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Girl of My Dreams


                                                                 GIRL OF MY DREAMS


                                                                  GEORGE PARKER


      When Jill got pregnant by her boyfriend, she was horrified. She was a married woman and a Sunday School Superintendent. She had a reputation to live up to, but now she was carrying an adulterine. If her friends and family were to find out, they would be appalled but how could she hide it?
   She wouldn't be able to tell her husband the baby was his, because he would know that it wasn't, because she hadn't let him have sex for two and a half years.
   There was only one thing she could do: beg her husband’s forgiveness and ask him to let her stay and bring the baby up as his, and then once she’d got his name on the baby’s birth certificate she would be able to leave him and go off with her boyfriend, without anybody ever knowing the truth, and her clever, little scheme might have worked quite well, had there not been one or two rather important points she completely overlooked.

                                                                    CHAPTER ONE


   Sunday October 5th. 1969.
   34 Brunswick Road, Fair Oak, Eastleigh, Hampshire.

   After washing up the lunch things, I left the kitchen, and crossed the hall into the lounge. The autumn sun was streaming in through the large front-room window filling the room with a rich golden glow. It was my favourite sort of day. The golden glow filled me with a sense of peace and well-being.
I stopped in the doorway. Something was wrong. My wife Jill was standing by the white-stone log-burning fireplace, which I'd built across the north wall from one side of the room to the other, with oak panelled seats in alcoves on either side, her left arm outstretched, her hand resting lightly on the mantelpiece.
She stood tall, slim and elegant in her county-style, green and brown tweed suit, cream silk blouse, tan tights and crocodile leather, high-heeled shoes. Her shining, auburn hair framed her fair, oval face and blue eyes, glamorously enhanced with cosmetics by Lancôme.
She looked every inch the lady, as she was wont to do, but why was she standing? Jill was never standing, when I entered the lounge on a Sunday afternoon. She was usually sitting on the sofa, talking to her old school-friend, Vic, or reading her novel.
   And where was Vic? He was usually here by now to keep Jill company whilst I went sailing for the afternoon. I was grateful to him for his visits because it meant that I could go off on my sailing trips without having to feel guilty at leaving Jill on her own so much. I seemed to have become obsessed. As soon as the sun shone and the wind blew, I was off. I couldn’t resist. I even went out in a Force 6 in the winter. My seventeen-foot Kestrel dinghy was difficult to sail single-handed, and I couldn't stand being beaten.
   And why was Jill leaning on the mantelpiece? Jill didn’t ever lean. She was too upright to lean: too upright physically and too upright morally. She was particularly upright, morally, about sex. She didn't believe in it. She didn't believe in married women engaging in it, much, and she didn't believe in unmarried women engaging in it, at all, and if they did and became accidentally pregnant, then, that was very much worse. That was the depths of depravity. Jill hated unmarried mothers with a vengeance, as she was quick to say, given the chance, which I didn’t quite understand. It didn’t seem very Christian.
       We met after Sung Eucharist, one Sunday morning in February 1960, at All Saints Church Eastleigh, where I'd attended since the age of five, firstly as a Sunday School pupil with the Sunday-School teachers, Miss Taylor and Miss Gale, and then at 10, as a choir-boy, with the choirmaster, Mr. Lowton, and then at 12 as a boy scout, with the Scout-Master, Dennis Prior, and then at 15, as a Youth Club member, with the Youth Leader, Mr. Horton, and then at 18 as a communicant with Canon Lambert, the vicar, and then at 21, as an ordinand, with the curate, my friend Roger Atkins.
She was walking up the aisle as I was walking down. We met halfway. I stopped and asked her if there was anything I could do to help, and she bestowed upon me the most dazzling smile I’d ever seen. I basked in its glow. It filled the highly vaulted and deeply shadowed church with sunlight. It was like a benediction. I was completely captivated.
She told me that she was the new Sunday School Superintendent coming back from the morning session to report to the curate. She seemed like a gift from God sent to join me as my devoted partner, in my Divine calling of lifelong service to God and the Church.
