For the previous instalment of 'Sarah and Sean' click here
Sarah Wright stood close to her husband, Sean, with excited anticipation as she scanned the faces piling through the 'Arrivals' corridor and out into the voluminous airport. Her 18 year old daughter, Melanie, was returning from her European adventure any moment now. They had already received the text to say she had landed safely and now Sarah was a mere moment away from being able to embrace her daughter, whom she had missed so dearly.
"For goodness sake stand still." Sean jested. Sarah stilled and smiled.
"Sorry, I didn't realise I was doing it again." Sean put his solid, sturdy arm around his wife.
"You're like an over excited puppy." he said affectionately. Sarah returned her arm around Sean and rested her head into his side.
"She's my baby - I've missed her." Sarah sighed.
"I know. What are you going to do when she goes off to University next week?" Sean questioned.
"That's different. She's only a car journey away and I will be able to speak to her on the telephone a lot more." Sarah answered.
"Ahhhh I see." Sean replied. His height ensured he saw Melanie making her way through the next wave of tanned, relaxed, smiling travellers first. She was dragging two huge cases behind her, panting. He felt Sarah release him as she spotted their daughter and went running forward to meet her. He watched the two most important women in his life embrace tightly with pure affection and love for one another. He, not for the first time, thought how lucky he was to have a wife and daughter that got on so well.
Sean made his way over to Melanie as Sarah did the typical motherly thing of standing back to check her daughter over. As he neared he heard Sarah proclaiming that Melanie "Looked amazing!" before she embracing her again.
"Hey Dad." Melanie managed to mumbled through her mothers hold. Sarah released her, still beaming, making room for Sean to hug his daughter. Sean had to agree, Melanie did look healthy. He could see she had gained a little weight, to be expected given the amount of exercise she was used to in her usual day to day routine. With the likely alcohol consumption and eating out she had probably participated in, it was inevitable.
"Sean, you take the cases." Sarah instructed as she handed him Mel's holdall. She linked her arm through her daughters "So, we want to hear all about it." she gushed strolling away with Mel. Sean glanced at the two oversized and bulging cases. He was certain when he had waved Melanie off almost 12 weeks earlier she had waddled away under the weight of a rucksack? He was also sure that the size and weight of these cases far exceeded the European baggage allowance and he wondered how she had been able to afford the excess baggage fee. He decided not to be a nag and bring it up yet, he didn't want to spoil the family reunion.
Melanie regaled them with stories about her travels on the car journey home, whilst responding to various text messages. She was constantly glancing at the screen her mother noticed smiling. Oh to be young, she thought. Melanie spoke most animatedly when it came to her time in Italy and Sarah sensed that was the place she had fallen in love with. Melanie had noted, rather forlornly that she wished she could have just spent the whole summer there. Sarah suspected it was due to the fabulous shopping opportunities, especially if the contents of the trunk Melanie had asked Sarah to have shipped home for her were anything to go by. As she had unpacked it - while Sean was at work and unaware - she had been shocked at the amount of clothes and shoes her daughter had purchased.
As they drew close to Camomile Crescent, Melanie, checking her phone again, sighed.
"That was a big sigh!" Sean laughed.
"Exhausted sigh." replied Melanie quickly putting her phone roughly away in her pocket. "Anything exciting happen on the Crescent while I was away?"
"Nothing of note." Sarah responded "That Winterbourne women," her tone dripping with disgust "Continues to think she is above everyone else. Almost everyday I see her getting out of her car, designer bags on her arm. She must have a warehouse in the back garden for all the clothes she buys. And, I actually overheard her on her mobile phone a few days ago saying how depressing it was living opposite a semi-detached! Cheeky mare. At least they have kept their houses in keeping with the integrity of the street, unlike the renovation work she has had had done. You would hardly know some of the houses were from the beautiful Victorian era now. I really don't know how they have got away with it. All flooding in with too much time and money on their hands. I felt like saying, you shouldn't have moved here if it's below your high standards." Melanie chuckled thinking of her own extensive walk in wardrobe. Her mother was by no means a snob, but she hadn't minded that Camomile Crescents desirability status had gone through the roof over the last few years. Melanie would never dare say that to her mother however.
