France - 15th February 1907
Florence ran her hand over her swollen stomach. She had recently been wearing baggy clothes to hide it from Joseph because she didn't want him to know until she was sure who's it was, even though, deep down, she was fairly certain who it belonged to.
She sighed heavily and did her blouse back up again before turning back to her current baby, who was lying on the table, kicking the air. She hadn't heard a word from Carl since that night in America. She wasn't overly concerned, but she did want to know whether he was going to contact her again. Every night she lay in bed with Joseph, she felt a pang of betrayal, but she always compared her nights with Joseph to her one, magical night with Carl.
"Florence?" She heard Joseph call from the kitchen.
"In the bedroom!" Florence responded, adjusting her cardigan to cover up her stomach.
"Hello my dear," Joseph said softly, coming into the room and wrapping his arms round her. "How has your day been my sweet pea?"
"It's been quiet. Not much has happened." She responded, guiding his hands away from her abdomen.
"I nipped into the post office today and she told me that there was a phone call for you earlier today. The lady said that it was a young gentleman who had been trying to contact you for a while now, but had lost your details. Do you know who it might be?"
Florence's heart pounded in her chest with nervous excitement. It sounded like Carl had rung the post office, but took so long to reply because he had lost her details. That explained everything. She tried to calm herself down and not get her hopes up too high.
"I don't know, dear. Should I go there now?" Florence asked in innocence.
"You could do. It's quite dark out though." Joseph pointed out, looking out the window.
"Don't worry, I can take a lantern." She reassured him. She needed to know what Carl had to say to her.
Joseph stepped back and looked at her face. "If you're sure, then go ahead, but be careful and don't be too long. Any longer than an hour and I'll be coming after you."
Florence smiled and picked the lantern off the bedside table. "I'll take Hargreave with me."
"Of course." Joseph grinned, gathering up Raymond and following her to the front door. He watched her gather all her cloaks and some money together while bouncing the baby on his hip. "Do you want some help with the horse?"
"No, I'll be fine. I'll see you later. Take care of Raymond."
Joseph stood at the door and watched his wife until she had shut the gate behind her and cantered off, taking the spot of light with her.
"Hello?" Florence's heart skipped a beat when she recognised Carl's voice echoing through the speaker.
"Carl? It's me, Florence."
"Florence?! Oh, my god, I'm so sorry that I haven't been in touch! The piece of paper that you gave me got wet in the rain, and the only part I could make out was your village. It took me such a long time to trace the village number because I was trying to do it from America. I moved to France when I found out how unbelievably expensive international calls are." Carl paused to take a breath while Florence smiled at the trouble he had gone to in order to find her again.
"Carl!" He stopped talking. "Let me get a word in! Carl, it's okay, don't worry, I wasn't that concerned, I just thought that you had moved on."
"Moved on? Florence, I can't stop thinking about you."
Her heart fluttered in her chest and she felt suddenly giddy with happiness. She fell onto the chair next to the phone, clutching her chest and encouraging herself to resume normal heart rate.
"Carl, there's something I have to tell you." It was now or never.
"What is it?"
Silence responded on the other end of the line.
"I think it's yours."
"What? I don't understand." Carl said quietly.
"Carl, I had sex with you that night. What did you think was going to happen?" Florence snapped, annoyance at his ignorance getting the better of her.
"Are you sure it's mine?"
"I have something else to tell you." Florence said, changing the subject.
"Don't do this to me, please." Carl begged.
"Carl, I have to. I can't keep on like this." She took a deep breath, internally fighting with two sides of her - one saying she should tell him, one saying she shouldn't. "I have a husband."
"Who is it?" he replied after a moment of silence.
"I am married to a man named Joseph. We got married just over five years ago, but knew each other for three years before that. We have a son called Raymond Thomas." Florence put the facts simply to get it out quicker. "We also have a horse called Hargreave, a black Labrador named Lola and a cat named Clara."
"Florence, how can you say this now? Why didn't you tell me that you were married and had a child with another man?" Carl questioned, hurt echoing in his tone of voice.
Florence bit her lip. Why did she do it?
"I, I, was afraid of what you would say."
Carl stayed silent.
"Carl? Please say something." Florence said desperately.
"Can I call you back? It's just... I need to go." Carl replied in a monotone voice. "I'll leave another message for you in your post office."
