Second Chance with the Single Mom(2)

By: Annie Claydon

Suddenly he came to his senses. This was the Alistair she knew, a man who could make the right decision in a moment, and would always use his humanity in doing so.

‘If your daughter needs us, then we’re here for her, Raina. Nothing else matters.’

‘Thank you. Anya’s three years old, she’ll be four soon and...’ Raina saw a pulse begin to beat at the side of Alistair’s eye. The maths wasn’t difficult, and Anya had been conceived just months after their divorce.

Raina took a breath. She needed to start at the beginning, however much that beginning hurt. ‘She’s Andrew and Theresa’s child. They were killed in the same road accident where Anya lost her left hand and part of her forearm. I’ve adopted her.’

Alistair’s eyes flared with shock and then softened again. ‘I’m so sorry, Raina. I liked your brother and his wife very much, they were good people.’

‘I...should have let you know...about the accident. I’m sorry...’

‘You had more than enough to deal with. Don’t give it another thought.’

Raina was trembling so much that all she could do was to hold out the envelope, hoping that Alistair would take it. He looked at his watch again, as if maybe that would tell him something, and gave her a tight smile.

‘Look, I’ve just got out of a long meeting, and I was about to pick up a sandwich. Why don’t you walk with me? I’d like to hear a bit more about Anya and what you feel she needs from us. Then give me that.’ He gestured towards the envelope.

‘Yes. Thank you, Alistair.’ Raina stuffed the envelope back into her bag, and he began to walk towards the coffee shop at the far corner of the square.

Alistair must need to gather his thoughts as well. She had presented him with one shock after another, and it was hardly fair. He was silent, clearly dealing with it all in the way that Alistair always dealt with things. Quiet, measured and uncommunicative.

He held the door of the coffee shop open for her, and the coolness of the air-conditioning made her shiver. Sitting on a park bench and drinking takeaway coffee for an hour was catching up on her, and Raina excused herself, making a welcome dash for the ladies’ room.

‘That’s the worst of it over...’ She whispered the words as confidently as she could, trying to persuade her own reflection in the mirror over the basin. But the reflection was having none of it and Raina couldn’t help but agree. Something told her that she hadn’t even scratched the surface yet.

The divorce had been bitter. Raina’s pregnancy had been unexpected, and her own joy had blinded her to Alistair’s concerns about whether they were ready, and how they would manage financially. Then sudden pain had turned into the nightmare of discovering that the pregnancy was ectopic and the baby couldn’t be saved. Alistair had retreated into himself, showing only concern for Raina and hardly mentioning their lost child. The suspicion that he might think, deep down, that this was all for the best had poisoned everything, and as she’d recovered her strength, Raina had raged at him, venting her own pain.

It was only after she’d left him that Raina had found out about the infection. It had meant that one of her fallopian tubes had had to be removed, and since the other was partially blocked, she’d be unlikely to ever conceive again. And now she had to go out there and persuade Alistair that she could work with him, and he should give Anya the chance she so badly needed. Raina splashed cool water onto her cheeks, dabbing them dry with a tissue from her bag.

She’d thought that Alistair might spend the time choosing a sandwich, but instead he was holding two cups of takeaway coffee. Putting one into her hand, he gestured towards the door.

‘Would you mind if we walked? I’ve been shut up inside all morning...’

‘Walking would be nice.’ At least it would give her something to do with her feet. And the coffee would give her something to do with her hands. All she needed to worry about now was her tongue. She took a sip of the coffee. Plenty of frothed milk and a little sugar. It should be no surprise that Alistair remembered the way she liked it, but still it was a shock, reminding Raina of the scale of the task she’d taken on. Being with Alistair would be an exercise in remembering all the things she’d tried so hard to forget.

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