Chapter Twenty Two
Cassie was interviewed by the police concerning Zak's activities in Ged's flat. At first they seemed to be implying that it was she who had moved the money, since it went into an account in her name, but Graham intervened asking if she was to be charged. No.
She told them that she had gone to the bank to find out who originated the account, and was shown the application form. She produced a copy of it, and there plain to see was Zak's signature 'on her behalf', going on to show how he had used the money to deceive her. She made a statement and then left with Graham.
It was an uncomfortable experience, and afterwards Cassie decided she needed to go home to see her parents. She wanted to explain that she was divorcing Zak, an obligation to them that she was dreading, but knew she had to go through with it. She booked her train ticket on line as soon as she returned to Brian and Cheryl's house; she would travel on Friday afternoon and return on Sunday evening. Then she emailed her parents and Marie to let them know.
On Monday evening she went flat hunting without success.
When Cheryl and Brian arrived late on Monday, Cassie was already in bed asleep. The week went by, and she worked extra time on Thursday to allow for the journey south the next day.
Her parents were delighted to see her.
"No Zak?" asked her mother, looking behind Cassie.
"I've left him," she said.
Her mother looked aghast. "Left him? You're only just married darling. Surely you can make up?"
"Let me sit down and I'll tell you all about it. Get Dad as well, you both need to hear this."
She told them the whole story. Her father became angry, and her mother upset.
"I'm so sorry," Cassie said as the tears came. "You told me Zak was not right for me, but Zak was intent on it and I've no idea why I just went along with it. I cost you so much and all for nothing."
"It's not that," said her father. "You've mucked up your relationship with Ged. Now there is a man. Even if he is a musician, he seems to have done all right."
She nodded. "I know." Her tears had dried and she looked defeated. "I don't think there's any chance of us getting together. He's too hurt by what I did."
"Something's happened to us," said her father eagerly. "We got into some money trouble, and now I'm on the dole there was no way out. We got all sorts of threatening letters, and then they all stopped.
"When we looked at the accounts they were all clear – all the credit cards, and get this, Cassie, the mortgage is practically paid off, there are a few pence I have to go and pay to get the deeds to the house.
"The thing is, there's no indication where the money has come from. I'm worried, Cassie, that there's been an dreadful error at the bank and they'll claw it all back again. They say there isn't, but I think there is."
"There's no error, Dad," she said with a half smile. "Ged's paid it off. All of it."
There was a joint gasp of disbelief from both parents.
"So he does love you after all!" exclaimed her mother. "I'm sure you will get back together."
"No Mum," she replied, her hopelessness showing. "He told me he did it for you and Dad, he made it very clear it was not for me."
"But how did he know – we didn't tell you?" Her father was becoming edgy.
"Marie. She told him."
There was trouble at that. Marie was called down, and told them what she had done, and how good Ged had been to her.
Her farther was not pleased. "How could you go begging – and to him of all people after all that's happened? How can I repay him?"
"He won't take anything, Dad," Marie said. "He's very very well off; he told me he wouldn't even miss it. He's a millionaire."
Her father glowered. "That's not the point. We're beholden to him now."
He picked up his book and began to read, his disgust and discomfort showing. The subject was changed.
"Cassie," said her mother, "I can't understand why you were so mad? You went overboard. You're usually so level headed. Why?"
"I don't know, Mum," she said.
Her mother sighed.
"I feel the same way, Mum," Cassie responded to the sigh. "I feel such a fool, and I've lost Ged. If only we could go back and re-live things, but we can't."
Her mother sighed again and then perked up.
"Hey," she said. "Dollar is here for the weekend with her new husband. You should look her up."
Cassie sat up. "Dollar?" she exclaimed. "Great, I haven't seen her since my wedd..."
There was a moment's silence, and it was because of the memory. She had felt so certain of Zak that day. She had been all in white, and he looked so good as she came down the aisle of the church to him, and all the time he was deceiving her, cheating her of her true love.
"Yes," she told her mother more soberly, "I'd really like to see her, and meet her husband."
Dolores O'Shaughnessy as she had been before her wedding, was Cassie's oldest and closest friend. They had first met when they were both five years old, and had been close ever since. They had shared all their ideas and hopes and desires, as well as the less reputable things they'd done. They had no secrets from each other. It was when she was a teenager that Dolores wanted to be called Dollar from then on.
So Saturday saw Cassie visiting Dollar's parents' house. The news of her impending divorce from Zak had preceded her, and Dollar was all agog to get the full story, so much so that she neglected to introduce her new husband. Prompted by Cassie, Liam was introduced to her and was then invited to be elsewhere while the women caught up on their lives.
Cassie complimented Dollar on her husband, and Dollar giggled and told her with a wink that he came up to expectations in every department. Dollar certainly looked well satisfied and content. She apologised for not inviting Cassie to the wedding, but Cassie was on her brief honeymoon with Zak when the hastily arranged wedding took place.
This brought the conversation round to Zak and the break up. Cassie told her the whole story and Dollar was appalled.
"Anyone would have thought Zak knew about your intolerance of cheating," she said, "and used it against you."
"I had finished with Zak before," Cassie said. "I think he got the idea how violently I hated cheaters then. I only wish I knew why I reacted so violently. I'd promised Ged faithfully I would talk it through with him before we even thought of going our separate ways, and when it came to it, I wouldn't even listen to his explanation. I junked his emails without reading them."
"But it must be obvious to you why?" Dollar said with surprise. "After what Doug did to you? Then after those months when you'd not let boys near you, you risked it with Ian after the prom. and he cheated on you within the week, and the way he dumped you, so cruel!"
Cassie sighed with exasperation. Dollar's words had immediately enlightened her.
"Why didn't I think of that?" she said wonderingly. "Dollar I've never connected the strength of my hatred of cheating, or lying with that. It's so obvious now you mention it. But it's years since–"
"I bet you've just shoved it away from yourself," Dollar suggested. "It was so traumatic for you so young. I remember how frightened you were. Ian just didn't care, but Doug was a real bastard."
"Heard anything about him?" asked Cassie, intrigued.
"Oh, he tried the same thing with a girl at university – you don't know her," Dollar said. "But unlike you, she called his bluff. He ended up married to her, but the marriage is not at all happy.They've got two kids under three and the pair of them are always bickering from what I've heard. I think divorce is on the cards. That'll really hurt him, paying maintenance for two kids for the next eighteen years."
"Serve him fucking right," Cassie said with some vehemence. "He deserves all he gets, though I'm sorry for his wife and kids."
"Could have been you, old girl," said Dollar. "Lucky escape, you were besotted with him – totally gone, you were. Until..."
They talked on and on, until Liam reappeared and they all went out for a drink.
She returned to Cheryl and Brian's on Sunday night, when she learned that Ged had gone back to the States. It was late, and in response to their enquiry, she told them she had a good meeting with her parents. She then excused herself and went to bed, where she lay for a while remembering the events that had first led to her present predicament.
Over the following two weeks, she looked for a flat without success, went to work, came home and babysat for Cheryl. Sometimes she went out for a drink with friends, but they quickly learned not to pry into her feelings, though it was obvious she was sad and listless.
Cheryl too forbore from inquiring, assuming that Cassie's attempts to reach Ged were over, and she would eventually overcome the feelings of bereavement she so clearly felt. Instead, she encouraged the morose young woman to look for a man to date, going with her to nightclubs while Brian babysat at home. Cassie was amazed at how much Brian trusted Cheryl, especially since she dressed to seduce so as to fit with Cassie's 'pulling' attire.
Cassie danced with a variety of men, and rejected all of them. Some were only out for a one-night stand, but there were others who Cheryl thought were good prospects. None was good enough for Cassie.
It was to no avail, and at the end of two further weeks, she sat Cassie down and asked her why she had given up dating.
"It's Ged, isn't it?" she stated to the sullen woman.
"Yes," sighed Cassie. "It's Ged. I'm not over him yet. I'm resigned now to let him go, but I don't think I'll be looking for anyone else for a long time."
"Wouldn't you try to contact him again?" Cheryl asked, ever the optimist.
"It was obvious I was getting nowhere." Cassie replied. "Until he understands why I behaved as extremely as I did, there's no chance."