       I asked her if she would like a lift home after she’d finished talking to Roger, and she said yes, and so I waited for her and drove her back to her Auntie’s house, where she was staying, and as we sat together outside of her Auntie’s newspaper shop, at 1, Hamilton Road Bishopstoke, in my car, talking animatedly together, she told me, how she'd grown up in a house where she’d been deprived of affection by her father, and how her mother had tragically died of thrombosis, two years earlier, and how her father had thrown her out of the house, for staying out too late with her boyfriend, just a few months before, and how she’d had to move in and live with her Aunty Lily, where it was really cramped and uncomfortable, and I hadn't been able to help feeling sorry for her, and wanting to take her under my wing, like a waif from the storm and shower her with love and affection to make it up to her for the love and affection she'd been deprived of, as a child, which deprivation I realised, must have damaged her psychologically, and had been staggered to think what a coincidence it was, that with my psychological expertise, obtained from reading "Psychology, Religion and Healing" by Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, the moderator of the Methodist Church, I'd met somebody who needed psychological help, and couldn't help thinking that God must have sent her to me, because He wanted me to devote my life to looking after her, and felt overwhelmingly privileged to think that He had honoured me with such a profound and important calling and couldn't help thinking what a weighty responsibility it was and three months later, under the infallible direction of the Almighty's guiding hand, I asked her to marry me, and, to my great relief and joy she accepted and three months later, we were married on the 27th August 1960, and now, after nine years of devoted married life together, here was my sweet and pure young lady of class and distinction standing before me, by the fireplace, in the lounge of our own home, waiting to tell me something extremely important it seemed by the way she was standing there, with her hand resting on the mantelpiece, like a teacher about to deliver a lecture.
But why was she leaning?
        I didn’t know. I'd never seen Jill leaning before, and it didn't occur to me that she wasn't so much leaning, as, propping herself up, for fear of falling down from feeling weak with trepidation, at the shocking news she had to impart: news so shocking that she feared she would never be able to impart it.
I studied her expression to see if I could work out what she was thinking. She wasn't looking very happy. That wasn't a good sign. Things weren't going very well for us at the moment. Relations had become rather strained. My marriage seemed to be heading straight for the rocks. I couldn't do anything right, and so I wondered what I’d done wrong now, and, as I waited patiently for her to tell me, I was surprised to see how long it was taking her to start. Why was that? She wasn't usually backward in coming forward if she had something important to say, she usually came out with it straightaway, sometimes with a vengeance, so why wasn’t she now? I didn’t know and studied her expression a bit more closely to see if I'd got things right.
      She was looking unhappy wasn't she? Yes she was.
      And she was looking annoyed, wasn't she?
      Well, I wasn't quite so sure about that. Perhaps she wasn’t looking annoyed, but if she wasn't looking annoyed, what was she looking?
      And I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. She was looking something I’d never expected to see her looking again.
      She was looking worried, which meant she was coming to me with her problems again, and I couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed with nostalgia. It was going to be like old times. I’d felt really privileged at being able to help her solve her problems in the past and so perhaps I was going to be able to feel really privileged at being able to help her solve them again and wondered what her problem was.
        I guessed that it couldn't be much. Everything was going swimmingly for us. We’d managed to save up enough money to buy our own house two years earlier and I had a good job as a teacher and she’d been able to give up working full-time at Lloyds Bank to work part-time.
Whatever her problem was, I'd probably have it all sorted out in no time. I was even better at solving problems now, than I'd ever been. I’d got a degree in Sociology and Psychology at Exeter in 1965, the better to achieve it, and now I was studying for a master's degree in Educational Psychology, at Southampton which I was finding even more helpful, but why was she taking so long to tell me what her problem was? She seemed to be too frightened to speak, and decided that I should give her a bit of encouragement and said sympathetically.
   'Is there anything wrong?'
   'Yes,' she said meekly, with a brave, little smile, and I couldn't believe how deflated she looked. She looked as if she had all the troubles of the world on her shoulders, which she thought were beyond help from anybody, which I found most confusing. Why would she think that? I had no idea. It was quite ridiculous. She must be aware that she couldn't possibly have a problem that I wouldn't be able to sort out in five minutes, and I guessed that she was panicking for nothing, as she did sometimes, and asked her, consolingly.
