This is the eigth part of a fiction serial, in 769 words.
Lyndsey Buller forced herself to eat some breakfast before smartening herself up. The women were coming to see her this morning, and she needed to look the part. It was going to take them a while to get from Hackney to Wimbledon Park, so she might have time to tidy the place up and run the hoover around too.
For the last few days she had been in a funk, during her self-imposed absence from work. Chambers had told her they would say she was in court if anyone phoned, and as she was essentially self-employed, it didn’t matter how much time off she took. But she knew better than to take too long. The Head of Chambers, Tom, would be happy to see her go, and he would not need too much excuse to suggest she went elsewhere. Ever since the scandal of her affair with Hugo, she had often considered herself to be on borrowed time.
So many years wasted on Hugo Fentiman. How could she have been so blind? But she was newly-qualified, excited to be accepted at a Chambers with a great reputation, and Hugo had been so helpful and charming. She knew he was married, and she also knew he had three children. But he had promised to leave his wife and kids as soon as they started at senior school, which meant only four years to wait.
And she had waited.
Lonely nights imagining him in bed with his wife. Feeling wretched when he took his family holiday to the villa in Tuscany for four weeks. Then elated when he came to see her on his first day back. More promises, more gifts. Then a suggestion she bought the Wimbledon Park house. Why not? It was near a tube station, not far from Hugo’s house in Putney, and she could afford it. That left her with a huge mortgage, and a three-bedroom house she didn’t need.
But oh, those nights when Hugo visited. It was as if they were actually living together. Drinks in the small garden, eating and laughing around the dining table, then the bliss of going upstairs to bed. Okay, he had to be home by eleven, but those four hours felt like a week to Lyndsey.
Then, that day. The terrible news. Hugo had accepted a corporate job in Dubai. The children were still too young, so he couldn’t possibly leave yet. But he would be back, he assured her of that. Sealing the deal with a huge gold chain and heart locket, he told her she was his only love, and he would be returning to claim her. She believed him completely, and swore lifetime devotion to him.
But that was the last time she had ever seen him.
Everyone at Chambers seemed to know. How could that be? They had been so discreet. It took her a very long time to realise that Hugo had been boasting about his young conquest, bailing out to Dubai when it became too awkward. The looks, the sniggers, but worst of all, the pity.
Throwing herself into work was the only option, short of suicide.
Campaigning for abused women, joining organisations, speaking out on television and in newspapers. Hugo may not have been violent, but he had abused her nonetheless. Emotionally scarred, she dedicated her life to getting justice for other women.
Then she failed to do that. So what was the point of her at all?
Fingering the heart locket for the thousandth time, she put it back in the drawer, and plugged in the hoover.
The noise and routine of housework failed to divert her thoughts. What use was she to anyone? The women coming to see her later offered an opportunity, as long as they were sensible enough to do exactly what she told them. But who was she taking revenge for? Denise, Rosalind, or herself? Hugo would still be living in Dubai earning a million dolars a year, whatever happened to Lee Fowler. And Hugo wouldn’t even know what she had done, let alone be thinking about her.
For the first time since she had gone to university to study law, Lyndsey was considering a change of career. Maybe she could retrain to become a social worker? Or work at a Law Centre, giving advice to poor people who could never afford her fees. Give something back to society, after failing at prosecuting violent offenders. As long as she could cover her mortgage and bills, she no longer cared what her job title was.
She was winding the cord back around the clips on the hoover when the doorbell rang.