I finished, out of breath, hot – even in the day’s low temperature – and sweating profusely. People in Susie’s group clapped me on the back. My time had been just more than thirty minutes –The leaders had finished in less than twenty minutes. Susie had not been far behind them. She still looked as fresh as a daisy. She insisted that I do some warm-down stretches and showed me what to do. She then grabbed a cup of tea for me as I donned my fleece then asked how I felt after the exercise. She told me that, together with some of the others, they trained a couple of nights a week in the park and that I’d be welcome to join them. The others echoed the invitation and I agreed to meet them next time they trained.
By the time I got back in the car to return home, I’d cooled down and needed the heater on.
Helen dropped Paul off using her own car. I wondered if I should read anything into this. Where was Cliff in his BMW this week? Had his visit served her purpose – for him to meet me – removing any need for further contact? Was there trouble in Paradise? Was it simply that he was busy doing something else more important this weekend?
At least we had a few moments to talk this time before she left. I asked how she was and told her that she looked well and admired her outfit. She said that she was happy now and hoped that I was okay with how things had turned out. She said that she’d heard that I was still seeing her mum and said that it was fine by her. I asked her how Paul was settling in. That prompted her to ask me what I’d been saying to him about asking Tanya. I said how it was Paul who had asked and that I’d told him that it would depend on Cliff. She said that it would probably be some time before Cliff would agree. He was very possessive about her. I said that wasn’t a bad thing. Her feelings about me hadn’t changed. She made sure to tell me what a great life she had with Cliff now. He was always taking her out and she was getting on really well with his friends and colleagues. They had great banter together.
At least she smiled before she drove off.
Paul had brought a bag of things to play with – he told me that his mum had told him that he wasn’t to spend his time with me playing games in his room. I thought that her instruction to him was helpful – provided it didn’t finish up with him resenting me. In fact, he didn’t seem too bothered about the no-screen-time instruction, but I was glad that the instruction had come from her. I wouldn’t have risked wrecking the little time I had with him dealing with a tantrum – or worse a sulk.
We walked together into the dining room to work on a jigsaw together using the dining table. It was an indoors sort of day after the pleasant sunshine of the Saturday. I was as stiff as a plank after the Parkrun but tried not to let it show. As we talked, I managed – as subtly as I could – to slip into our conversation a couple of questions about Cliff. What did Paul think of Cliff? Was Cliff nice to him? Did Cliff like Paul’s mummy? Did Cliff ever tell him off? Subtle questions like that!
In return, he asked me things such as, “Don’t you like mummy anymore?”
He seemed anxious to know whether the split had come about because he’d been naughty – which I was quick to tell him that it hadn’t. He seemed to believe that all I had to do was say sorry to his mum and she’d come back to live with me and leave Cliff. We spent a good deal of the afternoon talking as we worked on the jigsaw. He had a lot of questions and suggestions and seemed determined to bring us back together. I asked him whether he was unhappy in his new home. He wasn’t but wondered whether it would help if Cliff and Tanya would come to live with me and Helen if she came back. He couldn’t know how bad I felt that I couldn’t stick a plaster over what have happened.
I still didn’t fully understand how Helen had begun her affair with Cliff in the first place; whether it had been a slow-burning thing or a love at first sight matter. I was still baffled by the lightning-fast change that I had seen in her: or so it had seemed to me.
At any rate, I gathered that all seemed well between Paul and his father substitute, but I wasn’t prepared to see this interloper as my son’s stepdad yet.
When she came to collect him, I carried his bag and walked to her car with him. She was alone. I opened the door for Paul to get in. I told her that Paul had been asking a lot of questions about why we weren’t together anymore. I don’t know whether she was regretting having the chat with me that morning. She seemed to be being cool with me. She just ignored me and fastened his seat belt. I told her that her attitude wasn’t helping Paul to adjust and it would be nice if he could see us getting on together better. She told me that I shouldn’t be saying things like that in front of him. I asked her what other time or place would suit her but got no reply. She told me to leave it, she was taking Paul home for an early night because it was school the following day. She started the engine, so I gave up and closed the car door. I waved Paul off and walked back to my silent empty house.
Today my featured photo was taken in Newcastle upon Tyne during the Great Exhibition of the North in 2018. The image shows the Millennium (Winking Eye) Bridge as seen through the Tyne Bridge and photographed from the low level swing bridge.
The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K50 16 MM cropped sensor camera with the kit lens (18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6) @ 18 mm and f/8. Shutter speed was 1/20 secs and the ISO 100. The shot was handheld and post processed in Lightroom Classic.