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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
She could feel her spot throbbing. But then Della wouldn't. By focusing intently. Would Dr Bradley think so? What would she be like? Would she be gentle and smiley. ‘Mrs Davies? Come this way please. 'I didn't mean to startle you. It was not a good one. shoving the card into her pocket. And nowhere to put it if there was.' She looked up. measured pace. A sense of adolescent angst descended on Lynn like a personalized raincloud . Lynn sighed. Experimentally she touched her face with her finger. Lynn recognized that feeling.. What am I doing here? What am I expecting? Why am I making such a fuss? Was she making a fuss? Lynn couldn't tell.’ the therapist said.' mumbled Lynn. knowing in advance that there would be no ‘J'. no leaflets about cystitis or five portions a day.' She followed the tall figure along the corridor. Absolutely nothing. matching her footsteps to the slow. ‘I’m sorry. Lynn.what on earth did it matter if Dr Bradley liked her or not? She was just there to do a job. But really . regarding her with a look of gentle inquiry. Lynn managed to get to 'F' when she was jolted back into her surroundings by the sound of a quiet voice. but it came in handy. It was worse than the dentist's. and it must not be allowed to get worse. And what would Dr Bradley think of her? Would she like her? Surely she would? Most people did. back past the turn-off she had come 6 .thirty-four and she still had spots. 'Miles away. Ouch. No credit to her. of course. or doing violence to your doctor. except in lists of names.missing items off. Lynn rose to her feet abruptly. Della never had spots. Lynn supposed it might be. There never was. Well. Lynn consulted her watch. Two twenty-seven. Why did it have to come now? Bloody marvellous . Her appointment was for two thirty. no posters warning you of the penalties for drink driving. This is madness. ‘Q’ was hard as well.' ' 'S all right. she thought. A woman was standing about four metres away. To distract herself she hurriedly took out her appointment card and began to look for the letters of the alphabet in sequence. not even an ancient Telegraph supplement or a Hello magazine with the cover off. or searching and abrasive and tell her to get out more? It would be interesting to find out. No pictures of acrylic landscapes or sunflowers. Sort of.
Perhaps she should get some. She would have preferred someone slightly older. Shut up. There were bookcases full of books and a desk at the window with some flowers on. she said quickly. hurriedly relaxing her grip on the arms when she saw her knuckles showing white. psychological therapies service . and her hands resting lightly in her lap.or a parallel universe. the top one pulled out. The therapist was looking at her. . . and Lynn instinctively took the one with its back against the wall. Tia Bradley and I am a clinical psychologist . sharp-featured stranger. She wore her skirts shorter than Lynn did. . How strangely this building was laid out. thought Lynn. Dr Bradley gestured towards the the corner. to a door inset into an alcove into the passage just beyond it. The therapist seated herself opposite. But against her expectations. with a cloudy mass of reddish curly-permed hair and granny glasses. She found herself fantasizing that the door would somehow open back into the corridor she had just walked down . where there were two low chairs set at an angle to each other. . I understand all that. and Lynn looked at her for the first time. . This was better. at which Dr Bradley paused. . . someone a little more motherly perhaps. She seemed very young . shut up! Her head was beginning to spin. How strange that granny glasses always seemed to make people look younger. Lynn breathed again. . referred by your doctor . Quick. 'Dr Bradley. Listen. not older. not this angular. . . slanted sideways. with bare wooden arms that always reminded her of bones poking though skin. Dr Bradley was thin. She sat with her legs crossed at the ankle. airy office into which Dr Bradley serenely ushered her. the chair was surprisingly comfortable and after a moment she relaxed.through.too young to be a consultant. I know 7 . short term . . Lynn had never liked this style of chair. to assess your difficulties and whether we can be helpful to you . I can't handle this. Look alert! ‘ . surely? Lynn was not entirely sure she liked the look of her. To stem the flow. But it opened instead into a light. no miracle cures . Sit up! The therapist was speaking. . She couldn't help noticing that on the coffee table nearby there was an open box of tissues. .or a solid wall .’ Too many words! thought Lynn. stop staring. .
I may use some of the material from these sessions with my students.so . That is. No objection. Take your time. yes. changing the names. no. it is an unusual name. that's all. like psychiatrists who have first studied medicine.' Pause. Sorry. unless you have any objection?' Again a silence This time Lynn was ready.' 'You would like me to call you Lynn? And what would you prefer to call me?' Lynn hesitated. just grade them from nought to four. Sure!' ‘ sessions last fifty minutes . er. . Yes.' 'I appreciate that. It's just about general situations in your life which might be indicators of levels of well-being or stress. confidential unless I feel I need to share things you have told me which could result in harm to yourself or others . I wish I hadn't come! 'Oh. or since I also teach. 'Me? Oh.' 'Oh yes. Does she always talk so quietly? In such a measured way? Why does she look at me so . isn't it? So then Lynn.' 8 .not entirely successfully. 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. . 'Would you feel comfortable calling me Tia?' 'Tia? Oh yes.why I am here. it's agreed we will use first names. 'Do you teach here. . I knew that. There are no right answers. Lynn seized the chance to gather her wits . . And oh. I'm not expecting that. May I continue?' The therapist paused courteously and waited for Lynne’s permission to speak.thoroughly? Is my makeup sweating off? Can she see my spot? Oh god. There's about thirty of them. some people fill in all noughts. Mrs Davies. I'm not thinking straight.. of course. Their doctorate is a PhD qualification.so unusual. I just need to talk to someone. sorry. Where is it from?' 'Thank you. May I begin by asking you to fill in a questionnaire. please! Call me Lynn. of course. but I do need to explain adequately the procedures and guidelines which govern our time together. Mrs Davies. that's fine! What a pretty name .
starting halfway down the page? For goodness' sake . I don't want to fill this in. that was an easy one! Not at all. Next question. To her annoyance. Yes. She valued them too much. Usually anyway.' That was a two. I feel like a kid at school myself. 'Trouble falling asleep. She scribbled in the four with some agitation. Lynn never ever tried to control people herself. Oh. After looking up once more and meeting that unnerving stare 9 . she bent to her task. What was average? 'Moderately. It was so wrong. She opened it. If there was one thing she hated it was controlling people. Damn! Angrily. This woman was talking so calmly and quietly. better get this over with.' Well. put anything! How did they grade it? She checked the top line. Oh well. . right at this moment it was 'extremely'. nervousness or shakiness inside?' Well. controlled! That put Lynne’s back up straightaway. She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so foolish. and couldn't get back again. 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. unblinking gaze. that was it. But she was on someone else's turf now. She glanced up at Tia. At length Lynn finished. ?' glanced down and read a question at random. she put a line through the four and filled in the two again. how much were you distressed by . She was a teacher.. dammit! a professional in her own right. . Lynn could feel herself colouring. Except it was meant to be how she'd felt over the last week.start at the beginning! She looked up once more and saw that that Tia was still regarding her closely. Sighing inwardly. What about the times when she woke up at five in the morning. almost. But wait a minute. This was going to take longer than she thought. Lynn hastily bent her head to study the sheet again. Irritated. read the top line: 'During the past week. That would do. she thought. Did that count? There seemed no provision for it on the sheet. and was disconcerted to meet a thoughtful. ‘ . Hurriedly Lynn located the first question. put in her place. She scribbled out the 'two'. controlled. This situation was ridiculous.Lynn took the folded sheet of A4. And all the time she could feel Tia's eyes on her. . She fell asleep instantly. Why was this happening now? She didn't need to feel like this. Lynn glanced down at the title: Brief Symptom Inventory. But wait a minute! What was she doing.
Tia considered this. I feel so down. who already seemed to dislike her. . 'No baby?' ‘No. . lately. in front of this nonchalantly elegant woman. I should be. well. Don't you see? It wasn’t like anything died. . really . I should be over it by now. I can’t seem to pull myself together. I can't seem to snap out of it. . I've been feeling really . I . actually . . No baby.to listen to her.the . She felt depressed and agitated both at once. . there was no baby. . . You can't lose what you 10 . to meet Tia's gaze. There was nothing there. . . it's like this. Where to start? Anywhere.' Lynn felt a tiny spark of hope. Why are you wasting my time? I can't believe this is happening! She doesn't like me. 'Now Lynn. Or sometimes I just sit. Maybe it was going to be all right after all. Just start anywhere. but how could she.' 'Over what?' 'Over the .' Lynn stopped abruptly. As Tia took it.. I was only three months. er . I think I should. So I shouldn't feel like this. It was cells. well. thirty-seven days. tell me what brings you here. Sometimes they just don't grow you know. . What are you doing here? that steady gaze seemed to say. She wanted to flop in the chair and be pathetic. sort of low. Lynn! Wow! She opened her mouth to speak and nothing happened. It's been over a month now. looking concerned and ready to listen . that she was balancing a writing block on her knee and saying. . Lynn forced herself to sit up. . I cry a lot when I'm on my own. well.' Tia was saying. Time? What time? Time was ticking away. Now Tia was sitting forward. to hand back the form and the folder she'd used to rest on with a smile. .she’d given up and kept her head down. and it wasn't as if there was a baby there. really . she noticed that Tia was smiling back. 'There's plenty of time.miscarriage. Well. just cells. . suddenly gripped by the need to confide in someone without actually giving anything away. It wasn't like I lost anything. It wasn't like there was a baby. and I haven't even said anything yet! Fighting down rising panic. 'Ah. almost.
How could she check that out? She noticed Tia wore a thin gold band on her wedding finger. Only in our heads. He says it was very sad.' 'Well. She was just sitting there looking at Lynn encouragingly. Lynn wanted to tell Tia what it had been like.' There was a pause. but really and truly we have to look to the future. She would feel even more guilty about telling her then. but I knew he was. that was a loss of course. So far all she'd done was ask idiotic. she could do that! Really. yes. But suppose – just suppose . the ones behind had all crashed into it like a motorway pile-up. Tia wasn't helping. asking questions like this. which lengthened. yes.' Lynn stared at Tia defiantly. and when it did Lynn felt slightly winded. He didn't say much. she couldn't just talk! There had to be a 11 . it was a bit disappointing! 'Can you perhaps lose what you might have had?' It took a moment for this question to penetrate.' 'Mark?' 'My husband. That was what her mind felt like right now – a motorway pile-up. I should be over it by now. obvious questions! Was this how these people earned their money. There seemed nothing else to add. how to continue. She was not coping. But that was what she was here for. Dammit.this woman had had a miscarriage too. A worse one than hers. 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. or just looking at you? Why. Lynn didn't know what to say. And how could she inflict the gory details on this stranger? That seemed so self-indulgent. but once her first thought had come to a dead halt. you can do that. What a stupid question! Tia seemed pretty slow on the uptake for a clinical psychologist.never had. Our hopes and dreams you mean? Our plans for the future?' 'Something like that. But he was very upset when it happened. 'So really. ‘Oh well.' 'Can't you?' ‘No. speaking energetically. You can certainly do that. She recovered almost immediately. trying to make Tia understand. Mark is. but not a real loss.
Yes! I can't just talk to you about personal things . Can't we sort of get to know each other a little bit first?' 'Why?' This was getting downright irritating. Why?' 'Let me explain a little bit about the counselling relationship. You see.' There was another silence. leaving her to feel 12 .relationship! She said experimentally. 'Have you ever had counselling before?' 'No. never contributing. if they come for counselling it’s not usually very helpful for them if they have to take on board information about the person who is listening to them. She seemed to think that by saying this she had explained something very important. 'Why? To build a relationship of course. Lynn felt nothing of the sort. Lynn noticed that Tia's fingers were slender and tapering. She felt very unhappy. She folded her own hands more tightly on her lap and tried again. never helping her out. Tia was looking at her expectantly. and that it was now up to Lynn to respond. answering questions with questions. To . a graceful.just like that. What kind of a conversation was this. 'Are you married. They need to be free just to talk and think about themselves. absently twiddling her own wedding ring round and round. Tia said carefully. no. 'As you see. economic gesture.get to know each other. It's not quite like other relationships.' Damn.' 'Oh. She should have anticipated that. her nails translucent ovals. Tia?' Tia motioned with her left hand. Tia had explained nothing. 'Any kids?' 'Is that important?' 'Well.' After a few moments. when people are experiencing difficulties or stressful situations. leaving gigantic gaps in conversation. What was going on? Why did it feel so strange? Lynn regarded her hands.to .
And yet she had to. things like sex. for instance?' 13 . Could she hack it? She didn't know. because actually she did quite like Tia. Tia seemed to be a very withholding sort of person . Tia was a very interesting person. exchanging information. And that would be nice.' Oh god! So much blood! 'Mmm. which Lynn couldn't as yet quite define.a bit messy. Lynn. 'No. that she wasn't a threat. or hating people. her. 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. How long had Lynn been quiet? She didn't know.' said Tia. um. 'The miscarriage was . yet wanting to hear it from Tia. Lynn said tentatively. She was used to being open and honest. That was what she was there for. and she would try to share even if Tia didn't.lonely and foolish? Tia was deliberately refusing to engage.. She glanced at her. nodding agreement. knowing the answer. But she couldn't just talk about the miscarriage. This made no sense to Lynn. And then they would have a proper relationship. help her see that sharing was good. Not yet. She needed help and she knew it. the chance to know her as a person. and saw with a start that she was once again being closely observed. She had no choice. She had to go along with this. Curiosity stirred within Lynn. 'So it's all right?’ she said again. building 'You too?' sort of relationships.very defensive. or death. Even Mark – especially Mark – had no idea how bad it was sometimes. just maybe. And there was something about Tia that appealed. so at ease. But the alternative was too terrifying to contemplate. Lots of blood and so forth. 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. it might just draw Tia out. But maybe. friendly and natural. if she was herself. She would go along with it. ‘What about. Very well.' This felt reassuring. How confusing! What could she do? Lynn came to a decision. sharing. Tia seemed so laid-back. I'm not squeamish. denying. thaw her out a bit.
she was forty when she had me . just to talk? And why. She had fibroids and she told me that when she was six months pregnant she bled for days. the room ever so slightly warmer. she nearly died twice. you see. She held on. Could that someone be Tia? She looked at her consideringly.' Lynn paused for breath. and sex. 'So you had a miscarriage?' It was now or never. but Tia wouldn't know that. 'I'm only saying. The chair felt ever so slightly more comfortable. It was very painful. at my age. She looked up. Be careful! You don’t know this woman. She'd read something into it. It was their job. 'We'd been married a year. Lynn felt that finally now she might.' Lynn considered this. twenty-seven hours. She was just getting warmed up.. had she chosen those examples to cite to Tia . She really wanted me . Of course my mum had had trouble with me too. But just for this moment. I was badly positioned. 'It's all right to talk about blood. I . in those days. but could it be so? Could it really be all right .after all this time. I think. But she never complained . that's all.they didn't.were so pleased when I found out I was pregnant. It's all right to talk about anything you want. She had a very difficult labour too. All that glitters is not gold. These psychologist types always did. Lynn took a deep breath and plunged in. Oh. She was in a lot of pain too. and the old biological clock was ticking. First child too. 'I just think my mum was really brave. Be careful. 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.we . so we wanted to get a move on.imagine that. Only child actually. and I was born. Lynn felt a bit thrown by this. and hating people. Silly really. and death.' she said. prematurely. Forty.' she commented. It seemed to have the ring of truth. It never occurred to me that anything could go wrong.Tia said slowly and emphatically. and loss. oh why. Tia waited a while and then said. 'You seem to find it easier to talk about your mother's pregnancy than your own. Tia was making a note on her pad. without the least sign of impatience. had my head jammed behind the pubic bone 14 . and grief. just might be able to talk to someone about it.really badly.
and as I was standing there. She wasn't so sure she liked Tia after all.' Again she stopped. she knew there was. 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 . 'That's really unfair. 'All right. There must be more to it that this. She gazed round the room.' Lynn continued drearily. Lynn said. This was harder going than she had thought it would be. Tia regarded her levelly.' said Tia. She looked at Tia. The pause lengthened and then lengthened again while she tried to think what to say next. Lynn said in a voice that trembled slightly. like how tired the young doctor who had examined her had looked. wondering what the view from the window was like. 'You want me to tell you about my miscarriage?' She wasn't so sure she wanted to now. leaking. 'and it all came away . 'I'm sorry. her brain seemed to have turned to cotton wool. 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. . you know . .sort of flooding. 'One evening. 'I went to the bathroom. thinking what to say next. 'My mum was a brave woman.' Tia said nothing. 15 . This narrative seemed to be flowing rather too quickly.and you didn't have yours.' This stopped Lynn dead. I felt .' sort of way. . I was cooking the dinner . I'd had a funny feeling all day . . . She looked sort of neutral. Once again. . and how angry Mark had been at the sympathy cards.' 'She went through a lot. She felt totally exhausted.' she said at last. Tia waited. . I felt . . Somehow this didn't feel like a very satisfactory answer.you . . and how creased her lab coat had been. Lynn looked at Tia and thought. 'You cow!' But Tia didn't look cow-ish. . She had lived through it so many times.' said Lynn less confidently. That was it. ' Yet again she stopped.' she said. 'I felt. No more. 'like I was . ' she stopped.' Tia said softly. It wasn’t working. 'But your mum had her baby . Tia raised her eyebrows and gave a brief smile in a 'You can if you want to. . She could only remember irrelevant disjointed things. . then back at Tia.and in the end they . She was at the hospital already. .
sort of smile. unexpectedly. She relaxed back into it thankfully and let out her breath in a big sigh. She was sure of it.' It seemed only a few minutes later. could cope. . who had been in full flow.Tia was looking at her understandingly. Tia was once more the Therapist. with a smile like that.' 'Plenty of time. and she had made Tia begin to smile once or twice more. or whatever you like. or Mark . Now with no warning. But Tia was speaking. Whatever you like. who. . that’s all. . She could see it in her eyes. Tia smiled. to laugh together and put the world to rights. It was a start. There had been a real rapport developing between them. Suppose Tia said that meant that Lynn was all right. said. .' Lynn became aware of the chair holding her. and terrifyingly fast. stopped. 'This is very difficult for you.’ ‘There's plenty of time. 'We have just five minutes left. at first disconcerted. 16 . Maybe we could think now about whether to meet again. vast and cataclysmic. as far as Lynn could tell. the one who had power to give or withhold. she couldn't quite imagine that far but she was sure Tia had a sense of humour. it's not difficult! It just isn’t working. Actually.' Lynn.. 'I think it would be beneficial if we met again . and then aghast. everything had shifted. . At this. It was like the sun coming out. Lynn had found herself laughing as she had been talking. An abyss. Lynn was instantly diverted and rather charmed. when Tia. 'I'll tell you how I met Mark'. Well. Suppose she said Lynn didn't need to see her. She couldn't help wondering what it would be like to have Tia as a friend. yawned before her. Lynn could tell a good story. Though she said it herself.at two-weekly intervals?' 'Two-weekly?' said Lynn stupidly. No. had been listening with every appearance of enjoyment and making the odd note. was saying. . that Lynn hadn't even known was there. To go out for a drink together after work. What a nice smile! Maybe Tia did have friends after all. isn’t it?’ ‘No.shall we arrange for three more sessions . 'It was quite funny really. Lynn said. 'Whether to meet again?' 'Whether?' What did Tia mean? They'd been getting on so well. Tell me a little more about yourself .
'I'll see you in two weeks' time then. until she was finally able to say.' Convenient? She would make it convenient. Time off from school for hospital appointments could hardly be disallowed. She replayed the conversation in her head. 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. 'That is the usual time between sessions. smiling back warmly in return.' The relief that spread through Lynn was so great that at first she could not speak. then Tia was standing up.' Tia magicked an appointment card from somewhere and said. She watched Tia write down the details on the card and hand it to her. 17 . she heard the door close firmly behind her. was walking to the door.' said Lynn again. 'Today is Tuesday.30 convenient to you?' 'Oh yes. and this was important.' 'Two weeks it is!' said Lynn. Are Tuesdays at 2. Lynn. 'Fine. was opening it for her and saying with a smile. That would be fine. yes.Tia regarded her seriously. 'that's fine. and as she walked down the corridor.
. Not now. Dark unruly hair made worse by the window. It kept things at bay. Likewise.two images unpleasantly overlapping . She pondered the paradox that was Tia. Not conventionally pretty. probably. The oppressive grey fog of autopilot which normally hung over her was being shot through with tiny bolts of fizzy lightning. Lynn always liked making people laugh. Green eyes. But lately. She compared her blobby nose with Tia’s thin one.and her mouth! That was the worst. mobile mouth.Chapter 2 Lynn travelled home on the grimy tube with her head buzzing. . A generous. She'd never really given it much thought before.that. But how was it she used to laugh so much? And people had laughed with her. Unless she made a special effort she looked so bloody miserable. 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. Laughing was very important. . but there was something. as Lynn herself did? Or was she both? Lynn shook her head and gave up. She hardly noticed her fellow passengers or the stations streaming by. Hadn't they? She'd thought they had at the time. caring human being who wanted to help people. . Lynn caught sight of herself in the reflective glass of the carriage window . people had been coming up to her and saying 'Cheer up! It may never happen!' What would 18 . It seemed a long time since Lynn had had anything of interest to occupy her thoughts besides . Well. There was a sort of concentrated look about her. Tia’s nose won. Was Tia a cold clinical psychologist. was she? Lynn couldn't remember. you can’t judge a book by the cover. Graceful .and heaved a sigh without realising it. and concentrated instead on recalling as much of Tia as she could remember. She was occupied internally with reliving her time with Tia. in the surgical sense of the word? Or was she a warm. Tia had seemed to move quite slowly and had sat very still. So this was counselling. or as much of it as she could remember. Tia’s eyes beat her mournful cow's eyes . And she could never be bothered to straighten it now. Involuntarily.
stop being so bloody dramatic! she chided herself angrily. There were two other flats. but they rarely saw the occupants. As the doors slid open. above and below. hopeful encounters were residual polite hellos when they surprised each other on the stairs. the mass moved on. of her very survival descending upon her again. At least she couldn't see the spot now! She touched it. Tears of self-pity. the tube felt stifling. I can't be completely losing my touch! The thought was a momentary breath of fresh air.here. It was still there. Lynn had tried very hard when they first moved in. especially an easy one like hers. wasn't the end of the world. 'It already has!'? But it hadn't happened. always had been. but all that remained now of those eager. What was the point of it all. that was just her perception. Despite herself. You're not living in a bloody soap. It had taken her a while to realise that it was nothing personal. Tia seemed to enjoy talking to me. nobody ever need see their neighbours in North London if they didn't want to. found herself reflecting. really? What was the point? Oh. deep down. Lynn felt the carriage begin to slow down and she mechanically arose. Anyway. Everything came crowding in. Get real! This is life! This is as good as it gets! She let herself in and climbed the stairs to their flat. Think of something else. Miscarriages were two a penny these days. as she walked up the steps to the huge Victorian front door.they do if she said. Except that she wasn't. It was less people to explain to. Lynn was all right. She had to get a grip. She'd been fine before. thankful that it was only on the first floor. she inserted herself with mindless ease into a miniscule cavity within the many-legged organism flowing past her. As she walked along the street and drew near to their apartment. Now it suited her. Her legs felt like lead. at least. 19 . she told herself fiercely. Her pace slowed. But it all seemed too much effort now. just a necessary survival mechanism . she could feel tears in her eyes. She grimaced. which which equally unthinkingly increased the space minutely to accommodate her body shape. She scowled at her image in the window. Lynn felt the dragging weight of her everyday existence. get back her joie de vivre. By the top of the second escalator. Aware yet unaware. A miscarriage.
Her writing was angular. . however cheaply bought. fighting her way past people's deadened comprehension to make them understand. 'What's this you wrote. Much better to make them laugh. though she purposely made it very easy to read. Not that she was a dishonest person anyway. She shook her head to clear it. Even at the cost of real intimacy. .As she let herself in. it clicked. And Mark had been so worried it wouldn’t work! A few little changes when she moved in. The wallpaper receded. The very pattern on the wallpaper seemed larger. of real honesty? Now where had that thought come from? Lynn didn't know. 'Could you perhaps lose what you might have had?' Suddenly. rather like Tia herself. She looked around. miss?' The card made Tia seem more tangible. In the pointless ordinariness of her surroundings. looping. Lynn's meeting with Tia seemed unreal. but she didn't particularly like it. The room seemed smaller. Lynn put it carefully away inside her purse and thought of the session. And it was never worth it when you did.without her having to explain in lots of dreary words. anyway. eliminating all traces of Gina. Hadn't Norman Collinson cured himself of ankylosing spondilitis by laughing? Well then! She concentrated again on Tia. It wasn't working now. Four happy years . Anyway – laughing was scientifically proven to be therapeutic. for the kids. Lynn resolutely forced herself to remember how lucky they were to have this flat. heard herself say again. Tia knew about her . to have a shared moment of intimacy. Lynn's was rounded. as though it was trying to get closer to her. She had to. granted. 'It wasn't like I lost anything!' Heard again Tia's quizzical comment. Their reaction was always so disappointing. possibly (possibly!) the most honest person she knew. slightly italic. They were always saying. somehow distinctive. but that was only to be expected. Tia wrote in black.knew something. In fact she was a very honest person. She knew! Tia knew! In some way that Lynn couldn't quite grasp. she wasn't sure what . She pulled out the appointment card she had been given and studied it with a teacher's eye. slightly chaotic. to re-experience the buzz she had felt. to invade her space. Desperately she tried to relive it. That was better! But what was it that Tia knew? Would she ever get to know her and find 20 . She felt that she couldn't breathe properly. until now.
What did you put in that sauce . she'd made Tia smile . That wasn't too bad for a beginning. Is that important? . But your mum had her baby. left the flat to go to the Italian deli on the corner. The darkness. building up to it as she had known he would.' Tia saying.why did this conversation grate on her so much? She struggled not to get more irritated by his look of concern. was very bad. She looked at the vegetable rack. Lynn felt the stirrings of appetite. she'd asked questions. What kind of image had she presented to Tia? Not immediately attractive. with only a few days left until term started. She had still so much schoolwork to prepare.' Pause.' Pause. What would she tell him? What could she cook for dinner? For the first time in a while. when it came. herself. And why had her brain just cut out for no reason so often? Oh god. and with more energy than she knew she possessed. Mark arrived home to the aroma of pesto and pasta. .well. . Tia looking. Lynn turned hastily away.' He was so kind. . 'You know I love you. and then. that was a wonderful meal. that was for sure. 'And Lynn. I love your cooking. 'Lynn. sort of. anyway.it was great. surely? Lynn glanced at her watch and was horrified. Later that evening. 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.out? As she drifted round the flat. She focused on the fragments of conversation she could remember: 'As you see . 21 . It's all right to talk . but it was early days. she'd shown interest. so caring . Mark asked Lynn the question she had been dreading. it was so good to see you cooking again. as she was clearing the plates away. She had been home for over an hour and her encounter with Tia was still filling her thoughts! What was the matter with her? Why obsess about a stranger? It was nearly five o'clock. I know. Mark. Anything there? No dark green or yellow or red of shiny rounded life. and Mark would be back by six-thirty wanting to know how the appointment had gone. just a few withered old mushrooms. really came. . don't you?' 'Yes. looking at her sadly with their papery old ladies’ faces. . she was so sick of it doing that! It had been doing it for months now – it never used to! But at least she'd been honest. Tia smiling.
client account coming on?' 'Which one?' 'You know! You were telling me last night. but wanting to mean it. so she went on with a kind of faux brightness.'I know you've been .' Why did she say that? She was going to see her . I'd say.' 'Oh.' 'Oh. so-so. . . Lot of work though. good . I suppose. if she was honest. Mark didn't seem to mind. Though frankly. .' This seemed to satisfy Mark. . You know. . Usually she just had a glass or two at weekends. meaningful silences. down. . but she didn't. did it really matter? It helped her sleep. I think so. all her fault.' Lynn sat down again and fingered her wine glass absently. She's a consultant clinical psychologist. . right. 'You went to see that . these past weeks. ' . I'm not sure. conversed so easily and naturally. Lynn thought that was going too far. . ask personal questions. 'Will you be going to see her again?' 'I think so. . . woman today. most nights. helpful at all?' Her name was Tia. and now she was making him watch every word. .whatever that meant. more like your old self again. She didn't seem to say much. shared so much. 'Mark. . Probably fairly typical. . the Murchison one. Anyway. I don't know. that's good!' 'Her name's Dr Bradley. 'Take a little wine for your stomach's sake'? .' Damn! The name had gone. how was your day?' 'Oh. . I suppose. well.' Another pause. well. . What's she like?' 'What’s she like? All right.' 'How's that new . . Bit of a psychologist type. . Fine. thinking how much she wanted a drink. the heavy stare. didn't you? Did you find it . But how would he know that? This conversation was her fault. as 22 . . he drank too! Sometimes he opened a second bottle. and didn't it say somewhere or other. They’d laughed a lot. I thought she'd analyse me. . but lately . but tonight you seemed just a little bit more. wasn't she? 'Um. . 'So. It's hard to say. I've brought some home tonight. . .
since the miscarriage. actually . But then. can you bring it through?' He was already up and moving off. if Tia saw she was 23 . It hadn't been that six weeks ago when they had been trying to decide what colour to paint it and whether pale purple would look like they couldn't make their mind up what gender the baby was. 'I'll make a start on this in the study. 'OK. It hadn't been as bad as she'd feared..' As Lynn did the washing up.a matter of fact . I've got some school work to do too. Perhaps Tia could help with that? Mind you. They didn't know how to reach each other. every day. Time's running out. she reflected on the conversation as a whole. I thought you were cutting it a bit fine. About ten minutes?' 'Fine. resolutely squashing all reaction to Mark's last comment.I haven't been sitting on my backside all day. coffee would be nice. She bowed her head and managed to speak normally. But for how long? Lynn was vaguely aware of something about a time limit. you know. Do you want a coffee. It was just nice to have someone to talk to.' (Thanks very much!) 'Do you want a hand with the washing-up?' 'No. she’d said there were no miracle cures. most of it's done. they were too afraid of hurting the other by saying the wrong thing. She found herself cursing Mark for so unawarely moving on with his life and leaving her so far behind. But it wasn't his fault! He was doing the right thing and she wasn't – that's all there was to it. And most of the school work's done.' 'Oh. Any of that chocolate ice cream left?' 'Sure. some dessert?' 'I never said you had. Yeah. We’re back on Thursday. But was that because they hadn't really engaged at all? They didn't engage much these days. But then she didn't expect them.' 'Yes.big day tomorrow. Do you want it in here?' 'No. Lynn felt as though she had been hit with a brick.' The study. It was the study now. Oh yes.
either with Lynn or with Mark. It had not been easy. Lynn stared thoughtfully into the washing up water. and Mark had not. How insecure she'd been! She could admit it now. you and you alone. in case you hadn't noticed! Marry me. the granite work surfaces. Always asking Mark if Gina did this or that.' And so they had got married in Cyprus. And I love you for being you. Mun had died shortly after. Always wondering if she was saying the right thing and worrying if he was thinking about Gina. Best thing she ever did for me. Every time. And marrying abroad had been different. 'So he's made an honest woman of you at last!' . To be married. She's history now and I'm sick of the sound of her name! You are the one I love. since by that time Mum had been too ill to come. . Or did she? But surely they weren't allowed to just do that? She'd have to ask her. Gina was a total bitch and she walked out on me for my best friend. Lynn had never ceased to give thanks to the Powers that Be 24 . She thought back to those early days of their relationship. And it had lasted quite a time. 'Look. I am totally. totally committed to you.helping her . 'Look Lynn. half laughing. I never asked Gina to marry me! Never wanted to. she didn't seem the sort just to abandon her. his tone had become more bracing. half goaded beyond endurance. Gina may have been a bitch. I have been for the past two years. In one sense it didn't matter where. . The kettle boiled and she poured it into the cafetiere. not Gina! Now give it a rest! But she hadn't been able to. Gina was the scab on their relationship that she hadn't been able to resist picking off again and again to see if it had healed underneath. but she had good taste. Eventually Mark. though Lynn had been able to hide it. But eventually. which assuaged Lynn's so sore heart. had not seemed like marrying at all. afraid that Mark was making comparisons and finding her wanting. showed her the ring and the photos.which had not gone down at all well. had said. in a way. well enough to say. the expensive wood of the fitted units. Dear good Mark! How patient he had been. willing herself to recapture the small but definite delight she used to take in the aromatic smell of the coffee. and your Mum not there! But she had been well enough to be glad when they told her. for god's sake! Maybe that will convince you. how quick to reassure her.
Della . 'You were only trying for three months? That's very good! There's plenty of time yet. blonde. well . 'Lynn.now they could never factor a baby into their life. willowy. . You'll do fine! Shaking her head. The ringing tone stopped and she heard Della's precise. as though the mouthpiece of phone had only been partially covered. How they'd ever become friends. Lynn couldn't imagine.that Mum had lived long enough to see them wed. with her books and papers round her and the laptop on the coffee table. 'How are you doing?' There was a delighted squeal down the end of the phone. If only they'd tried for a baby earlier! But it had never been the right time and somehow they'd assumed that you could plan a baby into your work schedule at a time convenient to you as easily as you could book next year's holiday. how are you? I was worried when I didn't hear anything. she padded back to the kitchen for the wine bottle and her empty glass.' She left the sentence unfinished. 'Darling. she might even tell her about Tia. She hadn't talked to Della for. Della Heworth here. How many others had made that same mistake and how wrong it was! How unbelievably wrong and stupid! Perhaps – new and terrible thought . yet tonight she paused momentarily. then retired to the living room and sat hunched up on the sofa for a while. 'Hello. 'Lynn! It's Lynn!' Then. That had been seven years ago. It took just ten minutes of pondering the physiology of Lumbricus. actually she couldn't remember when. it's Lynn. . immaculate. husky voice. It must be a marriage of two minds. how bitter was that? But the doctor had been so positive.' Then Della's voice. 25 . restored to full clarity. so affirming. Lynn took the coffee and ice cream in to Mark. Seven happy years. Lynn dwelt wistfully on a mental picture of Della. It was her usual response. with hardly a cross word. . It's been a while . to reduce her concentration such a low ebb that she decided to phone Della. It would be nice to hear her voice.’ 'Hi Dell!' said Lynn. . slightly muffled. . Arenicola and Nereis. Something was missing. . . immersed in his spreadsheets. Oh. except for now. . In the moments it took for the phone line to connect. It seemed inappropriate somehow. Gradually she began to pull them towards her and to leaf through them in a desultory fashion.
do you want to talk about it a little bit? I didn't like to ask before. would you like to meet up? Drop round for coffee. 'Look. Listen Lynn. I wish there was something we could have done.' Did she want to? Lynn wasn't sure.' (Why had she said that!) ‘I mean I feel a bit better. you know.' 'I am glad!' Della sounded it too. 'It's been a difficult time . . . so much. But words are pitifully inadequate at a time like this. and the flowers. He's really busy. Thanks for the card . . .' 'It was nothing. darkening the door of a church to light a candle for her was strangely moving. 'Really Lynn.the one I've got for the time being. actually it's on the National Health. Fortunately.' she said.' said Lynn. 'Well. I even went to church and lit a candle for you.' 'Thank you. How much does he . Usually she bowed instantly to Della's unspoken superiority in the femme du monde business.' Her voice too trailed off. but I'm sure I . or you and Mark could come for a meal?' 26 . 'You poor darling. We were so sorry . . It's been such an awful. The idea of Della. . tentatively. It somehow suggested a vulnerability which hitherto had not been particularly noticeable.' 'Oh.charge?' 'Well. She was surprised to hear herself sounding so firm. I think I'll stick with Ti . . . if you're sure . oh yes. She could not remember why she was phoning. 'I'm seeing this therapist. awful time for you.I'm all right now. you know what the National Health's like! Look. Now that we've made contact. . . now that you're surfacing. We were thinking of you. I've been concerned about you. 'Oh good! Lynn.' said Lynn. It really helped me pull myself together. .' 'Thanks. 'Oh well.'Oh. that is such a wise thing to do! I saw one after my divorce. both of you.' 'The National Health!' There was a tiny snort of amusement in Lynn's ear. Della heard her resolution and ceded the point.she . let me put in a word for you with mine.' said Lynn. obscurely touched. a lapsed Catholic who didn’t care who knew it. I'm . . Della bailed her out.
just a heaviness. uncomfortably aware that her voice was beginning to thicken with emotion as she was speaking. 'I can't talk about it just yet. Love you ' Laying back on the sofa. . It 27 . I appreciate it. Aloud she said. Just do what you feel you want to. 'I've got too much work to do at the moment. too available. I'll get back to you. and it was the physical discomfort which finally drew her to a sniffing halt several minutes later. Or if you never want to talk about it.' And then she found she was crying in earnest and hung up the phone quickly. savoured it like a rich wine or a perfectly ordered dinner. This was too rich a meal. but not enough to make Lynn feel that she was acting in any way strangely. wondering at her own hesitation. Lynn. it occurred to Lynn that it would be a good idea to go to bed. 'Thanks Dell. Della was surprised. . too caring.if you can. my love. Could we . She usually delighted in Della's company.' But not about miscarriages. and she let just enough show in her voice to let Lynn know her solicitude. Desperation gave her a measure of control. it's your show. She couldn't see Della just yet. and sent her to the bathroom to splash her face with cold water. but not before she heard Della say 'God bless. 'Of course. Take the advice of one who knows. Normally she jumped at the chance to spend time with Della. give herself time to think. it was just a primal ache. Lynn gave herself up to the luxury of tears. She did not reason her pain. . but it was a heaviness she recognised. You take your time. But it is good to talk . that now it was a relief to just let them run. Now she was hanging back. that's OK too. She'd fought them off so many times before as being an extreme reaction to a less than extreme stress.Lynn considered this. coupled with a desire to terminate the conversation was welling up inside. Sadness. Della. Della was too warm. . thought Lynn. and almost invariably so busy. I really do. twisting the phone cord round her finger. could we fix something up when we get back to school?' For the second time.' she said. and Auntie Della will be waiting with the tissues whenever you want. She felt no relief. Della was warm and funny and wise . While in the bathroom. She had to back off.
She laid out a clean nightshirt. but she could phone up Brian tomorrow and crib his notes. said. and she missed her. Caring was all too much effort. .was only eight thirty. She could imagine in advance the sour looks from the other members of staff as they scanned the sittings board. I'll-sort-it Lynn that people liked. these rituals complete. fluffiest bath towel she could find on the towel rail.just tough it out . but she could have a bath first. 28 . opened the door and said.think I'll call it a day. how I miss you! she thought. poured some lavender oil in the little burner and lit the candle underneath.she needed to get it unscrewed as soon as possible. There was no other way. plodded back to the study. 'What can't be cured must be endured!' Lynn smiled despite herself. her mind had gone blank again. the fun-to-be-with. 'Do you need the bathroom? I feel knackered . did it hurt so much? And yet .' Feeling cheered by the encounter. A familiar voice in her head said bracingly. Lynn sighed. had to . . then put the largest. Soon he would be so sick of her that he would . Where had that Lynn gone? She hadn't seen her for a long time. She decided on a really deep one.hang on until it was over.it didn't really hurt. who cried so much. but his patience was wearing thin. Oh Mum. If she was honest. but dammit. oh why. she hadn't done as much work as she'd planned. What a tower of strength she'd been. that he would what? She had no idea. gave a tired grin that broadened into a real one. she always was. But she had to go through with it. the Lynn that Tia would like if only she knew her. and then. Lynn returned to the bathroom and started to run the bath. half the time she couldn't care less. added a large amount of the much too expensive bath essence that Mark had insisted on getting her last month for no apparent reason. and neither did Mark. she could tell. He didn't say anything. this was her life . what a rock to lean on! But not any more. She didn't like this new Lynn who was such a burden.and yet . not done any really.' Mark looked up. True. 'Sure. Why. And Mum would have been right. Then she could get back to being the old Lynn. go ahead. threw off every item of clothing into the linen basket and slid into the bath. 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.
From nowhere a vast longing welled up within her. the only part of her above water. finishing off with a cool shower. causing the water to swirl dangerously. luxuriously soaking in perfumed water with scented air around her. 29 . After a while she let them. the bath sheet felt as comforting as it should. It was altogether so unsatisfactory and so far from her hopes that again a few involuntary tears mingled with the water on her face. and now she felt desperate enough to take one after she'd just seen a therapist. she looked down at her naked body and without warning felt hopelessly vulnerable and childlike. She'd only taken three. and later in bed. She felt seriously disturbed. This must not be! She sat up abruptly. Eventually she fell into a troubled sleep. Lynn could feel a prickling of sweat on her face. You weren't meant to take them with alcohol but that had been hours ago. She took a sleeping tablet and lay awake waiting for it to take effect. a yearning to be held and soothed like a child by some vast maternal presence.As soon as she lay down she knew it was a mistake. and thoughts of Tia intruded. Lynn sat reading a novel. 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. Instead of feeling deliciously pampered and in charge. Although it was funny. for crying out loud! What was going on? Thoughts of Tia no longer intrigued or comforted. it wasn't quite funny enough. Afterwards. These had been prescribed for emergency use by her doctor about a week after the miscarriage. grabbed the loofah and an exfoliating bar (seaweed and kelp) and scrubbed furiously.
good Mark! He asked for so little. His dark.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. Lynn lay alternately cursing her throbbing head and her own cowishness. . but he'd see it in the mirror in the hall .' Oh dear god. 30 . After he'd kissed her and left. By late afternoon Lynn was surfacing and an hour's manic rushing around meant that when Mark returned that evening. 'I . Dear. . Or someone would tell him at work. it was the presentation today! What time had he come to bed last night? She hadn't even heard him come in. . it's in the bag! Have a good day.oh. He'd been working on this for days. if not weeks. .' she couldn't bring herself to say the words. I hope it goes well!' There was no mistaking her sincerity. His face cleared. 'No sweat. but so reliably good . 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. See you tonight. bony face was anxious as he tenderly placed it on the bedside cabinet. 'Completely forgot'. and rubbed his hand back over the crown of his head. 'Oh Mark! Sorry! Sorry! I .' He looked puzzled for a moment and then light dawned. . 'Got to dash. He laughed. served a simple but elegant meal (Marks was pricy. She pressed a lager into his hand as soon as he'd dumped his briefcase.' 'Yes . It made no difference that Lynn was aware of.like Volkswagons . A wave of remorse swept over her as she noted the shadows under his eyes. Lynn was ready. she hoped.you knew what you were getting) and plied him with gentle questions at discreet intervals. His hair was slightly sticking up. your hair. I'm doing my presentation this morning. what a cow she was! Of course. . and oh Mark .
they’d just had one with the meal. What was she doing now? Was she up too. willing herself to move as the minutes ticked by. ‘I’m back at school tomorrow. Lynn could tell he was too. He sat there. She intercepted a glance from him that had a hint of speculation about it. Lynn had very little to drink. and how it could have been so much worse. and concentrated on thinking how lucky she was to have such a gentle introduction. 'Sorry darling. girl!' said the little voice in her head. Now she was struggling to get out of the chair. Yes. She shuddered.' Thus it was that the following morning. the PowerPoint had hit the spot. house . got to get to school early. 31 . In the kitchen. 'Count your blessings. a sure sign he felt like celebrating. At least. She hastily told herself that it was only one period. and a panic button went off inside her head. No. Mark wasn’t so sure. he was pleased with how it went. in a kimono or a terry towelling bathrobe? In the shower or still in bed. let's open a bottle of really nice wine . it had gone fine. . and she still had to walk to the station to catch the tube. And she wanted to get in early today so that she could meet the other staff in installments. As she pointed out.Yes. Fortunately it was a nine o’clock start today. and the train of thought died. but she usually travelled before the rush hour. However.' she said. the full force of what was awaiting began to dawn on her. Alan had been impressed. as she planted a kiss on his sweaty forehead. Yes. or full of pine and chintz? Minimalist. . And what was her husband like? Lynn suddenly shivered. But the spell was broken. Patti Travers hadn't been there with her awkward questions . . probably.celebrate in style!' she said. Inexplicably. it was Lynn who brought Mark a cup of tea as he lay in bed. smiling smugly and drinking port. or black coffee? Was her house chrome and glass and minimalist. thoughts of Tia appeared in Lynn's mind. She wished now that they hadn't had their training days at the end of last term. and the toast turned to cardboard in her mouth. at six-thirty? Was she drifting round her own flat . he was quite amenable to being talked round. . Now there was only a staff meeting in the morning separating her from teaching in the afternoon. or he seemed to be. Yes. that had been the plan.on holiday apparently. drinking tea. She sat there in a stupor. 'Darling. and enjoying Lynn's attentions.
wasn't it? She sat bolt upright. The lower school staffroom. she'd only be at home. though their proximity to it was not their fault. The hall in the new building was much bigger. She relaxed back again and sighed with relief as she felt a momentary reprieve from the tension that was knotting inside her. These chairs would have got 3 out of 10. She closed her eyes and sat back. the white board 32 . Lynn didn't like those chairs. as would the two nearest the staffroom door. She was too early. The one that Brenda (18 stone plus) habitually sat in would have got a 2. stacked open. They used to play a game when she was a kid.She rose. She'd phone through and check in just a minute. the same chairs. armed and armless. They were only sat in as a last resort when all the others were taken – for obvious reasons. for a few moments. . and left the flat. It was all there. Anyway. She sat down in a chair. merely an accident of positioning. grabbed her bag. Lynn noticed things like that. same old – except that everything looked unnaturally clean and clutter-free. as Lynn well knew. the same tea and coffee-making facilities and sink unit at the other. giving chairs marks out of 10. it was the right building. What did it matter though? If she wasn't here. But hang on! . Otherwise you could never put your coffee cup down. When Lynn got to school. she could easily get there by nine. the same woefully inadequate teachers' lockers along two sides of the room. and you had to shuffle forward on your backside to reach the coffee table or else perch uncomfortably on the edge. panic overwhelmed her. She had caught the habit from Mum. of course it was here. It had been fun. in the old grammar school building.very large . 'Bye!' in the direction of the bedroom. was a fifteen minute walk away. Lynn moved hastily on. . Definitely too early.coffee tables. There was still nearly an hour to go before the staff meeting. It took new staff about a week to work out why. the staffroom was empty. ready to face the onslaught when it came. But . Yes. Same old. It was better to be on the spot. the same marking tables at one end. shouted. How bare and strange the staffroom always looked at the start of the autumn term! Yes. Where was the impedimenta and accumulata of the teaching profession? Where were the piles of partly marked exercise books.there was plenty of time! Even if it was in the lower school. arranged around two large . and. which she was sure it wasn't. They were too low.
She avoided the page with the list of staff. she gave up. . Awfully sorry . as Lynn knew from bitter experience).a letter. and then people flowed forward. and the condolences began. How are you? . secure and self-supporting. 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 . so 33 . knowing that seeing John Quincy's name (maths) would make it all too easy. Lynn. For a second. staring at the printed pages. Myra. . Lynn knew. sequencing letters in alphabetical order. feeling her apprehension mounting with every minute. of footsteps. There were footsteps. Finally. In the end. a door slammed. skipping over the circular letter at the beginning ' . It was no good. items of clothing and bits of paper with vital messages illegibly scribbled thereon? And how tidy the notice board looked. . They must have met in the car park and waited for each other. Here at least. At the end of the corridor. .How dreadful. That showed sensitivity. Brian. Alan. the head. 'Oh. Lynn got out the brown envelope with the bulky sheaf of briefing notes that Graham. the vast amounts of dirty coffee cups. or if they were really desperate. three women came through. coming nearer. Soon. Her stomach lurched. not a card.markers. the women first. All eyes connected. the sprinkling of blue and black pens. uninteresting beginning-of-term messages. would be huddled together. a momentary advantage. Her whole inner being was fixed on the corridor outside. and sat. (never a red one. . Fran. it would be liberally covered with notices held on with inadequate amounts of pins. time hung suspended. she got up and went to look at the notice board with its impersonal. . the odd unbent paper clip. Jean. Lynn sat trying to read. . By the end of term. . with actual space on it. .' And he'd written her a very nice letter too . She herself had been guilty on more than one occasion of filching pins from existing notices to tack up her own. so sorry to hear . notices which had once proudly kept their distance. communally sharing pins. the door opened and a group of two men. had sent to every member of staff about two weeks previously. waiting for the sound of voices. she could see before she was seen.
discuss the miscarriage with Della here and 34 . the door opened again and more people drifted in. just she thought that it would never stop and she would be there repeating the same things for the rest of her life. thanks. 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. she took refuge in a small smile and a slight shrug. She could not. How are you feeling now? .' Then she recognised the voice and swung round to face her.' Lynn was taken completely unawares. enabled Lynn to pull herself together more quickly than anything else Della could have said.' Every time there was a lull. it stopped. sit with you?' Thankfully. . . The staffroom buzzed and heaved with the inordinate number of staff present and nobody took any notice of her. A whiff of a familiar perfume made her turn her head. Why on earth did Della say that to her when she had already expressed her sympathy? It felt like a kick in the gut.' 'Yes.the list of questions and the 'poor little you' tone. moved slowly and somewhat unsteadily away. 'That's all right. Lynn still standing by the notice board. by and large. 'Hi Dell!' she said.' she said absently without turning round. I'm so sorry you lost your baby. 'Are you sure you should be back at school yet? Do you want to sit down? Shall I make you a coffee. She found her voice and gave a dismissive ‘I’m all right' sort of laugh.' said Della. something about the way Della expressed her concern . and hums of conversation broke out in other parts of the room. People's sad faces relaxed as they moved away. 'Hello!' she said again. Winded. . 'Oh Lynn. So sorry . 'Hello. It was over.' 'Thank you. leaning against the lockers. So sorry.' 'Better now. glad of a respite to get her bearings. apart from a few latecomers yet to arrive. Adrenaline pumped through her. concerned faces and saying over and over.sorry .' and then. . Pushing herself away from the lockers. they've forgotten to fill the urn again. 'How bloody annoying. She walked over to stand by the hot water urn. Della was preoccupied. this time looking directly at her. 'You look very pale. . Lynn found herself looking at kind. simply could not. . she stood up straight and turned full face to Della.
