Song In The Wrong Key

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Chapter 21

When was the last time a Eurovision song got to number one? Eh? Well don’t look at me, I don’t know either. Waterloo? Boom Bang a Bang? Puppet on a Wotsit? Who cares? But I was at number one now. Me. Mike Kenton. In Love We Trust. Insane!

Ben had pulled out all the stops to get the song in the shops - and online for downloading, as is, I believe, the young people’s preference these days - before Paris. He’d wilted under the sheer weight of public demand, the old philanthropist. It was flying off the shelves/servers and Ben was hopping around his office shouting ‘Ker-ching!’ rather too energetically for a man in his sixties. He was going to do himself a mischief. For the first time, Ben wanted to talk about life post-Eurovision, specifically how we were going to cash in on my success. This was all, ahem, music to my ears. First off, he wanted to start preparing an album so that, as soon as Eurovision was over, we’d be ready to follow up and not give the public a chance to forget me. ‘Outta sight, outta mind, fella,’ was his latest mantra. He didn’t say whether the album would comprise a tepid collection of standards or original material or both, and I don’t think he thought it mattered. It wasn’t about quality or content, just being out there. All the worthy, artistic bullshit would come later once I was established. Think Will Young. Then we had to organise a UK tour, followed by some dates in Europe. And then, according to Ben, still lost in his delicious reverie, my ‘quintessential British MOR sensibility’ could be adapted for the American market and we could all fucking retire.

I was happy to ride this bandwagon - a bit of global superstardom never hurt anyone - but I thought he was letting his wallet run away with itself without checking that there were a couple of chips of sanity in the little zip-up compartment. This was but one song riding high on the back of the ‘last minute stand-in’ story which was undeniably romantic and compelling but had nothing to do with whether the British public was actually interested in my music. Did they know I’d written other songs? Did they care? Mike Kenton, specifically their perception of Mike Kenton, was the reason the public were interested, and as long as the newspapers fanned the flames, it was good for business all round. But I could see my smiling face wrapped around tomorrow’s fish and chips. This is Britain, after all. Today’s hero, tomorrow’s Eddie the Eagle. I wondered when they’d dig up that old skeleton - you know, nine years old, the Sherbet Dip-Dab? More likely, they’d rake up some marital muck and trump that with stories about abandoning my kids to pursue my musical career. They’d already seeped some of that kind of poison into the atmosphere without detrimental effect, but after Eurovision, whatever the outcome, I’d be fair game. Nothing could do more to guarantee the instant decimation of my popular appeal, unless they faked some photos of me in a public toilet wearing a pini. So I was probably going to be the ultimate one hit wonder, sooner than anticipated if I completely bombed in Paris, which was more than likely if those bloody Balkans and Baltics ganged up on me. Might as well enjoy the ride.

Mary was still fizzing around, determined not to miss a single opportunity to PR me to the hilt. In the pipeline: more photo sessions, more interviews, an appearance on Weakest Link Does Eurovision (oh God) and so much other stuff, my head was spinning off my neck. I tried to rein her in, to convince her that I needed to concentrate on Eurovision so that I didn’t let the country down (I did actually say that - sorry) but she was way past Eurovision. It was almost an irrelevance now.

It had become impossible to enter or exit my flat without being door-stepped or snooped on. One ingenious photographer hired a van with a platform hoist, the sort of thing the local council use to replace lamppost bulbs, so he could shoot through my first floor window. You’ve got to take your hat off to these guys, and if I did, the photo would be in tomorrow’s paper. So I finally replaced my too-short gossamer sheets with daylight-blocking Argos blinds, a rare spare morning spent mostly spearing my hands with a screwdriver and swearing savagely at my own incompetence. I gave the photographer a smile as I triumphantly tugged the cord with my bloodied fingers and lowered my new cloaking device. He snapped that too and, yes, it appeared in the next day’s tabloids. Why do editors buy that kind of crap? What possible contribution can a shot of a smirking nobody through a filthy window make to humanity? Why don’t they stick to tits?

