Feeling at a distinct disadvantage lying on the floor, I crawled on to my squishy sofa, dragging the throw after me. I didn't see any point to lying to Grammas; I had no intention of getting rid of the baby or hiding its presence. I simply hadn't found the right time to tell Mike.
"I haven't given Mike my new address. In fact, I haven't told him I've moved either."
Grammas didn't say 'Oh, Lily, how could you?' but with her expressive face you didn't need to hear the words. I felt mean. Grr. When did this stop being fun?
She didn't stay too much longer after having some coffee and giving me a lecturette about talking to Mike. All well and good, except she wasn't privy to all the facts and that made speaking to Mike a little problematic for me. I pulled the throw up under my chin and got comfortable. I needed to think.
The next thing I knew, I'd woken up with no idea where I was for a moment. Disorientated, I wondered what had disturbed me.
The wonderfully old-fashioned door knocker clattered, and obviously not for the first time.
Still drowsy, I half-staggered out into the hall and opened the door.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was anyway. With the memory of his apparent 'death' still quite fresh in my mind, I was pathetically grateful to see him alive and mostly well, standing on my top step.
He didn't look like he'd slept very much, but the tousled 'I'd rather be in bed' look suited him. I knew I was staring. He gave me that sad half-smile.
"May I come in?"
I stepped back and opened the door, a tacit invitation that was accepted.
We stood awkwardly in the hall.
"You moved without telling me."
I nodded, miserable.
"You said you need space and time to think. I gave you both."
I nodded again.
"How do you think this makes me feel?"
Almost as bad as I do.
I shrugged one shoulder with embarrassment, a lump in my throat. I knew my words would be inadequate, but I tried anyway.
"You did what I asked, but it was time for me to follow my...dream."
It sounded mad to me, so it must have to Mike.
He looked exasperated.
"Your dream? To move here of all places?"
I turned towards the front room and was thankful when Mike followed. I took my spot of the sofa but he remained standing as he looked around the room. His hands on his hips, he was frowning, but seemed distracted.
He turned back to me.
"You know 'why not' – we're not supposed to visit the 'past' haunts, let alone move into them."
I shrugged. I had a feeling I was going to be cut some slack in that department, but I'd worry about it later.
"How did you find me?"
"It wasn't that difficult. Give you due credit though; the penny didn't drop until after we were talking about flower baby names. This house is looked after by the Lerion Trust. Suspiciously like Leirion, the Greek word for a Lily."
Mike looked me up and down. I had the feeling that he could see right through me. I didn't know if was hormones or proximity, but it was hot and I still wanted him so bad it was good.
I could feel myself trembling and folded my arms in an attempt to hide it. I gave him my 'cocky' grin. Look at me, I don't care at all.
Mike shook his head.
"Give it up, Lily."
He frowned again, reconsidering.
"No, that's not true. I don't want you to give up or give in, or any other surrender stuff, I love you just the way you are. I'd like to live, love, fight and make up with you for the rest of my life."
My stomach went into free-fall.
Frack. That sounds like another proposal.
My heart and gut were both screaming 'yes!' at the top of their non-voices, but my brain was being a pain in the ass.
I was no longer the sole tenant of my own body.
"May I drive? For old times sake?"
Foyle halted at the passenger's door of his car, which he had been about to open for Sam and looked askance at her.
"Well, um, I don't know. Do I have to sit in the back for old times sake?"
Sam's smile was his reward as she shook her head.
"Not unless you want to; I'd far rather have you in the front where I can get hold of you."
As a consequence that Foyle should have anticipated, the increase in Sam's confidence in her own sexual appeal since their 'interlude' yesterday afternoon had been quite marked. It wasn't his imagination that supplied the subtle undertone to his fiancée's conversation.
Just as it wasn't his imagination last night when he had walked her home. She had invited him in for 'five minutes', in order to say goodnight. Their ardour, in both their eyes, thankfully, was not for public consumption, and Sam's warm 'goodnight' was warmer than usual, leaving him decidedly hot under the collar. He felt like a randy schoolboy and it left him somewhat unsettled. The wedding could not come quickly enough for either of them.
"Perhaps I should sit in the back, if I'm going to be too much of a distraction. Wouldn't want to have an accident, would we?"
Sam's smile widened to a grin.
Foyle rounded the car to the driver's door just in time to hear her sotto voce caveat;
"...although with only three days to the wedding, I don't think anyone would be able to tell."
