The Husbands Secret Page 108

Of course, wouldn\ you know it, Good Friday was the worst time for your child to suffer a traumatic injury. A lot of the regular staff were off for the Easter break, so it would be a few days before Cecilia met all the members of Polly\s \ ehabilitation team\, including a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a psychologist and a prosthesis specialist. It was both comforting and horrifying to know that there were procedures in place for this, with information packs and \ op tips\, and that they would be travelling a path already trodden by so many other parents. Each time someone talked with matter-of-fact authority to Cecilia about what lay ahead, there would be a moment where she lost the thread of what they were saying, because she would suddenly feel immobilised by shock. No one at the hospital was sufficiently surprised by what had happened to Polly. None of the nurses or doctors clutched Cecilia\s arm and said, \My God, I can\ believe it. I just can\ believe it.\ It would be disconcerting if they did, but it was also somehow disconcerting that they didn\ .

That\s why it was comforting to listen to the dozens of messages on her mobile phone from her family and friends;to hear her sister Bridget practically incoherent with shock;to hear the normally unflappable Mahalia\s voice breaking;to hear the school principal, dear Trudy Applebee, burst into tears, apologise, and then call back and do it again. (Her mother had said no fewer than fourteen casseroles had already been delivered by school mums. All those casseroles she\d made over the years finally coming home to roost.)

\Mummy,\ muttered Polly again, but her eyes were shut. She seemed to be talking in her sleep. She shuddered, and her head moved from side to side agitatedly, as if in pain or fear. Cecilia\s hand hovered over the call button for the nurse, but then Polly\s face calmed.

Cecilia breathed out. She hadn\ realised she was holding her breath. This kept happening too. She had to remember to breathe.

She sat back in the chair and wondered how John-Paul was doing with the girls, and without warning she was racked with a violent spasm of hatred like nothing she\d ever felt in her life. She hated him for what he\d done to Janie Crowley all those years ago. He was responsible for Rachel Crowley\s foot on the accelerator. The hatred spread throughout her body like fast-acting poison. She wanted to kick him, to punch him, to kill him. Dear God. She couldn\ bear to be in the same room as him. She breathed shallowly and looked around her desperately for something to break or hit. Now is not the time, she told herself. This will not help Polly.

He blamed himself, she reminded herself. The thought of his suffering gave her some relief. The hatred gradually eased to a manageable level. She knew that it would come again, that as Polly suffered through each new stage, Cecilia would look for someone other than herself to blame. That was the root of the hatred: the knowledge of her own responsibility. Her decision to sacrifice Rachel Crowley for her family had led to this moment in this hospital room.

She knew that her marriage was damaged at its very core, but she knew also that they would keep limping along together like wounded soldiers, for Polly\s sake. She\d learn how to live with the waves of hatred. It would be her secret. Her loathsome secret.

And once the waves passed, there would still be love. It was an entirely different feeling from the uncomplicated, unstinting adoration she\d felt as a young bride, walking down the aisle to that serious, handsome man;but, she knew, that no matter how much she hated him for what he\d done, she would always still love him. It was still there, like a deep seam of gold in her heart. It would always be there.

Think about something else. She pulled out her iPhone and began making a list. Today\s Easter Sunday lunch had been cancelled, but Polly\s seventh birthday party would go ahead. Could they have a pirate party in the hospital? Certainly they could. It would be the most wonderful, magical party ever. She\d make the nurses wear eye patches.

\Mum?\ Polly opened her eyes.

\Hello Princess Polly,\ said Cecilia. This time she was ready, like an actress about to sweep onto a stage. \Guess who dropped off something for you last night?\ She produced an Easter egg from under Polly\s pillow. It was wrapped in shimmering gold, with a red velvet ribbon tied around the middle.

Polly smiled. \The Easter Bunny?\

\Even better. Mr Whitby.\

Polly went to hold out her hand for the egg and an expression of mild bemusement crossed her beautiful face. She frowned at her mother and waited for her to fix things.

Cecilia cleared her throat, smiled and took Polly\s left hand firmly in her own.

\Darling,\ she said.

So it began.

Epilogue

There are so many secrets about our lives we\ll never know.

Rachel Crowley will never know that her husband wasn\ , as he said, seeing clients in Adelaide the day that Janie was killed. He was on a tennis court, taking part in an intensive tennis workshop he hoped would teach him how to break bloody Toby Murphy\s serve. Ed hadn\ told Rachel beforehand because he was embarrassed by his motivations (he\d seen the way Toby looked at his wife, and the way Rachel looked back) and he never told her afterwards, because he was deeply ashamed, and blamed himself, however illogically, for not being there for Janie. He never picked up his racquet again, and took his silly secret to his death.

Speaking of tennis, Polly Fitzpatrick will never know that if she hadn\ ridden her bike in front of Rachel Crowley\s car that day, she would have received a tennis racquet for her seventh birthday from her Auntie Bridget. Two weeks later she would have turned up for her first tennis lesson, where after twenty minutes her coach would have gone over to his boss on the next court and said quietly, \Come and see this kid\s forehand,\ and the swing of her racquet would have changed her future as swiftly as it changed when she swung the handlebars of her bike to follow Mr Whitby.


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