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David J Knight

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Alexandria
By David J Knight
Sunday, October 10, 2004

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent stories by David J Knight
· A Walk In The Park
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A knock at the door leads me to a relationship that changed my life and made me review my idea of beauty

It was mid afternoon on another bleak English Saturday and I was trying, and failing, to get some work done, I was already a week late with my report and the incessant rain hitting the window reverberated across the still room didn’t helping my already wavering concentration one little bit. I’d just decided to give up, again, and was on my way to make my umpteenth cup of coffee when I heard the doorbell chime to the tune of the Adams Family. It was one of those ideas that sounded great when I initially bought the thing, but rapidly lost its appeal. I repeated my promise to replace it with a normal, boring one next time I was out. Typically, rather than just answer the door I tried to guess who was calling, I was certainly not expecting anyone and so thought it was probably a door-to-door salesman, I also thought that if it was then he deserves a sale for persisting in this weather. The only other possibility was my girlfriend. Juliet, though she too was supposed to be working. I decided that I wanted it to be Juliet, I needed cheering up and she usually did that job one way or another.


 


I opened the door, and immediately felt a chill wind bite through my thin tee shirt. Standing in front of me was not my girlfriend but a young lad, who looked about twelve years old. He was dressed in a similar style to me, that is, tee shirt and jeans. He was also looking thoroughly miserable and doing a very good impression of a drowned rat.


 


‘Excuse me mister,’ he said trying to smile, ‘can I use your phone please?’


 


I was just about to accede when I noticed another face peering around my gate. I smiled and a young girl, a year or two younger in appearance, made herself visible and shyly walked to the doorway and stood behind the boy. She too was dressed for the better weather the morning had suggested and it was only her long hair, which in its current soaked state hid most of her face, which told me the child was female. Her demeanour too looked pretty miserable, and she appeared to be limping.


 


I asked the pair to come in, fairly sure that they were genuine, but decided I would not leave them alone in a room or allow them to separate. It is a sad indictment on today’s society when you have to doubt children’s honesty, but I am not naïve and had heard of many such sneak thieves targeting local homes.


 


 I took them into my living room and pointed to the phone. As he went to the phone, which was still antiquated enough to require a cord, I took the opportunity of studying both of them. Each were dark haired and had the type of perpetual tan that only youngsters seem to manage. Both were slim and dressed for the sun, which had greeted the day, rather than the current downpour. I wasn’t sure but I guessed they were brother and sister. I decided that my initial guess at their ages was pretty close. It was only then that I realised that the girls face was not normal, but seemed slightly deformed. Her long hair, parted centrally, hid much of her face, probably a deliberate ploy. I tried not to stare at her but could not help but feel pity for the child. I went over to the fireplace and pressed the buttons to ignite the gas fire there; so much easier than a coal fire though I had to concede a real fire, once the hassle of lighting it was over was much more preferable. I asked her if she wanted to stand by the fire to get some warmth into her fragile frame. She ignored me and when I repeated the question her brother looked up and said.


 


‘Sally’s deaf and has lost her hearing aid. She can lip read a bit providing she’s looking directly at you and you talk clearly.’


 


He spoke in a manner both protective of the girl but also resigned to her problems. He looked at her and mouthed something, which was an obvious repeat of my request. I was just wondering whether she could talk when I heard a quiet but perfectly understandable ‘Thank you.’ as she moved gratefully to the heat. Her brother turned his attention back to the phone. I was drawn to the girl and my initial concerns about their honesty evaporated so I decided I could leave them whilst I went to make a cup of hot chocolate for each of us. When I returned the boy was still on the phone.


 


‘Sorry mum, honest, it wasn’t my fault. I tried to stop her but you know what she’s like.’ I overheard the boy pleading.


 


‘At a man’s house in Hartshill,’ he added. There was then a silence as he listened to his mother’s response.


 


‘She’s OK, just a grazed knee I think.’ He continued. ‘I don’t know. I’ll ask,’ he said in reply to an unheard question.


 


He turned to me and asked, ‘what is the address here?’


 


I told him and heard him repeat it into the phone.


 


‘Mum would like to talk to you,’ the lad said, nervously, then added, ‘please don’t tell her that I knocked on your door. She says we should be careful of strangers.’ The last sentence was accompanied by a very tentative smile.


 


I took the phone from his still, wet hand and said ‘Hello!’


 


I was very surprised to hear laughter at the other end, which explained itself when a very sweet voice replied, ‘Hi! Tell Craig, if he doesn’t want me to know something then he should at least cover the receiver while he’s talking.’ This unexpected comment along with the pleasant way it was said brought a smile to my face.


 


‘Ok!’


 


Craig’s mother’s voice then turned more serious when she asked, ‘Did he really just knock on your door?’ After receiving confirmation she continued, ‘I’m sorry about that, he should know better at his age. I don’t even know what he was playing at riding that far from home with Sally, but he should have walked home and not bothered a stranger.’


 


Whilst I agreed that youngsters needed to be careful about who they talked to, seeing how the young girl was limping and listening to the torrential downpour still going on, I decided to take Craig’s side. ‘I don’t think so,’ I said, ‘certainly not in this weather and your daughter limping as she is.’


 


‘What weather?’ came a puzzled response, ‘It’s fine,’ and after a pause, ‘or, at least it was fine this morning.


 


‘You’re obviously not near a window then.’ I stated.


 


‘No. I’m at work, there isn’t a window in sight at this place.’ The tone in her voice told me that this was obviously something that depressed her, though whether it was the lack of windows or just her place of work I couldn’t tell.


 


‘At work?’ I asked shocked that she was allowing her children to roam the streets whilst she was at work.


 


It was her turn to understand my tone of voice, because she replied very defensively, ‘Yes at work! We do need to eat you know, and their father should be looking after them, but I should have known better, he’s probably in the pub or down the betting shop.’


 


Realising I had jumped to the wrong conclusion I apologised. She gracefully accepted it and said she would make arrangements to finish work early and come and pick them up, but it would be at least half an hour before she could get here, and would I really mind if they stayed here to wait for her. I looked at my watch, more from habit than needing to know the time, because I’d checked the time a moment ago, just before I left my computer.


 


‘Look!’ I said, ‘It’s gone three thirty already, what time are you supposed to finish?’


 


After a brief pause she answered ‘Five thirty. Why?’


 


‘Well I’ve got nothing better to do.’ I lied, knowing I still needed to finish the report, but was honest enough to know that I wouldn’t get it done today whatever happened. I continued, ’why don’t they stay here until you finish work?’


 


The hesitation, this time, was even longer. ‘I don’t know,’ she started, ‘I don’t even know you.’


 


I laughed before answering, ‘I understand your concern, but if I was going to do something bad then I wouldn’t have let Craig ring you and give you my address, plus even if I had done I could still do things in the thirty minutes before you get here.’


 


Again a pause before she conceded, ‘Yes! I suppose you’re right. Are you sure though, they’re no angels, my pair.’


 


Again I laughed, ‘They can’t be any worse than my four.’ I said.


