Cross Hatch

Cross Hatch Cross Hatch

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Summary

How two lives become entangled and the imapct of both their past lives upon each other.

Summary

How two lives become entangled and the imapct of both their past lives upon each other.

Content

Submitted: October 22, 2012

A A A | A A A

Content

Submitted: October 22, 2012

A A A

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The cord from the blind tapped rhythmically against the window sill. The morning breeze breathed the blind back and forth against the half-open window. The gentle tapping entered her brain; waking her with a slow, momentary puzzlement.

 

Yes, yes and yes again.

 

Yes - she was with him.

Yes - she had vowed that after today she wouldn’t let herself be here again.

Yes - she had to let him go.

(It was obvious that the self-righteous half of her conscience was awake first.)

Oh God what a mess it all was. What was she going to do?

 

She slid from the bed and went to the shower.

Why was the shower in books and films always warm and refreshing?

She felt cold and numb.

 

It was her mess.

It always was.

Last night she hadn’t quite realised just how much of a mess this would turn out to be.

If you’re going to cock up your life, then do it on a monumental scale.

Be bold. Make your mark.

Boy was she certainly going to do that.

 

 

 

Chapter one 

 

As her mother fussed, preened and vied for space at the mirror, Joanne regarded her reflection. The face was right – (apart from the overly made up eyes), but the body below it resembled someone else. Someone radiant - someone about to embark on the most exciting journey of their lives. (Apparently)

Right now that someone was not her.

Not the best of starts for a bride to be one would say.

 

Too late to go back now.

How on earth had she let herself get this far?

Too late to say “I’m sorry I’ve got something better to do today.”  

She had just better get on with it.

After all, her mother had spent a lot of energy in choosing the place cards and who was she to deny her what had become the greatest social event of her life?  

Sad really.

And that’s just how she felt now.

Sad and indifferent. How on earth did she get herself here?

 

The journey to the church was uneventful. ‘Wonderfully clear’ her father had said. No helpful catastrophe to stall her path. No message from Him saying that he hoped she wouldn’t be too upset but could he play golf instead – they could marry another time.

Oh well.

 

“I’m the luckiest man on earth Joanne.”  

That was what her brand new husband of at least one minute and twenty- eight seconds had whispered in her ear after the vicar had said he could kiss his new wife.

“Thank you” 

 

Confetti, cake, champagne, photos, good luck kisses. Mother’s tears, father’s prolonged hugs.

You’re on your own now kid  her dad had said - (except you’re not are you?) 

Oh well, at least he’s happy- one out of two’s not bad.

 

 

“So what exactly did you say your husband did?” Julie, the boss’s PA asked me over coffee one afternoon.

“He’s in computers for ADS Technology.”

“Doing what exactly?”

“To be honest he doesn’t talk about it very much, except to complain how boring it is, so I don’t know why he stays”

“What - you mean like our jobs?”

“Exactly like our jobs!”

Julie poured herself a second cup from the machine, and then looked at me.

 “What would do you think he could do instead then?”

 

What a question! He’d most likely go off and play golf in the sun – but he’s hardly a pro so that wouldn’t bring in much income now would it?

“I don’t know? I don’t think that it’s ever really come into the equation.”

“OK” she said; “what would you do? Say you could have any job in the world what would it be? - I know what I’d do”

Joanne thought for a while. Any job? Nurse, teacher, PA to Tom Cruise? No, on second thoughts, his dresser!

“Well?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well I do.”

Somehow Joanne didn’t hear quite what Julie was saying – her mind had begun to wander about the unlikely possibility of changing jobs or more truthfully, being dropped a dream job from out of the sky. (If only she could think what that might be)

“Don’t you think?” Julie had finished and was waiting for a response.

“You’d be great.” Joanne replied hopefully.

Julie seemed most happy with the reply – Joanne wondered now what she really had said.

 

 

 

For a good portion of the afternoon, Joanne’s mind was not on her job. It was Julie’s throwaway remark about what might be that had unearthed the long suppressed unhappiness she had felt in her life. Chris was a loving husband but so ordinary. She tried to defend him by saying that perhaps she wasn’t exactly riveting herself, but how she wished she’d been whisked away on that fateful day and never married. It was a really hard thing to finally admit to herself. Once again she was sad and indifferent. But this time more indifferent. But life goes on. Put up and shut up.

“We women make sacrifices in life Joanne” her mother had said.

Well I’m not martyr material thought Joanne. But I don’t know if I have the courage to escape, or even if I should. She wondered how many more people were trapped in marriages that were unfulfilling but essentially liveable.

 No, he doesn’t really talk about his job does he? Joanne thought to herself. “I’m in computers” he says. (Well that covers a multitude of sins). Sell them? Make them? Design them? Clean them? Who knows? She certainly didn’t.

