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Conversations with Tia
A novel by Louise Vanstone
The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates
For Sue, of course. Who else?
This is a work of fiction. All the names, characters, places and events portrayed are products of the author's imagination, or if real are used fictitiously. The author asserts her moral right to be regarded as the creator of this novel, and no part of it is to be reproduced by any means for private or public use without due acknowledgment of its provenance.
The phone rang and Lynn reached for it. As she did so, she found herself smiling – remembering that other phonecall so long ago . . . when it all began
You could tell straightaway that this was a place where nothing ever happened. People just waited here for their lives back. And since there was only one chair, presumably they waited on their own. It was on this chair that Lynn now sat. It was a plain wooden chair with a padded back and seat. The woman (receptionist? secretary?) had shown her through and then said, smiling, 'Please take a seat. I'll tell Dr Bradley you are here.' Even as Lynn said thank you, she found herself speaking to an empty space in which the smile still somehow lingered, like the Cheshire Cat's. She blinked and looked around. The secretary had relocated, sans smile, to an office, from whence Lynn could see her through the open door saying into the phone, ‘Dr Bradley? Mrs Davies is here.' For something to do, Lynn examined her surroundings. Everything seemed to confirm her earlier suspicion that she had fallen into a grey hole in a forgotten corner of the universe. The whole place, a sort of widened space at the end of a corridor, like an afterthought on the part of the planners, had managed to turn 'featureless' into an art form. It was clean enough, but there was nothing there - unless you counted a large 'No smoking' sign on the wall. Lynn mentally ticked the
Sort of. knowing in advance that there would be no ‘J'.missing items off. Ouch. shoving the card into her pocket. of course. A woman was standing about four metres away.' ' 'S all right. 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. but it came in handy. Lynn sighed. But really . no leaflets about cystitis or five portions a day. 'Miles away. not even an ancient Telegraph supplement or a Hello magazine with the cover off. And nowhere to put it if there was. Experimentally she touched her face with her finger. Lynn recognized that feeling. and it must not be allowed to get worse. By focusing intently. Della never had spots. This is madness. There never was. 'I didn't mean to startle you. Two twenty-seven. Would Dr Bradley think so? What would she be like? Would she be gentle and smiley.’ the therapist said. or searching and abrasive and tell her to get out more? It would be interesting to find out. And what would Dr Bradley think of her? Would she like her? Surely she would? Most people did. Absolutely nothing. measured pace. or doing violence to your doctor. Lynn supposed it might be.what on earth did it matter if Dr Bradley liked her or not? She was just there to do a job. Well. she thought. But then Della wouldn't. matching her footsteps to the slow. It was worse than the dentist's. She could feel her spot throbbing. A sense of adolescent angst descended on Lynn like a personalized raincloud . Lynn consulted her watch.' mumbled Lynn. ‘I’m sorry. ‘Q’ was hard as well. back past the turn-off she had come 6 . Lynn. No credit to her. except in lists of names. Lynn managed to get to 'F' when she was jolted back into her surroundings by the sound of a quiet voice. ‘Mrs Davies? Come this way please.' She looked up. To distract herself she hurriedly took out her appointment card and began to look for the letters of the alphabet in sequence.thirty-four and she still had spots. regarding her with a look of gentle inquiry. Why did it have to come now? Bloody marvellous . no posters warning you of the penalties for drink driving. No pictures of acrylic landscapes or sunflowers. It was not a good one. Lynn rose to her feet abruptly..' She followed the tall figure along the corridor. Her appointment was for two thirty.
not older. referred by your doctor . with a cloudy mass of reddish curly-permed hair and granny glasses. with bare wooden arms that always reminded her of bones poking though skin. I know 7 . surely? Lynn was not entirely sure she liked the look of her.or a parallel universe. no miracle cures . She would have preferred someone slightly older. Perhaps she should get some. Dr Bradley gestured towards the the corner. She couldn't help noticing that on the coffee table nearby there was an open box of tissues. someone a little more motherly perhaps. Look alert! ‘ . She seemed very young . to assess your difficulties and whether we can be helpful to you . But against her expectations. She sat with her legs crossed at the ankle. I can't handle this. Sit up! The therapist was speaking. . Lynn breathed again. To stem the flow. slanted sideways. Dr Bradley was thin. she said quickly. I understand all that. not this angular.or a solid wall . where there were two low chairs set at an angle to each other. airy office into which Dr Bradley serenely ushered her.’ Too many words! thought Lynn. hurriedly relaxing her grip on the arms when she saw her knuckles showing white. stop staring. . The therapist seated herself opposite. . the chair was surprisingly comfortable and after a moment she relaxed. Listen. . . sharp-featured stranger. The therapist was looking at her. 'Dr Bradley. But it opened instead into a light. . . She found herself fantasizing that the door would somehow open back into the corridor she had just walked down . This was better. at which Dr Bradley paused. Quick. Shut up.through. short term . and her hands resting lightly in her lap. . Lynn had never liked this style of chair. There were bookcases full of books and a desk at the window with some flowers on. How strangely this building was laid out. How strange that granny glasses always seemed to make people look younger. and Lynn looked at her for the first time.too young to be a consultant. Tia Bradley and I am a clinical psychologist . psychological therapies service . and Lynn instinctively took the one with its back against the wall. thought Lynn. the top one pulled out. She wore her skirts shorter than Lynn did. . . . shut up! Her head was beginning to spin. to a door inset into an alcove into the passage just beyond it. . . .
why I am here. but I do need to explain adequately the procedures and guidelines which govern our time together. 'Would you feel comfortable calling me Tia?' 'Tia? Oh yes.' 'Oh yes. I just need to talk to someone. . changing the names. that's fine! What a pretty name . er. I'm not thinking straight. Sorry. just grade them from nought to four. sorry. . 'Me? Oh. 'Do you teach here. And oh. Take your time.. Yes.' 8 . . please! Call me Lynn. Their doctorate is a PhD qualification. I wish I hadn't come! 'Oh. then? Or at a university? What kind of a doctor are you?' 'Clinical psychologists are not medical doctors. and that you can't work miracles. May I continue?' The therapist paused courteously and waited for Lynne’s permission to speak. it's agreed we will use first names. or since I also teach.thoroughly? Is my makeup sweating off? Can she see my spot? Oh god. That is. Lynn seized the chance to gather her wits . yes. unless you have any objection?' Again a silence This time Lynn was ready. like psychiatrists who have first studied medicine. Does she always talk so quietly? In such a measured way? Why does she look at me so . some people fill in all noughts. it is an unusual name.' 'You would like me to call you Lynn? And what would you prefer to call me?' Lynn hesitated. May I begin by asking you to fill in a questionnaire. of course.not entirely successfully.so . There are no right answers. of course. isn't it? So then Lynn. confidential unless I feel I need to share things you have told me which could result in harm to yourself or others . that's all. Mrs Davies. Sure!' ‘ sessions last fifty minutes .so unusual. There's about thirty of them. no. I'm not expecting that.' 'I appreciate that.' Pause. I may use some of the material from these sessions with my students. Mrs Davies. I knew that. . It's just about general situations in your life which might be indicators of levels of well-being or stress. Where is it from?' 'Thank you. No objection.
right at this moment it was 'extremely'. What about the times when she woke up at five in the morning. And all the time she could feel Tia's eyes on her. .' That was a two. she put a line through the four and filled in the two again. She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so foolish. I feel like a kid at school myself.start at the beginning! She looked up once more and saw that that Tia was still regarding her closely. Lynn hastily bent her head to study the sheet again. she thought. This situation was ridiculous. put in her place. Sighing inwardly. But she was on someone else's turf now. This woman was talking so calmly and quietly.Lynn took the folded sheet of A4. controlled! That put Lynne’s back up straightaway. Lynn glanced down at the title: Brief Symptom Inventory. But wait a minute! What was she doing. What was average? 'Moderately. Did that count? There seemed no provision for it on the sheet. That would do. how much were you distressed by . After looking up once more and meeting that unnerving stare 9 . 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. that was it. starting halfway down the page? For goodness' sake . I don't want to fill this in. She valued them too much. Except it was meant to be how she'd felt over the last week. Lynn could feel herself colouring. that was an easy one! Not at all. It was so wrong. read the top line: 'During the past week. She fell asleep instantly. But wait a minute. Why was this happening now? She didn't need to feel like this. and couldn't get back again. Next question. She opened it. . unblinking gaze. ‘ .' Well. almost. Oh well. and was disconcerted to meet a thoughtful. 'Trouble falling asleep.. Yes. To her annoyance. ?' glanced down and read a question at random. she bent to her task. Damn! Angrily. She glanced up at Tia. This was going to take longer than she thought. . Oh. At length Lynn finished. better get this over with. controlled. Irritated. She scribbled out the 'two'. Usually anyway. put anything! How did they grade it? She checked the top line. Lynn never ever tried to control people herself. She scribbled in the four with some agitation. If there was one thing she hated it was controlling people. She was a teacher. Hurriedly Lynn located the first question. nervousness or shakiness inside?' Well. dammit! a professional in her own right.
. . really . She wanted to flop in the chair and be pathetic.. but how could she. looking concerned and ready to listen . . Well. lately. Tia considered this. I can’t seem to pull myself together. I cry a lot when I'm on my own. actually . It wasn't like there was a baby. almost. Time? What time? Time was ticking away. there was no baby. and I haven't even said anything yet! Fighting down rising panic. Why are you wasting my time? I can't believe this is happening! She doesn't like me. It wasn't like I lost anything. 'No baby?' ‘No. er . Sometimes they just don't grow you know. No baby. There was nothing there. to meet Tia's gaze.' 'Over what?' 'Over the . . What are you doing here? that steady gaze seemed to say. . . Don't you see? It wasn’t like anything died. . I should be over it by now. thirty-seven days. Maybe it was going to be all right after all.she’d given up and kept her head down. I've been feeling really . It's been over a month now. Now Tia was sitting forward.to listen to her. . who already seemed to dislike her. . and it wasn't as if there was a baby there. Or sometimes I just sit. Lynn! Wow! She opened her mouth to speak and nothing happened. It was cells. . suddenly gripped by the need to confide in someone without actually giving anything away.the . really . well. Where to start? Anywhere. it's like this. . sort of low. . 'There's plenty of time. I think I should. . in front of this nonchalantly elegant woman. just cells.' Lynn felt a tiny spark of hope. Lynn forced herself to sit up. that she was balancing a writing block on her knee and saying. I . She felt depressed and agitated both at once. I can't seem to snap out of it. I should be. tell me what brings you here. to hand back the form and the folder she'd used to rest on with a smile. 'Ah. . As Tia took it.miscarriage. I was only three months. well. So I shouldn't feel like this. . Just start anywhere. You can't lose what you 10 .' Lynn stopped abruptly. I feel so down. well.' Tia was saying. she noticed that Tia was smiling back. 'Now Lynn.
What a stupid question! Tia seemed pretty slow on the uptake for a clinical psychologist. She recovered almost immediately. And how could she inflict the gory details on this stranger? That seemed so self-indulgent. the ones behind had all crashed into it like a motorway pile-up. which lengthened. but not a real loss. but I knew he was. That was what her mind felt like right now – a motorway pile-up. She would feel even more guilty about telling her then. There seemed nothing else to add. She was just sitting there looking at Lynn encouragingly. A worse one than hers. yes.this woman had had a miscarriage too. but once her first thought had come to a dead halt. she couldn't just talk! There had to be a 11 . He says it was very sad. Dammit. that was a loss of course. 'So really.' 'Can't you?' ‘No.' There was a pause. So far all she'd done was ask idiotic. Lynn wanted to tell Tia what it had been like. You can certainly do that.' Lynn stared at Tia defiantly. it was a bit disappointing! 'Can you perhaps lose what you might have had?' It took a moment for this question to penetrate. How could she check that out? She noticed Tia wore a thin gold band on her wedding finger. obvious questions! Was this how these people earned their money. ‘Oh well. how to continue. trying to make Tia understand.' 'Well. yes. but really and truly we have to look to the future. Mark is. But that was what she was here for. Tia wasn't helping. Our hopes and dreams you mean? Our plans for the future?' 'Something like that. He didn't say much. She was not coping. 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. I should be over it by now. But he was very upset when it happened.never had. Lynn didn't know what to say. But suppose – just suppose . or just looking at you? Why.' 'Mark?' 'My husband. Only in our heads. and when it did Lynn felt slightly winded. she could do that! Really. you can do that. speaking energetically. asking questions like this.
Can't we sort of get to know each other a little bit first?' 'Why?' This was getting downright irritating. no. absently twiddling her own wedding ring round and round.' 'Oh. 'Have you ever had counselling before?' 'No. never contributing. 'As you see.get to know each other. 'Why? To build a relationship of course. What kind of a conversation was this. economic gesture. She should have anticipated that. never helping her out. She felt very unhappy. Tia was looking at her expectantly. leaving her to feel 12 . 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. Yes! I can't just talk to you about personal things . when people are experiencing difficulties or stressful situations. It's not quite like other relationships. Lynn noticed that Tia's fingers were slender and tapering. They need to be free just to talk and think about themselves. answering questions with questions. 'Any kids?' 'Is that important?' 'Well. and that it was now up to Lynn to respond.to .relationship! She said experimentally. a graceful. 'Are you married. Tia said carefully. Tia had explained nothing.' Damn. What was going on? Why did it feel so strange? Lynn regarded her hands. Tia?' Tia motioned with her left hand. her nails translucent ovals.' After a few moments. She seemed to think that by saying this she had explained something very important. Why?' 'Let me explain a little bit about the counselling relationship.just like that.' There was another silence. You see. leaving gigantic gaps in conversation. To . She folded her own hands more tightly on her lap and tried again. Lynn felt nothing of the sort.
Tia was a very interesting person.' This felt reassuring. and she would try to share even if Tia didn't. or hating people. Not yet. This made no sense to Lynn. building 'You too?' sort of relationships.very defensive. nodding agreement. She was used to being open and honest. 'The miscarriage was . 'So it's all right?’ she said again.' said Tia. just maybe. exchanging information.' Oh god! So much blood! 'Mmm. things like sex. Very well. How long had Lynn been quiet? She didn't know. ‘What about. Lynn said tentatively. sharing.lonely and foolish? Tia was deliberately refusing to engage. if she was herself. that she wasn't a threat. yet wanting to hear it from Tia. Tia seemed so laid-back. friendly and natural. um. or death. for instance?' 13 . 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. And yet she had to. Could she hack it? She didn't know. She had no choice. And there was something about Tia that appealed. She glanced at her. Tia seemed to be a very withholding sort of person . help her see that sharing was good. She needed help and she knew it. it might just draw Tia out. Lots of blood and so forth. And that would be nice. But the alternative was too terrifying to contemplate. Even Mark – especially Mark – had no idea how bad it was sometimes. knowing the answer. How confusing! What could she do? Lynn came to a decision. 'No. denying.. the chance to know her as a person. But maybe.a bit messy. Lynn. and saw with a start that she was once again being closely observed. which Lynn couldn't as yet quite define. I'm not squeamish. That was what she was there for. so at ease. because actually she did quite like Tia. networking. 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. And then they would have a proper relationship. thaw her out a bit. She had to go along with this. Curiosity stirred within Lynn. her. She would go along with it. But she couldn't just talk about the miscarriage.
she was forty when she had me . I think. She really wanted me . that's all. It seemed to have the ring of truth. I was badly positioned. Lynn felt a bit thrown by this. Lynn took a deep breath and plunged in. She was just getting warmed up. All that glitters is not gold. She had a very difficult labour too. She was in a lot of pain too. and death. and sex. Could that someone be Tia? She looked at her consideringly. 'I just think my mum was really brave. had she chosen those examples to cite to Tia .' she commented. Be careful! You don’t know this woman. She had fibroids and she told me that when she was six months pregnant she bled for days. she nearly died twice. oh why. in those days. Silly really. But she never complained . She'd read something into it.. Be careful.were so pleased when I found out I was pregnant. so we wanted to get a move on. but mixed in with the warmth were stabbing icicles of caution.sex and hating and death? They were just words plucked out of the air. just might be able to talk to someone about it. Forty. 'It's all right to talk about blood. 'I'm only saying. These psychologist types always did. Tia was making a note on her pad. Tia waited a while and then said. She held on. you see. but Tia wouldn't know that. just to talk? And why.' Lynn considered this. without the least sign of impatience. Of course my mum had had trouble with me too.after all this time. at my age.really badly. but could it be so? Could it really be all right . Only child actually. Oh. 'You seem to find it easier to talk about your mother's pregnancy than your own.' Lynn paused for breath. It was very painful. and grief.imagine that.' she said.Tia said slowly and emphatically. Lynn felt that finally now she might. The chair felt ever so slightly more comfortable. First child too. prematurely. and the old biological clock was ticking. had my head jammed behind the pubic bone 14 . 'We'd been married a year.they didn't.we . It never occurred to me that anything could go wrong. and loss. It's all right to talk about anything you want. and hating people. She looked up. But just for this moment. It was their job. and I was born. twenty-seven hours. the room ever so slightly warmer. 'So you had a miscarriage?' It was now or never. I .
and in the end they . 'I felt. . Tia raised her eyebrows and gave a brief smile in a 'You can if you want to. . 'But your mum had her baby . This narrative seemed to be flowing rather too quickly. She gazed round the room. She could only remember irrelevant disjointed things. 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 . Lynn looked at Tia and thought. I was cooking the dinner .' Tia said nothing.' Lynn continued drearily. 'That's really unfair. She looked sort of neutral. 'My mum was a brave woman. 'You cow!' But Tia didn't look cow-ish.' she said. . That was it.' Tia said softly. 'One evening. This was harder going than she had thought it would be. 'I'm sorry. I felt . She was at the hospital already. Once again. her brain seemed to have turned to cotton wool. Somehow this didn't feel like a very satisfactory answer. and as I was standing there. .and you didn't have yours. Lynn said. 'You want me to tell you about my miscarriage?' She wasn't so sure she wanted to now.' she said at last.sort of flooding. . Tia waited.' said Tia. 'I went to the bathroom. Tia regarded her levelly. 'like I was . Her body seemed to be pinned down with great weights but with a great effort she made herself sit up in the chair and folded her arms. she knew there was.' sort of way. and how angry Mark had been at the sympathy cards. . There must be more to it that this. . like how tired the young doctor who had examined her had looked. then back at Tia. you know . . 'and it all came away . I felt . thinking what to say next. . leaking. She looked at Tia. ' she stopped. and how creased her lab coat had been. She wasn't so sure she liked Tia after all. She felt totally exhausted. She had lived through it so many times. 'All right. I'd had a funny feeling all day . It wasn’t working. The pause lengthened and then lengthened again while she tried to think what to say next. Lynn said in a voice that trembled slightly. wondering what the view from the window was like.you . . No more.' said Lynn less confidently. ' Yet again she stopped. .' Again she stopped. . 15 . .' 'She went through a lot.' This stopped Lynn dead.
or whatever you like. Tia smiled. 'I think it would be beneficial if we met again . What a nice smile! Maybe Tia did have friends after all. when Tia. . . She couldn't help wondering what it would be like to have Tia as a friend. yawned before her. Actually. But Tia was speaking. who had been in full flow. everything had shifted. and terrifyingly fast. There had been a real rapport developing between them. at first disconcerted. had been listening with every appearance of enjoyment and making the odd note. 'It was quite funny really. She could see it in her eyes. that’s all. Well. Now with no warning. said. Lynn was instantly diverted and rather charmed..' Lynn became aware of the chair holding her. 16 . could cope. Suppose Tia said that meant that Lynn was all right. sort of smile. it's not difficult! It just isn’t working. Lynn said.' It seemed only a few minutes later. No. Though she said it herself. Tell me a little more about yourself . An abyss. It was like the sun coming out. the one who had power to give or withhold. to laugh together and put the world to rights. Tia was once more the Therapist. Whatever you like. and she had made Tia begin to smile once or twice more.' 'Plenty of time. 'This is very difficult for you. It was a start. stopped. .shall we arrange for three more sessions . Lynn could tell a good story.’ ‘There's plenty of time. Suppose she said Lynn didn't need to see her. with a smile like that.' Lynn. who.at two-weekly intervals?' 'Two-weekly?' said Lynn stupidly. She relaxed back into it thankfully and let out her breath in a big sigh.Tia was looking at her understandingly. or Mark . unexpectedly. To go out for a drink together after work. 'Whether to meet again?' 'Whether?' What did Tia mean? They'd been getting on so well. Maybe we could think now about whether to meet again. . that Lynn hadn't even known was there. At this. 'We have just five minutes left. isn’t it?’ ‘No. Lynn had found herself laughing as she had been talking. 'I'll tell you how I met Mark'. was saying. . as far as Lynn could tell. . she couldn't quite imagine that far but she was sure Tia had a sense of humour. and then aghast. She was sure of it. vast and cataclysmic.
17 . yes. 'Fine. 'That is the usual time between sessions. 'I'll see you in two weeks' time then.30 convenient to you?' 'Oh yes.' Tia magicked an appointment card from somewhere and said. until she was finally able to say. Time off from school for hospital appointments could hardly be disallowed. and this was important. she heard the door close firmly behind her. She watched Tia write down the details on the card and hand it to her.' Convenient? She would make it convenient. She replayed the conversation in her head. That would be fine. 'Today is Tuesday.' said Lynn again. She left the office feeling as light as air. It was only when Tia raised her eyebrows inquiringly that Lynn became aware that a response was needed. Are Tuesdays at 2. was opening it for her and saying with a smile. smiling back warmly in return. then Tia was standing up. Lynn. was walking to the door. 'that's fine. and as she walked down the corridor.' 'Two weeks it is!' said Lynn.Tia regarded her seriously.' The relief that spread through Lynn was so great that at first she could not speak.
Involuntarily. and concentrated instead on recalling as much of Tia as she could remember. . Graceful . or as much of it as she could remember. mobile mouth. But how was it she used to laugh so much? And people had laughed with her. Not now. She pondered the paradox that was Tia. Likewise. A generous. Tia’s eyes beat her mournful cow's eyes . Lynn always liked making people laugh. in the surgical sense of the word? Or was she a warm. Not conventionally pretty. . but there was something. Green eyes. probably. . It seemed a long time since Lynn had had anything of interest to occupy her thoughts besides . Lynn caught sight of herself in the reflective glass of the carriage window . She'd never really given it much thought before. Unless she made a special effort she looked so bloody miserable. But lately. Dark unruly hair made worse by the window. Laughing was very important. Tia had seemed to move quite slowly and had sat very still. people had been coming up to her and saying 'Cheer up! It may never happen!' What would 18 .two images unpleasantly overlapping . It kept things at bay. you can’t judge a book by the cover. .and heaved a sigh without realising it. Hadn't they? She'd thought they had at the time. There was a sort of concentrated look about her. The oppressive grey fog of autopilot which normally hung over her was being shot through with tiny bolts of fizzy lightning. She was occupied internally with reliving her time with Tia.that.Chapter 2 Lynn travelled home on the grimy tube with her head buzzing. She hardly noticed her fellow passengers or the stations streaming by. caring human being who wanted to help people. as Lynn herself did? Or was she both? Lynn shook her head and gave up. Well. was she? Lynn couldn't remember.and her mouth! That was the worst. And she could never be bothered to straighten it now. She compared her blobby nose with Tia’s thin one. So this was counselling. Tia’s nose won. 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. Was Tia a cold clinical psychologist.
above and below. deep down. really? What was the point? Oh. wasn't the end of the world. of her very survival descending upon her again. Get real! This is life! This is as good as it gets! She let herself in and climbed the stairs to their flat. the mass moved on. At least she couldn't see the spot now! She touched it. As she walked along the street and drew near to their apartment. I can't be completely losing my touch! The thought was a momentary breath of fresh air. Her legs felt like lead. just a necessary survival mechanism . She had to get a grip. Aware yet unaware. She scowled at her image in the window. It had taken her a while to realise that it was nothing personal.here. She grimaced. the tube felt stifling. There were two other flats. that was just her perception. Lynn was all right. Except that she wasn't. Tia seemed to enjoy talking to me. Despite herself. By the top of the second escalator. always had been. she inserted herself with mindless ease into a miniscule cavity within the many-legged organism flowing past her. What was the point of it all. She'd been fine before. stop being so bloody dramatic! she chided herself angrily. 19 . hopeful encounters were residual polite hellos when they surprised each other on the stairs. Anyway. nobody ever need see their neighbours in North London if they didn't want to. she could feel tears in her eyes. Lynn had tried very hard when they first moved in. You're not living in a bloody soap. Lynn felt the dragging weight of her everyday existence. Tears of self-pity. 'It already has!'? But it hadn't happened. found herself reflecting. thankful that it was only on the first floor. But it all seemed too much effort now. As the doors slid open. but they rarely saw the occupants. she told herself fiercely. It was less people to explain to. Her pace slowed. It was still there. especially an easy one like hers. at least. Miscarriages were two a penny these days. Think of something else. which which equally unthinkingly increased the space minutely to accommodate her body shape. Lynn felt the carriage begin to slow down and she mechanically arose. Now it suited her. but all that remained now of those eager. Everything came crowding in. A miscarriage. get back her joie de vivre.they do if she said. as she walked up the steps to the huge Victorian front door.
fighting her way past people's deadened comprehension to make them understand. to re-experience the buzz she had felt. miss?' The card made Tia seem more tangible. She felt that she couldn't breathe properly. Lynn put it carefully away inside her purse and thought of the session. 'Could you perhaps lose what you might have had?' Suddenly. for the kids. Tia knew about her . anyway. That was better! But what was it that Tia knew? Would she ever get to know her and find 20 . somehow distinctive. Much better to make them laugh. to have a shared moment of intimacy. Not that she was a dishonest person anyway. 'What's this you wrote. she wasn't sure what . it clicked. And Mark had been so worried it wouldn’t work! A few little changes when she moved in. . looping. Desperately she tried to relive it. 'It wasn't like I lost anything!' Heard again Tia's quizzical comment. Lynn's meeting with Tia seemed unreal.As she let herself in. Her writing was angular. eliminating all traces of Gina. until now. In the pointless ordinariness of her surroundings. She pulled out the appointment card she had been given and studied it with a teacher's eye. heard herself say again. though she purposely made it very easy to read. She had to. Anyway – laughing was scientifically proven to be therapeutic. They were always saying. but that was only to be expected. granted. possibly (possibly!) the most honest person she knew. The room seemed smaller. Hadn't Norman Collinson cured himself of ankylosing spondilitis by laughing? Well then! She concentrated again on Tia. as though it was trying to get closer to her. . She shook her head to clear it. to invade her space.without her having to explain in lots of dreary words. In fact she was a very honest person. Their reaction was always so disappointing. Even at the cost of real intimacy. The very pattern on the wallpaper seemed larger. but she didn't particularly like it. slightly italic. She looked around. Lynn's was rounded. rather like Tia herself. Lynn resolutely forced herself to remember how lucky they were to have this flat. It wasn't working now. She knew! Tia knew! In some way that Lynn couldn't quite grasp. Four happy years . however cheaply bought. Tia wrote in black. of real honesty? Now where had that thought come from? Lynn didn't know. And it was never worth it when you did.knew something. The wallpaper receded. slightly chaotic.
why did this conversation grate on her so much? She struggled not to get more irritated by his look of concern. What kind of image had she presented to Tia? Not immediately attractive. 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. I love your cooking. And why had her brain just cut out for no reason so often? Oh god. was very bad. Lynn felt herself hanging onto Tia's brightness and concentratedness as a sort of talisman to dispel the wispy darkness that kept on trying to accumulate around her. She looked at the vegetable rack. looking at her sadly with their papery old ladies’ faces. she'd asked questions. and then.well. it was so good to see you cooking again.it was great. What did you put in that sauce . 'Lynn.' He was so kind. 21 . She focused on the fragments of conversation she could remember: 'As you see . just a few withered old mushrooms. . that was a wonderful meal. . Mark asked Lynn the question she had been dreading.' Pause. Later that evening. and with more energy than she knew she possessed. as she was clearing the plates away. The darkness. 'You know I love you. anyway. don't you?' 'Yes. surely? Lynn glanced at her watch and was horrified. when it came. . but it was early days. Mark arrived home to the aroma of pesto and pasta. But your mum had her baby. Is that important? . with only a few days left until term started. she was so sick of it doing that! It had been doing it for months now – it never used to! But at least she'd been honest. Mark. Tia looking. Lynn felt the stirrings of appetite. and Mark would be back by six-thirty wanting to know how the appointment had gone. herself. really came. 'And Lynn. building up to it as she had known he would. she'd made Tia smile . Anything there? No dark green or yellow or red of shiny rounded life. she'd shown interest. It's all right to talk . .out? As she drifted round the flat. She had still so much schoolwork to prepare. sort of. I know.' Tia saying. that was for sure. That wasn't too bad for a beginning.' Pause. Tia smiling. Lynn turned hastily away. left the flat to go to the Italian deli on the corner. so caring . . What would she tell him? What could she cook for dinner? For the first time in a while.
Anyway. I think so. Mark didn't seem to mind. 'Will you be going to see her again?' 'I think so. I've brought some home tonight. more like your old self again. well. . I'd say. didn't you? Did you find it . but she didn't. . right. and now she was making him watch every word. It's hard to say.'I know you've been . Lot of work though.' 'How's that new . meaningful silences. . how was your day?' 'Oh. thinking how much she wanted a drink. woman today. Though frankly.' This seemed to satisfy Mark. shared so much. so she went on with a kind of faux brightness. most nights. Fine. 'So. good . client account coming on?' 'Which one?' 'You know! You were telling me last night. 'Take a little wine for your stomach's sake'? . Bit of a psychologist type.' Another pause. . I don't know. She didn't seem to say much. I suppose. but wanting to mean it. . so-so.' 'Oh. But how would he know that? This conversation was her fault. . .' Damn! The name had gone.' Lynn sat down again and fingered her wine glass absently.' Why did she say that? She was going to see her . . the Murchison one. . 'Mark. and didn't it say somewhere or other. did it really matter? It helped her sleep. . . . . the heavy stare. that's good!' 'Her name's Dr Bradley. . ask personal questions. You know. but lately . all her fault.' 'Oh. wasn't she? 'Um. I'm not sure. helpful at all?' Her name was Tia. She's a consultant clinical psychologist. these past weeks. down. . I thought she'd analyse me.whatever that meant. . I suppose. Usually she just had a glass or two at weekends. well. . he drank too! Sometimes he opened a second bottle. . if she was honest. conversed so easily and naturally. 'You went to see that . Probably fairly typical. as 22 . Lynn thought that was going too far. They’d laughed a lot. ' . . but tonight you seemed just a little bit more. What's she like?' 'What’s she like? All right. . . .
can you bring it through?' He was already up and moving off. She bowed her head and managed to speak normally. Yeah. But for how long? Lynn was vaguely aware of something about a time limit. About ten minutes?' 'Fine. 'I'll make a start on this in the study. We’re back on Thursday. And most of the school work's done. some dessert?' 'I never said you had.I haven't been sitting on my backside all day. It hadn't been as bad as she'd feared. Any of that chocolate ice cream left?' 'Sure. I've got some school work to do too. actually . Lynn felt as though she had been hit with a brick. Perhaps Tia could help with that? Mind you. It was just nice to have someone to talk to. since the miscarriage. Oh yes. She found herself cursing Mark for so unawarely moving on with his life and leaving her so far behind. Do you want a coffee. It was the study now. if Tia saw she was 23 .a matter of fact . she’d said there were no miracle cures.' (Thanks very much!) 'Do you want a hand with the washing-up?' 'No.. you know.big day tomorrow.' 'Oh. they were too afraid of hurting the other by saying the wrong thing. But then. 'OK. I thought you were cutting it a bit fine. 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.' As Lynn did the washing up. resolutely squashing all reaction to Mark's last comment.' The study. But was that because they hadn't really engaged at all? They didn't engage much these days. Time's running out. But then she didn't expect them. But it wasn't his fault! He was doing the right thing and she wasn't – that's all there was to it. Do you want it in here?' 'No. most of it's done. coffee would be nice. she reflected on the conversation as a whole.' 'Yes. every day. They didn't know how to reach each other.
'Look. how quick to reassure her. half goaded beyond endurance. And marrying abroad had been different.' And so they had got married in Cyprus. The kettle boiled and she poured it into the cafetiere. in a way. She's history now and I'm sick of the sound of her name! You are the one I love. 'Look Lynn. Best thing she ever did for me. To be married. Always asking Mark if Gina did this or that. I have been for the past two years. which assuaged Lynn's so sore heart. Lynn had never ceased to give thanks to the Powers that Be 24 . Eventually Mark.which had not gone down at all well. had not seemed like marrying at all.helping her . the granite work surfaces. 'So he's made an honest woman of you at last!' . 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. in case you hadn't noticed! Marry me. since by that time Mum had been too ill to come. Gina may have been a bitch. Always wondering if she was saying the right thing and worrying if he was thinking about Gina. I never asked Gina to marry me! Never wanted to. not Gina! Now give it a rest! But she hadn't been able to. She thought back to those early days of their relationship. Dear good Mark! How patient he had been. How insecure she'd been! She could admit it now. It had not been easy. half laughing. showed her the ring and the photos. she didn't seem the sort just to abandon her. Gina was a total bitch and she walked out on me for my best friend. . willing herself to recapture the small but definite delight she used to take in the aromatic smell of the coffee. well enough to say. But eventually. Lynn stared thoughtfully into the washing up water. . and your Mum not there! But she had been well enough to be glad when they told her. Or did she? But surely they weren't allowed to just do that? She'd have to ask her. but she had good taste. Mun had died shortly after. totally committed to you. and Mark had not. you and you alone. And it had lasted quite a time. either with Lynn or with Mark. In one sense it didn't matter where. his tone had become more bracing. I am totally. And I love you for being you. Every time. though Lynn had been able to hide it. afraid that Mark was making comparisons and finding her wanting. the expensive wood of the fitted units. for god's sake! Maybe that will convince you. had said.
. How they'd ever become friends. . 'Darling. except for now. 'Hello. It was her usual response. Something was missing. Gradually she began to pull them towards her and to leaf through them in a desultory fashion. The ringing tone stopped and she heard Della's precise. Lynn dwelt wistfully on a mental picture of Della. It would be nice to hear her voice. she padded back to the kitchen for the wine bottle and her empty glass. immersed in his spreadsheets. 'Lynn! It's Lynn!' Then. She hadn't talked to Della for. Lynn took the coffee and ice cream in to Mark. willowy. . she might even tell her about Tia. . 'How are you doing?' There was a delighted squeal down the end of the phone. Lynn couldn't imagine. well . with her books and papers round her and the laptop on the coffee table. 'Lynn. it's Lynn. Seven happy years. . actually she couldn't remember when. husky voice. Della . slightly muffled. with hardly a cross word. 'You were only trying for three months? That's very good! There's plenty of time yet.’ 'Hi Dell!' said Lynn.' She left the sentence unfinished. yet tonight she paused momentarily. then retired to the living room and sat hunched up on the sofa for a while. In the moments it took for the phone line to connect. It took just ten minutes of pondering the physiology of Lumbricus. 25 .now they could never factor a baby into their life. That had been seven years ago. Della Heworth here. to reduce her concentration such a low ebb that she decided to phone Della.' Then Della's voice. how bitter was that? But the doctor had been so positive. It seemed inappropriate somehow. 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. blonde. . so affirming. How many others had made that same mistake and how wrong it was! How unbelievably wrong and stupid! Perhaps – new and terrible thought . . how are you? I was worried when I didn't hear anything. Arenicola and Nereis. It's been a while . restored to full clarity. as though the mouthpiece of phone had only been partially covered. Oh. immaculate. You'll do fine! Shaking her head. It must be a marriage of two minds.that Mum had lived long enough to see them wed. .
'You poor darling.' said Lynn. He's really busy. awful time for you. a lapsed Catholic who didn’t care who knew it.the one I've got for the time being.' 'Thanks. you know what the National Health's like! Look. darkening the door of a church to light a candle for her was strangely moving.' said Lynn. . 'Look. obscurely touched. 'Oh good! Lynn. . . actually it's on the National Health. . Listen Lynn.' said Lynn. 'Really Lynn.' (Why had she said that!) ‘I mean I feel a bit better. .' 'Oh. . Della bailed her out.she . It really helped me pull myself together.' she said. 'It's been a difficult time .I'm all right now. so much.' 'I am glad!' Della sounded it too. 'Oh well. The idea of Della. I think I'll stick with Ti .' Did she want to? Lynn wasn't sure. We were so sorry . Now that we've made contact. She was surprised to hear herself sounding so firm. But words are pitifully inadequate at a time like this. . and the flowers. 'I'm seeing this therapist.' 'The National Health!' There was a tiny snort of amusement in Lynn's ear. It somehow suggested a vulnerability which hitherto had not been particularly noticeable. now that you're surfacing. if you're sure . I've been concerned about you. would you like to meet up? Drop round for coffee. you know. Usually she bowed instantly to Della's unspoken superiority in the femme du monde business. .'Oh. .charge?' 'Well.' 'It was nothing. I wish there was something we could have done. 'Well. tentatively. that is such a wise thing to do! I saw one after my divorce. How much does he . We were thinking of you. . . I'm . let me put in a word for you with mine. do you want to talk about it a little bit? I didn't like to ask before. oh yes. Thanks for the card . She could not remember why she was phoning.' 'Thank you. .' Her voice too trailed off. both of you. Della heard her resolution and ceded the point. or you and Mark could come for a meal?' 26 . Fortunately. I even went to church and lit a candle for you. but I'm sure I . It's been such an awful.
I really do. that's OK too. too caring. . Just do what you feel you want to. and almost invariably so busy. It 27 . coupled with a desire to terminate the conversation was welling up inside. I appreciate it. it occurred to Lynn that it would be a good idea to go to bed. Desperation gave her a measure of control. my love. wondering at her own hesitation. Lynn. Take the advice of one who knows. Della was warm and funny and wise . She felt no relief. twisting the phone cord round her finger. and Auntie Della will be waiting with the tissues whenever you want. Normally she jumped at the chance to spend time with Della. Sadness. but not enough to make Lynn feel that she was acting in any way strangely. This was too rich a meal. and it was the physical discomfort which finally drew her to a sniffing halt several minutes later. . 'I can't talk about it just yet. Now she was hanging back. Della was surprised. She had to back off.if you can. thought Lynn. Aloud she said. She'd fought them off so many times before as being an extreme reaction to a less than extreme stress. it's your show. . Love you ' Laying back on the sofa. but not before she heard Della say 'God bless. but it was a heaviness she recognised. She usually delighted in Della's company. too available. 'I've got too much work to do at the moment. She did not reason her pain. could we fix something up when we get back to school?' For the second time. give herself time to think. I'll get back to you. You take your time. Or if you never want to talk about it. . While in the bathroom. just a heaviness.' But not about miscarriages. savoured it like a rich wine or a perfectly ordered dinner. Della. She couldn't see Della just yet. But it is good to talk . Could we . that now it was a relief to just let them run. uncomfortably aware that her voice was beginning to thicken with emotion as she was speaking.' she said.Lynn considered this.' And then she found she was crying in earnest and hung up the phone quickly. and she let just enough show in her voice to let Lynn know her solicitude. Della was too warm. it was just a primal ache. 'Thanks Dell. and sent her to the bathroom to splash her face with cold water. Lynn gave herself up to the luxury of tears. 'Of course.
hang on until it was over. half the time she couldn't care less. plodded back to the study. opened the door and said.she needed to get it unscrewed as soon as possible. what a rock to lean on! But not any more. the Lynn that Tia would like if only she knew her. and neither did Mark.was only eight thirty. 28 . 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. she could tell. . threw off every item of clothing into the linen basket and slid into the bath. then put the largest. the fun-to-be-with. these rituals complete. There was no other way. A familiar voice in her head said bracingly. how I miss you! she thought. If she was honest. poured some lavender oil in the little burner and lit the candle underneath. did it hurt so much? And yet . 'Sure. Lynn sighed. She didn't like this new Lynn who was such a burden. True. but she could have a bath first. Oh Mum. 'Do you need the bathroom? I feel knackered . go ahead. said. She decided on a really deep one. Then she could get back to being the old Lynn. He didn't say anything. and then.' Mark looked up. . Where had that Lynn gone? She hadn't seen her for a long time.it didn't really hurt. who cried so much. but his patience was wearing thin. And Mum would have been right. But she had to go through with it. I'll-sort-it Lynn that people liked. Caring was all too much effort. she always was. and she missed her. but dammit. oh why. She laid out a clean nightshirt. added a large amount of the much too expensive bath essence that Mark had insisted on getting her last month for no apparent reason. fluffiest bath towel she could find on the towel rail. Lynn returned to the bathroom and started to run the bath. She could imagine in advance the sour looks from the other members of staff as they scanned the sittings board.just tough it out . had to . her mind had gone blank again. gave a tired grin that broadened into a real one.and yet . that he would what? She had no idea. 'What can't be cured must be endured!' Lynn smiled despite herself.' Feeling cheered by the encounter. Why. Soon he would be so sick of her that he would . What a tower of strength she'd been. this was her life . but she could phone up Brian tomorrow and crib his notes. not done any really.think I'll call it a day. she hadn't done as much work as she'd planned.
Instead of feeling deliciously pampered and in charge. It was altogether so unsatisfactory and so far from her hopes that again a few involuntary tears mingled with the water on her face. 29 . 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. luxuriously soaking in perfumed water with scented air around her. Lynn sat reading a novel. From nowhere a vast longing welled up within her. grabbed the loofah and an exfoliating bar (seaweed and kelp) and scrubbed furiously. She took a sleeping tablet and lay awake waiting for it to take effect. You weren't meant to take them with alcohol but that had been hours ago. Eventually she fell into a troubled sleep. a yearning to be held and soothed like a child by some vast maternal presence. finishing off with a cool shower. she looked down at her naked body and without warning felt hopelessly vulnerable and childlike.As soon as she lay down she knew it was a mistake. Lynn could feel a prickling of sweat on her face. and now she felt desperate enough to take one after she'd just seen a therapist. for crying out loud! What was going on? Thoughts of Tia no longer intrigued or comforted. the bath sheet felt as comforting as it should. Although it was funny. it wasn't quite funny enough. After a while she let them. causing the water to swirl dangerously. the only part of her above water. These had been prescribed for emergency use by her doctor about a week after the miscarriage. and later in bed. Afterwards. and thoughts of Tia intruded. She'd only taken three. This must not be! She sat up abruptly. She felt seriously disturbed.
if not weeks. 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. 'Completely forgot'. Lynn was ready. . . 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.oh. and oh Mark . bony face was anxious as he tenderly placed it on the bedside cabinet. . she hoped. His hair was slightly sticking up. what a cow she was! Of course. Lynn lay alternately cursing her throbbing head and her own cowishness. .like Volkswagons . 30 . but so reliably good . Dear. She pressed a lager into his hand as soon as he'd dumped his briefcase. Or someone would tell him at work. 'Got to dash. it was the presentation today! What time had he come to bed last night? She hadn't even heard him come in.Chapter 3 Lynn surfaced next morning with what felt like a king-sized hangover to find Mark hovering over her with a cup of tea. His face cleared. your hair. It made no difference that Lynn was aware of.' she couldn't bring herself to say the words. I'm doing my presentation this morning. but he'd see it in the mirror in the hall . I hope it goes well!' There was no mistaking her sincerity. He laughed. . He'd been working on this for days. 'No sweat. By late afternoon Lynn was surfacing and an hour's manic rushing around meant that when Mark returned that evening. 'Oh Mark! Sorry! Sorry! I . served a simple but elegant meal (Marks was pricy.you knew what you were getting) and plied him with gentle questions at discreet intervals. 'I . good Mark! He asked for so little.' Oh dear god. it's in the bag! Have a good day. . and rubbed his hand back over the crown of his head. His dark. See you tonight. After he'd kissed her and left.' 'Yes .
it was Lynn who brought Mark a cup of tea as he lay in bed. And what was her husband like? Lynn suddenly shivered. No. and she still had to walk to the station to catch the tube. drinking tea. She wished now that they hadn't had their training days at the end of last term. However. Lynn could tell he was too. In the kitchen. As she pointed out. and the toast turned to cardboard in her mouth. Lynn had very little to drink. smiling smugly and drinking port. let's open a bottle of really nice wine . willing herself to move as the minutes ticked by. at six-thirty? Was she drifting round her own flat . He sat there. and the train of thought died. 'Sorry darling. he was pleased with how it went. She intercepted a glance from him that had a hint of speculation about it. Yes. a sure sign he felt like celebrating. Fortunately it was a nine o’clock start today. it had gone fine. . . Mark wasn’t so sure. She sat there in a stupor. . 31 .on holiday apparently. as she planted a kiss on his sweaty forehead. 'Count your blessings. At least. 'Darling. got to get to school early. girl!' said the little voice in her head. or black coffee? Was her house chrome and glass and minimalist. the PowerPoint had hit the spot. Yes.' Thus it was that the following morning. or he seemed to be. ‘I’m back at school tomorrow. in a kimono or a terry towelling bathrobe? In the shower or still in bed. Now there was only a staff meeting in the morning separating her from teaching in the afternoon. Alan had been impressed. but she usually travelled before the rush hour. Now she was struggling to get out of the chair.celebrate in style!' she said. And she wanted to get in early today so that she could meet the other staff in installments. and enjoying Lynn's attentions. But the spell was broken. Inexplicably. they’d just had one with the meal. and a panic button went off inside her head. probably. She shuddered. the full force of what was awaiting began to dawn on her. he was quite amenable to being talked round. Yes. Patti Travers hadn't been there with her awkward questions . house .Yes. or full of pine and chintz? Minimalist.' she said. . She hastily told herself that it was only one period. and concentrated on thinking how lucky she was to have such a gentle introduction. thoughts of Tia appeared in Lynn's mind. What was she doing now? Was she up too. and how it could have been so much worse. that had been the plan.
grabbed her bag. the white board 32 . same old – except that everything looked unnaturally clean and clutter-free. She sat down in a chair. It was better to be on the spot. They were too low. But . the same tea and coffee-making facilities and sink unit at the other. in the old grammar school building. It took new staff about a week to work out why. though their proximity to it was not their fault. as Lynn well knew. She relaxed back again and sighed with relief as she felt a momentary reprieve from the tension that was knotting inside her. she could easily get there by nine. It had been fun. wasn't it? She sat bolt upright. for a few moments. Definitely too early. What did it matter though? If she wasn't here. They were only sat in as a last resort when all the others were taken – for obvious reasons. They used to play a game when she was a kid. the same woefully inadequate teachers' lockers along two sides of the room. Yes. ready to face the onslaught when it came. Lynn moved hastily on. shouted. It was all there. Lynn didn't like those chairs.very large . and.coffee tables. merely an accident of positioning. giving chairs marks out of 10. panic overwhelmed her. as would the two nearest the staffroom door. She had caught the habit from Mum.there was plenty of time! Even if it was in the lower school. The one that Brenda (18 stone plus) habitually sat in would have got a 2. When Lynn got to school. she'd only be at home. the same marking tables at one end. . and left the flat. the same chairs. How bare and strange the staffroom always looked at the start of the autumn term! Yes. Anyway. She'd phone through and check in just a minute. Where was the impedimenta and accumulata of the teaching profession? Where were the piles of partly marked exercise books. Lynn noticed things like that. stacked open. arranged around two large .She rose. The hall in the new building was much bigger. These chairs would have got 3 out of 10. armed and armless. of course it was here. the staffroom was empty. She closed her eyes and sat back. Otherwise you could never put your coffee cup down. There was still nearly an hour to go before the staff meeting. 'Bye!' in the direction of the bedroom. But hang on! . The lower school staffroom. . was a fifteen minute walk away. She was too early. which she was sure it wasn't. and you had to shuffle forward on your backside to reach the coffee table or else perch uncomfortably on the edge. Same old. it was the right building.
and then people flowed forward. (never a red one. waiting for the sound of voices. Here at least. skipping over the circular letter at the beginning ' . so sorry to hear . the vast amounts of dirty coffee cups. Finally. secure and self-supporting. Lynn. three women came through. the odd unbent paper clip. For a second. Lynn knew. Brian. Alan. . and sat.a letter. . uninteresting beginning-of-term messages. There were footsteps. Soon. . Myra. she could see before she was seen. Her whole inner being was fixed on the corridor outside. and the condolences began.How dreadful. she got up and went to look at the notice board with its impersonal. time hung suspended. coming nearer. with actual space on it. staring at the printed pages. How are you? . Her stomach lurched. had sent to every member of staff about two weeks previously. In the end. Jean. the door opened and a group of two men. . . as Lynn knew from bitter experience). Fran. the women first. the head. not a card. All eyes connected. Awfully sorry . it would be liberally covered with notices held on with inadequate amounts of pins. would be huddled together. She avoided the page with the list of staff. They must have met in the car park and waited for each other. a door slammed. sequencing letters in alphabetical order.' And he'd written her a very nice letter too . . It was no good. items of clothing and bits of paper with vital messages illegibly scribbled thereon? And how tidy the notice board looked. so 33 . By the end of term. the sprinkling of blue and black pens. or if they were really desperate. . feeling her apprehension mounting with every minute. she gave up.markers. notices which had once proudly kept their distance. At the end of the corridor. a momentary advantage. That showed sensitivity. Lynn got out the brown envelope with the bulky sheaf of briefing notes that Graham. 'Oh. of footsteps. She herself had been guilty on more than one occasion of filching pins from existing notices to tack up her own. knowing that seeing John Quincy's name (maths) would make it all too easy. . communally sharing pins. 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 . Lynn sat trying to read. .
She walked over to stand by the hot water urn.' Then she recognised the voice and swung round to face her. simply 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. . Adrenaline pumped through her. The staffroom buzzed and heaved with the inordinate number of staff present and nobody took any notice of her. How are you feeling now? . discuss the miscarriage with Della here and 34 . 'You look very pale. Della was preoccupied. 'Hi Dell!' she said. 'That's all right. concerned faces and saying over and over. by and large. sit with you?' Thankfully. So sorry. She could not. it stopped. 'Hello. glad of a respite to get her bearings.' she said absently without turning round. the door opened again and more people drifted in.' said Della. apart from a few latecomers yet to arrive. and hums of conversation broke out in other parts of the room. 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. It was over. 'How bloody annoying. Pushing herself away from the lockers. . enabled Lynn to pull herself together more quickly than anything else Della could have said. I'm so sorry you lost your baby. moved slowly and somewhat unsteadily away.' and then. . 'Hello!' she said again.' 'Thank you. 'Are you sure you should be back at school yet? Do you want to sit down? Shall I make you a coffee. leaning against the lockers. she took refuge in a small smile and a slight shrug.sorry . Lynn found herself looking at kind. something about the way Della expressed her concern .' 'Yes. they've forgotten to fill the urn again. . she stood up straight and turned full face to Della.' Every time there was a lull.' 'Better now. Winded. So sorry . . Lynn still standing by the notice board. just she thought that it would never stop and she would be there repeating the same things for the rest of her life.the list of questions and the 'poor little you' tone. . 'Oh Lynn. She found her voice and gave a dismissive ‘I’m all right' sort of laugh. thanks. People's sad faces relaxed as they moved away. A whiff of a familiar perfume made her turn her head.' Lynn was taken completely unawares. this time looking directly at her.
but it should be OK. 'I think we can squeeze you in.' Della recognised the response and inwardly approved. she would quite like to.it'll be legal and binding!’ 'Great!' Lynn echoed. .I've got about twenty things to do. . wait! It's the squash club's annual dinner and we’re doing something on the Saturday . Deryk will be so pleased to see you. She had the most hectic social schedule of anyone Lynn knew. ‘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 does that sound?' Lynn felt a bit lost.' The irony of this was not lost on Della. Damn! How about the Friday after? I know it's a long way off. You'll have to come then . 'I think so.now. 'Got to run . it would be interesting to know what she thought. 'Mark must have been surprised!' Nevertheless.' 'Yeah.' She managed a weak grin. This was the Lynn she knew and loved. a fortnight tomorrow seemed a long way off . 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. But she undoubtedly managed it somehow. But that's the only way they'd do it. ‘I’ll put a note in your pigeon hole confirming it. ‘I’ll have to check with Mark. First it was 'soon'. smiling her appreciation. . Next Friday? No. . 'Great!' she said. 'A new woman eh?' she mused. wait.' Lynn said slowly. Coffee has been implicated in 35 . Lynn had no idea. then that was how it was. She hated seeing Lynn looking droopy and depressed. She must do something. but it will give me the chance to lay on something really nice. . Yeah. We're in Portsmouth this weekend. then it was two weeks tomorrow. Lynn still looked pretty fragile. It just wasn't her. Why did Della assume that she would want to tell her about her therapist? Though actually. . and if a fortnight Friday was her first free day. It's been ages .I forget what. But still . come round for dinner soon? You and Mark. How she fitted it in with being head of department. Della had had therapy. though she felt slightly ruffled. fine! Why not!' 'Let's think. 'Look.
she wanted to borrow his notes. took you to one side and discreetly whispered.premature loss of libido. anyway. Polly was the lower school lab technician. . a bit too meaningfully. But. too shy to even look Lynn in the face! Amused. jewellery chunky but not too chunky.' 'What?' 'It's a fact. was what Della taught . It had been a challenge to thaw her out but it had been 36 . though she couldn’t help noting with annoyance that someone had borrowed her cat mug again. of course. It seemed funny without Polly but she wouldn't get back from holiday until tomorrow. filled it up and savoured a much-needed cup of coffee. not a bloody lifethreatening disease and I had it over a month ago!' Lynn had replied sweetly. And acting. ‘thespian’. though Polly was not there. 'No thanks. I read it in the Tea Drinkers' Weekly and Doughnut Dunkers' Gazette. where her class was. 'Want a lift?' Brian had said. they could always say it was for an experiment. I could do with some fresh air. Then she joined the general exodus to the main hall. Lynn went straight to the science prep room and put the milk in the fridge. Lynn had wanted to hug her on the spot. tights sheer but not too sheer. but empty. cluttered prep room. getting some milk on the way. Lynn walked to the lower school. Lynn thought. After lunch. as though that somehow excused everything. Lynn relived their first meeting. How awkwardly Polly had offered her hand to shake. Lynn was sick of people just being kind. Some people would have 'He meant well' engraved on their tombstone.' Smiling. 'No thanks! It's just a miscarriage. Lynn made some coffee and sat in the homely. full of Polly. Everything about her. lipstick bright but not too bright. oh. Sipping her coffee. here in this prep room. Lynn located the kettle. What a load of rubbish Della talked! But it was entertaining rubbish at least. Brian.' What was the point? He was just being kind. . Della moved away. with her floppy hair and glasses and her perpetually worried look that Lynn loved dispelling with a joke. 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. earrings dangly but not too dangly. And anyway. shouted – no. Resisting the urge to snap back. amongst other things. now abandoned.
