Conversations with Tia

A novel by Louise Vanstone

The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates

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For Sue, of course. Who else?

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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.

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Prologue

The phone rang and Lynn reached for it. As she did so, she found herself smiling – remembering that other phonecall so long ago . . . when it all began

Chapter 1

You could tell straightaway that this was a place where nothing ever happened. People just waited here for their lives back. And since there was only one chair, presumably they waited on their own. It was on this chair that Lynn now sat. It was a plain wooden chair with a padded back and seat. The woman (receptionist? secretary?) had shown her through and then said, smiling, 'Please take a seat. I'll tell Dr Bradley you are here.' Even as Lynn said thank you, she found herself speaking to an empty space in which the smile still somehow lingered, like the Cheshire Cat's. She blinked and looked around. The secretary had relocated, sans smile, to an office, from whence Lynn could see her through the open door saying into the phone, ‘Dr Bradley? Mrs Davies is here.' For something to do, Lynn examined her surroundings. Everything seemed to confirm her earlier suspicion that she had fallen into a grey hole in a forgotten corner of the universe. The whole place, a sort of widened space at the end of a corridor, like an afterthought on the part of the planners, had managed to turn 'featureless' into an art form. It was clean enough, but there was nothing there - unless you counted a large 'No smoking' sign on the wall. Lynn mentally ticked the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

building up to it as she had known he would. Anything there? No dark green or yellow or red of shiny rounded life. What would she tell him? What could she cook for dinner? For the first time in a while. Later that evening.why did this conversation grate on her so much? She struggled not to get more irritated by his look of concern. looking at her sadly with their papery old ladies’ faces. she was so sick of it doing that! It had been doing it for months now – it never used to! But at least she'd been honest. She focused on the fragments of conversation she could remember: 'As you see . Is that important? . was very bad. it was so good to see you cooking again. left the flat to go to the Italian deli on the corner. I know. when it came.' Pause. and then. as she was clearing the plates away.it was great. She had still so much schoolwork to prepare. just a few withered old mushrooms. What did you put in that sauce .' He was so kind. 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. 'Lynn. 21 . . And why had her brain just cut out for no reason so often? Oh god. herself. . Mark arrived home to the aroma of pesto and pasta. It's all right to talk . really came. surely? Lynn glanced at her watch and was horrified. Mark. she'd made Tia smile . Lynn turned hastily away. But your mum had her baby. and with more energy than she knew she possessed. with only a few days left until term started. She looked at the vegetable rack. 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. Lynn felt the stirrings of appetite. that was a wonderful meal.out? As she drifted round the flat. Tia smiling. Tia looking. so caring . What kind of image had she presented to Tia? Not immediately attractive. sort of. don't you?' 'Yes. I love your cooking. Mark asked Lynn the question she had been dreading. anyway. 'You know I love you. but it was early days.well. .' Tia saying. that was for sure. she'd shown interest.' Pause. The darkness. and Mark would be back by six-thirty wanting to know how the appointment had gone. 'And Lynn. . . That wasn't too bad for a beginning. she'd asked questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.' She hoped Mark was reading the instructions correctly. Still almost two weeks to go! She could not decide whether she could hardly bear the thought or whether she didn’t give a tinker’s cuss whether she ever saw her again. did it really matter? She spent the evening in a fog of depression. 'What's that?' 'Oh .' Mark had heard only the first two sentences. Mark said nothing. but if not. and went to bed as early as possible.'Lasagne and mange-tout. It was getting very tiring. 40 . Lynn thought of Tia for almost the first time that day. I'd forgotten we were going to eat it tonight. He called from the kitchen as she heard the microwave door click shut. nothing. In bed. I didn't mean to put it in the freezer actually. . Fridge and freezer. She took another sleeping tablet and fell asleep still wondering. She was so bloody touchy these days.

Chapter 4

This time the tablets worked. Lynn slept deeply and awoke the next morning filled with a new resolve. This would not do! She was not surviving and she must survive! She was not being fair to Mark, not being fair to her friends, not being fair to the kids she taught, not being fair to herself. What could she do? Then it hit her. It was simple - so simple - all she had to do was just act 'as if'. As if she was coping. As if the miscarriage had not happened. As if everything was normal. And soon it would be! Why had she not thought of it before? It was so obvious! After the miscarriage, things had been . . . well, black . . . but she had been crawling out of it. Stiff upper lip! Least said, soonest mended. And what had happened? She'd seen Tia, that's what! But then what? She'd seen Tia and come home feeling great and then . . . well, just gone back to where she was before really. Except that now she had Tia to stress about as well. What had gone on in that counselling session? Lynn paused in genuine bewilderment. Tia had said . . . well,