‘I’ll ask him tonight’ she thought. ‘Perhaps I don’t show enough interest and this could be something to liven things up?’ (Although she was sceptical about just how lively computers could be)

 

Chris rang her later in the day as he always did and they had the usual ‘what shall we have for dinner - I’ll be home at this time - and have a safe journey’ conversation.

 

Only he didn’t get home.

She was a widow at 21.

 

 

 

Once again her mother fussed and preened and vied for space in the mirror. Once again Joanne regarded her reflection in the mirror. Only this time she did recognise herself. She was still sad and still indifferent. His unexpected death had brought nothing but emptiness. Why could she not feel wretched? Where was the agonising grief? Strange.

 

The staff at ADS Technology were present in force at the funeral. Funny really that most were women. They all came up and hugged Joanne as if they were old friends of hers – but they were obviously his friends and good ones at that. One in particular was almost distraught. It was pitiful to see how bitterly she wept.

“Is she alright?” Joanne asked the girl who was trying to support the weeping one.

“She’s taken it really hard – truth is she thinks that it’s her fault that Chris is dead.”

“How?”

“Well, they shared the same project and she wanted some lunch and he offered to get it -  that’s when he was killed.”

 

How innocent could going out to get the lunch be? Thousands of work colleagues run errands for each other – ‘I’m off to the sandwich bar – anyone hungry?’ is the cry going up all over the land. How could it be one particular sandwich that killed him? A homicidal baguette perhaps?

 

Joanne approached the weeping one and took her hands. She looked straight into her face and told her not to blame herself - accidents happen. Life has funny ways, she said.

 

Oh how funny can it get?

 

Poor Chris – first boring, then predictable and now dead. Still, he would be so glad that his practical financial plans would come to fruition so soon to support her through widowhood. She felt so ashamed for not minding. Life could really begin now.

 

 

Joanne took the opportunity to leave her job without another one to go to. Chris would have been appalled – how risky- but that’s what she needed now, at bit of risk.

She kept in touch with Julie who told her that she had found out that the weeping one was probably over-wrought at the funeral because she was pregnant. She’d let her know what she had – if she was interested.

Joanne wasn’t.

 

 

 

 

Being 40-something

 

Whether or not the following years of widowhood could be described as fruitful, Joanne didn’t know, but they were certainly fun. She had many relationships that she nearly always ended because she liked her own space and the idea of fucking someone’s brains out was far more appealing than doing their washing or being polite to their relatives. So whenever it got to the domestic stage, she let them down gently and moved on. Julie, however, had by now, produced three fat happy children and repeated ad nausea how she – Joanne - should settle down and experience childbirth (with all it’s full on horrors) before she was too old.  Joanne acknowledged that she was by now far too old at 46 to start a family even if she wanted to (which she didn’t).

 

There was someone at the place where she had started working the summer before, who had begun to be a constant thought at the back of her mind.  He was young (dangerously young one might say), tactile and great fun. If I was eighteen or nineteen years younger she thought – or maybe he could appreciate the talents and experience of an older woman? But she dismissed it all as just fantasy.

 

It was the text messages that confirmed how he felt about her. They had got on like the proverbial blazing dwelling from the moment they had met and had begun a little light-hearted flirting but nothing serious -  anyway how could there be? At 46, she was still a very attractive, shapely woman - her friends said that she would be a good catch for the right man! He, however, was, almost nineteen years her junior. Enough said she thought. He was certainly attractive, tactile and an outrageous flirt with everyone regardless of age or sex! She never imagined for one moment that he could be serious about this flirting lark.

 

They exchanged texts on a Friday night that began innocently enough. She had not managed to catch up with him at work about some account details that she had taken home to work on.  He returned one that took her by surprise. She sat with the phone in her hands staring at the words. Adrenaline pumping through her body – the sad indifference that she had felt for so long was hiding somewhere now – hiding somewhere safe – running for cover to avoid the storm of emotions that would undoubtedly be brewing.

 

Monday was a long time coming. She did have to tackle him without sounding too keen. Keep it cool she told herself – be non-committal. She couldn’t be – she came straight out with it.

 

“You certainly laid your cards on the table on Friday didn’t you?”

He stopped what he was doing and gave her a long look. He then turned away and continued working but said “had to be done Jo– we’ve pussy-footed around a bit too much don’t you think?”

 

It was like a smack in the face. This usual joker now so matter of fact, so calm and so focussed – and focussed on her.

Please God don’t let me blush. I’m a grown woman I can cope with this. Men say things like this everyday to me…………not.

 

She didn’t know what to think.

Is he having fun at my expense? Am I going to be some sad woman that they all laughed about behind her back?

‘She really thought he meant it you know – thought he really wanted to sleep with her! She fell for it!’

