As the time drew near, he even thought of a distraction: a weekend away their last dirty weekend before new responsibilities came upon them. She even laughed at his excuse for hiring a car. He couldnt get her now the size of a Gold Wing on the bike! They had played like kids out of school on Yarmouth beach light-hearted with the sand between the toes, profound at the mysteries in a sea-shell or the magic whorls and colours in a sea-rounded pebble. Her infectious mood even subdued his wave of concern when she just had to ride one of the beach donkeys. Nonetheless, he still hovered alongside the animal, trying to hold it back from trotting.
On the promenade above them, a spotty-faced kid was busy impressing the dolly-bird, revving the two-stroke screamer before dropping the clutch and wheelie-ing down the road. The engine hesitated and then cut in again with a deafening backfire. He turned away from Marie and looked up, cursing the little bastard for destroying years of goodwill work by motorcyclists in two seconds flat. He felt the bridle tear out of his hand and the donkey rear and fall against him as it bucked and then rolled in terror. Marie was not badly injured. The doctors were genuinely sympathetic at the loss of the child. They were perhaps a little too jolly with the promise that they could have other children.
Wrong! He buried himself in work. Trying to numb his pain, he couldnt see couldnt respond to -Maries pain. Frightened by the magnitude of his own grief, he just couldnt take anyone elses not even Maries. They became islands. Now, she no longer suggested riding together but the complaining remained. Now, it was no longer a game but it was played with bitter determination. Yes, there had been a set-back, his head insisted, but hadnt he come near to fulfilling most shared promises, those plans for working hard and living hard? In those early years she had helped him in the business. Now, when it was going well, she had stepped out of the picture. Sure, they had never worked all hours God sends to make more but there was the special pleasure of a tiredness in each others arms after job done well, done together. No, they had just worked to have enough and theyd been lucky in getting more.
Their home was just right for them. Marie had fixed that. She seemed to have a touch about such things, like the way she dressed. Indeed, she looked as much a cracker now even in motorcycling gear as she had all those years ago. But what good did that do if he couldnt reach her? Hed tried telling her this but the "Dont give me that old soldier" look had dropped him in his tracks. Yet, as he turned away from her, hadnt she seemed to want him to try again? Or was it a flash of fear in her face?
Right! He had felt the flu coming on. That morning, in a mixture of new-found matter-of-factness and familiar mothering, Marie suggested that he should stay at home. But, hell! He didnt need mothering. He wanted a lover, a friend, a pal. Everything or anything but not mothering! He didnt want to be weak. Admitting need was weakness, wasnt it? Desperate as he was for caring, he would resist asking for it to the last.
He wasnt the only one to get sick, either. Part of him being so late was that the flu wave had reached his staff, too. Alone, he had been tempted to raid the office first-aid kit for a nip of Scotch. But his zero-booze on the bike principle prevailed. "You uptight Englishman", he muttered, "you and your bloody principles avoiding a drink but feeling woozy with fever! Others seem to make Life easy on themselves. Why not you?" Yet again he had no answer and, with sweat running down his back, he rode on.