Foyle stopped dead and looked at her. An eyebrow rose as he opened the door.
"You are incorrigible. What have I unleashed?"
He got a cheeky grin.
"Not long to find out."
Sam slipped into the driver's seat with the ease of long practice and Foyle returned to the passenger side.
But Sam heard the amused pride in his tone and they were both smiling as they set off for the Vicarage.
"It's Foyle, isn't it?"
I pulled the throw up to my chin. Sort of a security blanket.
"That's why you moved here. You're in love with him. You got involved. Just as I knew you would."
It's not that simple.
Mike didn't sound annoyed; his tone was more resigned than anything else.
I had a light bulb moment.
I recalled the expression on Mike's face when I set out on my assignment. The underlying sadness.
"That's the real truth, isn't it? You did know I'd fall for Chris. You knew before I left; before I knew."
Mike's shoulders slumped with defeated acceptance that the cat was out of the bag. He knew I'd not leave it alone.
"I didn't know, but I guessed, as I told you before. Too many things didn't add up."
I felt a shiver run through me.
Too many things didn't add up.
God, how we dreaded those findings in any of our research. Temporal Correction was a minefield. One misstep and kablooie, we're screwed.
I felt faint again. Under the throw my hand slid over my tum. What if there was another ripple of change? I had more to lose now.
Mike was there in an instant.
"You're as white as a sheet. Do you need a drink of water or something?"
I nodded, feeling queasy.
He was only gone a few moments before he was back beside me with a glass of water. I took a few restorative sips and began to feel a little better.
Something niggled in my brain, but I was too fuzzy to connect the dots at that moment. It was only later when I remembered how quick he had been to the kitchen and back.
How had he known where the kitchen was? And how did he know where the drinking glasses were kept?
But I didn't think of that at the time. All I could think about was Mike seated beside me and how much I wanted him to hold me and tell me that everything would be okay. But I couldn't ask that of him, it would be a terrible tease.
There again I underestimated his preternatural instincts where I was concerned. He lifted the arm closest to me.
"C'mon kiddo, scoot."
I scooted. His arm dropped around me and I felt myself relax against his chest. The solid thump thump of his heartbeat under my ear was comforting and the knot of tension I hadn't realised was there in my stomach started to relax.
After several quiet minutes I realised something that I should have admitted to myself before now.
I even liked doing nothing so long as it was with Mike.
It was only my fearful pride that kept me away from this amazing, sexy man. Fearful, because he was only the second man to properly get under my skin and 'get' why I pushed people away. You can't be dumped if you dump them first. Pride; in that I had done the wrong thing in moving away and not telling him. I was a coward and I ran. I wasn't brave enough to let someone else into my heart.
Someone else into my heart.
Of course Mike felt it immediately.
"What is it?"
Start with the truth and stick with it.
"Everything. Running away, being a wazzock, not appreciating what I had when I had it. I should have at least tried to explain."
Mike shrugged, but offered no comment. I found it oddly encouraging.
"Was that thing about 'the rest of my life' some sort of a suggestion about our future?"
I felt the rumble of laughter under my hands.
"It was not a suggestion Lily, it was a heartfelt comment about my position. I wanted to marry you before you left. I asked you more than once, if I recall correctly."
Wanted; past tense.
"Do you still...?"
No, I still have some pride left.
I sat up and faced Mike. I needed to see his honest reaction.
"I've got to tell you something before I can think of anything else, including my future."
No fanfare, no drum roll, just get on with it.
Go on, rip off the rest of the plaster.
"...but it's not your baby."
September 5th 1947
Foyle's drive to Lyminster had been very pleasant and without incident. Iain Stewart had met him at The Six Bells, a local public house named after the six bell peal that his church was famous for, and the two men enjoyed a hospitable drink. The two-story flint building had a couple of rooms available to people needing a short stopover on their journey, and Iain had booked one in Foyle's name so that he had somewhere to get ready for the following day's nuptials without risk of bumping into Sam on the landing. It was typical of the Vicar's thoughtfulness.
Foyle returned with his future father-in-law to the Vicarage, where he was greeted very cordially by Sam's mother. She smiled and apologised for her daughter's absence, explaining that Samantha had taken Bertie for his walk and was due back at any moment. As the late afternoon was still warm they retreated to the rear garden where a table had already been laid out with what looked like a fruit punch, tartlets and small buns.
