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I followed him when he left the house. I’d stood in the hallway and listened to them argue in the kitchen. She’d found some texts on his phone. She wanted to know who the woman was. He said it was an old school friend, who he’d bumped into in the pub recently. “Don’t worry, Pat,” he told her. “There’s nothing going on.” “Then why is she sending you all these bloody messages?” “I don’t know. My engaging personality?” “This is no time for humour, Simon.” The conversation went downhill from there, and shortly after the door slammed as he left. I watched him walk down the driveway and climb into the Range Rover, shaking my head at the nerve of the guy – mother had let him share the use of it for the last few months, and now he pretty much took it as he pleased. I watched him pass through the front gates then ran out to my car, figuring I would find out where he was going. I tried to keep a couple of cars between myself and the Range Rover, so I wouldn’t be seen. I thought about the situation as I drove. Why was I following him? I didn’t trust him. He’d told mother he was going to see his friend while she cooled down, but I figured I’d find out who this friend was. He might have had mother fooled, but not me. They met about a year ago, when he was part of a team that were doing some landscaping for us. He was loud and told stories, and mother must have found some of them funny because she’d invite him into the kitchen for tea and sandwiches at lunchtime. When the work was finished he invited her to dinner, and they began dating. I can’t say I liked him much; I thought he was too confident, and a little bit crude. And why did he insist on calling her Pat, not Patricia? But he seemed to have a positive effect on mother, so I left them to it. She’d been on her own since father had died in 2009, so I thought it was good for her to start socialising again. They would get together most nights of the week. Sometimes he came over for dinner and spent the night, and at other times they would go out for drinks or a movie. There were a number of instances when we wouldn’t see him for a few days. He would tell mother he was catching up with his friends, and she seemed happy with that – but I’d always wondered. Twenty minutes later I pulled to the kerb on a quiet residential street in the village of Throckley. Simon had pulled up about a hundred metres ahead, and I didn’t dare get any closer. He got out of the car, and I watched him take a quick glance left and right before opening the garden gate of a large detached bungalow. He walked down the path that dissected a well-kept garden, and knocked at the door. It was opened by a woman, who stepped out and hugged him. She looked to be in her late twenties, just like me. They went inside and closed the door behind them. I wondered if this was the woman who had been texting him, and if she was also the “friend” he would see on the nights he didn’t spend with mother. I waited there a couple of hours, as the streetlamps lit up and darkness closed in. The Range Rover was still there when I left after 10 p.m. The following morning I found mother having breakfast in the conservatory. I told her about the night before. “It was probably the woman who’s been texting him,” she said. “He’ll have been telling her to leave him alone.” “And that takes two hours?” “Maybe it’s just a friend.” “Mother, don’t be so naive.” “Don’t shake your head at me, Amy.” She took a sip of coffee. “How did it occur to you to even follow him?” “I don’t know. I was in my car before I really thought about it.” I shrugged my shoulders. “I’ve never really trusted him.” “I should give him a call,” she said. “No, don’t. He’ll just tell you another story.” “Just wait here five minutes. And leave my croissants alone.” I helped myself to a croissant, and poured a coffee while she made her call. She returned five minutes later. She sat down and let out a sigh. “Well?” I asked. “He’s not happy at you spying on him.” “Mother! You told him?” “He asked me if I’d been following him. I told him it was you,” she said, and chuckled. “Oh, thanks a lot. I don’t care anyway. What did he say about the woman?” “He said it’s the one who’s been texting him. He told her to leave him alone.” “Yeah, right. And that took two hours?” She shook her head. “I don’t know.” “And he might have been there longer than two hours – he was still there when I left!” “Bloody men!” “But,” I said, “how have you left it?” “I told him to stay away. I need to be on my own for a while, figure things out.” I raised my hands in the air. “Hurrah! Good move, mother. Stay there while I grab some more croissants.” We didn’t hear from him for a week, during which time I tried to stop mother feeling sorry for herself. I told her that she had made the right decision, that if she couldn’t trust him she was better off without him. She nodded her head and agreed, but I didn’t know if I was making things any better. Then he called and invited her to dinner. I told her it was a bad idea, but she seemed determined to go. “I just want to hear what he has to say for himself,” she said. I was surprised by his choice of restaurant – an expensive one. I was sure he’d probably have “lost” his credit card when the bill arrived. I hoped she’d just tell him to piss off, but I didn’t think she would. So I decided to go with her. You should have seen his face, when he saw me enter the restaurant with mother! It took all my willpower not to make a sarcastic comment as the waiter placed an extra seat at the table. He made small talk as we checked the menus, probably a little unsure what he was going to say to mother in front of me. Then he gave her the spiel, telling her she was the only one and all that jazz. He put a small gift box on the table. “You are so full of shit,” I said to him. At which point the waiter arrived to take our orders. I stared at Simon for a couple of seconds, then got up and walked out. I drove home, and poured myself a large vodka. I was halfway through drinking my second when mother returned. “Sorry,” I said. “I just lost it.” “Don’t worry about it.” “What happened?” “I had a drink with him after you left,” she said. “I didn’t eat. He asked me to open the box, but I said no. I asked him to give me some space, as I needed time to think.” “Good, mother. Good. Can I get you a drink?” She kicked off her shoes, and said, “Only one?” That was last month. She seems OK now. I don’t think she’s had any contact with him. She talks about calling him, but never does. We’ve often talked, and I’ve tried to reassure her that she’s doing the right thing. I think she’s going to be fine. I just hope she doesn’t think too much about what was inside the box! END I am English. I worked in casinos for 20 years, 15 of those years spent working on various cruise ships. I enjoy reading and writing.


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