She was grateful that someone had stopped to see if she was alright. It was a dark and lonely road.
If Anthony hadn’t said what he did at the cocktail party then she wouldn’t have stormed off, taking the car and not knowing how to get home from the country club.
Whenever they went out together at night time he always drove. She never thought to look around and take in the surroundings.
“I think it’s your battery” the other woman said to her “It’s happened to me before”.
“Oh dear” she said anxiously “What should I do?”
“Do you want to call someone?”
Lydia thought of Anthony and his patronising way and what he would say.
“No not really. I could call the car service to come out. They will come out here won’t they?” she asked the other woman tentatively.
“Of course - if you’re a member then they’ll come out to anywhere. Are you with anyone?”
“Pardon me?” Lydia said not quite sure what the other woman meant.
“Who are you with? Is it the Main car service? Or is it the ABC of cars?”
“Oh I see. Umm it’s the ABC of cars”
“If you ring them I won’t leave you here until they arrive” Julie said helpfully
Lydia dialled on her mobile, and then turned to Julie to ask exactly where she was! After talking to the man on the other end of the phone, she turned to tell Julie in a slightly embarrassed voice that it was a very busy night and they could be up to three hours.
“Alright then, we’re not waiting here that long so how about you tell them that you’re not very far away and to ring you when they are almost here”.
Lydia let the man know and then got into the passenger seat of Julie’s car, remembering all the lessons she had been taught when young about getting into a car with a stranger, even if they did seem really nice! But she was desperate.
She needn’t have worried – Julie chatted to her like an old friend for the ten or so minutes they were driving and then pulled up in front of a little one story house that oozed character and personality - it was made from limestone with a tin room and chimney that had smoke billowing out of it.
As they pulled up alongside the white picket fence a dark grey tabby cat sprang up from a bush of hydrangeas and on to the top of the pickets, meowing as if to say ‘I’ve missed you’.
A light suddenly came to life on the front veranda wall and Lydia could see that the garden was full of colourful flowers and bushes. A rambling rose was growing all along the gutter and she could not only see it but smell the pungent perfume as soon as she stepped out of the car.
“Oh what a lovely house” she said “and you have a fire going”…..
“Oh yes I couldn’t do without my trusty log fire in winter”.
“I love ‘real’ fires. We have central heating all through my house but it’s not the same, and after a while I start to feel like I’m car sick”.
Julie pressed the door buzzer and after just a couple of seconds it was opened by a tall dark haired man. He suited the house somehow, seeming charismatic and charming, and with a beaming smile said “Oh I was starting to worry about where you were Julie” giving her a big hug before realising that there was someone else standing on the porch “Oh hello- I’m sorry I didn’t see you there. I’m Dave” and he held out his big calloused hand and shook her delicate soft one.
“Dave love, this is Lydia. She’s broken down on the slip road. We’ve called the ABC car service and they’ll ring when they’re on their way”.
“Yes Lydia stopped to help me. Goodness knows what I would have done. I really don’t know the country that well. I’m from the city but my husband and I were invited to the ‘Rural developer’s cocktail evening’.
“Is the hubby still there then?” asked Dave wondering why a man would let his wife drive home on her own when she wasn’t familiar with the area.
“Umm yes he is. I was beginning to get a migraine so decided to leave early”. It wasn’t the exact truth about the migraine, but she justified what she said by thinking that she probably would have had one if she’d of stayed much longer.
“Oh come and sit down near the fire Lydia. I’m sorry I didn’t realise you weren’t feeling too good. I’ll get a couple of aspirin and some water for you. It’s probably the tension of breaking down and not knowing where you are – I think I’d feel the same way.
The compact room was warm and cosy with a wide old sofa - a mountain of coloured cushions scattered on it. Lydia sank into the matching wide armed chair next to it. The material on the arms was well worn but it was so comfortable, and she loved the fact that her feet could touch the carpet in front of her.
She hated her formal lounge at home – white and cold, sparsely but perfectly decorated with not a thing out of place – even the cushions were all symmetrical. And she needed to footstool for her short legs! As she glanced around the room Lydia thought of how stark her own lounge room looked with its bare surfaces.
Anthony was a minimalist so there wasn’t an ornament in sight. The only adornment was a huge ugly vase sitting on the glass table top with fake flowers in it – hideous!
Julie had taken her coat off and hung it on the hook in the hall when they had walked inside - she was now wearing a thick woollen hoodie and ugg boots. “Excuse the way I’m dressed but I’m all for comfort once you’re home!”
