurgitated what Mark had said the previous night in reply to a routine inquiry about work. but he doesn't seem to care.' 128 . . just to keep the conversation light and frothy. ‘You and Mark aren't getting on too well at the moment. are you?' Split-second decision. She and Della went back a long way. I never thought to ask. Lynn said. do you know.this is the weird thing. She felt so desperate that soon she would be buttonholing complete strangers in the street and telling them. She said the first thing that came into her head. Now it had got all heavy again.as if he's jealous of her in some way isn't that crazy?' Oh damn. Perhaps Lynn had taken it a bit too seriously. ‘Did you know that I . did Lynn want to talk about personal things any more? Actually. I've no idea. Yes. Humiliation engulfed her. And Della had asked about Mark.
‘We were, we were. We couldn't bear to be out of sight of each other, wanted to know all about everything the other did, said, thought. Couldn't leave each other alone in bed. Was that love? Now - oh god, we feel like strangers. What is love, Della?' (Oh, you stupid cow, why ever did you say that! Della will have a field day with that one!) To Lynn’s utter relief and surprise, Della actually stopped to think about it. ‘ "What is love?" Now you're asking. How should I know? Me of all people?' She sipped her coffee reflectively. Was Della buying time to mentally review her list of amusing quotations and anecdotes to dazzle and enlighten or was she was actually taking the question - that commonplace and yet unanswerable question - seriously? Lynn waited hopefully to find out. It was that ‘Me of all people?' that gave it away. It was most un-Della-ish. Della remained silent for some moments, concentration etched on her brow. Did she know that? Della never frowned as a rule. Although she openly sung the praises of Botox she was too canny to court trouble if she could avoid it. Lynn too had time to think. Like Della, she cupped her hands around her cappuccino and inhaled the fragrant steam. She felt the cushioned comfort of the chair she sat in and became aware of the warmth and colour and the friendly muted hustle and bustle around her, the gleaming, hissing coffee maker behind the counter, and she waited. She had nothing else to do. The young server came to clear the table and asked, ‘Was everything all right?' She was a pretty girl, her winter colouring and slender figure accentuated by the white shirt and abbreviated black skirt she wore. Lynn had the sudden sensation that there was a huge store somewhere in existence in the galaxy filled with thousands of cloned waitresses, all exactly like her, waiting to be dispersed, like shop window mannequins, to restaurants and cafes all over the world, to ask ‘Was everything all right?’ over and over again . . . But this girl was a real person. Lynn looked more closely at her. Did she have problems and sadnesses, an internal world in shreds, despair waiting outside the door? Who could tell? She was now eying Lynn somewhat dubiously. ‘Fine, thanks,' said Lynn. The girl nodded, relieved, and moved off. Della came back from the place where she had been and focused again on Lynn. ‘I'm
not sure I know what love is,' she said, oddly hesitant. ‘I know what it isn't, that's for sure.' Lynn felt an uncharacteristic pang of pity for this new, uncertain Della. She said nothing, but quietly kept her eyes on Della's face. Tia would have been proud of her. ‘I'll tell you how it was in the beginning, for me,' said Della. She gave a short laugh at nothing in particular. ‘I know it sounds trite, but there was this sense . . . I suppose . . .of recognition. Of recognising oneself in the other. Of self meeting non-self, and yet knowing you were the same - yet not the same - oh, how can I put it! - of finding one's completion, somehow. Then, not to be with the other, was in some sense not to exist, not to be whole, because they expressed the part of you you didn't even know about, didn't know you had, until you saw it in them and thought, "This is me - in you." And when you're together you laugh, all the time. Not just because everything seems funny, and bright and good, but because laughing says - oh, so many things - that I feel safe with you, that you can feel safe with me, that we can be vulnerable together, that we see things the same way. And you laugh to give an outlet for the joy you feel because you are with them. And you feel that it's worth anything to make them laugh, to make them happy.' She stopped abruptly. ‘That's how it was for me, anyway,' she said lamely. Lynn remembered. ‘Yes,' she said. ‘That how it was for me and Mark. Everything about him delighted me. I thought I would never tire of watching him - it was that otherness, yet sameness - just as you describe. Weird, isn't it?' ‘Yes,' said Della, ' Very weird indeed.' There was a rueful self-mockery in the way she spoke that puzzled Lynn. She thought, There's something wrong here. Della had spoken so passionately - so unlike her normal collected self and Lynn felt touched by Della's sharing such a confidence. Yet she could not imagine Della feeling that way about Deryk, not even at first. Who then? Could it be that therapist Della had mentioned - what was his name - Jim? But the way Della had spoken of therapists suggested what? - that maybe she had liked him and he had rebuffed her advances. Of course. In spite of herself, Lynn felt a sense of relief. So that was why Della had spoken so bitterly. It hadn't been therapists in general, but Jim in particular that didn’t care. Maybe they weren't all like that. But in
her heart Lynn knew that Della was right. She was clutching at straws. Quickly, think of something else! So who was it then? Perhaps someone in Della's youth, her first love maybe? What to say? She couldn't leave Della hanging in the air. Now it was Della, self-assured Della who was waiting for some word of comfort, of sympathy. ‘Weird, but good, wouldn't you say?' said Lynn. ‘It's good to have those feelings, isn't it Della? Even if they don't last, it's great while they do. It sounds like' (That sounded good. Like something Tia would say. Although - had Tia ever said it?) 'it sounds like that for you, it was a long time ago. Was it a lad at school, or university . . . your first love?' Lynn felt tremendously daring. In all her years of friendship with Della, she had never, ever asked such a personal question, only ever waited for what Della wanted to tell her, which, she now knew, had in fact been extremely little, despite the fact Della talked so much. The moment between them lengthened. Della seemed to be making up her mind to say something. Lynn felt a twinge of fear; had she been too invasive? Well, it was too late now. Finally Della spoke, and Lynn saw to her surprise that the delicate flush was back, creeping up Della's cheekbones. She looked directly at Lynn and smiled wryly. ‘Pretty much my first love – and yes, at university, Her name was Avril.'
For a moment Lynn sat looking at Della. Avril. Somehow she hadn't expected Della to say that. Della . . . bubbly, flirtatious Della who oozed appreciation of the opposite sex – anyone of the opposite sex - gay? It took a bit of getting your head round. Had she heard right? 'Yes, Avril,' said Della, as if reading her thoughts. Right. Well, okay. Fine. It wasn't as if she, Lynn, didn't have gay friends. There was Marco and Polo - aka Mark and Paul- and Gail and Barbara, and Marianne, and Dominic her hairdresser and the two at school who kept themselves to themselves but clearly had a particular friendship, and well, loads. But . . . Della? Della was clearly expecting a response. Hardly knowing what to say, Lynn murmured, ‘So you met at university . . .?' ‘Yes,' said Della. ‘She lectured on the Romantic Poets. She was warm and witty and humane. When I was in her lectures, it seemed as though she spoke to me alone. I had never felt this way before. I adored her. Oh, how I counted the hours to the next tutorial! She noticed me, she liked me. What can I say? Things . . . developed.' Della lapsed into silence. After a pause, Lynn ventured, ‘So what happened?' ‘She dropped me,' said Della bleakly. ‘For a younger, prettier girl. A week into my second year she called me into her office - her office - and told me it was all over. Very nicely. But then the whisper went round about her and Elaine. Elaine was a first year, red-haired, PreRaphaelite looks - absolute stunner. The worst of it was that the first and second year students had joint lectures for some subjects and I had to . . . I . . .' She left the sentence unfinished. Lynn held on, watching Della's face, but Della was not looking at her. Della sighed. ‘It was my fault,' she said. ‘I should have read between the lines. Avril was such an amazing person. Everything about her was beautiful - the way she looked, the way she spoke, the way she dressed - her rooms were full of beautiful things. She opened my eyes to so
much! What could she be expected to see in me? I was a gauche nineteen year-old, very unsure of myself (Della? Unsure of herself?) and things were different in those days' Again she paused. Lynn felt totally out of her depth. What should she say? She sensed that Della wanted to say more, but the situation seemed so precarious - the slightest wrong move on her part, she felt, would result in Della's icy retreat. Perhaps Della was already regretting embarking on this conversation. What did Della want her to say? What would Tia have said? Lynn didn't think she would have asked questions. Tia never asked questions. Trying to be Tia, Lynn leaned forward and murmured, ‘She opened your eyes . . ?' It seemed a stupid, but safe thing to say. It worked. ‘God, yes!' said Della enthusiastically. ‘The things we talked about! Everything! She knew so much - I could have listened for ever. And she made me laugh! I think I amused her, too. You know, I think she did care for me a little bit,' said Della wistfully. 'If only it could have stayed that way I might have had a chance. But it all went wrong somehow. I don’t know how. No, that’s not true - I do know. She showed me new ways of looking at things and it was intoxicating. After a while my head was bursting with it all and I started testing out my ideas on her, I couldn't resist arguing, contradicting her. It was so exciting - such fun, at first! But I got so arrogant - thought I knew it all. No wonder she got sick of me. We had terrible rows. If I hadn't done that, we would still be together!' Lynn looked at Della in some amazement. Did she really believe that? It seemed that she did, for Lynn could see the hint of a tear glistening in her eye. Well! This was a day of wonders! ‘It must have been hard,' was all she could think of to say. ‘It was,' said Della drearily. ‘For a while, I . . . ' Again she left the sentence unfinished, bent her head and fiddled with her teaspoon. After a few moments, she looked up and went on, ‘I was on anti-depressants for quite a while. God, it was hard to get off them! My second year was a bit of a blur. Actually, there's a six month gap that I can't account for at all.' Her eyes still glittered with tears, and she stared fixedly ahead, looking at something Lynn could not see. Even then, Lynn noticed, she took care not to dab her eyes dry.
take his relatives to court.Lynn couldn't help being fascinated. ‘Well . I coped. ‘Did you ever think of doing something . Though I must say. . '? The silence became intense. ‘Really. How did she do it? She seemed all right now. drastic?' Della didn't appear to connect. she looked at Lynn as if she were mad. She had to know. she softened. in fact quite buoyant. Lynn could bear it no longer. First love and all that. Lynn realised that Della hadn't regained her composure at all. as if listening to herself. . in my experience. but it is no substitute for getting completely trollied! My goodness. Once again. Oh god.suicide?' She spat the word out in a quiet hiss. and said musingly.that's all. Lynn had the awful sense of having got it completely wrong.low . going to bed early with a hot water bottle is all very well. Lynn! Your imagination! Suicide!' She paused.the bank of a very large canal. she knew it was the wrong thing to say. I’m still here. She could have bitten her tongue out.and yet how meaningless it is when you say it. ‘What?' she said finally. Too late. ‘You mean . She paused. with a curiosity she was unable to repress. ‘Suicide .you know . suicide . ‘What did she look like?' She couldn't help wondering where Della's taste in women lay. the parties I went to!' Della laughed reminiscently. I was just . ‘Suicide?’ Then seeing Lynn's expression. 'Ending it all?' said Della. and again. focusing with an effort on Lynn. What had she meant when she had said ‘For a while.ending it all?' The moment Lynn said it. Avril caught me unawares.' Lynn was now completely lost and Della saw it. I . and then said. This was such a new Della. Suicide . thought Lynn. suicide . thought Lynn) but so much harder to do. Della seemed to have recovered her composure with remarkable ease. She leaned forward.' said Lynn.what an ugly word it is . ‘Oh. 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 . Maybe because it was all so long ago. much much harder to do. .massacre of a Native American population. ‘Oh Lynn. don't take me so seriously! Suicide is such an easy word to say (not for me.
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 cursed her insatiable noseyness and wished with all her heart that this conversation had never started. Lynn could only be thankful. I did rather invite it by telling you in the first place. the men I got through! Did I ever tell you about Felix when I was in Paris? Maybe that should wait until another time. Lynn pondered this most bewildering lunch hour and what Della had said. ‘After all. Too strongly. ‘It's OK. ‘I'm sorry. the one she had so foolishly let Lynn see. She hadn't wanted to know that. much plumper.had she? But Della had denied it anyway. I must be getting old. ‘I didn't mean to pry. She was plumper. she could feel Della becoming quieter and more withdrawn. Yes . Della had reacted so strongly to what her remark about suicide. 135 . Everyone I meet reminds me of someone else! That must be why I told you about Avril.' Della paused as though this thought had hit her for the first time. then had a couple of rather unsatisfactory flings so I thought it was time to go straight again heavens. Della's usual urbane and amiable persona came more to the fore. ‘But she was nothing like you inside. But she.' She couldn’t think of anything else to say. ‘Oh all right! She . I was celibate for quite a while after that. ‘I've said that before today.' With every sentence. But as they paid the bill and left.quite a bit like you.let me see – she had dark wavy hair and brown eyes and a very expressive face and when we made love she was very gentle. Actually. Lynn.' She paused.know all the gory details!' Then Della seemed to wilt and shrugged as though it hardly mattered now. though. 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. as though by doing so. ‘Actually. almost fat. Avril looked a bit like you.' she said.' said Della. As they journeyed back to school in silence. hadn't actually used the word . She added. She looked ever so slightly older and more tired. the one that could still recall the details of that bruising encounter so many years ago. There! Will that do?' Why had Della added that last line? Lynn felt contaminated by it. now I come to think of it. she could distance herself from that other Della.
because Della thought that she felt about Tia how 136 . . Tia would help her to understand what was going on there. she looked like Avril? Could be. She and Tia had a lot in common really. Analysing the relationship she had with Tia would sort of spoil it somehow . it clicked. Lynn suddenly went cold as it dawned on her why Della had told her about Avril. Lynn felt pleased. thinking about people and trying to work out how they ticked was so fascinating.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. .' said a little voice in her ear. Was it because.make it too clinical. That was a kind of denial too.trivialising it when she clearly felt it really deeply all those years later. 'And maybe there's something inside you that doesn’t want to know too much. Then it would be a point of contact . She really ought to start reading up on this counselling business. Well. Why had telling Della about Tia made the difference? As she was washing her hands. Wasn't it amazing how otherwise educated people could deceive themselves so completely when their emotions where involved. In the staff cloak room. or something? And saying that her feeling at Avril's betrayal was just a first love kind of reaction . But it was as they entered the school gates. It was because she had told her about Tia. Anyway. wasn't it? Hmm. very interesting.like Della had said she should make. that wasn't true! She was a very honest person. But Della had seemed to think it might have worked too . Much better to work it out from first principles. What would Tia have made of it? And here she was. But something didn’t feel quite right about doing that – just yet. It was always best to know the truth. her mind was racing. she hadn't really got very far in working out what was happening in Della.in the face of the evidence how on earth could she hold onto that idea? Even Lynn could see how Avril had used her. But . Della had told her about Avril because she had told her about Tia . Surely she discussed cases with her students all the time. . Didn't they call that denial. That would be ironic. as Della had said.And then sort of glossed over it. as Lynn sat on the loo. Where ignorance is bliss . Perhaps she could ask Tia about it. thinking about it just like Tia would have.
So. You've wanted to try it with Tia. and the thought of it now repulsed her. caring men. no. It had never occurred to her. it all connected now! She saw it all. some of them. realisation swirling around her. that it wasn't true. It was just too dangerous. She felt as weak as water.Della had felt about Avril. Lynn could feel her mind 137 . but look what they were like. Oh. She just didn’t want to go there. though. haven't you?' ‘Haven't we all?' ‘But you've wanted to try it. But. she couldn't be gay! The little voice of reason whispered in her ear. she was a frigid one! A dishonest one. she wasn't only a lesbian then. she was gay too! Lynn felt as though she'd just been hit by a lorry. ‘If you're gay. this awareness caused her thoughts to take a new and alarming turn. Oh. unless . She leant against the wall. thought about her all the time! No wonder. practically worshiped her. The idea of sex with Tia was a new and horrible thought. so special. god! No wonder she thought Tia was so wonderful. But why should she feel about Tia like that? No reason. have you?' ‘I have. what about it?' ‘You've never really enjoyed it. not in touch with her true self! Think! Think! Don't panic . . 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. and thankfully aware of the solid support of the wall behind her. unless . ‘Not very masculine. I like men like that!' ‘What about the sex?' ‘Well.' ‘No! That's not true!' And Lynn found to her relief. in touch with their female side.' said the voice in her other ear triumphantly. But after a moment's relieved reaction. . . mostly. I have! Well.' ‘They were just sensitive. instead of comforting her. She was gay.what did she actually want Tia to do? She didn't dare dwell on it. . were they? Downright effeminate. That time in the -' ‘You've wondered how it would be with a woman.
Lynn paused to think of her mother. ‘I'm proud of you. something had been said that she'd glossed over. Mum had said it before she died. You can't afford to . who had sacrificed everything for her. Slow and steady wins the race .' Lynn had valued that exchange. Nothing wrong with that. taught her so much .' Lynn's mum had sighed. In the awfulness of the last session with Tia. done so many things with her. Absent father.was that it? It was nothing! She had had her mother's approval. And her mother 138 .high standards. Well. to hold her close. but you've done your best with what you had. Normal childhood . but all she could remember was gainsaying Tia and feeling her disapproval. It was so wonderfully typical of Mum .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 a caring mother whom she deeply admired . Lynn continued leaning against the wall by the hot air drier. looking shrunken and frail in the hospital bed. What was it? Lynn couldn't quite remember. Remember that. she was such a loss! There was something lurking at the back of Lynn's mind that had some bearing on this. remembering that scene near the end.never give up. that she'd passed on to Lynn.oh. try another tack. You'll never set the Thames on fire. Even the lightest touch hurt her mother now. like a pile of grey ash with just the spark of her spirit glowing through. Tia had said it.pretty good. Mind you – hard to live up to when you were only a kid. Lynn began to trawl through her life. hoping that no one would come in. Something was being replayed in her memory and she was straining to catch it. love. nothing wrong there. in fact.shutting down. Wasn't gayness meant to be linked to the way you were brought up? Mentally.there's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip. pale and flaky in layers. but she didn’t dare. Quick. That was it! ‘Whose approval do you really want?' ‘My mother's!' Wait though . like the lights going out in a building. Disapproval.' Lynn wanted to hug her. that wasn't good. ‘He's a good man for all I don't think he'll make old bones.
completely freaked.' Lynn had said. Love wants commitment. But that didn't help now. It had hurt intolerably. If she was Tia. Her mother had been typical of her generation.wishing she was like her. wishing she looked like her . Funny really.' That was easy to promise. wishing she was her. who would be Tia for her? 139 . she had to admit.' Lynn had promised. It had been only a week later that Mark had proposed – if you could call it that. What would.' ‘I'll try. It's what we were made for. Tia would have seen through her wanting her approval. ‘I will. would Tia have picked it up by now? Would Tia have read it in her admiration . ‘Get him to make an honest woman of you.a schoolgirl crush? Oh. Mum had no time for homosexuals. because her pain threshold was normally very high. Otherwise why did lovers carve their name on trees? Funny. of the pain of childbirth. though she was terrified. What did it matter? But all the same.' her mother had added. what a horrible thought! Fresh misery washed over Lynn. ‘but there's no guarantees. .she could admit that now . And have lots of children. Ice-cool Tia . oh loss! She quickly replaced it. or fat men who wore shorts . that couldn't be right.' her mother had gone on. though I won't be there to see them.' (Ouch! thought Lynn. failure. Especially after her mother's account.looking at her so coldly. or people who didn't wash their hands after using the toilet. saying she was wonderful. or whatever the term was (and Mum would have freaked at that . . now she came to think of it.amongst others – quite a lot of others) if she was. with a picture of Tia. she had decided. a shudder went through her . At the memory. and you've got good child-bearing hips. ‘You come of good breeding stock. No. as was her habit these days.) 'I want lots of grandchildren. hang on a minute. touched and irritated at the same time. lesbian business? If she was a latent lesbian. . as though she almost couldn't bear the sight of her. (or did) Tia think of her regarding this .had never been what you'd call touchy-feely anyway. . Commitment and permanency. But it hadn't been very high during the miscarriage. Another new and worrying thought came. Lynn longed to be a mother. But there were always epidurals.oh.
and it had been awful to get off the sheets. And she only had three more sessions . taken the spontaneity out of it. telling her this? And Mark. well. then Tia would look at her with affection and love instead of that cold therapist's stare. don't let anyone come in! But if she was like Tia. and a bit before. One swallow didn't make summer. She felt suicidal. But getting pregnant had been OK sort of.actually that hadn't worked terribly well. please god. 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. But it hadn't always been that way. never suspecting? But. 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. looking back. when she was pregnant. How could she lived for thirty-four years. She'd have to go soon. the drier switch was digging into her back.then nothing. Perhaps they should have got the proper stuff from a sex shop or something. How was she going to teach this afternoon? Thank heaven it was sixth form.This was getting a bit complicated! Lynn shifted her position. there were questions . 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. though next time (if there ever was a next time) she'd suggest they try the smooth one instead. where did that leave their relationship? But wait a minute! How did she know she was gay? If she really was. It seemed like two other people now. . And she was still sure the pictures in that 140 . But she hadn't finished thinking! Oh. If she was gay. But the peanut butter had worked pretty well. she could hide in the prep room. They'd certainly worked hard at it! But all the timing and thermometers and pillows under her bum had. . but there had been a secret frisson of pleasure in buying Nutella so openly in the supermarket. And Della! What of Della! What did Della want of her. after the miscarriage. Memories of the showers they'd had together jostled with recalling the experiments with chocolate spread .
How could she explain this infatuation with Tia. appraising the possibilities.book had been computer generated. Oh Tia. Against her better judgment she began reviewing what Della had said. She couldn't bear to part with Tia. Lynn was plunged straight back into a most unwelcome present. But Tia never would touch her. just couldn't. 141 . So she couldn't have been gay. But it had been fun trying. She was hopelessly in love. That was a given. Tia! Lynn broke down and wept. Nobody could do that without years of training! Worse than yoga. Oh. with the problem still unresolved. Lynn thought again of Della and her cold-blooded analysis of ways to obtain information about Tia. this longing .she might as well admit it .for Tia to touch her. It was true. 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. She was behaving like someone in love. Somehow she knew that. they'd done lots of things that had been fun.
was in charge of her life. . She pleaded a headache and left early . quite skinny. every second. and. Lynn found her address book and started thumbing through it. and so she decided that she had to do. but she had to do something. no one contradicted her. decided to behave as though she was still the same person. with a bottle of wine invitingly open (and by the time he came in. but then the memory of Chris's face intervened and stiffened her resolve. she liked helping people . waiting for Mark. after a fashion. She couldn't help feeling that she'd bitten off more than she could chew this time. and they had hardly spoken. Halfway through. Sandra . It was time to make her promise more than just a way of increasing her own feel-good factor. before she met Tia.how long had it been since her glib offer of help? Days at least. mainly at comments Chris had made. She didn't want to phone Sandra. as well as think. trying to recall what little she remembered of Sandra. once again.looking at her face. There was a world out there that she needed to get in touch with. She concentrated. that Tia was only a therapist (what she meant by only she wasn't quite sure). she really didn't want to. She recalled the fact that she had only known Tia for three hours. and that she had a life to be in charge of. because she needed to keep thinking it all the time. Sandra had said next to nothing. and besides. . Lynn. in a nervous sort of way. She picked it up and saw it had Sandra's mobile number written on it. Chris in turn had seemed 142 .Chapter 13 Somehow Lynn got through the day. that she. Lynn paused. Sitting at home. As she switched on her mobile. a piece of paper fell out. mousy hair. two-thirds empty) she began to summon up all her powers of rational thinking. she just couldn't remember. She'd only met her once. perhaps longer. taller than average. It worked because she held in front of herself an image of the happy. friendly outgoing Lynn she'd been before the miscarriage. . but she'd giggled a lot. . in a pub a little less than a year ago. It was hard work. Her mind flashed back to the scene with Chris . Her heart sank . didn’t she? She thought she did. because doing things distracted you. This worked.
‘Always laughing. ‘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. you're honest. Then she thought she ought to return the compliment. Suppose she’d dialled the wrong number by mistake. Suppose Sandra had got a new phone and given this one to her mother. and I phoned to say I'm sorry. and then. at least. hesitant. hi. The phone was ringing. What did you say your name was?' ‘Lynn Davies. dark hair . Lynn took a deep breath and just said it. Lynn thought as fast as she was able under the circumstances. ‘He didn't tell me any details though. ‘Above medium height. ‘So you phoned to commiserate. Oh. very slim. We met at The Apple and Serpent at a Christmas Do last year – the science department from the school where Chris works. the hair's right. Then there was silence. That was very nice of you.devoted to her. ‘Did you just ring me and then cancel?' ‘Yes.' Pause. There was silence at the other end. She couldn't actually remember anything particularly positive about Sandra. 'Let me see . We met once about a year ago. She quickly cancelled.' ‘I remember. There was another chuckle.' She stopped. suspicious. it's Lynn Davies. Chris didn't put you up to it by any chance?' There was an unmistakable edge to her voice.' Pause. Sandra seemed to find this very funny.' she conceded. god! Then Sandra's voice came over the phone. smiley. Chris was the one who'd told me you'd split up.' she said with some hesitation.' There was another pause. not letting her out of his sight. ‘Well. then tried again a minute later. medium height. though there hadn't been that many to choose from. Am I right?' ‘Well.' There was a split second of incredulous silence. rehearsed a little speech. during which Lynn died the death. ‘Well. um.dark wavy hair. There was no easy way to say this.' she finished. ‘Sandra. sorry. ‘I'm still the same height.' 143 . and apparently riveted to her every word. always making jokes. a silvery laugh of genuine humour.' said Lynn doubtfully. amazingly. ’I heard that you and Chris had split up.' Lynn’s heart flopped with relief but she could feel herself blushing too. Lynn wished she'd thought what to say.
