This is the twenty-fifth part of a fiction serial, in 760 words.
Olly saw through my bluff of course. Ignoring his question, busy cooking his favourite meal, and a glass of Valpolicella already poured for him. “So what’s happened, Ang?” I told him what Polly had said, and about trying to stand Leah up. About the old woman in the shop who instinctively knew something was wrong with her, and the fact that nobody ever came up to me to say something nice about her when I was out.
People always did that with babies. At least they always did until I had one. I didn’t cry. I was fed up with crying.
“So we get on with things as they are, and stop expecting good stuff. Then we won’t be disappointed. My sister replied by text saying much the same thing as Polly. It might have been a one-off, something instinctive because she was needing a feed. If we have to cope with the fact that life with Leah is going to be different to our expectations, then we will cope”.
Okay for him to say that, he was out at work all day. I didn’t say that, just thought it.
I had to have a conversation with Rosa too. She knew enough about babies to realise that Leah should have been scooting around the floor and getting into mischief by now. But to her credit, she never mentioned anything. I told her the provisional diagnosis, and she crossed herself, mumbling a little prayer thing in Polish. In English she said, “God will have wanted her to be like this. God will look after her”. I knew she meant well, but I almost told her to cut the crap.
A phone call from Ronnie surprised me. He wanted to come over that night, and bring his new girlfriend to meet us. “And I have something I want to talk to you about, Ang. Well, ask your advice on really”. Ronnie had never asked me about anything before, so I guessed it must be something serious. I told him to come after eight, so we could have dinner first. I wasn’t up to preparing a nice meal for four people just yet.
When Olly got in, I fed him something quickly, apologising that Ronnie and Lauren were expected within the hour. He rarely had much to say to my brother. Their interests were very different, and Ronnie didn’t even follow football, so they couldn’t talk about that.
On the dot, the doorbell rang. Leah was awake, and lying on her play mat. Olly answered, and they came in carrying two bottles of wine, and a huge bunch of flowers. That must have been Lauren’s doing, as Ronnie would never have thought to bring anything. I was impressed. Lauren was very attractive. Smartly dressed too, with a wonderful short bob haircut. I could have laughed out loud when I saw Olly trying not to look at the shapely legs protruding from a seriously short skirt.
My first thought was to wonder what the hell she was doing with my hopeless brother. But then siblings rarely see any physical attraction in each other. Too many years of being assailed by the smell of his socks, or arguing about who used the bathroom first.
But really, why did she like him? She was such a knockout, even I fancied her.
They went through the motions of taking about Leah, as Olly got some drinks and put the flowers into a vase. Lauren made the right noises about liking our house, and lamenting the fact that her and her ex hadn’t had any children. She sat next to Ronnie on the sofa, acting as relaxed as if they had been a couple for ten years. Then Ronnie got to the real reason for the visit.
“Lauren and me are talking about me moving in, Ang. Actually, more than that. We are thinking of getting married”. With Lauren sitting there sipping her wine, I had to choose my words carefully. I mentioned that they hadn’t been together long, decided to ignore the age difference, then suggested that maybe living together for a while might be a better idea than rushing into planning a wedding. I reminded him that me and Olly had been together a long time and had a baby, but we saw no reason to have to get married.
Moving her hand on top of Ronnie’s, Lauren looked right into my eyes.
“That’s fine for you two, Angela. But I want some commitment in a relationship”.
I suddenly knew why my mum didn’t like her.