A Time of Purgatory, a short story by texrep. Date added: 2010-01-22. Times viewed: 1672.
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- Intro: Tim's wife leaves him without word or reason. It is years before he understands why.
CHAPTER ONE A TIME OF PURGATORY
It was six-thirty when I got back home. A cup of tea was my first priority then on with the paperwork. Another long day, and I wasn't finished yet. With the steaming mug of tea beside me I looked at the orders I had taken, about an hour I reckoned to get them all written and then the daily report, after that I could think about something to eat. I had picked up the post when I came in without looking at it, so it was getting on for eight-thirty after I had bolted down a micro-waved Curry that I checked what post was there. You know you can tell what they are without even opening them. If they are addressed to ‘the occupier' throw them in the bin, if the envelope says that you have six chances to win a quarter of a million pounds, throw them in the bin. Double glazing...bin, money lenders...bin, life insurance...bin. Then came one with my name and address neatly printed and showing through the window. I turned it over and sure enough there was the name of the Solicitor. The hurried curry was now attempting to hurry back up. I knew this would not be good news. With a very uncomfortable stomach and a heavy sigh I opened it. It was there in neatly typed legal jargon, and a certificate attached to the back. I was divorced, dumped! And I still didn't know why. Irreconcilable differences. What did that mean? How could they be irreconcilable if I didn't know what the differences were in order to reconcile them? If she had talked to me then whatever it was, at least I would have a chance to change. But no. She had just walked out of my life without a word.
Jas and I had been married for three years. Jas (that was Jasmine, her mother had been a bit of a wild child in the sixties, and got into Eastern culture, you know, burning Joss sticks and hanging wind chimes in the house) was everything I could ask for in a wife. She wasn‘t classically beautiful, but had an open happy face, a pretty girl next door look. She was slim, ash-blonde, with a figure that looked good in Jeans, or a classy dress or anything in between, but especially when she had nothing on. Jas was a twenty-four year old walking dream. The most outstanding thing about her was her smile. It was a rival for Julia Robert's smile and could light up a room. When I saw her smile for the first time it was a done deal for me. Now I know all this was superficial, but the truth was that although her looks got to me, it was her personality that kept me. She was intelligent, I had to admit more than me, and had all that female savvy. She could argue her case, and make me think black was white, then when I was wilting under the weight of her case, she would smile that smile and tell me she was winding me up. She loved to do that, and I fell into her trap every time. Jas knew that but she was never cruel. Life together was simply great. We both worked and shared the cooking, household stuff and tending our little garden. There was always laughter. Our nights together were paradise, Jas was always eager to make love and was very uninhibited when we did, being very inventive at times. Having her in my bed was paradise. My work colleagues got pissed off with me as I wore a twenty-four hour smile. We had been married for three years when we starting to talk about having a baby. Jas was so excited and looked forward to being pregnant, which makes what happened so extraordinary.
I had been up to Stoke on Trent with my job. I had entertained a customer to Lunch and as misfortune would have it my car broke down late that afternoon. The Ford dealer could not get me on the road again until the next morning. I phoned Jas and told her what had happened, and that I would get myself a hotel room for the night. She seemed fine about it. My boss understood when I phoned him and agreed that the hotel account would be paid with my expenses.
I did get my car back about eleven in the morning and got on the road again, made some calls and eventually got home about five in the afternoon. The house was empty. This was not something to worry about, Jas often would not shop until late, usually after she had left work. By six-thirty I was getting worried. If she was doing something after work she would have called me, so I would not expect her home at the usual time, I checked my mobile just in case I had missed her call. No, no missed calls, no messages, no text. I called her mobile. "This number is no longer in service." said the automatic message. What? It had been yesterday when I called Jas. I called her parents. No they hadn't seen her or heard from her. I did the usual things, called Hospitals, best friends. Nobody would be at her work place so there was little point in calling there. No-one had seen her, nor spoken to her, although in the case of best friends they would of course have lied for her. I am sure mine would do the same for me. Hell, I would have lied for her if she asked me! I don't know what made me do it, but I went upstairs to our bedroom. It was as neat and tidy as Jas always kept it. I decided to hang up my Jacket which I had simply slung on the bed when I got home. I opened the wardrobe door and took a step back shocked to the core as an empty rail and a few misshapen wire hangers mocked me, hanging beside the few that supported my clothes. The drawers told the same story, everything of hers had gone. I didn't need to check the bathroom, I knew it would be the same. I sat on the bed, numbly, and from the corner of my eye caught a glint of something. I turned my head to look at the dressing table. Two rings, a plain gold band and the silver one with the solitaire diamond were lying on the glass top. Jas's rings, the rings I had given her. Could there be any other explanation but one. Jas considered our marriage was over and had left me!
It was no solace that other men had gone through this, I just didn't care. What had happened to me was the most shattering experience. I cried, damn great sobs as tears poured down my face. I couldn't give a toss about third world starvation, nor about the fighting in Afghanistan at that moment, they were nothing compared with the pain I was suffering. I don't know how long I sat there on that bed. My tears stopped eventually, but I did nothing. Eventually, gradually, l subsided sideways, curling up into a foetal position with my head on Jas's pillow and slept, badly.
I awoke periodically through the night, every creak of the house would be interpreted by my mind as Jas trying her key in the lock. I would rush downstairs to welcome her back, only to be disappointed. I would climb the stairs slowly like an old man, with tears yet again staining my cheeks, and would slump back on the bed. Morning light slowly defined the window and wakened me, but could not inspire me to move. I hadn't reacted to the creaks for some time, I couldn't, and the disappointment was too much. Inside I was empty, there were no priorities in my life anymore, no goals to achieve, no activities to pursue, no work to earn the money. Everything I had done was for Jas, and if there was no Jas, then there was little point. I slept again.
The ringing of the phone woke me in the morning. I stumbled my way slowly downstairs and answered the persistent ringing. It was my Sales Manager.
"Tim! What's the problem? You missed an appointment yesterday, and there has been no message from you. Not like you at all. What's going on? Are you ill?" It took me some time to get my head straight. An appointment? Yesterday? Gradually my mind cleared. I must have slept through twenty four hours!
"Tim! Are you there?" I could hear Mike getting angry.
"I am here, Mike. Sorry, I have only just woken up."
"Are you ill, Tim?"
"No, I...I don't know how I feel. Just broken I suppose."
"Tim! What the hell's wrong with you."
"Everything, Mike. Jas has left me."
"What? Did you say Jas has left you?"
"Bloody impossible. You are the most loving couple I know. The way you two carry on is almost sickening at times. I don't believe you. Look, Tim, I am coming over to see you. I need to get to the bottom of this, and Tim. You had better have a damned good reason. Andrew is not best pleased I can tell you. I'll see you in about an hour."
I was still wearing the same clothes I had come home in yesterday, no! Two days ago. I got out of them and took a shower, shaved, then dressed in clean clothes. I needed a boost so unusually for me I made some strong coffee, and toasted some bread. Shit! That caffeine hit was important. I sat at the kitchen table thinking over everything of the past week, what had I done wrong, then I recalled the last month, nothing there to cause Jas to go. I had gone back six months still trying to remember anything that could have been the catalyst. There was nothing, nothing that I had done or failed to do, nothing said or unsaid that would anger Jas. Amid all this forensic examination of the past another thought, a really heartbreaking possibility, was gradually rising, like a monster from the depths. Jas had found someone else! Even the merest idea that Jas had come to love someone else, that she could have given herself to him, crushed me, shattered me and threatened to bring back the tears. The doorbell rang and I put those thoughts on hold. It was Mike.
I let him in and without saying anything walked back to the kitchen and poured more coffee. Again without words I handed him a mug and sat down. He sat down opposite me.
"OK, Tim. Why do you think that Jas has left you?"
"I think that the fact that all her clothes have gone, all her make-up gone, and that her wedding ring and engagement ring were sitting on the dressing table were clues enough." I replied bitterly.
"Oh, shit!" Mike was quiet for a moment. I could imagine that it was difficult to find a reply to that circumstance.
"Tim. Now I don't want you to jump down my throat, but have you been naughty?" I looked at him as if he had gone mad. He held his hands up to forestall the angry response.
"Right. Silly question to ask. But it's what Andrew will ask, so I have a definitive reply for him." He sipped his coffee and thought for a moment.
"Have you spoken to her parents?" I nodded.
"Yes. They have no idea where she is, but possibly they wouldn't tell me even if they did, if my suspicion is right." Mike looked puzzled.
"I have gone over everything in my mind. I cannot think of a single reason that anything I have done would cause her to leave. I am left with the idea that she must have met someone else, and has gone to be with him." Mike looked stunned.
"No way! Absolutely no way! For heaven's sake, two weeks ago you and Jas, Alice and I went out for dinner. When we were driving home Alice said to me that she had never seen a woman so much in love with her husband. Now Alice is good at picking up signs from people's demeanour and if there had been the slightest hint of trouble she would know." I listened but the words sounded false, all I could think of was that Jas had become a good actress.
"Mike, I cannot think of any other reason. It has to be that. It‘s the only one left."
Mike suggested that I have a few days off, but I refused. Working would be better than sitting around the house constantly being reminded of her.
"I'll tell Andrew about this. Expect a call to go and see him, you know what he's like. But don't worry, Tim. I am sure that everything will sort itself out, and that Jas will be back soon." I wished I could be as confident. After he left I tried to get back into work mode, making phone calls, first an apology to the customer whose appointment I had missed, then to others, planning my journeys for the next week. Another avenue to search suddenly came to my mind, and I phoned Jas's work. She worked as a receptionist at a Doctors surgery. I asked for Jas Shelton.
"Just one moment, who‘s calling?" I nearly said my name, then at the last minute decided that as Tim Shelton, I may not get a truthful reply. I quickly made up a name.
"Oh, it's John, John Watkins." The phone went quiet and then she was back.
"I'm sorry, but Jas isn't in today."
"Right. Do you think I could speak to Joan?" Jas had mentioned Joan on more than one occasion as the office ogre.
"Oh Hello Joan, this is Tim Shelton, Jas's husband."
"Tim! It's so nice to speak to you at last. I was going to phone you. Jas didn't come to work yesterday, or today, and we can't get her on her mobile. Is she ill or something?" Joan had answered the question I was going to ask.
"Not to my knowledge. I got back from a trip two days ago, and Jas had gone."
"Yes, she packed up all her stuff and left. No note or anything to explain. I wondered if you knew anything about it, but obviously you don't."
