Small World
Chapter 1

Quite a few people have had it happen to them at one time or another in their lives. They made a small change of their plans and that has led in a very few days to their lives being turned completely upside down. Of course, we don't realise what the consequences are going to be when these kind of decisions are made. It is only later that we come to understand the significance of our decisions.

In my particular case, it was the decision to look up an old school friend. I was about to go on one of my very rare trips up country for my employers to Darlington, of all places.

I just happened to mention the fact in the pub one night that I was doomed to spend the following week in the exciting fleshpots of Darlington.

Hey, Darlington is probably a really nice town, if you know it. But, when you're dropped into these places unexpectedly it can take a week or so to find out where the decent nightlife is, by which time I'd be long gone.

Anyway Tony, one of my long time friends from way back when we'd been at school together, told me that another of our old school crowd, George Diamond, was living in Darlington and suggested that I look up him and Rosy, his wife.

Ah, now, Rosy, that was one name that brought back some really happy memories for me. Rosy Thompson as she was back then; I definitely remembered her from school. The girl who was most likely to, or more like the girl who quite definitely would. Christ, I think she took most of the guys' cherries, but unfortunately not mine. I'd been a very early starter in that game. Anyway, I'd had more than a few enjoyable afternoons in Rosy's company when we'd bunked off school together.

Poor old George had drawn the short straw on that one though. He'd put Rosy in the club. Well, let's be honest here: George was the poor bugger who had taken the fall for it anyway. He had finished up doing the manly thing and marrying our Rosy. Yep, that's what men did in those days; you stood by your responsibilities. Still from what I'd heard, they were very happy together and Rosy's wandering ways were all in the far distant past.

Tony, who had apparently kept in touch with George and Rosy, said that they had had at least half a dozen children. Not surprising to me, knowing Rosy's love of procreation like I did. Well, I don't think she was ever that keen on the idea of actually having kids. But she sure did like the preliminaries.

Apparently, they had moved up to Darlington shortly after they got married, when George had been offered a good job up there. That is probably why I didn't remember seeing them for years.

"What harm could it do to meet up with a couple of old school friends," I thought. No, I wasn't thinking I might get lucky with Rosy again; I was a happily married man. So a week or so before I left for my trip, I gave them a call to let them know I was coming. It was then that I made what was to prove to be an eye opening but ultimately disastrous decision; George and Rosy insisted that I stay with them whilst I was in town and I acquiesced.

On my arrival at their house, I realised that I had made a mistake. Both the once gorgeous Rosy, and George had turned into a couple of real barrels, about as wide as they were tall. Yeah, they were pleasant enough, but they were so damned boring. Christ, their life seemed to revolve around their kids, the church and bloody bingo.

Mind, Rosy was one great cook. I was damned glad I was only staying for five days; as it was, I must have put on quite a few pounds that week.

Anyway, we spent a few evenings talking about old times. I was surprised at the long list of guys that Rosy asked me if I knew what had happened to. I know that if I had been George, I would have gotten at least a little annoyed. Because I knew that most of the list were guys who had sampled Rosy's charms at one time or another. But George didn't appear to bat an eyelid.

It was on the Thursday evening that my life started to turn to shit. When Rosy wasn't asking me about what I knew about this guy or that, the pair of them had spent most of the time telling me about their kids, of whom they were very proud. It was on that Thursday evening just about the worst fate that can befall a houseguest befell me. About eight o'clock just after Rosy put the twins to bed, George got out the bloody projector and spent the whole evening showing me his old home movies of their kids.

I think I was in that daze we all fall into after watching someone else's home-movies for several hours. I was acting my heart out trying to at least look and sound vaguely interested, whilst George and Rosy told tales of holidays long past. Mind you, in some of the older films when Rosy still had her figure, shit, she looked good in those tiny bikinis she wore back then. I quietly attacked the bottle of Rum I had purchased that day to dull the senses.

But then it happened. A scene came on the screen that made me sit up and take notice. George and Rosy both noticed my sudden interest, as I nearly jumped out of my seat.

"What's up, Pete," Rosy asked, "Have you seen someone you recognise?"

I bleeding-well sure had. "George, can you run the film back a bit?" I asked in a panic-struck voice.

George stopped the film and then ran it back until I asked him to stop. "Exactly when did you say this film was taken?" I enquired.

