friend.’ Catherine knew she sounded defensive but she felt irritated, Liam had no right to question her movements. ‘I do have to get away from here from time to time just to keep myself sane.’
He put out his hand and touched her shoulder in a comforting gesture. ‘I know, it’s an unhappy time for you. Let’s have your bag. Lord, ’tis heavy enough, what have you got in here?’
She smiled up at him wanly. ‘Just a few clothes. Liam, I’m sorry for being so sharp, you mustn’t mind me, I’m like a bear with a sore head. I don’t know why you should put up with my moods.’
‘I put up with you because you are the loveliest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.’
In a moment of weakness she leaned against him. He held her close, not taking any liberties for which she was grateful. He held her for a long time until at last she freed herself.
‘I’d better go in, my mother will be worried about me.’
Upstairs, in the bedroom where Jamie lay sick, Fon stood at the window holding back the curtain.
‘If you could see what I’ve just seen you would be very pleased.’ She turned to her husband, her tone soft. ‘Liam was just holding our Cath in his arms, just holding her, not trying to kiss her or anything. He’s a good man, I hope our girl sees sense before it’s too late.’
Jamie was too weak to answer but Fon was rewarded by a faint smile. She forced back the tears and bent to kiss her husband’s forehead.
‘If young Liam is half as good a man as you then our Catherine will be a very lucky girl indeed.’
He took her hand and held it close to his cheek. There was a glint of tears in his eyes.
‘I’ll go down and get the supper.’ Fon fought the pain within her, how could she bear to live her life without Jamie? ‘I’ll bring you a little bit of cawl , you can eat that, can’t you, love?’
Jamie opened his eyes as though with a great effort. ‘I’ll try, colleen, I’ll try.’
Fon swallowed hard and once outside the door, she leaned against it, the tears running salt into her mouth. How it hurt her to see Jamie brought to this. It wasn’t fair! What had they done to deserve such troubles? Soon she would lose him, she had tried to prepare herself for it but in her heart she knew, once her husband was gone, life for her would be over.
Downstairs, Catherine and Liam were laughing together. It cheered Fon, a small oasis of normality in the sea of dread that was gripping her. She pushed away the waves of fear and forced herself to speak normally.
‘Cut some bread for supper, there’s a good girl.’ As she sat there with her daughter who was bright-eyed, chattering easily to Liam, Fon felt her spirits lift a little. Here was youth and health and happiness and she drank in the atmosphere eagerly.
Watching Catherine, it was clear to Fon that her daughter was unaware of how sick her father really was. Would it be kinder to try to prepare her? But no, let her remain in happy ignorance until the truth was forced upon her.
‘Are you tired, Mam?’ Catherine leaned forward solicitously. ‘You are looking so pale, shall we have an early night?’
‘No!’ Fon shook her head emphatically. ‘No, I’d much rather stay here by the fire and listen to you two chattering.’
She subsided in her chair knowing that deep within her she was afraid, afraid to go upstairs to the bedroom she’d shared for so long with her husband, afraid that in her absence he would have slipped away from her into a world which she could not reach.
Bethan stared at her reflection in the long oval mirror in the bathroom and smiled wryly to herself. She had never been a beautiful woman, she could not even be described as pretty but impending motherhood seemed to suit her. Her cheeks had a bloom, her eyes were bright and even her hair had taken on a glossy sheen.
She was approaching the sixth month of her pregnancy and now, feeling the tiny movements of her child, she wondered that she had not
R.L. Stine, Sammy Yuen Jr.
Nicole Blanchard, Skeleton Key