More damagingly, it had become almost impossible for me to pop over and see the kids without a hullabaloo. The press had been camped outside the house for days in the hope that I’d turn up. The scrutiny was driving Lisa mad. They’d sussed the escape route out of the garden and had even snapped her through the window of the gallery. The girls were quite amused by all the attention and not the least bit fazed and, in fairness to the press creeps, they never stooped to publishing photos of them other than a couple from behind. What, exactly, did they think I was going to do that might render a picture newsworthy? Go through my front door? Fascinating. Emerge from the same door with my kids? Fuck me, the world simply had to know. Mary had forbidden me from speaking to or inciting them, so I fed them wan smiles and Paul McCartney-style thumbs-ups in the hope they’d be too anodyne to print. They weren’t.

But I was growing tired of being spied on, of being penned in, of devising new ways of giving them the slip. It was time to call in my fixer. Chaz, managing operations from somewhere in South America, sent a car one evening and I chose my moment to slip out of the flat with a bag of clothes and toiletries. The driver, a huge man with jug ears and a neck wider than his head, was a self-confessed fan of the Die Hard franchise and told me he’d have no trouble losing anyone stupid enough to follow us. The fucking maniac screeched around like a demented dodgem, probably for the hell of it as I’m pretty sure no-one was actually behind us. We arrived at Chaz’s Richmond mansion in what seemed simultaneously like seconds and a lifetime, to be met by Louise looking unusually rosy-cheeked. She smiled, gave me a cool hug and directed me to a large bedroom with an en suite bathroom the size of my flat, the one next door and the two upstairs. I unpacked and washed my face, then went downstairs to the cavernous, marbled kitchen where a mug of tea of indeterminate provenance was waiting on the counter. It was a bit spicy, a bit cold and wholly repulsive, but Louise was trying her best to be the perfect hostess and it would have been churlish to ask for something drinkable. It occurred to me then that, in all the years I’d known her, Louise and I had never actually been on our own together for any length of time. It was predictably prickly and awkward, made all the more so by our silent, almost choreographed sipping to give our mouths something to do. Finally, Louise put her mug down and tried to bale us out.

’Your life is a bit crazy at the moment, isn’t it?’ she ventured.

’That’s not the word,’ I said, not knowing what the word was.

’You were great on that show, by the way. Didn’t know you had it in you.’

’Me neither.’

’I’ve always just thought of you as Chaz’s…’

...waste of space, puerile, crap-talking crony who’s been engaged in an unarticulated battle with me for his affections for the last fifteen years...

’…best mate. And my mate too, of course. You and Lisa.’ She almost choked on that faux pas. ‘Sorry, I mean…’ I waved her apology away. ’What I mean is, it’s weird ‘cause, well you know, you’ve always just been that steady bloke who works in an office, type of thing, not some...national treasure.’

’Ha! I like that. Not sure I qualify as a national treasure with my shelf life. Here today...’

’You’re just getting started. Come on. Be positive.’

She had a point. That’s the Aussie spirit for you.

’So what’s next?’ she said.

’Dunno. I just zone out and do as I’m told. Be there, do that, don’t eat that, stop picking your nose, say this, don’t say that. They’re driving me mad.’

’I bet…I bet.’

We were running out of steam. More mutual sipping was called for, even though I’d long since finished my nauseating brew and was now chewing the tart little leaves at the bottom.

’Anyway…’ I said.

’Anyway…’ she said.


’So...I’d better go upstairs and get some rest. Doing a radio show later, and a TV thing so...’

’Sure. Sure. I’m going out now anyway, but call Nadia if you need anything.’


’Yeah - oh, didn’t Chaz tell you?’

’Tell me what?’

’We’ve brought in an au pair.’

In more insensitive mode, I’d have said something crass about au pairs usually being employed by families with kids to look after, but even us faux pas specialists have an edit button. We just have to remember to hit it in time and, for once, I did. But she could tell it had been a close call.

’It’s all right, Michael, I know what you’re thinking. Look, it’s a big house and I needed some help around the place, That’s all. Just didn’t want to call her a maid. Bit pompous, especially coming from a convict, eh mate?’ Louise broadened her accent, comedy spilling unbidden from this dourest of visages.

’Right, got you.’ I took a final slug of leaves. ‘Maybe you could call her an auxiliary home help or live-in personal assistant-cum-cleaner-cum-cook, or something.’

’Yeah, good suggestion. Let me sleep on it.’

