Read Another Love Online

Authors: Amanda Prowse

Another Love (4 page)

BOOK: Another Love
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I would love to go back to that time.

There’s one wedding picture that’s my favourite; it’s beautiful. My dad is standing below my mum on a step and is looking up at her. Aunty Holly and Aunty Carrie, who were bridesmaids, are mid throw, letting handfuls of pale petals fall all around them. The image is so sharp, I can almost smell the blossom. People are crowded around them, lots of uni mates and other relatives, their arms in the air and all smiling, but it’s as if Mum and Dad can see only each other; their eyes are locked and they really do look deeply, deeply in love.

I know Mum got pregnant quite quickly after they graduated and married, which, now I’m the same age, seems really young. And I guess that’s part of the reason for re-visiting Erica, I have so many doubts, not about Alistair and I, none at all, but plenty about my ability to be a mum. I look at my friends who have had strong, positive role models, who have learned how to bake or fix a car, all because the women in their life showed them how and I worry that I didn’t have that. I worry that the defective gene that meant my mum was off the rails might have been passed on to me and I don’t want to give my kids a life like that. I really don’t.

Not that we are planning on anything soon. We are going to wait, at least that’s the plan. Well, he says that’s the plan but then romanticises about showing his son the ropes on the farm. I’ve told him we might not have a boy and even if we do, he might not want to run the farm, he might want to be a ballet dancer or an astronaut. I’ve also suggested we might have a girl who is dead keen to take on the role. He laughed and said the Hastings don’t have ballet dancing or astronauting in their blood, just farming, and that our daughter will be far too smart to lug hay bales in the rain. So I guess that’s me told!

Two

Romilly ran her fingers over her cookery book collection in the alcove by the hob and adjusted the weighty volumes until they looked just right. They had mostly been wedding presents and while she had cracked the spine of one or two and admired the glossy pictures of stylised food that made her mouth water, she had yet to actually try making any of the recipes. They were more like props to help her and David play house, on a par with the pasta maker, electric shredder and ioniser, all of which had been gratefully received and exciting to unwrap on their return from honeymoon, but now gathered dust on various surfaces throughout the flat. She found it instantly off-putting to flip open a page and read ‘go grab the rosewater and fresh nutmeg from your larder’ when her ‘larder’ contained nothing more fancy than gravy granules and a sausage casserole mix. She knew her cooking skills were a little basic, she was more a ‘jar of sauce over pasta for a quick supper’ and ‘shop-bought apple pie’ kinda gal. Not that David seemed to mind, and that was all that mattered to her.

She covered her face with her hands and took a deep breath.

‘Please don’t get stressed, it’s only my mum!’

She jumped as David snuck up behind her and kissed the back of her neck. ‘That’s easy for you to say, but I’m so nervous, I feel sick.’ She swallowed, her voice small, her palms a little clammy.

‘That’s mad! I don’t know why you get into such a state – she loves you.’ David twisted her around until she was looking at him and placed his finger under her chin, pushing her face up so she had no choice but to stare him in the eye. ‘And especially now that you’re going to give her her first grandchild, she’ll love you even more! Not as much as me, of course, but close. Remember the plan? We’ll tell her after pud!’ He hunched his shoulders and grinned, childlike in his anticipation.

Romilly nodded, not wanting to quash his obvious excitement. ‘I just know how your mum likes everything to be just so.’ She glanced around the disordered kitchen of their Redland flat and recalled Sylvia’s tone the previous Christmas.
‘A jar of cranberry sauce? Goodness me, I’ve never seen such a thing!’
Anyone listening to her expression of disdain might have safely assumed that Romilly had let the neighbours’ cat crap on the table.
‘It almost seems like more effort to drive to a store and buy one, when it’s so quick and easy to whip up a fresh batch, nothing much more than a few cups of fresh cranberries and some dark sugar. David Arthur has always loved my homemade sauce, haven’t you, darling?’

It wasn’t that Sylvia was intentionally nasty; far from it. She had been overly generous to the newlyweds and always said the right thing, but it was the
way
she said it.
‘So glad David has found someone sensible and homey’
or
‘Ah, is this where you grew up? Very sweet!’
Maybe the South Carolina drawl distorted her meaning, but no matter how Romilly tried to ignore her misgivings, she thought the flash in Sylvia’s eyes and the brevity of her smile spoke volumes. She knew that mother and son shared a close bond, but for her part she hoped that when her own child was married and trotting towards their thirties, she at least would know to loosen the reins and let them fly.

