The Replacement Wife (part two - Madeleine - IV.)
By Juliet OC
- 3238 reads
IV. The water park was jam packed and we had to queue in the midday sun. I was glad for my wide brimmed sun hat. Josh woke from his nap in the pushchair and started bawling and Ellie said she needed a wee. John took her back to the car park to find somewhere.
Once inside, Grace got all bossy trying to find a group of sun loungers near the toddler pool, but with shade. If Flynn and I had been alone we would have chucked our towels down under a tree on the far edge and not bothered about loungers at all. I was so hot by this time I just wanted to get into the pool, but Grace made me stand in the spot she had chosen, after asking the family already there if they wouldn’t mind budging up a bit. I had hold of Ellie’s hand, but she was trying to prise it off.
“Ellie, stop it! You have to wait for Mummy.”
“I want to swim,” she said, petulantly. I shaded my eyes to see Grace attempting to drag two loungers from the other side of the pool.
“Flynn, go and help Grace, please, she’ll have someone’s leg off the way she’s going.”
He rescued one of the loungers, lifting it over his head. The muscles in his arms flexed. John was crouched down feeding Josh from a jar of baby food. Josh was having none of it and babbled the food back out again.
“Remember this if you ever get wistful again about having children,” I said, nodding towards Josh, as Flynn plonked the lounger down almost on my toe. “Careful, you idiot.”
He glared at me. “Why didn’t you get out of the way then?”
“I didn’t know you were going to put it on my toe…” I replied, letting go of Ellie and wiping my hand on my cotton sundress.
“You should’ve moved,” Flynn persisted.
“I wasn’t being serious.”
“Sounded like it to me.”
“Well then you’re hearing things,” I replied, glaring right back at him.
“That’s right. Nothing’s ever your fault is it?”
“What’s got into you? Ever since we’ve got here you’ve been moody.”
“Moody? I’m not the one that’s always moody or tired, or cross.”
“Don’t turn this onto me. Seriously Flynn, my patience is wearing thin. I know this last month has been tough, but you have to try. Your dad would hate to see you like this.”
“Like what? Depressed? Why wouldn’t I be? What have I got to look forward to?”
“Don’t Flynn. Not now. Not here,” I hissed, suddenly aware of the attention we had drawn from the family we had invaded. The woman was staring at my face. I pulled the floppy rim down and turned my back on her.
“I can’t keep doing this,” he said.
“This pretending everything is fucking hunky-dory, when it’s not.”
“So it is my fault you are unhappy?”
“Who else’s would be?”
“I wish you had stayed in the villa now. In fact I wish you stayed at home the way you’re behaving.”
Tears threatened to ruin my indignation. I turned away and saw Grace glance at John before picking up Ellie and marching towards the pool. Fucking great, now I knew she wouldn’t leave me alone until I told her everything. She seemed to think getting it all out was cathartic. I disagreed, sometimes it was best to just grin and bear it.
“I need to be on my own,” Flynn announced and stalked off.
“Good riddance,” I said, to his back, and plonked down on a lounger.
I folded my arms, but it was too hot to sit and sulk. Grace, John and the kids were in the toddler pool. Grace didn’t look over. I removed my sun hat and slipped of my beach dress. I replaced the hat and made my way over to the large pool, stepping carefully on the wet floor to avoid slipping. Breaking a bone on top of the cancer might push my body over the edge from coping to failing. I sat down on the side of the pool and dipped my feet and legs in.
We were all hot. Flynn was hot. That’s why he’d snapped. When he came back I would say sorry. Maybe I was being a little hard on him, but it was the only way I could keep going. I know he felt guilty for not making it to his dad’s side in time, but that wasn’t my fault. I was sure once he calmed down he would see how irrational he was being. I’d pinned my hopes on this holiday giving us the breathing space to reconnect, but so far it hadn’t helped. If anything he was worse away from the UK and the distraction of work.
I counted to three and slipped into the water, ducking under before swimming to the far side and back again. Someone dive bombed over my head as I reached for the side and a wave of water surged into my mouth. I thrashed around, gasping. For a brief moment panic overwhelmed me and I felt like I was about to die. A violent coughing spasm ejected a spout of water, glorious air rushed into my lungs. I clung to the side my chest beating like there was a hummingbird trapped inside my ribcage. Is that how I would die? Unable to take another breath as the cancer filled up the final bit of space inside of me.