'I think we can squeeze you in. 'A new woman eh?' she mused. ‘I’ll have to check with Mark. Coffee has been implicated in 35 . We're in Portsmouth this weekend. And you'll have seen your therapist again by then so you can tell me all about it.' She managed a weak grin.' Lynn said slowly. Della had had therapy. Why did Della assume that she would want to tell her about her therapist? Though actually. . . though she felt slightly ruffled. But that's the only way they'd do it. She hated seeing Lynn looking droopy and depressed. ‘I’ll put a note in your pigeon hole confirming it. . but it will give me the chance to lay on something really nice. Lynn still looked pretty fragile. . she would quite like to. but it should be OK. it would be interesting to know what she thought. Deryk will be so pleased to see you. First it was 'soon'. How she fitted it in with being head of department. and if a fortnight Friday was her first free day. But that was how Della organised her life. Damn! How about the Friday after? I know it's a long way off. 'Great!' she said.now. come round for dinner soon? You and Mark. Yeah. Next Friday? No. then that was how it was. 'Got to run .' Della recognised the response and inwardly approved. wait! It's the squash club's annual dinner and we’re doing something on the Saturday . .I've got about twenty things to do. This was the Lynn she knew and loved.it'll be legal and binding!’ 'Great!' Lynn echoed. then it was two weeks tomorrow. 'I think so. a fortnight tomorrow seemed a long way off . fine! Why not!' 'Let's think. 'Mark must have been surprised!' Nevertheless.I forget what. . But still . ‘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. She had the most hectic social schedule of anyone Lynn knew. It's been ages . smiling her appreciation.' The irony of this was not lost on Della. How does that sound?' Lynn felt a bit lost. She must do something. wait. Lynn had no idea. But she undoubtedly managed it somehow. 'Look. You'll have to come then . It just wasn't her.' 'Yeah.
filled it up and savoured a much-needed cup of coffee. now abandoned. Resisting the urge to snap back. a bit too meaningfully. Lynn relived their first meeting.' Smiling. And acting. Brian. I could do with some fresh air. though Polly was not there. Lynn was sick of people just being kind. I read it in the Tea Drinkers' Weekly and Doughnut Dunkers' Gazette. here in this prep room. of course. Lynn thought. Della moved away. ‘thespian’. Lynn located the kettle. How awkwardly Polly had offered her hand to shake. After lunch. anyway. Polly was the lower school lab technician. was what Della taught . lipstick bright but not too bright.premature loss of libido. jewellery chunky but not too chunky. And anyway. 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. But. shouted – no. It seemed funny without Polly but she wouldn't get back from holiday until tomorrow. where her class was. took you to one side and discreetly whispered.' 'What?' 'It's a fact. Then she joined the general exodus to the main hall. they could always say it was for an experiment. Lynn had wanted to hug her on the spot. Lynn walked to the lower school. Lynn made some coffee and sat in the homely. It had been a challenge to thaw her out but it had been 36 . . amongst other things. earrings dangly but not too dangly. 'No thanks. tights sheer but not too sheer. cluttered prep room. though she couldn’t help noting with annoyance that someone had borrowed her cat mug again. getting some milk on the way. Lynn went straight to the science prep room and put the milk in the fridge.' What was the point? He was just being kind. not a bloody lifethreatening disease and I had it over a month ago!' Lynn had replied sweetly. Everything about her. too shy to even look Lynn in the face! Amused. Sipping her coffee. What a load of rubbish Della talked! But it was entertaining rubbish at least. full of Polly. as though that somehow excused everything. but empty. oh. 'No thanks! It's just a miscarriage. 'Want a lift?' Brian had said. with her floppy hair and glasses and her perpetually worried look that Lynn loved dispelling with a joke. Some people would have 'He meant well' engraved on their tombstone. . she wanted to borrow his notes.
Sometimes Lynn couldn't help feeling a bit jealous. also 37 . Well. with her clarity of mind and her easy warmth and witty ripostes. Polly's chief talent was listening.this would never do! . They were a nice bunch. Polly had repaid all Lynn's efforts . Lynn regarded her as one of her successes.’ then had to eyeball the humorist. They were untidily assembled outside the lab with much pushing and shoving and noise. 'Well. She'd had them last year too.and though she was still earnest and awkward. mused Lynn. urbane Della. 'Fine thanks. Miss!' 'Have a good holiday?' 'Do anything then?' Not much. found herself nodding off . which swelled when they saw her.wandered round some more. Aloud she said. Saw a therapist. and then said amiably. But Polly's company was very restful. It was a useful attribute for a teacher. Had a miscarriage. strolled round the labs. just at the moment. it was now she who missed Polly. Lynn waited for it to die down a bit. 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. She always had the most Christmas cards and presents of all the staff in the school. Got depressed. She was very tongue in cheek was Della. of course. Not that Della didn't listen too. one of Lynn's favourite classes in fact. who.worth it. How about you? Ready for some work?' Predictably. What a contrast Polly was to graceful.dear Polly! She was such a simple soul! Lynn checked that her lab slips for the next two weeks were up. had another cup of coffee. but her pupils had a healthy respect for her tongue. It was usually the other way round. heard a noise as of approaching thunder coming up the stairs. this produced a loud groan. Strange that after her accidious cultivation of Polly and the time she had spent gently drawing her out. But it was Polly that Lynn wanted now. and went outside to meet her class. 'Hello. 8R. It took a lot to make her speak her mind. sat and thought.a bit too much at times. thought Lynn. she was not so shy. She was so accepting . Polly doted on her . I'm not letting you in until you are. No one ever crossed Della twice. She looked round and sighed.
. it's over there. Now. . . by the window. but we can do it. taking down the stools on the benches. Union rules. . said. you've seen them before. Write out the paragraph headed "Steam turbines". hel-lo? . got that? Page 32.' Lynn had no intention of telling them that Polly had in fact been in at the beginning of the holiday to set out the demonstration which was even now on a trolley in the prep room. Patrick. ‘Suits me fine!’ There was muttering and shuffling as they got into a semblance of order. She's back tomorrow. 'Stephanie.' 'But couldn't you . sweetheart. Already Lynn could feel herself becoming drained from the encounter with their sheer animal exuberance. Yes. 'Afternoon everyone. you said .?' 'Definitely not. sitting on them. Now then . Lynn stood in the doorway so that they had to go through in single file. But she did today. 'Yes. Kevin. . Make sure you answer in sentences. When you get them . Ben. when you get them turn to page 32. Lynn was a popular teacher. I’m sorry. if we don't waste time . 'But Mrs Davies. . draw the diagram underneath and then answer in your books the questions I am about to write on the board. and stood at the front watching them finishing coming through. The class looked at her expectantly. give out the text books. .predictably. and she hadn't even started teaching them yet. Put the comb away. I know I said. bit early to be chewing gum. your hair looks fine.' A disappointed mumble surfaced and a dissonant voice was heard. so there's no one to set out any practicals. . just leave them . chattering away like monkeys as they unpacked their bags. isn't it? Bin it . welcome to the first science lesson of the term.' Lynn said. Sara. you said we would be doing a practical first lesson. . . . Her lessons were looked forward to and she seldom disappointed them. then left her position when about half were in. they're gas taps. . OK. 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 . from the effort of mentally imposing her will on them. but the lab technician is still away.' She paused. we've got a lot to get through this term.
She said. After a while it dawned on her that she was still wearing her coat.’ 39 . There was always one in every class. one of several in this class. She sat down again and looked at the newspaper headlines. 'How was your day?' 'Oh. This was very bad teaching and she knew it. It was going to be a long lesson. ‘What’s for dinner? I’ll get it. when he came in from work. Nicole was the first to begin writing. Lynn sighed.and very bright. the future . half asleep. concentrating on the words. and it looked like it was hurting. she made a cup of tea and sat down in the kitchen. You?’ She longed to say.’ but temporised with. When he felt her shift restlessly beneath it. Laboriously. She had spent too much but she was in no mood to let it bother her. head industriously down. The end of Lynn's imaginings about .bench. he got up and moved towards the kitchen. . Tall and merry. ‘Bloody awful. articulate but not too cheeky . They were so distressing that she turned immediately to the crossword on the back page. but nothing major. ‘Yeah. disorientated. on the female side. Lynn was shattered. She stuffed the food she had grabbed up at the supermarket in the freezer and the fridge. Already Ryan. Mark found her there. . Few problems. 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. hair invariably worn in a severe ponytail. was poking his neighbour with his pen. with the likes of Nicole. had always ended. and Nicole was the one that made 8R shine more brightly for Lynn. all right. She should have at least prepared worksheets. She looked at him with such an air of bruised fragility that his heart went out to her. could have been worse. 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. Now. so she got up and hung it in the hall. Individual pupils looked up reproachfully but she stared them down. no more. When she got home that night. Faithful Nicole! Lynn 's heart warmed towards her. . He said her name and she came to. I’ve handed my notice in. . giving it her best shot.’ (Not much!) Mark sat down beside her and put his arm round her. diagnosed ADHD.
did it really matter? She spent the evening in a fog of depression.' Mark had heard only the first two sentences. Fridge and freezer. Still almost two weeks to go! She could not decide whether she could hardly bear the thought or whether she didn’t give a tinker’s cuss whether she ever saw her again. He called from the kitchen as she heard the microwave door click shut. She was so bloody touchy these days. 40 .'Lasagne and mange-tout. but contented himself with looking at her now and then in what he hoped was a sympathetic way. I'd forgotten we were going to eat it tonight. Mark said nothing.' She hoped Mark was reading the instructions correctly. . Lynn thought of Tia for almost the first time that day. but if not. and went to bed as early as possible. nothing. 'What's that?' 'Oh . I didn't mean to put it in the freezer actually. He knew that any attempt at conversation would be rebuffed. She took another sleeping tablet and fell asleep still wondering. In bed. . 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
Lynn. but . you know. blinking behind her glasses as she waited for her to continue. . she felt that something was definitely wrong.' Then she remembered.' she said. Polly said in surprise. Lynn risked a glance at her. Polly's with some sort of cottage cheese mixture. I thought you didn't take sugar now.' She paused again.' and then blushed crimson at the forthrightness of the phrase. . She paused. All that effort . . 46 . it was a good enough one. aware that she was repeating herself. Polly settled herself comfortably. Lynn's with chocolate. After two minutes. They were both hungry. groping for a way in. and when the food came they gave it their full attention. As they reached for their coffees. I was coming up to the three months. What was it? It was not Polly. at length. it was like this . afterwards .' Lynn said.' she said.' She began to talk. 'Well. . . when she didn't care any more. She began to listen to what she was saying. who was listening perfectly. By tacit agreement. It had been at the hospital . about two weeks after we broke up. Lynn thought this was a total waste of time. they never did 'sensible eating' here.' Lynn considered.all for nothing! She felt a surge of irritation. 'You're putting sugar in?' 'Only in coffee. and then looked across the table at Lynn. She was gazing into her coffee cup. Polly was sitting very still. . 'Yes. that kind of preperiod ache? But it never occurred to me . They had filled croissants. 'Just this once. It was in her. she felt that something was not quite right. Lynn didn't reply immediately. and in an agony lest Polly should interrupt. After a minute. I got. Lynn began to panic. and it took you ages to give it up. 'It was in the holiday. . with every expression of sympathy. 'Only if you want to.' she added hastily. 'Tell me all about it. but it was still part of the fun. 'Now. . . Considering the highly calorific nature of croissant dough.' she said finally. It did seem odd. that it was taking too long. 'Well. . lost in her own thoughts. searching for the right words to begin. And now she was back on the sugar.the contents of last week's newspaper. Lynn finally found a door. How long had she been doing that? 'Oh well.
The vague feeling of irritated puzzlement and unsatisfactoriness inside her began to coalesce into something darker.nothing of value. when Lynn had ground to a halt. They said . Just words. as if she didn't know how to react. slowly at first and then faster and faster until it began to reach explosion point. but she was looking puzzled. stop her feeling. and flowers.' she said eventually. 'So it's all for the best. It was cold now. feeling more sure of her ground. That was how it seemed to her now. We got loads of cards . What was positive about having a miscarriage? She took a sip of coffee. Oh damn them! Damn them all! The rage filled her to overflowing. nothing of comfort. the fact that there was no baby. 'And damn you too. the support she had been given. She was majoring on the care of the staff. Lynn thought about stopping. . She was talking brightly.' Now it was Lynn's turn to be puzzled. more solid. leaving out the emotion entirely. yes. What had they said? 'They said they were sorry. .' She paused. 'Well. Or it would have been deformed. it probably couldn't have lived. but she couldn’t. . nothing she could hold on to. people were very sympathetic. Nothing that told her they could feel her pain. She put the cup down and wiped the froth from her lips. . the more she could feel a sense of hot fury swirling up inside her. With a gargantuan effort. 'What a stupid bloody thing to say! What do you know about it. words to shut her up. At length Polly said. like mercury rising up a thermometer. Lynn. She stopped. She didn’t know how else to say it. she forced herself to look at Polly. When I got to school. to concentrate on what she was saying. ' Lynn's anger seemed to explode through the top of her head. Polly was still listening hard.describing. That's very good. 47 . 'If there had been a baby. and it dawned on her that this was an edited account. and too sweet. 'People were very kind.' she said at last. Yuck. animatedly playing down the gory bits.' Polly was saying kindly. It's nature's way . 'You seem to have a very positive attitude to all this. Polly!' she heard herself shout. . The more Lynn thought about it. and began to boil over. so that her discomfort and pain didn't make them feel bad. People had said nothing . She began to remember exactly what they had said.
Oh please believe me! Please forgive me!' 48 . she was doubly so now. 'I was only trying to help. Something had happened which could not be reversed.' Lynn was beside herself with remorse. Lynn watched her struggling to regain control before she added with an odd dignity. I know! I don't know what got into me. when all I wanted to do was help you. Polly made a half-hearted attempt to withdraw them. I'm not myself. for god's sake!' Polly stopped in mid-sentence. too. I'm sorry . she lowered her head and stared at the table cloth. The cafe went quiet. but Polly and Lynn still sat staring at each other. I'm sorry! I don't know what got into me. Horrified. Trembling. and Lynn could feel them shaking beneath her grip. oh Pol! Don't cry! Oh. something Lynn had never actually seen happen before. After a couple of hour-long seconds. so after a little while she lifted her head to look at Polly. and regarded her with a look of total unbelief. . much as she wanted to. Heads at adjacent tables turned. She held on tighter. please don't cry! I'm sorry. ' Polly . Lynn had never seen her cry. I'm seeing a therapist. I say mad things.' she said awkwardly. truly I don't! Oh please forgive me! I'm so sorry! I'm under such a strain these days. Her face was swollen and blotchy. then turned quickly back. . If she was aghast before.you patronising cow? What do you know about anything? You're still living with your mother.to cause that?’ Her lip was trembling. the hum of conversation resumed. Polly had her head down and her shoulders were shaking. I know. All her anger seemed to have vaporised in that explosion. Her jaw dropped. She looked up. she couldn't work out why on earth she had said what she did. and she was scrubbing away tears. She couldn’t gaze at it for ever. 'I didn't deserve that. Lynn. 'Polly. which strangely enough looked the very same as it had before she had spoken. She looked at Polly's tear-stained face and reached across the table to grab her hands. 'I don't understand. could not believe what she had said. which were convulsively clasping a wad of tissues.oh. please don't cry!' Something of her wretchedness seemed to penetrate Polly's misery. and in the face of Polly's distress. What did I say .
They would never come to this cafe again. How could Polly do it? Did she really mean it? She seemed to. to grope. I said.' 'Polly.' Lynn let her. It was all spoilt now. And for putting up with me. somehow. As they were driving back to school. Lynn could feel them. I've got to nip to the upper school to pick up that Quickfit for Bill. She managed a small smile. she tried again. for her purse.' Lynn. Polly.' 'Polly.' said Polly humbly. would never recover from this ordeal that she. 49 . she drove quickly to her own house. Polly said suddenly. As they were leaving. 'Course I forgive you! We've said worse than that to each other!' (Have we? thought Lynn. with her agonising shyness.I'll just sort the bill out. Lynn didn't dare say any more. It was incredible. it really is. thanks. I needed to talk – everything's all churned up inside .' She broke off. Polly did not drive to the upper school.Polly heard her sincerity and was programmed to respond. 'so it's all right. looking at her. Lynn. rather blindly. She returned the pressure of Lynn's hand. and then withdrew her own. Thanks. realised that Polly actually meant it. was amazed to encounter Polly's steady gaze. although her hands were still shaking. Instead. Can I drop you off?' 'Sure. Polly.' After Lynn had got out. not knowing what to say to make it right. let me! It's the least I can do!' 'No! My treat. thanks to her. 'That's all right Lynn. but the situation was still horribly fragile. Thanks for listening. was surviving.I don't deserve it. you are so kind! So forgiving! Thank you so much . 'Polly. had put her through. 'Just remembered. That's what friends are for. but thank you!' Polly did not trust herself to reply. anyway. the death blow that Lynn had nearly dealt their friendship. 'Time to go . The Quickfit apparatus was already set up.) 'I know I can't really understand how you're feeling. having been delivered by a member of staff travelling to the lower school during break.
But the bag kept sliding about when she tried to put her hand in. 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. so she put it on the passenger seat and attempted to eat from it while driving. Thankfully. the carer would have given mum her lunch and gone by now and mum would be asleep in front of the TV. She kept it there because they ate butter so seldom. in sheer frustration. With the seat belt on. she moaned quietly in anguish. Wait! A third of a box of cereal . By the time Polly got to school. 'Oh Lord. ‘Call yourself a Christian? Where's your self-control. She was glad she did. Good! She grabbed the waxed paper bag from the carton. Oh please forgive me! I just can't help it. Nothing else in the pantry. I just can't help it!' Polly piled the frozen butter shavings onto the bread. Hardly knowing what she was doing. Then another. and the familiar voice began in her head. she wedged it between her knees. I'm so sorry. and as she worked she continued to fork the cold macaroni into her mouth. She grabbed that too. stuffed it in her pocket and headed out of the door. and got out some white sliced bread. In between mouthfuls. She took a sharp knife and began to shave off thin slivers of frozen butter. She forgot about the Weight watchers bar in her pocket as she began to feel bloated and sick. Look at you! 50 . frosted flakes. Polly crammed the last of the bread into her mouth and got into the car. and began to chew it. She put the other one in her pocket. she couldn't reach the cereal bag still in her pocket. Grabbing a fork from the draining board. folded it over. She ripped the wrapper off one and stuffed it whole in her mouth. She worked quickly and methodically. . Polly took the butter over to the bread bin. . gulping down big bites alternately with the macaroni cheese. while taking the butter out of the freezer. Then another slice. As she locked the front door. she checked the pantry and found a packet with Weight watchers chocolate bars in. It’s no more than you deserve for not letting Him help you. she began to eat it. You will die of obesity and God will let you. so in the end. Then she remembered to check the kitchen in case mum came in.Once inside. Polly headed for the kitchen without pausing to take off her coat. the urge to eat had subsided. Polly opened the fridge door and took out some cold macaroni cheese in a bowl.
she stopped. had telephoned through to somewhere. unbidden.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. sat in the same seat she had sat in two weeks ago. Once again she was waiting for Tia. and said. Once again the attentive receptionist had asked her to take a seat. When Tia saw her looking. Chapter 5 Once again. This time Lynn was more alert. 'Lynn. 'This is the first of the three sessions we agreed 51 .' Then she waited until Lynn had almost reached her and turned and led the way to her office. Tia seated herself opposite her and said. At two thirty precisely she heard the soft click of the door at the end of the corridor and turned to see Tia approaching. 'Mrs Davies is here'. Once again she ushered her through. and Lynn. Lynn was sitting on the same chair in the drab corridor.
it's been really hard work. Oh. What a relief. her thoughts scattered like cockroaches under the cupboard when the kitchen light was turned on. it was a relief to talk. They made me angry. How on earth had that happened. but I felt so angry. What kind of training do you do? How did you become interested in it?’ Somehow. but now Tia was actually looking at her. Tia's enquiry had sent it completely out of the window.well.' She wanted to add. very angry. filled Lynn's mind. 'To tell the truth. Tia was looking concerned. Hardly knowing what she was doing. more importantly. And then her mind blanked completely. Actually. ‘And you made me feel 52 . bugger. but I don’t know why. and. So. how does counselling work then? Can you tell me something about it? I know very little. 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. Polly. my friends. God! Why did Tia keep doing this to her! She'd had it all so carefully prepared. now. how could she get it back? She didn't think she could. . I don't know why. She hadn’t meant to start with that at all.together. 'I .' There was a pause during which Lynn suddenly remembered with annoyance what she had actually planned to say to Tia. they made you feel angry. made a concerted rush to escape. They simply were not there. 'People were so kind. it's been bloody awful. Tia said. ‘So .' ‘Why's that?’ This simple question helped Lynn to focus. Her chance had gone. She risked a glance at Tia. about Tia.' Silence. it's been really difficult. Lynn looked away and mumbled in a rush. but it felt so wrong. She'd need to be quicker next time. about everything. I didn't know what to do. She knew now what she wanted to say. She’d had a lot of carefully thought out questions first.’ Lynn resigned herself to go with the flow. Lynn hastily averted her gaze again.um . . Della. her thoughts about the miscarriage. Actually. 'Yes. Into the silence that followed. 'Although people were kind. now she'd got started.
. seeing the blood again. 'Funny about the anger though . I didn't even phone any work through.I mean being angry with other people when they were being so kind. it was just a period. Oh. it wasn't as though I wasn't expecting it. I just went to pieces. 'Sorry. smothered under a flame-retardant blanket of guilt. But it had taken a lot of energy. I bet they hated me at school though.well . ‘Should I talk about it?’ ‘Whatever you like.' Lynn could feel herself trembling at the memory. When I saw the blood. well. I had to have two days off school.oh. I should have been ready for it.oh Tia. weird. Was she angry with herself? She supposed she was – losing patience with her own inability to take it in her stride.' 'It's all right. But I . I . . . noticing a rather nice green and silver ring. it brought it all back. 'I . It wasn't even painful. She had coped by resolutely thinking of something else. But here she was in Tia's office. ’Yes. having to cover me for that.I .’ said Tia. 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. at the whole lot of them. she said as conversationally as she could. That's not like me. not thinking about it. and now she felt so tired. I think so.all right.' 'Yeah . This would never do! She concentrated fiercely on Tia’s hands.like another miscarriage. anyway. but it was so . and wisps 53 . putting it on hold until she could see Tia and ask her what she thought of it. Oh. Every cloud has a silver lining. at Polly. Tia was regarding her with an air of polite expectation.' It was not an ideal choice of distraction.angry too. It was just . as my old mother would say. had been smouldering for days. I couldn't go in. The anger she was feeling at Della. but I felt so strange. but it felt like . and then looked up. that's one benefit I didn't expect from a miscarriage. I started my period last Monday!' To Lynn's dismay she found herself wanting to cry. To distract herself. it was awful.well. . I suppose that was because of the D and C.’ but she hadn’t got the bottle.
After a while. and Polly said. and said mildly. It's nature's way. and gently rocked back and forth. The smouldering pile of anger looked smaller. She had oceans. aware of Tia's eyes resting on her. and then her heroic efforts to minimise the outburst. Tia said. she said." I felt . to make it all right. clasping her arms around her emptiness. everybody looked . holding it in. She had felt as empty as the universe. to say it didn't matter. it probably couldn't have lived or it would have been born deformed. I really freaked out. it was to herself. Nothing! Just emptiness!' Emptiness. But it did matter. 54 . 'You felt that there was nothing there . 'I'd been feeling very angry anyway. She sat up. a little self-consciously. It wasn't all right.of smoke were finally emerging. pleading silently for help. in a hissing undertone. 'Well. useless failure! Thinking you were pregnant! Congratulating yourself! On what? On nothing. When she spoke again. galaxies of emptiness inside her. said she was bloody patronising. She said obediently. . She stopped trembling. 'Stupid. She continued hurriedly. She trailed off and sat staring into space. I shouted at her. Poor Polly! She could see again that look of stricken disbelief on her face. She and Polly had hardly spoken since. about something. you'd be surprised. more manageable. called her a stupid cow. Oh Polly! Lynn said slowly. the worst one was Polly. She looked at Tia. 'Anger is a very normal emotion in these circumstances. But there wasn't! There wasn't!' Lynn found herself whispering.How the hell did she know! What right did she have to say it was better for it to have died. She wasn't sure what she really thought about that. . She was aware that she was close to losing it. "If there had been a baby. Can you tell me about the times when you felt angry?' Lynn felt OK once more.I thought . trying to remember. she came to. and Lynn was powerless to stop them. Tia seemed unaware of her inner turmoil. It felt very bad. She leaned forward. that there never had been anything.there was no baby. It seemed too terrible to say aloud. 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. "If there had been".' She broke off. So are a lot of others. positively billowing out from under the blanket. She said. 'But . She had felt so empty. in a cafe. . .
the penetration.That you'd been deceived. Instead he had been bewildered.' Lynn felt foolish. and suddenly. Are you so sure that it was like that . She thought back further. Tia continued. . The baby didn't grow'. and her frustration at his obtuseness. you were really empty. What was Tia saying now? She relived the miscarriage. There was nothing to mourn. It touched something. but kindly. 'There was no baby. there had been only an undifferentiated mass of cells. There was no baby. There had been no baby then. for ten minutes . ‘Are you so sure it was like that – the whole time?’ Tia’s question echoed in her head. but pleasantly so. the fussy time-lapse cinematography showing the ovum dividing into two. 'Yes! That's it!' She looked at Tia wonderingly. a fragile bubble of joy rising within her that was burst almost instantly by the crushing awareness that the baby had not survived. when she told Mark. but when had there started to be no baby? Into her teacher's mind came a vivid picture of fertilisation. she understood. Her womb. Somehow. you just told me. She had thought he would be relieved too. She'd save that to think about later. When you’d thought you were full of growing life.' 'Yes!' said Lynn. when the sperm met the ovum. smiling at her. true. only their disappointment to contend with. the wriggling sperm. the doctor saying. almost of relief. 'But the emptiness. . She thought about it all. 'Oh. Tia. it seemed safe to do that here. which should have been the safest place in the universe for the tiny 55 . then four.the whole time?' Lynn thought. didn't understand how simple it made everything. had deceived yourself. By the time the miscarriage occurred. what then? There must have been a baby! Even if it had only been there for one cell division.' Tia said gently. looking at her anxiously to see how she would take it. and then a ball of cells . in Tia’s bright room. 'But how do you know?' 'Lynn. She remembered the feeling. but right back at the start.for ten seconds – for one second! There had been a baby! Her baby! She felt a sudden surge of wonder.
or what Tia thought of her.' Lynn bent her head and cried. she could not see her.did exist . She could feel whatever was inside her changing from an agonizing laceration into a steady ache.' said Tia. 'The baby was there. eyes closed. The pile of used tissues on her lap grew. aching sobs that seemed to knot her stomach in spasms. 'The baby . without warning they welled up again within her. She cried for a long time. and smiled tremulously. The ruin of her make-up had been completed by the first minute. Tia made no attempt to say or do anything to stop her. she know she was there.was there. It was such a nice feeling. and turned to the open box of tissues on the table. She knew that something of value had just been 56 . flowing round the pain. and looked up. It did not occur to her to think about her red eyes. The thoughts all became too much for her and she leaned back in her chair. All she could do was to ride them out as best she could. red-faced state. With her head down. If it ever reached the uterus. working her way steadily through them. . Lynn exhausted the tissues in her bag. The sobs seemed to die down and just when Lynn thought it was over. wasn't it? Even if it was only for a minute. They exchanged a long look and it was only then that Lynn became aware of her blotchy. It felt so safe to cry in Tia's quiet presence. horribly.hugely. Creeping in. . She could not remember feeling like this before. She looked at Tia gratefully. but Lynn didn't care. She could hear herself gasping and grabbing in breaths between them. But one thing stood out. But it must have. She opened her eyes and repeated it to Tia to see if she had got it right. it was there?' 'Yes. She was powerless to stop them. she suddenly thought clinically. Anguish gripped her and she cried with racking. Lynn finally finished. It was not unlike being sick. and even though she was dimly conscious of Tia sitting perfectly still and making no move towards her. Confusion overtook her. Eventually the violence of the sobs grew less and Lynn's tears became punctuated by sighs. was a curious feeling of security. Something inside her was hurting . and shake her whole body.growing life. in a way she had not cried since she was a child. Something (she shuddered) must have implanted to stimulate hormone production and the thickening of the uterus wall. was not safe enough.
She wasn't sure she was even thinking anything. She looked as though she could sit there all day like that. ready to engage. Tia was in charge. She said. Twelve minutes to go. Lynn felt glad that Tia was in charge. 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. Nothing was said for a few minutes. so she paused to regroup.' It was clear to Lynn that she would get nowhere with this particular line of questioning. 'I don't. There was Tia. She glanced at the clock on the wall. It had not gone away.transacted. Tia didn't look at all bothered. But mingled with it was a measure of release. Tia had apparently not moved a muscle. regarding her with composure as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Eventually she felt herself drifting slowly upwards and reluctantly poked her head above the surface into the bright world around her. How could she look so cool. but now the moment was over she felt uncomfortable and she was not sure what to do or say next. 'What happened just now?' 57 . alert. when she.she felt exhausted. and Lynn sank. Lynn became aware of Tia's well-cut slacks and sandals and the bright hoop earrings shining through Tia's hair. Tia?' Tia looked at Lynn with a faint air of 'Why are you asking me this?' 'No. something of the emotion she had felt only moments ago washed over her. It meant that she didn't have to do anything. Lynn. Where had the time gone? How could she make the most of what was left? As she reflected. Lynn suddenly felt a resurgence of curiosity about this strange and fascinating world about which Tia knew so much and she knew so little. But did she actually need to do anything? Tia was sitting there as relaxed as ever. 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. 'Do you live around here. if necessary. but Lynn didn't want to think about herself . hands resting loosely on her lap. She sat back in the chair and closed her eyes. froglike down into the silent shadiness at the bottom of the pond. Lynn realised that Tia knew what to do even if she didn't.' she said. This was amazing. She'd think about what it all meant later. with genuine bewilderment.
lost the baby. and went on hurriedly. tasting the unfamiliar words. Not just feeling sad because my my future was different. ‘You said she was a fighter?' 'Yes.Tia gave her an approving nod . Mum. . My dad left her when she was three months pregnant 58 . 'My mum. .' 'And I felt . . . . Somehow say. I was telling you about what Polly said . . . I felt . She looked at Tia. .' She hesitated for what seemed an age ' the baby' . pain . But they could wait. wasn't it? Really. and then I realised there was a baby after all . really there?' 'Yes it was.' Lynn paused to think about it. but softly. She had me against the odds. After a while she responded hesitantly. such a pain. .' Tia said drily. 'Well. decided not to. you know.Tia said. isn't it?' There was another pause which Tia did not fill. . and then I cried?' 'Yes." ' ‘That's one reason for having a baby. Tia looked back. She was tough though. I felt like I'd really let my mum down. she was such a fighter. she died a few years ago. 'You know. She had to be. .' agreed Tia. 'I felt such a failure.' 'So my baby was real. That's odd. ' 'Yes. She would cry later. I wanted to be just like her.' Lynn repeated. 'You did.' ‘Mmm?' '.' Lynn felt tears welling up again. I can do it too. 'You would have liked my mother. I really admired her. lost . . It was grief. of grief. "See. . . but because my baby was gone. She was so alive. looked up to her. What on earth went on inside Tia's head? What did she know? She said. She knew she would be able to cry later. and then I realised it was to do with the fact that there was no baby . 'What do you think happened?' Lynn replayed it in her mind.' . She had such a sense of humour. . wasn't it? I was grieving for my baby. . when I had the . . . I mean. Lynn felt again the sense of awe she had felt earlier.
that this is a crisis clinic. even more woefully.' Tia said. She said. "Never say your mother bred a jibber!" she'd say. And now she'd have to wait another two weeks! 'And our next session is the second of the three sessions we agreed. A jibber's a horse that refuses at fences.' Lynn didn't agree at all.' 'Oh!' Lynn cried in distress. 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. we have just five minutes of this session left. for brief therapy? We’ve looked at some important issues today. She had so much to say. Mum was so wonderful. 'Lynn. I know it!' She could not keep the desperation out of her voice. please! Two's not enough. don't you. “What can’t be cured must be endured”. But my feeling is that there may be other issues around for you here and if the next 59 . 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. You've come to a deeper understanding of your baby and it has helped you to begin to grieve.' 'Oh!' Lynn cried again. seemed hardly to have started. Tia held all the cards! Against hope. there was nothing she could do. We would be in a stronger position to assess your counselling needs and we would have more time to do it in. But you do understand. 'Only two more! Couldn't we agree some more sessions now. Can you imagine that? But I respected her. take life's knocks and get up again. That was one of her sayings – she had lots of them. 'Oh please. I was about ten before I cottoned onto what she was talking about . Tia looked at her carefully for some moments. She wanted to tell Tia about her mother. I think you may find that things have shifted a bit for you. we've got a few minutes left?' The thought of only two more sessions with Tia seemed too awful to bear. They were on holiday in Italy and he just walked out of the hotel and never came back. 'I think we would need two more sessions to end properly. Tia was implacable! Lynn felt completely helpless.and she and Tia weren't even friends yet! 'Well. it would really be better if we discussed it during the next session rather than at the end of this one. and she could tell Tia didn't think so! .with me. She taught me not to whine. she cried out.
' Lynn was standing up too. Why did she always seem to leave with more in her head than she came in with? Once again.' and Lynn was dropping them in. one of these days. saying. But she didn't need to.' Tia's smile seemed to be saying. saw again that Tia was smiling. Lynn. I’ll see you then.I’ve had to drop it off to get it sorted. 'It's all right. away from Tia's affirming presence) about Tia. 'Our next session then. Lynn walked through the door. there seemed so much to think about. She knew it. Then Tia was walking with her to the door. thankful that she could hardly speak. . about what she might say to her in the sessions to come. once again heard it close with a firm click before she had gone three paces. . She felt so achingly. then added. holding it open. . yet . Don't be afraid.’ He paused. Tia was already standing up. She had no memory of the journey home. ‘You know what we ought to do. Tia was passing her a waste bin from by the desk behind her. about the miscarriage (she didn't feel like saying 'baby' -. A reprieve! She had gained a reprieve. We ought to get a video and order in a pizza like we 60 . measured way. on legs that felt slightly wobbly.' All Lynn heard clearly was the phrase. 'And now I am afraid our time really is up. The next two sessions need not be the last ones. he found Lynn busily typing a letter.' As he got it out he said. scrabbling at the mounds of tissues on her lap. * * * Lynn walked down the corridor with her thoughts buzzing. 'Your dinner's ready. I've had mine. and saying in her quiet.' Once again. it's in the microwave. deeply. is two weeks from today. I'm picking it up tomorrow – I hope. 'Will you be long with the laptop? Mine's playing up . Surely she needed to talk to Tia for much longer than two sessions.two sessions highlight anything then it may be worth considering referral for some longer term counselling. at two thirty. The second session was over. 'longer term counselling'. 'I understand. saying. . 'Here. When Mark came home late that evening.' Lynn turned to say goodbye.
After half an hour. Lynn didn’t even notice. Definitely hazel eyes. Her turbulent. Tia was an extremely intelligent.’ 'Oh. Then you expect me to pretty them up for you and 61 . . Mark waited in vain for the computer to be free. Then she responded to his ‘Nearly finished?’s with growing exasperation. laughter lines . Do you need it right away?' 'Not yet. the remote in the other. Back in the living room.' 'That would be nice. I feel I can trust you with anything.’ ‘I know. I never expected to cry so much but it felt very safe. Mark came in. Back in the spare bedroom cum study. come on! This wasn't getting her letter done.' He ate his meal restlessly in front of the television. . aware person. you seem to understand so much. . a fork in one hand. so stream-of-consciousness. There was more in the same vein. You made me feel safe. around the eyes . Fine lines . Hey. . First of all I want to thank you though because it was very helpful. It was very weird. As Lynn thought of her. . trying not to show his anger. 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. the floppy discs waiting to be used on the coffee table serving as a focus for his increasing annoyance.' she said. She scrubbed the beginning and started again. but Lynn felt a growing distaste as she read it. but Lynn recognised it in his heavy breathing and abrupt movements. ‘I’ve said I won’t be a minute!’ By nine o'clock. I feel more in touch with my feelings about my baby. he started looking round the door. slightly freckly skin that often goes with reddish hair. I won't be long. come on. At first. Lynn was finally satisfied. 'No. . 'You should have said. It seemed so adolescent. complex feelings seemed incapable of being expressed other than very simply. Take your time. you bloody technophobe. 'I did. she remembered the close-up of Tia when she had left. Older than she had first thought . I hardly ever use it. Only for the odd worksheet.' floated back. That translucent. Good bone structure.used to.
Sodding computers. but if it was up to you. please tell me so next session. Lynn thought. we'd still be using quill pens. An explanation of why she was writing. not literature anyway.coded message: Tia. It was not very long. Lynn grabbed her letter and disc from the computer and walked out.' ‘Yes I have. she'd not read hugely. I’ve finished now. As if I haven’t got enough to do. and it was such a release to be able to express my emotion so freely in front of you. And I do know how to print things out’ said Lynn stubbornly. Your insights enabled me to realise that I had not properly grieved for my baby. OK. (A good start. 62 . instead of leaving it to me!’ That stung. she'd been too busy. the written word. the printed page. Chris would – he was always ready to help anyone.print them out. If it's not appropriate. You haven't even mastered the Internet. Lynn looked at the letter she had written to calm herself down. Now in the living room. 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. That's what Mum would have said. but poor masters. She’d thought he didn’t mind. 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. Lynn was sick of the times they'd had this conversation. but she felt it struck just the right note: Dear Tl I hope you don't mind my writing to you. she had a bit of a block when it came to computers. Computers were a necessary evil. and stop making a fuss. they ruled the bloody world.) The letter continued: / really found this last session so helpful. inwardly seething. well. but Mark refused. plus a subtle acknowledgment of Tia's fixation with time. ‘You should do it more often then. simply refused to understand her love of books. but Mum had read enough for two. It’s nearly the year 2K. (Another Brownie point or two . You should go on a course. So. Good servants. Miserable sod! How often did she use the laptop? Hardly ever! There was one at school – well. a willingness not to write again if necessary. And Mum had never been keen on technology either.
when it was doing so much good. say how much it had meant to her. she so wanted Tia to like her! That wasn’t wrong. then dismiss her from her mind and her life. set by Tia. . I look forward to our next session together.it should be 'need' Lynn would have to reprint it when Mark had finished) to say.to laugh and joke and exchange views as equals. that was all. Oh.so much. a little monitor went off in Lynn's mind. Sincerely Lynn had wrestled much over how to end the letter. Lynn felt that everything she had said in the letter was true. . Part of her wanted to thank Tia rather more strongly. intriguing.) As I reflect.again. 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. so that Tia would not regard her as inferior. was it? To want people to like you? Not just to kindly help her. liked making friends anyway – everyone was interesting in their own way. Don't let's make anything out of it! Lynn liked people. come on! Tia was just an interesting person. How could that be? It seemed a hopeless task. And Tia was pretty fascinating. more interesting case. How could she deny Lynn access to her wisdom.you are doing such a good job. . bringing so much healing? Surely she would extend the time . She wanted to meet Tia somehow on more mutual terms . and a plea to her better nature. recognition of the time limits. . See what a difference you are making to me. so cleanly. I do so hope that we can fit it into the remaining time. I realise that I have so much more that I want (Drat . it's your insights that have enabled me to grieve. Lynn liked the way she thought. but she wanted that truth to convey a restrained strength. her clear thinking.? ) Thank you . It was . but something had told her that Tia would regard this as the fulsome gushing of a needy person. As she read the letter through again.so minimally. a parasite. a sort of mutuality between her and Tia. (A nice touch . Lynn had never met anyone who thought that way before . Lynn wanted Tia to notice her. Where was the harm in that? 63 . not even Della. someone to be dealt with as quickly as possible before she moved on to the next.
against what had seemed to be her better judgment.Lynn relived the session again. Mark was still working when she went to bed at eleven. She got up early to reprint the emended letter in the morning. 64 . She thought of her own willingness to accept Tia's insights. almost laughing at her. with mingled dread and pleasurable anticipation. Her honesty . . there was hope. . Yes. Lynn posted the letter on the way to the tube.Tia couldn't fail to be impressed with that. She could not resist putting on a first class stamp. it was nice.offer more counselling . Most of all. surely? Their talking together. recalling their interactions. she had made Tia change her mind . She had no idea when he finished. Tia smiling. the look Tia had given her when they had parted. really . to learn.
Lynn.can we talk? I mean about the other day. Polly had been insensitive. Polly. looking at her.’ ‘Sure. Oh well. I hadn't properly grieved. I'm . 'No. With this thought in mind.I'm seeing someone. I was . all my fault. And you .she really had to sort it out with Polly. a therapist I mean. That's a part of grief. 'I understand more now. But it wasn't you I was angry at. 'But it wasn't your fault. something had been laid to rest.we've got to . But she hadn't meant to be. had been at fault. but Lynn overrode her. In the session with Tia the previous day.' Polly tried to interrupt. as usual.' Lynn called. she knew.’ said Polly.' Lynn paused momentarily.sort of touched on something .' 'Ciao then.Chapter 6 As Lynn entered school that morning. She realised with chagrin that she had hardly spoken two sentences to Mark since the previous evening. new resolves to sort out her future and her past. felt a rush of affection. wait.' That at least was true.I felt angry. and yet it was Polly who waited like a child for a rebuke.oh Polly. she was aware of new desires emerging within her. She had to make it all right. She looked anxious.well . Her face was neither friendly nor unfriendly.hello.') What kind of relationship was that? And as for Polly . standing there so meekly to hear what she had to say. That wasn't strictly true.' 'Ciao. was bent over the prep room table with her back to her. ('Toast?' 'No thanks. you know.' Polly straightened and turned to meet her. but scarcely more than this. but she dimly sensed that this was just the start. as she approached. You see. Lynn. 'Polly. lab coat unfastened and swinging open. let that pass. She. 'Polly . 'Polly . I'm off now. She just waited.and I let you have it. 'Oh . apart from a grunted exchange of information and farewell. and I’m beginning to 65 . She couldn't go on like this. let me finish! It was my fault. she climbed the stairs to the science labs and prep room. Poor Polly. I just had say again how sorry I am about what happened.
'Let's go out for a sandwich this lunchtime. Mark was home late. . Apparently it's been booked for two weeks. 'Oh yes! Della invited us round for a meal on Friday! Didn't I mention it?' 'No!' said Mark. . He burst out. What's going on?' Lynn felt rebuked. yet amazed relief. I've been trying to be patient. 'It's all right.' she added. Polly had heard just one thing . 'I'm sorry. Lynn said. Everything was all right again.' Oh god! Hadn't she told him? She said quickly.it wasn't you I was angry at. Before. His face was shadowed. Please forgive me. but we can't go on like this. But if someone had said to her in public what she had said to Polly . She didn’t know what. He came in the door and said. Lynn recognised the authenticity in Polly's voice and was slightly awed by it. 'It really doesn't matter any more. Lynn. we've got to talk.' 66 . On impulse. forgiving Lynn had been something Polly Had To Do because Polly had clearly done something very wrong. . In everything that Lynn had been saying. Polly smiled. That evening. so deserved! She came and stood by him and said repentantly. as she had once said before. But this time she meant it in a different way. It wasn't her fault. He said he was looking forward to Friday. she could see that Polly's face was changing from a look of apprehension to an expression of muted. !' Polly's squarish. It really didn't matter to her now: she could hear it. dissolving and dissipating the chilling hurt that had been nagging at her ever since That Day. The miscarriage was bad enough.' she said. A warm feeling was spreading within Polly's guts.understand. I don't know what’s going on myself. They did not go to the Cafe Noir. And I know that I hurt you so badly and I'm really really sorry. as he was taking his coat off.' As Lynn spoke. but ever since you've been seeing this woman. Now her forgiveness of Lynn had a deeper resonance. genuinely. You’re just not there anymore. it wasn't your fault. but she needed to put it right. open countenance was beaming. I acted as though I knew what he was talking about. It was deserved . 'Look. you're worse than ever.' Polly beamed more widely. 'I saw Deryk at the gym.
I've been trying to be patient. ' Inside her head.the sweaty city office odour replaced by the smell of fresh cotton and the piney shower gel they used at the gym. but how could she? Her time with Tia was too precious . She'd told him nothing. . I know I'm not much company at the moment. As for the miscarriage . in Mark's arms. put his other arm around and bent his head. Mark heard what she said.. On impulse she moved closer to him. You know I don't mean to hurt you. Lynn . It seemed so inadequate. Lynn froze. . What was left? Not much. had obviously meant something to him. but how much longer is this going to last. 'It's been a long time. .'I told you. Lynn. What was the matter now? She had seemed so willing. . She could feel herself almost sagging with relief against him. The moment hung in the air while Mark waited in an agony of suspense. Still holding her. Smiling.to share. Mark murmured. . She inhaled his smell . felt her soft nearness. * * * 67 . she took his hand and placed it on her breast. I can't go back now. catching the characteristic scent of her shampoo and cologne. So that was a no-no. Please give me just a bit more time to try to sort it.and too painful . the baby . He dropped his briefcase. and put his arm around her. even eager a moment ago. felt only thankfulness. for god's sake!' 'I don't know. heard the apology in it. . Things are happening I don't understand but I know I've got to go through with it.' She didn't know what else to say. She leant against him. to try by her closeness to convey that she loved him. The shutters came down whenever she had tried to talk about it. I don't know! Everything's such a mess and I'm thinking about it such a lot. Whatever she had said. that was over and done with as far as he was concerned. insufficient though it had seemed to her. Had he got it wrong again? Lynn felt his body beginning to tense and made a split second decision. but managed not to translate it into any bodily reaction.
'Look. these flowers are perfect for this vase. as she had done before. they were pious in those days! And 68 . Deryk was a self-made businessman. They entered and Della whisked their coats away. what was the date? Lynn stood up to see more clearly . then departed to tend to the flowers. She looked around. She always appreciated coming to Della's and Deryk's immensely. Oh. aged seven years’.’ To prove the point. and Lynn said. That was why he used the same fitness club as Mark. ‘I’m not wearing mine. Della. They were born hosts and their flat was large and full of interesting things arranged in odd corners and on low shelves. what lovely flowers! Thank you. 'Oh good. in a simple jersey dress that showed her figure to perfection. It was a bit like one of those memory games. Lynn looked around. filthy rich but not pretentious. Lynn always enjoyed spotting what new trophy they had added since last time. Thank you so much!' Her thanks were genuine. That pirate's treasure chest thing? No.Friday night found Lynn and Mark standing outside Deryk and Della's flat in St John's Wood. I love your carpet so much!' 'Of course!' said Della. A subtle perfume hung for a second in the September air. when Della appeared with the flowers artfully arranged in a tall vase. haloed in soft light. Lynn tried not to be jealous. Della loved flowers. How did they dare have up on the wall like that. Della appeared in the doorway. come in. Heavens. wait. The Lowry? No. come in! Let me take your coats. so delicate . in the way that people who have no children can get away with. with their feet in the Heworth's deep shag pile carpet. That child's sampler. You couldn't see it unless you looked. Mark rang the doorbell. Drinks. They had just seated themselves in the Heworth's comfortable sofa. so casually? No. Deryk!' she called over her shoulder. there was a tiny wire running down behind the bookcase. Lynn! Well. 'I must take my shoes off. mingling with the night scents of the still blooming flowers in the beds around. while Deryk materialised and benignly ushered them through to the lounge. you're here. 1663 ‘Harriet Cooper.the little maker's fingers long since turned to dust. So faded. she kicked them off. Drinking her Shiraz.
Della responded with some animation. You could hardly blame them. . pearly opalescence in perfect contrast to the glowing richness of the wood of the sideboard below it. and maybe she was right. He swore they were as rare as hens' teeth. . Someone else would have if we hadn't. The people were poor.' he said. these people are very poor. On the other hand. 'The very idea!' 'Isn't the sale of these shells . . and anyway." ' murmured Lynn. She clearly had strong feelings about this . . 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. Deryk saw her looking. the pinky.' she acknowledged.any money! I assure you Deryk paid handsomely for that!' Lynn felt slightly taken aback. quite unlike her usual languid tones.well . It wasn’t Deryk’s thing . Della hardly ever expressed herself without being amusing in some way. She bent over it. Lynn wasn’t sure what to feel about this. and her eye fell on a large and very beautiful shell. they need the money so desperately . 'My dear Lynn. aren't they?' She had touched a nerve. . so beautiful. it was beautiful . 'Ah yes. Paid a local an absolute fortune to dive for it. their shells just 'happened on' by collectors was beyond her. After about ten minutes. She’d never seen one so close before. How people could choose to believe that these giant marine molluscs died natural deaths. 'Our last holiday in the West Indies. 'It's very beautiful. 'Has everything here got an anecdote attached?' 69 . 'So.illegal? They are quite rare. The biologist in her felt affronted at the unnecessary sacrifice of biodiversity required to grace a rich person's sideboard. Turned out they were as common as muck and the bugger just had swum under the boat to his mate in a boat behind us . was the shell still inhabited when you got it?' 'Heavens no!' said Della with a shudder. was that a tiny bloodstain in the corner? She shivered and turned away.yet there was a sort of innocence and modesty about it somehow.had a bag of 'em!' 'I don't know about "as common as muck. get real! The thing was dead and gone when we bought it. . Lynn wondered where Della had got it. She turned to Della who had come to stand beside her. up he came with it.
