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No Regrets

Guest Annette

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Kirsty sat quietly on the veranda, gazing out into the soft darkness of late evening. The warm glow of the lights from the house behind her did not penetrate far out into the garden, and the grass faded into the trees beyond. It was a balmy evening, with just a little breeze that was cool against her bare feet, feeling the rough wood of the steps. Behind her she could hear laughter and the sound of happy voices. She didn’t want to go back in yet, although part of her felt that she should. She wanted to sit here, sit quiet in the cool calm darkness and think. There was something so very peaceful at this time, and almost magical, when everything, banished of colour, somehow has changed, has been reborn in a form not quite the same as how it was. A more subtle and mysterious version of the daytime world.

She needed the calm, needed to decide how she was feeling. It was due to Dani coming to visit, back from her travelling associated with her work in publishing. She was in the house now, face beaming, chattering about all about the exciting places she had been, and things that she had seen. And Kirsty was happy for Dani, of course she was. Dani deserved her success, her chance at a happy life. But seeing her with everything so…sorted, it made her long for some direction, some purpose in her life. Dani had her publishing work, and Jade her work as a teacher, her husband, and their daughter. They all seemed so contented. Kirsty’s existence felt so pointless in comparison.

She had her job, but it was just an office job. She didn’t hate it, but she could envisage a time when she would. When every second would slowly burn away her soul, until she was just another empty body travelling the same route each day. The thoughts took her back to a time, so many years ago now, when she talked to a boy, secretly so that no-one would know about her and the boy. When she said how she couldn’t possibly do an office job. She wanted to do an outdoor job, maybe be a PE teacher. He had believed in her, that she could do anything. But he was gone, a long time ago. She went back to school and did her HSC, but somewhere along the way all the dreams had faded away. Perhaps that was what growing up meant. Taking your dreams and putting them away somewhere, and getting on with the real world.

Company made the road easier, that was what they said, wasn’t it? But there was no-one for her, not for a while now. The last guy – Dave – he’d been nice, and he liked her, a lot, everyone said so. She’d wanted to love him, and she’d really tried, but it just didn’t take, so she broke it off before things got too messy. He’d been disappointed, and Jade said she was mad, but she couldn’t make herself feel things that weren’t there. It wasn’t fair on either of them.

So here she was, sitting here contemplating her life alone in the darkness. She stood, dusting her skirt, and inhaled a deep, cool, calm breath, and then turned and went back inside.

Jade met her by the door, smiling broadly.

“I was just coming to look for you. Dani says she’s got this “big announcement” to make and we all need to be there.” She stopped and peered at Kirsty. “Are you all right? You look a bit…”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Kirsty said quickly. “Just getting some fresh air.”

Jade nodded understandingly. “She can be a bit much when she’s in full flow, can’t she?”

She went to say something else, but was interrupted by a giggle at the top of the stairs. A small blonde head was visible, peering between the banisters.

“Oi missy, correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re supposed to be in bed!” Jade reprimanded good-humouredly to her daughter, as the little girl scurried away. “Tell Dani I won’t be a second, I just need to make sure trouble up there actually does get some sleep,” she said to Kirsty as she disappeared up the stairs. If Jade had looked back at that moment, she would have seen the expression of sadness and longing on her sister’s face…

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It was a busy day in town, and the centre was bustling with people, packing into the shops to escape the blazing noonday sun. Kane stood at the corner of a café, just tucked under an awning, squinting around at the little human dramas developing around him. There was a group of children surrounding a harassed woman, begging for ice-creams, while she tried desperately to herd them off up the road. In the café two women, heads bent low over their coffee cups, whispered intensely as they exchanged the latest gossip. He sighed and shifted to try and find a more comfortable position against the wall, where the edges of the concrete blocks didn’t dig into his back. Heavens only knew how much longer Claire would be. Goodness women could shop. He didn’t understand it, himself. They always seemed to have plenty of clothes, and yet still be able to go to their wardrobe and announce that they had absolutely nothing to wear. He had learnt long ago not to suggest ideas at this point, as they were always thrown back in his face, with mutterings of how he was a man, and so didn’t understand the first thing about fashion. He had tired of wandering aimlessly after her, and announced that he would wait for her here, with the theory that standing and getting bored out of his brain was better than going into one more shop…

Peering about to see if he could see any sign of Claire yet, he nearly collided with a woman hurrying out of the side street next to the café.

“Sorry,” he said automatically, and moved back to let her pass, before he realised who he was speaking to. Or at least who he thought it was. It had been so many years, and as was always the case with people who you hadn’t seen for a long time, she looked the same, and yet different all at once. So if he thought too long he could convince himself that it wasn’t her at all. But it was the expression of recognition, and of complete utter surprise on her face that convinced him.

“Kirsty? Kirsty Sutherland?”

She was still staring at him, as though she’d seen a ghost. It made him feel rather awkward. He’d thought many times about how he might see her again. For many years he had considered returning to the Bay for her, but something held him back. He had loved Kirsty, and she deserved better than him, and her family didn’t deserve the disruption that his return would bring. So he put the thought to the back of his mind, and tried to forget her.

“Erm…Hi,” she mumbled at last. She’d thought about him so much over the years, but he had become a memory of the past, where facts change and memory adapts things and makes events not really how they were. To see him there, as a real person, and not a memory, was something of a shock.

“So…how are you?” he asked.

“Yeah, fine.” It was the automatic answer that everyone said when they were asked that question. Vague and meaningless, and then the questioner was gone. She was seized by indecision: part of her really wanted to talk to him, to answer all the questions that she had been wondering for so long. But the other part said to keep on walking, that he was in the past, and best left there. Nothing good could come of seeing him again.

She was saved from having to make a decision by the arrival of a woman with short blonde hair, which she kept tucking behind her ears in a rather nervous manner.

“Hey,” she said to Kane, and smiled politely at Kirsty.

Kane felt suddenly embarrassed. “Umm Claire, this Kirsty, an old friend of mine. Kirsty, this is my wife, Claire.”

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  • 3 months later...

Apologies for the massively long gap between updates, I'll try not to leave it 3 months next time!

Kane walked carefully along the concrete lip at the side of the path, arms outstretched, eyes focussed at a distant point. He remembered being told in school how to balance, that not watching your feet was best, and spending many hours outside practising, something to do rather than go home and risk his Dad being there. He probably looked foolish, at his age, but he didn’t care.

Finally jumping back onto the path, he flopped onto a rough wooden bench overlooking the dunes and the beach. He liked to go there when he wanted to think, it was quiet and peaceful, people hardly ever seemed to come there. Although he obviously wasn’t the first person to find it, as evidenced by bronze coloured plaque screwed into the wood.

To Rebecca, who loved this place

Nice, somehow better than a headstone, where the weeds grow up and the letters fade. Where the words “gone but not forgotten” are belied by the crazy angle of the stone, and the lichens the only decoration.

Out on the water he could see a few yachts, their white sails standing out against the deep blue of the sea and sky. The sun was strong, and he turned his face towards it, seeking its warmth like the broad yellow and brown head of a sunflower. He’d hardly said a word to Claire during the drive home, he’d been so shell-shocked from seeing Kirsty again. He wished that he could have had a chance to talk to her properly, but once Claire had arrived, she’d muttered a goodbye and disappeared. Her manner hadn’t been that of someone who was pleased to see him, anyway. Perhaps she hated him now, for leaving her like that, or for Dani and everything. He hoped that wasn’t the case. Back then she had been the only person that believed in him, who thought that he was anything other than scum. It wasn’t true now, obviously, but he would be sad to think that his inspiration for a better life had turned her back on him.