"You should have done mum." Melanie cajouled. She saw her dad raise his eyebrows in the rear view mirror. Sarah continued
"Both of those families keep their homes lovely and clean and tidy. Even that young girl, Emma, despite having four children. I spoke to her, Emma I mean, for the first time the other day actually. She mentioned all four kiddies have started school now, even the little girls. They are as small as dots. Dear little things. I think she is at a loss as to what to do. I told her to put her feet up for a couple of hours and enjoy it!" she laughed at her own advice. "And I spoke to that young professional couples mum." Melanie indicated she wasn't sure who she was referring to "Number 19," Sarah clarified "I think the chap is an Architect, he doesn't seem to be here much and the girl is always looking immaculate. Anyway, at first I thought she was the cleaner, and although she does do their cleaning she is the young lady's mum. I think she called her Danielle." she mused.
Melanie was surprised her Mother had suddenly started speaking to the neighbours, she never recalled her doing so before. Mind you, without her there over the summer she was probably looking for someone to talk to. Melanie had never really known her mother to have many friends, outside of her dad. Not that it had ever seemed detrimental. Her parents lived for each other, and her. They had always been a happy tight unit. Her mother added "She said they work every hour God sends but they have spent a lot of money doing the house up inside. I got the impression she didn't approve of them working so hard, but I think that is the way to do it. Get a good education, work hard, play hard. Enjoy your life while you are young enough to do it." Her mother was too busy talking to notice Melanie's eyes move nervously. As her father turned the car engine off she hoped the conversation had come to an end.
"Oh." Melanie yawned opening the car door and getting out. She looked at her own parents detached house. It was so British, but had always been a happy home. A home purchased years before, thinking they themselves would have lots of children. As it was they had only been able to have Melanie, and although she knew she was loved beyond imagination she often felt they had never really got over the fact they could have no more. Especially her mother. She realised how different she felt coming back as to when she had left. So much had happened, so much had changed. She felt like she had really grown up. She had merely scratched the surface of details of her travels in the car. She had so much to tell her parents and she wanted to do it in the right way.
"So," Sarah was saying as they walked up the path to their home "Dad and I were thinking we would take you out for dinner tonight, for an Italian actually." Sarah silently congratulated herself, as she unlocked the door and checked Sean was getting the luggage out of the car, on choosing Italian, given how warmly Melanie had gushed about the country. Mothers intuition she thought.
"Oh, that would have been lovely but I am absolutely shattered." Melanie said cutting Sarah off.
"Oh. Not to worry darling. I did say to Dad it would only be if you wanted to." She was a little disappointed, she thought Melanie would jump at the idea and she had been looking forward to going out for a meal as a family again, but hid it well. "Would you rather have a takeaway?" They had moved through into the kitchen of the house.
"Actually, no. I would love some home cooking." Sarah felt a surge of love for her daughter. All those fabulous eateries abroad that she had no doubt frequented, yet it was her mothers cooking she craved. Sarah hugged her smiling.
"Whatever you want my love. Anything in particular?" She moved to the fridge, to check she would be able to rustle up whatever Mel wanted.
"Yes. Pie, mash and liquor." Melanie said matter-of-factly. Sarah laughed.
"OK! Pie, mash and liquor it is." She could see how tired Melanie was looking now. And if that was the sort of food she had been indulging in she could see how she had gained a little holiday weight. Sarah was sure it would fall off of her once she started back with her sports. She wasn't sure Melanie would fit into half of the designer clothes she had sent back over the course of the summer if she didn't, and knew it would devastate her.
She mentally noted that she needed to pay another lump off of the emergency credit card she had given her daughter before she went away. She had been aware that Melanie had used it, but had been quite shocked as the bills came in at the end of each month. Still, as long as she had been having the time of her life, that was all that mattered. She had been able to pay quite a lot off so far anyway, without Sean being any the wiser.
Melanie had sat down at the breakfast counter and started to work through her mail. Her face lit up as she came to a few letters, she discarded the rest and grabbed her phone.
"Just going to lay down for a bit mum!" she shouted as she ran out of the kitchen. She heard her clomp up the stairs and the bedroom open and shut.
"Ahhhh good to have her home eh." Sean said coming into the kitchen. "Need to talk to her about all that luggage though." Sarah hid the guilty expression on her face and quickly closed the fridge door.