"And you don't know that, do you?"
"Oh, yes," Cassie muttered. "I know now. I met a friend at home, Dollar. She reminded me. I must have been repressing the memory, but I know now, though I think when he hears why, it will make things worse."
"Tell me." said Cheryl, "and I'll tell you whether it'll put him off."
"I've never told a living soul, only Dollar knows," said Cassie, looking up at her friend for the first time in the conversation.
"I don't know whether I can."
"Tell me!" Cheryl told her sternly. "Nothing will put me off you, Cassie. Nothing!"
"OK." Cassie sounded even more downcast if that were possible, but she told her story.
"Cassie those guys horribly abused your trust and dumped you years ago." Cheryl pleaded, when she finished. "It's long past. You were young! You can't keep carrying that with you.
"You don't know how Ged will see it, of course you don't. How could you? You're not seeing him now, are you? You've given up on him. If you tell him your story, it can hardly make it any worse, now can it?"
Cassie shook her head. "I don't think so," she said. "I think he really has moved on. He's gone back to the States, for goodness' sake."
"Cassie," Cheryl said urgently. "Please, if you don't try this, you will always wonder whether he would have changed towards you if he knew your background. Please go to him and tell him. Then you'll know."
Cassie gave in. "OK," she said. "I'll go and see if anyone knows where he is. The folk group might know. The Friday night gig at the pub. Happy now?"
"I will be when you've done it."
Cassie was as good as her word. She went to the pub and listened to the band, and of course Ged was not there. Afterwards she went to Vivienne and asked where he was.
"He's gone," she replied, "back to his girlfriend in the States – you know – Catherine Styles. He reckoned there wasn't much keeping him here any more. He's really down, living a sort of half-life, and you know who's the cause of that don't you?" Viv said it gently without rancour. "I wish you two would get together again and we can all get back to living a decent life!"
"Oh," Cassie looked crestfallen. "There was something he needed to know from me about – you know – the trouble. About me. I've got an answer for him."
"If I were you," said Vivienne, "and I once nearly was you – going with him, I mean – if I were you, I'd go after him. I'd turn up at his girlfriend's place and tell him whatever it is you've got to tell him. That might just wake him up to what he's missing: you, girl! You want him don't you?"
"Well, then," she said. "Get after him!"
"Get after him?"
"Buy a plane ticket to San Francisco and go get him."
"I don't know where he's staying."
"Catherine Styles," said Vivienne patiently. "Ask his agent, he'll know."
Chapter Twenty Three
After phoning Catherine Ged felt much better. She had been delighted that he was returning, and promised to get some connections going with others in the industry, for on the West Coast, she explained, entertainment was an industry. She also promised to make him feel good, and he knew from experience that it was not an idle boast.
He booked his flight for the following week, and spent the intervening time sorting out his affairs, visiting his mother, seeing Gus about managing his money and any contracts for royalties that might arise, spending time with the folk group and with Karin, who was upset about his departure, especially since the trip was so open ended. He tried to keep busy until he left, but by the time the week was up he was upset and felt persecuted.
Gus was first. Ged sorted out all the business with him, and then Gus asked him very kindly why he was going back to the States, when everything could be done from home. Ged told him he needed to start over, and he couldn't get over Cassie so close to home.
"I just don't understand you, Ged," said his agent. "I've never tried to broach the subject of you and Cassie, but I'm going to do that now. You two fulfil the cliché 'made for each other', but you are trying to put her behind you. Why?"
Ged said nothing.
"Look at it this way," Gus went on. "Is Cassie the same person who first met you? I know she's changed as we all do, but essentially, is she the same person who you saw in the union that day? Are her values the same? Things have happened to her, but her character?"
He paused briefly before explaining what he meant.
"She is still honest, truthful, faithful, am I right?" he asked.
Ged started to look resentful because he felt resentful, precisely because it was true. He nodded.
Like Cassie, thought Gus, he's the same: honest and faithful.
He went on.
"If Zak had not been there, what would have happened? Would she have gone looking for another man? No, you know she wouldn't. When she fell apart, did she go looking for Zak? No, Zak crept up on her.
"Is she looking for another man now? No. Zak took her when she was broken, and dominated her. It was part of his plan. She just followed. Why? Because she was so depressed, she knew him and he was convincing. True?"
Ged felt anger at Zak this time. Ged was sure Zak had pushed and pushed her to marry him, and she had gone along with it. Now he understood the quick wedding. Again he nodded, and Gus saw the anger.
"Are you sure that your anger and resentment is really against Zak? That you resent that he inveigled his way into Cassie's life again and eventually coerced her into marrying him? That instead you're transferring it all onto Cassie, who doesn't really deserve it?"
"The problem Gus," said Ged with a resigned air, "is why she reacted so violently that she went with Zak and did not talk to me first. If I knew why she did that, I could make proper decisions, but she keeps telling me she doesn't know why. I don't know whether to believe her or not. It's just gone too far, Gus."
Gus went on doggedly. "What you're saying is that the only thing separating you is that she broke a promise and suffered the consequences. She broke it in extreme circumstances – did you envisage the evil intent and the depth of deception engineered by Zak when you made her promise that? You told her to distrust the press; but this was carefully planned, there was the other manufactured evidence as well, Zak saw to that. She is a victim like you, man.
"You were her lover, and her fiancé. What does a loving fiancé do in such circumstances? Please think about it Ged."
Ged shrugged, "I've gone over this Gus, over and over. She cut me off, went with Zak and married him, and she tells me she doesn't know why. I've nothing left for her. I'm sorry about it, but I can't get over it."
His folk group would not let it be either. They were also desperate for him to stay.
It was Vivienne who let rip at him. It surprised him. She had always been dead straight with him, and he could see she was really worked up.
"You know Ged," she said angrily, "You were always such a good friend to have, you always saw both sides of any situation. You had empathy – hell, you couldn't have written the stuff you have if you couldn't put yourself in other people's shoes.
"Where's it gone, Ged? You're totally self-obsessed now. Can't you get into her shoes and see things the way she sees them? Can't you feel how she feels? God, Ged, you've written songs from a woman's point of view, you should be able to do that!
"She's been treated cruelly by that bastard, and she's hurting and still confused over what's happened. And where are you when she needs you? Wrapped up in yourself. Perhaps if this is the new you, she's better off without you."
"Wow, Viv," said Ged with a rueful smile. "I didn't think you knew her so well that you feel so strongly. Perhaps you're right. She's better off without me."
Viv looked startled. She had not expected him to give in and agree. Not like that.
By then Ben was saying his piece.
"I can't see the problem. You didn't cheat on her. She didn't cheat on you. It was Zak, wasn't it? You and Cassie were both hurt. Who was the author of all the hurt – you? Cassie? No, it was Zak. So why are you taking it out on her? Why did she take it out on you?"
"That's exactly it, Ben," Ged said with all the patience he could muster. "I don't know why she reacted so violently, went to such lengths – I mean, marrying him! She says she doesn't know why, but I can't see that. She knows, she's just not telling."
"So," said Ben, "You don't believe her."
"I suppose that's it," replied Ged. "I'm going to the States for a while. I'll be back someday, and we'll keep in touch – I'll send you any stuff that suits you guys. I think we should make an album together when I come back. I just need to get over Cassie properly. I'm just marking time at the moment."
The folk group were delighted with his offer, and thanked him. He told them to think of some songs from other people they could cover.
As if all the advice wasn't enough, Ged met Amos of all people on the street, as Ged was coming away from a second meeting with Gus at which he proposed making an album with the group. Gus had promised to contact Vivienne about it.
"You and Cassie back together then?" Amos asked with some genuine concern, Ged thought.
"No, Amos," relied Ged, "and I don't think it's going to happen. Too many unanswered questions."
"Zak told me early on that he was going to make sure you never got back with Cassie," said Amos. "Question for you Ged: is Zak going to win? Are you going to let her go? Because that's what Zak wants. Even if he can't have Cassie any more, he wanted to make sure you wouldn't either.