“Hey” a voice said from behind him, making him jump.

He squinted round in the direction of the voice. “Hi….!”

Kirsty grinned at him. “This is getting a bit freaky, isn’t it? Not seen you for years, and then twice in one day.” He moved over on the bench, and she sat down next to him.

“Yeah, are you stalking me or something?” he teased.

“You wish.”

He glanced out across the sea, to where the sky and sea met at some distant point. “So, you don’t hate me then?” he asked cautiously.

She gave him a puzzled look. “Why would I hate you?”

“Well…when we met before you seemed…well like you didn’t want to speak to me. I thought maybe because I left you and everything…” He trailed off, suddenly embarrassed.

She thought carefully about the question, wanting to give him an honest answer. “I was surprised. And I suppose I wasn’t sure that meeting you again was a good thing. But then I was just going for a walk in my favourite place, and I saw you… Well I guess I’m just nosy, I wanted to know what you’d been up to.”

“Your favourite place?” Kane prodded with a smile. “Can’t be. It’s mine.”

“Oh, yeah? Why have I never seen you before, then?” she demanded.

“We only moved here recently…” he began, when Kirsty interrupted him.

“A-ha! Well in that case I win. I was here first.” She sat back with a triumphant expression, which faded when she saw Kane shaking his head. “What?”

“I can tell you’re a younger sibling. They always have to win,” he said smugly.

She mock-punched him in the arm. “You can talk. Younger brother.”

She’d forgotten how much she used to enjoy talking to him. How they just seemed to click, and to understand each other. It wasn’t the hard work some of her other relationships had been.

Hang on a minute, she thought. You’re just talking to him. Strictly you probably shouldn’t even be doing that, not if Dani or Dad found out. But anyway, you don’t feel that way about him. Not any more. And even if you did, he’s married. It was just the memories of what they used to have, that was all. That was all it was.

“So, what you been up to all this time?” Kane asked.

Kirsty thought for a moment. With all the time between them, there was almost too much to say. She wasn’t sure where even to begin. She found herself giving a chronology of her life so far – going back to school, getting her HSC but then being tired of studying, and deciding to go travelling. Then coming back and getting an office job and just…drifting.

“I don’t know…I guess when you’re at school you’ve always got something to aim for. You know, passing exams and stuff. But at work… I suppose I just thought there would be something more.” She gave a short laugh. “I can’t believe I’m telling you all this. I’ve never told anyone else.”

Kane sat quietly next to her, listening to her talk and not interrupting. “So there’s no-one…special…for you then?”

She sighed, hugging her arms round her knees. “No. Now Jade on the other hand, she’s got this perfect life with a great guy, and this really cute little girl, and I just think, where did I go wrong? The other day, she set me up with this guy, and it was soo embarrassing. She kept making all these comments, and I just wanted the ground to swallow me up. I threatened that if she ever tried anything like that again, I’d get all the dreadful baby photos Mum and Dad have got and show them to Matt – that’s her husband – and then he’d realise what a terrible mistake he’s made!”

She went a bit red with embarrassment. “I’m sorry, just listen to me whittering on. What about you, anyway? How did you meet Claire?”

“When I…you know…left and everything, I got this job working in a boatyard, and I did my coxswain’s certificate…yeah, actually finished it this time. And I went out for a drink with some of the guys, and I just met her in a bar. And we got on really well. That’s about it, really.”

He wasn’t going to talk about all the years he had spent thinking about Kirsty, and how he thought for a long time that he would never love anyone else. That was in the past. Best leave it there, with everything else.

“So…?” Kirsty prodded. “How long have you been together? When did you move here?”

“You don’t give up, do you?” Kane grumbled.

“Nope!” she said cheerily. “You know what they say – no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

“I should think the Spanish Inquisition would be easy in comparison to this,” he said with a long-suffering tone.

“Well, if you’d told me more than three sentences in the first place, it wouldn’t be necessary, would it?”

“We’ve been married about 4 years now, and we only moved here a month or so ago. Change of scenery. Happy now?” He mock-glared at her.

She patted his arm in a rather patronising fashion. “There, you see? Wasn’t that hard, was it?”

He glanced down at his watch. “Oh, I really should be going. I’ve got lots to do.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean…”

“No, it wasn’t you.” He grinned at her worried expression. “Don’t worry! I just do have lots of things that I really should be doing.”

They stood up, facing each other, suddenly awkward.

“Well, I guess I might see you around then,” Kirsty said.


He turned to walk back along the path to where he had parked his car, when a sudden impulse struck him.

“Kirst!” he called, and jogged back to catch up with her. “Would you like to come round for a meal tonight?”

Her face lit up. “Yeah, I’d like that, that’d be nice.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

On his return to his house, he found Claire in the lounge, curled up in an armchair, reading a book.

“Hey,” he said, flopping onto the sofa. “You don’t mind if we have someone over for dinner, do you?”

“When?” she asked rather absently, not looking up.


“Kane!” Her head shot up. “I thought we were supposed to be having an evening in, just the two of us. And you can’t just go and invite people round without giving me any notice.”

“Sorry… I didn’t think.”

“You never do, do you?” she said crossly.

“That’s not fair,” he said in an aggrieved tone. “You know that’s not fair. It’s just I met up with Kirsty again, you know, the friend I met in town, and I just forgot, about tonight, I mean. But I’ll call her, and tell her it’s not a good time after all.”

“You can’t do that. Don’t be stupid. It’s fine, I’ll work something out,” she said with irritation, and throwing her book on the chair, disappeared off to the kitchen.

Nice one, Kane, he thought to himself. Really nicely done.

Kirsty walked up the drive to the front door, feeling very strange. She couldn’t get over the weirdness that Kane was married. Of course she was glad that he was settled and happy, but… She guessed she had just expected him to be the same as when she last saw him. It made no sense, with all the time in between, but somehow you always forget that people’s lives go on even when you don’t see them. So it comes as a surprise when things have changed. She felt a bit funny meeting his wife, since her and Kane had been lovers once, but that was silly too. That long ago, what difference did it make?

She pressed the bell, and waited, nervously straightening her top. The door opened, and Kane was there, looking smarter than she had ever seen him, wearing a shirt, and with his hair almost neat.

“Hi,” he smiled warmly and took her coat, seeming much more at ease than she felt. “I was going to say you could put your car on the drive, but you don’t seem to have one.”

“Yeah, I walked,” she said with a little embarrassment. “I never quite got the hang of that driving thing, and sort of gave up after a few lessons. My driving instructor was relieved. He’s doing much better now, the doctors say, they think in a few months time he’ll be able to come off the tranquillisers.”

Kane laughed. “Come on, I’m sure you weren’t that bad.”

“Just be glad you’ll never have to get into a car I’ll be driving.”

Kirsty followed Kane into the kitchen, and exchanged greetings with Claire. Kane was relieved to see that Claire no longer seemed annoyed – either that or she was just being polite to the guest.

During the meal, Kirsty had a chance to satisfy her curiosity about Claire, since Kane had been less than forthcoming before. The only difficult part came when Claire asked about how she and Kane knew each other. She didn’t know how much Claire knew about Kane’s past, and even so, saying that he was the guy who raped your sister wasn’t exactly normal dinner conversation. She also didn’t want to say that they had dated, it just seemed unnecessary information.

