Conversations with Tia

A novel by Louise Vanstone

The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates


For Sue, of course. Who else?


This is a work of fiction. All the names, characters, places and events portrayed are products of the author's imagination, or if real are used fictitiously. The author asserts her moral right to be regarded as the creator of this novel, and no part of it is to be reproduced by any means for private or public use without due acknowledgment of its provenance.



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

Chapter 1

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 4

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

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


seemed determinedly upbeat, but not relentlessly so, as far as Mark could tell. 'Just thinking more positively, that's all,' he told himself, loyalty preventing him from adding, 'And about time.' It was amazing how positiveness rubbed off. He could feel himself stretching inside, as though he'd just been let out after spending the night locked in the wardrobe. He looked at Lynn's profile, the wetness from the shower unable to subdue the wave in her hair, her lovely skin, her smiling mouth, and he longed for her. She felt his gaze and turned towards him. ‘I'm so looking forward to seeing Polly. I’m pretty certain she’s back today.’ Oh. The smile was not for him then. No matter. A smile was still a smile. It was a start. He swallowed his disappointment and leaned forward to kiss her. 'I'm off now.' The kiss glanced off the corner of her mouth as she turned to check the calendar. He hesitated fractionally, then as he rose to leave, she smiled properly, just for him, and said, 'Have a good day, Mark. Let's try and do something special tomorrow.' His joy was whole again. He left, whistling. Behind him, Lynn found she was gripping the table so fiercely that her knuckles showed white. On the tube to work, Lynn found she could maintain her new-found optimism quite easily as long as she didn't relax. Any negative thought was immediately countered by a mental image of herself before the miscarriage and the positive assertion, 'I am like that now!' and consigning the period in between to a black hole - a toilet actually - and flushing it away. Lynn was a very visually oriented person. She debated the idea of not seeing Tia again. It really had done more harm than good, now she came to think about it, but this thought itself seemed negative and stress-inducing, until she counteracted it with the idea that she actually ought to see Tia again, to tell her how harmful the last session had been. Tia really should be made aware of how dangerous those suggestions of hers had been. Then she stopped thinking about Tia, because that was the best thing to do, and thought again about seeing Polly . . . Polly's cuddly form, Polly's cheery countenance, Polly's air of comfortableness. As soon as she got to school, Lynn headed for the prep room. Lynn saw Polly before Polly saw her, her white-coated back bending over a trolley


loaded with test-tube racks full of test-tubes. Polly heard her and turned round to greet her. She looked a trifle weary. Her lab coat swung open, revealing her neat dark skirt and jumper. None of Polly's lab coats had enough buttons. As they fell off, she carefully saved them in pockets and petri dishes and beakers in odd places, so that she could sew them on later. Once Lynn had needed a couple of dozen buttons in a hurry for a floating and sinking experiment and had dashed into the prep room, laying her hands on enough of them in a matter of seconds. 'Hi Polly - good to see you!' said Lynn. 'Nothing's been getting done around here!' She meant, 'I've missed you,' and Polly knew that. She laughed. 'Good job I'm back then! Good to see you too, Lynn. How are you?' She made as if to hug her and then realised that she had a large conical flask in her hand filled with liquid and hesitated, confused and looking for a space to put it down.. Lynn took advantage of her confusion to counter the question with another. 'So - how was the holiday?' Polly didn't notice the change of topic. 'Terrific, lovely weather. And the hotel was near the beach. We were blessed. And I was able to hire a wheelchair and that made such a difference to mum.' Polly's face glowed. Clearly the wheelchair had been the icing on the cake. 'You look a bit tired though.' 'Trust you to notice! It was the usual flight back in the middle of' the night – and it was delayed. We got home at four-twenty this morning, so I feel a bit spaced out to be honest' 'You should have phoned in sick – come in this afternoon. We would have managed.' Polly stared at Lynn as though she had suggested something immoral. 'You know I could never do that!' As she spoke, Polly continued to pour liquid from the flask into one test-tube from each rack. Her squarish hands, perpetually roughened and stained with chemicals even though she got through stacks of disposable gloves, worked deftly, somehow independently of the rest of her. A rhythmic 5 mls of lime water glided into each test-tube, almost as accurately as if it had been pipetted. 'How are you then?' she said. There was no evading it this time. Polly didn't know about the miscarriage. How could


