Second Chance with the Single Mom(9)

By: Annie Claydon

‘The police officer came over while you were with Jamie, and he’s radioed for a car to take me home.’

‘But...’ Raina wasn’t giving up that easily. She had to, though, because if The Watchlight Trust was going to be able to help her daughter, then their relationship had to be completely professional. All about the little girl’s needs and not his.

‘Go, Raina.’ He spoke quickly, before he had a chance to change his mind. ‘I want you to go.’

* * *

There had been moments when Alistair’s mask of self-reliance had slipped. When the thought that he wanted her there, with him, had thundered through Raina’s head. But now he was cool, and more than a little commanding.

He could protest that he was all right as much as he wanted. It was basic medical necessity to clean a cut that had been submersed in dirty water, and he could like it or not. If he didn’t like it he could jump straight back into the river.

Raina got to her feet, stuffing the envelope back into her bag, and walked over to the ambulance paramedics, who were getting ready to go. After making sure that Jamie didn’t need her, she asked for some antiseptic wipes, and was given a small pack of them, along with a pair of disposable gloves.

Returning to Alistair, she tore the wrapper open. He seemed about to argue and then obviously thought better of it. At least he still knew when to keep his mouth shut.

He winced as she cleaned the cut on his face, but said nothing, and when she told him to show her his hands, he held them out silently, turning them so she could check them thoroughly.

‘Did you swallow any water?’

‘No. It’s just as filthy as it looks and I decided not to stop for a drink.’

‘Take these.’ Raina put the rest of the antiseptic wipes down next to him on the deck. ‘Clean that cut again when you get home, and make sure to do to the same with any other abrasions.’

‘Yes. Thanks. You should go. The office will be closing soon.’

‘Shall I tell them what’s happened? So they won’t be expecting you back?’

‘Yes, thanks. Say I’ll be back first thing tomorrow.’

There was no point in telling him that he might want to spend tomorrow morning easing out any aches and pains and making sure that his dive into the water hadn’t resulted in any other ill-effects. Alistair had made it clear that it wasn’t her place any more and he was right.

‘Is your phone working?’

Alistair reached into his pocket, and took out his phone. The screen was cracked, and water dripped from it onto the deck.

‘Doesn’t look like it. But I’ve a backup at home, in case I lose this one.’

That was Alistair all over. He was all about the work, and nothing got in the way of that. A broken phone was a trifling obstacle when compared to a broken marriage, and he’d managed to spend enough of his energies on work then. Raina swallowed down her resentment and reached into her bag.

‘I’d like you to let me know that you’re okay.’ She scribbled her mobile number onto a scrap of paper and tucked it into the packet of antiseptic wipes.

‘I’ll text you as soon as I’ve got home and taken a shower.’

His tone indicated that there was nothing more to say. She had to go now, and show him that she could follow his instructions, because that was what Raina was going to have to do if Anya was accepted onto The Watchlight Trust’s project.

‘Thanks. Take care, Alistair.’ Raina got to her feet, trying not to look at him in case that made her want to stay. Standing aside to let the ambulance crew take Jamie and his mother up the gangway to their vehicle, she didn’t look back until she’d reached the pavement.

Then she couldn’t help herself. Her knees were grimy from kneeling on the wet deck and she pushed her skirt up to rub at them with a tissue, as an excuse to stop and turn. As she did so, she saw a police car draw up, and an officer get out and make her way down onto the boat.

That was Alistair’s lift home. She saw him get to his feet, and a couple of the pleasure boat’s crew came to shake his hand. Then the policewoman ushered him towards the gangway, smiling at him as she did so. That was Raina’s invitation to leave, before Alistair saw that she was still there.

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