As she got her old books stamped with the date of their change, Martha’s curdled stomach righted itself. She braced herself against the wind and strode into the distance.
Lucy and James hadn’t been thought of in years. That was a lie – she often thought of James. How did Laura get in contact with them so easily? It didn’t matter if they were still alive and wanted to get in touch. There wasn’t going to be some tearful reunion. For Laura and Tabitha to be part of her daily life, instead of being a secret liaison, was enough to be getting on with.
By the time she arrived home, her thigh-length, woollen coat was a little damp. She was glad to be inside the shadowy hallway, where the dark blue of the carpet made it seem darker than it was already.
Her thoughts were mainly on making a cup of tea before she set to work. Thomas normally arrived home around five, so there was plenty of time to get things ready. As Martha opened the door, an urgent ring echoed. A moment to breathe she calmly walked over.
‘Where have you been?’ Thomas enquired testily.
‘To the library and I met,’ Martha said.
‘That doesn’t matter right now!’ He said curtly. ‘I’ve been calling you to tell you I’m coming home early. I’ve got a meeting with my boss.’
Martha was truly glad for Thomas. ‘Do you want some tea?’
‘I’ll have steak pie and mashed potatoes.’
‘See you then.’
Martha put the phone down. Thomas didn’t like shop-bought pie, but there was always pastry ready.
While everything was cooking, Martha went into the bedroom to change. Her yellow scarf and Tabitha’s painting were put inside their hiding place. Soon she would be able to openly wear her robin broach. A slight aroma of burnt pastry and Martha bolted downstairs. Everything was ready for Thomas when he got home, including a cold glass of water.
He polished off the plate without a word of thanks. He then retired to the bedroom to get changed.
Martha said nothing and went to wash the dishes. It was better to leave Thomas to his own devices for a while. He looked stressed about his meeting. Sometimes the less she said, the better it was. He seemed to be gone for a long time. As he entered the front room, Martha joined him, to say good luck.
In an instant, diary in hand, Thomas stood threateningly in front of Martha, his eyes flared with uncontrolled rage. ‘What’s this?’ He shoved it in front of her face.
Now wasn’t the time for new beginnings.
Martha shook from her very core. ‘My diary.’
‘And this!?’ He held up the delicate robin brooch.
‘It’s a present from-’
‘Another man?’ He stood menacingly close, forced her back across the room.
Martha fought for her breath. ‘No! I wouldn’t do that. You know I wouldn’t!’
His hand raised – Martha received the full force of his blow to her face. Flung against the table, the glasses went flying. She gripped as tightly as possible to the sofa, to stop Thomas in his attempt to grab her free arm. If she went to the floor now, there would be no stopping him.