"Ten years ago in Bournemouth," George replied, "Why, do you recognise someone?"

"Yeah, that couple in the back ground; the woman with the blond hair looks pretty familiar?" One hell of an understatement; that woman was Leanne, my bloody wife. But I wasn't about to tell George and Rosy that.

"Oh, those two," Rosy commented, "they were a really nice couple. Americans, weren't they, George? Well, at least I think he was; she didn't say very much to anyone, did she, George? They were a real love struck pair hanging all over each other all the time. Hey, George aren't there some more shots of them at the party night? Now that did get interesting."

As usual Rosy didn't give George a chance to get a word in edgeways. I had gathered that that was how conversations with these two normally went. George ran the film on for a few minutes; the picture changed from the hotel's swimming pool area to what was obviously the ballroom. The same couple appeared in the background again; only this time they were dancing. But slowly the film began to concentrate more on them as they got a little - well, putting it politely - amorous on the dance floor. I was by then having a little trouble breathing.

"It ain't every day you see folks behaving like that in a Bournemouth hotel," George laughingly commented, "I just had to get it on film."

"He's a real pervert sometimes," Rosy cut in. "You wait until we get to the videos George took out in Spain. You've never seen so many tiny bikinis in your life. I think George paid the kids to stand near the girls wearing the smallest ones, just so that he would have an excuse to film them."

I'm afraid I wasn't really listening to Rosy, as I watched my wife doing just about everything except fuck the guy on the dance floor and his hands were everywhere they shouldn't be in a public place.

I thought back. George had said that this particular film had been taken about ten years before. It was ten years ago that my company had sent me out to India where they were setting up a new manufacturing plant.

I had been away for nearly seven weeks that summer and during that time Leanne's parents had taken the children away with them on holiday for a fortnight. I remembered that there were a few days when the home phone was apparently out of order. Leanne was forced to call me out in Mumbai from a public phone, because I couldn't get through to her at the house.

"Pete? Pete, are you alright?" Rosy said, "You've gone a funny colour."

"That woman - can you remember her name?" I asked.

"No, sorry I can't. Can you remember, George? You spoke to them a few times."

"I think his name was Clayton or something like that. No, hang on it was Clinton; you know, like Clint Eastwood. But I don't recall what her name was. Funny that, what with them being just married and everything. I don't recall him ever mentioning her name. I never spoke to them when she was around; they were too busy if you get the idea. You know what it's like, they were obviously just married and on their honeymoon.

"One sexy little bitch, isn't she? I bet she nearly killed him in bed at night; she really did get turned on. To be honest, it was getting a bit embarrassing until the hotel manager asked them to cool it down a little."

It was no good. I had to tell them. "Sexy she sure is. But there's the problem. She's my bloody wife!"

"Oh, shit!" George said.

"Oh, bugger! It can't be," Rosy exclaimed.

George and Rosy used different expletives.

Neither George nor Rosy had ever met Leanne, I had lost track of them once they had got married and that had been well before I met up with Leanne.

"Sorry, George, but I'm going to have to ask you for a copy of that film."

They had both realised the implication and I think they were a little lost as to what to say to me.

"Oh, damn, I am sorry, Pete. Of course, I'll run you off a copy on a CD. I had them transferred to the computer last year. Personally we think the atmosphere is better when you see them on the big screen, but I suspect before long everything will be on CD's or these new DVD things they are bringing out."

Well, that was all there was to it. George ran me off a copy. I didn't sleep well that night and I left for home as soon as I finished work on the Friday evening. I had planned to travel home on the Saturday but I wasn't in any mood to sleep that night.

I arrived home at some unearthly hour on the Saturday morning, after a long slow drive back down to the West Country. My nerves were completely shot; I had no intention of killing myself on the way and I crashed out on the sofa.

Some hours later I was awakened by the sound of Leanne's voice.

"Crikey, Pete! You scared the life out of me. I didn't expect to find you lying there. When did you get home? Why didn't you call last night and what are you doing sleeping on the sofa?" Leanne demanded when she discovered me lying there in the morning.

"It must have been about half past two," I replied, ignoring her other questions.

"Why didn't you come up to bed? I've missed having you to cuddle up too."

I couldn't see much point in beating around the bush, as inside I was hopping mad and only just managing to keep my temper under control. So I dived straight in.

