Sara sat in the middle of the bedroom floor, pulling the contents of a drawer apart. At times like this she wished she were the tidy sort and not such a terrible hoarder. But she was. And as a result this drawer contained her Leaving Certificate results - seventeen years ago. The diploma she’d received from the secretarial college she’d attended three nights a week - sixteen years ago. Her first payslip - for the princely sum of sixty-five pounds. Photos from her debs ball - cringe! How could she have worn that dress? And as for the hair!
‘Mama, Mama!’ Molly pointed her fat little hand at the photo.
Sara handed it over. ‘There you go, honey. Hopefully you won’t end up like that.’
Molly beamed at her and proceeded to chew on the corner of the photograph.
‘That’s probably the treatment it deserves,’ her mother said drily before turning back to the job at hand. Nearly all of the contents of this drawer belonged in the bin, but somehow Sara knew she’d end up keeping most of it. She smiled at the ultra-sound images of Molly and Gavin. They should of course be in an album. When she got to the new house she’d take care of it, she promised herself. There were yet more photos of her twenty-first, several holidays where she went from being a size 8 to a size 12, and, of course, her wedding day. There was one of she and Will standing under the tree outside the church. He was smiling broadly into the camera and she was staring off to the side. ‘I wonder what I was looking at,’ she murmured. Will looked happy and impossibly young. She looked - well - okay. Not exactly the radiant bride but happy enough. Sara sighed guiltily. Here she was with two wonderful children, a devoted, handsome husband and a lovely four-bedroom-house in the right part of Chelsea. Why was she only “happy enough”? Right now she should be ecstatic because in exactly three days she would be moving home to Dublin. But the truth was she wasn’t sure she wanted to move. It would be great for the kids to grow up surrounded by their grandparents and dozens of cousins. But she wasn’t sure that she relished the idea. She’d been self-sufficient for so long. What was it going to be like having her mother-in-law drop by for coffee? How would she feel when her own mother was looking over her shoulder and criticising everything she did? And what about Will’s sisters? Was she to get swallowed up into a babysitting pool? “You and Will go out this Saturday and you can baby-sit the girls next week.” The whole idea of family was a little daunting. It didn’t help her guilt that her mother was planning a huge welcome home party.
‘I'm sure it will be a great night,' her husband had said not very convincingly. 'And it's very kind of Grace to go to so much trouble.'
'She's not doing it for us,' Sara had said sullenly.
'Now, Sara, don't start. You're going to have to learn to get on with Grace. You'll be living in the same city after all.'
The same city. Sara shuddered now as she gathered the photos into an untidy heap and picked up a battered envelope. ‘Oh my God,’ she breathed, sliding out the thin notepaper.
‘Mama, mine!’ Molly demanded imperiously.
Sara absently shoved the photos at her and stared blankly at the letter she’d received on the morning of her wedding. She didn’t really need to read the words. They were imprinted on her brain.
I just wanted to wish you well on your big day. I know you are doing the right thing and that you will be very happy.
Remember me kindly,
She pressed the paper to her face and closed her eyes.
‘Mummy! Come and see. Mummy!’
Sara put the letter quickly back into its envelope and shoved it into the pocket of her jeans. ‘Coming,’ she called out to her three-year-old son as she scrambled to her feet and followed the sound of his voice.
‘I’m packing too,’ he said proudly.
Sara stood rooted in the doorway of Molly’s room and surveyed the devastation that was Gavin’s idea of ‘packing’. All of the baby’s clothes had been emptied into a pile in the middle of the floor and the nappy bucket was full of Molly’s frilly knickers and socks. Sara picked it up and sniffed hopefully but, as she’d feared, she’d forgotten to empty it last night. Oh well, another load for the washing machine. God, there was so much to do and Will was about as useful as his son.
‘Gavin, watch your sister, I’ll be back in a minute.’ Sara hurried down the stairs with the bucket and bunged the clothes into the washing machine. As she was adding the powder she heard Will in the hall.
‘Hey, I’m home. Where is everyone?’
‘Daddy, Daddy!’ Gavin hurtled down the stairs and threw himself into his father’s arms.
‘Hey, little man, how are you - Jesus!’ Will bounded up the stairs as his daughter swayed precariously on the top step. ‘It’s okay, Molly, I’ve got you. Sara! Where the hell are you?’