 Was he having a bet with someone? ‘I can get her in to bed-  £50 says I can……..’

 

“I’m sorry but you can’t really mean it” she laughed “you’re just a big flirt and you know it and besides technically I’m old enough to be your mother.” She walked away with a grin.

Let him come and tell me he’s really serious.

 

The text that came later was short and to the point. ‘Mean it – want you – I think you want me too - or are you the flirt now? D x’

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

It was at the staff team-building weekend that their brewing chemistry exploded into life. On the first evening, she would confront him. If anything was going to happen, it should be now with private rooms and private corners. Would he still want her? Was it still all a bluff? She somehow summoned her courage and invited him to her room. They waited until everyone had gone to bed, or small groups had fallen drunkenly into other rooms to continue their own parties. He crept across the landing, shoes in hand and tapped on her door. She let him in he had the biggest grin on his face. He threw his shoes on the other single bed. Joanne went and sat cross-legged on her pillows, leaning against the wall. She didn’t know what he would do next and she didn’t want to appear too pushy. He sat in front of her.

‘Alright?’ he asked and without waiting for a reply, leant forward and took her into his arms. He began to kiss her. He was slow and gentle, as if he didn’t want to touch her for fear of breaking her. They lay down. He was breathing heavily and she could feel his heart – it was racing and pounding so hard that she remarked on it.

“Your heart is trying to escape through your chest it’s pounding so hard.”

“Sorry - I’m nervous and you do turn me on so much.” He said it with such honesty and such an innocent simplicity that Joanne was really relieved – well that makes two of us then she thought.

 

They kissed and held each other – each not wanting to make the first move that might spoil things but yet each desperate to begin. He ran his trembling hands over her back and bottom and she used that as her cue to do the same. She twisted around to be on top of him – she felt he needed be taken in hand (literally) and gently caressed his erection through his trousers but this proved too much for him.  As he ventured to lift her t-shirt from over her head he suddenly stopped and tried to sit up.

“I’m sorry – I can’t - it’s too late – I’ve –“ he laughed nervously.

She knew – he had already come. Joanne was amazed. How could she have evoked such a reaction in him at her age? The very fact that he was there made it obvious that he found her attractive – but for him to be so out of control was unlike him. Always the one to show such an unruffled side at work – so ‘man about town’ so ‘love them and leave them’ - so together.

Now so very much undone.

 

“You have nothing to be sorry for. It’s OK”

He laid back on the bed and put hands over his face and laughed “I feel really embarrassed and stupid.”

He was now suddenly so child-like and vulnerable.  Joanne was acutely aware of just how he must now be feeling. Hideously embarrassed, confused and feeling totally inadequate. But she didn’t think of it that way at all. Joanne only wanted to take all that away from him. She wanted to immerse him in herself and wash any pain away. Almost motherly she thought. She knew that nothing she could say or do would help him right now.

“Don’t be – please. You have nothing to be upset about”

He continued to profess his embarrassment. She tried to placate him – she kissed him long and hard and held him in her arms and gratefully he nestled into them.

“This isn’t quite how I wanted it to be” He was more jovial now.

“I suppose you’re going to tell me that this has never happened to you before!” They both laughed – the moment was broken.

“There’s always tomorrow night” she quipped – but she meant it. She couldn’t let it end like this. There had to be a re-match.

 

The next morning when she came down and joined his group at the breakfast table, it was as if nothing had happened – she wanted to say so much but had no opportunity and he did not seem to want to speak about or acknowledge what had happened, apart from giving her a long look with a big smile. Granted, it wasn’t the sort of conversation that they could have had over the breakfast table – “could you pass the toast please and so sorry about my ejaculation problem last night.” No, it’s not that he was off with her; it was really as if it had never happened!

 

After breakfast, he caught up with her.  

“I think your room is too risky.”

That’s it - she thought, he doesn’t want to come near me again.

“Was it that bad?”

“No, nothing like that!” He walked away smiling – “See you later, I’ll leave my door open!” He quipped.

 

The rest of the day was taken up with team presentations, briefings and problem solving activities. Joanne couldn’t focus – after all didn’t she now have a big problem of her own? Could the team please solve that one?

 

After a few drinks in the bar that night, she took a glass of wine up to her room.

The text read ‘Is your bed bigger than mine?…….x’

She took a deep breath and pressed the send button.  She then crept up to his room where she knew he wasn’t – he was still drinking downstairs with his friend and he’d said the door would be open. Joanne was amazed at her own self-confidence – how pushy was this?

