For a moment Tess felt her strange inappropriate happiness teeter. It was as though she was balanced on a narrow crevice surrounded by chasms of grief. One wrong thought and down she’d tumble.
Do not think about Will. Think about Connor. Think about sex. Think wicked, earthy, primal thoughts. Think about the orgasm that ripped through your body last night, cleansing your mind.
She watched Liam walk back to his class. He stood next to the one child that Tess knew: Polly Fitzpatrick, Cecilia’s youngest daughter, who was shockingly beautiful, and seemed positively Amazonian next to spindly little Liam. Polly gave Liam a high-five, and Liam looked almost incandescent with happiness.
Dammit. Will had been right. Liam did need to change schools.
Tess’s eyes filled with tears, and she felt suddenly ashamed.
Why the shame, she wondered as she pulled a tissue from her bag and blew her nose.
Because her husband had fallen in love with someone else? Because she wasn’t lovable enough, or sexy enough, or something enough, to keep her child’s father satisfied?
Or was she actually ashamed about last night? Because she’d found a selfish way to make the pain disappear. Because right now she was longing to see Connor again, or more specifically, to sleep with him again, to have his tongue, his body, his hands obliterate the memory of Will and Felicity sitting on either side of her, telling her their horrible secret. She remembered the feel of the length of her spine being flattened against the floorboards in Connor’s hallway. He was f**king her, but really he was f**king them.
There was a burst of sweet feminine laughter from the row of pretty, chatty mothers sitting alongside Tess. Mothers who had proper married sex with their husbands in the marital bed. Mothers who were not thinking the word ‘fuck’ while they were watching their children’s Easter hat parade. Tess was ashamed because she wasn’t behaving as a selfless mother should.
Or perhaps she was ashamed because deep down she wasn’t that ashamed at all.
‘Thank you so much for joining us today, Mums and Dads, Grandmas and Grandpas! That concludes our Easter hat parade!’ said the school principal into the microphone. She put her head on one side and waggled her fingers around an imaginary carrot stick like Bugs Bunny. ‘That’s all folks!’
‘What do you want to do this afternoon?’ asked Lucy, as everyone applauded and laughed.
‘There are a few things I need at the shops.’ Tess stood and stretched and looked down at her mother in her wheelchair. She could feel Connor’s eyes on her from the opposite side of the yard.
She’d always felt somehow wronged by her parents’ divorce. As a child, she’d wasted hours imagining how much better her life would have been if her parents had stayed together. She would have had a closer relationship with her father. Holidays would have been so much more fun! She wouldn’t have been so shy (how she managed to rationalise this, she didn’t know). Everything would have been just generally better. But the truth was her parents had a perfectly amicable divorce, and eventually became relatively friendly. Sure, it was awkward and strange visiting her father every second weekend. But really, what was the big deal? Marriages failed. Children survived. Tess had survived. The so-called ‘damage’ was all in her mind.
She waved at Connor.
New lingerie was what she needed. Extremely expensive lingerie that her husband would never see.
Cecilia left the Easter hat parade and drove straight to the gym. She got on the treadmill, put the incline and speed up as high as they could go and ran as if she was running for her life. She ran until her heart pounded, her chest heaved and her vision blurred from the sweat dripping into her mouth. She ran until there wasn’t room for a single thought in her head. It was a wonderful relief to not be thinking, and she felt like she could have run on for another hour, if it wasn’t for one of the gym instructors stopping abruptly and quite unnecessarily in front of Cecilia’s treadmill and saying, ‘You okay there? You don’t look too good to me.’
‘I’m fine,’ Cecilia went to say, furious with him for bringing the real world crashing back into her consciousness, except that she couldn’t talk, or breathe actually, and at that instant both her legs turned to jelly. The instructor grabbed her around the waist and slammed the palm of his hand on the treadmill to stop it.
‘You’ve got to pace yourself, Mrs Fitzpatrick,’ he said, helping her off the treadmill. His name was Dane. He taught a weights class that was popular with the St Angela’s crowd. Cecilia often did it on a Friday morning before her weekly grocery shop. Dane’s skin was young and dewy. He looked about the same age as John-Paul had been when he killed Janie Crowley. ‘I reckon your blood pressure is sky-high right now,’ he said, his eyes bright and earnest. ‘If you want, I could help you work out a training programme that would –’
‘No thank you,’ panted Cecilia. ‘But thank you, I’m just, well, I’m just leaving actually.’ She walked away quickly on wobbly legs, still fighting for breath, sweat pooling in her bra, ignoring Dane’s entreaties to do a few stretches, to cool-down, to at least drink some water, Mrs Fitzpatrick, you’ve gotta rehydrate!
On the way home she decided that she couldn’t live another moment with this, it was impossible. John-Paul would have to confess. He’d turned her into a criminal. It was preposterous. While she was in the shower, she decided that confessing wouldn’t bring Janie back and Cecilia’s daughters would lose their father and what was the point of that? But their marriage was dead. She couldn’t live with him. So that was that.