Conveniently His(10)

By: Penny Jordan

‘No, and neither did Uncle Jon...otherwise he would have let her sleep in his bed.’ A thought seemed to strike him. ‘Does that mean you’ll be sleeping in his bed, Sophy?’

A strange paralysis seemed to have gripped her. She wasn’t sure how much the children knew about adult behaviour. They must have learned something from school but their parents had been dead for three years and she could hardly see Jon satisfactorily explaining the so-called facts of life to them. On the other hand, it was pointless telling them a lie.

‘No, I won’t, David,’ she said at last.

She watched him frown and saw that for some reason her answer had not pleased him.

‘That’s because both of you are so big, I expect,’ intervened Alex, ever practical. ‘You wouldn’t both get in one bed.’

‘They would in Uncle Jon’s,’ David told her gruffly. ‘It’s huge.’

It was...king size and Jon normally slept diagonally across it. She knew because she occasionally had to wake him up in the morning when he had an early business appointment and he had been up late the previous night working. She had never needed to do much more than lightly touch his duvet mummy-wrapped body though.

‘If you’re going to get married, why won’t you be sleeping in his bed?’ he persisted doggedly.

‘Married people don’t always share the same bed, David,’ she told him, giving him what she hoped was a reassuring smile. ‘You know what your uncle’s like. He often works very late and I like to go to bed early. He would wake me up and then I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep.’

He looked far from convinced, muttering, ‘Ladies always sleep with their husbands,’ and betraying a innate chauvinism that made Sophy smile. Already at ten he was very, very sure in his masculinity and of its supremacy which was surely something he didn’t get from Jon. He was also, as she had often observed, very protective of his sister...and too, of her. She bent forward and ruffled his dark hair.

‘Perhaps Uncle Jon doesn’t want her to sleep with him, David,’ Alex offered, smiling at him. ‘He didn’t want Louise to.’

The little girl was more right than she knew, Sophy thought grimly, glad of the distraction of the telephone ringing.

As she had half suspected it was her mother, eager to tell her all about the previous evening’s dinner party.

‘Chris came too,’ she told Sophy, oblivious to her daughter’s lack of enthusiasm, ‘and he brought his wife. Such a lovely girl...tiny with masses of blonde curls and so obviously in love with him. She’s expecting their first baby. He asked after you, and didn’t seem at all surprised to hear you weren’t married.’ There was a hint of reproof in her mother’s voice. ‘He even laughed about it.’

Sophy realised as she replaced the receiver that she was actually grinding her teeth. So he had laughed, had he? Well, he would soon stop laughing when he heard that she was married! She stood motionless by the telephone staring blindly out of the study window for a few seconds picturing the ordeal the dinner party would have been for her had she been there...that future dinner parties would have been if it hadn’t been for Jon’s extraordinary proposal. Without being aware of it had he had saved her from the most galling humiliation and pain. Now she needn’t even see Chris, never mind endure his mocking taunts on her unmarried state.

* * *

OVER THE NEXT couple of days, cautiously at first and then with growing confidence, like someone blessedly discovering the cessation of toothache and then cautiously exploring the previously tormented area and finding it blissfully whole again, Sophy allowed herself to acknowledge the totally unexpected happiness unfurling inside her.

The children were a constant, sometimes funny, sometimes exasperating joy and one she had never thought to know. For some women the physical act of giving birth was acutely necessary to motherhood but she, it seemed, was not one of them. She could not take the place of the children’s dead mother and did not seek to but it gave her a special delight to know that she would have the joy of mothering them. It was this, probably more than anything else, that convinced her that her decision to marry Jon was the right one. She still didn’t know how he could even have thought of relinquishing his responsibility for them but then his mind was so wrapped up in his work, that everything else was obviously secondary to it.

On Tuesday evening it rained and they spent the evening going through some old photograph albums David had found in a bureau drawer.

Once she and Jon were married she would ask him if she was to be allowed a free hand with the house, Sophy mused, glancing round the shabby sitting room, and mentally transforming it with new furnishings. At the present moment in time it wasn’t even particularly comfortable. Both the sofa and the chairs had loose springs which dug into vulnerable flesh if sat upon.

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