Sara hurried into the hall as her husband came downstairs, a child in each arm. ‘What is it?’
‘What were you thinking of leaving the kids alone upstairs? Molly could have broken her neck if I wasn’t here.’
Sara bit her lip, thinking that if Gavin hadn’t run to greet his daddy, the two children would have played happily upstairs until she’d returned. ‘I only left them for a minute,’ she protested weakly.
‘That’s all it takes. Don’t you know that most accidents happen in the home? You should be more careful.’
‘Well, it’s not easy trying to do all the packing on my own and mind the kids at the same time,’ Sara shot back. ‘You promised you’d be home hours ago.’
Will shrugged. ‘They had a bit of a do for me, I could hardly walk out.’
‘No of course not,’ Sara said sarcastically. ‘That would have been rude.’
‘Oh, for God’s sake, Sara, stop playing the martyr. The removal people will do all the work tomorrow.’
‘They’re hardly going to go through all our personal stuff. I wouldn’t want them too anyway.’
Will sighed wearily. ‘Just leave it to me. I’ll have it sorted in an hour.’
‘Great!’ Sara grabbed her bag and the keys of the car and headed for the door. ‘But before you do, give the kids their dinner, then bath them and put them to bed. Oh, and don’t forget to read them a story. Gavin likes Thomas The Tank Engine and Molly likes her book of nursery rhymes.’
Panic crept over Will’s face. ‘But, Sara, wait-’
Sara smiled brightly and blew her family a kiss. ‘Night-night.’
14th February, 1992 - Dublin
'There's something I want to say to you, Sara.' Tim leaned closer.
Sara gulped as she stared into his clear blue eyes, so tender , so earnest. This was it! 'Yes?'
He took her hand in his. 'God, you're so beautiful.'
'Is that what you wanted to tell me?' Sara teased.
He looked down and shook his head. 'No, no it isn't. Oh, Sara, this is so difficult for me.'
Sara's smile faded away. 'What is it, Tim? Tell me.'
Tim took a deep breath and looked her straight in the eye. 'I'm married.'
Sara felt as if she’d been kicked in the stomach. 'Married?'
He nodded. 'I'm so sorry, Sara, I should have told you before but I was afraid of losing you.'
'You're separated?' Sara desperately tried to make sense of what he was saying.
'But you live alone.'
Tim looked shamefaced 'The flat is only rented. I moved into it while our house was being renovated. Carol went to the States to stay with her sister. She gets back tomorrow.'
Sara closed her eyes, waves of nausea threatening to overpower her. Carol. Somehow a name made it more real, more horrific. 'You said you loved me,' she said faintly.
'I do,' Tim protested. 'Oh, Sara, I've never done anything like this before. I'm disgusted with myself for being unfaithful to Carol, but I never counted on meeting you.'
'Have you any children?' Sara was surprised at how calm she sounded.
He shook his head emphatically. 'No, no kids.'
'And are you . . . happy?' She stumbled over the word.
Tim shrugged. 'We do okay.'
'Only okay?' Sara probed, pushing her feelings of guilt firmly to the back of her mind.
'Maybe I expect too much,' Tim said sadly. 'I thought I would always be as madly in love as I was the day I got married.' He looked at her hungrily. 'But then I hadn’t met you. Oh, Sara, I love you so much.'
Sara's eyes filled with tears. 'I love you too, Tim!'
'If only I'd met you first.'
'Maybe its not too late,' Sara ventured, her cheeks reddening. ‘Couples separate all the time. I know you couldn’t get a divorce but I wouldn't mind.'
Tim stroked her hand lovingly. 'You're so understanding, Sara, but I couldn't walk out on Carol. She's done nothing to deserve it and she would be devastated.'
Sara's face fell. 'Well, okay, but there are other ways . . .'
Tim shook his head. ‘I would never ask you to -'
'Be your mistress? The other woman?'
'No.’ Tim was adamant. ‘You deserve better. You deserve a man that can give you everything, unconditionally. I can't do that.’
So it's over.' Sara's voice was barely a whisper.
Tim stared at her miserably, his eyes bright with tears. 'It's for the best, Sara. Just remember me kindly.'
15th February, 1992 - Dublin
‘He’s married.’ Sara sat on her friend’s bed and stared mournfully at her reflection in the mirror. She had thought she’d met the love of her life in Tim Hutchins. She had thought they’d be together forever.