“I love this room; it’s so welcoming” Lydia remarked “What a great idea to have photos displayed along the top of the wall”.
“Oh the picture rails are great – whoever invented them was on to a winner…. probably a woman she joked as she looked at Dave. It saves so much space, especially when you don’t have much to start with!” and she laughed.
Lydia thought of her photos at home – all neatly tucked away in phot albums where no one saw them.
The wooden and glass door of the room suddenly opened, the heart shaped brass chime making a gentle sound as it moved about on the handle, and heads turned to see who it was. “Oh come in Bessie” Julie said to a roly poly little dog.
“Hello you adorable little thing” Lydia said to it as she reached down to pat it, but it had other ideas and instantly jumped up to sit on her lap!
“Get down Bessie, you naughty girl” Julie told it “I’m really sorry Lydia, she thinks everyone loves her!”
“No leave her on my lap. She’s gorgeous. I love dogs and I had a cocker spaniel for all of my childhood. I got her when I was five and she died when I was almost twenty, but I haven’t had one since. My husband doesn’t like dogs”
“Well you’ve got the touch with Bessie, it’s not just anyone’s knees she falls asleep on – that one’s particular!”
Lydia stroked the soft fur continually, feeling the dogs breathing getting louder and her body heavier as she relaxed deeper into her lap with every stroke. “I find it very therapeutic having a dog or a cat to pat. My Gran had two Persian cats and I just loved running my hands down their silky backs”.
“Ok then, who’s for a cuppa and some cake?” asked Dave springing up from his seat.
He took the orders and went off into the kitchen.
“I hope the car people aren’t too late, I feel terrible keeping you both up”
“Oh don’t worry about us – we’re used to getting little sleep. We’re hand rearing a foal whose mother died last week – it’s a favour for our neighbour and it needs fed every two to three hours!”
“Really?” said Lydia, sitting up a little with her interest piqued - finding it intriguing that people did this sort of thing in their everyday life. “It would be like having children!”
“Oh we have three of those too!” quipped Julie laughing “They are spending the weekend at their Grandma’s so we are having a mini break!”
“Now I feel really bad that I’ve disrupted your night as you don’t even have your children to worry about. I’m very sorry for all of this disruption Julie”.
“Honestly, stop worrying about it – we are really happy to help out – it’s not a problem for us. Do you have children?” she asked as an afterthought.
Lydia was wistful as she answered the question – “No I don’t. We couldn’t have them for some unknown reason and Anthony didn’t want to go down the IVF road….
“Oh I’m sorry about that Lydia” and then she bit the bullet and said what she was thinking “I don’t mean to be too personal but have you thought about adopting?” Julie gently asked.
All Lydia said was “Anthony doesn’t want other people’s problems. That’s what he said”
In came the tea and cakes. It was good timing as Julie didn’t want to ask any more questions about Lydia’s life – she was already thinking what a selfish sod ‘Anthony’ sounded and didn’t feel like hating him when she hadn’t even met him!
They talked about all sorts of things – where they grew up, schooling, friends, books that they had read and movies they had seen.
But all through the conversation Julie was beginning to feel that Lydia wasn’t satisfied with her life and felt somehow unfulfilled. It wasn’t anything in particular she said but just the way she talked about her house, and how quiet it always was, that she was a long way from her family.
Julie knew how fortunate she was with the life she had – it was tight with money sometimes and could be tiring especially with three children but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lydia sounded quite downhearted when she talked about how children would probably have made so much difference to their lives. ‘She sounds almost envious’ Julie thought ‘but I could be wrong’.
Lydia told Julie that her husband was away quite a lot on business and that was when she felt she could be more herself. She volunteered at a local nursing home reading to the oldies, but when he was away she went every day, then came home, sat in front of the television, instead of at the dining table and ate ‘takeaway’ for dinner! Julie laughed out loud “You rebel you!” she laughed.
She was beginning to really open up and Julie learnt quite a lot about her:
“I had an ordinary childhood; my dad was a teacher and my mum worked in a clothes shop. We got by - holidays were a trip to the seaside for a few days each year for me and my siblings and hand me down clothes were a normal practice but it was a loving home.
It all changed after I met Anthony. He was charismatic, clever, and handsome and literally swept me off her feet! We got married and lived where HE wanted to live – close to the city where his business was, taking me a lot further away from my family and friends.