'More or less. well . and they were fried with something which Lynn couldn't quite place but which was very nice. So they did. . Somehow. but as the meal progressed. probably her pale blonde hair.' she said. She had to glare at Mark to slow down his eating. not to slow down his eating. thick-set. smiling. Was that how he had got that slight paunch? For a man who worked out regularly he was quite . Della's usual good humour was restored. .it seemed almost rude to think about Della's age. But then he must be at least fifty. It was lovely here and Della and Deryk were so welcoming and considerate. You couldn't have one without the other. . had been frowning at Deryk. but somehow she'd expected it to be a little bit different from this. Lynn’s pleasure in it began to be shadowed with a feeling of unease. but because he was already on his third glass of wine. Somehow it was something she had never thought about .but that was Della's style. Della said. generous but extravagant. . and then decided not to. She’d probably find out she’d been burned as a witch or something. It seemed a terrible waste . She too. that no matter how much they ate.' said Della. Too boring. and she was right. and she'd been looking forward to it so much . The meal looked delicious. and therefore seemed ageless. In between 70 . 'Are we ready to eat now?' and without waiting for an answer rose gracefully and drifted towards the dining room. It tasted sublime. . because she knew from experience that a starter this size would herald a generous meal. a vast amount would end up in the bin. she wasn't sure how. Mark and Lynn enjoyed it tremendously. .She had said the right thing. Lynn contemplated asking Della about the little needlewoman. Deryk said they were just very large prawns.’ For a moment. ‘Come and sit down. How old was Della then? With a slight shock Lynn realised that she must be in her early forties. 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. laid them on the table. 'But we don't tell them all to everybody. Lynn had noted with amusement. Lynn as aware too. Maybe because she had a touch of Jean Harlow about her. After a while. but she would have been amused. Lynn could never bring herself to ask for a doggy bag. and made them three-D. Della would have gladly given her one. It was as though Della had ripped out the cookery section pages of the Sunday supplement magazines.
it was quite fun. didn't you? I never realised you were so personally involved.' 'So you believe in God?' Lynn could not resist asking. actually. 'That's what that appeal for old school sweatshirts and pens and pencils was for about three years ago. . Deryk?' 'Um.they'd asked. not really personally . 'Well. 'They didn't get our present though.' Della looked uncomfortable. they are. that's all.was it last Christmas. 'We met Rachel and Samson . It seemed the right thing to do. that sort of thing. the anecdotes went relentlessly on.’ 'What’s that about school sweatshirts?' said Deryk. you got quite a lot. 'Oh. they've all got Biblical names over there .’ said Della hastily.' said Della. so poor. don't they Deryk?' Something clicked in Lynn's memory. looking interested.must be the wine ) and Della and Lynn talking school and diets and personalities.' said Deryk. frowning. you know.' 'So you went to a service. Bloody thieving postal service over there!' Della elaborated..Mark and Deryk talking Stock Markets and politics and personal trainers (Mark was beginning to loosen up.' Mark said. All believe in God. They're lovely people. nothing much. then?' said Lynn curiously. 'They sing well there. 'Unusual salad servers. Lynn noted thankfully . Della coloured faintly. When in Rome . They put us to shame. Very religious and morally upright. and yet so incredibly generous. We've got a tape of a church service we went to.. 71 . There's a school there. 'Oh well. . She could not imagine elegant Della and worldly-wise Deryk in a hot sweaty church service with lusty Pentecostal singing. 'Ah yes. 'Rachel sent us those . You were making it when I came. ' 'Samson?' 'Yes.' she said again.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.
Somehow she had never thought to wonder if Della believed in God. 'Deryk darling. Della wiped it off with an impatient gesture. I get a better standard of repartee from my year sevens.' 'So you admit it was the wrong drawer? And by the way. the reality was that she knew almost nothing about what Della really thought.' Deryk guffawed. it would not be in response to other people's questions. Perhaps she was thinking about God. ‘I like to keep my options open. I repeat. 'Little woman be blowed! At least I know where the whisk is . His remark got the response he was clearly hoping for. . ‘That's why I bought a few voodoo dolls as well . . I believe there's something in control. . Her feeling of discomfort increased. Lynn felt amazed.'Of course!' said Della. nervous breakdown when I put it in the wrong drawer. Deryk subsided. They didn't work very well though. 'the only thing you know how to use is the corkscrew. Not for the first time she reflected that although she and Della had been friends ever since she had joined the staff.and how to use it!' 'So do I!’ 'Let's face it. and even then you nearly had a nervous breakdown.’ said Della suddenly.' She stopped suddenly. a Higher Power. And it did not go 72 . whose mind now seemed elsewhere. 'The sound of the little woman at work!' His face was slightly flushed and he spoke loud enough for Della to hear. The milkman is still alive. He was clearly enjoying this exchange. and Della seemed to talk freely on any subject. do shut up. their version of them anyway. Deryk wasn’t usually this bad.’ She left the table and the sound of whirring emanated from the kitchen. though now she remembered .' Casting a comically rueful ‘See-what-I-have-to-put-up-with’ look at Lynn and Mark. Something about the way she ended suggested to Lynn that if she ever talked about her religious beliefs. that is. 'That's what I like to hear!' said Deryk. That reminds me . Della's voice floated indignantly through the doorway. Lynn and Mark exchanged covert glances. thought Lynn. 'Well. She glanced at Della. suddenly appearing pointing the whisk threateningly at Deryk. . The subject had never arisen.I forgot to whisk the cream.' said Della. you’ve got cream on your nose.
She must have bought them especially. but not decisively enough. . 'This is gynaecology.' This time it was Deryk who broke the silence. . Everybody waited. This was her opportunity. you could smoke.’ 'Deryk!' said Della warningly. Deryk passed the port around. some comfort. . Well. She wanted . 'Now when I had my miscarriage . As she listened to the banter and discussion she had less and less heart to join in and her feeling of alienation grew. Lynn and Della sat side by side on the sofa and Della said. while she said to Deryk 73 . . Butt out!' 'Gynaecology? Women's problems. As they drank coffee in the lounge. Lynn couldn’t help feeling touched. you wouldn't be able to smoke in the hospital. . She had to make a decision. She would just have to make it up to Lynn some other time. Rescue me! her eyes begged Della.' and smiled despite herself. Lynn noticed. Oh god! she thought. 'And of course. The silence grew. She could not finish. It seemed in such bad taste. She knew Della did not smoke herself and the packet was unopened. . what did she want? She wanted to talk about herself and her pain. 'D and C? Did you have FforbesTaylor? He did my snip.' It was her opening. and Lynn took it. But how? She imagined herself butting in on the conversation. yes. There was a room .away through the dessert or the cheese and biscuits or the coffee. turning towards her. Lynn was hurting she knew. . . I know all about 'em. 'The hospital . 'Cigarette? I remember you used to indulge after meals occasionally.' she murmured. I've lived with your PMS for years!' Della thought fast. to get some relief. . . Della glanced at her thoughtfully and said. but she could not speak.' She paused. after the D and C . but she had to live with Deryk after tonight. Unseen by Deryk or Mark she grabbed Lynn's hand and held it. That was so typical of her. 'No thanks. .' Deryk had already offered Mark a cigar. 'I stopped when . He and Mark were well away now. What was going wrong? Lynn asked herself.
Mark. as though they had just flipped from being in one soap-opera on TV to a completely different one on the other channel. never get relief. Lynn. He had to act quickly to get Lynn away. never. and it will be HRT next. still holding her hand. 'It's been so good to see you. Della also rose. Too bloody late. Tia! The very thought of her made Lynn want to cry. giving a creditable imitation of a yawn.' ‘I feel it!' said Lynn. What on earth was going on? Why was Della holding her hand. standing up. now she was white and desperate. ‘I’ll run you home. Even as he thought. . She hadn't even mentioned Tia. watching Lynn on the sofa. It's been a long week.' 'The tube's fine . he was moving. Looking from one to the other. spent.' 74 . summoning her strength to stand up. glancing at his watch. But you do look a bit done in. I'm not risking the National Health!' Deryk chortled appreciatively. 'Is that the time? I think we ought to think about making a move. She shrugged into the coat Deryk had fetched and now held out for her and turned to go. became aware that she was suddenly struggling. The evening was over as far as she was concerned. What the dickens was happening now? She'd been all right a few minutes ago. Lynn. as though she cared. She had a sudden picture of a tiny ember in a vast sea of grey ash giving a last faint glimmer and winking out. He cursed Deryk and Della and their endless need to be a double act. She could never talk now.' 'Must you?' said Della. wrestling her hand from Della's frantic grip.menacingly. and yet was doing this to her? She had been so looking forward to this evening and it had vanished before her very eyes. That will cost you plenty. Della! Don't bother going through the motions now! When push comes to shove you're just not there for me. 'Yes. Her chance was over. It was over. She leant back against the cushions. Della. Lynn felt as if she was in a bad dream. was now laughing at Deryk's sally about the gynaecologist who decorated his hall through his letterbox. .
Lynn leaning against Mark's shoulder in the back seat. said softly. his voice sharper. ‘I’m sorry we didn't get the chance to talk. all right. Lynn." ' 'Night. then drove off round the corner and parked up for twenty minutes. 'Night. had he said to make her look so grateful? They drove back in silence. Won't be a moment my sweet. ‘Thanks.' 'But I know you . When she got back.' ‘It DOESN'T matter.' 'Oh but . Two minutes later. What. 'What took you so long? I've been expecting you. he called out.' As she started stacking the dishwasher.'No! Please. Mark wondered. 75 . then went into the flat.' said Mark. As she quietly closed the door. the miscarriage. See you on Monday.' 'It doesn't matter. all trace of tiredness gone. It's what we pay her for. waited a little while until their light went on. Deryk 's voice came sleepily from the bedroom. 'What are you doing? I'm waiting!' 'Just coming.' There was complete silence from the bathroom. he called once more. anyway. Della. And did no one notice my deliberate abstemiousness over dinner? I am disappointed!' 'I did. and come to bed now. I couldn't say no to her – she was in a bit of a state. darling. I insist! It's no trouble.’ Della flashed him a dazzling smile. her hand on his knee. glancing at them in the driver's mirror. I've got the car out ready. 'Leave that my darling. a hint of petulance in his voice.' Della lingered outside long enough to see them enter the house. we could talk now. The cleaner will do it in the morning. if you like. OK?' ‘OK.oh.' 'You're welcome. Here we are. Good to see you.' 'Oh. And Lynn wanted to talk – you know. And thanks for a lovely evening. I got away as soon as I could. traffic. she put the car away. Deryk tried again. . Just making myself beautiful!' Five minutes later.
'Come to bed. 76 . damn you! Now! Or would you prefer me to come and fetch you. like last time?' Della came to bed.
did she care? She certainly hadn’t shown it last night. Della was genuine. How amazing Tia was! Beside her. adolescent love. interspersed with surges of bitter anger and despair. together. What she saw in him Lynn would never know. after seeing Tia on Tuesday.over-elaborate .as though everything was done for effect.and then what? Probably nothing. sort of kindness. Then to be sacrificed like that . darkness. Lynn was sure of that.to Della's need to be the centre of attention. At the memory of the previous evening. Della knew how much pain she was in. Lynn knew it would have to. though bitter. Della was no fool .well. How could she not? And it had started so well.nearly two weeks' time . secure in their cosy. laughing and teasing each other in the darkness. The previous six hours had been a confused hotch-potch of tossing and turning. Somehow. She would understand. and then one hour more .a necessary stage on the road to wholeness. genuinely cared.god 77 . nearer to being sorted. but whatever it was it took total precedence over Della standing with Lynn in her anguish. Della had seemed somehow artificial . that was the only word for it . One hour. lured in by comfort and kindness . had seemed cleansing. trips to the bathroom. therapeutic . But even that was cold comfort. Most of the time anyway. in two weeks. But then again. things had seemed brighter. That was the effect that seeing Tia had on Lynn. The crying she'd done. How did a woman of Della's intellectual calibre tolerate it? She actually did seem to find it enjoyable. sycophantic. dozing and quiet tears that made the pillow sticky. Mark's intermittent sleep-driven mumblings. The night had felt endless. all Lynn's anger boiled up again.and telling her what it felt like.what .Chapter 7 Saturday morning dawned eventually. At least Della might have spared her the heavy byplay. Of course it wasn't. At intervals in the night she imagined Deryk and Della. The only bright thread running through the whole seething mixture had been the thought of seeing Tia in .sacrificed. all served on a bed of the malaise caused by imbibing too much rich food and wine. drinks of water. Della knew how much she'd been counting on that evening. clearer. to flaunt her highly-charged sexual relationship with Deryk.
.' Lynn couldn't explain it. About the baby I suppose. She goes to my church. to flirt with Deryk instead. She tried one last time. Perhaps she was better off with Polly's not knowing. by which she supposed they meant Jesus. and the Saviour.' she'd said. It had been a good time. Surely what she'd said . Perhaps that was worth more? Lynn thought again of her lunchtime sandwich with Polly earlier in the week and her feelings softened. It's not what she says. just to listen a little bit. Lynn had told Polly a bit. Polly?' Lynn waited for Polly to say no. I don't know .' Polly had said. 'But she makes you think . but caring and trying to get it right. surely? So how could you have Saint Saviour's? She had tried asking Polly about this. Blundering on and putting her foot in it. Lynn had always thought that this was a strange name. They had really talked . about Tia and Polly had screwed up her face with the effort to understand. well. it's what she leaves out.things.' agreed Lynn. .tried to say . Saints were saints. was. 'It doesn't sound like she says very much.knows she wasn't expecting Della to magically make it all better. 'Well.oh . There was only one Tia. That was what made it worse . an unexceptional C of E that went by the name of St Saviour's. just a little bit. 'Don't you know anyone like that.' 'Such as?' 'Oh. but Polly grew pinkly 78 . And holding her hand while she did it! Lynn ground her teeth in the darkness. Surely she could have done that? But no. . .Della knowing.things you never thought before. yes. but it had been so hard to explain to Polly exactly the effect that Tia had had on her.about Tia would have indicated even to Polly that Tia was in a class of her own. and yet she still deliberately chose to not be there for her. Lauren's amazing. there's Lauren. 'Lauren?' 'Yes. But when she does speak . about a lot of things.' Lynn knew Polly went to church. 'She doesn't. the Saviour. But Polly had surprised her. She could see that Polly wasn't convinced. she knew.
She looked peaceful and happy. Now here was Polly mentioning church of her own accord. Lynn had 79 . 'God makes you feel happy. in her twenties – late twenties. doesn't he. Lynn was just about to say. and Lauren. she's really special.defensive and earnest. as though the thought of feeling God there gave her pleasure. it's not very big. in a worried sort of way. ashamed.the Holy Spirit.’ she had said. unsure of how to continue. and Lynn had the sudden horrible suspicion that that was how she herself looked when she talked about Tia. Lynn suspected and lived with her invalid mother. Polly?' ‘Well. It sounded vaguely suspicious. 'What's your church like. She was unmarried. Polly.' Lynn didn't know. She had no social life and her job at school was thankless and not particularly well-paid. 'Oh yes!' she said. 'You mean like pins and needles.' This sounded even more suspicious. and it's . Lynn said. but he's getting things moving. Polly had so little of value in this world. 'Yes he does!' And then the brightness dimmed as though by speaking so freely she had uttered some blasphemy and she stopped. he's very good. well. Lynn stopped. really . 'And.although her face did have a way of lighting up when she laughed that Lynn found very endearing. lively. and Lynn had never had the heart to press the issue. Life couldn’t do much more to her really. 'That’s good. but the minister.' Polly's face took on a soulful look. in terms of everyday direness. 'Lively'. She was not particularly prepossessing – homely. you know. and Polly had felt safe again and gone happily back to school with Lynn. On impulse. like a dog with fleas. when the subject of God or religion was mooted. God's there . David. Polly's face was so expressive.' when she noticed that Polly's face had changed again. 'That's really good. You can feel him. . and Lynn could not resist pursuing the topic a little further. Polly?' Polly brightened.' Then the sun had come out again in Polly's face. 'David's not been there very long. and they had laughed and talked of other things. Lynn had watched her.
and she felt spent from trying to stand against them. Again. he wasn't joking. 'You're still young. Mixed in with all the dross. there's a few good lads out there . Lynn felt sweaty and tousled. girl! Get yourself out to the clubs and discos. 'If you want a man.for all it was due to an irrational and antique mindset of pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die.the miscarriage. with a pain like sinus trouble in her head from lack of sleep. 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. Polly had once confided to Lynn her desire to get married and have children. It had been such a normal sort of conversation. but then stopped. this dreary Saturday morning. at least. nothing gave her any comfort . Polly might have nothing Lynn wanted. but who would want peace at such a price? Slavish obedience to a vengeful. physically better for making the effort. Join a dating agency! But do something! You can't expect them to come to you. Except. At last he said.felt a sort of restoration. As Lynn turned it all over in her mind. glad to give his attention to anything that took Lynn's mind off the night before. Mark. Go to evening classes at the college. She remembered Polly's face when she had said. Yes.peace . Strong winds had buffeted her from all directions throughout the night.so little. Della (she shuddered) Tia . perhaps. He listened intently. No matter where she looked. New and strange was a welcome relief from the old and intolerable and she pondered it as she got up and showered and dressed. humanly speaking. But nothing felt normal now. and so soon over – and now thoughts of Polly and her God. his hair still wet from the shower. an unfamiliar sensation came over her that she struggled to define. but she had one thing that Lynn hadn't got . Lynn started to demur indignantly. feeling. 'You're jealous!' Lynn was incredulous and indignant. with a laugh. with the papers from the corner shop. school. 'Oh yes!' and was silenced.find yourself one. She told Mark about this new strange feeling that she couldn't define when he came back from his run. patriarchal being who demanded everything and gave nothing in return. You'd make a lovely mum!' 80 . you've got to go where they are. Pol!' Lynn had said. peace? Oh. Jealous? Of Polly? He had to be joking! No.
'You're not a Moonie are you? Or some Exclusive whatever? Well. but at the same time chagrined that Mark should think it such a surprising idea. Pol! No offence!' Polly. She would go to St Saviour's. the thought of what lay ahead hung over Lynn like a dripping 81 . Granted. But still. . had not taken offence at that at all. if Della can do it. why can't I?' She thought about what she'd said. and . But she had clammed up on the subject of men . and Lynn had felt that she had reasonably said enough on the subject for the time being. But perhaps Polly's standards weren't very high? On impulse. she said to Mark. All that Saturday. 'I think I'll go to church on Sunday. 'Where will you go?' 'Oh. anyway.' Lynn had had no patience with this. generous person with a lot to offer.' But she did know. you could package it a touch more enticingly’ – Polly’s eyes had widened – ‘Oops! Sorry. Della had nothing to do with it. and whispered as though confessing a sexually transmitted disease.Polly had looked anxious. even though Mark might possibly have worked that one out. Mark saw she was serious. in the nicest possible way.' She paused. an absolute nonentity. 'I feel extremely offended by your godless attitude. . not Della. not that Lynn could tell. and religion. He said.' Mark burst out laughing. rigid belief system. I don't know. 'Oh. . But it was better than admitting to Mark that her considerations about church were linked to Polly. amazed to hear herself talking about going to church. That was a bit sneaky. You can't expect everyone to adhere to your narrow. There's plenty of good men out there who would love you. I'll have to think about it. He thought that Polly was one of Lynn’s lame ducks. who was Lauren? Nobody could compare with Tia. the image of Polly's face came back to Lynn now. you're a good. 'Hang on a minute! After all. kind. being Polly. then! Don't be so fussy. Polly did have peace from whatever source. . 'You! In church! That'll be the day!' Lynn said primly. but I couldn't marry someone who didn't believe the same as I did. of course.
but she had to own Polly's right to own her.umbrella. 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. It was quite large. Sometimes Polly was so adolescent in her outlook. emerging from some shadowy corner where she had clearly been lurking. Not much. and the place seemed full of people and the noise of their talking. In fact. From the way the woman turned her head to look at Lynn. when she saw her evident happiness and pride. mind! She could easily have decided to come on her own . and Polly. Polly was clearly telling her about her. but the thought of Mark's laughing face. She still couldn't quite believe that she was doing it. or Polly's shining face intervened. waiting to Velcro herself to Lynn for the duration of the service. church. Oh well. What this meant.' said Polly. the concession that she would sit by her to 'help' her. She wished she had. Lynn just had time to register these impressions before Polly appeared at her elbow. now. The ceiling still seemed impossibly high. receiving a couple of bundles of papers in return. too late! She braced herself and marched in. Lynn sighed. there was a distinct impression of light and warmth. and won. or Della's endurance of lusty Pentecostal singing in the Gambia. even when next day she stood outside the ugly. the church looked completely different. A dozen times she nearly changed her mind. Lynn dared not even conjecture. but at least the smell of the place was agreeable and not too musty. right on the end of the tube line. subdued but not defeated. a surprising distance from Polly's home. couldn't grudge it to her. and had begged to be allowed to meet her outside to 'take you in and introduce you to people. Lynn. Inside. square. Where do we sit then?' 'Wait a minute. beaming happily. Victorian monstrosity. It was 82 .' 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 did have something to do with Polly that she was there at all. anonymous. 'Hi Polly. but for the liberal use of slightly shabby red carpet. Polly had been surprised and delighted when Lynn had phoned to ask the time of the service. had played for.or gone to another. not wholly pleasant.
David's sons. or what? She hardly knew what she was doing there anyway. but wearing. Pol. Lynn registered that Polly was silent. thought of Tia. But pray to whom.' she said. visibly disappointed. Pray. they're Tim and Josh. He hasn't robed yet . She briefly wondered if she should do the same. empty the washing machine. Polly kept up a running commentary. . 'You mentioned her.and Jill is . 'Let me get my breath back. they are the music group really. 'Lauren's not here. She smiled at the woman. she's lovely. praying. Tia. or pretend to pray. Polly returned and led Lynn to the comparative safety of a pew near the back. will you? Oh which one's Lauren?' Polly looked round.' said Lynn indulgently. that's Marcy. and a rather more interesting game to play than any of the other distractions she employed when things got a bit too much. The girl with the violin. her measured gaze. Often Lynn wondered. She had wanted to see if this unknown Lauren was worthy of Polly's evident adulation of her.sorting out the microphones. Does Tia do this? Watch TV. 'Oh. Does Tia go to church? Sit in a pew? Believe in God? Somehow she thought not. much less if she believed in God. and stealing a glance at her. just because she was in a church? If there was a God.' She too felt strangely let down. Lynn found it fascinating to speculate. . 'Those two lads over there at the front . Now Lynn found herself asking. she. that's David. She often did this now and she accepted it. To comfort herself. her appearance of total relaxation. Why do you ask? 'Just wondered.' said Lynn. was disconcerted to see her with her head down.' 'Wrap up. who smiled back. that's all. She just was. The one that's just come in . as she carried out some mundane household task. with her articulated grace of movement.in his shirtsleeves . she was 83 . but it would be fun to try to find out. vacuum the carpet.sweet. her laconic comments . As Lynn looked around. go shopping? It was pretty nearly next to impossible to imagine Tia doing anything normal or routine. They've made such a difference to the music group actually.the one on the keyboards and the one with the guitar.
who stood rigidly to attention like soldiers. She hung on. It was a very interesting experience. She was completely caught up in it. Granted. Everyone under the age of forty seemed to know what they were doing. . and was still bemusedly turning them over when Polly woke up and found the place for her in the Common Worship book. but people seemed genuinely to mean them . and occasionally kneeling. The service seemed to involve quite a lot of flipping back and forth in the book. obviously not enjoying it one little bit.except. even a touch too personal. the other members of the congregation. gazing at the words of the hymns (were they hymns?) projected onto a screen from an OHP and swaying. since it also appeared to involve a lot of standing up and sitting down. but surely. Lynn found that a little bit spooky. to psalms and whatnot. Lynn noticed.' to help her though the worst bits. enraptured. who had either been 84 . though this seemed optional. The words of the hymns she thought were a little on the emotional side. she was glad that Polly was there. as they sang. to be part of a group like this. Lynn had to acknowledge that quite honestly. gritting her teeth. Lynn did a double take there. with secret delight. Lynn felt as though she had entered another culture.certain he wouldn’t think much of that. She felt extremely thankful that they were near the back.' Polly had merely nodded without looking at her. The papers included a copy of the parish magazine entitled The SS News. St Saviour's was a bit of a mouthful.' she whispered to Polly. in the name of all that was holy. and in the end she gave up and just let Polly show her. The book was entitled Common Worship. So that was sorted! Relieved. When the songs ended. 'I though it would be all dirgey. they could come up with something better than that! There was also some sort of regional newsletter. and looked totally incomprehensible. and a couple of flyers for some forthcoming Christian entertainment events. Reading through them. for a few die-hard old dears in hats. . she turned her attention to the papers and book in her hand. ‘That girl on the violin certainly can play. 'When in Rome . Lynn thought. So that one could wait until Polly surfaced. remembering Della's murmured. What surprised Lynn most was the music. staring fixedly in front.
This was going on for ever! She imagined Tia sitting in the pew in front of her. At least they were something to look at. but gave up after a while and gazed around. She stole another glance at her watch. Lynn tried to follow what was said.so tribal? It was one thing to watch it on TV (not that she did) when you could get up to make a cup of tea when it got a bit heavy or the adverts came on. Lynn was both fascinated and repelled. laid-back sort of person. Then Lynn imagined Mark sitting with her. The women outnumbered the men by about three to one and most of the men there looked spoken-for. but overall the effect was pleasing. What she would make of it would be another matter. Lynn decided generously.he made her angry. His scornful incredulity at the thought of her going to church made her feel 85 . This seemed to work. None that she could see from where she was sitting were Polly's age. and frowned. and would probably listen intently to the preacher. and then she realised it was because Tia did listen. the preacher was sincere. in red and gold. She didn't want to think about Mark . and there was much riffling though pages by certain people who had brought bibles with them. but there was a little too much about Jesus in it for Lynn's taste. and green. A bit amateurish in design. Polly included. He even made a few jokes which the audience seemed to love. Without doubt. blue and silver. but this was a bit too close for comfort. returned abruptly to normal. There were a lot of appliqued wall-hangings in the pillars. When they had a time where anybody could pray. she had a new insight into why Polly was unattached. She was glad when the sermon started. anyway. The sermon seemed long and. depending on the beat of the song. listening. and seemed a caring. Was this what the C of E was like now . Doves and flames and water images featured heavily. She didn’t really like it. Surveying the scene. a bit too up close and personal. which Polly had referred to as 'banners'. 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. like the rest of the service. He quoted the bible a lot.apparently jumping up and down on the spot with excitement or singing with eyes shut as though in mystic trances.
absolutely bloody furious. Lynn could hardly imagine anything she would personally like less. Then the service was finally over and they were filing to the back of the church for a cup of coffee. she hadn't found it. They all seemed concerned that she'd enjoyed the service. what was she doing there? What had she expected to find? Whatever it was. Lucky. almost against her will. but that was all. smiling and nodding. 'I enjoyed the singing. it was quite nice and warm in here. . Have you got time to say hello to one or two people?' Lynn had. which 86 . No one asked her why she had come. Pol. furiously concentrating on not feeling depressed. The service was a bit longer than I thought. 'Just a quick one then. Lynn glanced at Polly. but she was observing an experiment now. now mercifully nearly over. while she. In for a penny.' She had said enough. 'How did you enjoy the service?' Lynn briefly rehearsed the good points in her head and then said honestly. lucky Polly. She didn’t feel quite like going outside yet. actually. . delighted. Being Tia worked so successfully that now Lynn. Polly looked pleased. . she could not deny the veiled longing she saw in Polly's eyes. and yet . Lynn. 'I'm so glad you liked it. in for a pound as Mum used to say. and besides. She did this by pretending she was Tia listening to the sermon and imagining what Tia would do. And the vicar seemed sincere.' As they stood drinking. had enough clinical interest in the proceedings to acquiesce to Polly's seemingly casual but deeply charged suggestion that she stay for a coffee. 'People seemed to quite enjoy it. . sitting rapt beside her and a wave of desolation rose up to engulf her. Polly asked the question that Lynn had been dreading. There seemed to be a lot of people milling around. An interesting sociological experience certainly.' She heard herself adding. Patronizing sod! And yet . as Tia. remained outside in the dark! She spent the rest of the sermon. And besides. nay. to be sitting there so secure and on the inside.
as she thought about it. It was a firm and satisfying grip. Polly registered Lynn's intention and fired her last salvo. So the prolonged handclasp was nothing personal. 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. Then she saw that his eyes were on her with a kindly interest and that his hand was outstretched in welcome. Lynn decided. Afterwards. but greatly liked. Lynn noted. and to her surprise. Then she realised that he was considering her with a shrewd yet puzzled glance.and began edging purposefully towards the door. He's by the door.greatly relieved her. this seemed such an obvious thing to say. Was this really good old Pol. as though uncertain what to make of her. introducing her to as many people as she could. and that she had almost trodden on him. with a bald patch on top which was was beaded with sweat. coupled with a strange pang of jealousy. and was in her element. he did not let go immediately. Lynn felt a sense of pride in her friend. and that he had short wiry hair. although she could easily have said she'd come out of interest because she knew Polly. seemed to be not only well-known. that she wondered why she had worried. She stepped back. for her part. was touchingly proud of Lynn. Lynn. chatting vivaciously. Polly. whom she. Polly. he had simply forgotten to let go. The 'one or two'. Lynn realised that David was indeed by the door. she of the flapping lab coat and anxious expression. had clearly been a figment of Polly’s imagination.someone would find it later . noting as she did so that he was not as tall as she had thought. 87 .' Too late. She tired long before Polly did. apparently guarding it. Damn! She shook his hand as Polly introduced her. 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. abandoned her coffee cup on the nearest horizontal surface . 'Let me introduce you to David.
Lynn pulled her hand free.why. But why the disappointment? Why this despondency. As she sat in the tube going home.' and found herself saying instead.' This at least was true.' Inwardly Lynn was seething. 'I don't know. What a totally unsatisfactory encounter! She needed time to recover. but very positively. The service was . Lynn searched her mind for a remark which was polite but also totally crushing but she was too slow. . briefly. of hurting. and said with a touch of irony. hoped for something. yearned for that peace that Polly had. This time the space invasion felt intolerable. 'How's Lauren?' Lynn felt a sense of summary dismissal. and he was calling with some urgency to someone over her shoulder. he disengaged. Politely refusing Polly's offer of a lift home. Lynn tried to analyse what was happening inside.' Whether he perceived the irony or not. Thanks. 'The service has given me a lot to think about. and I need a bit of space. Polly seemed delighted with her reply . don't get. Lynn felt backed into a corner. against the odds. Maybe it was Polly's face.' He said simply. decided on the latter. in his way. Why this anger? It wasn't the vicar's fault . this sense of loss? What had she expected.' This was unpleasantly unsubtle. 'I hope you do. from the service. . most interesting. and she wasn't even there! She heard part of the reply as she moved outside. vicar. Mum! Thanks 88 . Lynn could not tell. Even as she opened her mouth. She wanted. so sick. I hope you'll feel able to come back. . she headed for the tube. Them as ask. Lynn could not think. He accepted her compliment at face value and replied 'I'm glad you found it so. 'Thank you for your warm welcome.he'd just been being kind. 'Poorly today but she sends her . Bloody Lauren again! Interrupting. uncertain whether to be irritated or amused. His expression changed. from the vicar? The strength of her feeling now was an indication that she had. She was sick. 'I don't think so. She opened her mouth to say.' and rested his hand against the side of her upper arm. Pol.
She didn't even manage it once. to have a peace as simple as Polly's. on the clothes of the people in the seats around her. she'd have to have a mind as simple as Polly's. and that she certainly did not want! This thought afforded her some grim amusement. so she gave up and concentrated instead on spotting the tube station with the longest number of letters in. . in sequence. and seeing how many times she could spot the colours of the rainbow.that. 89 .a lot! That's all I need at a time like this! Anyway. and kept darker emotions at bay until she got home .
and they were very nice to me. and in frustration she struggled up from the table and rushed from the 90 . 'You patronizing bastard! What right have you to sit there so smugly. I'm not sure I ought to let you go back there. You could end up brainwashed and clapping and dancing along with the rest of them!' Mark started laughing again at the very thought.it's a cheaper fix than drugs. and gradually this.' 'Will you lay off the sniping now?' What did he know for god's sake? He hadn't even been there.' 'Well. of course.' This was a side of Mark she hadn't seen before. They don't do anybody any harm. 'Told you you wouldn't like it!' he said. But Mark refused to stop laughing. determined to extract the last drop of satisfaction from her failure to find what she had needed from the service. and at least I'm not despising them. unable to resist drawing it ever so slightly larger than life . nothing malicious. but at least I went there.the old dears didn't join in. you bloody Neanderthal! I'll go if I want!' All the things she wanted to say rose up to choke her.' 'More fool them! They should get a life. This was not so good. 'I told you . gloating over your superiority? And don't you bloody lay down the law to me about going there. it's not my thing.Chapter 8 Mark was waiting for Lynn when she got home. began to drive a wedge between them. Mark. He had cooked lunch. Their laughing together enabled her to distance herself a little from it. but they mean well. they would be nice to you! They want to convert you! Give 'em half a chance and they'll have their hooks into you well and truly. At first Lynn told him honestly of her impressions and the people she had met.only in fun. instead of uniting them. 'Those happie-clappies are a mixture of frustrated old spinsters and crazy mixed-up kids . 'Maybe you should. They may be simple. Look. was a balm to assuage the rawness of the pain she chose to let remain undefined. this was good. He sat opposite her while they ate. Something snapped inside Lynn. and there were people our age there.
And she didn't care. She couldn't even summon up the energy to mourn the loss. so much to admire. I didn't mean to touch you on the raw. but wanting to make it all right. It was horrible. . Not like Mark .' ' Don't call me Lynny! You know I hate it!' 'Since when?' 'You know I hate it! I always have. how different it had been! How wonderful! There had been so much to talk about. Why had it all gone so wrong? She had been partly to blame. Lynny. Lynn lay face down on the bed. Who was this callous. the love they'd felt. with whom she shared a house and a bed? Surely he hadn’t always been like this? She mused on the past. but an alien life-form had invaded his body and it had just showed itself in their last conversation.room. she knew .at least she was. 'I'm sorry. Mark looked and spoke the same. hacked apart and bleeding . pulling his skin this way and that to accommodate the razor. had pleased her. for being such a fool as to go and look for something there . They had felt they could never look their fill. his scorn had been for her too. mocking stranger. sitting on the side of the bed. so much to desire. Even watching Mark shave in the mornings. In their bedroom. awkwardly stroking her hair.' 'You never said!' 91 . My god! She could do without grief like this! Into these bitter reflections came Mark. they were Siamese twins. I'm sure they're very worthy people . the closeness they'd shared? When they had first met.she knew not what it was. then married. and Lynn hadn't even noticed. Where had it all gone. .or if they were. the laugh still in his throat. They weren't one flesh in two bodies any more . clearly recognising that he had transgressed and not sure how. even if she was bleeding.he'd enjoyed being such a bastard. She wanted to be on her own. It seemed so distant now. leaving her food half eaten and Mark sitting amazed. all gone. as though she didn't recognise him any more. but only that she had not found it. And somehow. never learn enough. It was gone now.but she hadn't meant any harm.
You'll have to do better than this. One minute you're all over me.' He left abruptly. Was she really that bad? She'd always been sensitive to atmosphere. / had no feelings .that was over two months ago and I'm still treading on eggshells the whole sodding time. But then it seemed. "I'm so precious" act all the time? When you had the miscarriage you acted like it was yours and yours alone. 'Hang on. How weird was that? Oh sod it! She didn't want to think about it any more. I never know where I am with you. sad. she'd said . What the hell had happened there? He too had felt the violence of the encounter. She wouldn't have known what to say. His 'mood-chameleon' he used to call her. even if Mark had stayed.I'm running out of patience. her mantra for calm. hang on!' 'No. Which she'd appreciated. you hang on! Or level out. he was right! A man could only take so 92 . Mark sat staring miserably at the computer screen. you started to hate what had attracted you. touch me. laughingly saying that she was able to absorb the emotional colour of any situation and pass it off as her own. 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. Happy. * * * In the study. But wasn't that what they called empathy? But perhaps he hadn't liked it? But he'd always laughed when he said it. 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. At first. sad. Your mood swings are driving me mad. Lynn. touch me not. leaving Lynn wide-eyed with shock on the bed.'Well. she did have a rapid response mechanism to events and situations. but Mark had liked that. Stop being so bloody selfish . the next you're treating me like crap. but dammit.no matter what happened. And yes. I'm saying now!' 'All right. happy. She let her thoughts drift towards Tia. He'd said so. Opposites attract.
Please don't make me have to repeat it. Then lying awake waiting.an overnight bag that was six months too soon. Mr Davies. Mark groaned aloud as he remembered. then leaving her there. the nightmare drive to the hospital that night. jostled with the memories he was doing his best to erase from his memory forever. He hesitated by the door. waiting for the dreary day's dawning. And at what point during the years he had known her. drained of all hope or joy. in fact it's very common. it's hard enough once. evidence of his haste in packing an overnight bag for her . her hair in disarray. I was just going. 93 .it happens sometimes. and she saw him. had begun to explain all that had happened since she last saw him. trying so hard to be brave in the dimly lit ward. talking very fast. as though he was mentally deficient.much. He recognised them all individually. 'Do come in.' Mark had sat down on the spot she had just vacated. and they're going to give me a D and C tonight and I'll be home tomorrow. just a mass of cells . had she started to hate being called 'Lynny'? Why didn't she say at the time? Bloody women. Against his will. I've just told you. stopping the car while Lynn opened the door and leant out to be sick. surreal quality of the brightly lit accident and emergency unit at four in the morning. He had got back to the ward just as Lynn was finishing a conversation with the doctor who was sitting on the bed. there was no baby?' Lynn had looked at him pityingly. and Lynn. it was just combined in sentences they didn't add up. she white-faced and trying not to groan with pain. He could see that look now. there was no baby. 'Mark. concluding with. listening openmouthed to his diatribe. Mark had struggled to make sense of the words. 'Let me get this straight. they flooded in now. for the doctor. But the worst. not knowing quite what to do. returning home to the chaotic hell of the bedroom and bathroom. the bizarre. The doctor looked very young but very professional. tear-stained and vulnerable on the bed. they expected you to be sodding mind readers! Images of Lynn. the very worst was seeing Lynn in hospital the next day. 'So you see. holding her hand while they waited. and she was holding Lynn’s hand.
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.but right now. It had been the strangest afternoon of his life as they sat there saying nothing . didn't want to know any more. He knew enough now. Mark longed to chuck his gear on the back seat of a nice little BMW or Audi and just roar off 94 . his legs. and Mark had gone home again to the oh-so-empty flat. They gave me some Pethidine early this morning but I'm fine now.what was there to say? . I'll be ready then. they'd had a baby last night and now there was no baby? They were going to clear it out. But that was all over now. With impatient movements he closed down the computer and grabbed his gym bag.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. and the car park cost an arm and a leg and was further away from the house than the tube station. Mark visualised again the car he would get when they eventually got around to buying one.and holding hands. Lynn heard the door slam as he flung out. There was no baby. Clear what out? Mark didn't like to ask any more. To divert his thoughts. so there was literally no parking space where they lived. I'm hungry though . OK.I can't eat until after. She had obviously been crying. he would not ask again.' Had she? Mark couldn't remember. and yes.there was only his mother anyway . The world went on around him while he sat quietly on the bed. until it was time for Lynn's pre-med. as he waited for the tube. I told you. OK. but she didn't seem to be in pain any more. A D and C to clear it out? Was that it? The end of all their hopes was .this? No baby? How the hell could there be no baby? For god's sake. Perhaps it was OK to ask about that? 'Oh yes. Not in any pain. That was another thing he had against Lynn her refusal to consider a car. I can't eat until after it. everywhere was accessible in London by tube. After a few moments he was able to look at Lynn. but it was so damned inconvenient! They hired a car for holidays and visiting friends and family .' 'After?' 'After the D and C. so come for me about eleven. The anger flowed like lava into his arms.
Of course. A vigorous workout was just what he needed. and contrasted his etiolated pallor with Deryk's stocky.it was Lynn.where. he didn't know exactly. Deryk greeted him jovially. He felt foolish not having one. only at a minimal level. he supposed. if he had a car.or at least. that wasn't his style. 'That's better. He grinned despite himself. she didn't want to drive and she didn't want him driving either.he'd be away somewhere . he wouldn't be going to the gym . Mark couldn't help catching sight of them both in the mirror. OK. I told her 95 . now. But Lynn. Della moped on about hers until I had a word with her. How's the wife?' 'Lynn . He'd only met her a few times and she'd been failing then. As they talked. he saw Deryk come out of the shower. Mark was extremely thankful to get to the gym. You looked a bit down in the mouth when you came in.she basically was afraid of driving in London. She refused to learn to use one . You had to be on the QV but it still wasn't impossible.the bossy old cow.that she was frightened to engage somehow. Nobody wants to prang their car if they can help it. Lynn . Deryk caught the look and attributed it to his own conversational skills. Why.they're all the same. And they had nothing to save their money for. Then she snapped out of it. that he had to lug all his kit onto the tube on a Sunday afternoon . Actually. Well. she's all right.' 'She looked pretty miserable on Friday. Still moping over the miscarriage?' 'I suppose so. It was that bloody mother of hers with her anachronistic ways. It was the same with computers.' 'Women . Nothing to do with economics . he seemed very cock-a-hoop. with the money they had. but my god! was he glad he'd never known her at full throttle! But she'd never be dead while Lynn was alive. Mark could never understand why Lynn thought she was so wonderful .and then back again? It took all the pleasure out of going. As he changed. hers wasn't exactly a miscarriage. for god's sake? It was like she was stuck in a time warp . What was it with her? They needed a car. Well.somewhere. people tended to cut you up a bit and the road layout was terrible. was it. grizzled bullishness.oh. towelling his hair dry. Why. I suppose.more .
but Deryk continued. Maybe he'd been patient long enough. Let him have his dreams. He'd have need to be.' 'Mind you. surely? He had as many rights. or they'll get away with murder if you let 'em. but I was right.straight. I'll tell you another way where they're all the same . pity mingling with dislike. Lynn was sitting hunched over the computer. * * * Back at home.but you have to let them know who's boss. Or you can always bribe them. Now she'd started going to church! Where would it end? He wanted their life back. . as much invested in this marriage as Lynn did. get them a little present . But perhaps there was a tiny grain of truth in what Deryk had said. He was demonstrably powerful enough in the boardroom if not in the bedroom. and Della's languidly acerbic dismissal of Deryk's petulance and heavy humour and felt like laughing himself. What was it Deryk had said? A firm line? No harm in that. 'They're like children . Poor old Deryk.it works with Della like a charm. my girl. but lately her emotional output was off the top of the scale. she's like a magpie a magpie with bloody expensive tastes!' Deryk walked away still chuckling. Dear Tia. It's just that a lot 96 . Lynn was an intelligent woman. Expensive tastes became Della. ' Mark did not want to know Deryk's theories on women. You will probably be surprised to get another letter from me so soon. and Mark looked after him. after all. . the letter ran. Right then. And he'd just sat around taking it! Maybe she wasn't going to snap out of it on her own. He set the treadmill at 14 k/h and ran until he was exhausted. she'd started seeing that counsellor woman .and the whole bloody thing had gone off exponentially.what was her name? He couldn't remember . What planet was Deryk on? Like children? Mark thought back to Friday night. Lynn . And just when she'd seemed to be getting over it.doesn't do to let them get away with too much. Sometimes you have to take a firm line. Not too heavy . "You made your bed and now you lie on it." She didn't like it.' 'Well.
Lynn paused to re-read the last sentence and was horrified. letting the noise and distraction anaesathize her. 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.of things are happening at the moment and I can't keep pace with them. Lynn sat there mindlessly. If only it had occurred to her earlier she could have phoned up Lorna. or what I want or expect people to do. and. Why not? Nothing to go home for. I feel desperate! Lynn read over the last two sentences and again was appalled. she had nothing to lose! There were only two more sessions anyway. She got a drink at a pavement bar and watched the world go by. but dammit. but I can't seem to talk about the miscarriage to anybody. even my two best friends. Please help me. 'What would my mother do?' and then I think 'What would Tia do?' but it doesn't seem to help. . and then over lunch. She dared not think about Mark. She dared not think about Della. or Polly. I feel so greedy and selfish and self-centred and I can't seem to do anything about it. She hastily erased it. She transmuted them into: / desperately need some help in clarifying my thoughts. Everything seems such a mess. or Marianne. After the last session I felt so good. . Sincerely Lynn read it over and on impulse added a PS Do you believe in God. don't even know why. . and any help you could give me would be appreciated. I keep thinking. I don't know what I'm looking for. took the tube to the hospital to deliver it through the door of the department by hand. but it didn't seem to. or the church service. I even went to church this morning to see if it would help. and I thought that things were working out. or 97 . I had a massive row about it with my husband and I don't even know why. just for something to do. Afterwards she walked around Leicester Square and Covent Garden for a couple of hours. London was a lot safer than people thought if you knew where to go. turning her chair at an angle to face the crowded pavement and away from the two other people who shared her table.
Mark said. 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. The journey home seemed interminable. I'm on my way back now. Some minutes later she finished her drink.' She switched the call off mid-reply. Why?' 'Why? Why! I've been bloody worried. Consultant Clinical Psychologist. she remembered two things. she supposed. and then the phone so that he couldn't ring back and settled back in the uncomfortable slatted chair. The first was the pile of marking she had intended to do for her first period lesson. 'Good to see you back. Within a minute it rang and Mark's voice came through. and yet too short. that's why!' 'Sorry Mark. When Lynn got in. It was the second thought that worried her most. 98 . loud with anxiety.Declan or someone to meet her for a drink.' Grateful though she was for this olive branch. and then went hastily to bed. As sleep mercifully overtook her. So she looked at him and smiled as gratefully as she could to show that she had heard and appreciated it. It was too late now anyway. Mark?) 'I'm having a drink in a bar in Covent Garden. as 'confidential'. 'Lynn! Where the hell are you? I've been ringing you for hours!' (Surely not hours. 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 second was the thought that she had not marked the letter entitled Dr Tia Bradley. The moment she vacated her place. Lynn could not bring herself to respond in kind. She got her mobile out and switched it on thoughtfully. I just popped out for a wander round and a drink.
I don't know. They were eating lunch in the prep room. ' she paused. .' Polly extracted another piece of apple and ate it thoughtfully. washed her hands before. and slid her hand carefully into a sandwich bag containing quarters of apple. a person who longed above all things to know whether people she met believed in God but never dared ask them. 'Lynn. 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. Then she said.' She corrected herself. extracted one and nibbled it slowly. I know hardly anything . 'Why do you want to know?' Good question! Why did she want to know? Now it was Lynn's turn to consider. . an activity which was officially frowned on. Pol? Or wait to see if she says anything? Or what?' Polly blinked. ‘I know nothing about Tia. was now being asked this question by someone she was fairly sure did not believe in God about someone she knew absolutely nothing about. Lynn. find somewhere to start from. Nothing seems fixed anymore. Polly considered while she chewed. for obvious reasons. a point of reference or something.Chapter 9 'So should I just ask her if she believes in God. Polly. But things seem in such a mess at the moment that I've got to – oh . who had learned her trade at a CFE. was eating her sandwiches from a plate she kept specifically for that purpose on the shelf where the evaporating dishes were stored. it 99 .' she said at last. Polly. 'I don't know. It seemed ironic that she. but I do respect her intelligence. during and after and nervously took every hygienic safeguard she could. 'Then you would too? How many times have you seen this counsellor?' ‘Twice. 'I don't know if I believe in God myself. to give herself time to think. If she believed in God .