Had a miscarriage.this would never do! . But it was Polly that Lynn wanted now. How about you? Ready for some work?' Predictably. had another cup of coffee. 'Hello. and went outside to meet her class. Lynn regarded her as one of her successes. and then said amiably. this produced a loud groan.a bit too much at times. mused Lynn. She'd had them last year too. with her clarity of mind and her easy warmth and witty ripostes. But Polly's company was very restful. Polly doted on her . just at the moment. one of Lynn's favourite classes in fact. who. sat and thought.’ then had to eyeball the humorist. What a contrast Polly was to graceful. She was so accepting . also 37 . thought Lynn. It was a useful attribute for a teacher. It was usually the other way round. Strange that after her accidious cultivation of Polly and the time she had spent gently drawing her out. 'Fine thanks. heard a noise as of approaching thunder coming up the stairs. No one ever crossed Della twice.wandered round some more. Aloud she said. Got depressed. Miss!' 'Have a good holiday?' 'Do anything then?' Not much. Well. it was now she who missed Polly.and though she was still earnest and awkward. Sometimes Lynn couldn't help feeling a bit jealous. which swelled when they saw her. of course.dear Polly! She was such a simple soul! Lynn checked that her lab slips for the next two weeks were up. She always had the most Christmas cards and presents of all the staff in the school. She was very tongue in cheek was Della. I'm not letting you in until you are. It took a lot to make her speak her mind. 8R. They were a nice bunch. 'Well.worth it. but her pupils had a healthy respect for her tongue. 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. urbane Della. She looked round and sighed. found herself nodding off . she was not so shy. Saw a therapist. Polly's chief talent was listening. Not that Della didn't listen too. Polly had repaid all Lynn's efforts . strolled round the labs. Lynn waited for it to die down a bit. They were untidily assembled outside the lab with much pushing and shoving and noise.
Sara. draw the diagram underneath and then answer in your books the questions I am about to write on the board. . if we don't waste time . Ben. Make sure you answer in sentences. 'But Mrs Davies. Write out the paragraph headed "Steam turbines". sweetheart.' A disappointed mumble surfaced and a dissonant voice was heard. by the window. it's over there. Lynn stood in the doorway so that they had to go through in single file. . . . . but we can do it. Her lessons were looked forward to and she seldom disappointed them. chattering away like monkeys as they unpacked their bags.?' 'Definitely not. Now then . we've got a lot to get through this term. Already Lynn could feel herself becoming drained from the encounter with their sheer animal exuberance. taking down the stools on the benches. When you get them . when you get them turn to page 32. 'Stephanie. Kevin.' She paused. welcome to the first science lesson of the term.predictably.' Lynn had no intention of telling them that Polly had in fact been in at the beginning of the holiday to set out the demonstration which was even now on a trolley in the prep room. but the lab technician is still away. ‘Suits me fine!’ There was muttering and shuffling as they got into a semblance of order. said. you said . Lynn was a popular teacher. Now. hel-lo? . I’m sorry. got that? Page 32. they're gas taps. . from the effort of mentally imposing her will on them. just leave them .' Lynn said. The class looked at her expectantly. . She's back tomorrow. isn't it? Bin it .' 'But couldn't you . and she hadn't even started teaching them yet. you've seen them before. . then left her position when about half were in. Union rules. . 'Afternoon everyone. give out the text books. your hair looks fine. 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 . . But she did today. you said we would be doing a practical first lesson. so there's no one to set out any practicals. I know I said. bit early to be chewing gum. and stood at the front watching them finishing coming through. sitting on them. . 'Yes. . OK. Yes. Patrick. Put the comb away.
They were so distressing that she turned immediately to the crossword on the back page. Tall and merry.’ but temporised with. She sat down again and looked at the newspaper headlines. concentrating on the words. half asleep. one of several in this class. 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. on the female side. Mark found her there. Lynn sighed. she made a cup of tea and sat down in the kitchen. diagnosed ADHD. . Faithful Nicole! Lynn 's heart warmed towards her. articulate but not too cheeky . Individual pupils looked up reproachfully but she stared them down. There was always one in every class.and very bright. with the likes of Nicole. The end of Lynn's imaginings about . She looked at him with such an air of bruised fragility that his heart went out to her. all right. When she got home that night. and Nicole was the one that made 8R shine more brightly for Lynn. . ‘Yeah. It was going to be a long lesson. and it looked like it was hurting. hair invariably worn in a severe ponytail. so she got up and hung it in the hall. Laboriously. had always ended. head industriously down. I’ve handed my notice in. the future . 'How was your day?' 'Oh. Already Ryan. ‘What’s for dinner? I’ll get it. disorientated. She moved in to placate the neighbour and to jolly Ryan along into doing some work in a place where no one would annoy him by getting in the way of his pen.’ 39 .bench. Few problems. he got up and moved towards the kitchen. This was very bad teaching and she knew it. After a while it dawned on her that she was still wearing her coat. He said her name and she came to. Lynn was shattered. but nothing major. Now. She had spent too much but she was in no mood to let it bother her. . Nicole was the first to begin writing. . When he felt her shift restlessly beneath it. She stuffed the food she had grabbed up at the supermarket in the freezer and the fridge. was poking his neighbour with his pen. She should have at least prepared worksheets. when he came in from work. She said. You?’ She longed to say. ‘Bloody awful. no more. could have been worse. giving it her best shot.’ (Not much!) Mark sat down beside her and put his arm round her.
'Lasagne and mange-tout. . 40 . Fridge and freezer. . She took another sleeping tablet and fell asleep still wondering. Lynn thought of Tia for almost the first time that day. nothing. Still almost two weeks to go! She could not decide whether she could hardly bear the thought or whether she didn’t give a tinker’s cuss whether she ever saw her again. but if not. 'What's that?' 'Oh . He called from the kitchen as she heard the microwave door click shut.' Mark had heard only the first two sentences. I'd forgotten we were going to eat it tonight.' She hoped Mark was reading the instructions correctly. He knew that any attempt at conversation would be rebuffed. She was so bloody touchy these days. did it really matter? She spent the evening in a fog of depression. I didn't mean to put it in the freezer actually. but contented himself with looking at her now and then in what he hoped was a sympathetic way. and went to bed as early as possible. In bed. Mark said nothing. It was getting very tiring.
This time the tablets worked. Lynn slept deeply and awoke the next morning filled with a new resolve. This would not do! She was not surviving and she must survive! She was not being fair to Mark, not being fair to her friends, not being fair to the kids she taught, not being fair to herself. What could she do? Then it hit her. It was simple - so simple - all she had to do was just act 'as if'. As if she was coping. As if the miscarriage had not happened. As if everything was normal. And soon it would be! Why had she not thought of it before? It was so obvious! After the miscarriage, things had been . . . well, black . . . but she had been crawling out of it. Stiff upper lip! Least said, soonest mended. And what had happened? She'd seen Tia, that's what! But then what? She'd seen Tia and come home feeling great and then . . . well, just gone back to where she was before really. Except that now she had Tia to stress about as well. What had gone on in that counselling session? Lynn paused in genuine bewilderment. Tia had said . . . well,
nothing, really. Tia had . . . listened. Tia had made her . . . remember things. Well, of course, she had to do that, but she'd remembered wrong. Not in a 'It was a shame but I can cope,' strengthening kind of way but in a sad, hopeless kind of way. That was no good. In fact, it was very depressing. Tia had made her feel depressed! Had put the idea into her head! She'd been all right until then . . . well, more all right than she was now. Well then! She was officially declaring herself undepressed! The old Lynn was back! Mark sighed and mumbled as the bedclothes were flung back with the force of Lynn's exit. He came round to the sound of the shower running in the bathroom and Lynn singing. Her voice was true and melodious, and he listened in pleasure until it dawned on him that it was something he had not heard for quite a while. He put his hands behind his head and lay there smiling. All through breakfast, Mark kept casting covert glances at this new, cheerful Lynn. She
seemed determinedly upbeat, but not relentlessly so, as far as Mark could tell. 'Just thinking more positively, that's all,' he told himself, loyalty preventing him from adding, 'And about time.' It was amazing how positiveness rubbed off. He could feel himself stretching inside, as though he'd just been let out after spending the night locked in the wardrobe. He looked at Lynn's profile, the wetness from the shower unable to subdue the wave in her hair, her lovely skin, her smiling mouth, and he longed for her. She felt his gaze and turned towards him. ‘I'm so looking forward to seeing Polly. I’m pretty certain she’s back today.’ Oh. The smile was not for him then. No matter. A smile was still a smile. It was a start. He swallowed his disappointment and leaned forward to kiss her. 'I'm off now.' The kiss glanced off the corner of her mouth as she turned to check the calendar. He hesitated fractionally, then as he rose to leave, she smiled properly, just for him, and said, 'Have a good day, Mark. Let's try and do something special tomorrow.' His joy was whole again. He left, whistling. Behind him, Lynn found she was gripping the table so fiercely that her knuckles showed white. On the tube to work, Lynn found she could maintain her new-found optimism quite easily as long as she didn't relax. Any negative thought was immediately countered by a mental image of herself before the miscarriage and the positive assertion, 'I am like that now!' and consigning the period in between to a black hole - a toilet actually - and flushing it away. Lynn was a very visually oriented person. She debated the idea of not seeing Tia again. It really had done more harm than good, now she came to think about it, but this thought itself seemed negative and stress-inducing, until she counteracted it with the idea that she actually ought to see Tia again, to tell her how harmful the last session had been. Tia really should be made aware of how dangerous those suggestions of hers had been. Then she stopped thinking about Tia, because that was the best thing to do, and thought again about seeing Polly . . . Polly's cuddly form, Polly's cheery countenance, Polly's air of comfortableness. As soon as she got to school, Lynn headed for the prep room. Lynn saw Polly before Polly saw her, her white-coated back bending over a trolley
loaded with test-tube racks full of test-tubes. Polly heard her and turned round to greet her. She looked a trifle weary. Her lab coat swung open, revealing her neat dark skirt and jumper. None of Polly's lab coats had enough buttons. As they fell off, she carefully saved them in pockets and petri dishes and beakers in odd places, so that she could sew them on later. Once Lynn had needed a couple of dozen buttons in a hurry for a floating and sinking experiment and had dashed into the prep room, laying her hands on enough of them in a matter of seconds. 'Hi Polly - good to see you!' said Lynn. 'Nothing's been getting done around here!' She meant, 'I've missed you,' and Polly knew that. She laughed. 'Good job I'm back then! Good to see you too, Lynn. How are you?' She made as if to hug her and then realised that she had a large conical flask in her hand filled with liquid and hesitated, confused and looking for a space to put it down.. Lynn took advantage of her confusion to counter the question with another. 'So - how was the holiday?' Polly didn't notice the change of topic. 'Terrific, lovely weather. And the hotel was near the beach. We were blessed. And I was able to hire a wheelchair and that made such a difference to mum.' Polly's face glowed. Clearly the wheelchair had been the icing on the cake. 'You look a bit tired though.' 'Trust you to notice! It was the usual flight back in the middle of' the night – and it was delayed. We got home at four-twenty this morning, so I feel a bit spaced out to be honest' 'You should have phoned in sick – come in this afternoon. We would have managed.' Polly stared at Lynn as though she had suggested something immoral. 'You know I could never do that!' As she spoke, Polly continued to pour liquid from the flask into one test-tube from each rack. Her squarish hands, perpetually roughened and stained with chemicals even though she got through stacks of disposable gloves, worked deftly, somehow independently of the rest of her. A rhythmic 5 mls of lime water glided into each test-tube, almost as accurately as if it had been pipetted. 'How are you then?' she said. There was no evading it this time. Polly didn't know about the miscarriage. How could
she? She'd been visiting her brother, then in Spain with her mother in the holidays. She was not party to staff briefing notes. Lynn probably could have contacted her in the brief interim between Polly's jaunts, but contacting anyone hadn't been high on Lynn's list of priorities then. 'Oh Polly, I lost . . . it.' Polly stopped what she was doing. Lynn watched as shock, disbelief and pain jostled for supremacy on her face. Pain won, melting quickly into sadness. She opened her mouth to speak, thought better of it, glanced desperately around, dumped the flask in the sink and came quickly over to put her arms around Lynn. Lynn returned the hug and found that there were tears in her eyes. No matter how hard she tried, they came unbidden and unwanted at the most awkward moments these days. Polly continued to hug her, and at length released her and stepped back, her eyes silently searching Lynn's face. The embrace was what Lynn had been waiting for, yet it was somehow unsatisfactory. When she had felt Polly's arms round her, she had imagined laying her head on Polly's shoulder and letting the tears flow freely but something imperceptible - whether from her or Polly, she could not tell - had held her back. Lynn rubbed her eyelids with the back of her hand as Polly spoke, her voice unsteady. 'Oh Lynn, I am so sorry.' Lynn knew she was. Why was it not enough? She gave a watery smile. 'That's all right, Pol. It's been over a month now.' 'It must have been terrible,' said Polly. Lynn saw tears of sympathy in her eyes and
opened her mouth to reply. At the very same moment Bill the chemistry teacher breezed through the room and paused in the doorway through into the other lab, calling over his shoulder, 'Pol, major favour! The distillation of ethanol demo - you know the one I mean. Lab three - first period this afternoon. I meant to fill in a slip but I forgot.' ‘I’ll try,' said Polly, 'but we’ve only got one set of Quickfit here and it’s booked. I'll have to see if someone can . . . ‘ She spoke to his retreating back. 'Thanks Pol! I owe you one!' came floating through
the empty doorway. Polly sighed resignedly. This sort of thing was always happening. The moment was lost. There was a silence, then Polly said, ‘I’m glad you always fill your lab slips in.' 'Thanks,' said Lynn wryly. A buzzer sounded. Lynn saw Polly glance involuntarily towards the racks of test-tubes, then back to her. She so patently did not know what to do that Lynn took pity on her and said, 'What are you doing for lunch?' Now was not the time to talk. Now was never the time to talk. Polly looked blank. ‘Let’s go to the Black Caff then.’ Relief surged over Polly's face. 'Good idea, why not!' ‘I’m paying’ she added hastily. 'My last holiday fling . . .' she paused, unable what to think of to say next. 'Before the humdrum hurly-burly of school life drags you down again,' Lynn finished for her. 'Something like that,' agreed Polly. Lynn gave her a somewhat shaky wink and left, as Polly picked up the phone to Brenda, the lab technician at the upper school. At lunch time, they met, as they always did, in the staff car park by Polly's car. She drove in each day from a nearby council estate. Though she was permanently resident at the lower school, it was handy to have a car to facilitate escape at lunch times. The Cafe Noir was ten minutes away by car, and consequently conveniently inaccessible, on the whole, to sixth form pupils, who preferred the new Starbucks anyway, or McDonalds, both within walking distance. Polly parked by the new shopping precinct and they strode purposefully towards the large plate glass windows, slightly misted over with condensation. Inside, they could see squashy black sofas, chrome and glass and potted palms. It was an odd mix but they liked it. As they pushed open the door, the warm smell of croissant, coffee and chocolate drew them seductively in, and they found themselves sitting, coats on the backs of the seats, perusing the menus before they knew how they'd got there. The emphasis in the Cafe Noir was on comfort and it was very satisfying to sink back into the soft leather upholstery. Lynn and Polly studied the menu carefully. It was as familiar as
she felt that something was not quite right. and then looked across the table at Lynn.' She paused again. 'It was in the holiday. I got. . It was in her. I was coming up to the three months. at length. it was a good enough one. 'Now. . . Lynn thought this was a total waste of time. 'Well. Polly said in surprise. 'Yes. groping for a way in. By tacit agreement. She was gazing into her coffee cup. It had been at the hospital . Lynn began to panic. How long had she been doing that? 'Oh well. It did seem odd. As they reached for their coffees. afterwards . and when the food came they gave it their full attention.' she added hastily.' Then she remembered.' and then blushed crimson at the forthrightness of the phrase. What was it? It was not Polly. searching for the right words to begin. but . it was like this . about two weeks after we broke up. They were both hungry. . Polly was sitting very still. . with every expression of sympathy.the contents of last week's newspaper. that kind of preperiod ache? But it never occurred to me . that it was taking too long.' She began to talk. 'Only if you want to. 'Tell me all about it. I thought you didn't take sugar now.' she said finally. . Lynn didn't reply immediately. They had filled croissants. . She began to listen to what she was saying. they never did 'sensible eating' here. Lynn finally found a door. . Lynn.' Lynn said. Considering the highly calorific nature of croissant dough. 'Well. she felt that something was definitely wrong. 'You're putting sugar in?' 'Only in coffee. you know. blinking behind her glasses as she waited for her to continue. All that effort . and it took you ages to give it up. . . Polly settled herself comfortably. Lynn's with chocolate. After two minutes. 46 . lost in her own thoughts. 'Just this once. Lynn risked a glance at her. but it was still part of the fun. aware that she was repeating herself. and in an agony lest Polly should interrupt. And now she was back on the sugar. Polly's with some sort of cottage cheese mixture.all for nothing! She felt a surge of irritation. She paused. After a minute. when she didn't care any more.' she said.' Lynn considered.' she said. who was listening perfectly.
. she forced herself to look at Polly. and it dawned on her that this was an edited account. feeling more sure of her ground. What was positive about having a miscarriage? She took a sip of coffee. and too sweet. Lynn. the support she had been given. She put the cup down and wiped the froth from her lips. When I got to school. It's nature's way . nothing she could hold on to. That's very good. and began to boil over. She didn’t know how else to say it. 47 . leaving out the emotion entirely. . We got loads of cards . Just words. 'What a stupid bloody thing to say! What do you know about it.' Now it was Lynn's turn to be puzzled. Polly!' she heard herself shout. What had they said? 'They said they were sorry.' she said at last. people were very sympathetic. to concentrate on what she was saying. She stopped. . stop her feeling. when Lynn had ground to a halt. so that her discomfort and pain didn't make them feel bad. but she couldn’t.' Polly was saying kindly. She began to remember exactly what they had said. People had said nothing . like mercury rising up a thermometer. Yuck. That was how it seemed to her now. It was cold now. They said . She was talking brightly. the fact that there was no baby.describing. words to shut her up. 'People were very kind. The more Lynn thought about it. more solid. ' Lynn's anger seemed to explode through the top of her head. as if she didn't know how to react. 'And damn you too.' she said eventually. yes. 'You seem to have a very positive attitude to all this. The vague feeling of irritated puzzlement and unsatisfactoriness inside her began to coalesce into something darker. Nothing that told her they could feel her pain. 'If there had been a baby. animatedly playing down the gory bits. and flowers.' She paused. Polly was still listening hard. With a gargantuan effort. 'Well. . but she was looking puzzled. Lynn thought about stopping. slowly at first and then faster and faster until it began to reach explosion point. nothing of comfort. At length Polly said. 'So it's all for the best. it probably couldn't have lived. Oh damn them! Damn them all! The rage filled her to overflowing. . She was majoring on the care of the staff.nothing of value. the more she could feel a sense of hot fury swirling up inside her. Or it would have been deformed.
She held on tighter.' Lynn was beside herself with remorse. and regarded her with a look of total unbelief. the hum of conversation resumed.you patronising cow? What do you know about anything? You're still living with your mother.' she said awkwardly. could not believe what she had said. then turned quickly back. Polly made a half-hearted attempt to withdraw them. I know! I don't know what got into me. 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. Trembling. . All her anger seemed to have vaporised in that explosion. Her jaw dropped. Polly had her head down and her shoulders were shaking.oh. and she was scrubbing away tears. She couldn’t gaze at it for ever. when all I wanted to do was help you. . I know. Oh please believe me! Please forgive me!' 48 . ' Polly . 'I didn't deserve that. I'm seeing a therapist. The cafe went quiet. What did I say . Horrified. After a couple of hour-long seconds. She looked up. Her face was swollen and blotchy. and in the face of Polly's distress. so after a little while she lifted her head to look at Polly. too. something Lynn had never actually seen happen before. Lynn had never seen her cry. Lynn watched her struggling to regain control before she added with an odd dignity. She looked at Polly's tear-stained face and reached across the table to grab her hands. Heads at adjacent tables turned. for god's sake!' Polly stopped in mid-sentence. much as she wanted to. 'Polly.to cause that?’ Her lip was trembling. 'I was only trying to help. I say mad things. and Lynn could feel them shaking beneath her grip. but Polly and Lynn still sat staring at each other. truly I don't! Oh please forgive me! I'm so sorry! I'm under such a strain these days. oh Pol! Don't cry! Oh. she lowered her head and stared at the table cloth. I'm not myself. she was doubly so now. please don't cry! I'm sorry. I'm sorry . Lynn. she couldn't work out why on earth she had said what she did. If she was aghast before. which were convulsively clasping a wad of tissues. which strangely enough looked the very same as it had before she had spoken. 'I don't understand. Something had happened which could not be reversed.
let me! It's the least I can do!' 'No! My treat. That's what friends are for. with her agonising shyness. It was incredible. As they were leaving. She returned the pressure of Lynn's hand. realised that Polly actually meant it. Thanks for listening. I said. but the situation was still horribly fragile. she drove quickly to her own house. I needed to talk – everything's all churned up inside . 'That's all right Lynn. Instead. 'Time to go . How could Polly do it? Did she really mean it? She seemed to. They would never come to this cafe again. to grope.' She broke off. somehow. She managed a small smile. Thanks. 'Polly. she tried again.' Lynn. was amazed to encounter Polly's steady gaze. 'so it's all right. but thank you!' Polly did not trust herself to reply. it really is.' After Lynn had got out. for her purse.I don't deserve it. having been delivered by a member of staff travelling to the lower school during break.Polly heard her sincerity and was programmed to respond. and then withdrew her own. you are so kind! So forgiving! Thank you so much . 'Course I forgive you! We've said worse than that to each other!' (Have we? thought Lynn. I've got to nip to the upper school to pick up that Quickfit for Bill. Polly.' 'Polly. Lynn could feel them. The Quickfit apparatus was already set up. rather blindly.' Lynn let her.) 'I know I can't really understand how you're feeling. Polly did not drive to the upper school. anyway. As they were driving back to school. 49 . It was all spoilt now. had put her through.I'll just sort the bill out.' said Polly humbly. the death blow that Lynn had nearly dealt their friendship. would never recover from this ordeal that she. was surviving. although her hands were still shaking. Lynn didn't dare say any more. thanks to her. not knowing what to say to make it right. thanks. Polly.' 'Polly. And for putting up with me. Polly said suddenly. Lynn. Can I drop you off?' 'Sure. looking at her. 'Just remembered.
Look at you! 50 . Oh please forgive me! I just can't help it.Once inside. while taking the butter out of the freezer. She kept it there because they ate butter so seldom. . so she put it on the passenger seat and attempted to eat from it while driving. stuffed it in her pocket and headed out of the door. she moaned quietly in anguish. ‘Call yourself a Christian? Where's your self-control. She worked quickly and methodically. She ripped the wrapper off one and stuffed it whole in her mouth. You will die of obesity and God will let you. and got out some white sliced bread. Good! She grabbed the waxed paper bag from the carton. Then she remembered to check the kitchen in case mum came in. Polly headed for the kitchen without pausing to take off her coat. Wait! A third of a box of cereal . She put the other one in her pocket. and began to chew it. Then another slice. She grabbed that too. She forgot about the Weight watchers bar in her pocket as she began to feel bloated and sick. she couldn't reach the cereal bag still in her pocket. she checked the pantry and found a packet with Weight watchers chocolate bars in. and the familiar voice began in her head. I'm so sorry. Polly opened the fridge door and took out some cold macaroni cheese in a bowl. in sheer frustration. and as she worked she continued to fork the cold macaroni into her mouth. frosted flakes. Nothing else in the pantry. the carer would have given mum her lunch and gone by now and mum would be asleep in front of the TV. . I just can't help it!' Polly piled the frozen butter shavings onto the bread. In between mouthfuls. she wedged it between her knees. But the bag kept sliding about when she tried to put her hand in. Thankfully. She was glad she did. the urge to eat had subsided. folded it over. so in the end. gulping down big bites alternately with the macaroni cheese. Polly took the butter over to the bread bin. Hardly knowing what she was doing. Grabbing a fork from the draining board. Polly crammed the last of the bread into her mouth and got into the car. With the seat belt on. By the time Polly got to school. 'Oh Lord. Then another. It’s no more than you deserve for not letting Him help you. she began to eat it. As she locked the front door. She hastily put the macaroni cheese bowl in the sink underneath the breakfast things and noticed the still half-eaten slice of bread she had left on the work surface. She took a sharp knife and began to shave off thin slivers of frozen butter.
When Tia saw her looking. This time Lynn was more alert. 'Lynn. and said. Once again she ushered her through.' Then she waited until Lynn had almost reached her and turned and led the way to her office. sat in the same seat she had sat in two weeks ago.Look at the state of you! You’re disgusting!’ Polly's only consolation was that these new bad feelings were so overwhelming that they caused the old ones about the scene in the Cafe Noir to recede mercifully into the background at least for the time being. 'This is the first of the three sessions we agreed 51 . and Lynn. At two thirty precisely she heard the soft click of the door at the end of the corridor and turned to see Tia approaching. Once again she was waiting for Tia. 'Mrs Davies is here'. Lynn was sitting on the same chair in the drab corridor. Once again the attentive receptionist had asked her to take a seat. had telephoned through to somewhere. Chapter 5 Once again. unbidden. she stopped. Tia seated herself opposite her and said.
filled Lynn's mind. about everything. and. Her chance had gone. They made me angry. She knew now what she wanted to say. her thoughts scattered like cockroaches under the cupboard when the kitchen light was turned on. I didn't know what to do. how does counselling work then? Can you tell me something about it? I know very little. Actually.together. Lynn hastily averted her gaze again.’ Lynn resigned herself to go with the flow. 'Yes. She’d had a lot of carefully thought out questions first. She'd need to be quicker next time.um . now she'd got started. Polly. 'People were so kind. it's been really difficult. about Tia. Into the silence that followed. now.' Silence. it's been bloody awful. but I don’t know why. Actually. Oh. her thoughts about the miscarriage. it was a relief to talk. Hardly knowing what she was doing. And then her mind blanked completely. 'Although people were kind. my friends. ‘And you made me feel 52 . but it felt so wrong. So. 'To tell the truth. How on earth had that happened. Tia was looking concerned. Tia said. more importantly.' ‘Why's that?’ This simple question helped Lynn to focus. What kind of training do you do? How did you become interested in it?’ Somehow. I don't know why. and got hopelessly jammed in the doorway from her brain to her mouth. how have you been?' All the events of the past two weeks. They simply were not there.well. but now Tia was actually looking at her. it's been really hard work. Lynn looked away and mumbled in a rush. bugger. She risked a glance at Tia. made a concerted rush to escape. they made you feel angry. but I felt so angry.' There was a pause during which Lynn suddenly remembered with annoyance what she had actually planned to say to Tia. What a relief. how could she get it back? She didn't think she could. .' She wanted to add. God! Why did Tia keep doing this to her! She'd had it all so carefully prepared. ‘So . Tia's enquiry had sent it completely out of the window. Della. very angry. . 'I . She hadn’t meant to start with that at all.
but I felt so strange. well. 'I . I suppose that was because of the D and C.' It was not an ideal choice of distraction. Tia was regarding her with an air of polite expectation. that's one benefit I didn't expect from a miscarriage. Every cloud has a silver lining. I started my period last Monday!' To Lynn's dismay she found herself wanting to cry. But here she was in Tia's office. it wasn't as though I wasn't expecting it.' Lynn could feel herself trembling at the memory. . ’Yes.well. anyway. I didn't even phone any work through. Oh. seeing the blood again. 'Sorry. I bet they hated me at school though. not thinking about it. ‘Should I talk about it?’ ‘Whatever you like. it was awful. I think so. but it felt like .I . I just went to pieces. I . . I had to have two days off school.angry too.' 'Yeah . I feel so angry with myself!' ‘With yourself?’ Lynn thought about what she had just said. She wasn’t entirely sure it was true now. it brought it all back. Oh. it was just a period. and then looked up.' 'It's all right. but it was so . having to cover me for that. It was just .’ said Tia. It wasn't even painful. as my old mother would say. Was she angry with herself? She supposed she was – losing patience with her own inability to take it in her stride. That's not like me. putting it on hold until she could see Tia and ask her what she thought of it. at the whole lot of them. and now she felt so tired. and wisps 53 . weird. smothered under a flame-retardant blanket of guilt. But I .I mean being angry with other people when they were being so kind. She had coped by resolutely thinking of something else. This would never do! She concentrated fiercely on Tia’s hands. I should have been ready for it.like another miscarriage.’ but she hadn’t got the bottle. When I saw the blood.well .all right.oh Tia. she said as conversationally as she could. But it had taken a lot of energy. at Polly. had been smouldering for days. The anger she was feeling at Della. . I couldn't go in.oh. . noticing a rather nice green and silver ring. 'Funny about the anger though . To distract herself.
and Polly said." I felt . It seemed too terrible to say aloud. She said. called her a stupid cow. But it did matter. 'But . She stopped trembling. . aware of Tia's eyes resting on her. "If there had been". the worst one was Polly. 54 . She sat up. pleading silently for help. . that there never had been anything. . She had felt so empty. Tia said. Poor Polly! She could see again that look of stricken disbelief on her face. everybody looked . and then her heroic efforts to minimise the outburst. to make it all right. Nothing! Just emptiness!' Emptiness. After a while.' She broke off. It's nature's way. to say it didn't matter. 'Well. She was aware that she was close to losing it. She looked at Tia. "If there had been a baby. and Lynn was powerless to stop them. galaxies of emptiness inside her. . But there wasn't! There wasn't!' Lynn found herself whispering. She wasn't sure what she really thought about that. Oh Polly! Lynn said slowly. So are a lot of others. She leaned forward.of smoke were finally emerging. 'You felt that there was nothing there . She had oceans. She continued hurriedly. She trailed off and sat staring into space. The smouldering pile of anger looked smaller. and gently rocked back and forth. about something. Tia seemed unaware of her inner turmoil. It felt very bad. in a hissing undertone. it probably couldn't have lived or it would have been born deformed. positively billowing out from under the blanket. she said. Can you tell me about the times when you felt angry?' Lynn felt OK once more. clasping her arms around her emptiness. you'd be surprised. 'Stupid. said she was bloody patronising. she came to. I shouted at her. holding it in. useless failure! Thinking you were pregnant! Congratulating yourself! On what? On nothing.there was no baby. It wasn't all right. She said obediently.I thought . in a cafe. it was to herself. trying to remember.How the hell did she know! What right did she have to say it was better for it to have died. a little self-consciously. She had felt as empty as the universe. and said mildly. When she spoke again. 'I'd been feeling very angry anyway. She and Polly had hardly spoken since. more manageable. I really freaked out. 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. 'Anger is a very normal emotion in these circumstances.
What was Tia saying now? She relived the miscarriage. Her womb. the fussy time-lapse cinematography showing the ovum dividing into two. Are you so sure that it was like that . when the sperm met the ovum. there had been only an undifferentiated mass of cells. She thought about it all.' Lynn felt foolish. which should have been the safest place in the universe for the tiny 55 . the doctor saying. She thought back further. and her frustration at his obtuseness. and then a ball of cells . 'There was no baby. Instead he had been bewildered.for ten seconds – for one second! There had been a baby! Her baby! She felt a sudden surge of wonder. a fragile bubble of joy rising within her that was burst almost instantly by the crushing awareness that the baby had not survived. she understood. It touched something. Tia.' Tia said gently. When you’d thought you were full of growing life. She had thought he would be relieved too. . only their disappointment to contend with. 'Oh. She remembered the feeling. true. when she told Mark. in Tia’s bright room. Somehow. the penetration. what then? There must have been a baby! Even if it had only been there for one cell division. By the time the miscarriage occurred. She'd save that to think about later. didn't understand how simple it made everything.That you'd been deceived. ‘Are you so sure it was like that – the whole time?’ Tia’s question echoed in her head.the whole time?' Lynn thought. There was nothing to mourn. The baby didn't grow'. There had been no baby then. it seemed safe to do that here. had deceived yourself. but kindly. almost of relief. you just told me. the wriggling sperm. then four. 'But the emptiness. smiling at her. . looking at her anxiously to see how she would take it. for ten minutes . 'But how do you know?' 'Lynn. and suddenly.' 'Yes!' said Lynn. but when had there started to be no baby? Into her teacher's mind came a vivid picture of fertilisation. There was no baby. but right back at the start. you were really empty. 'Yes! That's it!' She looked at Tia wonderingly. but pleasantly so. Tia continued.
wasn't it? Even if it was only for a minute.did exist . She looked at Tia gratefully.growing life. red-faced state. Anguish gripped her and she cried with racking. 'The baby . Creeping in.' said Tia. But it must have. She could not remember feeling like this before. she could not see her. She could feel whatever was inside her changing from an agonizing laceration into a steady ache. 'The baby was there. or what Tia thought of her. They exchanged a long look and it was only then that Lynn became aware of her blotchy. It was such a nice feeling. . With her head down. and shake her whole body. Something (she shuddered) must have implanted to stimulate hormone production and the thickening of the uterus wall. but Lynn didn't care. in a way she had not cried since she was a child. Tia made no attempt to say or do anything to stop her. it was there?' 'Yes. If it ever reached the uterus. She was powerless to stop them. and smiled tremulously. flowing round the pain.hugely. It was not unlike being sick. and even though she was dimly conscious of Tia sitting perfectly still and making no move towards her. The ruin of her make-up had been completed by the first minute. and looked up. . She opened her eyes and repeated it to Tia to see if she had got it right. aching sobs that seemed to knot her stomach in spasms. working her way steadily through them. and turned to the open box of tissues on the table. She cried for a long time. was not safe enough. horribly.' Lynn bent her head and cried. Lynn exhausted the tissues in her bag. All she could do was to ride them out as best she could. She knew that something of value had just been 56 . The pile of used tissues on her lap grew. She could hear herself gasping and grabbing in breaths between them. The thoughts all became too much for her and she leaned back in her chair. It did not occur to her to think about her red eyes. Eventually the violence of the sobs grew less and Lynn's tears became punctuated by sighs. Something inside her was hurting . without warning they welled up again within her. she know she was there. But one thing stood out. The sobs seemed to die down and just when Lynn thought it was over. eyes closed.was there. she suddenly thought clinically. was a curious feeling of security. It felt so safe to cry in Tia's quiet presence. Confusion overtook her. Lynn finally finished.
transacted.she felt exhausted. Where had the time gone? How could she make the most of what was left? As she reflected. Lynn realised that Tia knew what to do even if she didn't. But mingled with it was a measure of release. This was amazing. 'I don't. Lynn felt glad that Tia was in charge. How could she look so cool. But did she actually need to do anything? Tia was sitting there as relaxed as ever. but now the moment was over she felt uncomfortable and she was not sure what to do or say next. 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. Tia had apparently not moved a muscle. She looked as though she could sit there all day like that. 'What happened just now?' 57 . hands resting loosely on her lap. It meant that she didn't have to do anything. Lynn became aware of Tia's well-cut slacks and sandals and the bright hoop earrings shining through Tia's hair. There was Tia. Eventually she felt herself drifting slowly upwards and reluctantly poked her head above the surface into the bright world around her. ready to engage. if necessary. something of the emotion she had felt only moments ago washed over her. She'd think about what it all meant later. with genuine bewilderment. She wasn't sure she was even thinking anything.' It was clear to Lynn that she would get nowhere with this particular line of questioning. when she. and Lynn sank. She glanced at the clock on the wall. froglike down into the silent shadiness at the bottom of the pond. so she paused to regroup. regarding her with composure as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Twelve minutes to go. Lynn suddenly felt a resurgence of curiosity about this strange and fascinating world about which Tia knew so much and she knew so little. Tia?' Tia looked at Lynn with a faint air of 'Why are you asking me this?' 'No. but Lynn didn't want to think about herself . It had not gone away. 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. Nothing was said for a few minutes.' she said. Tia was in charge. She sat back in the chair and closed her eyes. 'Do you live around here. alert. Lynn. She said. Tia didn't look at all bothered.
when I had the . . Not just feeling sad because my my future was different. lost . 'You know. . She had me against the odds. My dad left her when she was three months pregnant 58 . wasn't it? I was grieving for my baby. I felt . That's odd. She looked at Tia. but because my baby was gone. I really admired her. It was grief. looked up to her. Lynn felt again the sense of awe she had felt earlier. She had to be. Somehow say. and then I realised there was a baby after all . "See. . isn't it?' There was another pause which Tia did not fill. After a while she responded hesitantly. . She would cry later. What on earth went on inside Tia's head? What did she know? She said. you know. I felt like I'd really let my mum down. such a pain. She was tough though. but softly.' Tia said drily. 'What do you think happened?' Lynn replayed it in her mind. .' 'So my baby was real. 'I felt such a failure. But they could wait. . . . 'My mum. really there?' 'Yes it was. 'Well. I mean. . . 'You would have liked my mother.' Lynn felt tears welling up again. I can do it too. . .' ‘Mmm?' '. wasn't it? Really. she was such a fighter. decided not to. . . ‘You said she was a fighter?' 'Yes.Tia gave her an approving nod .' 'And I felt . lost the baby. I wanted to be just like her.' She hesitated for what seemed an age ' the baby' . She was so alive. I was telling you about what Polly said .Tia said. Mum.' Lynn repeated. 'You did. She knew she would be able to cry later. . she died a few years ago." ' ‘That's one reason for having a baby. and then I cried?' 'Yes.' agreed Tia. of grief. and then I realised it was to do with the fact that there was no baby . pain . . . ' 'Yes. . and went on hurriedly. tasting the unfamiliar words.' .' Lynn paused to think about it. She had such a sense of humour. Tia looked back.
'Lynn. 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. Tia was implacable! Lynn felt completely helpless. She taught me not to whine. take life's knocks and get up again.' 'Oh!' Lynn cried in distress. And now she'd have to wait another two weeks! 'And our next session is the second of the three sessions we agreed. 'I think we would need two more sessions to end properly. We would be in a stronger position to assess your counselling needs and we would have more time to do it in. 'Only two more! Couldn't we agree some more sessions now. she cried out. I was about ten before I cottoned onto what she was talking about . 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. it would really be better if we discussed it during the next session rather than at the end of this one. there was nothing she could do.' 'Oh!' Lynn cried again. They were on holiday in Italy and he just walked out of the hotel and never came back.' Lynn didn't agree at all.' Tia said. She had so much to say. A jibber's a horse that refuses at fences. "Never say your mother bred a jibber!" she'd say. She said. But you do understand.with me. You've come to a deeper understanding of your baby and it has helped you to begin to grieve. I know it!' She could not keep the desperation out of her voice. that this is a crisis clinic. But my feeling is that there may be other issues around for you here and if the next 59 . we've got a few minutes left?' The thought of only two more sessions with Tia seemed too awful to bear. “What can’t be cured must be endured”. She wanted to tell Tia about her mother. for brief therapy? We’ve looked at some important issues today. That was one of her sayings – she had lots of them. we have just five minutes of this session left.and she and Tia weren't even friends yet! 'Well. Mum was so wonderful. don't you. Tia looked at her carefully for some moments. and she could tell Tia didn't think so! . even more woefully. seemed hardly to have started. Can you imagine that? But I respected her. 'Oh please. please! Two's not enough. Tia held all the cards! Against hope. I think you may find that things have shifted a bit for you.
I’ll see you then. is two weeks from today.' Once again. about the miscarriage (she didn't feel like saying 'baby' -. Tia was passing her a waste bin from by the desk behind her. there seemed so much to think about. Then Tia was walking with her to the door.' As he got it out he said. saying. measured way.' and Lynn was dropping them in. on legs that felt slightly wobbly.I’ve had to drop it off to get it sorted. it's in the microwave. ‘You know what we ought to do. away from Tia's affirming presence) about Tia. saying. one of these days. he found Lynn busily typing a letter. .' All Lynn heard clearly was the phrase. holding it open. She knew it. Surely she needed to talk to Tia for much longer than two sessions. 'longer term counselling'. yet . 'Will you be long with the laptop? Mine's playing up . Lynn. I'm picking it up tomorrow – I hope.' Tia's smile seemed to be saying. Tia was already standing up. deeply. 'I understand. scrabbling at the mounds of tissues on her lap. Why did she always seem to leave with more in her head than she came in with? Once again. . . She felt so achingly. at two thirty. 'And now I am afraid our time really is up. .two sessions highlight anything then it may be worth considering referral for some longer term counselling. When Mark came home late that evening. The next two sessions need not be the last ones. 'Here. about what she might say to her in the sessions to come. I've had mine.' Lynn turned to say goodbye. She had no memory of the journey home. The second session was over. 'It's all right. * * * Lynn walked down the corridor with her thoughts buzzing. 'Your dinner's ready. 'Our next session then. Lynn walked through the door. A reprieve! She had gained a reprieve. once again heard it close with a firm click before she had gone three paces. We ought to get a video and order in a pizza like we 60 . Don't be afraid.’ He paused. thankful that she could hardly speak. then added. saw again that Tia was smiling. and saying in her quiet.' Lynn was standing up too. But she didn't need to.
First of all I want to thank you though because it was very helpful. but Lynn felt a growing distaste as she read it. a fork in one hand.' floated back. the remote in the other. slightly freckly skin that often goes with reddish hair. . laughter lines . Then she responded to his ‘Nearly finished?’s with growing exasperation. Good bone structure. It seemed so adolescent. I feel more in touch with my feelings about my baby. 'You should have said. 'No. . but Lynn recognised it in his heavy breathing and abrupt movements. Lynn was finally satisfied. you seem to understand so much. come on! This wasn't getting her letter done. After half an hour. 'I did. I never expected to cry so much but it felt very safe. Lynn didn’t even notice. I feel I can trust you with anything. You made me feel safe. . Mark came in. Definitely hazel eyes. At first. I won't be long. As Lynn thought of her. I hardly ever use it. Take your time. Back in the spare bedroom cum study. so stream-of-consciousness. .' she said. She scrubbed the beginning and started again. she remembered the close-up of Tia when she had left. Only for the odd worksheet.’ ‘I know. aware person. complex feelings seemed incapable of being expressed other than very simply. . Hey. 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. Mark waited in vain for the computer to be free.' He ate his meal restlessly in front of the television. Do you need it right away?' 'Not yet. Back in the living room. There was more in the same vein. come on. trying not to show his anger.used to. ‘I’ve said I won’t be a minute!’ By nine o'clock. Older than she had first thought . you bloody technophobe. That translucent. . Tia was an extremely intelligent. Fine lines . the floppy discs waiting to be used on the coffee table serving as a focus for his increasing annoyance. Then you expect me to pretty them up for you and 61 .' 'That would be nice. around the eyes . It was very weird. he started looking round the door.’ 'Oh. Her turbulent.
(Another Brownie point or two . they ruled the bloody world. Lynn grabbed her letter and disc from the computer and walked out. she'd not read hugely. 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. but poor masters. (A good start. As if I haven’t got enough to do. but it seemed the ideal way to clear my mind of all the background chatter so that the time in the last two sessions can be used to best advantage. but Mum had read enough for two. That's what Mum would have said. and stop making a fuss. Lynn was sick of the times they'd had this conversation. but Mark refused.coded message: Tia. Good servants.' ‘Yes I have. simply refused to understand her love of books. she had a bit of a block when it came to computers. You haven't even mastered the Internet. but if it was up to you. OK. but she felt it struck just the right note: Dear Tl I hope you don't mind my writing to you. instead of leaving it to me!’ That stung. we'd still be using quill pens. You should go on a course. ‘You should do it more often then. It’s nearly the year 2K. a willingness not to write again if necessary. Your insights enabled me to realise that I had not properly grieved for my baby. And Mum had never been keen on technology either. She’d thought he didn’t mind. It was not very long. I’ve finished now. Lynn thought. well. So. An explanation of why she was writing. the written word. If it's not appropriate. plus a subtle acknowledgment of Tia's fixation with time. Sodding computers. she'd been too busy.print them out. Chris would – he was always ready to help anyone. 62 . And I do know how to print things out’ said Lynn stubbornly. inwardly seething. Lynn looked at the letter she had written to calm herself down. Miserable sod! How often did she use the laptop? Hardly ever! There was one at school – well. and it was such a release to be able to express my emotion so freely in front of you. the printed page. please tell me so next session. not literature anyway.) The letter continued: / really found this last session so helpful. Computers were a necessary evil. Now in the living room.
Sincerely Lynn had wrestled much over how to end the letter. a parasite. recognition of the time limits. was it? To want people to like you? Not just to kindly help her. intriguing.to laugh and joke and exchange views as equals. her clear thinking. say how much it had meant to her. but something had told her that Tia would regard this as the fulsome gushing of a needy person.you are doing such a good job. I realise that I have so much more that I want (Drat . (A nice touch . not even Della. a little monitor went off in Lynn's mind. it's your insights that have enabled me to grieve. Oh. How could that be? It seemed a hopeless task. Lynn felt that everything she had said in the letter was true. Lynn wanted Tia to notice her. but she wanted that truth to convey a restrained strength. . Lynn had never met anyone who thought that way before . Don't let's make anything out of it! Lynn liked people. How could she deny Lynn access to her wisdom.again. Lynn liked the way she thought. and a plea to her better nature. so cleanly. . Where was the harm in that? 63 .so much. liked making friends anyway – everyone was interesting in their own way.? ) Thank you . bringing so much healing? Surely she would extend the time . then dismiss her from her mind and her life. she so wanted Tia to like her! That wasn’t wrong. . She wanted to meet Tia somehow on more mutual terms . someone to be dealt with as quickly as possible before she moved on to the next.so minimally. set by Tia. that was all. It was .it should be 'need' Lynn would have to reprint it when Mark had finished) to say. . when it was doing so much good. so that Tia would not regard her as inferior. See what a difference you are making to me. 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. a sort of mutuality between her and Tia. I do so hope that we can fit it into the remaining time. come on! Tia was just an interesting person. As she read the letter through again. Part of her wanted to thank Tia rather more strongly.) As I reflect. more interesting case. And Tia was pretty fascinating. I look forward to our next session together.
surely? Their talking together. the look Tia had given her when they had parted. Mark was still working when she went to bed at eleven. . . She had no idea when he finished. Lynn posted the letter on the way to the tube. She thought of her own willingness to accept Tia's insights. Most of all. she had made Tia change her mind . recalling their interactions. Tia smiling. Her honesty . She got up early to reprint the emended letter in the morning. with mingled dread and pleasurable anticipation. it was nice.Lynn relived the session again. almost laughing at her. She could not resist putting on a first class stamp. to learn.Tia couldn't fail to be impressed with that. Yes.against what had seemed to be her better judgment. there was hope.offer more counselling . really . 64 .
all my fault. but Lynn overrode her. 'Oh . let that pass.can we talk? I mean about the other day. 'No. You see. Poor Polly. She realised with chagrin that she had hardly spoken two sentences to Mark since the previous evening. In the session with Tia the previous day. new resolves to sort out her future and her past. Polly had been insensitive. I'm . That's a part of grief. Oh well. Her face was neither friendly nor unfriendly.' 'Ciao then. she was aware of new desires emerging within her.' Polly tried to interrupt. looking at her. 'But it wasn't your fault. apart from a grunted exchange of information and farewell.' Lynn paused momentarily. as she approached.' Lynn called. 'Polly . standing there so meekly to hear what she had to say. But it wasn't you I was angry at. And you .’ ‘Sure. With this thought in mind. 'I understand more now. you know. and I’m beginning to 65 . But she hadn't meant to be. 'Polly. She had to make it all right.' Polly straightened and turned to meet her.') What kind of relationship was that? And as for Polly . let me finish! It was my fault. something had been laid to rest.’ said Polly. she knew.' 'Ciao. Polly. She looked anxious. I'm off now. and yet it was Polly who waited like a child for a rebuke. ('Toast?' 'No thanks. I hadn't properly grieved. She just waited.well .we've got to . wait. She couldn't go on like this. was bent over the prep room table with her back to her. but she dimly sensed that this was just the start. had been at fault. Lynn. Lynn. I was . That wasn't strictly true. felt a rush of affection.oh Polly. as usual. lab coat unfastened and swinging open.she really had to sort it out with Polly. I just had say again how sorry I am about what happened.hello. but scarcely more than this. she climbed the stairs to the science labs and prep room.sort of touched on something .and I let you have it.I felt angry. She. 'Polly . a therapist I mean.' That at least was true.I'm seeing someone.Chapter 6 As Lynn entered school that morning.
'Oh yes! Della invited us round for a meal on Friday! Didn't I mention it?' 'No!' said Mark. Now her forgiveness of Lynn had a deeper resonance. But this time she meant it in a different way.it wasn't you I was angry at. 'I'm sorry. !' Polly's squarish. What's going on?' Lynn felt rebuked. but she needed to put it right. but ever since you've been seeing this woman. In everything that Lynn had been saying. 'Look. 'I saw Deryk at the gym. The miscarriage was bad enough. That evening. I've been trying to be patient. I acted as though I knew what he was talking about. Mark was home late. Polly had heard just one thing . Apparently it's been booked for two weeks. it wasn't your fault. Before. It was deserved . It wasn't her fault. Lynn.' Oh god! Hadn't she told him? She said quickly. so deserved! She came and stood by him and said repentantly. He burst out. forgiving Lynn had been something Polly Had To Do because Polly had clearly done something very wrong. They did not go to the Cafe Noir. A warm feeling was spreading within Polly's guts.' As Lynn spoke.' she said.' she added. Polly smiled. But if someone had said to her in public what she had said to Polly . you're worse than ever. yet amazed relief. dissolving and dissipating the chilling hurt that had been nagging at her ever since That Day. Lynn said. It really didn't matter to her now: she could hear it. 'It really doesn't matter any more. . as he was taking his coat off. She didn’t know what.' 66 . His face was shadowed. Everything was all right again. On impulse. but we can't go on like this. Please forgive me. He said he was looking forward to Friday. Lynn recognised the authenticity in Polly's voice and was slightly awed by it. He came in the door and said. open countenance was beaming. as she had once said before. genuinely. You’re just not there anymore.understand. I don't know what’s going on myself. 'It's all right. 'Let's go out for a sandwich this lunchtime.' Polly beamed more widely. . And I know that I hurt you so badly and I'm really really sorry. she could see that Polly's face was changing from a look of apprehension to an expression of muted. . we've got to talk.
