Come with me,” she said, taking his hand again and pulling him, unresistingly, into the hall and then upstairs and into her bedroom.
“The time has come,” she said whispering into his ear as she pulled his jacket off over his arms. “Help me with this zip,” she said, turning her back to him. Slowly, then more urgently, they undressed each other. When there was no more to remove she released his hand and backed away from him.
“Look at me, “ she instructed, “Now that there’s nothing left holding me in, can you still bear to look at me?”
She stood, facing him, her hands across her stomach. She looked worried.
“My love,” he said, “You are beautiful. Why would you think otherwise?”
“Look at what’s left of my breasts,” she said, “and this belly. I look awful and ancient don’t I?”
Cathy had clearly undergone double mastectomy surgery.
“I’ve never allowed any man other than you to see me like this. Ken never saw me like this. The surgery was two years after he died. I’ve been so worried that you wouldn’t want me without my boobs.”
He walked to her, took her hands and looked into her eyes, smiling.
“You look wonderful,” he said, “You’re a mature woman in her fifties. Listen, you’re more than your breasts. How could you think that I’d be so shallow? Why would you expect me to think that you’d look like a teenager? That really would be weird. All our bodies change as we age but that doesn’t make them necessarily uglier. I love your gorgeous body. And I look forward to cuddling it to mine. Anyway,” he added, “look at my belly.”
“I’m looking,” she laughed, “but not everything’s drooping is it?”
He caressed her shoulders and pulled her to him, stroking her back and kissing her neck.
She put her arms around his neck, and they kissed again.
“Tell me again. Do you still love me after what you’ve seen?”
He laughed, moved his head back and looked down.
“I adore you absolutely,” he said, “I love every bit of you.”
She held him tightly then brought her arms down to take his hands.
“Come with me,” she urged, pulling him back towards the bed.
Afterwards, they lay facing each other, their arms around each other and gazing happily into each other’s eyes.
“It’s been a long time for me,” she said.
“For me too,” he said, “but it’s still marvellous isn’t it?”
“Would it be any better if Marjorie really wanted you back?” she asked.
“Wow!” he said, “What on earth made you wonder about that? Marjorie was many years ago – but no, it wouldn’t. We mustn’t get drawn into awarding performance points. That way lies misery.”
“It was hearing you say that it’s still marvellous – in a way, it sounded as if you were comparing us now, with you and her then. Also, I suppose, because Julian was so worried that she might really be trying to win you back. Could that have been a possibility if Julian hadn’t warned me?”
“Never in a million years,” he said, “In the first place, I was just saying that making love with you reminded me how great it could be. As for Marjorie, that could never have been on the cards. It could never have worked. Too much has happened. She’s moved on and so have I. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I know that we have much to learn about each other – but we have the rest of our lives to do that. You’ve read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ haven’t you?”
“Naturally,” she said, “hasn’t everyone with any interest in literature? But why?”
“That quote of Charlotte Lucas’s came back to me when I was thinking about this business of how long we’d need to decide about each other.”
“You’ll have to remind me,” she said.
“It was something like Jane, Eliza’s sister, would have as good a chance of happiness in marrying Mr Bingley quickly as if she were to be studying his character for twelve months: that happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. I’ve often noticed that even people who have had very long engagements can end up divorced after a short time married.”
“”Hmm,” she said, “Yes I do remember, but wasn’t it her who chose to marry that odious Mr Collins? And anyway,” she added, “How come you’ve read a Jane Austen novel? I never had you down for that.”
“See,” he said, “we’re still learning, even here.”
She said, “School was never as much fun as this.”
“I got into Jane Austen as a teenager, “ he explained, “’Pride and Prejudice’ had been serialised on children’s television and I caught a bit of it by chance. After a couple of minutes, I was hooked. I borrowed the book from the library, then one by one, all her other novels.”
“Which did you like best?” she asked, impressed.
He smiled, “’Pride and Prejudice’ always, but I love ‘Persuasion’ too.”
“We’ll have to have a longer chat about books – I have a professional interest.”
“Naturally,” he agreed.
“But, yes, you’re right I suppose. Speaking for myself I have no doubts about us. I’ve come to think that life is too short. I know that I want us to be together – and I want that as soon as possible. This business with Marjorie has just brought it to a head.”
“I’m the same,” he said, “I have been from that second Saturday, but I wanted you to feel the same and not feel that you were being rushed into anything.”
“When do you think that we should tell our children?” she asked, “They’ll be shocked.”
“Another two-parter,” he said, “Suppose they oppose our decision. Would it change your decision?”
She shook her head.
“Our timescale is different than theirs,” she said, “A year to them is nothing. But look at the Births, Marriages and Deaths column in our local paper – the number of people, even in their forties who have died. We could be dead in a year – I really hope not, but I don’t want to die thinking, ‘if only…’ . I already have too many of those.”
“Oooh! That’s depressing – but true,” he agreed, “They’ll just have to live with it, but I’m sure that, at heart, they just want us to be happy. Barbara and Paul will worry that I may be bad for you, but it’s our choice, isn’t it ?
“You said something about a two-parter.”
“If we do anything practical just yet, Marjorie could get wind of it. Announcing banns, booking somewhere for a reception – anything like that. Similarly, telling the children could be risky. We can’t guarantee that they might let something slip. Let’s allow Marjorie’s plan to work itself to a conclusion. If she were to think that we know what’s going on, she could simply switch to a different plot that we couldn’t make a counterplan for. Once she finds that it hasn’t succeeded and has been exposed she wouldn’t dare try again. It will all be over in two weeks and we’ll be free to tell the world and make all our arrangements.”
“I hate not telling Barbara,” she said, “I’m bursting to announce my good news because I’m really excited. I can see what you mean though. I’ll say nothing.”
“Will you need to go home to get ready for tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, “I suppose I will.”
“I wish you didn’t have to leave,” she said, “It’s lovely having you here with me. I can’t wait until we can make it permanent. I know you have to leave but give me a kiss before you go.”
We’re still at Cathy’s house, so the photos are intended to reflect that, but as I wrote yesterday, I’ll introduce some variety into the shots I use as featured photos.
EXIF data were: Fujifilm X-T4 26 MP cropped sensor mirrorless camera and Fujinon XF 10-24 mm f/4 lens. 1/15 secs @ f/6.4 and 11.5 mm. The ISO was 200.