I look the same. ‘See you there. I don't see him much. nothing gain . her voice sounded mollified. hard to say. ‘Right. Lynn could hear her voice changing through hesitant to aggressive. But maybe Sandra was suffering too. you know. Very different. . I'm bloody lonely without the bastard. I look nothing like I used to!' ‘Oh. Sandra was clearly thinking this over and it seemed to be a good enough answer for her. She'd see what she could find out. feeling agreeably diverted from her own misery. intrigued. if she could. So. . she certainly sounded different too. because I'm telling you. . The Asp it is then. She hoped she wasn't going as a double agent. if you'd like to meet up for a drink or something .' Well. I don't know. 144 . right. There's no man involved. . there were two sides.00?' ‘Fine. but quite honestly. but how he still loves me. but what to say now? ‘Erm. How's he doing?' This was promising. what experience had she in doing it at all? She waited in suspense. When Sandra spoke. somewhat taken aback by this speedy acceptance of her offer. I must say. but oh. were there? Well. I just couldn't take any more of his crap!' ‘Er. When she spoke again.' She rang off.' said Lynn. poor Chris. ‘That's really sweet of you.telling everyone what a cow I am. She was doing this all wrong. Poor Sandra too! She had to do something. . Tomorrow any good? Say 6. we could meet at the pub again.' ‘The Apple and Serpent? OK then. nothing venture. If this Sandra looked different now.' said Lynn. What do you want to do? If you’d like to get together. ‘Well.or something like that.' Lynn's voice trailed away. .This at least was true. 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 . it was nice of you to phone. ‘Look. But I hope you look the same. but . Sounds like we both remember what we look like. I was wondering how you were . there had to be of course.
full mouth . to return a few minutes later with a pint of something. ‘you and Chris seemed so happy. amazingly for London.' Well. the men cradling their pints carefully. coats secured over the shoulder by a thumb in the collar. Sandra smiled grimly. Clothes courtesy of Camden Lock. Lynn didn't remember it being as crowded as this. Lynn got a glass of wine and waited. Back about ten. round cheeks. despite their expansive gestures. I've changed. Sandra smiled. The rest was negotiable. Who else would know her name? Sandra had been right about the height.lipstick and paint. ‘Yes. Let me get a drink.' She shook her head. .though lip-reading helped. Lovely skin. or holding them high as they 145 .' She vanished.then. ‘Do you good. mascara'd.' she said.' said Lynn. cut very short. clearly enjoying Lynn's efforts to mask her surprise. What else had they in common but the fact that they both knew Chris and that he and Sandra had split up. a nose stud and one below her lower lip. ‘We were . Huge round earrings. Got my mobile if you need me. a place where you could still converse without lip-reading . and. I'll be right back. As usual. maroon nails. ‘You haven't though.The next night Lynn told Mark where she was going. the women tossing their hair back. Several ear-piercings.' he said. Lynn decided. Magenta hair. Sandra was now chubby . I can't believe . yabbering away about matters vital to them. She wished she'd been more specific about the exact location. she felt a touch at her elbow. Sandra was clearly spitting nails. ‘That time I met you here. just when uncertainty was toppling over into doubt. There at her shoulder stood someone whom she supposed to be Sandra. After ten minutes. No point in making small talk. ‘to meet an old schoolfriend. the pavement was ten deep in shirt-sleeved city workers. ‘Lynn?' Lynn turned.very chubby. it was true in a way. The Asp was down a back street off the Central Line.' she said. She looked around at the earnest laughing groups of young men and women in business suits. Dark slitty eyes. Eyebrows plucked to infinity and beyond and then pencilled in. adding. Mark looked pleased. .
‘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. 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.' Sandra snorted angrily. . 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. Oh it sounds so stupid when you say it! Cormac is nice. Lynn said. What more could I want?' She started to laugh mirthlessly. He's friendly. talks about his feelings. Then he goes and does it to somebody else. To her surprise. why should you? It took me a while to fall in. the name I've always known him by. I know he calls himself Chris at school. We hardly spoke two words when we met last year. and he doesn't even remember what he said to you five minutes ago. Maybe it had been a mistake to come back to this pub. Cute. How can you argue with that? What an ungrateful cow I am. So she said nothing. Will the real Cormac O'Doyle please stand up? . special . a really good. Everybody happy. ‘You mean.' she said. This time a response was required. Not so bloody good if you live with him!' She paused. ‘Well. says Cormac sounds too Irish . ‘Don't you notice how he behaves?' Then she made a gesture of resignation. ‘Tell me honestly. ‘Yes. Including me.moved through the press of people. he's like that at home?' ‘All the time. Sandra looked at Lynn closely.' She peered at Lynn as if she was seeing her for the first time. Well. funny. kind man. and Lynn became aware that the drink Sandra was holding was not the first she had had 146 . isn't he? Listens well. it didn't seem to matter. Now she was here. she hadn't remembered the noise level quite as high as this. All very well and good if you work with him.If there is one.makes people think of leprechauns.while he's talking to you. Cormac! That's his real name. looks at you soulfully with those soft Irish eyes? Makes you feel really important. I'm just so desperate. warm . the one I call him. He devotes his life to making people happy. . I've no patience with that any more. meaningless. ‘Yeah. Cormac. It was usefully private but Lynn felt claustrophobic. ‘I can't believe I'm telling you this. She was coming to terms with this now as an integral part of her overall inadequacy.
and Lynn felt slightly more hopeful that the evening wouldn't end in disaster. Lynn stood by supplying tissues. the well made-up face. Eventually. torn between pity and exasperation and thankful they were in a corner where no one could really see them. ‘Yes. I don't want to stand around crying in public. Her face looked an absolute mess.' she found herself adding anxiously. Or was it?' ‘We'll get a pizza on the way. what's the use?' Her face crumpled. Lynn was relieved. A little girl was looking at her.' said Lynn firmly.' She looked at Lynn pathetically. Somebody had to take care of this child. ‘When was the last time you ate?' ‘Oh. Gone was the confident exterior. ‘So where did you go when you moved out?' It worked. ‘Would you prefer some soup or something?' ‘Soup? God. ‘Why don't you splash some water on your face in the Ladies? I'll wait here. Nor the second.' Sandra started to laugh shakily. In a minute she would start crying.' Sandra was gone a little while. She was going to cry now . Diversion tactics were called for.' she said.' ‘OK. what have I done.' Some instinct made her ask. She said. and said drearily. Cormac doesn't know where I am. ‘Sorry. Lynn said. and when she returned Lynn could see she had applied some make-up. Sandra finished. ‘I never said he didn't.' ‘Look.that day. Maggie and Liam. ‘That's if you like pizza. 147 . It's a relief. sniffing. Sandra came to.oh.and she did. "Come back to me.' ‘So he does love you?' Sandra looked at her with frustration in her face. They're away in the States for a couple of months. I don't think I could take his whining. I need to think. Yesterday some time. I said . She looked much better. Will you come back with me? I just want to hole up indoors. ‘I've got a couple of friends. more in control. no! Pizza will be fine. I'll come. I'm house-sitting for them in Tottenham. ‘It's all right. I don't know. I love you" crap.
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?'
Then Sandra played something Lynn knew and she couldn't resist singing along. It must be getting late. 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. Lip studs and Chopin just wouldn't go together normally. She played a Chopin nocturne. How surreal it was to see someone looking like Sandra making such amazingly beautiful sounds. She hated the bloody thing.' ‘We were. though her head was swimming and she hardly knew what she was doing. then some Scott Joplin. Well. Lynn came over and stood by the piano and they played and sang. All the way home in the taxi. drunken. singing in a rich. it was only useful in emergencies. To her delight Sandra joined in. ‘We'll have to do it again. frequently ending in a riot of mischords and broken harmonies. Somehow she managed to pay off the cabbie. Going up the stairway to their flat. then some Beethoven. she wouldn't switch it on now. Too late. contralto. Lynn listened entranced. Sandra was disappointed. with some difficulty.' said Lynn. How will you get home?' ‘Taxi.' Sandra did.' ‘We will! Definitely! I feel so much better. Well. A good servant but a poor master.‘Oh. She had a vague memory of him helping her to pick up the contents of her purse from the pavement. Surprise me. She would have to go immediately and she said as much to Sandra. It was late. Very late. It was very definitely after 10 o'clock. on her watch. She didn't dare think about the cost. with one hand on the wall. with an effort. Eventually Lynn said. She said. we were!' 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. She wondered why he hadn't phoned. Lynn approached the 153 . She didn't seem to need music. I don't know. then some jazz that Lynn couldn't identify. only about how angry Mark would be if she didn't get home as soon as possible.' She focused. ‘I've got to go. but a glance at her mobile phone revealed the reason. ‘We were having such a nice time. unable to get back on track for laughing.
the contrast between his patient.' ‘OK. she collapsed into his arms.door with some anxiety. However. over breakfast. ‘Well. waiting love and Chris's strange perspective welled up within her.' Lynn's brow wrinkled. ‘Oh Mark. The stairs seemed hard enough work as it was. would you?' They looked at each other and burst out laughing. You passed out under me.' ‘Oh. As she saw him waiting for her and then coming towards her to grab her. as overcome with lust. The thought of actually getting the key out.' ‘Well. ‘I don't remember that bit. fitting it in the lock and turning it seemed far beyond her meagre powers.' ‘I don't remember that bit either. I do love you!' she cried. the problem was solved when the door was opened by Mark. then. smiling in spite of himself as the recognition of her sorry state dawned on him. you wouldn't. Mark said conversationally.' Lynn was concentrating on buttering a piece of toast without it making too much noise. ‘What do you mean?' ‘You passed out on me. you were pretty bloody useless in bed last night. * * * The next day. 154 .
No answerphone message. I'm Lynn Davies. not planning what to say if anyone answered the phone. no engaged tone. . She'd acted on impulse what the hell. no. not caring. this is David Mowbray. him. not thinking. I must have the wrong number. St Saviour's Vicarage. the vicar. Can I help you?' For a split second she imagined herself saying ‘Sorry. ‘Hello.almost wondering if he was a real person outside the Sunday morning service. I wanted the North London Satanists society. 155 . She recognised his voice. ‘I'm sorry you have dialled a wrong number. but now she was here she wondered whatever had possessed her to do it. ‘Hello. She'd just felt like it .' but instead heard herself say.Chapter 14 Lynn was pacing up and down the road that St Saviour's church was in. . An hour earlier she had rung David. Lynn had nearly dropped the phone when he had answered.' just . regretting her phone call and wondering what she should do.
Can I come and talk to you about it?' Oh. ‘Lynn Davies? I remember you. 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.' 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. bloody hell! If phoning was stupid to start with.' ‘Yes. but something horrible now was happening inside her head. she was completely losing it . But really.I came to a service at your church last Sunday and I'm beginning to think about God. Lynn stared at it as though it might come to life and tell her what was going on. Sometimes she was such a silly cow. You can't miss it .after all he'd 156 . come in!' Why Lynn was surprised that David opened the door she couldn't imagine . ‘Come in.' ‘It's the ugly Victorian pile right next to the church. What have I got to lose? She marched up the narrow pathway between funereal overgrown trees and bushes and resolutely rang the bell.though some people try . In an hour then. She'd always prided herself on her openness.like old ladies who told you about their bowel movements or what they really thought of you under the impression that they were only thinking when really they were speaking aloud. You were with Polly. yes. She wasn't just being open. what had she got to lose? Now Lynn was outside the vicarage. this must be off the top end of the scale of total madness. weren't you? Sure. ‘Er. Doesn't happen often. She waited. Right. Again she thought. Fine.' ‘OK.' The phone went dead. You know where to come?' ‘I think so. In about an hour's time?' ‘Fine. See you then.
Her thick fair hair was styled in an expensive looking cut that probably needed manicuring every two weeks. holding it open for her. I met David when he was a student in Bristol. and Lynn. He showed her through a wide entrance hall into a room by the front door. For the tenth time she was regretting coming.' She moved forward with her hand outstretched. Bath! That was useful . It was a study. The mantelpiece contained artifacts of a vaguely seafaring nature with a preponderance of wood and brass showing. ‘Tea? Or would you prefer coffee?' ‘Coffee. was aware of her own inner caution. ‘You haven't met my wife. ‘Ali! Got a minute?' Footsteps sounded and Alison appeared. Lynn was not sure what vicars' wives should look like. I was born in Bath. when she spoke.she'd spent a week's holiday at Lisa's 157 . have you?' He crossed to the still open door and yelled through it. quite large. He was in a clerical shirt without the collar and his wiry hair was up on end. no sugar. book-lined. but David was indicating a seat and saying. ‘You're no fool.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. Nice to meet you too. and above it was a landscape in watercolours.' ‘I'll just give Alison a shout’ he said. ‘Hi. with two shabby easy chairs by a gas fire which was not on. How original is that?' Not very.but she was. Her voice. Her smile as she spoke was warmly professional. and Lynn shook it.answered the phone . you must be Lynn. 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. We met at church . smiling back. as he clicked the fire on. but Alison didn't really fit the bill. please' said Lynn. whatever it was. ‘White. sturdy build. had a slow west country burr. She wore jeans and a baggy sweatshirt which did not disguise her muscular. You're not from these parts?' ‘No. thought Lynn. Pleased to meet you.' she thought. ‘Hi. and her face wore an expression that was at once benign and shrewd.
yes I did. what will you do about it?' Hey. Aloud she said. I just want to know. ‘What's it like growing up in a tourist spot?' Before Alison could reply.once when she was a kid and they'd gone to Bath a couple of times. talking about God was personal. Jane Austen. A clear run through on the tube then. I live near Camden Town. which was the name of the village where Lisa had lived . smiling at her puzzlement. What was she doing here? What had she expected to find? This man had 158 . . how nice west country accents were. and he gazed back innocently.' Lynn looked at him suspiciously. hold on a minute. You couldn't just do it.' ‘Ah. What was this? What about a bit of small talk. and the old familiar disappointment came stealing over her. you know. straight in. Damn! She'd been all ready to talk. A series of useful connected topics were buzzing in her mind. I'll just get that. ‘You've come far?' ‘No. like discussing whether Waitrose was better than Sainsburys. Was it tea or coffee by the way?' ‘Coffee please. She turned her attention back to David. Back in a minute. He gestured again to an easy chair and sat down himself. But if you find he is there.' ‘Sounds quite reasonable to me. they were interrupted by the phone ringing. but I'd just like to know if he's there. whether Alison had ever been to Midsomer Norton. Alison was starting to warm to her. Dammit. establishing a few friendly connections? He was just like bloody Tia. I’ve only just sat down! Back off will you? Memories of his unpleasant space invasion at the church door flooded back. the Roman ruins. I don't believe in him. How nice it would have been to see that appraising expression melt into friendliness. both in the study and somewhere else in the house. disconcertingly. a few opening preliminaries. All of a sudden she felt very wary of telling David anything. she could tell. did I? I mean.' ‘Right.' Then. Lynn felt extremely irritated. ‘You said on the phone that you wanted to talk about God?' ‘Oh.' She disappeared and Lynn was left. . Lynn followed suit. ‘Hang on. ‘I told you.
David surveyed it with interest. and said quite gently. it made me think . and if there's anything up there. for he leaned forward. sure .' ‘Oh.' when Alison's footsteps were heard in the hall and she came in through the half open door with a tray. just let the silence rest between them and Lynn was beginning to say. She felt partly reassured. gives me a hard time. It was daintily laid with a lace tray cloth. though some of them were paperbacks. I have found myself wondering lately what the point of everything is. Alison put the tray down.' Lynn didn't really want to talk about Alison. She said. ‘Your sermon on Sunday. but it was still too soon to talk about God. I suppose most people do at one time or another. .?' ‘What? Oh. .' she ended defensively.' Lynn removed the flower vase and looked around for somewhere to put it. suddenly wonder if there is. sugar and a plate of what looked like homemade biscuits. He sat back again. a cafã´tiere of coffee. She's fitter than I am though.no answers. cream in a jug. She let her gaze wander round the room.’ ‘Er. ‘I think they do. I see.' Lynn nodded. It's true. So does Alison. 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. She stood by Lynn and gestured with the tray. That was reasonable. ‘You play squash?' ‘Yes. ‘About the God stuff. It had a light and airy feel. but only partly. 159 . When we can. despite the weightiness of a solid wall of books behind her. David reached over and took it from her and shoved it on top of the mantelpiece. there is usually a reason for it. ‘Could you .' He said nothing more. She could understand that. right.sorry. only questions. ‘I'm only asking because when people who perhaps have not been particularly interested in whether there is a God or not. He seemed to sense her disengagement. finding some ease of spirit in its faded comfortableness. and so did she. If there's anything more to life than meets the eye.
if you know where to look. 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 . about truth. there's a lot of truth in this old world of ours. Well. you wouldn't have got this if I'd been doing it. things behave reliably and you can test hypotheses. You said . ‘Let's have the coffee now. Your sermon. ‘And that's not the only kind of truth there is. . . you were talking . She declined a biscuit and sat there feeling the odd sort of contentment that one sometimes gets with hands cupped round a hot drink. the gas fire and the picture were the only things of comfort in the room. about things not being straightforward. There's scientific truth. ‘I hate cool coffee. I seem to remember . sitting there benignly in his shirtsleeves. He pushed the plunger down. Lynn felt somewhat wrong-footed by this. though obscurely pleased that Alison had forgotten the mugs.you said. The rest felt very alien. ‘I'm having coffee with the vicar!' and stifled an insane urge to laugh. He continued on another tack. . where according to known laws. before she laughed and said. ‘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. shall we?' said David. . He took his time. just now. "The greatest enemy of truth is not lies. It smelt wonderfully aromatic and it was very hot.what were you going to say?' ‘When? Oh. it's the truth we already know. thought. and was gone again before Lynn could think what to say.how nice! and sipped it. There's .' ‘Hang on a minute .' Lynn looked up just in time to see Alison poke her tongue out at him. Lynn took hers. when you get down to the heart of it.' she said. it's not quite so straightforward as that . She looked at David. the way I see it. . .' Lynn closed her eyes the better to recollect.‘Well. ‘Well." What did you mean?' ‘What did I mean?’ Now it was David’s turn to think. ‘ . Of course. That.' He stopped. as though he had been going to say something and then changed his mind. added cream . poured and handed her a mug. ‘You were saying?' ‘ . don't you. but I can't help thinking that a couple of cups would help.Yes.
She didn't want to be sidetracked. There's a lot of it about. Truth cannot contradict truth .' he paused and said simply. . and also. But if your hands are already full of truth. well. looking at her carefully to monitor whether or not he was boring her. wherever you look. inserted it whole into his mouth.' said Lynn pointedly.' ‘I believe I've heard that argument before. And their truth is real. He put down his mug and sat purposefully upright. 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 . This sounded little bit glib. 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. secretly entertained. profoundly real. ‘Yes.' ‘You mean you don't know what's really happening . This homely diversion brought Lynn the relief she needed.the very heart . . chewed. That wasn't what she wanted to hear. She took a mouthful of coffee. The point is this .' said Lynn briefly. All these truths mesh in at a deep level. All sorts. All very well on Sundays . and she had asked. or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. in music . He felt the implied rebuke and. swallowed. ‘Men!' she thought. Clearly he was warming to his theme and did not want to be distracted with the mundanities of eating and drinking. ‘Truth is more common than we think. in science. surprisingly. ‘Go on. in art. in literature. she felt a sudden chill within. You were saying?' David took a biscuit. flushed. make no mistake about it.like Schrodinger’s cat?' ‘Yes.but that's true in other fields as well. Some people have a lot of it. Surely the message he was giving her was that when you looked at the heart of things . ‘There's spiritual truth too.reality . like a chunk from another sermon.there was nothing really there. in life itself.but it wasn't Sunday. and washed it down with a great draught of coffee that surely must have been much too hot. She half expected him to wipe the back of his mouth with his hand. But what choice had she? She was here now. sorry.but you can't use the same yardstick for measuring them all. You're a scientist?' ‘Biology.
How do you make room in your life for the truth you don't yet know? There was so much truth. to be truly what we were meant to be. marvelling at its delicate beauty. ‘That's lovely. we have to be like Christ. rebuked. She looked at it. good point. she saw her life as small and contained. In an instant. . The way that in order to be true to ourselves. ‘Yes. animals. . There was too much truth.This simple question hit Lynn between the eyes and then opened a door inside her head. It's a favourite poem of mine. .' she said. the ones which reinforced the truths she already knew. enclosed. Her enquiring mind and the outgoing curiosity of which she had always been secretly proud suddenly seemed now somehow now to be tunnel vision.' David rested back against his chair.' He took the frame from her and read. caught sight of a framed piece of writing on the wall to one side of the mantelpiece. all in one go. confined.' David reached up. mercifully saying nothing." ' She read it aloud. Deals out that being indoors each one dwells. She felt challenged. ‘I'll think about that. . the beguiling incomprehensibility of the words. Then it goes on to talk about us. She took it. decorated around the edge with tiny birds and animals. in green and gold and blue and vermillion. Selves. then again. Birds. It was indeed lovely. ‘What fascinating words. One never could tell . beautifully written in calligraphy and illuminated with gold leaf. she caught a glimpse of something but it was gone before she could see what it was. What do they mean?' ‘I suppose it's what we were talking about . Through it. took it down and handed it to her. It was a poem. encouraged. She still didn't understand it. No fakes. eager to examine it more closely. dragonflies draw flame" .the essential truth of the nature of things. well. Goes itself . silently. Josh had done it? That loutish lad she had last seen playing a bass guitar with a marked lack of co-ordination. They were made that way. To give herself time to think. . She did not know what to say. slowly. unconsciously mirroring David. have to be true to themselves. selecting only the truths she wanted to hear. . " Each mortal thing does one thing and the same. Lynn looking around. what is it?' ’My son Josh did it. to be what they really are inside. She was winded. 162 . ‘ "As kingfishers catch fire.
