Their relationship had really died the night when Alessio had turned away from her in bed. Thinking back to that devastating rejection, Daisy relived the anguish of a very insecure teenage girl who had been prepared to settle for sex if that was all she could have from the boy she loved. When Alessio had decided he didn’t want or need the sex either, she felt utterly devalued and useless, instead of feeling relieved that so degrading a practice had ended. A couple of weeks after Alessio had moved out of their bedroom, Bianca had dropped the news about Sophia. Alessio’s sister had enjoyed telling Daisy that her brother was seeing the other girl again.
‘And, even though I then believed that you had chosen to become pregnant, I never once confronted you with that belief.’ Alessio, Daisy registered, sounded very much as though he expected a burst of applause for such saintlike restraint.
‘Why not?’ she couldn’t help asking.
‘I assumed that you had done it so that you would not have to leave me at the end of the summer.’
Daisy reddened to the roots of her hair. She did it because she loved me...she just couldn’t help herself. Trust Alessio to come up with an excuse for her that flattered him! But no wonder he had felt trapped; no wonder he had been so furiously angry with her throughout their short-lived marriage!
‘And what would have been the point? Would it have changed anything? After all, I had already screwed up both our lives with spectacular efficiency,’ Alessio derided, his wide, sensual mouth narrowing. ‘I had failed my own expectations, bitterly disappointed and distressed my parents and got a very young girl pregnant. That was quite enough to be going on with, do you not think?’
Daisy cloaked her pained gaze. His every word tore at her and increased her confusion. It seemed inconceivable to her now, but back then she had never thought in any depth about the effect of their marriage on Alessio’s relationship with his parents. Her adolescent outlook had been narrow and exclusive, centred solely on her own feelings and what was happening in their relationship. She had taken no account of all the other pressures on Alessio. Her belated acknowledgement of her own essential teenage selfishness dismayed her.
‘And now I come here to meet a daughter who is a stranger,’ Alessio breathed grimly. ‘Have you any idea how that feels? A daughter whom I would have loved and cared for and protected has been living all this time within miles of the Leopardi bank in the City...and here she is in a grubby little flat you couldn’t swing a cat in!’
Suddenly, Daisy wanted to cover her ears. ‘I didn’t think you would want her—’
‘Is that what you have told her? Have you poisoned her mind against me as well?’ Alessio dealt her a fierce look of condemnation. ‘And still you do not tell me what I did to deserve such a punishment. So I wasn’t man enough to make it to the hospital...but that was the one and only time I ever let you down!’
Daisy’s knees wouldn’t hold her up any more. She dropped down on the edge of an armchair. ‘I’m sorry,’ she mumbled thickly.
Alessio had stridden over to the window. He swung back to study her with bleak, darkened eyes, all emotion firmly back under lock and key. ‘I can do without the tears. If my daughter sees them, no doubt I’ll get the blame for that too, and I have no desire to make a first impression as some sort of big, nasty bully who makes her mother cry!’
Daisy gulped and scrabbled hurriedly for a tissue.
‘As of now we can only look to the future and hope to do better this time around,’ Alessio completed with hard, lingering emphasis, his screened eyes, with a sudden stormy flare of glinting gold, resting on her downbent silver head. ‘Our daughter’s needs must come first. We both owe her that consideration. I hope you appreciate that fact.’
Daisy was too choked up to speak. She was thinking about the pathetic little exercise book that Tara had produced from its hiding place on the top of her wardrobe. Some pictures of Alessio, carefully cut out of newspapers, had been glued into it. In her frantic excitement last night, Tara had bared her soul, hadn’t been able to hold anything back. And Daisy had tossed and turned in her bed until dawn, coming to shamefaced terms with the fact that she had never offered her daughter a photograph of her father. Yet she had a thirteen-year-old photograph of Alessio still lurking in her own purse. For the first time, it struck her that that was just a tad peculiar and rather hard to explain rationally.