"Mel wants Pie and Mash - I'll have to run to the shops!" she said quickly exiting the kitchen "Won't be long." she called as Sean heard the front door close behind her.
Upstairs, Mel fell onto her bed and breathed in the scent of the freshly laundered sheets. As much fun as her trip had been there was nothing like your own bed she decided. Well, unless someone special was sharing it with you, then it didn't matter because you were floating on a cloud. She giggled childishly. She rolled onto her back and felt for the letters she had been so happy to see. She looked at the neat print of her name and address on the envelope. She ran her hand over it and smiled. She saw the envelopes were numbered one, two and three. She opened the first one and immediately smelt his aftershave. She put the paper to her face, her mind replaying all the special moments they had created together.
She had met Vincenzio, or Vinny as he let her call him, on her second day in Italy. He was the Sales Assistant in the shoe shop she had stumbled across and never wanted to leave. Whether it was because of the beautiful shoes or the beautiful boy behind the counter she would never know. One thing she was certain of, she would never have purchased quite so many shoes if it were not for him. She had spent hours that afternoon, trying on the shoes and discussing what they could be worn with. He was great at visualising whole outfits and she couldn't get enough of what he said. After she had swiped her 'emergency credit card', with a considerable amount of guilt, he had asked her if she was free for dinner that night.
She decided to do the sensible thing and suggested that she and the other two girls she was travelling with meet him and some of his friends later that evening. Her friends had not minded one bit being taken out by handsome Italian men. Although they didn't have the same connection as what she and Vinny had it was a fun night. The girls were much happier to allow Mel to go out on her own with him after spending a long period of time giving him a verbal grilling on that first night.
She saw him every day after that. Usually in the evening, he took her to every romantic restaurant he could find, they spent hours making love and exploring every inch of each other. She felt she had never been so utterly consumed by another person. She wondered if she was in an amazing dream. Relationships like this didn't happen in real life, did they?
"No." her friends had said "But, you're not in a dream either. You are a typical 'All I can talk about is my amazing, gorgeous, Italian boyfriend' pain in the backside." They were only joking with her, and admitted they wished it had happened to them. The day they were leaving Italy to move on with their travels he had gone with her to the airport where a tearful goodbye was exchanged. He promised they would speak on the phone and that he would write to her. Not in an email either, a real, good old fashioned love letter he had told her.
And he had held true to his word. They had spoken every day on the phone. Even when she had discovered a few weeks after leaving Italy that she was pregnant. She hated that she had to tell him on the phone, but he had told her it was all going to be great. They would be wonderful parents and their child would be beautiful. He told her that because of the close relationship she had with her parents, he would move to England to be with her and support her while she undertook her University course. Between them they would make it work. She hadn't been able to get hold of him yesterday, which was annoying as she had wanted to go over what she was going to say to her parents one last time. She had hoped that he might have called her already today but mused that he might still think she was not contactable.
An idea suddenly flew into her head. What if it was him that was not contactable? Her heart started beating faster. What if he was on his way to the UK now to surprise her? To be by her side and support her as she broke the big news to her parents. Melanie got up, excitement suddenly taking away her tiredness. She had to shower and find something nice to wear. She went from one side of the room to the other, not really achieving anything. She stopped took a deep breath and noticed the letters abandoned on the bed. She decided to calm down and read them, they might have the details of his flight.
As she read the first she smiled as only the recollection of happy memories can make you. It had been written after they had spent the night together at the beginning of the relationship. She was pretty sure that was when she had fallen pregnant too. It was the only occasion they hadn't used contraception. It had been so spontaneous and passionate and romantic it hadn't entered into her head. And now she was glad. She was so happy to be having the baby of the man she loved. It was going to be such a fairytale story to tell their son or daughter.
The second had been written just after she had told him the news of the pregnancy. It reiterated everything he had told her on the phone. She ripped open the third, excited anticipation rolling around her stomach, but quickly noticed that it did not smell of his aftershave like the previous two. It also didn't start with 'Amore Mio' - My Love. What he always called her. Her heart once again started to beat a little faster. As she read, the bottom fell out of her world.