"Is that a fact? Are you sure you haven't got anyone else you'd rather cuddle up to?" That took Leanne completely by surprise, but I figured that I had some more surprises in store for her.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" she demanded.

"Just what I said. Haven't you got some stud or the other that you'd rather be with?"

"Are you feeling alright? You're not making any sense."

I could see that Leanne was beginning to get more than a little annoyed with me; but she could never be as angry, as I was with her. I slowly got off of the sofa and walked over to our home computer that I had turned on when I'd arrived. At a touch on the mouse the monitor flashed back into life.

"Leanne, remember when my firm sent me to India all those years ago, to help set up that new factory out there?

"Yes, you were gone over six weeks; they promised that would be the last time they would send you abroad."

"And whilst I was gone your parents took the children away on a holiday for a couple of weeks, didn't they?"

"Yes, but why bring that up now?"

"What did you do whilst they were away, Leanne?"

I've got to admit she was good; there wasn't any sign that I could discern that she had anything to hide.

"Nothing much really, except I redecorated James's bedroom."

"You didn't go off yourself for a couple of days?"

"Of course not! Why do you ask? What's this third degree all about?"

I clicked the start button on media player. Leanne looked at the computer screen with a blank expression on her face.

"Tell me, Leanne, who's that guy you're sitting with by that swimming pool?"

What I can only call a look of surprised curiosity came on Leanne's face; that then changed to what I took to be a look of bewilderment as she realised what she was watching.

"What the hell is that? Where did you get it? That isn't me!"

After that we watched in silence until the film switched to the ballroom. It could be that the first little seeds of doubt were planted in my mind at this time. Her reaction was perfect for someone who hadn't the foggiest idea what was going on. But I had to take into account that Leanne has always been a very good actress. Hey, she was a member of the local dramatic society after all. So I took her reaction with a pinch of salt.

"Well, that sure looks like you to me!"

Leanne's face turned bright red as she watched the behaviour of the two of them on the dance floor.

"God, Peter, I could never behave like that in public."

"Well, if it isn't you, who the hell is it?"

Leanne was staring closely at the screen now.

"I haven't got the faintest idea. But it certainly isn't me! She does look like me, I'll give you that, but I can promise you it definitely isn't me!"

"So you've got a twin out there that you didn't know about?"

"It appears I must have, Peter. But I swear to you, that isn't me."

Well, the "it must be" and "it definitely isn't" argument went on for the next half-hour or so, until our son James surfaced for the day. Then Leanne and I held our peace for the rest of the morning, until he went out to meet his girlfriend.

"Peter, you've got to believe me that isn't me on that film," Leanne said the moment the door closed. "I've been thinking. Jean next door will tell you that I wasn't away from the house for more than a couple of hours at a time, all of the time you were in India. You know that I would have had to ask her to come in and feed the cats if I'd gone away for even one night."

Having said that, Leanne turned and went out of the back door. I sat in the kitchen trying to work out whether I was wrong in my first assumption, that it had been Leanne in Bournemouth with that guy.

Leanne returned about ten minutes later with Jean in tow.

"Tell him, Jean. Tell Pete that I was home all the time he was away in India."

"That's right, Peter. I saw Leanne everyday whilst you were out in India. It was a long time ago, but if you remember Leanne and I used to have coffee together every morning back then. We did every morning until Leanne started back to work again," Jean added.

Well, really, that was the end of the discussion on the subject. I had Leanne swearing that the woman on the film wasn't her and Jean assuring me that Leanne hadn't been away from the house for more than a couple of hours at a time.

I'm not sure now how much I really swallowed the story, but I had no reason that I could think of to suspect Jean would lie to me. Although I think I would have been more convinced if it hadn't taken Leanne ten minutes to come back with Jean. Ten minutes is plenty of time for them to get the story worked out.

That night, against my better judgement and with a lot of willpower on my part, Leanne and I made love. But as I lay awake in bed afterwards - I found my mind wouldn't let me sleep - things kept going around in my head. Jean was Leanne's best friend. Could I really trust her to tell me the truth?

In the following weeks I'm not sure what happened really. My trust in Leanne had evaporated and I found myself spying on my wife. Searching her cupboards when she wasn't around. Hunting out her old diaries, looking for something, anything. But I found nothing. If she was home from work just a little late I was asking awkward questions.