I overreacted. I've got to go. and lovely in eyes not his. The thought suddenly occurred to her. The darkness felt overwhelming. What was he talking about now? How did he get there? She hadn't read that bit. . ‘I've said something to upset you. into those beautiful words and completely ruining them. She sat down again and smiled wanly. I'm not feeling myself these days. lovely in limbs. ‘I'm sorry.' Lynn could see him in his mind. I'm sorry.just behind . The door slammed shut in her face. I don't know . killed it dead with his stupid words. too much probably. . the pointlessness of the whole world. something glowing with wonder . This Is Depression. She was a million miles from nowhere in a barren wasteland in the dark. to the Father through the features of men's faces" ' Lynn listened in growing dismay. Just when she was getting so close! She could have wept with frustration. He'd taken the poem from her. I'm thinking a lot . She could feel herself sinking fathoms further down into it. .‘"For Christ plays in ten thousand places. Now. Lynn had to get out. right this minute?' David looked suddenly alarmed. This is what depression is like.' 163 . As she had been reading it. of sitting here. spoiling it all. coupled with a disgust at her own lack of control.' ‘What.just beyond. desperately replaying the last few moments of conversation in his head. done nothing wrong. Oh! A terrible sense of the pointlessness of this conversation with David. extrapolated itself into the pointlessness of all conversations with him. Things are getting to me for no reason. He was going too fast. She put down her mug and stood up abruptly. listening to him talking another language suddenly came over her. there had been such a sense of getting nearer to something really important. she couldn't follow him. And now he was dragging God into it. Besides it would look very odd just to walk out just like that. A weary pity overtook her. He had meant well. all conversations with anybody anywhere. what it was that he had said. And now it was gone. trying to work out what had gone wrong. in this claustrophobic room. . ‘I'm the one that should be sorry.
it got to me.' ‘You and Alison! What for?' ‘Ali is a trained counsellor and I've a bit of training myself. ‘Lynn. It was as though . Rubbish. ‘Nope. I don't know "going themselves" or something. I don’t know anything about you but I can't help feeling that you are hurting a bit inside too . ‘But why Alison? What's she got to do with it? You're 164 . oh. It didn't seem to match the poem. ‘. as though . It was very odd. yet wanting to be as honest as she could. Life's got to have a meaning. hating herself for saying it. just watched her intently. did not trust her . I caught a glimpse of things behind things. .in fact she was a cow. ‘That poem. and things. but it didn't come. . It's all a waste of time. not believing in God is about emotional issues. . ‘I wonder if you'd like to come round sometime and talk to myself and Alison .She watched David's look of anxiety become replaced by a look of calculating concern.' she added. Instead he said. you are thinking about big things at the moment. ' Lynn could feel herself losing it again.' she said reluctantly. . but she owed him something. And I felt sort of spooked. and maybe we could listen to you . . . when it said about kingfishers. And it has.' He said it so confidently that Lynn found herself wincing inside. . He could not be serious. . hasn't it?' Lynn looked at David almost fearfully. as though life might have a meaning after all.' Lynn at last found her voice. half afraid he might contradict her and say. He said nothing. waiting for her to continue. Life's got to have a meaning.' ‘Oh yes. very often in fact. hating him for making her say it. not intellectual ones . There's no meaning. I didn't understand what you meant. He continued.' A bit! thought Lynn. ‘And what you said. ‘It was the poem. sometimes.that there's more in this than meets the eye. She braced herself for the God bit. It seemed the hardest thing in the world to do when all she wanted to do was go. Alison! She'd rather die! She suddenly realised that she did not like Alison at all.
still less his ball-breaking wife. It was definitely time to go now. but. I recognise that as a genuine offer. People can become quite vulnerable.' This was said with the barest possible twitch of his lips. even though. ‘Remembering what I see in the mirror in the mornings. He said. Even though. well. or did she detect the hint of a look of caution in his eyes when she said that? But he answered evenly enough. for example.the one I've come to see!' Was it imagination. Like Polly. 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. yes. people are always ready to make something out of nothing. ‘Thank you David. ‘When people talk deeply about emotional issues. And unfortunately in my job. ‘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. it is something that I have to take into account. she couldn't quite believe it. straight-faced. in their way. and knowing how busy you and Alison are (playing squash!) it's a generous one too. And I have to acknowledge my own fallibility. they were probably quite good for some people. I do realise how remote that possibility is. but no thanks.' He looked at her carefully. Lynn said slowly and formally. 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 . Despite herself. must be laughing his head off. nevertheless. But I don't think it would be helpful at the moment. to give herself time to think. Oh really! What hard work everything was! What bloody hard work! And made worse by people like him. You are a very attractive woman. 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. actually. give her Tia every time. David's face remained expressionless. if there was a god. There was no way in the world she would trust herself to these amateurs. God. I'm a vicar. I don't counsel for a living. it's surprising what kinds of things come up. and two people can be a lot better at listening than one . Thanks. Wow. and Lynn became aware of what he was saying. she couldn't help being flattered at the compliment and disarmed by his admission of his own humanity.
he liked her. and I think you'll make it.' What a quaint old-fashioned phrase! He liked her. You won't mind if I remember you in prayer sometimes?' ‘Remember you in prayer. if you don't mind. she still liked him. And I'll think about what you said.' David let go of her hand and smiled. David had no choice but to take it. it doesn't mean I'm never coming back again. I don't mind. meaning it.' She extended her hand.' David's smile broadened. How funny life was! She smiled back and said ‘No. ‘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. it was lovely. ‘Thanks for your time. If you don't see me in church on Sunday. Lynn could tell. In spite of the hard time she'd given him. He said.present. And against the odds. ‘I'm still doing a lot of thinking.' Lynn said. 'And thank Alison for the coffee. he paused. You're a deep thinking person. 166 .' At the door. looking uncertain. ‘I’m glad you came Lynn. I'll see you out. ‘Thanks' he said. ‘It's nice to know I haven't blown it completely. and vanished.' She added on impulse.
or whatever . ‘Why do you want me to meet Lauren?' ‘Oh. but Lauren's going to be there! I wanted you to meet her!' Lauren. when she got home.' she answered slowly. dammit! That was settled. I'm going to phone Polly now and tell her. that bloody god-stuff! Haven't you had enough yet?' ‘I rather think I have. She'd phone Polly.time to recover. it was his job. she felt like she'd had enough. but quite honestly now. ‘You're not so bloody marvellous. so that he didn't feel bad.' said Polly wistfully. Lynn felt that she wanted to meet her.' She did. didn't want to talk god-talk. was quiet. tell her. Lynn wanted to know more. She remembered how David had lost interest in her at the door of the church. She didn't want to go to church. His reaction was predictable. finally asked. ‘Here we go again.well. ‘Right! Knock it on the head then!' ‘I will. If she asked her for a reason . otherwise he wouldn't have laughed. ‘Lauren's a fantastic person. and after all. and then Polly's anguished voice. as she left the vicarage. I just did.Chapter 15 Lynn's thoughts. she'd tell her. Lynn felt that she hated the idolised Lauren in advance. But he couldn't have minded too much. ‘Where'd you go then?' She told him. ‘Oh. She'd talked about going to church to please him. ‘How's Lauren?' What was this paragon like. From what Polly said about Lauren.' There she went again. about tomorrow. that's all. calling over her shoulder. were extremely mixed. Lynn was sure it wasn't allowed in a Christian church. Why on earth had she said that at the end! He was just trying to be nice.? It was creepy. who inspired so much devotion. Mark. You 167 . Against her will. There was the silence of consternation on the other end. tell her no. give her psyche . she seemed almost to have the status of divinity in Polly's mind. just wanted to hide away somewhere and lick her wounds. He kept glancing at her. A fantastic person.
Lynn.' ‘Well. Mrs Pankhurst. just as Mark came in. but when she got there she'd say that Mark was ill and she had to go back. ‘Sure. It felt intolerable. enable him to understand.church stuff. She couldn't do this to him.that therapist. She really liked Sandra. but nothing came.' She longed for the words that would reach him. It was the best way. now this church crap.a dumb woman communicating with a deaf man. She couldn't tell Polly.' ‘You will? Oh that's wonderful!' Polly's naive joy was transparent. His expression was unreadable. Just someone I wanted to meet. Lauren? Huh! But still Lynn couldn't help wondering what Lauren was actually like.' There were plenty of amazing people around. I'm sorry. Lynn.' He made no reply. The memory of Mark's face continuously alternated with Polly's. trying to convey her love for him. was pretty divine herself. ‘OK. all the people she'd known in the past who'd been kind to her. ‘Oh please. Maybe she'd go just once more. just turned away. Hey. When she was nearly there she made a decision. She couldn't stay. Sandra was a good person. his face expressionless.don't have to be a Christian to be fantastic. Human curiosity. How easily Polly was pleased! She said goodbye and rang off. I really thought after last Wednesday that I'd got you back.even Sandra. not crap . I thought I'd give it one more try. She was mute . actually. she was on the tube and there was no signal on her mobile.she smiled at the memories .' He hugged her and let her go. give me more time. her Auntie Gwen . Lynn ran after him and threw her arms round him. then that . oh please. she'd be on her way to church herself now. Trust me. 168 . his eyes bewildered. she supposed. ‘It's the last time. Anyway.' ‘Oh Lynn! What's going on? Oh for goodness sake! I thought the miscarriage was bad enough. holding him tightly. And I thought. her mother. Lynn felt as though she. I'll come. Lynn wished someone would tell her what was going on too. able to invoke such delight by her simple consenting to be there. All through the tube journey next morning Lynn kept asking herself why she was doing it. Gandhi. How wrong I was! Will somebody just tell me what's going on!' He shook his head slowly. ‘You've sorted it then.
this made her think of Chris. She turned her attention back to Polly. But at least she'd met Sandra. and her eyes 169 . she'd only wanted to meet her to satisfy her curiosity. ‘Yes. Polly pointed .' said Lynn. Lauren says . In the absence of any physical description of Lauren whatsoever. All the way to St Saviour's she was rehearsing her lines. she had imagined someone. . and now she'd done it. unlined forehead. ‘And I'm Lauren. but the day of reckoning was looming there. very. For some reason. Lauren? How did she get here? Her eyes connected with the top of Lauren's head and travelled down. of course Lynn. Fantastic? She'd reserve judgment. Really. I understand. ‘Oh. She had to make some choices. in the middle of a very lively crowd of what looked like year sevens .' But Lauren didn't seem to be saying anything. wide. Lauren was dressed in brown with very short dark brown hair. She felt an unaccountable pang of anti-climax. Lauren wore the sort of earrings Della wore. well. Disappointing really. ‘You must be Lynn.just couldn't. Lynn thought of Polly's not infrequent references to her. who she'd managed to avoid in the last couple of days at school. for feeling it. She had a high. Oh well. . . ‘Oh.' Lynn swung round again with a start. and stuck up like fur. a bit like Tia. She repeated the lines. and foolish too. . a force to be reckoned with. The tube stopped and Lynn got out. not this dowdy person. Lauren looked different close to. Lauren thinks . She shuddered. rallied and said. She was standing. but you can say hello to Lauren before you go! There she is!' Lynn turned. That couldn't be bad.' And then she caught sight of something over Lynn's shoulder and her face brightened. barely visible. Then she saw Polly waiting for her outside the church. ‘nondescript’ was the word that came to mind. very short. I just came over to say hello. Someone with some presence anyway. ‘Well. but what could you expect from Polly? Silly of her to fall for it. It made you want to stroke it. How did she get into these messes? She hadn't got a clue what to say. Lynn was reminded of a sparrow being mobbed by a flock of budgies. from what Lynn could see. Her dark hair was cut short. Polly wilted.' said a voice behind her. put him first.
' ‘Have you? I wonder why?' said Lauren. She temporised with. ‘I've been looking forward to meeting you. Lauren's smile. There was something about Lauren that rang true.. It was as though a billboard had switched pictures while Lynn had blinked.' Lauren laughed. that look of sadness? She must have. still smiling. not least because Lynn hardly knew herself. what fun to meet you! You look like the sort of person that I really like!' Lynn felt thoroughly approved of.' she said. Nevertheless. It was impossible not to. In another woman it would have been a cue for something complimentary to be said. they gave her features an expressive melancholy. If Lynn had been able to see only Lauren's eyes.were the deepest. Yes indeed. Lynn barely had time to register this before Lauren smiled. of course. ‘Oh. I've . which might be nothing to do with Lauren and everything to do with Lynn.' she said. and the reasons Lynn might have for wanting to meet her. But one thing stood out. She was going to say. she would have known exactly what Lauren's smile was like. Lauren's face changed completely. more for something to say than anything else.' ‘So. as though Lauren knew how Lynn had felt about her.' she paused. and her eyes that seemed to look into Lynn's very soul. don't you think?' ‘Oh yes.' but it wasn't exactly true. Had she imagined then. but about Lynn. Her eyebrows were straight at the top and then dived down sharply at the outer corners. teasing smile that lit up her whole face. had that might make make her attractive to people . mirror images of a curvy. her eyes crinkled and smiling. Lynn replied conventionally. But for Lauren. brightest brown Lynn had ever seen. ‘Yes. ‘Hmm. ‘Definitely. Almost. Lauren. And it was for her. Lynn found herself smiling back all over her face. But that was impossible. you came with Polly?' 170 . It's always better to form your own opinions. it seemed a genuine question – not to do with the qualities that she. became two tiny. Enhanced by the droop of her eyelids.' said Lynn. ‘I'm Lynn. said. ‘I've wanted to meet you. in fact. ‘People round here seem to think very highly of you.
who was standing by.' said Lauren. 'is it true.' It was odd to hear Polly called by the name that Lynn had only ever heard herself use. Lauren turned back to Lynn. 'Would you do something for me? I really wanted to see the kangaroos. She'd met Lauren now and she needed to get back. 'Actually. 'Where were we?' Lynn made a disclaiming gesture. His face spoke for him. Must have taken a while.'No. they are so interesting. One of the budgies – quite a small one . But I thought it might be easier to find a postcard of a kangaroo. He pocketed the coin and marched off proudly.' She stopped. 'Is it true you can't come to the zoo with us next week?' Lauren smiled down at him. What a co-incidence – I do just the same! I love looking at people. I'm afraid it is.' Even as she said it she wished she'd said 'Reading'. And sometimes I . 'On the tube. Lauren?' he cried in a tone of anguish.had run over and was tugging Lauren's sleeve. Lauren!' he said. Were you looking forward to me coming?' He said nothing. I think they are wonderful. would you mind doing that for me? I'd be so pleased. 'Yes. distracted.she dug in her pocket and produced a pound coin – 'you could buy me a postcard of one if you can find it.' Lynn said honestly. 171 . no. Tim. Wombats are my preferred marsupial. Pol. 'My goodness – that's quite a way. 'or – counting things.. 'Do you really like kangaroos?' asked Polly.' Lynn wanted to make that clear straight away. all sunshine now. Would you mind terribly looking out for them for me and telling me about them when you come back? And maybe' .' 'Of course I will. I'm very sorry.' 'Was it far?' Lynn told her. How do you pass the time on the tube?' 'By looking at other people. I tell you what.
‘You're not staying for the service then?' Lynn explained. They all thought the others were wonderful . and something else that she couldn't quite identify. It was strange to hear of Polly in such an unfamiliar role. felt both fascinated and repelled. she had to go. Lynn felt oddly alone and excluded. And as a bonus. she had seen Lauren. It would make her departure less obvious. Sure. No point in telling him that.' Watching them enter the church together. The service was starting.' Whatever Lauren meant by sorry. reflecting on the encounter. Lauren and Polly turned away. During the ride home. She said as much to Polly.yeah. Resolutely. and then she wished she hadn't. thanks. ‘I'm sorry. Mark was surprised to see her back so early. and the most she could permit herself to acknowledge was that it was something not a thousand miles away from a wistful envy. leading the prayer meeting. Lynn tried to identify the mystery emotion she'd felt at seeing Lauren and Polly talking. It seemed like a sort 172 . Lauren looked at her inquiringly.a real mutual admiration society! Hey. she headed back to the tube. Pol. ‘Oh. ‘See you tomorrow. It didn't feel at all nice. When he learned that she'd come back early for him. ‘Will you be at the prayer meeting on Wednesday?' ‘I hope so.' Polly flushed beetroot and beamed.' Lynn. Lauren looked at her keenly for a moment then turned her attention to Polly who was now talking to her again. watching with interest.' ‘Oh . Whatever next! And Lauren seemed to think quite highly of her too. Lauren. Lynn.Let Polly take over. Are you leading it again? I loved that reading you used last time – and you read it so well. and Lynn felt a glow of virtue from having made the decision to come home before she'd seen her. people were going in. it sounded genuine anyway. Perhaps that was how these Christians got their kicks. his smile of delighted surprise was ample repayment for any inconvenience incurred. At home. they could hear the music group sounding more melodious.
Mark said. And maybe now she'd just said that to prepare him for finding the place knee-deep in stuff about psychology. A bit of background reading never hurts. ‘You want some coffee?' ‘Mmm.shower? And were you meant to keep the water running? It all had got a bit slippery. and wow. Oh. had it hurt her back! Anyway. nice.of reward. Sometimes she thought they were too boring and predictable. Later that day in bed. rolled over. Perhaps all people did in the shower was . unable to interpret the sigh.' Mark agreed expansively. but wanting to make it all right. ‘I really know so little about it. She loved that look. It had the effect he desired. She and Mark had never had secrets before. Mark.' Lynn looked at him sorrowfully. laughed and started kissing him back. But now and then it was nice to stick with the tried and true. Presently they lay back again.‘ Help you get the most out of it.well . Then there was that time they'd tried it in the kitchen. It hadn't really been successful. contemplating the ceiling. or even what she had said to her in the sessions. 173 . hands behind his head. It had been quite fun really. She remembered that time so long ago in the shower. somehow. Mark was looking very pleased with himself.' ‘Probably a good idea.' said Lynn. It had felt rather odd to have dinner at the table so soon afterwards. it would completely freak him out. and in comfort. She could never tell him what was going on in her head about Tia. Lynn reflected. She sighed. and it wasn't really helped by Mark being so much taller than she was. ‘I think I might try to read up a bit about this psychology stuff. 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. He was lying on his back. pulled her towards him and started nuzzling her neck. Lynn summoned her reserves of energy. at least today she'd made up for yesterday. Lynn and Mark were talking after half an hour of home entertainment. as though they'd been married for twenty years instead of two.' Lynn began cautiously. And now she had so many.
She put the book to one side.' he read with interest. but it seemed a bit weird. looked interested. Her respect for Tia increased exponentially. She could hear him whistling in the kitchen. it explained the huge inequality between her coursework marks and her exam results. She should really have looked at it in the library. The book was quite easy to read.Mark got blithely up and went out. or would be if she had the time. He picked one up at random and opened it. 'The Interpretation of Dreams. Too late. ‘What's a t-test then?' ‘Give me that back!' said Lynn. Lynn said ‘Right!' and dumped a pile of books on the table. . All these dreams about weeing and eating and stuff. was there any sex? Just curious. Mark. Even the sight of his back was irritating. Surely Tia was into Freud? He was the one that started it all off after all. ‘How should I know? I only got it today. entitled ‘Calculating coefficients of correlation'. he put it back on the table and swaggered off. Wasn't he the one who was always banging on about sex?' He started to thumb through it. loaded with incomprehensibility. Statistical Methods in Psychology. wasn't he? So . ambling by. ‘Oh sod off!' said Lynn exasperated. To those in the know. Mark picked up another one. . Grinning. Tia had never mentioned sex. A sentence caught her eye 'Differences of this kind also apply to the weakening of a mode of imagination that originally was 174 . Lynn picked up the Freud book herself.' She snatched it from him and looked at the page. But then Tia never mentioned anything very much. after dinner had been cleared away. Bloody hell! The book was all like that. then another about chi-squares. 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. ‘Freud. of course. * * * The next evening. It even felt heavier than it should. 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 looked at another page.
She never dreamed anyway. Probably both. .' and ‘get a move on’ at home? Nevertheless she gave a reluctant smile to show she appreciated his humour. By the time Lynn got to the last three books entitled Attachment. not for the first time. Nicole was away.' Mark said quickly. she couldn't have cared less if they'd told her how to win the lottery. Separation and Loss. What else can you expect if you skim read? she thought. Half a night and half a day of thinking (she had to make some effort to teach . fumbling in his briefcase. still intent on penetrating its bulbous mysteries. knife in hand. 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. When he returned home from work. He gave her a bag. wondered Lynn. She went to bed. Principles of Topological Psychology. Either Tia was very clever. All next day.sounds painful! Hey. don't take the pith out of me!' he squealed in mock alarm as she turned on him threateningly. 175 . Mark found her in the kitchen wrestling with what he took to be a large. Did all men regard puns as the acme of humour. ‘What's that?' ‘Butternut squash. But she had no time to do very much else.' Lynn read the paragraph it was in three times but it made no difference. ‘Ye-up. Did Jeremy Paxman? Or did he only ever say.though quite how she'd do that she wasn't exactly certain. she noted with some anxiety) had brought her close to desperation and she threw herself into cooking the dinner to occupy herself. He came up quietly behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. Luckily she had heard him come in or he would have sent her through the roof. ‘You're kidding! ''Butter nuts squash'' . Psychology as the Behaviourist Views It and The Philosophy of Psychology met with a similar fate to The Interpretation of Dreams. But if she did she'd make sure she never dreamed any of the stuff he talked about . Lynn puzzled over the conundrum that Tia was a clinical psychologist. ‘I've got something for you. or Lynn was very dense.' muttered Lynn grimly.strongly visual. . pale orange lightbulb. but not enough to encourage him to continue. which Lynn put on the toaster without comment.
a little bit. and then no more. ever. The reality was that her relationship with Della now felt decidedly unsafe after Della's confession in the cafe. things were looking up.' ‘The Bobo doll man isn't called Bandanna after all. Inside was a book called Introducing Psychology. After dinner.why. Yes. It had lots of pictures inside. the phone rang. The reality was that she didn't know what the hell to do about Chris or even Nicole. and therefore with other women. and where Tia fitted in. 176 . Lynn read the book. but what do I do with it?' And she didn't know. I read about that.' 'Skinner and Pavlov are important in psychology too. But it was still her job to sort it. The reality was that she felt confused and ambivalent about her relationship with Tia. Towards the end of the evening. she didn't know.' she said with surprise. ‘Yes. as Lynn finished the book and set it down with a sigh of satisfaction. she wasn't so stupid after all! And it talked about therapy too.‘Aren't you going to open it then?' She did so. As she was sinking under the weight of this. 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 . keeping up a running commentary to Mark. though Nicole was probably nothing serious . ‘So it was Milgram who was the electric shock man. now in the study. her relationship with Mark was still pretty unsatisfactory and she didn't know what to do about it. Mark. The reality was that she felt jealous of Polly for knowing Lauren and that felt really wrong. So this was psychology. . I'd always thought it was an odd name. she hoped. ‘I can understand this. Mark. The reality was that though somehow she felt more able to leave the miscarriage behind.' Lynn grew quieter as she recognised more and more old friends.oh shut up! But with all these realities kicking in. The reality was . And the reality was that she only had three more sessions with Tia. Mark smiled smugly. I guess that makes sense. 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. listening. the question suddenly flashed through her mind. . She knew more than she thought she did. Lynn looked at them. it made feeling happy about reading a poxy little book on psychology look pretty bloody stupid. Reality suddenly kicked in hard.
It was this sudden switching from despair to hope that did it. covering the mouthpiece.some time?' Lynn nearly dropped the phone.answered it. ‘That would be very nice. Don't know the voice. It was much more tiring than the other way round. It's nice of you to ask. ‘Hello. hearing 177 . Well-spoken. ‘Thanks again. Very handy for church.' ‘I . ‘I'll look forward to it too. In fact she felt rescued. I don't know many people at St Saviour's. Trying to keep the astonishment out of her voice she said.' It was the last person Lynn expected to hear. ‘That sounds fine. ‘A woman.) ‘Well. Bye.or tea . Lime Avenue. As she dragged herself to the bathroom to take her makeup off. good.' ‘Oh. ‘I was wondering how you are fixed for next Saturday.' As she took the number.' ‘Wait! I'll get a pen. won't you?’ said Lauren. Fine. Lauren's call had come at just the right moment.' Hoping against hope it was Sandra inviting her round. ‘Who is it?' she mouthed. this is Lauren. I'll look forward to it. As she hung up the receiver. The road right by St Saviour's. How nice it would be to go round to Lauren's and talk to her.' The phone went dead. said. Lynn felt her equilibrium return. ‘No. Lynn took the receiver.' (What a hypocrite she was. Lynn laughed too.' ‘Bye.' ‘Afternoon? About three? It's 23. ‘Good. Lynn suddenly felt the need to sit down. no. She was never going back.' Lauren laughed. after Saturday you'll know one more. I was just phoning to ask if you'd like to come round for a coffee . She began to feel happy again. I hope it's not too late to phone. I still manage to arrive late though. but instead a voice she didn't recognise said. ‘It's for you. ‘Don't know. As if she cared how many she knew. Let me give you my phone number in case you need it.' he mouthed back.' said Lauren again.' Lynn went to answer it.I think I could manage that. I got your phone number from Polly.' she said formally.
‘Have you had any thoughts about what we might do at the weekend. and as he turned the light out and settled down beside her. He said carefully. I did want to go. Chica. It had seemed a straightforward enough question. Was there no end to this voyage of self-discovery through her own self-centredness? 'No Mark.' ‘Goodnight.’ ‘Well.' ‘Oh Lynn. listening to Mark's rhythmic breathing.I mean. well. And she'd always thought of herself as the caring one in the relationship. I'm not such a selfish bastard as that!' Ouch! She was touched by his caring. I've got a few things to do. you're wonderful! Thanks! Thanks for being so understanding. she could not help feeling relief. 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. almost a sense of gratitude.' ‘I think it's a great idea! Do you good! You've been working hard lately.' (For what?) ‘I know you've been low lately. yes.again Lauren's voice in her head. ‘I was picking the right moment. Mark?' She felt hesitation run along his body and wondered with some trepidation what was coming next. Goodnight. you go. What would he say? Oh blow! And it had all been going so well between them. You go. I mean it. she suddenly thought of Mark.' ‘Yes . and it would be nice for us to do something together. I must admit. Lynn said softly. I'll be fine. but I don't want to leave you on your own. for the 178 . Mark. and I'll be glad to think of you up there in Newcastle. and I've not been much company. Despite hating herself for her hypocrisy. I have been working hard. It would mean leaving you early on Saturday and probably not getting back until late Sunday afternoon. You won't get this chance again. go off enjoying myself leaving you feeling miserable. She was already in bed when Mark came through. that’s settled then! You’ll enjoy it. but.' Lynn stayed awake for quite a while. honestly. Say if you'd rather not.
179 . She thought of Lauren asking her round for tea and fell asleep.way things had turned out. Now she wouldn't have to tell him.
