‘I’m sorry,’ Angel said, as Holly wiped her mouth.
‘No, it’s… you took me by surprise.’
‘I shouldn’t have… I thought…’
‘I’m sorry, Angel, if I made you think…’
Angel sat on the crate of belts. She was unaccustomed to kissing people who didn’t want to kiss her back.
‘I didn’t think you liked girls,’ Holly said.
‘I like you,’ Angel replied, though she couldn’t look at Holly.
‘But I’m a decade older than you. I’m married, on paper at least. And I’m pregnant.’
‘When you put it like that…’ Angel said, and they both smiled. She stood up. ‘I would like to run and hide now.’
‘You don’t need to run and hide. I’m flattered. I’m incredibly flattered. And let me tell you,’ Holly said, ‘if word gets out that you like girls, you’re going to be beating them off with a stick.’
‘I thought liking girls would mean I wouldn’t have to beat people off.’
Holly chuckled. ‘You know what else is great about being a lesbian?’
‘Very few unsolicited dick pics,’ Holly said. Angel laughed.
‘You’re out of shape, darling.’
‘I’m not out of shape,’ Mateo snapped. ‘I’m carrying half a ton of concrete.’ Maeve had roped him into moving a delivery of building materials from the road outside the restaurant to the garden. There was a kitchen full of younger men who could have helped, but pride stopped Mateo delegating the task.
‘I suppose you’re in decent shape,’ Maeve said. ‘For your age.’
‘You’re the same age as me,’ Mateo said. He dumped the concrete slab he’d been carrying at Maeve’s feet.
‘I am not. I’m eighteen months younger.’
‘What’s eighteen months when you’re in your fifties?’
‘Don’t broadcast that,’ Maeve hissed.
‘Insecure about your age, are you, darling?’ Mateo teased. Someone cleared their throat, and he turned to see Daniella staring at him, holding Millie.
‘Oh, the baby’s here,’ Maeve cried, cooing at Millie. ‘Let me see her!’
‘You said you’d be finished at five,’ Daniella said.
‘I was. I am,’ Mateo said. ‘I’m just helping shift some stuff.’
‘She’s gorgeous, Daniella,’ Maeve said. ‘She reminds me of Sergio at that age.’ She sighed. ‘He’ll be home next week.’
Daniella ignored her. ‘We’ll wait in the car,’ she said. Mateo had the feeling he was in trouble.
Holly and her parents were at the same dumpling restaurant they always went to. Her father knew the owner, and the discount he got made the substandard dumplings more appealing. To him. Holly found she couldn’t eat much, and pushed a dumpling around her plate.
‘Is he going to marry you?’ her father said, startling her.
‘This man, the baby’s father. Is going to marry you?’
‘Daddy, I’m already married,’ Holly said.
Her father made a sceptical noise. ‘Not for much longer,’ Mingmei said. ‘Once you fill out the forms the lawyer gave you…’
‘Daddy, why would you think I want Aidan to marry me?’
Her father looked at Mingmei. She looked sheepish. ‘This is indelicate,’ she said, ‘but I told Daddy about you and Aidan, you know, conceiving the baby, and you’re living together, so…
‘So you put two and two together and got a hundred and twenty-six?’
‘What are we supposed to think?’
Holly put her chopsticks down, regretting the lie she’d told. ‘Mum. Daddy,’ she said. ‘It doesn’t matter how the baby was conceived. Or that Aidan and I are sharing a flat—not living together, sharing a flat—or how much you might want me to. I’m not going to marry a man.’
Erin peeped into the twins’ bedroom, watching them sleep. She’d been on edge the entire time they’d been with Andy, wondering what he might say to them, worried about what might happen. Alistair had said he knew the feeling. When his kids were with their mother, he’d said, he missed them terribly.
‘Does it get easier?’ Erin had asked. ‘Being away from them?’
‘It does,’ Alistair had nodded. He’d put his mug in the sink, and turned his back to her. ‘If you’re at a loose end the next time they’re with their dad,’ he’d said, ‘you and I could go for a drink.’
‘Um…’ Erin had begun, unsure how to tell him that, as much as she might want to, it was too soon—unseemly—for her to go for a drink with anyone.
‘Forget I said anything,’ Alistair had said. ‘Let’s get this finished.’
Her phone rang. She crept away from the twins’ room to answer it, daring to hope it might be Alistair.
‘It’s Jen,’ came the voice. ‘I’m on my work phone.’ She giggled, knowing Erin wouldn’t have recognised the number. ‘You’ve been elusive, Mrs. McGregor.’
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