But somehow she’d allowed herself to forget that fact.



She’d romanticised a relationship that had been based on physical chemistry and, worse than that, she’d trusted a man.


‘Change the subject,’ she said flatly. ‘I need to just forget him and move on.’ Which was what he’d done, wasn’t it?


‘How can you forget him? Ella, you’re pregnant! What are you going to do?’


Ella clutched her tiny suitcase and stared at the long, slender canal boat. She’d learned a long time ago that if you focused hard enough, it was possible to hold back tears. So she stared. And gradually the flood levels of emotion subsided. The hot stinging in her throat became a dull ache and the pressure behind her eyes eased. It was OK. She was going to be OK. And so was the baby. She’d make sure of it.


‘I’m going to stop crying over a man who doesn’t deserve it. And while I’m deciding what to do about my life, I’m going to live in this place. I didn’t know it was possible to live on a canal boat. I love it.’


The dark green paintwork gleamed in the sunshine and brightly coloured fresh flowers tumbled from boxes set along the low, flat roof. Ella leaped from the bank to the boat, landing on the polished wooden deck.


‘Why did you pick this? You can’t live in this isolated place.’ Helen glanced nervously up and down the deserted path that ran alongside the sleepy, overgrown canal. ‘You’re a city girl. You like bright lights and people around you.’


‘I want something different. I’m tired of that life.’


‘Well, this is a bit extreme. When you said it was a canal boat, I thought it would be in a marina or something—not just moored in the middle of nowhere. You’re going to have loads of weirdos wandering along here.’


‘I like it.’ Ella watched as a duck glided past, followed by her family of six fluffy ducklings. Her eyes misted. It wasn’t all bad. She was going to have a baby. ‘Aren’t they sweet?’


‘Yeah—if a nutter happens to come stalking you, they’ll be the perfect weapon. You can pick one up and yell, “Duck.”’


‘Very funny. Are you coming aboard?’


‘I don’t know why you can’t carry on living in my spare room.’ Helen followed more cautiously onto the boat. ‘I love having you.’


‘I can’t live with you for ever. I’ll use this as a base while I decide what to do.’ Ella unlocked the doors at the bow of the boat. ‘It’s so peaceful here.’


‘Ella, you’ve been crying yourself to sleep for the past four months. You don’t need peaceful!’


Without responding, Ella ducked down into the long, narrow sitting area. Dark green sofas were piled with contrasting cushions and the polished wooden floor gleamed in the sunlight. She could imagine herself curled up on the cushions in the bow of the boat, a cold drink in her hand.


Alone.


The sudden stab of pain took her by surprise and she dug her nails into her palms.


Alone was fine. Until she’d met Nikos, that had been her life choice.


And she wouldn’t be alone for long, would she? Soon she’d have the baby. They’d be a family…


Helen was looking round doubtfully. ‘Do you realise that we’ve only seen one other person since we arrived? And that was a man on his own, walking a dog. This is not a suitable place for a woman.’


Ignoring her, Ella wandered further down the boat, trying to be positive as she explored her new surroundings. ‘The bedroom is cosy.’ She dumped her suitcase on the floor. ‘I’ll unpack later.’


‘Who did you say owns this place?’


‘One of the consultants at the hospital—he’s gone to Australia for six months with his family. One of the conditions of living here is that I have to water the plants.’


‘Ella, please…’ Helen plopped onto the side of the bed. ‘Just think about what you’re doing.’


‘I’m getting on with my life.’ Ella knelt on the bed next to her and looked out of the window at the overhanging trees that brushed the still surface of the water. ‘It’s so calming here. I can wake up every morning gazing at that.’


‘Crying. Talk to me, Ella. Tell me how you’re feeling.’


Like he’d taken a scalpel to her heart.


‘I’m fine,’ Ella said brightly. ‘No morning sickness, no swollen ankles, no—’

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