Page 60 of The Secret Father

‘She’s obsessed with you,’ Lindy told him reluctantly. Magda was the last person she wanted to talk about. ‘She goes around telling everyone that you were lovers. If only I hadn’t listened to her.’ Her eyes were dark with misery. ‘It looks like she fooled us both.’

‘There, you just did it, didn’t you?’ He saw her blank look of incomprehension. ‘You just forgave me.’ He patiently spelt out his meaning. ‘Do you think so badly of me that you can’t credit me with the same ability, Rosalind? Or is it yourself you’re so unwilling to forgive? You’re an expert at punishing yourself.’

‘I’ve had a lot of practice,’ she replied slowly. His words subtly shifted her perception. Do I think, deep down, I’m not worthy of happiness? she pondered. It was an unsettling thought.

‘Sam.’

Marilyn and Murray had come quietly into the room.

Sam shot to his feet. ‘Is something wrong?’ The colour drained from his face and fear was stark in his eyes. A fear he’d grown used to living with over the past few days.

‘No, no…’ Murray soothed hastily. ‘Ben would like to meet you.’ He looked to his wife for support, and she nodded encouragingly back.

Lindy knew she would never forget the uncertain longing on Sam’s face. The torment in his eyes etched itself indelibly on her mind.

‘I don’t want to intrude.’

Sam had his emotions firmly back in place. But the fact that he was a stranger, that he needed an invitation to see his own son, stirred all the buried anger and resentment he felt. He had done what was in his son’s best interests, but he hadn’t liked it. Inside, he’d raged against the injustice of it. Despite what Marilyn implied in her present emotional state, she was no angel. If—no, when—Ben got back to normal, she’d soon revert back to her old ways.

‘We’ve told him, Sam,’ Marilyn said tentatively, holding out her hand. Sam stared at the ‘olive branch’ blankly, as if he didn’t understand what she was saying. ‘We told him you’re his natural father. He knows you wanted to see him. He knows about the financial support,’ she said awkwardly. ‘And the trust fund you set up.’

‘You shouldn’t have done that, Marilyn.’ His fingers briefly touched hers before falling to his side. ‘It’ll only confuse the boy.’

Murray laughed. ‘You don’t know Ben.’

‘No, I don’t.’ A nerve in Sam’s lean cheek throbbed.

There was a difficult silence which Marilyn filled. ‘He’s resilient, Sam, a real fighter. Nothing fazes him. Don’t underestimate him. He doesn’t know about his kidneys yet. We thought we’d wait until you have your test results back.’

Sam nodded and took a deep breath. ‘Are you sure about this?’ He quashed the cynical thought that this was some reward for offering his kidney to his son. It wasn’t as if they could retract it if the test results were negative— They can’t be, he thought.

‘Very sure.’

‘Rosalind?’

Lindy stared at his hand. He wants me, she thought. Deep satisfaction flared in her heart. Now wasn’t the time to ponder the significance of the gesture.

Fingers entwined with his, she followed him into the white, impersonal atmosphere of the intensive care unit.

She hadn’t expected the resemblance. The same colouring, the same blue eyes. It was startling.

‘He’s easily tired, Mr Rourke.’ The nurse looked pretty enough to be in a soap.

‘Fine.’ Lindy could feel the coiled tension in Sam’s body. His face looked gaunt, and possibly rather daunting to a young child. She needn’t have worried as she watched the discipline of an actor come into play and the hard lines of tension melt away. His shirt might be sticking to his back and his palms might be slick with sweat, but no casual observer would have guessed this was a moment he’d dreamed about for years.

Only Lindy wasn’t a casual observer. Let it go well for him, she silently prayed. I can’t bear it if he’s hurt again!

‘So you’re my father.’ His voice held caution and curiosity, but no trauma. Lindy felt Sam relax fractionally. ‘What do I call you?’ She heard the challenge in the young voice. Sam must have heard it too, though he gave no indication.

‘My friends call me Sam.’

‘Is she your wife?’

‘I’m not married.’

‘Then I haven’t got any brothers or sisters?’ There was a wistfulness in the youthful voice.

‘Not yet.’

At first Lindy thought Sam was referring to Marilyn, but then, from his expression, she swiftly saw the reference was much more personal. She felt the colour rise up her neck until her face was on fire. Sam regarded the Technicolor treat with interest. A low chuckle from the bed averted her attention. The miniature version of Sam was looking from her to Sam with a very grown-up expression on his face.

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