And Maggie started probing about Jack’s relationship with her mother.
“It was passionate, even fiery at times,” said Jack.
“I can’t imagine mum as being fiery, she always seemed so calm, so controlled.”
“We …. we had that effect on each other.”
“Was it destructive? Were you bad for each other?” That was a question that had nagged away at Jack over the years. It was Suzanne who had ended the relationship, suddenly and without warning and had refused to offer up an explanation.
“I don’t know Maggie, I honestly don’t know, she never told me why she dumped me. It’s strange but as individuals neither of us were that temperamental but something happened when we got together, there were fireworks which I suppose was the attraction and maybe in the end the downfall.”
Maggie wanted to know if they had ever discussed settling down together, getting married, having children.
“It never came up, we were too young I suppose.”
Maggie continued to be very inquisitive about the time Jack had spent with Suzanne and for a moment he wondered if she could have been his child but she was born well after he and Suzanne had parted.
Which was just as well because even though there was a massive age gap between the two of them – Maggie was 24 - Jack could feel himself being drawn more and more to her.
I’m a well preserved 52, he thought, it wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that she could find me attractive. But was it Maggie or the memory of Suzanne he coveted?
At last he summoned up the courage to ask Maggie if she would like to go out for dinner with him and to his surprise and delight she agreed.
They enjoyed a splendid meal and then Maggie invited him back to her flat. By now Jack was feeling that the attraction was mutual and he concluded the time was right to make his feelings known. But first . . . .
“There’s something I’ve been wanting to get clear in my mind,” he asked.
“That time when we first met, in the pub, why did you slap me across the face, you’ve never really explained?”
“And I’ve never really apologized have I. I’m so sorry for hitting you, it was stupid of me, impulsive, I just jumped to conclusions.”
“About what,” asked Jack.
“Jack, I think there’s something you need to see.”
Maggie went over to a cupboard in the corner of the room and brought back several photo albums and spread them out on the floor. She opened one up to reveal a wedding photo of Suzanne and a man Jack presumed to be her husband.
“That’s my dad, Rupert.” Maggie had always shied away from giving up too much information about her father and Jack had never pushed her. To some extent, he didn’t want to know anything about the man who had finally won Suzanne’s commitment.
“Good looking bloke, can see why she married him,” said Jack.
“Yes he was,” answered Maggie. “But he and mum split up just before she became ill.”
“Mum just said she’d fallen out of love with him.”
“Did he visit her when she was in hospital?”
“No, he never went.”
“She didn’t want him to come, she didn’t say why but she was adamant that he shouldn’t visit. When mum got really poorly, you know, towards the end, dad came round and said he needed to start getting all her affairs in order. They had never started divorce proceedings or anything like that, they hadn’t done anything legal. Dad was going through all the papers when he came across this.
Maggie produced an envelope from inside one of the albums.
“It’s a letter addressed to you.”
“Me? I don’t understand.”
“It was sealed and stamped, but never sent apparently.”
“Yes, he opened it and then he showed it to me. You’d better read it.”