She leant against him.. Smiling. What was the matter now? She had seemed so willing. felt only thankfulness. Lynn . Whatever she had said. Had he got it wrong again? Lynn felt his body beginning to tense and made a split second decision. Please give me just a bit more time to try to sort it. and put his arm around her. Things are happening I don't understand but I know I've got to go through with it. insufficient though it had seemed to her. On impulse she moved closer to him. I know I'm not much company at the moment. Mark heard what she said. Lynn froze.' She didn't know what else to say. She'd told him nothing. . Still holding her. to try by her closeness to convey that she loved him. but how could she? Her time with Tia was too precious . She inhaled his smell . So that was a no-no. The shutters came down whenever she had tried to talk about it. ' Inside her head. He dropped his briefcase. . . but managed not to translate it into any bodily reaction. in Mark's arms. I've been trying to be patient. Lynn. heard the apology in it. had obviously meant something to him.'I told you. put his other arm around and bent his head. . 'It's been a long time. As for the miscarriage . The moment hung in the air while Mark waited in an agony of suspense.to share. catching the characteristic scent of her shampoo and cologne.the sweaty city office odour replaced by the smell of fresh cotton and the piney shower gel they used at the gym. the baby . I can't go back now. Mark murmured.and too painful . I don't know! Everything's such a mess and I'm thinking about it such a lot. for god's sake!' 'I don't know. . felt her soft nearness. You know I don't mean to hurt you. . but how much longer is this going to last. even eager a moment ago. She could feel herself almost sagging with relief against him. she took his hand and placed it on her breast. What was left? Not much. It seemed so inadequate. that was over and done with as far as he was concerned. * * * 67 .
Lynn! Well. You couldn't see it unless you looked. The Lowry? No. you're here. what lovely flowers! Thank you. with their feet in the Heworth's deep shag pile carpet.’ To prove the point. Thank you so much!' Her thanks were genuine. so delicate . I love your carpet so much!' 'Of course!' said Della. A subtle perfume hung for a second in the September air. Oh. Mark rang the doorbell. She looked around. aged seven years’. what was the date? Lynn stood up to see more clearly . 'Oh good. They entered and Della whisked their coats away. she kicked them off.the little maker's fingers long since turned to dust. 1663 ‘Harriet Cooper. Deryk was a self-made businessman. That child's sampler. haloed in soft light. They were born hosts and their flat was large and full of interesting things arranged in odd corners and on low shelves. Drinks. filthy rich but not pretentious. Della appeared in the doorway. come in. That pirate's treasure chest thing? No. when Della appeared with the flowers artfully arranged in a tall vase. It was a bit like one of those memory games. while Deryk materialised and benignly ushered them through to the lounge.Friday night found Lynn and Mark standing outside Deryk and Della's flat in St John's Wood. there was a tiny wire running down behind the bookcase. come in! Let me take your coats. Della. wait. That was why he used the same fitness club as Mark. Lynn tried not to be jealous. 'Look. Lynn looked around. Heavens. these flowers are perfect for this vase. So faded. as she had done before. She always appreciated coming to Della's and Deryk's immensely. in a simple jersey dress that showed her figure to perfection. they were pious in those days! And 68 . and Lynn said. 'I must take my shoes off. Della loved flowers. They had just seated themselves in the Heworth's comfortable sofa. ‘I’m not wearing mine. so casually? No. Deryk!' she called over her shoulder. How did they dare have up on the wall like that. in the way that people who have no children can get away with. mingling with the night scents of the still blooming flowers in the beds around. Lynn always enjoyed spotting what new trophy they had added since last time. Drinking her Shiraz. then departed to tend to the flowers.
How people could choose to believe that these giant marine molluscs died natural deaths. and maybe she was right. 'My dear Lynn. . was the shell still inhabited when you got it?' 'Heavens no!' said Della with a shudder. and her eye fell on a large and very beautiful shell.any money! I assure you Deryk paid handsomely for that!' Lynn felt slightly taken aback. 'So. so beautiful. pearly opalescence in perfect contrast to the glowing richness of the wood of the sideboard below it. 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 . 'Our last holiday in the West Indies.well . Deryk saw her looking.yet there was a sort of innocence and modesty about it somehow. aren't they?' She had touched a nerve. get real! The thing was dead and gone when we bought it. these people are very poor. 'It's very beautiful. It wasn’t Deryk’s thing . . quite unlike her usual languid tones. Lynn wondered where Della had got it. Paid a local an absolute fortune to dive for it. The people were poor. ." ' murmured Lynn. 'The very idea!' 'Isn't the sale of these shells . She bent over it. it was beautiful . 'Ah yes. On the other hand. their shells just 'happened on' by collectors was beyond her. After about ten minutes. up he came with it.' she acknowledged. The biologist in her felt affronted at the unnecessary sacrifice of biodiversity required to grace a rich person's sideboard. . was that a tiny bloodstain in the corner? She shivered and turned away. 'Has everything here got an anecdote attached?' 69 . Della responded with some animation. they need the money so desperately . 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. .illegal? They are quite rare. . She clearly had strong feelings about this . He swore they were as rare as hens' teeth. and anyway.' he said. She’d never seen one so close before. the pinky. Someone else would have if we hadn't.had a bag of 'em!' 'I don't know about "as common as muck. She turned to Della who had come to stand beside her. You could hardly blame them.
After a while. Della would have gladly given her one. So they did. laid them on the table. smiling. Somehow. Della's usual good humour was restored. 'More or less. but she would have been amused. . She’d probably find out she’d been burned as a witch or something. and they were fried with something which Lynn couldn't quite place but which was very nice. not to slow down his eating. thick-set. but as the meal progressed. a vast amount would end up in the bin.but that was Della's style.’ For a moment. Maybe because she had a touch of Jean Harlow about her. because she knew from experience that a starter this size would herald a generous meal. but somehow she'd expected it to be a little bit different from this. The meal looked delicious. Lynn contemplated asking Della about the little needlewoman. Mark and Lynn enjoyed it tremendously.She had said the right thing. It seemed a terrible waste . and therefore seemed ageless. and then decided not to. Somehow it was something she had never thought about . Lynn had noted with amusement. Too boring. 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. well . Lynn could never bring herself to ask for a doggy bag. It tasted sublime. and made them three-D. and she was right. In between 70 . Lynn’s pleasure in it began to be shadowed with a feeling of unease. How old was Della then? With a slight shock Lynn realised that she must be in her early forties. Was that how he had got that slight paunch? For a man who worked out regularly he was quite .' she said. . 'But we don't tell them all to everybody. . and she'd been looking forward to it so much . ‘Come and sit down. It was lovely here and Della and Deryk were so welcoming and considerate.it seemed almost rude to think about Della's age. Deryk said they were just very large prawns. had been frowning at Deryk. she wasn't sure how. probably her pale blonde hair. generous but extravagant. She had to glare at Mark to slow down his eating. Della said. . Lynn as aware too. . But then he must be at least fifty. that no matter how much they ate. .' said Della. You couldn't have one without the other. but because he was already on his third glass of wine. It was as though Della had ripped out the cookery section pages of the Sunday supplement magazines. She too. 'Are we ready to eat now?' and without waiting for an answer rose gracefully and drifted towards the dining room.
'Oh well. not really personally .' said Deryk.. the anecdotes went relentlessly on. Bloody thieving postal service over there!' Della elaborated. 71 . actually. and yet so incredibly generous. . We've got a tape of a church service we went to.' she said again. 'We met Rachel and Samson .’ said Della hastily. 'They sing well there. 'Oh. She could not imagine elegant Della and worldly-wise Deryk in a hot sweaty church service with lusty Pentecostal singing.was it last Christmas.they'd asked. Deryk?' 'Um. you got quite a lot. 'They didn't get our present though. Lynn noted thankfully . 'That's what that appeal for old school sweatshirts and pens and pencils was for about three years ago.Mark and Deryk talking Stock Markets and politics and personal trainers (Mark was beginning to loosen up. so poor.' Mark said. didn't you? I never realised you were so personally involved.. It seemed the right thing to do.must be the wine ) and Della and Lynn talking school and diets and personalities. 'Well.' 'So you went to a service. When in Rome . You were making it when I came. then?' said Lynn curiously. that sort of thing. 'Unusual salad servers. Very religious and morally upright. you know. they are. 'Ah yes. They're lovely people. Della coloured faintly. nothing much.' 'So you believe in God?' Lynn could not resist asking. it was quite fun.and their family in the Gambia about four years ago and got friendly. We've sort of exchanged gifts at Christmas and so on ever since. they've all got Biblical names over there . ' 'Samson?' 'Yes. They put us to shame. . looking interested. 'Rachel sent us those . don't they Deryk?' Something clicked in Lynn's memory.' said Della. All believe in God.’ 'What’s that about school sweatshirts?' said Deryk.' Della looked uncomfortable. that's all. frowning. There's a school there.
that is. That reminds me .’ said Della suddenly. They didn't work very well though. 'Deryk darling.’ She left the table and the sound of whirring emanated from the kitchen.' said Della. you’ve got cream on your nose. nervous breakdown when I put it in the wrong drawer. whose mind now seemed elsewhere. . ‘I like to keep my options open. I get a better standard of repartee from my year sevens. 'The sound of the little woman at work!' His face was slightly flushed and he spoke loud enough for Della to hear. Lynn and Mark exchanged covert glances. a Higher Power. thought Lynn. 'That's what I like to hear!' said Deryk. Deryk wasn’t usually this bad. . 'Well.' Deryk guffawed.I forgot to whisk the cream. Della's voice floated indignantly through the doorway. His remark got the response he was clearly hoping for.' 'So you admit it was the wrong drawer? And by the way. The subject had never arisen. . it would not be in response to other people's questions. ‘That's why I bought a few voodoo dolls as well . their version of them anyway. Something about the way she ended suggested to Lynn that if she ever talked about her religious beliefs. Not for the first time she reflected that although she and Della had been friends ever since she had joined the staff. 'the only thing you know how to use is the corkscrew. Her feeling of discomfort increased. Somehow she had never thought to wonder if Della believed in God. and even then you nearly had a nervous breakdown. He was clearly enjoying this exchange. I believe there's something in control. I repeat. She glanced at Della. The milkman is still alive. Deryk subsided.' Casting a comically rueful ‘See-what-I-have-to-put-up-with’ look at Lynn and Mark. the reality was that she knew almost nothing about what Della really thought. 'Little woman be blowed! At least I know where the whisk is .' She stopped suddenly.and how to use it!' 'So do I!’ 'Let's face it. and Della seemed to talk freely on any subject.'Of course!' said Della. suddenly appearing pointing the whisk threateningly at Deryk. Della wiped it off with an impatient gesture. And it did not go 72 . do shut up. . Lynn felt amazed. Perhaps she was thinking about God. though now she remembered .
' This time it was Deryk who broke the silence. . you wouldn't be able to smoke in the hospital. turning towards her. but she could not speak. . . to get some relief.' Deryk had already offered Mark a cigar. But how? She imagined herself butting in on the conversation. what did she want? She wanted to talk about herself and her pain. 'Cigarette? I remember you used to indulge after meals occasionally. Rescue me! her eyes begged Della. Lynn noticed. She wanted . Everybody waited. Oh god! she thought. . and Lynn took it. There was a room . What was going wrong? Lynn asked herself. while she said to Deryk 73 .' It was her opening. Lynn and Della sat side by side on the sofa and Della said.’ 'Deryk!' said Della warningly. She must have bought them especially.' She paused. Lynn was hurting she knew. I know all about 'em. . Butt out!' 'Gynaecology? Women's problems. but she had to live with Deryk after tonight. It seemed in such bad taste. but not decisively enough. 'This is gynaecology. As she listened to the banter and discussion she had less and less heart to join in and her feeling of alienation grew. 'The hospital . Well. He and Mark were well away now. 'D and C? Did you have FforbesTaylor? He did my snip. Lynn couldn’t help feeling touched. She knew Della did not smoke herself and the packet was unopened.' she murmured.away through the dessert or the cheese and biscuits or the coffee. That was so typical of her. She had to make a decision. some comfort. 'And of course. . . I've lived with your PMS for years!' Della thought fast. Unseen by Deryk or Mark she grabbed Lynn's hand and held it. . This was her opportunity.' and smiled despite herself. She would just have to make it up to Lynn some other time. Deryk passed the port around. . . She could not finish. As they drank coffee in the lounge. yes. 'No thanks. 'I stopped when . The silence grew. 'Now when I had my miscarriage . Della glanced at her thoughtfully and said. . you could smoke. after the D and C .
She leant back against the cushions. standing up. was now laughing at Deryk's sally about the gynaecologist who decorated his hall through his letterbox. he was moving. Too bloody late. Della! Don't bother going through the motions now! When push comes to shove you're just not there for me. She could never talk now. Mark. Looking from one to the other. never get relief. 'Is that the time? I think we ought to think about making a move. spent. 'Yes. I'm not risking the National Health!' Deryk chortled appreciatively. He had to act quickly to get Lynn away. She had a sudden picture of a tiny ember in a vast sea of grey ash giving a last faint glimmer and winking out.' 74 . giving a creditable imitation of a yawn. ‘I’ll run you home. Lynn felt as if she was in a bad dream. What the dickens was happening now? She'd been all right a few minutes ago.' 'Must you?' said Della. summoning her strength to stand up.' 'The tube's fine . The evening was over as far as she was concerned. . It was over. But you do look a bit done in. as though she cared. Even as he thought. Lynn. She shrugged into the coat Deryk had fetched and now held out for her and turned to go. glancing at his watch. as though they had just flipped from being in one soap-opera on TV to a completely different one on the other channel. wrestling her hand from Della's frantic grip. Della. What on earth was going on? Why was Della holding her hand. and yet was doing this to her? She had been so looking forward to this evening and it had vanished before her very eyes. She hadn't even mentioned Tia.' ‘I feel it!' said Lynn. watching Lynn on the sofa.menacingly. He cursed Deryk and Della and their endless need to be a double act. never. That will cost you plenty. . Lynn. Della also rose. became aware that she was suddenly struggling. Her chance was over. and it will be HRT next. It's been a long week. Tia! The very thought of her made Lynn want to cry. still holding her hand. 'It's been so good to see you. now she was white and desperate.
Here we are. a hint of petulance in his voice. ‘Thanks. darling.'No! Please. he called once more. It's what we pay her for. traffic. OK?' ‘OK. had he said to make her look so grateful? They drove back in silence. 'Leave that my darling.' 'It doesn't matter. his voice sharper. And thanks for a lovely evening. Mark wondered. I couldn't say no to her – she was in a bit of a state.’ Della flashed him a dazzling smile. Deryk 's voice came sleepily from the bedroom. if you like. 'What are you doing? I'm waiting!' 'Just coming. See you on Monday.' There was complete silence from the bathroom. then drove off round the corner and parked up for twenty minutes. And did no one notice my deliberate abstemiousness over dinner? I am disappointed!' 'I did. Just making myself beautiful!' Five minutes later.' 'You're welcome. Lynn. waited a little while until their light went on. she put the car away. said softly. I've got the car out ready. all trace of tiredness gone. Della. all right.' 'But I know you .' 'Oh. 'Night. and come to bed now. he called out.oh. I got away as soon as I could. . 75 .' 'Oh but . the miscarriage. Won't be a moment my sweet. And Lynn wanted to talk – you know. Deryk tried again." ' 'Night. Lynn leaning against Mark's shoulder in the back seat. The cleaner will do it in the morning. ‘I’m sorry we didn't get the chance to talk. then went into the flat. Two minutes later. glancing at them in the driver's mirror. I insist! It's no trouble. we could talk now. anyway. 'What took you so long? I've been expecting you. What. her hand on his knee. As she quietly closed the door.' ‘It DOESN'T matter. Good to see you. When she got back.' said Mark.' Della lingered outside long enough to see them enter the house.' As she started stacking the dishwasher.
76 . like last time?' Della came to bed.'Come to bed. damn you! Now! Or would you prefer me to come and fetch you.
Somehow.sacrificed. How did a woman of Della's intellectual calibre tolerate it? She actually did seem to find it enjoyable. in two weeks. adolescent love.god 77 . sycophantic. Della knew how much she'd been counting on that evening.over-elaborate . interspersed with surges of bitter anger and despair. Lynn knew it would have to. and then one hour more . genuinely cared.as though everything was done for effect. What she saw in him Lynn would never know. to flaunt her highly-charged sexual relationship with Deryk. Della knew how much pain she was in. The crying she'd done. How could she not? And it had started so well. At the memory of the previous evening. One hour.and then what? Probably nothing. 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 . Della had seemed somehow artificial .nearly two weeks' time . trips to the bathroom. At least Della might have spared her the heavy byplay. drinks of water. dozing and quiet tears that made the pillow sticky.a necessary stage on the road to wholeness. did she care? She certainly hadn’t shown it last night.what . though bitter. darkness. lured in by comfort and kindness . She would understand. Della was genuine. sort of kindness. nearer to being sorted. therapeutic . had seemed cleansing. all Lynn's anger boiled up again. Of course it wasn't. things had seemed brighter. But even that was cold comfort. How amazing Tia was! Beside her. together. At intervals in the night she imagined Deryk and Della. That was the effect that seeing Tia had on Lynn. Mark's intermittent sleep-driven mumblings.to Della's need to be the centre of attention.and telling her what it felt like. Della was no fool . clearer. Then to be sacrificed like that . but whatever it was it took total precedence over Della standing with Lynn in her anguish. Most of the time anyway. laughing and teasing each other in the darkness. secure in their cosy.well. that was the only word for it . But then again. Lynn was sure of that. The previous six hours had been a confused hotch-potch of tossing and turning.Chapter 7 Saturday morning dawned eventually. after seeing Tia on Tuesday.
the Saviour.' 'Such as?' 'Oh. It had been a good time. and the Saviour. it's what she leaves out. about a lot of things. she knew.' Lynn knew Polly went to church. . about Tia and Polly had screwed up her face with the effort to understand. but it had been so hard to explain to Polly exactly the effect that Tia had had on her. there's Lauren. .' agreed Lynn. an unexceptional C of E that went by the name of St Saviour's.' Polly had said. . Lauren's amazing.Della knowing. It's not what she says. . well. Lynn had told Polly a bit. And holding her hand while she did it! Lynn ground her teeth in the darkness. Surely she could have done that? But no. Polly?' Lynn waited for Polly to say no.tried to say . There was only one Tia.' Lynn couldn't explain it.about Tia would have indicated even to Polly that Tia was in a class of her own.knows she wasn't expecting Della to magically make it all better. Saints were saints. I don't know . 'Lauren?' 'Yes. Blundering on and putting her foot in it. 'Don't you know anyone like that. But Polly had surprised her. That was what made it worse . yes.things. by which she supposed they meant Jesus.oh . Perhaps she was better off with Polly's not knowing. She tried one last time. but caring and trying to get it right. They had really talked . 'But she makes you think . just a little bit.' she'd said. But when she does speak . but Polly grew pinkly 78 . 'It doesn't sound like she says very much. 'She doesn't. was. 'Well. Lynn had always thought that this was a strange name. and yet she still deliberately chose to not be there for her. to flirt with Deryk instead.things you never thought before. She goes to my church. just to listen a little bit. surely? So how could you have Saint Saviour's? She had tried asking Polly about this. She could see that Polly wasn't convinced. Surely what she'd said . About the baby I suppose. Perhaps that was worth more? Lynn thought again of her lunchtime sandwich with Polly earlier in the week and her feelings softened.
God's there . it's not very big. but the minister. Polly had so little of value in this world. She was unmarried.’ she had said. Lynn suspected and lived with her invalid mother. Lynn stopped. Polly?' Polly brightened. 'Lively'. when the subject of God or religion was mooted.' when she noticed that Polly's face had changed again. 'And. . and Lynn could not resist pursuing the topic a little further. she's really special.' Polly's face took on a soulful look. 'What's your church like. ashamed. You can feel him. but he's getting things moving. She was not particularly prepossessing – homely. as though the thought of feeling God there gave her pleasure. and it's . and Lynn had never had the heart to press the issue. She had no social life and her job at school was thankless and not particularly well-paid. well. Polly. unsure of how to continue. 'You mean like pins and needles. 'Yes he does!' And then the brightness dimmed as though by speaking so freely she had uttered some blasphemy and she stopped. and Lauren. in her twenties – late twenties. On impulse. Polly's face was so expressive. 'That’s good. 'Oh yes!' she said. Life couldn’t do much more to her really.defensive and earnest.' This sounded even more suspicious. 'That's really good. Polly?' ‘Well. David.' Then the sun had come out again in Polly's face. like a dog with fleas. doesn't he. 'David's not been there very long. lively. She looked peaceful and happy. 'God makes you feel happy. in terms of everyday direness. really . and they had laughed and talked of other things. Lynn had 79 .' Lynn didn't know. and Polly had felt safe again and gone happily back to school with Lynn. It sounded vaguely suspicious. Lynn had watched her.although her face did have a way of lighting up when she laughed that Lynn found very endearing. Lynn said. Lynn was just about to say. he's very good. and Lynn had the sudden horrible suspicion that that was how she herself looked when she talked about Tia. Now here was Polly mentioning church of her own accord. you know.the Holy Spirit. in a worried sort of way.
school. he wasn't joking. 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. 'If you want a man. Except. glad to give his attention to anything that took Lynn's mind off the night before. Polly might have nothing Lynn wanted.felt a sort of restoration. No matter where she looked. an unfamiliar sensation came over her that she struggled to define.for all it was due to an irrational and antique mindset of pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die. Go to evening classes at the college. It had been such a normal sort of conversation. girl! Get yourself out to the clubs and discos. Lynn started to demur indignantly. Again. but then stopped. Jealous? Of Polly? He had to be joking! No. at least. with a pain like sinus trouble in her head from lack of sleep. but she had one thing that Lynn hadn't got . and she felt spent from trying to stand against them. 'You're still young.so little.peace . Della (she shuddered) Tia . humanly speaking. But nothing felt normal now. nothing gave her any comfort . patriarchal being who demanded everything and gave nothing in return. Mixed in with all the dross. this dreary Saturday morning. As Lynn turned it all over in her mind. feeling. but who would want peace at such a price? Slavish obedience to a vengeful. there's a few good lads out there . Strong winds had buffeted her from all directions throughout the night. peace? Oh. 'You're jealous!' Lynn was incredulous and indignant. New and strange was a welcome relief from the old and intolerable and she pondered it as she got up and showered and dressed. He listened intently.find yourself one. Yes. with the papers from the corner shop. Lynn felt sweaty and tousled. 'Oh yes!' and was silenced. Pol!' Lynn had said. perhaps.the miscarriage. physically better for making the effort. You'd make a lovely mum!' 80 . you've got to go where they are. At last he said. She remembered Polly's face when she had said. Polly had once confided to Lynn her desire to get married and have children. his hair still wet from the shower. and so soon over – and now thoughts of Polly and her God. Join a dating agency! But do something! You can't expect them to come to you. She told Mark about this new strange feeling that she couldn't define when he came back from his run. Mark. with a laugh.
. He said. and . the thought of what lay ahead hung over Lynn like a dripping 81 . 'Hang on a minute! After all. . had not taken offence at that at all. and whispered as though confessing a sexually transmitted disease. He thought that Polly was one of Lynn’s lame ducks. 'Where will you go?' 'Oh. and religion. anyway. rigid belief system. You can't expect everyone to adhere to your narrow. She would go to St Saviour's. There's plenty of good men out there who would love you. kind. That was a bit sneaky.' But she did know. But it was better than admitting to Mark that her considerations about church were linked to Polly. but at the same time chagrined that Mark should think it such a surprising idea. 'I feel extremely offended by your godless attitude.' Mark burst out laughing. I don't know. . Granted. why can't I?' She thought about what she'd said. then! Don't be so fussy. and Lynn had felt that she had reasonably said enough on the subject for the time being. you could package it a touch more enticingly’ – Polly’s eyes had widened – ‘Oops! Sorry. Mark saw she was serious. amazed to hear herself talking about going to church. But she had clammed up on the subject of men . 'I think I'll go to church on Sunday. 'You're not a Moonie are you? Or some Exclusive whatever? Well.Polly had looked anxious. the image of Polly's face came back to Lynn now. but I couldn't marry someone who didn't believe the same as I did. you're a good. Della had nothing to do with it. All that Saturday. Polly did have peace from whatever source. 'You! In church! That'll be the day!' Lynn said primly. an absolute nonentity. not Della. . Pol! No offence!' Polly. 'Oh. if Della can do it. But still.' Lynn had had no patience with this. being Polly. she said to Mark. who was Lauren? Nobody could compare with Tia. in the nicest possible way. even though Mark might possibly have worked that one out. I'll have to think about it. of course.' She paused. not that Lynn could tell. But perhaps Polly's standards weren't very high? On impulse. generous person with a lot to offer.
Lynn sighed. there was a distinct impression of light and warmth. waiting to Velcro herself to Lynn for the duration of the service. couldn't grudge it to her. After all. 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. church. In fact. What this meant. but at least the smell of the place was agreeable and not too musty. Victorian monstrosity. and won. emerging from some shadowy corner where she had clearly been lurking. Oh well. The ceiling still seemed impossibly high.' said Polly. Inside. and the place seemed full of people and the noise of their talking. or Polly's shining face intervened. when she saw her evident happiness and pride. anonymous. but the thought of Mark's laughing face. a surprising distance from Polly's home. Polly had been surprised and delighted when Lynn had phoned to ask the time of the service. even when next day she stood outside the ugly. now. square. the church looked completely different. Lynn just had time to register these impressions before Polly appeared at her elbow. the concession that she would sit by her to 'help' her. mind! She could easily have decided to come on her own . Lynn dared not even conjecture. and Polly.' This had filled Lynn with such dread that she had had to sternly threaten not to come at all if Polly even so much as tried to do it. and there would have been a good deal of echoing space. It was 82 . not wholly pleasant. Where do we sit then?' 'Wait a minute.umbrella.or gone to another. but she had to own Polly's right to own her. receiving a couple of bundles of papers in return. too late! She braced herself and marched in. it did have something to do with Polly that she was there at all. had played for. subdued but not defeated. and had begged to be allowed to meet her outside to 'take you in and introduce you to people. She wished she had. Lynn. but for the liberal use of slightly shabby red carpet. From the way the woman turned her head to look at Lynn. Sometimes Polly was so adolescent in her outlook. Polly was clearly telling her about her. right on the end of the tube line. It was quite large. 'Hi Polly. She still couldn't quite believe that she was doing it. or Della's endurance of lusty Pentecostal singing in the Gambia. beaming happily. A dozen times she nearly changed her mind. Not much.
or pretend to pray.' said Lynn. as she carried out some mundane household task. she was 83 . . To comfort herself. she's lovely.in his shirtsleeves . Often Lynn wondered.and Jill is . The girl with the violin. with her articulated grace of movement. She often did this now and she accepted it. that's all. Why do you ask? 'Just wondered. was disconcerted to see her with her head down. Pray. much less if she believed in God. 'Those two lads over there at the front . they are the music group really. thought of Tia. will you? Oh which one's Lauren?' Polly looked round. She briefly wondered if she should do the same. Polly returned and led Lynn to the comparative safety of a pew near the back.' said Lynn indulgently. or what? She hardly knew what she was doing there anyway. 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. But pray to whom. Does Tia do this? Watch TV. David's sons. vacuum the carpet. Pol. that's Marcy. They've made such a difference to the music group actually.sorting out the microphones. 'Let me get my breath back. visibly disappointed. Polly kept up a running commentary.sweet. She smiled at the woman. 'You mentioned her. her laconic comments . her measured gaze. As Lynn looked around. who smiled back. Now Lynn found herself asking. He hasn't robed yet . and stealing a glance at her. .the one on the keyboards and the one with the guitar. She just was. Lynn found it fascinating to speculate. empty the washing machine. just because she was in a church? If there was a God. praying. 'Oh. Tia. but it would be fun to try to find out. Lynn registered that Polly was silent. The one that's just come in . her appearance of total relaxation. go shopping? It was pretty nearly next to impossible to imagine Tia doing anything normal or routine. that's David. 'Lauren's not here. She had wanted to see if this unknown Lauren was worthy of Polly's evident adulation of her. she. but wearing. Does Tia go to church? Sit in a pew? Believe in God? Somehow she thought not.' She too felt strangely let down. they're Tim and Josh.' 'Wrap up.
even a touch too personal. she was glad that Polly was there. She was completely caught up in it. Everyone under the age of forty seemed to know what they were doing. obviously not enjoying it one little bit. The service seemed to involve quite a lot of flipping back and forth in the book. . for a few die-hard old dears in hats. She hung on. 'I though it would be all dirgey. Lynn found that a little bit spooky. but people seemed genuinely to mean them . gritting her teeth. Granted. When the songs ended. Lynn had to acknowledge that quite honestly. staring fixedly in front. The words of the hymns she thought were a little on the emotional side. to psalms and whatnot. Lynn did a double take there. It was a very interesting experience. the other members of the congregation. as they sang. enraptured.' Polly had merely nodded without looking at her.except. So that one could wait until Polly surfaced. and in the end she gave up and just let Polly show her. to be part of a group like this. What surprised Lynn most was the music. she turned her attention to the papers and book in her hand. since it also appeared to involve a lot of standing up and sitting down. and a couple of flyers for some forthcoming Christian entertainment events. with secret delight.certain he wouldn’t think much of that. St Saviour's was a bit of a mouthful. ‘That girl on the violin certainly can play. in the name of all that was holy. She felt extremely thankful that they were near the back. though this seemed optional. Reading through them. and looked totally incomprehensible. 'When in Rome . The book was entitled Common Worship. who stood rigidly to attention like soldiers. and occasionally kneeling. but surely. The papers included a copy of the parish magazine entitled The SS News. Lynn felt as though she had entered another culture. who had either been 84 . remembering Della's murmured.' to help her though the worst bits. Lynn thought. and was still bemusedly turning them over when Polly woke up and found the place for her in the Common Worship book. .' she whispered to Polly. they could come up with something better than that! There was also some sort of regional newsletter. gazing at the words of the hymns (were they hymns?) projected onto a screen from an OHP and swaying. Lynn noticed. So that was sorted! Relieved.
Was this what the C of E was like now . His scornful incredulity at the thought of her going to church made her feel 85 . At least they were something to look at. She stole another glance at her watch. Without doubt. Surveying the scene. She was glad when the sermon started. 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. She didn’t really like it. This was going on for ever! She imagined Tia sitting in the pew in front of her. Lynn tried to follow what was said. but gave up after a while and gazed around. Then Lynn imagined Mark sitting with her. When they had a time where anybody could pray.so tribal? It was one thing to watch it on TV (not that she did) when you could get up to make a cup of tea when it got a bit heavy or the adverts came on. The sermon seemed long and. but overall the effect was pleasing. and there was much riffling though pages by certain people who had brought bibles with them. None that she could see from where she was sitting were Polly's age. she had a new insight into why Polly was unattached. and green. He quoted the bible a lot. anyway. a bit too up close and personal.apparently jumping up and down on the spot with excitement or singing with eyes shut as though in mystic trances. and frowned. listening. depending on the beat of the song. in red and gold. returned abruptly to normal. which Polly had referred to as 'banners'. He even made a few jokes which the audience seemed to love. and then she realised it was because Tia did listen. blue and silver. This seemed to work. laid-back sort of person.he made her angry. the preacher was sincere. She didn't want to think about Mark . The women outnumbered the men by about three to one and most of the men there looked spoken-for. Lynn decided generously. Polly included. and would probably listen intently to the preacher. like the rest of the service. There were a lot of appliqued wall-hangings in the pillars. A bit amateurish in design. and seemed a caring. but this was a bit too close for comfort. What she would make of it would be another matter. but there was a little too much about Jesus in it for Lynn's taste. Doves and flames and water images featured heavily. Lynn was both fascinated and repelled.
Lynn could hardly imagine anything she would personally like less. Being Tia worked so successfully that now Lynn. lucky Polly.' As they stood drinking. . . delighted. Polly looked pleased. but that was all. She did this by pretending she was Tia listening to the sermon and imagining what Tia would do. Lucky. 'How did you enjoy the service?' Lynn briefly rehearsed the good points in her head and then said honestly. actually. . 'People seemed to quite enjoy it.' She heard herself adding.' She had said enough. 'I'm so glad you liked it. She didn’t feel quite like going outside yet. Lynn glanced at Polly. And the vicar seemed sincere. but she was observing an experiment now. what was she doing there? What had she expected to find? Whatever it was. Have you got time to say hello to one or two people?' Lynn had. The service was a bit longer than I thought. No one asked her why she had come. she could not deny the veiled longing she saw in Polly's eyes. it was quite nice and warm in here. nay. Then the service was finally over and they were filing to the back of the church for a cup of coffee. Lynn. which 86 . furiously concentrating on not feeling depressed. . she hadn't found it. An interesting sociological experience certainly. And besides. while she. They all seemed concerned that she'd enjoyed the service. almost against her will. sitting rapt beside her and a wave of desolation rose up to engulf her. remained outside in the dark! She spent the rest of the sermon. There seemed to be a lot of people milling around. In for a penny. to be sitting there so secure and on the inside.absolutely bloody furious. Polly asked the question that Lynn had been dreading. in for a pound as Mum used to say. Pol. and yet . smiling and nodding. had enough clinical interest in the proceedings to acquiesce to Polly's seemingly casual but deeply charged suggestion that she stay for a coffee. as Tia. Patronizing sod! And yet . and besides. now mercifully nearly over. 'I enjoyed the singing. 'Just a quick one then.
with a bald patch on top which was was beaded with sweat. was touchingly proud of Lynn. noting as she did so that he was not as tall as she had thought. Damn! She shook his hand as Polly introduced her. abandoned her coffee cup on the nearest horizontal surface . this seemed such an obvious thing to say. chatting vivaciously. and to her surprise. he did not let go immediately. Polly. whom she. and that she had almost trodden on him. She tired long before Polly did. Then she realised that he was considering her with a shrewd yet puzzled glance. 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. Lynn decided.and began edging purposefully towards the door. Polly. Lynn noted. Then she saw that his eyes were on her with a kindly interest and that his hand was outstretched in welcome.' Too late. and was in her element. The 'one or two'. Was this really good old Pol. that she wondered why she had worried. 87 . for her part. but greatly liked. She stepped back.greatly relieved her. he had simply forgotten to let go. and that he had short wiry hair. He's by the door. 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.someone would find it later . had clearly been a figment of Polly’s imagination. she of the flapping lab coat and anxious expression. It was a firm and satisfying grip. Lynn realised that David was indeed by the door. introducing her to as many people as she could. as though uncertain what to make of her. as she thought about it. 'Let me introduce you to David. Polly registered Lynn's intention and fired her last salvo. although she could easily have said she'd come out of interest because she knew Polly. coupled with a strange pang of jealousy. So the prolonged handclasp was nothing personal. apparently guarding it. Afterwards. Lynn felt a sense of pride in her friend. Lynn. seemed to be not only well-known.
Lynn could not think. Politely refusing Polly's offer of a lift home. briefly. in his way. She was sick. of hurting. 'I hope you do. . Bloody Lauren again! Interrupting. she headed for the tube. Lynn tried to analyse what was happening inside. Thanks. Pol. She wanted. I hope you'll feel able to come back. This time the space invasion felt intolerable. What a totally unsatisfactory encounter! She needed time to recover. Even as she opened her mouth. Lynn felt backed into a corner.he'd just been being kind.' This at least was true. and he was calling with some urgency to someone over her shoulder. Mum! Thanks 88 . don't get. 'How's Lauren?' Lynn felt a sense of summary dismissal. The service was .' and rested his hand against the side of her upper arm.' Whether he perceived the irony or not. 'Thank you for your warm welcome. yearned for that peace that Polly had. His expression changed. Why this anger? It wasn't the vicar's fault .' Inwardly Lynn was seething.' This was unpleasantly unsubtle. vicar. But why the disappointment? Why this despondency. . from the service. He accepted her compliment at face value and replied 'I'm glad you found it so. 'The service has given me a lot to think about. decided on the latter. 'Poorly today but she sends her . and I need a bit of space. he disengaged. and she wasn't even there! She heard part of the reply as she moved outside. Them as ask. and said with a touch of irony. Maybe it was Polly's face. but very positively.' He said simply. this sense of loss? What had she expected. As she sat in the tube going home.Lynn pulled her hand free. most interesting. so sick. against the odds. Polly seemed delighted with her reply .why. from the vicar? The strength of her feeling now was an indication that she had. 'I don't know. 'I don't think so. hoped for something. uncertain whether to be irritated or amused. She opened her mouth to say.' and found herself saying instead. Lynn could not tell. . Lynn searched her mind for a remark which was polite but also totally crushing but she was too slow.
to have a peace as simple as Polly's. She didn't even manage it once. and kept darker emotions at bay until she got home .that. . in sequence. so she gave up and concentrated instead on spotting the tube station with the longest number of letters in. 89 . she'd have to have a mind as simple as Polly's. and seeing how many times she could spot the colours of the rainbow.a lot! That's all I need at a time like this! Anyway. and that she certainly did not want! This thought afforded her some grim amusement. on the clothes of the people in the seats around her.
and gradually this.' 'Will you lay off the sniping now?' What did he know for god's sake? He hadn't even been there. But Mark refused to stop laughing.' 'More fool them! They should get a life. nothing malicious.Chapter 8 Mark was waiting for Lynn when she got home. This was not so good. and they were very nice to me. Their laughing together enabled her to distance herself a little from it.it's a cheaper fix than drugs. instead of uniting them. 'Told you you wouldn't like it!' he said. but they mean well. of course. You could end up brainwashed and clapping and dancing along with the rest of them!' Mark started laughing again at the very thought. I'm not sure I ought to let you go back there. but at least I went there. He sat opposite her while they ate. 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. determined to extract the last drop of satisfaction from her failure to find what she had needed from the service. this was good. Mark. was a balm to assuage the rawness of the pain she chose to let remain undefined. 'Maybe you should. 'You patronizing bastard! What right have you to sit there so smugly.' 'Well. you bloody Neanderthal! I'll go if I want!' All the things she wanted to say rose up to choke her. it's not my thing. They don't do anybody any harm. and in frustration she struggled up from the table and rushed from the 90 . 'I told you . At first Lynn told him honestly of her impressions and the people she had met. 'Those happie-clappies are a mixture of frustrated old spinsters and crazy mixed-up kids . began to drive a wedge between them.only in fun. Look. gloating over your superiority? And don't you bloody lay down the law to me about going there. Something snapped inside Lynn.the old dears didn't join in. and at least I'm not despising them. unable to resist drawing it ever so slightly larger than life .' This was a side of Mark she hadn't seen before. and there were people our age there. They may be simple. He had cooked lunch.
awkwardly stroking her hair. leaving her food half eaten and Mark sitting amazed. she knew . Mark looked and spoke the same. but an alien life-form had invaded his body and it had just showed itself in their last conversation.or if they were. with whom she shared a house and a bed? Surely he hadn’t always been like this? She mused on the past. Lynn lay face down on the bed. 'I'm sorry. My god! She could do without grief like this! Into these bitter reflections came Mark. hacked apart and bleeding . It was horrible. . It seemed so distant now. Who was this callous. then married. for being such a fool as to go and look for something there .room. They had felt they could never look their fill. It was gone now. the closeness they'd shared? When they had first met. they were Siamese twins. She couldn't even summon up the energy to mourn the loss. but only that she had not found it. And somehow. sitting on the side of the bed. Not like Mark . pulling his skin this way and that to accommodate the razor. Even watching Mark shave in the mornings. had pleased her. so much to admire. She wanted to be on her own. but wanting to make it all right. and Lynn hadn't even noticed. In their bedroom. the laugh still in his throat. Why had it all gone so wrong? She had been partly to blame. I'm sure they're very worthy people . as though she didn't recognise him any more.at least she was.but she hadn't meant any harm.' 'You never said!' 91 . all gone. Lynny. his scorn had been for her too. And she didn't care. clearly recognising that he had transgressed and not sure how. so much to desire. .she knew not what it was. I didn't mean to touch you on the raw. even if she was bleeding.' ' Don't call me Lynny! You know I hate it!' 'Since when?' 'You know I hate it! I always have. mocking stranger.he'd enjoyed being such a bastard. how different it had been! How wonderful! There had been so much to talk about. Where had it all gone. never learn enough. the love they'd felt. They weren't one flesh in two bodies any more .
but dammit. Your mood swings are driving me mad. her mantra for calm. leaving Lynn wide-eyed with shock on the bed. touch me not. Was she really that bad? She'd always been sensitive to atmosphere. sad. His 'mood-chameleon' he used to call her. he was right! A man could only take so 92 . you hang on! Or level out. But wasn't that what they called empathy? But perhaps he hadn't liked it? But he'd always laughed when he said it. she'd said . Happy. One minute you're all over me. 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 no feelings .no matter what happened. hang on!' 'No. I'm saying now!' 'All right. What the hell had happened there? He too had felt the violence of the encounter. laughingly saying that she was able to absorb the emotional colour of any situation and pass it off as her own. Stop being so bloody selfish .' He left abruptly.'Well. Opposites attract. Which she'd appreciated. He'd said so. she did have a rapid response mechanism to events and situations. 'Hang on. She let her thoughts drift towards Tia. Lynn. I never know where I am with you.that was over two months ago and I'm still treading on eggshells the whole sodding time. And yes. At first. sad. But then it seemed. but Mark had liked that.I'm running out of patience. You'll have to do better than this. you started to hate what had attracted you. touch me. She wouldn't have known what to say. * * * In the study. How weird was that? Oh sod it! She didn't want to think about it any more. 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. even if Mark had stayed. happy. Mark sat staring miserably at the computer screen. the next you're treating me like crap. "I'm so precious" act all the time? When you had the miscarriage you acted like it was yours and yours alone.
there was no baby. I've just told you. and she was holding Lynn’s hand. He hesitated by the door. Please don't make me have to repeat it. not knowing quite what to do. holding her hand while they waited. then leaving her there. and Lynn. the bizarre. and they're going to give me a D and C tonight and I'll be home tomorrow. stopping the car while Lynn opened the door and leant out to be sick. talking very fast. Against his will. trying so hard to be brave in the dimly lit ward. Mr Davies. listening openmouthed to his diatribe. just a mass of cells .it happens sometimes. 'Do come in.an overnight bag that was six months too soon. Then lying awake waiting. 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. jostled with the memories he was doing his best to erase from his memory forever. tear-stained and vulnerable on the bed. and she saw him. she white-faced and trying not to groan with pain. waiting for the dreary day's dawning. Mark had struggled to make sense of the words. concluding with.' Mark had sat down on the spot she had just vacated. 'So you see. And at what point during the years he had known her. surreal quality of the brightly lit accident and emergency unit at four in the morning. evidence of his haste in packing an overnight bag for her . 'Let me get this straight. Mark groaned aloud as he remembered. 93 . in fact it's very common. for the doctor. I was just going. The doctor looked very young but very professional. they expected you to be sodding mind readers! Images of Lynn. But the worst.much. had she started to hate being called 'Lynny'? Why didn't she say at the time? Bloody women. 'Mark. they flooded in now. He could see that look now. the nightmare drive to the hospital that night. it's hard enough once. her hair in disarray. had begun to explain all that had happened since she last saw him. drained of all hope or joy. returning home to the chaotic hell of the bedroom and bathroom. the very worst was seeing Lynn in hospital the next day. there was no baby?' Lynn had looked at him pityingly. it was just combined in sentences they didn't add up. as though he was mentally deficient.
That was another thing he had against Lynn her refusal to consider a car.but right now. To divert his thoughts. Lynn heard the door slam as he flung out. I told you. as he waited for the tube. they'd had a baby last night and now there was no baby? They were going to clear it out. his legs.and holding hands. It had been the strangest afternoon of his life as they sat there saying nothing .what was there to say? . Not in any pain. 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. Clear what out? Mark didn't like to ask any more.there was only his mother anyway .It's just a mass of cells and I'm having a D and C tonight to clear it out and I'll be home tomorrow. I can't eat until after it. I'm hungry though . until it was time for Lynn's pre-med. OK. She had obviously been crying. A D and C to clear it out? Was that it? The end of all their hopes was . I'll be ready then.' Had she? Mark couldn't remember. After a few moments he was able to look at Lynn. didn't want to know any more. They gave me some Pethidine early this morning but I'm fine now. Mark longed to chuck his gear on the back seat of a nice little BMW or Audi and just roar off 94 . so there was literally no parking space where they lived.I can't eat until after. so come for me about eleven. OK. Perhaps it was OK to ask about that? 'Oh yes. but it was so damned inconvenient! They hired a car for holidays and visiting friends and family . everywhere was accessible in London by tube. 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.this? No baby? How the hell could there be no baby? For god's sake.' 'After?' 'After the D and C. There was no baby. Mark visualised again the car he would get when they eventually got around to buying one. The anger flowed like lava into his arms. With impatient movements he closed down the computer and grabbed his gym bag. he would not ask again. The world went on around him while he sat quietly on the bed. He knew enough now. and Mark had gone home again to the oh-so-empty flat. But that was all over now. and yes.
or at least.he'd be away somewhere . How's the wife?' 'Lynn . Still moping over the miscarriage?' 'I suppose so. It was that bloody mother of hers with her anachronistic ways. Della moped on about hers until I had a word with her. Mark could never understand why Lynn thought she was so wonderful . Then she snapped out of it. OK.where. Lynn .somewhere. that wasn't his style. Deryk caught the look and attributed it to his own conversational skills. only at a minimal level. he wouldn't be going to the gym .that she was frightened to engage somehow. hers wasn't exactly a miscarriage. Nothing to do with economics . Well.oh. He felt foolish not having one. As he changed. And they had nothing to save their money for. You looked a bit down in the mouth when you came in. Deryk greeted him jovially. I suppose.the bossy old cow. he supposed.' 'She looked pretty miserable on Friday. he seemed very cock-a-hoop. Actually. What was it with her? They needed a car.and then back again? It took all the pleasure out of going. was it. He grinned despite himself. Of course. she's all right. But Lynn. Why. but my god! was he glad he'd never known her at full throttle! But she'd never be dead while Lynn was alive. if he had a car. that he had to lug all his kit onto the tube on a Sunday afternoon . grizzled bullishness. Nobody wants to prang their car if they can help it.she basically was afraid of driving in London. Mark was extremely thankful to get to the gym. she didn't want to drive and she didn't want him driving either. As they talked. for god's sake? It was like she was stuck in a time warp .' 'Women . with the money they had.more . he didn't know exactly. A vigorous workout was just what he needed. Well. Why. and contrasted his etiolated pallor with Deryk's stocky. You had to be on the QV but it still wasn't impossible. Mark couldn't help catching sight of them both in the mirror. She refused to learn to use one . now.it was Lynn. I told her 95 . towelling his hair dry. 'That's better.they're all the same. he saw Deryk come out of the shower. He'd only met her a few times and she'd been failing then. It was the same with computers. people tended to cut you up a bit and the road layout was terrible.
but Deryk continued. Poor old Deryk. .doesn't do to let them get away with too much. He set the treadmill at 14 k/h and ran until he was exhausted.but you have to let them know who's boss." She didn't like it. as much invested in this marriage as Lynn did. or they'll get away with murder if you let 'em. . Expensive tastes became Della.' 'Well. And just when she'd seemed to be getting over it. Or you can always bribe them.what was her name? He couldn't remember . You will probably be surprised to get another letter from me so soon. What was it Deryk had said? A firm line? No harm in that. my girl.straight. And he'd just sat around taking it! Maybe she wasn't going to snap out of it on her own. Sometimes you have to take a firm line. Dear Tia. she'd started seeing that counsellor woman .' 'Mind you. Now she'd started going to church! Where would it end? He wanted their life back. What planet was Deryk on? Like children? Mark thought back to Friday night. Lynn . surely? He had as many rights. 'They're like children . Maybe he'd been patient long enough. she's like a magpie a magpie with bloody expensive tastes!' Deryk walked away still chuckling. He'd have need to be. ' Mark did not want to know Deryk's theories on women. Not too heavy . and Della's languidly acerbic dismissal of Deryk's petulance and heavy humour and felt like laughing himself. but I was right.and the whole bloody thing had gone off exponentially. and Mark looked after him. I'll tell you another way where they're all the same .it works with Della like a charm. Right then. Let him have his dreams. pity mingling with dislike. * * * Back at home. But perhaps there was a tiny grain of truth in what Deryk had said. after all. get them a little present . the letter ran. but lately her emotional output was off the top of the scale. It's just that a lot 96 . Lynn was an intelligent woman. Lynn was sitting hunched over the computer. He was demonstrably powerful enough in the boardroom if not in the bedroom. "You made your bed and now you lie on it.
even my two best friends. or what I want or expect people to do. but it didn't seem to. I even went to church this morning to see if it would help. 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. Why not? Nothing to go home for. If only it had occurred to her earlier she could have phoned up Lorna. letting the noise and distraction anaesathize her. . She dared not think about Mark. I feel so greedy and selfish and self-centred and I can't seem to do anything about it. After the last session I felt so good. She transmuted them into: / desperately need some help in clarifying my thoughts. or the church service. took the tube to the hospital to deliver it through the door of the department by hand.of things are happening at the moment and I can't keep pace with them. . Lynn sat there mindlessly. and. I had a massive row about it with my husband and I don't even know why. just for something to do. She got a drink at a pavement bar and watched the world go by. Sincerely Lynn read it over and on impulse added a PS Do you believe in God. and then over lunch. and any help you could give me would be appreciated. turning her chair at an angle to face the crowded pavement and away from the two other people who shared her table. She hastily erased it. but I can't seem to talk about the miscarriage to anybody. she had nothing to lose! There were only two more sessions anyway. 'What would my mother do?' and then I think 'What would Tia do?' but it doesn't seem to help. I keep thinking. She dared not think about Della. don't even know why. I don't know what I'm looking for. London was a lot safer than people thought if you knew where to go. Afterwards she walked around Leicester Square and Covent Garden for a couple of hours. . I feel desperate! Lynn read over the last two sentences and again was appalled. and I thought that things were working out. Please help me. or 97 . Everything seems such a mess. Lynn paused to re-read the last sentence and was horrified. but dammit. or Marianne. or Polly.
The second was the thought that she had not marked the letter entitled Dr Tia Bradley. Mark?) 'I'm having a drink in a bar in Covent Garden. When Lynn got in.' She switched the call off mid-reply. As sleep mercifully overtook her. Mark said. The moment she vacated her place. 'Good to see you back. It was too late now anyway. I just popped out for a wander round and a drink. she remembered two things. and then the phone so that he couldn't ring back and settled back in the uncomfortable slatted chair. She got her mobile out and switched it on thoughtfully. Some minutes later she finished her drink. 'Lynn! Where the hell are you? I've been ringing you for hours!' (Surely not hours.Declan or someone to meet her for a drink. Lynn could not bring herself to respond in kind. by the time they got here it would be 9 o'clock and she ought to be getting back soon. decided against another and rose heavily to her feet. and yet too short. Consultant Clinical Psychologist. I'm on my way back now. So she looked at him and smiled as gratefully as she could to show that she had heard and appreciated it. she supposed. 98 . as 'confidential'. and then went hastily to bed. The journey home seemed interminable.' Grateful though she was for this olive branch. 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. The first was the pile of marking she had intended to do for her first period lesson. Within a minute it rang and Mark's voice came through. Why?' 'Why? Why! I've been bloody worried. that's why!' 'Sorry Mark. loud with anxiety. It was the second thought that worried her most.