David didn’t like to talk much about his parents’ divorce, but Romilly knew that the family had come to the UK for his dad’s job, a senior role with an energy company, and that Sylvia had been the dutiful wife, keeping a beautiful home, hosting dinner parties and sitting on the PTA of the local primary school, doing all she could to adapt to life as an expat. David’s father was also putting in the hours, setting up a flat near his City office with his young PA, Gigi, and flitting between the two very different women. This was until an unexpected pregnancy forced his hand. He chose his shiny, young, pregnant girlfriend, taking her back to Charleston, South Carolina, where the baby turned out to be a false alarm and Gigi left him for a riverboat captain who spent his days fishing for catfish up and down the Cooper River. Sylvia had hated fish ever since.

Perhaps David was right, perhaps she needed to be less sensitive. And she was in complete agreement with him that the delivery of Sylvia’s first grandchild was going to make a huge difference.

*

‘So, tell me about your pretty sisters. What adventures are they having?’ Sylvia asked as she leant against the countertop and watched as Romilly set the lamb to rest and then finished cooking the veg and spuds.

I get it – prettier than me and not as boring either; off having adventures.
‘Well, Holly is still working in a bar in Ibiza and showing no signs of coming home. She’s loving it. And Carrie has just started her nurse’s training and already has her eye on a handsome junior doctor called Miguel, who is equally smitten, apparently, and she’s convinced he’ll propose once he gets to know her. Poor chap doesn’t stand a chance!’

‘Oh, Pat must be delighted!’

‘Yes, Mum’s proud of her, of course. Nursing is tough and the pay is so poor for what they have to do. It’s admirable.’

‘No!’ Sylvia laughed and batted the air. ‘I meant planning to land a doctor! That’s a real coup, huh?’

Romilly stuck out the tip of her tongue, licking away the words that gathered in defence of Carrie and indeed her mum.
My sister is self-sufficient, not a gold digger. Dr Miguel would be lucky to have her.

‘Tell you what, Sylvia…’ She opened the drawer and pulled the cutlery into a bunch, shoving the metal bouquet with its spiky tines into her mother-in-law’s hand. ‘Would you mind putting these on the table? Lunch is half done, I’m just waiting on these veg. Oh, and while you’re there, could you find some napkins as well?’

‘Su-ure!’ Sylvia replied, making her way to the table in the large square entrance hall that doubled as a dining room.

Romilly watched her leave the kitchen, then hurried over to the fridge. She grabbed the Chablis from the door, withdrew her arm and smiled at the cool, half-full bottle that sat in her palm. Working quickly, she unscrewed the lid and closed her eyes as she placed the hard bottle edge to her mouth, liking the feel of the glass against her soft mouth. Tilting it, she savoured the earthy, fruity scent that danced up her nose.

As soon as the wine slipped down her throat, tasting sweet but leaving a mineral-like zing on the back of her tongue, she felt better. In the last few months she had discovered that her dancing juice was also really good at making her feel calm. She continued glugging until she was sure she’d had a glassful, took a deep breath, fastened the screw top and replaced the bottle in the fridge door. Half filling a glass with water, she took a large mouthful and swilled it around before swallowing. She then popped a little rectangle of minty gum and continued to tend to the food.

She and David had agreed to cut back on their drinking. It was not only the foundation to all their socialising but had also become part of their daily routine, a little ritual that she very much looked forward to. At stressful points in the day, just the prospect of cracking open a bottle of wine that evening, or flipping the lid on a couple of cold beers had the ability to lighten her mood and revive her interest in the task at hand.

Now she was pregnant, abstinence was the general rule. Some of their friends insisted she stay away from the grog, while others advocated that one glass to keep mummy relaxed and happy was not going to do any harm. She decided to go with the one-glass theory, but only if she really felt the need. Surprisingly, this required major changes. It was amazing how much a part of their lives alcohol had become and if she was being completely honest, the idea of socialising without having a drink felt a little pointless. Nonetheless, the image of their baby taking shape inside her tum was usually enough to steer her towards sparkling mineral water. Today, however, having to cope with Sylvia without the aid of a little tipple was too much to ask.

