The Safest Place

Free The Safest Place by Suzanne Bugler

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Authors: Suzanne Bugler
while Kelly stayed with my children, so that I didn’t have to drive and
could therefore have a drink. That night felt like a huge step forward to me, laughing with the others over the absurdity of the questions and our combined lack of general knowledge. On our team we
had Lisa Staples, whose son Will was in Sam’s class, and Melanie’s friends Angie and John, and another couple whose names I forget now, and we all drank far too much wine. It was just a
shame that David couldn’t get home in time to come too.
    It was Melanie who suggested I should offer to go into Ella’s school, to help with art. Melanie knew everything that was going on in both schools; she made it her business. News never came
to Melanie second-hand.
    ‘Put your art to some good use,’ she said. ‘They’re crying out for help.’
    And I loved it; sitting with the children, showing them different techniques using different materials and helping them to develop their skills. It was infinitely more rewarding than making
those cards at home on my own, cards which cost almost as much to produce as I could ever make by selling them. And as Melanie pointed out, where would I sell my cards around here? Besides, going
into Ella’s school once a week made me feel part of the community, and less like ‘that woman from London’.
    I embraced my new life with enthusiasm, and integral to it all was Melanie. Sometimes, especially on all those long dark nights waiting for David to come home, I thanked God that I had met her.
Because how lonely would I have been stuck out here, in our house miles from everywhere, had I not?
    I hardly ever saw David during the week. The times he managed to leave work in time to catch the 7.20 train from Paddington were all too rare now, and most nights we were all
in bed asleep before he got home. It seemed there was always some reason for him to stay late at the office, work to finish, meetings to be had.
    Things were harder these days; in these tough economic times the magazine world was suffering. There were redundancies already announced, and more on the way. The fear of this kept him awake at
night, and had him counting the cost of our mortgage. The stress of the long journey added to the stresses of work; it became a constant issue, wearing him down.
    ‘Couldn’t you just change jobs?’ I said to him once, trying to be helpful. ‘Find something closer to home.’
    But he said, ‘I can’t just change jobs. What would I do out here?’
    ‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘But I’m sure you’d find something. And you could spend more time at home then, and less time travelling.’
    He looked at me incredulously. And he said, ‘Be realistic, Jane. How many marketing agencies or publishing houses do you suppose there are scattered around these fields?’
    I flinched when he said that. Out here. These fields. That was how he’d started referring to this place that we both, once, so loved.
    When we first moved here, the weekends were our focus; the time we would be together as a family. I shopped ahead, and I tidied the house so it would be lovely for all of us. I prepared for each
weekend as if for a holiday, planning long walks through the woods with the children, and romantic evenings, just the two of us, snuggled up by the fire. All week, my hopes were raised; the
children’s too. We lived for the weekends, back then.
    The children missed their dad. If they saw him at all in the week it was by accident: a nocturnal meeting on the landing on the way to the bathroom; a glimpse of him cursing outside on a black
morning, trying to start the car. When they complained that he was never there I’d say, as though it was Christmas coming and not just another weekend, ‘Soon be here now. Not long to
go
.
’ We’d count down the days, starting with each miserable Monday. Only four/three/two more to go.
    But the expectation, month in, month out, became too much; the intensity somehow crippling. It rendered the

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