 


‘You’ve got four children of your own? That makes me feel a bit better then, knowing that you have kids that is. Are they there now?’


 


‘No! Fortunately they’re all grown up and flown the nest.’


 


‘Oh! You don’t sound that old.’ She said not realising that she was actually paying me a compliment.


 


‘Thank you!’ I said smiling, ‘shall we say about sixish then?’


 


This time her response was immediate, ‘if you’re sure you don’t mind.’


 


 ‘No problem, it’ll do me good having some youngsters around the house again.’ I finished by telling her exactly how to get to my house and hung up.


 


The first thing I did was hand over the hot drinks and the easy task of getting Craig to join his sister by the fire. I then went to get some cream and plasters for the young girl’s injured knee. Over the next couple of hours I learned, mostly from Craig, amongst other things that their parents had split about a year ago, and that their father was supposed to be looking after them whilst their mother was at work, which was every other Saturday. He’d sent them to visit an uncle without bothering to check whether he was in or not. He wasn’t, and it was whilst they were riding back that they were caught in the downpour. At first they’d tried to wait out the storm in a bus shelter, but when it seemed that it was set in for the day they’d decided to make a dash back to their Dad’s house. It had been then that Sally had fallen off her bike in the wet, scraping her hands and the side of her right knee. A bit of antiseptic cream, a cup of chocolate and lots of TLC and Sally and her brother were fine. I’d found some old games on my PC that my kids had played years ago and that I hadn’t got around to removing, and set them playing each other. This, getting some warmth back into them and letting the fire dry their outer clothes took up the most of the first hour. Then, and I’m still not sure how it started, we were play fighting, with the two of them trying to get me and me kneeling down tickling each of them whilst trying to protect myself from attack. It was no contest, for although I was now a few years older and not as fit as I was, I was used to paying this game with my four and sometimes their friends too, so playing against two was not too tiring for me.


 


It seemed just a few minutes later that the doorbell chimed its annoying tune for a second time that day. The kids were oblivious to it, so engrossed in our game, so I was forced to peel them off whilst I went to answer it. I opened the door not certain what to expect. A petite, young woman, with a wonderfully slim figure, greeted me. She was wearing a dark business suit, with her skirt just below her knees, displaying as good a pair of legs as I’d seen in a long time. Her jacket hid her breasts, though they appeared to be on the smallish side. By the time my eyes reached her face, I’d already decided that she was a very attractive woman. Her face, though, was a shock; she seemed quite badly disfigured. I could not keep the surprise from my face, and I was sure she must have noticed it, although she made no comment, nor could I discern any change in her expression. I realised that whatever was wrong with Sally was hereditary, perhaps only affecting the females of the line as Craig seemed fine. I also realised that some time during the past hour or so I had forgotten about Sally’s looks. Angry with myself for my reaction, again, I tried hard to understand it. I decided that with Sally I just felt sorry for a child growing up different, whatever the difference was, other children would never let them forget it; with her mother it was different; the pleasant voice from the earlier phone call coupled with my initial look at her slim figure meant that I was already attracted to her, meaning her looks had more of an impact on me than I expected. Shaking these thoughts away, which were all over in a couple of seconds anyway, I invited her in.


 


She was hardly through the door when first her son, closely followed by his sister, ran up to her. Both were still red faced and on a high from our exertions. Their mother seemed surprised by their boisterous greeting, and looked at me questioningly.


 


‘We’ve been fighting David!’ Sally shouted out, answering her mother’s unasked question, her talking ability had been without doubt for some time.


 


‘David?’ she asked looking up at me, the narrow hallway forced her to stand quite close to me making the foot difference in our height seemed huge. I looked down at her and was instantly taken by her eyes. The bottom lid was turned out slightly, showing the inner red flesh. From my angle it framed her sparkling hazel eyes to perfection, to my mind the best eyes I’d ever seen on a woman. Her face still appeared misshapen but now I could begin to see the woman behind the unfortunate mask. This close I could also detect a subtle aroma, which I after a second or two realised was her shampoo rather than a perfume. This made me also take note of her hair. It was brown, long and straight and like her daughter’s parted in the middle and I, oddly, felt an instant urge to finger comb it, which I managed to resist.


 


‘Yes, David.’ I replied, ‘it is my name, I don’t believe in the honorific title of uncle, so what else am I to be called?’


 


She had a small mouth and wore little or no lipstick or any other discernible makeup for that matter, but when she smiled it lit up her entire face.


 


‘Alexandria.’ She said, holding her hand out, ‘but most call me Alex for short. Have they behaved?’ she added, nodding to the two still clinging to her sides.


 


I shook her hand, appreciating the softness and dainty size of it, before answering. ‘Not at all, they’ve been terrible.’


 


The two children looked up sharply at me in obvious disappointment, their mother only frowned. That was enough, I wanted her smile back, so I gave up the pretence and laughed. ‘Only joking, they’ve been great, more than that, they’ve brought a bit of joy back into the house that’s been missing these last few years.’


 


The smile returned. ‘Ok. I’d better get them out of your hair though. Say thank you to,’ she hesitated for just a moment before continuing, ‘David.’


 


They both smiled and said politely ‘Thank you David.’ They had picked up their mother’s slight reluctance about my name and, of course as children do, stressed their use of it.


 


Then Sally became the child again, ‘but mum,’ she pleaded, ‘we were having so much fun. Do we have to go? Can’t we stay just a bit longer? Pleeeeaaasse.’ The last word was so drawn out it was impossible not to smile.


 


‘I think David has had enough, don’t you?’ her mother replied.


 


‘He doesn’t mind, do you?’ she implored.


 


‘No I don’t mind, but if your mother says it’s time to go, then it’s time to go.’ Sally’s face went very sullen for a moment but when I added, ‘but if it’s ok with her you can come again.’ It’s brightness swiftly returned. I looked at Alex for agreement. She could tell that her kids had obviously enjoyed themselves because Craig, who’d been silent since his mother’s arrival, spurted out with childish candour, ‘yes please. Can we mum? It’s better than going to dad’s, at least David plays with us.’ I wasn’t sure before, but it was now confirmed that Alex and the children’s father were separated. However, I didn’t want to get between the children and their dad or cause any unnecessary tension between the two adults.


 


I started to say, ‘hold on…’ when Alex interrupted me.


 


‘Now Craig, I know you don’t like spending time at your dad’s place, but you can’t just expect a complete stranger to look after you when you see fit.’


 


She looked at me for confirmation, but I was once more taken aback by her face. For the last few minutes I’d completely forgotten about her looks, now I was reminded how badly I was handling it, to myself if not to Alexandria, who still showed no sign of annoyance or even resignation when I kept staring too long at her. ‘… can you?’ she finished.