I knew that being so far away from everyone would make it hard to keep some of my friendships but I didn’t realise just how many people would eventually ‘drop off’ – but as time went by I had her suspicions that it was partly because my friends didn’t really like my husband very much!
Lydia knew it wasn’t the right thing to say but felt comfortable enough to tell Julie that she was actually a little bit jealous of her life. (So Julie had been right about that) But before the conversation got any further Lydia’s mobile rang and she sounded very disappointed to be told that the ‘car man’ was five minutes away.
Julie and Dave both drove out with her to her car. By now it was quite late and an eerie place to be waiting around in, in the pitch black. “Now are you sure you know where to go from here? Asked Dave
“Yes once I’m on the main road I’ll be fine and Tom said I could follow him up to the main road, so it’s all good!”
Just before she got into her car Lydia turned to Julie and they hugged each other.
“I don’t know how to thank you both. You’ve been so kind to me”
“Oh it was nothing, really” Julie told her “But now you know where we live, please come and visit us, I mean it, and it will be so much easier to drive here in the day light and with a car that won’t break down!”
Lydia didn’t want to go home. She wanted to stay here. It was silly she knew and didn’t make any sense but she would miss the warmth, and Bessie!
Anthony got home at two thirty in the morning – he had shared a taxi with a friend who lived a few miles further on.
Lydia was awake but pretended to be asleep…
“I know you’re awake. You cost me a fortune on that taxi” he told her “You really need to get a grip on things” and he climbed in beside her, back to back.
One of the things about Anthony that she wished was different was the fact that the day after an argument, he seemed to have forgotten what it had been about (Probably because he was at fault!) He carried on as if nothing had happened so everything stayed the same - she still lived the life he wanted her to.
The next morning he made tea downstairs and was sipping his as usual “Good morning” he said to Lydia as she poured tea from the pot. “Good morning” she replied, knowing she wouldn’t bring last night… yet – but it was an episode in her life that had changed her.
She looked across the breakfast bar at her husband and realised that one of these days they would have a conversation that could make or break them. Either way she would accept it, but at the moment she had no idea which direction it would go.
Lydia’s life had changed since the night she broke down in her car and met Julie. She knew what kind of life she wanted and what would make her a lot happier than she was.
Last year she turned forty years of age. Her life seemed quite meaningless a lot of the time. ‘I don’t want to turn around and I’m fifty years old and everything is the same. It’s up to me to make it change’.
She had arranged with Julie to visit when the children were home from school, a Saturday. Anthony was away for a couple of days so it was perfect. In daylight it was easy to get to Julie’s house.
The three children had been playing outside with Bessie, along with the big Labrador from next door and some ducks that lived in the pond on the property.
Their cheeks were rosy and they laughed a lot. After Lydia had been introduced to them, the two women sat on the porch watching the children. Lydia felt the pang of wanting what she didn’t have. It felt like a space in her heart – it needed to be filled.
“I’ve missed this place” she said “I feel relaxed and ‘me’ when I’m here. This is what I want Julie, it really is. I want children too. Look at those three of yours; they must bring you and Dave such joy”
“Joy most of the time! It’s not always easy but it’s what matters to us – family and laughter. Just as she uttered the words two of the children came over yelling at each other with a bit of a push and a shove. “I told you it wasn’t a bed of roses!!” and they laughed. “Off you go you two and sort it out” she told the kids.
You can always foster to start with you know and that can eventually lead to adoption in some cases. That’s what a friend of mine did. They still foster but also have a teenager that they fostered since six weeks of age and adopted at twelve years”.
The children came back having sorted out their differences - red cheeked and scruffy haired but happy. Taking some cake with them they went off again to play. Lydia watched them and had never been so sure of anything as much as this. She knew that the only way forward was to sit down and talk to her husband.
Later that evening and back at her own house she sat thinking of the wonderful day she had had at Julie’s.
She did love Anthony – he had his faults like she did, but he certainly wasn’t a bad person. She knew that if he didn’t want what she did then it wouldn’t work for them to stay together.
If he wasn’t willing to give up some of his selfish ways to help his wife, and himself to have a more fulfilling life together, Lydia would do it on her own. She was prepared for it – she had a need to love others – children. AND she knew that always feeling envious wasn’t healthy.
Anthony was due home tomorrow evening. “Let’s hope he’s ready for an interesting evening” Lydia said aloud and was actually looking forward to it.