‘What? You’re kidding me!’
‘I suppose he’s told you he’ll leave his wife when the kids are older,’ Ali said knowingly.
Sara looked away, embarrassed. ‘He doesn’t have kids.’
‘So what’s the story? Do they live “separate lives”?’ Ali’s voice was laden with sarcasm. She’d heard all the lines before.
‘I don’t think so.’
Ali frowned. ‘I don't understand. What's his excuse?'
‘He says he loves me but that he will never leave his wife.’
‘Oh.’ Ali looked confused. This was a new one on her. ‘But he wants to go on seeing you too, right?’
Sara's eyes filled up and there was a wobble in her voice. 'No. He says I'm too good to be just someone's mistress, that I deserve better.'
‘Of course you do!’ Ali said staunchly but groaned as she saw the tears spill over onto Sara's cheeks. ‘Oh, dear, you’re nuts about him, aren’t you?’
Sara nodded, unable to speak.
Ali sat down on the bed and put an arm around her. ‘At least he was honest with you.’
‘Yeah, but it's so unfair, Ali. I know he loves me. Why couldn't I have met him before Carol?'
Ali shrugged. 'It wasn't meant to be,' she said philosophically. 'It means there's someone even better out there for you.'
'Do you think so?' Sara said, unable to believe a man as wonderful as Tim existed on the entire planet.
'Yes, of course!'
'You know he brought me to The Four Seasons for this gorgeous meal last night. That's when he told me.’ She laughed harshly through her tears. ‘I actually thought he was going to propose!’
‘And instead he told you he was already married. On Valentine's day! His timing is something else!’ Ali tousled her friend’s hair. ‘Poor you. I’m so sorry, Sara.’
Sara blew her nose loudly. ‘Hey, easy come, easy go.’
Ali hopped up and threw open the wardrobe. ‘Let’s get seriously dressed up and go out on the town.’
‘Can we get really, really drunk?’
‘It’s a prerequisite,’ Ali said solemnly.
‘Well, okay then.’
2nd July, 2001 - Chelsea
Sitting in a corner of the dimly lit pub, Sara sipped her lager and lit a cigarette. She wouldn’t really leave Will to do all the work. She’d just stay out long enough to make him sweat. She pulled Tim’s crumpled letter out of her jeans and studied it. What on earth had made him write it? She hadn’t even realised that he knew she was getting married. It had been over six months since they’d split up and though she’d heard snippets of gossip about him through mutual friends, it had never occurred to her that he might be keeping track of her too. Maybe he’d missed her. Maybe he’d realised he’d made a terrible mistake.
After their break-up, Ali had dragged her out clubbing most nights, telling her that the love - or more accurately lust - of another man was the way to get over Tim Hutchins. Six weeks later, her determination paid off when Sara met Will Frost. They had been drawn to each other immediately and within weeks had slipped into a comfortable relationship. They were like old friends. Sara smiled slightly at the memory of Will’s proposal. Not the most romantic, it had to be said.
‘We’re getting on really well, aren’t we, Sara?’
‘Yes, we are.’ Sara had nodded.
‘I’ve never been able to talk to a girl the way I can talk to you,’ he’d admitted. ‘I think we could really make a go of this.’
‘Yeah. Let’s get married, Sara.’
She had spluttered into her glass of Cider. ‘Sorry?’
‘Well, why not?’ he'd hurried on, beads of perspiration appearing on his forehead. ‘I know I’ll never find anyone as great as you.’
‘Don’t you think we’re rushing things?’ Sara had said.
Will shook his head. ‘Why wait? I know what I want, how about you? Do you think you could spend the rest of your life with me?’
‘I, I don't know,' Sara had stammered.
'Look, Sara, I've been offered this amazing job in London. Come with me. Marry me.'
Sara had refused to give him an answer that night, but a few days later she said yes.
'Are you mad?' Ali had screeched. ‘I told you to get yourself a new man. I didn't say you had to marry him!'
'But I want to. Will's nice.'
Ali wrinkled her nose. 'Nice?'
'Yes, nice,' Sara had said defensively. It may not be good enough for Ali but it was perfect for Sara. She didn’t want to be hurt again and she knew that Will would always look after her and protect her. So she’d one very unhappy chapter of her life and moved on. She would never think about Tim again. And she hadn’t. Well, only occasionally.