"Are you sure? Please do talk to me again." Florence pleaded, fighting back tears that welled in her eyes and clogged her throat.
"I'm sure. I need time. Goodbye Florence."
"Good-" the phone went dead before Florence had a chance to finish her last word.
She returned the phone to its cradle, paid the money for her call and left the post office. As soon as she reached her tied up horse, she pressed her face into his mane and cried.
Florence laid the plate on the table in front of her husband, who smiled at her and put his paper to one side. He licked his lips and prepared to eat. Florence put her own food on the table and punctured a carrot with her knife. It wasn't cooked very well, but they were running out of logs so the oven wasn't very hot.
"What are you reading?" Florence asked between mouthfuls.
Joseph swallowed his piece of meat before answering. "Newspaper."
"Anything interesting happening?"
"Not really. There is a story about a woman who was cheating on her husband."
Florence avoided his gaze. "What happened?"
"She spent the night with another man who she met in town. She discovered that she was pregnant, so she told her husband that it was his, but when it was born, it bared no resemblance to the husband. It had green eyes, whereas he had brown and she had blue. He figured that she had had sex with someone else, so he took the baby and chucked her onto the streets."
"What about the baby?"
"He killed it. He said he didn't want anyone to see or hear about what had happened. But a neighbour knew the whole thing, so she told the press, and now everyone knows." Joseph said casually, carving his beef into smaller chunks.
Florence swallowed her mouthful of food, gulped down some drink and sat still for a moment.
"Is something the matter?" Joseph asked, noticing her strange behaviour.
"I have something to tell you. You're not going to like me for it."
Joseph also stopped eating.
"What?" Florence bit her lip, reluctant to say anything. Why was it so much easier with Carl? "What do you need to tell me?" Joseph persisted.
"Joseph, I'm pregnant."
Joseph was not one for awkward silences so he jumped straight into the questioning. "Is it mine?"
Florence stayed quiet.
"Is it mine?" Joe repeated.
"Joe, you know when we went to America, I told you that I had got lost in the night so I couldn't spend the new year with you?" Florence asked, her voice hesitant.
"I actually spent it with another man. His name is Carl, and that was the person on the phone."
Joe frowned. He was remarkably calm. "So, you slept with another man, while you were married? You had sex with him?"
"Yes Joe. I'm sorry. So unbelievably sorry." Florence said desperately, tears beginning to well up in her eyes.
"What are you going to do now?" Joe asked, his face clear of all emotion.
"What do you want me to do?" Florence replied, the tears breaking out her eyelids and trickling down her cheeks.
"I want you to pack some bags for you and Raymond and go to your mother's for a few weeks. I will tell you my decision in time." Joe told her, a slight wobble in his voice.
Florence nodded and got up from the table. She made her way upstairs to pack a couple of suitcases - one for her and one for her baby. She wiped her hand across her eyes to clear their watery film. A couple of tears dripped onto her hand, and she wiped it down her skirt, trying to ignore her broken heart.
When she had reappeared downstairs, Joe was stood by the window, staring out into the dark yard outside. Florence dressed Raymond in warm clothes and added his baby food to her luggage. She stood in the kitchen doorway, the two suitcases at her feet and Raymond snuggled in his basket.
"Goodbye then." She mumbled, her voice catching again.
"Goodbye Florence. Raymond." Joe replied, not looking at her, but still trying to conceal his shaky voice.
When Florence got outside, she saddled Hargreave back up, this time with his cart harness. She loaded the small cart up with the luggage and her baby, asleep in his Moses basket. The cart was fairly simple. It was about the size of the average single bed, and had a cloth cover arched over the top, vaguely resembling a miniature American wagon. She climbed into the cart and clutched the reins in her hands, staring at the house with longing.
"Florence!" A voice echoed from the outside doorway.
"Yes?" She replied hopefully. A part of her wished that he had changed his mind, but her logical side told her that they both needed to separate for space.
"Take Lola with you." Joseph came out the house carrying a dog basket, a wooden box and with a dog at his heels.
Lola, their four-year-old black Labrador, jumped into the back of the cart after Joe chucked in her basket. He placed the wooden crate in, which apparently contained all of Lola's dog possessions.
This time, when Joe watched Florence disappear out the gate, he knew that he would not be seeing her any time soon.