فصل 12

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فصل 12

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  • زمان مطالعه 11 دقیقه
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Chapter twelve


Rod drove home in a state of confusion. He drove slowly - it had started to rain heavily and he could hardly see the road ahead. He thought about Fanella and tried to sort out his feelings for her. On the one hand, he felt reassured by Fanella’s obvious confidence in him; on the other, he was concerned that she didn’t know what she was letting herself in for, by having so much faith in him.

There was something else that was worrying him, but he didn’t know what it was exactly. Something about Fanella gave him feelings he would rather not have. He felt a warm affection for her, which made him want to protect her in some way. He knew this was irrational: after all, one of the things that had struck him about her at lunch today was her strength. He knew she was an independent woman who could stand on her own two feet perfectly well. She made him feel alive again and he was attracted to her, as if somehow he could be responsible for her happiness. But he didn’t like to think about it: he had a wonderful wife at home.

As he drew nearer his home, he began to think of the good news he could relate to Leah about his stories. She would be proud of him, he was sure. Lately she seemed to have lost some of her respect for him, even though she knew he had not hurt Dan. It was as if, along with losing his job, however temporarily, he had lost some of his manliness. She didn’t seem to want him near her very often, and she was spending more of her days out at clients’ houses.

She would not have had the car today, however, and he was looking forward to arriving home as he used to, and finding her in her office, perhaps with a meal in the oven. Their roles would be more as they always had been, and he felt certain that the news about his stories would help them get back to normal.

As he turned into the driveway, he realised that a large car was parked in his usual space, and he would have to park out in the lane. He reversed and parked, and then, bending his head against the continuing heavy rain, ran towards the front door. Suddenly, something made him stop. The sound of the rain, obviously having drowned out the sound of his approaching footsteps, meant that Leah and her companion were completely unaware of his arrival.

Leah was in the arms of Mr Simpson from the farmhouse up the hill, her blonde head held back slightly, her eyes shut, as she kissed him on the lips. Rod had no time to think what to do. At that second, Leah opened her eyes, saw him and pulled quickly away from the man who, on seeing her look of alarm, swung round and came face to face with Rod.

For a few seconds the three of them stood in shocked silence. Then Mr Simpson climbed into his car as if nothing had happened, reversed down the drive, turned and drove fast up the hill towards his home.

Leah and Rod were left, the rain dripping off their hair, face to face with each other. Rod looked at Leah and felt himself strangely unmoved by what he had witnessed. It was as if the bits of a puzzle were suddenly falling into place, as if Leah was taking on a character he had always known was there, but had refused to acknowledge fully.

He walked past her into the house, surprised at himself for angrily pushing her aside as he went. He dropped his briefcase on the floor and went to the drinks cabinet. He poured himself a large whisky and sat on the sofa. Anger flowed through him, not anger at Leah, but at himself for having been so blind for so long.

Leah stood in the doorway. Her hair was untidy from the rain and from her passionate embrace with the farmer, and her feet were bare. She had clearly only slipped her boots on in order to say goodbye to him. In fact, now Rod thought about it, she had probably only just thrown her clothes on before he had arrived home.

‘What can I say?’ Leah began, apologetically. ‘I didn’t expect you home just then. I’m sorry you had to witness that. I really am.’

‘You mean, you think it was better for me not to know?’ asked Rod.

‘Well… with your job and everything… I was going to tell you, but then I thought on top of all your other stresses at the moment, it was better for you not to know,’ said Leah.

‘How very thoughtful of you,’ said Rod.

‘Seriously Rod,’ Leah went on, coming to sit beside him on the sofa and putting her arms round him for the first time in weeks, ‘I wanted to tell you. It’s been terrible keeping this secret from you for so long, but I just didn’t think you’d be able to bear it on top of everything else.’

‘So how long has this been going on?’ asked Rod.

Strangely, he felt relieved to think it hadn’t started as a result of what had happened to him at school.

‘Ever since I first got the contract with him,’ Leah said. ‘I may as well tell you now: we’d been attracted to each other for a while before that, but neither of us had admitted how we felt.’

Rod sighed. It all made sense, he realised. There had been other clues which he had chosen to ignore: her annoyance at having him at home, the way she took so much trouble over her appearance when she was supposed to be at home all day.

It didn’t stop his feelings of hurt and rejection, but he had to admit that they’d been drifting apart for some time. Even he had wondered at times if they would survive as a couple. They were so different! But he had always felt lucky that she was interested in him: she with her beauty and talent and wealth, attracted to a simple school teacher. It had been like a fairy story. He was so thankful for her interest, he had chosen to blind himself to the obvious barriers between them.

‘So… what are we going to do?’ he asked, looking at her, admiring her amazing looks and feeling that he could hardly blame other men for finding her attractive.

‘I don’t know, Rod,’ she said, putting her head on his shoulder. ‘I do love you, you know. I didn’t want to spoil what we’ve got together. It’s just that you’ve been so distant lately, and with your talk of wanting children and everything, I began to think we were from different worlds. There are certain areas in which I know I can never make you happy, such as giving you a child. You know I don’t want children and I shan’t change my mind.’

‘That’s OK,’ said Rod. ‘I realise that. Having a child isn’t my only goal in life. I was willing to accept we wouldn’t ever have any of our own.’

‘But you’d be such a good father, it’s a waste!’ said Leah, and they both laughed a little.

‘You mean you wanted me to go off and have children with someone else?’ Rod asked.

‘No!’ said Leah sharply. ‘But I have felt awful for denying you that opportunity.’

‘So you decided to have an affair yourself?’ said Rod. He tried not to sound bitter. ‘What is it about him?’ he asked, suddenly wondering.

‘I don’t know,’ said Leah, withdrawing her arm from Rod’s shoulders. ‘I just like him. And his children are grown-up, so he’s got all that stuff out of the way. It isn’t an issue between us.’

‘I see,’ said Rod.

He suddenly felt exhausted. Whichever way he looked at it, it seemed like this was the end for him and Leah. And that was suddenly too much on top of everything else. No job, no marriage, no status. This was how people sank to the bottom of the heap.

He went and filled up his glass and drank it down in one go, then filled it again. ‘I had some good news I was going to tell you,’ he said, sitting back down beside her. ‘I thought it might impress you, and that you would start to respect me again.’ He realised he sounded self-pitying, like a little child, but he couldn’t stop himself. ‘But there’s no point in telling you now.’

‘Oh go on!’ said Leah. ‘We both need some good news. This hasn’t been easy for me either, you know, with you at home and worrying about what’s going to happen to you.’

‘Well,’ said Rod, ‘the publisher is interested in my stories. Nothing’s definite yet. But it’s a good beginning. Now I’ve said it, it sounds completely meaningless.’

‘Well done,’ said Leah, but Rod could tell she didn’t really consider this the best news she had ever heard.

‘Are you going to leave me?’ he asked, looking at her now and realising he sounded like the self-pitying little boy again.

‘Rod, I think we may as well accept this is the end,’ she said, and only then did he put his head down and begin to cry.

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