‘Well,’ said Tess. She had no idea what to do about Easter. Was there any point in putting on a happy-family show for Liam’s benefit? They weren’t good enough actors. He’d see right through it. Nobody would expect that of her, surely?
Unless she invited Connor? Sit on his lap like a teenage schoolgirl proving to her ex-boyfriend that she’d moved on to no less than the muscly armed school jock? She could ask him to roar up on his bike. He could do the headbutting of Liam’s chocolate rabbit. He could out-headbutt Will.
‘We’ll call Daddy later on,’ she told Liam. Her peaceful feeling had vanished.
‘Let’s call him now!’ He ran inside the house.
‘No!’ said Tess, but he’d gone.
‘Dearie me,’ sighed her mother, putting down her hot cross bun.
‘I don’t know what to do,’ began Tess, but Liam came running straight back with her mobile phone in his outstretched hand. It beeped with a text message as he went to hand it over.
‘Is that a message from Dad?’ said Liam.
Tess grabbed for the phone in panic. ‘No. I don’t know. Let me see.’
The message was from Connor. Thinking of you. xx Tess smiled. As soon as she read it, the phone beeped again.
‘This one is probably from Dad!’ Liam bounced in front of her on the balls of his feet as if he were playing soccer.
Tess read the text. It was another one from Connor. It’s a good kite day if you want to bring Liam up to the oval for a quick run. I’ll supply the kite! (But understand if you think it’s not a good idea.)
‘They’re not from your dad,’ Tess said to Liam. ‘They’re from Mr Whitby. You know. Your new PE teacher.’
Liam looked blank. Lucy cleared her throat.
‘Mr Whitby,’ said Tess again. ‘You had him for –’
‘Why is he texting you?’ said Liam.
‘Are you going to finish your hot cross bun, Liam?’ asked Lucy.
‘Mr Whitby is actually an old friend of mine,’ said Tess. ‘Remember how I saw him in the school office? I knew him years ago. Before you were born.’
‘Tess,’ said her mother. There was a warning note in her voice.
‘What?’ said Tess irritably. Why shouldn’t she tell Liam that Connor was an old friend? What was the harm in that?
‘Does Daddy know him too?’ said Liam.
Children seemed so clueless about grown-up relationships, and then all of a sudden they’d say something like that, something that showed that on some level they understood everything.
‘No,’ said Tess. ‘It was before I knew your dad. Anyway, Mr Whitby texted because he’s got this great kite. And he wondered if you and I would like to go up to the oval and fly it.’
‘Huh?’ Liam scowled, as if she’d suggested he clean up his room.
‘Tess, my love, do you really think that’s – you know.’ Tess’s mother held up the side of her hand as a shield and silently mouthed the word, ‘Appropriate?’
Tess ignored her. She would not be made to feel Guilty about this. Why should she and Liam stay at home here doing nothing, while Will and Felicity did whatever the hell it was they were doing today? Anyway, she wanted to show that therapist, that invisible critical presence in Connor’s life, that Tess wasn’t just some crazy damaged woman using Connor for sex. She was good. She was nice.
‘He’s got this amazing kite,’ improvised Tess. ‘He just thought you might like to have a turn flying it, that’s all.’ She glanced at her mother. ‘He’s being friendly because we’re new at the school.’ She turned back to Liam. ‘Shall we go meet him? Just for half an hour?’
‘All right,’ said Liam grudgingly. ‘But I want to call Dad first.’
‘Once you’re dressed,’ said Tess. ‘Go put your jeans on. And your rugby top. It’s chillier than I thought.’
‘All right,’ said Liam, and slouched off.
She tapped out a text to Connor: We’ll see you on the oval in half an hour. xx.
Just before she was about to hit send she deleted the kisses. In case the therapist thought that was leading him on. Then she thought of all the actual kissing they’d done last night. Ridiculous. She may just as well kiss him in a text message. She made it three kisses and went to hit send, but then she wondered if it would seem overly romantic, and changed it back to one kiss, but that seemed stingy, compared to his two, as if she was trying to make a point. She made a ‘tch’ sound, added back in the second kiss and hit send. She looked up to see her mother watching her.
‘What?’ she said.
‘Careful,’ said her mother.
‘What do you mean by that exactly?’ There was a truculent tone in Tess’s voice she recognised from her teenage years.
‘I just mean you don’t want to go so far down a path that you can’t come back,’ said her mother.
Tess glanced at the back door to check that Liam was inside. ‘There’s nothing to come back for! Obviously, there must have been something badly wrong with our marriage –’
‘Rubbish!’ interrupted her mother with such vehemence. ‘Bollocks! That’s the sort of rubbish you read in women’s magazine. This is what happens in life. People mess up. We’re designed to be attracted to each other. It absolutely does not mean there was something wrong with your marriage. I’ve seen you and Will together. I know how much you love each other.’