‘Ta-dah!’ She held the stainless-steel salver above her head as she sashayed up to the table, then placed the leg of lamb, veg and roast potatoes in the centre.

‘That looks fab!’ David smiled at his wife. ‘Clever girl.’

‘So you
like
lamb now?’ his mother asked.

‘I love it. Well, I love the way Rom cooks it.’ He nodded at the platter.

Romilly smirked as she picked up the serving fork and spoon and settled back in her chair. ‘I might not know everything, but I know how to keep my husband happy!’ And she gave her mother-in-law a subtle wink.

Sylvia opened her mouth but was uncharacteristically lost for words.

It was, as agreed, after pudding that David disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a bottle of champagne and three gold-rimmed flutes, glad of the chance to use the rather frivolous wedding gifts.

‘Ooh, champagne!’ Sylvia clapped her hands, her long, glossy red nails shining like talons. ‘What are we celebrating? Your new love of lamb?’

David chuckled. ‘No, Mum, much better than that. We have some news—’

‘Ah, finally you are getting a house! Thank the Lord!’ Sylvia placed her palms together as if in prayer and flicked her eyes skyward before addressing Romilly. ‘I remember your mum saying she quite liked cosy, but I find the lack of space suffocating! Quaint is good an’ all, but Lord give me space!’ She fanned her face as if to demonstrate her discomfort. Romilly pictured her doing something similar at her parents’ cosy cottage.

‘Actually, we
are
going to buy a house, as soon as I’m fully chartered in two years, but this is rather bigger than that.’ He reached across the table and took his wife’s hand into his own. ‘We are having a baby!’

Sylvia leapt up with tears in her eyes. ‘Oh my God! My baby is having a baby! How did that happen?’ She squealed, took her boy into her arms, then walked around the table to stare at her daughter-in-law.

‘This is wonderful. Really wonderful! I shall knit! I shall crochet things and I can buy little iddy-biddy socks and beautiful clothes! Oh my, this is really something, you clever, clever kids!’ Sylvia kissed Romilly on the cheek and held her close. It was the sweetest, most sincere kiss she had ever given her.

The three laughed and wiped away tears as David poured three flutes of champagne.

‘Not for Romilly, dear. No alcohol now she’s in the family way.’ Sylvia lowered her head and patted the table, as if to give the statement gravitas.

‘Oh, one’ll be okay!’ Romilly reached out, taking the stem between her thumb and forefinger.

David raised his glass. ‘To Wells Junior! The best linebacker this country has ever produced!’ He grinned at the nod to his mother’s heritage.

‘Now, wouldn’t that be something,’ Sylvia said, smiling.

‘Might be twins!’ Romilly added, reminding everyone that this ran in her family. ‘Might be twin
girls
and that means I’ll have to find
two
successful men to palm them off on!’ She laughed loudly and sipped at her champagne.

With the dishes washed, Sylvia dispatched and night drawing its blind on the day, David climbed into bed beside his wife. ‘I think you could say she was pleased.’

‘She really was. I can’t picture her crocheting at all!’ Romilly laughed as she slid down under the duvet, her red hair spread across the pillow like a fiery curtain. She removed her glasses and placed them on the bedside cabinet. ‘I’m in the lab tomorrow, so I don’t have to be up too early.’

‘Lucky you.’ David chuckled. It felt strange that he was now immersed in the world of work, putting on a suit and looking very grown up, while his wife was still a student, working towards her PhD. He turned onto his side and propped his head on his raised palm. ‘Can I ask you something, Rom?’

‘Of course!’ She sighed and closed her eyes.

‘I just wanted to say…’ He paused.

‘What?’ She opened her eyes, noting his hesitancy.

‘I… I think Mum’s right. I think you shouldn’t drink while you’re pregnant.’ He avoided her gaze.

‘Yes, I know. We’ve already agreed that. But it was only a little sip of champagne and it did us all the world of good!’

‘Are you sure that was all you had?’ he asked sheepishly.

Romilly sat up. Her tears hovered near the surface as her cheeks flamed in humiliation. ‘God, David, you make me sound like some old lush! I’m not stupid, I’m a scientist!’ She hated the echo of her mum’s affirmations.
‘This is Romilly and she’s clever…’

BOOK: Another Love
13.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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