“We went to the same school,” she said hesitantly, her eyes flicking over in Kane’s direction. She couldn’t help noticing he looked a little relieved at her answer.

“So that was a long time ago!” Claire smiled. “You couldn’t wait to get out of school, could you?” This friendly jibe was aimed at Kane, who smiled weakly in response.

As the evening wore on, Kirsty chatted to Kane as though they never had been apart, but Claire became quieter and quieter, and after a while Kirsty had the distinct impression that she was watching them, as though suspicious about their relationship. Kane seemed to have noticed it too, and their conversation trailed off.

“I should be going,” Kirsty said awkwardly, and stood up abruptly. “Work tomorrow and everything.”

Kane stood up too. “I’ll drive you back,” he offered.

“No, it’s fine, it’s not that far, I’ll walk,” Kirsty said, eager to get away.

“It’s dark! What if something happened?” he admonished. “I’ll drive you, and I don’t want to hear any more protests.”

She gave a hesitant, apologetic smile in Claire’s direction, who was following the conversation with a neutral expression.

“Well…thanks very much, it was a lovely meal.”

“No problem.” To Kirsty, Claire’s smile seemed brittle, and she could almost feel her eyes in her back, as she walked with Kane to the car.

Silence dominated the drive, a heavy awkward silence. Kane felt embarrassed by the way that Claire had behaved. He knew that she had been cross about him springing the evening on her without warning, but where had the suspicion come from? He could only imagine how it must have looked to Kirsty, and what kind of impression it gave of his and Claire’s relationship.

He stopped the car at the kerb in front of Kirsty’s house, and they both sat motionless, Kirsty staring out of the window, into the blackness interrupted only by the odd street light and the glow from the porch lights of the houses. Kane observed his hands where they still gripped the steering wheel.

“Well, I’d better be going,” she said, and reached for the door handle.

Kane touched her arm, to prevent her from leaving. “I’m really sorry Kirst. I don’t know what happened…where that came from. I mean, we’ve being having some problems, but…”

Her expression was hard to read in the darkness. “I think it’s best if we leave it at that, don’t you? I don’t want to cause trouble between you and your wife. And I know it was a long time ago but…”

“You don’t think your family would be impressed to know you’ve been talking to me,” he finished for her. He looked away, so that she wouldn’t see the pained expression on his face. After all this time, some things never changed. “But you didn’t seem to mind about that before.”

“I suppose I was pleased to see you again, I didn’t think about it. I should have.”

“But it was a long time ago…” he protested. “I know that doesn’t make it better, but I thought… And I like talking to you. I mean, no-one understands me the way you do.”

“Not even Claire?” she said pointedly.

He looked down at his hands, at his wedding ring glistening faintly in the dim light. “No, not even her.”

Kirsty’s face was troubled. “Why did she act like that? Did you…cheat on her? I mean, we were just talking.”

“No!” he said indignantly. “I never even looked at anyone else. I don’t know what it was. I suppose…well, she’s been kind of insecure lately. It’s complicated.”

She was quiet, obviously waiting for him to continue.

“I don’t really want to go into it now.” Now wasn’t the time to rake up all the pain and hurt. Although he couldn’t help feeling it would be a relief to talk to someone.

She touched his shoulder gently, her face warm with sympathy. She paused, and had clearly come to a decision. “Perhaps we could be friends. I’d like that.”

Her face broke into a smile, one that matched his own. “Well, ’night” she said.

He had a sudden recollection of when he had first seen her beautiful smile, when he had fallen in love with her, when she was aged just fifteen. “’Night, Kirst.” He watched disappear up the path to her house, until the front door closed, and he could no longer see her.

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Can you believe it?! Two updates in such a short space of time! :)

The door slammed as he returned. Claire was putting plates away in the kitchen, and he leant against the doorframe and watched her.

“You’ve been a long time,” she said in an accusatory fashion.

“I drove her home. And then I had to try and explain why you were glaring daggers into her by the end of the evening. Only I’d like to understand as well.” Kane was trying to stay calm, so not to worsen the situation, but it was difficult.

“I could see the way you were looking at her,” she hissed. “You’re more than just friends, aren’t you?”

“Where is this coming from? I only met her today! I know I dropped the evening on you, and I’m sorry…”

“This has nothing to do with that. This is about you practically fawning over her, and right in front of me! Did you think I wouldn’t notice?!” Her voice was becoming higher and higher.

“You are crazy,” he said, waving his arms for emphasis. “We’re friends, that’s all. I mean, we did go out, but that was years ago.” He was getting more and more frustrated.

“I knew it,” she hissed. “Have you been cheating on me?”

“I can’t believe you just asked me that. Is there so little trust left in our relationship?”

“That’s what people say, on the TV, when it’s true. They never answer the question. So they don’t have to lie.” Her voice indicated she was getting a twisted pleasure out of thinking she was right.

“No!” he shouted. “No I haven’t been sleeping with Kirsty, no I haven’t been cheating on you, and to answer my own question, no there isn’t any hope left for you and me.”

He turned to leave the room, unable to be around her any longer.

“Where are you going?” There was suddenly fear in Claire’s voice.

“To make up the bed in the spare room, that’s where” he snapped, and left her standing alone with her demons.

It was a full moon that night, and a silvery beam shone through a chink in the curtains, falling onto the sheets near Kane’s face. It threw the room into a strange contrast, and cast distorted nightmarish shadows against the walls. He lay awake, remembering lying in bed was he was little, hearing his Dad come home and crash around the kitchen, swearing and cursing. He would stay really still, and try to breathe as quiet as he could, hoping that his Dad would not remember he was there, would pass out in the lounge, and not be looking for a punchbag. The shadows on the walls would twist and shift, and it all melded into his fear of what might happen. If nothing happened, he would lie awake for hours anyway, and then he would be tired at school, and the teachers would be angry.

He closed his eyes, he didn’t want to think about the past. Not thoughts like that. He wanted to bury them far, far down until he couldn’t find them any more. It was mainly when things were bad that they appeared again. They were saying look, you tried to forget about us, but we’re still here. It’s not so far down until you’re at our level again. And the thoughts made him angry, and everything ten times worse.

A quiet click came from the direction of the door, and it opened a crack. Claire’s face peered round the door, pale and white in the moonlight.

“Kane?” she whispered. “Are you asleep?”

He didn’t reply; he didn’t have the energy for another row. Instead he turned over so he faced the wall, so he couldn’t see her anymore. He heard her pad softly over to the bed, and felt it shift as she climbed onto it, shuffling over to him.

“Kane, I’m really sorry.” There was no anger in her voice now, only pleading. “I don’t know what came over me. It was just… I saw you talking to Kirsty, and you looked so happy… I was trying to remember when you last looked like that with me.”

There was no reply in the darkness of the room.

She tried again. “Please Kane, can we talk?” She gently touched his shoulder. “I’m sorry. Really sorry. It’s just we’ve been so distant lately. We don’t talk any more. I’m afraid I’m losing you.”

He turned round and sat up facing her. “So you thought that accusing me of being unfaithful would help matters, did you?” His tone was harsh; he didn’t feel like making the peace. “I did try to talk to you, but you just shut me out. I wanted to help. You weren’t the only one suffering, you know, I was too.”