 

True to his word, his door was open. She turned the handle and crept in. The room was filled with the smell of him. Sweet, masculine and clean. A smell she had remembered from the night before when his skin was so close to hers. She walked across the room to the window. His room layout was identical to hers, but a double, so she knew that there was a small window seat on which she now sat. She had pulled the curtains open wide to afford some light into the room. There was no lamp and the main light was too bright, too stark and not very kind. She sipped her wine. This time it was her heart trying to escape and it had already reached her throat! The moon was bright and the stream below gurgled contentedly. A calm, serene moment - the complete opposite to how she was feeling inside. She heard him outside the door – he came into the room and called her name. He turned on the light. She winced.

“I knew you were here, I could smell you.”

“That bad am I?”

 

He didn’t answer but led her to his bed. They climbed under the duvet each still with clothes on. He took off his shirt, but stayed in jeans with boxers which were just visible above his waistband. He lay on his back and she began to kiss him. Slowly she began to move down his body – first kissing his neck and then his chest. She moved back up to kiss him full on the mouth as she ran her hands to his waistband. Moving herself down his body, she unbuttoned his trousers and took them off and lowered his boxers. His very full and large erection sprang out at her and she immediately stroked the length of it before licking and kissing it and then taking him full into her mouth. He tasted so sweet.

 

“Oh God” he sighed and arched his back upwards as if to push himself further into her mouth. Not wanting a repeat of the previous night’s problem, she stopped and moved back up to him and pulled him on top of her. They began to remove her clothes together. She felt acutely aware that he would have been used to firm-bodied twenty-some things and hers although slim, was now softer and her breasts were fuller – would that make a difference to him? Would she be a turn-off?

“Lets get rid of this” he said as he pulled off her t-shirt with one hand and reached up and turned off the light with the other. They were plunged into the half-light from the open curtains. She wondered if he had read her mind and was touched by his thoughtfulness.

 

He was now top of her and ran his hands down to her knickers. She began to remove them but he finished the job somehow managing to position himself between her legs, pushing away his clothes from his feet and when she looked down she saw him discarding her underwear before she even knew it was fully off! She was amazed at how gentle he was and so deft! He’d been a quick learner in his young life obviously!

The moment he entered her she knew that it would be her who would be the first to come. All that pent up flirting and chemistry came to a head – literally.

“Oh Dan I’m coming” she breathed. Corny, but right at that moment she could think of nothing more original to say. Within seconds of her orgasm, he came too. Collapsing into her arms. Yet again he was apologising.

“I’m no good in that position – I last much longer when I’m underneath.”

“You should have asked – I’ll know another time “

They snuggled down and laying together for a while without saying anything.

 

As they lay together, feeling remarkably comfortable in each other’s arms and comfortable at the silence between them, Joanne began to feel his breathing change – she too was dangerously relaxed and knew he was falling asleep.

“Dan I’d better go.”

 

“Yes – it would be P45 time if we were found here – you are senior to me after all”

“Perks of the job young man!”

They then spent an amusing few moments searching for clothes and underwear. With other men that part had been awkward and had signalled the beginning of the end. Joanne did not feel embarrassed or awkward though; it felt comfortable as if they had known each other for years – an old married couple feel.

“Got everything?”

“Thanks- goodnight” He kissed her gently and she shut the door behind her and crept down to her room.  Joanne curled up in bed and felt so self-satisfied. Why did she feel different about Dan? Maybe it was because he had been quite a challenge being so much younger than her. Boy had he been an ego boost! Still, one thing was for sure, those sessions in the gym had paid off! Perhaps she should renew her membership after all!

 

 

They met together once more before the end of the course. This time it was more passionate and certainly more fulfilling for both of them. In her room, they again lay on her bed, but two in a single bed is always a feat of ingenuity and he said “let’s go on the floor.”

He had laid the duvet on the floor and lay himself down upon it, his hands behind his head. She didn’t quite realise just how they had undressed so quickly, but before she knew where she was, she was laying on top of him..

 

“Hang on a minute.” Joanne took the pillow from the bed and placed it under his head. He grinned - “You think of everything don’t you!”

She kissed him and lowered herself down onto his full and firm erection. She paused for a moment and sighed deeply. She threw back her head then looked down at him. His eyes were closed and his head was back. She began to move up and down slowly and increase speed as she felt him move into her rhythm. He held her around the waist and beads of sweat formed on both of them. Again he threw his head back and the look on his face was something that she would never forget. She was acutely aware of how aroused she was and of how near he was to orgasm. She was also acutely aware of the fact that the duvet had now moved and she was, she knew, wearing away the skin on her knee – it felt hot and sore but she didn’t care – she cried out to him that she was coming and shortly after he took both of her hands in his and let himself go inside her.

 

The following day, she wrote him a note to say what was in her head. This was not her style but she was buzzing. She couldn’t speak to him – circumstances were in their way so she let her feelings flow.

 

I am amazed that you could find this, older woman, attractive enough for you to have come back for more but I’m glad you did.

