Second Chance with the Single Mom(3)

By: Annie Claydon

* * *

Alistair had almost jumped out of his skin when he’d seen Raina. How many times had he thought he’d glimpsed her in a crowd, and then looked again to find it wasn’t her? But this was no ghost.

Alistair guessed that if she’d had any options that didn’t involve him, she would have taken them. He should remember that. Despite her obvious agitation, she looked well. When he’d last seen her she’d had rings of fatigue under her eyes, and she couldn’t meet his gaze. But now she was more the way he’d first seen her, a dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty who’d taken his breath away. Divorce clearly suited her.

It was a bitter thought. It knocked him off balance even more than the music in the coffee shop, which rendered him almost completely deaf and had changed his mind about sitting down to talk. He needed to be able to hear everything that Raina was saying.

The pavement was only a little better, but if they avoided the main roads, the traffic noise wouldn’t be too distracting. If he stayed on her left side, then his ‘good’ ear could catch most of what she said.

‘You’ve read about the project on our website?’ Of course she had. Raina was nothing if not thorough.

She nodded a yes, maybe voicing it too, and Alistair slowed his pace to a stroll. Watching the words form on her lips would help fill in the gaps in his hearing.

‘Then you’ll know that this project marks the start of a new and important expansion in the activities of The Watchlight Trust. Up till now, our primary focus has been on helping people in the accident and rescue services, but we’ve always known that many of the techniques we use have a much wider application. My co-director, Gabriel DeMarco, and I have been working towards realising that potential for some time now.’

He was practically quoting from the website, and she’d read that already. But in a world that had suddenly turned upside down he might be forgiven for finding a few solid facts reassuring.

‘Our development team is currently housed in our offices, and we have medical services based at our own clinic next door. Our long-term aim is to create a separate division of the charity, whose remit is to explore innovative technologies and make them available to patients.’

‘It’s a bold step. And one that will benefit a lot of people.’

Alistair had thought so too. And then sudden hearing loss had turned his working day into a miasma of half-heard sentences, a constant struggle to keep up. Gabriel had done his best to help, but it had only made Alistair feel even more useless, relegated to standing by and watching while others made the bold steps that it took to realise the project that meant so much to him.

But now he had a purpose. Raina was unaware of the nature of the challenge she’d thrown at him, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t rise to it and find a way to help her.

‘We’re still refining our product and procedures, and we’re hoping to be able to learn with the parents and children we select for the pilot project.’

‘I’d welcome the chance to learn, and to contribute as much as I’m able as well.’

Staring at her lips had its disadvantages. He could make out what she was saying better, but it reminded Alistair of all the other times he’d studied her face. Locked in each other’s arms, immersed in each other...

Enough! There was no going back, and the present was more than enough to deal with. Alistair forced his thoughts back to the child. She was what mattered.

‘Has your daughter been fitted with a prosthetic yet?’

‘Yes, six months ago. It took some time for it to be made, and the first one she was given didn’t fit properly, so we had to wait again for it to be adjusted. By the time we did get it right, Anya was determined she didn’t want it, however much we tried to encourage her. 3D printing is a much faster and more flexible process and I think it may be more appropriate for Anya’s needs.’

‘So tell me why you think she should have one.’ Alistair stopped walking, facing her so that he could concentrate on Raina’s answer. It was the question he’d asked every parent and he’d received a variety of replies.

Raina smiled, suddenly sure of herself. ‘I don’t think she should do anything. I want her to have a choice about if and when she uses a prosthetic, and she won’t have that choice unless she learns what she can do with one. She’s starting to reach out into the world, and I want her to know about the different options she has.’

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