From a Safe Distance

From a Safe Distance by Julia Bishop

Book: From a Safe Distance by Julia Bishop Read Free Book Online
Authors: Julia Bishop
happening. It was half-term, so nobody at school needed to know.
    Mum and Ron had seen me through university and never let me go without in terms of practical and emotional support. They had offered to drive me back home, which made it a very long round trip for them. Mum sat in the back, still quiet, but she massaged my shoulders.
    â€˜How do you feel, Vee?’ Ron said, as we pulled out of the car park.
    â€˜Tired, but OK. Thanks for doing all this for me.’
    â€˜I’m here to help in any way I can.’ We were stuck in traffic.
    â€˜I can’t help wondering, though, if this wasn’t my only chance to have a baby.’
    â€˜Oh, you’ll get another chance, I’m sure. Don’t worry, Vee.’
    Hot tears ran down my face, suddenly and unexpectedly, as I thought of Max. I sobbed.
    â€˜Hey, hey, Vee! I’ll pull over as soon as I can.’ A couple of minutes later Ron stopped the car and put his arm round me. I let go of all my grief.

    Back in West Pluting, alone in the cold flat, I wondered if I should ring Max. I decided not to. I’d arrived at the station on the day he left to see the train to Edinburgh pulling out. Then the phone rang.
    â€˜Vee? Are you alright? I’ve been trying to get you!’
    â€˜Oh, hello, Diane. I’m OK thanks. Sorry I haven’t called you.’
    â€˜Yes, I should think so too! I’ve missed our weekly chats.’
    â€˜How’re things with you and Jeff?’
    â€˜Oh, great thanks. We’ve had the house redecorated and … ’
    â€˜And what?’
    â€˜Look, the Christmas holidays are nearly here. Why don’t you come and stay for a couple of days when you break up? Not for Christmas itself, you understand – we’ll have a houseful. But it’d be lovely to see you again and there’s news to catch up on.’
    I wanted to see Diane of course, but feeling as I did, I had to force myself to sound interested. I drove back along the coast to Lexby the day after the end of term. The boys’ excitement in the lead up to Christmas, the concerts, shows, carols and Patrick’s company hadn’t moved me from my sense of loss. I hadn’t told him, but he knew something was wrong. And I hadn’t rung Max for weeks: I wasn’t strong enough.
    It was dark when I arrived at Diane’s. It really was a magnificent house. The great sweeping staircase, with its red carpet and white banister, could be seen as soon as the door opened. She took my coat and showed me into the living room, where Jeff was putting the finishing touches to a large Christmas tree.
    â€˜I’ll take you up to your room in a minute, but what can I get you? Cup of tea? Glass of mulled wine?’ She rubbed her hands.
    â€˜Oh, that sounds good.’
    Jeff climbed down the ladder. ‘What d’you think? Will it do?’
    I said it looked lovely, even though my heart just wasn’t in it. ‘How’s business?’
    â€˜Not as good as it could be in the present climate, but we manage, don’t we darling?’
    Diane smiled as she brought in a tray with two glasses of wine and a cup of tea. She handed a glass to Jeff.
    â€˜Not having any wine, Diane?’
    â€˜No; I might later.’
    â€˜There’s loads I want to ask you,’ I said. ‘How’s the situation at the new place, Stonecastle?’ We sat down.
    Diane told how a couple of Castlebrough staff went there, including Joan Gibson, while the others either retired or moved on somewhere else. She suggested we drive round tomorrow and look at the site. The old school houses had to be demolished, which was a shame. But hey, she said, we would be in serious need of an appointment at the shops when we’d seen that! She smiled again. ‘Got all your presents?’
    â€˜More or less. Are
you
at Stonecastle now?’
    â€˜No. That’s one bit of news I’ve got for you. I was there, but I’ve just been

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