Richard leaving — for how long only God knew — made me feel sad, and, apart from one or two couplings, I was disinterested in Charles’s persistent advances. I missed my husband -- the very word “husband” unsettled me despite all that had happened.
My adulterous behaviour was disloyal, deceitful, and despicable, and before the tsunami my affair with Charles would have been mere caprice. After Richard left I hoped to embrace a deep and meaningful relationship, but Charles’s inability to understand my emotional turmoil became apparent. His complaints about my frequent mood swings — blinding migraines brought on by my imminent change of life -- only distanced him further from me.
Days passed. Slowly. No news from Richard -- or from Jane, who travelled to Medan for some overdue R&R with her colleagues. It worried me — so much so that my liaisons with Charles were not as often as he would have liked. One evening after I rejected his demands we had an altercation at my bedroom door. I had placed the chain across which irritated him.
‘What’s up, Delcie?’
His tone of voice meant something like “Now what? Another sodding headache?”
I opened the door a crack, saw his flushed face, and tried to calm him down. ‘I’m sorry, but can we cool it for a while?’
‘Cool it? For a while? What does that mean?’
I tried to prick his conscience. ‘I can’t just desert Richard. He’s still my husband.’
Charles clenched a fist as though he was going to strike the door and force his way in.
‘Do you think he gives a toss about you anymore? He’s probably shacked up with his…his houseguest now.’
I kept quiet. Simply stood, watching his hands clench and unclench. The stilted silence between us was breached by the imperial sound of the grandfather clock standing regally against the wall in the unlit corridor.
…His eyes dulled, his shoulders sank a little, and he turned away.
I stood still for a few more moments, listening to his fading footsteps squeaking along the wooden floor.
Away from me.
I closed the door.
My hopes of brighter days ahead lay with Jane. Every passing week brought me closer to holding a new life in my arms, especially gratifying when I met her for afternoon pastries at Majestyk Bakery. I kept nudging her to stay with me at the House, but her work routine made it awkward -- many ad hoc meetings and planned community visits to coordinate.
This day, though, matters took a different course. We were sitting at our usual table by the window overlooking the harbour market.
‘I’ll move in when I take maternity leave… if that’s all right with you?’ Jane said, eyeing my Danish.
I licked a piece of flaky pastry off my lips. ‘Of course it is… I can hardly wait.’
She laughed, rubbed her extended stomach. ‘Junior is also getting impatient -- I’m sure he could play rugger for England.’
Time stopped. A young couple laughed at an adjoining table, but my emotions were the opposite. I sucked in a breath; first time she’d mentioned that.
‘He? You’re having a baby boy?’
Jane nodded, picked up her cup of herbal tea, and sipped. ‘Now the secret’s out. Last week’s scan... isn’t it exciting?’
My tears, either delight or distress, I wasn’t sure. I’d always assumed a girl, but I congratulated her.
‘Oh…wonderful news. I’m so happy for you.’
I couldn’t hide my feelings from Jane, though. ‘Auntie. You’re disappointed the baby’s not a girl?’
Jane touched my arm, said softly to support me, ‘I’m sure Angelique would have liked a baby brother.’
More tears flowed down my cheeks, leaving a salty taste in my mouth. ‘Oh, goodness me, I’m such a selfish old fool.’ I dabbed a napkin on my face. ‘You understand me so well. So, so understanding.’
The cuckoo clock struck five. We both raised our heads to watch the birdie. Seemed like an omen -- déjà vu -- when my life changed for the better. I hoped this would be similar.
I wrapped my hand in hers, smiled through blurred eyelids. ‘Thank you, Jane,’ I said. ‘Thank you.’
Two nights later, I wasn’t so sure.