Hastily she said. But what to? Not to the miscarriage . There was a short pause while they took it in. She had been going to say. 'You're right.seems to me that there's something a bit strange happening here. You're going to Tia because of the miscarriage. right? If that's so. but what she says makes me think. ‘Tia doesn't say much. how can I say? . and if she doesn't. I wouldn't care about what my GP thought. He's started singing to himself now.oh.I don't need to know anything about her. anyway . 'Why don't you wait to see if she says anything about God.’ but she didn't. Looking at Polly's I'm-puzzled-but-explain-to-me-and-I’ll-understand expression.well . I just want to. '.tap into that wisdom I suppose. Still she tried to unravel it. You're absolutely right. What heavy weather she was making of everything at the moment! 'Right. for her own satisfaction as much as Polly's.I wonder if Michael Strangely is back yet? I've got him later.' 100 .' She stopped.that was being laid to rest. 'If Tia has written any books?' but the look on Polly's face told her it was time to change the subject. Polly. She sighed. as a thinking person. so why should I care about what she thinks? But I . Lynn felt in exactly the same boat. I'm seeing Tia for my benefit. it's so hard to explain!' And it was. . then realised she had left the sentence in mid-air.' (Polly winced inwardly. and she knows more than she lets on. not hers . shouldn't you be . She'd already said enough for one conversation. Then Lynn said slowly. . So she said. Where did that leave her? But she knew she wasn't a thinking person.) '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. 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. believed in God . she could see where Lynn was coming from. Not in the way that Lynn was. in a way.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. If I knew that she. Besides. I feel that she's very wise. I'll do that! I wonder if . '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?.' Polly wanted to ask.
thought Lynn. the kids call him "Crabman'" and when he reaches the queue for lessons. . bulldozing other people out of the way until he gets to the front. but Chris only asked this morning.' The thought of the afternoon class triggered a problem that she needed to air. but a total pain. I don't suppose you could share. I don't mind him .is that his real name?' 'No. You can't blame them. could you? You could half a set each. so he'll stay in normal lessons until the classes are set in year nine. in Andy Powell's form. I'm getting the kids to bring pictures of their own in 101 .'Michael Strangely . so untypical of him.he's a sweet boy really but he pushes the classroom assistant to her limit and he has to be watched like a hawk the whole time. or have them for half a lesson. It was rarely that a day passed without some sort of juggling act being necessary. 'That's OK. one that nobody else can hear. I think he thinks he's singing the words of the text book but he can't actually read. Sorry. 'You asked for the picture cards and string to do food webs. flashed before her mental sight. But he's not aggressive or wantonly malicious.' Polly's face was creased with a familiar anxiety. but Chris has asked for them too.' 'Poor Michael!' said Polly feelingly. Sometimes I think he's more lonely in a class full of children that he would be on his own. and an image of his worried face. Bloody Chris.' 'I know him. Why can't he get his act together? Then she remembered her conversation with him last term. it's Michael Strachley. 'I guess there's a few kids around like him. The singing drives me nuts though. he just keeps going like a tank. None of the other kids want to work with him.' 'Can't he go for special help?' 'I wish! He does for maths and English. Half a set will do. with his back to the wall?' "Yes. Pol. They had not yet spoken this term so she said. Doesn't he go along corridors sideways. He's harmless. Unfortunately he also helps himself to other pupils' pens and pencils then using them to draw over their books. I meant to say earlier. I've got him this afternoon. But his parents are somewhat intellectually challenged themselves and they insist there's nothing wrong with him. he just marches to his own drumbeat . hands and clothes. .
moving the books to one side to give her more room. huddled over some marking. somewhat self-consciously. He glanced up.' said Lynn lightly. and putting the pipe into an ashtray nearby. 'You and Brian are the only members of staff who smoke . what a very nice mouth he had in general. Then he stopped suddenly and looked embarrassed. 'Yeah.both members of the science staff. I assure you. But thanks anyway .' he said.' said Lynn briefly. you tracked me down. puffing his pipe furiously.' she added. Life goes on. I'll just nip out and catch him in the smokers' room. as she knew he would be. 'Nor any who'd want it. 'I never saw you properly to say .which was the size of a walk-in cupboard and constituted a grade one fire hazard if anyone was actually in there smoking .Lynn berated herself for her forgetfulness. He was there. his bright curly hair the most visible thing about him. . well. Lynn thought. Chris. . and Lynn thanked her stars that she had changed the subject.' 'Skip it. she had things on her mind too. and we're making our own.from magazines. in fact. and his smile grow to match hers. who ought to know better!' She saw him relax. and put his arms behind his head. so I just need some for a back-up. though. that reminds me. I'll still need the string.' 102 . and she noticed how very even his teeth were. you know any other teachers who have their own room just for them?' 'No.' Polly visibly relaxed. Back in five minutes. She really must learn to shut up about Tia! What got into her at times? 'Actually. 'That's history now.appreciated. startled. 'Not difficult. as she sat on the table by the books. He laughed outright then.' Hurrying along to the smokers' room .' she added. He'd think she didn't care. 'You ought to give that thing up. 'I need a word with Chris myself. looking round.' she said. 'So. He stretched. saw that it was her and gave a sheepish grin. She'd meant to see Chris earlier and completely forgotten.' said Lynn. smiling broadly. I might add. But hey.
how have you been?' She'd picked that expression up from somewhere lately and liked it. 'She left me. She's told me that. and I believe her. so she squashed into the chair at the other side of the table. She told me she was going to. somehow! Aloud she said. .' Lynn emitted a soft 'Ooh' of sympathy. Lynn found herself wondering about the colour of hair elsewhere on his body and mentally shook herself. The short hairs on the backs of his hands and forearms glinted red. Think.'That's OK.' 'Yeah!' said Chris savagely. flatly. like my loss. staring bitterly ahead. and it freed the person to answer any way they wanted. Lynn said. She just 103 . how? I don't know . It suddenly occurred to her that sitting on the table looking down on him was a bit too much like looming over him. That was pre-Tia. That a loss. . flanking the pile of half marked books. . Into it. He hesitated. what should she say? She would normally have said. 'Quite a loss! You don't know. Sandra's left him. and Lynn was a quick learner. Tia didn't say things like that. She saw pain shiver across his face and vanish. What did Tia do? She helped me . And she could use it with Chris. Like the loss of . 'So.' The silence that followed was comfortable. He sat there. and she couldn't help sensing that the clumsiness of this manoeuvre rather destroyed the delicacy of the moment. 'That's quite a loss. There wasn't much room between the chair and the wall. Nobody knows! I keep replaying and replaying it.' But that was really crass. There's no other man. . She thought. I'm so sorry! I don't know what to say. I'm sure she'll come back. That would be most unwise. 'Chris. Chris didn't seem to notice. It was so useful.' followed by something like 'Don't worry. .' or even 'Maybe you're better off without her. . clearly wondering how much to say. think. Then he replied. but I never thought she would. Lynn resisted the impulse to take one of his hands in hers. his forearms on the table in front of him. because she knew him very well.
would you really?' He grabbed her hand with both of his. Chris. you could work something out. It's worth a try! God knows / can't do anything. Couldn't Sandra see what she was doing? Chris was universally liked.she just hangs up on me. 'It's all right.won't say anything. Then he turned to her.wants time to think.' Chris sat up abruptly. then deliberately let go.' said Lynn. 'I'd be glad to help if I can. He did the same. never mind! She briefly returned his grip with both her hands. Maybe she's as puzzled as you are about what's going on. Lynn. ? Oh. 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. looking at him earnestly in return. His face was alight with hope. it would give you a bit of a clue as to where she's coming from.what he was trying to contain! And now it was all spilling out. 'Maybe it would work. 'Oh Lynn! Would you. was torn between a pang of fellow feeling for Sandra. Unable to stop herself. what am I meant to do when I don't even know what I'm meant to have done!' Lynn listening. open. She had to do something. would it help if / tried to talk to Sandra . funny and a good teacher. He was shaking his head as though to try to clear it. honest. He related well to everybody. I hate to think of you carrying all this pain. But think about what? What have I bloody done ? She won't talk to me . despite his best efforts. Maybe you could. refuses to answer my texts. Then maybe. Poor Chris! What he was going through . warm.' 104 .' His face clouded with the memory and he shook his head. registered that he had done so and paused. 'Look. and now his head was in his hands and it almost looked as if he was trying not to cry. Lynn reached out and gently touched his curly mop. . as her words sank in. she says. She could feel herself stirred by his emotion. unsure what to do. Chris. 'I think a lot of you. by his intense. I can't even talk to her .sort of woman to woman . staring ahead for a moment. pleading gaze. and I like Sandra too. you know. God almighty.' she said. How could Sandra .try to find out something? Maybe she needs someone to talk to.
as she made her way back to the prep room.' Again.to wriggle. 'You won't forget. Lynn.what . and it was certainly a handy distraction from her own troubles. he was more in control. Yes. It was so good to help people.' he said confidently. It was all she could think of to say.'So you'll . with a hint of mischief. 'Maybe I didn't buy Sandra enough presents. to his marking and his unlit pipe. Dear old Chris. His eyes had lost their look of anguish and his usual air of jaunty merriment was clearly on the way back. Oh. and even as she finished. 'You're a darlin'!’ To her amazement. she felt absurdly pleased. he leaned over and kissed her lightly on the cheek as she struggled . he was such a sweetie.' she added formally. Sandra means everything to me. give you a bit of a hand on the way. a look of pleading swept over his face again and he said anxiously. always more pronounced when he was upset. 'No Chris.I've got a few things on myself and I need to think what to say. scribbling down Sandra's mobile number on a piece of paper which he presented to her with a flourish. well. But maybe I can. and then grimacing at himself for saying it. Clearly. 'What a mess. out of the seat. Afterwards. 'I'll be in touch. I've . with a smile. What's that perfume you've got on Lynn? It’s really nice. She was so fond of him. Give me a few days though. She sighed. I'll phone.’ What an idiot he was! He was definitely feeling better. it occurred to her that 'I'll let you know' might have been better.' said Lynn.' She smiled inwardly at his words.' 'She'll want to speak to you. Lynn. I could send her some of that. with some degree of dignity. He said. You and Sandra love each other. I hope I can help! she thought. was receding again. His accent. as she left him.' she said. 'I won't forget this. / trust you. This is just a temporary hiccup I'm sure. Lynn. But he certainly seemed to have been helped by their talk.anti-climax! . she told him. She might not want to speak to me anyway. now Lynn? Promise?' 'I promise. Laughing.' she mused. though he rather spoiled the effect by saying anxiously 'Don't lose it!'. She looked at him. 'People trust you.' 'I know.phone? I feel like you're my only hope. 105 . but rushed to disclaim them.
'Nicole was up here looking for you. Lee. Della had seen her looking and put up a hand to touch one. 'Oh a lot better!' she said. She was crying. Polly?' she asked.' 'Those earrings!' said Gillian. 'You were saying the other day that her Parkinson's had flared up. 'Deryk bought them for me on Saturday. taking no offence. I told her I'd tell you. 'Makes a change from Russian then.' said Lynn conversationally after the register had been taken and the form were filing out the door.' Polly beamed.' Lynn felt a pang of concern. but Daniel and Gillian both laughed as they went past.' said Della. 'I wish I looked like her. her best friend. but she could listen. does it?' asked Lynn smiling. she surmised. of course. modern designer ones with emerald chips in that must have cost a fortune. 'I wish I was like her! 'Yeah!' agreed Emma. She knew Lee wouldn't get it. but Lynn could guess the rest. Oh well. she'd catch up with her later. She hadn't meant to say anything after Friday night.Back in the prep room. and the conversation revolved around new drugs and diet and bath hoists until the afternoon bell for registration caused them both to start guiltily. and indeed there was a general air of cheerful anticipation pervading the form. She felt pleased that Nicole had felt able to come to her.' 106 . The reply was lost as they clattered down the stairs. Polly had a message for her. Not that she could do much. a little self-consciously. 'New?' asked Lynn. 'Been up to no good again?' 'We're making a video in English!' said Lee happily. compounded by her over-protective father. 'You look very pleased with yourself. 'Mrs Heworth is excellent!' said Gillian. but the question slipped out naturally. Level-headed Nicole! What could be the matter with her? Boyfriend trouble. Lynn to flee through the lab to let her form in while Polly washed up her plate. 'How's your mum doing these days. She remembered something else. She herself had noticed the earrings earlier in the week. 'Yes.
' Overtook you.I mean. she thought. no occasion. Brian didn't have a form .' said Della complacently.neither in. she seemed to have no ultimate direction or destination . next Friday. three days after she had seen Tia. if she knew she was doing it.' You bitch! thought Lynn.Lynn had given Della another chance. And yet Della seemed happy enough. Lynn agreed. 'Don't worry about it. she didn't know how Della could stand it. this time she could tell Dell a bit of what was really going on in her life. it was a strangely driven and aimless way of living . kindly. and turned to Lynn as though she had only just realised who she was talking to.take her or leave her. 'They're lovely. 'about Friday night. again and again. But she had said. Aloud she said. I feel better about it now. just maybe. It wasn't . 'Lynn. and then she drew back. and thought for the hundredth time what a strange person Della was. . Dell! The time just wasn't right then. I didn't mean it to be that way. But she had had time to think. 'Oh. quickly superseded by a look that Lynn could only describe as smug.' she said urgently.if they didn't have to cover for anyone.' Then she seemed to come to.'Really? What was the occasion?' An unreadable expression crossed Della's face momentarily. And from the look on Della's 107 . and could find it in her heart to feel sorry for Della. thought Lynn. . Deryk was amazingly childish at times. Really. I couldn't sell myself for earrings. So . approached. But that was Della . 'I like my pretty things. Della was always best on a one-to-one. But unlike the tide. Yes. But she was rewarded by the look of relief that had flashed across Della's face. Maybe. you mean.' Lying cow! she had said to herself. and drew back.he wouldn't mind registering Lynn's class. Events just overtook us. For someone who was so manifestly in control of her life. He may have a superb business brain and his heart was in the right place. Like the tide. Anyway. nor out. She approached.' 'Yes. They both had a free period the next Friday afternoon and Della had suggested a long lunch . but really. of course.
108 .face. it seemed that she might have a few things that she wanted to tell Lynn.
but not quite. Tia broke the silence.' said Tia. After a second or two. Then she had made the remark about the letters.how have you been?' Lynn's thoughts were still on the letters. ‘What do you expect me to say?' quality about it.' said Lynn. an in-tray and an extremely tidy pile of papers. and said. ‘This is the second of the three additional meetings we agreed together. ‘Good. Tia was seated with her back to her desk and Lynn couldn't see what was on it apart from a computer terminal. expected her to say that. One was red and rangy.Chapter 10 ‘I got your letters. The early October sun streaming through the window behind Tia's desk gleamed on the small ceramic sculptures in front of the books on the wide shelves of the bookcase. So what did you think?' ‘About what?' ‘Of the letters.' They were once again seated in Tia's room. but the titles were too far away to read. No . Tia had shown her carefully in.not all right. and the other was green-blue. ‘I read them very carefully. but she didn't. ‘Good. Lynn waited. she repeated it. The bookcase had books and files in. Apart from Tia herself. they were the only spots of colour in an otherwise beige and grey world. To buy some time. glancing around the office. Again. ‘So . Lynn hoped Tia would say more about them.' Lynn had almost. aren't there?' 109 . Her look had a slight. There are a lot of things going on in your life that you are trying to sort out at the moment. ‘All right. What did you think of them?' Tia looked at Lynn. Was it an office? Or a surgery? Or what? It was very plain. They looked hand-made. It all looked terribly functional.
This was no answer.oh . He hadn't even been 110 . room.' ‘I . but I didn't know if I should. Tia?' Tia was not disturbed by this question. . I didn't even know if you got the letters . Where on earth was this coming from? ‘I did get the letters and as I said. I told you in my letter that I'd gone to church . ‘So you don't believe in God then?' ‘I don't know. Oh thank you! I mean . And yes. good. Tia said softly. After a few moments. Her mind could move around again.yes I do. She had no idea at all what to say next. I didn't know if it's allowed.oh. I read them very carefully. Lynn could not imagine her having unformed ideas about anything. and that Mark and I fell out about it big time. It occurred to Lynn that she had not been specific enough. but my life is very busy at the moment.' ‘Oh. There was no mistaking the ring of truth. ‘Yes . Tia wanted her to set the agenda. the Sunday before last.' What did that mean? From her experience of Tia. What do you say to someone who says they don't know? ‘But don't you ever think about it. Tia?' ‘Not really. I probably should. 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 .well. I wanted to write to you again. I . everything seems to be sort of slipping away. ‘Perhaps you have a reason for asking that question?' This was better. ‘My ideas about God are' .she hesitated – ‘unformed.' said Tia simply.' There seemed no way forward.oh.' Lynn stopped in confusion as she heard her voice beginning to rise. it is allowed to write while you are seeing me. Lynn had not been able to resist hoping that Tia might say something and the sharpness of her disappointment took her by surprise.I'm just sick of everything! I'm sick of Mark giving me a hard time. She came to the point. ‘Do you believe in God. She gazed meditatively into the middle distance and spoke carefully. She tried again. Fair enough. . Although she had anticipated this.
You've got things that you desperately want to say. desperately want find out. How very let down you must have felt. no one to trust. . wherever you look. Mark and I went round for a meal last week. . nobody I can trust!' Lynn finished on a wail and closed her eyes. People who believe in God are always banging on about how wonderful he is. but people either can't or won't listen to you . But there was nothing there. . and she just flirted with her husband.if he's there at all. can he? Not just Mark. I'm aware that I can't expect very much of her. ‘I mean very much intellectually. ‘Nothing that I could see anyway. At the moment it feels like there's no one to hold on to.' she added. there was just . .and maybe not even God will .' she amended. ‘So where you thought . We've made it up now. Only a lot of people worshiping . really embarrassingly.hoped . Then she realised that it would be very difficult to see God. she heard Tia's quiet.' ‘Yes. Then she had the nerve to try to get me to talk in the car on the way home. so disappointed!' ‘You were disappointed?’ ‘Yes. .there. I wanted to find out if there was something I could trust. I expected more of Della. now. It was a bit late by then! There's nobody. but – but I was so . I wanted to know if it was true. That's a pretty lonely place to be. well-modulated voice.' she said hastily. Except he’s not there. something reliable you could hang on to to get you through. and about you .nothing. . If he was there. but she's a simple soul. She just doesn't know what it feels like. ‘Or feel. ‘So wherever you go. absolutely! I did feel let down . caring face flashed into Lynn's mind. what right had he to be so superior? And they were nice people. I told you about Polly. nice genuine people. In the pause that followed. no one seems able to recognize that you are hurting inside.' She paused. I suppose I couldn't help wondering . and she felt pang at betraying her. . so he can’t let me down. nothing.by everybody. all evening. and I so wanted to tell her about the miscarriage . really really disappointed. It’s hard to explain. But Della. . even God.' 111 . ‘Polly's a very loyal person. that was really there.' A picture of Polly's honest. .you might find something of worth. .
aware. and transmuted her skirt pleating into an imaginary fluff-picking exercise. For a moment. and tried to pleat the edge of her skirt with her fingers. it is’ said Lynn reflectively. but the skirt was short and the fabric did not have enough play in it. Even at this moment of rescue. ‘Let me see if I’ve heard right. she found time to wonder if Tia's finely arched brows were natural. even though your need was greater?' ‘Yes. Your perception of Della was that she knew what she was doing. when she herself didn't know what she wanted to talk about? Why on earth did she feel so self-conscious. if any. Lynn described the dreadful dinner party and her feelings of betrayal and Tia listened without comment. attentive.just over the nose . ready. Her slightly freckled . was the only real moment there was. Lynn thought of Della and her offer to listen. But Tia wore very little makeup. I felt abandoned! I watched her do it. The bits about Della certainly were. when Tia was smiling at her so encouragingly? She looked down.skin had a creamy glow that only required a hint of blusher to highlight the cheekbones. Our friendship – my need – counted for nothing! Why did she do it?' 112 . How artificial and studied it seemed in comparison to this simple being.' said Tia. Tia returned Lynn's gaze perfectly steadily. as it were. it still felt all right. Lynn felt somehow wrong-footed by it. here. or the result of artful plucking. and looked away embarrassed. ‘Take your time. completely For a split second. it seemed to Lynn that this moment. But understand what. She opened her eyes.just there. Lynn took her time.' and ‘Um. that although Polly and Della would not understand. It felt all right.. When she had finally finished. and yet chose to abandon you in favour of Deryk. Even though several ‘Well. . as though answering her own train of thought. Tia was still there. Tia said. you see's. Tia would.‘Yes. And when she spoke. it's like thistle’s' tentatively emerged and tottered a few steps towards Tia before falling into oblivion in the space between them. it was not entirely what she had planned to say. Tia was wearing a well-cut sandy-colored skirt with a chased leather belt and a lime green open-necked shirt. But her eyes flicked back again almost immediately. Tia was waiting. It suddenly occurred to Lynn. until Lynn became conscious she had been staring too long. with Tia. But it clicked that Tia had said it.
so sympathetic! You were wonderful. Thank you! Thank you so much!' Lynn could hear the emphasis and emotion in her voice.' Lynn was instantly diverted. Lynn noticed every time Tia spoke her name. She hesitated before replying.05. '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. so what! Tia deserved it! She'd been bloody fantastic. It's not really my brief to make people see things. the words tumbling out. though she could not for the life of her work out what Tia had done wrong. I listened. and as you talked. ‘I didn't make you see anything. that I did have a right to grieve. you were so understanding. 'I've no idea. ‘I never thanked you for the last session. From what you say. You listened so well. but even in the hearing. During the next pause.you couldn't really describe it as a compliment.' to finish the exchange off. You described the evening very well. that's right. She said. Only another fifteen minutes left! Where had the time gone? She said hurriedly. It was so good! So helpful! I felt I could properly grieve. Instead she said gently.This was not the sort of question Tia answered. You made me see that there was a baby. rather than heard the implied rebuke. leaning forward and sweeping away a lock of hair that had fallen over her eyes. She was burbling. a long lunch-break.' She waited for Tia to make a further comment. ‘That would be good.' Lynn felt. Tia didn't do abstract conventialities. she rushed in to counter any wrong assumptions Tia might have about what she had meant to convey. Oh. ‘Yes. Tia heard Lynn out. then realised she would wait for ever. She saw that Tia registering her anxiety. ‘I know you don't make 113 . 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 . 'People always have reasons for doing things. Nevertheless. like. ‘You may get some light on the situation then. Lynn peeked at the clock and saw that the time said 3. Lynn. dammit! For a moment she felt embarrassed. you worked it out for yourself. she noticed with pleasure that Tia had called her by name.' or.. but gave no overt sign of pleasure at this eulogy. I suspect there was quite a lot going on for Della that night as well. Tia only did concrete statements. I never saw that before.
perhaps I'm wrong . isn't it. ‘When you said that. I meant that you opened my eyes .that my approval might be important to you. Lynn' heart ached. She felt herself tense with panic. She felt tears prick her eyes. She sat back.people see things. ‘Yes. I felt lonely. satisfied. Tia said. Tia had said. Thank you. ‘Let's try'. ‘It's important to you that you get it right when you talk to me. I know you don't work that way. "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.' Lynn saw to her relief that Tia was smiling again. but I don't know why. therapist's gaze.' ‘Us’ meant 114 . I have the feeling . The sense of desolation won. surely it's normal for people to care about what other people think of them?' ‘Yes it is. Now I can let go. Lynn. She had got it right. I didn't mean to say that.no .' Lynn felt rescued. ‘Sorry?' ‘I said. but in situations like this. well.' ‘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.you . 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.' Indignation and a sense of desolation struggled together for supremacy inside Lynn.' Lynn felt as though the ground had been knocked from under her feet. That was saying ‘Let us try.' ‘Let's try to stay with that sense of loneliness for a little while. ‘Shouldn't you be talking to her about you and your problems and not worrying about what she thinks.that I was able to think clearly in your presence and I saw that the baby was real. Tia. Tia looked back with her wide-eyed neutral. She looked at Tia. it's more useful when people can express how they feel about things without worrying what other people might think. She said defensively.
I feel I can trust you.' Even as she said it.' Again. and I think I can trust you. and yet she recognised the voice as hers. I still like her. That was Lynn's name. but I don't respect her.I think . she was dismayed to hear her voice rising as she spoke. at least I think I do. she forced herself to consider it. Eventually. But I do want your approval. Lynn obediently tried to recapture the feeling of isolation she had felt.which by the way. ‘Well. Tia looked as if she might have questioned the logic of this last statement. but instead she said unexpectedly. much less saying it. It was a life-jacket in a stormy sea. Encouraged. ‘Whose approval do you want?' ‘My mother's!' The words came out immediately in a knee-jerk response. I like the way you talk. I think you are a wise person. And she had said ‘Lynn' too. People whose approval I think is worth having. I used to want Della's approval. Yes. but I'm not so sure about that any more. Or trust her. ‘I am simply saying that you don't know anything about me. Perhaps Friday will help. She said stubbornly. she did want it . I can't help wanting your approval. Lynn said slowly. After the first shock. I don't worry about Polly's approval. Lynn. so why should she be so surprised? Who didn't want their mother's approval? She was still mulling 115 . that is. And if I think you are wise. she realised with a sense of shame that it was true. That made Lynn feel better. even if I don't know you?' Fractionally.' ‘But you don't know anything about me. from the things you've said to me. Otherwise you'd never be in this job. You seem wise and good. it was true. She said sharply. Lynn gasped.her and Tia. ‘What are you saying? That I can't trust you? But you must be able to be trusted. ‘I think . the use of her name.' Again. She didn't even remember thinking it. 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.or rather. That meant that somehow Tia was in it with Lynn.I do want people's approval. had wanted it. can I. is nearly up . Lynn felt fear volt through her. Inwardly. That all you know of me is what you see and hear in this fifty minutes we have together . What had made her say that? It was as if she heard it in retrospect.that's all I'm saying.
I think that there may be issues around that mean that you would benefit from longer term counselling than I can offer. Images of Frazier jostled with pictures of 116 . I'm sorry.' ‘What are you talking about!' ‘There's a place in London called Sycamore House which is a regional psychotherapy centre . ‘Lynn. I need to remind you it is our last one together when we will say goodbye. Psychotherapy! All that she'd heard. and it is outside the remit of this unit to change the amount of time we can offer you. that wasn't even English! Tia contemplated her thoughtfully. ‘It can be. read or seen about it came tumbling into her brain in a kaleidoscopic jumble.' Not again! Lynn's heart contracted in agony. psychotherapy. your mother's approval is very important to you. I think that it might be worthwhile discussing that in the last session. But not with me. Sometimes it's good to explore things at leisure and not feel pressured by time constraints. Why did these sessions with Tia give her such mixed emotions? Why couldn't she just feel peace at unloading her problems and talking things through? Why did it have to hurt so much? It didn't make sense! But Tia was speaking again. and it .what we're engaged in here .' ‘Psychotherapy!' ‘Yes.this over when she heard Tia's voice say. At least she hadn't said 'nutcases'. This .is brief therapy. ‘What 's going on for you now?' ‘Not the last! Too screwed up!' Hell. Lynn. ‘So.' ‘But you offered me!' Lynn cried in despair. I think it may be worth hanging onto that thought and bringing it with you to our next session. but it is also for troubled people with deep-seated difficulties who need more time to talk things out and to think than I can give you. yes.' ‘But isn't psychotherapy for mentally ill people?' said Lynn before she could stop herself.' Lynn's head was spinning. ‘You offered me more time!' ‘More time.
' Lynn searched her memory.’ ‘I'm very sorry if I gave you that impression. She'd thought she'd misunderstood . Tia held out a folded leaflet.' Lynn took it without thinking.' Tia's habitual expression of quiet seriousness had returned. see what you think. You look horrified.Freud and great grey rooms full of shambling psychotic inmates milling round supervised by authoritative people in white coats. but it wasn't.come back. ‘Are you sure about that? I can see that this has come as a shock to you. What was there to say? Tia had told her. She felt as though she was drowning in it all. She saw people lying meekly on couches being talked to soothingly by people sitting out of their sight. She became aware that Tia was smiling at her reassuringly. and part of her listened to her delivery with a kind of detached interest. but I thought . She said.' 117 . I'm not like that. She'd thought that somehow it would be different for her. ‘Lynn .I thought I could talk to you.she's got nothing to do with it. but . It was helping too. What a long time ago that first meeting seemed now. 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. Didn't you hear me say that it was for troubled people who need time to talk?' ‘Yes. ‘Here's some information about it. She slumped in the chair. ‘No! Psychotherapy's not for me .pressed into it by unknown G forces. Words like ‘schizophrenic' and ‘repression' and ‘ECT' came into her head.I mean ill .for a little while. She had the sudden fantasy that she would never be able to get up again. ‘Yes you did. I just wanted . The ‘but' hung in the air. My mother . Yes.oh god. but there was a finality about it that Lynn was in no mood to appreciate. about . she saw it all now.people.it's for really bad . then reacted. Tia was still monitoring her closely. Her smile looked very kind.things. Tia had mentioned it. Read it. She could hear her speech coming in short staccato phrases.' Lynn stopped. It was all over.chosen to misunderstand .to talk to you .
' she said.I can! Please. There is nothing I can do to give you any more time.‘You . ‘I will give you the two extra sessions you ask for. The moments dragged on.' Tia was looking at her very seriously.' Tia looked at her as though she was not seeing her. . And after them there will be no more. It's up to you. ‘Very well. so it was not worth having. we would still have to say goodbye at the end. oh please give me two more sessions.' ‘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. . yes. Six sessions is the maximum I can offer. ‘Well. time. We will have to end there whatever happens. . You must understand that. She gazed thoughtfully at a space on the wall above Lynn's left shoulder. She dared not. She perceived only that she had won something. . She was bargaining for her very life. She looked down at her nails. . But I must stress that it is your responsibility to structure them. more .go to this place?' ‘It's an option.' ‘So I could see you for two more sessions after the next one?' ‘Theoretically. but that the thing she had won was without Tia's approval. and there is the possibility that the sessions would uncover things that might make it more difficult to do that. Lynn felt absolutely desperate. It would make Tia say no. But losing would have been death. This is your choice. how could they?' Tia still said nothing. Lynn had to exert every particle of self-control not to beg and plead and cajole. so whatever she was feeling now must be better than that mustn't it? 118 .you're recommending that I do this . But Lynn. ‘I do understand that!' she said.' ‘But how could they do that? I'm getting things sorted out!' Tia didn't answer. But what did she understand? It felt so bewildering. . I . unsmiling. Finally Tia looked at her. Lynn felt like crying. ‘I can get things sorted out . need .
That was two cards she had now. ‘Look at that woman over there. At least Della was. and said. She'd started almost as soon as they'd sat down. Chapter 11 Lynn couldn't believe it. Lynn too stood up. cut straight with a fringe.Lynn had not been there since that ill-fated lunch with Polly . Lynn could only feel utter desolation. What do you make of her?' Lynn looked. What was Della getting at? What did she want her to notice? The woman was just doing the crossword. maybe it was the clothes. Lynn considered. She walked through the doorway. Lynn. Tia looked down at her. just like last time.' Tia rose to her feet. ‘I'm sorry. She tried to smile back but she had nothing to smile with. as usual. Beige 119 . amazed that she could do it so naturally.and were consuming panini caldi and large lattes and talking animatedly. She had to struggle to focus on it. she had not envisaged the session ending like this. They were sitting in the Cafe Noir . smiling. She wore a beige woolly cardigan and a long grey skirt and she was absorbed in the paper. our time for today is over. Tia walked towards the door and held it open. ‘I'll see you in two weeks' time then. The woman was about thirty. Della was doing it again. In her most wild imaginings. with a thin intelligent face and shoulderlength mid-brown hair.' Today. her smile did not reach her eyes. Here was Tia's spiky writing again.’ Lynn looked at it with a dull curiosity. and once again heard the door close firmly behind her before she had gone three paces. ‘Here are the dates of our remaining two sessions after the next one.Tia was scratching down something on an appointment card. As Lynn walked across to it.
as she caught Lynn's look. not a whit abashed. ‘I read this fascinating article in the New Scientist a while ago entitled ‘Slugs Clean my House. . .' she said at last. obscuring her face.' ‘Precisely. meanwhile.' A lull in the background buzz coincided with the laughter of the couple near them. but she had to stop Della somehow. . in fact they can even .' said Della. ‘And that couple over there.' observed Lynn. They're besotted with each other!' Lynn looked. . Della had such a . There was no way she could have overheard .it was not a good combination. darling. but we've all got our ways of communicating affection. She didn't want to talk about the couple. She waited resignedly for Della to move in for the kill again.' ‘Yes.' ‘In a caring way. She had a gentle face. before she could stop herself.what was the word? . .' ‘Bunnykins!' Lynn repeated. . The author said . almost against her will. could she? Della. Deryk calls me a slug sometimes. ‘Did you know that slugs and octopi are sort of cousins? But that octopi are much more intelligent.' she said. It was true. 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 . ‘Don't knock it.' said Della triumphantly. she was capable of carrying on for hours. Lynn felt caught out and rather ashamed. coffee cups and buzz of conversation she caught the word ‘Bunnykins. ‘I thought clothes were meant to reflect your personality.prehensile mind.' she continued. . ‘I teach biology. had moved on. Once Della got started. of course' she added. The woman felt Lynn’s gaze. ‘They're laughing a lot.and grey .' Did you see it? I was riveted. ‘Dressed by a committee.' said Lynn briefly. lack of imagination . ‘Fascinating! Look at them leaning forwards across the table and mirroring each other's gestures. delicately picking a dangling sliver of roast red pepper from her sandwich and deftly eating it. but the lad's blond profile was clearly visible as he talked animatedly non-stop. . looked up and smiled. The girl's long hair hung like a curtain. ‘As a term of endearment it expresses a certain . but she didn’t.' ‘No offence.
' it. 'But it looks infected. It had a long strand of melted cheese attached. She could get from ‘a’ to ‘e=mc2’ in three moves. reveal a thin purplish weal that was oozing pus. Ah. It was very entertaining. oh that! It's nothing. ‘Laughter is a way of conveying intimacy without commitment. she noticed that her trademark wide bracelet on that arm was being worn over a bandage. Della looked around. Lynn thought she detected a certain wistfulness in the look. while you were left on the ground. aren't they?' she said. touch . 'They're holding hands now. How could she begin to turn the conversation round to more personal matters? Fortunately.' An uneasy silence fell. isn't it. Nearly better.' 'What? Oh .?' 'No it's nothing.drawer and the bracelet dug in and left a mark. really?' She spoke as though she was thinking aloud. As Lynn tried not to watch her. making easy connections. even to someone as unpromising as Della. 'Della – your wrist. Her glance lighted again on the couple who were still sharing so publicly their appreciation of a private joke.conversational branch. struggling to keep up and hoping she'd come down to earth at some point. She rather envied them herself. but right now. ‘Yes. ‘Don't keep playing with it!' She took a determined bite of her own prawn and avocado sandwich. Trapped my hand in the – er . . and that it had made the bandage slip down. ‘You can share a moment of laughter without ever She hastily pulled her sleeve down over 121 . it didn't show in her next comment. She always finished eating before Della. It looked extremely sore. She didn’t want to talk about slugs. Lynn's head was throbbing with the need to unload. ‘Just eat it!' thought Lynn. . .the lingua franca of love! How sweet it is!' She picked a piece of roasted courgette out of her sandwich and gazed at it thoughtfully. It's fine. . It's fine I tell you! Don't fuss!' 'Okay! Sorry I asked. But if they had anything Della wished that she had. Della held up the piece of courgette and absently began to nibble the cheese. Shouldn't you . Della was diverted.
Lynn would have described as anger. Her habitual graceful languor was gone.she couldn't help wondering how Della's make-up stayed so intact under such extremes of emotion. and it spoilt her make-up.' said Lynn. she still couldn't bear to think about how the last session they'd had ended. Tell me about your Tia. What was the matter with Della these days? Then a phrase that Della had used caught her attention. and her eyes were glittering with what. ‘I can't imagine what I was thinking of. Horribly and inexplicably. except as a way of getting Della off the subject of slugs. her smooth. Della was sitting bolt upright. But there must be a way through . ate corn on the cob. though Lynn couldn’t think why. and managing to look absolutely charming as she did so. One thing she felt sure of . Lynn was reminded of a piece of Dresden china. with such sudden savagery in her voice that Lynn looked at her in surprise. ‘Intimacy without commitment . Della would think 122 . Even as Lynn admired the effect of anger on Della . in another person.' ‘Tell me about your Tia. 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. And when you do know them. it changed the awareness of Tia from a dull ache into sudden searing pain.how unlike her own! . and then laughed herself instead. Tia was the one person that Lynn wanted to talk about most. air-brushed complexion was flushed a delicate pink and her perfectly painted lips were pressed together. Only Della never got angry.Della never. This was a complete lie.knowing someone else.’ How had she got there? You really had to be a pretty agile conversationalist to keep up with Della. staring into the middle distance.' she said sheepishly. I wonder if those two really know each other?' She paused as if to say something else.do you think there is such a thing?' ‘Definitely!' said Della. The flush subsided and Della's fixed gaze returned to normal as she looked at Lynn. It was too much effort.there must! She would ask Della. ‘I wonder if they've had their first big row yet?' ‘I wonder. It was bloody annoying. it's too late. ever. She had no interest in the couple whatsoever. smiling apologetically. A lock of pale hair had fallen over her forehead. she delivered the most amazing non sequiters at times. but at the end of the day. Laughter is very deceiving. ‘Sorry.
She'd just block that memory off. .' said Lynn at last. Actually he was nothing like Deryk! Nothing like! But he was like him to look at. it's as though she can read my mind.' ‘She doesn't seem to say a lot though. Really listens. briskly for her. good manners .required the conversational ball to be batted back over the net . this is now. while Lynn did the same and thought aloud about Tia . because then Della looked her normal self. a flicker of pain crossed her face.' For just a moment.of something. before I met Deryk actually. just a little bit. She nodded and sipped her coffee. It was 123 . Go on about Tia. what Lynn thought about her. . ‘I've never met anyone like her before. he was like Deryk. It's really . what she said. does she?' ‘That's the point. and a bit. Jim did that. . spooky. to Lynn’s way of thinking. ‘Yes. ‘Mind if I just ramble?' Della's composure had now completely returned.damn them! . I remember. or Lynn thought it did.' Lynn felt a bit annoyed by the unknown Jim. ‘Tia is such an interesting person. ‘Anyway . ‘No. oh. and gave a few more details of her exchanges with Tia.very helpful. way long ago . And she is so wise. what she does say packs such a punch. And he was . And when she looks at me. But she listens. . ‘What was Jim like?' ‘Jim? Oh. and fill Della in with the general picture first. Lynn said to Della.' Lynn thankfully did so. of what Lynn had said to her. ‘Ramble away!’ she said benignly. Though she hardly seems to say anything in the sessions. . Nevertheless. . What was he doing here? They were talking about Tia.' Della's face darkened.that was then. But not just yet.' ‘Jim?' ‘A therapist I went to see . She doesn't waste a word.' Della looked at her understandingly.at least. But she must have been mistaken.what she looked like. and said. She doesn't.
I've hurt you. Was that why that comment had resonated so strongly? Because it was true of Tia and her? Oh god. I was thinking aloud. But when she got to the point where Tia had recommended psychotherapy. It's not always like that. They don't take their work home with them. ‘You have to remember. she said.' Lynn felt appalled. She cares. you're hurting. They're all different.' Even this was not comforting enough. that "like" isn't really in these therapists' vocabulary. thought Lynn. She sees you as an individual.' This felt brutal.' Lynn stopped. Why was she speaking so forcefully? All of a sudden.the raw material on which they practice their craft. I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Look. ‘I just wanted Tia to like me as a person. ‘But surely they're human. Instead. she asked the question which had occupied her thoughts for days. ‘But wait a minute! Tia's not like that. She couldn't talk about that yet. Of course she cares. They can't afford to relate deeply to every damaged waif and stray that crosses their path. Lynn was hurting badly. How could she be in that job if she didn't care?' That's not what I asked. ‘Do you think Tia likes me. all right. But not to you. Lynn. Intimacy without commitment. but Lynn couldn't think why. I'm sure she really understands you. Aloud. It sounded like vivisection. She said. not as a case study. this was awful. Della?' Della considered this carefully. I remember somebody said that to me once.' ‘What do you mean?' ‘Well.such a relief to talk about it. look at it from their point of view. Lynn stopped. to see me as a person. She does. You're a client to them . That's all I meant. weakly. Suddenly she 124 . ‘Lynn. Again. She’s warm and friendly. She laughs . she does! I'm sure of it! Everyone is an individual. She broke off a bit of her sandwich and ate it daintily before replying. Tia sounds lovely.' ‘Don't be so defensive. Della seemed to soften suddenly. it did not seem like the Della that Lynn knew. stricken.' ‘They're human. They're objective. seemed aware that something was going wrong in the conversation.
Della! Don't make me beg. as if marshalling lists of points in her head. if she's there full-time or if she works elsewhere. She was not going to get what she wanted from Della. ‘Could Tia and I ever be friends?’ But she couldn't ask that now. ‘I wonder what Tia is like as a person.get a look inside. ‘The last thing Tia said to me was that I can only have three more sessions with her.what's the word . Into her sadness came the desperate thought. She sounded more assured. ‘Let's see. Della finally seemed to get the message.' ‘Ah. And number plates are always traceable if you know where to go.' Inside she was pleading. Quite honestly. and making connections with her. See if you can find out where she parks her car . Any stickers . And for crying out loud. ‘I doubt it! They're very cagey. ‘I don't know what to do. I wouldn't give much for your chances for making connections but there's ways and means of finding out things.' Against her will. ‘But I've got to ask Della's advice about what to do now. Read my lips. But she couldn't resist one last try. forcing the words out. finding out more about her. ‘I told you you should have gone private!' Lynn hated her. She knew with her guts that if she did. she added. these psychotherapy types. It's what they call brief therapy. She felt deflated and very down-hearted.' said Lynn. She's the only one that could come up with any ideas. She realised now that what she had wanted to ask Della most of all was.self-disclose.' ‘Oh. and that would be unendurable. Do you see anyone else around . Della would say no. you're good at that. get rid of your 125 .wanted to change the subject. ‘I don't know what to do. They don't . If I'll ever know anything about her?' Della laughed. Lynn.' So Lynn said.' She paused. and then said in a businesslike way. Make friends with her. brief therapy!' said Della knowledgeably.cleaners or such? They probably wouldn't know very much but they'd be easier to talk to. ‘There's two ways forward. She gave her a measured glance and said consideringly. Find out how long she's worked for her. Pump the receptionist. Again she said.you know – ‘Friend of something or other' or something like that.
I assume you must have tried the phone book. Della was talking like a cheap private eye.Google her or something. .this was repellant! This was spying! Did Della really think that she. as though she didn't have to think about it. . Draw up a plan of what you want to ask. and she's married. You could tell Deryk was a ladies' man. as though she didn't know her. totally revolted. she felt first intrigued. it's your choice.Bradley? Oh. her bookcase. probably . But this . It was horrible. Unless she's divorced.to see you as an adult.' But the horrible truth was that Tia had looked at her like that.didn't it? How on earth could she contaminate it by such means? Trace her number plate! . Too many. ‘Right. connections. Lynn was so far gone that she would use such means to get information? Clearly so. And the way she reeled it off. (But even if you did. isn't she? Hmm. She imagined Tia looking at her coldly. ‘Well. now. If you've only got three more sessions then you've got to structure them carefully. 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. even though Della was so drop-dead gorgeous.not that she knew it anyway. pat. according to Mark anyway. then somehow chilled.there was a plethora of nubile secretaries at Deryk's office that he enjoyed eyeing up. But I'm warning you. But she'd almost certainly be ex-directory anyway. Don't act so much like a dying duck in her presence. who had been most amused by it all. Who had she checked up on in her purple past? Deryk. or lying. what you want to achieve in each one. 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. See if you can get a look at her desk. 126 . Start reading up on psychology and counselling. Mention books you've read. Force her to respond to you as a person . films. Make her want to be friends with you. and saying. Ask her if she's seen them. then fascinated.' As Lynn listened. some honesty . on equal terms. it will be damned difficult. She's a psychologist isn't she? She might be in some directory or other. of course.technophobia! Look her up on the Net . and finally. you're on a loser there then. I wonder if she does private work? You could ask. I can't stop you . the last time they'd met.
' ‘Hmm. although it was only that morning. Surely it couldn't all be wrong . for a long time. She's an absolute bitch. but she did want to know her! She wanted to know her so badly. ‘Hey. The moment dragged on. Lynn desperately. How is Audrey a bitch?' 127 . She forced a smile. Tia had had enough of her. Della happily. yes. She said. She had to say something. ‘Mark? He's OK. so clinical. Lynn looked at Della.' That. ‘How's Mark doing?' Mark? Oh. Very busy at work though. at least.It was all over. How about another coffee?' ‘Oh yes! Why not!' (Why not indeed! What the hell? What mattered any more? And at least the place was warm and bright and while she was sitting here she didn't have move or think or make any decisions . thanks. You've given me something to think about. It seemed an age since she had seen him. Della looked gratified and pleased to see Lynn looking more like her old self. Della said suddenly. What was the point? As she struggled to think of something to say. She was sick of talking about Tia now. Audrey. Mark! How was he doing? Lynn had to think. But what had made her become like it? Deryk? She would never see Della in the same light again after this.) Over large cappuccinos this time they mutually considered their next topic of conversation. Oh. we've still got a little while. Della was looking pleased with herself and clearly waiting for a response. She longed for silence.except about what coffee to drink. ‘Yeah. was true. What a bizarre way of thinking Della had! So cold. Della. I wish he'd gone elsewhere. Lynn felt torn between anger and pity. She hadn't taken Tia's advice about that psychotherapy place. ‘Since he got promoted to Financial Director one of the other accountants has turned very snotty.' What could she tell Della about Mark? Oh yes. She consulted her watch. cautiously. I wish it hadn't been an internal promotion.was there nothing she could do? She had to think! But she was sick of thinking! What she would like to do most of all would be to hole up somewhere and just cry. she'd fought for two more sessions that Tia didn't want her to have.
he can see how much good seeing Tia is doing me. I don't know what to do. ‘I've had enough of Audrey . ‘No. Della was looking at her enquiringly.this is the weird thing. yes. Seeing at Della looking concernedly across the table at her it was hard to believe she'd said what she had about Tia. are you?' Split-second decision. She had simply regurgitated what Mark had said the previous night in reply to a routine inquiry about work.as if he's jealous of her in some way isn't that crazy?' Oh damn. almost amused. And Della had asked about Mark. for clarification on Audrey's bitchiness.' 128 . And. Lynn. Why had she said that? She hadn't meant to say it at all. ‘I'm sorry to hear that. Maybe it was worth talking about a bit more . And . I've no idea. . Now it had got all heavy again. Perhaps Lynn had taken it a bit too seriously.so much in love. we've sort of drifted apart. ‘Della. to her shame. . she probably had. she'd mentioned Tia too! She was hopeless. she did. She felt so desperate that soon she would be buttonholing complete strangers in the street and telling them.she's an absolute bitch. I'd always thought that you and Mark were the ideal couple . Humiliation engulfed her. In view of the glimpse she'd just had of Della's Machiavellian thought processes. Lynn said. had taken this statement at face value and left it there. absolutely hopeless! But Della looked as if she had understood . She and Della went back a long way. . But why did she look . And she. what Lynn was trying to say. ?' And old habits died hard. quite deeply. as well? Surely there was nothing funny in what Lynn had said? But when Della spoke. It's almost as if . Ever since the miscarriage. All her defences were crumbling. but he doesn't seem to care. oh bloody hell. did Lynn want to talk about personal things any more? Actually. like the cappuccinos. ‘You and Mark aren't getting on too well at the moment. She had no idea why Audrey was a bitch. Lynn realised what she had done. just to keep the conversation light and frothy. not even asked.Too late. there was sorrow in her voice. how to get it back. do you know. ‘Did you know that I . . as Della had done. . Isn't that awful?' Della said shrewdly. Yes. She said the first thing that came into her head.' That was what he had said. I never thought to ask.
‘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.
I was just . thought Lynn) but so much harder to do. Though I must say. in my experience. ‘Suicide?’ Then seeing Lynn's expression. and again. I’m still here. Once again. and said musingly. She could have bitten her tongue out. Oh god.you know . ‘You mean . Suicide . Lynn had the awful sense of having got it completely wrong. ‘Suicide . She leaned forward.' said Lynn. I .and yet how meaningless it is when you say it.what an ugly word it is . She had to know. she softened. ‘What?' she said finally. . with a curiosity she was unable to repress. 'Ending it all?' said Della. thought Lynn.the bank of a very large canal. don't take me so seriously! Suicide is such an easy word to say (not for me. suicide . What had she meant when she had said ‘For a while. but it is no substitute for getting completely trollied! My goodness. She paused.suicide?' She spat the word out in a quiet hiss. Della seemed to have recovered her composure with remarkable ease.take his relatives to court. Maybe because it was all so long ago. as if listening to herself. focusing with an effort on Lynn. in fact quite buoyant. Too late. ‘Oh Lynn. '? The silence became intense. Lynn could bear it no longer.' Lynn was now completely lost and Della saw it.low . This was such a new Della.Lynn couldn't help being fascinated. .that's all.massacre of a Native American population. suicide . she knew it was the wrong thing to say. ‘What did she look like?' She couldn't help wondering where Della's taste in women lay. I coped. ‘Well . Lynn! Your imagination! Suicide!' She paused. going to bed early with a hot water bottle is all very well. and then said. she looked at Lynn as if she were mad. Lynn realised that Della hadn't regained her composure at all. First love and all that. 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 . the parties I went to!' Della laughed reminiscently. much much harder to do. How did she do it? She seemed all right now. ‘Did you ever think of doing something . . ‘Really. drastic?' Della didn't appear to connect.ending it all?' The moment Lynn said it. Avril caught me unawares. ‘Oh.
the one she had so foolishly let Lynn see. Lynn could only be thankful. 135 . 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. As they journeyed back to school in silence. much plumper. she could distance herself from that other Della. hadn't actually used the word . the men I got through! Did I ever tell you about Felix when I was in Paris? Maybe that should wait until another time. Too strongly. She was plumper. Actually. Lynn pondered this most bewildering lunch hour and what Della had said. I must be getting old. ‘It's OK.' She paused. Yes .quite a bit like you. ‘I didn't mean to pry. There! Will that do?' Why had Della added that last line? Lynn felt contaminated by it.' said Della. ‘I've said that before today. She added. ‘But she was nothing like you inside. ‘Oh all right! She . almost fat. I did rather invite it by telling you in the first place. Lynn. Della's usual urbane and amiable persona came more to the fore.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. But she.' With every sentence. But as they paid the bill and left. now I come to think of it!' This reflection seemed to cheer her immensely and she ran her hand down the lapel of her jacket in a preening gesture.' She couldn’t think of anything else to say. the one that could still recall the details of that bruising encounter so many years ago. she could feel Della becoming quieter and more withdrawn. I was celibate for quite a while after that. ‘Actually. This lunchtime had left her with more than she had bargained for and a return to whatever passed for normality in her life was more than welcome. as though by doing so. Everyone I meet reminds me of someone else! That must be why I told you about Avril.had she? But Della had denied it anyway.' she said.' Della paused as though this thought had hit her for the first time. though. She hadn't wanted to know that. ‘I'm sorry. ‘After all. then had a couple of rather unsatisfactory flings so I thought it was time to go straight again heavens. She cursed her insatiable noseyness and wished with all her heart that this conversation had never started. Della had reacted so strongly to what her remark about suicide. Avril looked a bit like you. She looked ever so slightly older and more tired.