I don't know.' she said at last. but I do respect her intelligence. was eating her sandwiches from a plate she kept specifically for that purpose on the shelf where the evaporating dishes were stored. 'I don't know if I believe in God myself. Lynn. ‘I know nothing about Tia. a person who longed above all things to know whether people she met believed in God but never dared ask them. 'Why do you want to know?' Good question! Why did she want to know? Now it was Lynn's turn to consider. was now being asked this question by someone she was fairly sure did not believe in God about someone she knew absolutely nothing about. extracted one and nibbled it slowly. an activity which was officially frowned on. and slid her hand carefully into a sandwich bag containing quarters of apple. ' she paused. . 'Then you would too? How many times have you seen this counsellor?' ‘Twice. Pol? Or wait to see if she says anything? Or what?' Polly blinked. It seemed ironic that she. washed her hands before. Polly. . Polly considered while she chewed. find somewhere to start from.' She corrected herself. Nothing seems fixed anymore. a point of reference or something. If she believed in God . who had learned her trade at a CFE. I know hardly anything . Then she said. during and after and nervously took every hygienic safeguard she could. Polly.Chapter 9 'So should I just ask her if she believes in God. They were eating lunch in the prep room. 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. to give herself time to think. it 99 .' Polly extracted another piece of apple and ate it thoughtfully. 'Lynn. 'I don't know. But things seem in such a mess at the moment that I've got to – oh . for obvious reasons.
I just want to. not hers . . He's started singing to himself now.talking to her about you and your problems and not worrying about what she thinks? It's just that you talk about her an awful lot. 'Why 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?. Where did that leave her? But she knew she wasn't a thinking person. There was a short pause while they took it in. Still she tried to unravel it. If I knew that she. how can I say? . ‘Tia doesn't say much. but what she says makes me think. Hastily she said. She'd already said enough for one conversation. shouldn't you be .I wonder if Michael Strangely is back yet? I've got him later. '. 'Why don't you wait to see if she says anything about God.' (Polly winced inwardly. as a thinking person. What heavy weather she was making of everything at the moment! 'Right. anyway . then realised she had left the sentence in mid-air.' 100 .tap into that wisdom I suppose.that was being laid to rest. I wouldn't care about what my GP thought. Polly. I'm seeing Tia for my benefit. You're going to Tia because of the miscarriage. Not in the way that Lynn was.well . So she said. Lynn felt in exactly the same boat. Besides. But what to? Not to the miscarriage . 'If Tia has written any books?' but the look on Polly's face told her it was time to change the subject. .’ but she didn't.' Polly wanted to ask.seems to me that there's something a bit strange happening here. for her own satisfaction as much as Polly's. she could see where Lynn was coming from. Then Lynn said slowly. right? If that's so. Does it matter about what she thinks as long as she helps you?' This was the most directive thing that Polly had ever said to Lynn and they both knew it. and if she doesn't. You're absolutely right. Looking at Polly's I'm-puzzled-but-explain-to-me-and-I’ll-understand expression. I'll do that! I wonder if .' She stopped. She sighed. in a way. it's so hard to explain!' And it was. believed in God . I feel that she's very wise.oh. so why should I care about what she thinks? But I . and she knows more than she lets on. She had been going to say. 'You're right.) 'Then I could think " Why does she believe in God?" and it would be a start. ask then?' This simple statement of the obvious gave Lynn great relief.I don't need to know anything about her.
I don't mind him . Half a set will do. Bloody Chris. Why can't he get his act together? Then she remembered her conversation with him last term. I meant to say earlier. They had not yet spoken this term so she said. I don't suppose you could share. But he's not aggressive or wantonly malicious. it's Michael Strachley. he just marches to his own drumbeat . .' The thought of the afternoon class triggered a problem that she needed to air. The singing drives me nuts though. so he'll stay in normal lessons until the classes are set in year nine. with his back to the wall?' "Yes. But his parents are somewhat intellectually challenged themselves and they insist there's nothing wrong with him. I'm getting the kids to bring pictures of their own in 101 . You can't blame them. so untypical of him. None of the other kids want to work with him. in Andy Powell's form. I've got him this afternoon. 'You asked for the picture cards and string to do food webs. 'I guess there's a few kids around like him. thought Lynn. flashed before her mental sight.is that his real name?' 'No.' 'Can't he go for special help?' 'I wish! He does for maths and English. 'That's OK. bulldozing other people out of the way until he gets to the front. I think he thinks he's singing the words of the text book but he can't actually read. . Sorry.'Michael Strangely . Pol. the kids call him "Crabman'" and when he reaches the queue for lessons.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. Doesn't he go along corridors sideways. or have them for half a lesson. but Chris only asked this morning. hands and clothes. He's harmless. one that nobody else can hear. but Chris has asked for them too. It was rarely that a day passed without some sort of juggling act being necessary. he just keeps going like a tank.' 'I know him. Unfortunately he also helps himself to other pupils' pens and pencils then using them to draw over their books. and an image of his worried face. Sometimes I think he's more lonely in a class full of children that he would be on his own. but a total pain.' Polly's face was creased with a familiar anxiety.' 'Poor Michael!' said Polly feelingly. could you? You could half a set each.
both members of the science staff.' said Lynn lightly.' said Lynn briefly. you tracked me down. you know any other teachers who have their own room just for them?' 'No. I'll just nip out and catch him in the smokers' room.appreciated. He glanced up. Life goes on. though. Chris. somewhat self-consciously. what a very nice mouth he had in general. But thanks anyway . well.' said Lynn. startled. He was there. He laughed outright then.' 102 . as she knew he would be. saw that it was her and gave a sheepish grin. and putting the pipe into an ashtray nearby. 'Not difficult.' she said.Lynn berated herself for her forgetfulness. as she sat on the table by the books. moving the books to one side to give her more room. looking round. she had things on her mind too. I assure you.' 'Skip it. I'll still need the string. Back in five minutes. 'That's history now. and his smile grow to match hers. and she noticed how very even his teeth were. 'Nor any who'd want it. huddled over some marking. 'So. She'd meant to see Chris earlier and completely forgotten.which was the size of a walk-in cupboard and constituted a grade one fire hazard if anyone was actually in there smoking . He'd think she didn't care. that reminds me. . 'You ought to give that thing up. 'I need a word with Chris myself. and put his arms behind his head. smiling broadly. He stretched. She really must learn to shut up about Tia! What got into her at times? 'Actually. 'I never saw you properly to say . who ought to know better!' She saw him relax. and we're making our own. in fact.' he said. . I might add. and Lynn thanked her stars that she had changed the subject.' Polly visibly relaxed.' she added. Then he stopped suddenly and looked embarrassed. puffing his pipe furiously. 'Yeah. Lynn thought. so I just need some for a back-up.from magazines.' Hurrying along to the smokers' room . his bright curly hair the most visible thing about him. 'You and Brian are the only members of staff who smoke . But hey.' she added.
how? I don't know . She's told me that. 'Chris. The short hairs on the backs of his hands and forearms glinted red. Sandra's left him. Lynn said. staring bitterly ahead. There wasn't much room between the chair and the wall. Tia didn't say things like that. . It suddenly occurred to her that sitting on the table looking down on him was a bit too much like looming over him. Lynn resisted the impulse to take one of his hands in hers. and Lynn was a quick learner. He hesitated. . That would be most unwise. She just 103 . And she could use it with Chris. flanking the pile of half marked books. and I believe her. . think. clearly wondering how much to say. because she knew him very well. Chris didn't seem to notice.' Lynn emitted a soft 'Ooh' of sympathy. . It was so useful. flatly. how have you been?' She'd picked that expression up from somewhere lately and liked it. Nobody knows! I keep replaying and replaying it. 'That's quite a loss. I'm sure she'll come back. somehow! Aloud she said.' followed by something like 'Don't worry. She saw pain shiver across his face and vanish. . That was pre-Tia. 'So. That a loss. Like the loss of .' 'Yeah!' said Chris savagely. Lynn found herself wondering about the colour of hair elsewhere on his body and mentally shook herself. . his forearms on the table in front of him. She thought. what should she say? She would normally have said.'That's OK. and she couldn't help sensing that the clumsiness of this manoeuvre rather destroyed the delicacy of the moment. but I never thought she would. He sat there. like my loss.' or even 'Maybe you're better off without her. Then he replied. 'Quite a loss! You don't know. There's no other man. She told me she was going to. and it freed the person to answer any way they wanted.' The silence that followed was comfortable. so she squashed into the chair at the other side of the table. I'm so sorry! I don't know what to say. Think.' But that was really crass. Into it. 'She left me. What did Tia do? She helped me .
' she said. warm. She could feel herself stirred by his emotion. honest. Lynn reached out and gently touched his curly mop. was torn between a pang of fellow feeling for Sandra.' His face clouded with the memory and he shook his head. as her words sank in. you know. His face was alight with hope. refuses to answer my texts. God almighty. Maybe she's as puzzled as you are about what's going on. then deliberately let go. Maybe you could. 'Maybe it would work. pleading gaze. staring ahead for a moment. 'I'd be glad to help if I can. I hate to think of you carrying all this pain. it would give you a bit of a clue as to where she's coming from. looking at him earnestly in return. she says. 'I think a lot of you. registered that he had done so and paused. Chris.' said Lynn. Then maybe. never mind! She briefly returned his grip with both her hands. would you really?' He grabbed her hand with both of his. . Couldn't Sandra see what she was doing? Chris was universally liked. 'Oh Lynn! Would you.wants time to think. you could work something out. He did the same.sort of woman to woman . ? Oh. But think about what? What have I bloody done ? She won't talk to me . He was shaking his head as though to try to clear it. 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. Poor Chris! What he was going through .' Chris sat up abruptly. She had to do something. How could Sandra . Lynn. 'Look. would it help if / tried to talk to Sandra . open.she just hangs up on me. 'It's all right. Unable to stop herself.try to find out something? Maybe she needs someone to talk to. by his intense. what am I meant to do when I don't even know what I'm meant to have done!' Lynn listening.won't say anything.what he was trying to contain! And now it was all spilling out. and I like Sandra too. despite his best efforts.' 104 . I can't even talk to her . He related well to everybody. funny and a good teacher. and now his head was in his hands and it almost looked as if he was trying not to cry. Chris. unsure what to do. Then he turned to her. It's worth a try! God knows / can't do anything.
' she said.' he said confidently. Lynn. he was such a sweetie. 'You won't forget. she told him. and then grimacing at himself for saying it. well.phone? I feel like you're my only hope. and even as she finished. Laughing. You and Sandra love each other. Yes.' said Lynn.what . Afterwards. she felt absurdly pleased. with a hint of mischief.'So you'll . Clearly. What's that perfume you've got on Lynn? It’s really nice. 'I'll be in touch.' She smiled inwardly at his words.' she mused. / trust you. She was so fond of him. She sighed. His accent. It was so good to help people. with some degree of dignity. 'Maybe I didn't buy Sandra enough presents.' 'I know. I hope I can help! she thought. Lynn. it occurred to her that 'I'll let you know' might have been better.anti-climax! . 'I won't forget this. always more pronounced when he was upset. This is just a temporary hiccup I'm sure. It was all she could think of to say.’ What an idiot he was! He was definitely feeling better. But he certainly seemed to have been helped by their talk. though he rather spoiled the effect by saying anxiously 'Don't lose it!'.' she added formally. But maybe I can. now Lynn? Promise?' 'I promise. he leaned over and kissed her lightly on the cheek as she struggled . with a smile. I could send her some of that. give you a bit of a hand on the way.to wriggle. 'People trust you. Oh. His eyes had lost their look of anguish and his usual air of jaunty merriment was clearly on the way back. 'What a mess. I'll phone.' 'She'll want to speak to you. 'No Chris. was receding again. Give me a few days though. but rushed to disclaim them. Lynn. I've .I've got a few things on myself and I need to think what to say. She might not want to speak to me anyway. as she left him. as she made her way back to the prep room. Dear old Chris. he was more in control. She looked at him. 'You're a darlin'!’ To her amazement. out of the seat. He said. to his marking and his unlit pipe.' Again. scribbling down Sandra's mobile number on a piece of paper which he presented to her with a flourish. and it was certainly a handy distraction from her own troubles. 105 . Sandra means everything to me. a look of pleading swept over his face again and he said anxiously.
compounded by her over-protective father. She knew Lee wouldn't get it. 'Yes. and indeed there was a general air of cheerful anticipation pervading the form. She herself had noticed the earrings earlier in the week. 'Mrs Heworth is excellent!' said Gillian. She felt pleased that Nicole had felt able to come to her. but Daniel and Gillian both laughed as they went past. 'Been up to no good again?' 'We're making a video in English!' said Lee happily. I told her I'd tell you. but she could listen. 'I wish I was like her! 'Yeah!' agreed Emma. 'Deryk bought them for me on Saturday.' 'Those earrings!' said Gillian. does it?' asked Lynn smiling. Della had seen her looking and put up a hand to touch one. her best friend. of course.' Polly beamed. 'Makes a change from Russian then. Oh well.' 106 .Back in the prep room. She hadn't meant to say anything after Friday night.' said Della. The reply was lost as they clattered down the stairs. 'How's your mum doing these days. Lynn to flee through the lab to let her form in while Polly washed up her plate. Polly?' she asked. She was crying. Lee. Level-headed Nicole! What could be the matter with her? Boyfriend trouble. but Lynn could guess the rest. Polly had a message for her.' said Lynn conversationally after the register had been taken and the form were filing out the door. 'You look very pleased with yourself. 'Oh a lot better!' she said. 'I wish I looked like her. and the conversation revolved around new drugs and diet and bath hoists until the afternoon bell for registration caused them both to start guiltily. She remembered something else. taking no offence. but the question slipped out naturally. a little self-consciously. she'd catch up with her later. 'You were saying the other day that her Parkinson's had flared up. 'Nicole was up here looking for you.' Lynn felt a pang of concern. Not that she could do much. modern designer ones with emerald chips in that must have cost a fortune. she surmised. 'New?' asked Lynn.
They both had a free period the next Friday afternoon and Della had suggested a long lunch . . And from the look on Della's 107 . quickly superseded by a look that Lynn could only describe as smug.' Then she seemed to come to. But she was rewarded by the look of relief that had flashed across Della's face. and then she drew back. you mean. But she had had time to think. So . 'Lynn. of course. He may have a superb business brain and his heart was in the right place.' You bitch! thought Lynn. 'Oh. I couldn't sell myself for earrings. But that was Della .'Really? What was the occasion?' An unreadable expression crossed Della's face momentarily. For someone who was so manifestly in control of her life. And yet Della seemed happy enough. She approached. Like the tide. it was a strangely driven and aimless way of living . Anyway. and could find it in her heart to feel sorry for Della. It wasn't . she didn't know how Della could stand it.Lynn had given Della another chance. just maybe. nor out. Aloud she said. next Friday. and drew back. I feel better about it now. Lynn agreed. approached.he wouldn't mind registering Lynn's class. 'They're lovely. kindly.neither in. Yes. but really.take her or leave her. and turned to Lynn as though she had only just realised who she was talking to.' she said urgently.I mean. .' said Della complacently. Maybe. 'I like my pretty things. no occasion. three days after she had seen Tia.' Overtook you.if they didn't have to cover for anyone. this time she could tell Dell a bit of what was really going on in her life. 'Don't worry about it. if she knew she was doing it.' 'Yes.' Lying cow! she had said to herself. But she had said. Brian didn't have a form . I didn't mean it to be that way. Dell! The time just wasn't right then. again and again. she seemed to have no ultimate direction or destination . Deryk was amazingly childish at times. Events just overtook us. thought Lynn. 'about Friday night. Really. Della was always best on a one-to-one. she thought. and thought for the hundredth time what a strange person Della was. But unlike the tide.
it seemed that she might have a few things that she wanted to tell Lynn. 108 .face.
‘Good.Chapter 10 ‘I got your letters. Tia broke the silence. and the other was green-blue. she repeated it. ‘This is the second of the three additional meetings we agreed together. but she didn't. they were the only spots of colour in an otherwise beige and grey world. Was it an office? Or a surgery? Or what? It was very plain.' They were once again seated in Tia's room.' Lynn had almost. Lynn waited. Again. Apart from Tia herself. and said. They looked hand-made. So what did you think?' ‘About what?' ‘Of the letters. expected her to say that. Lynn hoped Tia would say more about them. but not quite. ‘I read them very carefully. One was red and rangy. aren't there?' 109 .' said Lynn. The bookcase had books and files in. After a second or two. an in-tray and an extremely tidy pile of papers. ‘All right. 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.not all right. Then she had made the remark about the letters. Her look had a slight. Tia had shown her carefully in. There are a lot of things going on in your life that you are trying to sort out at the moment.how have you been?' Lynn's thoughts were still on the letters. glancing around the office. No .' said Tia. Tia was seated with her back to her desk and Lynn couldn't see what was on it apart from a computer terminal. It all looked terribly functional. What did you think of them?' Tia looked at Lynn. ‘So . To buy some time. ‘Good. ‘What do you expect me to say?' quality about it. but the titles were too far away to read.
Fair enough. Lynn could not imagine her having unformed ideas about anything. When I got back from Polly's church he was so patronising about the people who went there. Lynn felt released from the mental strait jacket that always seemed to envelop her when she set foot into Tia's . It occurred to Lynn that she had not been specific enough.she hesitated – ‘unformed. After a few moments. .oh. There was no mistaking the ring of truth. room. I told you in my letter that I'd gone to church . She tried again. the Sunday before last. I didn't even know if you got the letters . She gazed meditatively into the middle distance and spoke carefully.' What did that mean? From her experience of Tia. I read them very carefully. but I didn't know if I should. Tia?' ‘Not really. Tia said softly. Lynn had not been able to resist hoping that Tia might say something and the sharpness of her disappointment took her by surprise.' There seemed no way forward.' ‘Oh. And yes. Her mind could move around again. What do you say to someone who says they don't know? ‘But don't you ever think about it.oh. I wanted to write to you again. everything seems to be sort of slipping away. Although she had anticipated this. Where on earth was this coming from? ‘I did get the letters and as I said. She had no idea at all what to say next. Oh thank you! I mean .' said Tia simply.' ‘I . I . ‘Do you believe in God. good. Tia?' Tia was not disturbed by this question. I probably should.I'm just sick of everything! I'm sick of Mark giving me a hard time. ‘My ideas about God are' . but my life is very busy at the moment.' Lynn stopped in confusion as she heard her voice beginning to rise. ‘Perhaps you have a reason for asking that question?' This was better.yes I do. Tia wanted her to set the agenda.well. She came to the point. ‘So you don't believe in God then?' ‘I don't know.This was no answer. it is allowed to write while you are seeing me. He hadn't even been 110 . and that Mark and I fell out about it big time. ‘Yes . . I didn't know if it's allowed.oh .
that was really there. . Except he’s not there.if he's there at all. .by everybody. but she's a simple soul.hoped . she heard Tia's quiet. You've got things that you desperately want to say. well-modulated voice. ‘Or feel. absolutely! I did feel let down .you might find something of worth. so he can’t let me down. really embarrassingly. If he was there. ‘So wherever you go. even God. I'm aware that I can't expect very much of her. I wanted to find out if there was something I could trust. I wanted to know if it was true. caring face flashed into Lynn's mind.' she amended. . something reliable you could hang on to to get you through. At the moment it feels like there's no one to hold on to.nothing. and I so wanted to tell her about the miscarriage . I suppose I couldn't help wondering . People who believe in God are always banging on about how wonderful he is. I expected more of Della. ‘Polly's a very loyal person. and she just flirted with her husband. It’s hard to explain. How very let down you must have felt. wherever you look.' A picture of Polly's honest. . desperately want find out. there was just . now. Then she realised that it would be very difficult to see God.' 111 .' ‘Yes. In the pause that followed. what right had he to be so superior? And they were nice people. It was a bit late by then! There's nobody. and she felt pang at betraying her. . Then she had the nerve to try to get me to talk in the car on the way home. That's a pretty lonely place to be.and maybe not even God will . so disappointed!' ‘You were disappointed?’ ‘Yes. can he? Not just Mark. really really disappointed. Mark and I went round for a meal last week. and about you .there. nobody I can trust!' Lynn finished on a wail and closed her eyes. She just doesn't know what it feels like. . all evening. but people either can't or won't listen to you . but – but I was so . . Only a lot of people worshiping . We've made it up now. But there was nothing there. ‘I mean very much intellectually. no one seems able to recognize that you are hurting inside. . . no one to trust.' she said hastily. But Della.' She paused.' she added. nice genuine people. I told you about Polly. ‘So where you thought . ‘Nothing that I could see anyway. . nothing.
just there. when she herself didn't know what she wanted to talk about? Why on earth did she feel so self-conscious. and yet chose to abandon you in favour of Deryk. it still felt all right. Lynn felt somehow wrong-footed by it. But it clicked that Tia had said it. Our friendship – my need – counted for nothing! Why did she do it?' 112 . Tia was wearing a well-cut sandy-colored skirt with a chased leather belt and a lime green open-necked shirt. attentive.just over the nose . as though answering her own train of thought. Even at this moment of rescue. ‘Let me see if I’ve heard right. It suddenly occurred to Lynn.' and ‘Um. It felt all right. How artificial and studied it seemed in comparison to this simple being. But understand what. it's like thistle’s' tentatively emerged and tottered a few steps towards Tia before falling into oblivion in the space between them. ‘Take your time. She opened her eyes. Tia was still there. completely For a split second. it was not entirely what she had planned to say. Even though several ‘Well. ready. and tried to pleat the edge of her skirt with her fingers. that although Polly and Della would not understand.. and looked away embarrassed. Tia said. But Tia wore very little makeup. But her eyes flicked back again almost immediately. Your perception of Della was that she knew what she was doing. she found time to wonder if Tia's finely arched brows were natural. it is’ said Lynn reflectively.skin had a creamy glow that only required a hint of blusher to highlight the cheekbones. but the skirt was short and the fabric did not have enough play in it. if any. Her slightly freckled . . When she had finally finished. it seemed to Lynn that this moment. For a moment. And when she spoke. Lynn took her time. or the result of artful plucking. when Tia was smiling at her so encouragingly? She looked down. as it were. Lynn thought of Della and her offer to listen. here.‘Yes. Tia would. and transmuted her skirt pleating into an imaginary fluff-picking exercise. with Tia. The bits about Della certainly were. I felt abandoned! I watched her do it. until Lynn became conscious she had been staring too long. even though your need was greater?' ‘Yes. Lynn described the dreadful dinner party and her feelings of betrayal and Tia listened without comment. you see's. was the only real moment there was. Tia was waiting.' said Tia. Tia returned Lynn's gaze perfectly steadily. aware.
Instead she said gently. Thank you! Thank you so much!' Lynn could hear the emphasis and emotion in her voice. From what you say. She hesitated before replying. She said.05. ‘I didn't make you see anything. though she could not for the life of her work out what Tia had done wrong. the words tumbling out. Tia heard Lynn out. Lynn.' to finish the exchange off.' Lynn was instantly diverted. dammit! For a moment she felt embarrassed. a long lunch-break. It was so good! So helpful! I felt I could properly grieve. She was burbling. leaning forward and sweeping away a lock of hair that had fallen over her eyes. It's not really my brief to make people see things. During the next pause. you worked it out for yourself. then realised she would wait for ever. like. so what! Tia deserved it! She'd been bloody fantastic. but even in the hearing. ‘I never thanked you for the last session. Only another fifteen minutes left! Where had the time gone? She said hurriedly. She saw that Tia registering her anxiety. You listened so well.' She waited for Tia to make a further comment. ‘You may get some light on the situation then.you couldn't really describe it as a compliment. '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. 'People always have reasons for doing things.' Lynn felt.' or. You described the evening very well. Tia only did concrete statements. she rushed in to counter any wrong assumptions Tia might have about what she had meant to convey.This was not the sort of question Tia answered. she noticed with pleasure that Tia had called her by name. Lynn noticed every time Tia spoke her name. You made me see that there was a baby. 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 .. so sympathetic! You were wonderful. 'I've no idea. Nevertheless. that's right. ‘That would be good. but gave no overt sign of pleasure at this eulogy. and as you talked. I never saw that before. you were so understanding. Tia didn't do abstract conventialities. ‘Yes. rather than heard the implied rebuke. that I did have a right to grieve. ‘I know you don't make 113 . Lynn peeked at the clock and saw that the time said 3. Oh. I listened. I suspect there was quite a lot going on for Della that night as well.
you . I meant that you opened my eyes .' Lynn felt rescued. well.no . therapist's gaze. Now I can let go. but I don't know why. Tia said.' ‘Let's try to stay with that sense of loneliness for a little while. ‘Yes.' Lynn saw to her relief that Tia was smiling again. ‘Shouldn't you be talking to her about you and your problems and not worrying about what she thinks. She felt herself tense with panic. "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. She said defensively. satisfied. I felt lonely. ‘When you said that.' Lynn felt as though the ground had been knocked from under her feet.that I was able to think clearly in your presence and I saw that the baby was real. She sat back. She felt tears prick her eyes. it's more useful when people can express how they feel about things without worrying what other people might think. Tia had said. Thank you. Lynn. 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. isn't it. ‘Let's try'. surely it's normal for people to care about what other people think of them?' ‘Yes it is. I have the feeling .' Indignation and a sense of desolation struggled together for supremacy inside Lynn. ‘It's important to you that you get it right when you talk to me. I know you don't work that way. That was saying ‘Let us try.' ‘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.people see things.' ‘Us’ meant 114 . I didn't mean to say that. but in situations like this. ‘Sorry?' ‘I said. She had got it right. The sense of desolation won.perhaps I'm wrong .that my approval might be important to you. She looked at Tia. Lynn' heart ached. Tia looked back with her wide-eyed neutral. Tia.
Lynn obediently tried to recapture the feeling of isolation she had felt. much less saying it. she forced herself to consider it. She said sharply. can I. But I do want your approval. Lynn felt fear volt through her. ‘Well. ‘I think . ‘I am simply saying that you don't know anything about me. she realised with a sense of shame that it was true. Inwardly. Lynn. I can't help wanting your approval. Lynn gasped. It was a life-jacket in a stormy sea. ‘Whose approval do you want?' ‘My mother's!' The words came out immediately in a knee-jerk response. Perhaps Friday will help. had wanted it. it was true. Encouraged. After the first shock. she was dismayed to hear her voice rising as she spoke. Yes.which by the way. but I don't respect her. And if I think you are wise. And she had said ‘Lynn' too.' ‘But you don't know anything about me. the use of her name. she did want it . I don't worry about Polly's approval. and I think I can trust you. and yet she recognised the voice as hers. She said stubbornly. but instead she said unexpectedly. That all you know of me is what you see and hear in this fifty minutes we have together . That meant that somehow Tia was in it with Lynn. People whose approval I think is worth having.' Again. She didn't even remember thinking it. I think you are a wise person. ‘What are you saying? That I can't trust you? But you must be able to be trusted. Eventually.I do want people's approval. You seem wise and good. Lynn said slowly. at least I think I do. I feel I can trust you.or rather.I think .that's all I'm saying. so why should she be so surprised? Who didn't want their mother's approval? She was still mulling 115 . What had made her say that? It was as if she heard it in retrospect. I used to want Della's approval. that is. That was Lynn's name.her and Tia. I still like her. from the things you've said to me. even if I don't know you?' Fractionally. Tia looked as if she might have questioned the logic of this last statement. Otherwise you'd never be in this job. Or trust her. 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. That made Lynn feel better. but I'm not so sure about that any more. I like the way you talk.' Even as she said it.' Again. is nearly up .
is brief therapy. yes. Images of Frazier jostled with pictures of 116 . ‘You offered me more time!' ‘More time. ‘Lynn. This . I think that it might be worthwhile discussing that in the last session. I think that there may be issues around that mean that you would benefit from longer term counselling than I can offer. I need to remind you it is our last one together when we will say goodbye. 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.' ‘What are you talking about!' ‘There's a place in London called Sycamore House which is a regional psychotherapy centre . But not with me. 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.what we're engaged in here . and it is outside the remit of this unit to change the amount of time we can offer you. read or seen about it came tumbling into her brain in a kaleidoscopic jumble. Lynn. Sometimes it's good to explore things at leisure and not feel pressured by time constraints. your mother's approval is very important to you. psychotherapy.' Not again! Lynn's heart contracted in agony.this over when she heard Tia's voice say. At least she hadn't said 'nutcases'.' Lynn's head was spinning. I think it may be worth hanging onto that thought and bringing it with you to our next session.' ‘But you offered me!' Lynn cried in despair.' ‘But isn't psychotherapy for mentally ill people?' said Lynn before she could stop herself.' ‘Psychotherapy!' ‘Yes. and it . I'm sorry. that wasn't even English! Tia contemplated her thoughtfully. Psychotherapy! All that she'd heard. ‘It can be. ‘So. ‘What 's going on for you now?' ‘Not the last! Too screwed up!' Hell.
‘No! Psychotherapy's not for me . but there was a finality about it that Lynn was in no mood to appreciate.' Tia's habitual expression of quiet seriousness had returned. The ‘but' hung in the air. She felt as though she was drowning in it all. What was there to say? Tia had told her. Read it.I thought I could talk to you. She had the sudden fantasy that she would never be able to get up again.it's for really bad .' Lynn stopped. Words like ‘schizophrenic' and ‘repression' and ‘ECT' came into her head. but I thought . What a long time ago that first meeting seemed now. Her smile looked very kind.' Lynn searched her memory. I'm not like that.’ ‘I'm very sorry if I gave you that impression. 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. Tia held out a folded leaflet. Didn't you hear me say that it was for troubled people who need time to talk?' ‘Yes. then reacted. She'd thought she'd misunderstood . You look horrified.pressed into it by unknown G forces.things.Freud and great grey rooms full of shambling psychotic inmates milling round supervised by authoritative people in white coats. ‘Lynn . Tia was still monitoring her closely.she's got nothing to do with it.chosen to misunderstand . but .oh god. ‘Are you sure about that? I can see that this has come as a shock to you. but it wasn't. She slumped in the chair.for a little while.to talk to you . She'd thought that somehow it would be different for her. Yes. she saw it all now. about . She could hear her speech coming in short staccato phrases.' 117 .come back.I mean ill . ‘Here's some information about it. see what you think. She became aware that Tia was smiling at her reassuringly. I just wanted . It was all over.' Lynn took it without thinking. ‘Yes you did. I thought right at the beginning that I'd mentioned that if the sessions threw up any more deeply seated problems then there was the possibility of longer term referral. She said. It was helping too. My mother .people. Tia had mentioned it.
But losing would have been death. She dared not.I can! Please. time.go to this place?' ‘It's an option. It's up to you.' she said. I . It would make Tia say no. Lynn felt like crying. She gazed thoughtfully at a space on the wall above Lynn's left shoulder. There is nothing I can do to give you any more time. unsmiling. But Lynn. how could they?' Tia still said nothing. ‘I will give you the two extra sessions you ask for. You must understand that. ‘I can get things sorted out . yes. Lynn felt absolutely desperate. She looked down at her nails. But I must stress that it is your responsibility to structure them. so it was not worth having. This is your choice.' ‘But how could they do that? I'm getting things sorted out!' Tia didn't answer. more . so whatever she was feeling now must be better than that mustn't it? 118 . Finally Tia looked at her. But what did she understand? It felt so bewildering. We will have to end there whatever happens. Lynn had to exert every particle of self-control not to beg and plead and cajole. need . The moments dragged on. ‘Very well. ‘I do understand that!' she said. . oh please give me two more sessions.' Tia was looking at her very seriously. and there is the possibility that the sessions would uncover things that might make it more difficult to do that. And after them there will be no more.you're recommending that I do this . we would still have to say goodbye at the end.' ‘So I could see you for two more sessions after the next one?' ‘Theoretically. . Six sessions is the maximum I can offer. She perceived only that she had won something. . . . . ‘Well.' Tia looked at her as though she was not seeing her. but that the thing she had won was without Tia's approval. She was bargaining for her very life.‘You .' ‘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.
and were consuming panini caldi and large lattes and talking animatedly. our time for today is over. What was Della getting at? What did she want her to notice? The woman was just doing the crossword. and said. She had to struggle to focus on it. maybe it was the clothes. What do you make of her?' Lynn looked. cut straight with a fringe. just like last time. with a thin intelligent face and shoulderlength mid-brown hair.' Today. Lynn considered. ‘Here are the dates of our remaining two sessions after the next one.' Tia rose to her feet. In her most wild imaginings. Chapter 11 Lynn couldn't believe it. She wore a beige woolly cardigan and a long grey skirt and she was absorbed in the paper. They were sitting in the Cafe Noir .’ Lynn looked at it with a dull curiosity. as usual. She tried to smile back but she had nothing to smile with. Beige 119 . Lynn could only feel utter desolation. Tia walked towards the door and held it open. Tia looked down at her. her smile did not reach her eyes. At least Della was. ‘I'll see you in two weeks' time then. Della was doing it again. and once again heard the door close firmly behind her before she had gone three paces. amazed that she could do it so naturally. Here was Tia's spiky writing again. As Lynn walked across to it. She walked through the doorway.Tia was scratching down something on an appointment card. she had not envisaged the session ending like this.Lynn had not been there since that ill-fated lunch with Polly . Lynn. Lynn too stood up. She'd started almost as soon as they'd sat down. ‘I'm sorry. ‘Look at that woman over there. That was two cards she had now. The woman was about thirty. smiling.
.' ‘Bunnykins!' Lynn repeated. There was no way she could have overheard . . she was capable of carrying on for hours. ‘Did you know that slugs and octopi are sort of cousins? But that octopi are much more intelligent. Once Della got started. ‘They're laughing a lot.' she said at last. in fact they can even .' ‘Precisely. obscuring her face. coffee cups and buzz of conversation she caught the word ‘Bunnykins. 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 . Deryk calls me a slug sometimes. Lynn felt caught out and rather ashamed.' observed Lynn. of course' she added. It was true. ‘I thought clothes were meant to reflect your personality.' Did you see it? I was riveted.' she said. but the lad's blond profile was clearly visible as he talked animatedly non-stop.and grey . . ‘I read this fascinating article in the New Scientist a while ago entitled ‘Slugs Clean my House. but we've all got our ways of communicating affection.prehensile mind. Della had such a . . darling. had moved on. as she caught Lynn's look. but she didn’t.' said Lynn briefly. .what was the word? . could she? Della. meanwhile.it was not a good combination. ‘And that couple over there. . lack of imagination . ‘I teach biology.' ‘No offence. before she could stop herself. almost against her will. looked up and smiled. She waited resignedly for Della to move in for the kill again.' she continued. ‘Fascinating! Look at them leaning forwards across the table and mirroring each other's gestures. ‘Don't knock it.' said Della triumphantly. . The woman felt Lynn’s gaze. .' ‘Yes. The girl's long hair hung like a curtain. She didn't want to talk about the couple. not a whit abashed.' A lull in the background buzz coincided with the laughter of the couple near them.' ‘In a caring way. delicately picking a dangling sliver of roast red pepper from her sandwich and deftly eating it. ‘As a term of endearment it expresses a certain . They're besotted with each other!' Lynn looked. but she had to stop Della somehow.' said Della. The author said . ‘Dressed by a committee. She had a gentle face.
Shouldn't you . but right now. Her glance lighted again on the couple who were still sharing so publicly their appreciation of a private joke. isn't it. Nearly better. She rather envied them herself. struggling to keep up and hoping she'd come down to earth at some point. oh that! It's nothing. touch . 'Della – your wrist. Ah. It's fine. really?' She spoke as though she was thinking aloud. She could get from ‘a’ to ‘e=mc2’ in three moves. ‘You can share a moment of laughter without ever She hastily pulled her sleeve down over 121 . she noticed that her trademark wide bracelet on that arm was being worn over a bandage.?' 'No it's nothing. It looked extremely sore. ‘Laughter is a way of conveying intimacy without commitment. How could she begin to turn the conversation round to more personal matters? Fortunately. But if they had anything Della wished that she had. . even to someone as unpromising as Della. She didn’t want to talk about slugs. Lynn thought she detected a certain wistfulness in the look.' 'What? Oh . Trapped my hand in the – er . Della looked around. it didn't show in her next comment.drawer and the bracelet dug in and left a mark. .' it. She always finished eating before Della. As Lynn tried not to watch her. 'They're holding hands now. . It's fine I tell you! Don't fuss!' 'Okay! Sorry I asked. 'But it looks infected. It was very entertaining. reveal a thin purplish weal that was oozing pus. ‘Don't keep playing with it!' She took a determined bite of her own prawn and avocado sandwich.conversational branch. Della held up the piece of courgette and absently began to nibble the cheese. making easy connections. ‘Just eat it!' thought Lynn. .' An uneasy silence fell. It had a long strand of melted cheese attached.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. Della was diverted. while you were left on the ground. Lynn's head was throbbing with the need to unload. ‘Yes. aren't they?' she said. and that it had made the bandage slip down.
she delivered the most amazing non sequiters at times. This was a complete lie. It was bloody annoying. Her habitual graceful languor was gone. in another person.Della never. and her eyes were glittering with what. What was the matter with Della these days? Then a phrase that Della had used caught her attention. it's too late. and then laughed herself instead. ‘I wonder if they've had their first big row yet?' ‘I wonder.' she said sheepishly.' said Lynn. and it spoilt her make-up. Della was sitting bolt upright. it changed the awareness of Tia from a dull ache into sudden searing pain. except as a way of getting Della off the subject of slugs. ever.’ How had she got there? You really had to be a pretty agile conversationalist to keep up with Della. but at the end of the day.do you think there is such a thing?' ‘Definitely!' said Della. Lynn was reminded of a piece of Dresden china. Lynn would have described as anger.she couldn't help wondering how Della's make-up stayed so intact under such extremes of emotion.how unlike her own! .knowing someone else. But there must be a way through . Even as Lynn admired the effect of anger on Della . and managing to look absolutely charming as she did so. ‘I can't imagine what I was thinking of. her smooth.there must! She would ask Della. but what to say? She'd spent a sleepless night trying to come to terms with the fact of only three more sessions and how to use them to best advantage. with such sudden savagery in her voice that Lynn looked at her in surprise. though Lynn couldn’t think why. It was too much effort. ate corn on the cob. I wonder if those two really know each other?' She paused as if to say something else. One thing she felt sure of . staring into the middle distance. Only Della never got angry. air-brushed complexion was flushed a delicate pink and her perfectly painted lips were pressed together. Della would think 122 . A lock of pale hair had fallen over her forehead. smiling apologetically. ‘Sorry. The flush subsided and Della's fixed gaze returned to normal as she looked at Lynn. she still couldn't bear to think about how the last session they'd had ended. Laughter is very deceiving. Tia was the one person that Lynn wanted to talk about most. Horribly and inexplicably. Tell me about your Tia. She had no interest in the couple whatsoever. ‘Intimacy without commitment .' ‘Tell me about your Tia. And when you do know them.
' ‘Jim?' ‘A therapist I went to see . of what Lynn had said to her. She doesn't. ‘Anyway . She nodded and sipped her coffee.at least. Go on about Tia. . ‘Ramble away!’ she said benignly. Really listens. what Lynn thought about her. . to Lynn’s way of thinking.' Lynn felt a bit annoyed by the unknown Jim. spooky. .very helpful. ‘What was Jim like?' ‘Jim? Oh. or Lynn thought it did. ‘No. . ‘I've never met anyone like her before.' ‘She doesn't seem to say a lot though. ‘Mind if I just ramble?' Della's composure had now completely returned. It's really .' said Lynn at last. But not just yet.of something.that was then. Though she hardly seems to say anything in the sessions.damn them! .' For just a moment. And he was . because then Della looked her normal self. And when she looks at me. And she is so wise. it's as though she can read my mind. What was he doing here? They were talking about Tia. a flicker of pain crossed her face. and a bit.what she looked like. Lynn said to Della. But she listens. before I met Deryk actually. and gave a few more details of her exchanges with Tia. briskly for her.required the conversational ball to be batted back over the net .' Della's face darkened. Actually he was nothing like Deryk! Nothing like! But he was like him to look at. does she?' ‘That's the point. . he was like Deryk. what she does say packs such a punch. Nevertheless. ‘Tia is such an interesting person. this is now. She'd just block that memory off. I remember. She doesn't waste a word. and fill Della in with the general picture first. . what she said. It was 123 . while Lynn did the same and thought aloud about Tia .' Lynn thankfully did so. oh. and said.' Della looked at her understandingly. Jim did that. just a little bit. good manners . ‘Yes. way long ago . But she must have been mistaken.
all right.' This felt brutal. not as a case study. Intimacy without commitment. Instead.such a relief to talk about it. ‘You have to remember. it did not seem like the Della that Lynn knew. She said. weakly. ‘But surely they're human.' Lynn stopped. She does. How could she be in that job if she didn't care?' That's not what I asked.' ‘They're human. she said. I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Look. to see me as a person. She couldn't talk about that yet. Lynn was hurting badly. They can't afford to relate deeply to every damaged waif and stray that crosses their path. look at it from their point of view. She laughs . ‘I just wanted Tia to like me as a person. this was awful. ‘Do you think Tia likes me. stricken. They're all different. you're hurting. I remember somebody said that to me once. Was that why that comment had resonated so strongly? Because it was true of Tia and her? Oh god. Aloud. She broke off a bit of her sandwich and ate it daintily before replying. I've hurt you. she does! I'm sure of it! Everyone is an individual. She sees you as an individual. Lynn.the raw material on which they practice their craft. ‘Lynn. You're a client to them . She’s warm and friendly. I was thinking aloud. thought Lynn. She cares. Lynn stopped. Again. But when she got to the point where Tia had recommended psychotherapy. that "like" isn't really in these therapists' vocabulary. Why was she speaking so forcefully? All of a sudden. but Lynn couldn't think why. But not to you. I'm sure she really understands you. Tia sounds lovely.' ‘Don't be so defensive. ‘But wait a minute! Tia's not like that. It's not always like that. she asked the question which had occupied her thoughts for days. It sounded like vivisection. Of course she cares. Suddenly she 124 . Della seemed to soften suddenly.' ‘What do you mean?' ‘Well.' Even this was not comforting enough. seemed aware that something was going wrong in the conversation. Della?' Della considered this carefully. They're objective. That's all I meant.' Lynn felt appalled. They don't take their work home with them.
forcing the words out. And number plates are always traceable if you know where to go. I wouldn't give much for your chances for making connections but there's ways and means of finding out things.self-disclose. She knew with her guts that if she did. ‘Could Tia and I ever be friends?’ But she couldn't ask that now. Quite honestly. if she's there full-time or if she works elsewhere. Make friends with her.wanted to change the subject. Della! Don't make me beg. ‘There's two ways forward. and then said in a businesslike way. you're good at that. ‘I doubt it! They're very cagey. ‘I wonder what Tia is like as a person.' Against her will. ‘The last thing Tia said to me was that I can only have three more sessions with her. Della would say no. Della finally seemed to get the message. And for crying out loud. Again she said.' So Lynn said. Lynn.' said Lynn.cleaners or such? They probably wouldn't know very much but they'd be easier to talk to. and making connections with her.you know – ‘Friend of something or other' or something like that. If I'll ever know anything about her?' Della laughed. ‘I don't know what to do. She was not going to get what she wanted from Della. Pump the receptionist.what's the word .' ‘Ah.' Inside she was pleading.' ‘Oh. finding out more about her. ‘I don't know what to do. these psychotherapy types. She felt deflated and very down-hearted. Read my lips.' She paused. ‘Let's see. She gave her a measured glance and said consideringly. Find out how long she's worked for her. She realised now that what she had wanted to ask Della most of all was. She sounded more assured. Do you see anyone else around . Any stickers . See if you can find out where she parks her car .get a look inside. ‘But I've got to ask Della's advice about what to do now. ‘I told you you should have gone private!' Lynn hated her. as if marshalling lists of points in her head. It's what they call brief therapy. Into her sadness came the desperate thought. she added. She's the only one that could come up with any ideas. get rid of your 125 . They don't . brief therapy!' said Della knowledgeably. But she couldn't resist one last try. and that would be unendurable.
it will be damned difficult. even though Della was so drop-dead gorgeous. on equal terms. some honesty . I can't stop you . It was horrible. And the way she reeled it off. Too many. totally revolted.technophobia! Look her up on the Net . But she'd almost certainly be ex-directory anyway. probably . Draw up a plan of what you want to ask. I wonder if she does private work? You could ask. connections. She's a psychologist isn't she? She might be in some directory or other. Make her want to be friends with you. 126 . you're on a loser there then.' But the horrible truth was that Tia had looked at her like that. See if you can get a look at her desk. Ask her if she's seen them. what you want to achieve in each one.not that she knew it anyway. or lying. pat. If you've only got three more sessions then you've got to structure them carefully. as though she didn't know her. and she's married. 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. films. isn't she? Hmm. Don't act so much like a dying duck in her presence. I assume you must have tried the phone book. Who had she checked up on in her purple past? Deryk. She imagined Tia looking at her coldly. of course. it's your choice. the last time they'd met. But this . then fascinated. Force her to respond to you as a person . You could tell Deryk was a ladies' man.didn't it? How on earth could she contaminate it by such means? Trace her number plate! . (But even if you did. and saying. she felt first intrigued. according to Mark anyway. Della was talking like a cheap private eye.this was repellant! This was spying! Did Della really think that she. Unless she's divorced. who had been most amused by it all.' As Lynn listened. What's her surname . 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. Lynn was so far gone that she would use such means to get information? Clearly so.there was a plethora of nubile secretaries at Deryk's office that he enjoyed eyeing up. ‘Right.Bradley? Oh. then somehow chilled. and finally. Mention books you've read. now. her bookcase. Start reading up on psychology and counselling. But I'm warning you. ‘Well. . .Google her or something. as though she didn't have to think about it.to see you as an adult.
Audrey.' ‘Hmm. She longed for silence. so clinical. ‘Hey. although it was only that morning. ‘Since he got promoted to Financial Director one of the other accountants has turned very snotty. cautiously. How about another coffee?' ‘Oh yes! Why not!' (Why not indeed! What the hell? What mattered any more? And at least the place was warm and bright and while she was sitting here she didn't have move or think or make any decisions .It was all over. I wish he'd gone elsewhere. Lynn felt torn between anger and pity. Lynn looked at Della. ‘How's Mark doing?' Mark? Oh. she'd fought for two more sessions that Tia didn't want her to have. What a bizarre way of thinking Della had! So cold. Della was looking pleased with herself and clearly waiting for a response. Della said suddenly.' What could she tell Della about Mark? Oh yes. Della. Della happily. Mark! How was he doing? Lynn had to think. thanks. at least. for a long time. Lynn desperately. You've given me something to think about. She consulted her watch. Very busy at work though. How is Audrey a bitch?' 127 . What was the point? As she struggled to think of something to say. ‘Yeah. She forced a smile. Oh. It seemed an age since she had seen him.except about what coffee to drink.) Over large cappuccinos this time they mutually considered their next topic of conversation. Tia had had enough of her. yes. Surely it couldn't all be wrong . The moment dragged on. She's an absolute bitch. She had to say something. She was sick of talking about Tia now. She said. but she did want to know her! She wanted to know her so badly. But what had made her become like it? Deryk? She would never see Della in the same light again after this.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. we've still got a little while. I wish it hadn't been an internal promotion.' That. Della looked gratified and pleased to see Lynn looking more like her old self. She hadn't taken Tia's advice about that psychotherapy place. ‘Mark? He's OK. was true.
I never thought to ask. quite deeply. to her shame. She had no idea why Audrey was a bitch. we've sort of drifted apart. not even asked. Isn't that awful?' Della said shrewdly. .' 128 . Now it had got all heavy again. It's almost as if .so much in love. . ‘I've had enough of Audrey . as Della had done. She had simply regurgitated what Mark had said the previous night in reply to a routine inquiry about work. In view of the glimpse she'd just had of Della's Machiavellian thought processes. And .Too late. did Lynn want to talk about personal things any more? Actually. there was sorrow in her voice. are you?' Split-second decision. ‘I'm sorry to hear that. like the cappuccinos. oh bloody hell. how to get it back. ‘No. but he doesn't seem to care. Lynn. Yes. And. ‘You and Mark aren't getting on too well at the moment.as if he's jealous of her in some way isn't that crazy?' Oh damn. I'd always thought that you and Mark were the ideal couple . she did. She felt so desperate that soon she would be buttonholing complete strangers in the street and telling them. ‘Did you know that I . . . Lynn realised what she had done. absolutely hopeless! But Della looked as if she had understood . for clarification on Audrey's bitchiness.she's an absolute bitch. She and Della went back a long way. do you know. what Lynn was trying to say. I don't know what to do. And Della had asked about Mark. almost amused. yes. I've no idea. Della was looking at her enquiringly. Why had she said that? She hadn't meant to say it at all. . Lynn said. she probably had. he can see how much good seeing Tia is doing me. ?' And old habits died hard. as well? Surely there was nothing funny in what Lynn had said? But when Della spoke. She said the first thing that came into her head. Ever since the miscarriage.' That was what he had said. had taken this statement at face value and left it there.this is the weird thing. Seeing at Della looking concernedly across the table at her it was hard to believe she'd said what she had about Tia. Humiliation engulfed her. And she. But why did she look . All her defences were crumbling. Perhaps Lynn had taken it a bit too seriously. just to keep the conversation light and frothy. Maybe it was worth talking about a bit more . ‘Della. she'd mentioned Tia too! She was hopeless.
‘We were, we were. We couldn't bear to be out of sight of each other, wanted to know all about everything the other did, said, thought. Couldn't leave each other alone in bed. Was that love? Now - oh god, we feel like strangers. What is love, Della?' (Oh, you stupid cow, why ever did you say that! Della will have a field day with that one!) To Lynn’s utter relief and surprise, Della actually stopped to think about it. ‘ "What is love?" Now you're asking. How should I know? Me of all people?' She sipped her coffee reflectively. Was Della buying time to mentally review her list of amusing quotations and anecdotes to dazzle and enlighten or was she was actually taking the question - that commonplace and yet unanswerable question - seriously? Lynn waited hopefully to find out. It was that ‘Me of all people?' that gave it away. It was most un-Della-ish. Della remained silent for some moments, concentration etched on her brow. Did she know that? Della never frowned as a rule. Although she openly sung the praises of Botox she was too canny to court trouble if she could avoid it. Lynn too had time to think. Like Della, she cupped her hands around her cappuccino and inhaled the fragrant steam. She felt the cushioned comfort of the chair she sat in and became aware of the warmth and colour and the friendly muted hustle and bustle around her, the gleaming, hissing coffee maker behind the counter, and she waited. She had nothing else to do. The young server came to clear the table and asked, ‘Was everything all right?' She was a pretty girl, her winter colouring and slender figure accentuated by the white shirt and abbreviated black skirt she wore. Lynn had the sudden sensation that there was a huge store somewhere in existence in the galaxy filled with thousands of cloned waitresses, all exactly like her, waiting to be dispersed, like shop window mannequins, to restaurants and cafes all over the world, to ask ‘Was everything all right?’ over and over again . . . But this girl was a real person. Lynn looked more closely at her. Did she have problems and sadnesses, an internal world in shreds, despair waiting outside the door? Who could tell? She was now eying Lynn somewhat dubiously. ‘Fine, thanks,' said Lynn. The girl nodded, relieved, and moved off. Della came back from the place where she had been and focused again on Lynn. ‘I'm
not sure I know what love is,' she said, oddly hesitant. ‘I know what it isn't, that's for sure.' Lynn felt an uncharacteristic pang of pity for this new, uncertain Della. She said nothing, but quietly kept her eyes on Della's face. Tia would have been proud of her. ‘I'll tell you how it was in the beginning, for me,' said Della. She gave a short laugh at nothing in particular. ‘I know it sounds trite, but there was this sense . . . I suppose . . .of recognition. Of recognising oneself in the other. Of self meeting non-self, and yet knowing you were the same - yet not the same - oh, how can I put it! - of finding one's completion, somehow. Then, not to be with the other, was in some sense not to exist, not to be whole, because they expressed the part of you you didn't even know about, didn't know you had, until you saw it in them and thought, "This is me - in you." And when you're together you laugh, all the time. Not just because everything seems funny, and bright and good, but because laughing says - oh, so many things - that I feel safe with you, that you can feel safe with me, that we can be vulnerable together, that we see things the same way. And you laugh to give an outlet for the joy you feel because you are with them. And you feel that it's worth anything to make them laugh, to make them happy.' She stopped abruptly. ‘That's how it was for me, anyway,' she said lamely. Lynn remembered. ‘Yes,' she said. ‘That how it was for me and Mark. Everything about him delighted me. I thought I would never tire of watching him - it was that otherness, yet sameness - just as you describe. Weird, isn't it?' ‘Yes,' said Della, ' Very weird indeed.' There was a rueful self-mockery in the way she spoke that puzzled Lynn. She thought, There's something wrong here. Della had spoken so passionately - so unlike her normal collected self and Lynn felt touched by Della's sharing such a confidence. Yet she could not imagine Della feeling that way about Deryk, not even at first. Who then? Could it be that therapist Della had mentioned - what was his name - Jim? But the way Della had spoken of therapists suggested what? - that maybe she had liked him and he had rebuffed her advances. Of course. In spite of herself, Lynn felt a sense of relief. So that was why Della had spoken so bitterly. It hadn't been therapists in general, but Jim in particular that didn’t care. Maybe they weren't all like that. But in
her heart Lynn knew that Della was right. She was clutching at straws. Quickly, think of something else! So who was it then? Perhaps someone in Della's youth, her first love maybe? What to say? She couldn't leave Della hanging in the air. Now it was Della, self-assured Della who was waiting for some word of comfort, of sympathy. ‘Weird, but good, wouldn't you say?' said Lynn. ‘It's good to have those feelings, isn't it Della? Even if they don't last, it's great while they do. It sounds like' (That sounded good. Like something Tia would say. Although - had Tia ever said it?) 'it sounds like that for you, it was a long time ago. Was it a lad at school, or university . . . your first love?' Lynn felt tremendously daring. In all her years of friendship with Della, she had never, ever asked such a personal question, only ever waited for what Della wanted to tell her, which, she now knew, had in fact been extremely little, despite the fact Della talked so much. The moment between them lengthened. Della seemed to be making up her mind to say something. Lynn felt a twinge of fear; had she been too invasive? Well, it was too late now. Finally Della spoke, and Lynn saw to her surprise that the delicate flush was back, creeping up Della's cheekbones. She looked directly at Lynn and smiled wryly. ‘Pretty much my first love – and yes, at university, Her name was Avril.'
