The Runaway

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Authors: Grace Thompson
station?’ he suggested.
    ‘I have to leave earlier than that. I’m getting a train about four.’
    ‘Four. that’s what I meant to say.’ He laughed and said, ‘Meet you at the station about 3.45?’
    ‘I can’t promise,’ she said. She had intended to set off nearer three o’clock, but it was tempting. She didn’t have to be cautious with a stranger, and he did have the nicest smile.
    Ian was smiling too. Going back to Barry at four o’clock was the wrong direction for him, but he found the thought of seeing her again irresistible.
    Winnie was standing on the corner near the theatre where they had arranged to meet. She looked anxious, walking up and down and lifting herself up on to tiptoe looking for her. Faith waved and they ran to greet each other with a hug.
    ‘I’m so glad to see you again, Faith, and you’re looking marvellous. Sort of glowing.’
    The pleasure of talking to Ian might be the reason for that, Faith thought, but she said, ‘I don’t work very hard. And you’re looking good yourself. Children and Paul all right?’ They chatted about ordinary things as they made their way to a café.
    Once they were settled Winnie once more evaded asking the questions she wanted to ask and instead, said, ‘You say you don’t work very hard; what do you do, then?’
    ‘As I told you, I’m a housekeeper companion to a lady in her seventies .’
    ‘That sounds like hard work to me. Don’t they keep you running around like a demented terrier?’
    ‘She’s a very sweet lady. Most of the time I simply keep her company, listening to the radio or records and discussing what we hear. I read to her, which I enjoy, and I do the cooking and I rather enjoy that, too. I pretend I have a house of my own and imagine I’m preparing a lavish meal for friends.’
    ‘Matt refers to you as “the runaway”. Do you regret, you know, running away like you did?’
    ‘Specially today.’
    ‘Of course. It’s the fourteenth of August. She will be six months old.’
    ‘It was cowardly and of course I regret it. Specially today. But Matt …’ She paused, then said, ‘There was no way I could have stayed. My regret at walking away is a continuous ache. I long to hold a baby in my arms, but leaving her was something I had to do, I can’t regret walking away. And I know leaving Matt was the only choice. There was no way I could stay with him. But my regret at having to leave the baby doesn’t get any easier. I try to tell myself I would never have loved her.’
    ‘Of course you would! Whatever the problem was, you’d have put it right. You must have felt something for Matt. You married him.’
    Faith couldn’t tell her friend the marriage hadn’t taken place. She turned away to hide the sudden flood of tears.
    ‘What happened, Faith? Do you want to tell me?’
    ‘One day perhaps. When I feel safe from him.’ She waited for the tears to subside then asked, ‘What are people saying about me?’
    ‘No one understands. How could they unless you tell them why? The runaway, that’s what they all call you.’
    ‘Have you heard anything about the baby?’
    ‘She was named Dorothy and is being fostered, with a view to adoption. Why don’t you come and explain things? Matt is entitled to an explanation, surely?’
    ‘Matt wasn’t the father.’ She looked away from her friend as she lied.
    ‘If Matt wasn’t the father, was she Nick’s child?’
    ‘No, not Nick. Ironic wasn’t it, her being born on St Valentine’s Day.’ she said bitterly. She quickly asked about Winnie’s family, anxious to change the subject before tears began. If they did she thought they would never stop. Winnie knew she would learn nothing more until her friend was ready to talk.
    They parted at 2.30 as her friend needed to be home before the children were out of school. Faith went towards the station but didn’t get on a train. She needed something to distract her, stop her thinking about the helpless child, the tiny baby

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