Conversations with Tia

A novel by Louise Vanstone

The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates

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For Sue, of course. Who else?

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

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Prologue

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

Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

it's in the bag! Have a good day. I'm doing my presentation this morning. His dark. but he'd see it in the mirror in the hall . served a simple but elegant meal (Marks was pricy. Dear. 'I . 'Oh Mark! Sorry! Sorry! I . and he worked so hard! What had she done to deserve him? Apart from the necessary phone call to Brian she spent most of the day in bed. She pressed a lager into his hand as soon as he'd dumped his briefcase. See you tonight.' He looked puzzled for a moment and then light dawned.' Oh dear god.you knew what you were getting) and plied him with gentle questions at discreet intervals. He'd been working on this for days. what a cow she was! Of course. . . 'Completely forgot'. and rubbed his hand back over the crown of his head. Or someone would tell him at work. she hoped. . Lynn lay alternately cursing her throbbing head and her own cowishness.' 'Yes . Lynn was ready. It made no difference that Lynn was aware of. 'Got to dash. His face cleared. . your hair. it was the presentation today! What time had he come to bed last night? She hadn't even heard him come in. By late afternoon Lynn was surfacing and an hour's manic rushing around meant that when Mark returned that evening. After he'd kissed her and left.like Volkswagons . good Mark! He asked for so little. bony face was anxious as he tenderly placed it on the bedside cabinet. He laughed. if not weeks. 30 .Chapter 3 Lynn surfaced next morning with what felt like a king-sized hangover to find Mark hovering over her with a cup of tea. . . His hair was slightly sticking up. 'No sweat. I hope it goes well!' There was no mistaking her sincerity. and oh Mark . A wave of remorse swept over her as she noted the shadows under his eyes.' she couldn't bring herself to say the words.oh. but so reliably good .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 4

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

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

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

42

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

43

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

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

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

45

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. but she didn’t.' she continued. but the lad's blond profile was clearly visible as he talked animatedly non-stop.' said Della.' observed Lynn. She waited resignedly for Della to move in for the kill again. but she had to stop Della somehow. They're besotted with each other!' Lynn looked. delicately picking a dangling sliver of roast red pepper from her sandwich and deftly eating it.' she said.' said Lynn briefly. She didn't want to talk about the couple.' she said at last. If you didn't stop her she could just attach it to the nearest thing and then swing effortlessly off from branch to Over the rattle of 120 .' ‘Precisely. ‘I thought clothes were meant to reflect your personality. coffee cups and buzz of conversation she caught the word ‘Bunnykins. .' ‘Yes. ‘Fascinating! Look at them leaning forwards across the table and mirroring each other's gestures. The author said . The girl's long hair hung like a curtain. not a whit abashed.' Did you see it? I was riveted. She had a gentle face. Once Della got started.' said Della triumphantly. before she could stop herself.and grey . ‘I read this fascinating article in the New Scientist a while ago entitled ‘Slugs Clean my House.' ‘In a caring way. in fact they can even . . ‘They're laughing a lot. ‘And that couple over there. as she caught Lynn's look. Deryk calls me a slug sometimes. ‘Did you know that slugs and octopi are sort of cousins? But that octopi are much more intelligent. It was true. . Della had such a . meanwhile. she was capable of carrying on for hours. ‘As a term of endearment it expresses a certain . lack of imagination . obscuring her face. . Lynn felt caught out and rather ashamed. could she? Della. The woman felt Lynn’s gaze. . had moved on. .it was not a good combination.' ‘Bunnykins!' Lynn repeated.prehensile mind. There was no way she could have overheard . ‘I teach biology. ‘Don't knock it. almost against her will.' ‘No offence. but we've all got our ways of communicating affection. of course' she added.what was the word? .' A lull in the background buzz coincided with the laughter of the couple near them. ‘Dressed by a committee. . darling. looked up and smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chapter 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. He continued on another tack. Your sermon. Lynn felt somewhat wrong-footed by this. Lynn took hers. the way I see it. you wouldn't have got this if I'd been doing it. ‘I hate cool coffee. if you know where to look. I seem to remember . Of course.' Lynn looked up just in time to see Alison poke her tongue out at him. as though he had been going to say something and then changed his mind. things behave reliably and you can test hypotheses. just now. there's a lot of truth in this old world of ours. ." What did you mean?' ‘What did I mean?’ Now it was David’s turn to think. She declined a biscuit and sat there feeling the odd sort of contentment that one sometimes gets with hands cupped round a hot drink. You said . though obscurely pleased that Alison had forgotten the mugs. before she laughed and said.what were you going to say?' ‘When? Oh. ‘I knew there was a reason why everything fitted on!' She went out and came back a few moments later with two mugs which she had clearly warmed. .' He stopped. There's . it's not quite so straightforward as that .' ‘Hang on a minute . ‘Let's have the coffee now.‘Well.' Lynn closed her eyes the better to recollect. "The greatest enemy of truth is not lies. added cream . He pushed the plunger down.Yes. it's the truth we already know. when you get down to the heart of it. ‘And that's not the only kind of truth there is. poured and handed her a mug. but I can't help thinking that a couple of cups would help. It smelt wonderfully aromatic and it was very hot.how nice! and sipped it. ‘Well. where according to known laws. shall we?' said David. thought. about truth. . ‘ . and was gone again before Lynn could think what to say. The rest felt very alien. . Well. sitting there benignly in his shirtsleeves.you said. don't you. There's scientific truth. you were talking . I was going to talk about the fact that when you really look at the heart of things then it's not so easy to define 160 . about things not being straightforward. the gas fire and the picture were the only things of comfort in the room. He took his time. .' she said. That. She looked at David. ‘I'm having coffee with the vicar!' and stifled an insane urge to laugh. ‘You were saying?' ‘ .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

228 .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

*

*

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

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

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

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

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

Lynn chewed her lip. 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. and I was pleased to see her too. Tia.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. She signed the letter simply. That way she would be able to cope. The letter appeared to have been written a bit childishly too. so unless you hear anything from me to the contrary. She seemed a very stupid little girl. 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. and a sort of monster person ihad come n her place. That little girl. it was all over now. ‘Lynn'. I'll see you next week as you said I could. That’s how it seemed to me then. but that couldn't be helped. though Lynn wasn't sure why she thought this. Only a few more days and then . had gone. Right now she needed to lie down. She couldn't help feeling sorry for the little girl in the story. 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. She reread the final paragraph.recognise her at first. but she was very loving and so pleased to see me. Lynn couldn't help feeling glad. Lynn sighed as she read this. She folded the letter and put it in an envelope. Anyway. and I think I would like to see you sooner rather than later. But it was funny because I couldn't forget that somehow I had made her go away. 243 . debated on scrawling ‘Thanks for everything' or ‘I really appreciate all you've done' and decided to save it for a farewell card. though actually she wasn't sure if she liked her either. anyway. 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.no more. Anyway. you'll appreciate I feel a bit weird remembering all this. whoever she was. She would go out for a walk and post it later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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