Just as he had taken a bite of a rather delicious lemon tartlet, Sam came round the side of the house with Bertie. Foyle stood up to meet her, pleased to see the way her face lit up as she registered his presence. Very mindful of her parent's proximity, he wondered how he should greet her. Sam had no such hesitation and strode straight over to give him a hug and a brief but heartfelt kiss on his lips.
"Mmm, lemony, yum. So glad you made it down here all right. Good journey? Wasn't far, not too much bother I hope. Is the room at the Six Bells nice? Father thought you'd appreciate the peace and quite away from the womenfolk on your last morning of freedom. Come and meet Bertie, he's such a dear."
No response seemed to be required by Foyle as Sam dragged him by the hand over to where the dog was trying to remain in the shade of the house.
Bertie, as it turned out, was a rather overweight pug. His tongue lolled out as he panted, trying to keep cool. He sniffed at the hand offered to him, but that was all he appeared to have the energy for. His expression seemed to Foyle to be begging him not to offer to take him for another walk.
While kneeling beside the crouching Foyle, Sam looked him in the eyes. Her voice was quiet and private.
"I missed you."
"I missed you too. Far too quiet."
Sam smiled as they both got up. As they turned back to the table, Sam hissed.
"Watch out for the drink, it's actually Pimms. Mother tells Father it's fruit cordial so he doesn't worry about alcohol on the premises."
Foyle dipped his head and smiled.
After a convivial tea, Mrs Stewart shooed the couple off to their own devices for an hour while she put the finishing touches to the evening meal, suggesting, without a hint of duplicity, that perhaps they would like to go for a walk to work up an appetite?
As it was likely that this was the only time that the two of them would have to be alone together until tomorrow night, both Sam and Foyle agreed that a walk sounded just the ticket and vanished up the lane before Iain Stewart could suggest cribbage instead.
The silence after my stark announcement seemed to me to last an eternity.
"Please say something."
Mike didn't leap up off the sofa, he didn't withdraw, he didn't even look terribly surprised.
"What do you want me to say?"
This wasn't quite the reaction I was expecting.
"I don't know."
Please tell me it doesn't make any difference to how you used to feel about me.
"I guessed this might happen after you freaked about the implant. I just figured this conversation would be in a few weeks time, with a slightly different father."
Mike looked at me. I mean, really looked at me, like he was searching for answers too.
"How do you feel about it?"
Terrified. Thrilled. Nauseous.
"I'm not getting rid of it, if that's what you mean."
Mike was already shaking his head.
"God, no, that's not what I meant at all. I mean, does it make a difference to us? Would it make a difference if you could be with the baby's father?"
I was afraid to hope, I knew that much.
"If you mean, would I change what happened if I could? No, I can honestly say that I wouldn't change a thing. If I hadn't fallen for him, I wouldn't have let myself fall in love with you. No him, no you. He showed me what it meant to take a chance with my heart, and looking back, I think that it was mutual. We both learned to let love in."
"You loved him?"
We both knew who we were talking about.
I pulled my knees up to my chest and hugged my legs. I used to do it when I was little, it felt comforting.
"Yes, I probably did."
I looked at Mike.
"But not in the same way that I love you. If you were both here, now, I can honestly say that I would pick you."
I suddenly realised that I meant every word of what I had said. Chris was my past, Mike was my future. At least, I certainly hoped he was. I felt a surge of confidence straighten my spine. I plonked my feet on the floor and stood up. For no apparent reason I thought of Sam. I felt, yes, tickety-boo.
"But, you know what, Mike? I don't have to pick either of you. I'll get by on my own if I have to. I have a large family and a great grandmother who is looking forward to being a great great grandmother."
Mike looked surprised as I tugged him to his feet.
"What you need to decide is whether or not you want to be with me. And what I mean by 'me' is me and my child."
I got him to the front door and opened it. Looking like he was on auto pilot, he moved past me and turned back at the top step.
I knew I was risking everything by chucking him out, but if I didn't do it, we would both wonder, and that would ultimately bring us down. Better to cut my losses now, even if it would break my heart.
He opened his mouth to speak, but I was on a roll.
"Just one more thing. Turns out I'm more 'old fashioned' than I thought. If we get together, I'd like to be married, and if it's at all possible, I'd like to marry in Lyminster."
I don't know where that thought had come from, but it felt right. I gave Mike a genuine smile.
"Take care. Be well."
I shut the door and leaned back on it, suddenly exhausted.
I guess Mike's mother was right. What will be, will be.