Reading his words she couldn't take it in. He said now he had the time to think about things, seriously, he wasn't ready to be a father. That it could never work, they were both so young, with so many ambitions. He didn't want to give up his life and career in Italy. "Career!" she spat bitterly "You're a sales assistant!". He went on to say he had discussed it all with his parents and friends at length and they had made him really think about the commitment having a baby was, especially if she was going to be at University. He hadn't really thought about the fact that he would be the one at home with the baby and it wasn't what he wanted. They should realise that what they had experienced for each other was lust and the novelty value of being so mysterious to each other, not love "Not LOVE!" she repeated hardly being able to breath. She put her hand on her chest as she tried to get air and hot tears started to blur her eyes. The letter finished with the most hurtful thing she had ever encountered.
"Do the right thing now Melanie, forget us having the baby, let us both return to our lives and plans and see our relationship for what it was, a holiday romance."
Melanie sat surrounded by the letters, unmoving, staring at the carpet. How could someone have such a change of heart from one letter to the next? The last sentence continued to ring in her ears. Was he asking her to terminate her pregnancy? After they had discussed the features their baby might have. Names. Personality and characteristics. That they would teach him or her both English and Italian. How could he just switch off from that?
At that moment she heard the front door open and shut. She heard her parents speaking in the hall - her mother asking where she was. Her father noting still upstairs, that it had been very quiet. Her mother saying she would check on her. She couldn't face her mother, she would know something was wrong the minute she walked in the room. She dived under the duvet, taking the letters with her, covering her tear stained face and ensured some hair was visible on the pillow. Hearing the door open she laid still and tried to keep her breathing as rhythmic as possible. Not easy mid-breakdown. Her mother only glanced over her and stroked the top of her hair once.
"Goodnight sweetheart." she whispered creeping to close the curtains and back out of the room, shutting the door. Melanie lay under the duvet crying, with her hand on her abdomen. On her baby for a long time. Finally exhaustion really did set in and she fell into a fitful sleep. It was early morning when she awoke and immediately realised something. The letter had been set several days previously. She had spoken to him on the phone numerous times since then. Her heart dropped even further. He had kept up the loving pretence to her on phone knowing that he had sent that letter. Knowing that he was going to abandon her. He had lied so effortlessly. She felt as if she had been kicked off of the top of a great cliff top and she was free falling and now she had smashed into the bottom on the rocks.
She couldn't move. She couldn't comprehend the situation. She couldn't...she threw the duvet cover back suddenly consumed by anger. She wasn't having this. She snatched up her mobile phone, speed dialling his number. It went straight to answer phone. She did this several times before leaving many vicious messages, followed by sobbing ones. Eventually his mailbox refused to save any more.
Once she had vented her frustration at an automated machine, she came to a realisation. This was her situation and the day was still dawning. Time wasn't standing still, as she so desperately wanted it too. She was 18 and pregnant. By a man who didn't want to know. By a man she had known a matter of weeks. By a man who, other than a mobile number, she had no other contact for. He had never taken her to his home, they had always stayed in her hotel room. Short of flying back to Italy and trying to find him at work she didn't know where to start. And to do that required money, of which she now had virtually none of. The enormity of the situation started to close in on her and she sudden felt hot. She needed to get out for some fresh air. Rummaging in her luggage she found a pair of jeans and jumper, slipping into some flat pumps she didn't even brush her hair. She opened her door and hurried down the stairs. As she reached the bottom her mother called out to her from the kitchen. Startled she turned briefly, locking eyes with her mother for a mere second.
"Melanie?" Her mother asked quizzically "What's wrong?" concern rising in her voice. Melanie could not reply. She ran up the hallway and tried to open the door. It opened as far as the chain would allow and came to an abrupt holt. Flustered she shut it and fumbled to slide the metal link across. "Melanie!" her mother called nearing "Melanie, stop my love." She turned at hearing the term she associated with Vincenzio "Amore Mio"
"Leave me alone!" Melanie screamed "Just leave me alone!" yanking open the front door she ran out of the house and down the path. She glanced up the road and saw the young couple her mother had been babbling on about the day before. The girl was lifting luggage out of the boot of their flashy car whilst the man stood yawning and stretching. She decided to go the other way and hastily made off along the road with her mother calling desperately after her. Sean came out of the house shortly behind Sarah and guided her back indoors to the stares of the couple up the road.
Camomile Crescent is an on going series. For all previous parts please click here.