she? She'd been visiting her brother, then in Spain with her mother in the holidays. She was not party to staff briefing notes. Lynn probably could have contacted her in the brief interim between Polly's jaunts, but contacting anyone hadn't been high on Lynn's list of priorities then. 'Oh Polly, I lost . . . it.' Polly stopped what she was doing. Lynn watched as shock, disbelief and pain jostled for supremacy on her face. Pain won, melting quickly into sadness. She opened her mouth to speak, thought better of it, glanced desperately around, dumped the flask in the sink and came quickly over to put her arms around Lynn. Lynn returned the hug and found that there were tears in her eyes. No matter how hard she tried, they came unbidden and unwanted at the most awkward moments these days. Polly continued to hug her, and at length released her and stepped back, her eyes silently searching Lynn's face. The embrace was what Lynn had been waiting for, yet it was somehow unsatisfactory. When she had felt Polly's arms round her, she had imagined laying her head on Polly's shoulder and letting the tears flow freely but something imperceptible - whether from her or Polly, she could not tell - had held her back. Lynn rubbed her eyelids with the back of her hand as Polly spoke, her voice unsteady. 'Oh Lynn, I am so sorry.' Lynn knew she was. Why was it not enough? She gave a watery smile. 'That's all right, Pol. It's been over a month now.' 'It must have been terrible,' said Polly. Lynn saw tears of sympathy in her eyes and

opened her mouth to reply. At the very same moment Bill the chemistry teacher breezed through the room and paused in the doorway through into the other lab, calling over his shoulder, 'Pol, major favour! The distillation of ethanol demo - you know the one I mean. Lab three - first period this afternoon. I meant to fill in a slip but I forgot.' ‘I’ll try,' said Polly, 'but we’ve only got one set of Quickfit here and it’s booked. I'll have to see if someone can . . . ‘ She spoke to his retreating back. 'Thanks Pol! I owe you one!' came floating through


the empty doorway. Polly sighed resignedly. This sort of thing was always happening. The moment was lost. There was a silence, then Polly said, ‘I’m glad you always fill your lab slips in.' 'Thanks,' said Lynn wryly. A buzzer sounded. Lynn saw Polly glance involuntarily towards the racks of test-tubes, then back to her. She so patently did not know what to do that Lynn took pity on her and said, 'What are you doing for lunch?' Now was not the time to talk. Now was never the time to talk. Polly looked blank. ‘Let’s go to the Black Caff then.’ Relief surged over Polly's face. 'Good idea, why not!' ‘I’m paying’ she added hastily. 'My last holiday fling . . .' she paused, unable what to think of to say next. 'Before the humdrum hurly-burly of school life drags you down again,' Lynn finished for her. 'Something like that,' agreed Polly. Lynn gave her a somewhat shaky wink and left, as Polly picked up the phone to Brenda, the lab technician at the upper school. At lunch time, they met, as they always did, in the staff car park by Polly's car. She drove in each day from a nearby council estate. Though she was permanently resident at the lower school, it was handy to have a car to facilitate escape at lunch times. The Cafe Noir was ten minutes away by car, and consequently conveniently inaccessible, on the whole, to sixth form pupils, who preferred the new Starbucks anyway, or McDonalds, both within walking distance. Polly parked by the new shopping precinct and they strode purposefully towards the large plate glass windows, slightly misted over with condensation. Inside, they could see squashy black sofas, chrome and glass and potted palms. It was an odd mix but they liked it. As they pushed open the door, the warm smell of croissant, coffee and chocolate drew them seductively in, and they found themselves sitting, coats on the backs of the seats, perusing the menus before they knew how they'd got there. The emphasis in the Cafe Noir was on comfort and it was very satisfying to sink back into the soft leather upholstery. Lynn and Polly studied the menu carefully. It was as familiar as


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

) Over large cappuccinos this time they mutually considered their next topic of conversation. She longed for silence.' What could she tell Della about Mark? Oh yes. although it was only that morning.' That. so clinical. Della looked gratified and pleased to see Lynn looking more like her old self. I wish he'd gone elsewhere. It seemed an age since she had seen him.was there nothing she could do? She had to think! But she was sick of thinking! What she would like to do most of all would be to hole up somewhere and just cry. ‘How's Mark doing?' Mark? Oh. for a long time. 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 . at least. Tia had had enough of her. She had to say something. Mark! How was he doing? Lynn had to think. cautiously. She's an absolute bitch. She was sick of talking about Tia now. was true. Lynn felt torn between anger and pity. she'd fought for two more sessions that Tia didn't want her to have. What was the point? As she struggled to think of something to say. ‘Mark? He's OK. Audrey. Della happily. What a bizarre way of thinking Della had! So cold. yes. You've given me something to think about. Lynn desperately. Della said suddenly. ‘Yeah. She hadn't taken Tia's advice about that psychotherapy place. Della was looking pleased with herself and clearly waiting for a response. ‘Since he got promoted to Financial Director one of the other accountants has turned very snotty. Della.except about what coffee to drink. But what had made her become like it? Deryk? She would never see Della in the same light again after this. She forced a smile. How is Audrey a bitch?' 127 . Lynn looked at Della. but she did want to know her! She wanted to know her so badly. Oh. Surely it couldn't all be wrong . The moment dragged on. thanks. ‘Hey.It was all over. She consulted her watch. Very busy at work though.' ‘Hmm. She said. I wish it hadn't been an internal promotion. we've still got a little while.

