Funny how protective you could be about a person who hadn’t even arrived in the world yet.
‘But if he turned up, you’d talk to him, right?’
‘He won’t turn up.’
‘How can you be so sure?’
Ella was silent for a moment. ‘Because he’s married.’ Saying the words made her wince. She felt ashamed, even though she knew she had nothing to be ashamed of. Another woman’s man. ‘I suppose that’s why he didn’t want emotional attachment. He already has one. His wife’s name is Ariadne. And she must have the tolerance of a saint to keep taking him back after all the affairs he’s had. All the time he was in London, he had a wife back home in Greece.’
Realising that Helen hadn’t actually responded to her confession, Ella turned and found her friend staring at her in appalled horror.
‘Yes.’ Ella gave a twisted smile. ‘Don’t look so shocked. I feel bad enough as it is.’
‘How do you know he’s married?’
‘I’ve seen his wedding photos. They were plastered all over that same celebrity magazine that told me he was a billionaire. She’s very pretty. They obviously got married very young.’
‘Why didn’t you tell me this before?’
‘Why do you think? I despised myself for having an affair with a married man. I’m hardly going to boast about it, am I?’
‘I’m your best friend! And I can’t believe you’re only telling me this now. The rat. Oh, Ella…’ Helen sank down onto the sofa and drew in several panicky breaths. ‘I—I wish you’d told me this before. If I’d known…Oh, my God, what have I done?’
‘You haven’t done anything. It’s me who—’ registering Helen’s dramatic reaction, Ella frowned, puzzled. ‘What are you talking about? What have you done?’
There was a long, painful silence while Helen just gazed at her, wide-eyed with guilt and trepidation. ‘You have to understand that I had your best interests at heart…’
‘Now you’re making me nervous.’ Ella felt a sinister tingling in her nerve endings and dread seeped through her veins as she watched her friend’s face turn pale.
‘I didn’t know he was married. I thought the pair of you were just being stubborn and that you could work it out if you’d only get together.’
Ella stared at her, her heart pounding. ‘Helen…’
‘I wrote to him,’ Helen confessed, her eyes glistening with tears. ‘You’re my best friend and I’ve been listening to you crying your heart out every night for four months. I was furious with him and I thought if he knew about the baby…’
‘You told him about the baby?’ Ella felt the colour drain from her cheeks. ‘Helen, no!’
‘I’m so sorry.’ Helen was crying openly now, her hands over her face. ‘It was the wrong thing to do. I see that now. But you can be so stubborn and so can he, and the two of you seemed so in love. I thought that if I could just get you together, you’d be able to sort it out. I thought I was helping—I wanted you to be happy…’
‘What have you done?’ Breathing like someone in the last stages of labour, Ella struggled to think straight. ‘What if he comes? If you told him about the baby…’
‘But perhaps it will be a good thing if he comes. You’ll talk and—’
‘Helen, he’s a married man and as far as I’m concerned that’s the end of it! A man can’t have two families!’ Saying the words was agony. ‘How could you do this? How could you interfere with my life?’ Distraught, Ella’s voice cracked and Helen rubbed the tears from her own face.
‘I didn’t know he was married! You’ll never forgive me, I know, and I wish I could turn the clock back. It’s just that for your whole life you’ve been screwed up about men and I thought I was helping.’
‘I know I’m screwed up about men!’ Ella’s voice was hoarse. ‘I’m completely dysfunctional when it comes to men, I admit it. And I’ve been proved right, haven’t I? He lied to me, Helen. He lied about his wife, about the fact he’s a billionaire—all lies. I don’t think he said a single honest thing to me. And no conversation is going to change that. That sort of deception is not an accident. And if he does walk through that door, the only thing he’s going to get from me is a black eye.’