The closeness that I had always felt for her in the past had suddenly gone, just evaporated. I loved her, but in my heart I felt I couldn't trust her. Things came to a head one-day when I was going through my computer CD's looking for some old files. I suddenly realised the CD that George had given me wasn't there anymore.

"Leanne, have you seen that CD that George made for me. The one with the woman I thought was you on it?"

"I put it through the shredder."

"What the hell made you do that?"

"Because it was disgusting. It upset me having it in the house."

Leanne's destroying of that CD got me thinking again. The woman certainly looked like Leanne. But there was a question I hadn't really asked myself: who was the man? To Leanne's horror I had shown the video to a couple of our friends and we'd had a good laugh over it. But they had all noted the remarkable resemblance the woman bore to Leanne.

I'm afraid my anger or distrust got the better of me.

"Why was that, Leanne," I asked. "Were you worried that if too many people saw that bit of film, in the end somebody was bound to recognise the guy or have seen him around somewhere local?"

I don't know why I said that, but it was to turn out to be the question that brought our marriage to an end. Leanne went ape-shit at me. The row between us that followed was loud enough for the neighbours to get worried enough to call the police. Later that evening after the police left, I packed up some of my things and moved out of the house.

The following Monday morning found the two of us in our solicitor's office. Leanne apologised for losing her temper and asked me to return home but I told her I couldn't see anyway that we could put things back together. I was convinced that it was her in George's movie.

The divorce went off surprisingly amicably really. I found myself a flat in town and would see James several times most weeks. My daughter, Ashley, was away at nursing college and the oldest one, Jeanette, was away at University so it made little difference to them. I went to all James' school events, probably more than I had done before the divorce.

To start with, Leanne and I were extremely civil and polite to each other when we met, even if our meetings were a little strained. Leanne kept sending me little notes through James, asking me to reconsider things. Ashley, when she was home, kept telling me that her mother cried a lot. That didn't do much for my well being as I was... well, not exactly crying myself to sleep at night... but not far off it. If I'm honest, quite a lot of the time I felt like a real heel.

I know I was drinking far too much, and that resulted in my boss having a long hard talk with me about it. So I was forced to take stock and pull myself together a bit. I thought about taking the pledge. I didn't swear off drink completely, but I cut down a hell of a lot on my consumption.

Then one evening when I picked James up from his after school football practice, he told me that his mother had been out on a date with some guy the night before. The little notes had stopped a few weeks previous, so I figured that Leanne had resorted to trying to make me jealous. Why else would she tell James she was out with another guy?

I'm afraid it worked; I did get jealous and that I couldn't stomach. So I think more as a kind of retaliation than anything else, I tried the dating game myself. You know it was just a reprisal thing. I'll be honest with you; my heart wasn't really in it. I had to persist though, as I wasn't going to let Leanne get one up on me, again!

As time went on Leanne and I were getting less tolerant of each other. And that led to all out guerrilla war breaking out between us. Unfortunately the kids were playing piggy in the middle in that little game. I was making sure they knew about the girls I was taking out (including quite a few fictitious ones, I'll add) and Leanne made sure they told me about every time she went out with a guy.

What was even more frustrating for me was the fact that Leanne was being quite devious about things. Apparently, she never let her men friends come to the house to collect her. I figured that was because James might recognise some of them, if they were any of my friends. Which I suspected some of them were.

Of course I asked all the single guys I knew, but they all denied taking Leanne out. Oh, yeah, and I believed them? I'd seen the way they had looked at Leanne over the years. Anyway in the process, I think I lost quite a few of them as friends.

My problem was that I couldn't live with Leanne, because I felt I couldn't trust her. But I still loved her, and now found I was having extreme difficulty living without her.

It was a year after the divorce and I was in such a state that I had already been passed over for one promotion at work that should have been mine. In fact I think I was really on my way out of my job completely; I know that the quality of my work had fallen off a lot.

My boss called me into her office one day and asked me if I would do a six-month stint at our Birmingham office. Apparently, one of the managers up there was going on maternity leave and they wanted me to run her department whilst she was away.

Now this wasn't really an offer, it was as near to an order as you can get. It was made clear to me that if I didn't take the placement, I would probably find I was out of a job before too long.

If I took the placement, I think my boss thought I would have to either get my act together or get myself fired by the Birmingham office. Whichever happened, it took the problem of me off of her hands. I can't blame her; she had been very tolerant of my shortcomings for some time.