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

‘We were, we were. We couldn't bear to be out of sight of each other, wanted to know all about everything the other did, said, thought. Couldn't leave each other alone in bed. Was that love? Now - oh god, we feel like strangers. What is love, Della?' (Oh, you stupid cow, why ever did you say that! Della will have a field day with that one!) To Lynn’s utter relief and surprise, Della actually stopped to think about it. ‘ "What is love?" Now you're asking. How should I know? Me of all people?' She sipped her coffee reflectively. Was Della buying time to mentally review her list of amusing quotations and anecdotes to dazzle and enlighten or was she was actually taking the question - that commonplace and yet unanswerable question - seriously? Lynn waited hopefully to find out. It was that ‘Me of all people?' that gave it away. It was most un-Della-ish. Della remained silent for some moments, concentration etched on her brow. Did she know that? Della never frowned as a rule. Although she openly sung the praises of Botox she was too canny to court trouble if she could avoid it. Lynn too had time to think. Like Della, she cupped her hands around her cappuccino and inhaled the fragrant steam. She felt the cushioned comfort of the chair she sat in and became aware of the warmth and colour and the friendly muted hustle and bustle around her, the gleaming, hissing coffee maker behind the counter, and she waited. She had nothing else to do. The young server came to clear the table and asked, ‘Was everything all right?' She was a pretty girl, her winter colouring and slender figure accentuated by the white shirt and abbreviated black skirt she wore. Lynn had the sudden sensation that there was a huge store somewhere in existence in the galaxy filled with thousands of cloned waitresses, all exactly like her, waiting to be dispersed, like shop window mannequins, to restaurants and cafes all over the world, to ask ‘Was everything all right?’ over and over again . . . But this girl was a real person. Lynn looked more closely at her. Did she have problems and sadnesses, an internal world in shreds, despair waiting outside the door? Who could tell? She was now eying Lynn somewhat dubiously. ‘Fine, thanks,' said Lynn. The girl nodded, relieved, and moved off. Della came back from the place where she had been and focused again on Lynn. ‘I'm


not sure I know what love is,' she said, oddly hesitant. ‘I know what it isn't, that's for sure.' Lynn felt an uncharacteristic pang of pity for this new, uncertain Della. She said nothing, but quietly kept her eyes on Della's face. Tia would have been proud of her. ‘I'll tell you how it was in the beginning, for me,' said Della. She gave a short laugh at nothing in particular. ‘I know it sounds trite, but there was this sense . . . I suppose . . .of recognition. Of recognising oneself in the other. Of self meeting non-self, and yet knowing you were the same - yet not the same - oh, how can I put it! - of finding one's completion, somehow. Then, not to be with the other, was in some sense not to exist, not to be whole, because they expressed the part of you you didn't even know about, didn't know you had, until you saw it in them and thought, "This is me - in you." And when you're together you laugh, all the time. Not just because everything seems funny, and bright and good, but because laughing says - oh, so many things - that I feel safe with you, that you can feel safe with me, that we can be vulnerable together, that we see things the same way. And you laugh to give an outlet for the joy you feel because you are with them. And you feel that it's worth anything to make them laugh, to make them happy.' She stopped abruptly. ‘That's how it was for me, anyway,' she said lamely. Lynn remembered. ‘Yes,' she said. ‘That how it was for me and Mark. Everything about him delighted me. I thought I would never tire of watching him - it was that otherness, yet sameness - just as you describe. Weird, isn't it?' ‘Yes,' said Della, ' Very weird indeed.' There was a rueful self-mockery in the way she spoke that puzzled Lynn. She thought, There's something wrong here. Della had spoken so passionately - so unlike her normal collected self and Lynn felt touched by Della's sharing such a confidence. Yet she could not imagine Della feeling that way about Deryk, not even at first. Who then? Could it be that therapist Della had mentioned - what was his name - Jim? But the way Della had spoken of therapists suggested what? - that maybe she had liked him and he had rebuffed her advances. Of course. In spite of herself, Lynn felt a sense of relief. So that was why Della had spoken so bitterly. It hadn't been therapists in general, but Jim in particular that didn’t care. Maybe they weren't all like that. But in