She flinched at his words, and stared down at her hands, where they were curled in her lap. “I don’t want to talk about that.”

“Well then,” he said bitterly. “What’s the point?”

He turned away again and closed his eyes, and waited until he heard her leave the room. He felt helpless; he didn’t know how to make things better. Even when they weren’t fighting it was still there, under everything, like a rotten core in an otherwise sound apple. You just had to look deep enough.

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  • 1 month later...

I've not managed to finish writing the story yet because I'm horribly indecisive and so can't decide what is going to happen next. But I'm finally happy with the next bit, so here goes...

Sitting next to him, she gently placed one hand on the back of his head, pulling him down so that their lips met. It was a kiss of sweetness, and tenderness, and passion all together, and he held her tight within the circle of his arms. He wanted nothing more than to hold her like this forever, his beautiful Kirsty…

He woke up suddenly in the stifling darkness of the room, sweating beneath crumpled sheets. Ok, ok, calm down, it didn’t mean anything, it was just a dream, he said to himself. It must just be all the problems with Claire and her suspicions, after all it was normal to dream about strange things, and to do things that you would never do in real life. It didn’t mean that he still had feelings for Kirsty, of course it didn’t mean that.

He turned over and lay for a long time before sleep engulfed him again, but as he drifted off, his mouth curled up with a smile as he remembered the look on Kirsty’s face when she decided that perhaps they could be friends after all.

“And this one, this is me and Hannah at the Eiffel Tower, and we went up at night and it was beautiful, you could see all the lights of Paris, although the pictures I took didn’t come out…”

Kane sat back and looked at Kirsty, observing how happy she seemed, how excited with the memories of her travels abroad. All the places he had heard about and seen pictures – she had actually been there. He thought how he would very likely never get the chance to leave Australia, and felt a stab of jealousy.

“Sounds amazing,” he murmured when he noticed that she was watching him, a little concerned that she might think he wasn’t interested, mistaking his silence for boredom. “You’re so lucky…”

The tension between himself and Claire had still been there in the morning, her not wanting to meet his eye, and him leaving the house hurriedly so they wouldn’t be expected to make small talk. He still felt a vague sense of unease from his dream the night before, even though, as he told himself, it didn’t mean anything. When he arrived home after work, he was relieved to find a note saying she had gone to visit her brother, and that she would be back late. So left with an evening to fill, his first instinct was to call Kirsty, for her company as well as to distract him from his problems with Claire.

“So, did you sort things out with Claire?” Kirsty asked, surprising him by appearing to be able to hear his thoughts now.

“Well…kind of. It wasn’t about you, you know, what happened yesterday and everything. It was…well…other stuff.” He lamely trailed off, suddenly feeling embarrassed.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Kirsty wanted to help him, but since they had only just met up again after all those years, she didn’t want to pry, especially into his relationship with his wife.

Kane sighed, ran his hand over his face, and looked away, over towards the window. He didn’t think that Claire would be happy if she found out that he had been talking to Kirsty about their problems, but at the same time he needed to talk to someone. And Claire certainly wouldn’t let him talk to her.

“Everything was fine until recently, and then Claire got pregnant. And we were really excited! I really wanted to be a Dad, and everything was wonderful. We’d been looking at baby clothes, and I was going to decorate the spare room, make it into a nursery, and then one day I came home and she wasn’t there. And I thought she’d just gone out to see her brother or something, and then I got this call… She was at the hospital and she’d lost the baby and I just felt as though my insides had been ripped out. Claire was absolutely devastated. I tried to be there for her, and support her as much as I could. And things got better, and when she got pregnant again, we were praying that this time it would be ok. Each day I would be afraid to come home and afraid if the phone rang in case it was bad news. But she lost it again, and this time things haven’t got better, and I don’t know what to do to help her.

She doesn’t want to talk about it, she just pretends it never happened but I know she still thinks about it all the time. And so it’s now this thing between us, and we just seem to fight all the time. I think that she thinks I blame her for it not working, because she knows how much I wanted to have a baby. I get frustrated that she won’t talk to me or let me help, and that just makes it worse. It’s all such a mess…”

While he had been talking, Kirsty had been listening quietly, not interrupting him. She took his hand and held it, an expression of sympathy on her face. “I’m really sorry. I wish I could give you some advice, but I’m afraid that it’s a bit out of my league… I can’t imagine how it must feel to lose a baby.”

He smiled weakly at her. “That’s ok. It’s just nice to be able to talk about it with someone. It’s not really something I can talk about to the guys at work, you know?” To his embarrassment he could feel the beginnings of tears welling up in his eyes, and he turned his head away, not wanting her to see his moment of weakness.

Kirsty could see the pain in his face and his eyes, and almost without thinking, reached out and hugged him, wanting to pass on some comfort that would be more effective than meaningless words. It felt so natural to be holding him, and he seemed to relax into her shoulder. As she pulled away, she looked at him for a moment, and their vision locked. His eyes, so blue, so close just then, like the sea she could drown herself in. Memories of her past feelings for him swamped her for a moment, and he brought up a hand to brush a strand of hair that had fallen across her face.

She moved her face slightly towards his hand where it brushed against her cheek, but then he suddenly dropped his hand, and pulled away from her abruptly.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean…I mean I shouldn’t have…I mean…” he muttered. He had stood up and walked over to the window, staring out into the darkened garden and would not look at her.

Kirsty didn’t know what to say just then. She hadn’t been thinking of Kane as anything more than a friend, but at that moment she had felt her affection for him turn into something more, just as it had when he had said he was leaving, and she had kissed him, all those years ago. But he was married, and hadn’t she learnt last time that it just wouldn’t work?

She looked down and started to gather up her photos back into their envelopes.

“It’s ok, it was nothing,” she said, trying to lighten the situation.

“Thanks Kirst,” he said gratefully, obviously glad at her response. “Thanks for listening, you’re a great mate.”

“No worries.” Kirsty smiled at him, although her heart sank a little inside. She knew that was the way things had to be, but it still was unexpectedly painful to hear him say it. You’re a great mate. You couldn’t get a much clearer message than that.

When Kirsty had left, Kane sat on the arm of the sofa, trying to get his head round what had happened. For a moment he had felt all his old feelings for her return, and he didn’t want that, he had Claire, and he loved Claire, and he knew deep within himself that a relationship with Kirsty was doomed to failure from the very beginning anyway. It must just have been past memories, and his being upset, and his gratitude at her being there and listening when he really needed someone, which caused the feelings to resurface. He had moved on from Kirsty, she was in his past, and that was where she would stay.

Kane was sitting in the dark in the lounge, enjoying the quiet and stillness of late evening. Outside a gentle breeze rustled the leaves of the trees in the garden, occasionally illuminated by the porch light triggered by a passing cat. It was easier to think in the dark, without the colours and distractions of the day to interrupt thoughts. He heard the sound of a key turn in the front door, and knew that Claire was back. There was a pause, and he turned his head to see her hesitating in the doorway.

“Claire, come here. I want to talk to you.”

She came into the lounge, and perched nervously on the edge of the sofa.

“You’re not still mad, are you?” she asked. “‘Cause I wouldn’t blame you if you were. I know I’ve been kind of difficult to live with lately, and I know I over-reacted yesterday and I feel like such a fool…” She started to cry, and he gathered her into his arms.