After today we will go back to our lives and if we don’t ever come together again (no pun intended) this has been a wonderful time. You will make some lucky young lady very happy one day. You are thoughtful, funny, clever and amazingly sexy and I will not breathe a word of this as you and I have so much to loose. You will remain a real friend. Joanne x

 

However, it didn’t quite work out like that. The note gave the impression of a woman who was so in control but inside she was a wreck. She had not realised just how hard she had fallen for him and just what the consequences would be for them both. She didn’t think she was in love with him but was so attracted to him – not just sexually but as a person and wanted to spend more time with him but that was out of the question.

 

This has to stop.

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

On their return to work, Joanne was asked to take over the running of one of the major projects that the company were involved with and whilst looking forward to the challenge, it meant working away from the department where Dan was. Unless she could make up a lot of good excuses, she wouldn’t be around him much. Don’t be so silly and childish she told herself. He won’t be missing you. You might have been a good fuck when he needed it but that’s all it can ever be.

 

The monthly memo from the Managing director always had a phrase or buzzword. Phrases like ‘Truth’, ‘Loyalty’, ‘Caring for Others’. No-one really knew what it was all about but displayed the posters diligently. Was it for motivation? Inspiration? Who cared? This month it was ‘Self Discipline’

Oops. A bit late for that.

 

She sent him a text – Self- discipline oops!

His, in return read – oops indeed. Was different without you today x.

She was taken by surprise with that one.

 

At the weekly meeting where the projects came together, she sat opposite him.

In the informal atmosphere of the reception before the meeting room, all were chatting. The deep carpet burn on her knee was clearly visible through her stockings. Red, raw and angry. It was remarked on by several people. She managed to make up some plausible reason for it. Dan looked at her and his smile broke into a grin and then full silent laughter. She too smiled. A smug, delicious smile.

 

 

Chapter 5

 

Joanne wasn’t prepared for the next chapter in her life. This next bit was most definitely not on her agenda.

 

Her period was two weeks late.

She confided in her friend Annie - an over confident worldly-wise twenty-six year old. They were sitting in the coffee room and had the place to themselves. As they talked, Dan came in. A normal conversation ensued until Annie let the cat out of the bag.

“How’s this for a laugh Dan – Joanne thinks she’s pregnant! My God at her age!”

At that point Joanne wanted to die. She had wanted to tell him (or not), but she had needed to say it to his face. Two other members of the team came in and Annie was immediately distracted and went over to speak to them.

 

Dan looked at Joanne. He was ashen faced and he mouthed “Really?”  Joanne nodded slowly and looked down. “I can’t cope with this” he said softly and got up to walk out. Only he didn’t say it harshly, just in a puzzled, lost, bewildered sort of way – as if the wind had been taken right out of him. He suddenly looked as a frightened child does when faced with a fear beyond their comprehension. This was certainly beyond both their comprehensions. He re-appeared almost immediately and signalled to her to phone him.

 

Shit. I’ve really screwed up. He won’t want to come anywhere near me now.  Please don’t think I did it deliberately – I’d never do that to you – I care about you too much to destroy you.

 

Joanne had been told many years previously that she could never conceive and so had spent the years since Chris’s death fucking her way through a succession of men with no mishaps or late days to make her sweat – so why now? Why him?

 

“Are you ok?” Joanne didn’t know what else to say to him when he picked up his phone.

“I’m not sure. Bit of a shocker this one. What are you going to do?” Then he changed his tone and softened “I mean what do you want me to do – I don’t know what to say yet.”

“I’m sorry Dan. I don’t want you to do anything. It’s my problem not yours.”

“But you think it’s mine?”

“I know so.”

There was a deep sigh at the other end of the line.

“This isn’t something I’m used to – I don’t know what to say or do. I don’t know what you want from me.” He was calm and sensitive but she could sense the underlying panic in his voice. She knew that he could see it all rushing in front of him – pram-pushing, fatherhood and the most dreaded of all – commitment.

“Nothing Dan - nothing. Like I said this is my problem and I don’t want to put any pressure on you in any way: that isn’t my intention. I’d never do anything like that. Sex aside, you are my friend and that is important to me. I don’t even know if I’m definitely pregnant – just late so let’s not get our selves into a state about it – think positive.”

“I’ve lost all capacity to think in any direction just at the moment. I’m sorry I’m not being much help am I?”

“It’s ok. I didn’t want you to find out like this. I wasn’t going to tell you until I knew for sure and then you would have never have had the worry.”

“That’s sweet of you but I can feel myself going grey already.”

“I’ve got enough grey for both of us – don’t worry. Trust me it will be ok.”