She really ought to start reading up on this counselling business. Surely she discussed cases with her students all the time. Perhaps she could ask Tia about it. That was a kind of denial too. she hadn't really got very far in working out what was happening in Della. wasn't it? Hmm. Tia would help her to understand what was going on there. What would Tia have made of it? And here she was. It was because she had told her about Tia. as Lynn sat on the loo. Della had told her about Avril because she had told her about Tia . or something? And saying that her feeling at Avril's betrayal was just a first love kind of reaction .in the face of the evidence how on earth could she hold onto that idea? Even Lynn could see how Avril had used her. her mind was racing.like Della had said she should make. as Della had said. She and Tia had a lot in common really. thinking about it just like Tia would have. Then it would be a point of contact . Anyway. 'And maybe there's something inside you that doesn’t want to know too much. But Della had seemed to think it might have worked too . But it was as they entered the school gates. Wasn't it amazing how otherwise educated people could deceive themselves so completely when their emotions where involved. that wasn't true! She was a very honest person. That would be ironic. In the staff cloak room. . Lynn felt pleased. she looked like Avril? Could be. it clicked. It was always best to know the truth.And then sort of glossed over it. Didn't they call that denial. Much better to work it out from first principles. But something didn’t feel quite right about doing that – just yet.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. Analysing the relationship she had with Tia would sort of spoil it somehow . Where ignorance is bliss . Was it because. Well. because Della thought that she felt about Tia how 136 . . very interesting. But .make it too clinical.trivialising it when she clearly felt it really deeply all those years later. thinking about people and trying to work out how they ticked was so fascinating. Why had telling Della about Tia made the difference? As she was washing her hands. . Lynn suddenly went cold as it dawned on her why Della had told her about Avril.' said a little voice in her ear.
But why should she feel about Tia like that? No reason. It had never occurred to her. . 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. unless . She was gay. She just didn’t want to go there.Della had felt about Avril. She felt as weak as water. and thankfully aware of the solid support of the wall behind her. But. So. realisation swirling around her. You've wanted to try it with Tia.what did she actually want Tia to do? She didn't dare dwell on it. she wasn't only a lesbian then. this awareness caused her thoughts to take a new and alarming turn. But after a moment's relieved reaction. I have! Well. were they? Downright effeminate. no. Lynn could feel her mind 137 . . haven't you?' ‘Haven't we all?' ‘But you've wanted to try it. god! No wonder she thought Tia was so wonderful.' ‘They were just sensitive. she was gay too! Lynn felt as though she'd just been hit by a lorry. Oh. so special. in touch with their female side. and the thought of it now repulsed her. The idea of sex with Tia was a new and horrible thought. practically worshiped her. She leant against the wall. instead of comforting her. have you?' ‘I have. It was just too dangerous. thought about her all the time! No wonder. it all connected now! She saw it all. what about it?' ‘You've never really enjoyed it. I like men like that!' ‘What about the sex?' ‘Well. some of them. but look what they were like. That time in the -' ‘You've wondered how it would be with a woman. though. Oh. . mostly.' ‘No! That's not true!' And Lynn found to her relief. she was a frigid one! A dishonest one. she couldn't be gay! The little voice of reason whispered in her ear. not in touch with her true self! Think! Think! Don't panic . that it wasn't true. ‘If you're gay. unless . . caring men. ‘Not very masculine.' said the voice in her other ear triumphantly.
that she'd passed on to Lynn.' Lynn had valued that exchange. pale and flaky in layers. What was it? Lynn couldn't quite remember.there's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip. Quick. ‘He's a good man for all I don't think he'll make old bones. Nothing wrong with that.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. hoping that no one would come in. Lynn began to trawl through her life. You can't afford to .' Lynn wanted to hug her. That was it! ‘Whose approval do you really want?' ‘My mother's!' Wait though .shutting down. Normal childhood . remembering that scene near the end.pretty good.never give up. Disapproval. done so many things with her. like the lights going out in a building. but she didn’t dare. but you've done your best with what you had. to hold her close. Wasn't gayness meant to be linked to the way you were brought up? Mentally. nothing wrong there. but a caring mother whom she deeply admired . ‘I'm proud of you. like a pile of grey ash with just the spark of her spirit glowing through. try another tack. looking shrunken and frail in the hospital bed.high standards. You'll never set the Thames on fire. And her mother 138 . In the awfulness of the last session with Tia. something had been said that she'd glossed over. Lynn continued leaning against the wall by the hot air drier. in fact. Lynn paused to think of her mother. Slow and steady wins the race . Even the lightest touch hurt her mother now. Mind you – hard to live up to when you were only a kid.' Lynn's mum had sighed. Tia had said it. that wasn't good. she was such a loss! There was something lurking at the back of Lynn's mind that had some bearing on this.oh. Absent father. taught her so much . It was so wonderfully typical of Mum . who had sacrificed everything for her. Remember that. Mum had said it before she died. but all she could remember was gainsaying Tia and feeling her disapproval. Something was being replayed in her memory and she was straining to catch it. Well. love.was that it? It was nothing! She had had her mother's approval.
What did it matter? But all the same.amongst others – quite a lot of others) if she was. . she had decided. . But there were always epidurals. . Her mother had been typical of her generation.' her mother had added. Funny really. touched and irritated at the same time. ‘I will.' ‘I'll try. though I won't be there to see them.completely freaked.oh. failure. what a horrible thought! Fresh misery washed over Lynn. ‘but there's no guarantees.' That was easy to promise. would Tia have picked it up by now? Would Tia have read it in her admiration . that couldn't be right. hang on a minute. Ice-cool Tia . ‘You come of good breeding stock. with a picture of Tia. Otherwise why did lovers carve their name on trees? Funny. a shudder went through her . Another new and worrying thought came. wishing she looked like her . of the pain of childbirth. as though she almost couldn't bear the sight of her. Mum had no time for homosexuals. oh loss! She quickly replaced it. ‘Get him to make an honest woman of you. Love wants commitment. as was her habit these days. because her pain threshold was normally very high. At the memory.had never been what you'd call touchy-feely anyway. or people who didn't wash their hands after using the toilet. If she was Tia. Commitment and permanency. Tia would have seen through her wanting her approval. And have lots of children. wishing she was her. or fat men who wore shorts .' Lynn had promised. she had to admit. Especially after her mother's account.' Lynn had said.a schoolgirl crush? Oh. who would be Tia for her? 139 . Lynn longed to be a mother.' (Ouch! thought Lynn. No. (or did) Tia think of her regarding this . saying she was wonderful. But it hadn't been very high during the miscarriage.wishing she was like her.looking at her so coldly. But that didn't help now. lesbian business? If she was a latent lesbian. It had hurt intolerably.' her mother had gone on. now she came to think of it. though she was terrified. and you've got good child-bearing hips. What would. It's what we were made for. .) 'I want lots of grandchildren. It had been only a week later that Mark had proposed – if you could call it that.she could admit that now . or whatever the term was (and Mum would have freaked at that .
Memories of the showers they'd had together jostled with recalling the experiments with chocolate spread . They'd certainly worked hard at it! But all the timing and thermometers and pillows under her bum had. please god. taken the spontaneity out of it.This was getting a bit complicated! Lynn shifted her position. Perhaps they should have got the proper stuff from a sex shop or something. there were questions . looking back. . and a bit before. And Della! What of Della! What did Della want of her. She felt suicidal. But getting pregnant had been OK sort of. How was she going to teach this afternoon? Thank heaven it was sixth form. If she was gay. the drier switch was digging into her back. One swallow didn't make summer. But it hadn't always been that way. But she hadn't finished thinking! Oh. what was Lynn going to do about Mark? Did this explain why since seeing Tia she'd gone off the boil as far as sex was concerned? But that had happened earlier. And she only had three more sessions . How could she lived for thirty-four years. when she was pregnant.actually that hadn't worked terribly well. It seemed like two other people now. where did that leave their relationship? But wait a minute! How did she know she was gay? If she really was. But the peanut butter had worked pretty well. but there had been a secret frisson of pleasure in buying Nutella so openly in the supermarket. she could hide in the prep room. She'd have to go soon. And she was still sure the pictures in that 140 .then nothing. well. . and it had been awful to get off the sheets. never suspecting? But. though next time (if there ever was a next time) she'd suggest they try the smooth one instead. Why did she want her mother's approval when she had already got it? Why did she think Tia was so wonderful when she was just a cold-blooded therapist doing her job? And most importantly. then Tia would look at her with affection and love instead of that cold therapist's stare. don't let anyone come in! But if she was like Tia. telling her this? And Mark. after the miscarriage. 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.
with the problem still unresolved. Nobody could do that without years of training! Worse than yoga. She was hopelessly in love. That was a given. Lynn was plunged straight back into a most unwelcome present. She sighed for those days. But it had been fun trying.she might as well admit it . this longing . Lynn thought again of Della and her cold-blooded analysis of ways to obtain information about Tia. Against her better judgment she began reviewing what Della had said.book had been computer generated. could she? Otherwise how could she have enjoyed it? But what was happening now? Why was it all so different? With an icy shock.for Tia to touch her. they'd done lots of things that had been fun. Oh Tia. Tia! Lynn broke down and wept. It was true. So she couldn't have been gay. Somehow she knew that. She couldn't bear to part with Tia. 141 . But Tia never would touch her. just couldn't. appraising the possibilities. Oh. How could she explain this infatuation with Tia. She was behaving like someone in love.
It was hard work. and they had hardly spoken. she really didn't want to. no one contradicted her.looking at her face. in a pub a little less than a year ago. Lynn found her address book and started thumbing through it. in a nervous sort of way. Her heart sank . every second. two-thirds empty) she began to summon up all her powers of rational thinking. She'd only met her once. and. but she had to do something. She pleaded a headache and left early . .how long had it been since her glib offer of help? Days at least. that Tia was only a therapist (what she meant by only she wasn't quite sure). she liked helping people . Sandra . trying to recall what little she remembered of Sandra. but she'd giggled a lot. that she. waiting for Mark. Her mind flashed back to the scene with Chris . with a bottle of wine invitingly open (and by the time he came in. but then the memory of Chris's face intervened and stiffened her resolve. before she met Tia. after a fashion. quite skinny. didn’t she? She thought she did. was in charge of her life. as well as think. Lynn paused. She didn't want to phone Sandra. She picked it up and saw it had Sandra's mobile number written on it. decided to behave as though she was still the same person. . It worked because she held in front of herself an image of the happy. As she switched on her mobile. . once again. Halfway through. a piece of paper fell out. . Lynn. and besides. mousy hair. because doing things distracted you. This worked. She concentrated. She recalled the fact that she had only known Tia for three hours. perhaps longer. mainly at comments Chris had made.Chapter 13 Somehow Lynn got through the day. and so she decided that she had to do. she just couldn't remember. There was a world out there that she needed to get in touch with. and that she had a life to be in charge of. Sitting at home. Chris in turn had seemed 142 . friendly outgoing Lynn she'd been before the miscarriage. It was time to make her promise more than just a way of increasing her own feel-good factor. taller than average. because she needed to keep thinking it all the time. Sandra had said next to nothing. She couldn't help feeling that she'd bitten off more than she could chew this time.
Chris was the one who'd told me you'd split up. ‘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. ‘Above medium height. though there hadn't been that many to choose from.' she finished. Then there was silence. ‘So you phoned to commiserate. dark hair . ‘Well. um.' she said with some hesitation. Lynn wished she'd thought what to say.' There was a split second of incredulous silence. What did you say your name was?' ‘Lynn Davies.' said Lynn doubtfully. ‘Sandra. She couldn't actually remember anything particularly positive about Sandra.' Pause. We met at The Apple and Serpent at a Christmas Do last year – the science department from the school where Chris works. The phone was ringing. ’I heard that you and Chris had split up.' She stopped. amazingly. There was another chuckle.' 143 . and then. 'Let me see . hi. She quickly cancelled. Lynn took a deep breath and just said it. always making jokes. Am I right?' ‘Well. rehearsed a little speech. Sandra seemed to find this very funny. god! Then Sandra's voice came over the phone. ‘Did you just ring me and then cancel?' ‘Yes. suspicious. at least. smiley. very slim. during which Lynn died the death. medium height. sorry. There was silence at the other end. a silvery laugh of genuine humour.' Lynn’s heart flopped with relief but she could feel herself blushing too.dark wavy hair. That was very nice of you. ‘He didn't tell me any details though. it's Lynn Davies. Suppose she’d dialled the wrong number by mistake. There was no easy way to say this. Then she thought she ought to return the compliment.' she conceded. and I phoned to say I'm sorry. then tried again a minute later. ‘I'm still the same height. and apparently riveted to her every word. ‘Always laughing. Lynn thought as fast as she was able under the circumstances.devoted to her. We met once about a year ago. the hair's right. Oh.' There was another pause. ‘Well. you're honest.' ‘I remember. Suppose Sandra had got a new phone and given this one to her mother.' Pause. not letting her out of his sight. hesitant. Chris didn't put you up to it by any chance?' There was an unmistakable edge to her voice.
feeling agreeably diverted from her own misery. I must say. . were there? Well. intrigued. but how he still loves me. 144 . I was wondering how you were . ‘Right. Sounds like we both remember what we look like. I look nothing like I used to!' ‘Oh. I don't see him much. If this Sandra looked different now. I don't know. Very different.or something like that. ‘That's really sweet of you. if she could. She hoped she wasn't going as a double agent.' She rang off. She'd see what she could find out. somewhat taken aback by this speedy acceptance of her offer. ‘Look. . She was doing this all wrong.' said Lynn. there were two sides. When Sandra spoke. How's he doing?' This was promising.telling everyone what a cow I am. but quite honestly. The Asp it is then.' Well. her voice sounded mollified. ‘See you there. because I'm telling you. it was nice of you to phone. . . I just couldn't take any more of his crap!' ‘Er.' Lynn's voice trailed away. hard to say. . Lynn could hear her voice changing through hesitant to aggressive. Tomorrow any good? Say 6. There's no man involved. ‘Well. there had to be of course.' said Lynn. it would be nice to put my side of the story to one of his cronies! I bet he's playing the wounded soldier to perfection . What do you want to do? If you’d like to get together. I'm bloody lonely without the bastard. nothing gain . but oh. but what to say now? ‘Erm.00?' ‘Fine. When she spoke again. poor Chris. but . So.This at least was true. we could meet at the pub again. . you know.' ‘The Apple and Serpent? OK then. But maybe Sandra was suffering too. I look the same. But I hope you look the same. Poor Sandra too! She had to do something. if you'd like to meet up for a drink or something . she certainly sounded different too. Sandra was clearly thinking this over and it seemed to be a good enough answer for her. what experience had she in doing it at all? She waited in suspense. right. nothing venture.
the pavement was ten deep in shirt-sleeved city workers. No point in making small talk. Lynn didn't remember it being as crowded as this.' She vanished. ‘Do you good. Sandra was clearly spitting nails. I've changed.' she said. She wished she'd been more specific about the exact location.very chubby. Huge round earrings. Sandra smiled. to return a few minutes later with a pint of something. Several ear-piercings.' Well. ‘Yes. the men cradling their pints carefully. despite their expansive gestures. just when uncertainty was toppling over into doubt. Let me get a drink.though lip-reading helped. she felt a touch at her elbow. Clothes courtesy of Camden Lock. Lynn decided. a nose stud and one below her lower lip. ‘Lynn?' Lynn turned. Sandra smiled grimly. . . There at her shoulder stood someone whom she supposed to be Sandra. ‘That time I met you here. Magenta hair. I can't believe .' said Lynn. cut very short.lipstick and paint. She looked around at the earnest laughing groups of young men and women in business suits. After ten minutes. yabbering away about matters vital to them. coats secured over the shoulder by a thumb in the collar. maroon nails. full mouth . amazingly for London.' he said. Sandra was now chubby . round cheeks. Mark looked pleased. The Asp was down a back street off the Central Line. The rest was negotiable. I'll be right back. Got my mobile if you need me. Who else would know her name? Sandra had been right about the height. clearly enjoying Lynn's efforts to mask her surprise. What else had they in common but the fact that they both knew Chris and that he and Sandra had split up.' she said. As usual. ‘We were . ‘you and Chris seemed so happy. ‘to meet an old schoolfriend.then. Back about ten. Eyebrows plucked to infinity and beyond and then pencilled in.' She shook her head. a place where you could still converse without lip-reading . mascara'd. or holding them high as they 145 . Dark slitty eyes. adding. ‘You haven't though.The next night Lynn told Mark where she was going. and. Lynn got a glass of wine and waited. the women tossing their hair back. it was true in a way. Lovely skin.
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. a really good. It was usefully private but Lynn felt claustrophobic. Cormac! That's his real name. This time a response was required. Including me. and Lynn became aware that the drink Sandra was holding was not the first she had had 146 . it didn't seem to matter. So she said nothing. says Cormac sounds too Irish . talks about his feelings. He's friendly.' Sandra snorted angrily. All very well and good if you work with him. She was coming to terms with this now as an integral part of her overall inadequacy. Lynn said. Now she was here.If there is one. ‘You mean.' She peered at Lynn as if she was seeing her for the first time. funny. isn't he? Listens 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'm just so desperate. the name I've always known him by. she hadn't remembered the noise level quite as high as this. Well. I know he calls himself Chris at school. I've no patience with that any more. How can you argue with that? What an ungrateful cow I am. ‘Yes. ‘Well.moved through the press of people. special . Maybe it had been a mistake to come back to this pub. Cute. ‘Yeah. why should you? It took me a while to fall in. Cormac. Not so bloody good if you live with him!' She paused. 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. the one I call him. he's like that at home?' ‘All the time. Sandra looked at Lynn closely. . Then he goes and does it to somebody else. Everybody happy. Will the real Cormac O'Doyle please stand up? . ‘Tell me honestly. He devotes his life to making people happy.' she said. and he doesn't even remember what he said to you five minutes ago. looks at you soulfully with those soft Irish eyes? Makes you feel really important.while he's talking to you. Oh it sounds so stupid when you say it! Cormac is nice. warm . ‘Don't you notice how he behaves?' Then she made a gesture of resignation. . meaningless.makes people think of leprechauns. ‘I can't believe I'm telling you this. What more could I want?' She started to laugh mirthlessly. We hardly spoke two words when we met last year. kind man. To her surprise.
I said . no! Pizza will be fine. Diversion tactics were called for. ‘When was the last time you ate?' ‘Oh. sniffing. ‘Sorry. Somebody had to take care of this child. ‘I've got a couple of friends. Gone was the confident exterior.and she did. In a minute she would start crying. I don't think I could take his whining. Sandra came to. ‘Yes. what have I done. They're away in the States for a couple of months.' Sandra was gone a little while. and when she returned Lynn could see she had applied some make-up. Lynn stood by supplying tissues. and Lynn felt slightly more hopeful that the evening wouldn't end in disaster.' She looked at Lynn pathetically. ‘It's all right.oh. Yesterday some time.that day. what's the use?' Her face crumpled. I don't want to stand around crying in public. I don't know. Will you come back with me? I just want to hole up indoors. I'm house-sitting for them in Tottenham. A little girl was looking at her.' ‘So he does love you?' Sandra looked at her with frustration in her face. the well made-up face. Eventually.' she found herself adding anxiously. more in control. Maggie and Liam. and said drearily. "Come back to me. It's a relief. Sandra finished. I need to think. ‘That's if you like pizza. I love you" crap.' said Lynn firmly. I'll come. She said. ‘So where did you go when you moved out?' It worked. torn between pity and exasperation and thankful they were in a corner where no one could really see them. ‘Would you prefer some soup or something?' ‘Soup? God. Lynn was relieved.' she said. Nor the second. ‘Why don't you splash some water on your face in the Ladies? I'll wait here. Lynn said. Her face looked an absolute mess. 147 . Cormac doesn't know where I am.' Some instinct made her ask. She was going to cry now .' Sandra started to laugh shakily. Or was it?' ‘We'll get a pizza on the way. She looked much better. ‘I never said he didn't.' ‘OK.' ‘Look.
They travelled back on the tube to where Sandra was staying and got two pizzas at the corner shop. Surely pizza must be the most popular take-away in London - or maybe it was kebabs. Sandra opened the door of the inevitable large terraced house, sub-divided into flatlets, and they trudged upwards. Liam and Maggie's place was at the very top. The room seemed dark at first; though there was still some light outside, the dormer windows let very little of it in. When Sandra clicked a switch, and flooded the place with a soft glow from concealed lighting, Lynn gasped. It was so unexpected; a huge room, open plan with wood floors and rugs, a piano (a piano?) and what seemed like thousands of books. ‘They're musicians' said Sandra, as though this explained everything. Perhaps it did. Certainly it explained the piles of sheet music and the music stand. Sandra had already moved to the kitchen area and was looking out glasses. She seemed to have totally regained her composure. ‘Drink?' she said. Lynn hesitated. Sandra smiled. ‘You're worried I'm drinking too much. It's only because I haven't eaten. We'll have spritzers if you like, but I must have my wine.' Lynn could hardly stop her. ‘Fine' she said. 'Hang on,' said Sandra, 'I must remove my stud.' She was a gone long time in the bathroom, and when she returned Lynn thought she looked rather white, but she forbore to comment. She hadn't heard anything, perhaps it had been a struggle for Sandra to remove the stud in her fragile state. They settled down in the comfortable settee with the pizzas on a coffee table in front of them. There seemed to be no need to talk for a while. Sandra seemed to have no trouble eating, though she ate very slowly, and with a faint air of surprise, as though she had forgotten quite how to do it. ‘Just as well we didn’t get extra cheese,' thought Lynn. ‘She must have the constitution of an ox.' ‘You've changed a lot,' she observed aloud. ‘Yes, haven't I? That was Cormac's doing.' ‘Chr - Cormac's?'
‘Oh yes. I was a dowdy little frump and he encouraged me, brought me out of myself, I suppose. That's one thing I've got to thank him for. "Be yourself," he used to say, "Be the you that you were meant to be - or even the you that you weren't meant to be! That would be more fun!" With that bloody wicked twinkle in his eye!' She broke off. ‘I'm talking about him as though he was dead,' she said. ‘Well, so he is! Or I wish he was. Not dead - but dead to me. I want some relief from loving.' Lynn put down her pizza. How hard it was to listen meaningfully and chew at the same time! She could not imagine Tia listening to someone while she was eating. Actually, she couldn't imagine Tia eating. ‘ What I mean is . . . ' there were tears in Sandra's eyes ‘ . . . Oh, what do I mean? It's not loving. What Cormac does is not loving. It looks like it, but it isn't.' She finished the last word on a wail. ‘What is it then?' asked Lynn - reasonably, she thought. It sounded like loving to her. Sandra glared at her. Lynn realised uneasily that Sandra was stretched pretty thin. Maybe a person could think too much. Sandra subsided into hunched misery. She clasped her hands tightly as though by so doing she could get a grip on her thoughts. She stared ahead at the wall. Lynn could see her eyes moving from side to side as though she was trying to read the answer there. She let out her breath gustily. ‘It's a kind of faux loving,' she said at last. ‘It looks like loving but it isn't. If you love that way, then it stops you having to love the real, proper way. Oh, I know what I mean but I can't explain it!' (‘Been there!' thought Lynn.) ‘Have you ever read Browning?' ‘What?' ‘Browning. He's a poet.' ‘Oh. No.' ‘Nobody ever reads poetry any more. Oh, never mind.' She spoke as though to herself. ‘Does that make me the duke then? Substitute "my virginity" for "a nine-hundred old years' name"
and it's pretty damn close. I wonder if his smiles will stop if I cut him out of my life? No. He's indestructible.' This was meaningless to Lynn. ‘Sorry . . . I don't follow.' ‘What? Oh - my fault. I apologise. I'm rambling. It's a poem about someone who marries . . . oh, never mind. It would take too long to explain.' Sandra grew very quiet. The minutes ticked away. Lynn surreptitiously finished her slice of pizza. Finally Sandra raised her head with the air of someone who had made a decision. ‘Well, it's like this,' she said. She stopped. Her eyes sought Lynn's, appealing for her to understand . . . but understand what? Lynn swallowed what she was eating and sat up. ‘Cormac's into sharing. That's what I can't take.' What did she mean? Sandra spoke in riddles. ‘Sharing? Sharing what?' ‘Bodies,' said Sandra in a whisper. Bodies? It sounded like they were members of some group taking part in some secret necrophiliac rite. For a moment Lynn felt totally freaked out. Then she recovered. ‘What do you mean, bodies?' Sandra gave her a variant of the look Lynn herself favoured for those in her classes who were being purposely slow on the uptake. Then she deflated. ‘I mean sex, she said. ‘Cormac's philosophy is - how can I put it kindly? - we're only here once. This world is a pretty shitty place - full of misery. Sex makes you happy. What's the harm, as long as you don't hurt anyone. I didn't find this out until I was well and truly hooked on him.' There was a long pause. Lynn didn't dare say anything. She was too busy trying to process what she had heard. Sandra went on. ‘I was so in love. And I thought he was with me. And so he is, according to his philosophy, I suppose. He had a bad back ' - Lynn remembered, it had been in the Easter holiday - ‘ and he was out of action in bed for about two months. He was anxious that I was missing sex. He - ' Sandra paused, shaking her head and staring at the floor. Then she said, forcing
the words out, ‘He tried to set me up with his friend. It all came out then. He was very open about it. He couldn't understand why I was dumbfounded.' She turned to Lynn. ‘But you can, can't you Lynn? You can understand!' ‘Oh yes,' said Lynn. ‘I can understand.' ‘In a sense you can see his point. And he's very moral. Always takes precautions, never breaks up relationships . . . unless they’re into sharing too. A lot of his friends are. And he gives me total freedom. "Be happy!" he says! But how can I be happy?' said Sandra fiercely. ‘I . . . don't . . . want . . . to . . . share.’ She started crying in earnest then, not making a noise, just sitting there with her face in her hands, letting the tears soak into a handkerchief, blowing her nose, throwing the tissue away, getting another, the tears still pouring down. Lynn thought she had never seen such an eloquent expression of silent grief. She put her arm round Sandra and gradually she felt Sandra lean against her, as though drawing strength from her. Eventually Lynn noticed the tissues were lasting longer, and then finally Sandra sat up. ‘Thanks, Lynn. I don't know what to say. It's the first time I've cried like that.' ‘Don't say anything. I'm glad I was here.' ‘I don't know what to do. I just don't know what to do. He's not really a bastard. And I do love him.' There was nothing Lynn could think of to say. She was wiser now in the value of withholding platitudes. Sandra supplied her own answer. ‘I'll think of something. I don't think he'll change. I think it's me who's got to change - or leave him for good.' She smiled bitterly. ‘Not much of a choice is it? I need time to think.' She smiled again, this time at Lynn. ‘Thanks for listening, Lynn. You're a good listener. You know I can't believe we've really only just met. I feel like I've known you for a long time.' ‘Me too,' said Lynn. It was true. Looking at Sandra now, she could hardly remember the antipathy she'd felt at first. She had seemed so different with her dyed hair and piercings, not at all the sort of person Lynn usually spent her time with. Now she saw her in a new light. An old
saying of her mother's came to mind, ‘Never judge a book by the cover.' ‘I feel better now,' said Sandra. ‘Shall I go and warm the pizza up?' As she was in the kitchen area Lynn heard her opening another bottle of wine. She came back. ‘Let's talk about something else, shall we? I'm sick of men.' The pizza was chewy but still edible. The wine helped it down beautifully. After a while, Lynn said, ‘So how do you know Liam and Maggie?' ‘I was at college with them . . . music.' ‘Oh, do you play?' ‘Piano and organ. And I sing.' ‘Really?' Lynn was intrigued. ‘Yes, I play the organ in church actually. The Church of Christ the Fisher. Wouldn't think it to look at me would you?' ‘Well - no.' They both laughed. ‘But seriously,’ said Lynn. ‘You go to church? What do you think of it?' ‘I only go to play the organ.' A wary look came into Sandra's eyes. ‘Why? You're not a Christian are you?' This took Lynn by surprise. She couldn't help appreciating the irony of it. After a pause, experiencing conflicting emotions in which she was taken aback to find sadness pre-eminent, she said reflectively, ‘No. No, I'm not.' Sandra looked relieved. ‘I didn't think you were. I meet a lot of them at church. I tend to keep my mouth shut. They think I'm a liberal, but really I'm agnostic. How can you know? I think about it of course, but really, how can you ever know, ever be sure? Sometimes I think I'd like to believe, but then I see some of the prats that do and I think, "Oh no! If that's what it does to you, then I don't want to be like that!" ' For some reason this conversation was becoming intolerable to Lynn. She said quickly, ‘Could you play me something on the piano?' ‘Sure, only I'm a bit squiffy. What would you like?'
Lip studs and Chopin just wouldn't go together normally.' said Lynn. Then Sandra played something Lynn knew and she couldn't resist singing along. Eventually Lynn said. 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. Lynn came over and stood by the piano and they played and sang. A good servant but a poor master. How surreal it was to see someone looking like Sandra making such amazingly beautiful sounds. singing in a rich. All the way home in the taxi. She played a Chopin nocturne. frequently ending in a riot of mischords and broken harmonies. we were!' said Lynn. She wondered why he hadn't phoned. How will you get home?' ‘Taxi.' ‘We were. She had a vague memory of him helping her to pick up the contents of her purse from the pavement. though her head was swimming and she hardly knew what she was doing. unable to get back on track for laughing.' Sandra did. then some Beethoven. with an effort. with one hand on the wall. but a glance at her mobile phone revealed the reason. drunken. She didn't seem to need music.‘Oh. Sandra was disappointed. with some difficulty. It was very definitely after 10 o'clock. Lynn listened entranced. she wouldn't switch it on now. It was late. ‘I've got to go. contralto. then some jazz that Lynn couldn't identify. To her delight Sandra joined in. Somehow she managed to pay off the cabbie.' ‘We will! Definitely! I feel so much better. She didn't dare think about the cost.' She focused. Well. ‘We were having such a nice time. only about how angry Mark would be if she didn't get home as soon as possible. on her watch. Going up the stairway to their flat. She would have to go immediately and she said as much to Sandra. Lynn approached the 153 . then some Scott Joplin. it was only useful in emergencies. It must be getting late. Lynn's thoughts kept switching from the pleasure of her time in the flat with Sandra to the unpleasant revelations about Chris/Cormac. Surprise me. ‘We'll have to do it again. She hated the bloody thing. She said. I don't know. Very late. Too late. Well.
I do love you!' she cried.' Lynn's brow wrinkled. As she saw him waiting for her and then coming towards her to grab her. ‘I don't remember that bit. smiling in spite of himself as the recognition of her sorry state dawned on him. The thought of actually getting the key out. ‘What do you mean?' ‘You passed out on me. You passed out under me. ‘Well.' ‘Oh. the contrast between his patient. waiting love and Chris's strange perspective welled up within her. fitting it in the lock and turning it seemed far beyond her meagre powers. you wouldn't. would you?' They looked at each other and burst out laughing.' ‘I don't remember that bit either.' Lynn was concentrating on buttering a piece of toast without it making too much noise. The stairs seemed hard enough work as it was. over breakfast. However. the problem was solved when the door was opened by Mark. * * * The next day. as overcome with lust.door with some anxiety.' ‘OK. then. Mark said conversationally. you were pretty bloody useless in bed last night.' ‘Well. she collapsed into his arms. 154 . ‘Oh Mark.
155 . him. but now she was here she wondered whatever had possessed her to do it.almost wondering if he was a real person outside the Sunday morning service. ‘Hello. I'm Lynn Davies. the vicar. no. She recognised his voice.' just . I wanted the North London Satanists society. An hour earlier she had rung David. ‘I'm sorry you have dialled a wrong number. No answerphone message. not thinking.' but instead heard herself say. not planning what to say if anyone answered the phone. ‘Hello. . St Saviour's Vicarage. Can I help you?' For a split second she imagined herself saying ‘Sorry. regretting her phone call and wondering what she should do. She'd just felt like it . this is David Mowbray. I must have the wrong number. not caring.Chapter 14 Lynn was pacing up and down the road that St Saviour's church was in. Lynn had nearly dropped the phone when he had answered. no engaged tone. . She'd acted on impulse what the hell.
I came to a service at your church last Sunday and I'm beginning to think about God. ‘Lynn Davies? I remember you. weren't you? Sure. What have I got to lose? She marched up the narrow pathway between funereal overgrown trees and bushes and resolutely rang the bell. 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.' ‘OK. In an hour then. But really. See you then. You know where to come?' ‘I think so. come in!' Why Lynn was surprised that David opened the door she couldn't imagine .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.' ‘It's the ugly Victorian pile right next to the church. she was completely losing it . this must be off the top end of the scale of total madness. yes. what had she got to lose? Now Lynn was outside the vicarage. She waited. Again she thought. She'd always prided herself on her openness. ‘Er. Fine. You were with Polly. She wasn't just being open. Lynn stared at it as though it might come to life and tell her what was going on.after all he'd 156 . Doesn't happen often. Can I come and talk to you about it?' Oh. Right. ‘Come in.' The phone went dead.' ‘Yes.though some people try . but something horrible now was happening inside her head. You can't miss it .' Ulp! Now? This morning? So easily? Didn't she have to be vetted or something? Surely vicars weren't really so accessible? And how come he didn't sound surprised? That was spooky. Sometimes she was such a silly cow. bloody hell! If phoning was stupid to start with.
Nice to meet you too. ‘Ali! Got a minute?' Footsteps sounded and Alison appeared. have you?' He crossed to the still open door and yelled through it. For the tenth time she was regretting coming. 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. holding it open for her. He was in a clerical shirt without the collar and his wiry hair was up on end. with two shabby easy chairs by a gas fire which was not on. Pleased to meet you. and Lynn shook it. as he clicked the fire on. thought Lynn. whatever it was.but she was. please' said Lynn.a church in Bristol called Pip'n'Jays I sometimes went to. Her smile as she spoke was warmly professional. when she spoke. Bath! That was useful . It was a study. no sugar. was aware of her own inner caution. book-lined. ‘Hi. Her voice.' ‘I'll just give Alison a shout’ he said. You're not from these parts?' ‘No. you must be Lynn. and above it was a landscape in watercolours. He showed her through a wide entrance hall into a room by the front door. The mantelpiece contained artifacts of a vaguely seafaring nature with a preponderance of wood and brass showing. sturdy build. smiling back. ‘You haven't met my wife.answered the phone . quite large. had a slow west country burr.' She moved forward with her hand outstretched. I met David when he was a student in Bristol. It looked so fresh and sunny and tranquil that Lynn couldn't help wishing that she was there instead of being where she was.' she thought.she'd spent a week's holiday at Lisa's 157 . Her thick fair hair was styled in an expensive looking cut that probably needed manicuring every two weeks. but David was indicating a seat and saying. ‘You're no fool. We met at church . She wore jeans and a baggy sweatshirt which did not disguise her muscular. but Alison didn't really fit the bill. ‘Tea? Or would you prefer coffee?' ‘Coffee. How original is that?' Not very. Lynn was not sure what vicars' wives should look like. ‘Hi. and Lynn. ‘White. and her face wore an expression that was at once benign and shrewd. I was born in Bath.
did I? I mean. ‘I told you. I’ve only just sat down! Back off will you? Memories of his unpleasant space invasion at the church door flooded back. A series of useful connected topics were buzzing in her mind. whether Alison had ever been to Midsomer Norton. which was the name of the village where Lisa had lived . Alison was starting to warm to her. hold on a minute. How nice it would have been to see that appraising expression melt into friendliness. they were interrupted by the phone ringing. ‘What's it like growing up in a tourist spot?' Before Alison could reply.' Then. a few opening preliminaries. All of a sudden she felt very wary of telling David anything. Jane Austen. what will you do about it?' Hey. She turned her attention back to David. . like discussing whether Waitrose was better than Sainsburys. how nice west country accents were. both in the study and somewhere else in the house. establishing a few friendly connections? He was just like bloody Tia. Damn! She'd been all ready to talk. What was she doing here? What had she expected to find? This man had 158 . He gestured again to an easy chair and sat down himself. she could tell. Lynn followed suit. You couldn't just do it. yes I did. the Roman ruins. A clear run through on the tube then. but I'd just like to know if he's there. I just want to know. ‘You said on the phone that you wanted to talk about God?' ‘Oh. ‘Hang on. . and he gazed back innocently.' ‘Ah.once when she was a kid and they'd gone to Bath a couple of times. you know. disconcertingly. smiling at her puzzlement. I'll just get that. and the old familiar disappointment came stealing over her.' ‘Right. Aloud she said. talking about God was personal. What was this? What about a bit of small talk.' ‘Sounds quite reasonable to me. straight in.' Lynn looked at him suspiciously.' She disappeared and Lynn was left. I don't believe in him. But if you find he is there. Lynn felt extremely irritated. Back in a minute. ‘You've come far?' ‘No. I live near Camden Town. Was it tea or coffee by the way?' ‘Coffee please. Dammit.
She said.’ ‘Er. She could understand that. ‘About the God stuff.' Lynn nodded. David surveyed it with interest. ‘Your sermon on Sunday. for he leaned forward. ‘I think they do. a cafã´tiere of coffee. sure . It had a light and airy feel. She stood by Lynn and gestured with the tray. and if there's anything up there. suddenly wonder if there is. right. If there's anything more to life than meets the eye. only questions. It was daintily laid with a lace tray cloth. ‘You play squash?' ‘Yes. but it was still too soon to talk about God. and so did she. So does Alison. I see. gives me a hard time. She's fitter than I am though. and said quite gently. David reached over and took it from her and shoved it on top of the mantelpiece. When we can. ‘I'm only asking because when people who perhaps have not been particularly interested in whether there is a God or not. 159 .?' ‘What? Oh. She let her gaze wander round the room.' Lynn didn't really want to talk about Alison. there is usually a reason for it. just let the silence rest between them and Lynn was beginning to say.no answers. cream in a jug. ‘Could you . He seemed to sense her disengagement. . 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. sugar and a plate of what looked like homemade biscuits. but only partly. .' when Alison's footsteps were heard in the hall and she came in through the half open door with a tray. I have found myself wondering lately what the point of everything is.' she ended defensively.' ‘Oh. That was reasonable. She felt partly reassured. it made me think . despite the weightiness of a solid wall of books behind her. I suppose most people do at one time or another.' Lynn removed the flower vase and looked around for somewhere to put it. He sat back again. though some of them were paperbacks.' He said nothing more. It's true. finding some ease of spirit in its faded comfortableness.sorry. Alison put the tray down.
how nice! and sipped it. . added cream . You said . Lynn took hers. She looked at David. where according to known laws. about things not being straightforward. though obscurely pleased that Alison had forgotten the mugs.' she said. the way I see it. Your sermon. I was going to talk about the fact that when you really look at the heart of things then it's not so easy to define 160 . There's scientific truth. 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'm having coffee with the vicar!' and stifled an insane urge to laugh. ‘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. sitting there benignly in his shirtsleeves. before she laughed and said. . . He continued on another tack. it's the truth we already know. ‘And that's not the only kind of truth there is. I seem to remember . about truth. things behave reliably and you can test hypotheses.' Lynn closed her eyes the better to recollect.you said. ‘ . He took his time. "The greatest enemy of truth is not lies. That. It smelt wonderfully aromatic and it was very hot. don't you. poured and handed her a mug. you were talking .Yes. the gas fire and the picture were the only things of comfort in the room. The rest felt very alien. There's . it's not quite so straightforward as that . . when you get down to the heart of it. ‘I hate cool coffee. there's a lot of truth in this old world of ours. you wouldn't have got this if I'd been doing it. if you know where to look. ‘Well. ‘You were saying?' ‘ .' ‘Hang on a minute . but I can't help thinking that a couple of cups would help.‘Well.' Lynn looked up just in time to see Alison poke her tongue out at him. He pushed the plunger down. Lynn felt somewhat wrong-footed by this. as though he had been going to say something and then changed his mind. thought. and was gone again before Lynn could think what to say. shall we?' said David.what were you going to say?' ‘When? Oh. just now.' He stopped. Well. ." What did you mean?' ‘What did I mean?’ Now it was David’s turn to think. Of course. .
and washed it down with a great draught of coffee that surely must have been much too hot. make no mistake about it. Truth cannot contradict truth . sorry. swallowed.' ‘I believe I've heard that argument before. ‘Men!' she thought. and she had asked. She half expected him to wipe the back of his mouth with his hand. secretly entertained. But what choice had she? She was here now. 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. All very well on Sundays . . ‘Go on. Surely the message he was giving her was that when you looked at the heart of things . ‘Yes. in science. Clearly he was warming to his theme and did not want to be distracted with the mundanities of eating and drinking. All sorts. The point is this .' said Lynn pointedly. There's a lot of it about. she felt a sudden chill within. and also. You're a scientist?' ‘Biology. 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 .the very heart . like a chunk from another sermon. This homely diversion brought Lynn the relief she needed. All these truths mesh in at a deep level. She took a mouthful of coffee.but you can't use the same yardstick for measuring them all.but that's true in other fields as well. surprisingly. well. He put down his mug and sat purposefully upright. in music . She didn't want to be sidetracked. And their truth is real. That wasn't what she wanted to hear.' said Lynn briefly.' he paused and said simply. looking at her carefully to monitor whether or not he was boring her. ‘There's spiritual truth too. in life itself. in literature.but it wasn't Sunday. He felt the implied rebuke and.' ‘You mean you don't know what's really happening . or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.like Schrodinger’s cat?' ‘Yes. ‘Truth is more common than we think. But if your hands are already full of truth. in art. flushed. profoundly real. You were saying?' David took a biscuit. inserted it whole into his mouth. . Some people have a lot of it. wherever you look.there was nothing really there.reality . This sounded little bit glib. chewed.
took it down and handed it to her. Selves. Josh had done it? That loutish lad she had last seen playing a bass guitar with a marked lack of co-ordination. . then again.' David rested back against his chair. There was too much truth. ‘ "As kingfishers catch fire. selecting only the truths she wanted to hear. mercifully saying nothing. Lynn looking around. rebuked. Then it goes on to talk about us. encouraged. " Each mortal thing does one thing and the same. She took it. . to be truly what we were meant to be. in green and gold and blue and vermillion.' David reached up. Through it. the ones which reinforced the truths she already knew. What do they mean?' ‘I suppose it's what we were talking about . The way that in order to be true to ourselves. She felt challenged. She looked at it.the essential truth of the nature of things.This simple question hit Lynn between the eyes and then opened a door inside her head. How do you make room in your life for the truth you don't yet know? There was so much truth. eager to examine it more closely. ‘That's lovely. . ‘I'll think about that. No fakes. Deals out that being indoors each one dwells. silently. unconsciously mirroring David. she saw her life as small and contained.' she said. we have to be like Christ. In an instant.' He took the frame from her and read. Birds. She still didn't understand it. To give herself time to think. ‘Yes. . all in one go. have to be true to themselves. . ‘What fascinating words. she caught a glimpse of something but it was gone before she could see what it was. well. caught sight of a framed piece of writing on the wall to one side of the mantelpiece. One never could tell . beautifully written in calligraphy and illuminated with gold leaf. Goes itself . decorated around the edge with tiny birds and animals. the beguiling incomprehensibility of the words. animals. Her enquiring mind and the outgoing curiosity of which she had always been secretly proud suddenly seemed now somehow now to be tunnel vision. enclosed. It's a favourite poem of mine. She did not know what to say. She was winded. what is it?' ’My son Josh did it. confined. slowly. to be what they really are inside. good point. It was a poem. marvelling at its delicate beauty. dragonflies draw flame" . It was indeed lovely. 162 . . They were made that way." ' She read it aloud.
what it was that he had said. The door slammed shut in her face. He was going too fast.‘"For Christ plays in ten thousand places. I'm sorry. Lynn had to get out. listening to him talking another language suddenly came over her. into those beautiful words and completely ruining them.' ‘What. I'm thinking a lot .just behind . she couldn't follow him. I don't know . Just when she was getting so close! She could have wept with frustration. I overreacted. And now he was dragging God into it. there had been such a sense of getting nearer to something really important. spoiling it all. in this claustrophobic room. She could feel herself sinking fathoms further down into it. ‘I'm the one that should be sorry. done nothing wrong. I've got to go.' Lynn could see him in his mind. What was he talking about now? How did he get there? She hadn't read that bit. The darkness felt overwhelming. something glowing with wonder . . The thought suddenly occurred to her. He had meant well. Now. to the Father through the features of men's faces" ' Lynn listened in growing dismay. and lovely in eyes not his. killed it dead with his stupid words. I'm not feeling myself these days. A weary pity overtook her. As she had been reading it. . too much probably. This Is Depression. Oh! A terrible sense of the pointlessness of this conversation with David. right this minute?' David looked suddenly alarmed. Besides it would look very odd just to walk out just like that.just beyond. the pointlessness of the whole world. lovely in limbs. extrapolated itself into the pointlessness of all conversations with him. ‘I'm sorry. He'd taken the poem from her. desperately replaying the last few moments of conversation in his head. She was a million miles from nowhere in a barren wasteland in the dark. all conversations with anybody anywhere. She put down her mug and stood up abruptly. This is what depression is like. of sitting here. . . And now it was gone. ‘I've said something to upset you. trying to work out what had gone wrong. Things are getting to me for no reason. coupled with a disgust at her own lack of control. She sat down again and smiled wanly.' 163 .
‘That poem. very often in fact. it got to me. ‘But why Alison? What's she got to do with it? You're 164 . hasn't it?' Lynn looked at David almost fearfully. hating herself for saying it. Alison! She'd rather die! She suddenly realised that she did not like Alison at all. oh. ‘It was the poem. I don't know "going themselves" or something. ‘I wonder if you'd like to come round sometime and talk to myself and Alison . She braced herself for the God bit. . He could not be serious. He continued. not intellectual ones . It seemed the hardest thing in the world to do when all she wanted to do was go. just watched her intently. ‘Nope. It was as though . .' A bit! thought Lynn.in fact she was a cow. . sometimes. . Rubbish. .' Lynn at last found her voice. hating him for making her say it. Life's got to have a meaning.' ‘You and Alison! What for?' ‘Ali is a trained counsellor and I've a bit of training myself. He said nothing.' He said it so confidently that Lynn found herself wincing inside. ' Lynn could feel herself losing it again. half afraid he might contradict her and say. And I felt sort of spooked. I didn't understand what you meant. . ‘. And it has. It's all a waste of time. There's no meaning. Instead he said. but she owed him something. as though .' she said reluctantly. Life's got to have a meaning. ‘And what you said. I don’t know anything about you but I can't help feeling that you are hurting a bit inside too . ‘Lynn. yet wanting to be as honest as she could. and maybe we could listen to you .that there's more in this than meets the eye. and things. not believing in God is about emotional issues. It was very odd. as though life might have a meaning after all.' she added. waiting for her to continue. I caught a glimpse of things behind things. . did not trust her . when it said about kingfishers. you are thinking about big things at the moment. but it didn't come.' ‘Oh yes. It didn't seem to match the poem. .She watched David's look of anxiety become replaced by a look of calculating concern.
David's face remained expressionless. Despite herself. It was definitely time to go now. well. straight-faced. He said. it is something that I have to take into account. Oh really! What hard work everything was! What bloody hard work! And made worse by people like him. People can become quite vulnerable. even though. and two people can be a lot better at listening than one . But I don't think it would be helpful at the moment. 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. must be laughing his head off. for example. There was no way in the world she would trust herself to these amateurs. God. ‘When people talk deeply about emotional issues. but.the one I've come to see!' Was it imagination. Even though. ‘Thank you David. they were probably quite good for some people. if there was a god. nevertheless. still less his ball-breaking wife. And unfortunately in my job. but no thanks. I'm a vicar. 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. I do realise how remote that possibility is. yes. 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 . actually. in their way. You are a very attractive woman. she couldn't quite believe it. Thanks. I recognise that as a genuine offer. and knowing how busy you and Alison are (playing squash!) it's a generous one too. And I have to acknowledge my own fallibility. or did she detect the hint of a look of caution in his eyes when she said that? But he answered evenly enough.' He looked at her carefully. and Lynn became aware of what he was saying. Wow. ‘You mean you need a minder in case I make a pass at you?' She thought of adding ‘Don't flatter yourself!' but thought better of it. Lynn said slowly and formally.' This was said with the barest possible twitch of his lips. to give herself time to think. I don't counsel for a living. ‘Remembering what I see in the mirror in the mornings. Like Polly. it's surprising what kinds of things come up. she couldn't help being flattered at the compliment and disarmed by his admission of his own humanity. people are always ready to make something out of nothing. give her Tia every time.
And I'll think about what you said. You won't mind if I remember you in prayer sometimes?' ‘Remember you in prayer.present. I'll see you out. ‘I’m glad you came Lynn. And against the odds. and vanished. if you don't mind.' David let go of her hand and smiled. 166 . In spite of the hard time she'd given him. David had no choice but to take it. ‘It's nice to know I haven't blown it completely. ‘I'm still doing a lot of thinking. ‘Thanks' he said.' At the door. he paused. If you don't see me in church on Sunday. 'And thank Alison for the coffee.' She added on impulse.' What a quaint old-fashioned phrase! He liked her. He said. You're a deep thinking person.' Lynn said. I don't mind. looking uncertain. it was lovely. ‘I don't suppose you'd like me to say a prayer for you now to the God you're not sure you believe in?' ‘No bloody thanks!' said Lynn.' David's smile broadened. Lynn could tell. ‘Thanks for your time. How funny life was! She smiled back and said ‘No. he liked her. and I think you'll make it.' She extended her hand. it doesn't mean I'm never coming back again. she still liked him. meaning it.
didn't want to talk god-talk. Lynn wanted to know more.' said Polly wistfully. She didn't want to go to church. ‘Where'd you go then?' She told him. and after all. she'd tell her. A fantastic person. were extremely mixed. and then Polly's anguished voice. calling over her shoulder. as she left the vicarage. From what Polly said about Lauren. If she asked her for a reason . But he couldn't have minded too much. His reaction was predictable. give her psyche . You 167 . who inspired so much devotion. She remembered how David had lost interest in her at the door of the church. otherwise he wouldn't have laughed. was quiet. ‘Here we go again. ‘Right! Knock it on the head then!' ‘I will. just wanted to hide away somewhere and lick her wounds. Mark.well.' she answered slowly.or whatever . when she got home. Lynn felt that she hated the idolised Lauren in advance.Chapter 15 Lynn's thoughts. Lynn felt that she wanted to meet her. tell her. so that he didn't feel bad. Lynn was sure it wasn't allowed in a Christian church. ‘Oh. She'd phone Polly. she seemed almost to have the status of divinity in Polly's mind. that bloody god-stuff! Haven't you had enough yet?' ‘I rather think I have.' There she went again. she felt like she'd had enough. ‘You're not so bloody marvellous. I'm going to phone Polly now and tell her. about tomorrow. finally asked. but Lauren's going to be there! I wanted you to meet her!' Lauren. Why on earth had she said that at the end! He was just trying to be nice.? It was creepy. There was the silence of consternation on the other end. He kept glancing at her. ‘How's Lauren?' What was this paragon like.' She did. but quite honestly now. it was his job. tell her no. I just did.time to recover. ‘Lauren's a fantastic person. that's all. ‘Why do you want me to meet Lauren?' ‘Oh. She'd talked about going to church to please him. Against her will. dammit! That was settled.