her heart Lynn knew that Della was right. She was clutching at straws. Quickly, think of something else! So who was it then? Perhaps someone in Della's youth, her first love maybe? What to say? She couldn't leave Della hanging in the air. Now it was Della, self-assured Della who was waiting for some word of comfort, of sympathy. ‘Weird, but good, wouldn't you say?' said Lynn. ‘It's good to have those feelings, isn't it Della? Even if they don't last, it's great while they do. It sounds like' (That sounded good. Like something Tia would say. Although - had Tia ever said it?) 'it sounds like that for you, it was a long time ago. Was it a lad at school, or university . . . your first love?' Lynn felt tremendously daring. In all her years of friendship with Della, she had never, ever asked such a personal question, only ever waited for what Della wanted to tell her, which, she now knew, had in fact been extremely little, despite the fact Della talked so much. The moment between them lengthened. Della seemed to be making up her mind to say something. Lynn felt a twinge of fear; had she been too invasive? Well, it was too late now. Finally Della spoke, and Lynn saw to her surprise that the delicate flush was back, creeping up Della's cheekbones. She looked directly at Lynn and smiled wryly. ‘Pretty much my first love – and yes, at university, Her name was Avril.'


Chapter 12

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


much! What could she be expected to see in me? I was a gauche nineteen year-old, very unsure of myself (Della? Unsure of herself?) and things were different in those days' Again she paused. Lynn felt totally out of her depth. What should she say? She sensed that Della wanted to say more, but the situation seemed so precarious - the slightest wrong move on her part, she felt, would result in Della's icy retreat. Perhaps Della was already regretting embarking on this conversation. What did Della want her to say? What would Tia have said? Lynn didn't think she would have asked questions. Tia never asked questions. Trying to be Tia, Lynn leaned forward and murmured, ‘She opened your eyes . . ?' It seemed a stupid, but safe thing to say. It worked. ‘God, yes!' said Della enthusiastically. ‘The things we talked about! Everything! She knew so much - I could have listened for ever. And she made me laugh! I think I amused her, too. You know, I think she did care for me a little bit,' said Della wistfully. 'If only it could have stayed that way I might have had a chance. But it all went wrong somehow. I don’t know how. No, that’s not true - I do know. She showed me new ways of looking at things and it was intoxicating. After a while my head was bursting with it all and I started testing out my ideas on her, I couldn't resist arguing, contradicting her. It was so exciting - such fun, at first! But I got so arrogant - thought I knew it all. No wonder she got sick of me. We had terrible rows. If I hadn't done that, we would still be together!' Lynn looked at Della in some amazement. Did she really believe that? It seemed that she did, for Lynn could see the hint of a tear glistening in her eye. Well! This was a day of wonders! ‘It must have been hard,' was all she could think of to say. ‘It was,' said Della drearily. ‘For a while, I . . . ' Again she left the sentence unfinished, bent her head and fiddled with her teaspoon. After a few moments, she looked up and went on, ‘I was on anti-depressants for quite a while. God, it was hard to get off them! My second year was a bit of a blur. Actually, there's a six month gap that I can't account for at all.' Her eyes still glittered with tears, and she stared fixedly ahead, looking at something Lynn could not see. Even then, Lynn noticed, she took care not to dab her eyes dry.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They travelled back on the tube to where Sandra was staying and got two pizzas at the corner shop. Surely pizza must be the most popular take-away in London - or maybe it was kebabs. Sandra opened the door of the inevitable large terraced house, sub-divided into flatlets, and they trudged upwards. Liam and Maggie's place was at the very top. The room seemed dark at first; though there was still some light outside, the dormer windows let very little of it in. When Sandra clicked a switch, and flooded the place with a soft glow from concealed lighting, Lynn gasped. It was so unexpected; a huge room, open plan with wood floors and rugs, a piano (a piano?) and what seemed like thousands of books. ‘They're musicians' said Sandra, as though this explained everything. Perhaps it did. Certainly it explained the piles of sheet music and the music stand. Sandra had already moved to the kitchen area and was looking out glasses. She seemed to have totally regained her composure. ‘Drink?' she said. Lynn hesitated. Sandra smiled. ‘You're worried I'm drinking too much. It's only because I haven't eaten. We'll have spritzers if you like, but I must have my wine.' Lynn could hardly stop her. ‘Fine' she said. 'Hang on,' said Sandra, 'I must remove my stud.' She was a gone long time in the bathroom, and when she returned Lynn thought she looked rather white, but she forbore to comment. She hadn't heard anything, perhaps it had been a struggle for Sandra to remove the stud in her fragile state. They settled down in the comfortable settee with the pizzas on a coffee table in front of them. There seemed to be no need to talk for a while. Sandra seemed to have no trouble eating, though she ate very slowly, and with a faint air of surprise, as though she had forgotten quite how to do it. ‘Just as well we didn’t get extra cheese,' thought Lynn. ‘She must have the constitution of an ox.' ‘You've changed a lot,' she observed aloud. ‘Yes, haven't I? That was Cormac's doing.' ‘Chr - Cormac's?'