 


I was not certain exactly what she’d said, as my attention had been elsewhere but rather than bring attention to it I tried to guess what had been said. I looked at Alex and said, ‘you mentioned every other Saturday they stay with their father. I don’t know what you think but they don’t seem to like it, nor does he otherwise he’d spend more time with them, so I don’t mind if they come down then as long as they realise that I won’t be able to make it all the time and…’ I looked at the two children with a mean scowl, ‘…you do exactly what I say.’ The meanness in the scowl obviously didn’t show through as the both laughed and agreed. I looked at their mother who was trying to act despairingly as she was obviously manoeuvred into acceding to her children’s wishes. We exchanged telephone numbers to make the arrangements easier and I said goodbye to the boisterous duo and their mother. I watched her lithe figure walk away and couldn’t help a feeling of desire, yet also for some reason I also felt protective of her.


 


After she’d gone I sat down, report totally forgotten about, and tried to analyse the way I was thinking about Alexandria. Her petite body shape was certainly my preferred feminine form and there was no doubting her femininity, so that attraction I had no problem accepting. Being married for nearly twenty years meant that I had not had many girlfriends, even over the eight years since my divorce, but those that I had had were always beautiful, at least in the accepted definition of the word. Juliet was certainly in that category, now in her late thirties, not that she ever admitted as much, she was still slim and the natural blonde beauty of her youth had blossomed, making her a very attractive woman, something I knew from the many male stares she always pretended to endure. There was no way that Alex fitted that category. I asked myself whether it was pity I felt for her, but quickly dismissed that as a reason as I knew that it was a more personal feeling than that. I found her eyes fascinating, especially when she had been close and looking up at me. I gave up after a couple of hours when I still could not understand why I was so attracted to her, as I was honest enough with myself to know I wouldn’t have agreed to look after her children if there wasn’t that strong attraction.


 


I opened a bottle of good French wine and sat down to enjoy the DVD I’d recently bought. It was ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and seeing the similar instant attraction between Hugh Grant’s and Andie MacDowell’s characters just made it harder to forget Alex. After that I phoned Juliet, but even an hour’s small talk with her failed to remove Alexandria from my mind. Wisely though I decided not to mention this to Juliet.


 


I slept little and fitfully that night and was up at the crack of dawn, which was not typical of me at all. It did have the benefit of giving me enough time to work on my report, although I reckon the quality was not up to my usual standards but I just couldn’t find the will to do any better. Having finished by midday I met up with Juliet and we spent Sunday lunch down at the local pub, where they serve a reasonable traditional English roast. A pint or two of good ale and after saying goodbye to Juliet, who had to go and collect her son from his father’s, a slow walk back to my house, in the resumed sunshine, completed a very pleasant couple of hours. Just as I got back I saw a young lad on a pushbike outside my house, it didn’t take long to recognise Craig. He asked if I could show him how to use the computer better as although his mother had one, he wasn’t allowed to use it much. I didn’t mind at all, as I knew I would end up taking a nap after my meal otherwise, so teaching the young lad was certainly going to be a bit more stimulating.


I asked Craig if his mother knew that he was here. He smiled sheepishly and shook his head. I was just about to tell him to ring her first, before deciding that I’d rather talk to her myself. I told him to go into the computer room whilst I checked with his mother. I was quite surprised when I felt the mild flutter of butterflies in my stomach as I picked up the phone. 'What on earth are you getting excited about?' I asked myself, 'she's a young woman you've only just met; she's probably young enough to be your daughter. You don't know if she already has a partner and why should she be interested in you anyway? Besides, you have a girlfriend and although its no love match you certainly enjoy being with her.' I told myself these truths and accepted them completely but still felt like a young teenager as I waited for the phone to be answered.


A shot of nerves coursed through my body as she said a simple 'Hello!' 


'Hi!' I started trying to talk calmly and in a relaxed manner, 'It's David.' 


'David?' the question in her voice was unmistakable, I'd obviously made such a great impression she couldn't even remember me just one day later. 


Ego deflated, I carried on, 'The children, my house, yesterday.' I said giving her a list of clues.


 'Oh! David. Yes I remember now, sorry. What can I do for you?' her voice was polite but no more.


'Craig has just turned up here asking to use the computer; in fact asking if I'd teach him a bit.' I said. 


'Oh! I'm sorry, he should know better. Just send him straight home and I'll make sure he doesn't bother you again.' She said rather sharply.


 'No, you got it wrong. He's not bothering me at all; in fact I think I mentioned yesterday that it would be ok. It's just that I thought you would prefer to know where he is.'


 The hesitation that seemed to be a regular part of our few conversations made another appearance. 'Oh!' she started off with again along with a third apology, 'I'm sorry. I thought you were complaining about him. Most people do.' The last said with resignation. 'Are you sure it's ok?'


 'Yes no problem. I'll send him back when I've had enough.' I said laughing.


 'I'll expect him in five minutes then.' She replied picking up on my effort to lighten the conversation.


 'I think I can manage a bit longer than that. What time does he have to be back?' I asked.


 'Not 'till six o'clock, but I'm sure you'll tire of him before then.' The laughter was still there but somehow not quite as convincing.


After I’d finished talking to Alex I went into the computer room to tell Craig that it was all right for him to stay. The unreasonable expectation that Alex would be having similar thoughts about me as I was about her were well and truly discounted, so I shook off the disappointment and set about teaching Craig the rudimentaries of Microsoft’s bloated software.  The task turned out more interesting than expected, as he was a willing and inquisitive student; so much in fact that it was only when the telephone rang that I looked at my watch to see we were over thirty minutes past Craig’s six o’clock deadline. Guessing that it would be his mother I rushed to answer it.


 


‘Hi David.’ She said, bringing me a very mild pleasure as she remembered my name this time. ‘I don’t suppose you know where Craig is? He hasn’t come home yet.’ The resignation in her voice suggested that this was by no means the first time that Craig was late home.


 


‘Yes I do.’ I answered sheepishly, ‘he’s still here. I’m sorry, it’s my fault, and we were so engrossed in Excel that I never noticed the time. I’ll send him back immediately, unless you want me to bring him over, I can probably get his bike in the back of my car.’


 


Now that she knew where her son was, her mood lightened a little. ‘I don’t know whether to thank you for putting up with him or scold you for making him late.’


 


‘I deserve the latter but I’d prefer the thanks, although I’ve enjoyed having such an eager pupil.’


 


‘Ok. Thank you, but you’d better send him home now. Thanks for the offer of a lift but his tea’s not quite ready yet and I’d prefer him to ride back,’ at this point I could hear a smile in her voice, ‘it might just tire him out a bit, so he leaves me and Sally in peace. Now,’ the smile became laughter, ‘if you can teach him THAT miracle you will have my eternal thanks.’


 


‘I’m sure you wouldn’t want him to become too placid and boring.’ I said, but also noticed my own reaction, which was that I would very much like Alexandria’s eternal thanks. Her sweet voice interrupted that train of thought.


 


‘Umph! Chance would be a fine thing!’ she laughed.


 


‘Ok! I’ll send him over right away.’


 


Reluctantly I said goodbye and hung up. A few minutes later Craig was on his way home after extracting, from me, a promise to continue next week.