"That's what he wants even more than he wants Cassie. He did all that lying and trickery to get back the one woman he really wanted. Now he's failed, but you are going to make him a very happy man. He did all that because he saw what he had missed; why can't you see it, Ged? Can't you see what you're missing? Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!"
Ged saw he meant well and told him so, thanking him for his concern. It did make him think, but he couldn't get back with Cassie just to spite Zak, however much he might want to – spite Zak, that is, he hastily told himself, aware of his mental slip.
The day before he left, he got a phone call from Cheryl. She just launched into him, and he knew she was fighting for her friend. It was that which allowed him to put up with her abuse without hanging up on her.
"So you're running away Ged. So wrapped up in yourself you can't see what's good for you. You're just about to make the biggest mistake of your life.
"She's told me she'll wait for you to come round, but think about it, Ged. She will suffer loneliness for just so long then she will find another man.
He won't light her fire, because only you ever did that; I hope you know that. But she'll settle for an ordinary life – she'll settle for second or even third best. He will bed her and feel he's the luckiest man in the world.
"And she'll get pregnant, Ged, and have his babies, when she could have had yours. She'll bury herself in her family and love them to bits, enjoying being a mother, and in time, Ged, she'll lose that aching sense of loss for you, and if you see her in those years, she'll not react any more. She'll have grown out of you and into her husband. She'll get used to her second best life.
"You were never second best for her, Ged, you stupid bastard, you got that wrong. You totally eclipsed Zak, did you know that? She only went for him when she thought you had left her and she was so lonely. He was the second best option, not you.
"Yes, she told me what you said about him having something you didn't. Fucking shite that idea! He was good in bed, Ged, but you were good in bed, actually better, and definitely better everywhere else.
"You'll probably settle for a second best woman as well. You'll love her but you'll always know that you missed your best chance in life. You are an idiot Ged. A first class, self-deluding fucking idiot."
She rang off. Ged stood, looking at the phone. So many people, all hung up on his personal life, but he was committed to go, and go he would.
Karin was the last one to persecute him, but hers was a more gentle persecution. She felt a real sense of loss that he was going, but was philosophical about it.
Well, she said to herself, I did say no strings, and that I wasn't the settling type. Perhaps I am ready to settle, but not with him – deep down he belongs to someone else.
He gave her a key, asked her to call in and look after the house from time to time and invited her to stay there as often as she wanted.
"You're running away from Cassie you know," she told him as she dropped him off at the airport, "but when you get to the other side of the world, as far away as you can get, you'll find she's still with you. She's unfinished business."
He shrugged a denial, and took his leave of her.
Unlike his previous visit to Catherine, when he had needed to relax after the strenuous world tour and they worked on an album for her over the whole time, this time she had arranged meetings, formal and informal with an array of entertainment people.
There were the usual parties to attend, BBQs to eat, and even a stopover in Las Vegas. All in the process, organised by Catherine who knew about those things, of getting him and his music seen, heard and appreciated.
There was also her insatiable appetite for sex, which meant that though he spent a good deal of time in bed, he got rather less rest than he needed.
These Americans work hard and play hard – too hard for me! He thought ruefully.
After three weeks of this he was beginning to tire, and Catherine, sensing this, took him on a tour of the wineries of the State for him to unwind. Then he was off to New York for a week, leaving Catherine at home since she had some recording to do.
The meetings in New York were quite productive, though he sensed a certain lack of enthusiasm on their part. It became clear to him that they were seeing him only because Catherine had introduced him. He flew back to the West Coast rather despondent, arriving at seven in the evening.
When the aircraft was taxiing he received a text from Catherine, saying she was tied up with a visitor and to get himself a taxi to the house.
He arrived and found the front door unlocked, but, unusually there had been no Catherine standing on the step as she always had done before. For a moment he wondered whether she had a lover in her bed, but smiled at the idea. He entered and immediately heard her voice.
"Hi Honey! In the kitchen! Got a visitor for you!"
He dropped the bag and made his way there, pushing open the door.
"Hello, Ged," said the visitor, who was sitting with Catherine at the table.
"Cassie?" he said. "What are you doing here?"
Chapter Twenty Four
It took a good deal of begging before Cassie's publishing house allowed her yet more time off. She wondered if her job would still be there when she returned. They had granted her two weeks unpaid compassionate leave, and without delay she had booked a flight to San Francisco flying out on Monday and returning on Saturday. It wiped out all her savings.
She gave the address to the cab driver, who seemed to know it. Cassie realised that Catherine was a celebrity, and she felt fear. How would Ged's American girlfriend react to her. She had not tried to contact the woman beforehand. She would arrive and then see how things went. There were plenty of hotels if things went badly.
The cab drew up in front of the house, and Cassie gasped. It was a mansion. Beautifully manicured gardens with architectural trees and bushes surrounded a house the beauty of which took Cassie's breath away.
"Would you wait please?" she asked the driver.
"Sure, ma'am," came the reply. "Love the British accent!"
She gave him her most brilliant smile and approached the front door, upon which she knocked. And waited. And waited. Then the door opened.
"Why, hello there," said the pretty woman standing before her with a wide welcoming smile. "May I help you?"
"Hello," said Cassie, though she was trembling. "I'm Cassie, Ged's–"
"The Cassie?" the woman asked, wide eyed. "Ged's Cassie?"
"Not any more," Cassie replied. "He doesn't want me anymore," and her eyes filled.
"I'm Catherine," the woman said. "Where are you staying, honey?"
"Nowhere yet," said Cassie. "I'll find a hotel later; I hoped to talk to Ged – I've something to tell him that he wanted to know."
"Oh, you must stay here with me," Catherine said. "Ged's away for the week, but you can visit with me while you wait."
"You're very kind," said Cassie. "But I can't impose–"
"Nonsense," said Catherine. "I'm on my own, working on some songs. You'll be good company for me. Let's get your bags."
Cassie paid the driver and Catherine collected her bags. Catherine took her straight to a guest bedroom, and put down her bag.
"Now," she said. "You're my guest until Ged comes back in four days. We're going to have the greatest time."
They did. Catherine had the knack of getting Cassie to tell her whole story, and made no comment, but accepted everything. She took Cassie to see the sights, and to meet some of her friends. Cassie asked her about her songs, and Catherine played her some, and sang some for her. She asked Cassie for her poems and was clearly moved by many of them, recognising those that Ged had set to music.
"Cassie," she told her, "We'll work on Ged together sweetheart. I'm on your side, kiddo. He doesn't deserve you. What's happened is not your fault."
As the day approached for Ged to arrive, however, Cassie became more and more edgy and apprehensive. Catherine did her best to cheer her, but really there was nothing to be done. Cassie had been rebuffed too many times.
On Friday evening there came the text from Ged and Catherine's reply. They sat at the kitchen table and waited.
"Hello Ged," said Cassie.
"Cassie? What are you doing here?"
"I've got something to tell you."
"So much for you 'leaving me alone' and 'waiting for me to come to you'. You're stalking me. It won't work Cassie."
"Hi, Ged," Catherine interrupted. "Welcome back!" Her voice had a note of irony and Ged saw it immediately.
"Sorry, Catherine," he said, "but Cassie is hounding me."
"You are being real stupid, Ged," Catherine replied. "Cassie has been here a few days and we've had some good times. She's already my friend, buddy, and you're not giving her a chance. We talked a lot and I know what she's been through. Now, you listen! Sit down."
Ged was surprised at Catherine's outburst, and did as he was told.
"Now Ged," said Catherine, "Cassie has something to tell you; something you wanted to know. She loves you so much she's come all the way from the UK to tell you, and it's going to cost her. She's afraid that what she tells you will finish you as a couple completely, but she wants to tell you anyway because you want to know. You've got some woman here, Ged."
"OK," said Ged, moodily. "What is this great truth you have for me Cassie? It had better be better than your previous efforts."
He saw Cassie flinch and Catherine bristle, and he immediately regretted what he had said, though he said nothing but gritted his teeth.
"You don't make it easy," said Cassie plaintively. "This is hard enough for me, without your carping, but anyway I'm leaving tomorrow, and I'll be out of your hair for good. So."
She took a deep breath. "You wanted to know why I react so intensely when a man cheats on me? I went home to my parents and Dollar was around and she reminded me why. She was there when it happened and she stood by me when no one else did.