‘Oh yes. I was a dowdy little frump and he encouraged me, brought me out of myself, I suppose. That's one thing I've got to thank him for. "Be yourself," he used to say, "Be the you that you were meant to be - or even the you that you weren't meant to be! That would be more fun!" With that bloody wicked twinkle in his eye!' She broke off. ‘I'm talking about him as though he was dead,' she said. ‘Well, so he is! Or I wish he was. Not dead - but dead to me. I want some relief from loving.' Lynn put down her pizza. How hard it was to listen meaningfully and chew at the same time! She could not imagine Tia listening to someone while she was eating. Actually, she couldn't imagine Tia eating. ‘ What I mean is . . . ' there were tears in Sandra's eyes ‘ . . . Oh, what do I mean? It's not loving. What Cormac does is not loving. It looks like it, but it isn't.' She finished the last word on a wail. ‘What is it then?' asked Lynn - reasonably, she thought. It sounded like loving to her. Sandra glared at her. Lynn realised uneasily that Sandra was stretched pretty thin. Maybe a person could think too much. Sandra subsided into hunched misery. She clasped her hands tightly as though by so doing she could get a grip on her thoughts. She stared ahead at the wall. Lynn could see her eyes moving from side to side as though she was trying to read the answer there. She let out her breath gustily. ‘It's a kind of faux loving,' she said at last. ‘It looks like loving but it isn't. If you love that way, then it stops you having to love the real, proper way. Oh, I know what I mean but I can't explain it!' (‘Been there!' thought Lynn.) ‘Have you ever read Browning?' ‘What?' ‘Browning. He's a poet.' ‘Oh. No.' ‘Nobody ever reads poetry any more. Oh, never mind.' She spoke as though to herself. ‘Does that make me the duke then? Substitute "my virginity" for "a nine-hundred old years' name"


and it's pretty damn close. I wonder if his smiles will stop if I cut him out of my life? No. He's indestructible.' This was meaningless to Lynn. ‘Sorry . . . I don't follow.' ‘What? Oh - my fault. I apologise. I'm rambling. It's a poem about someone who marries . . . oh, never mind. It would take too long to explain.' Sandra grew very quiet. The minutes ticked away. Lynn surreptitiously finished her slice of pizza. Finally Sandra raised her head with the air of someone who had made a decision. ‘Well, it's like this,' she said. She stopped. Her eyes sought Lynn's, appealing for her to understand . . . but understand what? Lynn swallowed what she was eating and sat up. ‘Cormac's into sharing. That's what I can't take.' What did she mean? Sandra spoke in riddles. ‘Sharing? Sharing what?' ‘Bodies,' said Sandra in a whisper. Bodies? It sounded like they were members of some group taking part in some secret necrophiliac rite. For a moment Lynn felt totally freaked out. Then she recovered. ‘What do you mean, bodies?' Sandra gave her a variant of the look Lynn herself favoured for those in her classes who were being purposely slow on the uptake. Then she deflated. ‘I mean sex, she said. ‘Cormac's philosophy is - how can I put it kindly? - we're only here once. This world is a pretty shitty place - full of misery. Sex makes you happy. What's the harm, as long as you don't hurt anyone. I didn't find this out until I was well and truly hooked on him.' There was a long pause. Lynn didn't dare say anything. She was too busy trying to process what she had heard. Sandra went on. ‘I was so in love. And I thought he was with me. And so he is, according to his philosophy, I suppose. He had a bad back ' - Lynn remembered, it had been in the Easter holiday - ‘ and he was out of action in bed for about two months. He was anxious that I was missing sex. He - ' Sandra paused, shaking her head and staring at the floor. Then she said, forcing


