Expecting:For the Babies' Sakes(3)

By: Sara Wood

Her face paled. He was too virile, too intensely masculine to be celibate.

That was when men strayed.

‘Dan! Don’t do this to me!’ she whispered, appalled.

The awful feeling in her stomach became unbearable, though whether that was due to her illness or to fear of what she might find, she didn’t know.

Tentatively she lifted a booted foot, vaguely registering that it was thick with clay goo, and put it on the first step of the stairs. As she did so her hair swung forwards in a silky black arc. When she returned it to its proper place behind her ears, she found that perspiration was standing out in beads on her skin. She was sicker than she’d realised.

And then she heard voices. They were faint and distant, drifting down from the master bedroom. But immediately her pathetic theory of Dan’s saucy shopping spree was demolished because she clearly identified his firm, low tones and then the lighter purr from an unknown woman.

Her shocked eyes silvered with pain. ‘No! No!’ she denied futilely under her breath.

There was a strange woman in her house. Upstairs. Without knickers. With her husband. She swallowed hard. It didn’t need a genius to work out the scenario.

Something wrenched inside her, an inner agony that ripped into her heart and sucked away her very breath. She stood there, paralysed with shock, while her head grew dizzy from the manic activity of the horrid little voices, which were whispering in her brain and gleefully suggesting what was going on up there.

She couldn’t bear it. She loved him. Trusted him implicitly. It wasn’t true. There must be some mistake. Had to be.

Perhaps, she thought wildly, there was an alternative to solving the mystery. The coward’s way. She could just turn around. Slip out silently. Get into the car and make a lot of noise pretending to arrive. Then she could make believe that this had never happened.

In a stew of indecision she considered this. Pictured herself being fussed over by Dan and the mysterious woman as they fobbed her off with stories of an impromptu business meeting—or maybe pretended the planning of a surprise birthday party…

And then she imagined the questions screaming inside her, for ever silenced by her fear of facing the truth.

No, she couldn’t live with herself—or Dan—unless she knew whether he had been unfaithful. If he was cheating on her—in her own house, her own bedroom!—she must know.

Of course she had no choice but to go up. She was being a wimp. Helen sucked in a huge, rasping breath and eyed the stairs with dread, wishing she could come up with an innocent explanation. Her lower lip trembled. Nothing came to mind. Unless the woman was an interior designer or a fabric expert, who’d, who’d…drawn the curtains to…

Aware that she was floundering, Helen stuffed a fist to her mouth to stop a cry of despair. What about the briefs? The stockings? Who, or why, would anyone drop those? And…now she was peering around the curve of the stairs she could see that there were other…things further up, things she hastily averted her gaze from in case they might add up to a confirmation of Dan’s infidelity.

Surely he wouldn’t! she thought desperately. He loved her. Correction. Had loved her. She flushed, the heat flooding through her limp body. How long was it since they’d had time to be loving or even affectionate? Too long. They’d been leading separate lives.

Guilt crawled through every cell she possessed. She’d been too busy, too tired… Her eyes narrowed. It took two to tango. He too had pleaded tiredness! Tired from what? a nasty little voice asked and she bit her lip hard.

He’d always crawled in from work exhausted. It was like being married to the Invisible Man. Some days the nearest she got to him in waking hours was ironing his shirts. He wore two a day—sometimes three. After he’d burned two of them with the iron one morning, during his hectic scramble to catch the six-thirty to Victoria, she’d taken over the chore. But now she wondered if she’d merely been smartening him up for his mistress.

A wave of sickness took her by surprise, roaring its way through her. For a moment she remained motionless, waiting till the flush of heat had gone. And then she forced herself to confront Dan even though she dreaded what she’d find.

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