"It was February in my last year of High School, I'd started going out with a boy called Douglas, or Doug for short. He was so fit, and good looking. captain of the football team, captain of the cricket team, medals at athletics. And he wanted me. I'd never been with a boy before, and I was very innocent. I'd concentrated on work and he was the first boy I'd fallen for.
"I was so besotted with him, I'm embarrassed about it now. He was a few months older than I was. He was so... masculine – so strong. I couldn't see how selfish he was; he could do no wrong in my eyes. And he wanted me."
Ged gave a snort of derision. "I don't see what this–"
"Button it, Ged," said Catherine sharply. "You aren't helping, and this is totally relevant."
Ged shrugged, and gave her a petulant look. Catherine scowled at him.
"Go on honey," Catherine said to Cassie, reaching out and covering her hand with her own.
Again, a deep breath. "Anyway, he seduced me. We'd made out for weeks, and it happened one evening at his parents' house while they were out at some function. He took my virginity. It wasn't the only time we did it, and..."
Here she stopped, glanced at him and looked down at the table. Then she continued, staring at the table top, as if each sentence was wrung from her.
"I got pregnant." She shivered then continued.
"I was so frightened. I told him and he shouted at me for being a 'stupid bitch' (I remember the words exactly), for not being protected.
"Apart from the fact I was eighteen, why he assumed that as a virgin I would be on the pill, I don't know. He never used a condom and I was too naïve to realise that.
"I couldn't tell my parents – you know they're Irish Catholics – on my own, and so I begged him to stand by me, while I confessed to them.
"Well, he gave me an ultimatum. He'd get money from his parents for an abortion and I mustn't tell anyone. I told him I couldn't take the life of my unborn child. So he told me that if I didn't have the termination, as he called it, he'd have nothing more to do with me, and I could face my parents alone.
"If I had the abortion he would stay with me and we would get engaged and go to the same university. He said he wanted me to be his wife, but a baby so early would make everything too difficult at our age just before university: I wouldn't be able to go at all.
"I couldn't bear the thought of him leaving me, so I agreed. I told Dollar – you remember she was always my best friend? She stood by me. We made up a story for my parents, and I had an overnight stay in a clinic, and it was all over. I was so upset, and so guilty, but Doug would stand by me, support me, wouldn't he?
"Well, Ged," she said, looking up at him, tears brimming in her eyes, "He lied. He dumped me the next day after the abortion and never spoke to me again. He never told his mates why either; I suppose I should have been thankful for that, but he just dumped me. He knew I couldn't tell anyone why either.
"I went to pieces," she sobbed. "I wanted my mother so badly, but I couldn't go to her. She still doesn't know. Dollar stuck by me for what was left of my last year, but I was a wreck. My parents put it down to overwork for 'A' levels.
"Well, I pushed it out of my mind once I got to university. I tried to forget and I succeeded after a fashion. I had been so thoroughly betrayed though (this is what Dollar told me when I went home last week), that I distrusted boys from then on. I went out with them, but I never trusted them. I got a reputation for being frigid."
She took another deep catching breath, and let it out in a long sigh.
"As I said, over the years I've pushed it out of my mind, though I still wonder what my baby would be doing – he or she'd be starting school now.
"Now Dollar has brought it back, it's so obvious why I react so strongly to lies, to cheating, but it's brought back the shame as well. I know you can't love someone who did something like that, but even so, you needed to know why I'm the way I am, and now I've told you."
She stopped and put her head onto her hands on the table, and cried.
Ged stared at her, Catherine forgotten. The shock was complete. The depth of Douglas's betrayal, the hideous self-serving lie carefully planned with no concern for the damage he did appalled Ged. Now all was clear to him.
The deeper her commitment to a man, the more complete her trust, the greater the intensity of her reaction, as a result of that first utter deception and betrayal. Now it was not a mystery why she cut him off completely. They were so completely in love and she was so vulnerable. If only he had known!
And the anger returned, but now not at Zak or Cassie, but at Douglas, whose destruction of a girl's future relationships was so casual and complete. Zak could not have known, and the result of his deliberate deception was inevitable.
All this cascaded through his mind as the silence grew.
Cassie interpreted his silence as rejection. She jumped up and fled to her room, crying out loud. Ged sat and almost did not notice.
"Ged!" said Catherine sharply.
"Cassie's run off. She thinks you hate her for having the abortion. Do you? Is that what you think?"
"No!" he cried, he was just startled at the revelation. "I just don't know how she's managed, keeping it to herself all this time."
"For God's sake, Ged," she said, exasperated. "Go and tell her that! She already hates herself enough, without thinking you hate her as well!"
Ged was upset that he had given implicitly the wrong impression, and made for the door at a run. He knocked gently on her door, and, receiving no reply, opened it and looked inside.
Cassie was lying on the bed. She was not crying, but simply lying on her side with her eyes closed. Ged went to the bedside and sat down.
Cassie's eyes shot open, and she made to get up.
"It's OK," said Ged reassuringly. "Lie still and listen."
She relaxed and watched him.
He looked down on her and smiled.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I was so shocked at your story that I sort of froze. I couldn't grasp how you could have come so far carrying such a burden and no one to offer support while you were at university. I couldn't offer you support when we were together – you never told me. You should have told me, Cassie, I would have supported you, I really would. You were a girl in a lot of trouble and you were treated shamefully. If only I'd known, I'd never have gone on that fucking tour."
"You don't hate me?"
"Hate you? Why should I hate you? But you need to forgive yourself Cassie."
She looked at him in surprise, and then a watery smile grew on her face.
Ged saw the hope in her eyes, but he needed to think some more, it had been too sudden. He preempted her response.
"You go back tomorrow. I have to stay for another two weeks, but then I'm coming home. When I get back, will you talk with me?"
"Yes, of course," she averred. "It's what I've wanted all along."
"I'll look forward to seeing you at home," he said, stroking her hair out of her eyes, "and we will talk and work something out."
The action was not lost on her; it was a loving action and she was filled with hope.
The three of them went out to dinner. The meal was taken up with Catherine's questions about Ged's trip, and Cassie remained silent throughout. When they returned to the house, Cassie went off to pack and to get an early night. She didn't need to be at the airport until two in the afternoon, but the flight was ten hours long overnight. Ged hugged her but did not kiss her. Catherine left the room with her and stayed with her until she went to bed.
Then Catherine had words with Ged.
"We won't be sleeping together tonight, Ged," she said softly. "You know that, don't you? In fact we won't be sleeping together, period."
Catherine continued. "If ever there was a pair who should be together, needs to be together, it's you and that lady. I'll not come between you. We will talk of this when she's gone."
"I haven't– " began Ged.
"I think you have," she said, "or you will. I want you to do something for me."
"Anything, Cath," he said. "You know that."
"Go to the second bedroom, I put your stuff in there. Get out all the lyrics based on her poems and read them. I've made Cassie's poems into a little book, and I'm going to get them published. Don't tell her! Read her poems. OK? Then think."
"OK," he said, and he did. Even though he was still on New York time, and it was very late for him, he sat up for much of the night reading and re-reading. He actually set another of Cassie's poems to music.
So when Cassie and Catherine left for the airport he was still asleep. He wondered when he awoke a little later to an empty house, if he had dreamt of someone kissing him. He had not: Cassie kissed his forehead before she left.
Chapter Twenty Five
Ged spent the time while Catherine was away at the airport polishing the tune to Cassie's poem, and as such was not thinking about what had transpired the previous evening.
When she returned, she heard him singing. The tune was plaintive and she recognised Cassie's words of longing for a lost love. Yes, she thought, The guy has insight and talent, as if I didn't know.
For the next fortnight, they worked hard on their music, knowing that Ged was going home soon. He was often thoughtful, and Catherine knew Cassie had made an impression with which he was trying to cope. She could see the change in him: he had changed towards her, becoming more of a friend and exercising a certain distance.
On his departure, at the airport he hugged her at length.
"Thanks for all you've done for me and for Cassie. I know what to do now, and it's largely your doing. I'm far from sure we'll end up together, but it's a start and you started it."