the words out, ‘He tried to set me up with his friend. It all came out then. He was very open about it. He couldn't understand why I was dumbfounded.' She turned to Lynn. ‘But you can, can't you Lynn? You can understand!' ‘Oh yes,' said Lynn. ‘I can understand.' ‘In a sense you can see his point. And he's very moral. Always takes precautions, never breaks up relationships . . . unless they’re into sharing too. A lot of his friends are. And he gives me total freedom. "Be happy!" he says! But how can I be happy?' said Sandra fiercely. ‘I . . . don't . . . want . . . to . . . share.’ She started crying in earnest then, not making a noise, just sitting there with her face in her hands, letting the tears soak into a handkerchief, blowing her nose, throwing the tissue away, getting another, the tears still pouring down. Lynn thought she had never seen such an eloquent expression of silent grief. She put her arm round Sandra and gradually she felt Sandra lean against her, as though drawing strength from her. Eventually Lynn noticed the tissues were lasting longer, and then finally Sandra sat up. ‘Thanks, Lynn. I don't know what to say. It's the first time I've cried like that.' ‘Don't say anything. I'm glad I was here.' ‘I don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do. He's not really a bastard. And I do love him.' There was nothing Lynn could think of to say. She was wiser now in the value of withholding platitudes. Sandra supplied her own answer. ‘I'll think of something. I don't think he'll change. I think it's me who's got to change - or leave him for good.' She smiled bitterly. ‘Not much of a choice is it? I need time to think.' She smiled again, this time at Lynn. ‘Thanks for listening, Lynn. You're a good listener. You know I can't believe we've really only just met. I feel like I've known you for a long time.' ‘Me too,' said Lynn. It was true. Looking at Sandra now, she could hardly remember the antipathy she'd felt at first. She had seemed so different with her dyed hair and piercings, not at all the sort of person Lynn usually spent her time with. Now she saw her in a new light. An old


saying of her mother's came to mind, ‘Never judge a book by the cover.' ‘I feel better now,' said Sandra. ‘Shall I go and warm the pizza up?' As she was in the kitchen area Lynn heard her opening another bottle of wine. She came back. ‘Let's talk about something else, shall we? I'm sick of men.' The pizza was chewy but still edible. The wine helped it down beautifully. After a while, Lynn said, ‘So how do you know Liam and Maggie?' ‘I was at college with them . . . music.' ‘Oh, do you play?' ‘Piano and organ. And I sing.' ‘Really?' Lynn was intrigued. ‘Yes, I play the organ in church actually. The Church of Christ the Fisher. Wouldn't think it to look at me would you?' ‘Well - no.' They both laughed. ‘But seriously,’ said Lynn. ‘You go to church? What do you think of it?' ‘I only go to play the organ.' A wary look came into Sandra's eyes. ‘Why? You're not a Christian are you?' This took Lynn by surprise. She couldn't help appreciating the irony of it. After a pause, experiencing conflicting emotions in which she was taken aback to find sadness pre-eminent, she said reflectively, ‘No. No, I'm not.' Sandra looked relieved. ‘I didn't think you were. I meet a lot of them at church. I tend to keep my mouth shut. They think I'm a liberal, but really I'm agnostic. How can you know? I think about it of course, but really, how can you ever know, ever be sure? Sometimes I think I'd like to believe, but then I see some of the prats that do and I think, "Oh no! If that's what it does to you, then I don't want to be like that!" ' For some reason this conversation was becoming intolerable to Lynn. She said quickly, ‘Could you play me something on the piano?' ‘Sure, only I'm a bit squiffy. What would you like?'


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

228 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the time seemed, weirdly, to drag, in a way that it never had before. Lynn couldn't ask Tia any questions, and she couldn't talk about her mother, so she talked a bit about Sandra and Chris again, and Tia listened carefully and made some interesting observations, but she seemed very content to leave the running to Lynn and it wasn't at all what Lynn had in mind. Lynn looked at the clock a lot. ‘I didn't think it would be like this,' she said. ‘I don't suppose you did,' Tia replied. And eventually, Lynn felt too worn out to talk even to Tia, who seemed to understand everything she said. Her brain felt numb. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, and she couldn't help wondering, deep inside, what it was she'd forgotten, and whether it was really so awful. Because here in this calm quiet place, with Tia looking at her, it didn't seem as if it could be so very bad. Eventually, when there was still some time to go, Lynn warmed up, and began to talk a bit about Lauren, and she mentioned the cancer again and Tia said 'Mmm', evidently making the connection between that and Lynn's earlier remark. And the mere mention of Lauren's name had a cheering effect on Lynn and she found herself glad to talk about her - she really hardly mentioned the cancer - and Tia seemed to enjoy hearing about it and nodded a lot as she listened as though to say that Lauren must indeed be as nice as Lynn said she was. Tia didn't once intervene or be challenging or directive. Lynn was quite thankful. In one way it seemed a waste not to be on the receiving end of Tia's insights which usually made her think, but truly she was so tired and she didn't think she could have coped with very much along those lines. Tia seemed so uncharacteristically gentle and everything seemed so unreal - all kind of running together - that she would not have been surprised to find that she had fallen asleep and dreamt the whole thing. And finally Tia said, ‘Our time is up for today, Lynn' and they both stood up. As they moved across the room, she added, ‘I'll keep next week open for you, and we'll see what happens.' ‘Thank you,' said Lynn. ‘And I’ll write to you if I remember anything.' Then she walked out through the door.