   'Do you want to tell me about it?'
   'Yes.' She said bravely, and I became even more confused. Why was I getting only one word answers? When was I actually going to hear what her problem was?
   'What’s the problem then?' I asked, caringly.
   'I'm pregnant.', she said, concisely, ‘It's Vic's.’
   And all sorts of strange things started to happen, the likes of which I’d never heard.
        The first thing was that her words didn't register, but just kept going round and round inside my head, like a recurring echo, with my struggling to make sense of them in an endless debate with myself.
   “Pregnant? But she can't be pregnant. You have to have sex to get pregnant and she doesn't like sex, and so she can’t be pregnant. And even if she did like sex she wouldn't have had it with Vic, because that would have been adultery, and she wouldn't have dreamt of committing adultery, because it’s a sin, and she's a devout Christian and a paragon of virtue who abhors sin and depravity, and denounces it, whenever she gets the chance, and so she can't be pregnant, but she says that she is, and that the baby is Vic's, so she must be, and it must be his, and it certainly can't be mine because she hasn’t let me make love to her for two and a half years.”
        And with her looking so unhappy, I couldn't help feeling relieved to think it wasn't mine, for realising that whoever had made her look this unhappy was in deep trouble.
        And then something even more strange started to happen. Everything became surreal. The light faded and the scene in front of me started to take on a sepia appearance as if I was looking through a brown mist.
   And then something even more strange started to happen. A strong wind started to blow into my face, and I felt as if I were standing in the teeth of a gale, which felt so real that it made me fear that I was going to be blown over backwards, only to discover to my relief that something even more weird was starting to happen: my feet seemed to be becoming stuck to the floor to keep me upright so that I could defy the wind.
   And then something even more strange started to happen. My body seemed to become perforated as if I was made of straw, and instead of blowing against me the wind started to blow through me.
   And then something even more strange started to happen. My life started to flash before my eyes, as if I were drowning, but not in the way you would have expected with the scenes appearing as they actually occurred, but as if I was seeing them take place inside the illuminated compartments of an express train as it thundered past in the darkness at a level crossing, and so it went on for what seemed to be hours, until the meaning of her words finally sank in, and enlightenment started to dawn and my heart sank into my boots, as I finally realised what I was dealing with.
   Jill was telling me what I'd been waiting for her to tell me for months.
She was telling me that she was going to leave me and go off with Vic but why was it making me feel sad? I shouldn’t be feeling sad if she thought she was going to find greater happiness with Vic. I should be feeling happy for her, but then the awful truth sank in.
   If the look on her face was anything to go by, she wasn’t thinking that she was going to find greater happiness with Vic. She was thinking that she was going to find utter misery with him, and I couldn’t help feeling sick with guilt.
When we’d met I’d thought that God had wanted me to devote my life to looking after her, and had felt overwhelmingly privileged to think that He had honoured me with such a profound and important calling but I’d failed. I’d allowed her to become utterly miserable, and then my heart sank even further as I realised how imminent that failure was.
Vic was, probably, already on his way round to pick her up, and she had, probably, already packed her bags and left them upstairs, and she was, probably, just waiting for me to offer to help her bring them downstairs and put them out on the doorstep, and so struggling to overcome my nausea, I said.
   'Is there anything I can do to help?', expecting to hear her say: “Yes. You can help me bring my bags downstairs. Vic is on his way round to pick me up.”, and expecting to see her walk past me out of the room, and up the stairs, inviting me to follow her, but to my utter astonishment, she didn’t move but remained exactly where she was and said succinctly.
   'Yes. I would like to stay with you, and I would like you to bring the baby up as yours.' And I couldn't believe it.
        What did she want to stay with me for? I had no idea, and how could I bring the baby up as mine if it was Vic's? I couldn't.
   ‘What do you want to stay with me for?' I asked in bewilderment. 'And how can I bring the baby up as mine if it's Vic's? He'll go mad.'