"Oh pshaw!" she smiled. "It was there in you all the time. You just had to break that shell of resentment; you needed to see where the guilt lay – and where it didn't. The song 'Connie' showed what was going on deep down all along. Now get out of here!"
They kissed briefly and he was on his way. Catherine looked fondly after him.
He's a lucky son of a bitch, she thought, but then so is she!
Ged's flight was uneventful and he managed to sleep. He arrived at the house to find it warm and aired and remembered Karin had been in after he emailed her that he was coming home. He was jet lagged and half awake in spite of the sleep on the plane. He sent an email to Gus and Graham telling them he had arrived but needed a day to recover from the journey. Then he tried to stay awake, but gave in and took an hour's nap in the afternoon.
On Tuesday he was grateful that Gus left it until lunchtime before asking him to call in. There were various artists who wanted his songs, and he needed to go to London again urgently to see the singer Gerard Frobisher as he had before. Gerard had a concert imminently and needed his advice. He set off early next morning.
While away he phoned Graham, who asked him to see him the following week to sign some documents relating to the civil action.
Graham told him that Zak had been arrested and had appeared before magistrates. He had been committed to appear at the Crown Court on charges of theft and fraud. In the meantime he was out on bail, for his offences had not been violent ones. It would be months before his case came to trial. In the meantime Graham was pursuing Zak for compensation and the return of the money he had stolen.
After the call Ged realised his mobile was cluttered with unanswered calls. He worked through them, deleting the numbers that had no name attached. He thought he should do that more often: it took the best part of an hour! Then he switched off his phone as he always did when he was working, and made for Gerard Frobisher's place.
He returned on Friday, arriving at just after five thirty. He noted that Karin had been in again, then heard her in the kitchen. They hugged and kissed and she immediately knew he had changed.
"What happened?" she asked.
"Cassie happened," he said. "She followed me out to Catherine's and now I know why she acted the way she did, though I still don't understand why she married Zak; she didn't need to do that, we lived together for a long time and only got engaged when I was going away on tour."
"She was dreadfully betrayed by a boyfriend in the last year of High School. He was callous and heartless. He got her pregnant, told her he would pay for an abortion, which she didn't want, promising that if she did they would get engaged afterwards, and later they would marry, otherwise she was on her own. She had the termination and he dumped her the day after."
Karin sat down heavily. "Good Lord!" she whispered.
"So you see?"
She paused. "Have you seen her then?"
"I told you, she came to the States and saw me."
"I mean, have you seen her since you got back?"
"Oh hell!" he exclaimed. "I've been rushed off my feet since I got back. No. I must go and see her tomorrow."
"Why not today?"
"I'm tired. I've been on the go ever since I got back from the States and I need to be rested when I see her, otherwise I'll say something I'll regret. I sympathise with her problem with fidelity, but I'm still not sure it'll work out."
"You're going back with her, aren't you?"
"I don't know. I do know I was so wrapped up in myself, I never realised how much I hurt her when I got back from the tour, but she did hurt me badly as well."
"I'm sure you two are an ideal couple."
"You're not the first to say that, but I'm still not sure. I would be willing to give it a try. You know that means–"
"Yes, I know. No more nookie!" and she laughed. "I'll miss our bedtimes, but it's in a good cause."
"Shall we go out to eat?" he asked. "Sort of say goodbye to all that?"
"Good idea." she answered, "and you can phone her when you get back afterwards."
They went to their favourite restaurant early, at six thirty, and had a long leisurely dinner, chatting about their lives since they parted last. It was quite late when they left.
They did not see Cassie enter the restaurant, stop and stare at them, and then leave hurriedly.
Ged sat at home and took out his phone. Then he realised: she had changed her number and he did not know the new one. Never mind, he thought, he would go to Cheryl and Brian's next day.
Chapter Twenty Six
"Well?" said Cheryl to Cassie as they sat in the car in the airport car park after Cheryl had met her off her flight. "You look better, what happened?"
"For the first time in a long time," Cassie told her, "I have hope. I think there's a chance."
Cheryl squealed with pleasure, and hugged her friend.
"I told him about the abortion and he said he didn't hate me." Cassie told her when the hug subsided. "He said he wished I'd told him before he went away on tour, he would have supported me, in fact he said he wouldn't have gone. He said he wants to talk when he gets back in two weeks. He smiled at me, Cheryl, and I'm sure I saw love there in his eyes. I'm so happy!"
Next morning Cassie lay in bed and recalled her friend's happiness at her news and then Brian's smile of satisfaction. She felt peaceful and happy, and realised she had not felt like that since Zak tricked her into thinking Ged had been unfaithful. Even being married to Zak she had felt as if under a cloud.
The blissful feeling was followed by a sudden worry that she had misinterpreted Ged's words: 'we will talk' didn't sound as if he were totally enthusiastic. Then she recalled that seemingly trivial action of his in pushing her hair out of her eyes. He had been gentle with her and it had felt like a caress. No, she felt a strong hope that in the end they would be together. It was almost a conviction, but not quite.
She returned to work the next day and others at work would comment on how much better she looked or how much more cheerful. She noticed that instead of looking uncomfortable in her presence, they would smile more readily when they met or passed her and that in turn lifted her spirits even further. There was a spring in her step, a ready smile on her face and she could be heard humming a tune. Now she longed for Ged's return.
It was like that for the two weeks. As the time for Ged to come home drew near she became nervous.
Then came the week he should have been home. Monday passed and he did not ring. Jet lag, she thought.
Tuesday came and by evening Cassie became distressed.
"He's not rung me," she told Cheryl. "He's had second thoughts."
"Don't jump to conclusions, darling," temporised Cheryl. "He may have had to stay in the States a little longer. Phone Catherine Styles and find out."
She did so and a sleepy Catherine told her that Ged had left on the Sunday evening and would have arrived early Monday morning. She suggested Cassie phone Ged.
"Don't give up kiddo," she said to Cassie. "Go after him. He'll be catching up on work, or getting some extra sleep; I worked him pretty hard in this last two weeks. You know what he's like when he's writing."
Cassie was about to dial Ged's number, but suddenly felt afraid of how Ged might react. She decided to go to the house the next evening after work and see him in person. In reality she was putting off the moment, and she knew it.
The next afternoon she steeled herself and drove to the house, but it was empty. On the doorstep she phoned his land line number, but she could hear the phone ringing, and it did not go to the answer-phone, nor did anyone answer. She wondered where he was, but did not think to ring Gus.
On Thursday she rang him on his mobile, and again there was no answer and it went to voice mail. She was tongue tied and rang off rather than leave a message.
On Friday she detoured on her way to a late start at work to visit the house again. The gate was open and there was a car in the drive near the house. She was about to approach the house when the front door opened and she saw Karin emerge and go to her car and retrieve something from it. She was wearing a short bathrobe, her long legs were bare, and Cassie assumed she was naked under it. Cassie drove away.
She was now totally confused. She knew Karin had been with Ged before he went to the States, but had assumed that was all over. Perhaps Ged was not there and Karin was just staying. Her spirits sank. Perhaps he was there and they were still together.
She worked the day through like a zombie, and because of her late arrival worked some overtime. She phoned Cheryl as she left, her depression obvious even over the phone.
"I think he's decided to stay with Karin. She's at his house; I saw her; she was wearing a bathrobe. What am I to do now?"
"Come home," said the ever practical Cheryl. "Brian will hold the fort and we'll go out for a meal. You can tell me all and it'll make you feel better."
Cassie felt a little better and made her way back to Cheryl's, where she changed and the two made their way to her favourite restaurant. When they arrived, Cassie got out of the car and walked to the door while Cheryl parked the car.
She walked in and was talking to the waiter, when she saw Ged and Karin at a table. They were talking intimately together. Cassie made her apologies and left, meeting Cheryl on her way.
"We're going," she snapped. "I can't go in there. They are there together. Very cosy. I've had enough. I'm going back home for the weekend."
"We could go in and talk to them," suggested Cheryl, but Cassie violently shook her head. "No Cheryl, I've had enough. I just want to get away."