For a moment Lynn sat looking at Della. Avril. Somehow she hadn't expected Della to say that. Della . . . bubbly, flirtatious Della who oozed appreciation of the opposite sex – anyone of the opposite sex - gay? It took a bit of getting your head round. Had she heard right? 'Yes, Avril,' said Della, as if reading her thoughts. Right. Well, okay. Fine. It wasn't as if she, Lynn, didn't have gay friends. There was Marco and Polo - aka Mark and Paul- and Gail and Barbara, and Marianne, and Dominic her hairdresser and the two at school who kept themselves to themselves but clearly had a particular friendship, and well, loads. But . . . Della? Della was clearly expecting a response. Hardly knowing what to say, Lynn murmured, ‘So you met at university . . .?' ‘Yes,' said Della. ‘She lectured on the Romantic Poets. She was warm and witty and humane. When I was in her lectures, it seemed as though she spoke to me alone. I had never felt this way before. I adored her. Oh, how I counted the hours to the next tutorial! She noticed me, she liked me. What can I say? Things . . . developed.' Della lapsed into silence. After a pause, Lynn ventured, ‘So what happened?' ‘She dropped me,' said Della bleakly. ‘For a younger, prettier girl. A week into my second year she called me into her office - her office - and told me it was all over. Very nicely. But then the whisper went round about her and Elaine. Elaine was a first year, red-haired, PreRaphaelite looks - absolute stunner. The worst of it was that the first and second year students had joint lectures for some subjects and I had to . . . I . . .' She left the sentence unfinished. Lynn held on, watching Della's face, but Della was not looking at her. Della sighed. ‘It was my fault,' she said. ‘I should have read between the lines. Avril was such an amazing person. Everything about her was beautiful - the way she looked, the way she spoke, the way she dressed - her rooms were full of beautiful things. She opened my eyes to so
much! What could she be expected to see in me? I was a gauche nineteen year-old, very unsure of myself (Della? Unsure of herself?) and things were different in those days' Again she paused. Lynn felt totally out of her depth. What should she say? She sensed that Della wanted to say more, but the situation seemed so precarious - the slightest wrong move on her part, she felt, would result in Della's icy retreat. Perhaps Della was already regretting embarking on this conversation. What did Della want her to say? What would Tia have said? Lynn didn't think she would have asked questions. Tia never asked questions. Trying to be Tia, Lynn leaned forward and murmured, ‘She opened your eyes . . ?' It seemed a stupid, but safe thing to say. It worked. ‘God, yes!' said Della enthusiastically. ‘The things we talked about! Everything! She knew so much - I could have listened for ever. And she made me laugh! I think I amused her, too. You know, I think she did care for me a little bit,' said Della wistfully. 'If only it could have stayed that way I might have had a chance. But it all went wrong somehow. I don’t know how. No, that’s not true - I do know. She showed me new ways of looking at things and it was intoxicating. After a while my head was bursting with it all and I started testing out my ideas on her, I couldn't resist arguing, contradicting her. It was so exciting - such fun, at first! But I got so arrogant - thought I knew it all. No wonder she got sick of me. We had terrible rows. If I hadn't done that, we would still be together!' Lynn looked at Della in some amazement. Did she really believe that? It seemed that she did, for Lynn could see the hint of a tear glistening in her eye. Well! This was a day of wonders! ‘It must have been hard,' was all she could think of to say. ‘It was,' said Della drearily. ‘For a while, I . . . ' Again she left the sentence unfinished, bent her head and fiddled with her teaspoon. After a few moments, she looked up and went on, ‘I was on anti-depressants for quite a while. God, it was hard to get off them! My second year was a bit of a blur. Actually, there's a six month gap that I can't account for at all.' Her eyes still glittered with tears, and she stared fixedly ahead, looking at something Lynn could not see. Even then, Lynn noticed, she took care not to dab her eyes dry.
in my experience. and again.Lynn couldn't help being fascinated.the bank of a very large canal. Lynn had the awful sense of having got it completely wrong. much much harder to do. she looked at Lynn as if she were mad. and then said. suicide . What had she meant when she had said ‘For a while.and yet how meaningless it is when you say it.that's all. ‘Suicide .' said Lynn. Lynn could bear it no longer. in fact quite buoyant. She could have bitten her tongue out. but it is no substitute for getting completely trollied! My goodness. '? The silence became intense.' Lynn was now completely lost and Della saw it.ending it all?' The moment Lynn said it. focusing with an effort on Lynn.massacre of a Native American population. She paused.you know . ‘Oh Lynn. First love and all that. ‘You mean . ‘What?' she said finally. ‘Really.low . with a curiosity she was unable to repress. . as if listening to herself. 'Ending it all?' said Della. and said musingly. Maybe because it was all so long ago. Too late. I’m still here. ‘Did you ever think of doing something . I . Once again. . This was such a new Della. . drastic?' Della didn't appear to connect. ‘What did she look like?' She couldn't help wondering where Della's taste in women lay. How did she do it? She seemed all right now. Oh god. don't take me so seriously! Suicide is such an easy word to say (not for me.take his relatives to court. I was just . Lynn realised that Della hadn't regained her composure at all. going to bed early with a hot water bottle is all very well. ‘Well . suicide . She had to know. Lynn! Your imagination! Suicide!' She paused. Though I must say. the parties I went to!' Della laughed reminiscently. she softened. Suicide . Della seemed to have recovered her composure with remarkable ease. thought Lynn. thought Lynn) but so much harder to do.suicide?' She spat the word out in a quiet hiss. 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 . ‘Suicide?’ Then seeing Lynn's expression. she knew it was the wrong thing to say. She leaned forward. Avril caught me unawares. ‘Oh. I coped.what an ugly word it is .
There! Will that do?' Why had Della added that last line? Lynn felt contaminated by it.had she? But Della had denied it anyway. Lynn pondered this most bewildering lunch hour and what Della had said. then had a couple of rather unsatisfactory flings so I thought it was time to go straight again heavens. ‘But she was nothing like you inside. hadn't actually used the word . ‘After all. She hadn't wanted to know that. 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. now I come to think of it.know all the gory details!' Then Della seemed to wilt and shrugged as though it hardly mattered now. ‘I've said that before today. 135 . the one that could still recall the details of that bruising encounter so many years ago. Yes .' she said. She looked ever so slightly older and more tired. ‘I'm sorry. though. the men I got through! Did I ever tell you about Felix when I was in Paris? Maybe that should wait until another time.' She couldn’t think of anything else to say. ‘It's OK. much plumper.quite a bit like you. she could feel Della becoming quieter and more withdrawn. Della's usual urbane and amiable persona came more to the fore. Avril looked a bit like you.' Della paused as though this thought had hit her for the first time. she could distance herself from that other Della. Lynn. as though by doing so. Lynn could only be thankful. the one she had so foolishly let Lynn see. Too strongly.' said Della. Everyone I meet reminds me of someone else! That must be why I told you about Avril. 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. I did rather invite it by telling you in the first place. But she. As they journeyed back to school in silence. I must be getting old.' She paused. Actually. Della had reacted so strongly to what her remark about suicide. I was celibate for quite a while after that. She cursed her insatiable noseyness and wished with all her heart that this conversation had never started. But as they paid the bill and left. ‘Oh all right! She . She added. almost fat.let me see – she had dark wavy hair and brown eyes and a very expressive face and when we made love she was very gentle. She was plumper.' With every sentence. ‘Actually. ‘I didn't mean to pry.
Well. very interesting. Then it would be a point of contact . thinking about it just like Tia would have. But Della had seemed to think it might have worked too . Was it because.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. that wasn't true! She was a very honest person.like Della had said she should make. Why had telling Della about Tia made the difference? As she was washing her hands. That was a kind of denial too. But it was as they entered the school gates. She really ought to start reading up on this counselling business. But something didn’t feel quite right about doing that – just yet. Perhaps she could ask Tia about it. Tia would help her to understand what was going on there.trivialising it when she clearly felt it really deeply all those years later.make it too clinical. or something? And saying that her feeling at Avril's betrayal was just a first love kind of reaction . Where ignorance is bliss . What would Tia have made of it? And here she was. Lynn suddenly went cold as it dawned on her why Della had told her about Avril. Didn't they call that denial. . thinking about people and trying to work out how they ticked was so fascinating. Analysing the relationship she had with Tia would sort of spoil it somehow .And then sort of glossed over it. It was because she had told her about Tia. as Della had said. her mind was racing. she hadn't really got very far in working out what was happening in Della. it clicked. It was always best to know the truth. In the staff cloak room. wasn't it? Hmm. Much better to work it out from first principles. because Della thought that she felt about Tia how 136 . Della had told her about Avril because she had told her about Tia .' said a little voice in her ear. That would be ironic. She and Tia had a lot in common really. she looked like Avril? Could be. But .in the face of the evidence how on earth could she hold onto that idea? Even Lynn could see how Avril had used her. . Surely she discussed cases with her students all the time. Anyway. as Lynn sat on the loo. . Wasn't it amazing how otherwise educated people could deceive themselves so completely when their emotions where involved. 'And maybe there's something inside you that doesn’t want to know too much. Lynn felt pleased.
this awareness caused her thoughts to take a new and alarming turn. so special. and thankfully aware of the solid support of the wall behind her. She leant against the wall. I have! Well. . I like men like that!' ‘What about the sex?' ‘Well. Oh. She felt as weak as water. she was gay too! Lynn felt as though she'd just been hit by a lorry. and the thought of it now repulsed her. She was gay. But after a moment's relieved reaction. mostly. thought about her all the time! No wonder. It was just too dangerous. ‘Not very masculine. instead of comforting her. Oh. unless . Lynn could feel her mind 137 . god! No wonder she thought Tia was so wonderful. realisation swirling around her. haven't you?' ‘Haven't we all?' ‘But you've wanted to try it. but look what they were like. It had never occurred to her. That time in the -' ‘You've wondered how it would be with a woman. . ‘If you're gay. caring men.Della had felt about Avril. You've wanted to try it with Tia.' ‘No! That's not true!' And Lynn found to her relief. she wasn't only a lesbian then. have you?' ‘I have. in touch with their female side. she was a frigid one! A dishonest one. practically worshiped her. some of them. She just didn’t want to go there. she couldn't be gay! The little voice of reason whispered in her ear. The idea of sex with Tia was a new and horrible thought. not in touch with her true self! Think! Think! Don't panic . . . unless . it all connected now! She saw it all.' ‘They were just sensitive. what about it?' ‘You've never really enjoyed it.what did she actually want Tia to do? She didn't dare dwell on it. So. But. were they? Downright effeminate. that it wasn't true.' said the voice in her other ear triumphantly. no. though. 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. But why should she feel about Tia like that? No reason.
done so many things with her. Lynn paused to think of her mother. love. Mum had said it before she died. like the lights going out in a building.' Lynn had valued that exchange. Lynn continued leaning against the wall by the hot air drier. Remember that. Something was being replayed in her memory and she was straining to catch it.there's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip. Normal childhood . something had been said that she'd glossed over. Lynn began to trawl through her life. That was it! ‘Whose approval do you really want?' ‘My mother's!' Wait though . that she'd passed on to Lynn. And her mother 138 .high standards. she was such a loss! There was something lurking at the back of Lynn's mind that had some bearing on this. but all she could remember was gainsaying Tia and feeling her disapproval. In the awfulness of the last session with Tia. You'll never set the Thames on fire. ‘He's a good man for all I don't think he'll make old bones. pale and flaky in layers.oh. who had sacrificed everything for her. in fact. try another tack. It was so wonderfully typical of Mum . Even the lightest touch hurt her mother now. nothing wrong there. Wasn't gayness meant to be linked to the way you were brought up? Mentally. Quick. but you've done your best with what you had. but she didn’t dare.shutting down. but a caring mother whom she deeply admired .was that it? It was nothing! She had had her mother's approval. hoping that no one would come in.' Lynn's mum had sighed.never give up. like a pile of grey ash with just the spark of her spirit glowing through. taught her so much . remembering that scene near the end. looking shrunken and frail in the hospital bed. that wasn't good. Slow and steady wins the race .pretty good. to hold her close. Disapproval. Mind you – hard to live up to when you were only a kid. Nothing wrong with that. Absent father. You can't afford to .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. ‘I'm proud of you. Well. What was it? Lynn couldn't quite remember. Tia had said it.
a schoolgirl crush? Oh. But there were always epidurals. because her pain threshold was normally very high. she had decided.' (Ouch! thought Lynn. and you've got good child-bearing hips. or whatever the term was (and Mum would have freaked at that .) 'I want lots of grandchildren.wishing she was like her. But that didn't help now. (or did) Tia think of her regarding this . failure. No.she could admit that now . Funny really.oh. And have lots of children. . oh loss! She quickly replaced it. What did it matter? But all the same. Otherwise why did lovers carve their name on trees? Funny. she had to admit. At the memory. wishing she was her.looking at her so coldly. If she was Tia. lesbian business? If she was a latent lesbian. though she was terrified. of the pain of childbirth. or people who didn't wash their hands after using the toilet. Another new and worrying thought came. ‘Get him to make an honest woman of you.' ‘I'll try.' Lynn had promised. as was her habit these days.amongst others – quite a lot of others) if she was. who would be Tia for her? 139 . with a picture of Tia.' That was easy to promise. hang on a minute. Ice-cool Tia .' Lynn had said.had never been what you'd call touchy-feely anyway. Mum had no time for homosexuals.' her mother had added. or fat men who wore shorts . would Tia have picked it up by now? Would Tia have read it in her admiration . Her mother had been typical of her generation. It had hurt intolerably. . It's what we were made for. ‘I will. What would. a shudder went through her . Love wants commitment. Especially after her mother's account. what a horrible thought! Fresh misery washed over Lynn. ‘You come of good breeding stock.completely freaked. wishing she looked like her . that couldn't be right. But it hadn't been very high during the miscarriage. . Lynn longed to be a mother. touched and irritated at the same time. though I won't be there to see them. saying she was wonderful. Commitment and permanency.' her mother had gone on. It had been only a week later that Mark had proposed – if you could call it that. Tia would have seen through her wanting her approval. ‘but there's no guarantees. as though she almost couldn't bear the sight of her. now she came to think of it. .
This was getting a bit complicated! Lynn shifted her position. looking back. Perhaps they should have got the proper stuff from a sex shop or something. But she hadn't finished thinking! Oh. And she was still sure the pictures in that 140 . It seemed like two other people now. after the miscarriage. taken the spontaneity out of it. well. They'd certainly worked hard at it! But all the timing and thermometers and pillows under her bum had. there were questions . And she only had three more sessions . the drier switch was digging into her back. and it had been awful to get off the sheets. 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. don't let anyone come in! But if she was like Tia. when she was pregnant.actually that hadn't worked terribly well. And Della! What of Della! What did Della want of her. . though next time (if there ever was a next time) she'd suggest they try the smooth one instead. How could she lived for thirty-four years. she could hide in the prep room. please god. How was she going to teach this afternoon? Thank heaven it was sixth form. where did that leave their relationship? But wait a minute! How did she know she was gay? If she really was. But getting pregnant had been OK sort of. If she was gay. never suspecting? But. and a bit before.then nothing. 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. But it hadn't always been that way. Memories of the showers they'd had together jostled with recalling the experiments with chocolate spread . . but there had been a secret frisson of pleasure in buying Nutella so openly in the supermarket. Lynn's stressed-out and painful thought processes took a welcome escape route down memory lane and she sighed for the fun they'd had when they had first made love. She'd have to go soon. But the peanut butter had worked pretty well. One swallow didn't make summer. She felt suicidal. telling her this? And Mark. then Tia would look at her with affection and love instead of that cold therapist's stare.
Tia! Lynn broke down and wept. Nobody could do that without years of training! Worse than yoga. She sighed for those days. this longing . She was behaving like someone in love. Oh. just couldn't. Against her better judgment she began reviewing what Della had said. with the problem still unresolved.for Tia to touch her. She was hopelessly in love. But it had been fun trying. Lynn thought again of Della and her cold-blooded analysis of ways to obtain information about Tia. Oh Tia. So she couldn't have been gay. She couldn't bear to part with Tia.book had been computer generated. It was true. 141 . But Tia never would touch her. How could she explain this infatuation with Tia.she might as well admit it . appraising the possibilities. could she? Otherwise how could she have enjoyed it? But what was happening now? Why was it all so different? With an icy shock. Lynn was plunged straight back into a most unwelcome present. That was a given. Somehow she knew that. they'd done lots of things that had been fun.
Sandra . after a fashion. in a pub a little less than a year ago. once again. because she needed to keep thinking it all the time. It was time to make her promise more than just a way of increasing her own feel-good factor. She'd only met her once. Chris in turn had seemed 142 . . . two-thirds empty) she began to summon up all her powers of rational thinking. Lynn. Lynn paused. and that she had a life to be in charge of. She couldn't help feeling that she'd bitten off more than she could chew this time. perhaps longer. Lynn found her address book and started thumbing through it. Sitting at home. Halfway through. Her mind flashed back to the scene with Chris . decided to behave as though she was still the same person. trying to recall what little she remembered of Sandra. was in charge of her life. but she'd giggled a lot. that Tia was only a therapist (what she meant by only she wasn't quite sure). waiting for Mark. didn’t she? She thought she did. . She recalled the fact that she had only known Tia for three hours. but then the memory of Chris's face intervened and stiffened her resolve. quite skinny. It worked because she held in front of herself an image of the happy. as well as think.how long had it been since her glib offer of help? Days at least. a piece of paper fell out. in a nervous sort of way.looking at her face. and. that she. she liked helping people . Sandra had said next to nothing.Chapter 13 Somehow Lynn got through the day. and besides. she just couldn't remember. friendly outgoing Lynn she'd been before the miscarriage. mousy hair. every second. because doing things distracted you. She concentrated. This worked. taller than average. She didn't want to phone Sandra. mainly at comments Chris had made. She pleaded a headache and left early . There was a world out there that she needed to get in touch with. before she met Tia. she really didn't want to. It was hard work. . no one contradicted her. She picked it up and saw it had Sandra's mobile number written on it. As she switched on her mobile. Her heart sank . but she had to do something. and so she decided that she had to do. and they had hardly spoken. with a bottle of wine invitingly open (and by the time he came in.
' she finished.' she said with some hesitation. amazingly. very slim. suspicious. Lynn wished she'd thought what to say. sorry.' Pause. ‘Above medium height.' she conceded. Lynn thought as fast as she was able under the circumstances. and I phoned to say I'm sorry. during which Lynn died the death. god! Then Sandra's voice came over the phone. Oh. What did you say your name was?' ‘Lynn Davies.' Pause.' There was a split second of incredulous silence. ‘Sandra.' Lynn’s heart flopped with relief but she could feel herself blushing too. you're honest. um. ‘Always laughing.' ‘I remember. Then there was silence. though there hadn't been that many to choose from. We met at The Apple and Serpent at a Christmas Do last year – the science department from the school where Chris works. hi. ’I heard that you and Chris had split up. hesitant. 'Let me see .devoted to her. ‘It's just that my mind cut out and I couldn't think what to say so I had to ring off and try again. medium height. smiley. ‘I'm still the same height. ‘Well. Am I right?' ‘Well. it's Lynn Davies. She couldn't actually remember anything particularly positive about Sandra. then tried again a minute later. Chris didn't put you up to it by any chance?' There was an unmistakable edge to her voice. Suppose Sandra had got a new phone and given this one to her mother.' She stopped. ‘So you phoned to commiserate. Chris was the one who'd told me you'd split up. at least.' said Lynn doubtfully. We met once about a year ago.' There was another pause. always making jokes. The phone was ringing. rehearsed a little speech. That was very nice of you. and then. There was no easy way to say this. not letting her out of his sight. dark hair . ‘He didn't tell me any details though. ‘Did you just ring me and then cancel?' ‘Yes. ‘Well. Suppose she’d dialled the wrong number by mistake.dark wavy hair. a silvery laugh of genuine humour. Sandra seemed to find this very funny. She quickly cancelled. the hair's right. There was silence at the other end. There was another chuckle. Then she thought she ought to return the compliment. and apparently riveted to her every word. Lynn took a deep breath and just said it.' 143 .
‘Right.' Well.telling everyone what a cow I am. Tomorrow any good? Say 6. but how he still loves me. . ‘Well. What do you want to do? If you’d like to get together. it was nice of you to phone. . I look nothing like I used to!' ‘Oh. There's no man involved.' Lynn's voice trailed away. I don't know. So. nothing venture. poor Chris.00?' ‘Fine. 144 .' said Lynn. hard to say. Lynn could hear her voice changing through hesitant to aggressive. were there? Well. Sounds like we both remember what we look like.This at least was true. you know. I must say. nothing gain . 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 .or something like that. I just couldn't take any more of his crap!' ‘Er.' She rang off. feeling agreeably diverted from her own misery.' ‘The Apple and Serpent? OK then. we could meet at the pub again. When she spoke again. But I hope you look the same. She'd see what she could find out. if you'd like to meet up for a drink or something . ‘That's really sweet of you. Sandra was clearly thinking this over and it seemed to be a good enough answer for her. .' said Lynn. she certainly sounded different too. but what to say now? ‘Erm. I'm bloody lonely without the bastard. . if she could. ‘Look. because I'm telling you. How's he doing?' This was promising. Very different. I look the same. her voice sounded mollified. . Poor Sandra too! She had to do something. . but . there were two sides. but oh. but quite honestly. what experience had she in doing it at all? She waited in suspense. there had to be of course. But maybe Sandra was suffering too. intrigued. She was doing this all wrong. I don't see him much. She hoped she wasn't going as a double agent. right. When Sandra spoke. somewhat taken aback by this speedy acceptance of her offer. If this Sandra looked different now. ‘See you there. I was wondering how you were . The Asp it is then.
I've changed. the men cradling their pints carefully.' Well. I'll be right back. round cheeks. ‘to meet an old schoolfriend. What else had they in common but the fact that they both knew Chris and that he and Sandra had split up. cut very short. coats secured over the shoulder by a thumb in the collar. Clothes courtesy of Camden Lock. yabbering away about matters vital to them. ‘You haven't though. Lynn got a glass of wine and waited. Back about ten. Sandra smiled. ‘We were . despite their expansive gestures. Eyebrows plucked to infinity and beyond and then pencilled in. maroon nails. No point in making small talk. just when uncertainty was toppling over into doubt. . a place where you could still converse without lip-reading . . I can't believe . Dark slitty eyes. she felt a touch at her elbow. to return a few minutes later with a pint of something.The next night Lynn told Mark where she was going. There at her shoulder stood someone whom she supposed to be Sandra. After ten minutes. Got my mobile if you need me. ‘Yes.' She vanished. Several ear-piercings.then.very chubby. Lovely skin.' she said. Mark looked pleased. the women tossing their hair back. Let me get a drink. She wished she'd been more specific about the exact location.' said Lynn. the pavement was ten deep in shirt-sleeved city workers. ‘you and Chris seemed so happy. a nose stud and one below her lower lip.' She shook her head. Sandra was now chubby . Who else would know her name? Sandra had been right about the height. Sandra was clearly spitting nails. ‘Lynn?' Lynn turned.though lip-reading helped. The Asp was down a back street off the Central Line.lipstick and paint. Sandra smiled grimly. mascara'd. adding. Magenta hair. The rest was negotiable.' he said. ‘Do you good. full mouth . Lynn didn't remember it being as crowded as this. She looked around at the earnest laughing groups of young men and women in business suits. it was true in a way. or holding them high as they 145 . and. Lynn decided. amazingly for London.' she said. Huge round earrings. As usual. clearly enjoying Lynn's efforts to mask her surprise. ‘That time I met you here.
I'm just so desperate. 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. he's like that at home?' ‘All the time. He's friendly. says Cormac sounds too Irish . a really good. Oh it sounds so stupid when you say it! Cormac is nice. Cormac! That's his real name. funny. Will the real Cormac O'Doyle please stand up? . ‘Yes.If there is one. Then he goes and does it to somebody else. We hardly spoke two words when we met last year. 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. ‘Well. ‘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. ‘I can't believe I'm telling you this.' she said. looks at you soulfully with those soft Irish eyes? Makes you feel really important. ‘Don't you notice how he behaves?' Then she made a gesture of resignation. she hadn't remembered the noise level quite as high as this.while he's talking to you. Now she was here. Maybe it had been a mistake to come back to this pub. . ‘You mean. . kind man. isn't he? Listens well. This time a response was required. Well. She was coming to terms with this now as an integral part of her overall inadequacy. warm . special . it didn't seem to matter. It was usefully private but Lynn felt claustrophobic. the name I've always known him by. What more could I want?' She started to laugh mirthlessly. Cute. ‘Tell me honestly. So she said nothing. ‘Yeah.makes people think of leprechauns. and Lynn became aware that the drink Sandra was holding was not the first she had had 146 . the one I call him.' She peered at Lynn as if she was seeing her for the first time. why should you? It took me a while to fall in. Everybody happy. meaningless.' Sandra snorted angrily. Not so bloody good if you live with him!' She paused.moved through the press of people. Cormac. I know he calls himself Chris at school. talks about his feelings. Sandra looked at Lynn closely. I've no patience with that any more. and he doesn't even remember what he said to you five minutes ago. Including me. All very well and good if you work with him. To her surprise. He devotes his life to making people happy. How can you argue with that? What an ungrateful cow I am.
‘Why don't you splash some water on your face in the Ladies? I'll wait here. and Lynn felt slightly more hopeful that the evening wouldn't end in disaster. Gone was the confident exterior. Nor the second. It's a relief. Lynn said. Cormac doesn't know where I am. Sandra finished. and when she returned Lynn could see she had applied some make-up.' ‘Look. I don't want to stand around crying in public. Eventually. what have I done. and said drearily. no! Pizza will be fine.' Sandra was gone a little while. I'm house-sitting for them in Tottenham. I need to think. Or was it?' ‘We'll get a pizza on the way. ‘Yes. what's the use?' Her face crumpled. ‘It's all right. They're away in the States for a couple of months. Lynn was relieved. ‘Sorry. "Come back to me. ‘I never said he didn't. Diversion tactics were called for. I love you" crap. Maggie and Liam. more in control. Somebody had to take care of this child. Will you come back with me? I just want to hole up indoors.oh.' she said.' She looked at Lynn pathetically.and she did. A little girl was looking at her.' she found herself adding anxiously. I don't think I could take his whining. She said.' ‘So he does love you?' Sandra looked at her with frustration in her face. Lynn stood by supplying tissues. 147 . ‘That's if you like pizza. ‘I've got a couple of friends. ‘So where did you go when you moved out?' It worked. ‘When was the last time you ate?' ‘Oh.' Sandra started to laugh shakily. I don't know. She looked much better. sniffing. I said . ‘Would you prefer some soup or something?' ‘Soup? God.' ‘OK. torn between pity and exasperation and thankful they were in a corner where no one could really see them.' said Lynn firmly. the well made-up face. Her face looked an absolute mess. I'll come. She was going to cry now . In a minute she would start crying.' Some instinct made her ask. Sandra came to.that day. Yesterday some time.
They travelled back on the tube to where Sandra was staying and got two pizzas at the corner shop. Surely pizza must be the most popular take-away in London - or maybe it was kebabs. Sandra opened the door of the inevitable large terraced house, sub-divided into flatlets, and they trudged upwards. Liam and Maggie's place was at the very top. The room seemed dark at first; though there was still some light outside, the dormer windows let very little of it in. When Sandra clicked a switch, and flooded the place with a soft glow from concealed lighting, Lynn gasped. It was so unexpected; a huge room, open plan with wood floors and rugs, a piano (a piano?) and what seemed like thousands of books. ‘They're musicians' said Sandra, as though this explained everything. Perhaps it did. Certainly it explained the piles of sheet music and the music stand. Sandra had already moved to the kitchen area and was looking out glasses. She seemed to have totally regained her composure. ‘Drink?' she said. Lynn hesitated. Sandra smiled. ‘You're worried I'm drinking too much. It's only because I haven't eaten. We'll have spritzers if you like, but I must have my wine.' Lynn could hardly stop her. ‘Fine' she said. 'Hang on,' said Sandra, 'I must remove my stud.' She was a gone long time in the bathroom, and when she returned Lynn thought she looked rather white, but she forbore to comment. She hadn't heard anything, perhaps it had been a struggle for Sandra to remove the stud in her fragile state. They settled down in the comfortable settee with the pizzas on a coffee table in front of them. There seemed to be no need to talk for a while. Sandra seemed to have no trouble eating, though she ate very slowly, and with a faint air of surprise, as though she had forgotten quite how to do it. ‘Just as well we didn’t get extra cheese,' thought Lynn. ‘She must have the constitution of an ox.' ‘You've changed a lot,' she observed aloud. ‘Yes, haven't I? That was Cormac's doing.' ‘Chr - Cormac's?'
‘Oh yes. I was a dowdy little frump and he encouraged me, brought me out of myself, I suppose. That's one thing I've got to thank him for. "Be yourself," he used to say, "Be the you that you were meant to be - or even the you that you weren't meant to be! That would be more fun!" With that bloody wicked twinkle in his eye!' She broke off. ‘I'm talking about him as though he was dead,' she said. ‘Well, so he is! Or I wish he was. Not dead - but dead to me. I want some relief from loving.' Lynn put down her pizza. How hard it was to listen meaningfully and chew at the same time! She could not imagine Tia listening to someone while she was eating. Actually, she couldn't imagine Tia eating. ‘ What I mean is . . . ' there were tears in Sandra's eyes ‘ . . . Oh, what do I mean? It's not loving. What Cormac does is not loving. It looks like it, but it isn't.' She finished the last word on a wail. ‘What is it then?' asked Lynn - reasonably, she thought. It sounded like loving to her. Sandra glared at her. Lynn realised uneasily that Sandra was stretched pretty thin. Maybe a person could think too much. Sandra subsided into hunched misery. She clasped her hands tightly as though by so doing she could get a grip on her thoughts. She stared ahead at the wall. Lynn could see her eyes moving from side to side as though she was trying to read the answer there. She let out her breath gustily. ‘It's a kind of faux loving,' she said at last. ‘It looks like loving but it isn't. If you love that way, then it stops you having to love the real, proper way. Oh, I know what I mean but I can't explain it!' (‘Been there!' thought Lynn.) ‘Have you ever read Browning?' ‘What?' ‘Browning. He's a poet.' ‘Oh. No.' ‘Nobody ever reads poetry any more. Oh, never mind.' She spoke as though to herself. ‘Does that make me the duke then? Substitute "my virginity" for "a nine-hundred old years' name"
and it's pretty damn close. I wonder if his smiles will stop if I cut him out of my life? No. He's indestructible.' This was meaningless to Lynn. ‘Sorry . . . I don't follow.' ‘What? Oh - my fault. I apologise. I'm rambling. It's a poem about someone who marries . . . oh, never mind. It would take too long to explain.' Sandra grew very quiet. The minutes ticked away. Lynn surreptitiously finished her slice of pizza. Finally Sandra raised her head with the air of someone who had made a decision. ‘Well, it's like this,' she said. She stopped. Her eyes sought Lynn's, appealing for her to understand . . . but understand what? Lynn swallowed what she was eating and sat up. ‘Cormac's into sharing. That's what I can't take.' What did she mean? Sandra spoke in riddles. ‘Sharing? Sharing what?' ‘Bodies,' said Sandra in a whisper. Bodies? It sounded like they were members of some group taking part in some secret necrophiliac rite. For a moment Lynn felt totally freaked out. Then she recovered. ‘What do you mean, bodies?' Sandra gave her a variant of the look Lynn herself favoured for those in her classes who were being purposely slow on the uptake. Then she deflated. ‘I mean sex, she said. ‘Cormac's philosophy is - how can I put it kindly? - we're only here once. This world is a pretty shitty place - full of misery. Sex makes you happy. What's the harm, as long as you don't hurt anyone. I didn't find this out until I was well and truly hooked on him.' There was a long pause. Lynn didn't dare say anything. She was too busy trying to process what she had heard. Sandra went on. ‘I was so in love. And I thought he was with me. And so he is, according to his philosophy, I suppose. He had a bad back ' - Lynn remembered, it had been in the Easter holiday - ‘ and he was out of action in bed for about two months. He was anxious that I was missing sex. He - ' Sandra paused, shaking her head and staring at the floor. Then she said, forcing
the words out, ‘He tried to set me up with his friend. It all came out then. He was very open about it. He couldn't understand why I was dumbfounded.' She turned to Lynn. ‘But you can, can't you Lynn? You can understand!' ‘Oh yes,' said Lynn. ‘I can understand.' ‘In a sense you can see his point. And he's very moral. Always takes precautions, never breaks up relationships . . . unless they’re into sharing too. A lot of his friends are. And he gives me total freedom. "Be happy!" he says! But how can I be happy?' said Sandra fiercely. ‘I . . . don't . . . want . . . to . . . share.’ She started crying in earnest then, not making a noise, just sitting there with her face in her hands, letting the tears soak into a handkerchief, blowing her nose, throwing the tissue away, getting another, the tears still pouring down. Lynn thought she had never seen such an eloquent expression of silent grief. She put her arm round Sandra and gradually she felt Sandra lean against her, as though drawing strength from her. Eventually Lynn noticed the tissues were lasting longer, and then finally Sandra sat up. ‘Thanks, Lynn. I don't know what to say. It's the first time I've cried like that.' ‘Don't say anything. I'm glad I was here.' ‘I don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do. He's not really a bastard. And I do love him.' There was nothing Lynn could think of to say. She was wiser now in the value of withholding platitudes. Sandra supplied her own answer. ‘I'll think of something. I don't think he'll change. I think it's me who's got to change - or leave him for good.' She smiled bitterly. ‘Not much of a choice is it? I need time to think.' She smiled again, this time at Lynn. ‘Thanks for listening, Lynn. You're a good listener. You know I can't believe we've really only just met. I feel like I've known you for a long time.' ‘Me too,' said Lynn. It was true. Looking at Sandra now, she could hardly remember the antipathy she'd felt at first. She had seemed so different with her dyed hair and piercings, not at all the sort of person Lynn usually spent her time with. Now she saw her in a new light. An old
saying of her mother's came to mind, ‘Never judge a book by the cover.' ‘I feel better now,' said Sandra. ‘Shall I go and warm the pizza up?' As she was in the kitchen area Lynn heard her opening another bottle of wine. She came back. ‘Let's talk about something else, shall we? I'm sick of men.' The pizza was chewy but still edible. The wine helped it down beautifully. After a while, Lynn said, ‘So how do you know Liam and Maggie?' ‘I was at college with them . . . music.' ‘Oh, do you play?' ‘Piano and organ. And I sing.' ‘Really?' Lynn was intrigued. ‘Yes, I play the organ in church actually. The Church of Christ the Fisher. Wouldn't think it to look at me would you?' ‘Well - no.' They both laughed. ‘But seriously,’ said Lynn. ‘You go to church? What do you think of it?' ‘I only go to play the organ.' A wary look came into Sandra's eyes. ‘Why? You're not a Christian are you?' This took Lynn by surprise. She couldn't help appreciating the irony of it. After a pause, experiencing conflicting emotions in which she was taken aback to find sadness pre-eminent, she said reflectively, ‘No. No, I'm not.' Sandra looked relieved. ‘I didn't think you were. I meet a lot of them at church. I tend to keep my mouth shut. They think I'm a liberal, but really I'm agnostic. How can you know? I think about it of course, but really, how can you ever know, ever be sure? Sometimes I think I'd like to believe, but then I see some of the prats that do and I think, "Oh no! If that's what it does to you, then I don't want to be like that!" ' For some reason this conversation was becoming intolerable to Lynn. She said quickly, ‘Could you play me something on the piano?' ‘Sure, only I'm a bit squiffy. What would you like?'
Somehow she managed to pay off the cabbie. Lynn came over and stood by the piano and they played and sang. 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. Eventually Lynn said.' She focused. Lynn approached the 153 .' ‘We were. Very late. we were!' said Lynn. ‘We were having such a nice time. it was only useful in emergencies. Going up the stairway to their flat. She said. I don't know. To her delight Sandra joined in. Lynn's thoughts kept switching from the pleasure of her time in the flat with Sandra to the unpleasant revelations about Chris/Cormac. frequently ending in a riot of mischords and broken harmonies. She wondered why he hadn't phoned. She had a vague memory of him helping her to pick up the contents of her purse from the pavement. with some difficulty. she wouldn't switch it on now. Too late. drunken.‘Oh. Lynn listened entranced.' Sandra did. Surprise me. She would have to go immediately and she said as much to Sandra. only about how angry Mark would be if she didn't get home as soon as possible. on her watch. singing in a rich. She played a Chopin nocturne. ‘We'll have to do it again. ‘I've got to go. Sandra was disappointed. She hated the bloody thing. She didn't seem to need music. She didn't dare think about the cost. then some Scott Joplin. though her head was swimming and she hardly knew what she was doing. How will you get home?' ‘Taxi. unable to get back on track for laughing. contralto.' ‘We will! Definitely! I feel so much better. Lip studs and Chopin just wouldn't go together normally. then some Beethoven. A good servant but a poor master. then some jazz that Lynn couldn't identify. How surreal it was to see someone looking like Sandra making such amazingly beautiful sounds. with an effort. It must be getting late. Well. Well. All the way home in the taxi. Then Sandra played something Lynn knew and she couldn't resist singing along. but a glance at her mobile phone revealed the reason. It was very definitely after 10 o'clock.' said Lynn. It was late. with one hand on the wall.
The stairs seemed hard enough work as it was.' ‘I don't remember that bit either. * * * The next day. you wouldn't. 154 . Mark said conversationally. the problem was solved when the door was opened by Mark. she collapsed into his arms. As she saw him waiting for her and then coming towards her to grab her. then. You passed out under me.door with some anxiety. ‘Oh Mark. fitting it in the lock and turning it seemed far beyond her meagre powers.' Lynn's brow wrinkled.' ‘Oh.' ‘Well. over breakfast. you were pretty bloody useless in bed last night. as overcome with lust.' ‘OK. ‘I don't remember that bit. However. ‘Well. smiling in spite of himself as the recognition of her sorry state dawned on him. I do love you!' she cried. would you?' They looked at each other and burst out laughing. waiting love and Chris's strange perspective welled up within her. ‘What do you mean?' ‘You passed out on me. the contrast between his patient.' Lynn was concentrating on buttering a piece of toast without it making too much noise. The thought of actually getting the key out.
155 . ‘Hello. the vicar. Can I help you?' For a split second she imagined herself saying ‘Sorry. no. not thinking. regretting her phone call and wondering what she should do. She'd just felt like it . . ‘I'm sorry you have dialled a wrong number. I must have the wrong number. She'd acted on impulse what the hell. Lynn had nearly dropped the phone when he had answered. ‘Hello. no engaged tone. St Saviour's Vicarage. I'm Lynn Davies. An hour earlier she had rung David. him. but now she was here she wondered whatever had possessed her to do it. not planning what to say if anyone answered the phone. this is David Mowbray. .almost wondering if he was a real person outside the Sunday morning service. not caring.' but instead heard herself say. I wanted the North London Satanists society.' just .Chapter 14 Lynn was pacing up and down the road that St Saviour's church was in. No answerphone message. She recognised his voice.
‘Come in. Can I come and talk to you about it?' Oh. Sometimes she was such a silly cow.' ‘Yes. bloody hell! If phoning was stupid to start with. She'd always prided herself on her openness. Fine. You know where to come?' ‘I think so. this must be off the top end of the scale of total madness. Right. yes. What have I got to lose? She marched up the narrow pathway between funereal overgrown trees and bushes and resolutely rang the bell. come in!' Why Lynn was surprised that David opened the door she couldn't imagine . Again she thought. You can't miss it . In about an hour's time?' ‘Fine. 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.I came to a service at your church last Sunday and I'm beginning to think about God. what had she got to lose? Now Lynn was outside the vicarage. ‘Er.though some people try . weren't you? Sure. ‘Lynn Davies? I remember you. Doesn't happen often.' ‘OK. You were with Polly.after all he'd 156 . she was completely losing it . But really.' The phone went dead.like old ladies who told you about their bowel movements or what they really thought of you under the impression that they were only thinking when really they were speaking aloud. but something horrible now was happening inside her head. See you then.' ‘It's the ugly Victorian pile right next to the church.' 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. She waited. Lynn stared at it as though it might come to life and tell her what was going on. She wasn't just being open. In an hour then.
Her smile as she spoke was warmly professional. sturdy build. as he clicked the fire on. smiling back. ‘You're no fool. Pleased to meet you. ‘White. you must be Lynn. no sugar. It looked so fresh and sunny and tranquil that Lynn couldn't help wishing that she was there instead of being where she was. was aware of her own inner caution. He was in a clerical shirt without the collar and his wiry hair was up on end.' she thought. She wore jeans and a baggy sweatshirt which did not disguise her muscular. had a slow west country burr. I was born in Bath. quite large. He showed her through a wide entrance hall into a room by the front door. It was a study.' She moved forward with her hand outstretched. ‘Ali! Got a minute?' Footsteps sounded and Alison appeared. Lynn was not sure what vicars' wives should look like. For the tenth time she was regretting coming. book-lined. ‘You haven't met my wife. Her voice. I met David when he was a student in Bristol. ‘Tea? Or would you prefer coffee?' ‘Coffee. You're not from these parts?' ‘No.answered the phone . and her face wore an expression that was at once benign and shrewd. and above it was a landscape in watercolours. Bath! That was useful . but David was indicating a seat and saying.a church in Bristol called Pip'n'Jays I sometimes went to. The mantelpiece contained artifacts of a vaguely seafaring nature with a preponderance of wood and brass showing. Nice to meet you too. Her thick fair hair was styled in an expensive looking cut that probably needed manicuring every two weeks. and Lynn. We met at church . with two shabby easy chairs by a gas fire which was not on. How original is that?' Not very.' ‘I'll just give Alison a shout’ he said. 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. thought Lynn.but she was. please' said Lynn. when she spoke. but Alison didn't really fit the bill. holding it open for her. whatever it was. ‘Hi. ‘Hi. have you?' He crossed to the still open door and yelled through it.she'd spent a week's holiday at Lisa's 157 . and Lynn shook it.
‘What's it like growing up in a tourist spot?' Before Alison could reply. disconcertingly. What was this? What about a bit of small talk. He gestured again to an easy chair and sat down himself. ‘You've come far?' ‘No. she could tell. hold on a minute. Lynn felt extremely irritated. the Roman ruins. but I'd just like to know if he's there. Damn! She'd been all ready to talk. ‘You said on the phone that you wanted to talk about God?' ‘Oh. But if you find he is there. and the old familiar disappointment came stealing over her. I’ve only just sat down! Back off will you? Memories of his unpleasant space invasion at the church door flooded back. whether Alison had ever been to Midsomer Norton. . Was it tea or coffee by the way?' ‘Coffee please.' Then. yes I did.' ‘Right. I live near Camden Town. a few opening preliminaries. Lynn followed suit. and he gazed back innocently. straight in. talking about God was personal. You couldn't just do it. which was the name of the village where Lisa had lived . What was she doing here? What had she expected to find? This man had 158 .' ‘Sounds quite reasonable to me. I'll just get that.' ‘Ah. establishing a few friendly connections? He was just like bloody Tia. Alison was starting to warm to her. like discussing whether Waitrose was better than Sainsburys. ‘I told you. A clear run through on the tube then. Dammit. All of a sudden she felt very wary of telling David anything. you know. both in the study and somewhere else in the house. they were interrupted by the phone ringing.once when she was a kid and they'd gone to Bath a couple of times. . what will you do about it?' Hey.' Lynn looked at him suspiciously. She turned her attention back to David. How nice it would have been to see that appraising expression melt into friendliness. Aloud she said.' She disappeared and Lynn was left. Jane Austen. did I? I mean. smiling at her puzzlement. how nice west country accents were. I just want to know. A series of useful connected topics were buzzing in her mind. ‘Hang on. I don't believe in him. Back in a minute.
right. and if there's anything up there. It's true. for he leaned forward.' Lynn removed the flower vase and looked around for somewhere to put it. David reached over and took it from her and shoved it on top of the mantelpiece. 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. 159 .' Lynn nodded. I suppose most people do at one time or another. It had a light and airy feel. I have found myself wondering lately what the point of everything is. there is usually a reason for it. sure . If there's anything more to life than meets the eye.’ ‘Er. That was reasonable. She said. She stood by Lynn and gestured with the tray. cream in a jug. . though some of them were paperbacks. I see. ‘You play squash?' ‘Yes. So does Alison.?' ‘What? Oh. ‘Could you . She could understand that. David surveyed it with interest. and said quite gently. ‘About the God stuff. ‘Your sermon on Sunday.' He said nothing more. She let her gaze wander round the room. sugar and a plate of what looked like homemade biscuits. but it was still too soon to talk about God. finding some ease of spirit in its faded comfortableness.sorry.' when Alison's footsteps were heard in the hall and she came in through the half open door with a tray.' she ended defensively. He seemed to sense her disengagement. ‘I'm only asking because when people who perhaps have not been particularly interested in whether there is a God or not. She felt partly reassured. . gives me a hard time.' ‘Oh. and so did she. ‘I think they do. but only partly. He sat back again.no answers. a cafã´tiere of coffee. it made me think . When we can. suddenly wonder if there is. She's fitter than I am though. only questions. It was daintily laid with a lace tray cloth. Alison put the tray down. just let the silence rest between them and Lynn was beginning to say. despite the weightiness of a solid wall of books behind her.' Lynn didn't really want to talk about Alison.
added cream . about things not being straightforward. where according to known laws. That. it's not quite so straightforward as that . don't you. it's the truth we already know. if you know where to look. shall we?' said David. Well. there's a lot of truth in this old world of ours. ‘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. ‘Let's have the coffee now. ‘And that's not the only kind of truth there is. ‘I'm having coffee with the vicar!' and stifled an insane urge to laugh." What did you mean?' ‘What did I mean?’ Now it was David’s turn to think. you were talking . about truth. He pushed the plunger down.' Lynn looked up just in time to see Alison poke her tongue out at him. There's scientific truth.' He stopped. He took his time. Lynn took hers. There's . Your sermon. but I can't help thinking that a couple of cups would help.' ‘Hang on a minute . The rest felt very alien. . It smelt wonderfully aromatic and it was very hot.Yes. . She looked at David.how nice! and sipped it. ‘I hate cool coffee.' Lynn closed her eyes the better to recollect. She declined a biscuit and sat there feeling the odd sort of contentment that one sometimes gets with hands cupped round a hot drink. I seem to remember . just now. the gas fire and the picture were the only things of comfort in the room. ‘Well. Lynn felt somewhat wrong-footed by this. He continued on another tack.you said.what were you going to say?' ‘When? Oh. as though he had been going to say something and then changed his mind. things behave reliably and you can test hypotheses. and was gone again before Lynn could think what to say. ‘You were saying?' ‘ .‘Well. sitting there benignly in his shirtsleeves. . . though obscurely pleased that Alison had forgotten the mugs. thought. .' she said. ‘ . You said . . before she laughed and said. you wouldn't have got this if I'd been doing it. when you get down to the heart of it. Of course. poured and handed her a mug. the way I see it. I was going to talk about the fact that when you really look at the heart of things then it's not so easy to define 160 . "The greatest enemy of truth is not lies.
But what choice had she? She was here now. This sounded little bit glib. flushed.but you can't use the same yardstick for measuring them all. All very well on Sundays . There's a lot of it about. make no mistake about it. He put down his mug and sat purposefully upright. . ‘There's spiritual truth too. well. She took a mouthful of coffee. You were saying?' David took a biscuit. ‘Go on. inserted it whole into his mouth. and also. in science. She didn't want to be sidetracked. And their truth is real. swallowed. Surely the message he was giving her was that when you looked at the heart of things . . All these truths mesh in at a deep level. Truth cannot contradict truth .there was nothing really there. This homely diversion brought Lynn the relief she needed. Clearly he was warming to his theme and did not want to be distracted with the mundanities of eating and drinking. ‘Truth is more common than we think. and she had asked. 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. She half expected him to wipe the back of his mouth with his hand.but it wasn't Sunday. she felt a sudden chill within.' said Lynn briefly. in music . or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. ‘Men!' she thought.' ‘You mean you don't know what's really happening . That wasn't what she wanted to hear. You're a scientist?' ‘Biology. in life itself.the very heart . sorry. secretly entertained. wherever you look. in art.but that's true in other fields as well.' he paused and said simply. The point is this .' said Lynn pointedly. surprisingly. But if your hands are already full of truth. and washed it down with a great draught of coffee that surely must have been much too hot. in literature. 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 . All sorts. looking at her carefully to monitor whether or not he was boring her.like Schrodinger’s cat?' ‘Yes. like a chunk from another sermon. Some people have a lot of it.' ‘I believe I've heard that argument before. He felt the implied rebuke and. ‘Yes.reality . chewed. profoundly real.
