Chapter 18

I sit down on my bed wearily. This hasn't gone down well. Maybe this idea was totally stupid and I've really risked our relationship with my honestly well-intended plans.

"Well-meaning." The expression sounds in my ears as I remember that night over two-and-a-half bottles of wine. It was the only positive trait she saw in me then. Does she still see it, or has the Bastard won over?

I bury my head in my hands.

I need to sleep. I haven't been to bed for longer than I like to remember. I am tired and I could swear that I can even feel it in my bones, but I'm not sure if the exhaustion I feel is down to the lack of sleep or some deeper worries.

I'm far from being convinced now that my conclusions I came to during my stay in the States have been correct. My eyes are stinging and I'm developing a distinct ache behind my left temple. I rub the place, massaging it to increase the blood flow.

Nothing has gone to plan since I'm back on English ground. It seems as soon as I am just considering going back to the place of my purgatory, everything spells disaster.

I remove my coat. It has to last for two days. Better hang it up neatly to avoid it getting crumpled at the first night.

I'm not sure what to do with the trousers and the shirt. It doesn't feel right to sleep only in my underwear in a train. In case of any event, it might be embarrassing. However, it wouldn't be reasonable to sleep fully dressed, either, as the clothes then really look rotten, and I have nothing to change into tomorrow morning. I also have no pyjamas.

With a sigh I unbutton my shirt and try to store it as neatly as possible. Then I take off my trousers and place them on the hanger.

I lie back on this tiny bed and stare at the ceiling. I switch off the light and listen to the sound of the train.

I was hoping that the monotone rattling of the train would have soothed me to sleep, but I keep staring. And brooding.

Did I really go a step too far in planning this weekend trip? It's not that I made a life-changing decision. I leave that to Louisa, if she chooses to. I also wouldn't have taken this step if I had been able to talk to her about it, but she shut down whenever I tried to speak with her about Portwenn. She can't live in denial. It's not healthy.

Or should I have told her? But then, we would have had the row earlier and she wouldn't have turned up, probably, and we still hadn't gone anywhere. And if she'd find out what I know afterwards, and found out that I knew, she'd probably be mad at me, too.

I ran my hand over my temples. It's pounding there, but I don't even have my paracetamol on me. Maybe Louisa has some, but I don't dare to ask her. I guess I'll have to go to Mrs. Tishell tomorrow to get some.

Gawd, as I think of the fuss she's likely to make over seeing me in her chemist's again, I shudder. Her droopy eyes, her constant invitations to tea and disgusting cakes. She never realised that not in a million years I would have accepted her annoying invitations. The sugary looks would have been even more nauseating than her sugar-ridden cakes. Thinking back, she might have been hoping for other afternoon delights, too.

I feel sick, and maybe it will be easier to survive the headaches tomorrow than a visit to the pharmacy.

I guess Louisa has no idea what I am willing to go through this weekend just for her sake. She doesn't seem to realise that we are only going there because it is the right thing for her. Does she really think that I might be missing the village of the damned? She must know me better by now.

It looks as if a very unpleasant weekend lies ahead of me. I don't want to start to imagine the reaction of the villagers seeing us back in the village. Aunt Ruth will be all high and mighty because she told me so. She always had a way of trying to outdo everyone. She can't stand to be wrong. I remember the first time I beat her in chess. She accused me of cheating. I've never cheated in my whole life. I had practised hard to finally being able to beat her, as her analytic mind made her a strong opponent. It took me months of hard work. And then there it was – my moment of triumph! Turned into a nasty accusation of being a cheat and when my father picked up part of her chastising me, I was also called a liar and dismissed in shame.

Why am I thinking about this now? I haven't remembered it in years, no, decades.

Maybe it is close to my situation now. It rings true emotionally. I worked hard to come to the decision that it is the best thing for Louisa that we come to Portwenn this weekend. I put lots of thought and consideration into it. Maybe I was even proud that I managed to get my own wishes out of sight for a moment to see Louisa's needs, and I thought I knew what they were. And then, when the moment came, I was accused of deceiving her and being a selfish, controlling bastard.

Why am I always coming to this point? I only mean well. I know, people don't see it, but I had hoped that Louisa had learned to recognise this by now. Does she really think she's living with such an egotistic arsehole? Why is she staying with me then?

I roll to my side and by pure habit, I sling my arm over, just realising at the last moment that there is no Louisa where it can rest upon. Frustrated I roll onto my back again.

Right. I knew that we wouldn't be able to sleep in the same bed tonight. I knew that the cabins were only designed for one person. However, I had hoped that the door would be open, that we would have talked, that I wouldn't have had to sneak my way into reading to James.

What was she thinking, anyway? He is my son as well as hers. I know, legally it makes a hell of a difference, as we are not married, and so my rights are limited. Maybe that's why she always refused my proposals. To stay in control. And control she has.

I think she has the stronger position as I need this relationship more than she does. She could have everyone she wants to have. I even think she really doesn't need anyone. She can manage quite well on her own. She has her social circle to provide her with the stability she needs, and she can chose the closeness she is offering, adjusting it to the needed level. She is quite independent and can stand on her own.

If I lose this, I will end my days lonely. I know I will never bond with anyone else even remotely like I have bonded with Louisa. It takes ages for me to trust myself and the partner enough to be able to get on amiable terms with anyone. Besides, Louisa is the closest I came across to the woman I dreamt about since I started to dream about the opposite sex. She has all the traits I value – she is compassionate, caring, optimistic, strong, independent, quite bright, a good mother and she can take the lead. She has enough of a sense of humour to put up with my little quirks.

What's more, I could never deceive her. Even if she'd made it clear that in the long run we won't have a future together, it would feel wrong to be with someone else. She is my woman. The woman.

I have to stop this. I'm getting all worked up over this row. It is no more than this. Yet.

There is also James, and Louisa knows as well as I do that we both have our responsibilities as a parent. Maybe if Louisa calms down and stops fuming she will come to see the true purpose of this journey. Maybe.

At least I can hope.

I'm lying in the dark and stare at the ceiling. There is a dim light coming from the direction of the door to mark the emergency exits. Otherwise it's dark and the rattling of the train is the only sound I hear. I have no clue what time it is. I have no clue where we are exactly.

Over the rattling I hear a sharp metallic sound. Then the door opens.

To be continued…