A Call for Help


I sat on the edge of the bed, trembling. Henry sat down next to me.

''Why don't you have a little sleep, sweetheart,'' he said, his voice full of concern. ''Mum said when she rang that she won't be arriving home till about 6 o'clock this evening, so you can just take it easy today. You've been overdoing it, haven't you?''

He reached into the pocket of his nightshirt and handed me a big handkerchief. I didn't know anyone who still used them, but I wasn't surprised. The kind gesture made the tears flow even more freely.

''Come on. In you get.''  he said, pulling the bedcovers back. I got in, obediently, too stunned and bemused to say anything. He tucked the flowery pink duvet round my shoulders, bringing on a fresh bout of sobbing.

''I'll go out and leave you in peace for the morning, poppet, let you get a good rest. I'll have my mobile on me so just call if you want anything. I'll just pop into the town centre, have a mooch about.'' He leaned over and gently kissed the top of my head.

I heard him getting dressed – I didn't dare, or want, to look - and felt his side of the bed sink as he sat to put his shoes on. Then I heard the door close, gently. I waited a minute or so, then sat up in bed.

I thought hard. My head was aching now, and I felt nauseous.  I took a deep breath, and wiped my face with Henry's handkerchief. I stared at the hanky, feeling thoroughly miserable, then something caught my eye on the hand in which I held it, my left hand. There was a ring on the third finger. One of those three-colour gold twisted bands. A wedding ring.

Was I married? To Henry?  How could I be?   Up to yesterday I was going out with Steve. All right, after Sophie had told me that he couldn't be bothered to come to the hospital, I wasn't too pleased with him but...

How long had I been with Henry? I mean... of all people. It was becoming obvious, if indeed this wasn't a dream, that we were... an item.  I just could not get my head around the idea of me being with Henry, whom I'd hardly said two words to over the last ten years.  And if I was pregnant, as well... That meant I must have been with him for at least three months, perhaps more.

I needed to speak to someone I knew.  As soon as possible. Hang on...  Henry had mentioned having his mobile on him. Maybe I had one too...

Just then, I heard the front door close. I looked around the room. There was a handbag on the dressing table. I didn't recognise it, but an educated guess told me it wasn't Henry's.

I jumped out of bed and retrieved it, then started taking out the contents. There was a purse, a make-up bag, several crumpled receipts, and... a mobile phone. I didn't recognise that either. It was pink, a flip up type, and smaller than mine. But this one must be mine, maybe? I opened it up and looked at the keys. There was a ''menu'' key, and I pressed it. The coloured display showed me a list of options. There were some arrow keys on the keypad and I scrolled down to ''phonebook'' and pressed ''OK''.

A list of names came up, I scrolled again, till I found the name I was looking for. ''Sophie – Home.'' I pressed OK again, and the display showed a number I didn't recognise. Did she and Ben get married, I wondered. The wedding was supposed to be next weekend, but I had to assume that it had come and gone, but how long ago?

I took a deep breath, and pressed a button with a little green symbol shaped like a telephone receiver, then held the mobile to my ear. I was terrified – couldn't decide whether I wanted her to be in or not. I didn't even know what day of the week this was. It should have been Sunday, but who knew? It was ringing, and I was shaking like mad, my heart pounding.

''Hello?'' Sophie's voice. What did I say? How could I possibly ask her all the questions I wanted to ask?


''Clare! How's it going, hun?'' she asked. ''Are you still in Margate? Or are you home now?''

''Margate. I think.'' I had no idea. Was that where Henry's mother lived?

Sophie laughed, at the other end. ''Oh dear, were you and Hen out on the razzle last night? When are you due back?''

I paused. I just had to come straight out and ask. No other way.

''Soph? I.... I think... Sophie, how long have Henry and I been together?''

''What? Clare, what are you on about?''

''I know it's a really weird question, but I really need you to answer it.''

''Well, I'm surprised you can't work it out, but I remember perfectly. You know Ben and me had to postpone our wedding because his dad was ill?'' No. I didn't remember that, but I said yes.

''Well, you and Henry got together.... properly... at our wedding reception, remember. Though it wasn't really a surprise. You two had been heading that way for weeks.''

I didn't want to ask, but I did anyway.

''And... when was that, exactly? Soph?'' All went very quiet at the other end of the phone. ''Soph?''

''Clare, you're scaring me now, a bit. It was about two and a half years ago. December 2005. Why do you want to know?''

I dropped the phone.

The End

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