The children weren't happy when I told them I would be living away for at least six months. Surprisingly Leanne called me up and asked what was going on. I told her I would be back every couple of weeks to see the children and she seemed satisfied with that.

Birmingham wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I lived in a nice hotel just a few hundred yards from the office. The staff was good and accepted me as the boss without any problems.

I got on very well with a few of them. Mainly my number two, Mattie. Matilda was supposed to be almost at retiring age; to be honest, I suspected she was older than that. A widow, she apparently lived for her work. She was actually the obvious candidate for doing the job I'd been called up there to do. But she told me she had turned it down as she felt she was too old to take on the responsibility. And then there was Mattie's sidekick Ashakiran, or Asha as everyone usually called her. Asha was about my age, maybe five or so years younger and obviously of Eurasian parentage.

I found that I enjoyed Asha's company a lot; she was the complete opposite of Leanne in looks. They were of similar build, but whereas Leanne was blond and very fair skinned, Asha had black hair and quite a dark complexion. At first she came over as a very shy person, until she got to know you that is, then she appeared extremely forward and was always joking around.

Over time, I gathered she had had quite a difficult life, not quite knowing whether she was British or Indian. Apparently, her mother had died when she was quite young and she had been brought up by her father's sisters who were very Indian in their outlook.

Asha had gone to English schools and appeared to have a very British outlook on how a young woman should behave. I was to learn that she had been married a couple of times. Firstly, when she was quite young, only a teenager really and at her father's insistence; I also gathered it was against her own better judgement. A marriage arranged by her father's family that had turned out to be a complete disaster and ended very quickly when her husband tried - I'll emphasize "tried" — to beat her for some reason or the other. As I understand it, Asha put him in hospital and promptly divorced him.

After her divorce, Asha found herself estranged from her family; apparently it wasn't done for her to divorce a man the family had chosen for her. Then she somehow had gotten herself mixed up with some other guy, a complete loser; I have no idea what race the guy was, but apparently he was a very unsuccessful gambler who rapidly turned into an alcoholic and within three years of them getting married he had very quickly drunk himself to death.

This led to Asha - once she had got to know me better - watching my alcohol consumption very carefully and being quite vocal about it on occasions. I told you that she spoke her mind and she was not afraid to tick me off, if she thought I was overdoing things.

Somewhere along the line after her second husband's death, Asha met up with Mattie's son who'd been in the army at the time. They must have been very into each other, but before they'd got around to tying the knot, he had been killed in Northern Ireland; neither Mattie, nor Asha went into details about his death. But as a result, Asha was apparently living or rather lodging with Mattie.

Not seeing the children as much, had the surprising result of me not thinking about Leanne as much either; not that much of a surprise to me, because when I did see the kids, their mother always seemed to be the main topic of conversation. Apparently, she wasn't dating anymore, or so I was told. "Most likely run out of mugs!" I thought.

I think it was in the fifth month of my deployment in Brum, that one morning I was called up to see the big cheese at the office. He informed me that the manager I was standing in for had been in touch and told him that she was not intending to return to work after her child was born. He didn't enlarge on the reasons why; he had other fish to fry. Then he went on to ask me whether I would take the position on permanently. "For the time being, at least," was the way he put it. I thought that was an odd way for him to phrase it.

I was forced to tell him I was not sure whether I could at that moment, because I still had problems in my private life. The move north had given me a lot of time to think about everything. I was definitely lonely up there and I was beginning to doubt myself. I was thinking that I might have been a little hasty in my reactions to that damned film of George's. Leanne was still denying that it had been her at that Bournemouth hotel.

He looked at me for a while without speaking; I could see he was mulling something over in his mind.

"Okay, Peter, the bottom line. But please keep this to yourself for the time being. There's going to be some big changes around here in the next few months. We are relocating this office to Telford; there's not enough room to expand here, as the company would like. The upper level of management have been informed of the move already and a couple of them have made us aware of their intentions to retire early, rather than move or commute to the new office.

"I've got my eye on you to replace one of them. I can offer you the job after you've gone back down south, but I would prefer it if you were on my team here to help with the move. I need to know who I can rely on."

His statement took me by surprise, and I realised that the opportunity he was offering me wasn't to be sneezed at. But I also knew I'd been getting really melancholy about losing Leanne and the life we'd lived together. I needed time to think.