And I thought. Gandhi. Lynn ran after him and threw her arms round him. just turned away. She couldn't tell Polly.' He made no reply. It felt intolerable. Anyway. ‘Oh please. How wrong I was! Will somebody just tell me what's going on!' He shook his head slowly. now this church crap. She couldn't do this to him. Mrs Pankhurst. Just someone I wanted to meet. all the people she'd known in the past who'd been kind to her. her Auntie Gwen . Sandra was a good person. I thought I'd give it one more try. Trust me. her mother.a dumb woman communicating with a deaf man. but nothing came. trying to convey her love for him. When she was nearly there she made a decision. his eyes bewildered. oh please. not crap . but when she got there she'd say that Mark was ill and she had to go back. actually. She couldn't stay. able to invoke such delight by her simple consenting to be there. She was mute .' He hugged her and let her go. How easily Polly was pleased! She said goodbye and rang off. ‘Sure.church stuff. she was on the tube and there was no signal on her mobile.' ‘You will? Oh that's wonderful!' Polly's naive joy was transparent. she supposed. just as Mark came in. ‘It's the last time. All through the tube journey next morning Lynn kept asking herself why she was doing it. Lynn. Lauren? Huh! But still Lynn couldn't help wondering what Lauren was actually like. Maybe she'd go just once more. she'd be on her way to church herself now.' There were plenty of amazing people around. It was the best way. Human curiosity.' She longed for the words that would reach him. enable him to understand. Lynn wished someone would tell her what was going on too.even Sandra. She really liked Sandra. Lynn felt as though she. 168 .she smiled at the memories . I'm sorry.' ‘Oh Lynn! What's going on? Oh for goodness sake! I thought the miscarriage was bad enough. was pretty divine herself. His expression was unreadable. ‘OK. I really thought after last Wednesday that I'd got you back. The memory of Mark's face continuously alternated with Polly's. then that .don't have to be a Christian to be fantastic. I'll come. Lynn. give me more time.' ‘Well. holding him tightly. his face expressionless.that therapist. ‘You've sorted it then. Hey.
It made you want to stroke it. Lynn was reminded of a sparrow being mobbed by a flock of budgies. Lauren looked different close to. not this dowdy person. ‘Oh.' said Lynn. and now she'd done it. Lauren thinks . but the day of reckoning was looming there.' Lynn swung round again with a start. Fantastic? She'd reserve judgment. She felt an unaccountable pang of anti-climax. Someone with some presence anyway. For some reason. she had imagined someone. Her dark hair was cut short. and her eyes 169 . who she'd managed to avoid in the last couple of days at school. from what Lynn could see. I just came over to say hello. well. unlined forehead. very.' And then she caught sight of something over Lynn's shoulder and her face brightened. Lynn thought of Polly's not infrequent references to her. Polly pointed . she'd only wanted to meet her to satisfy her curiosity. rallied and said. She had to make some choices. a force to be reckoned with. Then she saw Polly waiting for her outside the church. ‘You must be Lynn. How did she get into these messes? She hadn't got a clue what to say. but what could you expect from Polly? Silly of her to fall for it. In the absence of any physical description of Lauren whatsoever. .' said a voice behind her. Lauren? How did she get here? Her eyes connected with the top of Lauren's head and travelled down. The tube stopped and Lynn got out. a bit like Tia. but you can say hello to Lauren before you go! There she is!' Lynn turned. ‘Oh. and foolish too. ‘Yes. . ‘And I'm Lauren. Lauren says . very short. She repeated the lines. Oh well. of course Lynn. Really. ‘nondescript’ was the word that came to mind. in the middle of a very lively crowd of what looked like year sevens . put him first. She shuddered. Lauren was dressed in brown with very short dark brown hair. ‘Well.just couldn't. wide. and stuck up like fur. barely visible. All the way to St Saviour's she was rehearsing her lines. She turned her attention back to Polly. But at least she'd met Sandra. Polly wilted. for feeling it. She had a high. . this made her think of Chris. That couldn't be bad. She was standing.' But Lauren didn't seem to be saying anything. . Disappointing really. I understand. Lauren wore the sort of earrings Della wore.
' ‘Have you? I wonder why?' said Lauren. her eyes crinkled and smiling. Lynn replied conventionally.' said Lynn.' ‘So. Nevertheless. And it was for her. ‘I've wanted to meet you. There was something about Lauren that rang true. ‘Definitely. She temporised with.were the deepest. Her eyebrows were straight at the top and then dived down sharply at the outer corners. mirror images of a curvy. If Lynn had been able to see only Lauren's eyes. said. Lynn barely had time to register this before Lauren smiled. of course.. In another woman it would have been a cue for something complimentary to be said. it seemed a genuine question – not to do with the qualities that she. Enhanced by the droop of her eyelids. as though Lauren knew how Lynn had felt about her.' she said. ‘Hmm. Lynn found herself smiling back all over her face.' she said. ‘Oh. became two tiny. It was as though a billboard had switched pictures while Lynn had blinked. But for Lauren. brightest brown Lynn had ever seen. had that might make make her attractive to people . still smiling. Lauren. Had she imagined then. more for something to say than anything else. Lauren's face changed completely. not least because Lynn hardly knew herself. Yes indeed. Almost. teasing smile that lit up her whole face. in fact. ‘I've been looking forward to meeting you. But that was impossible. they gave her features an expressive melancholy. It's always better to form your own opinions. I've . which might be nothing to do with Lauren and everything to do with Lynn. ‘People round here seem to think very highly of you. she would have known exactly what Lauren's smile was like. and her eyes that seemed to look into Lynn's very soul. and the reasons Lynn might have for wanting to meet her. ‘I'm Lynn. don't you think?' ‘Oh yes.' but it wasn't exactly true.' she paused.' Lauren laughed. you came with Polly?' 170 . but about Lynn. Lauren's smile. that look of sadness? She must have. It was impossible not to. But one thing stood out. what fun to meet you! You look like the sort of person that I really like!' Lynn felt thoroughly approved of. She was going to say. ‘Yes.
I think they are wonderful. 171 . 'Is it true you can't come to the zoo with us next week?' Lauren smiled down at him. And sometimes I . Were you looking forward to me coming?' He said nothing.' Even as she said it she wished she'd said 'Reading'.had run over and was tugging Lauren's sleeve. they are so interesting. Must have taken a while.'No.' It was odd to hear Polly called by the name that Lynn had only ever heard herself use. Lauren turned back to Lynn. I tell you what. Lauren?' he cried in a tone of anguish. Lauren!' he said. She'd met Lauren now and she needed to get back. 'My goodness – that's quite a way. would you mind doing that for me? I'd be so pleased. 'Where were we?' Lynn made a disclaiming gesture. Tim. 'or – counting things. I'm very sorry.' 'Of course I will. distracted. I'm afraid it is.' Lynn said honestly. He pocketed the coin and marched off proudly. who was standing by. His face spoke for him. One of the budgies – quite a small one .' 'Was it far?' Lynn told her. 'Do you really like kangaroos?' asked Polly. But I thought it might be easier to find a postcard of a kangaroo.' said Lauren. 'On the tube..' She stopped.' Lynn wanted to make that clear straight away. 'is it true. 'Actually. 'Would you do something for me? I really wanted to see the kangaroos. 'Yes. all sunshine now. How do you pass the time on the tube?' 'By looking at other people.she dug in her pocket and produced a pound coin – 'you could buy me a postcard of one if you can find it. no. Wombats are my preferred marsupial. What a co-incidence – I do just the same! I love looking at people. Would you mind terribly looking out for them for me and telling me about them when you come back? And maybe' . Pol.
they could hear the music group sounding more melodious. she had to go. ‘Oh. They all thought the others were wonderful . At home. Perhaps that was how these Christians got their kicks. it sounded genuine anyway.' Lynn.' Whatever Lauren meant by sorry. she had seen Lauren.' Watching them enter the church together. ‘Will you be at the prayer meeting on Wednesday?' ‘I hope so. It was strange to hear of Polly in such an unfamiliar role. It didn't feel at all nice. The service was starting. ‘See you tomorrow.Let Polly take over. Resolutely. And as a bonus. Whatever next! And Lauren seemed to think quite highly of her too. and Lynn felt a glow of virtue from having made the decision to come home before she'd seen her. Are you leading it again? I loved that reading you used last time – and you read it so well. Lauren looked at her inquiringly. ‘I'm sorry. Sure. leading the prayer meeting. reflecting on the encounter. During the ride home. people were going in.a real mutual admiration society! Hey. she headed back to the tube. his smile of delighted surprise was ample repayment for any inconvenience incurred. It would make her departure less obvious. thanks.' Polly flushed beetroot and beamed. Mark was surprised to see her back so early. and the most she could permit herself to acknowledge was that it was something not a thousand miles away from a wistful envy.yeah. No point in telling him that. Pol. She said as much to Polly. When he learned that she'd come back early for him. Lynn tried to identify the mystery emotion she'd felt at seeing Lauren and Polly talking. felt both fascinated and repelled. ‘You're not staying for the service then?' Lynn explained. Lynn felt oddly alone and excluded.' ‘Oh . watching with interest. Lynn. Lauren looked at her keenly for a moment then turned her attention to Polly who was now talking to her again. and then she wished she hadn't. Lauren and Polly turned away. Lauren. It seemed like a sort 172 . and something else that she couldn't quite identify.
hands behind his head. and it wasn't really helped by Mark being so much taller than she was. and wow. Mark. Mark said. It had the effect he desired. pulled her towards him and started nuzzling her neck. It had been quite fun really. Mark was looking very pleased with himself. Lynn summoned her reserves of energy. But now and then it was nice to stick with the tried and true. Later that day in bed.' Lynn began cautiously.well . It had felt rather odd to have dinner at the table so soon afterwards. at least today she'd made up for yesterday. She remembered that time so long ago in the shower. And now she had so many. ‘I think I might try to read up a bit about this psychology stuff. She and Mark had never had secrets before. Perhaps all people did in the shower was . nice. Those two sentences had been all she could bring herself to say about the subject.' said Lynn. It hadn't really been successful. or even what she had said to her in the sessions. somehow. Sometimes she thought they were too boring and predictable. She sighed.‘ Help you get the most out of it. ‘I really know so little about it. She loved that look. A bit of background reading never hurts. Lynn and Mark were talking after half an hour of home entertainment. had it hurt her back! Anyway.' Lynn looked at him sorrowfully. unable to interpret the sigh. it would completely freak him out. rolled over. Presently they lay back again. Then there was that time they'd tried it in the kitchen. ‘You want some coffee?' ‘Mmm.' ‘Probably a good idea.shower? And were you meant to keep the water running? It all had got a bit slippery. Oh. contemplating the ceiling. And maybe now she'd just said that to prepare him for finding the place knee-deep in stuff about psychology. He was lying on his back. what a devious person she was! There was no honesty in her. as though they'd been married for twenty years instead of two.' Mark agreed expansively. but wanting to make it all right. 173 . Lynn reflected. She could never tell him what was going on in her head about Tia. laughed and started kissing him back.of reward. and in comfort.
‘Oh sod off!' said Lynn exasperated. looked interested. loaded with incomprehensibility. Wasn't he the one who was always banging on about sex?' He started to thumb through it. It even felt heavier than it should.' She snatched it from him and looked at the page. . it explained the huge inequality between her coursework marks and her exam results. She could hear him whistling in the kitchen. Even the sight of his back was irritating. entitled ‘Calculating coefficients of correlation'. She put the book to one side. Her respect for Tia increased exponentially. Tia had never mentioned sex. but it seemed a bit weird. All these dreams about weeing and eating and stuff. he put it back on the table and swaggered off. Bloody hell! The book was all like that. * * * The next evening. Mark. after dinner had been cleared away.' he read with interest. 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. Lynn said ‘Right!' and dumped a pile of books on the table. ‘What's a t-test then?' ‘Give me that back!' said Lynn. To those in the know. ‘How should I know? I only got it today. He picked one up at random and opened it.Mark got blithely up and went out. wasn't he? So . The book was quite easy to read. 'The Interpretation of Dreams. ambling by. then another about chi-squares. A sentence caught her eye 'Differences of this kind also apply to the weakening of a mode of imagination that originally was 174 . But then Tia never mentioned anything very much. 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. She should really have looked at it in the library. Grinning. Too late. . of course. was there any sex? Just curious. Surely Tia was into Freud? He was the one that started it all off after all. Statistical Methods in Psychology. ‘Freud. or would be if she had the time. Lynn picked up the Freud book herself. Mark picked up another one.
' muttered Lynn grimly.though quite how she'd do that she wasn't exactly certain. not for the first time. Psychology as the Behaviourist Views It and The Philosophy of Psychology met with a similar fate to The Interpretation of Dreams. which Lynn put on the toaster without comment. . she couldn't have cared less if they'd told her how to win the lottery.strongly visual. By the time Lynn got to the last three books entitled Attachment. Nicole was away. 175 . ‘You're kidding! ''Butter nuts squash'' . She went to bed. ‘Ye-up. Luckily she had heard him come in or he would have sent her through the roof. Principles of Topological Psychology. Mark found her in the kitchen wrestling with what he took to be a large.' Mark said quickly. pale orange lightbulb. Half a night and half a day of thinking (she had to make some effort to teach .' and ‘get a move on’ at home? Nevertheless she gave a reluctant smile to show she appreciated his humour. Did Jeremy Paxman? Or did he only ever say. knife in hand. but not enough to encourage him to continue. 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.' Lynn read the paragraph it was in three times but it made no difference. . But if she did she'd make sure she never dreamed any of the stuff he talked about . or Lynn was very dense. wondered Lynn. He came up quietly behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. When he returned home from work. don't take the pith out of me!' he squealed in mock alarm as she turned on him threateningly. she noted with some anxiety) had brought her close to desperation and she threw herself into cooking the dinner to occupy herself. All next day. He gave her a bag. Either Tia was very clever. still intent on penetrating its bulbous mysteries. What else can you expect if you skim read? she thought. Separation and Loss. Did all men regard puns as the acme of humour. ‘I've got something for you.sounds painful! Hey. But she had no time to do very much else. fumbling in his briefcase. Probably both. Lynn puzzled over the conundrum that Tia was a clinical psychologist. She never dreamed anyway. ‘What's that?' ‘Butternut squash.
now in the study.' Lynn grew quieter as she recognised more and more old friends. keeping up a running commentary to Mark. Reality suddenly kicked in hard. As she was sinking under the weight of this. And the reality was that she only had three more sessions with Tia.' 'Skinner and Pavlov are important in psychology too. But it was still her job to sort it. she wasn't so stupid after all! And it talked about therapy too. and then no more. her relationship with Mark was still pretty unsatisfactory and she didn't know what to do about it. as Lynn finished the book and set it down with a sigh of satisfaction.oh shut up! But with all these realities kicking in.' ‘The Bobo doll man isn't called Bandanna after all. the question suddenly flashed through her mind. I read about that. Mark. ‘Yes. . The reality was . 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. Yes.‘Aren't you going to open it then?' She did so. Lynn read the book. ‘So it was Milgram who was the electric shock man. listening. but what do I do with it?' And she didn't know. The reality was that she felt jealous of Polly for knowing Lauren and that felt really wrong. things were looking up. she didn't know. ‘I can understand this. Lynn looked at them. it made feeling happy about reading a poxy little book on psychology look pretty bloody stupid. a little bit. The reality was that she felt confused and ambivalent about her relationship with Tia. I'd always thought it was an odd name. After dinner. 176 . The reality was that though somehow she felt more able to leave the miscarriage behind. So this was psychology. she hoped. Towards the end of the evening. Inside was a book called Introducing Psychology. Mark. and therefore with other women. Mark smiled smugly. I guess that makes sense. .why. though Nicole was probably nothing serious . and where Tia fitted in.' she said with surprise. The reality was that her relationship with Della now felt decidedly unsafe after Della's confession in the cafe. She knew more than she thought she did. the phone rang. The reality was that she wanted to know if god was really there but she never wanted to go to church again or talk to anyone remotely Christian . The reality was that she didn't know what the hell to do about Chris or even Nicole. It had lots of pictures inside. ever.
Let me give you my phone number in case you need it. ‘Good. Lime Avenue.' Lauren laughed. ‘Hello. this is Lauren. ‘That sounds fine.or tea . As if she cared how many she knew. It was much more tiring than the other way round. won't you?’ said Lauren. covering the mouthpiece.' Hoping against hope it was Sandra inviting her round. Don't know the voice. In fact she felt rescued. I don't know many people at St Saviour's. ‘Don't know. Lynn suddenly felt the need to sit down. It's nice of you to ask. I got your phone number from Polly. I'll look forward to it.I think I could manage that. The road right by St Saviour's. ‘I was wondering how you are fixed for next Saturday. I hope it's not too late to phone. She was never going back.' said Lauren again. Well-spoken.' he mouthed back. Lynn took the receiver. Lynn felt her equilibrium return.some time?' Lynn nearly dropped the phone.' The phone went dead. Bye.' It was the last person Lynn expected to hear.' she said formally. Lynn laughed too. ‘I'll look forward to it too. but instead a voice she didn't recognise said. ‘A woman. after Saturday you'll know one more. I was just phoning to ask if you'd like to come round for a coffee . She began to feel happy again. As she dragged herself to the bathroom to take her makeup off.' ‘Bye. Trying to keep the astonishment out of her voice she said. ‘No. I still manage to arrive late though. ‘Thanks again. It was this sudden switching from despair to hope that did it. ‘It's for you. ‘Who is it?' she mouthed. Fine.' ‘Wait! I'll get a pen. hearing 177 .' (What a hypocrite she was. good. ‘That would be very nice.' ‘Afternoon? About three? It's 23.) ‘Well. As she hung up the receiver.' ‘Oh.' ‘I . Very handy for church.' Lynn went to answer it. Lauren's call had come at just the right moment. How nice it would be to go round to Lauren's and talk to her. no.answered it. said.' As she took the number.
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. yes. go off enjoying myself leaving you feeling miserable. Mark?' She felt hesitation run along his body and wondered with some trepidation what was coming next. What would he say? Oh blow! And it had all been going so well between them. honestly. Lynn said softly. I must admit. listening to Mark's rhythmic breathing.I mean. and it would be nice for us to do something together. 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. I did want to go. she suddenly thought of Mark.again Lauren's voice in her head. you're wonderful! Thanks! Thanks for being so understanding. ‘Have you had any thoughts about what we might do at the weekend.' ‘Yes .' (For what?) ‘I know you've been low lately. Mark. And she'd always thought of herself as the caring one in the relationship. and as he turned the light out and settled down beside her. He said carefully. and I've not been much company. Goodnight. you go. and I'll be glad to think of you up there in Newcastle. She was already in bed when Mark came through.' ‘I think it's a great idea! Do you good! You've been working hard lately. I'll be fine. she could not help feeling relief. almost a sense of gratitude.’ ‘Well.' ‘Goodnight.' ‘Oh Lynn. Chica. It had seemed a straightforward enough question. but.' Lynn stayed awake for quite a while. You won't get this chance again. I've got a few things to do. for the 178 . I'm not such a selfish bastard as that!' Ouch! She was touched by his caring. ‘I was picking the right moment. I have been working hard. that’s settled then! You’ll enjoy it. well. Despite hating herself for her hypocrisy. You go. Say if you'd rather not. but I don't want to leave you on your own. I mean it.
way things had turned out. She thought of Lauren asking her round for tea and fell asleep. Now she wouldn't have to tell him. 179 .
and Lauren herself was standing there. and drew Lynn in. reached forward. Lynn smiled back and entered the house. After a minute she rang the bell again. Why. in piles? There seemed masses of it. It occurred to her that she actually knew nothing about Lauren at all. or perhaps the hall was very long. The gate creaked and the lawn was full of daisies encroaching untidily onto the path. . she could hear it.although I 180 . Could she have been called away unexpectedly? Suppose she wasn't in? Before she had time to really start worrying. chaos really. . It was littered with piles of sports clothing of a masculine nature. Lynn was sure. Was Lauren in the garden . It was probably unwise of me .well . ‘My son's in the junior team at school. small and neat and dark. Lauren saw Lynn looking and explained. Once inside. . why not. . not even what she was like as a person.' ventured Lynn. . But Lauren.Chapter 16 Lauren's house was a surprisingly ordinary-looking semi in a tree-lined avenue. Was it working? Yes. . but this . . but her face creased delightedly and she threw the door open. she could not say. took her by surprise. feeling nervous. Lynn heard the door begin to open. or out? Had she forgotten? No. ‘I offered to do the second team's as well. It's my week to wash the strip. She had made the invitation so definitely. ‘There seems a lot of it. Lauren would have remembered. the hall looked bigger and darker. in the shady hall. except for her pale face. And it smelt. more for something to say than anything else. It was also surprisingly untidy. Relieved. picking her way between the piles. And leaving it in the hall . . The wooden door was studded with bolts and had a diamond-leaded pane in the middle. but no one had ever said anything. . When she saw Lynn she said nothing. seemed quite unconcerned. She moved more slowly than Lynn remembered . Nothing happened. Lynn had formed an impression of Lauren that was somehow to do with discipline and wisdom and inner control. Well. Lynn rang the bell and waited. which looked and smelt as though it had recently been in close contact with damp earth.' Somehow Lynn had not expected this. . So Lauren had children.
The effect was slightly odd. ‘It's a headache.' Lynn. together with nameless sprouty things hanging limply out of jam jars.' Lauren said this with total unconcern. You couldn't ignore the dust in this room. 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.didn't expect them to dump it in the hall. In fact. and it let a lot of light in. Behind it was a chair against the wall. On each side of the Aga were shelves with an assorted mugs cups hanging and cupboards below cluttered with odds and ends. Lynn registered the fact that Lauren had been waiting for her to stop looking around. 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. where Lauren had evidently been sitting. she didn't look very well.' She waved her hand as though to wave it away. She hadn't heard it the first time because she'd been working and listening to music. We have a perfectly good utility room. saw that her face had a bruised look. better 181 . Lynn said with concern. On the larger windowsill. I've taken something for it.' Lauren’s voice brought her back. so Lynn mentally shrugged her shoulders and followed Lauren through a stripped pine door into a room which turned out to be the kitchen. over the sink. It seemed to have only one ear. ‘It's lovely to see you. Lauren? Is this a good time to call?' ‘I'm fine. but good quality. with dark smudges of fatigue under her eyes. with a start. Lynn wondered what sort of work she did. One paw was dangling over the edge and it looked as though the rest of it might follow any second. I get them now and then. but Lynn. looking at her properly for the first time in the pale brightness of the kitchen. there were flowers and shapeless painted lumps of clay.' said Lauren. and Lynn felt reassured. shabby. could see why. thought Lynn. looking round. She didn't want to intrude. but she did want to talk to Lauren. So that was why she had taken so long to answer the bell. It was a large room. Still. There was no mistaking the warmth of her greeting. ‘Is this all right? It's my favourite room. She sounded confident. 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. but it will go. ‘Are you all right. There was a lot more pine. but pleasing.
' said Lauren. and Dom calls him "Megalino Maxissimo" or "El Fatto the Gato". 'What's your cat's name?' she asked. Everything was spotlessly clean. Migraines totally incapacitated people so they couldn't talk to you. but Mark was allergic to them. and besides. Lynn loved cats.' 'And does he answer to any of these names?' 'Hard to say.' 'I see. and not too bad either . ‘What would you like to drink? Tea? Coffee? A cold drink?' Not a migraine. The tea was served in a fat teapot with flowers on.' ‘Earl Grey or ordinary?' ‘Earl Grey please. ‘It's not a migraine is it?' she asked. ET?' Lauren leaned over the cat as she spoke.' Again. 'It depends who's talking to him. It didn't stir. The only thing he really responds to is the sound of a tin opening. and she knew how bad they could be. Even the white bits on the furry balloon draped over the chair looked clean. He thinks he's being clever because 'gato' is Spanish for cat.' She smiled. ‘I'm so pleased you could come. because he wanted a dog instead. ‘No. Lynn had a lot of sympathy for migraine sufferers. He sleeps day and night. With milk. Jamie calls him "Blob". ‘it's not a migraine. You'd understand if you saw him sitting up.' said Lauren.check it out. She gave it a careful stroke. her mother had had them. A rhythmic throaty rumble briefly replaced the asthmatic wheezing and it stretched and flexed the dangling paw 182 .Lauren was already looking better. Lynn knew about migraines. And you?' 'I call him "ET" ' 'Extra Terrestrial?' 'Equilateral Triangle. Alec calls him "Bulb".' ‘That's how I drink it. Lynn felt relieved. Isn't that right. all rather abusive. Andrew calls him a lot of different names. ‘Tea please. just a headache. with bone china mugs. she sounded as if she meant it. she didn't want Lauren to suffer pain.
However. looking at Lauren who was sitting facing her across the table and regarding her with that slight. It was Lauren who broke it.perilously but did not open its eyes. Lynn felt that she could think good thoughts in that silence. there was no more space for it there anyway. Lauren would see it that way. broken only by the cat's breathing. 'He never falls off. She used gesture and facial expression sparingly but meaningfully.and that Alec was a doctor. made it so. she soon came alive. Lynn learnt quite quickly that Lauren's boys were sixteen. ‘you teach at Polly's school?' Polly's school. she'd always been good at that. as though she brought her whole self to the encounter.' she said. ‘So. once she trusted you.' she said. She discovered that they both liked jazz piano. And she'd been sick on the ferry.' said Lauren. . Lynn loved that – when people laughed! Not that Lauren didn’t talk too. It almost seemed a pity to speak. Mutual . Lynn had not thought of it like that. as though she had trouble putting words together. 'Don't worry. Oh it was nice to share. that she had been a teacher once . The very silence. No hidden agendas. but Lauren laughed so easily. who had been sitting forward tensely. and Lynn. She'd been to India twice but nowhere on the continent unless you counted a day trip to France when she was at school. that was the wrong word. seemed to have a potentiality for creativity and growth in it. was a very animated talker. listening. . felt rested at last. It was peaceful room. No. sat back in her own chair and relaxed. Lynn. Lauren. so expressive. Lynn resisted the impulse to try to shove it further back on the chair. You felt you really knew her. Lauren. ‘Yes. Wow.' As if in response. And her face was a joy to watch. But she would love to go to Italy 183 . Not that Lynn had any trouble communicating. entertaining people. how it should be. fourteen and eleven. but somehow approving smile. Somehow it didn't slide off the cushion. the cat shuffled round in its sleep and settled its bulk more securely on the seat. Italian food and going to the theatre and that neither of them liked cruelty or waiting in queues.primary . At first Lauren was slow and thoughtful. It was very easy. under Lynn's friendly questioning. and started to talk about it. Surely Polly worked at her school? But of course.
But she could tell Lauren about her search for God and her puzzlement over Polly's simplistic faith.I don't think so. . ‘Sometimes. or her face creased into a smile of delighted recognition. . 'but not in the way you might think I do. looking amused. . It felt every bit as good as Lynn had thought it would. She fixed her eyes on Lynn and sat there .. . not exactly everything -she couldn't talk about Tia yet. as though Lynn was telling her the secrets of the universe. I wondered. That reminded Lynn of something. You don't know the author.' ‘It's not important . that's all. I’m afraid. Sort of like Tia. Polly was a pretty simple person (not that she said that to Lauren of course). Well. Lynn found herself throwing caution to the winds. I’m not much of a reader.' The conversation flowed. she added as an afterthought.just something I heard someone say.such a wonderful poetical language. Lauren?' she asked.' said Lauren. Why?' ‘Have you ever heard a line in a poem about a nine hundred years' name?' ‘Hmm.' 'Actually. she wasn't so puzzled by that. somehow. that's maybe not such a simple answer'. ‘But surely Lauren. Before she was aware of it. My mother was though. But as time went by. They took turns. Sometimes she nodded thoughtfully. but not so . And actually Lauren was a pretty good listener too. Lynn liked that too. I suppose. . but most of the time she just seemed to sort of absorb it. as though she was committing what Lynn was saying to memory. she was telling Lauren about . ‘All what?' ‘All that god stuff you get in church. Maybe something like "Gravy"?' ‘Gravy? Could be Graves. clinical . surely you can't believe it all!' Lynn found that she really wanted to know. surely you as a thinking person.' ‘I think the simplest answer is that I do. Sorry . so still. ‘Do you ever read poetry. .well. I suppose?' ‘I can't remember. 184 .
' Lynn wasn't certain what to say. so stupid?' Too late..' Lynn admitted. somehow. only listened. ‘I don't know very much about it. 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. She shared things. who'd done nothing wrong. Science has proved the bible wrong over and over again. ‘And you believe it all too.' 'Well . she wasn't withholding. You just said so! My god! How can you be so naïve. ‘I'm not sure. How can that be true?’ She looked at Lauren who was regarding her thoughtfully. So Lynn could ask her about God and not feel stupid. or how much she actually wanted to know in detail. they make it seem so ordinary and they make me feel stupid for even asking. You preach an all-powerful loving God who lets people die in agony a thousand times a day. well people like David. .Predictably. But there was a certain weirdness about it all that she wasn’t ready to tangle with just yet. Perhaps she needed to find out more.' She hesitated a moment and then went on. actually. ‘But when I talk to people like . But it seems to me that if there is anything there.said what 185 . What actually did she mean by ‘all'? It suddenly dawned on her that she wasn't sure what Christians believed anyway. But at least she could talk to Lauren. Lynn became aware that she was speaking very loudly – nay. It felt so easy. Lauren was not difficult to talk to. But she'd said it now . ‘All of it? You believe in all of it!' ‘It depends on what you mean by "all" – or “believe” for that matter. shouting shouting at Lauren. . She couldn't ask Lauren if she believed in it all until she knew what 'all' was. ‘It makes me feel angry. 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. Lynn had zoned in on the bit she'd heard that had most emotional content for her. then it is mysterious and beautiful and special. It makes me think that they are the stupid ones for being so naive. She didn't keep confronting you and making you feel uncomfortable.' Memories of how she had felt talking to David welled up and without thinking she raised her voice. You could ask her questions and she wouldn't fob you off like Tia.
I think another cup of tea is called for. She was doomed. ‘I had to say that. She waited for Lauren to tell her so. but she remembered Polly wincing as though she'd been stuck through with pins whenever she heard anybody say it. the more she wanted them to like her. ‘You don't mind? You still like me then?' Again. ‘It's quite simple. how could she stop it? She hated feeling like this. What on earth had she said that Lauren could possibly find funny? But it wasn't that kind of laugh. never be her friend . trying to look confidently at Lauren but miserably aware that inside she felt horribly afraid.' Lynn nodded mutely. Lauren laughed instead. haven't you?' said Lauren.she'd really thought. And to Lynn's astonishment. Lauren looked at her understandingly. It was a gurgle of approval as though Lauren thought that Lynn had done something very well. 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 .completely wrecked it. you said what you really felt . ‘I feel so pleased that you've been able to say it to me. it did matter. Their relationship was over. She had to stick with it.' she added. with Tia. She'd said 'My god!' as well. Lauren would never like her now. the less likely it seemed that they ever could. though actually they usually did. Lynn felt completely bewildered. Isn't that 186 . ‘And I do like you. What was happening? Was it the miscarriage? Was it depression? And more to the point.' Lynn felt so amazed that she said the first thing that came into her head. Actually laughed. She'd burnt her boats. never. Just a word. her curving smile making her eyes crinkle and dance. and paradoxically.and it was all her fault. It mattered very much too much. aren't you? I can see it in your face.' said Lauren emphatically. never needed people to like her. But just lately. she could have bitten her tongue out.very highly . And then you were afraid of my disapproval. childish thing to say! What was wrong with her today? And what did it matter anyway? It had never mattered before. What a stupid. ‘I don't mind.being real. and now with Lauren. More than ever now. You're confused. I value . Just now. Lynn never.at a cost to yourself. ‘You've wanted to say that for a long time.
She felt too weary. Will you come?' Lynn liked this direct approach. Lynn couldn't be bothered to anyway. ‘That feels better.' she said. ‘Why should I disapprove of people who are honest? I am glad you felt safe enough to trust me. Lynn. 187 . for she grabbed hold of the edge of the table to steady herself. wanted to come again too. She looked at Lauren.right?' Lynn nodded again. doesn't it?' Lauren said. She let it out with a sense of relief.about two weeks. It felt so comfortable to be tired in Lauren's presence. ‘Yes.' There was no necessity to say any more on the subject. ‘I'm away . because. Lauren looked at her. For a second she did not look like Lauren at all. Lauren would like her to come again. I'd like to come again. She laughed again and this time Lynn couldn't help smiling too. She stood up too. growing silence she had encountered when she first entered the room. ‘It does. if you want to. oh. looking at Lauren. ‘I'd like you to come again. and I hope that you will go on being honest with me. And that was great.sort of.' she said. Lauren's eyes. let me see . Perhaps it had come back. with the sunlight streaming through the windows and the cat still asleep on the chair. take a chance. in at the deep end. too quickly. She finished her tea and stood up. Lynn. Lauren directed her gaze at Lynn over the top of her mug. Her brow creased. she.' ‘Good!' said Lauren. ‘Mmm. So she would. Lynn wondered what they were. as she gazed into the distance seemed to be full of quiet. ‘I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about God. from the start of next week for probably. it seemed. Lynn suddenly remembered the headache. Then the moment passed. Lauren made the tea and they drank it without needing to talk. It made sense . spacious kitchen. and perhaps some of mine might give you a different angle to consider. It reminded her of Tia. was reminded of that living. No messing about. she'd said so.' Lynn found that she had been holding her breath. But she didn't want to. In fact she felt completely exhausted. in her peaceful. sun-breathed thoughts. She should go home. I like it.
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. Swallowing her disappointment. When Lauren reached the kitchen she sat down carefully in the chair Lynn had just vacated.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 looked back and waved. * * * Lauren stood watching Lynn go down the garden path. ‘Church Fun Day. or anything else. . She and Lauren were friends.' said Lauren. ‘Perfect. . Lynn didn't know. occasionally reaching out a hand to steady herself against the wall. Lynn didn't notice the football strips on the way out . When she got to the gate. It was over in an instant. lightly and unexpectedly.why.' For some reason this thought amused them both . And Alec is on duty at the hospital. She waited until Lynn was out of sight then she closed the door. Shall I phone you?' That at least would give her the initiative. Lauren smiled and waved too. Couldn't they arrange it now? It felt as though Lauren didn't want to see her. hugged her. ‘That would be fine. She looked around for her tea mug but it was at the other end of the table. said. 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. Lauren touched Lynn's arm and then. Lynn felt a lurch in her stomach. She'd have a measure of control. Lynn said. By common consent they moved towards the door. She wouldn't be waiting at the end of a line for someone who didn’t get in touch. uncannily reading her thoughts. But a glance at Lauren's face dispelled that fear. Two weeks! It felt like the sort of thing Tia would say. who. Lynn was astonished to see that she had been there for over two hours. measuring the distance with her 188 . It was what Della had said about the dinner. As she glanced up at the clock above it. Where had the time gone? What had Lauren done with her kids? She glanced at Lauren. 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.
Before the service began. well. Lynn was pretty amazed herself. * * * Next day was Sunday. In the end. even to her. breathing very short. and all during the boring notices she scanned the pews without success. She remained in this position. Lynn decided to go to church again. She picked up the mug and swigged back Lynn's tea. To Mark's consternation. Lynn kept a weather eye out for Lauren. 'I knew you wouldn't be able to keep away!' Lynn was extremely irritated by it. which was rather nearer than hers. She reached out and pulled it to her. She looked thoughtfully at them. but this sounded pretty lame. Her smile returned.Polly was certainly thrilled to bits when she phoned her to tell her. she gingerly moved her head a fraction. This time Lauren's sigh was one of thankfulness. She explained it by saying that she hadn't given it a fair trial. washing the capsules down. she reluctantly decided 189 . put her chin on hands. She leaned forward and ran the fingers of both hands over her cropped hair. as though to say. Eventually Lauren popped the blister pack and took out two capsules. It had about an inch of tea left in it. And if she happened to see Lauren there. even breaths and keeping her head very still. she glanced at the clock above the door as Lynn had done. but she couldn't see her. Occasionally she opened her eyes to check the time. eventually coming to the unpalatable conclusion that she wanted to find out more about this god that Lauren seemed to believe in. They were rather large. and began to think. She rested her elbows on the table. but when Lynn saw her at the door of the church Polly's face wore a certain insufferably knowing expression. Maybe it was for Polly's sake .eyes. and then closed her eyes and rested her head against the high back of the chair. After about half an hour. She grimaced. but it forced her to examine her motives for going. She put them in her mouth and tried to swallow them.. Lauren sighed in frustration. it would only be civil to say hello. and then a little more. for some time. without success. As she did so. As she did so she caught sight of Lynn's mug.
Lauren was a fully paid-up member of the Christian Club. But it was common knowledge anyway.' Lynn was puzzled. When this happened twice. Wasn't there something about attendance at church on Sunday being compulsory? Maybe even twice? And how come Lauren had said something to Polly . Polly. What was Lauren to Lynn? Did she even know her? Polly had enjoyed talking to Lauren at the Wednesday Bible study. she'd just assumed. all monotonous and clappy. Couldn't she even have waited until the end of the song? However. Honestly.annoyance reactions. Some things were sacred. get with it! she thought. felt extremely irritated by Lynn's thoughtlessness. swaying as she sang the first song. At least. from the way Lynn was looking. Surely they didn't just arbiter ally take a day off if they felt like it. Polly would know. in the service.to ask Polly. So she answered very politely. But she couldn't help feeling peeved. ‘Why isn't Lauren here?' she demanded. anyway.doesn'tknow-any-better and the you'll-put-her-off-Christianity-for-ever-if-you-show-any. Surely Lynn knew? But then. Polly was away with the birds. ‘Where's Lauren?' She hissed. the exasperated Lynn grabbed Polly's shoulder and shook it hard. and completely ignored her. rudely awakened from her happy state. in fairness. she hadn't asked. Although. Couldn't it wait until coffee? Apparently not. since Lynn had asked so abruptly. the make-Lynn-feel-welcome-at-all-costs-she. Polly felt Lynn's peevedness and felt puzzled in turn. how could she? She'd only been coming to 190 . How could Polly even pretend to enjoy it? Who would choose to sing these songs when there were so many other much nicer ones? Polly. and Lynn's timing was way off. ‘How do you know?' she asked. ‘I think that Lauren's gone out for the day with her family. underpinned by the instinctive knowledge that Christians must never ever get angry kicked in so ruthlessly that the emotion that she actually experienced was guilt. and she would have to share that with Lynn now. It was an awful song. that's what she told me she was going to do.but not to her when she'd only seen her the day before.Polly! .
. Yet Polly had said it so matter-of-factly. She didn't seem to want to ask any more questions. . She had never actually volunteered anything. . Lauren had cancer. Didn't you know?' Cancer! Appalled. normal. Everybody knows about it. She would have to tell Lynn gently. Polly's compassion reasserted itself. she couldn't even think what they were.' she added somewhat unnecessarily. Polly realised that she had not been gentle enough. Lauren looked so . Lynn was in shock. What a good thing they usually sang this chorus eight or nine times. It was too awful.church for five minutes. Actually had cancer. Everybody knew. In the meantime. She would ask later. she starts the chemo again tomorrow. But she hadn't asked the right question. She's had the cancer a while now. so the family wanted a day out together while she still feels well enough. She hadn't said. . unable to think of anything to say. She had let 191 . And she would hardly lie. To anything. ‘Lauren told me at the Wednesday Bible study that she probably wouldn't be at church on Sunday. you know. cancer. . Brain cancer. she's got cancer. Her headache! But why hadn't she said anything? Lynn had asked her about it. Lynn sat down in the pew. How could she do that when Lauren had cancer? How could she? She was jumping up and down now! There were a million questions that Lynn wanted to ask but she felt too numb to ask them now. Lynn began to replay the events and conversation of the previous afternoon. Actually. Lauren! . She added hastily. She glanced sideways up at Polly. Lynn looked up and nodded dumbly. Surely it couldn't be true. Polly turned back to her worshipping. . who was lustily singing as though she hadn't got a care in the world. Sitting in the pew. Lauren had replied very readily.had . Lauren's slowness. ‘Do you know what's causing it?' Because when she had asked questions. Relieved. ‘They're hopeful. They think they've got it in time. . . . Lauren . had cancer. Lynn felt in anguish. But only then.' ‘Chemo?' ‘Yes. her headache. As the thought sank in.' Lynn still looked stunned so Polly continued. ‘Well. even though it's brain cancer. . Lauren .
then the whole of the rest of the conversation would have had to be about it.' Lauren had said that she liked her.' ‘Chemo?' ‘Yes. but for how much longer. I've got cancer you know. the youngest eleven. Lynn felt she hated Tia now. I would have if you'd asked!' It was so unexpected that Lynn found herself laughing with her. Maybe it wasn't so bad. her three boys. And Lauren didn't want to talk. if Lauren had cancer? And what about her family? All of a sudden.' That wasn't Lauren's style. for doing that. Not knowing made Lynn feel so lonely. the way they had the day before. But Lynn still couldn't help wishing that Lauren had told her . as it had before. and then suddenly smiling all over her face and saying. ‘Yes. ‘Oh yes. Alec. And Lauren's laugh said. Lauren's husband. But she could have said! But how could she have said? ‘Oh. Lynn's heart stopped still. so shut out from Lauren's confidence. Did Lauren think she knew . She remembered Lauren's dark. her laugh. She died. after the chemotherapy. by the way. you don't just say. her approving look. except Lynn. ‘But Lynn. . cancer gives you terrible headaches. an aunt of mine had that.Lynn make all the running. And Lauren had initiated another meeting. because Lauren had wanted to see her. Suddenly Lynn had a picture of Lauren looking at her in her thoughtful way. Why didn't she tell me? Lynn wondered again. What must they be 192 . her stillness. I do like you. ‘See. bright eyes fixed on hers. I wish you'd told me. If someone tells you that. I've got cancer. from the secret sadness that dominated her life. her smile. Common courtesy demands that you give the person a chance to talk about it if they want. But how could you have brain cancer and not mention it once in a two-hour conversation? At the memory of that conversation. even though she'd spent two hours with her and she'd thought they were friends. that everybody knew about.' Or.' Or. No one could ever take that away. Lynn felt better. that felt horrible. That shone out like a beacon. ‘I'm not looking forward to the chemo on Monday. Now Lynn thought about it. It felt like Tia. the way Tia never self-disclosed. somehow. Lauren didn't seem worried. mentioned her cancer.' End of subject. If Lauren had done that. ‘Oh Lauren. Oh.if everyone else did. .' she thought desolately.
coming home full of the match. Mark would never understand that.' ‘Have I ever met her?' ‘No. had been amazed to see her so distrait and distressed and immediately assumed that it was something he'd done. Chapter 17 Lynn woke on the Monday morning aware of a heavy dragging ache in her heart. Another deception. Lauren. Drowsily. Life was full of them these days. The rest of the day before had passed in a haze of misery and disbelief. He was relieved to find out that it was not. tear-filled night. I haven't seen her for years. she remembered why.going through? And she had only just thought of them! All she'd thought of first was how Lauren's illness affected her.' Lynn couldn't bring herself to say that she'd only really met her herself the day before. I just heard today. Mark. What kind of a monster was she? A deep sense of shame engulfed her. Oh god. as she came to. 193 . 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 still puzzled over Lynn's grief. ‘But you said you didn't know her very well. she's an old schoolfriend.' ‘No. which merged drearily into a restless.
' Lynn saw that she should put up or shut up. God wouldn't let Lauren die because they all loved her too much. Several people have had words from the Lord that she won't die. We all love her too much. And he'd come in so happy. And who knew what effect the power of positive thinking could do.' His irritation showed when he saw that Lynn remained unconsoled. come on. Now it's come back. Besides we're all praying.' Lynn turned away to hide her expression. seeing her look. We all love her too much. Who knows? God moves in mysterious ways. we're all praying for her at church and she's doing very well. She shut up. but Lauren's such a fighter. Doesn't sound like you know too many details.' ‘But Polly. She can't. hastened to reassure her. Polly. She hated herself. like a mantra. At the first opportunity at school. but she's not dead yet. They don't think it's come back so badly now. but high on optimism. listening. ‘Oh. even people who pray. ‘So. how was the match?' ‘Oh.' Lynn. ‘Oh. Well.' Polly looked panicky. I admit it sounds serious. ‘God does heal people. Polly was low on details. God won't let her. two anyway. thought perhaps Polly was right. Lynn sought out Polly.' 194 .’ she added somewhat uncertainly after a pause. 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. ‘Maybe you're right. people do die. ‘One I do know for definite. I know people who've been healed. The chemo worked before and it cleared up for a year. What kind of faith was this? What kind of God? She had no words to say. before continuing more positively. Three at least.‘Well. Compartmentalise a bit. Polly. She repeated. you know. ‘God won't let Lauren die. Lynn. even if they chose to call it prayer? She smiled. Who knew? Cancer did go away sometimes. And Lauren’s cancer did go away before when we prayed. it was good. We won 3-1.' But Lynn could see that there was no pleasure for him in talking about it any more. it might not be as bad as you think. She wrote a book about it. I've read it. You've got enough to worry about as it is.
Della loved explaining things. went over.' ‘Blank screen?' It conjured up pictures of a broken TV.what was it . Personally. must love Lauren? How could he not? That lunchtime. She couldn't avoid Della for ever. to change the subject. Della was looking rather wan. Della looked up. She gritted her teeth. god. She nodded. Lynn went to the staffroom. ‘Yes. Now that they were face to face. Lynn knew that that conversation in the Cafe Noir had been on Della's mind too. her old friend Della. and felt better. and said hello. I think it's overdone (‘Me too!' thought Lynn). Then.' she said.not self-disclosing?' She thought she knew already but it was a diversion. it felt easier. Lynn had been so dreading this meeting. that's really important. They're a blank screen or a blank sheet of paper or something. ‘I'm sorry if I embarrassed you with my revelations the other day. She saw Della getting something out of her bag. Or project your own image .yes. but looking at her she realised that it was just Della. It was now or never. Yes.Polly looked as pleased as if Lynn had just made a public declaration of faith from the pulpit of Westminster Abbey. That's when you transfer feelings you've really got for other people on to them . for Della. It helps with the transference. Some therapists work like that anyway – not all of them. She felt better.' ‘Transference?' ‘Yes. she said hurriedly.' she added. ‘Therapists never tell you anything about themselves.' 195 . ‘I was glad you felt able to trust me. if you like. Sort of fantasise. The idea is that if you don't know anything about them then you can as it were. for Della looked suspiciously bright-eyed at this. ‘You didn't embarrass me.' she said wryly. It worked. ‘What did you mean in the cafe about .the therapist. Looking at her face. that's better. if there was a god. write your own agenda about them. but why? 'Well the idea is that they present a sort of blank screen . remembering Lauren. Lynn decided to choose to be reassured. And surely.
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. she'd dismissed them as psychobabble. closed her eyes and quoted softly. but probably. Something to do with working through the bad feelings or something. judging by the amount of instructions per second her brain usually seemed capable of. Can we talk about this later?' ‘Sure. Lynn's chance came later that day when she saw Della by the staff lockers. All of a sudden. turning the conversation with her over in her mind.along with words like ‘repression' and ‘complex'. she was in new and risky territory. It's quite a chilling poem about a duke who marries a peasant girl who's a bit too simple for his tastes. Is that the time? Heavens. But this transference thing . Lynn. Where did you hear it?' ‘Oh. Playing for time was not Della's style . She watched her go.well you . Although if it did make sense.they did have some sort of meaning after all. My Last Duchess.she never needed to. ‘Transference? Well. . It was really irritating her now. . but it might.especially in view of her self-inflicted crash course in psychology . . . Before . I don't know. Something told her that Della knew more than she let on.Tia . I must fly! Though that would convince my year sevens I'm a witch. Lynn was sure she'd heard the word before . Oh damn! She'd meant to ask Della about the poem.how shall I say? 196 . The implication is that he has her killed so that he can remarry. thought Lynn. I can't remember now. . ‘ "She had a heart . somewhere.oh. now she thought about it. it's Browning. Sorry. she was forced to concede .‘Why is that important?' Lynn felt excited. ‘Oh. But that's the only line I know. . Lynn sensed she had touched on a raw nerve there. she might wish it hadn't. it's important because you . This didn't make sense yet.' Della seemed uncomfortable. How does it fit in?' Della thought briefly.' ‘ "Nine hundred years' name"? Yes.
whereas ‘Tell me how you are feeling. too easily amused. Lynn was used to it now. ‘So. Seeing nothing further was forthcoming. She ranked my gift of a nine hundred years' old name With anybody's gift" Does that help?' ‘Oh yes. And now Tia again. was pounding. * * * It was Thursday afternoon.' sounded a bit too intrusive. That explained a lot. angular form materialised out of the door at the end of the corridor and she walked towards her. so all things considered .' said Lynn. Della was looking at her curiously. It seemed so formulaic. Poor Sandra. again she stopped and waited. and ‘What have you been up to then?' sounded a bit too jolly. leaving Lynn wondering what she was going to say to Chris. so stereotyped now. 'How have you been?' Lynn found herself wishing Tia would start with something else. It was the same. and yet not the same. Lynn paused to reflect.' said Tia. No words were exchanged until once again Lynn was sitting opposite Tia in the room. Tia's elegant. With anybody's gift. David and Lauren kaleidoscoped through her mind. On the other hand. What a lot 197 . Chris ranked Sandra's gift of her virginity with anybody's gift. This time she didn't even say Lynn's name. The faded sunshine still came through the window although it was October now. As a teacher she recognised the value of open questions.Too soon made glad. When she saw Lynn looking. Lynn following two steps behind. . Sandra. Was it only two weeks since the last session? Thoughts of Chris. she finished getting the books from her locker and departed with a wave and a cheery smile. it fitted the bill pretty well. . Lynn rose and went to meet her and Tia turned and silently led the way to her room. Lynn's heart as usual.