"It looks like it."
"Unlikely Tim. All Jas talks about is you, and the wonderful life you two are having. Some of the girls here get really fed up with her."
"Well Joan the impossible seems to have happened. She left her engagement and wedding rings here. That seems pretty conclusive to me. And before you ask. No. I haven't done anything to cause her to leave."
"Oh Tim. I am so sorry. As you can gather we were wondering where she was. Now I get the feeling that we won't see her again. Have you called the Police?" Now that was something I hadn't thought of.
"I'll do that Joan. If I have any news do you want to know?"
"Yes definitely. Keep us up to date please."
I did go to the Police. What a waste of time. The bored Sergeant took the details, but when I told him that Jas had taken all her clothes and toiletries he shrugged his shoulders.
"It would appear Mr. Shelton that your wife has simply left you. It could be another man, happens all the time. But with no suggestion of foul play, there is no point in us looking for her."
I thought I had managed, just for a moment to put my anguish to the back of my mind. The Sergeant reminded me and a picture of Jas, laying naked under another man and allowing him to enter her body flashed into my mind. My heart felt as if it had been slashed repeatedly with razor blades, and tears welled from my eyes and ran down my cheeks like rivers. The Policeman watched me disinterestedly as I left the station.
CHAPTER TWO A TIME OF PURGATORY
Carry on with pain
The next few months were horrendous. I worked as best I could but with only half a mind. Jas was the other half. The same questions kept asking themselves in my mind. Why? How? Who? No answers came. If Jas had phoned and told me what was going on, I could have perhaps born the pain. It would be cruel, but at least I would have known. Known enough to try and put it behind me and move on with my life. But not knowing meant that I couldn't. My imagination would fill in the blanks, and there were an awful lot of blanks. I spent hours driving around the streets of our town, searching for a glimpse of her. I sat in my car, two hundred yards from her parent's house for hours on end. The possibility that she was there or would call on them was the hope that kept me there. All to little avail. I talked to a Private Detective, who seemed unwilling to take the case.
"Mr. Shelton, I could probably find her. But if, as you seem to think and the evidence suggests, she has left you for someone else, what good will that do you. That will not bring her back to you. If you go to see her, and she refuses to speak with you, there‘s nothing you can do. You can‘t force her to talk."
"But at least I will know. Can you find her?"
"I expect so." Then he quoted me his fees. I was astonished. I had a good job, but didn't earn enough to pay that sort of money. I left it that I would think about it and get back to him. With hindsight I understood that he quoted figures to deter me. He knew I would be wasting my money.
My interview with Andrew Sellors was amicable. Andrew owned the company I worked for and he took a patriarchal interest in all his employees. His father had been the Minister of a Calvinist Church in Scotland, and Andrew had been brought up with the ingrained principles of that congregation. He had been most understanding of my problem.
"Tim, there's little anyone, apart from Jas, can say or do to relieve your pain. Mike assures me that you have not been the cause of this break-up in any way. But I knew that. I like to think that when I employ someone I can tell what sort of person they are, and I knew that you were honest and straightforward. You would not break your vows. I cannot guess why Jas has left you, but if my instinct is right I am sure that she hasn't broken her vows either."
"Thank you, Andrew. I wish I could be as certain as you."
"Think on it, Laddie. You will get through this. Take your time and Pray. The Good Lord sees your pain, and he will take it away."
He was right on one point. The pain did ease over time. One thing that helped was selling the house. With no contact at all it was obvious after six months had passed that Jas was not coming back. Even though she had taken all her personal things, there was too much there to remind me of her. The sale went through quite quickly, and there was a bit of profit after the Mortgage had been repaid. I split the profit, and deposited half in a savings account. I was thinking sadly of the day when Jas would ask for a divorce. That was her money. My half of the profit was sufficient to put down a good deposit on a small flat. It was not as expensive to run as the house, so I actually got a good reduction in my out-goings. But that didn't cheer me, I would prefer to have Jas in my life.
The months rolled by. My personal problems gradually receded, although they never faded completely, but I was working as well as I have ever done, and the sales figures reflected that. One or two of the girls in the office showed a more friendly face than hitherto, but I was in no frame of mind to get involved with any woman, especially one who worked for the same company. Andrew would have taken a very dim view of that. Mike's secretary, Philippa helped a lot. Pippa, as she preferred to be called went out of her way to support me. When I moved into the flat, she wanted to see the place, and then made suggestions of how it should be furnished. With her guidance I chose colours for the curtains and carpets. She organised the curtains and I organised the carpets. Well working for a company that sold carpet helped a lot. Andrew went overboard and gave me a discount well beyond the normal staff discount, and one of my customers sent a good fitter to lay the cloth. (Carpet is called cloth in the trade, just another one of those British oddities.)
I still tried to find out where Jas was. Certain that her parents would know, I called then a few times. The reception from her mother was very cold. She probably did know where Jas was, but would not tell me. I was sure she wasn't at home with them, I had spent enough time sitting in a car just down the road from them, to have seen her, that is if she was not being kept prisoner. I hired a car to do this, understanding that she would recognise my company car, after all it had the company name on the side SFCD, (Sellors Floor Covering Distributors). Even so I never caught a glimpse of her, reinforcing my belief that she was living with another man. I believe I had exhausted the sources that could have given me a clue. Her friends wouldn't talk to me anymore, mutual friends would talk but with the proviso that I didn't mention or ask about her whereabouts. Without knowing why, I had been left in limbo. I was a prisoner of memories with no hope for a future.
I had been living this half-life for twelve months when the half light I had got used to was switched off. A letter came through my letter box addressed to me, forwarded on from our old address. It was from a Solicitor. In essence Mrs. Jasmine Shelton had filed for divorce from Mr. Timothy Shelton on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. All the anguish and pain returned one hundred fold. Even the faintest glimmer of hope was extinguished. I phoned Mike and told him that I needed to take the day off explaining why. He said that was no problem. Twenty minutes later Andrew phoned me.
"Tim! Mike has told me what happened. Now you know I don't agree with divorce, but from what Mike tells me you will be divorced whether you want it or not. Go see your Solicitor immediately. I never would have thought this of your wife, but she is treating you abominably. If you haven't got a solicitor I'll get mine to represent you, but you have to get legal advice quickly. You can't let her do this to you."
I had already made my mind up about this, and got an appointment with my solicitor for the next day. Simon Parkes had acted for us when Jas and I had bought the house. He acted for me when I sold the place and bought the flat, so what had started as a business relationship had turned into a distant friendship. I already knew that he was not acting for Jas as the solicitor she was using was Sileby and Watts. Funnily enough they were in the same town. Had she not moved far?
Simon read the letter. Then asked me.
"It doesn't really matter, but what differences?"
"I could not tell you, Simon. I was not aware of any problems in our marriage. But why doesn't it matter?"
"Irreconcilable differences are the get out when you can't think of anything else to cite. The other one is Unreasonable behaviour. Marriage Law in this country allows divorce on demand, even when the reasons are spurious. So tell me what happened." Painful although it was I went through the saga again, he was nodding as I told the story and his face took on a wry smile.
"Interesting. No differences admitted, no arguments, no attempt at reconciliation." He grinned at me. "We can stop this in its tracks. We will counter Sue for desertion."
"If a divorce petition is challenged, then it has to be heard in court. That gives me the chance to question Jasmine on your behalf. If I can get her to admit that she is living with another man, then the court will dismiss her petition and grant yours, but on the grounds of adultery and desertion. I can get a judgement for costs, and in all probability it will reduce the settlement in your favour."
Many people told me later that I was stupid, and that included my solicitor. But I wasn't having any of that. I had loved Jas, I still loved her, enough not to want to cause her pain. Going to court and having her questioned would hurt her, and it would hurt me. So I told Simon to write to Sileby and Watts and tell them I wouldn't oppose the petition.
"Tim, I must strongly advise against this course."
"I hear you Simon, but my mind is made up. If you want me to sign a piece of paper acknowledging that I am going against your advice I will. But this is how I want it to be." He shrugged his shoulders.
"No, Tim. There will be no need for that. I will do as you instruct, but in your interests I will say that there should be no claim for maintenance, and that your communal assets should be split equally. I realise that you have already sold the marital residence?"
"Yes, and I have put half of the profit in a savings account for Jas."
"You should keep the interest."
"No, Simon. I put it there for Jas, and it's hers. End of story."
I truly believed that was the end of the story.
Apart from going to Simon's office again to sign the paperwork, all I could do was allow the Court machinery to process the end of my dreams. A month later I got the decree nisi, then six weeks after that the certificate absolute. Even now I had no idea why Jas had opted to do this.
CHAPTER THREE A TIME OF PURGATORY
Pippa gets involved
It was not too often that Pippa, Mike's secretary, managed a day off. She had been putting in a lot of hours lately and Andrew had noticed. He caught her leaving the office one evening at six o' clock.
"Yes Mr. Sellors."
"The office closes at five. But it seems of late that you think our hours go on until six. I know there a lot to do with this exhibition coming up, but we can't have you getting tired on us, can we?"
"I am not tired Mr. Sellors."
"Are ye not?" Andrew had the habit of slipping into dialect at times. "Well I know that Mike is not in the office tomorrow, so I don't want to see you here either. Go see your family or go shopping, I understand that Lassies like to shop. But whatever you do, don't come into the office." Pippa smiled.
"Thank you Mr. Sellors."
"Aye, now get along with you Lassie."
Pippa had gone shopping. There were things she wanted for herself, and her husband, Steve needed a new pair of Jeans and some T shirts. After she had got the things for her husband she had time for herself to wander and window shop. Along the way she stopped into Wetherspoons for coffee. She was sitting relaxing when her calm mood went out of the window. She saw Jas, who had just sat down. Pippa could not hide the anger she felt towards this woman, and got up and walked over to Jasmine's table. Jas looked up as Pippa blocked her light.
"Oh Hello Pippa."
"You Bitch! You cruel heartless evil Bitch! How could you do that to him. You gutted him, do you know that? Gutted him, one of the nicest guys anyone could ever meet, and you did that to him. I'm ashamed to be the same sex as you." Jas stood up her eyes blazing.
"Well ask him why he cheated on me." Pippa looked astounded.
"Tim? Cheat on you? Never. Not in a thousand years. That man loved you more than his own life. He would have done anything for you, and you know it. Where you get this idea that he was cheating, I don't know."