Chapter 16 Lauren's house was a surprisingly ordinary-looking semi in a tree-lined avenue. It was also surprisingly untidy. Lynn had formed an impression of Lauren that was somehow to do with discipline and wisdom and inner control. chaos really. reached forward. picking her way between the piles. It occurred to her that she actually knew nothing about Lauren at all. But Lauren. seemed quite unconcerned. When she saw Lynn she said nothing. she could hear it. She moved more slowly than Lynn remembered . Well. . Lauren would have remembered. After a minute she rang the bell again. The gate creaked and the lawn was full of daisies encroaching untidily onto the path. small and neat and dark. which looked and smelt as though it had recently been in close contact with damp earth. . The wooden door was studded with bolts and had a diamond-leaded pane in the middle. Lynn heard the door begin to open. but this . And it smelt. Nothing happened. Was Lauren in the garden . And leaving it in the hall . . . in the shady hall. It's my week to wash the strip. It was probably unwise of me . and drew Lynn in. She had made the invitation so definitely. and Lauren herself was standing there. . . why not. or perhaps the hall was very long. except for her pale face.although I 180 . but no one had ever said anything. ‘I offered to do the second team's as well. . but her face creased delightedly and she threw the door open. . Why. . Lynn was sure. the hall looked bigger and darker. in piles? There seemed masses of it. .well . Lynn smiled back and entered the house.' Somehow Lynn had not expected this. Lynn rang the bell and waited.' ventured Lynn. took her by surprise. Was it working? Yes. ‘There seems a lot of it. It was littered with piles of sports clothing of a masculine nature. ‘My son's in the junior team at school. Relieved. Once inside. Lauren saw Lynn looking and explained. more for something to say than anything else. not even what she was like as a person. or out? Had she forgotten? No. So Lauren had children. feeling nervous. Could she have been called away unexpectedly? Suppose she wasn't in? Before she had time to really start worrying. she could not say.
so Lynn mentally shrugged her shoulders and followed Lauren through a stripped pine door into a room which turned out to be the kitchen. where Lauren had evidently been sitting. She hadn't heard it the first time because she'd been working and listening to music. At one end of the kitchen table there was a laptop and a stack of books and papers with a personal CD player on top. over the sink. I've taken something for it.' Lauren’s voice brought her back. ‘It's a headache. Lynn registered the fact that Lauren had been waiting for her to stop looking around. and Lynn felt reassured. with dark smudges of fatigue under her eyes.' She waved her hand as though to wave it away. The effect was slightly odd. could see why.' Lauren said this with total unconcern. looking at her properly for the first time in the pale brightness of the kitchen. she didn't look very well. together with nameless sprouty things hanging limply out of jam jars. better 181 . Lauren? Is this a good time to call?' ‘I'm fine. but Lynn. saw that her face had a bruised look.didn't expect them to dump it in the hall.' Lynn. There was a lot more pine. Lynn wondered what sort of work she did. So that was why she had taken so long to answer the bell. shabby. with a start. On the larger windowsill. One paw was dangling over the edge and it looked as though the rest of it might follow any second. Still. looking round. ‘Is this all right? It's my favourite room. She sounded confident. We have a perfectly good utility room. but pleasing. On each side of the Aga were shelves with an assorted mugs cups hanging and cupboards below cluttered with odds and ends. It seemed to have only one ear. Lynn said with concern. but good quality. In fact. ‘Are you all right.' said Lauren. 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. There was no mistaking the warmth of her greeting. ‘It's lovely to see you. She didn't want to intrude. but she did want to talk to Lauren. there were flowers and shapeless painted lumps of clay. Behind it was a chair against the wall. 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. but it will go. It was a large room. I get them now and then. thought Lynn. You couldn't ignore the dust in this room. and it let a lot of light in.
and besides. 'It depends who's talking to him. she didn't want Lauren to suffer pain. You'd understand if you saw him sitting up. Alec calls him "Bulb". and Dom calls him "Megalino Maxissimo" or "El Fatto the Gato". Andrew calls him a lot of different names. ‘What would you like to drink? Tea? Coffee? A cold drink?' Not a migraine.' ‘That's how I drink it.check it out.' 'I see. He sleeps day and night. ‘No. ‘I'm so pleased you could come. Lynn felt relieved. because he wanted a dog instead.' ‘Earl Grey or ordinary?' ‘Earl Grey please. Jamie calls him "Blob". Lynn knew about migraines. ‘It's not a migraine is it?' she asked. her mother had had them.' 'And does he answer to any of these names?' 'Hard to say. It didn't stir. She gave it a careful stroke. Isn't that right. Lynn had a lot of sympathy for migraine sufferers. all rather abusive. A rhythmic throaty rumble briefly replaced the asthmatic wheezing and it stretched and flexed the dangling paw 182 . With milk. Everything was spotlessly clean. and she knew how bad they could be. ‘Tea please. 'What's your cat's name?' she asked. And you?' 'I call him "ET" ' 'Extra Terrestrial?' 'Equilateral Triangle. she sounded as if she meant it.' said Lauren. just a headache. with bone china mugs. Even the white bits on the furry balloon draped over the chair looked clean.' She smiled.' said Lauren. Lynn loved cats.Lauren was already looking better. but Mark was allergic to them.' Again. and not too bad either . Migraines totally incapacitated people so they couldn't talk to you. The tea was served in a fat teapot with flowers on. He thinks he's being clever because 'gato' is Spanish for cat. ET?' Lauren leaned over the cat as she spoke. ‘it's not a migraine. The only thing he really responds to is the sound of a tin opening.
She discovered that they both liked jazz piano.primary . Lauren would see it that way. Wow. and Lynn. Somehow it didn't slide off the cushion. Italian food and going to the theatre and that neither of them liked cruelty or waiting in queues.perilously but did not open its eyes. Lynn resisted the impulse to try to shove it further back on the chair. . seemed to have a potentiality for creativity and growth in it. No hidden agendas.' she said. that was the wrong word. . broken only by the cat's breathing. And her face was a joy to watch. It almost seemed a pity to speak. 'He never falls off. as though she brought her whole self to the encounter. so expressive. No. Oh it was nice to share. Lauren. was a very animated talker. You felt you really knew her. who had been sitting forward tensely.' she said. listening. But she would love to go to Italy 183 . And she'd been sick on the ferry. fourteen and eleven. ‘you teach at Polly's school?' Polly's school. Lynn. under Lynn's friendly questioning. Mutual . Lauren. she soon came alive. At first Lauren was slow and thoughtful. entertaining people. and started to talk about it. Lynn felt that she could think good thoughts in that silence.' As if in response. It was peaceful room. It was very easy. how it should be. as though she had trouble putting words together. Lynn had not thought of it like that. Not that Lynn had any trouble communicating. Lynn learnt quite quickly that Lauren's boys were sixteen. ‘So. She'd been to India twice but nowhere on the continent unless you counted a day trip to France when she was at school. but somehow approving smile.' said Lauren. she'd always been good at that. ‘Yes. but Lauren laughed so easily. sat back in her own chair and relaxed. that she had been a teacher once . It was Lauren who broke it.and that Alec was a doctor. the cat shuffled round in its sleep and settled its bulk more securely on the seat. 'Don't worry. Surely Polly worked at her school? But of course. The very silence. looking at Lauren who was sitting facing her across the table and regarding her with that slight. However. Lynn loved that – when people laughed! Not that Lauren didn’t talk too. She used gesture and facial expression sparingly but meaningfully. there was no more space for it there anyway. once she trusted you. felt rested at last. made it so.
clinical . They took turns. ‘Sometimes.. .' ‘It's not important . but most of the time she just seemed to sort of absorb it.' said Lauren. Before she was aware of it. I suppose. she wasn't so puzzled by that. You don't know the author. That reminded Lynn of something. I wondered. Sometimes she nodded thoughtfully. . It felt every bit as good as Lynn had thought it would.' The conversation flowed. as though she was committing what Lynn was saying to memory. ‘But surely Lauren.well. looking amused. but not so . she was telling Lauren about . My mother was though. ‘All what?' ‘All that god stuff you get in church. 184 . Sorry . or her face creased into a smile of delighted recognition. I’m afraid. . I suppose?' ‘I can't remember. Sort of like Tia. surely you as a thinking person. she added as an afterthought. Lauren?' she asked. surely you can't believe it all!' Lynn found that she really wanted to know. And actually Lauren was a pretty good listener too. . Lynn found herself throwing caution to the winds. She fixed her eyes on Lynn and sat there . so still.just something I heard someone say.such a wonderful poetical language. Lynn liked that too.' 'Actually.I don't think so. as though Lynn was telling her the secrets of the universe. Maybe something like "Gravy"?' ‘Gravy? Could be Graves. Well. somehow. 'but not in the way you might think I do. Polly was a pretty simple person (not that she said that to Lauren of course). I’m not much of a reader. ‘Do you ever read poetry. that's maybe not such a simple answer'. that's all.' ‘I think the simplest answer is that I do. But as time went by. . not exactly everything -she couldn't talk about Tia yet. But she could tell Lauren about her search for God and her puzzlement over Polly's simplistic faith. Why?' ‘Have you ever heard a line in a poem about a nine hundred years' name?' ‘Hmm. .
. ‘I'm not sure. ‘I don't know very much about it. She shared things. She didn't keep confronting you and making you feel uncomfortable. Lynn had zoned in on the bit she'd heard that had most emotional content for her. well people like David. actually. who'd done nothing wrong.' 'Well . . shouting shouting at Lauren.' Lynn admitted. They expect me to swallow all their lame excuses for the improbable contradictory things they believe and yet I’m supposed to be the stupid one. You could ask her questions and she wouldn't fob you off like Tia..said what 185 . then it is mysterious and beautiful and special. she wasn't withholding.' Memories of how she had felt talking to David welled up and without thinking she raised her voice. But there was a certain weirdness about it all that she wasn’t ready to tangle with just yet.' Lynn wasn't certain what to say. ‘And you believe it all too. ‘It makes me feel angry. But at least she could talk to Lauren. It makes me think that they are the stupid ones for being so naive. somehow. they make it seem so ordinary and they make me feel stupid for even asking. so stupid?' Too late. You preach an all-powerful loving God who lets people die in agony a thousand times a day. Lynn became aware that she was speaking very loudly – nay. or how much she actually wanted to know in detail. Science has proved the bible wrong over and over again. How can that be true?’ She looked at Lauren who was regarding her thoughtfully. It felt so easy. Perhaps she needed to find out more. What actually did she mean by ‘all'? It suddenly dawned on her that she wasn't sure what Christians believed anyway.Predictably. ‘All of it? You believe in all of it!' ‘It depends on what you mean by "all" – or “believe” for that matter. She couldn't ask Lauren if she believed in it all until she knew what 'all' was. 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 she'd said it now . ‘But when I talk to people like .' She hesitated a moment and then went on. Lauren was not difficult to talk to. You just said so! My god! How can you be so naïve. So Lynn could ask her about God and not feel stupid. But it seems to me that if there is anything there. only listened.
It was a gurgle of approval as though Lauren thought that Lynn had done something very well. trying to look confidently at Lauren but miserably aware that inside she felt horribly afraid. It mattered very much too much. Just a word. you said what you really felt . She was doomed.' Lynn felt so amazed that she said the first thing that came into her head. ‘I feel so pleased that you've been able to say it to me. You're confused.she'd really thought. but she remembered Polly wincing as though she'd been stuck through with pins whenever she heard anybody say it. never. never needed people to like her. More than ever now. And then you were afraid of my disapproval. She had to stick with it. But just lately. She'd burnt her boats.and it was all her fault. the more she wanted them to like her. I think another cup of tea is called for. aren't you? I can see it in your face. Lauren laughed instead. What was happening? Was it the miscarriage? Was it depression? And more to the point.' she added. I value . ‘I had to say that. the less likely it seemed that they ever could. childish thing to say! What was wrong with her today? And what did it matter anyway? It had never mattered before. She waited for Lauren to tell her so. 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 . with Tia.at a cost to yourself. Actually laughed. Lauren looked at her understandingly. What a stupid. ‘I don't mind. Lauren would never like her now. ‘You don't mind? You still like me then?' Again. how could she stop it? She hated feeling like this. it did matter. though actually they usually did.completely wrecked it. ‘It's quite simple. ‘And I do like you. she could have bitten her tongue out. haven't you?' said Lauren. And to Lynn's astonishment. ‘You've wanted to say that for a long time. and paradoxically.very highly . She'd said 'My god!' as well. Lynn felt completely bewildered. Their relationship was over. Isn't that 186 .being real. What on earth had she said that Lauren could possibly find funny? But it wasn't that kind of laugh. and now with Lauren. Lynn never.' Lynn nodded mutely. her curving smile making her eyes crinkle and dance. Just now.' said Lauren emphatically. never be her friend .
sun-breathed thoughts. ‘I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about God. It felt so comfortable to be tired in Lauren's presence.right?' Lynn nodded again. She stood up too. Lauren made the tea and they drank it without needing to talk. ‘That feels better. Lauren's eyes. doesn't it?' Lauren said. too quickly. No messing about. She finished her tea and stood up. wanted to come again too. In fact she felt completely exhausted. I like it. growing silence she had encountered when she first entered the room. Lauren directed her gaze at Lynn over the top of her mug. from the start of next week for probably.' There was no necessity to say any more on the subject. She laughed again and this time Lynn couldn't help smiling too. Perhaps it had come back.sort of. For a second she did not look like Lauren at all.about two weeks. 187 . ‘I'd like you to come again. Lynn wondered what they were. as she gazed into the distance seemed to be full of quiet. she. she'd said so. was reminded of that living. I'd like to come again. for she grabbed hold of the edge of the table to steady herself. Will you come?' Lynn liked this direct approach.' ‘Good!' said Lauren. Lynn suddenly remembered the headache.' she said. It made sense . let me see . Lauren looked at her. ‘Why should I disapprove of people who are honest? I am glad you felt safe enough to trust me. ‘Mmm. in her peaceful. ‘I'm away . Lynn. in at the deep end. because. looking at Lauren.' she said.' Lynn found that she had been holding her breath. ‘It does. Lynn couldn't be bothered to anyway. spacious kitchen. Lynn. But she didn't want to. She let it out with a sense of relief. ‘Yes. Her brow creased. She should go home. She looked at Lauren. She felt too weary. It reminded her of Tia. and I hope that you will go on being honest with me. and perhaps some of mine might give you a different angle to consider. it seemed. if you want to. take a chance. oh. with the sunlight streaming through the windows and the cat still asleep on the chair. Then the moment passed. And that was great. So she would. Lauren would like her to come again.
Lynn felt a lurch in her stomach. measuring the distance with her 188 . hugged her. But a glance at Lauren's face dispelled that fear. . said. It was what Della had said about the dinner. Swallowing her disappointment. She'd have a measure of control. ‘Perfect.why. Couldn't they arrange it now? It felt as though Lauren didn't want to see her. Where had the time gone? What had Lauren done with her kids? She glanced at Lauren. uncannily reading her thoughts. . Lynn didn't know. She wouldn't be waiting at the end of a line for someone who didn’t get in touch. * * * Lauren stood watching Lynn go down the garden path. 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. occasionally reaching out a hand to steady herself against the wall. Two weeks! It felt like the sort of thing Tia would say. By common consent they moved towards the door.' For some reason this thought amused them both .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. As she glanced up at the clock above it. ‘That would be fine.' said Lauren. It was over in an instant. ‘Church Fun Day. And Alec is on duty at the hospital. Lynn said. When Lauren reached the kitchen she sat down carefully in the chair Lynn had just vacated. Lynn was astonished to see that she had been there for over two hours. Lauren touched Lynn's arm and then. She waited until Lynn was out of sight then she closed the door. who. Lynn didn't notice the football strips on the way out . Lauren smiled and waved too. or anything else. She and Lauren were friends. Lynn looked back and waved. lightly and unexpectedly. Shall I phone you?' That at least would give her the initiative. She looked around for her tea mug but it was at the other end of the table. When she got to the gate. After a minute or two she groped without looking behind the toby jug with the pens and pencils in and extracted a blister pack of capsules. She 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.
Maybe it was for Polly's sake . eventually coming to the unpalatable conclusion that she wanted to find out more about this god that Lauren seemed to believe in. She put them in her mouth and tried to swallow them. Lynn decided to go to church again. well. without success.eyes. Lauren sighed in frustration. She grimaced. This time Lauren's sigh was one of thankfulness. As she did so. She reached out and pulled it to her. She rested her elbows on the table.. but when Lynn saw her at the door of the church Polly's face wore a certain insufferably knowing expression. she reluctantly decided 189 . and began to think.Polly was certainly thrilled to bits when she phoned her to tell her. As she did so she caught sight of Lynn's mug. it would only be civil to say hello. Before the service began. She leaned forward and ran the fingers of both hands over her cropped hair. She remained in this position. She looked thoughtfully at them. After about half an hour. They were rather large. Eventually Lauren popped the blister pack and took out two capsules. but this sounded pretty lame. but she couldn't see her. 'I knew you wouldn't be able to keep away!' Lynn was extremely irritated by it. but it forced her to examine her motives for going. Lynn kept a weather eye out for Lauren. and then closed her eyes and rested her head against the high back of the chair. And if she happened to see Lauren there. It had about an inch of tea left in it. she gingerly moved her head a fraction. washing the capsules down. She explained it by saying that she hadn't given it a fair trial. as though to say. In the end. which was rather nearer than hers. and all during the boring notices she scanned the pews without success. Her smile returned. even to her. To Mark's consternation. breathing very short. Occasionally she opened her eyes to check the time. she glanced at the clock above the door as Lynn had done. * * * Next day was Sunday. put her chin on hands. She picked up the mug and swigged back Lynn's tea. and then a little more. even breaths and keeping her head very still. Lynn was pretty amazed herself. for some time.
' Lynn was puzzled.but not to her when she'd only seen her the day before. 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. But it was common knowledge anyway. But she couldn't help feeling peeved. Wasn't there something about attendance at church on Sunday being compulsory? Maybe even twice? And how come Lauren had said something to Polly . how could she? She'd only been coming to 190 . in fairness.annoyance reactions. all monotonous and clappy. Surely they didn't just arbiter ally take a day off if they felt like it. ‘Why isn't Lauren here?' she demanded. 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. At least. she hadn't asked. Couldn't she even have waited until the end of the song? However. the make-Lynn-feel-welcome-at-all-costs-she. since Lynn had asked so abruptly. swaying as she sang the first song. Although. ‘How do you know?' she asked. Polly was away with the birds. Polly felt Lynn's peevedness and felt puzzled in turn.doesn'tknow-any-better and the you'll-put-her-off-Christianity-for-ever-if-you-show-any. 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. and completely ignored her. in the service. from the way Lynn was looking. So she answered very politely. Couldn't it wait until coffee? Apparently not. get with it! she thought. felt extremely irritated by Lynn's thoughtlessness.Polly! . and Lynn's timing was way off. Polly would know. Honestly. Some things were sacred. anyway. ‘Where's Lauren?' She hissed. the exasperated Lynn grabbed Polly's shoulder and shook it hard. It was an awful song. When this happened twice. she'd just assumed. ‘I think that Lauren's gone out for the day with her family. Polly. Surely Lynn knew? But then.to ask Polly. that's what she told me she was going to do. Lauren was a fully paid-up member of the Christian Club. and she would have to share that with Lynn now.
She hadn't said. ‘Do you know what's causing it?' Because when she had asked questions. As the thought sank in. ‘Lauren told me at the Wednesday Bible study that she probably wouldn't be at church on Sunday. she couldn't even think what they were. Lynn began to replay the events and conversation of the previous afternoon. normal. so the family wanted a day out together while she still feels well enough. Lynn was in shock. And she would hardly lie. Yet Polly had said it so matter-of-factly. . Brain cancer. . She would have to tell Lynn gently. Lynn looked up and nodded dumbly. To anything. Lauren had replied very readily. Lynn felt in anguish. . Lauren . But only then. . She added hastily. her headache. . Lauren had cancer.church for five minutes.' she added somewhat unnecessarily. Lauren . she's got cancer. ‘Well. Everybody knows about it. But she hadn't asked the right question.' Lynn still looked stunned so Polly continued. She had let 191 . Polly's compassion reasserted itself. you know. What a good thing they usually sang this chorus eight or nine times.had . even though it's brain cancer. . cancer. Didn't you know?' Cancer! Appalled. Lauren looked so . . She glanced sideways up at Polly. Lynn sat down in the pew. 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.' ‘Chemo?' ‘Yes. unable to think of anything to say. They think they've got it in time. Polly realised that she had not been gentle enough. Actually. She had never actually volunteered anything. who was lustily singing as though she hadn't got a care in the world. she starts the chemo again tomorrow. She didn't seem to want to ask any more questions. In the meantime. ‘They're hopeful. She would ask later. . Actually had cancer. . Polly turned back to her worshipping. Everybody knew. Lauren's slowness. had cancer. It was too awful. Lauren! . . Her headache! But why hadn't she said anything? Lynn had asked her about it. She's had the cancer a while now. Sitting in the pew. Surely it couldn't be true. Relieved.
her smile. Oh. ‘See. But how could you have brain cancer and not mention it once in a two-hour conversation? At the memory of that conversation. And Lauren's laugh said. so shut out from Lauren's confidence. And Lauren didn't want to talk. ‘Oh yes. No one could ever take that away. somehow. you don't just say. bright eyes fixed on hers. the way Tia never self-disclosed. Alec. Lauren didn't seem worried. She died.' she thought desolately. I've got cancer. Common courtesy demands that you give the person a chance to talk about it if they want. cancer gives you terrible headaches. .' Or. Not knowing made Lynn feel so lonely. by the way. ‘But Lynn.' Or. from the secret sadness that dominated her life. for doing that. because Lauren had wanted to see her. her three boys. If Lauren had done that. that felt horrible. I've got cancer you know. the youngest eleven. But Lynn still couldn't help wishing that Lauren had told her . ‘I'm not looking forward to the chemo on Monday. Lynn felt she hated Tia now. ‘Yes. I wish you'd told me. but for how much longer. then the whole of the rest of the conversation would have had to be about it. What must they be 192 . her approving look. her stillness. her laugh.' ‘Chemo?' ‘Yes. Lynn's heart stopped still. But she could have said! But how could she have said? ‘Oh. I do like you. as it had before. mentioned her cancer.Lynn make all the running. Maybe it wasn't so bad. an aunt of mine had that. Did Lauren think she knew . That shone out like a beacon. if Lauren had cancer? And what about her family? All of a sudden. except Lynn. ‘Oh Lauren. Lauren's husband. I would have if you'd asked!' It was so unexpected that Lynn found herself laughing with her. It felt like Tia. Lynn felt better.' Lauren had said that she liked her. If someone tells you that. and then suddenly smiling all over her face and saying.if everyone else did. even though she'd spent two hours with her and she'd thought they were friends.' End of subject. Suddenly Lynn had a picture of Lauren looking at her in her thoughtful way. . Now Lynn thought about it. Why didn't she tell me? Lynn wondered again. the way they had the day before. And Lauren had initiated another meeting. She remembered Lauren's dark.' That wasn't Lauren's style. that everybody knew about. after the chemotherapy.
I just heard today. she remembered why. Drowsily.' ‘Have I ever met her?' ‘No. He was relieved to find out that it was not. Life was full of them these days. 193 . she's an old schoolfriend. which merged drearily into a restless. tear-filled night. coming home full of the match. Mark. What kind of a monster was she? A deep sense of shame engulfed her.' Lynn couldn't bring herself to say that she'd only really met her herself the day before. ‘But you said you didn't know her very well. Oh god. as she came to. had been amazed to see her so distrait and distressed and immediately assumed that it was something he'd done. she hated herself! For the rest of the service Lynn tried to pray to the God she didn't know for the welfare of people she had never met. I haven't seen her for years. Chapter 17 Lynn woke on the Monday morning aware of a heavy dragging ache in her heart. Mark would never understand that. Another deception. Lauren.' ‘No. The rest of the day before had passed in a haze of misery and disbelief.going through? And she had only just thought of them! All she'd thought of first was how Lauren's illness affected her. but still puzzled over Lynn's grief.
Lynn sought out Polly. You've got enough to worry about as it is.' ‘But Polly. but high on optimism. Lynn. Besides we're all praying. What kind of faith was this? What kind of God? She had no words to say. I've read it. ‘One I do know for definite. God won't let her. Polly. you know. And he'd come in so happy. two anyway. but Lauren's such a fighter. people do die. Now it's come back.' But Lynn could see that there was no pleasure for him in talking about it any more. Compartmentalise a bit. And Lauren’s cancer did go away before when we prayed.‘Well. God wouldn't let Lauren die because they all loved her too much. She wrote a book about it. She shut up. Who knows? God moves in mysterious ways. 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. We all love her too much. Polly.' Lynn turned away to hide her expression. it might not be as bad as you think. Three at least. Several people have had words from the Lord that she won't die. ‘So. Who knew? Cancer did go away sometimes. even if they chose to call it prayer? She smiled. We all love her too much. but she's not dead yet. it was good. ‘Maybe you're right.’ she added somewhat uncertainly after a pause.' 194 . we're all praying for her at church and she's doing very well. how was the match?' ‘Oh. before continuing more positively. I know people who've been healed. The chemo worked before and it cleared up for a year. I admit it sounds serious. thought perhaps Polly was right. Well. She repeated. Polly was low on details. even people who pray. We won 3-1.' Polly looked panicky. And who knew what effect the power of positive thinking could do. come on.' Lynn saw that she should put up or shut up. ‘God won't let Lauren die. like a mantra. She hated herself. She can't.' Lynn. ‘God does heal people.' His irritation showed when he saw that Lynn remained unconsoled. seeing her look. hastened to reassure her. listening. They don't think it's come back so badly now. ‘Oh. ‘Oh. Doesn't sound like you know too many details. At the first opportunity at school.
that's better. if there was a god. must love Lauren? How could he not? That lunchtime. but why? 'Well the idea is that they present a sort of blank screen . They're a blank screen or a blank sheet of paper or something. and said hello. ‘I was glad you felt able to trust me. Some therapists work like that anyway – not all of them.' 195 .what was it . Della loved explaining things. to change the subject. Della was looking rather wan. for Della looked suspiciously bright-eyed at this. That's when you transfer feelings you've really got for other people on to them . but looking at her she realised that it was just Della. She nodded. Looking at her face. and felt better. Then. she said hurriedly. went over. It worked. It was now or never. Lynn knew that that conversation in the Cafe Noir had been on Della's mind too. Lynn had been so dreading this meeting.not self-disclosing?' She thought she knew already but it was a diversion.the therapist.Polly looked as pleased as if Lynn had just made a public declaration of faith from the pulpit of Westminster Abbey. She couldn't avoid Della for ever. remembering Lauren.' she added. It helps with the transference. And surely. ‘You didn't embarrass me. Lynn went to the staffroom.' ‘Transference?' ‘Yes. it felt easier. She saw Della getting something out of her bag.' she said wryly.' she said. Now that they were face to face. Or project your own image . god.yes. Personally. ‘Therapists never tell you anything about themselves. Lynn decided to choose to be reassured. Yes. She gritted her teeth. Sort of fantasise. I think it's overdone (‘Me too!' thought Lynn). write your own agenda about them.' ‘Blank screen?' It conjured up pictures of a broken TV. ‘I'm sorry if I embarrassed you with my revelations the other day. ‘Yes. The idea is that if you don't know anything about them then you can as it were. Della looked up. for Della. that's really important. if you like. She felt better. her old friend Della. ‘What did you mean in the cafe about .
