Homeopathy and is a House Doctor. For fun she enjoys walks by the water, yoga, cooking, DIY, 60’s retro and anything romance.
Bethany Forrester finished the last page and closed the book – “How to Have a Happy Marriage”. She sighed contentedly as she realised this book, out of the entire “How to…” series was the most relevant to her. She bought Jay Trethedick’s first book, “How to Have an Affair,” after seeing him on Breakfast Time last year. Even though she couldn’t personally relate to the topic she had been very impressed with his theories … plus he was very easy on the eye.
Sadly, the topic of divorce in his second book resonated all too well. Her divorce had not been amicable – far from it, and she could remember rushing through the three hundred pages just so she could tightly pack away all her memories of that time in a box and bury them deep.
But this book was different and each page had been a pleasure to read as it reminded her of the wonderful man she was now lucky enough to be married to. The first page always made her smile and she opened the book to read for the thousandth time, the Recipe for a Happy Marriage.
1 tbl spoon of Sex
1 level tsp of Humour
A touch of Compromise
A pinch of Individuality
Take a couple of individuals in love, add all ingredients, mix together and cook for the rest of your life on earth at 100%.
She thought the concept was so sweet and would love to meet the man who could write such sentiment. There were just two ingredients on the list she was missing, but only one of them played on her mind. The first was sex, but that didn’t really bother her, if she was honest. Adrian, her husband was approaching sixty – ten years her senior – and his sex drive started to diminish not long after his fiftieth birthday.
At first, she took it personally but eventually came to realise it was the pressure of running his own plumbing contractors business and being on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
She knew it was nothing to do with her, as whenever they took a well-deserved holiday and he relaxed, he couldn’t get enough – and she was usually glad when the fortnight was over so she could get some rest.
What did bother her was number one on the list of ingredients – honesty. She had been keeping a secret from everyone she had ever met for all her adult life. It was such a major part of her that, most of the time, she didn’t think about it, until at times like this when it reared its ugly head. One day I’ll tell someone but not yet … it’s not the right time. But sadly, it never was.
Just then her phone rang. It was Leo, her twenty-four year old son from her previous marriage.
‘Hi, Mum, can I borrow your car?’
‘Why? Where’s yours?’
‘Let me guess, your dad’s borrowed it.’
‘His is in the garage. He promises to have it back this week.’
Beth had heard her ex-husband’s promises before.
‘But I need it to collect the girls from school.’
‘If I do that, can I?’
‘What’s the urgency? You usually walk to work or Adrian picks you up.’
Leo was one of Adrian’s best plumbers and had worked with his step-father since leaving school at sixteen.
‘Cat has got somewhere to go this morning.’ Cat was Leo’s live-in girlfriend who Beth had never really approved of. She reminded her too much of herself at that age. The girl was only eighteen and Beth was sure she was only with Leo to escape her controlling parents.
‘So it’s Cat that wants to borrow my car?’
‘Er … yes, but she daren’t ask you in case you said no.’
‘I could give her a lift, would that do?’
‘But that would mean her having to tell you where she’s going.’
‘Yes, is that a problem?’
‘I’ll have to ask her.’
‘Can’t you borrow your own car for a couple of hours?’
‘No, Dad’s gone away until Friday.’
‘So how’s he going to get his own car back today?’
‘Don’t bother, Mum, if it’s too much trouble. We don’t want to put you out.’
This is just so typical. I’m the bad guy again. I’m sure his perfect father could commit double homicide and Leo would defend him.
‘Okay, I suppose so … could she have it back by school time?’
‘Thanks, Mum, you’re the best.’
‘Only when you want something.’
‘Don’t be like that. You know you love me really.’
That’s the problem – sometimes I think I love you too much.
‘What time are you coming to collect it?’
‘I thought you could drop it off on your way to work.’
‘Did you now, and how pray am I going to get to work?’
‘Cat will drop you off.’