 


The rest of the evening was spent trying to concentrate on television, which, with its poor story lines, boring actors and endless mindless commercials, was not doing its best to capture and hold my attention. It was not too surprising, then, that my thoughts often strayed to Alexandria. For the umpteenth time I tried to work out just why I felt such a strong attraction to her. She had a fabulous sexy body from what I could see but then so did loads of women that I had little or no taste for. The two things that I must find in a woman are intelligence and the ability to hold a conversation. At first sight Alexandria seemed to fit in with both requirements. By the time I went to bed I was still none the wiser.


 


The next few days I was away presenting my report to the board of a well-known company. It was a blueprint for their future IT department and seemed to be accepted with only minimal objections. I was therefore in a buoyant mood when I returned home late Tuesday. I opened a bottle of chilled Montrachet and sat at my desk to listen to my answerphone messages. The third message had me sitting upright as I recognised Alexandria’s voice. ‘Hi David! Craig wanted to know if he could come over tonight, but as you’re obviously not in he can’t. I hate these things, I always seem to talk gibberish into them so I’ll just say goodbye.’


 


I checked my watch to find that it was already past ten thirty. Should I ring back and apologise for not being in or was it too late. I swayed for about five minutes before my desire to talk to her overruled my belief that it was too late in the evening.


 


The phone rang for what seemed an eternity, beyond when I would have ordinarily hung up, which I was about to when it was answered.


 


‘Hello,’ said a very sleepy voice.


 


‘Oh Shit!’ I thought, I’ve woken her up.


 


‘Hi Alex! It’s David. I’ve just got in and thought to call you back, without realising the time.’ I felt only a little guilt at this lie. ‘It’s only realising I’ve woken you that made me check my watch.’


 


‘That’s all right. You’ve probably done me a favour, I’d dropped off watching the TV, if you hadn’t rang I’d have still been down here a few more hours probably. As I tried to say in the message, Craig wanted to know if he could come over tonight, he had a homework assignment to do and he thought you might have been able to help. Too late now though, he’s been in bed over an hour.’


 


‘Well tell him I’ll be around tomorrow evening, if that’s not too late, and once again I’m sorry for calling so late.’


 


‘No problem, but I am tired so if you don’t mind I’m going to bed. I’ll tell Craig in the morning. Goodnight David.’


 


‘Goodnight Alex!’ I said.


 


Craig did not come the following day, so I assumed that it was too late for the particular homework he required my help with, however he and Sally appeared on Saturday afternoon. They spent the next few hours playing games on the computer with bouts of fighting me in between. They headed off on their bikes about six o’clock, ending my hopes of meeting their mother again. Sunday was a repeat with the children again spending a few infectious hours with me before going home. They were doing me quite a bit of good, as for the next few days numerous friends commented on my improved state, although a couple of hours at a time seemed about as much as I could currently handle.


 


I saw the kids at least twice a week over the next few weeks but to my growing dismay, I didn’t see Alex for about a month, although we talked regularly. The one plus for me during this time was that our conversations lasted longer each time we spoke and swiftly moved beyond her children as a sole topic. In the meantime I began to look forward to the children’s visits and got to know them quite well. Craig was very boisterous, almost hyper, but seemed to know when to behave properly, at least when he was with me. He seemed a typical male, concerned only with things rather than people whereas his little sister seemed the opposite. We spent many hours on the computer both learning and playing games, most of the latter he was soon beating me at. Craig always wanted to be doing something. Sally on the other hand, perhaps because of her hearing problems, preferred physical contact to lectures. She showed little interest in learning any computer stuff and swiftly bored of playing games on it too. She much preferred our regular fights and just loved to cuddle up to me and watch TV. My own children met them and every one fell for little Sally with her subtle need for affection. A couple of times she even went to the shops with my eldest daughter. I soon learned the art of dealing with her deafness until it became second nature, even after she’d received her new hearing aid.


 


It was nearly a month before Juliet got to meet them and it did not go as I expected. With her having a son, separated from his father I thought she would take to them easily, especially Sally, I could not think of anyone knowing her and not loving her to bits. Of course I had talked to Juliet about them, and their mother on numerous times. She only seemed interested in Alexandria and my relationship with her. It did my ego some good to know that Juliet was jealous and obviously did not believe me when I explained the situation. She assumed something was going on between us, why else would I look after her children. I refuted this, knowing of course that I hadn’t seen Alex since the first week, but I also kept to myself the attraction I still felt for her. When she did meet Sally the horror on her face was obvious and for the first time I saw Sally react to someone. Sally’s normal happy face disappeared immediately and she started studying her feet.


 


Juliet then said angrily, speaking as if Sally was not there. ‘You didn’t tell me she looked like that!’ Sally ran out the room and after giving Juliet a real dirty look so did Craig.


 


I knew Juliet was very into ‘body beautiful’ but her over the top reaction made me very angry indeed. We then had our first major row. We had intended taking the children swimming that day, something we both enjoyed, but Juliet was adamant that she wouldn’t take Sally with her in case someone thought she was HER daughter. I’m sure the children must have heard us but wisely they stayed clear. The final straw for me was when Juliet found that their mother looked similar to Sally. She laughed and asked why I hadn’t told her before especially when she was acting all jealous. After all, she said, no man would ever want a woman who looked like that, let alone someone who had a ‘beautiful’ girlfriend like herself. I hit the roof, saying that I’d much rather be with a real woman like Alexandria than the hollow replica before me, however pretty the exterior. Needless to say this started a bitter row and it wasn’t too long before she stormed out of the house and out of my life. At the time, although very angry at her I was not sure whether I really wanted to lose her for good, which I obviously had. The two children on the other hand were delighted to see her go. Sally came and sat on my knee and never moved until it was time to go, even then it was with great reluctance that she left.


 


Just as she was leaving she looked up at me and said in all seriousness. ‘She wasn’t a very nice person for you to have as a girlfriend anyway. If you want, I’ll be your girlfriend from now on.’


Her smile melted my heart so I picked her up and looked at her so that she could see my lips and replied. ‘You’ve got yourself a deal then kid.’


 


I spent the next few days alternating between feeling sorry for myself, proud of Sally for her resilience and ability to rise above Juliet’s words and angry with Juliet for her actions and words. I came to the conclusion that Sally was right, Juliet wasn’t for me and as I was being truthful the main reason for Juliet in my life was easy sex and the ego boost I got from having her on my arm when we went out. I suddenly realised that those reasons made me feel as shallow as I’d accused Juliet of being.


 


When I did see Alexandria again it was purely coincidental; it was midweek, I’d been to yet another meeting with my current client and was on my home. It was gone seven o’clock and I did not feel like cooking so decided to call in for a Chinese takeaway. As I walked through the door I noticed the rear view of a nice and sexy young woman waiting to be served. It must have taken a few minutes for me to realise it was Alex. I was pleasantly surprised that she seemed genuinely happy to see me and we talked firstly about the children before moving on to why I was here personally; she knew from the children that although I regularly had a takeaway I invariably ordered one to be delivered. When her food was served she stayed behind, still talking, until mine arrived. Seeing her changed my mood and as we left I felt strangely content, happy just being in her company. That changed to absolute delight when she suggested that rather than eat my meal alone at home, I might want to join her and the kids. ‘Might!’ I thought, I could think of nothing I’d prefer to do. Alexandria had walked to the takeaway, it being only a few hundred yards from where she lived, so I offered her a lift and we set out for my first visit to her home.


