The Husbands Secret Page 105

She stood. She went to the phone and picked it up from the receiver. Her thumb hovered over the keys. A memory came to her of teaching Janie how to call the police if there was an emergency. They\d still had that old green rotary dial phone then. She\d let Janie practise by dialling the numbers, and then she\d hung up before it actually rang. Janie had wanted to act out a whole little performance. She\d made Rob lie on the kitchen floor while she yelled into the phone, \I need an ambulance! My brother isn\ breathing!\ \Stop breathing,\ she\d ordered Rob. \Rob. I can see you breathing.\ Rob had nearly passed out trying to please her.

Little Polly Fitzpatrick wouldn\ have a right hand any more. Was she right-handed? Probably. Most people were right-handed. Janie had been left-handed. One of the nuns had tried to make her write with her right hand and Ed had gone up to the school and said, \Sister, with all due respect, who do you think made her left-handed? God did! So let\s leave her that way.\

Rachel pressed a key.

\Hello?\ The phone was answered much quicker than she expected.

\Lauren,\ said Rachel.

\Rachel. Rob\s just coming out of the shower,\ said Lauren. \Is everything all right?\

\I know it\s late,\ said Rachel. She hadn\ even looked at the time. \And I know I shouldn\ impose like this, after all the time you spent with me yesterday, but I wondered if I could come over and stay the night there? Just this once. For some reason, I don\ know why, but I just find myself unable to -\

\Of course you can,\ said Lauren, and suddenly she shrieked, \Rob!\ Rachel heard the deep rumble of Rob\s voice in the background. She heard Lauren say, \Go and pick up your mother.\

Poor dear Rob. Under the thumb, Ed would have said.

\No, no,\ said Rachel. \He\s only just got out of the shower. I\ll drive myself.\

\Absolutely not,\ said Lauren. \He\s on his way. He wasn\ doing anything! I\ll make up the sofa bed. It\s surprisingly comfy! Jacob will be so happy to see you tomorrow morning. I can\ wait to see his face.\

\Thank you,\ said Rachel. She felt all at once warm and sleepy, as if someone had placed a blanket over her.

\Lauren?\ she said, before she hung up. \You don\ have any more of those macarons, do you? Like the ones you bought for me on Monday night? They were divine. Absolutely divine.\

There was the briefest of pauses. \Actually I do.\ There was a quiver in Lauren\s voice. \We can have some with a cup of tea.\

easter sunday

Chapter fifty-four

Tess woke to the sound of heavy rain. It was still dark, about five am she guessed. Will lay on his side next to her, facing the wall and snoring gently. The shape and smell and feel of him were so ordinary and familiar;the events of the past week seemed inconceivable.

She could have made Will sleep on her mother\s couch, but then she would have had to deal with Liam\s questions. He was already far too aware that things were not quite normal;at the dinner table last night she\d noticed his eyes darting constantly back and forth between herself and Will, monitoring their conversation. His wary little face broke her heart, and made her so furious with Will she could barely look at him.

She shifted slightly away from Will\s body, so that they weren\ touching. It was handy that she had her own Guilty secret. It helped bring her breathing back to normal during those sudden bursts of rage. He\d wronged her. She\d wronged him right back.

Had they both been suffering a form of temporary insanity? It was a defence for murder, after all;why not for married couples? Marriage was a form of insanity;love hovering permanently on the edge of aggravation.

Connor would be asleep now, in his neat flat smelling of garlic and laundry powder, already beginning the process of moving on and forgetting her for the second time. Was he kicking himself for falling for that no-good, cold-hearted woman yet again? Why was she making herself sound like a woman in a country and western song? To soften it, presumably;to make her behaviour seem tender and melancholy, not slutty. She had a feeling that Connor liked country music, but she might have been making it up, confusing him with another ex-boyfriend. She didn\ really know him.

Will couldn\ stand country music.

That was why the se* had been so good with Connor, because they were essentially strangers. It was his \otherness\. It made everything - their bodies, their personalities, their feelings - seem more sharply defined. It wasn\ logical, but the better you knew someone, the more blurry they became. The accumulation of facts made them disappear. It was more interesting wondering if someone did or didn\ like country music than knowing one way or the other.

She and Will must have made love, what, a thousand times? At least. She started to calculate it, but she was too tired. The rain got harder, as if someone had turned up the volume. Liam would have to do his Easter egg hunt with an umbrella and gumboots. It must have rained on Easter Sunday before in her lifetime, but all her memories were sun-dappled and blue-skied, as if this was the first sad, rainy Easter Sunday of her life.

Liam wouldn\ care about the rain. He\d probably love it. She and Will would look at each other and laugh, and then they\d look away again, fast, and they\d both be thinking about Felicity and how strange it was without her. Could they do this? Could they make it work, on behalf of one beautiful little six-year-old boy?

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