I take a few deep breaths and pull Evie up on to my lap, I lie her back against my legs and hold her hands with mine.
‘I think I’ve had enough of this, don’t you, sweetie?’
It’s just so wearing: every time I think that things are getting better, that we’re finally over the Rachel Issue, there she is again. Sometimes I feel like she’s never, ever going to go away.
Deep inside me, a rotten seed has been planted. When Tom tells me it’s OK, everything’s all right, she’s not going to bother us any longer, and then she does, I can’t help wondering whether he’s trying as hard as he can to get rid of her, or whether there’s some part of him, deep down, that likes the fact that she can’t let go.
I go downstairs and scrabble around in the kitchen drawer for the card that Detective Sergeant Riley left. I dial her number quickly, before I have time to change my mind.
Wednesday, 14 August 2013
In bed, his hands on my hips, his breath hot against my neck, his skin slick with sweat against mine, he says, ‘We don’t do this enough any more.’
‘We need to make more time for ourselves.’
‘I miss you,’ he says. ‘I miss this. I want more of this.’
I roll over and kiss him on the lips, my eyes tight shut, trying to suppress the guilt I feel for going to the police behind his back.
‘I think we should go somewhere,’ he mumbles, ‘just the two of us. Get away for a bit.’
And leave Evie with who, I want to ask. Your parents, whom you don’t speak to? Or my mother, who is so frail she can barely care for herself?
I don’t say that, I don’t say anything, I just kiss him again, more deeply. His hand slips down to the back of my thigh and he grips it, hard.
‘What do you think? Where would you like to go? Mauritius? Bali?’
‘I’m serious,’ he says, pulling back from me, looking me in the eye. ‘We deserve it, Anna. You deserve it. It’s been a hard year, hasn’t it?’
‘But what?’ He flashes his perfect smile at me. ‘We’ll figure something out with Evie, don’t worry.’
‘Tom, the money.’
‘We’ll be OK.’
‘But …’ I don’t want to say this, but I have to. ‘We don’t have enough money to even consider moving house, but we do have enough money for a holiday in Mauritius or Bali?’
He puffs out his cheeks, then exhales slowly, rolling away from me. I shouldn’t have said it. The baby monitor crackles into life: Evie’s waking up.
‘I’ll get her,’ he says, and gets up and leaves the room.
At breakfast, Evie is doing her thing. It’s a game to her now, refusing food, shaking her head, chin up, lips firmly closed, her little fists pushing at the bowl in front of her. Tom’s patience wears thin quickly.
‘I don’t have time for this,’ he says to me. ‘You’ll have to do it.’ He gets to his feet, holding out the spoon for me to take, the expression on his face pained.
I take a deep breath.
It’s OK, he’s tired, he has a lot of work on, he’s pissed off because I didn’t enter into his holiday fantasy this morning.
But it isn’t OK, because I’m tired too, and I’d like to have a conversation about money and our situation here that doesn’t end with him just walking out of the room. Of course, I don’t say that. Instead, I break my promise to myself and I go ahead and mention Rachel.
‘She’s been hanging around again,’ I say, ‘so whatever you said to her the other day didn’t do the trick.’
He gives me a sharp look. ‘What do you mean, hanging around?’
‘She was here last night, standing in the street right opposite the house.’
‘Was she with someone?’
‘No. She was alone. Why d’you ask that?’
‘Fuck’s sake,’ he says, and his face darkens the way it does when he’s really angry. ‘I told her to stay away. Why didn’t you say anything last night?’
‘I didn’t want to upset you,’ I say softly, already regretting bringing this up. ‘I didn’t want to worry you.’
‘Jesus!’ he says, and he dumps his coffee cup loudly in the sink. The noise gives Evie a fright and she starts to cry. This doesn’t help. ‘I don’t know what to tell you, I honestly don’t. When I spoke to her, she was fine. She listened to what I was saying and promised not to come around here any longer. She looked fine. She looked healthy, actually – back to normal …’
‘She looked fine?’ I ask him, and before he turns his back on me I can see in his face that he knows he’s been caught. ‘I thought you said you spoke to her on the phone?’
He takes a deep breath, sighs heavily, then turns back to me, his face a blank. ‘Yeah, well, that’s what I told you, darling, because I knew you’d get upset if I saw her. So I hold my hands up – I lied. Anything for an easy life.’
‘Are you kidding me?’
He smiles at me, shaking his head as he steps towards me, his hands still raised in supplication. ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. She wanted to chat in person and I thought it might be best. I’m sorry, OK? We just talked. We met in a crappy coffee shop in Ashbury and talked for twenty minutes – half an hour, tops. OK?’
He puts his arms around me and pulls me towards his chest. I try to resist him, but he’s stronger than me and anyway he smells great and I don’t want a fight. I want us to be on the same side. ‘I’m sorry,’ he mumbles again, into my hair.
‘It’s all right,’ I say.
I let him get away with it, because I’m dealing with this now. I spoke to Detective Sergeant Riley yesterday evening, and I knew the moment we started talking that I’d done the right thing by calling her, because when I told her that I’d seen Rachel leaving Scott Hipwell’s house ‘on several occasions’ (a slight exaggeration), she seemed very interested. She wanted to know dates and times (I could furnish her with two; I was vague about the other incidents), if they’d had a relationship prior to Megan Hipwell’s disappearance, whether I thought they were in a sexual relationship now. I have to say the thought hadn’t really crossed my mind – I can’t imagine him going from Megan to Rachel. In any case, his wife’s barely cold in the ground.