Roman returned home from his session at the gym and a punishing 5k run. He’d also stopped drinking beer, which considering that Martha still wasn’t talking to him gave him no respite to go over to see Miles. Still, it seemed to have some effect, he thought patting a hand on his flatter stomach and feeling new definition there if not the six-pack abs he used to have.
“So you’ve come home,” Martha muttered as he walked through the door.
“I told you I was going for a run,” he said feeling that his tone of voice was either getting angry or defensive whenever he talked to his wife these days. He forced himself to relax and took a deep breath before looking over at her. “Anyway, isn’t it time we stopped this and started talking properly?”
He watched as Martha sucked in a breath as she looked at him, her eyes shooting their usual sparks at him.
“I don’t know what you want me to say?” she began. “You’ve got kids…”
Roman interrupted quickly before the same argument could start, “Yes, I’ve got kids. But before you go there, I want to talk about us. It’s clear that you aren’t happy with me.”
Martha looked at him and sighed, her anger leaving her. She couldn’t tell him that she wasn’t unhappy, had been for a long time, if she were to finally be honest with herself. Roman was sure it was in part due to her not working, being at home and being a full-time mum to Lindsay. Sure that had kept Martha busy for the first few years but now their daughter was 6, she was at school and Martha didn’t need to be a full time stay at home Mum anymore.
“You are right,” She murmured slowly, the words seemed to be sucked out of her.
“So,” Roman looked at her feeling a strange sadness. “Where do you want to go from here?”
“I think you should move out,” She announced standing and facing him.
Roman gasped and found himself glaring back at her. “This is my house,” he muttered. “and are you kicking Nic out too?”
“Fine then, I’ll get packed. Lindsay will be coming with me!” Martha announced.
Roman found himself backing down as always at the thought of his daughter. He wondered where he and Nic could go and leave Lindsay staying in her home. No sooner had he begun to formulate arrangements than he sighed and took in a deep breath. It wasn’t feasible, there were too many complications.
“Maybe we need to think things through and sort out places to live before we rush into anything. And we should tell Lindsay together.” He said quickly, feeling himself pushed out of his daughter’s life already.
“So what do you suggest?” Martha muttered.
“That we both stay here, I’ll use the sofa, maintain some kind of routine for the time being until we’ve sorted things.” Even as he said it he could have cursed at how wishy washy he sounded. Where was the man who made decisive decisions? Who could go into hostile situations, weigh up what was happening in a split second and come up with the best course of action. Where had that man gone?
Martha looked at him and slowly nodded. “That will give me time to decide where to go.”
Roman sighed before he turned and headed to the stairs, pausing when Martha spoke again.
“Are you going to see her?”
“The mother of your kids. Although isn’t it a bit tacky to have so many brats running around the place. How many more are out there?”
Roman lowered his head slightly before he lifted it and looked at her. He saw her face, her lips twisted and her eyes reflecting her hate for him. How had it come to this he wondered? What had he done to Martha that she actively hated him except being the one who was alive when Jack was dead.
“No, I’m not planning on meeting her.” He stated slowly thinking for the briefest of moments about Ella. No. Don’t go there he cautioned himself quickly.
“Then why are you trying to lose weight and get fit?”
“Because I needed to do something to change my life.” He murmured looking her in the eye. “I found out recently that this isn’t the life I wanted. “
“This?” Martha hissed. “Or me.”
“This.” He repeated. “Martha, I truly loved you and I love our daughter. I just know, that there is more than this. I wanted to run my own restaurant and yet, I’m stagnating in the diner.”
He watched as she flinched as he spoke before she turned and looked at him again, that ever-present pinched look on her face, “You need to go shower, “ She said scathingly, dismissing him.
Roman inclined his head briefly before he ran up the rest of the stairs and into the bedroom. He opened the top drawer of his dresser and looked at the photo of the twins. Twins, he thought with a smile. They looked like they would keep Ella on her toes. He imagined her now, she would still have long hair, still be slim and still be a runner, she always did like running, not to mention her photography. He remembered once long ago being tempted into looking her up at a book signing and then at the last minute chickening out.
