Thursday 9th February
Discovering what really matters…
Once the girls were safely back at school it was only a matter of time before Ted and June would get together again. She knew that this would be the pattern of their lives from then on; it was as if it was always meant to be this way. From the moment she had first set eyes on Ted she knew he was the one she would end up loving, and with such a passion too. She could not even remember now the row they had, or even why they had stopped seeing each other when they had been so much younger, way before she had ever met Phil. Sometimes that whole Phil thing, her marriage and the girls, had just seemed a hiatus, a brief spell away from Ted. She had been barely sixteen at the time and impatient to get on with her life, and probably thought that all boys would be like Ted, or that making love would be the same with everyone. What a fool she had been to have ever let him go she was thinking now, but what good was thinking; she had to learn to settle for these few precious times together not regret what might have been.
And Ted was so good looking that he could have had any girl he fancied; he was always a great flirt she knew that. She would get quite jealous when he would be chatting with some of her friends if Julie and he were at theirs for a Sunday get-together. He would lean in quite close, too close – June would be thinking, and cock his head a bit and look right into their eyes. It used to get her quite agitated, and she felt that he knew it; that he was doing it just to make her jealous, and in front of Julie, his wife, too. June was so careful barely to look at Ted when they all came round; the last thing she needed was her sister getting suspicious. They had been getting away with it for a few years by now, but she was always terrified of Julie finding out; what would she think of her, her own sister and all.
When she was with Ted all those guilty thoughts disappeared though; she entered a different world altogether. Or actually was in her world, her real world; it seemed as though her real life, her life with Ted was constantly being interrupted by this other world, the world where she was Phil’s wife, and a mother to the girls. This wasn’t her real life, her real life only started when Ted and she were together. she used to kick herself for ever letting him go, for giving him away so easily. If only they had got married, Ted and June, rather than her sister Julie, how happy she would be then, in only a council house maybe instead of this great big place Phil had insisted on buying. She would have happily lived in a tiny two-up two-down if she could have been with Ted. But maybe she was deceiving herself even here, who is to say if she had kept seeing Ted and married him that they too would have been bored with each other by now, perhaps it was the secrecy, the subterfuge, the danger of what they were doing that was the glue that kept it all so exciting.
* * *
Phil was beginning to despise himself, especially at work where he was so looked up to, so respectable, so boringly re-assuring. What had started out as exciting, a little bit of breaking the rules and getting away with it, was now sickening him. He really wished his life had turned out differently; he could have been in London now, working for a big company, or something in the City, that’s what he really aspired to. He had been stupid to have listened to his father at all, but he was always so desperate to do the right thing, or what he considered the right thing that he never even asked himself what he, Phil, wanted.
And even when he graduated, his father hardly seemed pleased at all. ‘All that effort Dad, five years of my life studying to make you happy, to make you proud of me, and you barely acknowledged it when I actually became a Solicitor.’ thought Phil. ‘And now we hardly see each other, a visit at Christmas, or the girl’s birthdays. It’s sometimes hard for me to even remember my life before June. Strange the way life just takes over isn’t it? You slip into your life like an old pair of slippers, never questioning who puts them out for you every morning, or whether they fit, or even if they are yours. You just slip into them and get on with it.’
June and he were slipping into a different way of life too and Phil couldn’t seem to stop that either. They used to make love almost every day when they first got married, than it slipped to two or three times a week, now it is once a month if they are lucky. It wasn’t that Phil didn’t still fancy her – he had never really fancied anyone else, it just seemed to be a pattern they had slipped into without either of them consciously deciding. Maybe it happened to all couples, but just thinking about it made Phil sad.
She often went to bed before him, and was usually fast asleep when he crawled up to join her. Sometimes he would just look at her by the light of the bedside lamp, she always looked so beautiful asleep, so calm, so perfect. He just gazes at her sometimes, and even though he knows he is incredibly fortunate, a beautiful wife and two perfect little girls, he can’t help feeling that all of this should belong to someone else, it is as if he isn’t not really worthy somehow, as if he hasn’t earned it, and certainly doesn’t deserve it.
And then he starts thinking about all the dirty deals and stupid under the counter business he is up to his neck in, and he knows he is just a sham. He suspects that he has always been somehow never quite the genuine article, despite his name on the brass plate and the certificates, it all seems false, as if it should be someone else and not him behind the big oak desk with the green shaded brass lamp and the leather bound blotter and the line of Parker pens all in a row. Sometimes as he sleeps, in his dreams his father comes into his office and just sits in the chair opposite to Phil and looks that old-fashioned look at him. He shrinks and crumbles inside and cannot look at him, and it goes on and on, the same recurring dream, and then he wakes in a sweat and is all hot and red and lays there with the covers off and he is too scared to fall back asleep because he knows his father will still be sitting there waiting for him. He never speaks, he just sits there looking at Phil.
* * *
Harriet heard them first on the radio and she knew straight away that this was different; that this was going to take us all over. No-one else seemed to notice, her father still read his paper, her mother was glancing at a magazine, aimlessly turning the pages, scanning them impatiently as if she was looking for something, anything, to break the tedium of her life. Jane was probably playing in the garden, Harriet doesn’t remember her being there, not the first time she heard them. She was always listening out for them after that, and it wasn’t long before she heard them again.