Wednesday 23rd August
“My God Ted, did you see her face. I’ve never seen anyone look so shocked.”
“Me neither. What the hell do we do now June? A right bloody mess and no mistake, I can tell you.” As he hurriedly pulled his trousers up and buckled his belt.
“It’s over Ted. It’s all over. Don’t you see Ted, this is it; this is how it ends. There is no way back from this.” June had known that as soon as she saw it was Harriet at the door. ‘”There’s no way she will just keep her mouth shut I can assure you. If I know anything about my darling daughter Harriet she won’t be able to keep this a secret. I’m afraid we are for the high jump Ted – you and me. We’re going to have to just face up to them. Phil and my sister I mean; there’s no going back from this now.”
And somehow, deep down, she was glad, glad that it was over, all the hiding, the secrecy and the guilt. No matter what might happen now she wouldn’t have to lie anymore. Maybe she had been wanting this, or some sort of resolution, for some time now. She had been too much of a coward to decide anything for herself; better that fate had taken a hand. So, along with the uncertainty and the dread of telling Phil and Julie, was a strange calm. At the very centre of her being, even in this maelstrom, this impending nightmare, she was remarkably calm.
* * *
What did Harriet do next? Well, she simply acted as if nothing had happened, she continued her aimless tour of their small town until the shops started closing and she realised she would have to come home or go back to University. She used to travel back and forth by train, and it wasn’t a straightforward journey; she had to go in the opposite direction back to London, the Circle line from Liverpool Street to Kings Cross, and then a long and tedious journey up to Leeds, the whole thing used to take her hours. There was another way by taking a bus to Ipswich, then another to Cambridge, and yet another up to Leeds, but this took even longer and was so complicated with timetables not matching that it really had to be arranged in advance. So she decided to go back to the house.
* * *
Without thinking about it they just knew they had to get out of the house. Ted had parked his car a couple of streets away; he couldn’t just put it in the drive when he popped round for a session, could he? June was busy looking all around her, almost certain that Harriet was spying on her or that she had gone to see Phil already, and he and Harriet would be walking down the street to confront them. They got into Ted’s battered old Triumph, June moved a packet of Old Holborn and a muddy copy of ‘The Sketch’ off the passenger seat and they drove out of the wretched town. June was desperately looking around her, trying to spot Harriet – but she was nowhere to be seen. She knew it was pointless, but she felt if she could just sit down and talk to her before she spoke to everyone else it might still be alright, but they never saw her and soon they were out and headed for Ipswich. June didn’t know why, but they both felt they just had to get as far away as possible. Ted kept muttering, “Fine mess this is, what the hell will Julie say when she finds out?” But he wasn’t really talking to June at all. In a way he hadn’t been talking to her for ages anyway, that had always been their trouble; they had never faced the possibility of ever being discovered. They had simply never talked about any of it.
Ted was understandably most concerned with keeping his marriage together, though what her sister would think June couldn’t imagine. She would never forgive her, she knew that for a fact anyway. It might be possible for her to take Ted back and to eventually forgive him, but it was all over between the sisters now, that much was for certain. Suddenly June started to worry about Phil. She knew that this could destroy him, in his way he had always been a bit fragile, that mask he wore of confident solicitor was only a mask, and even though June didn’t really know what went on behind it, she knew it for the mask it was.
They were pulling up at a small café in Ipswich, when June decided that she would offer to move out of the home. Maybe Phil and the girls could make some sort of a life for themselves without her – heaven knows she had felt isolated there in her own home with them all for so long. Phil and she hardly spoke some days, he was always so wrapped up in his work, Harriet when she was home was unbearable, and even Jane would sit up in her room for hours on end rather than come down and talk to June.
They sat over cup of tea after wretched cup of tea, and still they couldn’t come up with any answers. She insisted that they should talk to Phil and her sister that night, though Ted wanted to wait and see what Harriet would do.
“Can’t you talk to the girl, tell her to be sensible. Make her see what trouble she would be causing everyone if she said anything.” He pleaded.
“Oh Ted, it’s far too late for that. Besides you don’t know Harriet. She may be shocked now, but some little ferret in her brain will be seeing how she can turn this to her advantage. She’ll want her revenge, no matter what else may happen.”
“You talk as though you hated the girl. You almost sound as if you want everything to come crashing down.” He looked up at her with a mixture of shock and surprise. And June simply half-smiled back at him.
“Too late for that, Ted. It already has.”