The feeling of unreality stayed with Lynn all that night and the next day. She kept puzzling at what it was she couldn't remember, lost in her own interior thoughts, teaching on autopilot and engaging in conversations quite mechanically. By Friday evening, Mark was quite worried. ‘Are you sure you don't want to come tonight? I don't like leaving you at home like this. You enjoyed the Works Do last year, they always get a good band.' ‘No, honestly. I'm going to have a shower and an early night. I've just been a bit under the weather lately. I'll be fine.' ‘Well, phone me if you need me. I wish you'd let me stay home with you. I can't say I won't be late, because you know how these things go on. Look, are you sure you don't want to come?' ‘Positive. I just don't feel like dancing, but there's no point in us both missing it. Go on, have a good time. You know you'll enjoy it when you get there. Now push off, you're keeping me from my shower.' Lynn's sparkiness seemed to reassure him, and he left, not without a last backward glance. Lynn gave a big smile and waved encouragingly. He laughed and closed the door behind him. She sighed with relief. Lynn had a long, hot shower, as though she could never tire of the feeling of the warmth penetrating her skin. Theirs was an old shower, fitted over the bath, but it was surprisingly efficient. It was while she was reaching for the towel, in a state of dreamy relaxedness, her mind finally switched off, that it happened. As Lynn pulled the towel off the top of the shower curtain rail, the edge of it caught a little bowl on a ledge in the tiling and knocked it over, spilling the bright glass pebbles, red and purple and blue, all over the bottom of the bath. Lynn looked down, felt her irritation turn without warning to a vast, swelling dread as she saw them shining there. She heard a hoarse voice – ‘Animal!' and it seemed as though the very ceiling was caving in on her. Something terrible and frightening was in the bathroom with her. She gasped, felt her bowels turn to water and hardly


knowing what she was doing, struggled out of the bath and fled. Lynn flung open the door of the bedroom and stepped into the dark. As she groped for the switch, which seemed to take longer than usual to find, the darkness and the colder air on her wet, naked body seemed to have a horribly familiar feel. She pulled the towel around her and tried to control her breathing, which was coming in ragged gasps. In the midst of the panic was a feeling of utter bewilderment. What was going on? The bedroom was not the place to be. Even with the light on it was dark with terror. Lynn snatched at her dressing gown and made a dash for the living room where she dragged it uncomfortably over her still wet body and, teeth chattering, collapsed into the sofa. Her whirling thoughts were so chaotically unpleasant that she totally blanked them out, concentrating instead on staring fiercely round the room as though committing every detail to memory. Never had the ornaments on the mantlepiece, the lampshade, the waste-bin, the blank TV screen been scrutinised so thoroughly. Lynn's mind, her mental being, was no longer in her head, it was attached to everything around her. Gradually, the heat from the gas fire began to penetrate her chilled body, but still she refused to allow any thought in that was connected with whatever had just happened. As Lynn looked at the sideboard it registered that the drink was kept there. She willed herself to visualise clearly every bottle behind the frosted glass of the door, lingering on the squat shape of a large, dark bottle. What was that? - relief engulfed her as she recognised it as a bottle of Baileys. Moving disjointedly, as though she was drunk already, Lynn got the bottle and shakily half filled a tumbler with it. She gulped it down. She was surprised at how easy it was, she'd thought she'd hate it. Halfway through the third tumbler, she began to gag and realised she would have to change drinks - the sweet taste was proving too much for her. What to, though? Lynn looked at the open door and pondered each one in turn. There was wine in the rack in the kitchen, but she couldn't get her head round fetching it and uncorking it. Hang on! There was Mark's malt whiskey, that would do. Not her tipple of choice but any port in a


storm, ha ha! Why did she feel sick? And why was it harder to move? She paused to consider, and a wave of terror that came from nowhere caused her to scuttle disconnectedly towards the sideboard and slam against it as she reached towards the malt. Ouch! That hurt! The pain in her shoulder served to clear her head momentarily and she extracted the bottle and carried it with exaggerated caution back to her nest on the sofa. She curled up on it and poured herself a stiff one. The Bailey's glass would do . . .