"There may be an explanation–"
"Cheryl, he's been home for the best part of a week and hasn't even phoned. Now he's having a cosy dinner with her. Shows where his priorities lie. I've made up my mind."
Cheryl knew better than to argue and they returned to the house, where Cassie packed a bag and drove away.
On Saturday morning Ged was up early, and after a hurried breakfast he drove to Cheryl's house.
"Oh," Cheryl snarled at him, "So after a whole week, you've at last found time for Cassie have you? Well, you're too late, she's gone back home. She's sick of being messed around by you and your blonde bimbo."
With that she shut the door in his face.
Ged stood for a long while, trying to digest what the harridan at the door had shouted at him. His blonde bimbo? Messing Cassie around? At length he made his way back to his car and sat for a while. Then he made his mind up, and drove back home, where he packed an overnight bag and drove off for the south and for Cassie's family home. It was a misunderstanding; he could clear it up in seconds.
He did not hurry, the day was sunny and the motorways were thankfully more free of trucks than during the week, so he was able to set his cruise control and relax. It was a long journey and he arrived just after seven.
The road where Cassie's family lived was full of parked cars, and he had to park some distance away. He had exited the car and had begun to make his way to the house, when a medium sized car passed him and parked across the family's driveway. Ged stopped and sat on the bonnet of his car. He never worked out why he did that.
A minute later, Cassie came out with the man arm in arm, and they drove away together.
A cold anger gripped Ged. So all her protestations of love and longing to come back to him were shallow and selfish. He wondered about her so called 'confession'. Here she was going out with another man three weeks after 'longing' for him to come home. He got back into his car, turned on the radio and took out a novel he had been meaning to read.
He had been reading for about half an hour when he realised he had not eaten since breakfast and he was ravenously hungry. Confident that her date would not end soon, he went to the fish and chip shop he remembered, and came back with a portion of fish, chips and peas in a polystyrene tray, a plastic fork and a can of fizzy sugary drink.
He finished eating and then settled to his book. It was eleven thirty when the car pulled up and Cassie and the man walked to the house, his arm round her waist. Then it was another three-quarters of an hour before he returned to the car and drove off.
Ged seethed with anger. He drove to the best hotel he knew in the town and booked in. He did not sleep for a long time, as one emotion followed another like waves on the seashore. There was not a lot of room for rational thought. If there had been he might have made a better plan for the next morning, a plan which involved actually finding out what was going on, but his feeling of betrayal, anger, resentfulness and loss overwhelmed him as it had on tour.
It was early morning before he slept, and when he awoke still very tired, all those feelings returned with interest and he boiled within during breakfast and when he checked out.
Soon he was back at Cassie's family home again. It was nine o'clock, very early for a Sunday. He rang the bell.
Cassie's mother arrived after some time wearing a dressing gown.
"Ged! How wonderful to see you..." Then she saw the expression on his face and the words died on her lips.
"I'd like to see Cassie, please," he said.
"Come in," she said, all her happiness at seeing him dissipating. "Come through."
"I'll wait in the hall," he said. "I'll not be staying."
She said nothing, but gave him a puzzled look before going up the stairs. He could hear a muffled conversation in the quiet house, and after a few minutes, Cassie came down the stairs barefoot, in a tee shirt and jeans. She had a face like thunder, which took Ged aback. She stopped half way down.
"I don't know what you think you're doing coming here," she said, her voice cold and brittle, "but I've had about enough of you. So turn your flashy car round and go home to your blonde girlfriend who you've been fucking all this week. I now know exactly where I come in your order of priorities – way down. Not even a phone call – but then you've been too 'busy', haven't you? To think I was taken in by your so called concern at Catherine's. Lies, all lies. Go home Ged. We're finished – not that we've even started!"
She turned and went back the way she had come.
"Cassie!" he began.
"I don't want to hear it!" she shouted, "Go away!"
"You damned hypocrite!" he shouted after her. "Pretending I've done you wrong so you can come back here and fuck your boyfriend. I saw you last night, Cassie. Good riddance, that's what I say! Don't come near me again with any new sob stories!"
With that he turned and strode out, leaving her standing at the head of the stairs with an open mouth.
He returned to the car and sat for a while, to allow his feelings of rage to abate before risking the drive home. After a while the anger left him and it was replaced by abject sadness. She was still the love of his life and she had destroyed all hope of reconciliation. In that depressed frame of mind he undertook the five hour drive back to his empty house.
As he neared his destination he had an idea and swung by Cheryl and Brian's house. He rang the bell, and it was Cheryl who opened the door.
"You!" she growled at him. "You've devastated that poor girl. Go away, you're not welcome here." As before she slammed the door in his face.
He returned to his car and from there, outside Cheryl's house, he phoned her. As soon as she answered he launched his attack.
"Listen to me you stupid cow! I drove all the way down there full of apologies, and got there in time to see your precious innocent little girlfriend going out last night, all night, with a boyfriend; she didn't seem too broken hearted to me then."
He carried on, talking swiftly and preventing her from interrupting.
"I never told her I would come running straight off the plane. I do have an occupation you know. Monday I arrived. I was jet lagged. Tuesday I had a long meeting with Gus and was exhausted after it – still jet lagged. Wednesday to Friday, I was in London working long hours with Gerard Frobisher. So yesterday, the first free day, I came to you. Thanks for your wonderful welcome. Then I showed how I felt about her by driving all the way down there. I don't know why I bothered!
"So I'm finished with her, and with you. You and she jumped to the wrong conclusion once before and this is where it's got us. You're both doing it again. Enough. Good bye."
He disconnected, and drove away.
Chapter Thirty Two
After the angst of his meeting with Cassie at her home, he entered his house but realised immediately that he did not want to be there on his own. It was mid afternoon, so he did not unpack his bag, but called a taxi and was soon on a train for London. He turned off his phone after disabling the voice-mail. He did not want to be found, or phoned.
Once in London he got a taxi from Euston to the Ritz, booked a suite and allowed himself to relax. He knew what he wanted to do. He switched his phone on and phoned Gerry Frobisher.
"Your gig tonight," he said after identifying himself. "Can you get me a ticket? I'm at the Ritz for the week, and I'd like to hear our stuff done live as it were."
"Delighted," came the reply. "Are you Alex Murphy or Ged Smith?"
"Alex," he replied.
"One ticket or two?"
"I sense you are not a happy bunny."
"You're right. Cassie's chucked me – again."
"We'll have to cheer you up. I know just the person."
"Go easy, Gerry," he said, his voice showing his reluctance. "I've come here to be alone and anonymous for a while."
"OK. Collect it at the box office," Gerry told him. "And come backstage after. I'll clear it with the door people."
The concert was a resounding success, and without pointing him out, Gerard thanked Alex Murphy for his songs and for the musical arrangements, telling the audience that he was in the hall. Ged then got a round of applause, in which he felt obliged to join, or he would have been recognised.
After the concert Ged joined Gerry in his dressing room, where he found two women. One, Sophie, he knew as Gerry's wife, and the other woman, Gerry introduced as his sister Robin.
"Short for Roberta," she said. "I hate Roberta!"
Robin was quite tall and very slim, nay, thin as a catwalk model. She had very little up front and a fairly flat behind, but a long swanlike neck and long legs. Her hands were delicate and her fingers long. Her pretty face was thin with prominent cheekbones, large dark eyes, a small nose and a wide generous mouth. Her hair was jet black and luxuriant. Her dress was long and elegant and a deep red.
"Robin is going to cheer you up tonight," said Gerry with a smile. "She's very good at that."
"Ged," Robin said taking his hand, "You are mine tonight. I'll do you good, believe me. I've been very moved by your poetry and your songs. We'll have a good time."
Ged was taken aback. This dark beauty said words which from many other lips would have been very suggestive, but not from her. There was an innocence about her which captivated but also unnerved him.
"I'm afraid I won't be very good company," Ged told her. "You'd be better leaving me before I depress you."
"Nonsense," she replied. "I've decided you need some TLC, and that's what you're going to get."
"I've booked supper at our favourite restaurant," Gerry said, moving to the door. "Let's go and eat."
Robin took his arm and hugged it to her as they left the building. He felt comforted by her affection, even though they had only just met. She was a vivacious young woman, humorous and articulate, and his spirits, which had been lifted by the concert, now lifted a little more. Until they reached the stage door.