They said their goodbyes and Joanne turned off the phone and the adrenaline cursed through her. What was she going to do? An endless stream of questions raced through her mind – ones that she certainly didn’t begin to have any answers for whatsoever. All she did know for certain was that this was a major mistake. Like she said – if you’re going to cock things up, do it with style.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6

 

Until she knew the answer, Dan was attentive. He had lots of questions but he didn’t ask the one question that she thought was the most important – would she keep it or not? She already knew that it must make men feel dreadful to think that something you had help to create was thought so little of that it could be swept away as a pure inconvenience. Joanne would not be able to look him in the eye again. Dan had recently become an Uncle and he was besotted by the little scrap that he had gingerly held in his arms for the first time recently. He would make a great father – one day- but not now and not with me. 

 

That weekend, Dan said that he’d needed to get away and headed off to see this aforementioned niece. Joanne wept. Really wept for the first time. What she was crying for she didn’t really know. Was she in love with him and could see it all slipping away? Was it the possible pregnancy that she did not want or really the thought that he would be holding baby Isabelle and maybe, just maybe, thinking that he now might be having one of these for himself and did he want one or not? And if he did want one, was she going to get rid of it because it didn’t fit into her life plan? God life was shit. Just when things were going deliciously well everything tasted so sour. And he had tasted so, so sweet.

 

At the weekly meeting, Dan found it difficult to look her in the eye - extremely difficult as Joanne was chairing it and had to address him directly a couple of times. He said what he had to say and then looked away. Not coldly but disinterested – over professional. Joanne wanted to throw up. She was listening to Annie discussing strategies when this wave of nausea engulfed her. She had to ask George, who was sitting next to Dan, to pass down the carafe of water. She took a sip but it didn’t help. George remarked that she didn’t look too good and was she alright – but before the water reached her, she flew from the room with her hand over her mouth and emptied the contents of her stomach down the nearest loo. Annie looked at Dan and raised her eyebrows. Was she looking for a reaction from him? He didn’t give her the satisfaction. On her return, Joanne had to make her apologies to the meeting but Dan was now looking her straight in the eye. After the meeting he left promptly but waited in the corridor for her.

“We need to talk.”

“I know”

“My flat mate is out tonight will you come round  - say 7 ish?”

She wanted nothing more than to be in his flat, in his bed and in his arms with no late period to trouble them.

 

In his flat he opened a bottle of wine and handed her a glass. “Perhaps you shouldn’t be drinking that – you know.” He grinned.

“Shut up and give it here. I’m very much in need at the moment.”

They sat together on the sofa, each not knowing what to say next. Then Dan spoke.

“What are we going to do?” he looked at her and she thought for one awful moment that he might cry.

“Look – I don’t know that I am pregnant yet so let’s not jump to conclusions. Think positive.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of …………!”

 

It was quiet between them for a while and Joanne took a deep breath. “I’m going to do a test on Monday if I haven’t come on by then.”

“Three days away.”

“You’ll be the first to know. I promise.”

“Do you want to have it?” his question took her by surprise. She shook her head slowly.

“You want the truth?“

“Of course I do.”

“The truth is Dan I just don’t know. I don’t know how I feel except to say that I feel so responsible for all of this and I’m sorry to have put you in such a shit position.”

He put down his glass and put his arms around her and gave her a cuddle. “It’ll be alright Jo – I’m sure.” Now it was her who wanted to cry, but she didn’t. She pulled away from him.

“Come on, don’t hog that wine all to yourself!”

 

They sat together on the sofa. “Didn’t you want kids with your first husband?”

“I was told that I couldn’t have them. I’ve never had to bother about contraception.”

“But did you want them?” He pushed for the answer.

“It never really came up, but you will one day though Dan and you’ll make a brilliant dad. Look at how you are about Isabelle.”

“Yes – one day.”

Joanne smiled “Yes one day – not now and certainly not with me!”

He said nothing but just held her again.

 

“We don’t know much about each other do we.”

“You know I like girls on top!”

“You know what I mean!”

 

Joanne had never really got to this stage with anyone before. She felt so relaxed and close to Dan without wanting to jump on him and rip off his clothes (though that would have been great) they certainly did get on well and had an easy relationship.

 

“There’s not much to tell. I was brought up by my mum, went to school, did the university thing and landed here. Met this stunning older woman and fucked her senseless.”

“Excuse me!” Joanne interjected “I did all the work last time and I’ve got the scars to prove it!” But she continued “What about your dad? Or shouldn’t I ask?”

“Mum didn’t say much about him – he wasn’t around when I was born or for any of it really.”

“Bit of a bastard?”

“No, apparently not – mum said they were really in love but things didn’t work out. Said that he was OK about her having me, but that’s all I know. She never spoke badly about him but never wanted to offer much either and I have to respect that. She always got misty eyed when she spoke about him so I left it alone. So there was just me and her. I was loved and I suppose that’s all that matters.”

Wise words from such a young mind.

 

“Aren’t you curious?”