"Can you give me a week or so to think about this?" I asked.

"Sure, if you like, Peter, but I definitely need to know one way or the other before the end of the month."

"That shouldn't be a problem. I hope I'll have things well and truly ironed out by then."

I planned to talk to Leanne the next time I went down to see James and the girls. I figured that if she wanted to try again, I was willing to give it a go.

"Great, now the next problem," the boss man said, opening a folder on his desk, "I know this is going to sound funny, but who in your department do you feel is the best candidate to take over from you? The sooner I decide who's going to run what department after the move the better."

"Well, there's only one person really and that's Asha. Mattie has more experience and is the obvious choice, but you know she's thinking of retirement and doesn't want the responsibility. But I'm sure she'll stay long enough to help Asha out while she settles in if need be. The pair of them are very close."

"Done. I'll speak to both of them later today."

The rest of the week was a very good one for our office, as we closed on a couple of good contracts. Friday evening Mattie, Asha and some of the other staff, along with their spouses, joined me for dinner at my hotel. After the meal we sat in the lounge and had a couple of drinks together.

They have a band there on Friday and Saturday evenings, so once the music started playing some of us started dancing. Asha and I had a couple of dances together.

It was around ten and I was just coming off the dance floor with Mattie when she announced that she was going home. To my utter surprise Asha told Mattie she would see her later, then grabbed my hand and dragged me back out onto the dance floor.

"And just what is this all about, young lady?" I asked, "You always go home with Mattie."

"Not tonight, I'm not. I thought, and Mattie agreed with me, that it might be good idea if you and I spent a little time alone together. You'll notice that all the others have left whilst you were dancing with Mattie. I think... We thought that we should get to know each other a little better if you're going to teach me how to do your job."

"Don't be silly, girl, you can do my job standing on your head."

"I know but they're aren't many guys who would recommend me for it. What with me being a woman and all."

Now I knew that wasn't exactly what Asha was really alluding to, as the previous incumbent of the position had also been female. We both knew that there still was an undercurrent of racial prejudice around the office, no matter how some folks tried to deny it. And folks of mixed race often have trouble being accepted within any racial group.

"Nonsense, Asha, you are ideal for that job."

"Thank you, Peter. Now can we cut to the chase? Let's go to your room."

"Wow, hang on a minute. I didn't recommend you for that job just so I could get into your knickers."

"Do I look dumb? If I thought you had any ulterior motives in the first place, I wouldn't let you get within a hundred yards of me.

"Anyway I'm pretty sure that that kind of guy would have propositioned me well before he recommended me for the job. You do realise there's more than one girl in the office who would have jumped into bed with you for that recommendation and some of them are married.

"No, that isn't the reason I'm suggesting we get together. When he told me about the job, the boss said there was a possibility that you might not be sticking around for very much longer. Now I know that you like me and I like you. I've been waiting for you to make a pass at me ever since you came up here. But you haven't, so I thought if I didn't get the ball rolling soon, I'd miss any chance I had."

"I'm flattered that you think that way, Asha, and I'll admit I find you very attractive. But I've got to tell you, I will most likely be trying for a reconciliation with my ex-wife when I go back down south next time."

"But I thought you divorced her because she cheated on you."

"I divorced her because I thought she had cheated on me, Asha. But as time goes on, I'm not so sure now. I only had a film that had been taken years ago showing a woman who looked very much like Leanne dancing with some guy in a hotel. I was damned sure it was Leanne at the time, but without any other evidence the more that time passes, the more I'm thinking that I was most likely mistaken. She has always denied that it was her!

"Well, you know what they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Asha, I think you are a wonderful person. I really think I could fall in love with you very easily. But at the moment I'm not really over Leanne. Can I ask, if things don't work out between us, may I give you a call?"

"I'll be waiting."

"Thanks. Now I think I'd better call you a cab before we get ourselves into something that we could both finish up regretting."

"You don't have to, you know. Phil, Mattie's son and I waited and what happened? Some bloody nutcase with a bomb blew him to smithereens. Can't we just spend one night together?"

"I won't say I'm not sorely tempted, Asha, because I am. But I really don't think that would be fair on you in the circumstances. Now come along; let's get reception to call you a cab."

I escorted Asha to her cab, but before she got in she threw her arms around my neck and kissed me. "Just to give you some idea of what you're passing up," she said, grinding her body against mine.