‘Okay, I’m just getting ready. I’ll be there in forty-five minutes.’
‘Can you make it half-an-hour. Her appointment’s at ten in Glastonbury.’
‘I’ll see what I can do.’
So instead of the leisurely breakfast she planned, she ran upstairs to take a quick shower. Adrian always dropped the girls at school on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday when Beth worked. It saved her dashing around and gave her an hour to get her head together before her busy day. She had recently cut her hours down to three days during the week and all day Sunday since appointing the most brilliant manager for her thriving little coffee house on the high street in Street, Somerset.
Up to the beginning of the year, she had worked seven days a week trying to get the business established. When she took it on, it was an ailing cafe serving a menu of fat, fat and more fat. She had completely refurbished the inside with her husband and invented a whole new healthy menu.
It had taken a while for the locals to get used to eating paninis instead of bacon butties with lard, but eventually, they had seen the light and she had built up quite a regular clientele of tourists and visitors alike. Now she loved going to work and was finally living her dream instead of feeling the burden and stress of the stone around her neck she felt at the beginning.
Lunchtimes were the busiest times and she always liked to be in before ten to help the chef prep the salads and make the soup of the day. Between the three of them, the Cafe Sorrento was finally making the profit she had told her bank manager would be achievable when he finally granted her the business loan over a year ago.
By nine-fifteen she was on her way to her son’s flat. He only lived ten minutes away, but traffic on the Glastonbury road was usually busy until at least ten o’clock. Cat was waiting outside, looking at her watch as Beth pulled up.
‘Thanks, Mrs F. You’re a life saver,’ Cat said as she got in the driver’s side.
‘So what’s with all the secrecy?’ Beth asked.
Cat didn’t speak as she looked in the mirror before pulling out into the traffic.
‘Are you okay, Cat? You look a bit pale.’
‘I’ll be fine.’
‘Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you? I’m sure they can cope without me at work for a while.’
Cat hesitated. ‘Er … no, I’ll be fine.’
Beth couldn’t imagine it could be anything other than some sort of hospital appointment because if it was something simple like an interview it wouldn’t be shrouded in such secrecy.
‘Well if you’re sure. Leo could’ve asked Adrian for the day off, you know.’
‘We didn’t want to make a fuss.’
‘Watch out for that car!’ Beth braced herself waiting for the impact, but luckily, Cat’s young reflexes were sharp and she pulled up with inches to spare. Everything tumbled off the back seat into the foot wells.
‘Sorry Mrs F, maybe I shouldn’t be driving.’ Cat pulled the car onto the side of the road.
‘Don’t worry. It’s always mad at this time in a morning. Everyone goes too fast.’ Beth reached across and stroked Cat’s arm. At that moment she seemed no older than Beth’s youngest daughter … so naive and vulnerable.
‘Please don’t ask me anything, but will you drop me off at West Mendip Community Hospital? I’ll get a taxi home.’
Beth was desperate to know what was going on but she respected Cat’s wishes and said, ‘Of course I will. I’m here if you need to talk or I’ll come and collect you.’
‘Thank you, that’s kind.’
They swapped places again and Cat reached into the back to retrieve all her handbag contents that were strewn about the floor and under the seats.
‘I think I’m missing a lip gloss. If you find one, it’s mine.’
‘I’ll have a look when I get back to work.’
Beth pulled up in the visitor’s car park. ‘Are you sure you don’t want me to come in with you?’
Cat shook her head. Her hands were shaking as she opened the door. Just before getting out she reached across and kissed Beth’s cheek.
‘Thanks, Mrs F, for being so nice. I know we haven’t always seen stuff the same way but you’re really cool for a mum.’
‘That’s sweet of you to say, and remember if you want me to come back for you, I will. Just ring me anytime.’
Cat closed the door behind her and walked off as slowly as if she was heading a funeral cortège.