“Hey, babe, don’t cry…” He stroked her hair comfortingly with one hand. “I wanted to say that I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have tried to push you to talk about it if you didn’t want to, and I should have been there for you more. I love you, and I know that we can get through this, ok?”

She raised up her tear-stained face to his. “Really?”


She buried her head into his shoulder, and wrapped her arms around him as tight as they would go. “I saw a baby today, on the bus. It was in a pushchair, and it was just staring with these big eyes, and the mother, she had two other kids, and wasn’t paying any attention to it at all, and I just thought, why does she have all these kids and not me? She doesn’t even care about them – if it was my baby, I wouldn’t ignore it. Why do my babies die? What did I do wrong?” Her voice was muffled and shaky with tears.

“It’s not your fault, ok? Sometimes these things just…happen. We can try again, have another baby.”

She went still, and then pulled away from him. “You think that will make it better? Oh, just have another baby and everything will be fine?! I don’t want another baby, I want my baby.”

“Sorry, I just…”

“You’re just a man, how could you understand?” Claire seemed angry, and Kane could feel it all going wrong again. How dare she think that just because he didn’t carry the baby, he didn’t feel pain?

“It was my baby, too, my loss.”

“Well if you want a baby so bad, you have it next time,” she yelled. The door slammed behind her as she left the room. Kane was left trying to work out what had gone wrong again, and if it was even possible to put it right.

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Nasty cough you've got there ILM. Perhaps you should take something for it. :lol:

Kane didn’t usually drink much, but that evening when the choice came to having another drink, or to going home, the former won hands down every time. His mates from work had been there for a while, but when they had disappeared back to their wives and girlfriends, he had elected to stay, figuring that he’d just have one more drink. Peering bleerily into the bottom of his glass, he was forced to conclude that he couldn’t accurately say how many “one more drinks” he had had, but that it was more that was probably a good idea. Oh well, he thought. Might as well have another, then. Not to mention that the décor in the dingy bar seemed to improve with every drink.

He signalled with his empty glass to the bartender, who finished serving a group of women, and then pushed him another measure of whisky across the bar. Picking it up, he admired the burnt caramel colour, and then knocked it back in one go. He pulled out his wallet from his pocket and emptied its contents onto the bar. The shiny coins rolled round, and he managed to stop them and not lose any. Counting the meager amount he had left, he was forced to concede that he couldn’t afford another drink, and perhaps he should stop being a coward and go home. Not that Claire would be pleased to see him in this state, but he was beginning to wonder if she would be pleased to see him, whatever state he was in.

He half-slid, half-fell off the barstool and made his way unsteadily to the exit, trying to avoid colliding with any large items of furniture. Although his car was parked in the car park, he knew that he was way over the limit, and since walking was proving so tricky, driving would definitely be beyond him. This left him with two choices: calling Claire or walking, since he didn’t have the money for a taxi. He really, really didn’t want to call Claire and cause another argument, so he guessed the only choice was the second one. Oh well, better get started them, he thought, weaving his way through the bright pools of light of the car park, and into the darkness beyond.

Sometime much later, Kane was wandering through a bland suburban area, staring with increasing confusion at the identical stepford houses with their neat little gardens all around him. Why did they make all the houses all look the same round here? And where was he, anyway? Walking back had seemed like such a good idea, until he had realised that in his drink-addled state he had taken a wrong turning, and now was hopelessly lost in Suburban Hell. He peered blearily at another street sign at the end of a road. Hang on a minute, this one rang a bell, he had heard it somewhere before. Glancing up the road, he suddenly realised why it seemed familiar – this was the road that Kirsty lived on. He made his way carefully up the driveway, avoiding the bushes and something that turned out to be quite spiky when he just brushed against it, and hammered on the front door.

“Hey, babe!” he said when finally the door opened, grinning at Kirsty, incredibly pleased to see her. He threw his arms around her and gave her a hug. “It’s great to see you!”

Kirsty was dressed in pyjamas, with a dressing gown hurriedly thrown on. Her eyes were half closed, and she blinked sleepily against the porch light. She looked a bit confused at seeing him on her doorstep in the middle of the night.

“Erm…yeah. What are you doing here?” Then she caught a whiff of his breath, and made a face. “Are you drunk, Kane?”

He swayed slightly, and grabbed hold of the doorframe. “Hmm. Yes. Very possibly.”

She pursed her lips and looked less than impressed. “I’ve never seen you drunk before.”

“What are you, the alcohol police or something?” he snapped, irritated. He hadn’t come there for a lecture, he could go home if he wanted one of those. If he could find the way, that is.

Kirsty folded her arms in a defensive posture. “So what are you doing here, anyway?”

“I was just trying to find my way home, but I got a little lost. But don’t worry, I’ll go away and leave you in peace. I forgot how all I need to do is open my mouth to upset people,” he said crossly, and turned to leave.

“Wait,” she said, and sighed. “I’m sorry, ok? But you can’t expect me to be at my most welcoming at 4 in the morning.” She tugged on his arm. “Come in, sit down, I’ll get you a glass of water. Unless you’re going to puke, that is.” She looked at him suspiciously. “You’re not, are you?”

“No,” he said. “But does the room usually spin like that?”

She laughed and went into the kitchen for the water, and he lay back on the sofa. He had to concede he didn’t feel so great, and he was definitely going to feel much worse tomorrow. When he finally got home, it would probably trigger another argument with Claire as well. He was tired of arguing, tired of the same old problems, not getting anywhere. Tired of things being so hard.

Kirsty returned with a glass, and perched on the arm of the sofa. “So then. Anything you want to talk about?”

He took a big gulp of water, and regarded her balefully. “It doesn’t matter.” What was the point of talking? He had already tried that and it didn’t help.

“C’mon, Kane, don’t tell me you went and got horribly drunk for no reason?” she prodded.

“Maybe I like being horribly drunk,” he said miserably, his tone of voice belying his words even as he said them. He sighed. “I tried to sort things out, and they only got worse. So I think I’m giving up,” he said wretchedly.

“Perhaps you could go to one of those relationship counselling things,” Kirsty suggested sympathetically, putting one arm around him. “Or maybe she just needs some space, or a bit more time…” She didn’t know what to suggest, but felt that she should say something, that maybe Kane just needed someone to show that they were there for him. “If there is anything that I can do…”

Kane was touched by her concern. She was such a wonderful person, wanting to help him after not having seen him for so many years. And after the way he had left her like that… He was struck by the huge difference between his relationship with Kirsty and Claire at this moment, and how just now he really wished he didn’t have to go back home to Claire…

He remembered the moment between them the other day, which he had tried to pretend didn’t mean anything. He looked into her soft warm hazelnut eyes, and remembered how her face could be transformed by a smile. Raising a hand, he gently touched one cheek with his hand.

“I think it might be too late for me and Claire,” he said softly. “And to be honest, I’m not sure that I even want to make it work, any more. I think I’ve found someone else I’d rather be with.”

Looking back afterwards, in the cold hangover-filled light of morning, he could blame the alcohol for making him react differently to the way that sense and reason dictated. For him at that moment taking Kirsty’s head in his hands and placing his lips on hers.

For a moment she returned the kiss, but then she pushed him away.

“What are you doing?” He was unable to read her expression in the dim light.

“I love you, Kirst, I think I’ve always loved you,” he said, leaning forward to try and kiss her again. “I tried to forget you, but I couldn’t, not really…”

She jumped up and stood with her arms crossed, looking annoyed. “You’re drunk, Kane. You don’t mean it. You’ll wake up tomorrow and feel completely different.”