I carefully, but gently pushed her away and helped her get into the car.

"Asha, don't kid yourself. I know exactly what I'm passing up and I'll probably be kicking myself all night for doing so. But until I can make a commitment to you, I can't let myself take advantage of you," I said to her through the cab's open window.

As he pulled away the taxi driver gave me a look that told me he thought I'd lost my bloody mind; Asha is one sexy looking lady.

It was the following Sunday evening; it had become my habit to have a drink in the hotel's bar after dinner. I didn't keep any alcohol in my room, as that I thought would be tempting fate when I was feeling melancholy. I still wasn't the happiest guy in the world and Asha's story about her second husband did play on my mind a bit.

I was on a stool at the end of the bar when I spotted him coming into the lounge. There was no doubt about it in my mind about who he was, the moment I saw him. He was the guy who had been in that film that George had taken.

Seemingly without a care in the world he casually looked around, as if familiarising himself with the layout of the almost empty lounge. Then he sauntered over and quite deliberately sat on the empty stool next to the one I was on.

For a couple of minutes I debated in my mind as to just what I was going to do next. Yeah, I did feel like punching the guy on the nose. Because seeing him in the flesh brought back the anger I'd felt when I first saw that film.

But what the hell would that achieve? Besides getting me nicked for assault, that is. I wouldn't even have the satisfaction of him knowing why I hit him until we got into court. So I just ignored him for the time being.

"Nice weather we're having at the moment," he commented to no one in particular. Well, it must have been meant for me, as there wasn't anyone else within earshot.

"Not bad for the time of year," I replied. "I don't like it too hot myself, anyway."

American, George had said. For some reason I thought it more likely he was Canadian. I'm not sure why, just a gut feeling and I guessed he must have lived in England for some time, as the weather is often the subject used to break the ice amongst strangers.

"You a commercial traveller?" he asked casually.

"No, I'm on secondment to one of my company's branch offices just down the road, Clinton."

"Hey, you have me at a disadvantage. Have we met before?"

"I don't think so. But I believe that is your name."

"Yeah, it sure is, but most folks call me Clint."

"Oh, is that what Leanne calls you?"

"Who, Leanne did you say? I'm sorry but I don't think I can place anyone called Leanne."

"Oh, she will be disappointed." I really didn't expect him to have any idea as to what I was talking about, as theoretically he wouldn't know me from Adam. Unless Leanne had showed him a picture of me that is, and that I somehow doubted.

"Where would I have met her?"

"In Bournemouth about eleven years ago."

"Yikes, that's going back a bit. But the only time I've ever been in Bournemouth was when I was on my honeymoon. I'm afraid I was concentrating on my new wife at the time and I don't think I noticed any other women on that trip. Perhaps Gina, my wife, will remember her. She should be down in a minute; we can ask her."

I don't know why, but I suddenly felt very unsure of myself. "You were in Bournemouth with your wife?"

"With my bride, we had planned on going to the Caribbean for our honeymoon, but there had been some trouble on the island we'd booked to go to. So at the last minute we settled for Bournemouth. It was quite pleasant but a bit on the straight-laced side for Gina and my liking. We only stayed a couple of nights and then moved on to Southampton. A little less pompous and a lot more night life."

He must have spotted her come into the lounge in the mirror behind the bar, because he swung around on his stool to face the entrance.

"Hi, babe! What took you so long? For a minute there, I thought you had dumped me."

I looked over my shoulder and then almost fell off my stool at the sight before me. Walking towards us was Leanne! But no, it wasn't Leanne if you understand me. At first glance it was Leanne but there were subtle differences that told me it wasn't Leanne.

"Holy mother of god, was this the woman who had been in George's film?" I can remember thinking, and then everything seemed to go black.

"Hey, fellow, are you all right?" I could hear Clinton asking as I was coming back to my senses. I was lying on the floor with a cushion under my head. A very worried looking Clinton was leaning over me and I could see his wife Gina crouched down on the other side of me.

"Sorry but I just had a bit of a shock, when I saw your wife," I said to them.

"Hey, Clint keeps telling me that I'm drop dead gorgeous, but that's first time I've ever had that affect on a man," Gina cracked.

For a minute her accent had confused me, then I realised there was that high-pitched Australian twang to her voice.