 


Less than two minutes later I was directed to pull up outside a nice detached house, which looked to be less than a decade old. Other than giving me directions Alex said nothing during our short trip.


 


As we entered the house I heard Craig shout out. ‘About time too, we’re starving.’


 


Before his mother could answer I shouted back in a deliberately stern voice. ‘That’s no way to talk to your mother young man! If it was left to me you would do without tea altogether.’


 


I hadn’t even finished when Sally came flying into the hall, obviously alerted by her brother to my presence.


 


‘David!’ she cried and run straight at me with her arms held wide open. Careful of my meal I still managed to scoop her up into my arms.


 


‘So! How is my new girlfriend then?’ I asked smiling down at her.


 


She decided to ignore my question and ask one of her own. ‘What are you doing here?’


 


Craig’s voice suddenly joined in from the doorway, ‘Yes, what are you doing here?’ emphasising the ‘are’ where Sally had stressed the ‘you’.


 


‘I found him at the Chinese.’ Alexandria chipped in, ‘but I can always take him back if you don’t want him.’


 


Happily a negative response echoed from both children. I carried Sally into the kitchen where Alex managed to relieve me of my meal but not her daughter. She dished out the food and we headed back to join Craig, who’d returned to the television. The meal was interspersed with cuddles from Sally; hush noises from Craig to whom the television was a matter of life and death and general conversation with Alex. I enjoyed it immensely. All too soon it was Sally’s bedtime and only by allowing me to take her up, with the promise of a story, did her mother finally get her to agree to go to bed at all. It must have been a good half hour before I finally rejoined Alex. The TV was off, the hi-fi playing some soft rock and Craig was nowhere to be seen.


 


‘I thought we’d lost you for the night.’ She said, ‘Sally certainly seems taken with you.’


 


‘The feelings mutual I can assure you.’ I replied. ‘Where’s Craig?’


 


‘On the computer.’ Alex answered.


 


‘I thought he wasn’t allowed to use yours. At least that’s what he told me.’


 


‘He wasn’t, but since he’s been going over to you he actually wants to use it as a computer rather than a games console, so I don’t mind as much. Anyway! What is this I’ve heard about a new girlfriend?’ Her smile showed the lack of seriousness although the amusement in her voice also gave the game away.


 


‘Well! The old one dumped me so I thought I’d try a younger model.’ I replied trying to keep my expression serious. ‘This early bedtime doesn’t help much though.’ This time I was laughing, having given up any pretence.


 


The seriousness in her reply therefore surprised me. ‘Dumped? That’s not what I’ve heard. I was told you told her to leave, after an argument about Sally.’


 


I looked into her lovely eyes and told her what had happened, omitting the comments we’d both made about Alex herself.


 


Before she could respond Craig came in to the room, ‘David how do I get one cell to look at a specific cell only?’


 


‘What exactly do you want to do?’ I asked.


 


‘I want to use a cell as a kind of lookup. It’s great when I tell it which cell to look at but when I do a copy it tries to look at another cell.’ His expression was one of seriousness.


 


I told him the answer but he was still unsure. Seeing this his mother said, ‘look Craig, it’s past your bedtime and it is school tomorrow,’ this produced the expected frown, ‘so let David show you what he means then straight up to bed. OK?’


 


Knowing this was the best he was going to get he nodded and led me to the PC. It only took about two minutes to show him what I meant but about another fifteen to answer all the other ‘important’ questions that he needed to know that night. Only a call from his mother ended the session.


 


I said goodnight as he went reluctantly up the stairs and I returned to the living room to Alex. The CD had changed but not the style. I had enjoyed the evening but did not want to outstay my welcome. I suggested to Alex that it was time I headed back hoping that she would disagree. She glanced at the clock before nodding and leading me to the door.


 


Just before she opened it she looked up at me and asked, ‘By the way did you mean what you said?’


 


Even if I had being paying full attention to her words rather than her fabulous eyes I still wouldn’t have been able to answer. She saw my puzzlement so added, ‘about preferring me to your girlfriend.’


 


I hadn’t realised just how much of our row had been reported back so the question took me by surprise, as did my answer when I said without hesitation, ‘Yes. Definitely yes.’


 


She then opened the door without a word but as I walked past her she said, ‘David!’ As I turned to look at her she put her hand behind my neck and pulled me down for a quick but tender kiss, said ‘Thank you!’ and then moved out of my way so that I should leave, which is what I did, somewhat dazed by the final turn of events.


 


I opened my car, sat in front of the wheel and did not move for a good ten minutes. I'd thought the evening had gone well, especially considering how spur of the moment it had been. Alex and I had talked, when the kids weren't interrupting that is, about various topics from politics, work to children, the latter about as close as we got about discussing our personal lives. She had given me no hint that she knew exactly what had been said between Juliet and me. I'd spent most of the last month thinking about Alexandria but until now she'd give me no reason to believe that she thought anything about me other than someone who looked after her children now and again. I looked at her house, the lights were still on downstairs but I could detect no movement, although that wasn't why I looked. I was still trying to understand the last few minutes. I was split down the middle between elation that she had some feelings for me and total doubt believing that the kiss was nothing but a thank you for sticking up for Sally and her. When the latter seemed the most likely, I thought about her kiss, I could still feel her lips on mine and I was sure it held more than just a friendly thank you. Then I thought of the rest of the evening and the complete lack of any intimacy, coupled with the belief that a lovely young woman like Alex would be interested in an old, at least in relative terms, man like me.  For the first time since coming out of the takeaway I thought about her looks but even allowing for those I doubted she'd have much trouble finding a good man, more her own age. Then I thought of the kiss and came full circle. Eventually I started the car and soon was at home, but with little recollection of actually driving.


Yet again, sleep eluded me until the early hours, my mind still following the same circle as earlier but this time during the optimistic phase was thinking about the future and whether I could dare to hope for the one I desired. It was during this sleepless night that I first admitted to myself that my feelings for Alex were very strong, although I could still not explain why even to myself. My closing memory before sleep finally caught up was that I should at least try to see if there was any possibility of a relationship; the possible benefits outweighing the probable embarrassment of finding out.  


Not surprisingly I woke late the following morning but as I was working at home it mattered little. Somehow I managed to get through the day without thinking about Alex for more than about 80 percent of the time. I thought back to the start of the few other serious relationships I’d been in and whether I felt in the same state at the beginning of those. I couldn’t remember being this apprehensive, even when I first met my wife; part of it I put down to the age difference, after all, I repeated to myself, why would any young woman be interested in someone at least twenty years older than them. I’d already worked out that I’d ring her at seven o’clock, which would give her time to get home from work and feed the children. As six o’clock arrived my resolve to wait was cracking and the sense of anticipation mounting. By six forty-five I give in and rang, my heart going twenty to the dozen as I waited for her to answer. Imagine the shock I had when a deep, adult male voice answered. Caught by surprise, it was a few seconds before I asked for Alex.