I didn’t see a lot of Louise after that. She stayed out of the way when Chaz was around, leaving us to indulge in the kind of adolescent farting about we’d never grown out of. Only now, we could do it in boundless comfort. Watching crap on Chaz’s 60 inch plasma whilst splayed on a sofa softer than a cloud, scoffing junk food, and drinking beer was an unfettered joy. Cocooned in this splendour and invisible to the hacks, I finally relaxed. And I loved seeing Chaz let go. Success had bought him an opulent, regimented lifestyle, along with status and respect, but he ached to go on occasional day release and let that mischievous little boy out to play. He just needed someone to catalyse and condone the idiocy, and I saw that as my responsibility. We steadfastly avoided discussing trivia like marriage break-ups, infidelity and infertility; there was too much important ground to cover. Football, women, McDonalds v Burger King, Dominoes v Pizza Hut (both involving extensive hands-on testing), Eurovision. It was endless. I was still flying off to fulfil my various media commitments and, when I could, taking the opportunity to slip home and see the kids, usually in the little window between their coming home from school and Lisa’s return from the office. The press generally knew where to find me but Chaz’s driver, all tyre squeals, late-braking and handbrake turns, ensured they never tracked me back to his sanctuary.

Bea was still calling me Mr Kenton, but there was a coy little twinkle in her eye now. Once that tiresome little man trying to eke a smile out of her, I was now the guy with his face plastered all over the papers. I think she was a bit star-struck. I invited her to Paris - in fact, I was busily inviting everyone I knew, without knowing for sure if I could get them all tickets - but she had an exam to study for so, thank you very much, Mr Kenton, but not on this occasion. Maybe she’d be fully qualified at whatever mysterious subject her eternal studies equipped her for and thus free to go wherever she pleased by the time I returned to Eurovision, Cliff Richard-fashion, in fifteen years’ time.

The kids were well used to the idea that the bloke who told them off for being naughty, kissed and consoled them when they hurt themselves, played chaotic board games with them on the bed, drove them to parties - that bloke, Dad - now had a famous face. And they remained fabulously unimpressed. There could never be anyone less cool than me whatever anyone else said, but they rather liked the idea that this piece of public property who was fêted for a talent mysteriously unrecognised for the last twenty-five years, was their dad and no-one else’s. Not pride, exactly, more ownership allied to minor bragging rights.

The photo in the Daily Mirror of Lisa and Don Ellwood smiling toothily at each other at some glitzy function probably wouldn’t have bothered the girls, but the suggestion that Mike Kenton’s wife was now stepping out with the famous actor certainly did. The headline alone probably gave them - and everyone else - the gist: Mrs Eurovision’s Secret Romps With The Next James Bond. I’d known all along that the press would be keeping a close eye on Lisa and she’d been at pains to avoid all physical contact with Ellwood in public, but the tabloid press weren’t stupid (ok, they were, but not when it came to sniffing out a lurid story), and they winkled it out. The photogenic Lisa might find herself under greater scrutiny than me if she wasn’t careful. I told Kattie and Millie that Ellwood was mum’s good friend from the gallery, something Lisa had also explained to them, and that the newspapers had made something out of very little. But the press weren’t going to let this bone go and, at some point soon, we would have to ease the girls into gentle acceptance. The divorce was shitty enough, a tough one for them to swallow, but me being Eurovision’s Mike Kenton and Lisa being Don Ellwood’s latest arm candy exacerbated an already complex situation. We lap up the kind of prurient detail best kept behind closed doors - it’s human nature; no-one was going to worry too much about how this might affect a family.

I didn’t win Weakest Link Does Eurovision. That honour went to one of the guys out of Brotherhood of Man. You’d never have thought that someone who sang ’Save All Your Kisses For Me,’ in a C & A jumper would have a brain but, as my mother would say, don’t judge a book by its cover or, in this case, a balding man by his comb over. I got down to the last three, which I thought was a decent effort for someone with a lazy 2:2 from Brunel.

Chaz was a busy man, a man in huge demand, meaning he wasn’t around as much as I would have liked. The Barcelona project alone consumed days of his life and, for a spell, he only seemed to come home to collect fresh clothing. I was starting to feel uncomfortable accepting his hospitality when he was so rarely there. I was busy too - one day I might be singing live on Chiltern Radio, another opening the Altrincham branch of Lidl, another recording some overdubs - but when I was there, stuck in my room or cleaning out the fridge or marooned in front of the mega-plasma while Louise sat in another room, I felt like I was overstaying my welcome.

It was time to go back to my sty.

