‘Faith, Hope and Love’ Part 10

 

Middle-aged mothers are so unlikely to fall in love again. I caught myself glancing at Arthur’s mouth, wondering what his lips tasted like, whether his hands were warm. I remembered that I had offered to listen.

“So!” I tried to sound business-like, not bossy. “Would you like to tell me about your boy?”

“There isn’t much to tell, really. I met Vivienne when I took Lilian for a respite break to the seaside in the early days. We were still coming to terms, you know. In Cornwall, I met this woman walking along a nearby beach road. She looked beautiful and I imagined she must be kind, with looks like that. I was a bit taken by surprise, I suppose. I invited her out for tea while my wife was safely ensconced, and before I knew it, we were having an affair. She had no husband. She invited me to share her bed. More or less insinuated she could take Lil’s place. I was very stupid. I never asked if she was taking the pill, or anything. I just assumed that no-one who invited casual sex would be unprotected. Anyway, she became pregnant and then said she wanted to marry me, but I couldn’t have left Lilian. Things turned nasty very quickly after she said she was going to keep the baby. I’ve been sending her regular maintenance for the boy. He’s eighteen now, at school. I never told Lilian, and to be honest it was very easy keeping the whole thing a secret.”

As his story tumbled out, I realised he was very easy to listen to, with a deep, calming voice that seemed to wrap itself around me.

“Last month, out of the blue, I got a phone-call from James saying that his mother was ill. You know the rest. I don’t know what to do.” Arthur had been setting the table with precision and now placed a last spoon with careful finality. Our eyes met in a mutual grimace and I understood he was levelling with me. He had a decision to make.

“Does she have any other family?” It seemed the right place to start, at any rate.

“She has three brothers, who all have families, and she has her mother still. That’s as much as I know.”

“Why do you need to go and see her, then?” I asked, aware of how selfish I sounded. “She has plenty of help nearby, and her boy is grown up now, isn’t he?”

“Yes… He’s just about to start at University. But he can’t decide whether he should stay on at home, to look after Vivienne. It seems like a lot to ask from a young lad…” Arthur paused, looking reflective. “There is probably something more to this, though. I mean, I hardly keep in touch with her – she told me very clearly to leave her alone – and now, after all this time, comes this call, this crisis. Am I just supposed to drop everything?”

***

 

 

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