Sara finished her drink and wondered what Tim - now forty-one - would look like. Was he still gorgeous in that dark, overwhelming way? Was he still with his wife? Did he still think about her the way she thought about him? Sometimes his image flashed into her head when Will was making love to her. It consumed Sara with guilt that it should but Tim had made her feel like no man ever had before. It wasn’t easy to forget that.
‘Can I get you anything else?’ The waitress looked enquiringly at Sara’s empty glass.
Sara looked up, startled. ‘No, thanks.’ She put Tim’s note carefully in the inside pocket of her handbag and stood up. It was time to return to reality. Time to forget that other life and concentrate on the one she’d made with Will and the children. It was a good life and, for the most part, a happy one. She could only put her current feelings of unease down to the move. Once they were settled back in Dublin she’d be fine again. Of course she would.
6th July, 2001 - Dublin
‘I wish you’d come to the party, Ali,’ Sara groaned. ‘It’s going to be an ordeal without you.’
Ali grinned as she tucked the phone under her chin. ‘Sorry, pet, but Jack is taking me to the K Club for the weekend. I couldn’t really pass that up, now could I?’
‘I wish we were coming with you,’ Sara said enviously. Why couldn’t Will be as spontaneous as Ali’s husband? ‘It’s years since Will and I went away together.’
‘You should do something about it,’ Ali told her. ‘It’s about time you two had a second honeymoon.’
‘Huh, that’s a laugh! If I brought him somewhere like the K Club, he’d just want to play golf all the time. Having me along would be more of an inconvenience.’
‘My, we are feeling sorry for ourselves!’
Sara flicked absently through the bills on the hall table. ‘Sorry. I’m just exhausted after the move and the thoughts of this party -’
‘Oh Jeez, I forgot to tell you!’ Ali interrupted excitedly. ‘You’ll never guess who I met during the week.’
‘Who?’ Sara brightened at the smell of gossip.
‘You’re kidding me!’
‘Did you talk to him? Did he ask about me?’ Sara looked at herself in the hall mirror and touched her hair self-consciously. ‘How did he look?’
‘Yes, yes and okay if you like that sort of thing.’ Ali laughed.
‘Where did you meet him? Was he on his own?’
‘It was at a reception in the National Art Gallery and no, get this, he was with his new wife!’
Sara sank on to the bottom stair. ‘New wife?’
‘Yeah, Abigail, gorgeous and twenty-five at most.’
‘Bitch,’ Sara said automatically. ‘I can’t believe it. He told me he’d never leave Carol.’
‘Word is that she left him.’
Sara closed her eyes. ‘That’s incredible,’ she breathed. ‘Do you know when?’
Ali sighed at the misery in Sara’s voice. ‘Oh, Sara, you’re not still carrying a torch for the guy, are you? I’d never have told you if I thought -’
‘No of course not!’ Sara forced herself to laugh. ‘I’m just curious, that’s all.’
‘Yeah, well, I don’t know all the gory details, I’m afraid.’
Sara suppressed a sigh of frustration. That’s okay, I forgive you. look, I’d better make a start on dinner. Have a great weekend.’
‘Thanks, pet. I’ll call you when I get back. And enjoy the party!’
‘Yeah, right!’ Sara hung up the phone. ‘He’s married again. It might have been you if you’d waited for him. If you’d given him some time -’
The phone shrilled and she pounced on it. ‘Yes?’
‘Hi, love. I’ve been trying to get through for a while.’
‘I was talking to Ali,’ Sara told her husband defensively.
‘Oh, how is she? Is she coming to the party?’
‘No, she’s going away for the weekend.’
‘Pity. Listen, I’ll be home at about seven. Why don’t I pick up some takeaway en route and you can have a break from the kitchen?’
‘That would be nice,’ Sara said guiltily. ‘Don’t forget to get some chicken for Gavin.’
Will laughed. ‘As if I would! You know that child is going to sprout feathers one day! Seeya later.’
‘Seeya.’ Sara replaced the handset and went to check on the children. Molly was curled up like a puppy in a corner of the lounge, fast asleep, her thumb in her mouth. Gavin was pounding around the room growling and baring his teeth pretending he was a dinosaur. She looked at the two of them, her eyes bright with tears and wondered once more why she was only “happy enough”.