"He was seen." Pippa was shaking her head.
"Where? With whom?"
"In Stoke. With a woman called Margaret Lane. They were having Lunch together." Pippa sat down a memory coming to her.
"When was this?"
"Last year, they were Lunching at the Hilton. I know that Mr. Sellors doesn't allow entertaining of customers so it had to be personal. Then later Tim phoned to say that his car had broken down. Well I know what that meant. He was spending the night with her." Slowly lights started to come on in Pippa's head. The memory clarified and time and place were fixed.
"Oh, Bugger." Jas thought that Pippa now understood and smiled thinly. "Jas, why didn't you stay around long enough to ask Tim? He did have Lunch with a customer, Margaret Lane ran a business called Lane Carpets and Curtains. Andrew gave permission for the Lunch, and I was with Mike when he phoned Tim to say it was OK. She was a good customer for Tim but she was closing her business down and moving to Australia to join her Fiancé. I believe she flew out later that afternoon. And Tim's car did break down. He couldn't get it fixed until the following morning. He stayed in the cheapest B. and B. he could find." Jas's face was blanched white. Her eyes reflected a look of horror.
"No, no." She whispered. She reached for her cup, and it shook in her hand as she raised it to her lips. She looked beseechingly at Pippa.
"Tell me you're just covering up for him." Pippa shook her head.
"I wouldn't do that. If a husband or wife cheats then they deserve all the shit that comes their way. You know what Andrew would do. If he thought that Tim was doing anything like that, Tim would be out of a job."
"But he didn't say anything, he just signed the divorce paper."
"Yes, he did. He loved you so much that he wanted you to be happy with the new man in your life, even at the expense of his own happiness. We all told him that he was stupid, and his solicitor wanted to get you in court, where he would have taken you to pieces. But Tim wouldn't agree to that. And as far as saying anything, you didn't give him a chance, did you?"
"But there is no new man in my life!"
"Well Tim concluded there was. He didn't know you suspected him of cheating, you didn't stay to confront him. All he knew was that you had gone. He thought that you had probably met someone else."
Jas was shaking, sobbing in tears, and Pippa stayed with her until she calmed down. One of the staff came over to ask if everything was alright.
"Yes and no." Replied Pippa. "My friend has just discovered she made a terrible mistake." The girl nodded and asked if they would like fresh coffee.
"I think that would be a good idea. Thanks."
Eventually Jas recovered her composure, and went to the Ladies Room to repair her face. She came back just as the waitress brought the coffee.
"Are you alright, Madam?" Jas smiled weakly.
"Yes, thank you." Jas sat down but couldn't look at Pippa as she asked.
"Oh God. What have I done?" There was no need to answer, Jas knew what she had done, as well did Pippa. But Pippa moved the question on.
"We all know what you have done. The real question is what are you going to do now?" Jas shook her head.
"I don't know."
"Well I do. You have to do what you should have done eighteen months ago, and explain to Tim what you suspected, and why you took the course you did." Jas was shaking her head.
"I couldn't. I couldn't face him."
"Tell me Jas. Do you still love him." Jas nodded.
"Yes, I do. I doubt that I will ever love anyone else. But I was so hurt over what I thought he had done."
"Well, he still loves you. God knows why, after the pain you caused him. But perhaps you shouldn't face him at the moment. The hurt and anger would probably create a rift that you could never repair. What if you wrote to him, and explained?" Jas was thinking.
"What if you explained to him?"
"No way. You got yourself into this mess, and Jas! You have to get yourself out of it." Pippa began collecting her shopping bags together. Jas was getting desperate.
"Please help me, Pippa." Pippa was standing now, but she leant down to speak direct to Jas in a determined tone.
"Jas. I will help. Not for you, I think you acted despicably, but for Tim. You have to take the first step. If you don't there will be no help from me. Here's my mobile number." She scribbled it on the back of the receipt for her coffee. "Call me when you have written to Tim. But, I will give you some advice. Don't try to gloss over your actions. You treated Tim cruelly and if you don't accept that and apologise without reservation, then I doubt that Tim will want to see you again." Pippa left Jas in her own private Slough of Despond.
Rather than going home, Pippa decided to disobey Andrew's instructions. She drove to the office. She asked to see Andrew, and he invited her into his office.
"What do I have to do, Philippa to keep you out of the office?"
"I had no intention of disobeying you, Mr. Sellors, and wouldn't have, except that by chance I met Jas today." Andrew's countenance changed to mild anger.
"I would have thought that the ex-Mrs. Shelton would be keeping a low profile." He sighed. "Did you speak with her?"
"Yes, and it was quite interesting."
"Well I don't think I really want to know, but if what she had to say impinges on Tim in anyway, I suppose I had better hear it. You obviously want to tell me, otherwise you wouldn't be here. So go ahead."
"She left Tim, because she thought he was having an affair." The pencil Andrew was holding slammed onto the desk breaking in two.
"Absolute, complete rubbish. I get really angry when people try to excuse their own failures by blaming others. I hope you disabused her of that idea, Philippa."
"Oh yes. Mr. Sellors, I did. But it appears she jumped to that conclusion after she was told that Tim had been seen in Stoke on Trent having lunch with a Lady. Now she knew your instructions on entertainment, so assumed that this was a personal lunch. Then when Tim called her that afternoon to tell her his car had broken down and he would have to stay overnight, she put two and two together and made five." Andrew gave this some thought.
"Who told her about Tim's lunch, for which I did give permission, I can recall it well. And when did they phone her? Before or after Tim called to say his car had broken down." Pippa hadn't asked that question. At the time it seemed more important to her that Jas and Tim iron out the misunderstanding. But Andrew's question begged an answer. An important answer.
"I don't know, Mr. Sellors. I didn't ask. But whoever phoned her, they were able to tell Jas the name of the lady, Margaret Lane." Andrew looked surprised.
"How did they...? No never mind, it is immaterial at the moment. What is Jas going to do? Tim has got over this reasonably well now, I don't want all the pain resurrected for him."
"I suggested she write to him, and explain what she thought at the time and why she acted as she did. At least Tim will know the truth and if he wants to get in touch with her, he at least will have the right to choose this time."
"Aye. I suppose that is the best way. But it could be that someone may have deliberately interfered in order to create the problem in the first place. If that is true I shall get very angry if I ever find out who it was. Maybe I shall want to talk to Jas sometime and see if there is anything else there that we should know." Pippa was just leaving when Andrew asked if she was going to tell Tim.
"No. I thought not Mr. Sellors. No point in alarming him if Jas decides to let sleeping dogs lie."
"Humm, I expect you're right. Thank you Philippa, keep me in touch with what's happening. Now please go and have the rest of your day off."
Three days later, Pippa had a call from Jas.
"Pippa. I have written the letter as you suggested. I sent it yesterday. What do you think Tim will do?" Pippa could hear from her voice that Jas was deeply troubled with tears only a heartbeat away. She tried to re-assure Jas.
"Tim will read it and think about it. Now don't get upset if he doesn't contact you immediately. You gave him a lot of heart-ache. I doubt that he will get back to you with all is forgiven and please come home. But knowing Tim, he will give you a chance, which is more than you gave him." Jas's tears came then.
"Don't remind me, please. I haven't slept for three nights thinking about it." Pippa couldn't help herself.
"And Tim didn't sleep for weeks!" The howl of anguish told her she had really rubbed Jas's nose in the dirt. Pippa let her get over the emotion.
"Jas! If Tim talks to me, then I will do my best to persuade him to see you. I can do no more. If he does agree to meet you then it is up to you to make him understand how guilty you feel and how much you want him back." A little voice replied.
"Yes, I know. I do love him, so much. It was just the thought that he was going to be naked with another woman, and...and, do things with her that he promised to do only with me."
"Jas! I can imagine what went through your mind and don't you realise that Tim had the same imaginings about you? But I will remind you, that it was only supposition. You didn't wait to ask Tim what was going on." Jas wailed.
"I know. Oh God will I ever get over it." In Pippa's mind the question would Tim get over it loomed larger.
"Jas, Tell me, just out of curiosity, who phoned you?"
"I don't know. She just said she was telling me as she thought I should know."
"It was on your mobile?"
"Can you remember what time she phoned?"
"Not exactly, but it was before I went to lunch."
"And what time would you go to lunch?"
"Usually at twelve-thirty."
"OK. Thanks, Jas. I'll keep in touch."
*CHAPTER FOUR A TIME OF PURGATORY*
Tim gets a letter
I was usually out of the flat and on the road about seven in order to get my first call in early. The post, supposedly the morning post, didn't arrive until twelve-thirty or even later some days. So I would get to read any correspondence later in the evening after getting my paperwork done and cooking a meal. I picked up the mail and sorted it in my usual manner. One letter stood out and I sat down in shock recognising Jas's handwriting immediately. I couldn't open it, not knowing what more hurt she was going to pile onto my shoulders. For a moment my thoughts considered simply throwing it away, unopened and unread. Putting it to one side I poured a glass of whisky. Sipping it slowly I relaxed looking frequently at the letter as if the envelope alone could give me a clue as what it contained. Finally deciding that whatever she had to say, it wouldn't give me anymore unhappiness than I had experienced already, I opened the letter.
My Dearest Tim.
I hardly know how to start this letter, except to say that I have made a most disastrous mistake. The worst mistake of my life.
I left you, not because I had found someone else to love as I am told you supposed, but because I convinced myself that you were having an affair. I had a phone call telling me that you were having lunch with another woman, then you called me to say that your car had broken down and that you wouldn't be home that evening. My mind put the two together and I saw you sleeping with her. The thought crushed me. Why did I think that you were cheating? How could I believe that of you? I should have trusted you, the loving man I married. Instead I walked out on you.
All I can say in mitigation is that my father cheated on my mother, my uncle cheated on my aunt, and my brother on his wife. I had a family of cheats and was accustomed to men cheating. My mother and my brother's wife accepted their husband cheating but I determined even before I met you that I would not put up with anything like that. You often wondered why I didn't have too much contact with my family, well that is the reason. I judged you without trial and condemned you without evidence, based purely on how the males in my family behaved. I should have remembered you were not like them. You have to judge me now, and I am sure of the verdict. Guilty!