Lynn. Lynn was sure she'd heard the word before . I can't remember now. . Can we talk about this later?' ‘Sure.oh. .they did have some sort of meaning after all. . but probably. Although if it did make sense. Oh damn! She'd meant to ask Della about the poem. it's Browning. she was forced to concede . But this transference thing .she never needed to.along with words like ‘repression' and ‘complex'. judging by the amount of instructions per second her brain usually seemed capable of.Tia . somewhere. It's quite a chilling poem about a duke who marries a peasant girl who's a bit too simple for his tastes.well you . I must fly! Though that would convince my year sevens I'm a witch. It was really irritating her now. thought Lynn. it's important because you . How does it fit in?' Della thought briefly. ‘ "She had a heart . turning the conversation with her over in her mind.how shall I say? 196 . But that's the only line I know. ‘Oh. Sorry.' ‘ "Nine hundred years' name"? Yes. Where did you hear it?' ‘Oh. she was in new and risky territory. now she thought about it. My Last Duchess. Something told her that Della knew more than she let on. . This didn't make sense yet. but it might. She watched her go. . Something to do with working through the bad feelings or something.' Della seemed uncomfortable. Dell? Have you ever heard a line from a poem about a nine hundred years' name? I heard it somewhere and I don't know how to find it. Lynn sensed she had touched on a raw nerve there. Before . ‘Transference? Well. Is that the time? Heavens. The implication is that he has her killed so that he can remarry. closed her eyes and quoted softly. she might wish it hadn't.‘Why is that important?' Lynn felt excited.especially in view of her self-inflicted crash course in psychology . Lynn's chance came later that day when she saw Della by the staff lockers. . All of a sudden. I don't know. she'd dismissed them as psychobabble. Playing for time was not Della's style .
No words were exchanged until once again Lynn was sitting opposite Tia in the room.' said Lynn. Tia's elegant.' said Tia. And now Tia again. Lynn was used to it now. Lynn following two steps behind. it fitted the bill pretty well. Lynn rose and went to meet her and Tia turned and silently led the way to her room. again she stopped and waited. so stereotyped now. was pounding. With anybody's gift. That explained a lot. she finished getting the books from her locker and departed with a wave and a cheery smile. and ‘What have you been up to then?' sounded a bit too jolly. .Too soon made glad. Was it only two weeks since the last session? Thoughts of Chris.' sounded a bit too intrusive. Seeing nothing further was forthcoming. It was the same. What a lot 197 . whereas ‘Tell me how you are feeling. Poor Sandra. On the other hand. As a teacher she recognised the value of open questions. When she saw Lynn looking. It seemed so formulaic. and yet not the same. Sandra. David and Lauren kaleidoscoped through her mind. 'How have you been?' Lynn found herself wishing Tia would start with something else. Della was looking at her curiously. leaving Lynn wondering what she was going to say to Chris. too easily amused. Chris ranked Sandra's gift of her virginity with anybody's gift. * * * It was Thursday afternoon. Lynn's heart as usual. She ranked my gift of a nine hundred years' old name With anybody's gift" Does that help?' ‘Oh yes. . Lynn paused to reflect. This time she didn't even say Lynn's name. The faded sunshine still came through the window although it was October now. ‘So. so all things considered . angular form materialised out of the door at the end of the corridor and she walked towards her.
would never 198 .oh.' Tia looked at Lynn firmly. what a lot she knew. tell me more about this transference. ‘Oh I don't know. but my guess is that in this context it can be used to mean the feelings you have for me or about me. She stared at Tia speechlessly. Finally she said. Tia told her things but then never explained them. It's more important to discuss the feelings you have about me. How does it work then?' ‘We are not really here to discuss transference theoretically. ‘Transference is a big subject. Just noseyness. Why did Tia have to be so bloody superior? Why couldn't she just tell her? Della was right.and yet she knew nothing. Lynn felt like an absolute child. Now that Lynn was sitting opposite her.of experiences she'd had. it seemed that they didn't feel right to her. I guess. somewhat huskily. Tia returned the gaze absolutely steadily. except that Tia was beautiful. It was some moments before Lynn could speak.' Lynn gasped inwardly. This blank screen thing could be overdone. Tia blinked. I heard the word somewhere. She felt much older . suffusing her face and neck.or have . she must be! Tia said. That summed it up in a nutshell. ‘Where did that come from?' Lynn felt herself reddening. So transference was about feelings. And Tia knew that she had feelings for her. and it just made things worse. looking down at her hands. feeling like this. ‘So. What feelings? Where did they come from? She didn't understand. But did Tia know what they were? Lynn hoped not . Inappropriate feelings you can’t explain. and Lynn loved her. if you feel able to do so. Then she said. But she'd asked. said.with someone else which you've now transferred onto me. She must be a lesbian. Feelings that belong to a relationship you've had .' Lynn watched her collect her thoughts carefully.' Tia said meditatively. then up. how she hoped not! She could feel a flush of shame. staring at her. and Tia wasn't going to tell her. now. feelings which may seem inappropriate to you but which you can't explain. ‘It can mean a lot of things. knew. ‘What are you thinking?' Torn between ‘You are beautiful' and ‘What is transference?' Lynn opted for the latter. worse than she'd ever felt before. Lynn.
Do you feel stupid?' ‘No! Yes! Yes.' To her horror. I am stupid. ‘Suppose I called you a stupid cow. And this is a stupid conversation!' Part of Lynn was amazed at the anger she felt.tell her. Tia. And you’re sure it's me?' ‘Well. 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. That was worse. but not exactly not smiling either. is it? There's no one else in the room. and you can't give me a reason. She wanted to rattle Tia's cage. ‘So. you still insist that I do think you are. The other part was enjoying it. she couldn't really tell what it meant. not exactly smiling. Lynn found herself crying. What did Tia think? What did she bloody think? ‘You think I'm the stupid one. don't you?' ‘Why on earth. This was awful . ‘I suppose I'd have to say.' said Tia calmly. it's me. although I've asked you why on earth I should think you are stupid. it's not me. Her curly hair framed her face.and . She'd had enough of Tia. Tia was watching her attentively.wrong-footed. It was so superior. Tia continued to look at her. What was it about Tia that always made 199 . The situation felt irretrievably spoilt. Lynn?' ‘Yes you do think so. She felt tantalised. Or is it me? It is me. Lynn hated that look. She felt in despair. ruined beyond repair. ‘I'm doing it. Actually. isn't it? Is that what you're saying? It's not you.' said Lynn. I bloody do! I feel incredibly stupid . It was so frustrating. "What makes you say that"?' she said mildly.how had it happened? How had they got from ‘How have you been?' to this in about ten seconds flat. ‘should I think you are stupid. ‘Oh. On impulse Lynn leant forward and said. And you're doing it. What would you say?' Tia raised an eyebrow. so that all her facial expressions were clearly visible. very briefly.
What was it now? What's the time. Gingerly. Lynn shut her eyes again. It was so strong that she opened her eyes to escape it and looked at Tia. ‘It could be someone else. Lynn loved it when Tia talked like that. She could feel a darkness like a cloud descending on her. one had a gun One had a pancake up his bum. don't rush. she could hardly speak for laughing. people feeling stupid?' ‘Well. She saw the small overstuffed settee.' What was Tia trying to say? It didn't add up. and as she neared the punchline. she said. She had rushed home from school because she wanted to tell her mother something. Can you think of a time when you had this feeling before? Just take your time. ‘But that's ludicrous. . don’t rush’ she repeated. where was it? . She was telling it to her mother. . bloody hell! Tia was regarding her thoughtfully. After a pause. She was in a room . There's no one here but you and me. and a wave of anxious emotion. . in their first house. . It doesn't have to be you or me. Let's approach it from another angle. Her steady encompassing gaze imparted a sense of stability to Lynn. Then she said slowly. people often do feel stupid although they are not.' said Tia. and as Lynn had looked to 200 . but that's not what I meant here. She was coldly furious. . actually.her feel about five? She was a mature adult everywhere else. . ‘You mean . But her mother wasn't laughing. ‘What. She shut her eyes and chewed her lip with concentration. It was a joke poem someone had told her and it was so funny. Oh. Tia was still there.' Tia was talking very calmly and gently. someone else and I think it's you? Is that the transference? But that still doesn't make sense . half past nine See the soldiers in a line One had a musket. ‘Take your time.' Lynn sat up. Close your eyes if it helps. . the rug on the floor. Almost immediately she regretted it. does it?' ‘It's quite common. wiping her eyes.
because then she would have to look at Tia. ‘I remembered . well.' She broke off. How strange that she’d forgotten it until now! But there was a lot of her childhood that was hazy. and don't come back until you can think of something nice to tell me. She felt terribly.' she said. and if you ever tell me anything like that again. ‘Yeah. though she couldn't see on the screen exactly how her mother had looked. and fear of her mother's increased wrath if she got her clothes wet had driven Lynn indoors. Lynn quivered involuntarily as she relived the terror that had trembled through her as she inched her way up to her mother. experienced again that feeling of humiliation and disappointment. looking at the floor and hoping she was doing it right.her. . unable to keep the surprise out of her voice. it had started raining. but she couldn't. Now go away. ‘That's better! Now you’re my good girl!' She felt a bit like that now. ‘Sarah helped Emma up in the playground today when she fell over. She remembered that eventually. After a while. with Tia looking at her so 201 . Her mother had swept her up in a pleased hug and said with warm approval. Lynn had crept away and stayed in the garden for two hours. She shrank down in her chair to get away from her mother's face. She was just a faceless blur. and said in a whisper. I remembered my mother calling me stupid when I was five. Lynn. she compared her thumbnails. For something to do. Relief poured over her. to see her reaction. but because she hadn't wanted to face her mother again. Here. she had said in a voice colder than ice. I hate feeling stupid. now watching the incident as though on a video. . Tia was smiling at her. then her hands. she could remember how it had ended. She wanted to open her eyes to escape. in the safety of Tia's office. not because she couldn't think of anything nice. I will be extremely angry. What to do? She compromised by opening her eyes to look at the floor. Tia said.' Every word had cut like a whip. ‘You are a stupid. vulgar little girl. terribly foolish and sad.’ Lynn shuddered at the memory. ‘What's happening for you now? Her voice sounded so normal and matter of fact that Lynn automatically looked up. and the sense of having done something terribly terribly wrong. in Tia's office.
Lynn thought about the incident. she had a tremendous sense of wellbeing. But it was still puzzling. in a ‘maybe' kind of gesture. Tia gave her space. It was OK to do that in Tia's room.brightly coloured. . The ball was her life. Sometimes they enable us to get in touch with all sorts of feelings from the past. ‘So .' ‘So . It didn't seem so bad now. . They seemed hopelessly entangled. that's transference?' Tia opened her hands.just a few . She had a sudden picture in her mind of a giant ball of coloured threads. And how could she have forgotten it so completely? She stared at Tia. transference is a big subject. Lynn knew intuitively that there were no coloured threads on the inside of the ball. .benignly. for some reason. . it's all transference then?' Tia smiled. therapeutic relationships are not like other relationships. sometimes not very good ones. ‘But I still don't really understand. Lynn's mind was racing. . that she had never been able to explain . In fact. some . She sat there.' Lynn thought back over her life.' ‘As I said. ‘So you don't think I am stupid?' Tia gave her a look. thinking aloud. and let it wash over her for a while. ‘But why . ‘I behave towards you as though you are like my mother?' Tia made the same ‘maybe' gesture. ‘Lynn. 202 . Lynn felt pretty pleased with herself now. just horribly black ones impenetrably woven together into a solid mass. . my mother calling me stupid? And me thinking it was you . She said hopelessly. If she could just get hold of this . palms up. .?' ‘Why here?' Tia finished off for her. You are nothing like my mother. ! She said.especially since she had met Tia. The ball was as big as a house. ‘Nothing's ever all anything. ones that we'd prefer to forget. the rest dark and unhappy. It seemed chaotic and full of feelings that came from nowhere.' she said.
She wasn't completely convinced yet. a sort of tawny colour. able to think once more. It was a plain carpet. but she's not here. Issues that it would be of benefit for you to explore with somebody in a safe environment. ‘Lynn. But it still left her with the huge problem of the feelings themselves . about to be blown away. You've had a 203 . Lynn became a real person. and I did explain to you that I cannot give you any more time. She felt drowned in thoughts and emotions. But I have to remind you that we have only two sessions left after this one. ‘Perhaps that's enough for for now. She was locked into her own thought processes. The world grew solid again. Their eyes met.partly anyway . It's like ghosts. Chief among the emotions was a kind of puzzled relief that this explained . and that you had to take responsibility for what we talked about. and you may be left with some painful issues still unresolved at the end. .these emotions that I feel . but not for long enough. insubstantial. She said gently. this transference? This . ‘Transference is real. Into this jumble inside her head broke Tia's voice. unable to keep the despair out of her voice. ‘I don't know what to do!' she cried out.and what to do with them. . I'm feeling things I should feel towards my mother. Tia said quietly. substantial and reassuringly three-dimensional. You understand what I'm saying. Lynn didn’t hear this.her feeling for Tia. existing only in Tia's imagination. but . Her guts twisted. I have the sense there may be more issues here to do with your mother. You need to think very carefully how you wish to structure your remaining time with me. Tia could see that. It was incredibly lonely. It seemed a long way away. it's not a real thing is it then.' The words seemed to hang for a moment in the air between them. There is a very real risk that you may uncover things which cannot be adequately dealt with in the time we have left. ‘But .' For a moment.they're not real. There seemed no way out. Lynn felt like a ghost herself. Several more minutes passed. don't you?' Lynn did understand. As she stared at the floor the carpet distracted her. quite nice. Finally she looked up at Tia. and they seemed to be taking her to a place that she didn't want to go to. . .‘But you are not like my mother?' ‘What was your mother like?' said Tia.
. she must not waste this precious time with Tia by just staring at her! Suddenly. illness. Lynn glanced at the clock. . Was Tia saying that the session was over? Her insides lurched again. ‘Yes. it might be better just to let these new ideas and feelings sink in a bit before you think them through. and looked at Tia appealingly. leaning forward. about how she'd heard Lauren’s name. .' Tia was looking at her very compassionately. and then met her. . quite a few of my friends are gay. Lauren came into Lynn's mind and she became aware of Tia sitting slightly more upright. It said 2. 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. She could do that now.' Involuntarily. Then Lynn told Tia briefly. She could tell Tia about Lauren! So Lynn told Tia about Lauren. She explained how she'd gone to church the next day and how she'd discovered that Lauren . ‘There are still twenty-five minutes to go. This is your time and you're entitled to all of it. feeling that somehow Tia ought to know this. . and she involuntarily clasped her arms over her stomach.lot of things to think about today. She said. and then got curious. I didn't mean you to think I was suggesting that you have to leave right now. It was amazing how much you could 204 . and how well they'd got on and she'd felt they were friends. and disliked her on the spot. What I meant was that you don't have think about what to do here and now .' she added. ready to listen.' she finished. I know there are. I'm sorry. She released her death grip on her forearms and let her hands relax. Then she stopped. This was all so draining. ‘Seeing Della was before Lauren. Lynn could feel her stomach unknotting.55 pm. ‘Though I don't know why I should be so bothered. . In the meantime.' knowing that Tia could hear the betraying quaver in her voice. . She described how she'd gone to Lauren's house. Lynn. . She took a deep shuddering breath and then another more relaxed one as she slumped back into the chair. that Polly had told her . about Lauren's . She would put things away to think about later. Tia's gaze still held hers and Lynn quietly looked until she felt her strength returning.
' agreed Lynn glumly. Lynn. Lynn. as Lynn ground to a halt. But she felt heard. And it feels pretty frightening. she sat back and exhaled as though she'd been holding her breath the whole time and said. She said nothing. saw it said 3. Tia said. following her gaze.' That was it exactly! ‘Yes. After a little while. At the door.say in twenty minutes if you just solidly held forth and hardly paused for breath.' ‘Sure. Tia had said nothing at all. And I want to get off. ‘And sometimes when I open my eyes everything is upside down and I feel sick. ‘You're on a roller-coaster aren't you? You're hanging on with your eyes shut. ‘See you in two weeks' time then.22. Lynn said nothing either.' said Lynn. and walked though.' Tia laughed. Tia had given her extra time. as though she sensed the importance of what Lynn was saying and didn't want to stop the flow. and had a comforting sense of being warm and well-fed. What would Tia make of it all? Throughout the time Lynn had talking. she knew the time was nearly up. Now. Tia glanced up at the clock. and every time you open them to try to get your bearings you get a different view. They both stood up. 205 . Lynn felt really special.
There were hundreds (well. picked up another that looked more readable. nearly) of references to transference. rushed to the tube. you are stupid. Heavens. with conflicting feelings. This one was expensive too. Lynn hastily asked an assistant where the psychology books were and sighed with relief to be directed to several well-filled shelves. saw the word 'mind' and ended up in the mind. She looked around for books on psychology. shut up!) Heavens. Perhaps she should try it. it wasn't for her then. She didn't 206 . She wanted to believe in something because it was true. Something clicked. she grabbed a book up. she decided to head home. counselling! Tia might be a clinical psychologist.' a little voice said. She turned to the index at the back. not because it made her feel good. where she gazed at the books on self-help with some fascination. Ah. She resolutely determined that she would take Tia's advice and not think about things too much until the dust had settled. But the scientist in her couldn't help wondering where the evidence was that any of it worked. but it was much harder than she thought. It was a bit spooky. Lynn called in at large bookshop on the way. but she counselled.Chapter 18 Lynn left the counselling rom. Ten Pain-free Steps to Total Well-Being. She ran her finger down the spines of the books: Think Your Way to Happiness. 100 Ten-minute Spells for Busy People. Well. Of course. How stupid of her not to think of that! (‘See. yes! Here were the Attachment and Loss books. Lynn had a mocha in a cafe and tried to read the paper there. so what! She rushed with it to the counter. She didn't know. rushed home. just to check if they really did have the same books as the ones she'd got from the library. was that the price? She thrust it back. And there were books about counselling too. still not thinking about things too much. as usual. body and spirit section. Maybe she wanted too much. Finally. Oh. was that the time? In panic. Oh. Feng Shui Saved My Life. Perhaps it all worked if only you believed in it hard enough. Maybe they were rubbish and didn't exist in the real world. Become Who You Were Meant to Be Through Colour Therapy. Did people really believe all this? Maybe this was where god was.
Stayin here til I gt a tan. these days. She put the postcard on the mantelpiece. that which Lynn had been dreading finally happened. Will contact u wen I get bak. ‘Good book then?' he inquired. Lynn turned it over and looked at the message on the back. It cud b a lng time. He was treading very warily. 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. She was glad now she hadn't tried to phone her. * * * At school next day. She turned back to the book.' The ‘will' was underlined three times. Chris. When she got home. Lv Sandra. It was only six stops. which appeared to be composed by three different people all trying to write it at the same time. She looked at the postcard again. ‘Have you seen Sandra yet?' he asked anxiously. Lynn decided. Lynn finally started reading the book on counselling. Mark glanced up from the FT.dare get it out to read on the tube. ‘All tuned up and ready to play. ‘Let's go to the pub. 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.' It could only be from Sandra.' said Lynn. then smiled again. Eventually she made out. then sighed. And if she hadn't thought of anything to say by now. saw her in the staffroom at lunchtime and rushed over. After dinner. ‘Soz not 2 b in tuch. The stamp was Greek but the picture could have been anywhere. When she reached the section on the client's idealisation of the counsellor she ground her teeth. There would have been no answer and she would have wondered. whom she had somehow by a miracle and quite a bit of forward planning managed to avoid. anyway. Lynn couldn't say no. Mark raised his eyebrows when he saw the title. there was 207 . Lynn smiled. She could hardly blame him. with some difficulty. the post had come. but made no comment.
' ‘Ah. which was a lot less than what had actually transpired. ‘Can we go somewhere and talk?' Again. probably just as well) her anger against him was evaporating. He paused consideringly and then said with studied nonchalance. took out his pipe. she'd never thought to ask . . gender differences. for god's sake. ‘So. Did you tell her that?' ‘Yes. ‘I do love her you know. Lynn was sorry now she'd kept him waiting.you know. Chris. About her relationship with you. lit it at the second go and said. why?' ‘It's not a question of sides. Desperation gave her fluency. to share anything.' said Lynn. . She nodded resignedly. puffing at his pipe greedily. His anguish overlaid Sandra's anguish.' Lynn was thinking hard. you saw her. She feels very strongly about you. dropping bits on the floor.' Lynn was pretty sure that Sandra had said that. stuffed it untidily. She asked me not to tell you. ‘And where exactly is this place she’s staying at?’ ‘I'm sorry Chris. ‘Maybe it's a man-woman thing. . Sandra had not given her permission . She couldn't remember if she'd said it in so many words. I told her. space? I gave her all the bloody space she wanted!' ‘Space to think. Chris stayed lounging against the wall. but was that important? Now that she was actually face to face with Chris (she still couldn't get her head round ’Cormac'. She needs space.no guarantee that she would in the foreseeable future. How did she look?' He listened to the description. ‘And what did she say?' ‘She told me she loved you too. she could not resist the pleading in his eyes.' ‘What do you mean. When Lynn had told him everything she felt she safely could. he took the pipe out and said simply. He led her to the smokers' room. trying to get it to draw. 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. I can't tell you that. She's given 208 . . How to convey what Sandra had expressed without betraying confidence? After all. you're on her side? Why. Chris .
We need to stick together. dark world. ‘Oh. god. She could see him forcing himself to speak more slowly. for as long as we can.herself to you and only you. getting more angry every moment. Haven't I just told you!' ‘And what about you to her?' ‘What do you mean?' ‘She doesn't want to share you. before we are dispersed into eternal nothingness.' he said bitterly.else'. we've all got to die of something. 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. this is a vile cruel world. It's a cold. if he's there. We're all in it together. he was beginning to sweat and his accent was thick enough to cut with a knife. an uncaring sadist. keeps the bad alive. it's a vile world. and we are here for a blink. before you're gone. let's be as happy as we can. is a sadist. if he's there. everyone we can.) ‘A woman wants to be special to the man she loves. is as vile as the rest. but while we're here. She couldn't be that stupid.is .' ‘My god! You are totally screwed up!' ‘No. lets the good die. There . that's it. Let's make other people. we're all we've got.' A veil came over Chris's face.' ‘What are you talking about? She is special to me. she told you about that. make others happy." ' (Surely that was from a poem somewhere. I'd much 209 . Sex makes people happy. any joy. His face was red. You know. as happy as we can. "A man's love is of his life a thing apart. and all we've got to keep us going is our own body heat. From nothing. any warmth. did she?' Lynn watched him struggle for words. Eventually he said tightly. AIDs . to nothing. is up to us. Any happiness. as though to a child. ‘Look. ‘So you don't believe in god then?' ‘Believe. but trying to speak calmly. ‘I repeat. Be happy. No. ‘What's to believe? God. for god's sake let's stay in the sunshine. cruel. A vile.nothing . unfair world. no! I'm sorry. What the hell does it matter?' ‘What does it matter! What about STIs. I repeat.!' ‘Well. 'tis a woman's whole existence. It was a bit scary. So she did know some poetry.
right?' ‘I suppose so. and said in in measured tones.' ‘Why do you say that? About god being a sadist?' ‘If god's there and he can do anything. Looking back. with racking sobs that shook his whole body. My elder brother Seamus found her. ‘She left a note. So did he. ‘Marie had very straight brown hair and a lovely smile. She didn't know what to do. Chris eventually won the battle.' Despite himself Chris couldn't help a sob catching in his throat. ‘Why do anything?' said a voice inside her head. She thought it must be Tia's because it wasn't a smiley voice. Eventually. It said. She didn't know if it was Tia's or Lauren's.' Chris buried his head in his hands and cried in earnest then. Only she didn't smile very much because she was being bullied at school. ‘My little sister.' ‘Then why didn't he answer Marie's?' ‘Who's Marie?' ‘Marie? Marie was my little sister. I never told you about Marie. his voice was thick. I asked God to help me but he didn't. The room grew very quiet. as though this was something that he had learned by rote a long time ago. The awkwardness of the lack of space in the room didn't seem to matter now. So she very quietly hanged herself. Lynn could see him concentrating on trying to breathe evenly.' Chris repeated. He cried as though he would never stop. When he spoke again. "I'm sorry. he can answer prayers. looked directly at her and through her. So she just sat and waited." She was nine years old. she came and stood awkwardly 210 . It was much less common in those days and she went to a very good school.rather believe that he's not there. The tears dripped down through his fingers. Lynn sat there rigid with shock and pity.' Lynn sat down. did I? Sit down. It makes things less complicated. And Marie was never one to make a fuss. I think she tried to tell us but we didn't really catch on to what she was saying. Chris was clearly struggling for composure.
as though her gesture of compassion had given him courage to be angry again he said. He continued crying for some moments longer and then gave a couple of honking sniffs. if there's a f***ing god. she slipped back into the seat opposite him. Standing behind him. the thought of saying ‘I don't know. and concern because the change back had been so quick. so close. and on impulse she leaned forward and placed her hand over them. pliable features. Something told her that Chris didn't want an answer anyway. This was a side of Chris that she had no idea existed. The unfamiliar rigidity of his face began to melt back into his familiar. smelling his aftershave. He made a passable attempt at a wink. He surely couldn't switch back. why the f*** didn't he f***ing well do something when Marie f***ing prayed to him?' For a brief instant. Then. his vulnerability. Chris gripped her hand back . he must be a f***ing sadist because otherwise. She felt the wetness of his tears on her skin. Chris sat up and looked straight at Lynn. ‘Never thought I'd tell that to anyone here.behind him.' Lynn was torn between a huge feeling of relief that the strange. who wouldn't be in until later. He was staring stonily ahead now. Chris reached over and convulsively grasped it. holding the sodden handkerchief between them. his eyes still red. Lynn thanked her stars that the smokers' room was at the back of the school. Now you know something about me no one else knows.hard. seemed too intimate once he had stopped crying. With one hand. It felt risky but it was all she could think of to do. frightening Chris was gone. Amazingly. She suspected that he was trying very hard not to break down again. out of earshot of all but the cleaners.' crossed Lynn's mind but she couldn't bring herself to utter the words. feeling his grief. She felt overwhelmed. ‘That's why. it did the trick. ‘Well. his anger. grabbed his handkerchief out of his pocket and began a vigorous mopping up operation.awful! And yet how could she allude to it when she 211 . While Chris was sorting himself out. just like that? What he'd told her was awful . She saw his clasped hands on the table. She guessed that no one else at school knew about it either. It didn't look like the Chris she knew. reached round and placed her hand on his forearm. Secretly. Gradually the twinkle returned. They seemed so banal. Lynn quite admired him. his face a mask. how about that?' he said at last.
poor Sandra.' ‘Don't you think she ought to know? It might help her to understand. and then relaxed. Lynn laughed.' But she didn't know how to say it without making him angry. Don't worry. kicked her shoes off and curled up on the sofa calling to some invisible person. And it wouldn't make any difference now. you do love to talk as though that makes it all all right. It's all we've got. . It's not my story to tell. but not how she died. The shutters were up again. . But she wasn't sure she trusted whatever he meant by relaxed any more. his choice. accident . . But please do think about telling Sandra. Or .' She couldn't imagine it. ‘Time's not a great healer. my pipe's gone out again. If Tia went to the cupboard and poured herself a whisky. She wondered if Tia felt exhausted after a session with her was over.' He grinned. . ‘Sandra? She knows Marie died in an . ‘In the name of all that's holy. I swear it goes out more than I do!' Despite herself.sensed that he so clearly didn't want to? She said. now. Marie will still be dead. the present moment.' ‘I won't tell anyone else Chris. ‘A counsellor you mean? They offered at the time.I don't know what came over me. . Her musings were interrupted by Chris saying in a tone of wonderment. .' ‘Understand what? There's nothing to understand. It won't change a thing. will you Lynn? It's over I tell you. It was all a long time ago. . And now is what counts. You women. The old invulnerable Chris was back. Oh well. "Leave the dead to bury their dead" as the good book says. But time's a great healer. She felt exhausted. And you won't tell anyone else? I can't believe I just told you myself . The moment was over. darling . ‘Look. ‘Fix me a g and t. or got home from work. someone qualified to listen. be happy!' Lynn thought. or maybe see someone else . but it wouldn't have made any difference. ‘Not even Sandra?' Momentarily his face hardened again. . I've put it behind me now. you won't tell her.a stiff one.' A look of alarm flashed across his face. . But . It's done nothing for you. 212 . . Not a bloody thing.
