Janet Pywell ellie BravoIt never gets easier, when you’re entangled in a web of love…

On Friday I have meetings in town. It is mid-morning before I am back in the office. Although I am weary and bad-tempered, I feel Maria’s presence in the office and when I look into her office it is empty but her jacket hangs on the back of her chair. I am heartened.

Muffled voices in the boardroom propel me to open the door. She is sitting at the table with Simon and John.

“Great! You’re back Elly,” Simon says. “Maria’s been doing a quick budget for us on the additions to the ITG project that we discussed yesterday.” He passes me photocopies of figures. “I’m beginning to realise that selling hardware is not a financially sound option. The shop would be too costly and you’re right about being competitive in our pricing. We’ll have to rethink our strategy.”

I nod and pull out a chair. It was his strategy, not mine.

“Maria, do you want to talk us through all of this?” asks Simon.

She’s wearing a cream cotton blouse and my eyes rest on a few freckles in the hollow of her neck. She is concentrating on papers and when she does look up there are dark circles under her eyes. Her face is pale and drawn. Her undulating accent fills the room, and soft vowels roll from her tongue as she explains the figures.

John and Simon ask a few questions but I can barely breathe.

Are they moving to Dublin? Has Michael decided to move? Does she still have feelings for me? Was l just an adventure for her?

“Elly? You’ve not said a word. Does this all sound okay, to you?” Simon stares at me.

 I drag my eyes from Maria, cough and clear my throat. “Fine!”

She will not meet my gaze. She continues to be fascinated by the figures or with John and Simon. She looks everywhere but not at me.

When the meeting ends Simon leaves the room and I linger behind wishing John would leave but instead he puts his hands in his pockets and rocks on the balls of his feet.

“I bet it was good to see Kat again, was it?” he asks.

I freeze.

Maria looks at me.

I want to thump him, instead, I reply slowly and quietly. “It’s none of your business but Kat left on the first flight on Saturday morning.”

“It looked as if she was on a mission on Friday.” He smiles heartily. “She couldn’t wait to see you. You must have been in a hurry yourself too. I had to turn your office light off. You even left your handbag behind!”

I lean toward him and say very sincerely. “John, I may have to work with you but I don’t have to like you. And if you ever, ever, mention my private life again you will regret it.” His smile fades. “This is the only warning you are getting because if you make any reference to Kat or my private life I will haul your arse into court for sexual harassment quicker than you can say Happy Days! I will make your life hell and no employer will want to touch you after I’ve finished with you. So stay out of my life.”

“I don’t want to upset 

“Shut up John, or I’ll see you in court and sue your fat arse.” I leave the room not bothering to glance at Maria.

It is almost four o’clock when I have calmed down. I have spent the past hour pacing my office. My caged tiger walks, backwards and forwards, leaning my head on the glass-like it is the bars on a prison. I am wishing I had behaved differently, more moderately.

I take a deep breath, calm my breathing, and venture into Maria’s office where I lean against the door frame and fold my arms. “Hi!”

Her fringe flops across her eyes, she pushes it aside and we look at each other unsmiling.

“How are you?” I ask quietly.

“Fine.” She shuffles papers.

I take a step forward. “How are you really?”

“Fine, really!” She studies the figures.

She can’t still be concentrating on them.

I put my palms on her desk and lean forward, and she sits back to look up at me. Finally, I see into the depths of her pained eyes. A flicker, a cloud across a clear sky crosses her face, and her long lashes blink rapidly. Her pupils seem extraordinarily large and beautiful.

I speak quietly. “Do you understand my pain and hurt knowing that you sleep with your husband every night? But I say nothing to you about that. I don’t ask what happens between you and Michael even though it kills me to know that you have a husband. But I will tell you that I had nothing with Kat. It is over between us. It was over before I came here. She just wouldn’t accept it.” I take a deep breath, stand straight and I fold my arms. “So tell me, are you moving to Dublin?”

“Michael has decided he’s going to do an internal transfer so he can spend more time at home with us here in the north.” Her words are like a spear ripping my gut open.

“That’s great then.” My voice is heavy with sarcasm.

“It will be much better,” she says positively. “It means we can spend more time together as a family, and Lily is really happy now she doesn’t have to move.”

“And us?”

Her eyes are dark and her words final. “There is no us.”