 


‘She’s in the kitchen. Who shall I say is calling?’ the voice asked not too politely.


 


‘David!’ I said hoping that she didn’t know any other Davids.


 


The voice changed tone immediately. ‘Oh! It’s you is it?’ This said with venom, ‘well she doesn’t need to speak to you. She already has a husband and doesn’t want another man bothering her, and while we’re at it, my kids have got a father too and I don’t want you trying to take them from me.’ Before I could even contemplate replying he hung up.


 


I stayed there with the phone hanging in the air, stunned by the turn of events. I’d built myself up to ask Alex where I stood, the chance of rejection had always been high in my mind, but I had not expected that she would go back to her husband, for that’s who it undoubtedly was. The sense of disappointment overwhelmed me and the rest of the evening passed without me noticing. I dragged myself to bed and eventually fell asleep after a long bout of self-pity. Friday was the same and I merely went through the motions of working, one of my client’s directors, with whom I was working close, even commented on the monotone voice I had. I neither expected nor received any contact from Alex that day.


 


I knew Alexandria was due to work that weekend but when Sally and Craig turned up on the Saturday morning I was still surprised, though I also determined that they should not suffer for my own misconceptions. Despite my mood the children still managed to make me laugh with them and by the early evening I was pretty much back to my normal self, if only on the surface. I assumed that their father had not mentioned anything, as their behaviour too was exactly as usual; boisterous, loud and infectious. I chickened out on my normal, previously much anticipated, call to Alex, to check she was back before sending the kids home. I got Craig to do it and that was the only time he looked at me as if something was not quite right. Once it was confirmed that their mother was home I sent them on their way. As I collapsed, shattered from the physical effort of playing with the kids and the emotional drain of trying to pretend that nothing was wrong, I thought, miserably, that today was the first Saturday for some weeks that I wouldn’t talk to Alex. ‘Serves you right for being such a old fool in the first place’ I told myself. With no work the following day I made my mind up to drown my sorrows in a bottle, or two as it turned out, of wine. Most unusual for me I didn’t even consider which bottle I chose. Needless to say I got to sleep easier that night, but still woke up around three o’clock in the morning before spending the next few hours tossing and turning. I tried forcing my mind elsewhere, to familiar topics like winning the lottery, being good enough at sport, any sport, to be famous, to the oldest fantasy of making love with various beautiful and sexy women. None worked for more than a few minutes before Alex resurfaced to once more take control of my head.


 


On Sunday afternoon, Sally came visiting alone. For reasons known only to her she was in an exceptionally affectionate mood, which suited me just fine. Someone’s timing was also good, as ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ was showing on TV, so we watched it cuddled up together with hardly a word spoken. I couldn’t even remember being so close to my own daughters. A few minutes after the film ended she was ready to go and left me with the enigmatic words.


 


‘Don’t worry David, everything will be all right.’


 


Unsure what ‘everything’ was I couldn’t help smile at the youngster’s attempt to look after me rather than vice versa. About half an hour later the irritating chime of the doorbell echoed once more through the house. I opened the door to find Alex standing there. Once again she’d managed to surprise me.


 


As she walked into the house past me she remarked, ‘what’s up with you, you look as if you’ve seen a ghost.’


 


I managed to close the door and my mouth, in that order, before turning to face her. Before I could ask the obvious question of why she was here, she asked a question of her own.


 


‘Well! What is so important that it won’t even wait till after tea?’


 


Yet more bewilderment spread across my already puzzled features. ‘Important?’ I asked.


 


Alex gave me a smile usually reserved for really stupid. ‘Yes important! Sally said you needed to see me straight away.’


 


I was shaking my head when Sally’s final words became clear. ‘I think we’ve both been had. I have been feeling a bit down, these last few days. Sally obviously noticed and thought that you could help for some reason.’ I tried to explain.


 


‘And can I?’ she asked, not certain whether to smile or not.


 


‘Well, at least you can come in and have a coffee, unless you prefer something a bit stronger?’


 


‘Thank you,’ she said following me into the living room, ‘a coffee will do nicely.’


 


There was a weird silence as I made the coffee; neither of us knew quite how to start the conversation. Typical as well, was when I did finally try and begin, when we were sitting opposite each other in the lounge, Alexandria started talking at the same time. She quickly shut up and told me to continue.


 


‘OK!’ I started. ‘I have really enjoyed these weeks seeing you and the kids and I suppose I read a little bit too much into your friendship.’ I ignored her quizzical look and continued. ‘After you gave me that kiss I began to hope that you felt the same about me as I do about you.’


 


‘And, how is that?’ she asked seriously.


 


With no hesitation but certainly some trepidation I replied. ‘I like you; I like you a lot in fact. Virtually since our first meeting I’ve felt a very strong attraction to you. Don’t ask me why, because I’m not sure, I just know that I’m happier when you’re around than when you’re not. Then when you kissed me,’ I held my hand up to stop her interrupting, ‘I know it was only really a peck but it felt as if you meant it. That’s why I’m sorry, a man of my age should know the difference but I suppose I read into it what I wanted to rather than what it really was.’


 


‘What has made you change your mind then?’ she asked, puzzlement written across her face.


 


I noticed before I answered that she had neither confirmed nor denied my interpretation of events.


 


‘When I realised that you were back with your husband.’ She still looked perplexed so I explained the phone call.


 


‘Yes he was with me that evening. He was fetching some stuff and I cooked him something, not that I have to explain my actions to you or anyone else. He didn’t mention that you’d called, but then knowing Martin, he wouldn’t. Anyway I’m not back with him as you call it. As for the other bit I’m not sure. I like you but can’t honestly say I’d thought about you as anything other than a potential friend.’


 


My stomach churned at the confirmation. In fact it was even worse than I’d thought, Alex hadn’t even considered me as a man. ‘Not too surprising.’ I managed to comment.


 


She continued. ‘I must admit that I didn’t realise that you fancied me, for use of a better term. Looking like I do, it’s not something I often consider.’


 


I quickly leapt in. ‘That’s daft and you know it. Just because you look different than others doesn’t mean that you don’t look great and sexy, very sexy in fact.’


 


A strength and power suddenly appeared in her voice. ‘I KNOW what I look like, I see my reflection every morning AND I see the revulsion in the eyes of total strangers even some friends, so don’t tell me I’m daft. Your ex-girlfriend’s reaction is more common than you might think.’ Just as swiftly as it appeared the power diminished and she continued in her normal voice. ‘But thank you anyway.’


 


‘Look! I’d better get back to the kids, I’ve sent them next door for half an hour.’


 


With that she stood up, put the unfinished coffee on the table and headed off.


 


‘I’m sorry!’ I said.


 


‘No need to be, in fact I’m flattered, but I really must go.’