My answerphone was pregnant with messages, most of them of no interest. If you haven’t given them your mobile number, chances are they’re people who don’t matter. But Faye had left message number fourteen, and she did. She’d rung the same evening I’d returned to the flat and, when I checked my mobile, she’d left a message on there as well. I’d had it switched off for a while to avoid being bludgeoned by Mary into making a personal appearance at a bowling alley in Watford or a photo-opp at the Hull Leisure Centre, something I now regretted as Faye wasn’t answering now. A couple of hours and four desperate calls later, I tracked her down.

Jaques seemed as sensible a place to meet as any. On the ‘stage’ where it had all started stood a lugubrious Welshman called Joey who sang songs mostly in Cymru. I don’t know why. His repertoire of dirges would have been enough to drive even the most sanguine of souls to a dark place where even suicide would be insufficient to escape the horror. Luckily, no-one was listening. Faye, for once, looked less than radiant. She wore no make-up, her skin looked sallow and her hair unkempt. But this was Faye and Faye was always beautiful.

’Thanks for coming,’ she said.

’Hey, come on,’ I shrugged with jokey magnanimity. She barely smiled. We’d only spoken briefly on the phone the previous night and she’d sounded unusually flat.

Faye fixed her pretty eyes on mine. ‘I want your advice.’

’Sure. I’m particularly good on motherboards, CAT 5 cabling and where to find the Yoplait in Tesco.’

’Shut up, you idiot,’ she said without malice, ‘I’m serious.’

I knew that, but I was the worst shoulder to cry on. Emotional immaturity and lack of depth were my stock in trade. I mentioned I’m man, I think, and you’ll find that most of us suffer from these personality lacunae. We’re much better at being stupid and making jokes. Oh, and if this involved never seeing me again, I definitely didn’t want to bloody hear it.

Faye gathered herself. ‘It’s Louis.’

’Is he all right?’ Maybe he was dead. Things might be looking up.

’Louis? Oh, he’s fine.’ Did she just roll her eyes? ‘He’s always fine.’


’Straight to the point, ok?’ Faye cleared her throat, steadied herself. ‘Shit, this isn’t as easy as I thought.’

’Take your time.’

’I…ok, I don’t know if I want to marry him. There.’


’I can’t see myself spending the rest of my life with him.’

’Look, sorry, but why are you talking to me about this?’

’Why do you think?’

I didn’t think anything. I didn’t dare. Faye fixed her eyes on mine and flickered a melancholy smile so brief it was hardly there. Had I been so insecure, so lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem that I’d missed the signals?

’I really don’t know,’ I said, my heart racing twice as fast as it usually did when I was in in Faye’s company, which was already dangerously fast.

She reached across the table and took each of my hands in hers. ‘You are a stupid, stupid bastard,’ she said, her voice trembly, like she was in a car going too fast over bumps. It threatened to be the most romantic thing anyone had ever said to me.

’You mean…? Sorry, no, what do you mean?’

’Oh don’t make me spell it out, Mike.’

’What, you?’

Faye nodded. It was the moment I’d been waiting for, for...well, forever, give or take. Now what was I supposed to do? You’re never ready, are you?

’But…ok, help me out here. You spent three years giving me the run-around, treating me like a schoolboy with a hopeless crush...then...oh yeah, then twenty years went by, nearly forgot, and suddenly you’re getting married to Mr Solid.’ Faye shrugged. I had her bang to rights. ’Not forgetting oh, Mikey, will you sing at the wedding. You see where I’m coming from?’

’Yeah. Sorry about that the singing thing.’

’I mean, granted I’m not that bright, but at what point was I supposed to gather that you…I don’t know…you…’

’Wanted us to get together?’

’What does that mean, anyway?’

’You know what it means.’ Faye swallowed hard. ‘I’ve got…you know, feelings for you.’

’And what does that bloody mean?’ I was in a bit of a state by now, I think it’s fair to say. Confused, excited, agitated and really fucking angry without knowing quite why. Time to lash out. ‘Suddenly I’m famous and you come running out of the woodwork. Is that it?’

’Oh fuck off, Mike, you fucking arsehole!’ Faye’s chair scraped the floor as she sprang to her feet. Everyone in Jaques turned to check out the commotion, all one of them. ‘Fuck you.’

’Come on, sit down...’

’Know what? It’s the naffest show on the planet, and the people who sing on it are...I mean, I should be embarrassed I feel this way about you. God, Mike. You’ll be all washed up in six months. Get real.’