My reason for starting Divorce proceedings was aimed at resolving the situation. If we were divorced, then we could look at life anew. I didn't want to accuse you of anything, so my solicitor advised that I use irreconcilable differences. I know now that you could have opposed the suit and made it difficult for me. It again reinforced my love that you didn't. Now I wish you had opposed, then I would have realised my stupid mistake earlier, and perhaps we wouldn't be where we find ourselves now. Looking back I can see that your decision to not opposing the divorce should have told me that you still loved me. Was I blind during those months?
Darling Tim, I was completely unfair. I should have stayed and listened to you then this terrible thing wouldn't have happened and I would still be with the man I love. The man I will always love. I understand that my actions will have destroyed any chance for me irremediably. I accept that, but I had to tell you the truth so that hopefully you will be able to put this behind you and find another woman to love and share your life. Whoever she is she will be a lucky woman.
Tim, I never stopped loving you even through my imagined hurt and I never will. I have no chance of meeting another man to love, as none will ever compare to you. I am so very, very sorry for all that I have done. If you can ever forgive me, it is far more than I deserve.
Take care, my darling, I wish you well.
With my love,
I sat there stunned and read the letter again. Three readings and I still could not get my head to believe what she was saying. There was no return address nor a number for me to call. My first thought was that by not giving me the option to get in contact that she didn't want to talk. Perhaps this was all a smokescreen, that she did indeed have someone else. The second thought denied that possibility. No Jas would never do that. Her honesty could never be doubted. Intelligent and scatterbrained in equal parts though she was, mendacity was not part of her psyche. Then something struck me and I read the second paragraph again. Somebody told Jas that I believed she had met someone else. I had only confided in a few people, so one of those few had been speaking to Jas. Who?
I did not discuss this with anyone for a few days. I really needed to get my mind straight about what I should do, or even if I should do anything. The further my thoughts took me the angrier I got. My life had been destroyed by the woman I loved without reservation, because she couldn't be bothered to talk about her belief. It is strange how the mind will take the words of one, and twist them giving a malicious meaning that was never intended. Jas had not used the word ‘bothered' but that was how my mind translated her explanation. That Jas had a family of cheats was immaterial I had known all about that, not from Jas but from her mother. She should have realised that I was not of their kind. Using that experience to tar me with the same brush with no opportunity to plead a case was hurtful in the extreme. Talking to Jas at this moment, even if I could have contacted her, would be dangerous as I knew that I wouldn't be able to control my anger and would explode at her. So I did nothing. There are times when nothing is the best thing to do. My ire was so directed at Jas that the call she mentioned from someone who told her about the lunch had not registered with me at all.
I had a rare day in the office. With Mike on a two day leave it was down to me to field any calls that Pippa couldn't handle. It also gave me a chance catch up on any paperwork that needed completing. I couldn't understand why Pippa danced around me like a cat on hot bricks, coming into the office I used frequently to bring me coffee, and to see if everything was ok. As it got towards lunch she suggested that we went to the ‘Copper Kettle' where they did a good sandwich and salad bar.
"Tim." She started as soon as we had sat and been served. "Have you received a letter from Jas?" I had a forkful of Salad halfway to my mouth. The fork stopped moving.
"So it was you who talked to Jas?" My anger went from zero to one hundred in two seconds and put the fork down before I spilled the salad. "Why did you do that? Why bring it all up again, Pippa? Isn't my life bad enough without her, to have people remind me of what I have lost?" Pippa put her hand on my arm.
"I did not talk to Jas deliberately, Tim. I saw her by chance in Wetherspoons, and decided to tell her what I thought of her. I was so angry with her that my language was most un-ladylike. She reacted by telling me that you had cheated on her, which I knew was total rubbish. We exchanged some heated words then gradually the whole story came out. I hope that she explained that in her letter." I nodded slowly.
"Yes. She did."
"She still loves you Tim. I have never seen a woman so distraught once she realised her mistake."
"Mistake? I cannot describe it as just a mistake. Hurtful, spiteful, unkind, cruel, those are words that describe her actions." Pippa didn‘t seem surprised at my outburst..
"So you don't want to see her again?"
"How can I? Even if I wanted to, she gave me no address nor a phone number to call." Pippa had a look of astonishment.
"Oh the silly bitch!" I had to agree with that. Pippa was lost in thought for a moment then said to me. "Tim. I have Jas‘s mobile number. I am not going to give it you now, but when you have got through your anger, if you want the number I will give it you." I thought about it and agreed with her.
"You're right, Pippa. I would only go off like a rocket if I saw her now. I do not understand myself. I get so angry that she would do this without asking me if it were true or not. I hate her for that, yet I still love her so much. She wrote about me being able to find someone else to be happy with yet I know that's impossible. I walk down the street, I see someone who could be her and my heart jumps. I wake up in the morning and reach for her and she's no longer there. I want her back, Pippa, but I doubt that I can ever put this behind me."
"Tim, you have a good job and are well thought of by your employers. Your future is bright even without Jas." As well meaning as Pippa was her words could not give me comfort.
The next day, Andrew called Pippa into his office.
"I noticed you took lunch with Tim yesterday."
"Yes, I did."
"And?" Andrew raised his eyebrows.
"Jas has written to him. But I think that Tim shouldn't see her at the moment. His anger will spill over."
"I agree Philippa, he should let things cool a little. Anger is a terrible thing it‘s possible to say and do things in anger that will haunt us forever." Pippa could not think that Andrew Sellors had ever lost his temper. "I think I shall have to exercise my responsibility as Tim's boss, and have a chat with him."
"Mr. Sellors. Tim was very angry with me for talking to Jas in the first place. I would hate for him to think that we are all gossiping about him." Andrew could see her point. He smiled.
"Are you diplomatically telling me not to interfere. Lassie?" Pippa smiled.
"Oh no Sir." Andrew nodded.
"I will have a chat with Tim. No. Not about Jas but about where we as a company are going in the future. I have changes in mind, and Tim will be a part of those changes. But if this comes up in our conversation well..." He left the sentence unfinished. Pippa cleared her throat. Andrew looked up.
"Is there something more?"
"Yes Sir. I asked Jas about the call she had. It was definitely made to her mobile, and she received the call before twelve-thirty. She goes to lunch then." Andrew Sellors absorbed that information.
"Do we know what time Tim took his client to lunch?"
"I looked it up. His daily report said one o' clock." Andrew gave Pippa a smile.
"Seems Lassie that you are ahead of me here. Looking for a new career as a detective are we?" Pippa smiled back.
"So." Andrew summed up their knowledge. "The call was to her mobile and was made before twelve-thirty, at least half an hour before Tim sat down to lunch with Miss Lane. Very clever to see two people at lunch before they even arrived at the table. Also the call was made to Jas's mobile, a number few people except her friends, family and Tim would possess. But we have it in our records in case of emergency. You see where I am going with this Pippa?" Pippa nodded.
"Yes, Mr. Sellors. It could have been one of Jas's friends, perhaps one of them by coincidence could have seen Tim and Miss Lane, but any call would have been after one o' clock in that case. Also they would probably have no idea who the lady was."
"Aye. The call would have to have been made by someone with prior knowledge, and to my mind that means someone here in our office." He nodded to Pippa telling her that he would think about this. She was under no illusion that Andrew Sellors, despite his demeanour, was seething inside. He would take it personally that someone in his employ could act with such evil intent and he would probe and question until he got to the root of this. Then someone was going to be in deep trouble.
*CHAPTER FIVE A TIME OF PURGATORY*
Tim and Jas meet
Over the next few days I was like a dog at a bone, worrying at a decision. There were two voices in my head diametrically opposed as to what I should do. I was very aware that meeting Jas would probably trigger an invective in me that would not be contained, yet at the same time my desire to see her again was pressing. Eventually I took the coward's way absolving myself of the decision. I would enlist Pippa's aid to pass a message to Jas, to see if she wanted to meet.
Pippa was angry with me for ducking the matter, but against her better judgement agreed to phone Jas.
"Tim you should be doing this." I nodded unhappily.
"Yes, I know Pippa. But over the phone I might be bitter and angry with her. Seeing her may calm me down."
Pippa picked up her mobile and called Jas. I could only hear her side of the conversation
"Jas, I have spoken to Tim and he has asked me to pass on a message. If you want to meet, he will come to see you, or you can come to see him, on Friday evening about seven-thirty." She listened as Jas replied.
"I think he does want to see you Jas, otherwise he wouldn't have suggested a time and date." More listening.
"If you don't want to see Tim, why go to the bother of writing that letter...Oh you do want to see him."
"Jas. That is not fair. All I am doing is passing on the message. Tim should have phoned you, but he ducked out. I am not going to get involved any more than passing on his request. But I warn you, be prepared for some harsh words." Pippa listened for a moment then put her hand over the microphone.
"Jas says this Friday at your place, seven-thirty is that ok?" I nodded,
"He says yes, Jas."
I waited impatiently that Friday. I was ready for Jas's arrival at seven. I spent the next half hour pacing up and down, arguing with myself and making frequent trips to the window every time I heard a car. At seven-thirty one I was convinced that Jas wasn't coming. The bell rang at seven-thirty three.
I opened the door.
"Hello Jas." She looked frightened.
"Hello Tim." I held the door and stepped back a little, my body language inviting her to step in. She made a move as if she wanted me to take her in my arms. I made no gesture to do that and she walked down the short hall to the Lounge. I offered Tea, Jas nodded and I went to put the kettle to boil. Jas wandered around a little looking at the furniture, curtains and colour schemes. The kitchen was only divided from the lounge by a breakfast bar so conversation was easy.
"Nice flat." She remarked. I looked over the breakfast bar and agreed.
"It's Ok, small as you see but it does me for what I want. Pippa helped with the colours, you know I was never good at that." Jas smiled and relaxed a little.
"Yes. Your colour co-ordination ideas would have left you with a terrible clash." We were fencing around, neither wanting to get to the nub of the matter that brought us here. I came back with the mugs and was going to put them on the coffee table, when Jas grabbed a couple of coasters to put under the mugs. She pointed to a number of rings on the polished wood where I had placed a hot mug without thinking. She shook her head in remonstration. That was Jas, ever alert to the little mistakes of life. She sipped a little of the hot tea then took a deep breath.
"Tim. Let me say how very, very sorry I am. Why I didn't wait to talk to you I just don't know. I won't make excuses, there are none. I was totally unjust and stupid. How I could believe for even a moment that the man I loved absolutely and who loved me would do something like that...I don't know. I was crazy." Jas pulled a tissue from her handbag and wiped her eyes, there seemed to be quite a few tissues in her handbag, as if she came prepared for many tears. I stayed quiet, fighting hard to keep the anger down and speak calmly.