7th July, 2001 - Dublin
‘Great to see you back!’ Gerry Nolan raised his bottle of beer and winked broadly at her.
‘Thanks,’ she said, feeling that her jaw would break if she had to smile for much longer. ‘Having a good time, love?’ Her dad pressed another glass of tepid white wine into her hand.
‘Great, Dad, but I wish Mum hadn’t gone to so much trouble.’
Joe Kavanagh glanced around the packed room. ‘Ah, sure you know your mother. She loves giving parties. Moans like hell about it, but loves it all the same.’
Sara studied her mother standing in the centre of the room chatting to a neighbour. Grace Kavanagh looked completely wrapped up in conversation but Sara knew that she’d be taking in everything going on around her. Who was talking to who, had the catering company skimped on the vol-au-vents and were her family all playing their parts.
Joe caught his wife’s eye and sighed. ‘I’d better go and talk to Nigel or your mother will never forgive me. See you later, love.’
Sara watched her father approach the idiosyncratic investment analyst who lived in the largest house on the road. Her mother was always trying to court him and though he often attended her “do’s” he never returned the compliment. ‘Miserable old sod.’
‘Who’s that?’ Kath asked taking a gulp from Sara’s wine glass.
Sara pulled the glass away from her little sister. ‘Nigel.’
Kath rolled her eyes. ‘Oh, him.’
‘Do you think he’s gay?’ Sara mused.
Kath smirked. ‘If he is, Mum will be devastated. She’s smitten.’
Sara snorted. ‘Smitten by his big house and bank-balance, you mean.’
‘Now, now, that’s no way for a prodigal daughter to talk about her mother.’
‘God, I feel like I never left,’ Sara said with feeling. ‘Nothing much changes around here, does it?’
‘At least you don’t have to live here,’ Kath moaned.
‘And neither do you, you’re just too bloody lazy to move. I don’t know, twenty-nine and still living at home!’
‘Ah, but the foods good and the laundry service is even better.’
‘You’re a user.’
‘Mum needs someone to fuss over,’ Kath protested. ‘I’m doing her a favour.’
‘You’re all heart.’
‘Around.’ Sara looked vague.
‘Is everything okay with you two?’
‘Yeah, sure, why wouldn’t it be?’
‘No reason,’ Kath said innocently. ’Just thought that you might have hit the seven year itch.’
‘We’re married eight years,’ Sara replied dryly. ‘And only men get “the itch”.’
‘God, you’re so old-fashioned! Haven’t you heard of equality? Anyway, Will would never get the itch.’
‘What do you mean by that?’
Kath shrugged uncomfortably. ‘Well, he’s too . . . too . . .’
Kath flashed her a look. ‘I was going to say settled.’
‘Same thing,’ Sara said morosely.
‘Sara?’ Kath was all concern.
‘Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just feeling sorry for myself. I’m absolutely knackered after the move and the last thing I needed was this!’ She gestured at the room full of people that she barely knew.
‘It’s only one night, Sis, and it makes Mum happy.’
‘Yeah, I know,’ Sara said guiltily. ‘I’m an ungrateful cow.’
‘You’re just too sober,’ Kath said cheerfully. ‘Let’s get sozzled.’
Sara looked disgustedly at her wine. ‘On this stuff?’
‘God, no! Follow me. I know where the gin is stashed.’
Sara giggled. ‘Lead on.’
‘Sara? Sara, wake up!’
She groaned as Will turned the light on. The gin had definitely been a mistake. ‘What are you doing? What time is it?’
‘Around five. Look I want you to take a look at Molly. She seems a bit hot to me.’
Sara shot up in the bed. ‘Is she crying?’
Will led the way back to the nursery. ‘It’s more like she’s moaning. I’m not sure whether she’s awake or not.’
Sara turned on the nightlight and leaned over the baby. Tiny tendrils of dark hair stuck to Molly’s forehead and she was tossing restlessly. Sara quickly put a hand to her head, then stomach. ‘You’re right, she has a temperature.’
‘Should we wake her up and give her something?’ Will always let Sara make the decisions where the children were concerned.
‘I’m not sure. She doesn’t seem that upset. Let’s sponge her down and open a window and see if that helps.’
Will hurried off to get a cloth while Sara gently opened Molly’s baby-grow. ‘Oh, God - Will!’
Will raced back in as Sara turned on the light. ‘What? What is it?’