‘I'll think about that. marvelling at its delicate beauty. She did not know what to say. dragonflies draw flame" . ‘That's lovely. mercifully saying nothing. eager to examine it more closely. She took it.the essential truth of the nature of things.' she said. what is it?' ’My son Josh did it. She still didn't understand it. Deals out that being indoors each one dwells. rebuked. How do you make room in your life for the truth you don't yet know? There was so much truth. good point. They were made that way. beautifully written in calligraphy and illuminated with gold leaf. . ‘What fascinating words. . It's a favourite poem of mine. unconsciously mirroring David. 162 . took it down and handed it to her. It was a poem. . the beguiling incomprehensibility of the words. It was indeed lovely. silently. Selves. . . ‘ "As kingfishers catch fire. No fakes. Goes itself . decorated around the edge with tiny birds and animals. Lynn looking around. Her enquiring mind and the outgoing curiosity of which she had always been secretly proud suddenly seemed now somehow now to be tunnel vision. The way that in order to be true to ourselves. Josh had done it? That loutish lad she had last seen playing a bass guitar with a marked lack of co-ordination.This simple question hit Lynn between the eyes and then opened a door inside her head. She felt challenged. Birds. she saw her life as small and contained. well. What do they mean?' ‘I suppose it's what we were talking about . have to be true to themselves. She was winded. to be what they really are inside. animals. slowly. Through it. " Each mortal thing does one thing and the same. In an instant. all in one go. enclosed. To give herself time to think. There was too much truth.' David rested back against his chair. to be truly what we were meant to be. encouraged. confined.' David reached up. then again. selecting only the truths she wanted to hear. One never could tell . she caught a glimpse of something but it was gone before she could see what it was. in green and gold and blue and vermillion.' He took the frame from her and read. Then it goes on to talk about us. caught sight of a framed piece of writing on the wall to one side of the mantelpiece. we have to be like Christ. ‘Yes. the ones which reinforced the truths she already knew." ' She read it aloud. . She looked at it.
desperately replaying the last few moments of conversation in his head. I've got to go. the pointlessness of the whole world. to the Father through the features of men's faces" ' Lynn listened in growing dismay. As she had been reading it. I'm not feeling myself these days. something glowing with wonder . He'd taken the poem from her.just beyond. all conversations with anybody anywhere. and lovely in eyes not his. trying to work out what had gone wrong.' ‘What. . she couldn't follow him. . . Lynn had to get out. ‘I've said something to upset you. spoiling it all. done nothing wrong. A weary pity overtook her. . into those beautiful words and completely ruining them. lovely in limbs. And now it was gone. The door slammed shut in her face. Oh! A terrible sense of the pointlessness of this conversation with David. I overreacted. This is what depression is like. what it was that he had said. I don't know . too much probably. coupled with a disgust at her own lack of control.' Lynn could see him in his mind. What was he talking about now? How did he get there? She hadn't read that bit. listening to him talking another language suddenly came over her. And now he was dragging God into it. I'm sorry. right this minute?' David looked suddenly alarmed. extrapolated itself into the pointlessness of all conversations with him.just behind . there had been such a sense of getting nearer to something really important. Things are getting to me for no reason. ‘I'm the one that should be sorry. She sat down again and smiled wanly.' 163 . of sitting here. killed it dead with his stupid words. Just when she was getting so close! She could have wept with frustration. in this claustrophobic room. Now. This Is Depression. He had meant well.‘"For Christ plays in ten thousand places. She was a million miles from nowhere in a barren wasteland in the dark. The thought suddenly occurred to her. Besides it would look very odd just to walk out just like that. I'm thinking a lot . She put down her mug and stood up abruptly. The darkness felt overwhelming. He was going too fast. She could feel herself sinking fathoms further down into it. ‘I'm sorry.
It was as though . . . He could not be serious.that there's more in this than meets the eye. Instead he said. as though .She watched David's look of anxiety become replaced by a look of calculating concern. .in fact she was a cow. sometimes. It was very odd. ‘I wonder if you'd like to come round sometime and talk to myself and Alison .' He said it so confidently that Lynn found herself wincing inside. Rubbish. ‘Lynn. ‘It was the poem. as though life might have a meaning after all. It seemed the hardest thing in the world to do when all she wanted to do was go. ‘. very often in fact. ‘And what you said. It didn't seem to match the poem. And it has. hasn't it?' Lynn looked at David almost fearfully. It's all a waste of time. yet wanting to be as honest as she could.' ‘Oh yes. oh. .' ‘You and Alison! What for?' ‘Ali is a trained counsellor and I've a bit of training myself. hating him for making her say it. but she owed him something. I don’t know anything about you but I can't help feeling that you are hurting a bit inside too . Alison! She'd rather die! She suddenly realised that she did not like Alison at all. but it didn't come.' she added. and things. ‘Nope. . ‘But why Alison? What's she got to do with it? You're 164 . ‘That poem. waiting for her to continue. half afraid he might contradict her and say. He said nothing. She braced herself for the God bit. I didn't understand what you meant. when it said about kingfishers. and maybe we could listen to you . Life's got to have a meaning. . you are thinking about big things at the moment. . There's no meaning. He continued. I caught a glimpse of things behind things.' Lynn at last found her voice. not intellectual ones . ' Lynn could feel herself losing it again. Life's got to have a meaning. not believing in God is about emotional issues. I don't know "going themselves" or something. . it got to me. hating herself for saying it. And I felt sort of spooked.' she said reluctantly. did not trust her .' A bit! thought Lynn. just watched her intently.
and two people can be a lot better at listening than one . ‘Thank you David.the one I've come to see!' Was it imagination. or did she detect the hint of a look of caution in his eyes when she said that? But he answered evenly enough. straight-faced. must be laughing his head off. David's face remained expressionless. I recognise that as a genuine offer. ‘When people talk deeply about emotional issues. it's surprising what kinds of things come up. she couldn't quite believe it. to give herself time to think. He was a very shrewd and wily person even though he was very nice and she had no desire to tangle with him at all. but no thanks. and knowing how busy you and Alison are (playing squash!) it's a generous one too. Maybe I'll come back to you again when I've done a lot more thinking (And maybe I won't! she thought) but I'll leave it for the 165 . You are a very attractive woman. people are always ready to make something out of nothing. And I have to acknowledge my own fallibility. But I don't think it would be helpful at the moment. yes. Oh really! What hard work everything was! What bloody hard work! And made worse by people like him. it is something that I have to take into account. and Lynn became aware of what he was saying. she couldn't help being flattered at the compliment and disarmed by his admission of his own humanity. Like Polly. ‘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.' He looked at her carefully. Despite herself. 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. for example. Thanks. Wow. if there was a god. Even though. they were probably quite good for some people. in their way. actually. well. I'm a vicar. There was no way in the world she would trust herself to these amateurs. nevertheless. He said. give her Tia every time. even though. ‘Remembering what I see in the mirror in the mornings.' This was said with the barest possible twitch of his lips. I don't counsel for a living. God. still less his ball-breaking wife. Lynn said slowly and formally. It was definitely time to go now. I do realise how remote that possibility is. but. And unfortunately in my job. People can become quite vulnerable.
‘I’m glad you came Lynn. ‘Thanks for your time. 'And thank Alison for the coffee.' Lynn said. and I think you'll make it.' She extended her hand.' What a quaint old-fashioned phrase! He liked her. You're a deep thinking person. ‘I'm still doing a lot of thinking. she still liked him. He said. he liked her. looking uncertain. And I'll think about what you said. If you don't see me in church on Sunday. 166 . and vanished. How funny life was! She smiled back and said ‘No. In spite of the hard time she'd given him.' David's smile broadened. it was lovely. David had no choice but to take it. And against the odds. meaning it. it doesn't mean I'm never coming back again. ‘It's nice to know I haven't blown it completely. I don't mind. Lynn could tell. he paused.' She added on impulse. I'll see you out. ‘Thanks' he said. if you don't mind.' David let go of her hand and smiled.' At the door.present. ‘I don't suppose you'd like me to say a prayer for you now to the God you're not sure you believe in?' ‘No bloody thanks!' said Lynn. You won't mind if I remember you in prayer sometimes?' ‘Remember you in prayer.
' There she went again. who inspired so much devotion. just wanted to hide away somewhere and lick her wounds. dammit! That was settled. ‘Right! Knock it on the head then!' ‘I will. ‘Lauren's a fantastic person. otherwise he wouldn't have laughed.? It was creepy. There was the silence of consternation on the other end.' she answered slowly. it was his job. didn't want to talk god-talk. ‘Where'd you go then?' She told him. and then Polly's anguished voice. I just did.time to recover. she seemed almost to have the status of divinity in Polly's mind. ‘Here we go again.or whatever . But he couldn't have minded too much. finally asked. she'd tell her. were extremely mixed. so that he didn't feel bad. He kept glancing at her. Why on earth had she said that at the end! He was just trying to be nice. ‘Why do you want me to meet Lauren?' ‘Oh. was quiet. She remembered how David had lost interest in her at the door of the church. but Lauren's going to be there! I wanted you to meet her!' Lauren. From what Polly said about Lauren.Chapter 15 Lynn's thoughts. and after all. about tomorrow.' She did. give her psyche . If she asked her for a reason . You 167 . tell her no. His reaction was predictable. when she got home. as she left the vicarage. Lynn felt that she wanted to meet her. ‘Oh. ‘How's Lauren?' What was this paragon like. Mark. calling over her shoulder. She didn't want to go to church. She'd phone Polly. that's all. Against her will.' said Polly wistfully. tell her. that bloody god-stuff! Haven't you had enough yet?' ‘I rather think I have. I'm going to phone Polly now and tell her. She'd talked about going to church to please him.well. ‘You're not so bloody marvellous. A fantastic person. Lynn wanted to know more. Lynn was sure it wasn't allowed in a Christian church. she felt like she'd had enough. but quite honestly now. Lynn felt that she hated the idolised Lauren in advance.
oh please. I'll come. How wrong I was! Will somebody just tell me what's going on!' He shook his head slowly.church stuff. She couldn't do this to him. Sandra was a good person. not crap . now this church crap.don't have to be a Christian to be fantastic. His expression was unreadable. ‘It's the last time. she was on the tube and there was no signal on her mobile.' ‘Well. All through the tube journey next morning Lynn kept asking herself why she was doing it. Lynn wished someone would tell her what was going on too. Lauren? Huh! But still Lynn couldn't help wondering what Lauren was actually like. she'd be on her way to church herself now. I'm sorry.a dumb woman communicating with a deaf man. She couldn't tell Polly. able to invoke such delight by her simple consenting to be there. give me more time. his face expressionless. Lynn. Trust me. her mother. I thought I'd give it one more try. And I thought. was pretty divine herself.' ‘You will? Oh that's wonderful!' Polly's naive joy was transparent. ‘OK. Just someone I wanted to meet. She was mute .that therapist. Anyway.' He hugged her and let her go. trying to convey her love for him.even Sandra. all the people she'd known in the past who'd been kind to her. just turned away. It was the best way. How easily Polly was pleased! She said goodbye and rang off. but when she got there she'd say that Mark was ill and she had to go back. ‘Sure. Lynn ran after him and threw her arms round him.' She longed for the words that would reach him. Human curiosity. but nothing came. Hey. she supposed. When she was nearly there she made a decision. holding him tightly. her Auntie Gwen . Lynn. ‘Oh please. Lynn felt as though she. She really liked Sandra. actually.she smiled at the memories .' ‘Oh Lynn! What's going on? Oh for goodness sake! I thought the miscarriage was bad enough. ‘You've sorted it then. just as Mark came in. I really thought after last Wednesday that I'd got you back. It felt intolerable. Mrs Pankhurst.' There were plenty of amazing people around. The memory of Mark's face continuously alternated with Polly's. enable him to understand. She couldn't stay. Maybe she'd go just once more. Gandhi. 168 .' He made no reply. then that . his eyes bewildered.
Really. She had to make some choices. in the middle of a very lively crowd of what looked like year sevens . a force to be reckoned with. Polly pointed . put him first.' And then she caught sight of something over Lynn's shoulder and her face brightened. Lauren says . How did she get into these messes? She hadn't got a clue what to say. She repeated the lines. Lauren looked different close to. She turned her attention back to Polly. Polly wilted. Lynn thought of Polly's not infrequent references to her. wide. ‘You must be Lynn. but what could you expect from Polly? Silly of her to fall for it. well. ‘Well. That couldn't be bad. She was standing. Fantastic? She'd reserve judgment. a bit like Tia.' But Lauren didn't seem to be saying anything. Someone with some presence anyway.' said a voice behind her.' said Lynn. All the way to St Saviour's she was rehearsing her lines. It made you want to stroke it. and now she'd done it. I understand. In the absence of any physical description of Lauren whatsoever. She felt an unaccountable pang of anti-climax. . But at least she'd met Sandra. I just came over to say hello. . . . and stuck up like fur. she'd only wanted to meet her to satisfy her curiosity. ‘nondescript’ was the word that came to mind. Her dark hair was cut short. ‘Oh. this made her think of Chris. of course Lynn. rallied and said. Oh well. Lynn was reminded of a sparrow being mobbed by a flock of budgies. who she'd managed to avoid in the last couple of days at school. unlined forehead. Lauren? How did she get here? Her eyes connected with the top of Lauren's head and travelled down.just couldn't. and foolish too. but you can say hello to Lauren before you go! There she is!' Lynn turned. from what Lynn could see. ‘Yes. For some reason. she had imagined someone. Lauren was dressed in brown with very short dark brown hair. very. and her eyes 169 . ‘Oh. She had a high.' Lynn swung round again with a start. Lauren thinks . The tube stopped and Lynn got out. for feeling it. but the day of reckoning was looming there. not this dowdy person. Then she saw Polly waiting for her outside the church. barely visible. very short. She shuddered. Lauren wore the sort of earrings Della wore. ‘And I'm Lauren. Disappointing really.
But that was impossible. ‘I'm Lynn.' she said. but about Lynn. ‘Yes. still smiling. Lauren. Lynn barely had time to register this before Lauren smiled. of course. what fun to meet you! You look like the sort of person that I really like!' Lynn felt thoroughly approved of. Almost. If Lynn had been able to see only Lauren's eyes. her eyes crinkled and smiling. mirror images of a curvy.' but it wasn't exactly true. Had she imagined then. I've . not least because Lynn hardly knew herself. and the reasons Lynn might have for wanting to meet her. and her eyes that seemed to look into Lynn's very soul.were the deepest. Yes indeed. Lynn replied conventionally. It was as though a billboard had switched pictures while Lynn had blinked.' she paused. Lauren's face changed completely. She temporised with. ‘I've wanted to meet you. Lynn found herself smiling back all over her face. don't you think?' ‘Oh yes.' said Lynn. you came with Polly?' 170 . Her eyebrows were straight at the top and then dived down sharply at the outer corners. But for Lauren. Nevertheless. ‘People round here seem to think very highly of you. that look of sadness? She must have. as though Lauren knew how Lynn had felt about her. ‘Hmm.' Lauren laughed. There was something about Lauren that rang true. in fact. it seemed a genuine question – not to do with the qualities that she. It was impossible not to. had that might make make her attractive to people . Lauren's smile.' ‘So. ‘Definitely.. Enhanced by the droop of her eyelids.' ‘Have you? I wonder why?' said Lauren. she would have known exactly what Lauren's smile was like. teasing smile that lit up her whole face. In another woman it would have been a cue for something complimentary to be said. they gave her features an expressive melancholy. which might be nothing to do with Lauren and everything to do with Lynn. more for something to say than anything else. ‘Oh. brightest brown Lynn had ever seen. became two tiny. It's always better to form your own opinions. She was going to say. And it was for her. But one thing stood out.' she said. ‘I've been looking forward to meeting you. said.
Must have taken a while. Lauren turned back to Lynn. He pocketed the coin and marched off proudly. Were you looking forward to me coming?' He said nothing. I'm very sorry. 'is it true. 171 . But I thought it might be easier to find a postcard of a kangaroo.' Lynn wanted to make that clear straight away. Tim.she dug in her pocket and produced a pound coin – 'you could buy me a postcard of one if you can find it. would you mind doing that for me? I'd be so pleased. Pol. 'Where were we?' Lynn made a disclaiming gesture. I think they are wonderful. all sunshine now. Lauren!' he said.' said Lauren. 'or – counting things. His face spoke for him. I'm afraid it is.. She'd met Lauren now and she needed to get back. 'Would you do something for me? I really wanted to see the kangaroos. 'On the tube. no.' She stopped. How do you pass the time on the tube?' 'By looking at other people. 'My goodness – that's quite a way. they are so interesting. who was standing by. Lauren?' he cried in a tone of anguish.' 'Of course I will. Wombats are my preferred marsupial.' 'Was it far?' Lynn told her.'No. 'Actually. distracted. 'Is it true you can't come to the zoo with us next week?' Lauren smiled down at him.' Even as she said it she wished she'd said 'Reading'. What a co-incidence – I do just the same! I love looking at people. One of the budgies – quite a small one .' It was odd to hear Polly called by the name that Lynn had only ever heard herself use. 'Do you really like kangaroos?' asked Polly. And sometimes I . I tell you what. 'Yes.' Lynn said honestly.had run over and was tugging Lauren's sleeve. Would you mind terribly looking out for them for me and telling me about them when you come back? And maybe' .
Perhaps that was how these Christians got their kicks. reflecting on the encounter. It seemed like a sort 172 .' Watching them enter the church together. ‘I'm sorry.a real mutual admiration society! Hey.' Whatever Lauren meant by sorry. The service was starting. they could hear the music group sounding more melodious. And as a bonus. and then she wished she hadn't. Lauren looked at her inquiringly. and the most she could permit herself to acknowledge was that it was something not a thousand miles away from a wistful envy.' Lynn. Are you leading it again? I loved that reading you used last time – and you read it so well. she had to go.Let Polly take over. She said as much to Polly. Mark was surprised to see her back so early. watching with interest. it sounded genuine anyway. felt both fascinated and repelled. They all thought the others were wonderful . It didn't feel at all nice.yeah.' Polly flushed beetroot and beamed. ‘Oh. It was strange to hear of Polly in such an unfamiliar role. Lauren and Polly turned away. Pol. ‘Will you be at the prayer meeting on Wednesday?' ‘I hope so. It would make her departure less obvious. During the ride home. Whatever next! And Lauren seemed to think quite highly of her too. Resolutely. Lauren. his smile of delighted surprise was ample repayment for any inconvenience incurred. and something else that she couldn't quite identify. she had seen Lauren. thanks. she headed back to the tube. ‘See you tomorrow. leading the prayer meeting. Lynn tried to identify the mystery emotion she'd felt at seeing Lauren and Polly talking. Lynn felt oddly alone and excluded.' ‘Oh . ‘You're not staying for the service then?' Lynn explained. and Lynn felt a glow of virtue from having made the decision to come home before she'd seen her. No point in telling him that. At home. Sure. Lynn. When he learned that she'd come back early for him. people were going in. Lauren looked at her keenly for a moment then turned her attention to Polly who was now talking to her again.
at least today she'd made up for yesterday. somehow. Oh.well . pulled her towards him and started nuzzling her neck. Lynn and Mark were talking after half an hour of home entertainment. Mark was looking very pleased with himself. rolled over. Lynn summoned her reserves of energy. And maybe now she'd just said that to prepare him for finding the place knee-deep in stuff about psychology. as though they'd been married for twenty years instead of two. hands behind his head. it would completely freak him out.' said Lynn. Lynn reflected. She and Mark had never had secrets before. unable to interpret the sigh. what a devious person she was! There was no honesty in her. contemplating the ceiling. and wow. And now she had so many. nice. It had the effect he desired. She loved that look. It hadn't really been successful.shower? And were you meant to keep the water running? It all had got a bit slippery. She sighed.' Lynn looked at him sorrowfully. or even what she had said to her in the sessions. Then there was that time they'd tried it in the kitchen. Later that day in bed. Presently they lay back again.' ‘Probably a good idea. Perhaps all people did in the shower was . and in comfort. Sometimes she thought they were too boring and predictable. It had felt rather odd to have dinner at the table so soon afterwards. ‘I really know so little about it. A bit of background reading never hurts. Mark said. Mark. But now and then it was nice to stick with the tried and true.‘ Help you get the most out of it. 173 . but wanting to make it all right. ‘You want some coffee?' ‘Mmm. had it hurt her back! Anyway. She remembered that time so long ago in the shower. and it wasn't really helped by Mark being so much taller than she was. He was lying on his back. ‘I think I might try to read up a bit about this psychology stuff.of reward. It had been quite fun really.' Lynn began cautiously.' Mark agreed expansively. laughed and started kissing him back. Those two sentences had been all she could bring herself to say about the subject. She could never tell him what was going on in her head about Tia.
To those in the know. * * * The next evening. ambling by. Too late. entitled ‘Calculating coefficients of correlation'. A sentence caught her eye 'Differences of this kind also apply to the weakening of a mode of imagination that originally was 174 . All these dreams about weeing and eating and stuff.' She snatched it from him and looked at the page.Mark got blithely up and went out. looked interested. he put it back on the table and swaggered off. ‘Freud. loaded with incomprehensibility. Wasn't he the one who was always banging on about sex?' He started to thumb through it. Surely Tia was into Freud? He was the one that started it all off after all. Even the sight of his back was irritating. She put the book to one side. He picked one up at random and opened it. She looked at another page. . whereby she posed as his girlfriend to allay his parents' suspicions when they came to visit in return for certain favours concerning the writing up of her lab experiments. But then Tia never mentioned anything very much. Grinning. Tia had never mentioned sex. Bloody hell! The book was all like that. after dinner had been cleared away. Lynn picked up the Freud book herself. ‘Oh sod off!' said Lynn exasperated. . Mark picked up another one. it explained the huge inequality between her coursework marks and her exam results. then another about chi-squares. wasn't he? So . It even felt heavier than it should. but it seemed a bit weird. Mark. She could hear him whistling in the kitchen. ‘How should I know? I only got it today. The book was quite easy to read. or would be if she had the time. ‘What's a t-test then?' ‘Give me that back!' said Lynn. 'The Interpretation of Dreams. Lynn said ‘Right!' and dumped a pile of books on the table. She should really have looked at it in the library. of course. she remembered that the statistics lectures were the first ones she'd bunked off from at university and the deal she'd done with nerdy Martin. Statistical Methods in Psychology.' he read with interest. was there any sex? Just curious. Her respect for Tia increased exponentially.
By the time Lynn got to the last three books entitled Attachment.' and ‘get a move on’ at home? Nevertheless she gave a reluctant smile to show she appreciated his humour. Nicole was away.' muttered Lynn grimly. All next day. Mark found her in the kitchen wrestling with what he took to be a large. ‘What's that?' ‘Butternut squash. When he returned home from work. fumbling in his briefcase. He gave her a bag. Did Jeremy Paxman? Or did he only ever say. she noted with some anxiety) had brought her close to desperation and she threw herself into cooking the dinner to occupy herself. But if she did she'd make sure she never dreamed any of the stuff he talked about . But she had no time to do very much else. She never dreamed anyway. 175 . 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. ‘Ye-up.though quite how she'd do that she wasn't exactly certain.strongly visual. She went to bed. Separation and Loss.sounds painful! Hey. knife in hand.' Lynn read the paragraph it was in three times but it made no difference. she couldn't have cared less if they'd told her how to win the lottery. not for the first time. Half a night and half a day of thinking (she had to make some effort to teach . Lynn puzzled over the conundrum that Tia was a clinical psychologist. ‘You're kidding! ''Butter nuts squash'' . What else can you expect if you skim read? she thought. wondered Lynn. still intent on penetrating its bulbous mysteries. or Lynn was very dense. . but not enough to encourage him to continue. Did all men regard puns as the acme of humour. Psychology as the Behaviourist Views It and The Philosophy of Psychology met with a similar fate to The Interpretation of Dreams. Principles of Topological Psychology. Either Tia was very clever. pale orange lightbulb. don't take the pith out of me!' he squealed in mock alarm as she turned on him threateningly. which Lynn put on the toaster without comment. Probably both.' Mark said quickly. Luckily she had heard him come in or he would have sent her through the roof. He came up quietly behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. . ‘I've got something for you.
Inside was a book called Introducing Psychology. but what do I do with it?' And she didn't know.' Lynn grew quieter as she recognised more and more old friends. So this was psychology. things were looking up. The reality was that she felt jealous of Polly for knowing Lauren and that felt really wrong. listening. though Nicole was probably nothing serious . As she was sinking under the weight of this. now in the study. And the reality was that she only had three more sessions with Tia. Mark smiled smugly. ever. The reality was that she didn't know what the hell to do about Chris or even Nicole. she hoped. Lynn read the book. After dinner. She knew more than she thought she did. and therefore with other women. Yes. the phone rang.oh shut up! But with all these realities kicking in. The reality was that though somehow she felt more able to leave the miscarriage behind. Towards the end of the evening.' 'Skinner and Pavlov are important in psychology too. and where Tia fitted in. Mark. ‘So it was Milgram who was the electric shock man.' she said with surprise. . 176 . a little bit.why. It had lots of pictures inside. I'd always thought it was an odd name. her relationship with Mark was still pretty unsatisfactory and she didn't know what to do about it. But it was still her job to sort it. she didn't know. The reality was that her relationship with Della now felt decidedly unsafe after Della's confession in the cafe. she wasn't so stupid after all! And it talked about therapy too.‘Aren't you going to open it then?' She did so. keeping up a running commentary to Mark. . the question suddenly flashed through her mind. it made feeling happy about reading a poxy little book on psychology look pretty bloody stupid. I guess that makes sense. as Lynn finished the book and set it down with a sigh of satisfaction. and then no more. ‘Yes. The reality was that she felt confused and ambivalent about her relationship with Tia.' ‘The Bobo doll man isn't called Bandanna after all. 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 . Reality suddenly kicked in hard. I read about that. Mark. 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 reality was . ‘I can understand this. Lynn looked at them.
) ‘Well. Well-spoken. ‘That would be very nice. I still manage to arrive late though. Lauren's call had come at just the right moment.' said Lauren again. said. won't you?’ said Lauren. this is Lauren. Bye. Let me give you my phone number in case you need it.some time?' Lynn nearly dropped the phone. Lime Avenue.' Lynn went to answer it. It was much more tiring than the other way round. good. after Saturday you'll know one more. no. ‘Thanks again. Lynn felt her equilibrium return.' As she took the number.' ‘Oh. ‘Good.' ‘Bye. ‘No. ‘It's for you. She was never going back. As if she cared how many she knew. ‘Who is it?' she mouthed. She began to feel happy again.or tea . I hope it's not too late to phone.' Lauren laughed.' ‘I . ‘Hello. covering the mouthpiece.I think I could manage that. Lynn took the receiver. The road right by St Saviour's. but instead a voice she didn't recognise said.' he mouthed back. Don't know the voice. Lynn laughed too. As she hung up the receiver. How nice it would be to go round to Lauren's and talk to her. Lynn suddenly felt the need to sit down. ‘A woman. Fine. As she dragged herself to the bathroom to take her makeup off. It's nice of you to ask. I'll look forward to it.' ‘Afternoon? About three? It's 23. I got your phone number from Polly. I was just phoning to ask if you'd like to come round for a coffee . Trying to keep the astonishment out of her voice she said.' Hoping against hope it was Sandra inviting her round. It was this sudden switching from despair to hope that did it. ‘That sounds fine.' ‘Wait! I'll get a pen.' she said formally.' (What a hypocrite she was. Very handy for church.' The phone went dead. ‘I'll look forward to it too. In fact she felt rescued.answered it. hearing 177 . I don't know many people at St Saviour's. ‘I was wondering how you are fixed for next Saturday.' It was the last person Lynn expected to hear. ‘Don't know.
listening to Mark's rhythmic breathing. You go.' Lynn stayed awake for quite a while.I mean. Say if you'd rather not. I did want to go. well. that’s settled then! You’ll enjoy it. She was already in bed when Mark came through. Goodnight.’ ‘Well. yes. but. but I don't want to leave you on your own. Mark?' She felt hesitation run along his body and wondered with some trepidation what was coming next.' (For what?) ‘I know you've been low lately. I'm not such a selfish bastard as that!' Ouch! She was touched by his caring. I have been working hard. What would he say? Oh blow! And it had all been going so well between them. He said carefully. and I'll be glad to think of you up there in Newcastle. ‘I was picking the right moment.again Lauren's voice in her head. I must admit. Mark. Chica. Alan told me today he's got tickets for the away match with Newcastle and I was wondering if you'd mind terribly if we went up to it. and it would be nice for us to do something together.' ‘Goodnight. You won't get this chance again. for the 178 . Despite hating herself for her hypocrisy. Lynn said softly. you go. ‘Have you had any thoughts about what we might do at the weekend. go off enjoying myself leaving you feeling miserable. you're wonderful! Thanks! Thanks for being so understanding. almost a sense of gratitude. I've got a few things to do. honestly. It had seemed a straightforward enough question.' ‘Oh Lynn. Was there no end to this voyage of self-discovery through her own self-centredness? 'No Mark. It would mean leaving you early on Saturday and probably not getting back until late Sunday afternoon. I mean it. And she'd always thought of herself as the caring one in the relationship.' ‘I think it's a great idea! Do you good! You've been working hard lately. she suddenly thought of Mark. and I've not been much company.' ‘Yes . she could not help feeling relief. I'll be fine. and as he turned the light out and settled down beside her.
way things had turned out. Now she wouldn't have to tell him. 179 . She thought of Lauren asking her round for tea and fell asleep.
although I 180 . .' ventured Lynn. Was Lauren in the garden . Was it working? Yes. feeling nervous. When she saw Lynn she said nothing. . The wooden door was studded with bolts and had a diamond-leaded pane in the middle. Lynn rang the bell and waited. She had made the invitation so definitely. Could she have been called away unexpectedly? Suppose she wasn't in? Before she had time to really start worrying. But Lauren. It was probably unwise of me . . . ‘There seems a lot of it. in piles? There seemed masses of it. . . except for her pale face.' Somehow Lynn had not expected this.Chapter 16 Lauren's house was a surprisingly ordinary-looking semi in a tree-lined avenue. but no one had ever said anything. why not. . she could not say. Lynn heard the door begin to open. Relieved. Nothing happened. . And leaving it in the hall . which looked and smelt as though it had recently been in close contact with damp earth. but this . chaos really. It was littered with piles of sports clothing of a masculine nature. small and neat and dark. more for something to say than anything else. Why. took her by surprise. reached forward. and drew Lynn in. It occurred to her that she actually knew nothing about Lauren at all. After a minute she rang the bell again. or perhaps the hall was very long. So Lauren had children. and Lauren herself was standing there. It's my week to wash the strip. Lynn smiled back and entered the house. Well. The gate creaked and the lawn was full of daisies encroaching untidily onto the path. she could hear it. . in the shady hall. picking her way between the piles. ‘My son's in the junior team at school. Lauren would have remembered. Lauren saw Lynn looking and explained. She moved more slowly than Lynn remembered . Lynn had formed an impression of Lauren that was somehow to do with discipline and wisdom and inner control. Once inside. . not even what she was like as a person. seemed quite unconcerned. Lynn was sure. It was also surprisingly untidy. but her face creased delightedly and she threw the door open.well . the hall looked bigger and darker. ‘I offered to do the second team's as well. And it smelt. or out? Had she forgotten? No.
In fact. She hadn't heard it the first time because she'd been working and listening to music. Still. One paw was dangling over the edge and it looked as though the rest of it might follow any second. saw that her face had a bruised look. The effect was slightly odd. She sounded confident. It was a large room. Lynn wondered what sort of work she did. with a start. On the larger windowsill. ‘Are you all right. 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. Lynn registered the fact that Lauren had been waiting for her to stop looking around.' Lauren said this with total unconcern. We have a perfectly good utility room. You couldn't ignore the dust in this room. thought Lynn. I get them now and then. ‘Is this all right? It's my favourite room.' Lauren’s voice brought her back. On each side of the Aga were shelves with an assorted mugs cups hanging and cupboards below cluttered with odds and ends.' Lynn. looking at her properly for the first time in the pale brightness of the kitchen. where Lauren had evidently been sitting. There was a lot more pine. So that was why she had taken so long to answer the bell. with dark smudges of fatigue under her eyes. 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. Lynn said with concern. but she did want to talk to Lauren. but Lynn.' said Lauren. It seemed to have only one ear. ‘It's a headache. shabby. and Lynn felt reassured.didn't expect them to dump it in the hall. she didn't look very well. Behind it was a chair against the wall. I've taken something for it. there were flowers and shapeless painted lumps of clay. but it will go. could see why. ‘It's lovely to see you. 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. looking round. together with nameless sprouty things hanging limply out of jam jars. There was no mistaking the warmth of her greeting. over the sink. Lauren? Is this a good time to call?' ‘I'm fine. so Lynn mentally shrugged her shoulders and followed Lauren through a stripped pine door into a room which turned out to be the kitchen. but pleasing.' She waved her hand as though to wave it away. She didn't want to intrude. better 181 . and it let a lot of light in. but good quality.
' She smiled. He sleeps day and night. You'd understand if you saw him sitting up. Even the white bits on the furry balloon draped over the chair looked clean.check it out. The tea was served in a fat teapot with flowers on.' ‘That's how I drink it. and besides. ‘What would you like to drink? Tea? Coffee? A cold drink?' Not a migraine. Jamie calls him "Blob". Everything was spotlessly clean. Andrew calls him a lot of different names.' ‘Earl Grey or ordinary?' ‘Earl Grey please. with bone china mugs. ‘it's not a migraine. Lynn knew about migraines. but Mark was allergic to them. she sounded as if she meant it.' said Lauren. Migraines totally incapacitated people so they couldn't talk to you. 'It depends who's talking to him. And you?' 'I call him "ET" ' 'Extra Terrestrial?' 'Equilateral Triangle. Lynn felt relieved. and she knew how bad they could be.' Again. ‘It's not a migraine is it?' she asked. With milk.' said Lauren. and not too bad either . because he wanted a dog instead. just a headache. He thinks he's being clever because 'gato' is Spanish for cat. It didn't stir. Lynn loved cats. Isn't that right. 'What's your cat's name?' she asked. Alec calls him "Bulb". all rather abusive. Lynn had a lot of sympathy for migraine sufferers. ‘I'm so pleased you could come.' 'And does he answer to any of these names?' 'Hard to say. The only thing he really responds to is the sound of a tin opening.Lauren was already looking better. ET?' Lauren leaned over the cat as she spoke. her mother had had them. She gave it a careful stroke. A rhythmic throaty rumble briefly replaced the asthmatic wheezing and it stretched and flexed the dangling paw 182 . she didn't want Lauren to suffer pain. ‘Tea please.' 'I see. and Dom calls him "Megalino Maxissimo" or "El Fatto the Gato". ‘No.
Lauren. and started to talk about it. sat back in her own chair and relaxed. Lynn learnt quite quickly that Lauren's boys were sixteen.' she said. entertaining people. once she trusted you. She'd been to India twice but nowhere on the continent unless you counted a day trip to France when she was at school. However. ‘So. Wow. Lynn. 'Don't worry.' said Lauren. there was no more space for it there anyway. as though she had trouble putting words together. No. 'He never falls off. fourteen and eleven. And her face was a joy to watch. was a very animated talker. so expressive. But she would love to go to Italy 183 . she'd always been good at that. felt rested at last. No hidden agendas. Mutual . that was the wrong word.perilously but did not open its eyes. . listening. looking at Lauren who was sitting facing her across the table and regarding her with that slight. And she'd been sick on the ferry. the cat shuffled round in its sleep and settled its bulk more securely on the seat. Lynn had not thought of it like that. Lauren. . You felt you really knew her. Not that Lynn had any trouble communicating. but Lauren laughed so easily. It was peaceful room. It almost seemed a pity to speak.and that Alec was a doctor. Surely Polly worked at her school? But of course. who had been sitting forward tensely. but somehow approving smile.' As if in response. ‘Yes. Lynn loved that – when people laughed! Not that Lauren didn’t talk too. Oh it was nice to share. Lynn resisted the impulse to try to shove it further back on the chair. At first Lauren was slow and thoughtful. It was Lauren who broke it. Lynn felt that she could think good thoughts in that silence. as though she brought her whole self to the encounter. that she had been a teacher once .primary . broken only by the cat's breathing.' she said. ‘you teach at Polly's school?' Polly's school. Somehow it didn't slide off the cushion. The very silence. It was very easy. Lauren would see it that way. and Lynn. She used gesture and facial expression sparingly but meaningfully. how it should be. Italian food and going to the theatre and that neither of them liked cruelty or waiting in queues. She discovered that they both liked jazz piano. she soon came alive. under Lynn's friendly questioning. made it so. seemed to have a potentiality for creativity and growth in it.
‘All what?' ‘All that god stuff you get in church. somehow. Polly was a pretty simple person (not that she said that to Lauren of course). I suppose?' ‘I can't remember. Sometimes she nodded thoughtfully. She fixed her eyes on Lynn and sat there . Lynn found herself throwing caution to the winds. You don't know the author. And actually Lauren was a pretty good listener too. or her face creased into a smile of delighted recognition. Well. she was telling Lauren about . so still. 'but not in the way you might think I do. but not so . ‘But surely Lauren. But she could tell Lauren about her search for God and her puzzlement over Polly's simplistic faith. . surely you as a thinking person. Why?' ‘Have you ever heard a line in a poem about a nine hundred years' name?' ‘Hmm. she added as an afterthought. clinical . 184 . My mother was though. as though she was committing what Lynn was saying to memory. That reminded Lynn of something. that's all. she wasn't so puzzled by that. ..I don't think so. .well.such a wonderful poetical language. Sorry . I suppose.' ‘I think the simplest answer is that I do. ‘Sometimes. as though Lynn was telling her the secrets of the universe. Maybe something like "Gravy"?' ‘Gravy? Could be Graves. Sort of like Tia. surely you can't believe it all!' Lynn found that she really wanted to know.' The conversation flowed. I wondered.' ‘It's not important . But as time went by. ‘Do you ever read poetry. . I’m afraid. looking amused. .' 'Actually. I’m not much of a reader. not exactly everything -she couldn't talk about Tia yet. It felt every bit as good as Lynn had thought it would. Before she was aware of it. but most of the time she just seemed to sort of absorb it. They took turns. . Lynn liked that too.just something I heard someone say. Lauren?' she asked. that's maybe not such a simple answer'.' said Lauren.
It felt so easy. shouting shouting at Lauren. . 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. who'd done nothing wrong. What actually did she mean by ‘all'? It suddenly dawned on her that she wasn't sure what Christians believed anyway. Lynn became aware that she was speaking very loudly – nay. How can that be true?’ She looked at Lauren who was regarding her thoughtfully. . But there was a certain weirdness about it all that she wasn’t ready to tangle with just yet.' She hesitated a moment and then went on. It makes me think that they are the stupid ones for being so naive. ‘I don't know very much about it. Perhaps she needed to find out more.Predictably. But she'd said it now . She couldn't ask Lauren if she believed in it all until she knew what 'all' was. well people like David.said what 185 . She didn't keep confronting you and making you feel uncomfortable. 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. So Lynn could ask her about God and not feel stupid. But at least she could talk to Lauren. only listened. they make it seem so ordinary and they make me feel stupid for even asking. then it is mysterious and beautiful and special. She shared things. actually.' 'Well . Lauren was not difficult to talk to. You could ask her questions and she wouldn't fob you off like Tia.' Lynn wasn't certain what to say.' Memories of how she had felt talking to David welled up and without thinking she raised her voice. Science has proved the bible wrong over and over again. You just said so! My god! How can you be so naïve. You preach an all-powerful loving God who lets people die in agony a thousand times a day.' Lynn admitted. or how much she actually wanted to know in detail. ‘I'm not sure.. she wasn't withholding. ‘It makes me feel angry. ‘And you believe it all too. ‘But when I talk to people like . somehow. Lynn had zoned in on the bit she'd heard that had most emotional content for her. so stupid?' Too late. But it seems to me that if there is anything there. ‘All of it? You believe in all of it!' ‘It depends on what you mean by "all" – or “believe” for that matter.
never. the more she wanted them to like her. ‘You've wanted to say that for a long time. She waited for Lauren to tell her so.' she added. ‘It's quite simple.' said Lauren emphatically. she could have bitten her tongue out. But just lately. ‘I had to say that. her curving smile making her eyes crinkle and dance. She had to stick with it. ‘I feel so pleased that you've been able to say it to me. And then you were afraid of my disapproval. ‘And I do like you. It mattered very much too much. how could she stop it? She hated feeling like this. I think another cup of tea is called for. 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 . childish thing to say! What was wrong with her today? And what did it matter anyway? It had never mattered before. ‘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. never be her friend . you said what you really felt .very highly . Just a word.completely wrecked it. Their relationship was over. She'd burnt her boats. And to Lynn's astonishment. What a stupid.and it was all her fault. the less likely it seemed that they ever could.being real. Lauren looked at her understandingly. She was doomed. Lauren would never like her now. More than ever now.she'd really thought.' Lynn nodded mutely. You're confused. with Tia. ‘I don't mind. It was a gurgle of approval as though Lauren thought that Lynn had done something very well.' Lynn felt so amazed that she said the first thing that came into her head. She'd said 'My god!' as well.at a cost to yourself. I value . What was happening? Was it the miscarriage? Was it depression? And more to the point. trying to look confidently at Lauren but miserably aware that inside she felt horribly afraid. Lynn felt completely bewildered. Just now. it did matter. Lauren laughed instead. never needed people to like her. haven't you?' said Lauren. Lynn never. but she remembered Polly wincing as though she'd been stuck through with pins whenever she heard anybody say it. and paradoxically. aren't you? I can see it in your face. and now with Lauren. Actually laughed. Isn't that 186 . though actually they usually did.
So she would. because. Lynn. 187 . She finished her tea and stood up. growing silence she had encountered when she first entered the room. She laughed again and this time Lynn couldn't help smiling too. looking at Lauren. ‘I'd like you to come again.' she said.' she said. and perhaps some of mine might give you a different angle to consider. oh. in at the deep end. No messing about. sun-breathed thoughts. She let it out with a sense of relief. doesn't it?' Lauren said. Lynn couldn't be bothered to anyway. as she gazed into the distance seemed to be full of quiet. it seemed. For a second she did not look like Lauren at all. It felt so comfortable to be tired in Lauren's presence. with the sunlight streaming through the windows and the cat still asleep on the chair.about two weeks. wanted to come again too. In fact she felt completely exhausted. from the start of next week for probably. spacious kitchen. Lauren made the tea and they drank it without needing to talk. Lynn. ‘I'm away . for she grabbed hold of the edge of the table to steady herself. in her peaceful.sort of. It made sense .' Lynn found that she had been holding her breath. let me see . And that was great. Lynn suddenly remembered the headache. Her brow creased. was reminded of that living. and I hope that you will go on being honest with me. ‘I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about God. Will you come?' Lynn liked this direct approach. I like it. It reminded her of Tia.right?' Lynn nodded again. ‘It does. Lauren's eyes. she. I'd like to come again. Then the moment passed. too quickly. She looked at Lauren. she'd said so. Perhaps it had come back. Lauren looked at her. Lynn wondered what they were. ‘Why should I disapprove of people who are honest? I am glad you felt safe enough to trust me. ‘Mmm. She stood up too. She felt too weary.' ‘Good!' said Lauren. Lauren directed her gaze at Lynn over the top of her mug. ‘Yes. take a chance. if you want to. But she didn't want to. ‘That feels better. She should go home.' There was no necessity to say any more on the subject. Lauren would like her to come again.
Couldn't they arrange it now? It felt as though Lauren didn't want to see her. hugged her. She'd have a measure of control. Lynn said.' said Lauren. Where had the time gone? What had Lauren done with her kids? She glanced at Lauren. And Alec is on duty at the hospital. said. ‘Perfect.why. ‘That would be fine. Shall I phone you?' That at least would give her the initiative. uncannily reading her thoughts. It was over in an instant. She waited until Lynn was out of sight then she closed the door. . She wouldn't be waiting at the end of a line for someone who didn’t get in touch. 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. It was what Della had said about the dinner. * * * Lauren stood watching Lynn go down the garden path. When she got to the gate. Lauren touched Lynn's arm and then. Lynn didn't notice the football strips on the way out . 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. When Lauren reached the kitchen she sat down carefully in the chair Lynn had just vacated. ‘Church Fun Day. occasionally reaching out a hand to steady herself against the wall. By common consent they moved towards the door. Lynn didn't know. . who. As she glanced up at the clock above it. But a glance at Lauren's face dispelled that fear.So how would it be if I phoned you in two weeks' time and we'll arrange something then? Or would you rather phone me?' For a moment. Lynn was astonished to see that she had been there for over two hours. When she had closed it she leant against it for a few moments and then turned and made her way heavily back along the passage. Lynn looked back and waved. She and Lauren were friends.' For some reason this thought amused them both . Lynn felt a lurch in her stomach. or anything else. She looked around for her tea mug but it was at the other end of the table. lightly and unexpectedly. Two weeks! It felt like the sort of thing Tia would say. measuring the distance with her 188 . Swallowing her disappointment. Lauren smiled and waved too.
and all during the boring notices she scanned the pews without success. Lynn decided to go to church again. And if she happened to see Lauren there. After about half an hour. She leaned forward and ran the fingers of both hands over her cropped hair. She picked up the mug and swigged back Lynn's tea. In the end. * * * Next day was Sunday. breathing very short. As she did so she caught sight of Lynn's mug.. She rested her elbows on the table. 'I knew you wouldn't be able to keep away!' Lynn was extremely irritated by it. This time Lauren's sigh was one of thankfulness. it would only be civil to say hello. Lauren sighed in frustration. She reached out and pulled it to her. She put them in her mouth and tried to swallow them. They were rather large. and then closed her eyes and rested her head against the high back of the chair.eyes. even breaths and keeping her head very still. eventually coming to the unpalatable conclusion that she wanted to find out more about this god that Lauren seemed to believe in. She grimaced. and began to think. It had about an inch of tea left in it. but when Lynn saw her at the door of the church Polly's face wore a certain insufferably knowing expression.Polly was certainly thrilled to bits when she phoned her to tell her. As she did so. Her smile returned. Eventually Lauren popped the blister pack and took out two capsules. but it forced her to examine her motives for going. she reluctantly decided 189 . Maybe it was for Polly's sake . for some time. without success. she glanced at the clock above the door as Lynn had done. as though to say. and then a little more. She looked thoughtfully at them. even to her. well. Before the service began. washing the capsules down. she gingerly moved her head a fraction. but this sounded pretty lame. She explained it by saying that she hadn't given it a fair trial. which was rather nearer than hers. Lynn kept a weather eye out for Lauren. Occasionally she opened her eyes to check the time. To Mark's consternation. but she couldn't see her. Lynn was pretty amazed herself. She remained in this position. put her chin on hands.
and she would have to share that with Lynn now. all monotonous and clappy. Surely Lynn knew? But then. Some things were sacred.Polly! . At least. swaying as she sang the first song. anyway. felt extremely irritated by Lynn's thoughtlessness. she'd just assumed. So she answered very politely. Polly would know. that's what she told me she was going to do. in fairness. Honestly. ‘Why isn't Lauren here?' she demanded. how could she? She'd only been coming to 190 .annoyance reactions. Polly felt Lynn's peevedness and felt puzzled in turn. Lauren was a fully paid-up member of the Christian Club. she hadn't asked. from the way Lynn was looking. Couldn't she even have waited until the end of the song? However. Polly. Although. What was Lauren to Lynn? Did she even know her? Polly had enjoyed talking to Lauren at the Wednesday Bible study.doesn'tknow-any-better and the you'll-put-her-off-Christianity-for-ever-if-you-show-any.to ask Polly.but not to her when she'd only seen her the day before. ‘How do you know?' she asked. and Lynn's timing was way off. But it was common knowledge anyway. Surely they didn't just arbiter ally take a day off if they felt like it. Wasn't there something about attendance at church on Sunday being compulsory? Maybe even twice? And how come Lauren had said something to Polly .' Lynn was puzzled. the exasperated Lynn grabbed Polly's shoulder and shook it hard. since Lynn had asked so abruptly. 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. in the service. It was an awful song. ‘I think that Lauren's gone out for the day with her family. and completely ignored her. Polly was away with the birds. When this happened twice. 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. But she couldn't help feeling peeved. the make-Lynn-feel-welcome-at-all-costs-she. ‘Where's Lauren?' She hissed. rudely awakened from her happy state. Couldn't it wait until coffee? Apparently not. get with it! she thought.
She's had the cancer a while now. she's got cancer. Lauren's slowness. Sitting in the pew. . Lauren . She added hastily. Lauren had cancer. ‘Well. . Everybody knew. ‘Do you know what's causing it?' Because when she had asked questions. so the family wanted a day out together while she still feels well enough. Polly's compassion reasserted itself. It was too awful.' Lynn still looked stunned so Polly continued. . . And she would hardly lie. She hadn't said. Relieved. Brain cancer. . . normal. Actually. she couldn't even think what they were. cancer. Lynn looked up and nodded dumbly. who was lustily singing as though she hadn't got a care in the world. Surely it couldn't be true. you know. Actually had cancer.had . Polly realised that she had not been gentle enough. As the thought sank in. Yet Polly had said it so matter-of-factly. ‘Lauren told me at the Wednesday Bible study that she probably wouldn't be at church on Sunday. She would ask later. In the meantime. They think they've got it in time. her headache.church for five minutes. Lauren had replied very readily. even though it's brain cancer. What a good thing they usually sang this chorus eight or nine times. Didn't you know?' Cancer! Appalled. unable to think of anything to say.' she added somewhat unnecessarily. had cancer. . Lauren . . Polly turned back to her worshipping. She had let 191 . . How could she do that when Lauren had cancer? How could she? She was jumping up and down now! There were a million questions that Lynn wanted to ask but she felt too numb to ask them now. She glanced sideways up at Polly. ‘They're hopeful. Lynn was in shock. To anything. She would have to tell Lynn gently. Lynn sat down in the pew. She had never actually volunteered anything. Lynn felt in anguish. Everybody knows about it.' ‘Chemo?' ‘Yes. Lynn began to replay the events and conversation of the previous afternoon. she starts the chemo again tomorrow. Lauren looked so . But only then. But she hadn't asked the right question. She didn't seem to want to ask any more questions. . Lauren! . Her headache! But why hadn't she said anything? Lynn had asked her about it.
It felt like Tia. Suddenly Lynn had a picture of Lauren looking at her in her thoughtful way. even though she'd spent two hours with her and she'd thought they were friends. as it had before.' Lauren had said that she liked her. Alec. And Lauren had initiated another meeting. ‘Yes. She died. for doing that. somehow. Lauren didn't seem worried. her smile. I wish you'd told me. I do like you. Lynn felt better. What must they be 192 . that felt horrible. her approving look. mentioned her cancer. ‘Oh yes. But how could you have brain cancer and not mention it once in a two-hour conversation? At the memory of that conversation. so shut out from Lauren's confidence. If someone tells you that. Lynn's heart stopped still.' End of subject. She remembered Lauren's dark. . ‘Oh Lauren. ‘But Lynn. the way Tia never self-disclosed. And Lauren didn't want to talk. an aunt of mine had that. I've got cancer. because Lauren had wanted to see her. That shone out like a beacon. Maybe it wasn't so bad. by the way. And Lauren's laugh said. Not knowing made Lynn feel so lonely. Now Lynn thought about it. that everybody knew about. if Lauren had cancer? And what about her family? All of a sudden. you don't just say. . ‘See. after the chemotherapy. then the whole of the rest of the conversation would have had to be about it.' she thought desolately. Lauren's husband.' Or. Common courtesy demands that you give the person a chance to talk about it if they want. cancer gives you terrible headaches. If Lauren had done that. Did Lauren think she knew . her stillness.' Or. But Lynn still couldn't help wishing that Lauren had told her . her laugh. the youngest eleven.' ‘Chemo?' ‘Yes. bright eyes fixed on hers.if everyone else did. ‘I'm not looking forward to the chemo on Monday. her three boys. But she could have said! But how could she have said? ‘Oh. No one could ever take that away. except Lynn. I would have if you'd asked!' It was so unexpected that Lynn found herself laughing with her. Oh. from the secret sadness that dominated her life. I've got cancer you know. and then suddenly smiling all over her face and saying.' That wasn't Lauren's style. but for how much longer. the way they had the day before.Lynn make all the running. Lynn felt she hated Tia now. Why didn't she tell me? Lynn wondered again.