"I don't know why you would act that way either Jas. Had I ever done or said anything that could make you think for even a moment that I would cheat? Had I not been a good husband to the wife I loved more than anything, the woman I worshipped?" I could feel my voice getting louder and more aggressive as I spoke. "The worst thing was just leaving without talking. Jas we always talked, we always resolved the few problems we had by talking. But no, not this time you just took your stuff and ran." I took a breath trying to calm myself. "Do you know what it is like to come home and find that the person your life revolved around has gone, taken all her things with her, except the rings. Oh yes the rings. Just left on the dressing table. The rings that I had given her as a symbol of my love and commitment to her. The rings that symbolised our bond for life. The message was obvious, but there was no note, nothing to tell me what I had done wrong. Couldn't you at least have left me a note? Then I would have known what the problem was, but no, not you, no word just leave. Can you understand what it felt like?" Tears ran down my cheeks, out of control. "Everything, all our plans, hopes, ambitions. All gone. And no reason." Despite my determination not to lose my temper, I had. I tried breathing deeply, endeavouring to regain composure.
Jas was stunned, obviously not thinking that I could have been this emotional. She took my hand.
"I am so sorry, Tim. I didn't mean to hurt you." I pulled my hand away sharply, my anger boiling again.
"Hurt me? You didn't mean to hurt me? What in Hell did you think it would do? If that wasn't hurt I don't think I would like to know what it would be like if you did mean to hurt me. Let me tell you what it was like. I lay on our bed, curled up, crying until I had nothing left to cry with. Yes me! A grown man sobbing like a baby. I was there for a day and a night. But I didn't mark the time. I didn't eat or drink. Neither did I wash, nor change my clothes. I was totally blank. There was nothing in my future to look forward to. Now Jas, that was hurt, but it is so nice to know that you didn't mean it. All because you couldn't be bothered to wait and tell me your suspicions. These last two years have been purgatory for me, I have no aim in life, just going through the motions of working, eating sleeping and getting up to work again. " Jas got up, straightened her skirt and picked up her handbag.
"I'm sorry Tim. I really am, I didn't realise the extent of the hurt and anger I caused. Well not until Pippa explained the facts. There seems no point in this but for what it's worth I really am sorry, gutted that I caused so much unhappiness. I'll go now." I got up as well reaching out to stop her
"Why did you come here, Jas?"
"You asked me to."
"Because you wrote to me. Why?
"I had to after I had talked with Pippa. She explained everything and it was all so reasonable and innocent, but I didn't see that at the time. My mind was in freefall making up a scenario, seeing you, the man I loved naked, laying on top of her naked and about to make love to her. It was totally false but I believed it, and acted on it. You cried, Tim, I did as well. I cried for days, the man I loved was taking another woman, doing things with her that I believed that only we two would do together. It was if someone had stuck a knife in me. My talk with Pippa made everything clear so I wrote to you, and came here. I wanted to apologise and explain, but realise now that apologies and explanations don't do it. They can't take away the pain. I suppose that somewhere in my head I thought that having done that we would fall into each other's arms and forgive and forget and the hurt would be gone. That was stupid." She made a move towards the door.
"I'm sorry Jas, but unfortunately the hurt will go on. I loved you so much and I still do. That's where the hurt will be, why the hurt will be. Loving you every day and hurting every day. Hurting because I love you, if I didn‘t then the pain would fade, but it doesn‘t." Jas shook her head, the tears that crept down her cheeks flicking away like little diamonds.
"I still love you, Tim. I always will, and I will hurt too. But in my case I know that I am the one who stuck the knife in. What do they call it, self harm? No! It‘s not that, if that were all the one who hurt would be the guilty one, but I harmed both of us and caused pain to the innocent." She reached up and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. She left with tears streaming down her face. I didn't see her out, just slumped on the settee, the misery of this situation etched deeply. Had I too conjured the fantasy of getting back together? I think I had but the bitterness I felt upon seeing her proved that we could never be together again.
CHAPTER SIX A TIME OF PURGATORY
A balm to the wounded
I surveyed my office, the one that used to be Mike's. Andrew Sellors had stepped back from day to day control of his business and promoted Mike to General Manager. The vacancy of Sales Manager had fallen to me. I had inherited Mike's office and Pippa. She had been offered the position of P.A. to Mike, but had asked to be forgiven as she wanted to work part time. She could do that as my secretary, but not as P.A. to the General Manager. Of course I was pleased. It had taken me nine years of hard work to get here, yet even as I walked into the office I still had doubts that I should be here. Mike had assured me on more than one occasion, that I deserved the promotion and that he personally was happy that we could continue our good working relationship.
"The alternative Tim. Would be to advertise for someone. Andrew was very much against that. You know how he is. Patriarchal to say the least."
This was very true as I had discovered after that long ago meeting with Jas. Was that five years ago too? I still remembered it as if it was yesterday. A few days after my diatribe at Jas, Andrew had asked me to come and talk. The conversation was not as I feared about Jas. But a discussion about a new idea.
"Tim. I have been thinking for some time to add to the products we offer. I have been approached by a manufacturer of curtain fabrics who want to distribute in this country. The normal outlets for their fabrics are pretty well tied up, so they need a different approach. The idea is that we through our carpet retailers offer a bespoke service of made to measure curtains. We will set up a workroom and make the curtains to the sizes their customers want. All they have to do is find room for a show stand with the samples. What do you think?" I was astonished that Andrew would ask me. My first question was.
"What does Mike think?"
"Laddie, I know what Mike thinks already. What I want to know is what you think." I gave it some thought.
"I am sure that our customers would be very keen to take on another profit centre, particularly if there is little cost to themselves. But I know from my own experience that measuring for curtains is a different skill than measuring for cloth. There are some I am sure will adapt to the technique easily, but many will have a problem. If mistakes were made, who will pay for the remakes? The other concern is of course the mark-up." Andrew smiled.
"There, ye see, Laddie. Straight to the crux of the matter. That's why I asked you. Now I want you to go away and have a good think about this. See if you can come up with something that will overcome this problem. Take some time, don't worry about making your calls, and just see if you can find a solution. Oh and Tim. The mark-up is better than we have on floor covering. I‘m pleased you asked. Shows you are thinking of the Company." I nodded.
"Yes, Mr. Sellors. I'll look into the measurement problem."
"Good. Tim! Mike knows I am asking you to do this, so don't worry about your work. At the moment this is more important." I got up to leave. "Oh by the way, Tim. You seem to have recovered well from your divorce. I don‘t suppose you have heard anything about Jas at all?"
"Funnily enough Mr. Sellors I had a letter from her."
"Did you indeed?"
"Yes. We met. I'm afraid that there was too much anger there for anything constructive to come out of the meeting."
"I'm sorry to hear that Tim. Jas was a lovely girl, but..." The ‘but' said it all. "It's a fact of life that trust is a dearly won commodity. It's a shame that Jas couldn't see that you were worthy of her trust."
It was about that time that Janet, one of the account office staff left under a cloud. Andrew said nothing about her going, but Pippa seemed to know something, but never mentioned any detail. It was years later that I discovered that she was the one who had phoned Jas. It would appear that she was something of a fantasist, and believed that I was in Love with her and she with me. As I had probably never had any conversation with her apart from passing the time of day, during the couple of years she was there. It was indeed a remarkable fantasy.
I applied myself to the task Andrew had set. It took me three days and the solution came after I had visited one of the larger department stores. I left with one of their pamphlets, which outlined simply the measuring process. By adapting that to our own requirements I roughed out a simple, easily followed diagram. I suggested that at the bottom of the sheet a caveat be printed absolving the company of responsibility if the measurements submitted were wrong.
Andrew liked the idea and commissioned a Graphic Artist to prepare a pamphlet for printing. Andrew got Mike and I together and showed us a photograph of the display stand the textile company had suggested as being suitable. It was free-standing and showed a lot of designs and colours.
"They will send us two hundred of these complete without charge, after that they will ask three hundred pounds each. " Mike suggested that we could distribute those without any problem. I was a little bit cautious and advanced another idea.
"If we place these at no charge we will get plenty of takers, but probably not the outlets which will make the best use of them. I would suggest that we ask the three hundred pounds or something at least. Having them make an investment should sort out the wheat from the chaff. Any account that we are certain will do good business, well we could discount the stand to make sure we get it in." Andrew looked at Mike for his comment.
"Good idea. It will build up a reserve for when we have to pay for the stands."
"Ok, Tim. That's what we will do. We will roll it out in your area to start, iron out any difficulties and see what the response will be. When it's up and running we can bring in the other areas one at a time. The textile company will supply us with rolls of the fabric on a sale or return basis. If we cut into a roll we pay for the roll."
For the next few days we thrashed out the details, then armed with the photo and handfuls of our pamphlet I went out to introduce our new venture. Mike and I had spent time deciding who our best prospects would be and for the first couple of days we worked together. The reaction was mixed, some being very enthusiastic and some the complete opposite. Others needed persuasion. Over the next few months our curtain orders started to trickle through, as those outlets we had chosen got used to the idea and with a few successful sales under their belt were happy to use the service. We got used to the system and gradually built up the workroom to make the curtains, ironing out the problems as we went.
‘Sellors Floor Covering Distributors' became simply ‘Sellors Furnishings'. We had never distributed throughout the whole country, just in the Midlands. That's where we started with the curtain service and then moved slightly North, East and South, just taking a little bite each time, working the area until we had a good customer base, then taking another little bite. We also brought in another couple of representatives as the business expanded.
I still thought of Jas frequently, it seemed that I had taken a Jas drug, and was hooked for the rest of my life. Oh I did date from time to time but the connection I sought was never there. None, and there were some lovely ladies, could compare with Jas. Those five years were good for the company and for me. That was when Andrew opted to step back from day to day control and another period of my life began as Sales Manager of an expanding company. I found my feet in this new capacity, and thoroughly enjoyed the job, and the enhanced income that went with it.
Then Jas came back into my life. My phone rang and I picked it up as usual and answered in my usual manner.
"Hello Tim." I didn't need to ask who it was. Five years had passed since we last spoke but my brain was programmed with her voice for instant recognition. I sighed heavily.
"What can I do for you Jas."
"I was wondering if we could have a talk."
"Don't worry, Tim. I know we will never be together again. I just thought that with the passing of the years, we could talk about things a little more calmly." I looked at that statement with my mind's eye. Yes I suppose the anger had dissipated, although the hurt remained.
