‘Faith, Hope and Love’ Part 15

Strange, how we get on with doing. One night with Arthur changed my life, turned it upside down. I felt different, like a woman properly loved, and while I rejoiced in the discovery, I began to mourn the years I had waited, hoping for love and understanding. Now I had tasted it, only to have it snatched away. Arthur was not nearby to reassure me.

Days passed. Christmas and New Year threw me into a blaze of activity, of cooking and baking for the two of us and extending impromptu invitations to neighbours. The weather turned blustery and cold, so that I hardly ventured out in the dark evenings, but huddled with Sylvester on my lap while Elaine stayed over with friends, read, or we watched movies and chatted. Tears came to my eyes at odd moments, remembering the years Karl had hauled a tree into the lounge and decorated it with tinsel and lights, or while gazing out at the dark, remembering Karl’s comforting hands clasping mine as we walked, giggling, though the snow after an enormous Christmas lunch. Friends visited, dropping off festive cheer, and each time the doorbell chimed or the phone rang, my heart leapt, then sank with disappointment.

He did not phone. Perhaps I had dreamt our whole encounter, made it up to please myself? Then, at the oddest moments, as I was washing the dishes or setting out breakfast with teaspoons and egg-cups, I would remember his hands on my shoulders or the strength of his kiss on my mouth, and I knew he had meant what he said, and that what we felt for each other was real.

I felt rediscovered, but I could hardly shout about it. As hours lengthened into silent days, I mourned the loss of Arthur’s company while I carried on being the best mum I could. Many times I could have stopped in the middle of the living room or the kitchen or the bathroom; I wanted to lie down in the garden, the hallway, the bedroom and cry myself to sleep. But things needed doing; and the resumption of Elaine’s school timetable kept at me and kept me going.

Spring was on the way in again, when the phone rang. I was standing outside with a handful of damp washing and clothes pegs, thanking God that I could hang out the laundry on that light, breezy morning, when I heard the bell trill and moved clumsily to the front of the house, leaving the linen where it lay. I had grown so used to nuisance callers trying to sell me insurance, upgrade my telephone tariff or remind me to claim compensation, that I was a little abrupt.

“Hello?” I queried, my tone efficient.

“Hello… Remember me?”

I almost dropped the phone in shock, and my hands were suddenly slippery. “What the buggery are you doing, phoning me now?” I snapped, furious and sad all at once.

“Sorry, Marian, I know…”

I nearly put the phone down, but something in me held out for better.

“I know I have some explaining to do.”

“Yes.”

“Can we meet up?”

“I hardly think so, not now…and… Where are you?”

“Actually, I’m home.”

I slammed the phone down. Strange, that quiet, obedient me should be so forceful all of a sudden, but a fury I hardly recognized gave me strength, even though I wanted to weep and kiss and give in. The phone rang again and when I didn’t pick it up, the doorbell started. He was there on the other side, and I would not let him in, until I listened and heard him saying, “Vivienne lied to me…”

My heart understood, and I pulled open the door, to see Arthur’s thin, angular frame silhouetted against the light. Before we said anything else, our arms clasped each other and held on, tighter all the time, pushing as if we wanted to get inside each other, trembling with emotion, with anger, confusion, sorrow and joy.

“I came back, you see,” he said. “I came back because I want to be – happy.”

***

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