’Ok, sorry, I’m sorry. Six months?’

’If you’re lucky.’

I checked for any hint that she might be joking. She wasn’t. ‘Ok, but you can see why know...’

Faye shook her head. No, she couldn’t see why know. Rather, she was still debating whether to storm out. She stood there panting until her angry, heaving chest settled, and sat down again, huffily, muttering, ‘Idiot.’

’Sorry,’ I mumbled again. ‘But, let me see if I’m getting this. Whether or not you marry Louis is dependent on me...?’

’No, I didn’t say that...’

’…because That’s not fair, is it? It should have nothing to do with me. I mean, will you still marry him if I tell you to take a running jump?’

’Don’t know. Maybe.’ Her eyes were misting over now.

’Because that doesn’t sound like you at all, at least not the Faye I thought I knew. You wouldn’t do something stupid like marry someone you don’t love just because someone you...have feelings for...rejects you.’

’So you’re rejecting me?’

Oh fuck! I was being principled all of a sudden when I should have been genuflecting, thanking her for finally yielding and sweeping her off to my Hanger Lane love nest without further ado.

’Faye, listen, ok? This is difficult.’ I looked heavenwards seeking inspiration, but found only the knotted, pine-clad ceiling. ‘I loved you from the moment I set eyes on you. And I think…I think you knew that and maybe you enjoyed it a bit too much. And you gave me nothing back.’

’I was your friend.’

’Well, yeah, and of course I valued your friendship, but you knew I...that time you kissed me? Why? I think it was because you could, and I sort of hated you for that. It was taking advantage, pumping yourself up at my expense.’

’I was absolutely pissed that night.’ Faye squeezed my hands harder. I was thrilled she’d even remembered it. ‘I was behaving like a moron. That wasn’t me.’

’It was like being patted on the head and given a biscuit.’

’If I hurt you...’

’Oh, you hurt me, and it took me ages to get you out of my system. Ages. Even after I married Lisa, I always wondered what you were doing.’ I’d spent years rehearsing versions of this conversation, knowing it would never happen. Now I was fumbling around off script. ’And...and...

’And what?’

’Truth is, I never did get you out of my system.’

Faye broke into a gentle sob. ‘I’m such an idiot.’ She leaned

closer and spoke in a quavering half-whisper. ‘Back then I knew there was something going on between us, of course I did, but Little Miss Practical here thought you were a bit too much of a dreamer, with your music and your plans to go off after graduating and perform all over the world. Remember? There wasn’t any future in it.’

Now she mentioned it, I was that mouthy fool, an otherwise sensible boy desperate to impress. And I did get as far as Sheffield once, albeit to re-wire a network. On reflection, maybe bragging about my fantasies to Faye was a defence mechanism.

’So I stuck with that drip Ray,’ she continued, ‘because I knew he’d never let me down. See? Even then I needed certainty and stability in my life. were my friend, my best friend, and I thought if we crossed the line…look, I was going to lose you anyway, so why even allow myself to get hurt?’

’I wouldn’t have let you down.’

’Course you would. You were a kid. Even if you didn’t go anywhere or do anything, you’d have wanted to see what else - who else - was out there. Maybe I would, too. Eventually.’

’I only wanted you.’

Faye smiled and shook her head. She was probably right. It was easy to worship her memory, much harder to seriously believe that a college fling would have turned into anything more. What do you know at twenty-one? There’s too much ahead of you, too many things to do, too many possibilities. None of which invalidated the authenticity of the feelings I had for her, still had. Nor those, it turns out, she had for me. First love. It’s a persistent little bastard.

’I always thought, if only we’d when we were thirty, we’d have been ready.’ All those years thinking about her, she’d been thinking about me too. Insane! ‘I looked for you, you know. And I found you.’

I arched an astonished eyebrow. ‘When?’

’Dunno. A few years after we left Brunel. You were with Lisa by then so I didn’t...and then I married that evil bastard thinking he was solid and dependable, you know, the kind of guy I thought I ought to end up with.’

’Fucked that one up, didn’t you?’

’Ha. But I wouldn’t allow myself to believe I’d made a mistake, of course. Too perfect to be pitied or proved wrong. Me to a T.’

