‘What?’ Andy sprung to his feet.
‘I had sex with Colin.’
‘Are you kidding?’
‘No, I’m not kidding,’ Erin said, shaking her head. ‘I had sex with Colin.’
‘Are you kidding?
‘I’m not kidding,’ Erin insisted.
‘You had sex with my best friend, Erin?’
‘How long? How long has it been going on?’
‘It hasn’t been ‘going on’. It was once. Just once.’
‘Sure,’ Andy scoffed.
‘It was just once,’ Erin said, keeping her voice calm. ‘In 2018. February 2018.’
Andy frowned. Erin could see that he was wondering why she’d been so specific. And then she saw him figure it out.
‘Your sister-in-law got pregnant on her honeymoon,’ Naila’s mother said.
‘I know,’ Naila replied. She sipped the tea she’d made, though it was too hot and burned her mouth.
‘And they told us as soon as they found out.’
‘I know you know. I’m just saying, if there’s something you want to tell me, you don’t have to wait until twelve weeks.’
‘Mum,’ Naila sighed. How could she tell her mother that there would be no baby? That Ibrahim was sleeping in the spare room? That Naila had tried everything she could think of to get him interested in having sex with her, to no avail? ‘When there’s something to tell,’ she said, ‘I’ll tell you.’
‘I’m sorry, Andy,’ Erin said. ‘I’m so, so sorry.’
‘Sorry’s not going to cut it,’ Andy said, through tears. He was crumpled on the couch.
‘I know. I know. And I know I should have told you.’
‘How could you let me think…’
‘I didn’t know what else to do,’ Erin said. ‘But, Andy, you’re their father. ‘You’re the one who changed nappies and fed them and burped them and got them off to sleep. You’re their father.’
‘I’m not, though, am I?’ Andy buried his face in his hands. ‘Does Colin know? That they’re his?’
‘No,’ Erin said. ‘I don’t think so. No.’
Andy got up, and went to the mantelpiece. He picked up a framed photo of the twins. ‘They look just like him,’ he moaned. ‘How have I never noticed? They look just like him.’
He threw the photo down, smashing the glass, and raced out of the room.
‘Andy, wait,’ Erin called.
He slammed the door. Erin heard his footsteps hurrying down the stairs.
Angel wasn’t sure if she was imagining it, but it felt like Holly was looking at her. Like she kept looking at her; like every time Angel looked in Holly’s direction, Holly was looking back.
She was reminded of her relationship with Ryan. Before they started seeing each other, there’d been a lot of looking at each other across lecture halls, a lot of finding reasons to sit beside each other, a lot of ‘accidental’ touches. Was the same thing happening with her and Holly?
It seemed possible that it was, especially when Holly crept up behind Angel, while she was returning some clothes to a rail, and whispered, ‘Are you working on Friday?’
‘Yes,’ Angel nodded.
‘Would you be able to stay for a bit after your shift?’
‘Are you sure? I know your social life keeps you busy.’
‘I’m sure,’ Angel smiled.
Katie stopped at the supermarket on the way home from work. As she hurried through the aisles, throwing crisps, cake, chocolate, ice cream, into a basket, she saw Robbie’s face, heard his words: ‘You don’t get special treatment.’
She unwrapped the first chocolate bar as she walked home, and finished it in two, three bites. She saw herself walking into the restaurant kitchen that morning, smiling, happy to see Robbie. She saw him, busy, distracted, not returning her smile.
She let herself into her flat, grabbed a spoon from the kitchen, and went to her room, kicking the door closed behind her. She ate another chocolate bar, and a handful of crisps, before she peeled the lid off the carton of ice cream. She saw herself standing by the pass, waiting for Robbie to notice her. She spooned ice cream into her mouth. She heard Robbie snarl, ‘What are you waiting for?’ She saw him push the food towards her and turn his back.
She finished the ice cream and started on the cake. She saw herself in the restaurant’s toilets, wiping hot tears from her eyes. She finished the cake and unwrapped more chocolate. She saw herself behind the bar, smiling as Robbie came towards her. She finished the chocolate and got to her feet, staggering to the bathroom. She heard Robbie hiss, ‘Don’t come into my kitchen looking for special treatment. You don’t get special treatment.’ She crouched in front of the toilet and made herself sick.
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