I'll get re-referred in three months' time with stress'. ‘Are you all right now. ‘It's all right now. She particularly went out of her way to listen to him more. Lynn also tracked Nicole down. and he seemed to appreciate it. ‘Della's not like that now. ‘Yeah. Lynn drew her to one side. and her feelings about Della she dealt with by saying. She simply asked her to wait for her after the lesson. Lynn was content to immerse herself in planning and doing and to leave the thinking and feeling for a few days. She only had so much energy. Not that she neglected him. Clearly she had thought that Lynn hadn't cared.' ‘Michael?' ‘Michael Strachley. Priorities. that could afford to wait just a little while. You know!' 213 . watching Nicole's face. Nicole stood by the door. Her feelings about Lauren’s cancer she dealt with by the mantra ‘Positive thinking gets positive results'. Nicole?' she asked.' (which was clearly true).' Nicole brightened up when she realised that Lynn had remembered her. of course. her feelings about Tia (she was particularly pleased with this one) she dealt with by saying. so she didn't bother with strategies for dealing with her feelings about Mark. This all took a lot of energy. ‘I'm sorry I wasn't here when you came last week. or herself. and you were away after that. When you weren't here I saw Mr O'Doyle. ‘If I can't cope.' Chris! What had he done! ‘Do you want to tell me about it?' ‘Well.* * * The week trickled sluggishly by. She was married to him after all. 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. Not that it took much doing. it was Michael. ‘How vulnerable they are at this age!' thought Lynn. and he was really nice and he sorted it.' said Nicole. her head hanging.
but Mr O'Doyle was class.' ‘It was on the school bus. steady on.' ‘Yes?' ‘And Michael .' ‘You're welcome. She shook her head.' ‘Anyway. thanks for asking. He doesn't know any better.Kyle Sanders and his mates. But you weren't here.he went up to them at the back and started telling them that they shouldn't smoke. swinging her bag.’Oh yes. But Mr O'Doyle was. She went back into the prep room. They took it for about two seconds and then Kyle just picked him up and threw him right down the aisle.the year elevens .' ‘Do they?' said Lynn drily. And he's so good-looking too. He checked that Michael was all right and he sorted Kyle out. ‘I hate him.you know he's not right in the head really .' ‘Well. ‘Oh. and he was really good. He was really crying. All the girls fancy him.' ‘See you.' said Nicole bitterly. I would!' Then Nicole softened. People like him should be locked up. ‘So I came to tell you. Miss!’ Lynn watched Nicole go jauntily along the corridor. Good!' said Nicole fiercely. Watch how you go. * * * 214 . ‘Understandably. Go on. everybody's friend. He got a week's suspension because he'd had so many warnings. I'd like to kick him where it hurts myself!' ‘Hey. But it didn't do any good. you know. her eyes sparkling at the very memory. I was sitting up the top at the front with my friends and all the bad lot were at the back smoking . so hard he cracked his head off the pole bit where you go downstairs. I'm sure. So I picked Michael up and when he stopped crying I went and had a go at Kyle. Good old Chris .champion of justice.
215 . but somehow. ‘I'll come to you. hurriedly Lynn said. Well.' ‘I'll look forward to it. She couldn't help feeling that he had a point. I think God's healing her!' Lynn was so thankful she had to sit down. after Chris. . ‘And she asked after you.' said Lauren. then phoned Lauren. if that's all right?' ‘Sure. Tuesday or Friday?' ‘How about Monday . Mark heard Lynn singing in the bath and grinned. ‘There were crowds of people round Lauren. This decision not to go was vindicated when she heard Polly say happily. and rang off. eyes shining. Polly.how unaware she was! . 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. Mark might make some connections . good to hear you. Lynn would have to share her. 'Lauren was at church on Sunday! She says she feels a lot better.eightish?' ‘Fine.' Lynn's heart was singing. He was not disappointed. church had felt like a real no-no.’ said Lauren. well. you could hardly get near her!' But Lauren had asked after her. Though would it really matter? It would be nice to be able to . Not that she'd have gone to church. ‘How are you fixed for evenings?' ‘Monday. as usual. 'Lynn. . * * * Lynn waited until Saturday afternoon. though it would have been lovely to have seen Lauren. That night. but Polly didn't notice.but she did know that Lauren had gone away for a few days with Alec and the boys. had few details . . She heard Lauren's welcome voice.Lynn couldn’t face going to church on Sunday (what for?) so she had to wait for Monday for Polly to burst in. It was a signal for cautious optimism. . hang on! If the cancer thing came out. She'd phone her at the weekend.
' she said.' she added. her smile welcomed Lynn in. And she did. on reflection.' ‘Not that that makes any difference.Chapter 19 This time as she waited. Unlike before. ‘We'll have to give it up soon. ‘Alec's working and the boys are out. 'Let's go into the living room. Alec sweeps the chimney. the hall was clutter-free. wearing trousers and a camel-coloured sweater of very soft wool. Lynn had more confidence that Lauren would answer the door. ‘It's a bit of a luxury . I'll stick on the biggest log in your honour.' said Lauren. The most interesting thing about the sitting room was the open fire burning in the grate. Again. Lauren saw Lynn's look of surprise. I'm not sure if we should 216 .
Back in a tic. It was magic. ‘I never thought of that. . 217 . Lynn studied the fire closely.burn logs or not. but I think. It had a Prussian blue throw over it with suns and moons on. I have terrible debates with my conscience at times. And how noisy it was! There were crackles and sighs and pops and little whistling squeals and groans. . Perhaps next time ." It's a nicer focal point than a TV flickering in a corner. Lauren's smile encompassed both Polly and her. the lights were dim and there were candles burning on the mantelpiece. How odd that something that was dead should give more of an impression of being vitally alive than a lot of living things did. . well. ‘Make yourself at home. bonfires are allowed. as the rough-textured piney log that Lauren put on began to crackle. A bit sixties-ish. but quite pleasant on the whole. I think. She looked at the fire. . ‘Coffee please. What can I get you? Tea? Coffee? Something stronger?' ‘You drink?' said Lynn almost involuntarily. She half expected the whole fire to sigh and flop over. 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.' she added hastily. noting the small spurty flames that appeared in the wood briefly. the large bright ones that burnt with a steady crackle and lovely.' she said. Lauren raised her eyebrows. Lynn decided. She hardly noticed when Lauren came back with a tray loaded with coffee and mugs and biscuits. It was . like a child getting comfortable in bed. better than TV. ‘I think it's beautiful. Lauren looked pleased. and Lynn sank into a comfortably yielding three-seater sofa near the fire. with little puffs of smoke. And we do have a back boiler.’ Somehow the thought of Lynn and Lauren swigging chardonnay didn't seem quite right. It's not often you can find something that appeals to four separate senses at once. "Well.' Lauren vanished. then vanished. ‘Polly's the only other Christian I properly know.
her brain filled up and overflowed into her mouth. then plunged in. like a guilty child.I wanted to talk and enjoy the company of someone who didn't know. I'm feeling better. and even the pharmacist at the chemist knows. She blinked a few times.Lauren put the tray on a low table nearby.just for once . and then stopped to think about how she really did feel. She turned towards Lauren. and . ‘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. but with truth. I think I'd feel like that too. ‘No. ‘Yes. not really. ‘Well.' said Lauren drily. ‘Wonderful. I might have been a bit more sensitive. ‘But not actually better?' Lynn felt dismayed. . I know I've got cancer. I guessed you'd have a reason. but serious.' Lynn was unsure how to continue. 218 . She couldn't resist saying ‘But Polly and the others seem think you've been healed or something. I suppose . and it was very good. . and everyone at church knows. ' She paused. ‘I felt so normal when you came. I'm sorry . I would have told you tonight. ‘We'll leave it for a minute.' Lauren regarded her with an unfathomable expression. And I did. groping for the words.' she said. and then looked rather anxiously at Lynn and spoke tentatively.' said Lynn. ‘Fires are very watchable. and the boys know. . Lynn rushed to reassure her with words.' she said simply. because. ‘Polly said you said you were feeling better. ‘It's like this. though I did have a bit of a headache. She seated herself on the other end of the settee. She said slowly. Lauren looked embarrassed. Lauren had that effect on her. I didn't think you'd find out so quickly. and Alec knows. and all my friends and family know. aren't they?' ‘Mmm. and it makes sense to me.' ‘That’s OK. . I felt that if only I'd known. Lynn realised Lauren was trying to work out how much to say to her.' Suddenly.' ‘Thank you.did you feel very deceived?' Lauren looked rather crestfallen. but it was your choice not to tell me. I get so tired of talking about it. because . It was not sad.' she ventured. drawing her legs up underneath her so that she was facing slightly towards Lynn.
He cares very much. but I'm not so certain. Doesn't he care?' cried Lynn hotly. . .‘They would like to think that. Lauren looked at her. thinking aloud. . different . it becomes a fish. Lauren had as good as told her she was dying. as though she'd never considered that question before. And sometimes I feel very angry. She wanted god to heal her.' ‘Then why doesn't he . ‘But god can heal.' ‘Caring is caring whether you're god or human!' ‘Yes.' Lynn didn't know whether to ask her about it or not. She said. but you have to compare like with like. "When the Almighty falls into the sea. They couldn't do the chemo after all. She didn't want Lauren to die. They've done some new tests and I've got to go for the results on Monday.' ‘But how can he? He . I care.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.' 219 . of course I care. She thought of Lauren. ‘Meaning. ‘God is . frowning.' ‘I can understand that. She said slowly. ." ' ‘Meaning?' said Lynn.if he's god. but she was too worked up to listen to the answer. Maybe talking about god was a better bet. The Chinese have a saying. he cares. ‘Yes. I care very much. but the frown was not for Lynn. She thought of Chris and his little sister Marie. 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. My blood count was too low. He is other. what was God like when he became human?' This metaphysical twaddle was utterly opaque to Lynn. and now she was spouting meaningless god-talk. can't he?' ‘Of course. ‘Oh yes. I don’t quite follow the god-talk. ‘Don't you care about dying?' and then froze aghast.
I've won too.' How could someone laugh about dying? Lynn looked at her bewildered. We're all dying.' ‘But you're giving up! You've got to fight it!' Lynn heard herself say.' said Lauren. as she saw Lynn's look.' said Lauren. you know. awake. And I'll try not to talk the God-talk if it doesn't scratch where you itch. You use the word "dying". ‘Oh dear. when the pain is very bad. But Lauren didn't seem to mind. ‘Sometimes.' she said. and there's hours to go before it's light. They hate God.' Lynn stared. Well. and returned with more coffee and a very large plate of cheese and biscuits. because of this. Now she was laughing in earnest. you know. ‘Would you 220 . And I feel desperate. What on earth was she talking about. ‘when I see how frightened Jamie and Andrew and Dom are of me leaving them. Oh no! She was doing it again!. and I wish I could die to escape it. ‘But giving up isn't quite the same as yielding up. not to me.‘I feel angry.' said Lauren. 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. sometimes at night. ‘I haven't just given up. And do you want anything to eat? I'm starving. smiling the curvy. ‘Don't you think it's time for coffee? I do. half-humorously.' Lauren went leaving Lynn to mull over the utter incomprehensibility of what she had heard. And I feel frightened. sometimes. ‘It's all right. Or at least. ‘sometimes you win by dying. And I feel very tired inside and I rather wish it was all over at times.' ‘Sorry. She didn't want to know what Lauren meant. I forgot all about it. Someone I know did. God-talk. oh dear. to be sure.' she added.at her. I'm sorry!' she cried frantically. I might have to go and make some fresh. 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. maybe it's true. what a mess it all is. ‘You can't say or think anything I haven't said or thought before. and how they want me to stay. when it's just me.' she said. and I don't think I can. But dying isn't the worst thing there is. And because he won. teasing Lauren smile that made her eyes crinkle up.
dangerous to do that? Aren't there harmful chemicals in it?' Lauren shot her a look. as though that was important. When she'd finished Lynn hoped she wouldn't offer her any. . ‘You eat the rind?' she said curiously. ‘I always have done. Lauren put another log on the fire and they watched it burn in silence.' said Lynn suddenly. .or any cheese come to that. then watched in fascination as Lauren took several digestive biscuits and buttered them thickly. ‘I'm going to see a counsellor. Well. 221 . ‘On the NHS. She’d never seen that before. Lauren did this very slowly and methodically.' ‘No. ‘Carcinogens. selecting a biscuit and taking a careful bite. and it took some time. you mean?' she said coolly. ‘Not really. isn't it . ‘I'm fine. . As they moved from laughter to smiling at each other. honestly. OK. ‘I can't say I'm bothered. considering each different variety of cheese.' Lynn added her prayers to the long list of those before her who had wished the floor would open and swallow them up.' Their eyes met and they burst out laughing. Searching round for something to distract her from her acute discomfort. I like the crusts on the bread too. then added a large chunk of cheese to each one before topping them all with mango chutney.' ‘But the rind .' she added quickly. ‘The chemo takes care of that.like some?' she asked. Lauren was strange in some ways. I’m fine.' ‘Oh good! I hate eating alone.' said Lauren. ‘Not watching your weight then?' Lynn could not resist saying jokingly.’ Lynn took the cheese. . ‘Sure? I think I’ve brought the contents of the fridge in.' said Lynn. Lynn felt a sense of delight inside. just a piece of cheese then.' said Lauren. It's the best bit. ‘Yes. even as a child. she noted with surprise that Lauren did not take the rind off from the San Paulin or the Stilton . How odd.
after all. ‘Just when you thought you were getting somewhere?' ‘Yes . But I'll have to stop seeing her soon. oh why.' ‘Not in a sexual way. Lauren might see it as a . ‘I mean. right?' 222 .really well.' she added hastily. Bit of a cliché but there's truth in it.' ‘You saw a counsellor? And you loved her? But you're a Christian. as an afterthought. I sort of love her. ‘There's a saying that grief is the price we pay for love. I don't think I can bear it!' ‘Why's that?' ‘She's good. Lauren asked simply. And when she finally ground to a halt.but.well . After all. They had funny ideas. and how she hoped that Lauren would not disappoint her. It was nice to sit and feel the wonderfully comfortable sofa and not be afraid of what Lauren might say. not Polly or David what-his-name.Lauren looked interested. . What Lauren said was a surprise.but it was still a jumbly mess in which Tia featured heavily. . she noted thankfully that she still wasn't frightened. She put down the biscuit.’ Lauren nodded slowly and understandingly. I really like her. ‘is this happening to me? I don't understand it. So good. .the miscarriage seemed almost irrelevant now . She might get all preachy and start talking about Jesus or something. This was getting dangerous. ‘Can you talk about it?' And Lynn could.' said Lynn dolefully. Lynn felt a sense of unease. Who knew what they thought about things like that? ‘Love’s too strong a word’ she added. ‘Actually. I saw a counsellor once and I loved her. oh Lauren. It was only Lauren. this was before you were a Christian.' Lynn hesitated. you mean?' ‘No! Not like fairies! So. . But Lynn felt so desperate to talk about it that it was worth the risk. ‘god-given' (in her eyes) opportunity for her to drag religion into it. Surely you don't believe in them?' ‘Like fairies. it was Lauren she was saying this to.' Even as she said it.' said Lynn despairingly. ‘Why. But it was still a risk. I value her highly and I don’t want to stop seeing her. Lauren was a Christian after all. ‘How's it going?' ‘It's going well . She glossed over some bits .
I'm conscious that I've successfully deflected the attention from you. ‘I don't in the least mind you knowing. It's none of my business. not me. I thought she was wonderful. I'd been a Christian for years. I'm sorry.' It didn't. Inside. I only told you really to let you know that I understand a little bit about the pain of that kind of loss.' she said at last.she was a Christian?' ‘Definitely not!' said Lauren. ‘But it's a long story and maybe I could tell you next time we meet. And I was a complete mess. ‘But this counsellor . ‘It's a kind of counselling where you deal with things in a very direct way. It can be quite confrontational. There's quite a well-known video of him counselling a client.protect you?' ‘From what? From life?' Lynn suddenly remembered the cancer. laughing. I know I shouldn't ask.' ‘You said you loved her?' Lynn remembered. if that means anything to you. She changed tack.' ‘ And was it confrontational?' ‘Yes. He was the founder of Gestalt psychology.‘I wonder why you would think that? No. ‘She was a Gestalt counsellor. chain-smoking the whole time. I think she modelled herself on Perls a bit too literally.' Lauren hesitated.' ‘But didn't god . She swore as well.' ‘I can't help wondering what you saw her about. she suddenly felt much easier 223 . very! And she smoked like a chimney. and wore big gold earrings. and you're the one who's hurting at the moment.' ‘And your counsellor smoked?' ‘Incessantly.' ‘Pearls?' What on earth did Lauren mean? ‘Fritz Perls.
regarding her with such concern. 'I cried for three months.it wasn't reciprocated. somehow so free. ‘How long did you see her for?' ‘A year. She survived.' Let go? This was not so good. She said she loved her. I absolutely delighted in her. on looking at the fire. 'It probably doesn't. Tia was different. She concentrated on feeling the sofa beneath her. But this counsellor couldn't have been like Tia. Sod that! she thought. Although I might have shared my life with her . We could never have been friends. That was what made it possible to let go.' But it did help. 224 . Lynn looked at Lauren. sitting there so composedly. yet amazingly. until she felt able to speak. And it was Lauren. Lynn didn't want to hear this. It was a total mystery and she wasn't sure it was really happening. that was it? After all that you'd shared?' ‘Yes.' she said. of all people. How could this be? Lauren's words hurt just as much as if they had come from Della but they did not destroy her. That felt very good. Lauren made it. on chewing her lip thoughtfully. ‘I knew God loved her more than I did.and I did .' ‘A year? And then .' Lynn stiffened involuntarily. those ones came top of the list. Of all the words Lynn dreaded hearing.as though they meant nothing! But Lauren said she'd seen this woman for a year. Lynn was still alive.about her feelings for Tia. Lauren was watching her compassionately. . And Lauren would tell her her story next time they met. I never saw her again. Look at her now! It seemed to Lynn that Lauren had just dealt her a death blow. . Lauren would never have been able to let her go so easily. so caring. How could she be so unconcerned about it? A sense of unreality came over Lynn. Counselling isn't friendship.' Counselling isn't friendship. ‘Oh yes. if it helps you to know that. something strong and good. She thought. so real. 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. saying them! And so casually .
. She ought to do the same.' said Lauren.something of what you're going through' said Lauren. become a Christian?' ‘I've no idea. That surprises you?' ‘No. after all. but sometimes 225 . It was when someone I loved and trusted set out to destroy me. . I think it doesn't so much show you how to sort your life – more like help you live with the mess. This talk of forgiveness and heaven was more than she could handle. you know .' ‘You say she helped you though? Even though she didn't believe in god?' ‘Oh yes. But I pray for her now and then. 'And now. What she wanted most in the whole world now was to change the subject. ‘All truth connects. but couldn't think why.Lauren noticed her look. It didn't affect the awful situation I was in – but then it wouldn't. Normally it's red wine for me. I do hope I do!' Lynn felt stressed. She felt as weak as a kitten.do you want any? And I think I'll start hitting the Baileys. 'So I do appreciate . But it was clearly important to Lauren who was now looking rather damp about the eyes. but again she had the strange sensation of strength flowing from Lauren into her. They nearly did it too. Much more practical. What could she say? ‘Did your counsellor ever . 'I need more coffee .' she said apologetically.' For a moment Lynn remembered David. But . ‘Just over twenty years ago. .' said Lauren cheerfully. . She is still very dear to me.. Truth cannot contradict truth. Counselling's not like that. But I can't forget her. so she couldn't just change the subject totally. Kalia helped me through it so that I was able to forgive them. Lynn felt ashamed. ‘Was it long ago?' she asked.a little bit . still holding her hand. but it surprises me that you let her. ‘Well. She still needed to know more. If I met them now I would hug them . much as she wanted to. you did ask. especially on top of the body-blow she had just been dealt.and if I ever see them in heaven I will. Lauren accepted her. I was very damaged and angry and she helped me tremendously.' ‘She had truth. almost unable to move.it was all so bewildering. leaning forward and grasping Lynn's hand firmly. Lynn returned the pressure with interest.
and followed it to see where it went.' ‘ ”Take a little wine for your stomach's sake”. They swapped teaching anecdotes and finished each other's sentences.' Lynn was still trying to work this out when Lauren put another log on the fire and departed. though my twenty-something days are lost in the mists of time. normal even. So what! Will you join me? Or would you prefer wine?' Lynn couldn't help grinning at Lauren's matter of factness. That's exactly the reason I drink it.' ‘Is it?' ‘Oh yes. all right to grieve. As they talked. unselfconscious and animated in the firelight. amazed. She could hurt in Lauren's presence quite safely. Thinking about Tia hurt just as much but she knew now it was all right to love. ‘Where's that from?' ‘The bible. and they knew it. Lynn gingerly felt her psyche as an adult who slips on the ice might check themselves for broken bones. How had Lauren done it? Lynn had no idea. The intensity of the moment lightened instantly and popped like soap bubbles in the air around them.' said Lauren. They drank quite a lot of it.' she added. The main business of the evening was now over. Everything made them laugh. ‘wine would be nice. leaving Lynn to watch the flames begin to rise. please. How could this be? And at what point during the evening had she stopped watching what she said. Lynn found herself casting covert glances at Lauren. The wine tasted of summer. giving her hand a final squeeze and letting go. They let the conversation go where it wanted. They finished up seeing pictures in the fire.' said Lauren blandly. Lauren came back. Lynn paused. seemingly 226 . ‘Fortunately it doesn't specify.' she said. I read somewhere that it's a preferred drink of some twenty-somethings because it provides the alcohol but still tastes like sweeties. after a moment's reflection. Amazingly she still felt OK. After a few moments. ‘Athough perhaps you're meant to rub it on. like a puppy running through a meadow.only Baileys will do. ‘All right. getting more and more absurd. trying to get it right? That had never happened before.
and constantly pleasing to watch. ‘Here's to the next time we meet. Lauren said. but the truth was that it was really dead.' Lauren thanking her? For what? Lynn said with equal sincerity. . ‘You're very quiet all of a sudden.' ‘It's been good. She was a bit like the fire. . she suddenly remembered her earlier impressions of the fire. constantly changing.' ‘The next time!' said Lynn. This evening has meant more to me than I can tell you. Lauren hugged her unexpectedly closely. hasn't it?' agreed Lauren. ‘I've enjoyed this evening tremendously. caught unawares.dead . As they walked to the front door. but of Lauren laughing. ‘I'll be in touch. and somehow. wrapping her coat tightly around her as protection from the frosty air.' ‘Am I?' said Lynn. the thing that should not be there. as though it was a toast. ‘Um . so bright. . so glowing. It seemed an appropriate note on which to end. Lynn. ‘since we've both so clearly benefited from it. the last sound she heard was not the sound of Lauren's door closing. Lauren sensed her change of mood and turned to her. Lynn. so afire with life. getting bigger and bigger. I didn't want this evening to end. Lynn closed her eyes to escape the sight of the fire which now seemed strangely dark and malevolent. as she released her. that it looked so alive.able to enjoy each moment to the full. but was she really . with unexpected emphasis. And she thought about the thing growing inside Lauren's head. Was that the true picture? Lauren looked so well at this moment. Lauren.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. mimicking life.' As she walked down the path. . I was just thinking . and said. But even as Lynn responded in kind. I'll be waiting for you. They quietly finished their coffee. and a chill ran through her. and Lauren got Lynn's coat. Thank you so much.' They were at the door.' said Lauren cheerfully.' ‘Then we'll definitely have to do it again. Lynn decided. it's time to go. 227 . ‘It's me who ought to be thanking you.