“C’mon, babe…”

“No, Kane,” Kirsty said firmly. “You’ve got Claire, you’re married, and you’ll work it out. It’s years too late for us.” She picked up the telephone off the wall and dialled a number. “I’ll call you a taxi. You should go home, back to your wife.”

They didn’t speak for the ten minutes or so that it took for the taxi to arrive, and when it did, she gave him some money without a word. She didn’t want to say anything more, because she knew that she had wanted to kiss him, and she wanted to be with him, but she had to be strong, for both of them. If anything happened, he would regret it in the morning, and she didn’t want that. It wouldn’t work anyway, she told herself. You know it wouldn’t work. Let him go.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Jade surveyed Kirsty from her position leaning on the kitchen table, as Kirsty moved around the kitchen, getting out cups and putting water on to boil. She hadn’t seen her sister for a few weeks, and thought it was about time that they met up and had a chat.

“So…” she prodded. “Anything exciting happened recently?”

Kirsty added milk to the cups and handed one to Jade. “Not really… Just same old same old. Work, stuff like that.” Of course, this wasn’t the truth, but she couldn’t exactly tell the truth to Jade. She knew what kind of response she would get, and it wouldn’t be a good one. Jade didn’t even know that Kane was around.

“What about Friday?”

“What?” Lost in her thoughts, she hadn’t heard what Jade had said.

Jade looked a bit embarrassed and devious all at once. “Me and Matt, we’re going for a drink with some of Matt’s work mates, and I wondered if you’d like to come. So I won’t be the only girl.”

Kirsty groaned. “Jade! I know what you are doing! You’re trying to set me up with someone else, aren’t you?”

“Noooo,” Jade said unconvincingly, but seeing the look on her sister’s face, changed tack. “Go on, Kirst. There’s this guy called Paul, he’s really nice and thoughtful, you’d make such a great couple…”

Kirsty shook her head decisively. “No way. Don’t you remember the last disaster? I’d rather be eternally alone than go through that again.” Inwardly, though, she realised that wasn’t the only reason for her reluctance. Despite her best efforts, she was thinking how she would rather be with Kane…

“I’m not interested in dating at the moment,” she said firmly.

“I know you,” Jade said. “What’s going on? You haven’t…you’re not seeing someone but not telling me, are you?”

“Not exactly…”

“I won’t leave you alone until you tell me everything! You know I mean it!” Jade exclaimed with a smile.

Kirsty considered her words. Maybe she could tell Jade, but vaguely, so that she wouldn’t know actually to whom she was referring. “I’m not seeing anyone, but…there is someone I like. And I don’t know if he likes me. I thought maybe he did, but it wouldn’t really be good if he did anyway. I mean it couldn’t work…” Kirsty trailed off.

Jade looked at her, puzzled. “Kirst, I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”

Kirsty looked down at the floor, embarrassed. “He’s kind of married.”



“But you think he might like you?”

Kirsty sighed. Did he? She really didn’t know, one way or another. “Maybe.”

Jade looked at her very seriously. “It’s really not a good idea. You know that, don’t you? Even if he did like you, would he leave his wife for you? And do you want to be responsible for breaking up a marriage? And if he would be prepared to do that to her, what makes you think he wouldn’t do that to you too?”

“I know, I know. It’s just… What if he’s The One, Jade?”

“There’s no such thing, Kirst. There’s a whole world of unattached Ones out there, you’ll see.”

It was evening, and Claire was out visiting a friend, and said she would be back late. Kane was glad, for he found it uncomfortable to be around her now, as though she would be able to tell what he had done, how he had betrayed her. He felt sure that it must be tattooed on his head. Cheat. The morning after, when he had woken up in the spare room with a terrible headache, and with a mouth that felt like sandpaper, everything had been a comforting blank for a moment, but then it all came rushing back. Drinking in the bar, and then going to Kirsty’s house, and kissing her, and all the things he had said… He wanted to believe that it had just been a drunken mistake, and didn’t mean anything, but now he found couldn’t stop thinking about her. She was in his thoughts every minute of every day, just as bad as when he was forced to get over her last time. There was just a connection between them, that was undeniable, and the more time he spent with her the more he felt it. She understood him, she was always there when he needed her, and it was driving him crazy not being with her.

He was lying on the sofa, staring up at the ceiling blankly. There was no sound in the room except the soft monotonous ticking of the clock on the mantlepiece, and a clicking as he pressed the end of a ballpoint pen. Click on, click off. Click on, click off. He glanced over at the telephone on the wall in the hall, feeling an overwelming temptation to call Kirsty. No, that would be a bad idea. Extremely bad. Click, click.

The buzz of the doorbell nearly made him jump out of his skin guiltily, even though he hadn’t been doing anything wrong. Unless you count bad thoughts, obviously. He levered himself up and went to answer it.

It was Kirsty. She had obviously been walking fast, and her face was flushed. He couldn’t help thinking how beautiful she looked.

“Hi…” Kane muttered, not knowing what to say.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what I’m doing here, I shouldn’t have come.” Kirsty had left the house with no clear plan about what she intended to do. The selfish part of her wanted to know whether the kiss before had been a drunken mistake, or whether he returned her feelings. The sensible part had intended to tell him that there was nothing between them, and clear the air, and possibly try to convince herself it was for the best. But now she had seen him, she was afraid about what she might do if she stayed, the feelings inside were so strong. She turned to leave hurriedly, but Kane reached out catch her arm.

“Wait!” he said. “You can’t just turn up and then disappear without saying anything.”

She turned to look at him, and their eyes met for a single burning moment. He didn’t know who moved first, but suddenly they were in each other’s arms, clinging together, kissing fiercely. The sensible part of Kirsty’s brain which knew it was wrong was drowned out by the feeling of Kane’s lips on her skin, making her shiver with excitement. They were kissing frantically, as though this contact had released a floodgate of stored up emotion over so many years, longing that could now be fulfilled. She wanted to be with him, despite the consequences, despite common sense, despite everything.

Sorry griseknoen! :ph34r:

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They were sitting together on the sofa, Kane’s arms wrapped tightly round her, his lips against her hair. She interlaced her fingers with his, and felt the cold metal band of his wedding ring press against her skin, but tried to ignore it. She didn’t want to think about the world outside of the two of them, of her family, and of Dani, and where the future was in this relationship. All she knew was that she wanted to be with him.

Kane thought for a moment about Claire, and a frown creased his features. He hadn’t meant for this to happen with Kirsty, but now that it had, he couldn’t turn back the clock. His feelings for her were too strong. Pushing the guilt he felt about Claire to the back of his mind, he lifted up their interlinked hands and kissed the back of her hand.

Reluctantly pulling out of his embrace, Kirsty leaned in for one last kiss. “I have to go. Will I see you tomorrow?”

“Not tomorrow,” he said with regret. “But on Saturday, I can say I have to work. We can spend the whole day together.”

She smiled and kissed him again. “Good. I guess I can wait ‘til then.”

He pulled her tighter in towards him, but she pushed him away. “I really do have to go. Saturday, ok?”

“I miss you already!” he called as she shut the front door behind herself.

He was waiting for her at their favourite place by the beach, leaning against the open car door, eyes shielded with one hand against the sun. She ran to him, and he wrapped his arms round her and kissed her.