   And to my amazement, the Jill, I knew and loved, returned, as she drew herself up to her full height, and asserted venomously.
   'No it's not Vic's! It's mine! And it's got nothing to do with him at all!' And added, vindictively. 'It's all his fault I'm in this mess. I hate him, and I never want to see him again.'
   And I felt quite encouraged to think that she hated him, but doubted that she never wanted to see him again for knowing how matey they were, and doubted that everything was his fault for knowing that he lived in awe of her and wouldn't dare do anything without her explicit permission, and started to consider her request more seriously.
        On the one hand I felt relieved to think that my marriage hadn't ended in total failure, after all, and on the other realized that with Jill being pregnant, the only thing that mattered now was the baby’s welfare, for being only too well aware how dependant its welfare was its mother’s state of mind for having studied child-rearing as part of my psychology course at university and knowing that if a pregnant woman suffers stress it causes an excess of cortisol to be produced in her blood, which is transferred through the placenta into the foetus which weakens its system, causing it to become vulnerable to disease, chronic-stress and depression after birth, and for thinking that to be responsible for causing a child to suffer in this way, is the most heinous sin a person can commit, and one I had no intention of committing.
   'OK,' I said, 'if you're sure Vic won't mind.'
   'It doesn't matter whether Vic minds or not,' she re-asserted venomously, 'it's got nothing to do with him. It's my baby, not his!'
   'OK,' I said, 'if you're sure,' and went to bed that night feeling rather confused. Although I felt relieved to think that my marriage hadn't ended in failure, and although I felt delighted to think that Jill and I were going to have a baby, I found it difficult to believe that we were going to be allowed to keep it. Was I really going to be allowed to rob Vic of his child? It didn't seem likely, but when I woke up the next morning, I was surprised to find that I felt quite the opposite.
        Jill was right. It wasn't my fault if Vic had sown his seeds into a woman who didn't want him. It was his. If he'd wanted the baby then he should have made sure that he had the mother first.
[ Last edit by George183 January 28, 2013, 09:39 PM ] IP Logged

                                            CHAPTER TWO

                                   THE BABY'S WELFARE.

   I'd always hoped that my baby would get the best possible start in life by being conceived under ideal circumstances, with parents who were totally devoted, but it hadn’t, and I couldn't help feeling guilty for being largely to blame for having encouraged Jill to become involved with Vic, because I’d made the mistake of thinking it was what she wanted.
   When I’d crossed the hall and entered the lounge, after Sunday lunch, a year earlier, I’d caught her and Vic sitting together on the sofa, kissing: their heads turned towards each other and their lips just touching.
Jill had leapt up off the sofa, as soon as she saw me, and shot off across the room like a rocket, laughing her head off, as if it was all a huge joke, but Vic hadn’t. He’d remained sitting exactly where he was, with his head down between his knees, too frightened to move: the picture of guilt. I couldn’t believe it. I would never have thought he would ever have allowed himself to be so shown up. He looked totally humiliated and debased. I felt sick with disgust. I’d always thought he was the model of honour and decency, as I had Jill, but it seemed I was wrong. They weren’t honourable or decent. They were extremely dishonourable and indecent. They’d not only carried on behind my back, but had done it in my own house, with me in it, knowing I could walk in on them at any time, and catch them at it, and not caring if I did. They’d treated me with complete contempt, but why? What had I done to deserve it? I didn’t know.
   I’d always made Vic feel welcome as Jill’s friend when he’d visited the house, and treated him with consideration and respect and had thought that he would have been grateful to me for my hospitality and have treated me with consideration and respect too, but he hadn’t. And I’d always treated Jill with consideration and respect, and put her happiness first, and told her quite selflessly that if she were ever to meet somebody else she preferred, then she shouldn’t feel guilty about it, but should tell me about it straightaway, and leave on a friendly and amicable basis with my blessing, and had thought that she would have been grateful to me for my thoughtfulness and have treated me with consideration and respect too, but she hadn’t. Why not?