nothing, really. Tia had . . . listened. Tia had made her . . . remember things. Well, of course, she had to do that, but she'd remembered wrong. Not in a 'It was a shame but I can cope,' strengthening kind of way but in a sad, hopeless kind of way. That was no good. In fact, it was very depressing. Tia had made her feel depressed! Had put the idea into her head! She'd been all right until then . . . well, more all right than she was now. Well then! She was officially declaring herself undepressed! The old Lynn was back! Mark sighed and mumbled as the bedclothes were flung back with the force of Lynn's exit. He came round to the sound of the shower running in the bathroom and Lynn singing. Her voice was true and melodious, and he listened in pleasure until it dawned on him that it was something he had not heard for quite a while. He put his hands behind his head and lay there smiling. All through breakfast, Mark kept casting covert glances at this new, cheerful Lynn. She

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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

42

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

43

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

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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

45

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

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

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

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

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

This time Lynn was more alert. 'Mrs Davies is here'. Once again the attentive receptionist had asked her to take a seat.' Then she waited until Lynn had almost reached her and turned and led the way to her office. Tia seated herself opposite her and said. Lynn was sitting on the same chair in the drab corridor. When Tia saw her looking. Once again she was waiting for Tia. Once again she ushered her through. had telephoned through to somewhere. Chapter 5 Once again. sat in the same seat she had sat in two weeks ago. 'Lynn. unbidden. At two thirty precisely she heard the soft click of the door at the end of the corridor and turned to see Tia approaching. and Lynn.Look at the state of you! You’re disgusting!’ Polly's only consolation was that these new bad feelings were so overwhelming that they caused the old ones about the scene in the Cafe Noir to recede mercifully into the background at least for the time being. and said. she stopped. 'This is the first of the three sessions we agreed 51 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

that. she'd have to have a mind as simple as Polly's. and seeing how many times she could spot the colours of the rainbow. on the clothes of the people in the seats around her. in sequence.a lot! That's all I need at a time like this! Anyway. to have a peace as simple as Polly's. and that she certainly did not want! This thought afforded her some grim amusement. She didn't even manage it once. 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 . 89 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"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. therapist's gaze.perhaps I'm wrong . She sat back.' ‘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. I didn't mean to say that. I know you don't work that way. isn't it.no . ‘Shouldn't you be talking to her about you and your problems and not worrying about what she thinks. That was saying ‘Let us try. I meant that you opened my eyes .' Lynn felt as though the ground had been knocked from under her feet. ‘When you said that. She had got it right. She felt tears prick her eyes. Tia looked back with her wide-eyed neutral. it's more useful when people can express how they feel about things without worrying what other people might think. ‘Sorry?' ‘I said. Thank you. The sense of desolation won. ‘Let's try'. 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.' ‘Us’ meant 114 . Lynn' heart ached. Tia. Now I can let go. She felt herself tense with panic. I felt lonely. but I don't know why.that my approval might be important to you. Tia had said. Tia said. satisfied.' Indignation and a sense of desolation struggled together for supremacy inside Lynn.' Lynn saw to her relief that Tia was smiling again. She said defensively. well.' Lynn felt rescued.that I was able to think clearly in your presence and I saw that the baby was real.' ‘Let's try to stay with that sense of loneliness for a little while. surely it's normal for people to care about what other people think of them?' ‘Yes it is. but in situations like this.people see things. I have the feeling . Lynn. ‘Yes. She looked at Tia.you . ‘It's important to you that you get it right when you talk to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘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

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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

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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.'