Clinton helped me to get up and we moved into some of the lounge armchairs.

"Do you do that often? Are you ill or something?" Clinton asked

"No, quite honestly, it was seeing your wife. She is the spitting image of my ex-wife."

"Hold on just a minute there. She's not the Leanne you were talking about just now is she?"

"Unfortunately she is, yes!"

"Wow, I'm getting a very bad feeling about this. I thought you were being a little standoffish with me. Now I'm getting a very nasty feeling that there has been some terrible misunderstanding somewhere along the line. The fact that your wife is now your ex-wife couldn't having anything to do with you thinking I had met her in Bournemouth, by any chance?"

"I'm afraid you're correct on that one, as well."

"Holy Cow!"

"What's all this about?" Gina asked.

"Oh, Gina, this... I'm sorry I don't know your name?"


"Gina, this is Pete. I gather that you and his wife - sorry, Pete, his ex-wife - look very much alike. You remember when we stopped in Bournemouth for a couple of nights on our honeymoon? From what Pete says, I gather that somehow you were mistaken for his wife and that led to the end of his marriage. Have I understood you correctly there, Pete?"

"Yeah, that's about it."

"Oh, my god, you thought it was your wife and Clint together. Well, it wasn't your wife with Clint it was me. What the hell are you going to do now?"

"I haven't got the faintest idea. I've got to think this out before I do anything. I haven't had time to get my thoughts together yet. You realise, meeting you two has been a bit of a shock for me."

"I should imagine it is, but what rotten bugger told you about Bournemouth in the first place then?" Clint asked, "People should really make sure of their facts, before they go telling tales."

"Well, no one actually told me. I was visiting an old friend of mine and they were on holiday at the same hotel, when you were there. They were just showing me some of their old holiday films. In one of them you two featured quite prominently."

"Oh, my, I bet that must have been George and Rosemary!" Gina said, "You remember them, Clint, the nice couple with all those kids. God, six children; two was enough for me. George had that damn camera running nearly all the time; I don't know how Rosemary put up with it. He left her looking after the children most of the time."

"You remember meeting them then?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, Clint and I only stayed a couple of nights, but Rosemary and I had some good laughs together whilst we were there. She was telling me how to keep Clint under control; she was quite a girl. Anyway that isn't what's important. Your problem now is, what are you going to do about Leanne?"

"I'm not sure how I'm going to approach the subject with her."

"I can understand what you must be feeling like. Finding out that you've made a mistake can be very embarrassing. And to have gotten divorced over a mistaken identity; I'm not sure how you should deal with that. I'm sure Leanne must be very upset that you didn't trust her word."

I sat back in my seat and looked at these two new friends that I'd suddenly appeared to have made myself. They both seemed very genuine and very concerned about Leanne and my plight. For the next hour or so we talked about what I should do.

Then Gina who had been quiet for a while said, "Look, Pete, I've got an idea. I know this is none of my business really. But how about if I go down to Exeter before your next planned visit to see the children. You must have some idea of the places Leanne normally goes to during the week. Maybe I could run into her by accident, if you understand me. And then if we look as alike as you say we do, with any luck, she is going to put two and two together and realise who I am.

"I'll let her tell me all about it. Then, if she wants to, she can introduce me to you over the weekend. That will make her feel good about herself. Then she's either going to forgive you, or kill you.

"Oh, you'll have to eat humble pie for a while, I'm sure. But if we look as much alike as you say we do, I'll bet she'll understand," Gina suggested.

"Would you mind doing that? I mean Leanne and my problems have nothing to do with you. Why should you want to get yourself involved?" I asked.

"Well, in a strange way I feel obligated. After all Leanne was mistaken for me. And of course it isn't everyday you get a chance to meet your own doppelganger, now is it? Now when are you due to go and see the children again?"

So the arrangements were made. The plan was that the following Wednesday Gina - and I assumed Clinton - would go down to Exeter. Where Gina would - with any luck - run into Leanne at the local horse riding school. For as long as I could remember, Leanne has helped with the riding for the disabled association on Thursday mornings. I could see no reason for her to have stopped doing that.

Anyway if things worked out as Gina planned, she thought it most likely that Leanne would ask me to meet her on the Saturday evening and where she suggested that we could - with any luck - sort our problems out.

Later that night I ran over in my mind the events of that day and I wondered just what was going to happen the following weekend.

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