"I am not sure we have anything to discuss, but if you like we could meet. Did you have anywhere in mind."
"Would you like to come to my place? I could cook dinner and afterwards we could sit down and talk. I could do a Beef Stroganoff."
"Now Jas. That is unfair. You know how I love Stroganoff." She giggled, a most lovely sound to me, and one which tugged at my emotions.
"I know Tim. It's just a talk, Tim. With an old friend. We may as well enjoy the evening."
"Ok, Jas. When?"
"Would this Friday be convenient? About seven?"
"Yes. That will do me, my social calendar is pretty flexible at the moment. Give me your address."
I wrote her address down. I knew the area, and realised that she was living in a new apartment, quite an upscale apartment in a good area of Lichfield. Something must have gone right in her life.
CHAPTER SEVEN A TIME OF PURGATORY
I arrived at Jas's apartment around six fifty, and parked. I decided to wait until five past seven. Being early would seem eager, being a little late would indicate a touch of indifference. I had brought a bottle of wine with me. A spur of the moment purchase now assumed the guise of a quandary. The wine was simple manners when someone offered to cook your favourite meal for you. On the other hand it could possibly be seen as a romantic gesture. I certainly did not want to make that sort of gesture. None the less at five past seven I trudged up to the entrance door, carrying the wine and pressed the buzzer for Jas's flat. She answered immediately. I wondered if she had seen me waiting in my car.
"Hello Tim. Come on in, I am on the first floor." I heard the lock release and pushed the door.
Jas was waiting for me at the top of the stairs. The years had been kind to her, very kind. The Jas of twenty four was beautiful, but the Jas of thirty one was far more than that. The girlish features had slipped away, and the elegant woman inside had emerged like a butterfly from the chrysalis. She smiled as I proffered the wine and led me into her flat.
"You needn't have gone to this trouble." She remarked, indicating the wine. "We are just old friends having a meal together."
"It was no trouble Jas." Unlike our last meeting, it was I who felt on the defensive. Jas was assured and calm.
"Sit down Tim. The meal will be about ten minutes. Would you like some wine now? I have a Shiraz open."
"That would be good." I looked around her large lounge and was impressed. Jas had always had an eye for colour, and her scheme of mute lemons and pale greens promoted calm. There was huge window with a balcony outside and as the apartments had been built on higher ground the view from that was impressive. I strolled out to enjoy the view, Jas came back with the wine and joined me on the balcony.
"What a view." I remarked. I took my glass and held it up to her as a toast. She smiled.
"Yes it is nice. It's very pleasant sitting out here on these long summer evenings."
"I can imagine. Very impressive flat as well." She laughed.
"Tim. I can still read you like a book. The answer to your question; how can I afford this; is simple. Daddy died twelve months ago. He was an overbearing dissolute pig. But he did well for himself and kept the family in comfort, probably why he thought it was ok to have mistresses left, right and centre. He left mum, Archie and I a lot of money. So I bought the flat with the bequest." She put her glass down and dashed off saying. "It sounds as if the rice is boiling over." I stayed there mulling over what she had said. She was right about her father, he was an overbearing pig. He didn't think much of me at all. I was just a travelling salesman selling rugs, as he described my occupation. I was given to understand in no uncertain terms that I wasn't good enough for his daughter. We did marry despite his antipathy, Jas was over twenty-one and his views meant little to her. I guess his actions didn't exactly engender family loyalty. He was successful in business, although knowing him a little; and that was as much as I wanted to know him; I was sure that he wasn't averse to a dodgy deal from time to time nor suffered loss of sleep for those who lost heavily as a result of his dealings. Her brother Archie was eight years older than Jas, and was cut from the same cloth as his father, another sleaze but unfortunately for Archie he was better at losing money than making it. I also knew he had been caught out with another man's wife. I didn't think much of him and the feeling was reciprocated.
"Come and sit down, Tim." Jas called. I picked up the wine she had set down and carried both glasses into the Lounge. The dining area was a small alcove off the lounge, but still had the great view out of the large window. The table was set as I assumed it would be by Jas, perfectly.
The Beef Stroganoff was superb. Jas had always made a good Stroganoff, with a little extra touch, she would add finely chopped Kidney. Made a world of difference, not completely authentic I know, but tasty for all that. She followed the main course with Raspberries in Meringue nests with cream. Call me suspicious, but I thought I was being softened up for something. Sour then sweet for the meal, I wondered if our conversation would reflect that.
We sat down comfortably with our coffees. So I decided to cut to the chase.
"Ok Jas. So tell me what all this is about, and don't give me the story of two old friends sitting down to a meal together." She grinned.
"I thought you may have been suspicious. It's very simple Tim. I want to have a baby." That was a little shock to me, but if she wanted a baby she didn't need my permission.
"There's no difficulty in that. Find yourself a man to be the father and get yourself pregnant, or do you have the man already? I am sure you don't need a diagram to explain how it is done."
"No, Tim. You don't understand. I want your baby!"
"Whaaaat?" Jas sat there calmly, waiting for me to finish the explosion. "Have you lost your marbles, Jas? Or do you think that I am stupid or something."
"No, Tim. You are not stupid, look where you are in your business. Sales Manager. That's something to be proud of. Oh and I haven't lost my marbles either. May I explain, without you erupting like Vesuvius?" It took a few minutes for me to calm down, taking a sip of coffee to aid the process. Eventually I could speak.
"Ok go ahead."
"You know I had always wanted a child, we were talking about starting a family before I went Doolally. I am thirty one now, and thanks to my father I am secure. So it would be a good time to have a baby, when I can look after it properly and before it gets too late for me to carry it successfully. I know I shall be a single mother, but that doesn't carry the stigma today it once did. But I would want my child to be conceived with the man I love, not some anonymous donor. You Tim are that man. I have never stopped loving you, and never will. I have no right to ask, but for the times when we were Lovers and Loving, would you let me have your child?" I got up and walked out onto the balcony. My mind was churning like a washing machine. Was this a trap to get me back, or would Jas use this as a reason for frequent contact? Would I be paying child maintenance for years? There were no answers to these questions, nor would I know the answers until Jas had her baby. Only then would I know her plan, and by that time it would be too late. No, I thought. No. I would not do this. I went back to the lounge and sat down.
I'm sorry Jas. But I can't do this. It's not as simple as just having a child. You have to register the birth. Who's name do you put down as father? The child grows and goes to school, they will want to know as well. What if the child gets ill, and needs a transfusion or even a donor organ, one of us could well be compatible and it may not be you Jas. You can see all the problems can't you?" She smiled. How could she remain so calm?
"I will answer the question you are really asking Tim. I would not ask you for support in any way. My father's bequest takes care of all those needs. Yes I would want to put your name on the birth certificate as father, but if you felt strongly about that, I would simply put unknown." I got heated again.
"That wasn't the question I was asking, don't try to second guess me, Jas."
"I'm sorry Tim. That wasn't clever. But obviously you will not want your name on the certificate as father."
"I didn't say that either. If you do that Jas, you put on public record that you are a promiscuous slut. I will not have that." I realised then that I had fallen into a little trap. Jas had a very happy countenance
"You do care for me still, don't you Tim? Please Tim. Let me have this baby. I can't have you, but a baby that you father will give me something of you for the rest of my life and I will love our child just as much as I love you." I went out on the balcony again. Jas called to me.
"More coffee Tim?" I turned and nodded to indicate that I would like another cup. I thought this through. I think it was the memory of the love I had for Jas, dammit! Still had, that made my mind up. I went back in as Jas came through with more coffee. She sat and waited patiently for me to say something.
"If I agree, and I am not saying I will agree, I presume we will go to a clinic to get you... Get you... You know, inseminated." Jas smiled shyly.
"I was hoping that we could employ the more direct process of insemination, you know the old fashioned way." I was shaking my head.
"Oh no. Don't go down that route, Jas." She looked sad as she said.
"I thought that a child conceived in love would somehow know that. I know I would be happier. Is it so distasteful to you Tim? To make love with me one last time?"
"No. Of course it wouldn't be distasteful." Shit! I fell into another of her traps. "But it wouldn't be once, would it Jas. Even you can't guarantee that you could conceive on one occasion only."
"I would check my temperature daily to give it the best possible chance. Please Tim." I knew I was beaten. I had never been able to refuse her before. The only time I had cowed her was when my anger was such that she couldn't argue back, although thinking back I had not given her too much chance to say anything at the time. Now I couldn't summon the anger. In fact I was quite amused at her cheek in asking this. The look of pleading on her face and the memories of how we had loved pushed me closer to the brink. I nodded.
"Tim! You lovely man, thank you so much." She rushed at me, threw her arms around my neck, and kissed me firmly on the lips. I pushed her back.
"This is not about our becoming lovers again, Jas. It is to achieve a purpose."
"Yes Tim." She said meekly. "Shall we have a practice now?" Her eyes were bright.
"No, Jas. We don't need to practice as you know full well. Start charting your temperatures and let me know when the optimum time is." Jas giggled. Again that tugged at my emotions and memories.
"You're right, Tim. We did seem to be able to make Love very well and with complete satisfaction." She reminded me again of how good we were together.
Driving home I was asking myself what kind of idiot I was. Jas had manipulated me so easily. I had seen it all as soon as she asked me, yet like a fool I had continued walking into her web. I had tried to remain practical, but Jas had continually endowed her words with emotion. I knew I was going to regret this.
A few days later she phoned me on my mobile. It was a Thursday. I had given her the number as I wasn't too keen on her calling me at work.
"Tim, I really want to thank you for agreeing to this. I was unsure you know. I thought you may have stormed out as soon as I mentioned it."
"I should have, Jas. But I agreed, and like a promise I made to you ten years ago, I shall keep my promise."
"Oh Tim, You didn't need to remind me of that." She sounded hurt. I apologised for that dig. Hell why was I apologising anyway. It was true!
"I bought an ovulation testing kit. The instructions say you should make love as soon as this particular hormone is registered by the equipment. I suspect that given the days since my last period I should be ready on Saturday. May I let you know if that happens?"
"Yes do that. If I remember well, you were always very regular."
"You remember that?"
"Jas. I remember many things about you." Why is she able to wring all these emotive confessions out of me? "So you want us to have sex from Saturday and for how long after that?"
"Not sex, Tim. That's too cold-blooded."