Another deception. Drowsily.going through? And she had only just thought of them! All she'd thought of first was how Lauren's illness affected her. Lauren. I just heard today. Life was full of them these days. What kind of a monster was she? A deep sense of shame engulfed her. Chapter 17 Lynn woke on the Monday morning aware of a heavy dragging ache in her heart. Oh god. He was relieved to find out that it was not. Mark would never understand that. tear-filled night.' Lynn couldn't bring herself to say that she'd only really met her herself the day before. Mark. but still puzzled over Lynn's grief. coming home full of the match. had been amazed to see her so distrait and distressed and immediately assumed that it was something he'd done. The rest of the day before had passed in a haze of misery and disbelief. she's an old schoolfriend. I haven't seen her for years. which merged drearily into a restless. as she came to.' ‘No. 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. ‘But you said you didn't know her very well. she remembered why. 193 .' ‘Have I ever met her?' ‘No.
two anyway. come on. but high on optimism. Doesn't sound like you know too many details. God wouldn't let Lauren die because they all loved her too much. Polly.' Polly looked panicky.' But Lynn could see that there was no pleasure for him in talking about it any more. Now it's come back. Lynn. even if they chose to call it prayer? She smiled.' Lynn saw that she should put up or shut up. ‘Maybe you're right. Polly. 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. how was the match?' ‘Oh. She can't. I know people who've been healed. like a mantra. Lynn sought out Polly. Well. I've read it. What kind of faith was this? What kind of God? She had no words to say. We won 3-1. ‘Oh. seeing her look. people do die. Polly was low on details. but she's not dead yet. it was good. And Lauren’s cancer did go away before when we prayed. Compartmentalise a bit. Besides we're all praying. I admit it sounds serious. And who knew what effect the power of positive thinking could do.‘Well. The chemo worked before and it cleared up for a year. She wrote a book about it. They don't think it's come back so badly now. Several people have had words from the Lord that she won't die. hastened to reassure her.' Lynn turned away to hide her expression.' His irritation showed when he saw that Lynn remained unconsoled. She hated herself.' ‘But Polly. you know. Three at least.’ she added somewhat uncertainly after a pause. even people who pray. before continuing more positively. We all love her too much. listening. God won't let her. We all love her too much. it might not be as bad as you think. And he'd come in so happy. She shut up. ‘One I do know for definite. You've got enough to worry about as it is. ‘God does heal people.' Lynn. Who knows? God moves in mysterious ways. She repeated. but Lauren's such a fighter. ‘Oh. Who knew? Cancer did go away sometimes. ‘So. ‘God won't let Lauren die. we're all praying for her at church and she's doing very well. At the first opportunity at school. thought perhaps Polly was right.' 194 .
Now that they were face to face. It helps with the transference. Looking at her face. that's better. for Della.the therapist. remembering Lauren. Then. That's when you transfer feelings you've really got for other people on to them . Lynn decided to choose to be reassured. Lynn went to the staffroom.what was it . They're a blank screen or a blank sheet of paper or something. She gritted her teeth. write your own agenda about them. and said hello.' ‘Transference?' ‘Yes.' she added. Della looked up. went over. ‘Therapists never tell you anything about themselves. ‘Yes. ‘You didn't embarrass me. if there was a god. Or project your own image . her old friend Della. She felt better. And surely. ‘I'm sorry if I embarrassed you with my revelations the other day. ‘What did you mean in the cafe about . if you like. ‘I was glad you felt able to trust me. to change the subject. Some therapists work like that anyway – not all of them. it felt easier.' ‘Blank screen?' It conjured up pictures of a broken TV. god. she said hurriedly.Polly looked as pleased as if Lynn had just made a public declaration of faith from the pulpit of Westminster Abbey.' she said wryly. that's really important. It worked.not self-disclosing?' She thought she knew already but it was a diversion. and felt better. She saw Della getting something out of her bag. The idea is that if you don't know anything about them then you can as it were.' she said.' 195 . Della loved explaining things. She couldn't avoid Della for ever. for Della looked suspiciously bright-eyed at this. She nodded. It was now or never. Lynn knew that that conversation in the Cafe Noir had been on Della's mind too. must love Lauren? How could he not? That lunchtime. I think it's overdone (‘Me too!' thought Lynn). Della was looking rather wan. but looking at her she realised that it was just Della. Sort of fantasise. Personally. but why? 'Well the idea is that they present a sort of blank screen .yes. Lynn had been so dreading this meeting. Yes.
they did have some sort of meaning after all. she was forced to concede . . All of a sudden.oh.' Della seemed uncomfortable. .especially in view of her self-inflicted crash course in psychology . I can't remember now.well you .' ‘ "Nine hundred years' name"? Yes. . somewhere.‘Why is that important?' Lynn felt excited. Where did you hear it?' ‘Oh. judging by the amount of instructions per second her brain usually seemed capable of. 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 it might. Lynn. How does it fit in?' Della thought briefly. she might wish it hadn't. The implication is that he has her killed so that he can remarry. ‘Oh. it's important because you .she never needed to.how shall I say? 196 . But that's the only line I know. now she thought about it. Lynn's chance came later that day when she saw Della by the staff lockers. ‘Transference? Well. Before . she'd dismissed them as psychobabble. I must fly! Though that would convince my year sevens I'm a witch. Oh damn! She'd meant to ask Della about the poem. Lynn sensed she had touched on a raw nerve there. Is that the time? Heavens. Lynn was sure she'd heard the word before . ‘ "She had a heart . Sorry. Something told her that Della knew more than she let on. but probably. thought Lynn.Tia . She watched her go. turning the conversation with her over in her mind. . My Last Duchess. Playing for time was not Della's style .along with words like ‘repression' and ‘complex'. This didn't make sense yet. It's quite a chilling poem about a duke who marries a peasant girl who's a bit too simple for his tastes. it's Browning. Although if it did make sense. Can we talk about this later?' ‘Sure. closed her eyes and quoted softly. she was in new and risky territory. I don't know. But this transference thing . Something to do with working through the bad feelings or something. It was really irritating her now.
' said Lynn. so all things considered . With anybody's gift. Lynn rose and went to meet her and Tia turned and silently led the way to her room. again she stopped and waited. and yet not the same. she finished getting the books from her locker and departed with a wave and a cheery smile. Lynn was used to it now. Lynn following two steps behind. 'How have you been?' Lynn found herself wishing Tia would start with something else. That explained a lot. whereas ‘Tell me how you are feeling. too easily amused. And now Tia again. leaving Lynn wondering what she was going to say to Chris. It was the same. As a teacher she recognised the value of open questions. It seemed so formulaic. Tia's elegant. No words were exchanged until once again Lynn was sitting opposite Tia in the room. Lynn paused to reflect. it fitted the bill pretty well. Seeing nothing further was forthcoming. Sandra. * * * It was Thursday afternoon.' said Tia. angular form materialised out of the door at the end of the corridor and she walked towards her. The faded sunshine still came through the window although it was October now. was pounding. so stereotyped now. Della was looking at her curiously.' sounded a bit too intrusive. ‘So. She ranked my gift of a nine hundred years' old name With anybody's gift" Does that help?' ‘Oh yes. Was it only two weeks since the last session? Thoughts of Chris. What a lot 197 .Too soon made glad. . Poor Sandra. Chris ranked Sandra's gift of her virginity with anybody's gift. Lynn's heart as usual. David and Lauren kaleidoscoped through her mind. On the other hand. This time she didn't even say Lynn's name. and ‘What have you been up to then?' sounded a bit too jolly. . When she saw Lynn looking.
but my guess is that in this context it can be used to mean the feelings you have for me or about me. ‘So. She must be a lesbian. Inappropriate feelings you can’t explain. if you feel able to do so. It's more important to discuss the feelings you have about me. She felt much older . Feelings that belong to a relationship you've had .of experiences she'd had. how she hoped not! She could feel a flush of shame. How does it work then?' ‘We are not really here to discuss transference theoretically. what a lot she knew. then up. Tia returned the gaze absolutely steadily. knew.and yet she knew nothing. But did Tia know what they were? Lynn hoped not . Lynn. looking down at her hands. I guess. It was some moments before Lynn could speak. it seemed that they didn't feel right to her. now. Lynn felt like an absolute child. she must be! Tia said. What feelings? Where did they come from? She didn't understand. tell me more about this transference. ‘Where did that come from?' Lynn felt herself reddening. And Tia knew that she had feelings for her. Then she said. Just noseyness. and Tia wasn't going to tell her. Finally she said. ‘Oh I don't know. She stared at Tia speechlessly. and Lynn loved her. except that Tia was beautiful. Now that Lynn was sitting opposite her.oh.' Tia said meditatively.' Lynn watched her collect her thoughts carefully.or have . staring at her. Why did Tia have to be so bloody superior? Why couldn't she just tell her? Della was right. somewhat huskily. suffusing her face and neck. and it just made things worse. Tia told her things but then never explained them. would never 198 . said. This blank screen thing could be overdone. Tia blinked.' Tia looked at Lynn firmly. worse than she'd ever felt before. That summed it up in a nutshell. feelings which may seem inappropriate to you but which you can't explain.' Lynn gasped inwardly. But she'd asked. So transference was about feelings. ‘Transference is a big subject. feeling like this. ‘It can mean a lot of things. I heard the word somewhere. ‘What are you thinking?' Torn between ‘You are beautiful' and ‘What is transference?' Lynn opted for the latter.with someone else which you've now transferred onto me.
This was awful . although I've asked you why on earth I should think you are stupid. but not exactly not smiling either. I am stupid. Or is it me? It is me.how had it happened? How had they got from ‘How have you been?' to this in about ten seconds flat. don't you?' ‘Why on earth. 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. it's not me. And this is a stupid conversation!' Part of Lynn was amazed at the anger she felt. I bloody do! I feel incredibly stupid . ‘So. What was it about Tia that always made 199 . it's me. On impulse Lynn leant forward and said. ‘I'm doing it. It was so frustrating. not exactly smiling.wrong-footed. Lynn found herself crying. She wanted to rattle Tia's cage. The other part was enjoying it. And you're doing it. She felt in despair. And you’re sure it's me?' ‘Well. It was so superior. ‘Oh. ruined beyond repair. What did Tia think? What did she bloody think? ‘You think I'm the stupid one. Tia. she couldn't really tell what it meant. you still insist that I do think you are. That was worse. The situation felt irretrievably spoilt.' said Tia calmly.' To her horror.and .tell her. isn't it? Is that what you're saying? It's not you. very briefly.' said Lynn. She'd had enough of Tia. Lynn hated that look. ‘Suppose I called you a stupid cow. ‘should I think you are stupid. Her curly hair framed her face. What would you say?' Tia raised an eyebrow. "What makes you say that"?' she said mildly. Actually. Do you feel stupid?' ‘No! Yes! Yes. Tia continued to look at her. and you can't give me a reason. She felt tantalised. Lynn?' ‘Yes you do think so. so that all her facial expressions were clearly visible. is it? There's no one else in the room. ‘I suppose I'd have to say. Tia was watching her attentively.
Oh. she said.her feel about five? She was a mature adult everywhere else.' What was Tia trying to say? It didn't add up. does it?' ‘It's quite common. people often do feel stupid although they are not. She shut her eyes and chewed her lip with concentration. Almost immediately she regretted it. After a pause. Lynn shut her eyes again. . She had rushed home from school because she wanted to tell her mother something. She was telling it to her mother. and a wave of anxious emotion. people feeling stupid?' ‘Well. actually. one had a gun One had a pancake up his bum. . Lynn loved it when Tia talked like that. What was it now? What's the time. . It doesn't have to be you or me. . Can you think of a time when you had this feeling before? Just take your time. don’t rush’ she repeated. Gingerly. but that's not what I meant here. Let's approach it from another angle. She was in a room . in their first house. and as Lynn had looked to 200 . . Then she said slowly. she could hardly speak for laughing.' Lynn sat up. ‘What. someone else and I think it's you? Is that the transference? But that still doesn't make sense . But her mother wasn't laughing.' said Tia. She could feel a darkness like a cloud descending on her. wiping her eyes. the rug on the floor. Close your eyes if it helps. Tia was still there. She saw the small overstuffed settee. where was it? . There's no one here but you and me. It was so strong that she opened her eyes to escape it and looked at Tia. half past nine See the soldiers in a line One had a musket. ‘But that's ludicrous.' Tia was talking very calmly and gently. ‘Take your time. She was coldly furious. bloody hell! Tia was regarding her thoughtfully. ‘You mean . and as she neared the punchline. don't rush. Her steady encompassing gaze imparted a sense of stability to Lynn. It was a joke poem someone had told her and it was so funny. . ‘It could be someone else. .
with Tia looking at her so 201 . .’ Lynn shuddered at the memory. She remembered that eventually. ‘Sarah helped Emma up in the playground today when she fell over. she had said in a voice colder than ice. What to do? She compromised by opening her eyes to look at the floor. and the sense of having done something terribly terribly wrong. She shrank down in her chair to get away from her mother's face. I hate feeling stupid.' She broke off. and fear of her mother's increased wrath if she got her clothes wet had driven Lynn indoors. For something to do. Lynn. now watching the incident as though on a video. because then she would have to look at Tia. she could remember how it had ended. She felt terribly. then her hands. Here.' Every word had cut like a whip. Lynn had crept away and stayed in the garden for two hours. looking at the floor and hoping she was doing it right. Now go away. but she couldn't. ‘I remembered . to see her reaction.' she said. vulgar little girl. I remembered my mother calling me stupid when I was five. in the safety of Tia's office. . not because she couldn't think of anything nice. ‘Yeah. Relief poured over her. in Tia's office. and if you ever tell me anything like that again. it had started raining. well.her. I will be extremely angry. experienced again that feeling of humiliation and disappointment. ‘That's better! Now you’re my good girl!' She felt a bit like that now. and said in a whisper. and don't come back until you can think of something nice to tell me. She was just a faceless blur. terribly foolish and sad. Her mother had swept her up in a pleased hug and said with warm approval. but because she hadn't wanted to face her mother again. unable to keep the surprise out of her voice. Tia was smiling at her. She wanted to open her eyes to escape. How strange that she’d forgotten it until now! But there was a lot of her childhood that was hazy. she compared her thumbnails. After a while. ‘What's happening for you now? Her voice sounded so normal and matter of fact that Lynn automatically looked up. though she couldn't see on the screen exactly how her mother had looked. Tia said. Lynn quivered involuntarily as she relived the terror that had trembled through her as she inched her way up to her mother. ‘You are a stupid.
It didn't seem so bad now. ! She said.especially since she had met Tia. ‘Lynn. . But it was still puzzling. Lynn felt pretty pleased with herself now. some . Lynn thought about the incident. transference is a big subject.benignly. Sometimes they enable us to get in touch with all sorts of feelings from the past. just horribly black ones impenetrably woven together into a solid mass. thinking aloud.?' ‘Why here?' Tia finished off for her. ‘But why . the rest dark and unhappy. . She sat there. that's transference?' Tia opened her hands. . They seemed hopelessly entangled. ‘So you don't think I am stupid?' Tia gave her a look.just a few . It seemed chaotic and full of feelings that came from nowhere. she had a tremendous sense of wellbeing. ‘So . it's all transference then?' Tia smiled. . that she had never been able to explain . It was OK to do that in Tia's room. in a ‘maybe' kind of gesture. Lynn knew intuitively that there were no coloured threads on the inside of the ball. therapeutic relationships are not like other relationships. She said hopelessly. Tia gave her space.' ‘As I said.' ‘So . . Lynn's mind was racing. In fact. sometimes not very good ones. palms up. ‘But I still don't really understand. The ball was her life. She had a sudden picture in her mind of a giant ball of coloured threads. ones that we'd prefer to forget. ‘I behave towards you as though you are like my mother?' Tia made the same ‘maybe' gesture. 202 .' she said. ‘Nothing's ever all anything. . my mother calling me stupid? And me thinking it was you . The ball was as big as a house. If she could just get hold of this . . and let it wash over her for a while. for some reason. And how could she have forgotten it so completely? She stared at Tia.' Lynn thought back over her life.brightly coloured. You are nothing like my mother.
The world grew solid again. Several more minutes passed. Into this jumble inside her head broke Tia's voice.partly anyway . But it still left her with the huge problem of the feelings themselves . .they're not real. . insubstantial. . this transference? This . Tia could see that. but not for long enough. Lynn felt like a ghost herself. and that you had to take responsibility for what we talked about. but she's not here. There seemed no way out. don't you?' Lynn did understand. You understand what I'm saying. You need to think very carefully how you wish to structure your remaining time with me. I'm feeling things I should feel towards my mother. She was locked into her own thought processes. existing only in Tia's imagination. Her guts twisted. it's not a real thing is it then.her feeling for Tia. Issues that it would be of benefit for you to explore with somebody in a safe environment. She felt drowned in thoughts and emotions. ‘Perhaps that's enough for for now. I have the sense there may be more issues here to do with your mother. 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. As she stared at the floor the carpet distracted her. Tia said quietly. Lynn didn’t hear this. able to think once more. It's like ghosts. It was incredibly lonely. . There is a very real risk that you may uncover things which cannot be adequately dealt with in the time we have left. She wasn't completely convinced yet. quite nice. and they seemed to be taking her to a place that she didn't want to go to.' For a moment.' The words seemed to hang for a moment in the air between them. unable to keep the despair out of her voice. You've had a 203 . ‘I don't know what to do!' she cried out. about to be blown away. But I have to remind you that we have only two sessions left after this one.and what to do with them. Their eyes met.these emotions that I feel . ‘Lynn. Finally she looked up at Tia.‘But you are not like my mother?' ‘What was your mother like?' said Tia. ‘But . Chief among the emotions was a kind of puzzled relief that this explained . It seemed a long way away. a sort of tawny colour. It was a plain carpet. Lynn became a real person. She said gently. but . substantial and reassuringly three-dimensional. ‘Transference is real.
She released her death grip on her forearms and let her hands relax. . . It was amazing how much you could 204 . Lynn. that Polly had told her . .lot of things to think about today. she must not waste this precious time with Tia by just staring at her! Suddenly. . Lynn glanced at the clock. She described how she'd gone to Lauren's house. and then met her. She would put things away to think about later.' Involuntarily. leaning forward. about how she'd heard Lauren’s name. and she involuntarily clasped her arms over her stomach. I'm sorry. It said 2. Was Tia saying that the session was over? Her insides lurched again.' she finished. This is your time and you're entitled to all of it. ready to listen.' Tia was looking at her very compassionately. She could tell Tia about Lauren! So Lynn told Tia about Lauren. Tia's gaze still held hers and Lynn quietly looked until she felt her strength returning. and disliked her on the spot. . quite a few of my friends are gay. Lauren came into Lynn's mind and she became aware of Tia sitting slightly more upright. ‘There are still twenty-five minutes to go. ‘Though I don't know why I should be so bothered. What I meant was that you don't have think about what to do here and now . I know there are. and looked at Tia appealingly. Then she stopped. This was all so draining. and then got curious. . She explained how she'd gone to church the next day and how she'd discovered that Lauren . She could do that now. She took a deep shuddering breath and then another more relaxed one as she slumped back into the chair. feeling that somehow Tia ought to know this. it might be better just to let these new ideas and feelings sink in a bit before you think them through.55 pm. I didn't mean you to think I was suggesting that you have to leave right now. In the meantime. ‘Seeing Della was before Lauren. about Lauren's . 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. illness. . . and how well they'd got on and she'd felt they were friends. She said. Then Lynn told Tia briefly.' she added.' knowing that Tia could hear the betraying quaver in her voice. ‘Yes. Lynn could feel her stomach unknotting.
Lynn felt really special.' ‘Sure.say in twenty minutes if you just solidly held forth and hardly paused for breath.' agreed Lynn glumly. 205 . What would Tia make of it all? Throughout the time Lynn had talking. saw it said 3. They both stood up. ‘And sometimes when I open my eyes everything is upside down and I feel sick. But she felt heard.' That was it exactly! ‘Yes. and had a comforting sense of being warm and well-fed. And I want to get off. as though she sensed the importance of what Lynn was saying and didn't want to stop the flow. Tia had given her extra time. And it feels pretty frightening. Lynn. she sat back and exhaled as though she'd been holding her breath the whole time and said. Now. ‘See you in two weeks' time then. and every time you open them to try to get your bearings you get a different view. following her gaze. At the door. Tia said. She said nothing.' said Lynn.22.' Tia laughed. Tia had said nothing at all. Lynn. she knew the time was nearly up. and walked though. ‘You're on a roller-coaster aren't you? You're hanging on with your eyes shut. Tia glanced up at the clock. Lynn said nothing either. as Lynn ground to a halt. After a little while.
100 Ten-minute Spells for Busy People. Perhaps she should try it. And there were books about counselling too. Perhaps it all worked if only you believed in it hard enough. Lynn called in at large bookshop on the way. Maybe she wanted too much. she grabbed a book up. it wasn't for her then. She wanted to believe in something because it was true. with conflicting feelings. She didn't know. where she gazed at the books on self-help with some fascination. It was a bit spooky. Ah. Feng Shui Saved My Life. She ran her finger down the spines of the books: Think Your Way to Happiness. you are stupid. She resolutely determined that she would take Tia's advice and not think about things too much until the dust had settled. was that the time? In panic. but it was much harder than she thought. shut up!) Heavens. But the scientist in her couldn't help wondering where the evidence was that any of it worked. rushed to the tube. There were hundreds (well. nearly) of references to transference. was that the price? She thrust it back. Of course. Oh. so what! She rushed with it to the counter. rushed home. She turned to the index at the back. Oh. she decided to head home. picked up another that looked more readable.Chapter 18 Lynn left the counselling rom. Well. This one was expensive too. Maybe they were rubbish and didn't exist in the real world. Become Who You Were Meant to Be Through Colour Therapy. still not thinking about things too much. How stupid of her not to think of that! (‘See. saw the word 'mind' and ended up in the mind. Lynn had a mocha in a cafe and tried to read the paper there. body and spirit section. but she counselled. Lynn hastily asked an assistant where the psychology books were and sighed with relief to be directed to several well-filled shelves. She looked around for books on psychology. just to check if they really did have the same books as the ones she'd got from the library. not because it made her feel good. Something clicked. as usual. Finally. She didn't 206 .' a little voice said. counselling! Tia might be a clinical psychologist. yes! Here were the Attachment and Loss books. Ten Pain-free Steps to Total Well-Being. Heavens. Did people really believe all this? Maybe this was where god was.
It was only six stops. After dinner. that which Lynn had been dreading finally happened. Chris. whom she had somehow by a miracle and quite a bit of forward planning managed to avoid. She put the postcard on the mantelpiece. She turned back to the book. Eventually she made out. saw her in the staffroom at lunchtime and rushed over. It cud b a lng time. Lynn couldn't say no. Lynn finally started reading the book on counselling. Lv Sandra. these days. * * * At school next day. ‘Have you seen Sandra yet?' he asked anxiously. She could hardly blame him. Mark glanced up from the FT. He was treading very warily. ‘Good book then?' he inquired. which appeared to be composed by three different people all trying to write it at the same time. but made no comment. When she reached the section on the client's idealisation of the counsellor she ground her teeth. Lynn decided. there was 207 . anyway. Lynn smiled. Stayin here til I gt a tan. 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. ‘Let's go to the pub. Lynn turned it over and looked at the message on the back.' said Lynn. She looked at the postcard again.' It could only be from Sandra.dare get it out to read on the tube. The stamp was Greek but the picture could have been anywhere. the post had come. with some difficulty. then sighed. There would have been no answer and she would have wondered. ‘Soz not 2 b in tuch. Mark raised his eyebrows when he saw the title. Will contact u wen I get bak. She was glad now she hadn't tried to phone her.' The ‘will' was underlined three times. ‘All tuned up and ready to play. 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. then smiled again. When she got home. And if she hadn't thought of anything to say by now.
His anguish overlaid Sandra's anguish. trying to get it to draw. Did you tell her that?' ‘Yes. he took the pipe out and said simply. you're on her side? Why. gender differences. About her relationship with you. . probably just as well) her anger against him was evaporating. why?' ‘It's not a question of sides. I told her.' Lynn was thinking hard. puffing at his pipe greedily. ‘And what did she say?' ‘She told me she loved you too. He paused consideringly and then said with studied nonchalance. . you saw her. dropping bits on the floor.' ‘What do you mean. Sandra had not given her permission . she could not resist the pleading in his eyes. Lynn was sorry now she'd kept him waiting. She asked me not to tell you.you know. She couldn't remember if she'd said it in so many words. . She nodded resignedly. She needs space. How to convey what Sandra had expressed without betraying confidence? After all. She feels very strongly about you. . Chris stayed lounging against the wall. space? I gave her all the bloody space she wanted!' ‘Space to think. she'd never thought to ask .' ‘Ah. Desperation gave her fluency. took out his pipe.no guarantee that she would in the foreseeable future. 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.' said Lynn. stuffed it untidily. to share anything. I can't tell you that. walking only just ahead of her and glancing at her continually as though if he took his eyes off her for too long she would do a runner. When Lynn had told him everything she felt she safely could. Chris . Chris. lit it at the second go and said. ‘I do love her you know. for god's sake. which was a lot less than what had actually transpired. ‘And where exactly is this place she’s staying at?’ ‘I'm sorry Chris. How did she look?' He listened to the description. He led her to the smokers' room. ‘Can we go somewhere and talk?' Again. ‘So. ‘Maybe it's a man-woman thing. She's given 208 .
it's a vile world. if he's there. an uncaring sadist. before you're gone.' he said bitterly. for as long as we can. let's be as happy as we can. god. It's a cold.else'. lets the good die." ' (Surely that was from a poem somewhere. 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. His face was red. we've all got to die of something. this is a vile cruel world. she told you about that. She could see him forcing himself to speak more slowly. any joy.) ‘A woman wants to be special to the man she loves. cruel. is a sadist. ‘What's to believe? God. AIDs . Haven't I just told you!' ‘And what about you to her?' ‘What do you mean?' ‘She doesn't want to share you. Sex makes people happy.is . We need to stick together. You know.' A veil came over Chris's face. if he's there. I repeat. ‘I repeat.' ‘What are you talking about? She is special to me. A vile. I'd much 209 . to nothing. before we are dispersed into eternal nothingness.nothing . ‘Look. and all we've got to keep us going is our own body heat. 'tis a woman's whole existence. as though to a child. that's it. There . Be happy. From nothing. unfair world. ‘Oh. Any happiness. any warmth. What the hell does it matter?' ‘What does it matter! What about STIs. for god's sake let's stay in the sunshine. did she?' Lynn watched him struggle for words. So she did know some poetry. no! I'm sorry. we're all we've got. She couldn't be that stupid. and we are here for a blink. It was a bit scary. everyone we can. make others happy. keeps the bad alive. he was beginning to sweat and his accent was thick enough to cut with a knife.!' ‘Well.herself to you and only you. "A man's love is of his life a thing apart. but trying to speak calmly. as happy as we can. No. but while we're here. is as vile as the rest.' ‘My god! You are totally screwed up!' ‘No. Eventually he said tightly. getting more angry every moment. We're all in it together. is up to us. ‘So you don't believe in god then?' ‘Believe. Let's make other people. dark world.
She didn't know what to do. So did he.' Chris repeated. he can answer prayers. Lynn could see him concentrating on trying to breathe evenly. So she very quietly hanged herself. She didn't know if it was Tia's or Lauren's. Lynn sat there rigid with shock and pity. It said. I asked God to help me but he didn't. She thought it must be Tia's because it wasn't a smiley voice. The tears dripped down through his fingers. Looking back. ‘She left a note. Chris was clearly struggling for composure. It makes things less complicated. ‘Why do anything?' said a voice inside her head. The room grew very quiet.' ‘Why do you say that? About god being a sadist?' ‘If god's there and he can do anything. "I'm sorry. I think she tried to tell us but we didn't really catch on to what she was saying. she came and stood awkwardly 210 . It was much less common in those days and she went to a very good school. as though this was something that he had learned by rote a long time ago. his voice was thick. And Marie was never one to make a fuss. ‘My little sister. Eventually. right?' ‘I suppose so.' Lynn sat down. When he spoke again. looked directly at her and through her. did I? Sit down.' ‘Then why didn't he answer Marie's?' ‘Who's Marie?' ‘Marie? Marie was my little sister. So she just sat and waited. I never told you about Marie. Only she didn't smile very much because she was being bullied at school. My elder brother Seamus found her. ‘Marie had very straight brown hair and a lovely smile. He cried as though he would never stop.' Despite himself Chris couldn't help a sob catching in his throat." She was nine years old. with racking sobs that shook his whole body. and said in in measured tones. The awkwardness of the lack of space in the room didn't seem to matter now. Chris eventually won the battle.rather believe that he's not there.' Chris buried his head in his hands and cried in earnest then.
She suspected that he was trying very hard not to break down again. who wouldn't be in until later. Chris sat up and looked straight at Lynn. his face a mask. and concern because the change back had been so quick. pliable features. ‘Well. He was staring stonily ahead now. the thought of saying ‘I don't know. his vulnerability. his anger. They seemed so banal. Lynn quite admired him. why the f*** didn't he f***ing well do something when Marie f***ing prayed to him?' For a brief instant. He surely couldn't switch back. The unfamiliar rigidity of his face began to melt back into his familiar. reached round and placed her hand on his forearm. it did the trick.' Lynn was torn between a huge feeling of relief that the strange. grabbed his handkerchief out of his pocket and began a vigorous mopping up operation.behind him. It didn't look like the Chris she knew. he must be a f***ing sadist because otherwise. ‘That's why. holding the sodden handkerchief between them. Now you know something about me no one else knows. It felt risky but it was all she could think of to do. Then. if there's a f***ing god. feeling his grief. She felt the wetness of his tears on her skin. This was a side of Chris that she had no idea existed. ‘Never thought I'd tell that to anyone here. just like that? What he'd told her was awful . out of earshot of all but the cleaners. Chris reached over and convulsively grasped it. smelling his aftershave. as though her gesture of compassion had given him courage to be angry again he said. Chris gripped her hand back . He continued crying for some moments longer and then gave a couple of honking sniffs. Something told her that Chris didn't want an answer anyway. how about that?' he said at last. She guessed that no one else at school knew about it either. she slipped back into the seat opposite him. so close.awful! And yet how could she allude to it when she 211 . seemed too intimate once he had stopped crying. frightening Chris was gone. Standing behind him. Secretly. She saw his clasped hands on the table. Gradually the twinkle returned.' crossed Lynn's mind but she couldn't bring herself to utter the words. She felt overwhelmed. He made a passable attempt at a wink. While Chris was sorting himself out. With one hand. his eyes still red. Lynn thanked her stars that the smokers' room was at the back of the school. Amazingly.hard. and on impulse she leaned forward and placed her hand over them.
It was all a long time ago. It's not my story to tell.' She couldn't imagine it. 212 . ‘A counsellor you mean? They offered at the time. Don't worry. It's all we've got. ‘Sandra? She knows Marie died in an . someone qualified to listen. . The shutters were up again. . It's done nothing for you. his choice. "Leave the dead to bury their dead" as the good book says. and then relaxed. will you Lynn? It's over I tell you.' ‘Understand what? There's nothing to understand. you won't tell her. or maybe see someone else . ‘Time's not a great healer. Or . . but not how she died. She wondered if Tia felt exhausted after a session with her was over.a stiff one. now. ‘Fix me a g and t. . .' He grinned. But . The old invulnerable Chris was back. Not a bloody thing. She felt exhausted. You women. But please do think about telling Sandra. But she wasn't sure she trusted whatever he meant by relaxed any more. my pipe's gone out again.' ‘Don't you think she ought to know? It might help her to understand. . Marie will still be dead. Her musings were interrupted by Chris saying in a tone of wonderment. . But time's a great healer. . ‘Not even Sandra?' Momentarily his face hardened again. It won't change a thing. kicked her shoes off and curled up on the sofa calling to some invisible person. ‘In the name of all that's holy. darling . accident . or got home from work. but it wouldn't have made any difference.' ‘I won't tell anyone else Chris. And it wouldn't make any difference now. Lynn laughed. .sensed that he so clearly didn't want to? She said. you do love to talk as though that makes it all all right. And now is what counts. I've put it behind me now. poor Sandra. . be happy!' Lynn thought. I swear it goes out more than I do!' Despite herself. the present moment.' A look of alarm flashed across his face. The moment was over.I don't know what came over me. And you won't tell anyone else? I can't believe I just told you myself .' But she didn't know how to say it without making him angry. If Tia went to the cupboard and poured herself a whisky. Oh well. ‘Look.
watching Nicole's face. ‘How vulnerable they are at this age!' thought Lynn. Her feelings about Lauren’s cancer she dealt with by the mantra ‘Positive thinking gets positive results'. She was married to him after all.' Chris! What had he done! ‘Do you want to tell me about it?' ‘Well. Nicole stood by the door. Lynn drew her to one side. that could afford to wait just a little while. Lynn was content to immerse herself in planning and doing and to leave the thinking and feeling for a few days. and you were away after that. When you weren't here I saw Mr O'Doyle. ‘Della's not like that now. and her feelings about Della she dealt with by saying. her head hanging. of course. She simply asked her to wait for her after the lesson.* * * The week trickled sluggishly by. This all took a lot of energy. Priorities.' ‘Michael?' ‘Michael Strachley. She only had so much energy.' said Nicole.' Nicole brightened up when she realised that Lynn had remembered her. ‘If I can't cope. or herself. her feelings about Tia (she was particularly pleased with this one) she dealt with by saying. 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. it was Michael.' (which was clearly true). Nicole?' she asked. ‘It's all right now. and he was really nice and he sorted it. Not that it took much doing. Lynn also tracked Nicole down. so she didn't bother with strategies for dealing with her feelings about Mark. Clearly she had thought that Lynn hadn't cared. You know!' 213 . and he seemed to appreciate it. ‘I'm sorry I wasn't here when you came last week. Not that she neglected him. ‘Yeah. I'll get re-referred in three months' time with stress'. ‘Are you all right now. She particularly went out of her way to listen to him more.
so hard he cracked his head off the pole bit where you go downstairs. They took it for about two seconds and then Kyle just picked him up and threw him right down the aisle. ‘I hate him. Good!' said Nicole fiercely. I'd like to kick him where it hurts myself!' ‘Hey. He doesn't know any better.’Oh yes. He was really crying.the year elevens . People like him should be locked up. So I picked Michael up and when he stopped crying I went and had a go at Kyle. All the girls fancy him.champion of justice. Good old Chris .' ‘You're welcome. * * * 214 . her eyes sparkling at the very memory. but Mr O'Doyle was class.' ‘It was on the school bus. everybody's friend. I would!' Then Nicole softened. He checked that Michael was all right and he sorted Kyle out. I'm sure. ‘Oh. But you weren't here. and he was really good. steady on. She shook her head.' ‘Do they?' said Lynn drily.he went up to them at the back and started telling them that they shouldn't smoke. Miss!’ Lynn watched Nicole go jauntily along the corridor. ‘Understandably.you know he's not right in the head really . thanks for asking. Go on.' ‘See you.' ‘Anyway. She went back into the prep room. you know.' ‘Well. He got a week's suspension because he'd had so many warnings.' said Nicole bitterly.' ‘Yes?' ‘And Michael .Kyle Sanders and his mates. And he's so good-looking too. But it didn't do any good. Watch how you go. swinging her bag. But Mr O'Doyle was. ‘So I came to tell you. I was sitting up the top at the front with my friends and all the bad lot were at the back smoking .
Not that she'd have gone to church.' said Lauren. as usual. She'd phone her at the weekend. good to hear you. . I think God's healing her!' Lynn was so thankful she had to sit down. It was a signal for cautious optimism. eyes shining. She heard Lauren's welcome voice. well. This decision not to go was vindicated when she heard Polly say happily. ‘How are you fixed for evenings?' ‘Monday. then phoned Lauren. Lynn would have to share her. 'Lauren was at church on Sunday! She says she feels a lot better. after Chris. * * * Lynn waited until Saturday afternoon. She couldn't help feeling that he had a point. church had felt like a real no-no. but Polly didn't notice. Polly.Lynn couldn’t face going to church on Sunday (what for?) so she had to wait for Monday for Polly to burst in.how unaware she was! . and rang off. 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. 215 . if that's all right?' ‘Sure.' ‘I'll look forward to it. Mark heard Lynn singing in the bath and grinned.eightish?' ‘Fine. hurriedly Lynn said. ‘There were crowds of people round Lauren. . Well. though it would have been lovely to have seen Lauren. 'Lynn. Mark might make some connections .but she did know that Lauren had gone away for a few days with Alec and the boys. hang on! If the cancer thing came out. That night. Tuesday or Friday?' ‘How about Monday . ‘And she asked after you. . you could hardly get near her!' But Lauren had asked after her. He was not disappointed. ‘I'll come to you. Though would it really matter? It would be nice to be able to . but somehow. . had few details .' Lynn's heart was singing.’ said Lauren.
wearing trousers and a camel-coloured sweater of very soft wool. ‘It's a bit of a luxury .' she added. Unlike before. The most interesting thing about the sitting room was the open fire burning in the grate. I'm not sure if we should 216 . 'Let's go into the living room. And she did.Chapter 19 This time as she waited. Lauren saw Lynn's look of surprise. ‘Alec's working and the boys are out.' said Lauren. on reflection. ‘We'll have to give it up soon. I'll stick on the biggest log in your honour. her smile welcomed Lynn in.' she said. the hall was clutter-free. Alec sweeps the chimney.' ‘Not that that makes any difference. Again. Lynn had more confidence that Lauren would answer the door.
’ Somehow the thought of Lynn and Lauren swigging chardonnay didn't seem quite right. Lauren's smile encompassed both Polly and her.' she added hastily. It was magic. She looked at the fire. with little puffs of smoke. ‘I think it's beautiful.burn logs or not. ‘I never thought of that. then vanished. A bit sixties-ish. It's not often you can find something that appeals to four separate senses at once. Perhaps next time . like a child getting comfortable in bed. . noting the small spurty flames that appeared in the wood briefly." It's a nicer focal point than a TV flickering in a corner. What can I get you? Tea? Coffee? Something stronger?' ‘You drink?' said Lynn almost involuntarily. ‘Polly's the only other Christian I properly know. wreathing patterned vapour: the pinky-violet glowing ash that was beginning to form in the incandescent depths. . and Lynn sank into a comfortably yielding three-seater sofa near the fire. Lynn studied the fire closely. as the rough-textured piney log that Lauren put on began to crackle. "Well. . the large bright ones that burnt with a steady crackle and lovely. better than TV. I think. the lights were dim and there were candles burning on the mantelpiece. Lynn decided.' Lauren vanished. well.' she said. 217 . She hardly noticed when Lauren came back with a tray loaded with coffee and mugs and biscuits. bonfires are allowed.' Lynn couldn't think why. Lauren looked pleased. ‘Coffee please. Lauren raised her eyebrows. 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. but I think. It was . I have terrible debates with my conscience at times. but quite pleasant on the whole. And how noisy it was! There were crackles and sighs and pops and little whistling squeals and groans. Back in a tic. How odd that something that was dead should give more of an impression of being vitally alive than a lot of living things did. ‘Make yourself at home. And we do have a back boiler. It had a Prussian blue throw over it with suns and moons on.
then plunged in. Lauren looked embarrassed. It was not sad. though I did have a bit of a headache. I think I'd feel like that too. and even the pharmacist at the chemist knows.' she said. She said slowly. her brain filled up and overflowed into her mouth. but it was your choice not to tell me.' Suddenly. . ‘No. and . ‘Yes. and then looked rather anxiously at Lynn and spoke tentatively. I get so tired of talking about it. and then stopped to think about how she really did feel.' Lynn was unsure how to continue. ' She paused. I felt that if only I'd known. groping for the words. but with truth. She turned towards Lauren. because . Lynn rushed to reassure her with words. and all my friends and family know.' she said simply. I would have told you tonight. 218 . but serious.' ‘Thank you. because. I guessed you'd have a reason. ‘Polly said you said you were feeling better. She seated herself on the other end of the settee. ‘I felt so normal when you came. and the boys know. I might have been a bit more sensitive. and it was very good. . drawing her legs up underneath her so that she was facing slightly towards Lynn. like a guilty child.' ‘That’s OK.just for once . I suppose . I didn't think you'd find out so quickly.' said Lynn. She couldn't resist saying ‘But Polly and the others seem think you've been healed or something. ‘Well. aren't they?' ‘Mmm. not really. ‘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. I know I've got cancer. and Alec knows. and it makes sense to me. I'm feeling better. Lauren had that effect on her.I wanted to talk and enjoy the company of someone who didn't know. . and everyone at church knows. ‘But not actually better?' Lynn felt dismayed.Lauren put the tray on a low table nearby.did you feel very deceived?' Lauren looked rather crestfallen. ‘We'll leave it for a minute.' Lauren regarded her with an unfathomable expression. ‘Wonderful. And I did. .' said Lauren drily. I'm sorry . ‘Fires are very watchable. She blinked a few times.' she ventured. ‘It's like this. Lynn realised Lauren was trying to work out how much to say to her.
what was God like when he became human?' This metaphysical twaddle was utterly opaque to Lynn. She didn't want Lauren to die." ' ‘Meaning?' said Lynn.' ‘Then why doesn't he . I don’t quite follow the god-talk. ‘Don't you care about dying?' and then froze aghast. but the frown was not for Lynn. He cares very much.' ‘But how can he? He . thinking aloud. Maybe talking about god was a better bet. She said slowly. ‘Meaning. Lauren looked at her. of course I care. She said. frowning.‘They would like to think that. The Chinese have a saying. ‘God is . but you have to compare like with like. Doesn't he care?' cried Lynn hotly. She thought of Lauren. ‘But god can heal. ‘Yes. 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. and now she was spouting meaningless god-talk. I care very much.' Lynn didn't know whether to ask her about it or not. Lauren had as good as told her she was dying. My blood count was too low. but I'm not so certain. She wanted god to heal her. it becomes a fish. . I care. he cares. And sometimes I feel very angry. . He is other.' ‘Caring is caring whether you're god or human!' ‘Yes.if he's god. different . . . ‘Oh yes. but she was too worked up to listen to the answer. can't he?' ‘Of course.' ‘I can understand that. They couldn't do the chemo after all. as though she'd never considered that question before. They've done some new tests and I've got to go for the results on Monday.' 219 .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. She thought of Chris and his little sister Marie. "When the Almighty falls into the sea.
to be sure. 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. You use the word "dying". ‘Would you 220 . I've won too. ‘when I see how frightened Jamie and Andrew and Dom are of me leaving them. And do you want anything to eat? I'm starving.' said Lauren. Now she was laughing in earnest. sometimes at night. not to me.at her. and I wish I could die to escape it. Well. And I feel frightened.' she said. and there's hours to go before it's light. I forgot all about it. oh dear. ‘Oh dear. ‘You can't say or think anything I haven't said or thought before. you know.' Lynn stared. She didn't want to know what Lauren meant. and how they want me to stay. awake.' she said. God-talk. and returned with more coffee and a very large plate of cheese and biscuits.' she added. smiling the curvy. Someone I know did. I might have to go and make some fresh. What on earth was she talking about. ‘sometimes you win by dying. And because he won. We're all dying. But Lauren didn't seem to mind. I'm sorry!' she cried frantically. ‘Sometimes. you know. ‘I haven't just given up. sometimes. ‘It's all right. what a mess it all is. ‘But giving up isn't quite the same as yielding up. when the pain is very bad.' said Lauren.' ‘Sorry. And I feel desperate.' How could someone laugh about dying? Lynn looked at her bewildered. half-humorously. because of this. 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. And I feel very tired inside and I rather wish it was all over at times. as she saw Lynn's look. They hate God. maybe it's true.‘I feel angry. ‘Don't you think it's time for coffee? I do. Oh no! She was doing it again!. when it's just me. teasing Lauren smile that made her eyes crinkle up. But dying isn't the worst thing there is. and I don't think I can.' ‘But you're giving up! You've got to fight it!' Lynn heard herself say. Or at least.' Lauren went leaving Lynn to mull over the utter incomprehensibility of what she had heard. And I'll try not to talk the God-talk if it doesn't scratch where you itch.' said Lauren.
. you mean?' she said coolly. even as a child. Lauren did this very slowly and methodically. .' ‘Oh good! I hate eating alone. She’d never seen that before. . ‘I always have done. she noted with surprise that Lauren did not take the rind off from the San Paulin or the Stilton .' ‘No. dangerous to do that? Aren't there harmful chemicals in it?' Lauren shot her a look.' said Lynn suddenly. When she'd finished Lynn hoped she wouldn't offer her any. ‘You eat the rind?' she said curiously. I’m fine. selecting a biscuit and taking a careful bite. Lynn felt a sense of delight inside. . Searching round for something to distract her from her acute discomfort.or any cheese come to that.' Their eyes met and they burst out laughing.’ Lynn took the cheese.' Lynn added her prayers to the long list of those before her who had wished the floor would open and swallow them up. ‘I'm going to see a counsellor. 221 . ‘Not really.' she added quickly. ‘Not watching your weight then?' Lynn could not resist saying jokingly. OK. ‘I'm fine. honestly. ‘Sure? I think I’ve brought the contents of the fridge in. and it took some time. How odd. ‘I can't say I'm bothered.like some?' she asked.' said Lynn.' said Lauren. Lauren put another log on the fire and they watched it burn in silence. As they moved from laughter to smiling at each other. I like the crusts on the bread too. It's the best bit. ‘Yes. considering each different variety of cheese. ‘On the NHS. ‘Carcinogens. isn't it . Lauren was strange in some ways.' said Lauren. as though that was important. just a piece of cheese then. ‘The chemo takes care of that.' ‘But the rind . Well. then added a large chunk of cheese to each one before topping them all with mango chutney. then watched in fascination as Lauren took several digestive biscuits and buttered them thickly.
it was Lauren she was saying this to.Lauren looked interested.' said Lynn dolefully. this was before you were a Christian. oh why.' Lynn hesitated. It was nice to sit and feel the wonderfully comfortable sofa and not be afraid of what Lauren might say. ‘There's a saying that grief is the price we pay for love. ‘Just when you thought you were getting somewhere?' ‘Yes . I sort of love her. This was getting dangerous. I really like her. .' said Lynn despairingly. But I'll have to stop seeing her soon. right?' 222 . not Polly or David what-his-name. I saw a counsellor once and I loved her. Lynn felt a sense of unease. ‘I mean. They had funny ideas. ‘How's it going?' ‘It's going well . It was only Lauren. She glossed over some bits . She put down the biscuit. ‘Can you talk about it?' And Lynn could.really well. after all. . as an afterthought. But Lynn felt so desperate to talk about it that it was worth the risk.' Even as she said it. Bit of a cliché but there's truth in it. Lauren might see it as a .but. she noted thankfully that she still wasn't frightened. But it was still a risk.' ‘Not in a sexual way. After all. .' ‘You saw a counsellor? And you loved her? But you're a Christian. . What Lauren said was a surprise. I don't think I can bear it!' ‘Why's that?' ‘She's good.the miscarriage seemed almost irrelevant now .' she added hastily. you mean?' ‘No! Not like fairies! So. Lauren asked simply. and how she hoped that Lauren would not disappoint her.well . So good. She might get all preachy and start talking about Jesus or something.but it was still a jumbly mess in which Tia featured heavily. ‘is this happening to me? I don't understand it.’ Lauren nodded slowly and understandingly. Lauren was a Christian after all. And when she finally ground to a halt. Surely you don't believe in them?' ‘Like fairies. ‘Why. ‘Actually. Who knew what they thought about things like that? ‘Love’s too strong a word’ she added. I value her highly and I don’t want to stop seeing her. oh Lauren. ‘god-given' (in her eyes) opportunity for her to drag religion into it.
I'd been a Christian for years. chain-smoking the whole time. I'm sorry.' ‘You said you loved her?' Lynn remembered. she suddenly felt much easier 223 .' ‘ And was it confrontational?' ‘Yes. ‘It's a kind of counselling where you deal with things in a very direct way. very! And she smoked like a chimney. Inside.' ‘I can't help wondering what you saw her about. and wore big gold earrings. ‘But this counsellor .' ‘Pearls?' What on earth did Lauren mean? ‘Fritz Perls. He was the founder of Gestalt psychology. and you're the one who's hurting at the moment.' ‘And your counsellor smoked?' ‘Incessantly.' Lauren hesitated.‘I wonder why you would think that? No. There's quite a well-known video of him counselling a client. And I was a complete mess. ‘She was a Gestalt counsellor.' It didn't.' ‘But didn't god .she was a Christian?' ‘Definitely not!' said Lauren. I thought she was wonderful. laughing. I only told you really to let you know that I understand a little bit about the pain of that kind of loss. She swore as well. I think she modelled herself on Perls a bit too literally. ‘I don't in the least mind you knowing.protect you?' ‘From what? From life?' Lynn suddenly remembered the cancer. It's none of my business. It can be quite confrontational. not me.' she said at last. I'm conscious that I've successfully deflected the attention from you. I know I shouldn't ask. She changed tack. ‘But it's a long story and maybe I could tell you next time we meet. if that means anything to you.
And it was Lauren. ‘But how could you bear it?' she found herself asking. so real. ‘I knew God loved her more than I did.about her feelings for Tia. Although I might have shared my life with her . Of all the words Lynn dreaded hearing. It was a total mystery and she wasn't sure it was really happening. She said she loved her.' Let go? This was not so good. that was it? After all that you'd shared?' ‘Yes. And Lauren would tell her her story next time they met. regarding her with such concern. on looking at the fire. That felt very good.as though they meant nothing! But Lauren said she'd seen this woman for a year.' she said. How could this be? Lauren's words hurt just as much as if they had come from Della but they did not destroy her. ‘Oh yes. . 'I cried for three months.it wasn't reciprocated. Counselling isn't friendship. 'It probably doesn't. Lauren would never have been able to let her go so easily. of all people. until she felt able to speak. yet amazingly.' But it did help. something strong and good. How could she be so unconcerned about it? A sense of unreality came over Lynn. saying them! And so casually . But this counsellor couldn't have been like Tia.' Lynn stiffened involuntarily. . ‘How long did you see her for?' ‘A year. somehow so free. Tia was different. We could never have been friends. That was what made it possible to let go.' Counselling isn't friendship. Lauren was watching her compassionately. Sod that! she thought. on chewing her lip thoughtfully. so caring. and mixed in with the pain she could feel something from Lauren flowing into her. She thought. Lynn was still alive.and I did . I never saw her again. She concentrated on feeling the sofa beneath her.' ‘A year? And then . Lauren made it. I absolutely delighted in her. those ones came top of the list. if it helps you to know that. Lynn didn't want to hear this. sitting there so composedly. Lynn looked at Lauren. Look at her now! It seemed to Lynn that Lauren had just dealt her a death blow. She survived. 224 .
I was very damaged and angry and she helped me tremendously. It didn't affect the awful situation I was in – but then it wouldn't. but sometimes 225 . almost unable to move. ‘Was it long ago?' she asked. If I met them now I would hug them . . Lynn returned the pressure with interest. leaning forward and grasping Lynn's hand firmly. She still needed to know more.it was all so bewildering. . What she wanted most in the whole world now was to change the subject. They nearly did it too. Kalia helped me through it so that I was able to forgive them. 'And now. so she couldn't just change the subject totally. especially on top of the body-blow she had just been dealt.' said Lauren cheerfully. That surprises you?' ‘No. Counselling's not like that. But it was clearly important to Lauren who was now looking rather damp about the eyes.' said Lauren. but it surprises me that you let her. But I pray for her now and then.' ‘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. Lynn felt ashamed.something of what you're going through' said Lauren. She is still very dear to me. She ought to do the same.' she said apologetically. But . Lauren accepted her. still holding her hand. you did ask. but again she had the strange sensation of strength flowing from Lauren into her.do you want any? And I think I'll start hitting the Baileys.' ‘She had truth.and if I ever see them in heaven I will. I do hope I do!' Lynn felt stressed.Lauren noticed her look. you know . I think it doesn't so much show you how to sort your life – more like help you live with the mess. much as she wanted to. Normally it's red wine for me. She felt as weak as a kitten. 'I need more coffee . 'So I do appreciate . This talk of forgiveness and heaven was more than she could handle. . become a Christian?' ‘I've no idea. But I can't forget her. Truth cannot contradict truth. but couldn't think why. .. Much more practical.' For a moment Lynn remembered David. What could she say? ‘Did your counsellor ever . after all. ‘Just over twenty years ago. ‘Well. ‘All truth connects.a little bit .