It didn't seem much of a choice. She couldn’t help staring. On the other hand . . In one week's time or six weeks' time. Bloody thanks! Do you think I don't know that? ‘Yes. She'd never survive. is it?' she asked before she could stop herself. . six weeks . . but I will not be here then.' But it wasn't all right. I am not leaving until the end of next week . . I'm afraid the circumstances are out of my control.' Oh. She replaced them and became Tia again. we could meet again at the same time next week for the final session. how could she wait six weeks with her nerves strung as taut as this. Tia smiled wanly. ‘It's not cancer. Tia. ‘If we wait until I come back . She was reminded of Lauren and how tired she had looked when she first met her.somehow it didn't seem right . Without her glasses and with her head bent. Our next meeting is in two weeks' time.' (‘Leaving?' thought Lynn) ‘and so. . One week or six weeks? She 229 .Chapter 20 ‘So. I know. It occurred to Lynn that she looked uncharacteristically weary. In one week it could be all over . Tia looked much more vulnerable. Tia.' ‘It's all right.' She paused. . ‘I need to take leave of absence for a month. ‘I mention this because I am afraid I need to change the date of our next meeting. Lynn had never seen Tia do this before. it's not cancer. . This will mean you waiting about six weeks for our final session. ‘this is the last session before we meet to say goodbye. thanks. . if you liked. Tia continued.and then .' Tia took off her glasses and polished them.' said Tia. ‘No. ‘What made you think of that?' Lynn didn't want to mention Lauren . never see Tia again.so she shrugged apologetically and said nothing. but afterwards it occurred to her that this would probably have been a perfectly reasonable thing to say.' Alarm bells went off in Lynn's head.' she said. It's up to you.' (‘Come back?' thought Lynn) ‘then the Christmas holiday will intervene and we will not be able to meet again until January. for god's sake? And over Christmas too. I am sorry to have to present you with this choice. On the other hand.
a sort of serious but ready-to-smile attentiveness had now completely returned. Always getting it right. Having just ruined everything.' Now that she had told Lynn the bad news. I wonder if that feeling rings 230 . She'd wanted to get Tia a present. Staying in control. She felt anger rising within her. she was watching with cool clinical disinterest. what to say. ‘That's how you see me. . Tia. right. I wonder what you’re thinking. and Lynn didn’t care any more about getting it right. One week or six weeks. good guess! I am angry! You sit there so smug.’ Yeah. Wrong-footing you. Tia said. the effect that her words were having. she didn't know what.for six weeks! Oh hell! Tia. how to pace herself. was observing her closely. Why? Lynn felt completely wrecked. ‘You can tell me at the end of the session.rack .didn't want to think about it. . more composed. and. ‘I wonder what you’re thinking right now?' The volcano erupted. it seemed to Lynn. What was it about Tia that produced these extremes of emotion in her? She was perfectly normal everywhere else. unyielding. Her habitual expression. never giving any bloody thing away!' Tia took it without a flicker. so bloody perfect. she looked more Tia-ish. She'd had it all worked out. her frail feeling of control gone. or a card. Lynn felt that she had imagined the tired smile and the fragile. Tia was such a cow. ‘I'll remember you. Tia. The anger grew hotter.' But a week wasn't long enough. Something in Lynn snapped. making you feel awkward and angry. almost amusement. defenceless Tia she'd seen. She looked at Tia. ‘No. if you like. This was the Tia she knew. apparently indifferent to the bombshell she had just delivered. 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. Just a little something. She couldn't think what to get in a week. What do you think about it all?’ ‘I think you are angry. as usual. But six weeks! She couldn't endure this . She couldn't think now. what she would do in the two weeks. impervious. It shouldn't make a difference but it did. always saying the right sodding thing. just to say .
' That registered. no one else! She refused to be diverted. . Oh no! It was Tia . wasn't she? She stopped and allowed herself to feel. she tried to listen. when she thought about it. even a little bit . really really sad. Oh god! And Tia wasn't helping. did care. when .something icy gripped Lynn's guts and made it hard to breathe. The bad time she never thought about. she saw something in her face that mirrored her own feeling. and stop giving me a hard time!' always having to think of what to say to help them. She felt a sudden pang of pity for Tia. I forgot. for god's sake?' To this Tia said nothing. But when she glanced at Tia. Grief meant you were sad. to say. ‘Sod off. What was 231 . What must it be like for her? What an awful job she had at times. ‘Oh. but she wasn't falling for it this time. Lynn had heard that once before. 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. Lynn's anger ebbed away. Anger is a is a part of grief. didn't it? But she was angry. having to sit there and take it from angry clients. leaving her feeling tired too. What was Tia trying to say? Grief. 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. then she could bear it. ‘Yes! Why do you do it? Why can't you just be normal. You are angry. Why hadn't she noticed that before.Tia making her angry. It made it so much better than the other time. never able to retaliate or defend herself. When? Her brain felt muzzy. Tia looked so sad. In the midst of it all. or something like it.any bells for you?' Lynn stiffened. But bloody hell! It was her job. What did she feel? Actually. Yes. she did feel sad inside. . Her face had a patient look and the fatigue Lynn had seen at first seemed evident again. Maybe she did feel something. This is normal for you! Bloody hell Tia. We have to say goodbye. That transference thing! Where had she felt it before? Very clever. She was being paid for it! The anger flooded back. And she was looking at Lynn. having to be there for them.
It's something to do with going away and being frightened. ‘You look unhappy. She smiled tremulously. not now! Not on top of this pain she was feeling. I can't face thinking about it here. What am I going to do?' ‘You don't know what it is and you feel too frightened to think about it. jerky panic begin to overwhelm her. I feel kind of glad too. It's so horrible and painful I'm afraid to think about it. with Tia looking at her and speaking so quietly. Quick! Distraction! Lynn said hurriedly to Tia. .' Again. Something I'd completely forgotten. ‘Yes. No! Not here. from really early on. I don't feel so lonely now. Tia. sharing it with me. Eventually she mumbled. Is it OK to say that? It's like you're sort of. ' she added pointedly. Lynn. ‘Thank you.' said Tia. .' said Tia. Maybe it will come clearer later.' ‘Last time?' ‘Something's stirring in my memory. ‘I'm feeling your sadness. .' ‘Yes. and to be honest. I've got too much else to think about now. Her anger had evaporated. Can you stay with it just a little while and see how it feels?' In Tia's calm presence. She exerted all her strength to shut the door on it. ‘Yes.' ‘But it's horrible . But. I'm not even sure what it is. . It's so different from last time. It was something so nameless and so painful that Lynn couldn't bear it. It's too vague and indistinct to pinpoint now. No one had ever said anything quite like that to her before and she didn't know what to say. The thudding of her heart began to slow down and she took a deep breath. ‘I'm sharing it with you. It's not your problem.' She paused and groped for her handkerchief. Lynn didn’t know what to say. then went on.' Lynn could see it was true. but even with the door shut she could sense it moving behind.' ‘I'm feeling sad.and painful?' Lynn felt a wild.this? Something was stirring in the furthest recess of Lynn's memory. oh Tia. She felt deeply moved. I feel frightened. Lynn felt her fear being contained. oh I don't know . ‘I don't want you to feel sad. ‘But in a funny way. 232 . But you've only just been made aware of it. I can't bear to think about it now.
What I can do is keep the next week's slot open for you.' she said more happily. ‘OK. ‘But how long will it take?' Tia made a ‘you tell me' sort of gesture. Do you feel able to wait and see what happens?' Again.' The thought of it coming clearer. Lynn was touched. but without success. Somehow. If you don't turn up. Tia could handle this coolly. Another thought struck her. while Tia was with her. Then she said slowly. When I write things down 233 . and the fact that Tia would keep the session time free for her next week. She refocused on Tia and looked at her appealingly. or in six weeks.' she added. ‘Can you do that though? I mean. It was clinging like a monkey to the patterned wallpaper behind Tia's head. ‘Sometimes things like this. Tia seemed to really want to help her. So could she. just start coming into our mind bit by bit and we begin to build up a picture. I think it might come clearer. when she was not with Tia. She nodded. ‘Suppose I remember and you're not there?' ‘That seems likely. What do you want to do?' ‘Like I said. Lynn felt immensely comforted. elsewhere. once we become aware that they're there. Tia's calm acceptance of what seemed to Lynn to be a completely bizarre experience reassured her. filled Lynn with new alarm. She tried with all her might to think what it might be now. ‘You can either come to see me in a week's time. ‘Why don't you write it down?' Write it down! Another good idea. You'll appreciate that I can't keep a space open for you indefinitely.' was all she said. even if she chose not to turn up seemed to make a difference. as if thinking aloud. I will assume that you will be coming in January and send you an appointment accordingly. ‘Yes. this being allowed to choose when to come. Her mind refused to engage.‘Hmm. keep it open like that? Are you allowed?' Tia gave her a look.' Tia agreed. I believe I am allowed to do that. Again. ‘I could send it to you. if you want to take it up. She didn't feel quite so hopeless now. but not here.
and now. But bear in mind that I'm not around after the end of next week. and what did it matter because soon it would be over whatever happened. whether the time was spent in silence or talking. She imagined herself writing a letter to Tia which she would eventually get. and Tia looked sympathetic and nodded.' Lynn had forgotten. ‘What's the joke?' said Tia. She was too drained to think clearly now. and Tia looked amused too. After that. for some reason. her mother was the last person she wanted to talk about.' said Tia reassuringly.it's like I'm talking to you.they could be arguing for instance.' ‘You can if you like. And she could never say everything she wanted to anyway because no matter what she talked about. Lynn kept going to say things. won't you. and Tia raised her eyebrows and looked alert. She couldn't even think about her. they sat in silence for a while. considering how much she loved her mother and how proud she was of her. that actually there were worse ways of spending the time she had left with Tia than by looking at each other . Lynn watched the minutes ticking by in silence. no.' ‘Oh. but then finding she had more to say and writing another one. She looked at Tia and received strength. Tia might get enough for a book by the time she got back. The icy hand that had relaxed its hold on her heart tightened it 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. This struck her as so ludicrous that she chuckled out loud. minutes of her and Tia that she could use properly when she had something that she really wanted to say. and then Lynn's mind cut out and she couldn't think what to say. and Tia agreed. and then Lynn and Tia looked at each other again and it occurred to Lynn. It was very odd. So she told her. when you get back?' ‘Oh yes. 234 . 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. and she would have to read them all. ‘You'll get it eventually though. Then another. it was still ticking away. And she'd had so much to say! She had planned to tell Tia more about her mother. And she told Tia this. And then it struck her that. ‘I'll get it then. So Lynn told Tia this too.' A cheering thought struck Lynn.
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.
and. Except for welcome offers of tea or coffee. That was what it felt like. When she had finished she phoned Mark. I' had an accident in the bathroom the other night which reminded me of something that happened when I was about four. Well. Fortunately. and she had only just managed to control it by saying that she would phone him instead. By 3 o'clock it was ready to post to Tia. Feeling very virtuous. looked at what she had written. Still. his total refusal to listen to her or to understand what was happening inside her head. Sitting on the sofa. Now they made sense. She got up and went though to the lounge. Lynn surfaced from sleep to find that her mind had beaten her to it. here's 240 . clarifying. As she did so. so they had compromised. Mark left her mercifully undisturbed. sat back exhausted and dozed fitfully for an hour. somehow the night's sleep had helped her to remember more details. Then she came to. Dear Tia she read. she phoned and told Mark that as well. Armed with a pen and pad. Mark had agreed. She fetched the jumbled notes of the night before and began reading through them. she began typing. things she hardly knew she'd remembered. This took quite a long time.Mark had asked Lynn what she wanted to do that night. This had infuriated Lynn almost beyond endurance. Lynn began to jot down words and then phrases at random as they occurred to her. and decided to go to bed. She knew deep down he cared. She checked it one last time. 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. It had clearly woken up some time previously and was already in gear. Guilt at what she was putting him through was only outweighed by the anger she felt at his inability to trust her. she began to cry. expanding. above all. then went to bed and crashed out. You remember I'd told you my Mum was very ill at that time. * * * The next morning. Mark had not wanted to leave her alone. that was Mark. and she had truthfully said that she wanted to be on her own to try to recall what had happened.
and I said the first thing that came into my head ." and she made me look at her hand and it was all red.nothing's changed.you know that Venetian glass. She stared fiercely at the picture over the fireplace and concentrated on breathing evenly. It felt like forever. ‘. She's never done that before and it hurt. it made my mum change into another person.' know it was a bad thing to say. She described the incident in the bathroom. and there was nothing I could do. all purple and red. I don't know how long she did it for.I think a sort of clown thing my mother had got from somewhere . I could feel a warmth running down the inside of my legs. I was so frightened I had wet myself. her face was all red and twisted. ‘You animal. .it slipped through my fingers and shattered into the bath. Well. Then she stopped but it still kept hurting. and I felt so I didn't 241 . After a few minutes she resumed reading. you've made me hurt my hand on you. She didn't even look like my mother any more. you’re an animal! You bite. Images of her mother that evening swam up into view and she fought them down. The page she was looking at was shaking and it seemed to be rather blurry too. and her breath was coming in gasps. My mother was giving me a bath. It was really ugly . Well. "Look. I did drop it .what happened. and continued: It was in our first house. that's what it felt like.’ And then she said. ‘Don't be so stupid. I saw an ornament on a shelf. She grabbed my arm with one hand to hold me still and started to smack me hard. I was so frightened that it made me do something even more stupid. my mother said it to me all the time. This was so hard to read. She kept telling me to put it down. I turned my head and bit her hand as she held my upper arm. looking around the room for something else to focus on. And it hurt so much. . I picked it up and my mother got very upset. And that made something really horrible happen. but there was no escape. you wet yourself like an animal. She went into a sort of a frenzy then – she couldn't stop. and she was panting with exertion and she said. Lynn stopped reading for a little break. She summoned her resources and read on: It made my Mum very angry. Lynn paused to regroup. I tried to wriggle and pull away. My Mum was very upset and shouted that I'd done it on purpose. As I stood up for her to dry me. I think she thought I'd drop it. has it? I said.
I knew that it would have been my fault. How could she like me? How could anyone like me? Anyway.I was in another place. that's the only way I can describe it . 'After a while I crawled into bed as I was and I could hear her moaning and crying downstairs.bewildered then because I had thought that it was me that was hurting. then continued. and was given lots of sweets. I learned later that my mother had been rushed into hospital in the night with a perforated appendix. She had three kids. all quite a bit older than me and they all made a fuss of me. Lynn considered this. "Stay there until I say you can come out . I had a happy time there. that was rather how she felt now. What happened to the little girl next? She read on with interest. but she didn’t want me. My Mum had gone and I was taken to stay with my Auntie OGwen in Wales. This was some other little girl she was writing about. And I thought she was going to die. it was the next door neighbour. wet as I was. Come to think of it. not a proper human being at all. not her. And then she clutched at her stomach and sort of screamed out. 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 had a nice time at my Auntie Gwen's. and if she had died. because I had made her hurt her hand. ‘I didn't see my mother for six weeks because there were complications . It seemed rather a strange thing to say but it was the only way she could think of to explain how she felt.peritonitis set in and they thought she was going to die. Lynn smiled as she read that bit. and sort of threw me into my bedroom and it was dark. otherwise they wouldn't have.I don't want to see you again until you’re a human being again. I guess they didn't know all those bad things about me. I lay awake in the dark for what seemed forever. 'After six weeks my Mum came back and she was very thin and pale and I didn't 242 . I don't remember their names but I remember that I sat on people's laps a lot. I was in another place. I wanted her. ‘And you've made my pain come back!" and she grabbed me out of the bath. and I had made her pain come back. and she said. but I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew someone was waking me up – but it wasn't my Mum." And she went downstairs and I just didn’t know what to do. I would have killed her.
Right now she needed to lie down. Anyway. but she was very loving and so pleased to see me. and a sort of monster person ihad come n her place. She folded the letter and put it in an envelope. Lynn chewed her lip. So I might do something by accident to make my mum go away again and then she might never come back. and I think I would like to see you sooner rather than later. Tia. though actually she wasn't sure if she liked her either.recognise her at first. She reread the final paragraph. But it was funny because I couldn't forget that somehow I had made her go away. and I was pleased to see her too. it was all over now. Lynn sighed as she read this. She seemed a very stupid little girl.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. 243 . ‘Lynn'. but that couldn't be helped. had gone. though Lynn wasn't sure why she thought this. Anyway. Only a few more days and 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 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. That’s how it seemed to me then.no more. She couldn't help feeling sorry for the little girl in the story. The letter appeared to have been written a bit childishly too. That little girl. That way she would be able to cope. 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. whoever she was. so unless you hear anything from me to the contrary. you'll appreciate I feel a bit weird remembering all this. She signed the letter simply. Lynn couldn't help feeling glad. 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. She would go out for a walk and post it later. I'll see you next week as you said I could. anyway. She couldn't believe it.
She thought.Chapter 21 ‘So. from imprinting this image of Tia on her heart for ever. can this be happening? I've just got to say goodbye. And there is nothing. her mind could hardly think them. her throat. Even nodding and simply replying. with 244 . the letter. the despair. It's bloody mad. She could think of nothing to say. nothing I can do about it. Lynn could feel the helplessness. ‘Yes.The Rules. She sat like a model.' A bitter exhaustion welled up within her. It was so odd. Even more amazing. ‘How.' In fact. in this day and age. ‘Today is the day we say goodbye to each other. She had imagined herself holding forth.the Lynn-that-might-have-been engaging with the Tia that-might-have-been. except . Time and tide wait for no man.' Lynn. she'd rehearsed it several times. sitting opposite her. not wanting to waste a precious moment . and that's it. or moving away. but her lips refused to frame the words. Lynn shook herself free of the spell that seemed to being cast over her. Tia spoke again. Today. who means so much to me. ‘I knew you'd say that. Tia looked at her. taste it like bile in her mouth. from drinking in every detail of this encounter. the inevitability. It was bizarre. she sounded normal. She could feel it hurting her chest. She looked as thin and angular as ever. and focused. elegant. wanted to smile and say. In fact. focused. inexorable as the tide. had Tia. She had imagined a thousand things. ‘I got your letter. She's not dying. Her facial muscles felt paralysed and she seemed to be doing things in slow motion.' would have done. She looked helplessly at her. The moments ticked by. There's no reason for it.' Amazing! She could speak. but not this. Tia was wearing a black vee-neck sweater and a bottle-green skirt. poised. to remember the letter she had written . ‘Ah. yes. nothing. to this person that I know nothing about but I long to be friends with. It's over. So perhaps. talking nineteen to the dozen. still. missing nothing.was it just a few days ago? It seemed much longer now.' Your letter? What letter? Lynn wrenched her mind away from the here and now. She looked at Tia.' said Tia.
' Yes. Lynn. said you wanted to talk about it today. there's not a lot of time left.' Lynn looked at Tia in surprise. ‘When you were four. . . Have you . . Didn't Tia remember what she'd put in the letter? She must have read it only yesterday. ‘Just the same?' 245 . She couldn't help being ill. ‘Yes. or even this morning.' Lynn heard only one thing. She was leaning forward.' ‘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. . Like there was a monster there that would come back if I wasn't careful. as though feeling for each word.some difficulty. Like it was my fault.well. I'm not sure what to say. for Tia. on what Tia was saying. thank heaven! That was what she wanted to talk about. ‘But she came back. This was a big issue to raise as we are coming towards the end of our time together. I just wondered how you felt about it when you remembered. Tia's look softened. ?' ‘I know. ‘Did you? Did you really read it several times over? Really?' ‘Yes I really did. it was all coming back now. I read your letter several times over. . and now you're leaving me too! It's just the same!' cried Lynn despairingly. .' Something clicked. was it?' ‘It was a very bad thing to happen to a four year old. Lynn. Like I'd nearly killed her. I know! Thought about longer term counselling? No!' Tia was silent. Honestly.' Lynn felt hurt. It wasn't a very good thing to happen to a four year old. Something of what Lynn felt must have showed in her face. It wasn't her fault. Then she said. what got into her at times? But how to begin? ‘I . ‘I didn't forget what you'd written. It seemed real when I was writing it. speaking unusually energetically. your mother left you . ‘ .
not choosing to leave me . . even though it was so stupid. had to know. but . It was a stupid question – so stupid – Tia might be angry if she even asked it. but she wasn’t sure she entirely believed her. No .you're going away. .' Suddenly. It had been that or leaving after only having seen Tia for three sessions. it's . But against her will. . But Tia's steady gaze gave her the courage to articulate it. looked back.' Lynn stopped. . ‘My mother went away suddenly . ‘We agreed it.was it?' She looked at Tia appealingly. That can’t be my fault can it?' she said in a whisper. ‘No.' she conceded. But I knew in advance that you were going away. I thought it was my fault.' But Lynn felt unnerved by this new idea. And that had been too bad to be contemplated. She didn’t choose to leave.you agreed it. you're not .' she said wearily. . . But . Does it 246 . to punish me . But she couldn’t stop herself. she had to risk it. because you . ‘it wasn't my fault. She opened her mouth. . I know it. felt a question forming like a bubble in her mind. . ‘What do you think?’ said Tia. At length she said slowly. ‘Tia. she'd agreed it too.‘Yes!' ‘Why do you say that?' ‘Well. ‘And when my mother went away. My going away isn’t your fault.with no warning. shut it. I've got to ask this. She looked at Tia. She had a burst appendix. . . It's just the way things are. . . she'd been desperate. are you?' She shut her eyes and waited. ‘No. A burst appendix was no one’s fault. what did it matter now? She'd let Tia have that one. but this was different somehow. . . maybe not just the same. Tia's eyebrows arched enquiringly.' ‘We agreed it. ‘No. Oh well. It's no one's fault. Tia was saying it. I know it's crazy. But it wasn't my fault .' Tia said. But . Lynn thought hard. hate me . I don't hate you. Lynn thought. phrase by phrase. heard Tia's quiet voice.' said Lynn. Looked away. a new and awful thought struck Lynn. But that wasn't fair. ‘Well.
' There was a silence. ‘That you don't hate me. A silence that had plainly.' and as she said it. more gently. 'And what did you hear me say?' Lynn. Lynn. or she could believe her own notoriously unreliable feelings. who as far as she knew had never lied to her. ‘Lynn. It was totally up to her. Tia!' Lynn was sure of this. Then.' and realised that was true too. then she was a bloody good actress! She said. The four year old was still there. automatically sat up straighter in her chair. For good measure. still with her hands over her face.' Ulp! Lynn covered her face with her hands. ‘It would be a triumph if you could open your eyes. If Tia did indeed hate her. After a while she heard Tia say softly. ‘I don't think my mother hated me either. The 247 . She thought of Tia's smile. 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 could choose to be four. ‘Lynn. bent her head floorwards and opened her eyes. To Lynn's surprise. She could believe Tia. she added. do you think I hate you?' ‘Yes! No! I don't know!' Tia's voice came again. As the moments ticked by. she looked at Tia from between her fingers. and it was a real choice. do you believe that I tell the truth?" 'Oh. Tia was not in the hating business. and at least it worked. this time with a slight edge of firmness in it. heard Tia ask again. but at least she was doing what the thirty four year old told her.seem to you that I hate you?' Lynn could feel tears seeping under the lids of her closed eyes. yes. Finally. she removed her fingers one by one and looked Tia in the face. or she could choose to be thirty-four. ‘I don't think you hate me. feeling that nothing in the world could induce her to open them again. She sat there with her eyes shut. still with her eyes shut. realised that she had a choice. feeling utterly and foolishly four-ish. ‘Well then!' hanging in it. she knew for certain that it was true.