“Sorry I’m late, I couldn’t find my keys anywhere…”

He bent his head to kiss her neck. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Enough of that now,” she laughed, holding him at arms length with one hand. “This is a public place, you know.”

He held up his hands in submission. “I’ll be good, I promise. So where do you want to go?”

“Anywhere,” she said, interlacing her fingers with his. “As long as we’re together.”

He grinned and tweaked her nose. “Anywhere it is, then.”

Later, they were siting together on a deserted beach, hot and sandy but happy. Kirsty felt a little twinge of guilt about the hurt that she knew she would be caused if the truth came out, but her feelings for Kane were too strong for that to change her actions.

Kane kicked the remaining sand off his legs where Kirsty had attempted to bury him, and pulled her close to him. He was happier than he had been in a long time, away from arguments and worries and conflict, just enjoying spending time with the woman he loved. However deep down, he knew that there would have to be consequences for his actions, and things couldn’t continue as they were. He might have offered to leave Claire, but he was afraid that such a gesture would scare Kirsty away, since she did not seem ready to tell her family about them. And also, a part of him didn’t want to admit that his marriage had failed, or at least that he had given up on it.

Shaking his head, he focussed on Kirsty. “Hmm… Time for revenge…” he said with an evil gleam in his eye, before attempting to sprinkle sand down Kirsty’s front.

“No, stop it!” she shrieked, pressing the front of her top flat.

He desisted, and she shook her t-shirt, watching a mountain of yellow grains fall out. “Oh, Kane, I’ve got sand everywhere. You are in so much trouble!”

He jumped up, and sped off down the beach. “You gotta catch me, first!” he taunted, thumbing his nose at her like a little kid.

She started to run after him, but then stumbled and fell onto the sand, her hands breaking her fall.

Kane laughed, but then stopped when he realised that she was holding her ankle. “Are you all right?” he asked, concerned, trotting over to her side.

She reached up and pulled him over onto the sand, sprinkling sand over his head, and down his neck. “Ha ha sucker! Fell for my cunning plan!”

They mucked around for a while longer, and then as the light began to fail, sat in each other’s arms, not speaking but just enjoying being together.

“I wish I could stay here forever,” Kirsty said softly, half to herself.

“Yeah,” Kane said, kissing the top of her head. “Me too.”

Kane breezed into the house in a hurry, tossing his bag onto a chair and heading for the shower. He had got out of work late, and he needed to get ready to go and meet Kirsty. Claire was standing in front of the wardrobe, and she intercepted him as she headed for the bathroom.

“Hey! Long day, huh?” she said brightly, and he obligingly gave her a kiss, noting that she seemed in a much better frame of mind than usual.

“Yeah, the longest,” he agreed, but disentangled himself from her arms when she attempted to pull him closer. “I’m sticky and horrid. I’ll go and have a shower.”

“Oh. Ok,” she said, sounding a bit disappointed, and he hoped that she didn’t take his response as an excuse not to get close to her. Which it was, he had to admit.

She was still waiting when he came out of the shower, making patterns with one hand on the bedcovers. There was silence for a moment, as she watched him move around the room.

“Everything’s ok, isn’t it?” she asked tentatively.

In the middle of selecting a clean t-shirt from a drawer, he glanced over at her. “’Course it is.”

“I thought maybe we could go out for a meal tonight. You know, for a change,” she said, trying to keep her voice nonchalant. “Only if you want to,” she added when he hesitated.

“I already said I would go for a drink with the guys from work,” he said, trying to keep his voice light to disguise the lie. “Sorry.” Crossing over to her side, he planted a perfunctory kiss on her cheek. “Another time, yeah?”

“Yeah,” she said sadly as he left the room, filled with the sudden feeling that she was losing him, and hoping that it wasn’t her fault.

Kane had been very quiet that evening, and Kirsty was worried. His mind seemed to be continually elsewhere, and many of her questions elicited responses of “what?” as he came out of whatever other world he had been in.

“Everything’s ok, isn’t it?” she asked, seeking reassurance, but getting nothing but a deepening frown in response. She hoped that he wasn’t beginning to regret being with her. Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t quite forget he went back to Claire every night.

Kane stared thoughtfully off towards where the sun was setting over the sea, its golden rays like fingers reaching out desperately before the light was finally extinguished. “I love you, Kirst.”

She smiled a sudden expression of relief, and twisted so that she could see his face. “I love you, too.”

“Do ya? Really?”

“Course I do.” It had all happened so fast, but it felt inside as though she had never stopped loving him, and that she had been waiting for him all this time. Perhaps this was why she had never settled with anyone else – because she had been subconsciously comparing them to Kane and finding them wanting.

Kirsty could tell there was something on Kane’s mind, because he kept looking at her, and opening his mouth to say something, but then turning away again.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said finally, and then paused so long she thought he had changed his mind. “I’m going to leave Claire. It’s not fair otherwise, and this way we can be together properly.”

He looked over at her apprehensively. “So what do you think?”

“About what?” she said evasively.

“About being together properly,” he said a little harshly, slightly alarmed about her response. “I mean, it wouldn’t be easy, but we could make it work, maybe go somewhere else, start again somewhere new…”

She stared away into the gathering darkness, so Kane couldn’t see her expression to tell what she was thinking. “What about Claire? I thought you said you loved her.”

“I did. I do. I don’t know,” he said. “I think with all the problems we have been having, we’ve lost what we once had. But I never loved her the way I love you anyway. Why are you asking me? Don’t you believe I mean it when I say I’ll leave her?”

In response, Kirsty was silent.

“I thought you said you loved me. I thought you wanted to me with me,” he said, offended.

“I do love you!” she protested. “I do want to be with you. It’s just my family, Dani, and everything. I don’t want to ruin everything. Dani’s happy, she’s getting married, and this will spoil all that.”

“I see.” Kane’s voice was flat and expressionless, but she knew that he was hurt. “In that case, maybe this was all a mistake. Maybe you should go back to your family and forget all about me.”

She felt a horrible lonely empty sensation at the thought of never being with him again. “No! I…I will tell them, when it’s a good time.” Inside her head, she heard Flynn chastising her as he had all those years ago. When will it be a good time? Did she really want to be with Kane? Because there was only one way that they could have a future together. Perhaps it might be all right, perhaps after all this time, Dani might find a way to accept it. “Ok then, I’ll do it, I’ll tell them, I’ll tell them tonight.”

Dani opened the door, her face beaming with smiles. “Hi, Kirsty! How are you? You must be psychic, actually, because I was going to call you…” She trailed off when she registered the expression on Kirsty’s face. “Are you all right?”

Kirsty swallowed nervously. Her mouth felt like the Sahara, and she could feel her heart pounding in her chest. “I need to talk to you.”

Dani’s forehead creased with a little frown of confusion. “Ok.” Then she smiled and gave Kirsty a little nudge. “Don’t look so serious, it can’t be that bad!” she said reassuringly.

Kirsty felt sick at her words, knowing that it was that bad, and that she was going to be the one to ruin Dani’s happiness.

“Sit down, I’ll make you a cup of tea,” Dani said, and bustled off into the kitchen. Kirsty sat in a chair and stared at the pictures around the room, of Dani, Jade and her together, and of Dani and her new fiancé. All ruined, because of her.

Beep beep. The sound of her phone jolted her out of her musings. It was a text, from Kane.

Don’t tell her. We need to talk. I’m sorry. K

“So, what’s so serious then?”

