The Ultimate Surrender

By: Penny Jordan

‘I wasn’t thinking…You don’t when you’re in love,’ she heard Richard responding simply.

‘In love!’ Marcus almost snarled. ‘You might be that but I doubt that either of you knows what real love is all about.’

He left shortly afterwards, ignoring the cheek she timidly offered him to kiss, his shark-grey eyes almost black with the intensity of his anger.

‘I don’t think that Marcus likes me very much,’ she forced herself to confess to Richard a little later. They were sitting on their small shabby sofa and Richard was trying to playfully spoon-feed her what was left of the rich chestnut roulade she had served the men for their pudding. Just the smell of it turned her stomach, never mind what the taste would do, but at this stage she was still reluctant to confront the truth.

‘Of course he likes you,’ Richard told her heartily—too heartily, perhaps, as he avoided looking at her. ‘In fact he probably wishes he’d met you first,’ he added, before admitting, ‘Not that you’re really his type…’

‘Oh? What kind of girl is?’ Polly asked him, more to stop herself focusing on how very queasy she felt than out of any real interest.

‘Oh, sort of sophisticated and tall, the kind of girl who looks as though she knows what life’s all about, if you know what I mean.’

Polly did, and the kind of girl Richard had just described was as different from the way she was herself as it was possible to be. For a start she was short rather than tall—barely five foot two—and her hair was a soft mousy-brown rather than blonde; and as for knowing what life was all about…

A month later, when it was impossible for her to ignore the fact that Marcus’s angry guess had been right and that she was pregnant, Richard walked into the flat to find her in tears and desperately worried about their future.

‘Don’t worry,’ he consoled her as he took her in his arms and held her tight. ‘We’ll manage…somehow…’

Of course she immediately felt better, comforted by his insouciance and his confidence. Richard had such a warm, sunny nature that it was impossible not to feel buoyed up and infected by his natural optimism and his belief that something would ‘turn up’.

A commission for a portrait via Marcus, together with a generous Christmas cheque from Richard’s parents, who were living in Cyprus where Richard’s father was stationed, helped them to repay the overdraft which had somehow or other built up to alarming proportions despite Polly’s excellently thrifty housekeeping. But the flat was damp and cold, and in the new year Richard caught flu, and then Polly caught it from him and was unable to work. The office sent a letter round suggesting that since she would be leaving work anyway when her baby was born it might be as well if she didn’t return but concentrated on looking after her health. The letter arrived on a raw, miserable February day when Polly was seven months pregnant and the last of the Christmas money had just been used to pay their rent.

The small sitting room of the flat was crammed with things she had bought for the coming baby—all of them second-hand—including the cot that Richard was cleverly repainting. Polly was sitting there on the threadbare carpeted floor, large round tears running down her face and dripping onto her large round tummy, when the door opened and Marcus walked in unannounced.

In her undignified haste to get up Polly caught her foot in the carpet and pitched forward, giving a sharp cry of protest and fear, quickly smothered against the unexpected warmth of Marcus’s expensive cashmere jacket as he caught hold of her, impeding her fall. For a moment, as she stood within the protective circle of his arms her face buried in his jacket, breathing in the raw male scent of him, Polly had the most peculiar and bemusing sense of somehow coming home; of being safe and protected.

It was gone in a second, quickly dismissed by her realisation of just how alien and idiotic her reaction was. She had never felt really comfortable with Marcus, still less as her pregnancy advanced, and she felt sure she could see in his eyes his disapproval of the way their marriage and her pregnancy had taken over Richard’s life, forcing onto him responsibilities which did not allow him full exercise of his artistic talents. So how on earth could she possibly have experienced what she had experienced? It was her imagination—a hallucination—an odd side-effect of being pregnant and poorly. And then Marcus was releasing her, turning his back on her, his face set and unreadable as he headed for the attic and Richard.

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