Beth was reluctant to leave her in this state. But what more could she do? So as soon as Cat disappeared through the revolving doors, she drove away. She parked in her usual car parking space outside work and remembered that Cat had asked her to look for the rogue lip gloss. Under her seat all she found was an old Maynard wine gum, which she was tempted to eat, as it was a red one – her favourite colour. The lip gloss was under the passenger seat hidden under a paper tissue. As she reached along the floor, fumbling for the lip gloss, her fingers touched a piece of card. She pulled it out and saw it had the Marie Stopes logo on the front and an appointment for ten o’clock.
‘Shit!’ She slammed the car door, forgetting to lock it and ran into work.
‘Can you cope without me for a bit? I’ve got somewhere urgent to go,’ she asked Carol, her manager.
‘Yes, of course Are you okay?’
‘I am, but someone else isn’t. I haven’t time to explain now. I’ll be back as soon as I can.’ Beth turned round and dashed to her car, speeding back up the Old Wells Road to the hospital. She turned on the hands free kit and rang Leo’s number.
‘Hi, Mum, did Cat get off okay?’
‘Do you know where she’s going?’
‘Of course I do. Why, do you?’ he asked tentatively.
‘Yes. I’ve found her appointment card. Why is she going to the Marie Stopes clinic?’
‘Oh fuck! We didn’t want to tell anyone until it was all over.’
‘You mean you’re letting your girlfriend have a termination and you can’t even be bothered to go with her?’
‘She said she’d be fine, and we’ve got a big plumbing job on.’
Beth couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. ‘How can you be so selfish? Have you any idea what the poor girl’s going through?’
‘Chill, Mum. It’s no big deal.’
‘No big deal! How dare you. I thought I’d brought you up better than that. It will be the worst ordeal of her life so far, and I doubt anything will ever beat it. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll drop what you’re doing and get to that hospital by any means you can. I’ll see you there.’
‘Okay … okay. I get it, you’re mad, but don’t take it out on me. She told me she was on the pill. We don’t want a baby … she wants to get rid of it as well.’
Beth couldn’t speak for the tears.
‘Mum, are you still there? … Why are you so upset?’
‘I’ll see you soon.’
So much for burying my feelings deep underground in a box. It was over thirty-five years ago, yet right now she felt as bad as when she was waiting for them to call her name. Then, she didn’t have a friendly face offering to go with her … she had an angry, disappointed mother who, all the while in the waiting room, kept telling her she’d brought disgrace on the family.
Poor Cat … she was facing this ordeal all alone. As Beth got out of her car she saw it was already ten thirty. Please be running late! Quickly, asking the receptionist where the clinic was being held, she ran to the lift. Typical, the clinic’s at the other end of the bloody corridor. She was out of breath as she rang the buzzer to be let into reception.
‘I’m looking for Miss Catherine … er … Sykes,’ Beth asked the receptionist.
‘And you are?’
‘Her partner’s mother. He’s been held up in traffic and is on his way.’
‘I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait here. She’s already gone into surgery.’
Beth put her head in her hands and sobbed.
‘Are you okay? Would you like a glass of water?’ The receptionist came round the desk and led Beth to a seat.
‘Sorry. I would please. Is it too late to change her mind?’
The receptionist paused and, trying to be as gentle as she could said, ‘She doesn’t want to change her mind. You know this isn’t her first appointment. We do an awful lot of counselling before we carry out any procedure … Do you want to talk to someone?’
‘I’ve never talked to anyone in thirty-five years.’
‘So wouldn’t now be a good time to start?’
Beth didn’t go back into work – she couldn’t – she felt totally drained. After dropping Cat and Leo back at their flat she went home to be by herself … her staff could cope – it was only one day. While the kettle was boiling, she kept looking at the card on the kitchen work top reminding her of the counselling appointment the receptionist had made at a sister clinic … thirty-five years too late. After making herself a strong coffee, she went to sit in the beautiful conservatory looking out over her long cottage garden with distant views of Glastonbury Tor and thought about her morning.