‘She’s covered in a rash. We need to get her to a hospital.’
Will leaned over to inspect his daughter. ‘It doesn’t seem too bad. Maybe we should call a doctor.’
‘We don’t have a bloody doctor,’ Sara hissed worriedly. ‘I haven’t had time to register with anyone.’
‘That doesn’t matter. We’re back in Dublin now. Any doctor will come out in an emergency. Let me get the phonebook.’
‘But Will -’
‘Sit with her, sponge her down and leave it to me,’ Will said firmly.
Sara nodded and obediently turned back to her daughter. As she sponged the tiny body she found herself remembering Molly’s birth. She could vividly recall the first time she’d held her. The look of wonder and tenderness on Will’s face when he saw his daughter. Gavin’s rather mixed feelings about having a sister. ‘You’re going to be okay, sweetheart,’ she whispered now. ‘Mummy’s here. Everything is going to be okay.’
Molly stirred and her eyelids flickered but she didn’t wake. God, maybe she was in a coma. ‘Please, God, make her better. I’ll do anything, anything at all. I’ll never complain about being bored again. I’ll never complain about my life again. Just make my baby better!’
Will came back in and put an arm around her. ‘He’ll be here in about twenty minutes. Don’t worry, love, I’m sure she’s fine.’
‘How do we know if this doctor is any good? I can’t believe you just picked a name from the phonebook.’
‘I didn’t,’ Will replied calmly. ‘I phoned Mike Collins - a guy from the office. I’d forgotten that he lived in Sutton too. He called his own GP for me.’
‘Oh, Will, that’s great. I’m sure it’s probably nothing but I’d still feel a lot better if a doctor checked her out. Do you think we should do the glass check?’ she added nervously.
‘Why not?’ Will went to fetch a tumbler from the bathroom. It wasn’t the first time that he and Sara had held a glass against Gavin or Molly’s skin to check for Meningitis. Each time they did, they both held their breath. Sara held the restless child still as he pressed the glass against her tiny arm.
‘Oh, thank God,’ Sara breathed as the rash disappeared.
Will smiled. ‘She’ll be fine. It’s probably just some bug she’s picked up. I’ll go and check on Gavin.’
Sara looked startled. ‘Oh! You don’t think -’
‘I’m sure he’s fine, Sara. I just want to check on him.’
Molly stirred and started to sob.
‘Why don’t you sing to her, ‘ he said gently. ‘That always calms her down.’
Sara nodded and reached in to pick up her daughter. She walked up and down the room crooning softly, her mouth against the baby’s head. ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star . . .
Will quietly left the room and went to check on his son. Gavin was sleeping peacefully, one arm flung across the bed, the other tightly clutching his Bob The Builder Truck. After satisfying himself that Gavin’s temperature was normal, Will smoothed back his son’s hair and went back to the nursery. ‘Sleeping like a baby,’ he reported in answer to Sara’s questioning look. He stood and watched Sara rock the baby until he heard the crunch of tyres on the gravel outside. ‘That will be the doctor,’ he said unnecessarily and hurried down the stairs to open the door. ‘Thank you, so much for coming, Doctor.’
‘No problem.’ The doctor looked as if he’d just fallen out of bed. ‘Greg Berry,’ he introduced himself.
‘Will Frost.’ Will shook his hand and led the way back upstairs.
‘Now, tell me about your daughter.’
‘Her name is Molly. She was one three weeks ago.’
‘Is she normally in good health?’
‘And does she eat well?’
Will grinned. ‘Everything we put in front of her.’
‘Good and has she had all her inoculations?’
‘Yes, including the latest Meningitis one. Oh, and we’ve just moved back here from London.’ Will pushed open the nursery door and stood back.
‘Okay, then.’ Greg went in ahead of him. ‘Hello, there.’ He smiled at Sara. ‘Hello Molly.’
‘She’s very hot,’ Sara told him too anxious to even manage a hello. ‘And the rash is on her back, arms and stomach.’
‘Let’s take a look. Has she been asleep the whole time?’
Sara nodded. ‘Yes, do you think she’s in a a coma?’
Greg took Molly in his arms and started to examine her. ‘No, I’d say she just wants to sleep, Mrs Frost.’
‘It’s Sara. Molly has had all her inoculations -’
‘Yes, your husband filled me in.’
