For once I agreed with Delcie. Mary was a menace. Making all sorts of accusations, all of them unfounded — but she left me with a nagging thought.
…Your faithful wife needs to come clean.
Delcie brushed it off, and Mary didn’t pursue it, but I sensed a discord between them, like a scab had been ripped off leaving an open wound.
I decided to broach it over dinner.
The restaurant was situated close to the hospital — we could have walked it, but Delcie hailed a cab. “My shoes are killing me”, she said. A cool evening, and we sat outside on the empty terrace sharing a mosquito spray. I made liberal use of it just in case any dengue-carrying females were still active. One in twenty, I believed. Or was that malaria?
‘Maybe we should sit inside,’ said Delcie, who had relaxed into her chair.
I shrugged, couldn’t be bothered. ‘We’re here now.’
A couple of glasses of white wine later, Delcie opened up.
‘About Mary,’ she said.
‘About Angelique,’ I responded. ‘And Jane. Who’s been telling me the truth, or is that something alien to you both?’
Delcie’s glass was raised to her lips. She didn’t sip at it. Put it back down on the table, folded her arms, and looked at me.
I held her gaze. ‘Well?’
Her voice was wistful. ‘We were young, made mistakes, but I chose you, Richard. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I remained faithful to you until we lost Angelique to the tsunami and you became a different man to the one I married.’
What I wanted to ask, I couldn’t, and I didn’t want to hear the answer, I didn’t want Delcie to lower her head and whisper sorry, because the truth — if it was the truth — would tear me apart.
Did I father Angelique?
Instead, I compromised. ‘I agree we both made mistakes. God, if I could only turn the clock back I wouldn’t be facing this bloody paternity test.’
Somehow the showdown had been averted, and I resolved to never mention it again. Angelique was my daughter and spiritual guide — nothing could change that.
The waiter arrived with our meals, and our conversation returned to small talk while we pushed food around our plates. Both of us thinking what was going to happen next?
Delcie laid down her knife and fork and looked up. ‘Charles…’
His name lingered in the air between us like some malevolent spirit. I sniffed. ‘I can smell his bloody cigar-smoke from here.’
Delcie sighed. ‘Can’t you play another tune? We need him, Richard, or we’ll never sort out Mary.’
‘What’s that mean?’
I pointed a finger at her. ‘It means I expect Charles will deny anything and everything relating to Mary’s daughter. And if that’s the case, I’m out of here for good.’
‘You can’t do that.’
‘Can’t I? Try me.’
‘Richard, be sensible for once. Where are you going to go? Some doss-hole with your toy-boy in the middle of nowhere?’
‘The Manor, Richard. Our compromise. Our reality. And it’s big enough to keep us from bumping into each other every minute of the day.’
‘Look, if you ever mention toy-boy again, I’ll…I’ll…oh, fuck it.’
Delcie picked up her glass and took a swallow. ‘I knew you’d see it my way. Now be a good boy, keep quiet, and leave Charles to me.’
At the back of my mind I knew she was right. Charles did help us pay our way, and the House was part of me. I hoped Eko would feel the same. I couldn’t envisage settling anywhere else — besides I couldn’t afford it. As she said.
The reality. A compromise.
While the waiter cleared away the remains of our now-cold dinner I thought more about Eko. Had Tevfik talked to him? I pulled out my phone, switched it on, and looked at the illuminated screen. No missed calls, no messages.
A bout of exhaustion swept through me and I wanted to return to the House and sleep. I rubbed my eyes. ‘Couldn’t it wait until tomorrow? Or the next day?’
Delcie looked at me, seemed to be pondering the idea. She twisted her head, and glanced outside. I followed her gaze. An overcast evening; the road full of noisy vehicles, and a few locals all dressed in sarongs walked hand in hand past our terrace. A cool breeze lapped at my ankles, and I bent down and massaged them. She murmured something indistinct, as if to herself. Then turned back to me.
‘I’d like nothing more, believe me, but what about Junior?’
Bloody good question. I wasn’t up for contemplating. ‘I don’t know. And I don’t want you to…’
She held up a hand. ‘No, I’m not going to mention it, but if neither of you are Jane’s father we’ll have no say in his future. Would we?’
I drummed my fingers on the table top. ‘Good grief, how many more times…do you really want me to accept paternity?’
‘Well, no, of course not…’
She put on a hurt look. ‘You said you’d take care of him, didn’t you?’
‘No. I said I’d help find a new home for him. That’s different.’
‘At the Manor. You agreed.’
I scowled at her. ‘You’re putting words in my mouth. This is getting nowhere, and I’m bloody bushed.’ I put both hands on the table and heaved myself up. ‘I need a breath of fresh air to clear my head if I’m going back to face Mary, Charles, and that bloody Donaldson. Are you coming with me?’
Delcie nodded, and I settled the bill.
Back to the lions’ den. I prayed — like Daniel — I would escape intact.