'Lynn, wake up! What the hell happened last night?' Lynn felt herself rising upwards from a deep dark place into a world of light and colour that sent excruciating pains stabbing through her head. She felt absolutely terrible. She opened her eyes a fraction and squinted at Mark, who was bending over her shaking her. She had no clothes on and she was in bed. How had she got there? But it was Mark who was asking the questions - but also supplying answers. 'I got in last night at two o'clock to find you completely blotto on the carpet in front of the fire with my malt whiskey all over the place. And you'd thrown up everywhere. How you never burnt the bloody place down I'll never know. And what about the mess in the bathroom? What . . .happened?' Lynn began to shake her head to clear it. Mistake. She concentrated on lying still. 'Mark, I don't know. I remembered something. I . . .I had a shock. I had a little drink.' 'Little drink!' 'Big drink then! I don't remember. Leave me alone!' 'Leave you alone! That's what I did last night and look what happened! I can't leave you alone for five minutes! What's happening? It's like looking after a sodding baby! I've had it Lynn, I've had it!' 'Oh, shut up, will you! I'm not interested! Eff off! Just bloody eff off, damn you! I'm sick of you!' The message ended in a scream. Lynn had half sat up in bed to deliver it and now she


sank back, her head throbbing exponentially. Mark was dumbfounded. Lynn had never spoken to him like that before, as though she hated, really hated . . . him? This was another Lynn he'd never met. How many more were there? He was out of his league now. He felt fear shiver down his spine. Lynn recovered first. 'Sorry, sorry!' she said wearily. I've had a hell of a night. What time is it?' She sounded normal. But he couldn't forget what she'd said. 'Half past one.' 'In the afternoon?' Lynn was amazed. 'Oh I'm sorry!' she said again. Again she sounded so normal. This was scary. These mood swings were getting worse – much worse. Where would it end? 'Mark, I had such a bad memory. Something from my childhood. Something I've got to think about, to process. I'd completely forgotten it ever happened, until last night.' Mark was silent. Inwardly he was raging – bad memories from her childhood? - it was that bloody therapist again! None of this would have happened if she hadn't come on the scene! Or would it? He said, as neutrally as he could, 'Bad memory?' 'Oh yes! Mark, it was awful. I can only remember bits and pieces, impressions . . . ' as she spoke, Mark could see her trembling. She sat up, clutching the duvet to her, staring at something he could not see. Despite himself, pity overtook him. 'Do you want a cup of tea?' Lynn came to, breathed out and regarded him. There were still tears of fear in her eyes. She made an effort to smile and speak normally. 'Oh yes!' And a big glass of water. And some aspirin. Thanks!' As he went to get them, he could see her struggling again with thoughts he could not see. Lynn got up that evening and crawled delicately into the living room, which now had a distinct aroma of air freshener. Jumbled images and words were tumbling over and over in her brain but this time she was trying to let them come, containing their terrifying potential for destruction by imagining them writhing like demons in a glass bottle that Tia was holding.


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

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

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

but that couldn't be helped. She folded the letter and put it in an envelope. She would go out for a walk and post it more. So I might do something by accident to make my mum go away again and then she might never come back. Tia. I'll see you next week as you said I could. She signed the letter simply. it was all over now.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.recognise her at first. ‘Lynn'. Anyway. That way she would be able to cope. She seemed a very stupid little girl. And I was always a bit scared after that because I knew I was very powerful and I could scare people and nearly kill them without even trying. Lynn sighed as she read this. 243 . She reread the final paragraph. 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. though Lynn wasn't sure why she thought this. and I think I would like to see you sooner rather than later. That little girl. Only a few more days and then . So I was always very careful then to get it right and not to say or do anything to make the monster come back or to hurt my Mum – I'm not sure which. She couldn't help feeling sorry for the little girl in the story. anyway. Anyway. But it was funny because I couldn't forget that somehow I had made her go away. whoever she was. Lynn couldn't help feeling glad. debated on scrawling ‘Thanks for everything' or ‘I really appreciate all you've done' and decided to save it for a farewell card. though actually she wasn't sure if she liked her either. and I was pleased to see her too. you'll appreciate I feel a bit weird remembering all this. The letter appeared to have been written a bit childishly too. That’s how it seemed to me then. had gone. Right now she needed to lie down. and a sort of monster person ihad come n her place. Lynn chewed her lip. but she was very loving and so pleased to see me. so unless you hear anything from me to the contrary. She couldn't believe it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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