Sara looked at her husband in surprise. She wouldn’t have thought Will would have even known. She had always taken care of the children’s health visits.
Greg finished his examination and handed Molly back to her. ‘I’ll give her an injection and then I’ll write you a prescription. I’m sure she’ll be fine in the morning but come in and see me on Monday if you’re still worried. And now, I think we should wake this little one up. It would be better if Mum did that. She’ll get an awful scare if she looks up and sees me!’ He put a hand to his uncombed, unruly mop of hair.
Sara smiled weakly. ‘Molly? Molly? Wake up.’
‘Shall I turn on the music box?’ Will suggested.
‘Oh, yes, good idea,’ Sara said gratefully.
As the light tinkly music filled the room, Sara gently tickled Molly’s tummy and held her upright. ‘Come on, Molly, its time to wake up now.’
Molly’s eyes flickered then she yawned and after a quick look at the doctor threw back her head and roared.
‘Do you really think she’s okay?’ Sara asked Will again.
‘Of course she is! Just look at her!’
She looked down at her daughter sitting on the floor surrounded by Gavin’s trains and clapping her hands happily as the whistle blew. Gavin scrambled eagerly around her - now that he’d woken up properly, he was quite enjoying the adventure.
‘That injection seemed to do the trick.’ Will leaned down to touch his daughter’s cheek. ‘I’d swear her temperature is on the way down already.’
‘And she doesn’t seem to be in any pain,’ Sara admitted. ‘But I just hate it when they say “Oh, it’s probably just a virus.” Just! I was scared stiff!’
Will hugged her. ‘Me too. God, what would we do without the pair of them? What would I do without you?’
Sara smiled shyly. ‘You were great tonight.’
‘All I did was call the doctor.’
‘No, you stayed calm. I didn’t.’
‘You’re her mother, Sara. And you’re such a great one too. Of course you were upset. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I love you.’
‘Me too,’ Sara mumbled into his chest, choked with guilt as she thought about the way she’d been feeling about him lately. If only he knew.
‘I’m sorry about the last couple of months,’ he said suddenly, as if reading her mind.
‘What do you mean?’
Will shrugged. ‘I haven’t been much good to you since I was offered this new job.’
‘You’ve been under a lot of pressure,’ Sara replied.
‘Yes, I have, but so have you. You organised our whole move. You got everything packed up and pretty much sold the house on your own. And now you’ve turned this place into a home already.’ He looked around him at the cartoon characters Sara had painstakingly applied to the nursery walls on the night they’d moved in. Molly had slept through, oblivious and woken the next morning delighted to be surrounded by her favourite characters. ‘Sorry, for leaving you to deal with so much.’
‘That’s okay,’ Sara said feeling really guilty now. Would he be so nice to her if he knew that she was dreaming about other men - well, one man, but that was nearly worse.
‘Are you happy to be home, love?’ Will asked.
Sara looked down at her children’s dark heads pressed together and her heart lurched. ‘Yes, of course I am.’
He kissed her gently on the lips. ‘Good. Because you know if you wanted to go back tomorrow, I’d do it.’
Sara raised an eyebrow. ‘And walk away from your six-figure-salary?’ she teased.
‘Tomorrow,’ he repeated, deadly serious. ‘If it was what would make you happy.’
Sara looked up into his eyes and smiled. ‘It would make me happy if we got these two to sleep and went back to bed.’
Will’s eyes twinkled. ‘I’ll have them tucked up and fast asleep in ten minutes, leave it to me!’
23rd July, 2001 - Dublin
Sara kissed her mother goodbye. ‘Thanks for lunch, Mum.’
‘You’re welcome, dear. Now remember dinner at eight on Saturday. Oh, and did I say? Nigel’s coming.’
‘You said,’ Sara smiled. At least five times. ‘We’ll be there.’
‘And don’t forget to tell the children that we’re having a day out next week,’ her mother continued oblivious. ‘I think I’ll take them to the zoo.’
Sara gawped at her. ‘They’d love that.’
Grace Kavanagh nodded. ‘Good, then that’s what we’ll do. Goodbye, darling. Love to Will.’
As Sara strolled back down Grafton Street she thought about how good it was to be home and how amazed she was that it was good to be home. She was getting on better with her mother than she ever had in the past.
