Janet Pywell ellie BravoOn bank holiday Monday I take Auntie Annie to the airport and my emotions are mixed

I am caught up in her excitement of seeing her son and her brother, my Uncle David. Selfishly I know the house will seem empty without her. I smile and reassure her, I will be fine on my own and that I will make more friends and go out.

“You’re only thirty-three,” she says. “I was married with a son at your age. Go out and have some fun!”

“I will, I promise.”

“Treat my house as your own. Entertain! Have dinner parties and enjoy yourself.”

“I will.”

“Invite friends over from London to stay.”

“I will.”

I kiss her goodbye, push her through passport control and hide my tears.

Simon is determined to buy and sell hardware to the public. I’ve told him it’s a crazy idea but he won’t listen, so I spend the rest of the week reviewing suitable locations for secure warehouses or a retail outlet to store.

This afternoon it is a chance to speak on the telephone to a new client. She is an interesting woman from Haiti, a restaurant owner and chef. Her name is Mickey Bleu. We run through the spec of what she is looking for and I tell her I will send her a contract to look through. It is almost five o’clock when I have time to look in on Maria.

I’ve hardly been in the office this week and I haven’t spoken to her all day. She looks up from mounds of invoices and smiles with tired eyes.”

“I’ve hardly seen you this week. I haven’t even had a chance to tell you we went to the zoo on the bank holiday.”

She laughs at my reaction – exaggerated wide eyes and open mouth, and holds up a slim hand.

“I know! Don’t say it!  I don’t think Michael realises Lily has grown up. He was trying to get us all to behave as we did five years ago; to laugh at the monkeys and ape around, but you know how Lily likes to be quite a grown-up now”

I smile.

Maria shakes her head. Silver pendant, feather earrings flutter from her lobes. “I refused to join in. I couldn’t wait to get out of the place. What did you do for the bank holiday?”

“I took the Harley out, and walked down beside the sea, in Holywood, at Seapoint. It’s beautiful along there.”

She rests her face on her hand thoughtfully. “You can look across the Lough to us in Jordanstown.”

That’s exactly what I had done but I say nothing. Instead, I turn and look out of the window.

“Elly? Is there something wrong?” Maria tilts her head.

I stand beside the window.

“Am I that transparent?”

“If you want to talk?” Maria waits and concern floods into her eyes. “I always unburden myself to you and tell you my problems. So, speak to me.”

I have an overwhelming urge to speak, to confide in someone and to be understood. I feel as though I am alone in the desert, lost and wandering with only my footprints to identify who I am. I have been keeping my emotions locked away and I am frightened they will suddenly burst out of me and I will have no control over them and I will want to weep with self-pity – which would not only be embarrassing but pathetically stupid.

“My ex went to see my sister.” I look down at the busy road before turning back to Maria. I want to tell her the truth but I don’t know if I can.

“Let me guess! He wants you back,” she says softly, “I wouldn’t blame him.”

Now is the perfect moment to tell the truth.

I can be honest. I can confess. I will tell her everything. I need to talk.

But what if it complicates my relationship with Maria?

Would it mix the emotions in our lives like stirring coloured water in a jam jar belonging to an artist brush?

I speak slowly, “He wishes I had never left…” My voice trails away. I sigh. I think it’s easier to lie.

“And, what do you think?”

“Sometimes I’m so lonely I think it would be easier to go back to London,” I answer truthfully.

“Are you still interested in him? Do you think it could work out?” Maria’s questions come quickly and I study the ends of my maroon painted nails before I reply.

“I don’t know if going back to London is the answer. I like living here and I adore being so close to the sea. Besides, I’m not very forgiving…”

“I know you haven’t said much about him but affairs are affairs. It would be great if we could all have affairs and go back to our partners and expect to carry on as if nothing happened. We would all do it, including me!”

“You wouldn’t have an affair.”

“Sometimes I think a fling would be lovely. A naughty escapade would be wonderful.”

“Maria!” I reprimand her but I smile, inside my heart is rattling my ribcage.

“If I could just go back and carry on as if nothing had happened, I would,” Maria continues.

“You mean if Michael didn’t find out?”

“Yes, I think I would.”

“What about the guilt factor?”

“Ah yes, guilt. We Catholics are very good at guilt but I could train myself in that department but only if he was exceptionally good looking, and the sex would have to be pretty special too.”

“Brad Pitt?”

“George Clooney!”

“Not John the Ogre then?”

“Definitely not! He’s back in the office on Monday. I wonder how his Sales Seminar went and I do hope he’s given up smoking for you,” she giggles.

And I cannot tear my gaze away from her smiling mouth