Susie unfolded her arms, moved away from the wall and sat down again.
“Well,” she said, “Good for you. It does make sense now that you’ve explained it – and it might explain why I thought that you’d been gossiping about me.”
“Thank God for that,” I said, feeling that a weight was falling from my shoulders. ”What I don’t understand is why it would have mattered to you.”
“Can I come back to that?” she said.
Rumour has it
She told me that she’d overheard something on Monday night that Jenny had said to Debbie.
“Okay,” I said, “What am I supposed to have said?”
“I can’t remember exactly what you’d said, but you’d obviously been gossiping about me to Jenny – something you’d said to her in the car about me – and that I was now history.”
“Look Susie,” I said, “I haven’t a clue what Jenny has said about me, but I will tell you what I’ve said to Jenny. In fact, I can tell you, almost word for word, what was said between us.”
She told me to go on. I reminded her that there had been just three, short trips when I’d given Jenny a lift home.
“The first time,” I said, “Jenny asked if there was any romantic attachment between you and me. I assured her that we were simply people working together – and, I hoped, that we were becoming friends.” Her eyes widened and her brow furrowed – I couldn’t imagine why.”
Susie looked at me.
“What?” she said, “Was that it?”
“Hang on. Remember that this was just that first night,” I said, “I told her that I was only recently separated from my wife, a single, unemployed dad and that you were much too young to be interested in a future with someone like me. I said that you’d told me about your Monday meetings talking about dating experiences, and that I imagined a lovely young woman like you, almost certainly had lots of more suitable boyfriends trailing after you.”
Susie buried her head in her hands, then lifted her face and burst out laughing.
“I can’t believe this,” she said, “You say this was the first time? Any more to tell me?”
I told Susie that Jenny had blown a raspberry and had asked whether I was fishing. I told Jenny that I had no idea what she meant and, by that time, we’d arrived at her house.
Susie nodded, I could see from the set of her face and shoulders that she’d relaxed from the tense stance she’d met me with. Her eyes were smiling now.
“The second time,” I said, “she asked again was I sure that you and I were just good friends, because that wasn’t how it appeared to her. I assured her that nothing was going on – or was likely to be.”
“Right!” Susie said, “This is starting to make sense.”
“Carry on,” she said.
“Okay, last Thursday, the final time,” I continued, “I walked with Jenny back to the car but I’d noticed that you were walking with Jake. Jenny had obviously noticed me looking because she mentioned it in the car soon after we started off.”
“Ah!” Susie said, “Go on.”
I continued, “Debbie asked ‘You’re not jealous are you?’ I asked her what on earth made her think that, but she just sneered as if she didn’t believe me. She then said, ‘Jake’s married. He’s no threat’. I didn’t say anything to that. I didn’t know what to say.”
I looked at Susie but couldn’t make out what she was thinking, but she looked as if she were frowning.
“For completeness,” I said, “Jenny asked me what I was getting you for your birthday. She told me it would be the eighteenth. Our birthdays are only a day apart. Mine’s on the seventeenth – St Patrick’s Day – Hence my name, Paddy.”
“And that’s it? That’s all you said?” she asked.
I nodded. “As I promised, pretty much word for word. I remember so well because I was puzzled by her questions.”
“Oh, my God!” Susie said. She said it slowly, one syllable at a time. Her hands were to her mouth, her eyes wide open. “I’m so sorry, Paddy. I heard two plus two and made five out of it. I can see it all now. Come and sit with me in the living room. We can talk business sometime else. I have some further questions.”
“I still don’t understand what you’ve heard that made you think that I was saying anything bad about you behind your back,” I said.
“All in good time,” she answered.
Today my featured photo is one that I took on the beach at New Brighton, Merseyside
The Exif data are as follows: Samsung Galaxy A51 smartphone @1/4000 secs f/2 4.6 mm ISO 32 and post processed in Lightroom Classic.