Expecting:For the Babies' Sakes(2)

By: Sara Wood

Her haste to comfort him had made her careless and she’d fallen flat on her face in the mud, cursing the day they’d moved into the country. Nothing new there. But of course she’d hauled herself up, anxious to provide a bit of TLC, dreaming of cuddles by the fire and nose-blowing in unison.

Huh! He probably didn’t have flu at all! Her eyes glowed with resentful anger. Perhaps something else was laying him low! Someone else.

She winced, a rush of emotion bringing tears to her eyes. She loved Dan. Adored everything about him. As usual, she was jumping to dramatic conclusions when there was probably an innocent explanation.

But… Female knickers on the stairs. Her husband home. Curtains drawn. It all seemed horribly damning.

A scouring fear washed through her and she felt her legs begin to shake uncontrollably. With a trembling hand she pushed back her hair, smoothing its muddy strands back till it stopped dripping down her face and blurring her vision. She had to investigate.

Hardly aware she was still wearing her muddy boots, she stumbled over to the foot of the stairs and grabbed blindly at the newel post to prevent herself from sinking to the floor in a boneless heap.

Tears dammed up in her throat, choking her. She felt so shocked and weak that she could hardly collect her thoughts to make sense of what was happening.

But she knew there must be a rational explanation. He wouldn’t betray her, not Dan. She racked her brains desperately.

Perhaps he was ill. And some time before he’d felt really sick and had come home, he’d bought some sexy underwear to spice up their non-existent sex life, and had accidentally dropped something from his shopping foray as he’d staggered up the stairs to bed.

Her brain stalled, her headache intensifying, and she waited for a moment of dizziness to pass. Illness was so debilitating. She had crawled back from London after nearly fainting on the way to work. The trip had been draining: a long walk, two tubes, an hour’s journey on the train and a twenty-minute drive.

Normally she was out all day. Dan would expect her to be furthering her career as the financial executive for the ‘Top People’s Store’ in fashionable Knightsbridge. But she’d come home instead.

And she wished with all her heart that she hadn’t because the doubts were building up, terrifying her with the possibility that Dan could be upstairs in their bedroom with another woman.

Her head lifted in despair and, to her horror, she suddenly noticed something else, a few steps further up. It was a nylon stocking in a very fine denier, its twin casually twined around the banister.

‘Oh, Dan!’ she breathed, tragic-faced, desperately hoping against hope that there was some simple, obvious answer to this. ‘Don’t be there,’ she pleaded. ‘I couldn’t bear it!’

He was everything to her. She had even agreed to live in this awful house, with its wall-to-wall mud outside and an attic full of crazy squirrels who thundered about all night in clogs. She’d even tried to ignore the spiders who leered at her from every conceivable corner of the house and who waggled their spindly legs at her in a horribly menacing way. Anything, she’d thought, if it made him happy.

And they’d been happy, hadn’t they? He’d pledged un-dying love, had carried her over the threshold of the huge, thatched Deep Dene farmhouse after their marriage two years ago and had proudly pointed out its wonderful potential when all she could see was dereliction and isolation.

But for him she’d put up with the dilapidation, the constant presence of the builders, the temperamental boiler and scowling Aga stove.

City-bred, she had longed for decent pavements, traffic-filled tarmac and frequent inhalations of carbon monoxide. But Dan adored Deep Dene with its ancient beams, inglenook fires and five acres of landscaped gardens, so she had curbed her horror.

They had handed the place over to the workmen and had begun their hectic commuting to London from their future Dream Home in the Sussex Downs. Though it was more of a nightmare to her.

Her stomach churned as she stared blankly into space. Perhaps the commuting was the problem. They hardly saw one another nowadays. It was ages since they’d hugged, and weeks and weeks since they’d made love. She got home late and flung something in the microwave. Dan turned up at all hours, sometimes too shattered to speak.

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