‘You’re older now and a mother yourself,’ Will had said when she’d remarked on this new development. ‘You’ve got more confidence. Grace doesn’t intimidate you anymore.’
‘You think she intimidated me?’ Sara had asked in surprise.
Will laughed. ‘That woman intimidates everyone! Even Gavin eats his greens when she’s around.’
Sara smiled as she remembered the conversation. It was true that Grace was a force to be reckoned with but she didn’t needle Sara the way she used to.
‘Sara? Sara Kavanagh?’
She swung around to see who was calling her name and the smile froze on her face. ‘Tim!’
Tim took her hands and smiled down into her face. ‘Oh, Sara, it’s so wonderful to see you. You haven’t changed a bit!’
Sara looked at his linen suit and flamboyant silk tie. ‘Neither have you.’ She could scarcely believe her eyes. Tim Hutchins was standing in front of her after all this time.
‘It must be at least six years.’
‘Nine,’ she corrected with a tremulous smile. ‘I believe you met Ali.’
‘Yes! Isn’t it amazing? After all this time I bump into the two of you in the same week! She was telling me that you have children.’
‘Yes, two. Gavin is three and Molly is one.’
‘Are they as beautiful as their mother?’ he said with that wonderful smile that had always made her toes curl.
‘They’re actually the image of their dad,’ Sara admitted,’ but yes, they’re beautiful.’
Tim looked thoughtful. ‘You look wonderful - in fact radiant.’
‘How are things with you?’ she asked, trying to keep her voice steadier than her hands.
‘Good, everything’s good.’
‘Ali told me your news. Congratulations.’
Tim had the grace to look embarrassed. ‘Oh, right, thanks. You must have thought it odd but you see -’
‘Tim! I wondered where you’d got to.’ The tiny blonde who’d just emerged from a nearby shoe-shop put a possessive arm through Tim’s and shot Sara a challenging look. ‘They didn’t have my size.’
Sara took a deep breath and held out her hand. ‘Hi. You must be Abigail.‘
The girl tittered. ‘Eh, its Rachel actually.’
‘Rachel’s a colleague,’ Tim said hurriedly.
Rachel licked her lips and smiled up into his eyes. ‘Yeah, that’s right, I’m a colleague.’
Sara looked from her triumphant grin to his sheepish one. ‘Right. I see.’ And for the first time she saw Tim for what he was. Not her devoted lover desperate to do the right thing. Just another guy who was out for what he could get. ‘Well, it was nice to see you again. Like I said, Tim, you haven’t changed a bit.’
Tim touched her arm as she turned to go. ‘It wasn’t like that, Sara –‘
‘It really doesn’t matter, Tim,’ Sara told him and realised she meant it. ‘Just remember me kindly.’ She winked at him and strode off down Grafton Street with her head in the air. How come I’m not in floods of tears, she thought. Shouldn’t I be devastated to find out that I was just one of many? But she felt – nothing. She’d told Tim it didn’t matter and it was true, she realised. It really didn’t matter. Tim Hutchins was history. She’d been in love with a myth.
‘So what did you do today?’ Will asked as they sat in their local Chinese restaurant that evening.
Sara took a sip of her wine. ‘I spent a fortune on this dress and had lunch with Mum.’
Will gazed appreciatively at her plunging neckline. ‘Worth every penny,’ he murmured.
‘Oh, and I met my ex!’
‘Who’s that?’ Will wrinkled his nose. He remembered that Sara had broken up shortly before they met but he couldn’t remember the guy’s name.
‘Tim, Tim Hutchin’s,’ Sara told him.
‘Oh, I remember. The married guy.’ Will tut-tutted disapprovingly. ‘So, what did he have to say for himself?’
‘Well, I was just congratulating him on his new wife when his bit on the side appeared beside him.’
‘You’re kidding! God, that was a lucky escape! Aren’t you glad you married me now?’
‘I am,’ Sara answered a lot more fervently than the flippant question required.
‘Can I get you some dessert?’ The waiter appeared at her side, pad and pen at the ready.
Sara consulted the dessert menu in front of her. ‘I think I’ll have some of that wonderful chocolate ice-cream.’
Will nodded enthusiastically. ‘Oh, yes, I’ll have the same and two Irish Coffees, please. So tell me more about this boyfriend,.’ he said teasingly when the waiter had departed.
Sara shook her head, smiling. ‘No, he’s not important. Tell me about your day.’
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