 


Go she did, with no kiss or even a peck this time.


 


I spent the next hour blaming myself for being a complete fool. Alexandria had offered nothing, promised nothing and yet I had still convinced my wishful mind that there was something there.


 


When the phone rang I let it ring for a while, in fact contemplated just unplugging the damn thing. When it finally got the better of me I answered with a gruff ‘Hello!’


 


It was Alex. ‘I was just about to give up, I thought you must have gone out.’


 


‘No. I’m still here.’ I replied in monotone, still feeling sorry for myself.


 


‘Look!’ Alex said. ‘I don’t feel comfortable about how we left it. Do you want to come over and we can talk some more when the kids have gone to bed?’


 


‘Don’t know what there is to talk about. You made yourself pretty clear earlier.’ I grumbled.


 


‘OK, if that’s the way you feel.’ She said as she hung up.


 


I sat listening to the phone buzz before it sank in that I’d turned down a chance to stay friends if nothing else. I spoke to myself saying. ‘David, your capability for stupidity and self pity knows no bounds.’


 


I’d no sooner put the receiver down when the phone went again.


 


I put it to my ear and croaked ‘Hello.’


 


‘Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get over here now,’ Alex ordered. ‘I’ll expect you in 15 minutes.’ She continued and then put the phone down to prevent any further discussion.


 


I’d detected the warmth back in her voice, although I no longer translated it into anything special. She was right, I was being a bit pitiful, plus, I did not want to lose out on her as a friend and seeing the kids who I now thought of with quite some affection, especially little Sally. It was only then that I remembered that it was Sally that had told her mum to come over. Whatever happened I decided that we both needed to talk to Sally to make certain she understood.


 


I was still scruffy so decided a quick shower was called for and so it was 35 minutes before I actually arrived as Alexandria’s. I’d had to fill the car up with petrol on the way and had impulsively bought a bunch of flowers from the service station. It was with no small amount of apprehension that I rang the doorbell. Craig answered the door and invited me in. He was quieter than normal and there was no sign of the mischievous Sally. The flowers proved worth the effort spent on their purchase as Alexandria beamed as I gave them to her before rushing off to put them in water. I sat down on the sofa still feeling a little awkward.


 


When Alex came back she sat down opposite me and began talking. ‘The kids won’t disturb us until it’s time for them to go to bed. I’m afraid I’ve had tears from Sally because I told her off for sending me on a wild goose chase. However, whilst I was scolding her she did say some things that made me think. Looking back I don’t think I was entirely truthful when I said about not being aware of your admiration, it’s just that I choose not to see it as that. Also when I said about not thinking about you in that way, that too was not strictly true because although I didn’t consider you a potential lover or anything, I did think about what it would be like to kiss you, that’s why I kissed you goodbye that time. I suppose I didn’t expect you to react the way you did.’


 


I decided to interrupt and to ask a question that had been on my mind since first meeting Alex. ‘Can I ask exactly what it is that causes you and Sally to look as you do?’


 


She then spent sometime explaining Treacher Collins Syndrome or TCS, which affects the development of facial bones. Most suffers are also deaf, if not totally, then at least to a certain degree, Alex herself was totally deaf without her hearing aid, something her long hair had kept hidden from me. I had guessed correctly that it was hereditary and wrongly that it was passed on through the female line, apparently Craig was fortunate as TCS is usually a dominant gene. (This story is not the place to go into full details. If you are interested there are a number of web sites covering TCS)


 


Although I’m sure it wasn’t what they wanted I felt sympathy for Alexandria and Sally, especially when Alex related stories of her childhood. I remembered how cruel children could be to those who are even slightly different. I had felt their bite in my own childhood and my only sin was being tall. I remembered Sally hiding behind her brother when I’d first met them.


 


I enjoyed our talk; it was factually informative and also gave me a better insight into what made Alexandria who she was. It also felt like a very safe subject, helping me to relax.


 


Halfway through, the children had come in to say goodnight. I could easily see that Sally had been crying and even now she was very subdued. Thankfully it did not stop her coming to me for a big goodnight hug and kiss. Alex went back to this later saying, ‘I can see why Sally’s dad is upset. She never seems to light up as much with him.’


 


‘Ah! But is that Sally or him?’ I countered.


 


‘Him, almost certainly.’ She confirmed, and then added laughing, ‘and he won’t be the only jealous one if she keeps getting all the kisses.’


 


 Not certain how to take that I jumped in with both feet and decided to take it as I wanted it to be.


 


I held out my arms and said. ‘I can’t risk upsetting you now can I? So you’d better come here and let me put right my oversight.’ I was grinning inanely as I spoke but my stomach was turning over and over as my nerves refused to settle.


 


Alexandria smiled her wonderful smile and stood up to walk the few steps to where I was sitting. She took my hands and guided herself to sit on my lap facing me, with her jean-clad knees either side of me. We looked into each other’s eyes for a long time, with no words spoken, just my fingertips caressing her face.


 


Finally I spoke the words that had been filling my head. ‘Look Alex! I know, looking the way you do, that you may not believe me when I say that I find you truly beautiful, especially your eyes when you look up at me, but I really do.’


 


Alex blushed slightly before leaning slowly forward to kiss me. As before I felt myself tremble as our lips met. Initially I kissed her gently and often, by which I mean that I covered her soft lips with many little kisses before being drawn into a full passionate embrace, where mouths were locked together as our tongues sought each other. I had my hand behind her neck pulling her harder into our kiss. Her obvious willingness lightened my heart, more than I could have hoped for; my other hand stroked her back, my fingers following her spine. Our kisses continued until Alex stood up and taking my hand led me up to her bedroom. There our lovemaking was slow, yet passionate, as we took the entire night to explore the other’s body and mind.


 


I woke with a start, not certain where I was or whether I’d dreamt last night. Almost instantly I felt the pressure on my arm where it was wrapped under Alex’s neck, that and the sound of her quiet breaths as she continued to sleep, convinced me it had been no dream. I was split between wanting just to watch her in her slumber and an urgent desire to make love to her again. The decision was taken out of my hands when the door flew open and in rushed Sally. On seeing me she stopped dead, the shock on her face quickly replaced by one of joy as she screamed my name and climbed over her mother to me. If her scream hadn’t woken her mother then the climb certainly had.


 


‘What are you doing in here young lady?’ Her mother demanded angrily, obviously not at her best when startled awake.


 


‘It’s so late and I was worried,’ Sally said, her joy at seeing me evaporated by her mother’s tone.


 


Alex looked at her bedside clock before exclaiming, ‘shit!’


 


The look of horror on Sally’s face at her mother’s expletive showed it to be a rare event, something I found surprisingly relieving.


 


Alex looked at me. ‘It’s almost ten thirty, I was supposed to be meeting a couple of friends at ten for some retail therapy.’ She looked at me, her wonderful smile spreading across her face, before adding, ‘I don’t think I need it though now, do you?’


 


‘I hope not,’ was my reply.