Kirsty gaped at Dani’s reappearance. “Erm…nothing…it doesn’t matter…I’ve got to go…” She stood up abruptly.

“Hey, Kirsty, what’s the rush?” Dani said with confusion.

“I’m sorry, I’ve got to go…”

Outside the house she took a deep breath, feeling suddenly light-headed with relief. Relief at not having to tell Dani the truth, although inside she knew that the moment was only postponed. And then a sharp stab of fear at what had made Kane change his mind…

Kane’s mind had been churning as he drove along the route back to his house, desperately rehearsing in his mind what he would say to Claire. I’m really sorry, but it’s just not working, hasn’t been for some time, you know that… God, it sounded like some sort of daytime soap opera.

Inside the house, he felt a sudden wash of anxiety, but pushed it aside. He had to do this, so that he could be with Kirsty. It was selfish, but he couldn’t help it. And it would be less painful in the long run.

“Claire?” he called, his voice reverberating around the hallway.

There was a muffled sob from the sound of the lounge, and turning he could see Claire on the sofa, curled up into the foetal position, her face red and streaked with tears. For a horrible moment he thought that she knew, that she had somehow found out about him and Kirsty.

He crouched down on his knees next to her head. “What’s wrong, babe?” he asked apprehensively.

She half sat up and flung her arms round his neck, clinging to him as if he was a lifeline and the only thing that would save her from drowning.

“I tried to pretend it wasn’t true, I didn’t want to believe it…” Her voice shook with misery, and he thought, she knows, she must know…

“The doctor confirmed it…”

The doctor?

“I’m pregnant.”

Oh God.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The café was one on the edge of town, not a place they usually visited. An anonymous kind of place, filled with unmemorable faces that blended into a mass of humanity, exchanging trivia over cups of tea and coffee. Kane reached out to take Kirsty’s hands over the table in the booth, avoiding the ketchup smears on the plastic surface. “I’m so sorry, it’s all such a mess…”

She pulled her hands away and folded them in her lap. “So what does this mean? I mean for us?”

He fiddled nervously with the packets of sugar on the table, drawing nonsense patterns with some that had spilled. “I don’t know… I love you, and I want to be with you, but I can’t leave her alone to deal with this, not after what happened before. And it’s my baby…”

She could see in his eyes what the prospect of a baby meant to him. “I want to be there for it,” he said. “Be a good dad, not like my Dad.” He had sat with Claire the evening before, and held her, and reassured her that everything would be ok, while she cried tears of fear that this baby would go the same way as all the others. As she sobbed he thought about Kirsty, and what he was going to tell her, and how now everything was different. No matter how much he loved Kirsty, a baby made things different.

Kirsty was filled with a sudden fear that he would decide that he didn’t want to see her again, that he wanted to compromise to a life with Claire and the baby. “You’d still get access, wouldn’t you?” she asked.

His face twisted with frustration. “That wouldn’t be the same!” He gazed at her, her soft brown eyes wide, and knew what he had to do. Ever since Claire had told him about the baby, he had known inside this was the way it had to be, even if he didn’t want to admit it to himself.

“I’m sorry, babe, but we can’t be together. It’s not going to work. I wish it could be different, but…maybe this is fate telling us to give up now, yeah?”

“No…” she cried, and grasped his hand. “We can make it work, somehow. We could still see each other, I mean we would have to be careful but…” Her eyes welled up with tears, and they fell in shining rivers down her face. “Please…”

It broke Kane’s heart to see her like this, but he didn’t have any choice. “It wouldn’t be fair, not to anyone. You know that.” This was just the same as the last time he had left Kirsty, for her own benefit, because there was nothing else that could be done. Perhaps this was his penance for all the bad things he had done in his life, that he always had to leave her.

“But I love you. I’ll never love anyone but you,” she pleaded through her tears.

It was so tempting to say ok, we can be together, we’ll make it work but he knew he had to be strong. If he loved her, he had to let her go, no matter how much it hurt them both to do it. He gently withdrew his hand from hers. “I’m sorry, babe,” he said sadly, and then he was gone, fading in amongst other people in the street, leaving Kirsty alone once more.

“Hey!” Jade said brightly, swaning into the house and placing her bag on the kitchen table. “I thought it might be nice if we went out for the day, we could go shopping, maybe go and see a film. What do you think?”

Kirsty had her back to Jade, facing the sink, using needing a glass of water as an excuse to not have to face her sister. For she was sure that Jade would notice that something was wrong. “Umm…I don’t really feel like it. Sorry. I think perhaps I’m coming down with something,” she said with a choked voice.

She heard Jade get up and come over to her side, and she blinked furiously to try and stop the tears that threatened to form in her eyes. She would not break down in front of Jade. But then they began to fall in big fat drops down her cheeks, before she could raise a hand to wipe them away.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Jade asked, concerned, and embraced Kirsty while she sobbed onto her shoulder. Ever since the meeting where Kane had ended it, Kirsty had been a mess, feeling constantly on the verge of tears. She missed him so badly, and couldn’t believe that he had left her again, her heart reduced to shards once more.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do without him, Jade,” she sobbed.

Jade made her sit down, and gave her a tissue, which she clutched damply in one hand. “Who?”

Kirsty looked guiltily up at Jade, and didn’t say anything.

Jade sighed. “It’s not that guy you were talking to me about before, is it? The married one?”

“Well…yes. I didn’t mean for anything to happen, honestly I didn’t!” she protested. “But it did, and he said he would leave her, but now he’s not going to and he said it’s over…”

Fresh tears fell, and Jade handed her another tissue. “I did warn you…” she said a little unsympathetically.

“Yeah, because you’ve never made a mistake with your perfect life,” Kirsty said rather resentfully. It was all right for Jade, who had everything.

Jade sat back, looking offended. “Don’t have a go at me just because you’re jealous, ok?”

Kirsty opened her mouth to deny the statement, but it was just too close to the truth. “I’m sorry. But I don’t need to hear how you were right, ok?”

Jade looked contrite. “Yeah. Sorry.” She placed an arm round Kirsty’s shoulders comfortingly. “He was obviously a jerk. You can do much better than him.”

“But I love him,” Kirsty protested miserably. How would she get over him again? How could she be without him?

“Oh, Kirsty,” Jade said with a half-smile. “Sometimes I think you enjoy making life complicated for yourself.”

Kirsty gave a watery ironic smile in return. “You have no idea.”

It was around dawn, and the early morning light was beginning to filter in round the edges of the curtains. Kane lay and watched it, and heard the sounds of the birds outside heralding the start of a new day. This was a time of day that he could lay quiet and think, while the rest of the town slept and dreamt their everyday dreams of their little lives. Claire lay next to him, breathing softly, her blonde hair spread across the pillow. She looked peaceful in sleep, the lines of worry and fear absent from her brow. He thought about Kirsty, and how he wished that it could be her sleeping next to him. Thoughts about her came often to him, things she had said, how it felt to be holding her… Sometimes he looked at Claire and felt resentment towards her, towards the child that stopped him from leaving. But he should not think like that, it wasn’t the child’s fault. Anyway, he had done the right thing, he had put his child first. You see? I’ll be a good Dad, I promise. And he did care about Claire, though it wasn’t the same as with Kirsty.

Claire moved restlessly in her sleep, and he reached out and pulled her close, feeling the curve of her stomach beneath her nightdress. I did the right thing. I know I did.

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