She felt much older . Tia returned the gaze absolutely steadily. It's more important to discuss the feelings you have about me. and Tia wasn't going to tell her. How does it work then?' ‘We are not really here to discuss transference theoretically. but my guess is that in this context it can be used to mean the feelings you have for me or about me.' Lynn gasped inwardly. tell me more about this transference.or have .with someone else which you've now transferred onto me. Inappropriate feelings you can’t explain. Lynn. now. and it just made things worse. Then she said. This blank screen thing could be overdone. So transference was about feelings. ‘So. staring at her.' Tia said meditatively. Finally she said. What feelings? Where did they come from? She didn't understand. feelings which may seem inappropriate to you but which you can't explain. That summed it up in a nutshell. except that Tia was beautiful. ‘It can mean a lot of things. Why did Tia have to be so bloody superior? Why couldn't she just tell her? Della was right. Feelings that belong to a relationship you've had . somewhat huskily. knew. she must be! Tia said. if you feel able to do so. ‘Transference is a big subject. Just noseyness. would never 198 . ‘What are you thinking?' Torn between ‘You are beautiful' and ‘What is transference?' Lynn opted for the latter. I heard the word somewhere. ‘Where did that come from?' Lynn felt herself reddening. ‘Oh I don't know. Now that Lynn was sitting opposite her. She stared at Tia speechlessly. And Tia knew that she had feelings for her.' Lynn watched her collect her thoughts carefully. She must be a lesbian. it seemed that they didn't feel right to her.' Tia looked at Lynn firmly. Lynn felt like an absolute child. Tia blinked. But she'd asked. and Lynn loved her. then up. I guess. how she hoped not! She could feel a flush of shame. It was some moments before Lynn could speak.and yet she knew nothing. Tia told her things but then never explained them. suffusing her face and neck. feeling like this. said.of experiences she'd had. worse than she'd ever felt before.oh. But did Tia know what they were? Lynn hoped not . looking down at her hands. what a lot she knew.
but not exactly not smiling either. isn't it? Is that what you're saying? It's not you.' To her horror. Tia. Tia was watching her attentively. Lynn hated that look. although I've asked you why on earth I should think you are stupid.how had it happened? How had they got from ‘How have you been?' to this in about ten seconds flat. And you're doing it. Lynn?' ‘Yes you do think so. it's me. It was so superior. I am stupid. The other part was enjoying it. ‘I suppose I'd have to say. What would you say?' Tia raised an eyebrow. On impulse Lynn leant forward and said. don't you?' ‘Why on earth. ruined beyond repair.wrong-footed. ‘Suppose I called you a stupid cow. The situation felt irretrievably spoilt. She felt in despair.and . Lynn found herself crying. And this is a stupid conversation!' Part of Lynn was amazed at the anger she felt. That was worse. Or is it me? It is me. What was it about Tia that always made 199 . it's not me. ‘So. What did Tia think? What did she bloody think? ‘You think I'm the stupid one. Actually. And you’re sure it's me?' ‘Well. you still insist that I do think you are. is it? There's no one else in the room. 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. not exactly smiling. ‘should I think you are stupid. She felt tantalised. She'd had enough of Tia. This was awful . and you can't give me a reason. It was so frustrating.tell her. very briefly. so that all her facial expressions were clearly visible. she couldn't really tell what it meant. I bloody do! I feel incredibly stupid . She wanted to rattle Tia's cage. Tia continued to look at her. "What makes you say that"?' she said mildly.' said Tia calmly.' said Lynn. Do you feel stupid?' ‘No! Yes! Yes. ‘Oh. ‘I'm doing it. Her curly hair framed her face.
Let's approach it from another angle. ‘You mean . It doesn't have to be you or me. one had a gun One had a pancake up his bum. bloody hell! Tia was regarding her thoughtfully. Oh. . It was so strong that she opened her eyes to escape it and looked at Tia. and a wave of anxious emotion. people often do feel stupid although they are not. She had rushed home from school because she wanted to tell her mother something. Tia was still there. But her mother wasn't laughing.' said Tia. actually. . Lynn loved it when Tia talked like that. She shut her eyes and chewed her lip with concentration. She was telling it to her mother. What was it now? What's the time. in their first house.' Tia was talking very calmly and gently. Almost immediately she regretted it. she could hardly speak for laughing. don't rush. Her steady encompassing gaze imparted a sense of stability to Lynn. . There's no one here but you and me.' What was Tia trying to say? It didn't add up. people feeling stupid?' ‘Well. Then she said slowly. After a pause. She saw the small overstuffed settee. Can you think of a time when you had this feeling before? Just take your time. and as she neared the punchline. half past nine See the soldiers in a line One had a musket.' Lynn sat up. she said. . ‘It could be someone else. where was it? . It was a joke poem someone had told her and it was so funny. She was in a room . Gingerly. . someone else and I think it's you? Is that the transference? But that still doesn't make sense . and as Lynn had looked to 200 .her feel about five? She was a mature adult everywhere else. Close your eyes if it helps. but that's not what I meant here. don’t rush’ she repeated. She was coldly furious. the rug on the floor. Lynn shut her eyes again. ‘Take your time. ‘What. wiping her eyes. does it?' ‘It's quite common. She could feel a darkness like a cloud descending on her. . ‘But that's ludicrous. .
terribly foolish and sad. I hate feeling stupid. . with Tia looking at her so 201 . to see her reaction. I remembered my mother calling me stupid when I was five. looking at the floor and hoping she was doing it right. vulgar little girl. . What to do? She compromised by opening her eyes to look at the floor. After a while. and fear of her mother's increased wrath if she got her clothes wet had driven Lynn indoors. and if you ever tell me anything like that again.' She broke off. well. ‘I remembered . She was just a faceless blur.’ Lynn shuddered at the memory. and don't come back until you can think of something nice to tell me. ‘What's happening for you now? Her voice sounded so normal and matter of fact that Lynn automatically looked up. not because she couldn't think of anything nice. because then she would have to look at Tia. Tia said. Lynn. Now go away.' Every word had cut like a whip. ‘Sarah helped Emma up in the playground today when she fell over. but because she hadn't wanted to face her mother again. Relief poured over her.' she said. experienced again that feeling of humiliation and disappointment.her. Lynn quivered involuntarily as she relived the terror that had trembled through her as she inched her way up to her mother. She wanted to open her eyes to escape. For something to do. Here. now watching the incident as though on a video. She remembered that eventually. Tia was smiling at her. but she couldn't. in Tia's office. it had started raining. then her hands. she had said in a voice colder than ice. She shrank down in her chair to get away from her mother's face. Lynn had crept away and stayed in the garden for two hours. and the sense of having done something terribly terribly wrong. How strange that she’d forgotten it until now! But there was a lot of her childhood that was hazy. she could remember how it had ended. ‘Yeah. and said in a whisper. She felt terribly. she compared her thumbnails. ‘You are a stupid. ‘That's better! Now you’re my good girl!' She felt a bit like that now. unable to keep the surprise out of her voice. Her mother had swept her up in a pleased hug and said with warm approval. in the safety of Tia's office. I will be extremely angry. though she couldn't see on the screen exactly how her mother had looked.
Sometimes they enable us to get in touch with all sorts of feelings from the past. .just a few . . the rest dark and unhappy. She said hopelessly. And how could she have forgotten it so completely? She stared at Tia. Tia gave her space. ‘But I still don't really understand. . Lynn felt pretty pleased with herself now. The ball was as big as a house.benignly. thinking aloud. sometimes not very good ones. my mother calling me stupid? And me thinking it was you . ones that we'd prefer to forget.' she said. Lynn's mind was racing.' ‘As I said. In fact. just horribly black ones impenetrably woven together into a solid mass. palms up. They seemed hopelessly entangled. Lynn thought about the incident. ‘But why . You are nothing like my mother. ‘Nothing's ever all anything. It was OK to do that in Tia's room. Lynn knew intuitively that there were no coloured threads on the inside of the ball.brightly coloured. But it was still puzzling. ‘I behave towards you as though you are like my mother?' Tia made the same ‘maybe' gesture. and let it wash over her for a while. She sat there. 202 . She had a sudden picture in her mind of a giant ball of coloured threads.' ‘So . ‘Lynn. it's all transference then?' Tia smiled. transference is a big subject.?' ‘Why here?' Tia finished off for her. some . ‘So . that's transference?' Tia opened her hands. that she had never been able to explain . . ! She said. . . therapeutic relationships are not like other relationships. for some reason. she had a tremendous sense of wellbeing. If she could just get hold of this .especially since she had met Tia. . It didn't seem so bad now.' Lynn thought back over her life. It seemed chaotic and full of feelings that came from nowhere. in a ‘maybe' kind of gesture. The ball was her life. ‘So you don't think I am stupid?' Tia gave her a look.
I have the sense there may be more issues here to do with your mother. Lynn didn’t hear this. As she stared at the floor the carpet distracted her. substantial and reassuringly three-dimensional. Lynn felt like a ghost herself. ‘I don't know what to do!' she cried out. ‘Perhaps that's enough for for now. The world grew solid again. She said gently. about to be blown away. but not for long enough. .partly anyway .and what to do with them. and I did explain to you that I cannot give you any more time. . It was a plain carpet. Into this jumble inside her head broke Tia's voice.‘But you are not like my mother?' ‘What was your mother like?' said Tia. But it still left her with the huge problem of the feelings themselves . don't you?' Lynn did understand. Chief among the emotions was a kind of puzzled relief that this explained . it's not a real thing is it then. quite nice. It was incredibly lonely. You've had a 203 . She wasn't completely convinced yet. ‘Transference is real. a sort of tawny colour. She felt drowned in thoughts and emotions.they're not real. ‘Lynn. able to think once more. unable to keep the despair out of her voice. existing only in Tia's imagination. Lynn became a real person. and they seemed to be taking her to a place that she didn't want to go to. But I have to remind you that we have only two sessions left after this one.' The words seemed to hang for a moment in the air between them. and that you had to take responsibility for what we talked about. Her guts twisted. insubstantial. Issues that it would be of benefit for you to explore with somebody in a safe environment. It seemed a long way away. Finally she looked up at Tia. and you may be left with some painful issues still unresolved at the end. You understand what I'm saying. but . I'm feeling things I should feel towards my mother. Tia could see that. ‘But . but she's not here.these emotions that I feel . There is a very real risk that you may uncover things which cannot be adequately dealt with in the time we have left. Several more minutes passed. You need to think very carefully how you wish to structure your remaining time with me.her feeling for Tia. She was locked into her own thought processes. this transference? This . Tia said quietly. There seemed no way out. . Their eyes met.' For a moment. It's like ghosts. .
It was amazing how much you could 204 . In the meantime. .lot of things to think about today. Lynn. and how well they'd got on and she'd felt they were friends. She explained how she'd gone to church the next day and how she'd discovered that Lauren .' she added. Then she stopped. .' Tia was looking at her very compassionately. . Tia's gaze still held hers and Lynn quietly looked until she felt her strength returning. Lynn glanced at the clock. she must not waste this precious time with Tia by just staring at her! Suddenly. ‘Seeing Della was before Lauren. ready to listen. that Polly had told her . and disliked her on the spot. She took a deep shuddering breath and then another more relaxed one as she slumped back into the chair. She could tell Tia about Lauren! So Lynn told Tia about Lauren. . ‘There are still twenty-five minutes to go. It said 2. about how she'd heard Lauren’s name. . I didn't mean you to think I was suggesting that you have to leave right now. She said. . What I meant was that you don't have think about what to do here and now . . and looked at Tia appealingly. and then got curious. and she involuntarily clasped her arms over her stomach. ‘Though I don't know why I should be so bothered. about Lauren's . leaning forward. I'm sorry. . illness. quite a few of my friends are gay. She could do that now.55 pm. it might be better just to let these new ideas and feelings sink in a bit before you think them through.' she finished.' Involuntarily. She would put things away to think about later. Lauren came into Lynn's mind and she became aware of Tia sitting slightly more upright. Was Tia saying that the session was over? Her insides lurched again. feeling that somehow Tia ought to know this. Then Lynn told Tia briefly. I know there are. This is your time and you're entitled to all of it. Lynn could feel her stomach unknotting. This was all so draining.' knowing that Tia could hear the betraying quaver in her voice. ‘Yes. because time was running out about how Della had told her in the cafe that she'd had a relationship with another woman and how uncomfortable Lynn had felt. and then met her. She released her death grip on her forearms and let her hands relax. She described how she'd gone to Lauren's house.
she sat back and exhaled as though she'd been holding her breath the whole time and said. and had a comforting sense of being warm and well-fed. At the door. ‘You're on a roller-coaster aren't you? You're hanging on with your eyes shut. as though she sensed the importance of what Lynn was saying and didn't want to stop the flow. ‘See you in two weeks' time then. Tia had given her extra time. They both stood up. What would Tia make of it all? Throughout the time Lynn had talking. Lynn. and every time you open them to try to get your bearings you get a different view. following her gaze. saw it said 3.' said Lynn. Tia had said nothing at all. Now. But she felt heard. and walked though.' Tia laughed. as Lynn ground to a halt.' agreed Lynn glumly. After a little while.say in twenty minutes if you just solidly held forth and hardly paused for breath. Lynn felt really special. And it feels pretty frightening.' That was it exactly! ‘Yes. She said nothing. Lynn said nothing either. Tia said. Lynn. she knew the time was nearly up. Tia glanced up at the clock. 205 . And I want to get off.22.' ‘Sure. ‘And sometimes when I open my eyes everything is upside down and I feel sick.
nearly) of references to transference. was that the time? In panic. 100 Ten-minute Spells for Busy People.Chapter 18 Lynn left the counselling rom. Well. saw the word 'mind' and ended up in the mind.' a little voice said. Lynn had a mocha in a cafe and tried to read the paper there. where she gazed at the books on self-help with some fascination. Of course. she grabbed a book up. rushed to the tube. just to check if they really did have the same books as the ones she'd got from the library. Oh. Maybe she wanted too much. not because it made her feel good. yes! Here were the Attachment and Loss books. Finally. with conflicting feelings. Ten Pain-free Steps to Total Well-Being. Ah. Maybe they were rubbish and didn't exist in the real world. still not thinking about things too much. She resolutely determined that she would take Tia's advice and not think about things too much until the dust had settled. This one was expensive too. rushed home. Become Who You Were Meant to Be Through Colour Therapy. shut up!) Heavens. It was a bit spooky. And there were books about counselling too. as usual. Perhaps it all worked if only you believed in it hard enough. Lynn called in at large bookshop on the way. Lynn hastily asked an assistant where the psychology books were and sighed with relief to be directed to several well-filled shelves. She ran her finger down the spines of the books: Think Your Way to Happiness. She didn't know. But the scientist in her couldn't help wondering where the evidence was that any of it worked. picked up another that looked more readable. she decided to head home. you are stupid. was that the price? She thrust it back. Heavens. but it was much harder than she thought. but she counselled. There were hundreds (well. it wasn't for her then. so what! She rushed with it to the counter. She wanted to believe in something because it was true. How stupid of her not to think of that! (‘See. body and spirit section. She turned to the index at the back. Something clicked. Oh. She didn't 206 . She looked around for books on psychology. Feng Shui Saved My Life. Did people really believe all this? Maybe this was where god was. counselling! Tia might be a clinical psychologist. Perhaps she should try it.
there was 207 . with some difficulty.' It could only be from Sandra. then sighed. The stamp was Greek but the picture could have been anywhere. these days. And if she hadn't thought of anything to say by now. She turned back to the book. but made no comment. When she reached the section on the client's idealisation of the counsellor she ground her teeth. Lynn smiled. Will contact u wen I get bak. Lynn decided.' The ‘will' was underlined three times. ‘Have you seen Sandra yet?' he asked anxiously. Lynn turned it over and looked at the message on the back. ‘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. ‘Let's go to the pub.dare get it out to read on the tube. Eventually she made out. She put the postcard on the mantelpiece. Lynn couldn't say no. which appeared to be composed by three different people all trying to write it at the same time. 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. then smiled again. ‘Good book then?' he inquired. saw her in the staffroom at lunchtime and rushed over. whom she had somehow by a miracle and quite a bit of forward planning managed to avoid. Mark glanced up from the FT. It was only six stops. Stayin here til I gt a tan. There would have been no answer and she would have wondered. She looked at the postcard again. * * * At school next day. anyway. He was treading very warily. It cud b a lng time. that which Lynn had been dreading finally happened. After dinner. She was glad now she hadn't tried to phone her. She could hardly blame him. Lynn finally started reading the book on counselling. Chris. When she got home.' said Lynn. Lv Sandra. Mark raised his eyebrows when he saw the title. ‘Soz not 2 b in tuch. the post had come.
. When Lynn had told him everything she felt she safely could.' Lynn was pretty sure that Sandra had said that. She feels very strongly about you. stuffed it untidily. lit it at the second go and said. ‘So. His anguish overlaid Sandra's anguish. she could not resist the pleading in his eyes. .you know. I told her. took out his pipe. Lynn was sorry now she'd kept him waiting. I can't tell you that. ‘Can we go somewhere and talk?' Again. About her relationship with you. walking only just ahead of her and glancing at her continually as though if he took his eyes off her for too long she would do a runner.' said Lynn. why?' ‘It's not a question of sides.' Lynn was thinking hard. probably just as well) her anger against him was evaporating. How to convey what Sandra had expressed without betraying confidence? After all. . He led her to the smokers' room. he took the pipe out and said simply. She nodded resignedly. How did she look?' He listened to the description. but was that important? Now that she was actually face to face with Chris (she still couldn't get her head round ’Cormac'. Desperation gave her fluency. She asked me not to tell you. She's given 208 . Sandra had not given her permission .no guarantee that she would in the foreseeable future. Did you tell her that?' ‘Yes. she'd never thought to ask . you saw her. puffing at his pipe greedily. Chris . . dropping bits on the floor.' ‘What do you mean. ‘I do love her you know. She needs space. He paused consideringly and then said with studied nonchalance. gender differences. Chris stayed lounging against the wall. which was a lot less than what had actually transpired. you're on her side? Why. ‘And where exactly is this place she’s staying at?’ ‘I'm sorry Chris. space? I gave her all the bloody space she wanted!' ‘Space to think. ‘Maybe it's a man-woman thing.' ‘Ah. ‘And what did she say?' ‘She told me she loved you too. Chris. She couldn't remember if she'd said it in so many words. trying to get it to draw. for god's sake. to share anything.
AIDs . did she?' Lynn watched him struggle for words. I repeat. You know. that's it. god.!' ‘Well. It was a bit scary. We need to stick together. A vile. Eventually he said tightly. before you're gone. ‘I repeat. before we are dispersed into eternal nothingness. if he's there. make others happy.' ‘My god! You are totally screwed up!' ‘No.' A veil came over Chris's face. this is a vile cruel world.' ‘What are you talking about? She is special to me. we're all we've got.' he said bitterly. if he's there. Sex makes people happy. it's a vile world. I'd much 209 .is . No. She could see him forcing himself to speak more slowly. unfair world. cruel.) ‘A woman wants to be special to the man she loves. any joy. Any happiness. ‘What's to believe? God. His face was red. an uncaring sadist. 'tis a woman's whole existence. Be happy. and we are here for a blink. ‘So you don't believe in god then?' ‘Believe. and all we've got to keep us going is our own body heat. ‘Oh. as though to a child. There . we've all got to die of something. to nothing.nothing . everyone we can. no! I'm sorry. keeps the bad alive. but trying to speak calmly. From nothing. We're all in it together. but while we're here. is as vile as the rest. Haven't I just told you!' ‘And what about you to her?' ‘What do you mean?' ‘She doesn't want to share you. is up to us. dark world.else'. She couldn't be that stupid." ' (Surely that was from a poem somewhere. getting more angry every moment. "A man's love is of his life a thing apart.herself to you and only you. for as long as we can. he was beginning to sweat and his accent was thick enough to cut with a knife. lets the good die. any warmth. Let's make other people. let's be as happy as we can. 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. she told you about that. ‘Look. It's a cold. is a sadist. as happy as we can. What the hell does it matter?' ‘What does it matter! What about STIs. for god's sake let's stay in the sunshine. So she did know some poetry.
his voice was thick. Looking back. ‘My little sister. So she very quietly hanged herself.' Chris repeated. It said. as though this was something that he had learned by rote a long time ago. with racking sobs that shook his whole body. ‘She left a note.' ‘Then why didn't he answer Marie's?' ‘Who's Marie?' ‘Marie? Marie was my little sister. She didn't know what to do. The awkwardness of the lack of space in the room didn't seem to matter now.' Chris buried his head in his hands and cried in earnest then. "I'm sorry. My elder brother Seamus found her.' Lynn sat down.rather believe that he's not there. I think she tried to tell us but we didn't really catch on to what she was saying. right?' ‘I suppose so. He cried as though he would never stop. The tears dripped down through his fingers. ‘Marie had very straight brown hair and a lovely smile. I asked God to help me but he didn't." She was nine years old. Chris eventually won the battle. Only she didn't smile very much because she was being bullied at school. Lynn could see him concentrating on trying to breathe evenly. The room grew very quiet. So did he. Eventually.' Despite himself Chris couldn't help a sob catching in his throat. did I? Sit down. And Marie was never one to make a fuss. he can answer prayers. ‘Why do anything?' said a voice inside her head. and said in in measured tones. Lynn sat there rigid with shock and pity. she came and stood awkwardly 210 . So she just sat and waited. When he spoke again. She thought it must be Tia's because it wasn't a smiley voice. It was much less common in those days and she went to a very good school. I never told you about Marie. Chris was clearly struggling for composure. It makes things less complicated.' ‘Why do you say that? About god being a sadist?' ‘If god's there and he can do anything. looked directly at her and through her. She didn't know if it was Tia's or Lauren's.
who wouldn't be in until later. his anger. just like that? What he'd told her was awful . and on impulse she leaned forward and placed her hand over them. Chris sat up and looked straight at Lynn.hard. Lynn quite admired him. how about that?' he said at last. his vulnerability.' crossed Lynn's mind but she couldn't bring herself to utter the words. feeling his grief. She felt the wetness of his tears on her skin. so close. She saw his clasped hands on the table. she slipped back into the seat opposite him. out of earshot of all but the cleaners. He surely couldn't switch back. He was staring stonily ahead now. ‘Well. Gradually the twinkle returned. With one hand. Secretly.' Lynn was torn between a huge feeling of relief that the strange.behind him. smelling his aftershave. He continued crying for some moments longer and then gave a couple of honking sniffs.awful! And yet how could she allude to it when she 211 . She guessed that no one else at school knew about it either. he must be a f***ing sadist because otherwise. if there's a f***ing god. It didn't look like the Chris she knew. grabbed his handkerchief out of his pocket and began a vigorous mopping up operation. While Chris was sorting himself out. He made a passable attempt at a wink. She felt overwhelmed. Lynn thanked her stars that the smokers' room was at the back of the school. his face a mask. his eyes still red. as though her gesture of compassion had given him courage to be angry again he said. ‘That's why. Then. The unfamiliar rigidity of his face began to melt back into his familiar. seemed too intimate once he had stopped crying. Standing behind him. Chris gripped her hand back . and concern because the change back had been so quick. Chris reached over and convulsively grasped it. She suspected that he was trying very hard not to break down again. frightening Chris was gone. Something told her that Chris didn't want an answer anyway. They seemed so banal. Now you know something about me no one else knows. the thought of saying ‘I don't know. why the f*** didn't he f***ing well do something when Marie f***ing prayed to him?' For a brief instant. This was a side of Chris that she had no idea existed. Amazingly. It felt risky but it was all she could think of to do. it did the trick. pliable features. reached round and placed her hand on his forearm. ‘Never thought I'd tell that to anyone here. holding the sodden handkerchief between them.
And it wouldn't make any difference now. kicked her shoes off and curled up on the sofa calling to some invisible person. But time's a great healer. And now is what counts. She wondered if Tia felt exhausted after a session with her was over. Or . . be happy!' Lynn thought.' But she didn't know how to say it without making him angry.a stiff one. accident . . darling .' He grinned. You women. ‘A counsellor you mean? They offered at the time. Her musings were interrupted by Chris saying in a tone of wonderment. . I swear it goes out more than I do!' Despite herself. I've put it behind me now. .' ‘Don't you think she ought to know? It might help her to understand. The moment was over. you do love to talk as though that makes it all all right.sensed that he so clearly didn't want to? She said.I don't know what came over me. the present moment. 212 . Don't worry. And you won't tell anyone else? I can't believe I just told you myself . ‘Sandra? She knows Marie died in an . .' ‘Understand what? There's nothing to understand. Not a bloody thing. If Tia went to the cupboard and poured herself a whisky.' She couldn't imagine it. The old invulnerable Chris was back. It's done nothing for you. It was all a long time ago. you won't tell her.' ‘I won't tell anyone else Chris. . or maybe see someone else . She felt exhausted. ‘Not even Sandra?' Momentarily his face hardened again.' A look of alarm flashed across his face. my pipe's gone out again. It's not my story to tell. and then relaxed. Marie will still be dead. now. Oh well. . But . or got home from work. It's all we've got. ‘Time's not a great healer. ‘Fix me a g and t. . . But she wasn't sure she trusted whatever he meant by relaxed any more. but it wouldn't have made any difference. ‘Look. his choice. But please do think about telling Sandra. will you Lynn? It's over I tell you. but not how she died. The shutters were up again. someone qualified to listen. It won't change a thing. ‘In the name of all that's holy. Lynn laughed. "Leave the dead to bury their dead" as the good book says. poor Sandra. .
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. ‘Yeah. She simply asked her to wait for her after the lesson. Clearly she had thought that Lynn hadn't cared. Priorities.' (which was clearly true).' Nicole brightened up when she realised that Lynn had remembered her.' Chris! What had he done! ‘Do you want to tell me about it?' ‘Well. When you weren't here I saw Mr O'Doyle. of course. it was Michael. Not that she neglected him. Her feelings about Lauren’s cancer she dealt with by the mantra ‘Positive thinking gets positive results'. Not that it took much doing. I'll get re-referred in three months' time with stress'. Nicole stood by the door. watching Nicole's face. her head hanging.' ‘Michael?' ‘Michael Strachley. Nicole?' she asked.* * * The week trickled sluggishly by. and you were away after that. She only had so much energy. This all took a lot of energy. ‘Are you all right now.' said Nicole. Lynn was content to immerse herself in planning and doing and to leave the thinking and feeling for a few days. Lynn also tracked Nicole down. and he seemed to appreciate it. ‘Della's not like that now. She was married to him after all. ‘It's all right now. She particularly went out of her way to listen to him more. ‘If I can't cope. or herself. You know!' 213 . her feelings about Tia (she was particularly pleased with this one) she dealt with by saying. Lynn drew her to one side. so she didn't bother with strategies for dealing with her feelings about Mark. and he was really nice and he sorted it. ‘I'm sorry I wasn't here when you came last week. ‘How vulnerable they are at this age!' thought Lynn. and her feelings about Della she dealt with by saying. that could afford to wait just a little while.
All the girls fancy him.' ‘See you. but Mr O'Doyle was class. I'd like to kick him where it hurts myself!' ‘Hey. everybody's friend.champion of justice.he went up to them at the back and started telling them that they shouldn't smoke.' ‘Anyway. And he's so good-looking too. ‘Understandably. swinging her bag. He doesn't know any better.' said Nicole bitterly. Go on. People like him should be locked up. I would!' Then Nicole softened.you know he's not right in the head really . They took it for about two seconds and then Kyle just picked him up and threw him right down the aisle.' ‘You're welcome. you know. ‘I hate him. Good!' said Nicole fiercely. her eyes sparkling at the very memory.’Oh yes. She went back into the prep room. Good old Chris . thanks for asking. So I picked Michael up and when he stopped crying I went and had a go at Kyle.' ‘It was on the school bus. ‘Oh. I'm sure. I was sitting up the top at the front with my friends and all the bad lot were at the back smoking . But Mr O'Doyle was.' ‘Well. He was really crying.the year elevens . Watch how you go.' ‘Yes?' ‘And Michael .' ‘Do they?' said Lynn drily. But you weren't here. ‘So I came to tell you. She shook her head. Miss!’ Lynn watched Nicole go jauntily along the corridor. But it didn't do any good. and he was really good. * * * 214 .Kyle Sanders and his mates. He got a week's suspension because he'd had so many warnings. He checked that Michael was all right and he sorted Kyle out. steady on. so hard he cracked his head off the pole bit where you go downstairs.
She'd phone her at the weekend. It was a signal for cautious optimism. ‘And she asked after you. good to hear you. She heard Lauren's welcome voice. ‘How are you fixed for evenings?' ‘Monday.' Lynn's heart was singing. Mark heard Lynn singing in the bath and grinned. * * * Lynn waited until Saturday afternoon. Well. ‘I'll come to you. Mark might make some connections . well. He was not disappointed. Tuesday or Friday?' ‘How about Monday . church had felt like a real no-no. as usual. and rang off. if that's all right?' ‘Sure.' said Lauren. Lynn would have to share her. 'Lauren was at church on Sunday! She says she feels a lot better. . . hurriedly Lynn said. eyes shining.’ said Lauren. Not that she'd have gone to church. Polly. . then phoned Lauren. you could hardly get near her!' But Lauren had asked after her. That night. 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. She couldn't help feeling that he had a point.how unaware she was! . but somehow. . but Polly didn't notice. hang on! If the cancer thing came out. ‘There were crowds of people round Lauren. This decision not to go was vindicated when she heard Polly say happily.but she did know that Lauren had gone away for a few days with Alec and the boys. though it would have been lovely to have seen Lauren.' ‘I'll look forward to it.Lynn couldn’t face going to church on Sunday (what for?) so she had to wait for Monday for Polly to burst in. 215 . I think God's healing her!' Lynn was so thankful she had to sit down. 'Lynn.eightish?' ‘Fine. Though would it really matter? It would be nice to be able to . had few details . after Chris.
Alec sweeps the chimney. ‘It's a bit of a luxury . wearing trousers and a camel-coloured sweater of very soft wool. the hall was clutter-free.' said Lauren. her smile welcomed Lynn in.Chapter 19 This time as she waited. Lynn had more confidence that Lauren would answer the door. And she did.' ‘Not that that makes any difference. I'll stick on the biggest log in your honour. ‘Alec's working and the boys are out.' she said. Unlike before. Again. ‘We'll have to give it up soon. 'Let's go into the living room. I'm not sure if we should 216 .' she added. The most interesting thing about the sitting room was the open fire burning in the grate. on reflection. Lauren saw Lynn's look of surprise.
as the rough-textured piney log that Lauren put on began to crackle. It was . Back in a tic.' Lauren vanished. Lynn decided. wreathing patterned vapour: the pinky-violet glowing ash that was beginning to form in the incandescent depths. like a child getting comfortable in bed. It's not often you can find something that appeals to four separate senses at once. It was magic. 217 . I have terrible debates with my conscience at times." It's a nicer focal point than a TV flickering in a corner.' Lynn couldn't think why. And we do have a back boiler. better than TV. bonfires are allowed. It had a Prussian blue throw over it with suns and moons on. . Lauren looked pleased. but quite pleasant on the whole. Lynn studied the fire closely. ‘I never thought of that.burn logs or not. She hardly noticed when Lauren came back with a tray loaded with coffee and mugs and biscuits. noting the small spurty flames that appeared in the wood briefly. the large bright ones that burnt with a steady crackle and lovely. And how noisy it was! There were crackles and sighs and pops and little whistling squeals and groans. ‘Make yourself at home.' she added hastily. "Well. She half expected the whole fire to sigh and flop over. . Lauren raised her eyebrows. How odd that something that was dead should give more of an impression of being vitally alive than a lot of living things did. What can I get you? Tea? Coffee? Something stronger?' ‘You drink?' said Lynn almost involuntarily. How lovely the flames were! Her experience of flames was mostly limited to Bunsen burners in the lab. Lauren's smile encompassed both Polly and her. She looked at the fire. ‘Coffee please. well. and Lynn sank into a comfortably yielding three-seater sofa near the fire. A bit sixties-ish.’ Somehow the thought of Lynn and Lauren swigging chardonnay didn't seem quite right. I think.' she said. then vanished. ‘I think it's beautiful. the lights were dim and there were candles burning on the mantelpiece. . . ‘Polly's the only other Christian I properly know. but I think. Perhaps next time . with little puffs of smoke.
‘Polly said you said you were feeling better. and then stopped to think about how she really did feel. aren't they?' ‘Mmm.' ‘Thank you. It was not sad.Lauren put the tray on a low table nearby. I suppose .I wanted to talk and enjoy the company of someone who didn't know. and the boys know. . because.' Lauren regarded her with an unfathomable expression. ‘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 get so tired of talking about it. though I did have a bit of a headache. I might have been a bit more sensitive. She blinked a few times.' said Lauren drily. ‘I felt so normal when you came. and it was very good. but serious. I guessed you'd have a reason. because .' Lynn was unsure how to continue. ‘We'll leave it for a minute. and then looked rather anxiously at Lynn and spoke tentatively.just for once . and Alec knows. ‘No.' ‘That’s OK. drawing her legs up underneath her so that she was facing slightly towards Lynn. She couldn't resist saying ‘But Polly and the others seem think you've been healed or something. like a guilty child. I know I've got cancer. ‘Yes. Lauren had that effect on her. ‘But not actually better?' Lynn felt dismayed.' Suddenly. I'm feeling better. but it was your choice not to tell me.' said Lynn. I felt that if only I'd known. ‘It's like this. Lauren looked embarrassed. and it makes sense to me. and even the pharmacist at the chemist knows. her brain filled up and overflowed into her mouth. and all my friends and family know. And I did. but with truth. I think I'd feel like that too. ‘Fires are very watchable. . She seated herself on the other end of the settee. I'm sorry . She said slowly. Lynn rushed to reassure her with words. and . I would have told you tonight. ' She paused.' she ventured. ‘Wonderful.' she said simply. groping for the words. and everyone at church knows. ‘Well. 218 . then plunged in. She turned towards Lauren. not really. I didn't think you'd find out so quickly.did you feel very deceived?' Lauren looked rather crestfallen. . Lynn realised Lauren was trying to work out how much to say to her.' she said.
‘Yes.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.' ‘But how can he? He .' 219 . Maybe talking about god was a better bet.' Lynn didn't know whether to ask her about it or not. Lauren had as good as told her she was dying. as though she'd never considered that question before. She thought of Chris and his little sister Marie. of course I care. He is other. He cares very much. She didn't want Lauren to die. but you have to compare like with like.' ‘Caring is caring whether you're god or human!' ‘Yes. can't he?' ‘Of course. but the frown was not for Lynn. "When the Almighty falls into the sea. ‘Oh yes. he cares. They've done some new tests and I've got to go for the results on Monday. I care. I care very much." ' ‘Meaning?' said Lynn. what was God like when he became human?' This metaphysical twaddle was utterly opaque to Lynn. different . She said. 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. She thought of Lauren. She wanted god to heal her. They couldn't do the chemo after all. She said slowly.if he's god. frowning. I don’t quite follow the god-talk. ‘Don't you care about dying?' and then froze aghast.' ‘I can understand that. My blood count was too low. And sometimes I feel very angry. but she was too worked up to listen to the answer. ‘Meaning. . Doesn't he care?' cried Lynn hotly. but I'm not so certain.‘They would like to think that. it becomes a fish. . Lauren looked at her. ‘But god can heal. ‘God is .' ‘Then why doesn't he . The Chinese have a saying. . thinking aloud. and now she was spouting meaningless god-talk. .
and I wish I could die to escape it. But dying isn't the worst thing there is.' Lauren went leaving Lynn to mull over the utter incomprehensibility of what she had heard. smiling the curvy. teasing Lauren smile that made her eyes crinkle up. They hate God.' Lynn stared. and returned with more coffee and a very large plate of cheese and biscuits. You use the word "dying". And because he won. Someone I know did. Well. what a mess it all is.' she said. you know. you know.' she added. oh dear. And I'll try not to talk the God-talk if it doesn't scratch where you itch. I'm sorry!' she cried frantically.' said Lauren. not to me.' ‘Sorry. half-humorously. And I feel very tired inside and I rather wish it was all over at times. when it's just me. as she saw Lynn's look.' said Lauren. We're all dying. ‘But giving up isn't quite the same as yielding up. And do you want anything to eat? I'm starving. And I feel frightened. Now she was laughing in earnest. I've won too. awake. ‘I haven't just given up. ‘Oh dear. I might have to go and make some fresh. sometimes at night. and there's hours to go before it's light.' she said. But Lauren didn't seem to mind. Oh no! She was doing it again!. ‘when I see how frightened Jamie and Andrew and Dom are of me leaving them.‘I feel angry. God-talk.' ‘But you're giving up! You've got to fight it!' Lynn heard herself say. and how they want me to stay. sometimes. What on earth was she talking about. ‘Would you 220 .' How could someone laugh about dying? Lynn looked at her bewildered. when the pain is very bad.at her. what on earth did she know about Lauren's struggles? What would she do in those circumstances? You've got to fight it! How dared she say that? ‘I'm sorry. What 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. because of this. ‘You can't say or think anything I haven't said or thought before. Or at least. maybe it's true. ‘Don't you think it's time for coffee? I do.' said Lauren. and I don't think I can. And I feel desperate. She didn't want to know what Lauren meant. to be sure. I forgot all about it. ‘sometimes you win by dying. ‘Sometimes. ‘It's all right.
' ‘Oh good! I hate eating alone.or any cheese come to that. ‘On the NHS.' said Lynn suddenly. as though that was important. 221 . you mean?' she said coolly.' she added quickly.' ‘But the rind . just a piece of cheese then. ‘Sure? I think I’ve brought the contents of the fridge in. How odd. As they moved from laughter to smiling at each other.' Lynn added her prayers to the long list of those before her who had wished the floor would open and swallow them up. ‘I can't say I'm bothered. When she'd finished Lynn hoped she wouldn't offer her any. I like the crusts on the bread too. even as a child. I’m fine. she noted with surprise that Lauren did not take the rind off from the San Paulin or the Stilton . Lauren was strange in some ways. ‘I always have done. considering each different variety of cheese.' ‘No. ‘I'm fine. ‘Not really.' said Lauren. . and it took some time. ‘Carcinogens. Lynn felt a sense of delight inside.' Their eyes met and they burst out laughing. Lauren put another log on the fire and they watched it burn in silence. ‘I'm going to see a counsellor.’ Lynn took the cheese. OK.' said Lynn.' said Lauren. . Lauren did this very slowly and methodically. . It's the best bit. then added a large chunk of cheese to each one before topping them all with mango chutney. selecting a biscuit and taking a careful bite. dangerous to do that? Aren't there harmful chemicals in it?' Lauren shot her a look. Well. She’d never seen that before. Searching round for something to distract her from her acute discomfort.like some?' she asked. then watched in fascination as Lauren took several digestive biscuits and buttered them thickly. ‘Yes. isn't it . ‘Not watching your weight then?' Lynn could not resist saying jokingly. . honestly. ‘The chemo takes care of that. ‘You eat the rind?' she said curiously.
‘Can you talk about it?' And Lynn could. ‘Actually. as an afterthought. . This was getting dangerous. After all. not Polly or David what-his-name. oh why. I don't think I can bear it!' ‘Why's that?' ‘She's good. She might get all preachy and start talking about Jesus or something. She put down the biscuit. They had funny ideas. ‘There's a saying that grief is the price we pay for love. ‘Just when you thought you were getting somewhere?' ‘Yes .' said Lynn despairingly. I sort of love her.really well. ‘Why. this was before you were a Christian. after all.the miscarriage seemed almost irrelevant now . she noted thankfully that she still wasn't frightened.but it was still a jumbly mess in which Tia featured heavily. I value her highly and I don’t want to stop seeing her. And when she finally ground to a halt.’ Lauren nodded slowly and understandingly.' Lynn hesitated. It was nice to sit and feel the wonderfully comfortable sofa and not be afraid of what Lauren might say. Lauren might see it as a . Who knew what they thought about things like that? ‘Love’s too strong a word’ she added.' said Lynn dolefully. I really like her. She glossed over some bits .' she added hastily.well . Lauren asked simply. What Lauren said was a surprise. . it was Lauren she was saying this to. you mean?' ‘No! Not like fairies! So. right?' 222 . But it was still a risk. ‘I mean. and how she hoped that Lauren would not disappoint her. ‘god-given' (in her eyes) opportunity for her to drag religion into it. But I'll have to stop seeing her soon. . oh Lauren.' ‘Not in a sexual way. Bit of a cliché but there's truth in it. But Lynn felt so desperate to talk about it that it was worth the risk.Lauren looked interested. Surely you don't believe in them?' ‘Like fairies.' ‘You saw a counsellor? And you loved her? But you're a Christian. ‘is this happening to me? I don't understand it.but. Lynn felt a sense of unease. It was only Lauren. I saw a counsellor once and I loved her.' Even as she said it. ‘How's it going?' ‘It's going well . . Lauren was a Christian after all. So good.
protect you?' ‘From what? From life?' Lynn suddenly remembered the cancer. I only told you really to let you know that I understand a little bit about the pain of that kind of loss. It can be quite confrontational.' ‘Pearls?' What on earth did Lauren mean? ‘Fritz Perls. laughing. if that means anything to you. chain-smoking the whole time.' ‘I can't help wondering what you saw her about. I'm sorry. It's none of my business. ‘But this counsellor . ‘But it's a long story and maybe I could tell you next time we meet. And I was a complete mess.' ‘ And was it confrontational?' ‘Yes. and wore big gold earrings. not me.' It didn't.' she said at last. She changed tack.‘I wonder why you would think that? No. I think she modelled herself on Perls a bit too literally. He was the founder of Gestalt psychology.' ‘But didn't god .she was a Christian?' ‘Definitely not!' said Lauren. I thought she was wonderful. She swore as well. very! And she smoked like a chimney.' ‘You said you loved her?' Lynn remembered. and you're the one who's hurting at the moment.' Lauren hesitated. There's quite a well-known video of him counselling a client. Inside. she suddenly felt much easier 223 . I know I shouldn't ask. ‘She was a Gestalt counsellor.' ‘And your counsellor smoked?' ‘Incessantly. ‘I don't in the least mind you knowing. I'm conscious that I've successfully deflected the attention from you. I'd been a Christian for years. ‘It's a kind of counselling where you deal with things in a very direct way.
' But it did help. Look at her now! It seemed to Lynn that Lauren had just dealt her a death blow.as though they meant nothing! But Lauren said she'd seen this woman for a year.' Let go? This was not so good. ‘Oh yes. until she felt able to speak. She concentrated on feeling the sofa beneath her.about her feelings for Tia.' she said. She said she loved her. How could this be? Lauren's words hurt just as much as if they had come from Della but they did not destroy her. yet amazingly. ‘I knew God loved her more than I did. 224 . and mixed in with the pain she could feel something from Lauren flowing into her. Lauren made it. Lynn didn't want to hear this. And it was Lauren. those ones came top of the list. if it helps you to know that. That was what made it possible to let go. . Lauren would never have been able to let her go so easily. I absolutely delighted in her. something strong and good.and I did . ‘But how could you bear it?' she found herself asking. Counselling isn't friendship. Of all the words Lynn dreaded hearing. so caring. ‘How long did you see her for?' ‘A year. sitting there so composedly.' Counselling isn't friendship. She thought. that was it? After all that you'd shared?' ‘Yes. That felt very good. Lynn looked at Lauren. I never saw her again. And Lauren would tell her her story next time they met. . of all people.' Lynn stiffened involuntarily. saying them! And so casually . Although I might have shared my life with her .' ‘A year? And then . Lauren was watching her compassionately. regarding her with such concern. It was a total mystery and she wasn't sure it was really happening. But this counsellor couldn't have been like Tia. Sod that! she thought. She survived. How could she be so unconcerned about it? A sense of unreality came over Lynn. somehow so free.it wasn't reciprocated. so real. 'I cried for three months. on chewing her lip thoughtfully. We could never have been friends. Lynn was still alive. 'It probably doesn't. Tia was different. on looking at the fire.
' For a moment Lynn remembered David.' said Lauren cheerfully. She is still very dear to me.' she said apologetically. ‘Just over twenty years ago. but sometimes 225 . but couldn't think why. Normally it's red wine for me. .and if I ever see them in heaven I will. leaning forward and grasping Lynn's hand firmly. but it surprises me that you let her. She felt as weak as a kitten. . after all. It didn't affect the awful situation I was in – but then it wouldn't. What she wanted most in the whole world now was to change the subject. Lauren accepted her.something of what you're going through' said Lauren. They nearly did it too.it was all so bewildering. 'I need more coffee . What could she say? ‘Did your counsellor ever .. ‘Was it long ago?' she asked. 'So I do appreciate .Lauren noticed her look. Truth cannot contradict truth. Counselling's not like that. But it was clearly important to Lauren who was now looking rather damp about the eyes. you did ask. ‘Well.' ‘You say she helped you though? Even though she didn't believe in god?' ‘Oh yes. . I do hope I do!' Lynn felt stressed.a little bit . still holding her hand. Much more practical.do you want any? And I think I'll start hitting the Baileys. I think it doesn't so much show you how to sort your life – more like help you live with the mess. so she couldn't just change the subject totally. much as she wanted to. ‘All truth connects. Kalia helped me through it so that I was able to forgive them.' said Lauren. If I met them now I would hug them . This talk of forgiveness and heaven was more than she could handle. But . especially on top of the body-blow she had just been dealt. But I can't forget her. She ought to do the same. become a Christian?' ‘I've no idea. Lynn returned the pressure with interest. . I was very damaged and angry and she helped me tremendously. but again she had the strange sensation of strength flowing from Lauren into her. She still needed to know more.' ‘She had truth. you know . But I pray for her now and then. almost unable to move. It was when someone I loved and trusted set out to destroy me. 'And now. That surprises you?' ‘No. Lynn felt ashamed.
Amazingly she still felt OK. seemingly 226 . ‘Athough perhaps you're meant to rub it on.' she said. How could this be? And at what point during the evening had she stopped watching what she said. The wine tasted of summer. Lynn gingerly felt her psyche as an adult who slips on the ice might check themselves for broken bones. They finished up seeing pictures in the fire. They let the conversation go where it wanted. Lynn paused. The intensity of the moment lightened instantly and popped like soap bubbles in the air around them. She could hurt in Lauren's presence quite safely. They swapped teaching anecdotes and finished each other's sentences. all right to grieve. As they talked. giving her hand a final squeeze and letting go. like a puppy running through a meadow.' ‘ ”Take a little wine for your stomach's sake”. leaving Lynn to watch the flames begin to rise. ‘Where's that from?' ‘The bible. Lynn found herself casting covert glances at Lauren. and followed it to see where it went. and they knew it. getting more and more absurd. trying to get it right? That had never happened before. Lauren came back. Everything made them laugh. How had Lauren done it? Lynn had no idea. I read somewhere that it's a preferred drink of some twenty-somethings because it provides the alcohol but still tastes like sweeties. ‘All right. ‘wine would be nice. That's exactly the reason I drink it. normal even.' ‘Is it?' ‘Oh yes.only Baileys will do. After a few moments. amazed. after a moment's reflection. So what! Will you join me? Or would you prefer wine?' Lynn couldn't help grinning at Lauren's matter of factness. unselfconscious and animated in the firelight. please. ‘Fortunately it doesn't specify. They drank quite a lot of it.' she added.' said Lauren. Thinking about Tia hurt just as much but she knew now it was all right to love. The main business of the evening was now over.' said Lauren blandly. though my twenty-something days are lost in the mists of time.' Lynn was still trying to work this out when Lauren put another log on the fire and departed.
Lauren. As they walked to the front door. Lynn. Lauren said.' As she walked down the path. They quietly finished their coffee. and constantly pleasing to watch. it's time to go. . . she suddenly remembered her earlier impressions of the fire. Lynn decided. But even as Lynn responded in kind.' ‘The next time!' said Lynn. and Lauren got Lynn's coat. ‘Here's to the next time we meet.' Lauren thanking her? For what? Lynn said with equal sincerity. . And she thought about the thing growing inside Lauren's head. the thing that should not be there.inside? Did she have the seeds of grey death growing inside her that soon would creep all over ther vibrant aliveness and still it for ever. as she released her. and a chill ran through her. getting bigger and bigger. that it looked so alive.able to enjoy each moment to the full. Lauren hugged her unexpectedly closely. caught unawares. but the truth was that it was really dead. hasn't it?' agreed Lauren. so glowing. but of Lauren laughing. so bright. ‘I've enjoyed this evening tremendously. wrapping her coat tightly around her as protection from the frosty air. I was just thinking .' said Lauren cheerfully. but was she really .' They were at the door. This evening has meant more to me than I can tell you. constantly changing. She was a bit like the fire. mimicking life. 227 .' ‘It's been good. ‘It's me who ought to be thanking you. the last sound she heard was not the sound of Lauren's door closing. as though it was a toast. Thank you so much. Lynn closed her eyes to escape the sight of the fire which now seemed strangely dark and malevolent. It seemed an appropriate note on which to end. ‘I'll be in touch.' ‘Am I?' said Lynn. so afire with life. ‘since we've both so clearly benefited from it. Lauren sensed her change of mood and turned to her. . I didn't want this evening to end. and said. Lynn. with unexpected emphasis. ‘Um . ‘You're very quiet all of a sudden. I'll be waiting for you. and somehow.dead . Was that the true picture? Lauren looked so well at this moment.' ‘Then we'll definitely have to do it again.
