Bloody sterile. A sodding Jaffa.
Richard’s revelation shook me to the core, but that was trumped by the poignant exchange he had with Delcie.
Did he father Angelique?
His contorted red face showed his agony, and in that moment I sensed his inner turmoil. Delcie’s confirmation seemed more placating to me, but when Richard broke down and she comforted him, I realised their trauma in losing Angelique would never heal.
It also brought back memories of my Celia — sad memories I had buried until us men were caught up in the paternity issue.
All Mary’s fault.
Richard’s catharsis — I’m sure that was it — only lasted a short time, and it seemed like a huge burden had been lifted from his being. He told Delcie to go with me for dinner, as he was returning to the House to greet Eko. He didn’t speak to Mary.
And I didn’t say good bye to her, either.
Good riddance to her.
I waited outside in the corridor while Delcie — presumably — confirmed Junior’s future with us at the House. Fifteen minutes later, after I had exhausted looking at flaking paint from the walls, she bounced out.
‘Done and dusted,’ she said. ‘She’ll arrange it with Hamish tomorrow.’ She took my arm in hers. ‘Now, celebration time. My treat.’
Which took us back to the old favourite Aid workers haunt, the Italian restaurant with the roof terrace. A balmy evening for a change and a similar atmosphere shared by several talkative groups who gave us the once over, then ignored us.
On our second bottle of wine — a charming Chianti — following sublime pasta dishes, I manoeuvred our talk about Junior’s future onto a more serious topic.
At least to me.
‘About Angelique,’ I said, swallowing a gulp from my glass. ‘Did you tell Richard the truth?’
She put down her glass, picked up a serviette, and dabbed her mouth. ‘It’s been a lovely evening, Charles. Don’t spoil it now.’
‘I’m interested,’ I said.
I shrugged. ‘Well, you know…’
‘No, I don’t. What I told Richard…it doesn’t matter now, does it? She’s never coming back.’
Her eyes glistened. Damn. Once again I’d put my foot in it. Maybe that’s why she chose Richard all those years ago.
‘I’m sorry, I said. ‘Didn’t mean to upset you, old girl.’
‘Well you have.’ She sniffed, pointed a finger at me. ‘And I’m not your old girl.’ Her tone softened, she looked wistful. ‘Or anybody’s.’
I reached out for her hand. She let me hold it. ‘I’m not very good at this, am I?’ I said. ‘I want us to be together, whatever you call it.’
We stared at each other for a few moments. I held her gaze and nodded. Around us, the same hubbub of muted conversations, some titivated laughter. We were not the centre of attention, and I welcomed that.
Finally, ‘Okay,’ she said, removing her hand. ‘But you ever do the dirty on me again, you’re out of my life for good.’
Her eyes glinted. ‘I’ve got news for you. I’m hiring a nurse.’ She folded her arms. ‘Well?’
‘I’m not interested. What’s all this?’
‘You sure? When this Hannah look-alike is swanning around you?’
‘Don’t talk nonsense. If you want, engage someone old and frumpy.’
Delcie unfolded her arms and snickered. ‘I knew you’d see it my way,’ she said.
I’d been outsmarted by a professional. Not fair, really. Women always got the upper hand. I took defeat graciously. ‘More wine?’ I said. This bottle’s on me.’
‘You go ahead.’ She smiled. ‘I’m tired. Busy day, tomorrow.’
My look was met by hers. Mine proposing, hers declining.
‘We sleep. In separate beds.’
My hopes of a romantic end to the evening were dashed. But it was only one small battle lost, plenty of time to win the war.
‘Tomorrow, I’ll join you,’ I said. ‘Anywhere in mind?’
‘NEMO. Talk to Rod, the HR guy. He owes me a favour. Should be pretty easy to find a nurse.’ She reached out and touched my arm. ‘And if you’re a good boy, maybe…well I might even reward you.’
My life back on track?