"Well that's what it is, Jas. It's all about you getting pregnant. Nothing else."
"Oh!" That single word told me that Jas was expecting a little more than just getting pregnant. I put that down in my mental notebook.
"Let me know about the test, and if you have started ovulating, I'll come over on Saturday and we will start the process." She sounded happier then.
"Thank you Tim. I'll cook us a meal, and we can relax and..."
"See you at seven then?"
"That will be perfect. Thanks Tim." This was surreal! Discussing so calmly the plan to allow Jas to have a baby, and what days we would try for conception, when we hadn't been man and wife for five years. I was crazy, but then Jas was crazy too.
CHAPTER EIGHT A TIME OF PURGATORY
Fools step in
As I drove to Jas's flat that Saturday evening I was having second thoughts, third thoughts and then fourth thoughts. There were two extremes in my deliberations, the most exciting extreme was that I would be making love with Jas again. At the other end of the pendulum's swing was the horrific thought that I may not be able to perform. In between were the rational and irrational arguments for and against helping Jas in her quest. So many arguments that I had arrived before a solution was reached and like a lamb to the slaughter I rang the bell.
It was the most strange of evenings. Most men go on a date with a lovely lady, hoping they are going to be lucky. On this date lucky was a given, in fact lucky was the whole purpose of the date. It nearly didn't happen. It could have been that I was nervous. After all I hadn't had sex in five years, well not sex with another woman. I had dates, but there was no conclusion to the dates. The problem was Jas, I had never been able to get her out of my mind. Whenever the lady in my arms at that time was indicating that further adventures would be acceptable, my treacherous mind would bring out a picture of Jas! That would stop me in my tracks. I knew that I loved Jas, and always would, it was her lack of trust that had kept us apart, that and my anger.
We had dined well, Jas was a good cook, we relaxed and chatted, but I was unable to feel any anticipation of arousal before we went to bed. Why did I not feel eager? Possibly because this wasn't about making love, it was about making a baby. My mind was somehow detached, seeing this as a duty rather than a pleasure.
I went to the bathroom and undressed putting on a clean pair of boxers. I was still unsettled when I rejoined her in the bedroom. However Jas had seen to it that the scene for our encounter was perfect, the drapes were drawn and light came from flickering scented candles. The atmosphere was charged, she undressed simply, but so erotically, taking her dress and underwear off one at a time. Then she posed watching me watching her, the garment held by one hand at her side. A few moments she would just drop it, uncaring, totally at odds with the careful tidy woman that she had been. When she was completely nude, she waited for me to enjoy her beauty, then slid softly onto the bed, arranging herself on the pale pink silk sheets. Again she paused allowing me the picture of the naked loveliness she painted, then smiling she lifted her arms to me wordlessly asking me to join her. I saw once again the woman I had fallen in love with as she welcomed me to lay with her. I kicked off the boxers and lay down gathering her in my arms, clasping her naked body to mine. The emotional jolt that went through me was a complete surprise. My face must have registered the shock, and I looked at Jas. Her eyes had opened wide. She must have felt it too. She searched my face as if she had never seen me before. Looking for answers, the answer I had, I didn't dare voice.
"Love me Tim. Please? Give me the child I want so much."
I was wrong when I described what we would do as ‘sex'. It wasn't. We made Love. That first touch and the frisson that went through me as I took Jas in my arms changed my perception. It was old, but new. I knew her body so well, yet wherever I touched or kissed her it was a new and exciting form I touched and kissed. Her breasts slick with our perspiration seemed to reach out to me, demanding my mouth and my mouth took her breasts, sucking and licking the globes and pinnacles. Her thighs spread wide to ease my way into her body. I positioned myself and pressed forward, she sighed happily, reaching down to guide me as I entered her. I may have thought sub-consciously that she seemed quite tight but very wet. Had that registered with me before? I couldn't remember. Other things I did recall. The way she would cross her legs behind mine locking her ankles urging me deeper into her body, that I did remember. Then the shaking of her head as she approached a climax, so familiar yet new. Somehow as I thrust in and out she worked her legs one at a time upwards I had to balance on one arm then the other as she completed the process of bringing her legs up and over my shoulders, doubling her body up seeking to place my emission as deeply as possible. As she climaxed she cried.
"Tim! Tim!" I joined her in that rush to finish, emptying myself into her willing, eager womb.
We came down from our highs and automatically cuddled, kissing bruised lips, stroking wet thighs and flanks and breathing heavily into each other's mouth, exchanging stale air one to the other, connecting with the very breath of our bodies. Jumbled recall of our loving before spontaneously brought words of love to my lips, but I choked them off. Jas placed pillows under her hips to raise her lower body.
"Got to make sure your love stays in there and gets to the right place." She looked at me, caressing my cheek. "Thank you Tim. I thought it may turn out to be very mechanical. You made it a loving experience."
"How could it not be? For just a short while the love came to the fore, soon the hurt will be back." I felt horrible about saying that, reminding her of the anger back then. But it did serve to prevent too many emotions from surfacing. Sorrow suffused her face.
"Is it still the same, Tim? Is the hurt still there?"
"I tell myself to forget and for quite a lot of the time I do. Yet when I relax in the evenings the heartache comes out of nowhere. The anger has mellowed though."
"I am so sorry, Tim. Almost every day I regret the actions I took. I tell myself to forget too, but every morning I wake up without you beside me and I remember once more and cry a little." That got to me.
"You shouldn't do that Jas." Why did I say that? I woke up every morning and sadness enveloped me as I realised that Jas wasn't beside me. This was stupid, I got up.
"Where are you going?"
"I thought I would get back. Things to do." Jas looked disappointed.
"I was hoping you would spend the night with me."
"Jas. I can't. Too many memories, too much pain." She shook her head.
"Tim, if you allow the memories and pain to take over they will always be in charge."
"Easy for you to say, Jas." I told her bitterly. "Remember! I was the one who came back to a home to find it just a house." Tears filled and overflowed her eyes, as I dressed and left.
I drove back to my flat slowly, not wanting to get anywhere in a hurry. Being somewhere meant making decisions but I couldn't make decisions until I knew the questions being asked. When I did finally get home I poured myself a whisky, a part of my mind telling me that if I found oblivion, then I wouldn't have to examine my actions nor the conflict. Oblivion didn't arrive. I did review my actions and didn't like what I found. It was half past eleven, but I phoned Jas anyway.
"Jas? Am I calling too late for you?"
"No it's alright Tim, I was unable to sleep."
"Sorry? It's ok I said that I wasn‘t asleep."
"No. Not for that. I'm sorry for walking away like that. I promised you I would help, then went off in a huff and I don't really know why."
"It's ok Tim. I knew it would be stressful for both of us, making love after all these years. I have to thank you though for making it so good for me, but then you always did. I realised when you had gone that expecting you to stay the night was asking a little too much."
"Do you want to carry on?"
"Do you Tim?"
"I think so. You want a baby, I would rather it was me who donated the sperm, than another man." I heard a sharp intake of breath. Then I realised what I had said. Her voice was steady when she replied.
"Thank you Tim. I shall never stop loving you, you know. I know that the hurt I caused will keep us apart, but love has little to do with that. Love just happens and you can't help yourself."
"I'll see you tomorrow evening then?"
"Yes. Tomorrow evening."
I stayed with Jas the following night. Waking up with her was Déjà-vu. Seeing her lovely face, smiling at me, sharing the same pillow our bodies clasped tightly together. She moved just six inches and pressed her lips against mine.
"Good morning my darling. Did you sleep well?" I stretched languorously.
"I did, thank you. Did you?" She smiled.
"I had a good night, although I possibly didn't sleep as well as you. Do you know you snore a little now?"
"Me! Snore? No way."
"Oh it's not a loud snore, just a little grumble from time to time. It's quite comforting in a way. Reminds me that you are here with me."
"As long as it takes for you to conceive."
"Exactly." She was serious. "Tim, I won't lie to you. I could forget on purpose to tell you when I conceive, and get you to make love to me for weeks, or months. I won't do that." She giggled. "Even you would think it odd when I started to get this bug lump in front." She made the shape with her hands following an imaginary swelling. I laughed as well. "The moment I conceive I will tell you, and let you go again." I hadn't thought of that.
"I appreciate your honesty, Jas. But I suspect at this moment it's too early for you to know if you have got pregnant." I pulled her to me. "Shall we?" Jas smiled happily.
"Oh yes Tim."
I wasn't as blind as those who will not see. I had given this a lot of thought and believed I saw what Jas's strategy was. I examined my feelings, strangely it did not upset me. At first it did. But now being with Jas seemed so normal and right, as it should be. My understanding her scheme made me a little stronger. I decided to play along but acting like an innocent.
Jas did not conceive that weekend, so the plan was to wait until the next time she ovulated. Well that was the plan. I took to going round to see her often. Funnily I could put the pain of her mistrust to one side. We did talk about what happened, yet without the anger and bitterness. It was quite interesting. I told her about the girl who had phoned her, explaining what she appeared to have believed. Jas was a spitting fury for some time and then with her anger done was remarkably calm about it.
"Poor girl. Mind you she had good taste if she fixated on you." I could not be so sanguine.
"Poor girl! Without her interference we would not be divorced now."
"I know." Jas was going to say something then changed her mind.
"Go on Jas, Say it. I am not seething at the moment. I'll not jump down your throat." She smiled wickedly.
"There is part of you I would welcome down my throat."
"Jas!" She grinned for just a moment. Her face became serious as she returned to the question she wanted to ask.
"Have you been with any other woman Tim? I wouldn't blame you if you had. We are divorced after all, and you are a free man."
"As you are a free woman."
"A divorced woman, yes. Free? No."
"In what way?" I asked. Jas looked sadly at me.
"I am not, nor ever have been free of you Tim. I could not have gone on a date or even thought for a moment of going to bed with another man." That should have stunned me, but somehow I knew that. I cleared my throat.
"Your question. The answer is no." Jas was confused then understood I was replying to her question. She was surprised.
"No. You divorced me Jas. I didn't want to be divorced from you. But accepted it as I believed you had found someone else. The thought of you giving yourself to another man haunted me for months. The despondency I felt put any question of another relationship out of the question. Later I was persuaded to start dating again. It was terrible at first, I had forgotten how to even start talking to other women. I did go out with some, and yes one or two of them invited me to sleep with them. I would have agreed, but my mind kept reminding of you and I knew that I couldn't make love to any other woman but you." Jas was crying, tears streaming down her face. I went and sat with her, found a tissue and tried to wipe her eyes. It didn't work, as fast as I wiped more tears flowed. Jas sobbed, shaking with emotion. I put my arms round her, and she leant into me, my shirt now became the medium to soak up her tears.