Have you ever considered contact lenses Tia?' she suddenly found herself asking. Surely then. Tia gazed unconcernedly back. What did? Lynn couldn't be bothered to ask. with genuine amusement. and then. Tia threw Lynn a quizzical look. Lynn went cold inside. She should have left it there. 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. Sixth formers think they are above such things.' Incredulously. Something. Lynn had never really heard Tia laugh out loud so spontaneously before. Tia saw it and her lips twitched in response. Numbly. seeming to feel that this was not enough. ‘Yes . effortlessly tossing off her homework. she waited for it all to go wrong. Surprised. to her. Lynn slumped in her chair and beamed back. laughed again.winter sunshine gilded the outline of Tia's hair like a golden pot scourer. She'd done it again. oh surely.' ‘Corneal scarring?' As soon as she said it.Tia . she must like her. ‘It takes a long time.' Tia hesitated. Old habits died hard. Tia . laughing sixth former.' she said sympathetically. and added. paused. the one all the lads fancied. ‘Whatever made you think of that? No. Della had said they never did that. But Tia had. what was that word? Self-disclosed. Lynn was reminded of Sandra's silvery laugh. She sat there in a happy daze until 248 . Tia laughed out loud. I'm sure. I'm afraid.due to flagrant flouting of school rules concerning safety goggles in labs. 'that you know about only too well.' she added. All the rules were being broken today. 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. ‘My eyes aren't suitable. highlighted her delicate cheekbones and the dusting of freckles over her nose and reflected off her glasses. She had a sudden mental picture of Tia as a willowy.had. and with a social life that was the envy of every girl in her class. totally unexpectedly. Now she had pushed it past the limit with her noseyness and Tia would teach her a lesson with a few well chosen words and coolly withdraw. Lynn looked at Tia. But Tia's laugh had golden tones. not really.
but she could come up with nothing to say. ‘You've been really .' 249 . was bearable. her whole psyche tuned to Lynn's needs. 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. It was unbelievable.' responded Tia.' she added. Dammit. able to flex this way or that depending on whatever Lynn said.' said Lynn. being there with her. to what was going on right now. so supple. She looked hopefully at Tia. Tia did understand. The numbness returned. Damn! She hadn't meant to say that. ‘Oh Tia. oh. She nodded in recognition.so hard! ‘I feel kind of numb. she wanted to leave with some dignity! But. Tia seemed to Lynn like a gymnast or a ballet dancer.' she blurted out at last. She could sense Tia's tuned-in-ness to her change in state.darkness. . She hoped Tia would understand. and she was touched in the midst of her anguish. We've worked very hard together.' It was the only way she could think of to describe it. and you've come a long way. could hold it so lightly. or didn't say. the time ticked away. that wouldn't just sound like silly. after a while. And because Tia could bear it. Lynn's mind thrashed around in the numbness like someone trying to take off a sweater under three layers of overcoats. ‘I guess so. That made sense The silence continued. She looked at Tia. and then . Lynn could too. From time to time she glanced at the clock and then back at Tia. Whatever it had been like for Tia.' she said despondently. like my brain’s frozen. Lynn.' said Tia. ‘Thank you. Less than half an hour left of Tia's bright presence. so effortlessly balanced. But it was still hard . She looked at Tia. stricken. for her.' Lynn added. It was amazing her brain was working at all.a look at the clock revealed that time was passing far too swiftly. She knew Tia didn't need her apology. It was a depressing repeat of the previous session. Each time Tia looked reliably the same and her gaze held Lynn's peacefully as though even this was OK. . she was sorry. for her it had been really special. waiting patiently. ‘and we've had a real relationship. ‘Anger is a part of real relationships. present. ‘Mmm.' she said. ‘And I'm sorry for losing my rag last time. ‘Grieving will come later. thanks for being there for me. sycophantic mouthings.
And it was true. dragging a card and small black plush-covered box out of her pocket and passing them to Tia as nonchalantly as she could.' Oh.' said Tia emphatically. 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.by Henry van Dyke. Were therapists allowed to accept gifts? Would Tia want to accept it? Suppose she refused it? What would that feel like? Was she willing to take the risk? 250 . that was nice! The sun was definitely shining now. She wished she hadn't thought of it.' she said mendaciously. ‘I will certainly remember you. On the card Lynn had written 'Thank you Tia.' replied Lynn solemnly. Though she would hardly describe Tia as 'see-through'. Out of sight is not out of mind' and signed it. Hours fly. That was all. wow! ‘And I will certainly remember you. Oh. Lynn was in agony. ‘Oh. Tia?' Oh please don't let Tia do one of her ‘What do you think?' kind of responses! She couldn't bear it. The box contained a pendant – three cubes of crystal glass held withing a simple silver filigree on a silver chain. but now she had. flowers die. 'Lynn'. new ways Pass by Love stays. But Lynn could feel another question trembling on her lips. She took them and held them on her lap. with little verse from a poem inside that she'd always liked . ‘Will you . she couldn't leave it unsaid. New days. whoever he was.A real relationship.will you remember me. ‘For you. She had come a long way. Lynn. Strangely it had reminded her of Tia – lovely and minimalist.she was laughing a lot today! This was the moment. A question that frightened her. nodding her head for emphasis. I almost forgot. The card was a photograph of some meadow flowers. ‘Oh yes. For some reason this made Tia laugh again . looking at them.' 'For me?' Tia looked surprised.
don't open it now! Wait till I've gone. brimful of emotion. her touch lingering fractionally on Lynn's sleeve. please stop me Tia!' But Tia didn't. There was a moment of quiet that seemed to fill the whole room. She felt the adrenalin jolt unpleasantly through her body. Now she waited to see what would happen. ‘Time to go. slowly and thoughtfully she opened the box. though she could hardly get the words out.' As Lynn heard herself saying the words. She opened it and read the verse inside and the inscription inside and smiled again.' was all she could think of to say. ‘Oh. At the door. That was the most she had dared hope for. “Thank you Lynn. Tia. and.' Tia ignored her. Lynn turned back to Tia. Lynn was satisfied. She gazed at the pendant inside. After what seemed an age.' Lynn knew she meant it. To her amazement. Tia put the card and the box carefully on the desk behind her and turned back to Lynn. she reached out and lightly touched Tia's arm. Then. she caught herself pleading inside. and silently accompanied Lynn to the door. as though what Lynn had said was perfectly right and true. Otherwise she would spend her life wondering if she might have accepted it and regretting she hadn't dared try.' She began to open the card. Now here was Tia opening the card. She stood up.20. and she smiled. 'Thank you Lynn. stop me. Tia had not said that she would keep the pendant – or the card – but that was not the issue. Then Lynn looked at the clock. She had not refused. In her mind she had imagined Tia saying 'Thank you' and putting the card and the box to one side. She looked at the picture on the card. Finally she looked up at Lynn. Lynn wasn't prepared for that. It said 3. ‘Thanks again. looking serious. Tia reached out her other arm and lightly touched Lynn's in return. It was hers to do with as she chose. What she did with the pendant now was not important. What mattered was that Lynn had given it to her. 251 .' She had to in first! She suddenly found herself on her feet saying. Tia looked up. scarcely knowing what she was doing. What mattered was that Lynn had given them to her and she had accepted. She couldn't bear it. It's beautiful. simply couldn't bear it now if Tia said ‘Our time is up. ‘Oh. Even if Tia refused it at least she would know.Finally she decided 'Yes'.
Grieving. Even if they never met again. 252 . .. ‘Goodbye Lynn. ‘I don't hate you . Did like her. smiling back determinedly at Tia's chin.' But then – it would have been nice (she supposed) but did it really matter? Really? She remembered Tia's smile.' ‘Bye.' said Tia. Into Lynn's happy recollections lanced a shaft of agony. the joy was uppermost.' All the way home. and Tia touching her back saying. Tia.‘You are most welcome. . The pain seemed unreal .she almost laughed at the thought that she had seen Tia for the last time. She put it away from her. It simply could not be so. . ‘I could have hugged her goodbye. But it wouldn't stay away. she thought. But they were skewed now. the way she touched her arm. ‘Grieving will come later' Tia had said. .' said Lynn. only feelings. This time she did not hear it close until she was halfway down the corridor. She could see Tia was smiling. Lynn did not bother to work out how she knew this. as Tia was part of her. . it's beautiful . Thank you. Tia had said so. It was enough. Out of sight is not out of mind. but simply replayed parts of the conversation over and over in her head. her smile as she said 'Out of sight is not out of mind'.' Tia touched me. Pain and joy churned together like the clothes in a washing machine. in some tiny way. Tia was right. Lynn thought not. . We've had a real relationship. Tia's face danced in front of Lynn's mental vision. Then she squared her shoulders and walked out of the door. I won't forget you . She was home now. Out of sight is not out of mind. I wish you well. would she have minded if I'd hugged her goodbye? Remembering that touch. In vain she invoked memories.' she thought desolately. It was for later. Lynn's sore heart was comforted. . She adjusted her bag more firmly on her shoulder and walked up the stairs to the flat. Could not. Tia did like her. . but puzzlingly. she was part of Tia. ‘You're welcome. She remembered touching Tia's arm. The joy was engendered by the simple knowledge that Tia did like her. ‘I could have hugged her goodbye. * * * Lynn had no thoughts as she walked from the entrance of the psychotherapy unit across the windy courtyard to the main gate. . Tia was always right. Tia did like her.
‘Oh thank you. . and found their lips colliding. Lynn could see that the front door was uncharacteristically open. and something else . expensive leather suitcase. ‘I've left Deryk. She was weeping into Lynn's shoulder . won't you? Just for a little while.' before Della was hanging round her neck and burbling. This was what came of being 253 . As Della saw his look. and kissed her full on the mouth. sounding placating. This Della was haggard. in her efforts to turn her head slightly out of the way. Lynn could smell her perfume. and tried to kiss her again. Della was standing with her back to the door facing Mark. she could hear voices. You'll take me in. I've finally left him' in a kind of semi-hysteria. It was Della's. This had never occurred before. All she could think of was ‘So this is what it's like to be kissed by a woman.As she rounded the corner. a look of immense relief flooded her face. Lynn. with smudged make-up and dark. What the . stepped towards her. thank you!' said Della. Lynn reached the doorway. stepped past the case and into the hallway.' she said. Lynn saw Mark's face looking amazed. It was a large. I came to you. who looked past her towards Lynn as she approached. I couldn't take any more.aniseed? Automatically she put her arms around Della. When she saw Lynn. a woman's. haunted eyes. . ? Then Lynn recognised the voice. What could have happened? Burglars? Lynn felt the hairs on her neck prickle and she mounted the remaining steps more quickly. she swung round. and another voice. One of them was Mark's. Over Della's shoulder. embraced her. She looked different. and before Lynn could stop her. ‘Sure Dell. ‘I couldn't take any more. As she approached the door. sounding shrill.' Della was weeping in earnest now. I've left him. Lynn realised that Della was afraid.' she croaked. You're the only one I can think of. Gone was the immaculately coiffed. . Della's arms tightened around her. urbane and sparkling Della that Lynn knew. ‘Left Deryk?' Lynn echoed. ‘Lynn! Thank heavens. . She saw that the door was ajar because of something blocking it. and shaking. She couldn't make sense of what Della was saying.
All this time. ‘Won't be a minute. She reached out and touched his shoulder. She put out a hand to grab the side of the desk. I know. Della abandoned her efforts to embrace her and merely stood there weeping. warily. What to do? In the face of Della's ruination and despair she couldn't abandon her. and I never realised. and as though their lips were glued together. Della was kissing her again. she succeeded.' Lynn could feel her knees actually buckling in terror. out of the corner of her eye she saw Mark standing like a statue. The problem was that this prevented her doing the one thing she really wanted to do. and. Lynn tentatively relaxed her hold slightly. ‘Mark.Lynn did it. Something about the rigidity of his posture rang alarm bells in her mind.left-handed. no! Let me explain!' 254 . and meeting no response relaxed it altogether. say something to break the spell.' made a dash for the study and shut the door behind her. . took the case.what a bloody fool. She guided Della to the settee in the lounge. To her consternation. She had to speak to him. My god. God. and murmuring. Dell.' ‘I know. his face a mask of disbelief. She was clearly at the end of her tether. She could never tell which way to turn. The only humane thing to do seemed to be to continue to hold her gently and. can you take Della's bag into the study? We'll get the futon out. Moving as one in a dream. ‘What fool I’ve been . you and Della. Mark was standing with his back to her. shoved a box of tissues into her hand.' said Della. On the receiving end of Lynn's vice-like grip. His eyes glittered. took it into the study. She struggled to free herself from Della's kiss and pythonesque embrace and after what seemed an eternity. though she had to hold Della's arms down to do it. ‘Mark?' He turned his head to look at her. which was to hold Mark. but surely Della didn’t . the case by his side on the floor. . full and hard. ‘Mark. Mark reached behind her.' To Della she said gently. Lynn had to do something. what a bloody fool! You must have been laughing your heads off. It took all her courage to do it. ‘It will just be for a little while. with his face set in stone.
past the open living room door and Della's hunched back. made worse by the fact that she hadn't even seen it coming. She needs you. your phone switched off . You certainly had me fooled!' This was more terrible than anything Lynn could have imagined. then turned and fled.then that one you said you went to see in Tottenham .' ‘Please what? It's over. down the stairs and out into the darkened street. you had me fooled. But not fast enough to avoid hearing Mark's parting shot.your old school friend the church stuff . She backed away.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.‘Explain what! All that sneaking off. ‘Mark .' A sense of unreality came over Lynn. through the open doorway. 'At least Gina left me for another man!' 255 . Well.please . Go back to your lover.
‘You've come to see Lauren. clearly going though mental lists. automatically glancing round the room. It felt dry and firm. a small. with half-moon glasses. and came out. bright.Chapter 22 Lynn found the ward. Despite the fact that his eyes were full of pain and he appeared as though he hadn't slept for days. A nurse. Lynn had known only Lauren's first name. 256 . Come in then. but the description had been enough.' and held out his hand. Mechanically. she murmured. The bananas clawed their stubby yellow fingers with black nails over some bright orange satsumas and horribly pale-looking Golden Delicious. incongruously. ‘I'm Alec. It was very bare.' He stared at her uncomprehendingly for several moments. and then said. Lynn. He clearly had no idea who she was. ‘I'm Lynn. It just couldn't be. grieving soul with a pinny on. The glimpse of that still. A sob caught in her throat. that she could hardly see. It couldn't be Lauren there. warm. Inside there a small figure in a bed. a bowl of fruit. very brightly lit room that seemed full of people. a plastic hospital jug and beaker and. whisking by with a tray of dressings and kidney bowls had taken pity on her. that it seemed to Lynn there must be some mistake. Lynn caught a glimpse of a small. This must be Alec. She hesitated outside it. whom she had never met. As she opened the door to the side ward. She let go. checking again the name on the wall with the one the neighbour. intimidating. She's got family with her. full of life.' he said.' Lynn was not sure if she wanted to see Lauren like this. Hardly knowing what she was saying. He was tall and thin. but not too firm. She followed him in. but she could hardly refuse. saw Lynn. he looked at Lynn and gave a small gentle smile. elderly. had given her. ‘Mrs Grainger? In the side ward near the door.' By the open entrance to the ward. bright. On the locker there were three cards. doll-like image was so horribly unlike her last memory of Lauren.. Wait – I'll just see. sterile. The nurse spoke briefly to a man by the side of the bed and he looked up. she shook it. surrounded by tubing and wired up to a monitor which she supposed it must be Lauren. ‘Ah.
The situation seemed unreal. he picked up Lauren's hand. the hair damply matted flat against her scalp looking more like a cap than ever. the thought flashed through her mind before she could stop it.in the brain. It was pretty obvious Lauren wouldn't be eating any of it. he said consideringly. idiotically.that Lynn could not bear it.' his voice shook slightly ' if it's stopped bleeding yet. ‘She collapsed.' This completely took the wind out of Lynn's sails. Her eyes were inexorably drawn to the still figure making a barely discernible mound beneath the white sheet. Involuntarily. Instead. ‘It was good of you to come. They think it was an aneurism . Good of her to come? How could she not? As she registered his gentleness. We'll know more if – when – they can do a scan.' He smiled at her again. and she was breathing rhythmically with a very slight snore. even in the midst of his own agony. Three spotty tear-stained adolescents glowered at her from the other side of the bed.. aren't you? She spoke of you. ‘Will she be all right?' To her amazement. You're a friend of Lauren's. It depends if .' As he spoke. As though registering everything photographically. her cropped head on the pillow. she noted the delicate veining on Lauren's eyelids. Lynn did not know what she was expected to do. and held it cares singly. Lauren looked very peaceful and somehow very young. We'll see. the way her lips were just parted beneath it. ‘What a lovely man. Hardly aware of what she was doing. If Lauren dies. but her condition isn't stable enough to do a scan yet. the one without the drip in. as though she was asleep. Lynn turned back to look at Lauren. as though he could not bear to be not touching her. but Lynn hardly noticed them. She had an oxygen mask over her mouth and nose. We never give up hope. the pallor of her cheeks. She looked so vulnerable and child-like. All the lines seemed to have gone from her face. Thank you. he did not treat the remark with the contempt that it deserved. his concern for her.The vivid colours of the fruit seemed obscenely incongruous in the grubby sterility of the room. I 257 . She turned again to Alec and asked. she turned to face Alec. the red marks left by the mask on Lauren's skin. with a question in her eyes. ‘It depends.a blood clot . and there was the same kindness in his eyes that she had seen in Lauren's.
It was over. her voice a whisper. ‘I . But movement caught her eye and she looked beyond Alec to the unprepossessing youths. and as she walked away. I'm not taking them on too!' flashed up. as if she'd said something really valuable. if the situation had not been so awful.I'll pray for you all. ‘I love you. leant towards her. She was so close that she could have brushed her lips against Lauren's cheek. or would have. but he was already holding it.' Still not knowing what to do. hardly knowing what she was saying. ‘No thanks. glad of his touch. To her surprise.' She couldn't believe she'd thought it. We'd appreciate it. suffering children. as though by doing this she was again touching Lauren by proxy. She'd never said anything like that before. Lauren. who had so much more right to grieve than she did? It was all too horribly public. It was time to go. God is the bottom line in all this. still sending her hate messages and patently longing for her to go and the thought. ‘I'll see you again. It was generous of you at such a time. Oh God. and was surprised at the sound of her voice. he was already bending back over the bed.' she said. Lynn straightened up. help me! Nothing happened. Wonderingly. but the oxygen mask precluded that.. ‘Thank you for letting me see her. said. ‘Thank you. I am evil! Oh God. with an old-fashioned courtesy and she shook it. She would have loved to stay and gaze at Lauren. and turned to go. to show she cared. in the presence of those scowling . Lauren had given no sign at all that she had any awareness of Lynn's presence. It felt cool and damp and bird-like. to hold her hand.' but how could she. Lynn looked back at Lauren. she saw Alec's smile broaden.could divorce Mark and marry Alec. She put her hand on Lauren's shoulder and squeezed it ever so ever so gently. as Alec was doing.' again to no one in particular. She turned to him. The idea was so ludicrous that she had to smile.' she said. ‘Bye. ‘I'll pray for you too. * * * 258 .' she found herself saying.' She groped for something to say to show her appreciation. She was intruding.' What she really wanted to say was. He nodded to her without speaking. Alec held out his hand again. ‘Thank you.
rigid with shock. ‘Oh God. And all the time I was all the things I hate – it was me trying to control the sessions with Tia. gentle. In her life. screwed up everything . but she felt a sense of affirmation in the air around her. had spoken to her? As she sat there she became aware that if it was God. . but never to one that had done that. screwed up my life. . . such a nice person. unable to stop herself. God . Her heart felt as damp and dull and lifeless as the air around her. ‘Is that you. Lynn shakily began to process what had happened. come from? Hardly knowing what she was doing. oh God. he had said exactly the right 259 . This voice was quiet.But I am not you? And where did this incredible sense of safety and well-being. God?' No answer came into her mind. so manipulative! .thinking my need to be needed was a desire to help people. Lynn spoke aloud. . She found herself still speaking the last sentence in her head. sodden miserable leaves. that was screaming in despair inside her. While Mark . Lynn had listened to many voices in her head. so caring. It was a voice you didn't mess with. The dull lowering sky mirrored the dull black earth covered with dull brown.what a mess! What a mess! God. After a couple of seconds of absolute silence. but crystal clear. you must despise me! All the time I thought I was so clever. Now I've screwed up my marriage. But what did it mean . forced him to fit his life round mine – and so secretive. unlike anything she had ever experienced in her life before. I am in agony! Oh what a fool I've been! God if you are there. screaming to Lauren's God. something inexplicable happened. . her mind wiped empty of all thought. it had overlaid the thoughts she was thinking so completely that it finished before she did. not her! I messed Mark up. When she had heard it say But I am not you.’ Lynn sat. God . and very much in control.! 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 in the park by the hospital. except for something deep down that would not be silenced. . ‘But I am not you. That voice had interrupted her. you must hate me! I know I would if I were you!' Even as she was thinking this. quiet. A voice came into her head like a shaft of light.
She had tried everything to take her mind of the pain. My tiny little one. simply experiencing it.' ‘Pethidine?' Lynn had said. and you. ‘I don't really know if I can take much more. God had spoken to her .. She had murmured to Mark. There was no need to question it. I am Me. into Lynn's mind flashed a scene from her miscarriage. subsumed in the totality of this now experience. the way Lauren would have said it . It felt wonderful. so will you kindly stop trying to behave as if you are?' Lynn sat marvelling at the wonder of it.. other. Lynn didn't know how long she sat there. She just felt stronger. are not Me. I can cope with the pain now. or actually any less painful. meshing with hers. of the endings with Tia and Lauren. Perhaps it wasn't long. Lynn had said to Mark. 'I can't be pigeon-holed.thing. But it wasn't that they were any less important. he was different. of Della. (could she be imagining this?) there was amusement in it too. ‘Did you think I was like you?' the voice was saying. knew her.' The nurse had heard her and said. They hurt just as much. the way Lauren had. How could this be? Suddenly. He was God. (who had said that?).this God whom she didn't know. He was laughing at her. ‘I wish I hadn't made a fuss. ‘Isn't that the truth drug?' The nurse had laughed. who had been holding her hand. It was real. and injected her thigh. Nothing – no saying of her mother's – had worked.only much better.' But the odd thing was that the pain had still felt as bad.' But so softly. she could feel it inside. 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. Of course he wasn't her. Somehow these things seemed different. This was a bit much even by her standards. On the other hand. It was only later that it had dawned on Lynn that it was actually the drug that had effected 260 . perhaps it was. She pondered this new mystery. contained in the tiny box of your expectations. and was holding her right now. Eventually she stirred and began to think of Mark. Within a few minutes. ‘I'll give you a shot of Pethidine. It was the impact of another personality meeting. The message implicit was ‘I am not you. And. it was true. when the contractions were coming on top of each other and hurting like hell.
but it was unmistakable. Lynn felt a a bolt of agony lance through her. She thought. It was solidly there. reluctant as she was to think about it. The leaves around her feet that had seemed so dingy before were still dingy. she felt like laughing herself. Maybe Lauren had caught it from him. And that was how it felt now. It was not as she had last seen her. maybe she had. that she felt so approved of. she sensed laughter in the air around her. Aloud she said. ‘The next time. in the hospital bed. but what if the Pethidine runs out?' Just for a moment. doubtfully. ‘God laughs?' and then she remembered that Lauren had laughed a lot. like a child. but Lauren standing by her front door. * * * Lynn stood up. Lynn shivered again. Lauren. though she couldn't think why. It lasted fractionally. and unbidden. had already gone. All the things Lauren was going to tell her. but she could cope. Lauren simply had not been there. laughter that combined amusement and authority and tenderness. laughing and saying ‘Here's to the next time we meet. not any more. The Pethidine was working. Suddenly. And how could it be. I'll be waiting. but waiting to welcome her in. She was no longer knowable because she no longer existed. She had not met Lauren in the hospital. all the things they might have shared. She knew in her heart that she would never see her again. how could it.’ It had seemed a strange remark at the time.that change. and. the image of Lauren at her front door changed to one of Lauren at another door. but now. ‘Yeah. Yes. not saying goodbye. The 261 . At the memory of Lauren and how she had left her in the hospital. The pain was just as bad. And just as the worst wave of anguish yet rolled in to engulf Lynn she suddenly had a picture of Lauren in her head. so valued? But she did. the pure joy of simply being with her. whom she loved so much. she'd better try to work out what to do when she got there. Despite herself. all that Lauren meant. She'd better get herself home before anyone noticed how oddly she was behaving.’ Lynn whispered. so alive. all gone! Because Lauren and all that Lauren was. and reached out in panic to this new awareness within her.
’ Was it Tia's voice? Was it too much? Oh. But inside her the sun was shining through.she was hooked now. Maybe she should go to her doctor. ‘Lynn. . wellmodulated voice. . And she would tell him everything. and soon. And she would definitely look around for a course in counselling . she heard a voice in her head . How she was going to do it all she didn't know. So .a measured. still smiling. Don't take on too much. but do it she would! As Lynn hesitated. . . find out how to get referred as Tia had suggested. saying. immediately. I wonder if it's worth thinking about prioritising?' It was Tia's voice. .what was Tia saying? ‘Steady on. frowning. She heard Debbie's voice.and she knew she needed to get going on it right away! There was no time to lose. As she walked home through the park she began to make plans.Mark to listen just one more time. Everything! And she would phone up Relate. sod Tia! She’d soon find out! Lynn picked up the phone. your client has arrived. and find someone to talk to about God . Actually. Shall I send her up?' 262 . 'Lynn. Lynn's head was buzzing . She would ask – beg . somehow . . there are some big issues to think about here. Don't bite off more than you can chew. the air was still damp. but whom? Oh well. Della would have to go . she’d find someone.sky was still lowering.
may appear. 263 . Lauren. Della's Story is a work in progress.Author's note Conversations with Tia was originally conceived as part of a trilogy. and at some point the third volume in the series.