No, he had no plans to find her, despite wanting to do his best for his kids, Ella was out of bounds. If he didn’t want his heart broken again.
“You ask me that one more time and I swear I will stop the car and you can walk the rest of the way.” Ella told her son, ‘Mike’.
He grinned over at her before sitting back in his seat.
“Seriously, how long is it going to take?” he asked her.
“You need a bathroom break or something?” Ella murmured.
“Or something!” Toby sniggered from the back seat.
“Want to tell me what is going on guys?” Ella asked negotiating a turning in the road.
“Nothing.” Toby said quickly.
“Tell me now or I’ll turn the car around and go back to the city.” Ella threatened and watched in the rearview mirror as her boys exchanged looks.
“We want to go surfing.” ‘Mike’ eventually volunteered.
Ella rolled her eyes at the pronouncement before she focused on the road signs ahead. She followed them until they reached their destination and she slowed the car before pulling up to a stop.
“Wait here.” She muttered turning off the engine and unclipping her safety belt. She gave all three kids a look before getting out of the car and walking over to the large house. Lifting her hand she knocked on the green painted door and waited.
“Hello!” A voice called out.
“I’ve booked a caravan.” Ella said in response.
“Just one minute!” The voice called back.
Ella rolled her shoulders back and stretched out the kinks in her muscles before glancing around the room. A pile of books stood on the table next to the remains of what looked like last night’s dinner, a couple of plates and a glass.
“Yes, sorry about that.” Miles Copeland murmured coming into the room from the utility room. He wore a crumpled T-shirt and shorts and his overlong hair hung in curls down to his shoulders. He was in need of a shave, let alone a decent nights sleep according to the dark circles under his eyes.
She took a step back feeling strangely alarmed by the state of him and the place around him.
“I’ve…er… got a caravan booked. The name is Smith.” She murmured and then mentally kicked herself. “No, it’s Addison.” She corrected.
Miles tilted his head as he looked at her. “Divorce?” he asked slowly in a gentle voice.
Ella nodded feeling a smile creep on to her lips.
“Know the feeling.” He added gesturing to the chaos in the room behind him. He turned and walked over to a small desk the other side of the room and picked up a book with a set of keys. He carried them over to her and handed her the keys. “Sign here, and it’s caravan number 4.”
“Thanks.” She signed the book where he pointed out and handed over the money to pay for a weeks’ rental before heading out to the car. The kids were watching her and she grinned at them as she got back in behind the wheel.
“Who was that?” Gabby asked her eyes still watching Miles out the back.
“He looks kinda sad.” Gabby murmured.
“He is, I think.” Ella commented as she started the car and drove over to the caravan he’d pointed out to her. She parked up beside it and climbed out, grinning as her three clamoured hurriedly out of the back of the car and followed her.
“If this is daggy them I’m so not staying,” Gabby announced glaring at the two boys as if to dare them to contradict here.
Ella hid her smile; she’d had similar thoughts when she saw the main house before she unlocked the van and opened the door. Aside from a little bit of dust and the very faint odour of stuffiness the caravan was clean inside. She stepped up the three metal steps and walked inside looking around the small space.
“Mum,” Gabby called out.
“Come on in.” she said, watching as all three eased inside and she gestured to the bedrooms and they checked them out.
“Beds are made.” Gabby called. “Where are we sleeping?”
Ella walked over to them and peered over their shoulder.
“Mike top bunk, Gabby this one, and Toby.” She assigned them beds before opening the door of the other bedroom and going over to the bed and sitting on it. There was no backing out now she thought, resisting the urge to get back in her car and head back to her studio. Soon she would be face to face with Roman Harris and just the thought of seeing him was making her heart pound with a heady mix of fear and excitement.