Ruth was waiting in the restaurant for Mrs. Horton. It was New Year’s Eve day and they were meeting there for lunch. When Mrs. Horton invited her, Ruth was tempted to decline because she was in no mood for socializing but Mrs. Horton was so persuasive and not wanting to offend her, she reluctantly accepted. She had arrived ten minutes early so that she could try calling Dushan again.
Since Boxing Day when they last saw each other, she had been depressed. After leaving him, somehow, she had managed to drive home and as soon as she got there, she ran upstairs to the master bedroom, slammed the door shut and then, threw herself down on the bed. The heartache was excruciating and the pain of never seeing or being with Dushan was so unbearable that she wanted to die.
She had no idea how long she lay there, sobbing but it was dark outside when she got up from the bed to go into the bathroom and wash her face. By the time Gideon and Chelsey got home, she was somewhat composed and sitting in the living-room, staring at the fire as it licked the logs. She didn’t have much of an appetite and had to force herself to eat something so as not to draw any suspicion to herself.
After dinner, she excused herself and went into the conservatory to try calling Dushan again. She tried several times and finally, left a message. “Dushan, I need to see you. I’m sorry for the things I said to you. I was hurt, angry and jealous. I can’t bear the thought of you with another woman. It really hurts because I love you so much. Please don’t shut me out of your life. Please call me. I need to hear your voice. I need to see you. Please call me, Dushan. Please…”
She ended the call and brushed the tears away. She stayed there for a while, needing to be alone with her thoughts and her pain. She hadn’t meant what she said to him about rotting in hell. It was the pain and anger talking. Who was the other woman and how long had he been seeing her? Were they sleeping together? When she asked him that, he didn’t deny it but told her that it was none of her business. She closed her eyes and moaned in anguish as images of him in bed with the other woman flashed across her mind. Jealousy clawed at her insides and tears sprang to her eyes.
“Are you all right?” the question startled her and opening her eyes, she saw the waitress standing beside her.
“Yes, yes, I’m all right, thank you.”
“Would you like to order now or wait until your party arrives?”
“All right.” She went away.
Ruth looked out of the window and her heart lurched in her chest when she saw Mrs. Horton talking to Dushan. Her eyes eagerly and hungrily traveled over him. His coat was open so she could see that he was dressed in a suit as if he was going somewhere. Was he meeting the other woman? Should she go out there and join them? No, that wouldn’t be a good idea. She wouldn’t be able to hide her feelings from Mrs. Horton. She would just have to sit there and watch them as they chatted. She had no idea that he and Mrs. Horton even knew each other.
Dushan looked remarkably well. He was relaxed and laughing as he and Mrs. Horton chatted. She wondered if he had listened to her message and then erased it or if he had erased it without even bothering to listen to it. The thought distressed her and she turned away. Her hand trembled as she picked up the glass of water to take a few sips. She needed something stronger to settle her nerves but she couldn’t drink anything because she had driven here.
When she looked back out, Dushan was gone. Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Horton joined her. “Hello, my Dear,” she said, smiling. “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting long. I bumped into someone I know and we got to talking. It’s a good thing that he had somewhere to go or we might still be out there talking.”
“I–I saw you talking to him. Is he a friend of the family?”
“Not exactly. I knew his mother. She and I were RNs at the same hospital.”
“Is she still alive?” Dushan had never told her anything about his family except that he was an only child and that his background was Slovakian.
“No. She died about eight years ago–five years after her husband. The last time I saw Dushan, it was at her funeral. He was married then. I met his wife. She was very reserved and hardly said much but I thought she was rather nice. I was surprised when he told me that they’re divorced but they’ve both moved on, it seems. She’s back in Cheshire where her family is and he’s dating again.”
Ruth’s hands were clasped tightly on her lap. “He’s dating?”
“Yes. He’s on his way to meet her for lunch. Tonight, he’s taking her to a New Year’s Eve party. Are you feeling all right, Dear?”
“Yes, I’m-I’m fine.”
“Perhaps, we should order now.”
Ruth really wasn’t hungry but she didn’t want Mrs. Horton to ask her any questions. “Yes, we can order now,” she muttered. How she longed to get up and leave. How was she going to sit there and act like her heart was aching? How could she carry on a conversation with Mrs. Horton when she was distracted?
Right now, all she could think about was Dushan and the woman he was going to be having lunch with. And tonight, while she was at home with Chelsey and Gideon waiting to ring in the New Year, he was going to be at a party with the other woman. At midnight, was he going to kiss her? The thought filled her with painful jealousy.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Mrs. Horton asked again, watching her closely. “You look a little pale. I hope you’re not coming down with a cold. My granddaughter is just getting over a rather nasty cold.”
Ruth wanted to scream, no, I’m not all right. How can I be when the man I love dumped me for another woman? “I’m fine. Just a bit tired. Was up late last night.”
“I expect that you’ll be up late again tonight. How is that nice husband of yours?”
“And your daughter?”
“She’s almost finished with school, isn’t she?”
“This will be her last year and next September, she will be attending university.”
“Has she decided which one as yet?”
“My son went to Oxford and my daughter to Cambridge.”
The lunch hour seemed to drag. Ruth sat there as Mrs. Horton chatted on about universities, her son and daughter and her grandchildren. She should have been with Dushan in his flat, making love instead of sitting here listening to this woman go on and on about her family.
Dushan. How she missed those times they spent together at hotels when he was married and at his flat when he was divorced. It killed her that another woman was now enjoying him the way she used to.
The new year was going to be a horrible one for her. How on earth was she expected to survive it without him in her life? She couldn’t. She had to get him back.