I hauled myself out of the pool, shaky and weak, retrieving my hat and giving myself a talking to as I pulled it firmly onto my head, adjusting the rim so it flopped over my right cheek. Dying didn’t have to be terrifying. There were options, like Dignitas in Switzerland. I watched the blonde haired monster dive bomb another unsuspecting swimmer. He was one of those sturdy looking boys predisposed to bullying. The type of boy I would reserve my most sarcastic put downs for if he were seated in my classroom.
The sun warmed me and the dark thoughts evaporated with the water from my back. I returned to the loungers and watched Grace and John playing with Ellie and Josh. Grace’s stretch marks reminded me of a road map of A-roads. She’d put on a lot of weight during this pregnancy and looked dumpy in her black, sensible bikini. As teenagers, I knew I was the beauty of the family. My blonde hair and long legs came from our great aunt, Winifred. Grace had not been so fortunate. She had inherited an odd mix of attributes. Big breasted like our mother, but short limbed like Mum’s dad, who had only been 5ft 4inches. Her ash brown hair was a constant source of irritation to her and she was constantly trying out different hair colours to give it a bit of oomph. I told her blonde highlights suited her best, but she was currently an artificial red, which made her look pale and a pasty.
Of course Grace had won the beauty stakes in the end. She didn’t have a mangled face for a start, and her petite stature and curves were a magnet to a particular sort of man, who liked to act the role of protector – like John, her husband; an ex-soldier, solid and capable, with a straightforward view of the world. Flynn found him a little boring, but there was something honest and true about him that I found compelling. Grace always said that she knew he would do anything to keep her and the children safe. I never worry about an intruder breaking in, she said. He’d fight to the death if he had to. It had made me question if Flynn would do the same.
I must have fallen asleep because when I came too the sun had moved from my left to my right and someone, no doubt Grace, had found an umbrella to shade me. I turned hoping to see Flynn on the lounger next to me, but it was Grace reading a book. Josh was asleep in the pushchair by her side, his thumb resting on his plump lips.
My mouth was parched. I sat up. “What time is it?”
“Just gone three,” she said, lowering her book to her lap. “You snored.”
“Oh my god, did I?”
“Don’t worry, I don’t think anyone noticed.”
“Where are John and Ellie?”
“On the slides over there,” Grace said, pointing, but I couldn’t pick them up among the crowds.
“You seen Flynn?” I said, trying not to sound concerned.
Grace swung around on her lounger and faced me. Sweat glistened in the creases of soft belly. “I bumped into him when I was going to the loo earlier.”
“At least he’s still here then. I did wonder if he would storm off to the villa and insist he was flying home.”
Grace leant forward over her knees. She had that earnest look on her face, meaning she thought I needed to talk. “Is everything all right between you and Flynn?”
“What do you think,” I said, but not unkindly. “In the four years since we married I have had half my face hacked off, a diagnosis of terminal cancer, and now his dad’s died and his mother’s threatening to top herself.”
“I know that,” she said. “But I mean between you and Flynn.”
“You mean our marriage?”
“Yes,” she replied.
A prickly sensation ran up my arms. “Why?” Was it obvious we weren’t having sex? Could she detect our lack of intimacy in our every-day interactions? She screwed up her lips. An expression that alerted me to the fact she was going to say something she’d rather not.
“Spit it out, Grace.”
“It’s just, he got so cross with you for no reason.”
“I was winding him up,” I said, defending him, even though secretly I was glad she thought he’d been irrational too.
“And then when I bumped into him he was on his phone.”
I feigned horror. “Oh my god Grace; he was on his phone? That’s terrible. That must mean our marriage is over.”
“I know being on the phone doesn’t mean anything in itself,” she said, her hands twisting in her lap. “It was the way he reacted when I saw him. His manner changed completely. He was laughing and talking like he didn’t have a care in the world, but as soon as he saw me he acted all furtive and practically ran away.”
The prickly sensation reached the back of my neck. “It was probably someone at work.”
“It didn’t look like that.”
“He does have friends as well, Grace.”
“Yes, I am sure you’re right. I shouldn’t have mentioned it. I wasn’t spying on him or anything.”
“Where is he anyhow?” I said, looking around.
“He was in the pool with John, but I think he’s gone to the bar. He said something about getting drinks.”
As if invoked he appeared, carrying a tray with four beers and some crisps in a wooden bowl. He smiled as he reached us and I could see his mood was transformed.
“I thought you were going to sleep forever,” he said to me, shoving my feet and sitting on the end of the lounger. “Time to get shit-faced,” he added, handing me a plastic pint glass of lager.
I could’ve just asked him who he was on the phone with, but he was in such a good mood I didn’t want to ruin it. The rest of the afternoon passed in a beery haze. Flynn took Ellie on some rides and then he and John did the fast shoots. I even had a go on a gentler ride jammed into a ring with Grace. We got the giggles so badly I could barely breathe and Grace complained her stomach hurt.