   I didn’t know. It was all very confusing and I couldn’t work out if she was seriously interested in Vic, or not, and wondered what I could do to find out, and realized that there was only one thing I could do.
   I would have to leave her on her own with him as much as possible, in the hope that if she was interested in him, then, in the fullness of time, her interest would grow to the point where she would be happy to tell me about it, and leave me and go off with him, but was surprised to find, after five months, that she still hadn’t told me anything and hadn’t shown much sign of being interested in him, either, until we went to a Ouija Board session at a friend’s house, in March, when, to my amazement she showed every sign.
   I’d never been to a Ouija Board session before and only went out of curiosity, but after fifteen minutes, I wished I hadn’t bothered. It was a complete waste of time.
   There were seven of us sat around a large, circular, polished, mahogany table: the host, Brian Sims and his wife, Jill and Vic, Jill’s brother David and his wife Sandra, and myself. Everybody had their index finger placed lightly on the rim of the bottom of an upturned wine glass placed in the middle of the table, with the letters of the alphabet placed around the edge, and the words "YES" and "NO" placed on opposite sides: the "YES" card in front of Jill and the "NO" card in front of me. Vic was sitting to Jill’s immediate right. The glass was supposed to spell out answers by sliding across the table, under the influence of the so-called spirit, which was supposed to work through our fingers to make the glass stop at letters, to spell out words, or move directly to the "YES" and "NO" cards to provide a quick answer, but it had gone nowhere.
   It had just meandered around in the middle of the table with no sense of direction at all, and some people had become really upset at having received no answers to the grave questions they’d asked about their dead relatives, until finally I got so sick with boredom at having to watch the glass do nothing, and so frustrated at having to watch people suffer disappointment from failing to get the answers they wanted, that I decided to help them out, by answering their questions myself, and was surprised to see how easy it was for me to push the glass where I wanted it to go, until to my amazement, I found myself being confronted with Jill asking me a question about Vic, which I didn’t understand, at all.
   'Is Vic going to emigrate?' she asked, with a merry little laugh, and I couldn’t believe it. Why was she asking the Ouija Board a question about Vic? Did she want everybody to think she was seriously interested in him? I wouldn’t have thought so. And why was she asking the Ouija Board a question about him at all, when he was sitting right next to her? Why not ask him?
   And why was she laughing? Asking the Ouija Board questions wasn’t supposed to be funny. It was supposed to be serious.
   And why was she asking a question about the living? You weren’t supposed to ask questions about the living. You were supposed to ask questions about the dead, and my heart sank. Was it a trap?
   Were Vic and she scheming together to catch me out? Was she asking me a question about Vic, to which she knew I didn’t know the answer so that Vic could look up and contradict me if I got the answer wrong, and I started to feel sick and wish I’d never got started on answering the questions. You couldn’t get caught out giving wrong answers about the dead, because the dead can’t speak, but not the same could be said of the living. They could.
Now it looked as if I was going to end up looking completely stupid, and I studied Vic’s face to see if I could work out what he was going to do. If he was glaring at me accusingly, I would know I was in trouble, otherwise not, and was relieved to see that he wasn’t looking at me at all, but had dropped his head and was staring resolutely at a spot on the table in front of him.
   So how should I answer Jill’s question? Should I say “yes” or should I say “no”?
   I had no idea. Jill hadn’t said anything to me about Vic wanting to emigrate. Why not? She would have, if he had been, wouldn't she? It was a serious matter, and I would definitely have wanted to know about it, and suddenly realized that the answer to her question was obvious.
   Vic must be thinking about emigrating or Jill wouldn’t be bothering to ask a question about it, and my heart sank. That meant she was having secret conversations with him behind my back. Why was that? I didn't know, but I couldn’t help feeling sick at her disloyalty, and I couldn’t believe what a weird situation I was in.
   Here I was at a Ouija Board Session, at a friend’s house, trying to help people out by giving them the answers they wanted, only to discover that my dearly beloved wife was having secret conversations with another man behind my back. It was totally weird!