“Sometimes, but he’s dead, so I won’t be able to know unless mum decides to tell me. She says she will in good time so I’ll have to be patient.”

 

Joanne felt she had pried enough and changed the subject. They talked until late into the night and she left feeling good about things. She could do worse than have his baby.

 

But worse was to come.

 

 

Monday came and went without Joanne doing the test. She couldn’t bring herself to.

Any news?

She texted back  - Not yet.

Why couldn’t she do it? Why did she not want to know? It would certainly straighten things out one way or another. Do it. Her conscience urged. I’m scared to know.

Do it.

 

Later that evening the door bell sounded. Joanne wasn’t expecting anyone. Julie stood on the doorstep.

“Hello stranger! Are you going to let me in or are you going to stand their with your mouth open ?”

Julie swept into the house and hugged Joanne with genuine affection.

“God do I need to talk to you Julie – I’m really in the shit.”

 

Two glasses of red wine later and with the full details unloaded into Julie’s lap, there was a pause. “Boy Jo, you know how to live don’t you!”

“I don’t know what to do.”

“Have the baby – that is if you do turn out to be pregnant – they’re fab and you won’t regret it.”

“Want to bet? I can’t think of anything worse.”

 

“Ok I’ll change the subject. Can I stay tonight? Tony’s taken the kids to his mum’s so I’m free. “Shall we go out? Can I meet him” Julie was suddenly a whirlwind of energy.

“Certainly not. He’s far too young for me or for you!”

 

Over pizza in the local Italian (cheap but very cheerful) Julie proceeded to talk about her family and life and about going back to work now the youngest (of how many?) was at school.

“By the way, do you remember the wailing woman at Chris’s funeral? She contacted me through Friends Reunited. I wonder why they call it that when most of the people that you went to school with or worked with you’re really glad to see that back of – anyway – she had a baby boy you know.” Joanne didn’t know and didn’t really care.

“God it all seems years ago Julie.”

“It was years ago. God how young we were.”

“”Was that the one who kept crying and blaming Chris’s death on a sandwich?”

“The very same one.”

“Hope she got over it – he was killed in a car crash – in the wrong place at the wrong time – she should never have blamed herself- I didn’t blame her then and never did, and I got over it - so should she.”

Julie was suddenly quiet now. “Well she does still blame herself and wants to meet you again.”

“Why? I only met her once and that was at the funeral. She didn’t want to make contact then so why now?”

“Just do it Jo, it might make her feel better after all these years.”

“If she’d have done it sooner, she’d have saved herself a few years of anguish!”

Julie remained quiet.

“What aren’t you telling me Julie?”

“I just think you should meet her that’s all.”

“Well you can give her my e-mail but I’m not running around after her. Let’s have another bottle.”

 

 

Chapter 7

 

 

I don’t want to intrude but I think it’s time we met.

Eleanor Crawford.

 

Eleanor Crawford was not at all how Joanne had remembered her. In fact she had struggled to remember her at all and was secretly panicking about how she was going to recognise this woman from the past. Joanne had waited outside the entrance to the shopping precinct, under the clock, just as had been arranged. She had felt that she couldn’t invite her to her home – a stranger really. No, the town centre was anonymous and she could walk away if it all got too boring.

 

She looked slightly dumpy, a little careworn even.

“Joanne Lee? I’m Eleanor Crawford.”

They exchanged pleasantries then Joanne said “Look, I don’t want to appear rude but why have you contacted me after all this time. I don’t blame you for what happened- never did. In fact I didn’t really remember you until Julie told me about you.”

 

Eleanor Crawford looked Joanne straight in the eye. She put her hand on Joanne’s sleeve and said “I’m sorry but your husband and - I well, we were having an affair.” She looked as if she was waiting for Joanne to hit her or worse. Joanne looked stunned.

“Please don’t blame Chris, I led him on and I know you probably can’t forgive me but I was having his baby…………..I so wanted his baby.”

Joanne stopped her. “Let’s go some where quiet Eleanor.”

 

In one of the quieter corners of the Old Horse pub, Joanne brought over two large glasses of wine.

“Ooh I don’t normally…..”

“Well this isn’t normal is it? It’s not everyday that you find out that your boring old husband was leading a secret life and had a child, is it?” She took a big gulp of the wine.

“I’m sorry. Really I am Joanne.”

“Tell me about the child.”

“I found out I was pregnant about seven weeks before Chris was killed. I’d got a craving for a strange mix in my sandwich and Chris would insist on getting it for me. He was trying so hard to do the right thing. No-one knew, but he said he couldn’t leave you. He wanted to look after me as well.”

Oh sweet bloody irony. If only he’d have told her she’d have let him go with her blessing. She had been desperate to get out of the marriage and he was trying to save her from hurt. Joanne felt sad and indifferent once again.

