Fall from India Place Page 30

“I don’t know how you can be so rational.”

“Well,” Dad said with a sigh, “I didn’t know him, so I don’t understand everything that happened. What I do know is that I have a strong daughter who’s rarely fazed by anything. If this man knocks you off balance a bit, then maybe there’s something to that. When I met your mum I was knocked on my arse.”

I laughed gently and nudged him with my shoulder. “All these happily married couples are making you soft, Dad.”

“Nah, that’s just old age,” he joked, and grabbed a couple of bowls to take through to the dining room.

“Dad.” I stopped him from leaving. “Don’t tell anyone. No one else knows.”

Dad nodded slowly. “Okay, I won’t. But I want you to ask yourself why you’re protecting him if you don’t care about him?”

More confused than ever, I watched my dad walk out of the kitchen, pondering his question. No answer came. With shaking hands I picked up a couple of bowls and ventured back into the dining room, glad when I got there that Marco was no longer the topic of conversation.


Alull in the discussion during the night’s adult literacy session made me smile. “You know, for people who complain that this is the worst part, you certainly had a lot to say.”

Duncan smirked while the others laughed. With the exception of Lorraine, who’d barely said a word all class.

I’d found that a good way to help along the class reading skills was to have them read something for homework and come in and chat about it as a group. These guys had very basic reading skills, but they were coming on by leaps and bounds. I found that in discussion they unearthed a better understanding of the words they’d read because what one didn’t understand, another did, and they helped one another out without even realizing it.

“Well done, folks.” I stood. “Read chapter six for next week, please, and I shall see you all then.”

We bade one another a good night, the class filtering out until only Lorraine remained. Since the night I’d spoken to her, she’d turned up for every class. Still, she stubbornly refused any one-on-one assistance, and the reading challenges I set them made her uneasy. I’d quickly discovered that she was the kind of woman who preferred someone to be straightforward with her, rather than pu**yfooting around her.

“Is it me?” I asked her.

Her head jerked up from her bag and she frowned at me. “Is whit you?”

“Am I the reason you don’t want to speak up in class?”

She shrugged.

I raised an eyebrow. “It’s not the others. It can’t be. You’ve seen them struggle, and you’ve witnessed how patient and kind the class is with one another. You yourself have shown patience. Kindness. So if they’re not the ones who make you uncomfortable, who make you afraid, is it me?”

“I’m no afraid,” she snapped.

I strode toward her and gently took the book out of her hands. Opening it up to the chapter we’d just been discussing, I handed it back to her. “Read the first two sentences out to me.”

Lorraine looked at me incredulously. However, I saw what she was so desperately trying to hide. I saw the fear.

She snatched the book out of my hands and pulled it toward her face. She swallowed. Hard. With painstaking care she began to read to me. Almost near the end, she faltered on a word. Glancing up at me warily, she flushed.

I kept my face perfectly blank. “Sound it out.”

The anger flashed in her eyes and yet she looked back at the page. “It’s no a word.” She frowned. “Fuh-ri-gid,” she said, pronouncing it almost like “frigate.”

“Do you remember the rules for hard and soft g’s? Usually, when g meets a, o, or u it’s a hard g. The guh sound. Like gap. But usually when it meets e, y, or an i, it’s a soft g. The juh sound.”

Lorraine stared at the word. “It’s an i. Fuh-ri-gid. Fuhrigid.” Her eyes scanned the sentence that preceded it and the tension melted out of her as she said, “Frigid.” She shrugged. “I always thought that word wis spelt wi a j.”

I took a step back from her. “That was well done.”

She ducked her head. “Aye, whitever.” Abruptly she grabbed her bag and brushed past me. “See ye next week.”

I stared after her in thought for a while after she left the room. Lorraine was definitely rough around the edges, lacking in good manners and social graces, but I couldn’t help but respect someone who pushed through despite her fears.

With my heart pounding and my stomach roiling with waves of nausea, I settled onto my window seat in the living room, staring out at the dark, glistening street. Pools of light glimmered here and there where streetlights glanced off puddles made from the recent rainfall. I clutched my phone in my hand and sucked in a deep breath.

Scrolling through my recent call list I found the number, and with Lorraine’s perseverance and Dad’s question at the forefront of my mind, I pressed the CALL button.

It rang three times before… “Hannah?” Marco answered, pleasant surprise in his deep voice.

“Hi,” I replied quietly, willing my heart to slow. “I…”

His voice was filled with a concern I remembered all too well as he asked, “Are you okay?”

I exhaled slowly. “I’ve decided I do want to know why you left me that night.”

He was quiet for a moment and I was just about to break the silence when he said, “I want to ask why the sudden change of heart, but I’m not going to in case I scare you off. I’m glad you called, but I’d rather discuss it in person. Would that be okay with you?”

“If I say no you’re only going to turn up at my next dental appointment, right?”

He laughed quietly, a seriously delicious sound that made my scalp tingle. “Whatever it takes.”

“I still can’t believe you came to my book group,” I muttered.

“It got you to call me, didn’t it?”

“Tread carefully, Mr. D’Alessandro,” I warned.

He chuckled. “Fine. I’ll be good… if you invite me over to your place tomorrow night to talk.”

Trepidation shot through me at the thought of us being alone in my flat. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

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