   So how should I answer her question? Should I say “yes” or should I say “no”, and suddenly realized that the answer was obvious. Obviously I should say “yes”, and then I might be able to keep the conversation going, and discover even more secrets, and proceeded to push the glass slowly and steadily towards her and the "YES" card, expecting to see her laughing as merrily at my reply, as she’d laughed at her question, but was surprised to see that she wasn’t laughing at all, but was looking rather worried, instead.
   Why was that? I didn’t know, but assumed it to be of no importance as she quickly recovered, and, with another merry little laugh, almost as merry as the first, asked.
   'Is Vic going to Canada?'.
   “Is Vic going to Canada?” I repeated to myself in absolute disbelief. What on earth did Canada have to do with anything? Why would Vic want to go to Canada? Did he know somebody there? Not as far as I knew. Did he like Canada? He'd never said so. So why would he want to go there? He wouldn’t.
   So how should I answer this question, and, to my great relief, I suddenly remembered the helpful conclusion I’d come to about the first question. How could I have forgotten it? Vic must be thinking about emigrating to Canada, or Jill wouldn't be bothering to ask a question about it, which meant that I’d now discovered two secrets she was keeping from me, and realized that if I were to say “yes” in answer to this question, I might be able to keep the conversation going and discover even more, and so, once again, pushed the glass, slowly and steadily to the "YES" card, expecting once again, to see her laughing as merrily at my answer, as she’d laughed at her question, only to find to my surprise that she was looking even more worried. Why was that? What was wrong with her? I didn’t know. It was most confusing, and then, a very irritating thing happened.
   Just as I was starting to feel really pleased with myself, at being able to induce my dearly beloved wife into revealing secrets she was keeping from me about conversations she was having with another man behind my back, and was looking forward to being able to induce her to reveal even more, Vic turned in his seat towards her, and whispered in her ear, loudly enough for everybody to hear.
   'Stop asking questions!', which I couldn’t believe.
   Why was he poking his five eggs in? Who the hell did he think he was? What did my wife asking questions at a Ouija Board session have to do with him? Nothing, so he could keep his nose out of it, and I hoped she would ignore him, and tell him to get stuffed, and was relieved to see that she ignored him altogether, as with another merry little laugh she asked.
   'Is Vic going to get married?', and I was even more stunned.
   "Is Vic going to get married?” I repeated to myself in total disbelief. What did Vic’s getting married have to do with anything? One minute we were talking about emigration and the next we were talking about marriage. What was the connection? There wasn’t one as far as I could see, but then, the penny suddenly dropped and I understood everything.
   I’d seen it all before. Jill was engaging in one of her favourite pastimes: taking the Mickey out of Vic. Now I knew exactly where she was coming from and why she was laughing when she asked her questions. She thought taking the Mickey out of Vic was hilarious, and I guessed she was harking back to an earlier session, when he’d unwisely related a conversation he’d had with a female colleague at work, and, had made the mistake of referring to her by name, as “Marianne”, and she’d been down on him like a ton of bricks.
   Jill saw Vic as her adoring, besotted, doting slave. He had, in fact, been professing undying love to her for twenty years, ever since they’d met as pupils at Barton Peveril Grammar School in Eastleigh, in 1949, aged 11, when he’d fallen madly in love with her at first sight, to be followed, ten years later by his asking her to marry him, unsuccessfully, the year before she met me, and so, for him, to have mentioned another woman, by name, in front of her, in company, had, in her eyes, been the ultimate treachery, and so she’d derided him about it, mercilessly, in front of her cousin Brenda and me, claiming that if he couldn’t stop talking about Marianne in front of everybody, then it was obvious that he must be secretly obsessed with her, and, must be harbouring a secret desire to marry her, ignoring all his plaintive protests to the contrary, and reducing him to a squirming, writhing heap of embarrassment, and now, apparently, she was going to do it again, in front of everybody, which meant I now knew exactly how to answer her questions, and entered into the spirit of things by pushing the glass back across the table towards her and the “Yes” card with added enthusiasm, and was amused to see the shocked look on her face, as it shot towards her like a rocket, to come to a sudden halt in front of her, with all the fingers and arms attached, pointing at her, almost like an accusation.
