Home > Watermelon (Walsh Family #1)(5)

Watermelon (Walsh Family #1)(5)
Marian Keyes

I know it couldn't be a feeling of familiarity, because I had never been deserted by a husband before. But there was definitely something there. I think there's a part of everyone's brain, certainly mine, that keeps a lookout on some rocky outcrop high in the hills, waiting for signs of danger. And it signals back to the rest of the brain when trouble is afoot. The emotional version of "the injuns is coming." The more I thought about it, the more I realized this part of my brain had probably been flashing mirrors and sending up smoke signals like crazy over the past months. But the rest of my brain was with the wagon camp down in the pleasant verdant valley of pregnancy and didn't want to know about impending danger. So it completely ignored the messages it was sent.

I'd known that James was miserable for most of the time that I was pregnant, but I had put that down to my mood swings, my constant hunger, my raging sentimentality, where I cried at everything from Little House on the Prairie to The Money Program.

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And, of course, our sex life was drastically curtailed. But I had thought that as soon as I had the baby everything would be back to normal. Except better, if you know what I mean.

I thought that James's misery was just a result of my being pregnant and its attendant side effects but, looking back, maybe I had ignored things that I shouldn't have.

So what was I to do? I didn't even know where he was staying. But some instinct told me to leave him alone for a while. Humor him. Pretend to go along with it.

I could hardly believe it.

Leaving me, indeed! My normal reaction to feeling hurt or betrayed was to go on the warpath, but somehow I knew that it wouldn't do me any good at all in this situation. I had to stay calm and sane until I could decide what to do.

One of the nurses squeaked past me in her rubber-soled shoes. She stopped and smiled at me. "How are you now?" she asked.

"Oh fine," I said, willing her to go away.

"I suppose your husband will be in to see you and the baby later," she said.

"I wouldn't bet on it," I replied bitterly.

She gave me a startled look and moved away quickly, over to one of the nice, civil, polite mothers, clicking her pen and throwing me nervous glances.

I decided to call Judy.

Judy was my best friend. We'd been friends since we were eighteen. We had come over to London together. She had been my bridesmaid. I couldn't cope with this on my own, and Judy would tell me what to do.

I cautiously and gingerly levered myself out of bed and, as quickly as my episiotomy would permit, I made my way to the pay phone.

She answered the phone immediately.

"Oh hi, Claire," she said. "I was just on my way over to see you."

"Good," was all I said.

God knows, I wanted to bawl and tell her about James's allegedly leaving me, but there was a line of women in pink terry cloth robes behind me waiting to use the phone (no doubt

15

to call their devoted husbands) and, against all the odds, I had some pride left.

"Smug bitches," I thought sourly (and irrationally, I must admit) as I limped back to bed.

As soon as Judy came I knew that she knew about James. I knew because she said, "Claire, I know about James." Also because she didn't arrive with a huge bunch of flowers, a bigger smile and a card the size of a kitchen table with storks all over it. She looked anxious and nervous.

My heart sank to my boots. If James was telling other people, then it must be true.

"He's left me," I said dramatically.

"I know," she said.

"How could he?" I asked her.

"I don't know," she said.

"He's fallen in love with someone else," I said.

"I know," she said.

"How do you know?" I demanded, pouncing on her for the information.

"Michael told me. Aisling told him. George told her."

(Michael was Judy's boyfriend. Aisling was a girl who worked with him. George was Aisling's husband. George worked with James.)

"So everyone knows," I said quietly.

There was a pause. Judy looked as if she would like to die.

"Then it must be true," I said.

"I think it is," she said, obviously embarrassed.

"Do you know who this other woman is?" I couldn't believe my best friend knew that my husband was cheating on me and hadn't told me. I was pissed off at her, but the highest priority was extracting information, at this point.

"Er, yes," she said, even more embarrassed. "It's that Denise."

"What!" I shrieked. "Not nice Denise from downstairs?"

A miserable nod from Judy.

It was just as well that I was already lying down.

"That bitch!" I exclaimed.

"And there's more," she mumbled. "He's talking about marrying her."

"What the hell do you mean?" I shouted. "He's already

16

married. To me. I hadn't heard that they had made polygamy legal in the last day or so."

"They haven't," she said.

"But then..." I trailed off, bewildered.

"Claire," she sighed despondently, "he says he's going to divorce you."

As I said, it was just as well I was already lying down.

The afternoon ebbed away, along with Judy's patience and any hope that I might still harbor.

I looked at her in despair.

"Judy, what am I going to do?"

"Look," she said matter-of-factly, "in two days you'll be getting out of here. You still have somewhere to live, you have enough money to feed yourself and the baby, you'll be going back to work in six months, you've got a newborn child to look after and give James some time and eventually the two of you will work something out."

"But Judy," I wailed. "He wants a divorce."

Although James seemed to have forgotten one big fact. There is no divorce in Ireland. James and I had been married in Ireland. Our marriage had been blessed by the fathers of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. Although a fat lot of good it had obviously done us. So long, Succour.

I was at a total loss. I felt alone and afraid. I wanted to pull the blankets over my head and die. But I couldn't because I had a poor defenseless child to look after.

What a start in life she was getting. Less than two days old and already she'd been deserted by her father, and her mother was on the verge of cracking up.

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