The Husbands Secret Page 107

\Again,\ demanded Jacob.

She sang again.

Little Polly Fitzpatrick was waking up this morning with a body that would never be the same because of what Rachel had done. It would seem outrageous to John-Paul and Cecilia. They\d be shocked for months, before they finally learned, as Rachel had, that the unthinkable happened, and the world kept turning, and people still talked at length about the weather, and there were still traffic jams and electricity bills, celebrity scandals and political coups.

At some point, when Polly was home from hospital, Rachel would ask John-Paul to come to her home and describe Janie\s last moments to her. She could see exactly how it would be. His strained, frightened face when she opened her door. She would make her daughter\s murderer a cup of tea, and he would sit at her kitchen table and talk. She wouldn\ grant him absolution, but she\d make him tea. She would never forgive him, but perhaps she would never report him, or ask him to give himself up. After he left, she would sit on her couch and she would rock and keen and howl. One last time. She would never stop crying for Janie, but that would be the last time she would cry like that.

Then she would make a fresh pot of tea and she\d decide. She would make her final decision about what needed to be done, what price needed to be paid, or if in fact, it had already been paid.

\. . . went to bed and bumped his head, and couldn\ get up in the morning.\

Jacob was asleep. She shifted his weight off her and moved him over, so his head was sharing her pillow. On Tuesday she would tell Trudy that she was retiring from St Angela\s. She couldn\ go back to school and risk seeing little Polly Fitzpatrick, or her father. It was impossible. It was time to sell the house, sell the memories, sell the pain.

Her thoughts turned to Connor Whitby. Was there a moment when his eyes met hers as he ran across the road? A moment when he recognised her murderous intent and ran for his life? Or was she imagining it? He was the boy that Janie had chosen over John-Paul Fitzpatrick. You chose the wrong boy, darling. She would have lived if she\d chosen John-Paul.

She wondered if Janie had truly loved Connor. Was Connor the son-in-law Rachel was meant to have in that fantasy parallel life she never got to live? And did Rachel therefore owe it to Janie\s memory to do something nice for Connor? Have him over for dinner? She shuddered at the thought. Absolutely not. She couldn\ turn off her feelings like a tap. She could still see the fury on Connor\s face in that video, and the way Janie had shrunk from him. She knew, intellectually at least, that it was nothing more than an ordinary teenage boy desperate for a straight answer from a teenage girl, but that didn\ mean she forgave him.

She thought of the way Connor had smiled at Janie in the video, before he lost his temper. The genuinely smitten smile. She remembered, too, the photo in Janie\s album, the one where Connor had been laughing so fondly over something Janie had said.

Perhaps one day she\d post Connor Whitby a copy of that photo, with a card. Thought you might like to have this. A subtle apology for the way she\d treated him over the years, and oh yes, a subtle apology for trying to kill him. Let\s not forget that. She grimaced in the darkness, and turned her head and pressed her lips against Jacob\s scalp for comfort.

Tomorrow I\ll go to the post office and pick up a passport application. I\ll visit them in New York. Maybe I\ll even do one of those damned Alaskan cruises. Marla and Mac can come with me. They don\ mind the cold.

Go back to sleep now, Mum, said Janie. For a moment Rachel could see her so clearly. The middle-aged woman she would have become, so sure of herself and her place in the world, bossy and loving, condescending and impatient with her dear old mum, helping her get her first ever passport.

Can\ sleep, said Rachel.

Yes, you can, said Janie.

Rachel slept.

Chapter fifty-six

The official demolition of the Berlin Wall happened as efficiently as its construction. On 22 June 1990, Checkpoint Charlie, the famous symbol of the Cold War, was dismantled in a strangely prosaic ceremony. A giant crane lifted out the famous beige metal shack in one piece, watched by foreign ministers and other dignitaries seated on rows of plastic chairs.

On the same day, in another hemisphere, Cecilia Bell, recently returned from her trip to Europe with her friend Sarah Sacks and in an extreme state of readiness for a boyfriend and a properly structured life, went to a house-warming party in a crowded two-bedroom unit in Lane Cove.

\You probably know John-Paul Fitzpatrick, don\ you Cecilia?\ the party host shouted over the thump of the music.

\Hi,\ said John-Paul. Cecilia took his hand, met his grave eyes, and smiled as though she\d just been granted her freedom.

\Mummy.\

Cecilia woke with a giant gasp as if she\d been drowning. Her mouth felt dry and hollowed out. She must have been asleep with her head tipped back against the chair next to Polly\s bed, her mouth gaping. John-Paul had gone home to be with the girls and get them both some clean clothes. Later on this morning, if Cecilia gave the word, he would bring Isabel and Esther in for a visit.

\Polly,\ she said frantically. She\d been dreaming of the little Spiderman boy. Except in the dream he was Polly.

\Try to watch your body language,\ the social worker had said to her last night. \Children read you much better than you think. Your tone of voice. Your facial expressions. Your gestures.\

Yes, thank you, I know what body language is, Cecilia had thought. The social worker had had her hair pushed back with a pair of oversized sunglasses, as if she was at a beach party not at the hospital at six o\clock at night, talking to parents in the middle of their own worst nightmare. Cecilia couldn\ forgive her for the flippancy of those damned sunglasses.


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