She replaced them and became Tia again.' ‘It's all right. Tia continued. Our next meeting is in two weeks' time.' (‘Leaving?' thought Lynn) ‘and so. ‘It's not cancer. Tia. ‘I need to take leave of absence for a month. six weeks .' She paused. Tia. . On the other hand . This will mean you waiting about six weeks for our final session. It occurred to Lynn that she looked uncharacteristically weary. .' Tia took off her glasses and polished them. Tia smiled wanly. I'm afraid the circumstances are out of my control. I know.' Oh. On the other hand. . In one week's time or six weeks' time. but I will not be here then.Chapter 20 ‘So. how could she wait six weeks with her nerves strung as taut as this. ‘I mention this because I am afraid I need to change the date of our next meeting. ‘this is the last session before we meet to say goodbye. is it?' she asked before she could stop herself. for god's sake? And over Christmas too. .' But it wasn't all right. Tia looked much more vulnerable. never see Tia again.so she shrugged apologetically and said nothing. . ‘What made you think of that?' Lynn didn't want to mention Lauren . we could meet again at the same time next week for the final session. In one week it could be all over . Bloody thanks! Do you think I don't know that? ‘Yes. It's up to you. She'd never survive. Without her glasses and with her head bent. but afterwards it occurred to her that this would probably have been a perfectly reasonable thing to say. if you liked. thanks. She couldn’t help staring.' said Tia. ‘No. It didn't seem much of a choice. I am not leaving until the end of next week .somehow it didn't seem right .' she said. I am sorry to have to present you with this choice. . One week or six weeks? She 229 . . .' Alarm bells went off in Lynn's head. Lynn had never seen Tia do this before. She was reminded of Lauren and how tired she had looked when she first met her.' (‘Come back?' thought Lynn) ‘then the Christmas holiday will intervene and we will not be able to meet again until January.and then . it's not cancer. ‘If we wait until I come back .
and Lynn didn’t care any more about getting it right. making you feel awkward and angry. ‘You can tell me at the end of the session. She felt anger rising within her. But six weeks! She couldn't endure this . impervious. Staying in control. ‘I'll remember you. What was it about Tia that produced these extremes of emotion in her? She was perfectly normal everywhere else. Her habitual expression. She couldn't think now. more composed. never giving any bloody thing away!' Tia took it without a flicker. right. She'd had it all worked out. One week or six weeks. 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. so bloody perfect. I wonder what you’re thinking. She looked at Tia.' Now that she had told Lynn the bad news. her frail feeling of control gone. apparently indifferent to the bombshell she had just delivered. or a card. Tia was such a cow.for six weeks! Oh hell! Tia. was observing her closely. she was watching with cool clinical disinterest. what she would do in the two weeks. ‘That's how you see me. .rack . it seemed to Lynn. Why? Lynn felt completely wrecked. if you like. just to say . unyielding. She'd wanted to get Tia a present. Lynn felt that she had imagined the tired smile and the fragile. she looked more Tia-ish.' But a week wasn't long enough. Wrong-footing you. Having just ruined everything. She couldn't think what to get in a week. I wonder if that feeling rings 230 . ‘I wonder what you’re thinking right now?' The volcano erupted.didn't want to think about it. Something in Lynn snapped.’ Yeah. and. defenceless Tia she'd seen. It shouldn't make a difference but it did. Tia said. good guess! I am angry! You sit there so smug. Always getting it right. Tia. Tia. This was the Tia she knew. always saying the right sodding thing. how to pace herself. What do you think about it all?’ ‘I think you are angry. she didn't know what. The anger grew hotter. . what to say. almost amusement. the effect that her words were having. a sort of serious but ready-to-smile attentiveness had now completely returned. ‘No. Just a little something. as usual.
then she could bear it. really really sad. she tried to listen.' That registered. Did Tia feel sad then? Sad like Lynn? Did she know how Lynn felt? Did she? Or was it a psychological trick to make Lynn feel better? Because if Tia did know. In the midst of it all. but she wasn't falling for it this time. when . didn't it? But she was angry. did care. What was Tia trying to say? Grief. Lynn had heard that once before. What did she feel? Actually. Maybe she did feel something. Oh god! And Tia wasn't helping.Tia making her angry. ‘Yes! Why do you do it? Why can't you just be normal. I forgot. and stop giving me a hard time!' always having to think of what to say to help them. she did feel sad inside. What must it be like for her? What an awful job she had at times. . for god's sake?' To this Tia said nothing.something icy gripped Lynn's guts and made it hard to breathe. Tia looked so sad. or something like it. leaving her feeling tired too. This is normal for you! Bloody hell Tia. Oh no! It was Tia . ‘Oh. What was 231 . But bloody hell! It was her job. 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. Anger is a is a part of grief. And she was looking at Lynn. wasn't she? She stopped and allowed herself to feel. having to be there for them. That transference thing! Where had she felt it before? Very clever. Grief meant you were sad. having to sit there and take it from angry clients. She was being paid for it! The anger flooded back. never able to retaliate or defend herself. to say.any bells for you?' Lynn stiffened. when she thought about it. . It made it so much better than the other time. Her face had a patient look and the fatigue Lynn had seen at first seemed evident again. even a little bit . ‘Sod off. Why hadn't she noticed that before. When? Her brain felt muzzy. The bad time she never thought about. But when she glanced at Tia. Yes. no one else! She refused to be diverted. Lynn's anger ebbed away. she saw something in her face that mirrored her own feeling. She felt a sudden pang of pity for Tia. You are angry. We have to say goodbye.
' Again.' said Tia. What am I going to do?' ‘You don't know what it is and you feel too frightened to think about it.' ‘Last time?' ‘Something's stirring in my memory.' ‘I'm feeling sad. The thudding of her heart began to slow down and she took a deep breath. But you've only just been made aware of it.and painful?' Lynn felt a wild. Tia. Can you stay with it just a little while and see how it feels?' In Tia's calm presence. It's too vague and indistinct to pinpoint now. but even with the door shut she could sense it moving behind. I feel frightened. ‘Yes. oh I don't know . oh Tia. from really early on. ' she added pointedly. then went on. I don't feel so lonely now. Quick! Distraction! Lynn said hurriedly to Tia. Maybe it will come clearer later. Lynn. jerky panic begin to overwhelm her. I feel kind of glad too.' She paused and groped for her handkerchief. Eventually she mumbled.this? Something was stirring in the furthest recess of Lynn's memory. and to be honest.' said Tia. 232 . ‘But in a funny way. It's so horrible and painful I'm afraid to think about it.' ‘Yes. It's not your problem. with Tia looking at her and speaking so quietly. . ‘I'm feeling your sadness. . She felt deeply moved. ‘I'm sharing it with you. sharing it with me. She smiled tremulously. ‘I don't want you to feel sad. I've got too much else to think about now. . .' Lynn could see it was true. It was something so nameless and so painful that Lynn couldn't bear it. No! Not here. Is it OK to say that? It's like you're sort of. Her anger had evaporated. not now! Not on top of this pain she was feeling. I'm not even sure what it is. It's something to do with going away and being frightened. It's so different from last time. ‘Thank you. Lynn didn’t know what to say. ‘Yes. But.' ‘But it's horrible . I can't face thinking about it here. She exerted all her strength to shut the door on it. Lynn felt her fear being contained. ‘You look unhappy. Something I'd completely forgotten. I can't bear to think about it now. No one had ever said anything quite like that to her before and she didn't know what to say.
What I can do is keep the next week's slot open for you.' she said more happily. ‘Why don't you write it down?' Write it down! Another good idea.' Tia agreed. this being allowed to choose when to come. ‘OK. Another thought struck her. She didn't feel quite so hopeless now. ‘Suppose I remember and you're not there?' ‘That seems likely. when she was not with Tia. 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.‘Hmm. ‘But how long will it take?' Tia made a ‘you tell me' sort of gesture. Somehow. If you don't turn up. Lynn felt immensely comforted. once we become aware that they're there. ‘Sometimes things like this. ‘Yes. but not here. I think it might come clearer. You'll appreciate that I can't keep a space open for you indefinitely. but without success. ‘I could send it to you. if you want to take it up. Then she said slowly. or in six weeks. Lynn was touched. filled Lynn with new alarm. and the fact that Tia would keep the session time free for her next week. She refocused on Tia and looked at her appealingly. keep it open like that? Are you allowed?' Tia gave her a look.' was all she said. It was clinging like a monkey to the patterned wallpaper behind Tia's head.' The thought of it coming clearer. elsewhere. Tia could handle this coolly. ‘You can either come to see me in a week's time. Tia's calm acceptance of what seemed to Lynn to be a completely bizarre experience reassured her. while Tia was with her. She nodded. as if thinking aloud. So could she. I will assume that you will be coming in January and send you an appointment accordingly.' she added. just start coming into our mind bit by bit and we begin to build up a picture. Tia seemed to really want to help her. When I write things down 233 . I believe I am allowed to do that. Do you feel able to wait and see what happens?' Again. What do you want to do?' ‘Like I said. She tried with all her might to think what it might be now. Again.
And she'd had so much to say! She had planned to tell Tia more about her mother. The icy hand that had relaxed its hold on her heart tightened it again. and now. After that. and then Lynn and Tia looked at each other again and it occurred to Lynn. She was too drained to think clearly now. when you get back?' ‘Oh yes. ‘I'll get it then. considering how much she loved her mother and how proud she was of her.it's like I'm talking to you. and then Lynn's mind cut out and she couldn't think what to say. won't you.' Lynn had forgotten.' ‘You can if you like. Tia might get enough for a book by the time she got back. and what did it matter because soon it would be over whatever happened. ‘You'll get it eventually though. And she could never say everything she wanted to anyway because no matter what she talked about. her mother was the last person she wanted to talk about. it was still ticking away. that actually there were worse ways of spending the time she had left with Tia than by looking at each other . It was very odd. And she told Tia this. She couldn't even think about her. they sat in silence for a while. but then finding she had more to say and writing another one. She imagined herself writing a letter to Tia which she would eventually get. And then it struck her that. whether the time was spent in silence or talking. 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 raised her eyebrows and looked alert. Then another. and she would have to read them all. minutes of her and Tia that she could use properly when she had something that she really wanted to say. She looked at Tia and received strength.' A cheering thought struck Lynn. and Tia looked amused too. So Lynn told Tia this too. So she told her. This struck her as so ludicrous that she chuckled out loud. no. Lynn watched the minutes ticking by in silence.they could be arguing for instance. But bear in mind that I'm not around after the end of next week. Lynn kept going to say things. and Tia agreed. and Tia looked sympathetic and nodded.' ‘Oh. for some reason. ‘What's the joke?' said Tia.' said Tia reassuringly. 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. 234 .
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.
That was what it felt like. 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. his total refusal to listen to her or to understand what was happening inside her head. Guilt at what she was putting him through was only outweighed by the anger she felt at his inability to trust her. looked at what she had written. she began to cry. Mark had agreed. Sitting on the sofa.Mark had asked Lynn what she wanted to do that night. things she hardly knew she'd remembered. She checked it one last time. It had clearly woken up some time previously and was already in gear. By 3 o'clock it was ready to post to Tia. Except for welcome offers of tea or coffee. sat back exhausted and dozed fitfully for an hour. clarifying. Now they made sense. she began typing. When she had finished she phoned Mark. Fortunately. She fetched the jumbled notes of the night before and began reading through them. Then she came to. She knew deep down he cared. that was Mark. Armed with a pen and pad. Mark had not wanted to leave her alone. Dear Tia she read. Feeling very virtuous. here's 240 . and decided to go to bed. somehow the night's sleep had helped her to remember more details. Lynn began to jot down words and then phrases at random as they occurred to her. she phoned and told Mark that as well. As she did so. Well. She got up and went though to the lounge. so they had compromised. and. expanding. You remember I'd told you my Mum was very ill at that time. then went to bed and crashed out. Lynn surfaced from sleep to find that her mind had beaten her to it. above all. Mark left her mercifully undisturbed. and she had truthfully said that she wanted to be on her own to try to recall what had happened. This had infuriated Lynn almost beyond endurance. * * * The next morning. and she had only just managed to control it by saying that she would phone him instead. Still. This took quite a long time. I' had an accident in the bathroom the other night which reminded me of something that happened when I was about four.
I was so frightened that it made me do something even more stupid. Lynn stopped reading for a little break. and there was nothing I could do. "Look. ‘. you've made me hurt my hand on you. . My Mum was very upset and shouted that I'd done it on purpose. that's what it felt like. I think she thought I'd drop it. Lynn paused to regroup. looking around the room for something else to focus on. Images of her mother that evening swam up into view and she fought them down. my mother said it to me all the time. After a few minutes she resumed reading. And that made something really horrible happen.you know that Venetian glass.what happened. She grabbed my arm with one hand to hold me still and started to smack me hard. has it? I said. and she was panting with exertion and she said. I could feel a warmth running down the inside of my legs. She summoned her resources and read on: It made my Mum very angry. She described the incident in the bathroom. And it hurt so much. Then she stopped but it still kept hurting. it made my mum change into another person. It was really ugly . but there was no escape. I did drop it . I saw an ornament on a shelf. Well. her face was all red and twisted. She's never done that before and it hurt. She stared fiercely at the picture over the fireplace and concentrated on breathing evenly. you wet yourself like an animal.it slipped through my fingers and shattered into the bath. My mother was giving me a bath. It felt like forever. I tried to wriggle and pull away. I picked it up and my mother got very upset. The page she was looking at was shaking and it seemed to be rather blurry too. I was so frightened I had wet myself. She didn't even look like my mother any more.’ And then she said. and I said the first thing that came into my head . ‘Don't be so stupid. This was so hard to read. She went into a sort of a frenzy then – she couldn't stop. all purple and red. She kept telling me to put it down. ‘You animal. I turned my head and bit her hand as she held my upper arm. and I felt so I didn't 241 ." and she made me look at her hand and it was all red. I don't know how long she did it for.' know it was a bad thing to say. As I stood up for her to dry me. you’re an animal! You bite. Well. and her breath was coming in gasps. . and continued: It was in our first house.nothing's changed.I think a sort of clown thing my mother had got from somewhere .
and if she had died." And she went downstairs and I just didn’t know what to do. all quite a bit older than me and they all made a fuss of me. I learned later that my mother had been rushed into hospital in the night with a perforated appendix. How could she like me? How could anyone like me? Anyway. it was the next door neighbour.peritonitis set in and they thought she was going to die.I was in another place. And I thought she was going to die. It seemed rather a strange thing to say but it was the only way she could think of to explain how she felt. I was in another place. I had a happy time there. otherwise they wouldn't have. Lynn smiled as she read that bit. not a proper human being at all. that's the only way I can describe it . Lynn considered this. I don't remember their names but I remember that I sat on people's laps a lot. What happened to the little girl next? She read on with interest. I wanted her. 'After a while I crawled into bed as I was and I could hear her moaning and crying downstairs. I lay awake in the dark for what seemed forever. but she didn’t want me. And then she clutched at her stomach and sort of screamed out. ‘I didn't see my mother for six weeks because there were complications . 'After six weeks my Mum came back and she was very thin and pale and I didn't 242 . 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. ‘And you've made my pain come back!" and she grabbed me out of the bath. She had three kids. because I had made her hurt her hand. Come to think of it. but I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew someone was waking me up – but it wasn't my Mum. wet as I was. and was given lots of sweets. I would have killed her. "Stay there until I say you can come out . I had a nice time at my Auntie Gwen's. and she said. and sort of threw me into my bedroom and it was dark. not her. My Mum had gone and I was taken to stay with my Auntie OGwen in Wales. I guess they didn't know all those bad things about me. I knew that it would have been my fault. This was some other little girl she was writing about. that was rather how she felt now. then continued. and I had made her pain come back.bewildered then because I had thought that it was me that was hurting.I don't want to see you again until you’re a human being again.
it was all over now. She could only hope that the strange anaesthetic effect of the last few days would last a long time and keep her numb and light-headed. Tia. That way she would be able to cope. And I was always a bit scared after that because I knew I was very powerful and I could scare people and nearly kill them without even trying. Right now she needed to lie down. 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. so unless you hear anything from me to the contrary. 243 . though actually she wasn't sure if she liked her either. Lynn couldn't help feeling glad. anyway. though Lynn wasn't sure why she thought this. She seemed a very stupid little girl. but that couldn't be helped.recognise her at first. Lynn sighed as she read this. debated on scrawling ‘Thanks for everything' or ‘I really appreciate all you've done' and decided to save it for a farewell card. So I might do something by accident to make my mum go away again and then she might never come back. She couldn't believe it. and I was pleased to see her too. That’s how it seemed to me then. But it was funny because I couldn't forget that somehow I had made her go away. Lynn chewed her lip.no more. She would go out for a walk and post it later. She reread the final paragraph. That little girl. ‘Lynn'. you'll appreciate I feel a bit weird remembering all this. She signed the letter simply. but she was very loving and so pleased to see me. 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. whoever she was. and a sort of monster person ihad come n her place. Anyway. I'll see you next week as you said I could. Only a few more days and then . and I think I would like to see you sooner rather than later. 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. She folded the letter and put it in an envelope.
but not this. ‘Today is the day we say goodbye to each other. She thought. from imprinting this image of Tia on her heart for ever. It's bloody mad. Even nodding and simply replying. her mind could hardly think them. Tia looked at her. She could feel it hurting her chest. So perhaps. ‘Yes. There's no reason for it. She looked as thin and angular as ever. missing nothing. Even more amazing.' Your letter? What letter? Lynn wrenched her mind away from the here and now. She had imagined herself holding forth. She's not dying. In fact. Lynn shook herself free of the spell that seemed to being cast over her. nothing. wanted to smile and say. The moments ticked by. the despair. ‘Ah. sitting opposite her. to remember the letter she had written . and that's it. ‘I got your letter. Tia was wearing a black vee-neck sweater and a bottle-green skirt. Tia spoke again. She had imagined a thousand things. She sat like a model. but her lips refused to frame the words. ‘How. the letter.was it just a few days ago? It seemed much longer now. had Tia.' In fact. poised. in this day and age. she'd rehearsed it several times. taste it like bile in her mouth. not wanting to waste a precious moment . ‘I knew you'd say that. Today. It's over. She looked helplessly at her. or moving away.' A bitter exhaustion welled up within her.' Lynn. her throat. She looked at Tia. inexorable as the tide. Lynn could feel the helplessness. focused. can this be happening? I've just got to say goodbye. Time and tide wait for no man. from drinking in every detail of this encounter.the Lynn-that-might-have-been engaging with the Tia that-might-have-been.' said Tia.' Amazing! She could speak. nothing I can do about it.' would have done. And there is nothing. elegant. talking nineteen to the dozen. It was so odd. Her facial muscles felt paralysed and she seemed to be doing things in slow motion.Chapter 21 ‘So. she sounded normal.The Rules. except . with 244 . It was bizarre. yes. still. She could think of nothing to say. and focused. to this person that I know nothing about but I long to be friends with. who means so much to me. the inevitability.
It wasn't a very good thing to happen to a four year old. and now you're leaving me too! It's just the same!' cried Lynn despairingly. She was leaning forward. Lynn. Didn't Tia remember what she'd put in the letter? She must have read it only yesterday.' ‘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. . I know! Thought about longer term counselling? No!' Tia was silent.' Something clicked. Lynn. or even this morning. Like it was my fault. .some difficulty. Something of what Lynn felt must have showed in her face. on what Tia was saying. I read your letter several times over. thank heaven! That was what she wanted to talk about. I'm not sure what to say. It wasn't her fault.' Yes. ‘When you were four.' Lynn looked at Tia in surprise.' Lynn felt hurt. Like there was a monster there that would come back if I wasn't careful. . ‘But she came back. what got into her at times? But how to begin? ‘I . Have you .' Lynn heard only one thing. ?' ‘I know. Honestly. Tia's look softened. ‘Just the same?' 245 . speaking unusually energetically.well. This was a big issue to raise as we are coming towards the end of our time together. your mother left you . ‘Yes. ‘Did you? Did you really read it several times over? Really?' ‘Yes I really did. I just wondered how you felt about it when you remembered. . Then she said. . there's not a lot of time left. ‘ . it was all coming back now. . ‘I didn't forget what you'd written. Like I'd nearly killed her. for Tia. It seemed real when I was writing it. as though feeling for each word. She couldn't help being ill. said you wanted to talk about it today. was it?' ‘It was a very bad thing to happen to a four year old.
a new and awful thought struck Lynn.was it?' She looked at Tia appealingly. At length she said slowly. ‘We agreed it. I thought it was my fault. But I knew in advance that you were going away. ‘No. I don't hate you. But she couldn’t stop herself. ‘What do you think?’ said Tia. But it wasn't my fault . Looked away. . It was a stupid question – so stupid – Tia might be angry if she even asked it. . maybe not just the same.' Lynn stopped. . are you?' She shut her eyes and waited.' she conceded. Tia's eyebrows arched enquiringly. Does it 246 . ‘it wasn't my fault. I know it's crazy.' ‘We agreed it.you're going away. to punish me . But against her will. she'd been desperate. ‘And when my mother went away.' Suddenly. She didn’t choose to leave. But Tia's steady gaze gave her the courage to articulate it. but she wasn’t sure she entirely believed her. ‘No.' she said wearily. phrase by phrase. ‘Well. ‘Tia. She had a burst appendix. . But . .' Tia said. Oh well. felt a question forming like a bubble in her mind. but . I know it.‘Yes!' ‘Why do you say that?' ‘Well. heard Tia's quiet voice.with no warning. And that had been too bad to be contemplated. . . That can’t be my fault can it?' she said in a whisper. It had been that or leaving after only having seen Tia for three sessions. hate me . My going away isn’t your fault. She opened her mouth. even though it was so stupid.you agreed it. . It's just the way things are. . A burst appendix was no one’s fault. ‘My mother went away suddenly . ‘No. because you . But . not choosing to leave me . you're not .' But Lynn felt unnerved by this new idea. what did it matter now? She'd let Tia have that one. . she had to risk it. . Lynn thought. No . It's no one's fault. had to know. But that wasn't fair.' said Lynn. . Lynn thought hard. . but this was different somehow. Tia was saying it. looked back. shut it. She looked at Tia. it's . I've got to ask this. she'd agreed it too. .
She could choose to be four. She could believe Tia. she removed her fingers one by one and looked Tia in the face. Tia was not in the hating business. ‘Lynn. Finally. It was totally up to her. She sat there with her eyes shut. do you think I hate you?' ‘Yes! No! I don't know!' Tia's voice came again. ‘I don't think you hate me. still with her hands over her face. A silence that had plainly. or she could choose to be thirty-four. heard Tia ask again. then she was a bloody good actress! She said.' and as she said it. To Lynn's surprise. this time with a slight edge of firmness in it. still with her eyes shut. ‘Lynn. The four year old was still there. feeling that nothing in the world could induce her to open them again. ‘Well then!' hanging in it. The 247 . ‘I don't think my mother hated me either. realised that she had a choice. and at least it worked. For good measure. ‘It would be a triumph if you could open your eyes. she looked at Tia from between her fingers. she knew for certain that it was true. ‘That you don't hate me. Tia!' Lynn was sure of this. who as far as she knew had never lied to her. After a while she heard Tia say softly. yes. feeling utterly and foolishly four-ish.' Ulp! Lynn covered her face with her hands. or she could believe her own notoriously unreliable feelings. automatically sat up straighter in her chair. She thought of Tia's smile.seem to you that I hate you?' Lynn could feel tears seeping under the lids of her closed eyes. she added. bent her head floorwards and opened her eyes. 'And what did you hear me say?' Lynn. 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. but at least she was doing what the thirty four year old told her. and it was a real choice.' There was a silence. Lynn. If Tia did indeed hate her. more gently. Then.' and realised that was true too. As the moments ticked by. do you believe that I tell the truth?" 'Oh.
Lynn looked at Tia.' Incredulously. laughed again.winter sunshine gilded the outline of Tia's hair like a golden pot scourer.' ‘Corneal scarring?' As soon as she said it. I'm sure. she must like her. Tia threw Lynn a quizzical look.Tia . oh surely. But Tia had. 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. seeming to feel that this was not enough. highlighted her delicate cheekbones and the dusting of freckles over her nose and reflected off her glasses. totally unexpectedly. Sixth formers think they are above such things. to her. Have you ever considered contact lenses Tia?' she suddenly found herself asking. Tia gazed unconcernedly back. 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. She'd done it again. 'that you know about only too well. not really. Surprised. and with a social life that was the envy of every girl in her class. what was that word? Self-disclosed.had. Della had said they never did that. Numbly. She should have left it there. ‘It takes a long time. Lynn was reminded of Sandra's silvery laugh. Tia . with genuine amusement. paused. Surely then. effortlessly tossing off her homework. Something. the one all the lads fancied.' she said sympathetically. Lynn went cold inside. ‘Yes . What did? Lynn couldn't be bothered to ask. Lynn slumped in her chair and beamed back. she waited for it all to go wrong. Tia saw it and her lips twitched in response. ‘Whatever made you think of that? No. Lynn had never really heard Tia laugh out loud so spontaneously before. and added. laughing sixth former. Old habits died hard. 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. Tia laughed out loud.due to flagrant flouting of school rules concerning safety goggles in labs. She had a sudden mental picture of Tia as a willowy. But Tia's laugh had golden tones. She sat there in a happy daze until 248 .' Tia hesitated.' she added. and then. I'm afraid. ‘My eyes aren't suitable. All the rules were being broken today.
Lynn's mind thrashed around in the numbness like someone trying to take off a sweater under three layers of overcoats. could hold it so lightly. Lynn could too. And because Tia could bear it. Each time Tia looked reliably the same and her gaze held Lynn's peacefully as though even this was OK. It was unbelievable. and you've come a long way.' she said.' she added. or didn't say. and she was touched in the midst of her anguish. sycophantic mouthings. after a while. We've worked very hard together.' responded Tia. ‘Grieving will come later. . that wouldn't just sound like silly. ‘Thank you. she wanted to leave with some dignity! But. She looked at Tia. waiting patiently. thanks for being there for me. The numbness returned. was bearable.' It was the only way she could think of to describe it.so hard! ‘I feel kind of numb. She hoped Tia would understand. Whatever it had been like for Tia. the time ticked away. like my brain’s frozen. ‘You've been really . stricken. She looked hopefully at Tia.' she blurted out at last. and then . She nodded in recognition. for her. . so supple. so effortlessly balanced.a look at the clock revealed that time was passing far too swiftly. Dammit.' said Lynn. her whole psyche tuned to Lynn's needs. ‘and we've had a real relationship. That made sense The silence continued. ‘And I'm sorry for losing my rag last time. for her it had been really special. 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. ‘Oh Tia. but she could come up with nothing to say.' she said despondently. present. She knew Tia didn't need her apology. able to flex this way or that depending on whatever Lynn said. From time to time she glanced at the clock and then back at Tia. Tia did understand. ‘I guess so. She looked at Tia. ‘Anger is a part of real relationships.' Lynn added. being there with her. She could sense Tia's tuned-in-ness to her change in state. Tia seemed to Lynn like a gymnast or a ballet dancer. Less than half an hour left of Tia's bright presence. Lynn.' 249 .' said Tia.darkness. But it was still hard . It was amazing her brain was working at all. It was a depressing repeat of the previous session. to what was going on right now. oh. ‘Mmm. she was sorry. Damn! She hadn't meant to say that.
Though she would hardly describe Tia as 'see-through'. A question that frightened her. new ways Pass by Love stays. Lynn was in agony.' Oh.she was laughing a lot today! This was the moment. that was nice! The sun was definitely shining now. She had come a long way. For some reason this made Tia laugh again . 'Lynn'. ‘Oh. dragging a card and small black plush-covered box out of her pocket and passing them to Tia as nonchalantly as she could. ‘I will certainly remember you. Tia?' Oh please don't let Tia do one of her ‘What do you think?' kind of responses! She couldn't bear it. Lynn. Strangely it had reminded her of Tia – lovely and minimalist. looking at them.' she said mendaciously. Were therapists allowed to accept gifts? Would Tia want to accept it? Suppose she refused it? What would that feel like? Was she willing to take the risk? 250 . She wished she hadn't thought of it. And it was true. nodding her head for emphasis. On the card Lynn had written 'Thank you Tia. New days. 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. But Lynn could feel another question trembling on her lips. she couldn't leave it unsaid. flowers die. but now she had. That was all.by Henry van Dyke. whoever he was. The card was a photograph of some meadow flowers.' replied Lynn solemnly. ‘For you. The box contained a pendant – three cubes of crystal glass held withing a simple silver filigree on a silver chain. ‘Oh yes. Hours fly. Oh.' said Tia emphatically. ‘Will you . I almost forgot. wow! ‘And I will certainly remember you. She took them and held them on her lap.will you remember me.' 'For me?' Tia looked surprised.A real relationship. Out of sight is not out of mind' and signed it. with little verse from a poem inside that she'd always liked .
At the door. She opened it and read the verse inside and the inscription inside and smiled again.' She began to open the card. please stop me Tia!' But Tia didn't. ‘Oh. It said 3. She looked at the picture on the card. After what seemed an age. She gazed at the pendant inside. Then. her touch lingering fractionally on Lynn's sleeve. and. though she could hardly get the words out. and silently accompanied Lynn to the door.' was all she could think of to say. 'Thank you Lynn. as though what Lynn had said was perfectly right and true. What mattered was that Lynn had given it to her. Tia reached out her other arm and lightly touched Lynn's in return. Tia looked up. To her amazement. Otherwise she would spend her life wondering if she might have accepted it and regretting she hadn't dared try.' She had to in first! She suddenly found herself on her feet saying. Tia had not said that she would keep the pendant – or the card – but that was not the issue. Then Lynn looked at the clock.20. Now she waited to see what would happen. brimful of emotion. It was hers to do with as she chose. looking serious.' As Lynn heard herself saying the words. she caught herself pleading inside. What she did with the pendant now was not important. she reached out and lightly touched Tia's arm. scarcely knowing what she was doing. She felt the adrenalin jolt unpleasantly through her body. Lynn turned back to Tia. There was a moment of quiet that seemed to fill the whole room. She had not refused. ‘Thanks again. What mattered was that Lynn had given them to her and she had accepted. stop me. Tia put the card and the box carefully on the desk behind her and turned back to Lynn. She stood up. In her mind she had imagined Tia saying 'Thank you' and putting the card and the box to one side. “Thank you Lynn.' Tia ignored her. It's beautiful.' Lynn knew she meant it. Lynn was satisfied. ‘Time to go. Even if Tia refused it at least she would know. simply couldn't bear it now if Tia said ‘Our time is up. Tia. Finally she looked up at Lynn. Lynn wasn't prepared for that. slowly and thoughtfully she opened the box.Finally she decided 'Yes'. and she smiled. ‘Oh. 251 . don't open it now! Wait till I've gone. That was the most she had dared hope for. Now here was Tia opening the card. She couldn't bear it.
‘I don't hate you . she was part of Tia. The joy was engendered by the simple knowledge that Tia did like her. Did like her. Tia did like her. Out of sight is not out of mind. She put it away from her. but puzzlingly. Into Lynn's happy recollections lanced a shaft of agony. 252 .. She remembered touching Tia's arm. in some tiny way. Pain and joy churned together like the clothes in a washing machine.' Tia touched me. the way she touched her arm. ‘You're welcome. would she have minded if I'd hugged her goodbye? Remembering that touch. * * * Lynn had no thoughts as she walked from the entrance of the psychotherapy unit across the windy courtyard to the main gate. . Tia was always right. Tia's face danced in front of Lynn's mental vision. I won't forget you . . Tia did like her.‘You are most welcome. It simply could not be so.' But then – it would have been nice (she supposed) but did it really matter? Really? She remembered Tia's smile. But they were skewed now. It was for later. only feelings. ‘I could have hugged her goodbye. smiling back determinedly at Tia's chin. Even if they never met again. But it wouldn't stay away. It was enough. Lynn did not bother to work out how she knew this. ‘Grieving will come later' Tia had said. Grieving.' she thought desolately. Lynn thought not. as Tia was part of her. it's beautiful . . ‘I could have hugged her goodbye. . The pain seemed unreal . Could not. This time she did not hear it close until she was halfway down the corridor. and Tia touching her back saying.she almost laughed at the thought that she had seen Tia for the last time.' All the way home. I wish you well. .' ‘Bye. the joy was uppermost.' said Lynn. ‘Goodbye Lynn. her smile as she said 'Out of sight is not out of mind'. but simply replayed parts of the conversation over and over in her head. Thank you. She was home now. In vain she invoked memories. she thought. . . Then she squared her shoulders and walked out of the door.' said Tia. Out of sight is not out of mind. She adjusted her bag more firmly on her shoulder and walked up the stairs to the flat. . We've had a real relationship. She could see Tia was smiling. Tia was right. Tia had said so. Lynn's sore heart was comforted. . Tia.
Lynn reached the doorway. and another voice.' Della was weeping in earnest now.' she croaked. a look of immense relief flooded her face. She looked different. ‘Oh thank you. I came to you. and found their lips colliding. Lynn. As she approached the door. Della's arms tightened around her. and something else . As Della saw his look. It was Della's. You're the only one I can think of. . sounding placating. ‘Sure Dell. . stepped towards her.' before Della was hanging round her neck and burbling. I've left him. . She saw that the door was ajar because of something blocking it. in her efforts to turn her head slightly out of the way. She couldn't make sense of what Della was saying. and before Lynn could stop her. When she saw Lynn. won't you? Just for a little while. Lynn realised that Della was afraid. What could have happened? Burglars? Lynn felt the hairs on her neck prickle and she mounted the remaining steps more quickly. I couldn't take any more. sounding shrill. ? Then Lynn recognised the voice. Lynn saw Mark's face looking amazed.As she rounded the corner. expensive leather suitcase. This had never occurred before. Lynn could smell her perfume.' she said. . haunted eyes. ‘I've left Deryk. Over Della's shoulder. All she could think of was ‘So this is what it's like to be kissed by a woman. Della was standing with her back to the door facing Mark. she could hear voices. urbane and sparkling Della that Lynn knew. It was a large. a woman's. and tried to kiss her again. I've finally left him' in a kind of semi-hysteria. embraced her. and kissed her full on the mouth.aniseed? Automatically she put her arms around Della. This Della was haggard. You'll take me in. thank you!' said Della. Gone was the immaculately coiffed. stepped past the case and into the hallway. ‘Left Deryk?' Lynn echoed. This was what came of being 253 . she swung round. ‘I couldn't take any more. and shaking. Lynn could see that the front door was uncharacteristically open. with smudged make-up and dark. who looked past her towards Lynn as she approached. What the . ‘Lynn! Thank heavens. One of them was Mark's. She was weeping into Lynn's shoulder .
which was to hold Mark. Something about the rigidity of his posture rang alarm bells in her mind. ‘Mark. say something to break the spell. Mark was standing with his back to her. God. with his face set in stone. full and hard. you and Della.' To Della she said gently. and as though their lips were glued together. and. the case by his side on the floor. what a bloody fool! You must have been laughing your heads off. I know. but surely Della didn’t . On the receiving end of Lynn's vice-like grip. It took all her courage to do it. can you take Della's bag into the study? We'll get the futon out. . took the case. Lynn had to do something. His eyes glittered.what a bloody fool. ‘It will just be for a little while. and murmuring. Dell.' made a dash for the study and shut the door behind her. To her consternation. no! Let me explain!' 254 . What to do? In the face of Della's ruination and despair she couldn't abandon her. ‘Mark?' He turned his head to look at her. She reached out and touched his shoulder. warily.' Lynn could feel her knees actually buckling in terror. and I never realised. She struggled to free herself from Della's kiss and pythonesque embrace and after what seemed an eternity. though she had to hold Della's arms down to do it. ‘Won't be a minute. All this time. shoved a box of tissues into her hand. Lynn tentatively relaxed her hold slightly. and meeting no response relaxed it altogether. ‘Mark. Della abandoned her efforts to embrace her and merely stood there weeping.Lynn did it. The only humane thing to do seemed to be to continue to hold her gently and. The problem was that this prevented her doing the one thing she really wanted to do. ‘What fool I’ve been . his face a mask of disbelief. She guided Della to the settee in the lounge. She had to speak to him.left-handed. took it into the study. She put out a hand to grab the side of the desk. She was clearly at the end of her tether. out of the corner of her eye she saw Mark standing like a statue. Moving as one in a dream. . Della was kissing her again. She could never tell which way to turn. My god. she succeeded.' ‘I know.' said Della. Mark reached behind her.
She needs you. through the open doorway. Well. your phone switched off . down the stairs and out into the darkened street. you had me fooled.please . 'At least Gina left me for another man!' 255 .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. then turned and fled. past the open living room door and Della's hunched back.' ‘Please what? It's over.‘Explain what! All that sneaking off. You certainly had me fooled!' This was more terrible than anything Lynn could have imagined. But not fast enough to avoid hearing Mark's parting shot.' A sense of unreality came over Lynn.then that one you said you went to see in Tottenham .your old school friend the church stuff . made worse by the fact that she hadn't even seen it coming. She backed away. ‘Mark . Go back to your lover.
but she could hardly refuse. but not too firm. clearly going though mental lists. very brightly lit room that seemed full of people. Lynn caught a glimpse of a small. checking again the name on the wall with the one the neighbour. 256 . ‘I'm Lynn. doll-like image was so horribly unlike her last memory of Lauren. and then said. She's got family with her. full of life.' By the open entrance to the ward. Mechanically.. Lynn had known only Lauren's first name. automatically glancing round the room. ‘Ah. incongruously. She let go. Hardly knowing what she was saying. Inside there a small figure in a bed.' Lynn was not sure if she wanted to see Lauren like this. he looked at Lynn and gave a small gentle smile. It just couldn't be.' and held out his hand. bright.' He stared at her uncomprehendingly for several moments. grieving soul with a pinny on. whisking by with a tray of dressings and kidney bowls had taken pity on her. On the locker there were three cards. whom she had never met. had given her. ‘Mrs Grainger? In the side ward near the door. He clearly had no idea who she was. a bowl of fruit. It felt dry and firm. Despite the fact that his eyes were full of pain and he appeared as though he hadn't slept for days. she murmured. she shook it. and came out. but the description had been enough. a small. The glimpse of that still. A nurse. Wait – I'll just see. bright. Lynn. She followed him in. surrounded by tubing and wired up to a monitor which she supposed it must be Lauren. He was tall and thin. It couldn't be Lauren there.Chapter 22 Lynn found the ward. that she could hardly see. The bananas clawed their stubby yellow fingers with black nails over some bright orange satsumas and horribly pale-looking Golden Delicious. The nurse spoke briefly to a man by the side of the bed and he looked up. warm. with half-moon glasses. Come in then. This must be Alec. It was very bare. ‘I'm Alec. sterile. A sob caught in her throat. saw Lynn. that it seemed to Lynn there must be some mistake. a plastic hospital jug and beaker and. She hesitated outside it. ‘You've come to see Lauren. intimidating.' he said. elderly. As she opened the door to the side ward.
‘It depends. her cropped head on the pillow. he did not treat the remark with the contempt that it deserved. Instead. with a question in her eyes. Involuntarily. We'll know more if – when – they can do a scan. She turned again to Alec and asked. ‘Will she be all right?' To her amazement. It was pretty obvious Lauren wouldn't be eating any of it. but Lynn hardly noticed them. and held it cares singly. Good of her to come? How could she not? As she registered his gentleness. and she was breathing rhythmically with a very slight snore.The vivid colours of the fruit seemed obscenely incongruous in the grubby sterility of the room. the way her lips were just parted beneath it. the hair damply matted flat against her scalp looking more like a cap than ever. ‘What a lovely man.. Lynn did not know what she was expected to do. even in the midst of his own agony.' As he spoke. as though he could not bear to be not touching her. Lynn turned back to look at Lauren. Lauren looked very peaceful and somehow very young. If Lauren dies. Three spotty tear-stained adolescents glowered at her from the other side of the bed. as though she was asleep. the one without the drip in. The situation seemed unreal. Hardly aware of what she was doing. ‘She collapsed.a blood clot .in the brain. As though registering everything photographically. Her eyes were inexorably drawn to the still figure making a barely discernible mound beneath the white sheet.that Lynn could not bear it. the red marks left by the mask on Lauren's skin.' He smiled at her again. the pallor of her cheeks. We never give up hope. She looked so vulnerable and child-like. aren't you? She spoke of you. idiotically.' This completely took the wind out of Lynn's sails. We'll see. All the lines seemed to have gone from her face. she turned to face Alec. he said consideringly. he picked up Lauren's hand. It depends if . Thank you. and there was the same kindness in his eyes that she had seen in Lauren's.' his voice shook slightly ' if it's stopped bleeding yet. ‘It was good of you to come. she noted the delicate veining on Lauren's eyelids. but her condition isn't stable enough to do a scan yet. his concern for her. They think it was an aneurism . You're a friend of Lauren's. She had an oxygen mask over her mouth and nose. the thought flashed through her mind before she could stop it. I 257 .
‘I . glad of his touch. Lauren had given no sign at all that she had any awareness of Lynn's presence. said. ‘Thank you. The idea was so ludicrous that she had to smile.could divorce Mark and marry Alec. or would have.' She couldn't believe she'd thought it. It felt cool and damp and bird-like. ‘I love you. * * * 258 .' she said. with an old-fashioned courtesy and she shook it. I am evil! Oh God. ‘Thank you for letting me see her. It was time to go. To her surprise. I'm not taking them on too!' flashed up. Alec held out his hand again. leant towards her.' she found herself saying. but the oxygen mask precluded that. Oh God. he was already bending back over the bed. to hold her hand. but he was already holding it.I'll pray for you all. It was over. as Alec was doing. But movement caught her eye and she looked beyond Alec to the unprepossessing youths. as though by doing this she was again touching Lauren by proxy. her voice a whisper. She was so close that she could have brushed her lips against Lauren's cheek. to show she cared. who had so much more right to grieve than she did? It was all too horribly public. She would have loved to stay and gaze at Lauren. suffering children. Wonderingly. He nodded to her without speaking. She put her hand on Lauren's shoulder and squeezed it ever so ever so gently.' she said. Lynn looked back at Lauren. ‘I'll pray for you too. and as she walked away. ‘I'll see you again. she saw Alec's smile broaden.' again to no one in particular. if the situation had not been so awful.' She groped for something to say to show her appreciation. ‘Bye. Lauren. It was generous of you at such a time.' but how could she. and was surprised at the sound of her voice. in the presence of those scowling . She turned to him.' Still not knowing what to do. She'd never said anything like that before. She was intruding.' What she really wanted to say was.. ‘No thanks. as if she'd said something really valuable. hardly knowing what she was saying. ‘Thank you. We'd appreciate it. help me! Nothing happened. Lynn straightened up. and turned to go. God is the bottom line in all this. still sending her hate messages and patently longing for her to go and the thought.
so manipulative! . not her! I messed Mark up. The dull lowering sky mirrored the dull black earth covered with dull brown. It was a voice you didn't mess with. This voice was quiet. such a nice person. ‘Oh God. quiet. screaming to Lauren's God. rigid with shock. ‘But I am not you. her mind wiped empty of all thought. That voice had interrupted her. When she had heard it say But I am not you. except for something deep down that would not be silenced. gentle.’ Lynn sat. . forced him to fit his life round mine – and so secretive. And all the time I was all the things I hate – it was me trying to control the sessions with Tia.Lynn sat in the park by the hospital. But what did it mean . screwed up everything . . . God?' No answer came into her mind. Lynn had listened to many voices in her head. . Lynn shakily began to process what had happened. Now I've screwed up my marriage. sodden miserable leaves. God . and very much in control. God . he had said exactly the right 259 . come from? Hardly knowing what she was doing. . After a couple of seconds of absolute silence.But I am not you? And where did this incredible sense of safety and well-being.what a mess! What a mess! God. something inexplicable happened. unable to stop herself. but she felt a sense of affirmation in the air around her.thinking my need to be needed was a desire to help people. Her heart felt as damp and dull and lifeless as the air around her. While Mark .! Oh my God! Have I ever been real? I thought I was being so honest and I've been living such a lie. it had overlaid the thoughts she was thinking so completely that it finished before she did. She found herself still speaking the last sentence in her head. that was screaming in despair inside her. so caring. In her life. had spoken to her? As she sat there she became aware that if it was God. screwed up my life. oh God. but never to one that had done that. but crystal clear. A voice came into her head like a shaft of light. Lynn spoke aloud. you must hate me! I know I would if I were you!' Even as she was thinking this. . ‘Is that you. unlike anything she had ever experienced in her life before. you must despise me! All the time I thought I was so clever. I am in agony! Oh what a fool I've been! God if you are there.
subsumed in the totality of this now experience. knew her.' The nurse had heard her and said. Lynn didn't know how long she sat there. I am Me. (could she be imagining this?) there was amusement in it too. she could feel it inside. She had tried everything to take her mind of the pain. There was no need to question it. and injected her thigh. meshing with hers. The message implicit was ‘I am not you. when the contractions were coming on top of each other and hurting like hell. Of course he wasn't her. ‘I wish I hadn't made a fuss. ‘Did you think I was like you?' the voice was saying. She pondered this new mystery. ‘Isn't that the truth drug?' The nurse had laughed.' ‘Pethidine?' Lynn had said. contained in the tiny box of your expectations. Somehow these things seemed different. Nothing – no saying of her mother's – had worked. Eventually she stirred and began to think of Mark. perhaps it was. and was holding her right now. of the endings with Tia and Lauren. Perhaps it wasn't long. into Lynn's mind flashed a scene from her miscarriage. he was different. (who had said that?).only much better. She just felt stronger. or actually any less painful. other. simply experiencing it. My tiny little one. 'I can't be pigeon-holed. It was real.thing. ‘I'll give you a shot of Pethidine.this God whom she didn't know. so will you kindly stop trying to behave as if you are?' Lynn sat marvelling at the wonder of it. ‘I don't really know if I can take much more. it was true. Lynn had said to Mark. God had spoken to her . It felt wonderful. Within a few minutes.' But the odd thing was that the pain had still felt as bad. But it wasn't that they were any less important. I can cope with the pain now. 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 way Lauren would have said it . And.. of Della. It was only later that it had dawned on Lynn that it was actually the drug that had effected 260 . and you. This was a bit much even by her standards. the way Lauren had.. are not Me. He was laughing at her. who had been holding her hand.' But so softly. He was God. She had murmured to Mark. They hurt just as much. How could this be? Suddenly. It was the impact of another personality meeting. On the other hand.
She thought. I'll be waiting. It lasted fractionally. She had not met Lauren in the hospital. Despite herself. and. The Pethidine was working. She was no longer knowable because she no longer existed. maybe she had. but Lauren standing by her front door. but now. had already gone. she sensed laughter in the air around her. and reached out in panic to this new awareness within her. Maybe Lauren had caught it from him. and unbidden. but it was unmistakable. but she could cope. all gone! Because Lauren and all that Lauren was. whom she loved so much.’ Lynn whispered. All the things Lauren was going to tell her. ‘God laughs?' and then she remembered that Lauren had laughed a lot. She'd better get herself home before anyone noticed how oddly she was behaving. The 261 . reluctant as she was to think about it. At the memory of Lauren and how she had left her in the hospital.’ It had seemed a strange remark at the time. The leaves around her feet that had seemed so dingy before were still dingy. ‘The next time. Lauren. she felt like laughing herself. doubtfully. the pure joy of simply being with her. though she couldn't think why. * * * Lynn stood up. The pain was just as bad. like a child. all the things they might have shared. how could it. in the hospital bed. but waiting to welcome her in. And that was how it felt now. the image of Lauren at her front door changed to one of Lauren at another door. And just as the worst wave of anguish yet rolled in to engulf Lynn she suddenly had a picture of Lauren in her head. Lynn shivered again. all that Lauren meant. Lynn felt a a bolt of agony lance through her. Aloud she said. not any more. that she felt so approved of. Lauren simply had not been there. ‘Yeah. And how could it be. She knew in her heart that she would never see her again. but what if the Pethidine runs out?' Just for a moment. laughter that combined amusement and authority and tenderness. It was not as she had last seen her. so alive. so valued? But she did. not saying goodbye. It was solidly there. laughing and saying ‘Here's to the next time we meet. Yes. she'd better try to work out what to do when she got there. Suddenly.that change.
a measured. but whom? Oh well. and soon. Lynn's head was buzzing . She heard Debbie's voice. Everything! And she would phone up Relate. Shall I send her up?' 262 . your client has arrived. . 'Lynn. But inside her the sun was shining through. And she would tell him everything.sky was still lowering. Don't take on too much. sod Tia! She’d soon find out! Lynn picked up the phone. there are some big issues to think about here. . but do it she would! As Lynn hesitated. I wonder if it's worth thinking about prioritising?' It was Tia's voice.what was Tia saying? ‘Steady on.’ Was it Tia's voice? Was it too much? Oh. frowning.she was hooked now. wellmodulated voice. . and find someone to talk to about God . find out how to get referred as Tia had suggested. How she was going to do it all she didn't know. she heard a voice in her head . . . Maybe she should go to her doctor. So .and she knew she needed to get going on it right away! There was no time to lose.Mark to listen just one more time. somehow . Actually. the air was still damp. Della would have to go . She would ask – beg . And she would definitely look around for a course in counselling . As she walked home through the park she began to make plans. immediately. ‘Lynn. still smiling. Don't bite off more than you can chew. she’d find someone. . saying.
and at some point the third volume in the series. 263 .Author's note Conversations with Tia was originally conceived as part of a trilogy. Lauren. may appear. Della's Story is a work in progress.
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