فصل 08

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فصل 08

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  • زمان مطالعه 8 دقیقه
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CHAPTER EIGHT

A widow’s grief

I’d been away from England for less than a week, but even so, autumn seemed to have arrived while I’d been in Cuba.

The people in the train from London were all wearing jeans and jumpers, while I shivered in my shorts and T-shirt. Rain was falling against the train window, and the passing fields looked grey and empty. It was still just too early for the leaves to start changing colour, but the trees had a definite defeated look about them, as if they knew winter was already on its way.

All in all, it was a very depressing welcome home, as I’m sure you can imagine. My brain struggled to cope with the contrast between that view out of the train window and memories of events in Cuba. And, you know, for once I actually didn’t think about you, but about Luis. Poor Luis, left behind in the exciting but hopeless environment that was Cuba. Forever.

And yet, somehow, it was impossible to imagine Luis anywhere else but Cuba. Certainly not here in England. What job could he do in England that would earn him enough money to support the kind of lifestyle he would surely want here? A job that allowed him to use all his charm and his intelligence, but which only required him to work a few hours each day?

No, Cuba was the right place for Luis to be and, whether I liked it or not, England was the right place for me to be. It just didn’t feel like that on that depressing train journey back to Norwich, with the memories of Cuban sunshine fresh in my mind.

I had cheered up a bit by the time I got home though. For one thing, the sun had come out, and my little house always looks at its best when it’s full of sunlight. There was a nice pile of letters waiting for me on the doormat too, and you know how I love to get post. And the red light on my answerphone was flashing. Call me childish if you like, but it felt good to know people had been thinking about me while I’d been away.

Anyway, I kicked off my shoes, pressed the ‘play’ button on the answerphone and sank into the comfort of my sofa to read my letters. I was halfway through a postcard from my brother, who was on holiday somewhere in Wales, when Diane’s voice -sounding shaken and panicked- filled the room.

‘Carla, I’ve got to talk to you. He’s dead. Alec’s dead. I had a phone call early this morning, and I can’t believe it. I simply can’t believe it. The girls are just… Well, their hearts are broken of course, and I… well, I don’t know what to think, Carla. Look, please. Please phone me just as soon as you get back. I’ve got to know whether you saw him or not. Whether he said anything to you or-‘

You’d hate my answerphone. It’s the sort that gives people a time limit to leave their message, so it would be useless for most of your friends. Anyway, on this occasion it was useless for Diane because her time ran out and the machine made an ugly sound before it cut her off.

I was still looking at the photograph of the Welsh mountains on the front of the postcard. Or rather, my eyes were turned in that direction, but I couldn’t focus on it properly.

Diane’s voice still filled my head, and I felt confused and anxious. She’d sounded absolutely desperate; desperate and lost. And desperate and lost were the exact opposite of how I’d been expecting her to feel about the death of the dreadful Alec Cartwright. I’d been prepared for surprise, of course; but as she’d always spoken about him with such dislike and bitterness and I knew how badly he’d treated her, I suppose I’d expected her reaction to be one of relief.

As I sat there thinking about it, the phone rang again. When I answered, it was Diane herself.

‘Good,’ she said briefly. ‘you’re back. I’m coming round.’

‘Diane, I -‘ I started to say, but it was too late. She’d already hung up. And fifteen minutes later she was on my doorstep, hammering on the door.

The minute I answered it, she burst inside, and I have to say she looked a mess. As I told you before, Diane usually looks fantastic, but that day, her hair wasn’t even brushed, and she wasn’t wearing any make-up. And worst of all, when she took her sunglasses off, I could see that her eyes were red and swollen from crying.

‘Well?’ she asked. ‘Did you see him? Do you know anything?’

And right there and then, I decided to lie. Well, can you blame me? She was obviously really upset, and I… well, I just lost my courage.

I shook my head, and put a sympathetic arm around her’ shoulders. ‘No, Di,’ I lied softly. ‘I did find out where he lived, but he wasn’t in when I called round. And then when I tried again, it was already too late. One of the neighbours said he… Well, they told me he’d died. Oh, Di, I’m so very sorry.

She totally believed me; that’s the sad thing. Or anyway, judging by the way she broke down and cried as if her heart was broken, I’d say she believed me.

It was a very long time before she could speak, and then it went something like this. ‘Who would do such a dreadful thing to him? He wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t deserve to die like that. Nobody deserves to die like that. Now there’ll never be a chance for us to get back together again. Thank goodness I have you and my other friends; I don’t know how I’d survive this otherwise…’ etc.

Eventually she was exhausted, and I drove her home in her car. Her daughters arrived just as I was leaving, and I could tell they’d been crying as well. Diane collapsed into their arms, and all four of them burst into an explosion of tears right there in the hall.

I made my escape at that point, but none of them even noticed me leave, and I walked back home again feeling completely puzzled. Their grief was a mystery to me. But then, I’d seen Alec kissing Gina passionately in front of the medical building. And only a short while after that I’d witnessed him opening that rejection letter from her in his garden. Seen the expression on his face and the coldness in his eyes.

‘Women!’ he’d said. ‘They always make the mistake of thinking they can’t be replaced when, in actual fact, the very reverse is the case.’

‘He didn’t care about you!’ I wanted to run back and shout at the four crying women. ‘The only person Alec Cartwright cared about was himself!’ But of course I didn’t go back and I didn’t say any such thing. They wouldn’t have believed me anyway.

I did feel a little lonely walking back to my house from Diane’s though. I suppose it had suddenly hit me that the only person in the entire world who knew what I’d done was Luis. And he was thousands of kilometres away in Cuba. I could never tell anybody else about it because of the risk of being arrested. It had to remain my personal secret forever.

And yet, I couldn’t regret what I’d done. Alec Cartwright had deserved to die; I knew that. And some time in the future, Diane and her daughters would come to realise that too. And then they would be grateful to his murderer.

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