She expected Cat to be devastated after her procedure, but all she saw on the young face was relief. Beth could understand why she didn’t want a baby at eighteen … she hadn’t wanted one at thirteen, but unlike Cat, she couldn’t go through with it. She had screamed and shouted so much, embarrassing her mother even more, that the whole trip was aborted not the baby.
Luckily, it was the 1970’s and most of the mother and baby units had closed down which meant Beth had to stay at home – a prisoner in her own house for nine months. The baby girl was taken off her at birth and given to deserving parents and the whole sorry incident was never mentioned again. Beth continued her education and was a good girl until she found someone to marry her and then she was off, at not much older than Cat was now.
Beth sat in the same armchair all day until it was time to collect her two precious girls from school. What she couldn’t give her first little girl she lavished on the two she had. Leo was always accusing her of spoiling them and treating them better than she ever treated him. She knew he was speaking the truth, but she couldn’t help it. She had to make it right somehow.
Tuesday was hectic after school – Amy, who was eight, had ballet and tap and Annabelle, who was the eldest at ten, had choir and gymnastics. Eddie Stobart’s Logistical Haulage Contractors couldn’t do a better job of organising the schedule than she did. Each activity was precisely planned down to the last second, and if it all went without a hitch – which it usually did– they were back in the house totally exhausted by eight o’clock, ready for supper and bed.
Adrian supervised bed-time while Beth made the evening meal.
‘Ooh … I know what I forget to tell you. You know that author you’ve just been reading, he’s appearing at the Glastonbury Christmas Book and Craft Festival,’ Adrian said as he sat down at the table to a plate of home-made moussaka.
‘You mean Jay Trethedick?’
‘Yes, that’s him.’
‘Wow. Do you know how I can get any tickets?’
‘Da … da.’ Adrian said as he pulled two tickets out of the back pocket of his work trousers. ‘It’s for his Creative Writing workshop.’
‘How did I manage to be married to the most wonderful man in the world?’ Beth walked round the table and gave her husband a kiss.
‘Just lucky I guess?’
‘Are you coming with me?’ she asked.
‘I don’t think it’s really my thing. I got two tickets in case you wanted to take a friend, or maybe you could invite your mother?’
‘What? So I could hear her moan about how he wasn’t as good as her favourite author. No, she’d only spoil it … I might see if Cat would like to come with me. I think I made a breakthrough with her today.’
‘So tell me what’s been going on with Leo today? He ran off site like a man possessed.’
‘Let’s finish eating first. It’s a long story and might put me off my food.’
For the rest of the meal they kept the conversation light – with Adrian doing most of the talking about his day of plumbing. At times like this she was glad she really loved him, as it was the only reason she would tolerate hearing about a dripping stop-tap and sticking ball-cocks.
‘So?’ Adrian said as they took two cups of coffee into the lounge.
‘Leo rang me this morning to ask me if he could borrow my car. It turned out it was actually Cat who needed it to go to a hospital appointment. You’ll never believe, she was only having an abortion on her own! So I phoned Leo and told him to get down there if he knew what was good for him. I’m sorry if it left you in the lurch.’
‘No, we managed. He never said anything … An abortion and you knew nothing?’
‘I don’t think I’d know now if she hadn’t dropped the appointment card in my car. When I dropped her off I could tell something was bothering her, but I never guessed it would be that. What are we going to do with him?’
‘I don’t know what you mean. What can we do with him? He’s a grown man.’
‘But fancy, letting the poor girl suffer all that on her own. I thought I’d taught him better than that.’
‘Have you spoken to him?’
‘Not on his own. I tried to be gentle with them both when I collected her. Apparently, she hasn’t even told her mum she was pregnant.’
‘Do you want me to have a word with him, man-to-man?’
‘I don’t know what to do. I’m only sorry he felt he couldn’t talk to me about it first.’
‘He probably thought you’d try and talk them out of it.’
‘Why would I do that?’
