Roman cleared the table after dinner was finished. He could feel the photo of the two children burning a hole in his pocket as he framed the words to tell his wife that he had children with another woman. She fussed over Lindsay almost totally excluding him or maybe it just seemed like that. He sighed as he stacked the dishwasher and then again as he made coffee.
Nicole was on the late shift, partnering with Charlie Buckton while Georgina Watson, her normal partner was on maternity leave. It felt strange knowing his daughter was a policewoman when one of her first encounters on arriving in the Bay had been with the police when she was stopped for speeding in the ridiculous car her mother had bought her. He wondered how she would take the news she had a brother and sister out there somewhere. He knew that she and Lindsay had never really formed a bond as sisters, Martha had seen to that, finding his elder daughter a threat in some way. Some illogical female way.
Taking out the picture again he looked at it and tried to picture Ella as she would be now. Her hair would be shorter, back then it had been down to her waist and curled when she wet it, loose tendrils springing up and framing around her face. She had rarely tied it back, unless she was working and he was always fascinated by the wild tangles, especially later when they were in their bed. He shifted uncomfortably at the memory of her before straightening and glancing over at where his wife was sitting through in the other room. Just remembering Ella had him feeling guilty. Like in some way his memories were making him unfaithful to his wife.
Stuffing the picture back in his pocket he finished putting everything away before grabbing a beer. Not his first of the night he thought with a grimace before putting the unopened bottle back in the fridge and swapping it for a bottle of water. He felt self-conscious about the way his body had changed. He’d seen surprise in Jacko’s face when he’d looked at him seeing the extra weight he was carrying around the middle. Hell, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d gone running or to the gym or even thought about exercising. He knew instinctively that Ella wouldn’t have put on any weight even with pregnancy.
“Just going out for a bit.” He called out and disappeared out of the back door before Martha could stop him.
He stretched out his legs, warming up the muscles before he began a gentle jog to the beach. There were a few people about and he nodded greetings to those he knew and was glad it was nearing dark and the red puffy face would be hidden from view. Forced to stop and walk for a bit whilst he got his breath back he focused on how much it would take to get fit again before his feet started pounding the pavement back to the house. He was still carrying the bottle of water and took a long drink, cooling off.
“Where have you been?” Martha asked as soon as he walked in the door.
“Just for a run.” He answered. “Needed to stretch my legs.”
“Oh, ok.” She looked over at him and he wondered what she saw when she looked at him. Did she see a middle aged man she hated looking at him because it meant she had to face up to the fact that she was older too or maybe she just hated him for whatever crime he’d done.
How had they slipped into this relationship? She’d been with Jack until his death and then needed someone, relying first on him and then Hugo, until the other man left. Then they had drifted into being together before she’d fallen pregnant with Lindsay. That’s when he’d married her, not wanting another child of his out there growing up without him, and felt the sting of not being with Ella whilst she was having his babies.
‘Damn’ he cursed silently, thinking of Ella again. How could she do that to him? Didn’t she realise how much it would hurt to be denied his family? He groaned rubbing his hand over his face before moving through the house and to the stairs.
“Don’t wake her up.” Martha cautioned, referring to their daughter.
He nodded and stepped carefully up the steps, skirting past Lindsay’s room and her partially open door to step into the bedroom he shared with Martha. He saw the too pretty floral paper on the walls and the matching bedspread and knew that Martha had chosen the pattern to punish him in some weird small minded way. He kicked off his shoes and changed into his robe taking his laundry with him into the bathroom and dumping it in the hamper.
The shower chugged into life spilling luke warm water down on to him as he stepped into it. He grabbed his shower gel and poured out some on his sponge. Running it over his body he frowned once more at the way his body had changed over the years. He tried to tell himself that it was natural that he thought that but knew the reminder of Ella was the reason he now admitted to himself how disenchanted he was with his life. Stepping out from the shower he turned off the water and reached for a towel and wrapping it around his body as he dealt with the shower. He noticed that his legs ached from the run as he began drying off. Pulling on his bathrobe when he’d finished he headed back into the bedroom. He saw Martha had climbed into the bed and had her back to him. Pulling on his pyjamas he climbed up in the bed next to her and settled down.
It took a couple minutes before he thought about the photograph and he gasped in the dark room remembering leaving it on the bed before he’d taken his shower.
“Who are they?” Martha asked and he knew that he couldn’t not tell her about them or Ella.
“My kids.” He admitted finally.
“How could you?” Martha gasped out.
“How could I what? It was before I knew you.”
“Doesn’t matter. It seems that you’ve left a trail of kids around Australia.” She said in a hoarse whisper. “Get out. Go sleep elsewhere.”
Roman rubbed at his face before he swung his legs out the side of the bed and stood up. He saw the photograph on his bedside table and ignored it as he stalked out of the room and down the stairs. He knew even as he settled down on the sofa that the discussion was far from over.