’Jesus, Faye,’ I said, dabbing a snaking tear from her cheek, a tear for which I took full responsibility. Which felt good, by the way. ‘Perfect Faye, eh? Blimey, what happened?’

’Then, when you contacted me, I thought maybe...maybe things could be put back in the right order. But, well obviously you were still married, you had your kids, great career...’


’It didn’t look promising,’ she continued, ‘but I was hoping...’ she looked guiltily at the table, ‘ were separated, or Lisa was dying or something.’


’Ok, maybe not dying but having an affair?...oh, I don’t know.’

’You were a few weeks early.’

’Anyway, I thought you seemed happy enough, and I had Louis and he was safe as houses, so I decided to soldier on. The things-could-be-worse principle. I couldn’t let myself want you, so I just sort of...closed for business.’

’But I told you I was getting divorced.’

’Yeah, later, but I’d made up my mind by then, settled for what I had.’

The pretty Spanish waitress came over and asked in an interesting version of English if we wanted anything else. We pissed her off by ordering a couple of coffees, cutting into her siesta.

’So?’ I said, my mind like the ancient Apple Mac in Hair Repair

on Crouch End Hill, unable to fully compute. ‘What now?’

’You tell me.’

’God, Faye! It’s not up to me.’ I was angry again, angry and baffled, and suddenly on the verge of something unthinkable.

’I know, I’m sorry. Forget I said that.’ She started fumbling in her handbag for a tissue to mop the teary rivulets sliding down towards her quivering mouth. ‘It’s not a choice between you and Louis. It really isn’t. It’s just about you.’

My throat was clogging up and I had to swallow hard to hold back the deep sob welling inside me. ‘You know what you’re going to get with him, don’t you?’

’Down to the very last second.’ She stared off into the distance, her eyes drained of energy.

’Well...that’s something. It’s not nothing. That’s good, isn’t it?’

Faye nodded disconsolately at the prospect. She’d already written the book in her head and knew the ending.

’I mean,’ I went on, trying to sound solicitous but coming apart at every seam, ‘you and I might not work out and you’ll have dumped him and ruined everything for yourself and it’ll be my fault. I can’t let you screw your life up. And anyway, I’m going through the divorce, I’ve got the girls to think about, the bloody song contest...I don’t know what my life’s going to be like from now on. It’s all up in the air. I’m everything you’ve never wanted.’

’Ok,’ said Faye studying her hands as they shredded a damp tissue. ‘If That’s how you feel. I understand, I really do.’

Wish I did. ‘I think it’d be’d be better if...’ I stood up and tottered, the blood pin-balling around my head, the remaining fragments of my heart beseeching me to sit down again. But I couldn’t. It had to be this way.

’Take care, Mike,’ she said.

I needed to get out of there before I passed out. I fumbled in a pocket and pulled out £40 which I slapped on the table. ’Do you

mind if I...just go?’

Faye shook her head. ‘S’ok.’

’I love you,’ I said, stooping to kiss her damp cheek. ‘I always will.’

It would be my next song: Song for Faye, Part Two, The Fuck-Up. The song I would sing through tears forever.

Chivalrous? You think I was being chivalrous? Oh do stop it. I was just terrified. Faye was my paradigm, the ideal woman, the soul mate Lisa had never quite been. Love isn’t about sharing common interests or making each other laugh or anything so measurable. They help, of course, but they aren’t the nub. With luck, you’ll recognise love’s irresistible alchemy when it comes along and let it have its way. And I wanted to, more than anything. But, here’s the thing. What was going to happen when she realised I couldn’t make her happy? I wasn’t that funny, interesting, musically ambitious young boy she once fell for (without letting on, the cow). I’d turned into a plodder, a man who’d accepted mediocrity and made it his creed. Eurovision was an illusion; it didn’t change who I’d become. What if that boy was lost in the mists of time and gone forever? She’d be off, if she had any sense - and she did, in bucket loads - and who could blame her? And me? I’d be a shell, devastated, with nothing but my kids to live for and they, over time, were only going to need me less. I’d come to terms with not having Faye a long time ago. I’d finally parked her memory somewhere safe, where it couldn’t do me too much damage; I’d coned her off. If I let her back in now, I’d have no defence against the inevitable emotional decimation. So I was playing it safe, meeting the pain head on, taking it on the chin up front rather than risking the inestimably greater agony of losing her.

Just because love is undeniable, doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. Not if it’s going to kill you.

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