When Colin had married Ann, he had the world at his feet. He had become a Chartered Accountant, much to his parents’ pride, and had landed a good job in a bank, where he was the rising star. Marriage to Ann, pretty but not provocative, educated but not intellectual Ann, had been the icing on the cake.
Then the twins had arrived, surprising every family member who had wished the baby to be a boy. Jenny was born first and Maria ten minutes later... or was it the other way around? Colin hadn’t been present at the birth. Surely Ann did not want him to see her in that sorry state. Anyway Ann was such a wonderful mother. Colin never had to bother himself with the children’s sleepless nights, jabs, dental appointments or PTA evenings – all he had to do was go to work, put in the hours, come home with more work to do – in the financial world, he would explain, it never did any harm to become indispensable.
Wedding anniversaries had come, one by one... the first, when they had not gone anywhere because of Ann’s condition. He did remember the third because Ann had texted the baby sitter seven times with her brand new mobile phone. The fifth anniversary – now that had been something. They had been to the Savoy and Colin could still remember the beef fillet on the bone with girolles and Glenmorangie whisky sauce. He couldn’t remember any of the others except maybe the tenth, when they had all gone for a family holiday in the Bahamas.
Children’s birthdays had come, too – he could remember Ann telling him she had bought two teddy bears... two identical Barbie dolls... Two make-up palettes... Two tickets to see some pop band.
thing he could clearly remember was when he’d met Heather.
It was a Monday morning and Heather was being shown around by this woman from business loans, which could only mean Heather was some menial admin girl. But Colin could not have cared less. One look at Heather’s petite figure, large brown eyes, glossy, curly brown hair, and he’d been hooked.
At first Heather hadn’t wanted to know. He was married with two children. He was many years her senior. But he begged. He pleaded. He insisted. He sent her flowers. He invented a work meeting – the first of many – to go to her flat unannounced and bring more flowers.
In the end Heather relented.
The first night he came home after having made love with Heather, he wondered how Ann could fail to see how transformed he’d been. While she prattled on about her W.I. meeting and a dinner party to entertain his boss, all he could see what Heather’s beautiful body responding to his and rejuvenating his soul.
It went on for about a year, with a few near-misses like that time he’d found a hair of Heather’s on his lapel just in time, and that time he could actually smell Heather’s perfume on himself so he’d bought a bottle of the same one for Ann.
Today he had made his decision. It would be tough but it had to be done. Heather had prepared him a lovely dinner of spaghetti carbonara and fruit jelly. He’d kissed her tenderly and told her he was going home to tell his wife that he was leaving her and that he was coming back to live with Heather, if Heather would have him.
Heather had waved him good-bye and he’d waved back, looking at her smile in the windscreen mirror. Life was just beginning for him, he decided. He was going to get Heather out of her small flat and set her somewhere nice. Well of course the child maintenance and divorce settlement would be costly, but still. They were going to be so happy. No more secrecy. No more lies. Just Heather and him, and a quiet little wedding as soon as the divorce was finalised.
Colin was smiling at the wheel. He was also rehearsing what he was going to tell Ann. And the girls. He didn’t see the boy-racer coming out at the intersection, nor did he feel the impact that killed him instantly.
At first Ann had thought it had been a mistake. The two policemen had asked her if she was Colin Fairweather’s wife. Well, what else had she been for the past seventeen years? Her life had revolved around looking good for Colin, bringing up Colin’s daughters and supporting Colin’s career with entertainment and a silent, smiling presence at work do’s.
But then they’d told her that Colin had been killed in a car crash in Ranelagh Street. Now there had to be a mistake, officer. Colin was playing bridge with his colleague at the other end of town. Did Colin drive a blue Jaguar registered VU57VUE? Well yes, but...
She still disbelieved it as the morgue assistant lifted the cloth and revealed Colin’s face. Mangled, bruised, grotesquely deformed, but still Colin’s face.
She was used to organising things for Colin, after all. Packing up his suitcase for business trips. Organising every family outing, week-end away or holiday. So she organised one last thing for him – the funeral.
Even she was surprised by the number of people who came along. The branch of the bank where Colin works... worked, was large, but still. And it wasn’t only the number of people, it was the broad age range, from an elderly, now retired high ranking manager down to a young lady who seemed genuinely sad Colin had gone. Really, her Colin had been so popular.
The counsellor suggested she should go out more. Ann got invited out a few times but it was always by different people; none of her friends invited her more than once, even Elizabeth with whom she had shared a dorm and many confidences at St Mark’s.
One of the twins
Googled a young widows and widowers group for her. Ann thought the name “OnUp”
(short for Onwards and Upwards) a bit naff but at least, she decided, the
members wouldn’t come in couples or never invite her again.
She hadn’t felt so nervous in many years. Being Colin’s wife meant meeting many people and shaking many hands and smiling a lot, but this was different. Still. It had to be better than staying at home and it was only tea at Drucker’s.
Some members were sporting a black plastic band but Ann didn’t need it to recognise them. They were occupying a large table and were a mixture of ages, colours and creeds. Ann sat next to a lady in her thirties with a toddler on her lap and happily chatted about motherhood as the other members kept on arriving.
“Well everybody” said one lady whom Ann knew to be the co-ordinator, “today we are welcoming Ann and we’ve got another two who haven’t arrived yet... ah here’s one of them, I think... you must be Heather?”