Phil almost heard it. A massive click in her mind like someone had suddenly oiled the rusted cogs that made her think. It had not been Ian's words that caused it but that she had caught his reflection in the glass of the window as he turned away. He was smiling secretly, self-satisfied, so pleased with himself he could not hide it completely. That one second of vision instantly stopped her delusions, she could no longer pretend to herself that she loved him and knew that he did not love her. She was not certain that he even knew what love was. For him, all of this was a game and she had been a willing player. She took a deep breath before answering, 'Yes, it's a shame. Never mind, I'll survive.'
For a moment he seemed bemused, like a chess player whose opponent had suddenly made an unexpectedly aggressive move. Then his lips whitened as he clenched them together and she realised she should be careful. He picked up his bag. 'It's time I was leaving.' He stood still, waiting as she tried to decide how to play her next move. 'Well, aren't you going to kiss me good-bye, you know you always miss me.' She certainly could not miss the warning in his tone. He was shaken up by her previous reply and was readjusting his gameplay.
Carefully she hid the exultation building up inside. 'Of course I'll miss you but I'm getting used to it. It will be so much better when you finally find our own place where we can be together all the time.'
Ian was definitely picking up that something had changed in her. 'I hope you're not getting stroppy, Pip. I can't stand attitude from you.' His tone of voice suddenly softened, became weak and beguiling, 'It breaks my heart, Pip, it really does.'
Swallowing the distaste welling up her throat, she ran over to him. She gave her best simper and using a slightly childish voice, asked for a cuddle, turning her face so that he could not see it as he held her. She explained that she was merely putting on a brave face as every week she missed him more than the week before. Her eyes were opened now so she was not surprised to see another of those secretive smiles cross his face. She knew what to look for. 'I'm busy next week-end, heard about another house but the owner is only available on Saturdays. See you in a couple of weeks.'
She made obligatory 'Oh no,' sort of noises but as he drove away her emotions were dancing. He might think he controlled the game board but she was going to win.
She poured herself a glass of wine from the open bottle on the table but had not lifted it to her lips when she asked herself, 'Why now?' What had changed to make her aware of what was happening around her? Carefully placing the glass back she walked to the bedroom and retrieved her most recent letter from the hiding place beneath the bottom drawer of her bedside cabinet. She shuffled through the several sheets of pretty handwriting until she found what she was looking for and sat on the bed to reread the relevant section again.
And now, Phil, I think I'm going to have to give you a mild telling off. I've been thinking about it for some time and now we are coming over in the Summer- our Summer that is, I want to get it out of the way. Stop thinking of all this as some sort of divine retribution for having sex with Ian before you were married. God is not the one pulling the strings, it's someone much closer to home. Most of the things you listed as punishments were not applied to you alone but to all of us. Yes it might have impacted you differently to those of us over here but we suffered too. Please try to get out of this habit of blaming yourself. It's difficult, believe me I know, but I also know that in your right mind you are an incredibly strong person and that you can succeed. You imply that it's your lack of morals that caused the events that stopped Mum and Dad visiting you, what about the rest of us. Do you honestly think God would punish us all for your actions? God loves us, Phil.
On rereading your letters, it appears to me that you lump us all together as one hundred percent moral and berate yourself for letting the family down. I hadn't realised you were so naive, or unobservant, or perhaps plain thick might cover it. So let's observe some facts. Len was always the family good girl, the shining example, and I can honestly say she was the epitome of moral behaviour then, though she has loosened up a lot over the last two years. Next on the list comes me; yes John and I decided to wait to have sex until after we were married, and somehow stuck to that decision, but it wasn't entirely for moral reasons; our situation, my self esteem issues and a couple of bad examples were also involved and after a while we found anticipation spiced life up a little.
When Con announced at her wedding that she was only getting married to have babies, she meant it. Marriage was not otherwise going to bring anything that she wasn't getting all ready. She and Prof had been practically living together since about a month after her graduation. I will say, in your defence, she did a good job of hiding it until her wedding day. I suppose she didn't think it mattered after.
Flixy was staying here when your letter arrived and says I'm to thank you for the laugh. She also asks a question,a rhetorical one. When you stayed with her for that half term in your second year at Lovelace, what did you think she and William were doing in her bedroom every night? playing tiddly-winks? He wasn't her first either. Before I forget, Ariadne is growing into the cheekiest little Madam ever and is so flirtatious she melts hearts everywhere- even mine!'
I'm not going into the boys' affairs, it would be mere conjecture apart from Geoff. You do remember your twin don't you and the fact you told me about his relationship with Becky? So we get to Claire, She really was able to keep her habits a secret. It was only after I had my girls that she needed someone to confide in and chose me. She had her first affair with a Sixth Former when she was only fifteen. Don't blame the older girl Claire was adamant that she threw herself at her and even admits to blackmail. Since then Claire has had a long string of lovers, male and female, all sorts of ages, each relationship lasting little longer than two weeks as she got bored and moved on to the next. Her idea of moral is that she's never had a one night stand, always knows the name of her lover and never comes on to anyone all ready spoken for. She's settled with Paula now. I like Paula but I worry about them. I don't think Paula is as committed as Claire and seems uncomfortable with the whole situation and what or who she is.
Anyway, the point of all this rambling is to show that you have no need to think that you let the family down or are being punished for your behaviour. Please Love, try and find Phil again, Pip is becoming monotonous. I love you, Sister, and you totally and utterly deserve it. It's going to be wonderful to see you in August. I can barely wait.
The letter went back to describing what they might do while the Jameson's were there. Phil sighed. She would not be able to do much of it now. She should write to Cecily and explain why. She put the letter away and went back to the living room. Cecily's letter at the end had a slight nuance, a vague implication, that if Phil wanted to she could return with them and the thought had crossed her mind several times. It was not possible now, of course. But one day, somehow, some when, she was getting away from here, going back home. She would become Phil Maynard again.
She picked up the glass and looked at her reflection in the window where she had seen the moment that altered her life. She raised the wine and toasted herself, 'Pip is dead. Long live Phil.'