They finished up seeing pictures in the fire. though my twenty-something days are lost in the mists of time. The wine tasted of summer. amazed. Thinking about Tia hurt just as much but she knew now it was all right to love. leaving Lynn to watch the flames begin to rise. Lynn paused. Amazingly she still felt OK. Lynn gingerly felt her psyche as an adult who slips on the ice might check themselves for broken bones. They swapped teaching anecdotes and finished each other's sentences. normal even. That's exactly the reason I drink it. after a moment's reflection. ‘wine would be nice. ‘Athough perhaps you're meant to rub it on. She could hurt in Lauren's presence quite safely. giving her hand a final squeeze and letting go. I read somewhere that it's a preferred drink of some twenty-somethings because it provides the alcohol but still tastes like sweeties.' said Lauren. The intensity of the moment lightened instantly and popped like soap bubbles in the air around them. and followed it to see where it went.' Lynn was still trying to work this out when Lauren put another log on the fire and departed. getting more and more absurd. Lynn found herself casting covert glances at Lauren. So what! Will you join me? Or would you prefer wine?' Lynn couldn't help grinning at Lauren's matter of factness. all right to grieve. and they knew it. How had Lauren done it? Lynn had no idea.' said Lauren blandly.' she said. seemingly 226 . Everything made them laugh. They let the conversation go where it wanted. ‘All right.' she added. As they talked.' ‘ ”Take a little wine for your stomach's sake”. The main business of the evening was now over. ‘Where's that from?' ‘The bible. Lauren came back. trying to get it right? That had never happened before. please. like a puppy running through a meadow.' ‘Is it?' ‘Oh yes. After a few moments.only Baileys will do. unselfconscious and animated in the firelight. ‘Fortunately it doesn't specify. They drank quite a lot of it. How could this be? And at what point during the evening had she stopped watching what she said.
but was she really .dead . Lynn. Lynn closed her eyes to escape the sight of the fire which now seemed strangely dark and malevolent. ‘You're very quiet all of a sudden. . it's time to go. Lynn decided.' They were at the door. but the truth was that it was really dead. And she thought about the thing growing inside Lauren's head. ‘It's me who ought to be thanking you. that it looked so alive. As they walked to the front door. Lauren sensed her change of mood and turned to her. They quietly finished their coffee. the last sound she heard was not the sound of Lauren's door closing. Thank you so much. But even as Lynn responded in kind.' ‘Am I?' said Lynn. Lauren said. . ‘Here's to the next time we meet.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. . and said. with unexpected emphasis. and a chill ran through her. 227 . mimicking life. This evening has meant more to me than I can tell you.' ‘The next time!' said Lynn. I was just thinking . and constantly pleasing to watch. ‘since we've both so clearly benefited from it.' ‘It's been good. and somehow. ‘Um .' ‘Then we'll definitely have to do it again. ‘I'll be in touch. ‘I've enjoyed this evening tremendously. getting bigger and bigger.able to enjoy each moment to the full.' As she walked down the path. and Lauren got Lynn's coat. Was that the true picture? Lauren looked so well at this moment. but of Lauren laughing.' said Lauren cheerfully. Lynn. the thing that should not be there. she suddenly remembered her earlier impressions of the fire.' Lauren thanking her? For what? Lynn said with equal sincerity. so glowing. It seemed an appropriate note on which to end. Lauren. I didn't want this evening to end. . Lauren hugged her unexpectedly closely. hasn't it?' agreed Lauren. I'll be waiting for you. wrapping her coat tightly around her as protection from the frosty air. constantly changing. caught unawares. as though it was a toast. so afire with life. She was a bit like the fire. so bright. as she released her.
for god's sake? And over Christmas too. ‘I need to take leave of absence for a month. .so she shrugged apologetically and said nothing. I'm afraid the circumstances are out of my control. is it?' she asked before she could stop herself. it's not cancer. . if you liked. ‘It's not cancer.' ‘It's all right. Without her glasses and with her head bent.and then . On the other hand. ‘What made you think of that?' Lynn didn't want to mention Lauren . ‘I mention this because I am afraid I need to change the date of our next meeting. Lynn had never seen Tia do this before. but afterwards it occurred to her that this would probably have been a perfectly reasonable thing to say. ‘No. . . In one week it could be all over . Tia continued. . ‘this is the last session before we meet to say goodbye. Tia looked much more vulnerable. I am not leaving until the end of next week . Tia. ‘If we wait until I come back . One week or six weeks? She 229 . She was reminded of Lauren and how tired she had looked when she first met her.' Tia took off her glasses and polished them. but I will not be here then. . She'd never survive. In one week's time or six weeks' time. On the other hand . I am sorry to have to present you with this choice.' said Tia. She couldn’t help staring. I know. .' Alarm bells went off in Lynn's head. how could she wait six weeks with her nerves strung as taut as this.' (‘Come back?' thought Lynn) ‘then the Christmas holiday will intervene and we will not be able to meet again until January.' She paused.' (‘Leaving?' thought Lynn) ‘and so. thanks. She replaced them and became Tia again. Tia. It didn't seem much of a choice.' But it wasn't all right. Tia smiled wanly.' Oh. six weeks .' she said. It occurred to Lynn that she looked uncharacteristically weary. . This will mean you waiting about six weeks for our final session. never see Tia again.somehow it didn't seem right . It's up to you. we could meet again at the same time next week for the final session.Chapter 20 ‘So. Bloody thanks! Do you think I don't know that? ‘Yes. Our next meeting is in two weeks' time.
for six weeks! Oh hell! Tia. This was the Tia she knew. and Lynn didn’t care any more about getting it right. The anger grew hotter. almost amusement. Staying in control. Tia was such a cow. I wonder if that feeling rings 230 . Always getting it right. and. She couldn't think now. making you feel awkward and angry. apparently indifferent to the bombshell she had just delivered. She couldn't think what to get in a week. Wrong-footing you. She felt anger rising within her.' But a week wasn't long enough. Something in Lynn snapped.didn't want to think about it. ‘That's how you see me. But six weeks! She couldn't endure this . Why? Lynn felt completely wrecked. what to say. she didn't know what. What do you think about it all?’ ‘I think you are angry. never giving any bloody thing away!' Tia took it without a flicker. just to say . she was watching with cool clinical disinterest. She'd had it all worked out. the effect that her words were having. Lynn felt that she had imagined the tired smile and the fragile. good guess! I am angry! You sit there so smug. always saying the right sodding thing. unyielding. if you like. her frail feeling of control gone. so bloody perfect. Tia said. ‘You can tell me at the end of the session. . more composed. . Having just ruined everything. what she would do in the two weeks. Tia. as usual. I wonder what you’re thinking. ‘No. or a card. ‘I'll remember you. She'd wanted to get Tia a present. What was it about Tia that produced these extremes of emotion in her? She was perfectly normal everywhere else. impervious.’ Yeah. 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. It shouldn't make a difference but it did. Tia. how to pace herself. ‘I wonder what you’re thinking right now?' The volcano erupted. She looked at Tia.' Now that she had told Lynn the bad news. she looked more Tia-ish.rack . One week or six weeks. was observing her closely. a sort of serious but ready-to-smile attentiveness had now completely returned. Her habitual expression. right. defenceless Tia she'd seen. it seemed to Lynn. Just a little something.
really really sad. I forgot. but she wasn't falling for it this time. did care. It made it so much better than the other time. ‘Yes! Why do you do it? Why can't you just be normal. What was 231 . and stop giving me a hard time!' always having to think of what to say to help them. wasn't she? She stopped and allowed herself to feel. Oh no! It was Tia . she tried to listen. ‘Oh. But when she glanced at Tia. She was being paid for it! The anger flooded back. or something like it. Oh god! And Tia wasn't helping. when she thought about it. Lynn's anger ebbed away. having to be there for them. Maybe she did feel something. to say. for god's sake?' To this Tia said nothing.Tia making her angry. Lynn had heard that once before. Tia looked so sad. even a little bit . But bloody hell! It was her job. Grief meant you were sad. The bad time she never thought about.any bells for you?' Lynn stiffened. 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. she did feel sad inside. didn't it? But she was angry. . Anger is a is a part of grief. Did Tia feel sad then? Sad like Lynn? Did she know how Lynn felt? Did she? Or was it a psychological trick to make Lynn feel better? Because if Tia did know. That transference thing! Where had she felt it before? Very clever. What did she feel? Actually. no one else! She refused to be diverted. We have to say goodbye. . Yes. When? Her brain felt muzzy. then she could bear it. What was Tia trying to say? Grief. Why hadn't she noticed that before. In the midst of it all.something icy gripped Lynn's guts and made it hard to breathe. having to sit there and take it from angry clients. What must it be like for her? What an awful job she had at times. She felt a sudden pang of pity for Tia. This is normal for you! Bloody hell Tia. when . You are angry. leaving her feeling tired too. And she was looking at Lynn. ‘Sod off.' That registered. never able to retaliate or defend herself. she saw something in her face that mirrored her own feeling. Her face had a patient look and the fatigue Lynn had seen at first seemed evident again.
' said Tia. ‘Yes. . No one had ever said anything quite like that to her before and she didn't know what to say. Lynn. Lynn felt her fear being contained. ‘I'm feeling your sadness. Tia. ' she added pointedly. ‘Thank you.' Lynn could see it was true. jerky panic begin to overwhelm her. Her anger had evaporated. I feel frightened. I can't bear to think about it now. then went on. I feel kind of glad too. It's too vague and indistinct to pinpoint now. It was something so nameless and so painful that Lynn couldn't bear it. sharing it with me.' said Tia. I can't face thinking about it here. ‘But in a funny way. She felt deeply moved. I've got too much else to think about now. I don't feel so lonely now. Maybe it will come clearer later.' ‘But it's horrible . The thudding of her heart began to slow down and she took a deep breath.and painful?' Lynn felt a wild. It's so different from last time. oh Tia.this? Something was stirring in the furthest recess of Lynn's memory. Something I'd completely forgotten. and to be honest. She exerted all her strength to shut the door on it. but even with the door shut she could sense it moving behind. .' ‘I'm feeling sad. not now! Not on top of this pain she was feeling. Can you stay with it just a little while and see how it feels?' In Tia's calm presence. But you've only just been made aware of it. ‘Yes. Is it OK to say that? It's like you're sort of. It's not your problem. ‘I'm sharing it with you. But. She smiled tremulously. What am I going to do?' ‘You don't know what it is and you feel too frightened to think about it. 232 . oh I don't know . It's something to do with going away and being frightened. Eventually she mumbled. ‘I don't want you to feel sad. I'm not even sure what it is. from really early on. with Tia looking at her and speaking so quietly.' ‘Yes. Quick! Distraction! Lynn said hurriedly to Tia. No! Not here. It's so horrible and painful I'm afraid to think about it. . ‘You look unhappy. Lynn didn’t know what to say.' Again. .' ‘Last time?' ‘Something's stirring in my memory.' She paused and groped for her handkerchief.
I will assume that you will be coming in January and send you an appointment accordingly. ‘Yes. just start coming into our mind bit by bit and we begin to build up a picture. ‘You can either come to see me in a week's time. Lynn felt immensely comforted. So could she. as if thinking aloud. Then she said slowly. ‘Suppose I remember and you're not there?' ‘That seems likely. I think it might come clearer. She refocused on Tia and looked at her appealingly. I believe I am allowed to do that. You'll appreciate that I can't keep a space open for you indefinitely. She nodded. filled Lynn with new alarm. elsewhere. When I write things down 233 . ‘OK.' was all she said. once we become aware that they're there. but without success. when she was not with Tia. Lynn was touched. Somehow. What do you want to do?' ‘Like I said. She tried with all her might to think what it might be now. while Tia was with her.‘Hmm. Tia seemed to really want to help her. Another thought struck her. ‘Why don't you write it down?' Write it down! Another good idea. What I can do is keep the next week's slot open for you. if you want to take it up. even if she chose not to turn up seemed to make a difference. Her mind refused to engage. ‘Can you do that though? I mean.' she added. Do you feel able to wait and see what happens?' Again. this being allowed to choose when to come. ‘I could send it to you. but not here. Again. Tia could handle this coolly. or in six weeks. ‘But how long will it take?' Tia made a ‘you tell me' sort of gesture. ‘Sometimes things like this. She didn't feel quite so hopeless now. keep it open like that? Are you allowed?' Tia gave her a look.' she said more happily. Tia's calm acceptance of what seemed to Lynn to be a completely bizarre experience reassured her. It was clinging like a monkey to the patterned wallpaper behind Tia's head.' The thought of it coming clearer. If you don't turn up.' Tia agreed. and the fact that Tia would keep the session time free for her next week.
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.' ‘You can if you like. they sat in silence for a while. She couldn't even think about her. won't you. And she could never say everything she wanted to anyway because no matter what she talked about. This struck her as so ludicrous that she chuckled out loud. She was too drained to think clearly now. 234 . After that. Tia might get enough for a book by the time she got back. no. and Tia raised her eyebrows and looked alert. Lynn kept going to say things. ‘You'll get it eventually though. And she told Tia this. and then Lynn's mind cut out and she couldn't think what to say. ‘I'll get it then. It was very odd.they could be arguing for instance. and Tia looked amused too. it was still ticking away. and wished she could save them all in a bottle and just pour them out in another time and another place when she wanted them. and Tia looked sympathetic and nodded. for some reason.' Lynn had forgotten.it's like I'm talking to you. ‘What's the joke?' said Tia. And then it struck her that. when you get back?' ‘Oh yes.' A cheering thought struck Lynn. but then finding she had more to say and writing another one. The icy hand that had relaxed its hold on her heart tightened it again.' said Tia reassuringly. and what did it matter because soon it would be over whatever happened. her mother was the last person she wanted to talk about. and now. the moment the door closed behind her she would remember things that she really wished she'd said instead and it would be too late. Lynn watched the minutes ticking by in silence. and then Lynn and Tia looked at each other again and it occurred to Lynn. Then another. and Tia agreed. that actually there were worse ways of spending the time she had left with Tia than by looking at each other . But bear in mind that I'm not around after the end of next week. So she told her. And she'd had so much to say! She had planned to tell Tia more about her mother. whether the time was spent in silence or talking. and she would have to read them all. So Lynn told Tia this too.' ‘Oh. She looked at Tia and received strength. She imagined herself writing a letter to Tia which she would eventually get.
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.
Lynn began to jot down words and then phrases at random as they occurred to her. Fortunately. Except for welcome offers of tea or coffee. Sitting on the sofa. She checked it one last time. and. Still. Now they made sense. She got up and went though to the lounge. his total refusal to listen to her or to understand what was happening inside her head. she began to cry. things she hardly knew she'd remembered. above all. and she had only just managed to control it by saying that she would phone him instead. Lynn surfaced from sleep to find that her mind had beaten her to it. 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. She fetched the jumbled notes of the night before and began reading through them. expanding. She knew deep down he cared. she phoned and told Mark that as well. Mark had not wanted to leave her alone. This had infuriated Lynn almost beyond endurance. and she had truthfully said that she wanted to be on her own to try to recall what had happened. here's 240 . * * * The next morning. As she did so. that was Mark. looked at what she had written. Armed with a pen and pad. somehow the night's sleep had helped her to remember more details. When she had finished she phoned Mark. Guilt at what she was putting him through was only outweighed by the anger she felt at his inability to trust her. and decided to go to bed. This took quite a long time. By 3 o'clock it was ready to post to Tia. It had clearly woken up some time previously and was already in gear. Dear Tia she read. she began typing. sat back exhausted and dozed fitfully for an hour. then went to bed and crashed out. Mark left her mercifully undisturbed. You remember I'd told you my Mum was very ill at that time. Mark had agreed.Mark had asked Lynn what she wanted to do that night. That was what it felt like. so they had compromised. Then she came to. I' had an accident in the bathroom the other night which reminded me of something that happened when I was about four. Well. Feeling very virtuous. clarifying.
‘You animal. As I stood up for her to dry me. Lynn paused to regroup. and I felt so I didn't 241 . . And it hurt so much. all purple and red. She stared fiercely at the picture over the fireplace and concentrated on breathing evenly. Images of her mother that evening swam up into view and she fought them down. I picked it up and my mother got very upset. . I saw an ornament on a shelf. She kept telling me to put it down. looking around the room for something else to focus on. It felt like forever. and continued: It was in our first house. and she was panting with exertion and she said. This was so hard to read.nothing's changed. "Look. The page she was looking at was shaking and it seemed to be rather blurry too. It was really ugly . I turned my head and bit her hand as she held my upper arm. I was so frightened I had wet myself. Well. She summoned her resources and read on: It made my Mum very angry.you know that Venetian glass. She described the incident in the bathroom." and she made me look at her hand and it was all red. After a few minutes she resumed reading.’ And then she said.what happened.' know it was a bad thing to say. I think she thought I'd drop it. and her breath was coming in gasps. you’re an animal! You bite. My Mum was very upset and shouted that I'd done it on purpose. ‘Don't be so stupid. She's never done that before and it hurt. but there was no escape. you've made me hurt my hand on you. She grabbed my arm with one hand to hold me still and started to smack me hard. My mother was giving me a bath. Lynn stopped reading for a little break. my mother said it to me all the time. and there was nothing I could do. Well. I don't know how long she did it for. And that made something really horrible happen. you wet yourself like an animal. I could feel a warmth running down the inside of my legs. I tried to wriggle and pull away. She didn't even look like my mother any more.it slipped through my fingers and shattered into the bath. her face was all red and twisted. it made my mum change into another person. ‘.I think a sort of clown thing my mother had got from somewhere . has it? I said. that's what it felt like. I did drop it . I was so frightened that it made me do something even more stupid. She went into a sort of a frenzy then – she couldn't stop. Then she stopped but it still kept hurting. and I said the first thing that came into my head .
She had three kids. and she said. "Stay there until I say you can come out . but I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew someone was waking me up – but it wasn't my Mum. and was given lots of sweets. This was some other little girl she was writing about.I was in another place. otherwise they wouldn't have. I don't remember their names but I remember that I sat on people's laps a lot. that was rather how she felt now. wet as I was. What happened to the little girl next? She read on with interest. because I had made her hurt her hand. and I had made her pain come back.bewildered then because I had thought that it was me that was hurting. that's the only way I can describe it . I knew that it would have been my fault. I would have killed her.peritonitis set in and they thought she was going to die. And then she clutched at her stomach and sort of screamed out. Come to think of it." And she went downstairs and I just didn’t know what to do. I guess they didn't know all those bad things about me. Lynn considered this. I lay awake in the dark for what seemed forever. I had a nice time at my Auntie Gwen's. 'After six weeks my Mum came back and she was very thin and pale and I didn't 242 . How could she like me? How could anyone like me? Anyway. all quite a bit older than me and they all made a fuss of me. I had a happy time there.I don't want to see you again until you’re a human being again. not a proper human being at all. then continued. I wanted her. and sort of threw me into my bedroom and it was dark. it was the next door neighbour. and if she had died. I was in another place. And she would have died not liking me because I had purposely broken her ornament and said she was stupid and bitten her and I was an animal. ‘I didn't see my mother for six weeks because there were complications . but she didn’t want me. I learned later that my mother had been rushed into hospital in the night with a perforated appendix. 'After a while I crawled into bed as I was and I could hear her moaning and crying downstairs. not her. My Mum had gone and I was taken to stay with my Auntie OGwen in Wales. It seemed rather a strange thing to say but it was the only way she could think of to explain how she felt. ‘And you've made my pain come back!" and she grabbed me out of the bath. And I thought she was going to die. Lynn smiled as she read that bit.
Lynn chewed her lip. Tia. I'll see you next week as you said I could. Anyway. That little girl. Lynn sighed as she read this. She reread the final paragraph.no more. Lynn couldn't help feeling glad. but she was very loving and so pleased to see me. though actually she wasn't sure if she liked her either. Only a few more days and then . anyway. debated on scrawling ‘Thanks for everything' or ‘I really appreciate all you've done' and decided to save it for a farewell card. ‘Lynn'. But it was funny because I couldn't forget that somehow I had made her go away. Anyway.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. and a sort of monster person ihad come n her place. and I was pleased to see her too. 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.recognise her at first. She folded the letter and put it in an envelope. She would go out for a walk and post it later. but that couldn't be helped. She signed the letter simply. She couldn't believe it. So I might do something by accident to make my mum go away again and then she might never come back. whoever she was. 243 . The letter appeared to have been written a bit childishly too. had gone. She couldn't help feeling sorry for the little girl in the story. 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. though Lynn wasn't sure why she thought this. 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. That’s how it seemed to me then. you'll appreciate I feel a bit weird remembering all this. so unless you hear anything from me to the contrary. Right now she needed to lie down. That way she would be able to cope. it was all over now. and I think I would like to see you sooner rather than later.
She sat like a model. Even nodding and simply replying. the letter. still. taste it like bile in her mouth. nothing I can do about it. ‘How. Tia spoke again. to remember the letter she had written .the Lynn-that-might-have-been engaging with the Tia that-might-have-been. There's no reason for it.was it just a few days ago? It seemed much longer now. Her facial muscles felt paralysed and she seemed to be doing things in slow motion. not wanting to waste a precious moment . or moving away. Even more amazing. ‘I got your letter. She looked at Tia. sitting opposite her. She had imagined herself holding forth. In fact. ‘Yes. Time and tide wait for no man. talking nineteen to the dozen. had Tia. inexorable as the tide. ‘I knew you'd say that. It was so odd. missing nothing. focused. from drinking in every detail of this encounter. Tia was wearing a black vee-neck sweater and a bottle-green skirt. elegant. the despair. and focused. ‘Ah.' A bitter exhaustion welled up within her. And there is nothing. to this person that I know nothing about but I long to be friends with. Lynn could feel the helplessness. in this day and age. She had imagined a thousand things. her mind could hardly think them. with 244 . It's over. and that's it. except . but not this. The moments ticked by. nothing. can this be happening? I've just got to say goodbye. Tia looked at her. She looked as thin and angular as ever. It was bizarre. wanted to smile and say. yes.' Your letter? What letter? Lynn wrenched her mind away from the here and now.' said Tia. She could feel it hurting her chest. Today. poised. She's not dying. she sounded normal. So perhaps. She thought.' Lynn. but her lips refused to frame the words.' would have done.The Rules.Chapter 21 ‘So. She could think of nothing to say. the inevitability. she'd rehearsed it several times. Lynn shook herself free of the spell that seemed to being cast over her. who means so much to me. from imprinting this image of Tia on her heart for ever. ‘Today is the day we say goodbye to each other.' Amazing! She could speak. It's bloody mad.' In fact. her throat. She looked helplessly at her.
Something of what Lynn felt must have showed in her face. and now you're leaving me too! It's just the same!' cried Lynn despairingly. She couldn't help being ill. It seemed real when I was writing it. Have you . I know! Thought about longer term counselling? No!' Tia was silent. ‘Just the same?' 245 . Like there was a monster there that would come back if I wasn't careful. Lynn. . what got into her at times? But how to begin? ‘I . said you wanted to talk about it today. ‘Yes.' Yes. Then she said. there's not a lot of time left. ‘I didn't forget what you'd written. I'm not sure what to say. thank heaven! That was what she wanted to talk about. I read your letter several times over. Like it was my fault. was it?' ‘It was a very bad thing to happen to a four year old. on what Tia was saying. as though feeling for each word.' Lynn felt hurt. it was all coming back now. Tia's look softened. This was a big issue to raise as we are coming towards the end of our time together.well. your mother left you . ‘ . or even this morning. It wasn't a very good thing to happen to a four year old. Like I'd nearly killed her. Didn't Tia remember what she'd put in the letter? She must have read it only yesterday. ‘When you were four. .' Something clicked.' Lynn looked at Tia in surprise. . . . Lynn. I just wondered how you felt about it when you remembered. ?' ‘I know. . It wasn't her fault. speaking unusually energetically. ‘Did you? Did you really read it several times over? Really?' ‘Yes I really did. for Tia. She was leaning forward.' Lynn heard only one thing.some difficulty. Honestly. ‘But she came back.' ‘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.
. At length she said slowly. ‘My mother went away suddenly .' Suddenly. A burst appendix was no one’s fault. ‘Tia. Lynn thought hard. ‘What do you think?’ said Tia. ‘it wasn't my fault. Looked away. She didn’t choose to leave. but she wasn’t sure she entirely believed her. My going away isn’t your fault. shut it. . maybe not just the same. .you're going away. Lynn thought. I thought it was my fault. had to know. because you . But she couldn’t stop herself. It's just the way things are. ‘And when my mother went away. And that had been too bad to be contemplated. But I knew in advance that you were going away.‘Yes!' ‘Why do you say that?' ‘Well. Tia's eyebrows arched enquiringly. even though it was so stupid.was it?' She looked at Tia appealingly. are you?' She shut her eyes and waited.' Tia said. . what did it matter now? She'd let Tia have that one. . . . . But it wasn't my fault . It's no one's fault. not choosing to leave me . No . . I don't hate you. looked back. .' Lynn stopped. It had been that or leaving after only having seen Tia for three sessions. But against her will. ‘We agreed it. . a new and awful thought struck Lynn. It was a stupid question – so stupid – Tia might be angry if she even asked it. . Oh well.' said Lynn. phrase by phrase.with no warning.' she conceded. But that wasn't fair. She looked at Tia. ‘No. felt a question forming like a bubble in her mind. you're not . But . she'd been desperate. She had a burst appendix. it's . I know it's crazy. hate me . I know it. but . she had to risk it. to punish me .you agreed it. She opened her mouth. That can’t be my fault can it?' she said in a whisper. But Tia's steady gaze gave her the courage to articulate it. ‘No.' she said wearily. ‘No. she'd agreed it too. but this was different somehow. heard Tia's quiet voice. .' But Lynn felt unnerved by this new idea.' ‘We agreed it. Does it 246 . Tia was saying it. . I've got to ask this. But . ‘Well.
‘Lynn. It was totally up to her. or she could choose to be thirty-four. more gently.' There was a silence. Finally. She could choose to be four. Tia was not in the hating business. ‘I don't think my mother hated me either. she looked at Tia from between her fingers. and it was a real choice.seem to you that I hate you?' Lynn could feel tears seeping under the lids of her closed eyes. and at least it worked. If Tia did indeed hate her. bent her head floorwards and opened her eyes. feeling that nothing in the world could induce her to open them again. do you think I hate you?' ‘Yes! No! I don't know!' Tia's voice came again. this time with a slight edge of firmness in it. A silence that had plainly. She could believe Tia. ‘It would be a triumph if you could open your eyes.' Ulp! Lynn covered her face with her hands. she knew for certain that it was true. The four year old was still there. 'And what did you hear me say?' Lynn. ‘That you don't hate me. Tia!' Lynn was sure of this. then she was a bloody good actress! She said. For good measure. Then. automatically sat up straighter in her chair. still with her hands over her face. She thought of Tia's smile. still with her eyes shut. who as far as she knew had never lied to her. 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. realised that she had a choice. do you believe that I tell the truth?" 'Oh. ‘Well then!' hanging in it. or she could believe her own notoriously unreliable feelings. yes. but at least she was doing what the thirty four year old told her. ‘Lynn. feeling utterly and foolishly four-ish. heard Tia ask again. she removed her fingers one by one and looked Tia in the face. Lynn. The 247 . After a while she heard Tia say softly. ‘I don't think you hate me. As the moments ticked by. She sat there with her eyes shut. she added.' and realised that was true too.' and as she said it. To Lynn's surprise.
She had a sudden mental picture of Tia as a willowy. Lynn had never really heard Tia laugh out loud so spontaneously before. What did? Lynn couldn't be bothered to ask. I'm sure.had.' ‘Corneal scarring?' As soon as she said it. ‘It takes a long time. Surprised. and then. Lynn looked at Tia.Tia . and with a social life that was the envy of every girl in her class. Tia threw Lynn a quizzical look. she waited for it all to go wrong. Lynn slumped in her chair and beamed back.' Tia hesitated. But Tia had. 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. ‘Whatever made you think of that? No. what was that word? Self-disclosed. Something. effortlessly tossing off her homework.due to flagrant flouting of school rules concerning safety goggles in labs. Numbly. She'd done it again.' she said sympathetically. Old habits died hard. ‘My eyes aren't suitable. 'that you know about only too well. Della had said they never did that. totally unexpectedly. Have you ever considered contact lenses Tia?' she suddenly found herself asking. highlighted her delicate cheekbones and the dusting of freckles over her nose and reflected off her glasses. 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. But Tia's laugh had golden tones. All the rules were being broken today. I'm afraid. ‘Yes . she must like her. Tia laughed out loud. Lynn went cold inside.winter sunshine gilded the outline of Tia's hair like a golden pot scourer. Sixth formers think they are above such things. oh surely. to her. She sat there in a happy daze until 248 . the one all the lads fancied.' she added. Lynn was reminded of Sandra's silvery laugh. Tia saw it and her lips twitched in response. She should have left it there. laughed again. Tia . not really. Surely then. with genuine amusement. seeming to feel that this was not enough. 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.' Incredulously. paused. and added. Tia gazed unconcernedly back. laughing sixth former.
She looked hopefully at Tia. oh. . waiting patiently. was bearable. after a while. and then . That made sense The silence continued.' It was the only way she could think of to describe it. ‘And I'm sorry for losing my rag last time. she was sorry. present. Whatever it had been like for Tia. she wanted to leave with some dignity! But. And because Tia could bear it. so supple. The numbness returned. She looked at Tia. Each time Tia looked reliably the same and her gaze held Lynn's peacefully as though even this was OK. being there with her. Tia did understand.' responded Tia. It was amazing her brain was working at all.' said Lynn. But it was still hard . Damn! She hadn't meant to say that. could hold it so lightly. Dammit. or didn't say. From time to time she glanced at the clock and then back at Tia.a look at the clock revealed that time was passing far too swiftly. ‘Oh Tia. ‘Anger is a part of real relationships. We've worked very hard together. Lynn's mind thrashed around in the numbness like someone trying to take off a sweater under three layers of overcoats. She nodded in recognition. . ‘and we've had a real relationship. and you've come a long way. Lynn. and she was touched in the midst of her anguish. to what was going on right now. It was a depressing repeat of the previous session. Less than half an hour left of Tia's bright presence. ‘You've been really . able to flex this way or that depending on whatever Lynn said.' she blurted out at last.' she said. sycophantic mouthings. for her it had been really special. like my brain’s frozen.' said Tia. the time ticked away.' 249 . She knew Tia didn't need her apology. so effortlessly balanced. ‘Mmm. She hoped Tia would understand. She looked at Tia. ‘Thank you. for her. Lynn could too. her whole psyche tuned to Lynn's needs. She could sense Tia's tuned-in-ness to her change in state. ‘Grieving will come later. Tia seemed to Lynn like a gymnast or a ballet dancer.darkness.' Lynn added. It was unbelievable. ‘I guess so.' she said despondently. that wouldn't just sound like silly.' she added. thanks for being there for me. stricken. 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. but she could come up with nothing to say.so hard! ‘I feel kind of numb.
with little verse from a poem inside that she'd always liked .by Henry van Dyke. Were therapists allowed to accept gifts? Would Tia want to accept it? Suppose she refused it? What would that feel like? Was she willing to take the risk? 250 . Out of sight is not out of mind' and signed it. but now she had. She took them and held them on her lap. she couldn't leave it unsaid. looking at them. wow! ‘And I will certainly remember you. She had come a long way. She wished she hadn't thought of it. nodding her head for emphasis.' Oh.she was laughing a lot today! This was the moment. Oh. I almost forgot. That was all. A question that frightened her.A real relationship. ‘For you. new ways Pass by Love stays. On the card Lynn had written 'Thank you Tia. For some reason this made Tia laugh again . But Lynn could feel another question trembling on her lips. The box contained a pendant – three cubes of crystal glass held withing a simple silver filigree on a silver chain. 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. ‘Oh yes.' she said mendaciously. flowers die. 'Lynn'. Lynn. And it was true. New days. Tia?' Oh please don't let Tia do one of her ‘What do you think?' kind of responses! She couldn't bear it. ‘Oh. ‘I will certainly remember you. Though she would hardly describe Tia as 'see-through'. that was nice! The sun was definitely shining now. whoever he was. Hours fly. dragging a card and small black plush-covered box out of her pocket and passing them to Tia as nonchalantly as she could.' said Tia emphatically. The card was a photograph of some meadow flowers.' 'For me?' Tia looked surprised.will you remember me.' replied Lynn solemnly. Strangely it had reminded her of Tia – lovely and minimalist. Lynn was in agony. ‘Will you .
Tia. please stop me Tia!' But Tia didn't. It was hers to do with as she chose. Then.' was all she could think of to say. ‘Oh. She gazed at the pendant inside. Then Lynn looked at the clock. though she could hardly get the words out. After what seemed an age. slowly and thoughtfully she opened the box. She had not refused.' She had to in first! She suddenly found herself on her feet saying. In her mind she had imagined Tia saying 'Thank you' and putting the card and the box to one side. What mattered was that Lynn had given it to her. She opened it and read the verse inside and the inscription inside and smiled again. Tia looked up. Now she waited to see what would happen. looking serious. There was a moment of quiet that seemed to fill the whole room.20.' She began to open the card. She couldn't bear it. What she did with the pendant now was not important. and she smiled. 251 . What mattered was that Lynn had given them to her and she had accepted. her touch lingering fractionally on Lynn's sleeve. That was the most she had dared hope for. simply couldn't bear it now if Tia said ‘Our time is up. ‘Thanks again. she caught herself pleading inside.' Lynn knew she meant it. 'Thank you Lynn. and silently accompanied Lynn to the door. It's beautiful. Lynn wasn't prepared for that. don't open it now! Wait till I've gone.' Tia ignored her. brimful of emotion. Lynn was satisfied. She looked at the picture on the card. Now here was Tia opening the card. she reached out and lightly touched Tia's arm. ‘Time to go. She stood up. Tia had not said that she would keep the pendant – or the card – but that was not the issue. Tia reached out her other arm and lightly touched Lynn's in return. Otherwise she would spend her life wondering if she might have accepted it and regretting she hadn't dared try. “Thank you Lynn.' As Lynn heard herself saying the words. Even if Tia refused it at least she would know. as though what Lynn had said was perfectly right and true. Lynn turned back to Tia. To her amazement. scarcely knowing what she was doing. Finally she looked up at Lynn. Tia put the card and the box carefully on the desk behind her and turned back to Lynn. She felt the adrenalin jolt unpleasantly through her body.Finally she decided 'Yes'. At the door. and. It said 3. stop me. ‘Oh.
' she thought desolately. Out of sight is not out of mind. Thank you. it's beautiful . She was home now. . Tia's face danced in front of Lynn's mental vision. Pain and joy churned together like the clothes in a washing machine. in some tiny way. would she have minded if I'd hugged her goodbye? Remembering that touch. Tia did like her. ‘I could have hugged her goodbye. . but simply replayed parts of the conversation over and over in her head.' But then – it would have been nice (she supposed) but did it really matter? Really? She remembered Tia's smile.' Tia touched me. Even if they never met again. ‘I don't hate you . Tia was right. I won't forget you .. This time she did not hear it close until she was halfway down the corridor.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. only feelings. She put it away from her. Then she squared her shoulders and walked out of the door. ‘Grieving will come later' Tia had said. 252 . It was for later. It simply could not be so. But it wouldn't stay away. Did like her. But they were skewed now. Tia.' All the way home. she thought. Out of sight is not out of mind. Tia did like her. The joy was engendered by the simple knowledge that Tia did like her. ‘You're welcome.' ‘Bye. ‘I could have hugged her goodbye. Into Lynn's happy recollections lanced a shaft of agony. . The pain seemed unreal . as Tia was part of her. and Tia touching her back saying. I wish you well. the way she touched her arm. the joy was uppermost. . She remembered touching Tia's arm. her smile as she said 'Out of sight is not out of mind'. . smiling back determinedly at Tia's chin.' said Lynn. Lynn did not bother to work out how she knew this. ‘Goodbye Lynn. . She adjusted her bag more firmly on her shoulder and walked up the stairs to the flat. but puzzlingly. she was part of Tia. We've had a real relationship. Lynn's sore heart was comforted. In vain she invoked memories.' said Tia. Grieving. Tia was always right. . It was enough. Tia had said so. . . Lynn thought not.‘You are most welcome. Could not. She could see Tia was smiling.
and tried to kiss her again. won't you? Just for a little while. sounding placating. a woman's. Della's arms tightened around her. This had never occurred before. stepped past the case and into the hallway. ‘Lynn! Thank heavens.' she croaked. and found their lips colliding. sounding shrill. she swung round. Lynn could smell her perfume.As she rounded the corner. When she saw Lynn. expensive leather suitcase. and shaking. and something else . One of them was Mark's. urbane and sparkling Della that Lynn knew. This Della was haggard. with smudged make-up and dark. It was a large. I've finally left him' in a kind of semi-hysteria. This was what came of being 253 . I couldn't take any more. and another voice.' before Della was hanging round her neck and burbling. . who looked past her towards Lynn as she approached. embraced her. You'll take me in. Lynn saw Mark's face looking amazed. stepped towards her. . ‘I couldn't take any more. She couldn't make sense of what Della was saying. ‘I've left Deryk. Lynn reached the doorway. thank you!' said Della. All she could think of was ‘So this is what it's like to be kissed by a woman. As Della saw his look. I came to you. She saw that the door was ajar because of something blocking it. . She looked different. You're the only one I can think of. ‘Oh thank you. a look of immense relief flooded her face. Lynn could see that the front door was uncharacteristically open. haunted eyes. ? Then Lynn recognised the voice. I've left him. What the . in her efforts to turn her head slightly out of the way. . ‘Left Deryk?' Lynn echoed.' she said.' Della was weeping in earnest now. Lynn. It was Della's. she could hear voices. and before Lynn could stop her. and kissed her full on the mouth. Over Della's shoulder. Gone was the immaculately coiffed.aniseed? Automatically she put her arms around Della. ‘Sure Dell. Lynn realised that Della was afraid. As she approached the door. Della was standing with her back to the door facing Mark. What could have happened? Burglars? Lynn felt the hairs on her neck prickle and she mounted the remaining steps more quickly. She was weeping into Lynn's shoulder .
and as though their lips were glued together. ‘Mark?' He turned his head to look at her. She reached out and touched his shoulder. and. On the receiving end of Lynn's vice-like grip. What to do? In the face of Della's ruination and despair she couldn't abandon her. can you take Della's bag into the study? We'll get the futon out.Lynn did it. Something about the rigidity of his posture rang alarm bells in her mind. ‘What fool I’ve been . say something to break the spell. She could never tell which way to turn. and I never realised. God.what a bloody fool. All this time.' said Della. Della was kissing her again. shoved a box of tissues into her hand. Mark reached behind her. which was to hold Mark.' ‘I know. She struggled to free herself from Della's kiss and pythonesque embrace and after what seemed an eternity. His eyes glittered. ‘It will just be for a little while. I know.' To Della she said gently. The only humane thing to do seemed to be to continue to hold her gently and. She put out a hand to grab the side of the desk. you and Della. Dell. took the case. what a bloody fool! You must have been laughing your heads off.' Lynn could feel her knees actually buckling in terror. Della abandoned her efforts to embrace her and merely stood there weeping. out of the corner of her eye she saw Mark standing like a statue. but surely Della didn’t .left-handed. It took all her courage to do it. though she had to hold Della's arms down to do it. and meeting no response relaxed it altogether. To her consternation. his face a mask of disbelief. My god. . ‘Won't be a minute. Moving as one in a dream. The problem was that this prevented her doing the one thing she really wanted to do. with his face set in stone. took it into the study. warily. and murmuring. ‘Mark. ‘Mark. . the case by his side on the floor.' made a dash for the study and shut the door behind her. Mark was standing with his back to her. She was clearly at the end of her tether. full and hard. Lynn had to do something. she succeeded. She guided Della to the settee in the lounge. She had to speak to him. no! Let me explain!' 254 . Lynn tentatively relaxed her hold slightly.
You certainly had me fooled!' This was more terrible than anything Lynn could have imagined. past the open living room door and Della's hunched back. But not fast enough to avoid hearing Mark's parting shot.' ‘Please what? It's over. through the open doorway. made worse by the fact that she hadn't even seen it coming. She backed away. down the stairs and out into the darkened street. Go back to your lover. your phone switched off . then turned and fled.then that one you said you went to see in Tottenham . She needs you. 'At least Gina left me for another man!' 255 . Well. you had me fooled.your old school friend the church stuff .please . ‘Mark .‘Explain what! All that sneaking off.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.' A sense of unreality came over Lynn.
She let go. Lynn. 256 . The glimpse of that still. She followed him in. bright. but she could hardly refuse. checking again the name on the wall with the one the neighbour. grieving soul with a pinny on. She hesitated outside it. had given her. very brightly lit room that seemed full of people. with half-moon glasses.. that it seemed to Lynn there must be some mistake. a plastic hospital jug and beaker and. ‘Ah. A nurse. and then said. ‘I'm Alec. a bowl of fruit. He clearly had no idea who she was. It felt dry and firm. and came out.' He stared at her uncomprehendingly for several moments. he looked at Lynn and gave a small gentle smile. intimidating. incongruously. warm. whom she had never met. It couldn't be Lauren there. Hardly knowing what she was saying. bright. The nurse spoke briefly to a man by the side of the bed and he looked up. elderly. He was tall and thin. that she could hardly see. surrounded by tubing and wired up to a monitor which she supposed it must be Lauren. A sob caught in her throat. Come in then.' By the open entrance to the ward. clearly going though mental lists. It just couldn't be.' he said. ‘Mrs Grainger? In the side ward near the door. The bananas clawed their stubby yellow fingers with black nails over some bright orange satsumas and horribly pale-looking Golden Delicious. saw Lynn. Lynn caught a glimpse of a small. a small. Despite the fact that his eyes were full of pain and he appeared as though he hadn't slept for days. ‘You've come to see Lauren. Lynn had known only Lauren's first name.' Lynn was not sure if she wanted to see Lauren like this. she murmured. but not too firm. but the description had been enough. doll-like image was so horribly unlike her last memory of Lauren. This must be Alec. She's got family with her. she shook it. It was very bare.' and held out his hand. ‘I'm Lynn. Mechanically. full of life. Wait – I'll just see. Inside there a small figure in a bed.Chapter 22 Lynn found the ward. As she opened the door to the side ward. automatically glancing round the room. On the locker there were three cards. sterile. whisking by with a tray of dressings and kidney bowls had taken pity on her.
he picked up Lauren's hand. but Lynn hardly noticed them. Good of her to come? How could she not? As she registered his gentleness. ‘She collapsed. the way her lips were just parted beneath it. All the lines seemed to have gone from her face. We'll know more if – when – they can do a scan.' his voice shook slightly ' if it's stopped bleeding yet. As though registering everything photographically. We'll see. and held it cares singly. We never give up hope. she noted the delicate veining on Lauren's eyelids. even in the midst of his own agony. You're a friend of Lauren's. the one without the drip in. aren't you? She spoke of you.in the brain.' He smiled at her again. and there was the same kindness in his eyes that she had seen in Lauren's. the hair damply matted flat against her scalp looking more like a cap than ever. ‘It depends. ‘Will she be all right?' To her amazement.that Lynn could not bear it. the red marks left by the mask on Lauren's skin. she turned to face Alec. Three spotty tear-stained adolescents glowered at her from the other side of the bed. They think it was an aneurism . She turned again to Alec and asked. with a question in her eyes. he said consideringly. he did not treat the remark with the contempt that it deserved. Involuntarily. It depends if . her cropped head on the pillow.' As he spoke.' This completely took the wind out of Lynn's sails. Her eyes were inexorably drawn to the still figure making a barely discernible mound beneath the white sheet. as though she was asleep. the thought flashed through her mind before she could stop it. Thank you. his concern for her.. but her condition isn't stable enough to do a scan yet. She had an oxygen mask over her mouth and nose. ‘It was good of you to come. Instead. and she was breathing rhythmically with a very slight snore. The situation seemed unreal. Hardly aware of what she was doing. If Lauren dies. the pallor of her cheeks.The vivid colours of the fruit seemed obscenely incongruous in the grubby sterility of the room.a blood clot . ‘What a lovely man. It was pretty obvious Lauren wouldn't be eating any of it. as though he could not bear to be not touching her. Lynn turned back to look at Lauren. idiotically. Lynn did not know what she was expected to do. I 257 . She looked so vulnerable and child-like. Lauren looked very peaceful and somehow very young.
or would have. he was already bending back over the bed. ‘No thanks.' she said. ‘I . Alec held out his hand again. Lynn looked back at Lauren. I am evil! Oh God. It was generous of you at such a time. with an old-fashioned courtesy and she shook it. and as she walked away. It was over. still sending her hate messages and patently longing for her to go and the thought.could divorce Mark and marry Alec. but the oxygen mask precluded that. said. who had so much more right to grieve than she did? It was all too horribly public. hardly knowing what she was saying. but he was already holding it. Wonderingly. It felt cool and damp and bird-like. ‘I'll see you again.' What she really wanted to say was. She'd never said anything like that before. glad of his touch. ‘Thank you for letting me see her.I'll pray for you all. She turned to him. ‘Bye. she saw Alec's smile broaden.' She couldn't believe she'd thought it.' but how could she. as if she'd said something really valuable. She was so close that she could have brushed her lips against Lauren's cheek. * * * 258 . and turned to go. He nodded to her without speaking. It was time to go. suffering children. ‘Thank you.' she found herself saying. Lauren. Lauren had given no sign at all that she had any awareness of Lynn's presence. But movement caught her eye and she looked beyond Alec to the unprepossessing youths. her voice a whisper. help me! Nothing happened. to show she cared. as though by doing this she was again touching Lauren by proxy. To her surprise. ‘Thank you. leant towards her. She was intruding. as Alec was doing. in the presence of those scowling . Lynn straightened up.' again to no one in particular. She would have loved to stay and gaze at Lauren. Oh God..' She groped for something to say to show her appreciation. I'm not taking them on too!' flashed up.' she said. ‘I'll pray for you too. if the situation had not been so awful. to hold her hand. ‘I love you. God is the bottom line in all this. We'd appreciate it. and was surprised at the sound of her voice. She put her hand on Lauren's shoulder and squeezed it ever so ever so gently.' Still not knowing what to do. The idea was so ludicrous that she had to smile.
. ‘But I am not you. not her! I messed Mark up. Lynn shakily began to process what had happened.’ Lynn sat. something inexplicable happened.But I am not you? And where did this incredible sense of safety and well-being.Lynn sat in the park by the hospital. that was screaming in despair inside her. so manipulative! . This voice was quiet. ‘Is that you. That voice had interrupted her. so caring. Her heart felt as damp and dull and lifeless as the air around her. The dull lowering sky mirrored the dull black earth covered with dull brown. .! Oh my God! Have I ever been real? I thought I was being so honest and I've been living such a lie. but crystal clear. A voice came into her head like a shaft of light. except for something deep down that would not be silenced. had spoken to her? As she sat there she became aware that if it was God. screwed up my life. ‘Oh God. God . quiet. Lynn spoke aloud. But what did it mean . While Mark . you must hate me! I know I would if I were you!' Even as she was thinking this. unlike anything she had ever experienced in her life before. Lynn had listened to many voices in her head. he had said exactly the right 259 . Now I've screwed up my marriage. rigid with shock. God .thinking my need to be needed was a desire to help people. screaming to Lauren's God. unable to stop herself. When she had heard it say But I am not you. God?' No answer came into her mind.what a mess! What a mess! God. you must despise me! All the time I thought I was so clever. She found herself still speaking the last sentence in her head. And all the time I was all the things I hate – it was me trying to control the sessions with Tia. . gentle. it had overlaid the thoughts she was thinking so completely that it finished before she did. . come from? Hardly knowing what she was doing. but never to one that had done that. but she felt a sense of affirmation in the air around her. her mind wiped empty of all thought. sodden miserable leaves. forced him to fit his life round mine – and so secretive. . It was a voice you didn't mess with. In her life. After a couple of seconds of absolute silence. I am in agony! Oh what a fool I've been! God if you are there. screwed up everything . such a nice person. oh God. and very much in control. .
subsumed in the totality of this now experience. It felt wonderful. Perhaps it wasn't long. it was true. Lynn didn't know how long she sat there. of Della. knew her.. This was a bit much even by her standards. Nothing – no saying of her mother's – had worked. She had tried everything to take her mind of the pain. into Lynn's mind flashed a scene from her miscarriage. he was different. Within a few minutes. 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. The message implicit was ‘I am not you. She pondered this new mystery. and was holding her right now.' The nurse had heard her and said. or actually any less painful. of the endings with Tia and Lauren. Lynn had said to Mark. ‘I don't really know if I can take much more. (could she be imagining this?) there was amusement in it too. other. On the other hand. the way Lauren would have said it . and you. He was God. perhaps it was.. ‘I wish I hadn't made a fuss. And. who had been holding her hand. Of course he wasn't her. Somehow these things seemed different. when the contractions were coming on top of each other and hurting like hell. They hurt just as much. and injected her thigh. ‘I'll give you a shot of Pethidine. How could this be? Suddenly. I am Me. It was the impact of another personality meeting. She just felt stronger.thing. But it wasn't that they were any less important.this God whom she didn't know. There was no need to question it. ‘Did you think I was like you?' the voice was saying. so will you kindly stop trying to behave as if you are?' Lynn sat marvelling at the wonder of it. I can cope with the pain now. ‘Isn't that the truth drug?' The nurse had laughed.' But the odd thing was that the pain had still felt as bad.' ‘Pethidine?' Lynn had said. are not Me. Eventually she stirred and began to think of Mark. she could feel it inside. It was only later that it had dawned on Lynn that it was actually the drug that had effected 260 . She had murmured to Mark. It was real. He was laughing at her. 'I can't be pigeon-holed.only much better. the way Lauren had. simply experiencing it. (who had said that?). meshing with hers. My tiny little one. contained in the tiny box of your expectations.' But so softly. God had spoken to her .
the pure joy of simply being with her. It was not as she had last seen her. ‘God laughs?' and then she remembered that Lauren had laughed a lot. ‘The next time. All the things Lauren was going to tell her. It lasted fractionally. so alive. Maybe Lauren had caught it from him. the image of Lauren at her front door changed to one of Lauren at another door. but waiting to welcome her in. reluctant as she was to think about it. how could it. The pain was just as bad. The 261 . and. but it was unmistakable. She had not met Lauren in the hospital. Lauren simply had not been there. had already gone. I'll be waiting. so valued? But she did. all that Lauren meant. whom she loved so much.’ Lynn whispered. Lynn shivered again. The Pethidine was working. * * * Lynn stood up. It was solidly there. not any more. laughing and saying ‘Here's to the next time we meet. She was no longer knowable because she no longer existed. all the things they might have shared. like a child. that she felt so approved of. but now. She knew in her heart that she would never see her again.that change. not saying goodbye. Aloud she said. laughter that combined amusement and authority and tenderness. Lynn felt a a bolt of agony lance through her. ‘Yeah. And how could it be. and unbidden. She'd better get herself home before anyone noticed how oddly she was behaving. maybe she had. The leaves around her feet that had seemed so dingy before were still dingy. though she couldn't think why. Despite herself. she sensed laughter in the air around her. and reached out in panic to this new awareness within her. She thought. At the memory of Lauren and how she had left her in the hospital. but she could cope. she'd better try to work out what to do when she got there. all gone! Because Lauren and all that Lauren was. but Lauren standing by her front door.’ It had seemed a strange remark at the time. but what if the Pethidine runs out?' Just for a moment. Suddenly. And just as the worst wave of anguish yet rolled in to engulf Lynn she suddenly had a picture of Lauren in her head. she felt like laughing herself. in the hospital bed. Yes. And that was how it felt now. doubtfully. Lauren.
but whom? Oh well. As she walked home through the park she began to make plans. but do it she would! As Lynn hesitated. . How she was going to do it all she didn't know. She heard Debbie's voice. the air was still damp.’ Was it Tia's voice? Was it too much? Oh.she was hooked now. .Mark to listen just one more time. your client has arrived. Everything! And she would phone up Relate. 'Lynn.sky was still lowering. she heard a voice in her head . and find someone to talk to about God . She would ask – beg . Lynn's head was buzzing . find out how to get referred as Tia had suggested.what was Tia saying? ‘Steady on. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Actually. somehow . . wellmodulated voice. she’d find someone. Maybe she should go to her doctor.a measured. still smiling. frowning. Don't take on too much. Della would have to go . So . And she would definitely look around for a course in counselling . saying. But inside her the sun was shining through. immediately. there are some big issues to think about here.and she knew she needed to get going on it right away! There was no time to lose. . . . And she would tell him everything. ‘Lynn. and soon. Shall I send her up?' 262 . I wonder if it's worth thinking about prioritising?' It was Tia's voice. sod Tia! She’d soon find out! Lynn picked up the phone.
Lauren. 263 . may appear. and at some point the third volume in the series. Della's Story is a work in progress.Author's note Conversations with Tia was originally conceived as part of a trilogy.
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