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Chapter 12

For a moment Lynn sat looking at Della. Avril. Somehow she hadn't expected Della to say that. Della . . . bubbly, flirtatious Della who oozed appreciation of the opposite sex – anyone of the opposite sex - gay? It took a bit of getting your head round. Had she heard right? 'Yes, Avril,' said Della, as if reading her thoughts. Right. Well, okay. Fine. It wasn't as if she, Lynn, didn't have gay friends. There was Marco and Polo - aka Mark and Paul- and Gail and Barbara, and Marianne, and Dominic her hairdresser and the two at school who kept themselves to themselves but clearly had a particular friendship, and well, loads. But . . . Della? Della was clearly expecting a response. Hardly knowing what to say, Lynn murmured, ‘So you met at university . . .?' ‘Yes,' said Della. ‘She lectured on the Romantic Poets. She was warm and witty and humane. When I was in her lectures, it seemed as though she spoke to me alone. I had never felt this way before. I adored her. Oh, how I counted the hours to the next tutorial! She noticed me, she liked me. What can I say? Things . . . developed.' Della lapsed into silence. After a pause, Lynn ventured, ‘So what happened?' ‘She dropped me,' said Della bleakly. ‘For a younger, prettier girl. A week into my second year she called me into her office - her office - and told me it was all over. Very nicely. But then the whisper went round about her and Elaine. Elaine was a first year, red-haired, PreRaphaelite looks - absolute stunner. The worst of it was that the first and second year students had joint lectures for some subjects and I had to . . . I . . .' She left the sentence unfinished. Lynn held on, watching Della's face, but Della was not looking at her. Della sighed. ‘It was my fault,' she said. ‘I should have read between the lines. Avril was such an amazing person. Everything about her was beautiful - the way she looked, the way she spoke, the way she dressed - her rooms were full of beautiful things. She opened my eyes to so

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?'

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‘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"

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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

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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

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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?'

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

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

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

Doesn't happen often. See you then.though some people try .' ‘Yes. 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 can't miss it . Sometimes she was such a silly cow. You were with Polly.' Ulp! Now? This morning? So easily? Didn't she have to be vetted or something? Surely vicars weren't really so accessible? And how come he didn't sound surprised? That was spooky.after all he'd 156 . this must be off the top end of the scale of total madness. In an hour then. ‘Lynn Davies? I remember you. weren't you? Sure. What have I got to lose? She marched up the narrow pathway between funereal overgrown trees and bushes and resolutely rang the bell. She waited. Right. ‘Come in. But really. she was completely losing it .' ‘OK. Again she thought. but something horrible now was happening inside her head. She wasn't just being open. Can I come and talk to you about it?' Oh.I came to a service at your church last Sunday and I'm beginning to think about God. In about an hour's time?' ‘Fine. come in!' Why Lynn was surprised that David opened the door she couldn't imagine . what had she got to lose? Now Lynn was outside the vicarage.' The phone went dead. You know where to come?' ‘I think so. 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. Lynn stared at it as though it might come to life and tell her what was going on. yes. bloody hell! If phoning was stupid to start with. Fine.' ‘It's the ugly Victorian pile right next to the church. ‘Er.

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

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

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

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

make no mistake about it. in art. secretly entertained. sorry. She didn't want to be sidetracked. well. looking at her carefully to monitor whether or not he was boring her. Clearly he was warming to his theme and did not want to be distracted with the mundanities of eating and drinking. in music . That wasn't what she wanted to hear. All these truths mesh in at a deep level. in life itself. in literature. She took a mouthful of coffee. You're a scientist?' ‘Biology. Truth cannot contradict truth . But if your hands are already full of truth. swallowed. inserted it whole into his mouth. ‘Men!' she thought.reality . The point is this .' said Lynn briefly. in science. And their truth is real. Some people have a lot of it. wherever you look. You were saying?' David took a biscuit. All very well on Sundays .but that's true in other fields as well. and also. All sorts. profoundly real.but it wasn't Sunday. This sounded little bit glib. flushed. ‘There's spiritual truth too. what then do you do when new truth comes along? How do you make room in your life for the truth you don't yet know?' 161 . He felt the implied rebuke and. or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.' ‘You mean you don't know what's really happening .the very heart . Surely the message he was giving her was that when you looked at the heart of things .like Schrodinger’s cat?' ‘Yes. . ‘Go on. This homely diversion brought Lynn the relief she needed.but you can't use the same yardstick for measuring them all.' said Lynn pointedly. He put down his mug and sat purposefully upright. any more than you can define a Rembrandt in terms of the amount of different coloured paints and type of canvas he used to explain The Night Watch. and she had asked. chewed. and washed it down with a great draught of coffee that surely must have been much too hot. like a chunk from another sermon. She half expected him to wipe the back of his mouth with his hand.there was nothing really there. ‘Yes.' ‘I believe I've heard that argument before. surprisingly. ‘Truth is more common than we think. . she felt a sudden chill within. But what choice had she? She was here now. There's a lot of it about.' he paused and said simply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