‘Because I thought you didn’t agree with abortions?’
‘No, that’s not true. I wouldn’t have one, but I don’t think it’s right to interfere in anyone else’s decision.’
Adrian raised his eyebrows. ‘At the risk of having my head bitten off, is that strictly true?’
‘Why do you know me so well?’ She laughed. ‘I suppose I might have put forward the alternative viewpoint.’
‘Hence, why they didn’t tell you.’
‘But Leo tells me everything … or he used to before he started going out with Cat.’
‘Is that why you’ve never warmed to her… because she took away your baby boy?’
‘I don’t know. I’ve not thought of that before … but maybe. I saw a different side of her today … I think I may have misjudged her.’
‘I’ve always liked her. I think she’s good for him. He’s so laid back … I’m sure some days he’d never get out of bed.’
‘Yes, she does seem to motivate him, and he does love her.’
‘I know you think she’s using him, but I think she loves him as well.’
‘From now on I will try harder. I never want a repeat of today.’
‘I assume they don’t either … But don’t you think it was sensible of them? Neither of them is ready for a baby, she’s only eighteen – far too young to be thinking about motherhood. They’ve got the rest of their lives to have children.’
‘But sometimes these things happen and you can’t get rid of something just because it’s not quite the right time.’
‘Sorry, love. I didn’t mean to be heartless. Has today upset you more than you’re letting on?’
‘I suppose it’s been such a shock … I could’ve been a grandma,’ she said resting her chin in her hands.
‘You’re too young to be a grandma. I, on the other hand, am just the right age to be a granddad. I keep hoping Toby will tell me he’s ready to settle down.’
‘I doubt that. He’s too busy travelling the world.’
‘But he’s thirty-five next birthday.’
‘You were nearly fifty when we had Annabelle.’
‘I know. I’m hoping he doesn’t take after me.’
‘Surely two young girls is enough for anyone your age?’ She laughed.
‘Oy, watch it! I think we’d better change the subject! … Do you want to watch something on television?’
‘Is there anything on?’ She picked up TV Chat and looked.
‘I love you, Bethany Forrester.’ He winked at her.
‘And I love you, “The man for any job”… Here’s the remote, you choose.’
When Adrian’s snoring got so unbearably noisy it was agreed that Beth would sneak out of bed and go sleep in the guest bedroom – tonight was one of those nights. It didn’t help that Beth’s mind was working a double shift. During a large percentage of her day to day life, she could put to the back of her mind the little girl she had given away by pretending it never happened to her – it happened to a friend. But after everything that had transpired during the past twelve hours, putting it out of her mind was impossible.
Over the years she had been tempted on so many occasions to search for her daughter, but was too terrified of the outcome. Maybe today was an omen. It was also one of the main reasons she had agreed to go for counselling. The receptionist at the Marie Stopes clinic said all the ramifications of the adoption could be discussed at the appointment and any help she needed could be given to her then.
Ever since Beth had given her baby up for adoption she had kept a diary of her life – so one day the daughter she couldn’t keep could learn all about her birth mother. She hadn’t written in it every day. In fact, she had hardly written in it this year. It was hidden on the bottom shelf of the airing cupboard in a pillow case. She had chosen that specific hideaway because she could guarantee no-one would ever choose to change their bedding or towels voluntarily.
Without putting the landing light on, she crept along the hallway and opened the door to the airing cupboard. Sliding her hand along the bottom shelf she felt for something hard. She pulled the pillow case containing the diary out from underneath a thick pile of towels and crept back to the guest bedroom to read it. The diary was a loose-leaf A5 Filofax which had been added to over the years – it was now over three hundred pages long. In the past she’d thought about publishing it, because even though she said so herself, it was a scintillating read. Maybe, I could have a word with Jay Trethedick and ask for his advice when I go and see him. Only a month to go before I meet my hero. Come on, no daydreaming. You need to write about today.
She opened the diary at a clean page and started to write.
‘Well, what a day …’