It was Friday afternoon and school was over. After grabbing her coat from her locker, Bertina was walking down the corridor towards the front doors of the building when her cousin, Anaya called her on her cell. “Hello, Anaya.”
“Hello, Bertina. I went to the Olivier Awards at the London Palladium on Saturday?”
“How was it?”
“Great! I saw so many stars and I had my picture taken with a lot of them. Would you like to see?
“Sure. I’ll send them right now.”
A couple seconds later, she going through lots of photos, exclaiming when she recognized some of the stars. Then her eyes widened when she saw one of her boyfriend, Grae. What was he doing there? Anaya was standing between him and a beautiful brunette outside of the London Palladium. He looked gorgeous in the expensive looking tuxedo. Anaya was wearing a dark red dress and the other woman was clad in a shimmering, slim fitting pale blue dress with spaghetti straps. “Who’s the brunette in the blue dress?” she asked.
“Oh, that’s Frieda Hafner. She’s a costume designer and was nominated for her work on the movie, Muttville Massacre. Unfortunately, the award went to Anouk Bolin for Time’s Doorstep.”
“Who’s the guy in the photo?”
“Oh, that’s Frieda’s husband, Grae. He’s gorgeous, isn’t he?”
Bertina almost dropped her cell. “Her husband?”
Bertina felt sick. “I–I have to go,” she said.
“Are you all right, Bertina?”
“Yes. I’ll call you another time.” She ended the call.
She shoved her cell in her satchel and then dashed into the bathroom where she broke down and cried. By the time she was done and was leaving the school grounds, her eyes were red from all that crying. How she wished that this was a bad dream but it wasn’t. Grae was married. The pain almost suffocated her.
Why didn’t he tell her? Was it because he knew that if he did, she would break up with him? It explained why they never met at his place but always went to a motel outside of London. It also explained why she didn’t have a cell or personal phone number where she could reach him. They didn’t eat in public places but she thought it was because he didn’t want them to run into anyone from the university. They would grab food and then have it in his car. They would sometimes drive to a secluded place and he would pull over. And they would end up having sex either in the backseat or in the passenger seat.
Last night in the motel room, while they were making love, he whispered, “I love you.”
“I love you too,” she cried, clinging to him, her heart almost bursting with joy. Grae loved her. She hoped that meant that he would pop the question soon. Now, that wasn’t likely to happen because he was already married.
She stopped walking and leaned against a building. She stood there for a long time before she headed to the tube to take the train to the motel where she was meeting Grae. She thought of going straight home but she had to face him. When she got to the room, she took a deep breath before she knocked.
He opened the door, clearly happy to see her. “Hello, Baby.”
“Hello,” she managed to say as she walked past him and into the room.
After closing and locking the door, he turned to face her. He looked so handsome in the black sweater which hugged his broad shoulders and broad chest and the jeans. His hair was slightly tousled because he had a habit of running his fingers through it’s thick black tresses. She ached for him. Why did he have to be married?
She began to cry.
Alarmed, he tried to take her in his arms but she pushed his hands away. “What’s the matter, Bertina?” he asked.
“You’re married, Grae,” she told him tearfully.
He turned pale. “How did you find out?” he asked tautly.
“My cousin sent me photos she had taken at the Olivier Awards.”
“One of the photos was her with you and your wife.”
“Bertina, I’m sorry…”
“Do you love her?” she demanded in a trembling voice.
“No,” he groaned. “I love you.”
“What about when you married her?”
“No. I was never in love with her.”
“Why did you marry her then?”
“We were dating and then, she got pregnant. She wanted to have the baby so I married her and I remained married to her for my daughter’s sake. I was a faithful husband to her until I met you.”
Bertina leaned against the wall. “Why didn’t you tell me that you were married?”
“I wanted to but I was afraid that you would end our relationship. I know it was selfish and cowardly but I’d fallen hard for you and couldn’t bear the thought of losing you. Bertina, please don’t hate me…”
“I don’t hate you,” she wailed. “I could never hate you, Grae. I love you. I will always love you…” her words ended in a sob.
“Oh, Baby,” he cried, he pulled her against him. She buried her face in his chest as fresh tears fell. He held her for a while and then, she drew back. He cupped her face between his hands and began to kiss her. Unable to help herself, she kissed him back. She put her arms around his waist as they exchanged hungry kisses.
Then, he picked her up and carried her over to the bed. He laid her down and then, breaking off the kiss, he drew back to quickly pulled off his sweater, haul his trousers and underwear down. He removed her coat and clothes and then he stretched out on top of her, kissing her feverishly.
They made love on top of the sheets and when it was over, he rolled onto his back, breathing heavily. “I promise you that I’m going to get a divorce,” he said, turning his head towards her.
“But what about your daughter?”
“I love Chloe but I can’t remain married for her sake anymore. I can’t lose you, Bertina.”
She got up from the bed. “I’d better go,” she said.
He sat up, his expression tense as he watched her get dressed. “Will I see you again?” he asked tautly.
“I don’t know.” She felt guilty because she had just made love with him, knowing that he was married.
“Can I give you a lift somewhere?”
“No–no, I’ll be fine.”
“I’ll call you.”
“Goodbye, Grae.” She quickly left the room.
For several minutes, he sat there and then, he got up and got dressed.
Bertina went home, took a long, hot shower and retired to her room. She wasn’t hungry. She lay on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. How could she make love with him when he had a wife and a daughter? He said that he was going to get a divorce but did he mean it? She believed him when he said that he didn’t love his wife but what about his daughter? Could he really walk away from her?
She didn’t hear from him for several weeks and then, she got a call. “Meet me at Primrose Hill in an hour.”
“All right,” she said. In spite of herself she was happy to hear from him. During the weeks when they hadn’t been in touch, she had missed him terribly, wondering how he was and if she was ever going to see him again.
In an hour, they were facing each other. “I have something to show you,” he said and handed her what looked like an official document.
She took it and saw that it was a photo copy of the Divorce Decree Absolute. “You got the divorce?” she exclaimed.
“Yes. I promised you that I would.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“When I asked Frieda for a divorce, she didn’t seem at all surprised. We agreed to settle out of court.”
“What about your daughter?”
“Frieda and I will co-parent so I will be actively involved in Chloe’s upbringing and activities.”
“Does your ex-wife know about me?”
“My lawyer advised me not to tell her about you but I listened to my gut and told her. She wasn’t surprised. She suspected that there was someone else.”
“And she wasn’t upset?”
“No. We decided that she would be the one to file for the divorce on the grounds of adultery. In approximately two to three weeks, the divorce will be finalized and I will be a free man, Bertina. Free to be with you if you still want me.” His expression was tense as he looked at her.
She gazed up at him for a moment and then she admitted, “I still want you, Grae.”
His eyes darkened. “Enough to marry me?”
“You want to marry me?”
“Yes. After my divorce is finalized, I can remarry any time I want. There isn’t a waiting period.”
“I still can’t believe this,” she cried. “When I found out that you were married, I just wanted to curl up and die…”
“I’m so sorry, Bertina. I should have had the guts to tell you. Please forgive me.”
She put her arms around his waist. “I forgive you.”
He bent his head and kissed her. They got married in June after she left Woodford County High School in Redbridge. His daughter, Chloe was the flower girl.