Returning to the villa around seven, Flynn and I decided to have a BBQ with Grace and John rather than go into town. We all agreed to go out the following night. We went to our room to change and Flynn jumped into the shower first. I got out a floaty dress in reds and orange that Flynn had bought me on our honeymoon in Italy. I sat down on the edge of the bed to fold Flynn’s discarded shorts and t-shirt, warm and damp. His phone fell out of the pocket. I picked it up about to put it on his side table, when I remembered what Grace had said. The shower was still running. My heart sped up as I keyed in his password: Dexter. It remained locked. I keyed it in again. It was still locked. I stared at the screen. The shower stopped. I put the phone on the side. Why and when had he changed his password?
He appeared in the doorway, naked, rubbing his hair with the towel. He had grown it longer than I had ever seen it before and it curled around his ears and hung heavy of his forehead. His shoulders were pink and freckled. He’d lost all the weight he had put on after Christmas and the muscles in his stomach were firm and defined. I wanted to touch him. Press my lips over his sun blushed skin.
“You all right, Tigger?” he said. The use of my pet name, reminded me how little he had used it in recent months.
“Yes, I’m fine, just a bit pissed.”
I put my hand on one hip and ran my gaze down his body and back up to his face. “Flynn?”
“Can we make love tonight? It’s been too long.”
He stepped towards me. He looked serious and my heart lifted into my throat in fear.
“Please. Don’t say no. Please. I need to know you still want me – that you still find me attractive.”
His fingers brushed down my arm as he nodded gently and then kissed the side of my mouth and then my left cheek and neck. I shivered as his tongue ran towards my collar bone. I saw his penis lift and bob.
“How about right now,” he whispered, close to my ear.
I clasped his neck and he grasped my hips and lifted me back on the bed. I reached out and stroked him and made him hard. He kissed my breasts and trailed his tongue down my stomach. My body arched towards him as he covered mine with his.
We lay on the bed our legs tangled together. The ceiling fan whirred above. My skin was warm and blushed. I traced my fingers around his belly button and nuzzled his shoulder.
“That was incredible. Thank you,” I said.
“No, thank you,” he replied.
“No. Thank you.”
“No. Thank you.”
“Stop it,” I said, and pretended to bite his nipple, and then rested my chin on his chest and looked up into his face. “I love you. I love you completely.”
“I know,” he said and lifted my hand towards his mouth. “I know,” he repeated, kissing my fingers. “And I’m sorry I have been so miserable. I’ll do better, I promise.”
“Good,” I said. “And it’s not true that you have nothing to look forward to. There’s India for one.”
“I’m just feeling sorry for myself. You know with Dad and everything. I just wish sometimes things could go back to the way they were.”
“When we met?”
“It was all so simple then.”
“Yes. Yes it was, but then real life isn’t simple is it? I don’t regret any of it though. Leaving Ryan to be with you - even though it did cause a lot of angst at the time. At least I will die knowing I really did find true love and not some approximation.” I paused waiting for him to agree. “Flynn?”
“You don’t do you?”
“Regret marrying me?”
“No,” he said, “Don’t be silly.”
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Who else’s would [it]be?
Who else’s would [it]be?
classic having an affair behaviour. losing weight. changing passwords, skulking.
great story. I'll need to read back the way.
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I'm still with you all the
I'm still with you all the way and enjoying so much. Thanks for sharing this story Juliet. Jenny.
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Hi Juliet, I'm loving this
Hi Juliet, I'm loving this story, particularly because it's conveyed in such a realistic way. The characters are real to me as well. I've known people like this throughout my life and could relate to the story, so well done and I will definitely continue to read to the end. I know what you mean about wanting to know if the readers interest wanes, I promise I will let you know if I'm getting bored, as I would want to know myself on my own work. Keep on writing. Jenny.
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Hi Juliet, you know I've
Hi Juliet, you know I've been thinking what you said about having a favourite character, I don't think they are the type of people that stand out as favourites. All I know is they are very real and you've given there side of the story over to the reader so well. Poor Madeleine is unsure whether to take a chance and go to India, where as Flynn makes it plain and clear that he doesn't want anything to do with this trip. Then there's Rebbeca who has blinkers on and can only see the situation from Flynn's eyes. I'm just eager to see where it goes from here and whether Madeleine goes her own way, or whether Flynn comes around to her way of thinking. I have no idea what you have in store for their futures, will look forward to finding out. Jenny.
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