"I am sorry." She choked. "So, so sorry." She took the soaked tissue from me and tried to wipe her eyes. Finding that the tissue had no absorbency left, she looked around. I found my handkerchief and offered it to her. She took it and wiped her eyes, drying the tears although there seemed to be plenty yet to fall.
"You didn't sleep with any of these women?" I shook my head. A small smile teased her lips.
"No. They were nice ladies, and didn't deserve to be messed around by me, when I couldn't commit to them."
"So the other weekend, that was the first time since we made love the last time." I nodded.
"I am so glad it was with me, and I with you." There was silence then. Anything that I said could have led to a topic I was not ready to address. I could not, would not, avoid it for long. But at this moment I had no desire to broach that subject. Jas sniffed, a prelude to more tears.
"I really did bugger everything up, didn't I?"
CHAPTER NINE A TIME OF PURGATORY
An end or a beginning
Jas's next fertile time fell midweek, so staying overnight would have been difficult unless I brought my business clothes over to her flat. Jas, as always persuaded me that I should do that, pointing out that that driving home late at night, only to get up in time for work the next day would leave me short on sleep. I did agree to do as she suggested as I usually started my day at eight, an hour before the office staff started work and the phones began ringing. It gave me a peaceful time to read the Representative's daily reports, assess the performance and plan.
So I arrived just before seven with a small bag and a suit carrier. I hung my suit in her wardrobe. Jas was beside herself with glee. She didn't say anything, but I knew it made her happy and understood why. My clothes in her wardrobe? I smiled inwardly. To her it was a sign that things were getting back to where they should be.
Jas had got home from work about five-thirty. She had a meal in preparation, and after hanging my clothes up I joined her in the kitchen.
"Smells good." She smiled happily.
"Yes. Chicken in white wine, with Aubergines and Chalots. Served on a bed of rice. Healthy and not too fattening." She looked sideways at me. "I noticed Tim, that you are getting a couple of Love Handles. Your new job has you sitting down too much. Perhaps joining a Gym would help?" I grinned. She put her hand to her mouth as if she could push back the words her eyes opened wide in shock.
"Sorry. I have no right to say that."
"Only a wife should scold her husband. I am not your wife."
"No. That's true." I left it there. That wasn't quite a subtle as Jas usually framed her emotional darts. I was amused but didn‘t show it. Again that would be a conversation that I was not prepared for at the moment. Everything she said reinforced my thoughts. I knew what Jas's intrigue was all about. She may play me like a fool but I wasn't as obtuse as she possibly thought. We would discuss this, but only when I was good and ready. In the meantime I was enjoying the game, the various subtle hints she dropped into our conversation and the frustration she must have felt when seemingly I didn't understand them.
That night our loving was different. I had accepted the idea that we would be together again, examining the notion from all angles and finding that I found not flaws but positives. Our conversations had been illuminating and the hurt was relegated to the background. I could live with it more easily with Jas in my life, than without her. I also understood the pain she had suffered. Self inflicted yet still just as painful. With that realisation I was able to commit myself fully to our love-making. It showed. I pushed harder into Jas than ever before, it was obviously to her liking as she encouraged me vocally.
"Yes, Tim. Like that...harder...God you are so deep in me...It's wonderful." My sweat dripped copiously, dropping on her face, she licked around her mouth to savour my perspiration, and I shared the salty fluid with her, with my tongue pushed as deeply into her mouth as I could. Biting my lips to keep from climaxing had some effect, but Jas had no such inhibitions. Climaxing a couple of times with screams of delight. She urged me to finish, and as my breathing became more erratic she told me to fill her.
"Do it, my darling. Fill me, my womb awaits your sperm. Fill me sweet man, give me your child."
I could feel my face and neck becoming suffused with blood, and strangulated veins standing out. I was breathing in great gouts of air, which didn't seem to exhale. Then the throbbing in my groin accelerated beyond endurance and suddenly I was spurting my essence deep into Jas's willing and eager womb. Spurt after spurt, wrung from my loins, each one weakening me as it left my body, until at last I collapsed exhausted on to Jas. She held me tight, even when I moved to roll off her.
"No! Stay there please." It took some time for my breathing to return to normal. I raised my head and shoulders, Jas asked wordlessly for a kiss, and out tongues fought for possession of each other's mouth.
Eventually I rolled to lay by her side, and she cuddled into me.
"That was baby-making." She declared. A while later Jas murmured in my ear.
"Now you know why I could never let another man have me. You were awesome, Stud!"
I was away on business the first part of the next week, returning to the office on Thursday. Pippa had left a pile of messages for me to deal with, but one message she had to deliver in person.
"Jas phoned." She seemed curious, I hadn't said anything to her about having contact with Jas. "She said to give you a message. Her words were Mission accomplished. Now do I have to read anything into that?" I grinned at her.
"Well it‘s not a mystery. It means that Jas is pregnant." A look of concern and sadness crossed her face.
"Oh no. I had always hoped that you and Jas would get together again. Oh Tim. I am so sorry." The smile on my face confused her.
"Pippa." I said gently. "The baby is mine." Pippa sat down, questions galore were obviously bursting to be aired. It seemed better that I explained the situation in one, rather than go through a lengthy question and answer session.
"Jas called me. She wanted a child and asked me if I would agree to be the father. As she said the child would be something of me for her to cling on to. She assured me that she would make no claim on me and when she conceived she would not ask to see me again. Like I was born yesterday! I was well aware that Jas was trying to find a way for us to be together again. Well, I thought about it long and hard and I find little reason now not to get back together. There's quite a few reasons in favour and little against. The anger has gone, but the pain still gets to me from time to time. I believe that being with Jas will be a very effective pain relief. I haven't let on to her yet, but her not so subtle manoeuvring will work." Pippa's face was wreathed with smiles.
"Tim, that is the best news I have heard in years. You were so right for one another. The world was out of balance with you two apart. It was obvious that you still loved her. When are you going to tell Jas?"
"I'll phone her tonight, and suggest we go out for a meal to celebrate. I shall probably tease her a lot at first then eventually I will ask if she wants us to be together." Pippa laughed.
"Yes. And I can just see her saying no. If she did there would be pork in the sky by morning."
Jas was very happy to go out and celebrate. I booked a good restaurant, for that Friday evening, making certain that they gave us a quiet, discreet table and asked to make sure there was a good bottle of Champagne available should I call for it.
I called for Jas at seven-thirty. She came down to the door and I saw a vision. Her dress was the LBD, that all women rely on, but on Jas it achieved its greatest impact. She had her hair done. Her Ash Blonde tresses had darker lowlights of Auburn, and hung softly to just above her shoulders, curling under at the ends to frame her face. High-heeled strappy sandals lifted her to almost my height. But the smile, that million watt smile of hers that caught my eyes and would never let them go.
She bubbled with delight as we ate the meal. For the life of me I cannot remember what I had ordered, it was Jas's smile and her contagious happiness that stayed in my memory. We were drinking coffee, when the smile slowly faded from her face.
"Is that it? Tim. We had an agreement. You got me pregnant, and I would let you go again. I thank you for that, Tim. I'll stand by my word and won't make a fuss. But tell me honestly my darling. Did you not find even a little of the love we had together?"
"Jas! Yes we did have an agreement, and I want you to honour your side of the bargain." She nodded slowly, and I could see tears glisten in her eyes.
"Yes. Ok Tim. I'll finish my coffee and I'll get them to call me a taxi. I will not ask you to drive me home it would be too sad." She got up to leave, and then I cleared my throat and called her back.
"Jas, you're doing it again." She stopped and looked at me in puzzlement.
"Sorry. What am I doing again?"
"Walking away without discussion." She sat down again.
"I thought we had finished talking. I agreed to honour my side and you said you would hold me to my promise."
"But I, Jas, will not honour my side." Jas was puzzled.
"You have Tim."
"Yes, you are pregnant. And you say you will let me walk away, that was the agreement. But we have to talk about child care, where you are going to live, how you are going to live; there is quite a lot to discuss. I don't think that I can honour my side by walking away."
"But that's my side of the bargain Tim. I will look after our baby." I sighed theatrically.
"Jas. Do you really think that I was taken in by this scheme of yours? All the innuendo and sly comments? You must think I am stupid not to have realised what you were up to. And you are still at it. You said ‘our' baby. Well you‘re right. It is our baby." The dear sweet woman was looking decidedly sheepish.
"I'm sorry about all of that. I hoped I could get you to think about us, how we were, how loving we were, how good it was when we were together. I hoped that somehow we could see more of each other, perhaps re-discover the love we had. I'm sorry Tim. I didn't mislead you; I did really want your child. The rest was just a dream really." She made to get up again. I put my hand over the table and took her hand in mine.
"Jas. You aren't listening. I said it is our baby. I intend to be fully involved in bringing up our child and the next one if you want another. My darling and most beloved Jas, your plan worked. I don‘t want to go through life without you. The pain goes away when I am with you." I pulled out the items I had put in my pocket when I left my flat earlier this evening. "You are most forgetful, Jas. You left these behind." I turned her hand over and laid in her palm the engagement ring and the wedding ring I had put on her finger all those years ago. She looked up. The bright light in her eyes was magnified by the loom of tears. She looked at me and that million watt smile suddenly blinded me.
"Are you sure?" She asked.
"Yes. I have never been more certain." She picked up the engagement ring and looked for my permission. I nodded, and she put it on her finger. I reached over and took the wedding ring.
"I'll keep this until I can put it on properly, when we get married again." She nodded enthusiastically.
"Aren't you going to ask me properly?" I was laughing then.
"Jas, after all the shenanigans you went through, is there any point?" She shook her head with the great smile adorning her face.
"I suppose not."
I paid the bill and we got in the car. Just as I was driving away I remembered.
"Damn, I ordered some Champagne." Jas laughed.
"I don't need any Champagne. I have you and I have your baby. That‘s all I need." She paused and thought. "Well keeping you awake most of the night would be quite good too."
"Quite good?" Jas gave a dirty giggle.
"Do me like you did me to get me pregnant. I won‘t be able to walk afterwards, but I shall have a bloody great smile on my face."
Note. Doolally, English colloquial for acting stupidly.
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