Though he had been used to it all through the world tour, Ged was surprised by the crowd of fans awaiting Gerry Frobisher, and by the flash of cameras from the press. He hung back with Robin and Sophie as Gerry signed autographs and talked with the fans.
Then, from the crowd nearest Ged came a voice. "That's Ged Smith! Then a female shout. "Ged!"
He turned, unnerved by the recognition. The girls squealed and waved their autograph books and programmes at him.
"Go on!" laughed Robin. "Do your duty to your fans."
So he dutifully smiled and went to them and signed his name, and was told how much they adored him, and how they were sorry he'd left Furtive Glance. Some of the girls kissed him and others hugged him as he signed for them.
He was upset that his cover was blown, especially since the cameras from the press flashed again, this time at him, but he felt his spirits mellow at the girls' worship and admiration so long after he'd left the group. He glanced at Robin who was clearly enjoying the unsought admiration and affection of his followers.
Once the small crowd was satisfied, they moved to the car waiting for them.
"That your new girlfriend Ged?" came a gruff shout, obviously from a reporter. He ignored it, quickly got into the car with the others and they sped off.
The restaurant meal was excellent and Ged enjoyed their conversation. They chatted about their lives, and Robin was engrossed in the brief account Ged gave of of Zak's deception of Cassie.
"But you're back together now?" she asked as he finished his description of what passed at Catherine's,
"No," he said doggedly. "It's complicated."
When they finished the meal, and left the restaurant, there were more camera flashes betraying the presence of paparazzi, but none made any effort to talk with them.
By an unspoken agreement, Gerry and Sophie got into their chauffeured car and drove off, but Robin stayed by Ged's side. He looked at her and cocked an eyebrow.
"Invite me to your hotel," she said with a confident smile. "I want to hear more about you and Cassie."
Ged sighed with resignation, called a taxi and they both got in. More camera flashes. Ged knew the gossip magazines would have a field day with the story. The pair maintained a silence during the journey, and on arrival went directly to the bar in the hotel.
With Robin's brandy and soda and Ged's Glenrothes Malt whisky in front of them, Robin leaned forward.
"OK, Ged," she said with an engaging smile. "Tell all... You don't mind me asking?"
She was so engaging he relaxed, feeling mellow. He shook his head. It was good to share it with someone.
"No," he said, and proceeded to go over the story. He had been used to telling the tale as a factual account, but with this woman he went into detail about his feelings of desolation and anger while he was on tour, and his confusion and mixed emotions once back home. He mentioned his song, 'Connie'.
"I've heard it," she said. "Catherine Styles has it on one of her albums. It's pretty bleak; gives me a good idea how strong and deep your feelings were. So what's happened since and why are you here on your own?"
Ged continued with his account of what had happened since he returned from the States, his delay in trying to see her, and her and then Cheryl's reaction when he followed her home to her parents.
"She's so unreasonable," he complained. "It's not as if we're back together again. I told her I would talk when I got home, but I never said I would see her first. She waltzed off to her parents and blamed me for having dinner with Karin, and not seeing her right away. Then she said we were finished."
"And you said?"
"Something like I never wanted to see her again." He had been gazing at his drink, but now he shot an embarrassed glance at her face. He knew he sounded like a spoilt child.
"Feeling stupid now?" she said gently, though it wasn't really a question. He knew she could see it in his face.
"Ged, sweetheart," she said with all the patience of a woman who knew what she was talking about. "You, my darling, are still deeply in love with her, aren't you?"
"I suppose I have been," he admitted, albeit reluctantly.
"You still are. Look, she's been badly abused in her life, and grossly deceived by that guy in the band – Sam, was it?"
"Zak," corrected Ged.
"Yeah, Zak. She was hurt by Zak, and so were you, but not by her. By Zak. I think you need each other. You both said you were finished, but it was in the heat of the moment, and I don't think either of you meant it."
"The fact remains she went down to her parents and went out with another man that night."
"Did you actually ask her to explain?"
"I confronted her!"
"And she attacked you in return. She accused you of bedding your blonde!"
"But she was wrong!"
"Have you considered the fact that you might be wrong as well? Don't answer, drink your whisky and think."
Ged did as he was told. Not for the first time he saw the wisdom in the advice he was given – rather too late. He knew he had to see Cassie, or at least try. His shoulders slumped and a grin spread over Robin's face.
"I knew you'd see sense," she said. "You're one of the good guys," and with that she stood.
Ged wondered what she had in mind. She read his thoughts.
"Much as I'd like to," she smiled, "I think it would be a bad idea. I'll get a taxi."
With that she leant down, kissed him full and sensually on his lips, laughed and left.
Next morning, Gerry rang him.
"Fancy doing a little more work on those new arrangements?" he asked. "Since you're here?"
Ged had booked the hotel for the week, and decided Cassie would wait another few days.
"Yeah, Gerry," he said. "I could give you some time."
He made his way to Gerry's place, resolving to ring Cassie. Then he remembered again he did not know her latest number, and he certainly was not going to ring Cheryl for it after their last two exchanges.
"Oh, well," he thought, "now she really will have to wait."
Chapter Thirty Three
Cassie stood at the head of the stairs watching Ged's back as he strode out of the house and away, leaving the door wide open. She was trying to catch up with the heated exchange that had passed between them.
She had been woken by her mother from a deep sleep and this made her disoriented, tired and annoyed.
"Cassie," her mother had said, "Ged's downstairs asking for you. He looks upset and annoyed. You'd better go down and see what he wants."
A welter of ideas and emotions engulfed her. Cheryl had rung her the day before to tell her that she had sent Ged away with a flea in his ear.
So now he wants to talk! She thought angrily. He drives all this way on a Sunday morning to talk? No way am I interested; he fucks that woman all week and then he comes running when he finds I'm annoyed about his delay in seeing me. He used to be strong, now he's a cheating weak little man like all the others. What right has he to be angry? Arrogant sod! He can bugger off.
So she had thrown on a tee shirt and jeans and had gone to go down the stairs. She had hesitated seeing him facing her up the stairs and looking angry. It had provoked her and she had stood still half way down, folded her arms and berated him about his girlfriend and told him to go.
She had turned and climbed the few stairs to the landing, when he had called her name, and she stopped and turned. She had told him she didn't want his feeble excuses, and then...
What had he said? She was a hypocrite? That she had accused him of sleeping with that blonde woman, so she could sleep with her boyfriend? Boyfriend? He was there last night? Why didn't he come to the house?
Then it dawned on her. He'd seen her with Liam, and had jumped to the wrong conclusion. More fool him. Don't go near him again? That would be easy. And he called her a hypocrite while he'd been fucking that decorator woman.
Anger gripped her anew and she went back to her bedroom. She stripped off the two articles of clothing she was wearing and wondered if she should go back to bed. She realised she was too wound up to sleep, and so showered and dressed for the day: the journey back to Cheryl's, and her job on the morrow.
She did not escape her mother, there she was at the bedroom door.
"Cassie darling, What was all that shouting about? Didn't sound like you were making it up with Ged."
"Mum, he told me he'd talk when he got back from the States. He's been back over a week and was in bed with his blonde girlfriend all week. I come home, and he runs after me. I told him to get lost. Then he had the gall to say I was a hypocrite because he saw me with Liam last night."
"So you explained who Liam was – why he came home with you?"
"No! He jumped to the wrong conclusion and ran off."
"But you had told him to get lost?"
"So he thought Liam was a boyfriend and you didn't enlighten him. Are you sure he was sleeping with this blonde girl? I mean you did ask him what was going on before you came home, and he did tell you he was with her?"
"Cassie!" her mother was exasperated. "You married Zak because you didn't know the truth about Ged! I'd have thought you would ask questions before acting after that fiasco!"
"Mother," Cassie exuded patience. "I know he was sleeping with her before he went to the States. So it stands to reason he was with her last week."
"But you don't know. You promised him you'd talk before taking action when he went on that tour, and you didn't. Look where it's got you. You thought he was sleeping with someone then, and you were wrong. Cassie, the man loves you. He came driving all this way to see you. Look what he did for us. All that money – he paid off your wedding!"