' ‘What do you mean. Chris . puffing at his pipe greedily. How to convey what Sandra had expressed without betraying confidence? After all. I told her.' ‘Ah. why?' ‘It's not a question of sides. took out his pipe. she could not resist the pleading in his eyes. ‘Maybe it's a man-woman thing. . probably just as well) her anger against him was evaporating. to share anything. . When Lynn had told him everything she felt she safely could. she'd never thought to ask . ‘Can we go somewhere and talk?' Again. His anguish overlaid Sandra's anguish. trying to get it to draw. Did you tell her that?' ‘Yes.no guarantee that she would in the foreseeable future. ‘I do love her you know. stuffed it untidily. ‘So.you know. you're on her side? Why. Sandra had not given her permission .' said Lynn. ‘And what did she say?' ‘She told me she loved you too. . dropping bits on the floor. How did she look?' He listened to the description. I can't tell you that.' Lynn was thinking hard. She asked me not to tell you.' Lynn was pretty sure that Sandra had said that. which was a lot less than what had actually transpired. She feels very strongly about you. for god's sake. gender differences. Chris. space? I gave her all the bloody space she wanted!' ‘Space to think. you saw her. About her relationship with you. 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. lit it at the second go and said. Desperation gave her fluency. Lynn was sorry now she'd kept him waiting. ‘And where exactly is this place she’s staying at?’ ‘I'm sorry Chris. but was that important? Now that she was actually face to face with Chris (she still couldn't get her head round ’Cormac'. . Chris stayed lounging against the wall. He led her to the smokers' room. She couldn't remember if she'd said it in so many words. She nodded resignedly. She's given 208 . he took the pipe out and said simply. She needs space. He paused consideringly and then said with studied nonchalance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

228 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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

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

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

and I was pleased to see her too. Anyway. She folded the letter and put it in an envelope. you'll appreciate I feel a bit weird remembering all this. but that couldn't be helped. She signed the letter simply. She would go out for a walk and post it later. though Lynn wasn't sure why she thought this. That little girl. The letter appeared to have been written a bit childishly too. And I was always a bit scared after that because I knew I was very powerful and I could scare people and nearly kill them without even trying. Right now she needed to lie down. Only a few more days and then . Lynn chewed her lip. and I think I would like to see you sooner rather than later. That way she would be able to cope. but she was very loving and so pleased to see me. She seemed a very stupid little girl. 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. Tia. 243 . ‘Lynn'. and a sort of monster person ihad come n her place. But it was funny because I couldn't forget that somehow I had made her go away. Lynn couldn't help feeling glad.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. debated on scrawling ‘Thanks for everything' or ‘I really appreciate all you've done' and decided to save it for a farewell card. That’s how it seemed to me then. whoever she was. 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. Anyway. Lynn sighed as she read this. had gone. anyway. She couldn't believe it. So I might do something by accident to make my mum go away again and then she might never come back.recognise her at first.no more. She couldn't help feeling sorry for the little girl in the story. it was all over now. I'll see you next week as you said I could. though actually she wasn't sure if she liked her either. She reread the final paragraph. so unless you hear anything from me to the contrary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

she was part of Tia. . Lynn did not bother to work out how she knew this. 252 . 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 had said so. Into Lynn's happy recollections lanced a shaft of agony. She put it away from her. it's beautiful . Even if they never met again. In vain she invoked memories. would she have minded if I'd hugged her goodbye? Remembering that touch. I won't forget you . Could not. ‘You're welcome. . ‘I don't hate you . the way she touched her arm.' Tia touched me. Lynn thought not. .' ‘Bye. . But they were skewed now. It simply could not be so. ‘I could have hugged her goodbye. smiling back determinedly at Tia's chin. She was home now. Pain and joy churned together like the clothes in a washing machine. The joy was engendered by the simple knowledge that Tia did like her. This time she did not hear it close until she was halfway down the corridor. Tia was always right. Tia. her smile as she said 'Out of sight is not out of mind'.' said Tia. But it wouldn't stay away.‘You are most welcome. I wish you well. ‘Grieving will come later' Tia had said. in some tiny way. but simply replayed parts of the conversation over and over in her head. It was enough.' All the way home. Tia did like her. The pain seemed unreal . ‘Goodbye Lynn. Out of sight is not out of mind. Out of sight is not out of mind. Tia was right.' said Lynn. the joy was uppermost. We've had a real relationship. She adjusted her bag more firmly on her shoulder and walked up the stairs to the flat. . Did like her. Tia's face danced in front of Lynn's mental vision. she thought. .she almost laughed at the thought that she had seen Tia for the last time. Then she squared her shoulders and walked out of the door.. as Tia was part of her. Grieving. Thank you. Lynn's sore heart was comforted. only feelings.' But then – it would have been nice (she supposed) but did it really matter? Really? She remembered Tia's smile.' she thought desolately. and Tia touching her back saying. She could see Tia was smiling. . but puzzlingly. . She remembered touching Tia's arm. . It was for later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

263 . may appear. 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.