Diana, remembering that her mobile had been switched off all night, delved in her handbag, found it and turned it back on. There were several texts from John, each more unpleasant than the last, and two from her daughter. She looked at those first.
Hi Mum, I’ve picked up the keys. The cat has come in from next door to check me out. House blissfully quiet without Dad. Have a good weekend. Love you xxx
The second text sent this morning was more worrying.
Hi Mum, Dad is a dick. He turned up last night. Couldn’t get in. Wouldn’t let him. Stood outside banging on the door. Only left when Jane next door said she’d call the police. Going back to Uni this afty. Hope all is ok. Love you xxx
Looking at her watch, Diana wondered if it was too early to phone Jane to apologise for John’s behaviour, and decided to text her daughter instead. To say what? Danny Vincent is currently having a shower in my bathroom after a night of incredible love-making, and I can’t come home yet because we have to give evidence about the alleged rape of Danny’s PA and the theft of some auction items?
That might take some explaining. Reluctantly, she started to read through John’s texts.
Going round to collect my corkscrew. It must be at the house. I can’t find it here.
Caroline refused to let me in. Says you are away and locks have been changed. What are you playing at?
I hope you aren’t having a good time. I can’t even open a bottle of wine because of you. You always were selfish. I see you have turned our daughter against me now
Why the hell can’t you answer your phone?
When are you coming back?
We need to talk about this.
I spoke to Jane next door. She has threatened to call the police if I turn up and cause another fuss. Now you’ve turned the neighbours against me too. You have always been vindictive.
Going to see my solicitor about this on Monday. More expense because of you.
Danny came out of the shower while she was listening to the equally unpleasant voicemails that John had left. They were all hateful, but the last one was full of expletives and threats about what he was going to do with her when he got hold of her. It shook her, and Danny, seeing the look of horror on her face, took the phone away, and skimmed through the texts.
“I take it that the voice mails were even worse?” he said, crouching down beside her again. Diana nodded, afraid to speak in case she burst into tears. Even at his most scornful and insulting, John had never made such threats to her before.
“Come here, my love. Come and sit down with me on the sofa?” Danny said. “My knees can’t cope with all this crouching. It’s always the knees that go first with sporting people. Cry if you need to. This time it’s me that has the tissues ready, although I don’t think he’s worth wasting tears on. Your Caroline seems to have inherited her mother’s strength and sensibility from what I can see. I know it’s unpleasant, but don’t delete any of those texts and messages. You should show them to the police when they come to see us.”
Danny sat on the sofa hugging her; the initial numbness eased as he held her tight and stroked her hair. Diana took a deep breath.
“John knows that he can’t go to the house anymore. It was agreed that once the divorce was finalised, he had to clear his stuff out, and the locks would be changed. The house belongs to us both, but as our children are at university and still count as dependents, the house can’t be sold, and I can stay there until they finish their courses. He tried to persuade them both that they would be better off if I moved out and he moved back in, but Ben’s answer to that was a resounding NO, and you can see what Caroline thinks of her father. I did my best to keep his philandering a secret, but children pick up on all the tension and the whispered arguments. He’d also made passes at the mothers of most of their friends.”
“Do you want to go back home now?” Danny asked, kissing her forehead, and mentally crossing his fingers.
“Not particularly. Caroline is returning to Uni today, and Jane can be relied upon to look after the house – and the cat. She’s another person who was subjected to John’s unpleasant leers and wandering hands. I know I shouldn’t compare, but one night with you makes me realise what a useless lover he was. Not much cop as a husband or a father either really. God, I feel foolish for putting up with him for so long!”
Danny smiled and tugged her ponytail.
“But I, on the other hand, feel extremely blessed! I just need to nip upstairs and see Mike, but when I come back, we’ll talk about us, and then we’ll let housekeeping in to tidy up, take the breakfast stuff away, and get some fresh towels and bath robes. Okay?”
Diana nodded, and watched as he pulled on his socks and trainers; dressed simply in jeans and a polo shirt, it was still obvious that he was very fit – and judging from the discreet logos, rather rich. He kissed her again, and left, blowing several more kisses from the doorway.