"That was for you and Dad. Not me."
"Don't be naïve, Cassie. He did it because he loves you."
"But he said he didn't want to see me ever again!"
"And you told him to get lost," her mother said patiently. "You're both like a couple of little kids! You both need all the facts. You went to the States to tell him how you felt. You were so happy when you came back because he had promised to talk to you. You're now going to let it all go when you don't know all the facts – and neither does he!"
Silence, and an exchange of looks. Then Cassie hugged her mother, and turned to pack for the journey back.
She set off late in the afternoon and arrived after dark, but instead of going directly to Cheryl's, she called at Ged's house, only to find it locked up, dark and deserted. Disappointed she went on to Cheryl's, where her friend welcomed her with a hug and a kiss, but forbore from talking about Ged until Cassie had eaten and unpacked.
Then Cheryl guided Cassie to the sofa and sat her down. Cassie was puzzled but waited for what Cheryl had to tell her.
"Cassie," she asked gently. "For how much longer does this have to go on?"
Cassie shrugged her shoulders and sagged. "I don't know, Cheryl," she said. "We've been at sixes and sevens for such a long time. You know he came down and misunderstood my going with Liam to Dollar's place to visit him and Dollar. He wasn't to know that Liam was married to Dollar. So he was angry.
"I'd seen him with his blonde on Friday and shouted at him. I don't know where I stand – he was with her, there's no doubt about that. He didn't try to deny it. Mum persuaded me to see him and talk about things, but once again he's not at home. I'm starting to think it'd be better to cut loose and call it a day."
"He came here earlier this afternoon," said Cheryl. "His story is that he never promised to come and see you right away when he got back from the States, he went into some long rigmarole of meetings he had to go to. I tp;d you he came here yesterday morning. I yelled at him and he left."
Cassie sighed. "I don't know what to believe any more. I suppose I ought to see him then. I'll call tomorrow after work"
"Just get it sorted," said Cheryl. "This has gone on long enough. Either get together or finish it and move on."
Of course it was not going to happen. Cassie called at the house and again it was closed up and the same on the Tuesday. She tried to phone his home, but there was no reply and no answer machine. She tried his mobile but it was turned off – no voice mail option.
But next evening there was a development.
As she entered the living room, Cheryl had a number of newspapers in front of her. Cheryl looked up. "You'd better see this," she said and she was not happy.
Cassie sat down. Cheryl handed her the tabloid red top paper. It was from early in the week, and it was a show business report on Gerald Frobisher's concert. She shot a puzzled look at Cheryl.
"Read it all the way through," Cheryl told her, grimly.
The report rhapsodised about the concert, commenting on the arrangement of the songs. She read on. It then mentioned that the songwriter was in the audience – a certain Alex Murphy and that he got a round of applause.
She looked up. "So Ged went down there from here. He must have gone by train."
"Read on," said a stony faced Cheryl.
"Leaving the theatre after the show with Gerard Frobisher, was his wife and sister and her new boyfriend Ged Smith of Furtive Glance fame. The party went to a top restaurant and then split, Smith and Roberta Frobisher spending the night in Smith's suite at the Ritz."
Cassie sat back in the sofa and the paper dropped from her hands.
"The Star has a photo of them going into the Ritz. They were arm in arm." Cheryl told her. "Want to see it?"
"No." Cassie's voice was low and lifeless.
It did not occur to either of the women that this was a repeat of what had happened while Ged was on tour. Somehow the fact that the tabloids had the story and pictures was enough. No one had brought the information to them, so it never occurred to them that their assumptions were false. The papers told the story in sufficient detail to convince them.
Cassie lay in her bed that night and tried to think what to do. She felt drained, as if the last shreds of energy had been sapped from her. Ged had lost no time in finding someone to take Karin's place; it seemed he had moved on. If she had not been so tired she would have realised it was too quick and out of character.
However, she was too tired to think clearly, and the thoughts came randomly, passing through her mind so rapidly she could not catch hold of them.
Ged had spent time with Frobisher and his sister.
He could have come to her when he got back.
He wasn't that bothered about her.
He'd been down there twice. He was with that Karin as well.
He really didn't care about her.
That time at Catherine's was a sham.
He said the right things but did nothing, actions speaking louder etc.
Her emotions were dull, and lacked the intensity of the confrontation when the two of them had berated each other. Now she knew she felt nothing for him but a sense of defeat, though she also knew that could be due to tiredness.
Abruptly she decided she needed to sleep and she would talk with Cheryl next evening. There would also be time at work to think things over. So resolved, she relaxed and fell asleep.
At breakfast, she made sure Cheryl was going to be at home that evening as she wanted to talk, and was assured she would be.
She did little work that day. She affected to be reading texts but she was thinking.
She reprised everything: the abortion and the betrayal that followed; meeting Ged and their deep love.
She had begged him not to get involved with Furtive Glance, and eventually made the sacrifice – letting him go. That was the moment, she thought, when their relationship ended. Yes, she thought, it ended. That was the key. The relationship was destroyed by Zak, but it was destroyed.
What had they been doing since he returned from the tour? She had thrown herself at Ged one way or another. She had gone after him, but he constantly evaded or repudiated her. He gave her a task he clearly thought she could not possibly carry out – giving a reason for the extreme nature of her reaction to his perceived unfaithfulness.
All the time she was pursuing him, he was living with or at least having sex with the decorator. Previously he had a relationship with Catherine; he had been making love with her when Cassie had arrived with her news.
She smiled to herself as she recalled his amazement at her news. His reaction was typical of him, compassionate and affirming, and she had mistaken this for love. She had misunderstood his position completely. No wonder he had avoided her when he returned.
Now he was seeing Frobisher's sister, a strikingly pretty woman. He had moved on. In fact it was now clear he had moved on long before. Perhaps that was the reason he did not see any point in hurrying to talk to her. Cassie had thought he would have rushed to her side now his love for her was reignited by the knowledge of the abortion, but she was wrong; the love was not there.
It was typical of him to drive down to put things right with her. If he had not seen her with Liam he would have gently told her they were beyond reconciliation. So they ended on bad terms, but they had ended.
By the end of the day she had made up her mind. She would not change it. She felt sad and lonely; he had always been her greatest and deepest love. Now she must put him behind her, divorce Zak and then start life anew.
Once the evening meal was finished and the toddler was asleep, Brian said he would go and do some work and leave them to talk. The two women sat in the living room opposite each other, with a mug of coffee in front of each.
"You told me to decide," Cassie began. "You said make it up with Ged or finish it. Well, I've decided. I'm giving up on Ged. I'm moving on."
"You sure?" Cheryl asked. "You two were perfect together."
"That's exactly it," said Cassie. "We were, but we're not any longer. He's moved on already; now it's my turn to do the same."
"Listen," said Cassie patiently. "I'll tell you my reasons." And she did, rehearsing what she had thought during the day.
"So you see," she concluded, "There's really no point in chasing him. He doesn't want me any more."
"But you still love him, you still want him,"
"Cheryl, we can't always have what we want. It takes two to make a relationship. We have to make the best of what life throws at us. It's nobody's fault – except Zak's."
"Zak's won, then?" answered Cheryl after a pause.
"No," Cassie said decisively. "The time I had with Ged was infinitely superior to the time with Zak. I'll always have those memories, and always a revulsion for Zak. He's going to suffer big time for what he's done. He's going to hurt in the divorce, and Ged's suing him for the money he stole, and he's going to be tried for fraud and deception. No, Zak's not won at all."
"Suppose you're right," replied Cheryl with a shrug, but it was clear she did not agree.
Cassie saw it. "Trouble with you is, you're an incurable romantic!" she said and laughed.
"You're right," her friend said with a smile. "I want a happy ending."
"Not going to happen. I'll start looking for a flat tomorrow."
"You can stay, you know."
"I've imposed long enough," said Cassie. "It's time I began to live on my own for a bit; less inhibiting for you and Brian! You've been very good, but you deserve to have some time to yourselves."
Cassie could see the relief on Cheryl's face and knew she had said the right thing.
Jul 16, 2018 in romance