   She jumped back in fright and stared at it, in total fascination, as if it was a living thing, and then, once she’d got over the shock, said, with another merry little laugh,
   'Is Vic going to marry somebody older than he?' the significance of which I understood immediately. It was a set-up. She was older than he, and Marianne was younger, which meant that if I were to say “no”, it would rule her out and Marianne in, and realized that, in that case, I had a problem.
   The “NO” card was on my side of the table, which meant that I couldn’t push the glass towards it, and I couldn’t pull it either, because I couldn’t get enough purchase, and wondered what I could do to make it move towards me, and realized that the only thing I could do was press down on the rim to stop it moving away from me, and then, wait patiently for it to come back, and watched and waited, until eventually, it started to move slowly and falteringly, in my direction to stop at the “NO” card, and looked up at Jill, expecting once again, to see her laughing as merrily at my reply as she’d laughed at her question, only to find to my astonishment, that she was looking even more worried. What was wrong with her now? I was helping her to take the Mickey out of Vic as she wished, wasn’t I, so, why wasn’t she looking pleased about it? I had no idea, but assumed that she would start looking pleased soon, and watched and waited as she tried to recover herself before asking her next question, but was surprised to see that she couldn’t.
   Her merry little laugh fell flat and sounded hollow, as she said in a falteringly tone of voice.
   'Is Vic going to get married in Canada?', and I couldn’t believe it.
   For her laugh to have fallen flat and sound hollow meant that it was false, but Jill wasn’t capable of doing anything false. She was a paragon of virtue and a devout Christian. At least I'd always thought she was, but now I wasn’t so sure, and then I got an even bigger shock.
   Instead of her starting to look pleased at my replies, as I’d expected, she started to look even more worried: firing questions at me desperately, in rapid succession, so fast that I found it hard to keep up with her, and started to wonder if there was some sort of a duel going on between us to see who could wear the other out first, as she questioned me endlessly, about how many children Vic would have, and, what sex they would be, and, what their names would be, and, finally, what the name of his future wife would be, requiring me to have to spell out the name “M-A-R-I-A-N-N-E”, at length, letter by letter, with some difficulty, only to find, to my utter astonishment, that upon seeing my reply, she ground to a halt, on the verge of tears, unable to speak, looking a total wreck, covered in sweat, like the victim of a virulent fever, as did Vic, whose head had dropped further and further, as Jill’s distress had deepened, leaving me to wonder what on earth was wrong with them. What had got them so upset?
   I didn’t know. All I knew was that Jill was obviously a lot more interested in Vic, than she liked to make out, which came as no great surprise, and, that her laugh couldn't be trusted, which did, especially in the light of how often she’d used it in the past to convince me that the very idea of her being even remotely interested in him was laughable, which I now knew to be false. It was now perfectly obvious that she was extremely interested in him, which created an even more puzzling question.
   Why, if Jill was so interested in Vic, was she still with me? Why hadn’t she left? Was it because she loved me more? I would have liked to have thought so, but it didn’t seem very likely, because she hadn’t let me make love to her for two years, which didn’t seem very loving, and then the answer suddenly hit me like a thunderbolt.
   It was because she was like me. I didn’t want the breakdown of my marriage to be my fault. I wouldn’t be able to cope with the guilt. I wanted it to be hers, and she was the same.
   She didn’t want the breakdown of her marriage to be her fault. She wanted it to be mine. She didn’t want to be the guilty party, who’d got caught out being unfaithful with another man, behind my back. She wanted me to be the guilty party who’d got caught out being unfaithful with another woman behind hers, so what could I do about that? There seemed to be only one thing I could do. I would have to pretend that I was being unfaithful with another woman behind her back, and that I was the guilty party and make sure that she found out, and then she would be able to blame me for the breakdown of her marriage, and leave me, and go off with Vic, without censure, as she wished.
   The only snag was: how was I ever going to be able to find a woman, who was willing to help me pretend that I was being unfaithful with her behind my wife’s back?
   That wasn’t going to be easy, but to my great surprise found, after only two weeks, the perfect opportunity arose.

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