Letting her arm fall from Simon’s, Jessie turned towards the pub, her eyes resting on her mum as she hurried through the door. ‘I thought you’d gone to the caravan?’
‘No, we’ve been waiting here.’ Jessie’s mum indicated the pub behind her just as Kelly stepped outside.
‘Okay.’ Why hadn’t they run outside when she’d been walking up the hill to meet Simon? Why had they had to wait until he was with her?
‘Are you going to introduce us?’ Walking across to her, Jessie’s mum placed her hand on Jessie’s arm.
Looking down at the floor, Jessie squeezed her eyes shut, took a deep breath, and opened them again. ‘Mum, this is Simon. Simon, this is my mum, Cecilia. Kelly, Simon. Simon, Kelly.’
‘Lovely to meet you both.’ Simon shook Cecilia and Kelly’s hands before placing his palm on the small of Jessie’s back.
‘Have you got time for that chat now?’ Cecilia looked from Jessie to Simon and back again.
‘Not really. We’ve got plans.’
‘Jess, dear. This isn’t going away. We really need to clear the air.’
Clear the air? Seriously? ‘Well, I haven’t got time right now. Sorry.’
‘I don’t mind if you want to postpone our plans?’
Glancing at him, Jessie set her jaw. Great, she didn’t really have a choice now. If she still refused, she’d be the one being awkward. Again. ‘Okay.’
‘I’ll meet you at mine when you’re done.’ Turning to her, Simon pecked her on the forehead.
‘Thanks. See you.’ After watching him walk back up the hill, she turned to her mum and sister. She knew Simon just wanted to give her the chance to make things right with Kelly and she knew why, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d just pushed her into a conversation she wasn’t really ready to have yet.
‘Let’s take a seat.’ Leading the way to a table near the edge of the courtyard, Cecilia waited for her daughters to sit down before taking a seat herself.
Perching on the edge of the wooden bench, Jessie clasped her hands in her lap and watched as an ant marched across the tabletop, avoiding the dips and grooves in the wood.
‘Kelly didn’t plan this, you know. These things happen and I’m not saying for one moment that this is an ideal situation, but we need to pull together. We need to give her the support she needs right now.’
‘I know I’ve told you before, but I really didn’t plan this, Jess. Do you think I would? After listening to you upset because Brad didn’t want to have kids? I spent years trying to console you after you’d had yet another argument about starting a family.’ Kelly placed her hand on Jessie’s.
Pulling her hands away, Jessie bit down on her bottom lip. They hadn’t been arguments. Kelly made it sound as though Brad had actually spoken to her about his choice, that they’d decided between them. It hadn’t been like that. Brad had said no and that had been the end of the discussion. There had been no talking.
‘This little guy needs his auntie.’ Kelly rubbed her belly.
‘You may not have planned to get pregnant, but you planned to get into a relationship with my ex-fiancé.’ Running her finger over the groove in the wood the ant had avoided, Jessie kept her voice steady, calm. Kelly seemed to think this was all about her getting pregnant, but it wasn’t. Yes, it stung that she was having Brad’s baby, and it had been a shock, it really had, but this was about her choosing to start a relationship with her ex. That was the reason Jessie felt so betrayed.
‘What does it matter now, Jess? It looks as though you’ve bagged yourself a new man, anyway.’ Cecilia reached across the table and touched her arm.
Closing her eyes momentarily, Jessie tried to clear her mind. Was she really the only one who could see what Kelly had done was wrong? When Jessie had been at her lowest—her relationship over, jobless after not being able to face working with Brad every day, living back home—atthatpoint Kelly had taken it upon herself to start seeing Brad. How had that been right? ‘It’s not about me and Brad. I don’t want him back. It’s the fact that my own sister could see I was at my lowest, struggling, and she chose to start a relationship with the person who had caused all of that.’
‘We can’t help who we fall for, Jess.’
Jessie felt her breath catch in her throat as she stared at Kelly. Kelly who was sitting picking at her nail varnish as though getting together with your sister’s ex-fiancé only months after he’d turned her life upside down was the most natural thing in the world. She didn’t need to listen to this. She didn’t need to sit here being spoken to like this. Not being listened to. Again. Placing her palms on the surface of the table, she pushed herself slowly to standing. She needed to get away.
‘Jess, please. She didn’t mean it that way.’
As she walked away, she could hear them talking, her mum’s voice low and calm. Looking at the ground in front of her, she tried to block out the noise around her, the footsteps quickening to catch her up. Feeling a hand on her shoulder, she tried to shake it off. She didn’t want them to see her like this. In eight short months, her life had been transformed; she’d lost the future she thought she was going to have with a man that she’d been with a long time. Yes, the love had gone, but it had been a future she’d believed she was going to have. She’d lost her home, her job, her sister, her family. All people she’d trusted and loved. Still loved.
‘Jess, I’m sorry. I messed up. I shouldn’t have got with him. I should have realised how much it would affect you. I should have realised it wasn’t the right thing to do.’
Pausing, Jessie turned around. Kelly was standing there, tears streaming down her cheeks, her bottom lip wobbling. ‘Then why did you?’
‘I don’t know. Because you always seemed to have it all. You had been happy with him. You had a great life, knew what you were doing, where your life was going whereas I was just treading water, waiting for someone to sweep me off my feet or to suddenly feel passionate about something, to know what career to follow. Anything. When you and Brad split up, I felt awful for you but then I saw him on a night out and...’