 


Alex then looked at her daughter, pulled her to her for a quick kiss on her forehead. ‘Sorry darling for being a bit sharp.’ Sally’s expression regained its earlier joy as her mother continued, ‘now will you leave us alone for a bit whilst we wake up properly.’


 


Sally leaned over to me and gave me a quick hug, which I happily returned, before jumping energetically off the bed. Just before she left the room she looked at me and said, ‘I’m glad you’re here with mum. Does this mean you’re going to be here all the time?’


 


‘Never you mind young lady, now get out and leave us in peace.’ Alex answered on my behalf.


 


As soon as the door was shut Alex turned over to face me, and as if telepathically knowing each other’s mind we kissed. The kiss lasted a long time and led to other things, it was close to forty minutes later when we finally went downstairs to greet the two knowing faces at the kitchen table.


 


I was glad to see that Craig too, was happy to see me.


 


So started, probably the happiest period of my life. My infatuation, for I cannot think how else to describe my initial response to Alexandra, soon gave way to a true and deep love for her. I really enjoyed having Craig and Sally about, at least most of the time anyway. I didn’t actually move in with Alex but we saw each other most days and I spent three or four nights a week at her house. I quickly realised what I had been missing by being single; the simple things like a tender kiss as a welcome, holding hands whilst out shopping and most of all a cuddle in front of the TV. I’d had girlfriends, some even long term but in hindsight they seemed to be purely sexual relationships not a loving one like the one I was now enjoying.


 


I knew how I felt and one evening, about a month after we’d first made love I told her that I loved her. It was quite some time before she said those magic words back to me. Not that I minded waiting, it just seemed that she needed the time to be certain of her feelings. We talked of a future together, both the practical side of things like where we should live, whether we should marry and the emotional parts like the age difference and the children. For most of that period I went around with a stupid grin on my face, reflecting the happiness I was feeling. All my friends and even some customers went as far as commenting on how happy I appeared. I took her to meet my children, although with all four in their twenties I find the word ‘children’ not particularly descriptive. As Alexandria was closer to their age than mine it was a little difficult at first but eventually they all agreed that she was the best thing that had happened to me in their lifetimes.


 


Sally and Craig still saw their father, but not as often as before, partly because he wasn’t needed to baby sit as much but mainly because they preferred it that way. He was, however, regularly on the phone to Alex, usually complaining about me trying to take his kids away. I didn’t comment, but thought that if he tried playing with them and spending some time doing things that interested them then he might have nothing to complain about. When Craig found out that I used to play football at a good level he insisted that help make him a better player. His ambition, similar to most boys of his age, lay in professional football. He was getting something of a computer expert, even beginning to learn programming in Delphi. Sally didn’t mind too much what she did as long as I was with her, and if her mum was there too, so much the better.


 


Alex didn’t have any friends of her own, or if she had then I never met them, which I know isn’t rare with separated women, especially those with kids. Their friends tended to be the wives or girlfriends of their husband’s friends and the separation usually included them.


I arrived late one evening at Alex’s house, having waited in for an estate agent to value my house. I was looking into possibilities of selling it and of me and Alex living together properly. The valuation had come as a pleasant surprise, nearly double the figure I’d been expecting so I was in a happy mood as I knocked on the door, Alex hadn’t yet offered me a key and I didn’t think it important enough to ask for one.


 


Sally opened the door as bubbly as ever, dragging me in and demanding to be picked up and cuddled. I lovingly obliged. As I’d got used to looking at Sally’s and Alexandria’s faces I soon realised that the TCS affected them both in similar but not identical ways. I knew that Alex had had a number of constructive operations, especially around her jaw, that had proved painful and not massively successful, so she had declined similar surgery for Sally.


 


I carried the young girl into the front room where her mother was reading through some work documents. Seeing me with Sally she instinctively smiled before putting her reading material down. As she looked up to speak the smile dissipated whilst I put her daughter down.


 


Instantly I felt something was not right. ‘What’s up?’ I asked without any other greeting.


 


‘Is it that obvious?’ Alex asked before answering her own question, ‘I suppose it is!’


 


I waited.


 


‘Martin wants to come back.’


 


‘And do you want him back?’ I asked, knowing by her demeanour the answer.


 


 ‘I don’t know, I think so, after all he is still my husband and I believe he deserves another chance.’


 


I was shell-shocked. I had thought everything between us had being going well. I had consciously tried to prepare myself if our blossoming relationship failed but I’d never thought it would be quite this sudden and that I would see enough signs of any breakdown that I could try to repair them before a final split.


 


‘So that’s it then.’ I said, full of anger and self-pity. ‘So much for your words of love! Was I just a tool to get him back then? Show him how other men would want you if he didn’t?’


 


The look of guilt on her face hurt more than I could ever have imagined. I’d made the accusation in anger but now saw that I was actually right.


 


Her shame at being caught out made her angry and her voice went as cold as steel. ‘You had what you wanted so don’t complain. The children need their father, which you aren’t.’


 


‘I don’t want him back. I want David as my daddy.’ Said Sally vehemently.


 


We had, as many adults often do, that children have ears and a mind of their own. We both turned to look at the little girl, tears streaming down her cheeks. I felt a lump in my throat as I took in Sally’s loyalty.


 


Alex screamed at her. ‘You are just a child. I will decide what’s right for you. Now get out and stop listening in to my conversations.’


 


Sally looked at me before running out of the room shouting ‘I hate you’ at her mother.


 


As much as I wanted to vent my anger at my former love, Sally’s words had hit a spot that drained all my venom. With only a look of contempt but without another word I turned and left the house.


 


Tears filled my eyes and I had to wait quite a while before I felt capable of the short drive home.


 


I have never felt so bad, even during my divorce, as I felt the following months, I stopped working, eating and looking after myself and started drinking more than was good for me, even becoming occasionally suicidal. How had I let myself be conned like that. My love for Alex had been, and if I was honest, still was, stronger than I’d thought possible. I’d naively believed her when she told me she loved me, although in retrospect it was nearly always ‘I love you too’ in response to my words. Whenever I was close to rock bottom the memory of Sally always seemed to appear. I had gotten to know and love a wonderful young girl and knowing that that love was reciprocated was the one good thing to come out of our affair.


 


I do know that I’ll never be able to trust a woman again and that any casual affair would be going backwards I decided on a life of celibacy.


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Reviewed by Carla Beppler 6/26/2009
This has to be the best story I have ever read. It is well thought out and well written. I shall add you as one of my favorite authors.

Very good writing, David!
Reviewed by Sheldon James 3/17/2006
This was a wonderfully story, well written, engaging and full of emotion. The style and feel, reminds me of one my favorite books "Great Expectations".. Very good job, this one of the best stories I've read at the den to date.. Truly great writing David, keep it up!!
Reviewed by Shirley Cheng 10/10/2004
Oh wow, that is definitely a wonderful, long, engaging read! I was shocked by the ending...how very hurtful... I love the meaning in the story...you did a great job!
Reviewed by Susan Barton 10/10/2004
fantabulous!!!! Your characters are teriffic! I was definitely weepy and mad at the end.

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