“I’m sorry too Eleanor. You have no idea but I didn’t shed one tear for him when he died – it’s not that I didn’t love him but I wasn’t in love with him and all the time you two could have had it all – love happiness and a baby.”

 

“Didn’t you want a child? Mine has brought me such joy.”

“I couldn’t have them but then but the funny thing is that I now think I might be pregnant. At my age!”

Eleanor didn’t know what to say. They drank their wine in silence.

“I think I should go.”

Joanne didn’t know whether she wanted Eleanor to go or not. They clearly had nothing and yet had so much in common. “Shall we meet again?” Eleanor was clearly touched and could only nod and squeeze Joanne’s hand as they parted.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8

 

Dan had offered to cook her a meal- “In exchange for you shutting yourself in my loo and doing a bloody test!” She didn’t refuse and meekly arrived on his doorstep, wine and pregnancy test in hand. Not the normal offering for your host she thought.

“Go do it – I promise I’ll still speak to you whatever the result!” he seemed so much more relaxed now and in control. His old, together’ self.  She wondered how together he might be if the result was positive.

 

She closed the bathroom door and sat on the side of the bath. Slowly she opened the box and stared at the little stick of white plastic that was about to change her life one way or the other. How could something so insignificant looking wield so much power? Get on with it.

Dan tapped on the door.  “Ok Jo? Your wine is ready. Hurry up.”

 

She emerged and took the wine from him.

“Well?”

“I’ve got to wait for the result to develop.”

“Give it to me I want to watch!”

“Certainly not it’s got my pee all over it!” she barred the way into the bathroom.

“Well here’s a toast Jo – to whatever happens- and staying friends!” He clinked glasses with her and kissed her on the cheek. You’re never going to sleep with me again are you?

 I’ve lost you now haven’t I?

 

When Joanne picked up the plastic wand and saw what it was telling her, she felt huge sobs welling up and overflowing. She crumpled onto the side of the bath and wept. She was aware of him in the doorway. He was stony faced and silent. He didn’t know what to say and couldn’t reach out to her. She was pregnant – he knew she must be by her reaction. He went into the living room and collected the wine and the bottle. He sat on the bathroom floor and handed her glass to her. “It’ll be OK Jo – I’ll help I promise.” But he was looking to the floor and silently shaking his head.

 

She took the wine and took a long sip.

“I don’t want a child of mine to grow up without a dad like I did.” He continued to look at the floor.

“Dan I am sorry but – “

“It’s OK “  

He put his arms around her and she sobbed. It was over – she knew it. No baby and now no Dan. Friends or no friends, he would never feel the same about her and she was so sad that the exciting, sexy chemistry that they had shared so recently had vanished into thin air.

This has to stop and I promise myself that I won’t be here again. I have to let him go.

“Well?”

“I’m not pregnant.”

He pulled back from her. The relief on his face was written in letters 10 feet high. He scooped her up once again. “You darling! That’s a relief – oh god you’ve made my day.” He positively danced around the room. It was so very clear how he had really felt about it.

 

Joanne did her best to smile “Told you it would be Ok didn’t I? Think positive I said – only it wasn’t was it?” They laughed and refilled their glasses. Still sitting on the bathroom floor, they kept looking at each other and giggling with relief.

“I’ve done my part, now where’s that dinner you promised?”

“Why were you crying?”

“Relief ?”

“Is that all?”

“That’s all.”

“Would the thought of having my child have been so bad?”

“I’ve thought about nothing else – but you want to have a child with someone you love, who is a little younger don’t you think? We’re good together but we’re not dating material.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?”

“No, just telling you how it is.”

“You’re still very sexy.”

“You’re still very young – but that’s your attraction!”

“You’re an amazing woman.”

 

The next morning, the cord from the blind tapped rhythmically against the window sill. The morning breeze breathed the blind back and forth against the half-open window. The gentle tapping entered her brain; waking her with a slow, momentary puzzlement.

 

Yes, yes and yes again.

 

Yes - she was with him.

Yes - she had vowed that after today she wouldn’t let herself be here again.

Yes - she had to let him go.

(It was obvious that the self-righteous half of her conscience was awake first.)

Oh God what a mess.

 

His mobile was ringing somewhere and Dan stumbled out of bed to find it.

When he returned, he snuggled back under the duvet and cuddled up to her.

“Sorry – just my mum.” He mumbled.

Later, over breakfast, Joanne asked “Do you look like your mum or your dad?”

“I’m not sure really– especially as I don’t have a photo of my dad but here have a look for yourself.“ He fumbled about in the drawer and handed her a photo of him and his mum. Smiling on the beach. He looked about seven or eight and was holding up a piece of seaweed. A proud smiling mum at his side.

 

The smiling face of Eleanor Crawford stared back at her.

 

Oh God what a mess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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