Used to tidying up after other people, Diana instinctively put all the breakfast things on the tray and left it outside the door. At least that way housekeeping would know that it was finished with. She piled up the used towels in a corner of the bathroom, but decided that stripping the bed was too efficient, besides, when she put her nose close to the pillow that still held the impression of Danny’s head, she could smell a trace of his aftershave. He’d left Ben’s tee-shirt folded up with a pair of his boxers next to the pillow; yet another gesture that made Diana smile, and take a deep breath of hope.
There was still a part of her that wanted to pack up her belongings and run away however; run away home as fast as she could, but to what? An empty house, and some wonderful memories of this weekend, but further possibilities of John hammering at the front door, requesting trivialities, and annoying the neighbours. She looked at her watch again; it was time to give Jane a call.
“I’m so sorry about John’s behaviour yesterday,” said Diana apologetically.
“It’s okay, you would have been very proud of your Caroline.” Jane giggled on the other end of the phone. “The way she stood up to him, and pointed out that if he was that desperate for a drink, he should go to the pub, or to the supermarket and buy a screw top bottle of wine. I couldn’t stop laughing. He looked so ridiculous, stood out there in the street waving his wine bottle around like a big baby.”
“I remember putting the corkscrew in his box of belongings.” said Diana, frowning. “I never liked it anyway, it was supposed to be an antique but it was a rubbish corkscrew. Apparently, you threatened to call the police if he wouldn’t go away.”
“I did! He ran away with his tail between his legs!”
“Can you pop next door when you have a moment, and look in the top drawer of the bureau? There’s an envelope in there addressed to you. I thought John might try some silliness while I was away. I’ve put a copy of the document drawn up by my solicitor that confirms that John has no right to access the house and garden without my permission. If he does turn up again and cause a fuss, it might be enough to tell him that you have the document and will show it to the police if necessary.”
“Oh Diana! I would enjoy that SO much! When are you coming home though?”
“I’m not sure. There was a burglary here last night and one of the girls got attacked. We – I – have to speak to the police before I can come home.”
“What about your train ticket? Can you get the money back?”
“It will be okay. I’ve met up with some people here and they’re giving me a lift home. I’ve got a set of the new house keys with me so I can get in the house if it’s late, but I’ll text you when I’m on the way.”
“Oh well, it all sounds more exciting than watching John throwing a temper tantrum in the street. I’d like to say that the cat is missing you but he’s fast asleep on my lap at the moment. Safe journey home. Bye love.”
That was one problem solved. Diana thought very carefully before sending a text to Caroline.
Thank you for being so brave and brilliant! Have to stay on – incident last night – police are taking statements. Nothing to do with me but I had to help a poor girl who had been attacked and raped. Once a nurse… I’ve thanked Jane and told her where the legal documents are to prevent Dad from gaining access to the house. Don’t work too hard. Love you xxxx
Just John to deal with now.
I’ve been advised to show your texts and play your voice mails to the police. Jane has the documents about access to the house, and is prepared to show them to the police if you turn up again. You took the corkscrew with you when you packed up your belongings. Grow up John.
Diana looked at the text. She wanted to put something far more vitriolic but decided that it wasn’t worth the effort. She looked at her watch. Danny had been gone for over an hour now. Did he have cold feet? Was he staying upstairs hoping that she’d pack, and slip out quietly in order to save him any further bother? She got up from the bed and started to get her things together; she rather be packed and ready to leave than to carry on sitting here feeling sad and abandoned. She was just zipping up her case when the door flew open and Danny came running through it.
“Thank God you’re still here! I’m sorry I was so long! When I saw the breakfast things outside the door, I thought you’d run away. You’re all packed up! Have you had second thoughts? Were you going to leave me without even saying goodbye?”
“I thought you were staying upstairs in the hope that I’d realise…”
“Realise what? How much you’ve come to mean to me in such a short time?”
There was only one way of resolving the confusion, and Danny found it by pulling Diana into his arms and kissing her. She found herself clinging to him as if it was the end of the world, except that it wasn’t. It was just the beginning.