Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, Heterosexual, Tear Jerker, Slow, .
Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Two people brought together in the aftermath of tragedy. Hope gave them a reason to believe in love again.
Savage pains tore across Lisa's mid section and she sank to the floor in agony, desperately trying to breathe rhythmically through the contractions. Eventually, the pain faded away again and she reached for the telephone to dial Ellie's number. She didn't think she had much time now and the hospital was a good half hour drive away.
"It's coming," she managed to gasp when Ellie finally answered the call.
"Don't panic, I'll be round straight away," her friend said hurriedly.
Lisa didn't reply. She dropped the receiver onto the floor as another vicious pain held her tightly in its iron grip. By the time Ellie had burst in through the front door, Lisa could hardly move.
"Come on Lisa, we need to get you in the car. Where's your bag?"
Lisa pointed towards the kitchen and continued to pant heavily. She tried to stand, but once more a contraction hit and she closed her eyes tightly, as the sweat poured down her face.
Ellie rushed and grabbed the small holdall, throwing it over one shoulder lightly. Frankly, she was worried that they wouldn't make it in time. The speed with which the contractions were coming suggested that this baby's arrival was imminent.
She took hold of Lisa's arm gently and steered her towards the door. "Not far, sweetie," she said encouragingly. "We'll soon have you nice and comfy at the hospital."
"Good," gasped Lisa, clutching her swollen belly again. "All I want is to have this baby out now." For a fleeting second, her mind flitted on to him, but she automatically dismissed the thought as soon as it arose. He had made his decision and they both had to live with the consequences.
Ellie sat in the corridor, staring at a poster of a photogenic baby. Nurses came and went, but nobody seemed to have any news. The magazine was lying open on her knee and went unread. It was impossible to concentrate on anything — she was too worried about Lisa and the baby.
By rights, it shouldn't have been her sitting here, waiting. But what choice did she have? She could hardly have let the poor girl deal with this alone. Lisa had nobody else. She had no family and the baby's father was not around. Not that Ellie really knew much about what had happened. Lisa had stayed tight lipped on the subject, merely saying, early on, that he wasn't going to be around.
As much as it was none of her business, Ellie couldn't help but wonder what kind of man walked away from a woman who was carrying his baby. She just wished she could tell him what was happening. Maybe if he knew Lisa was in trouble, he'd show up and everything would be okay.
"Are you the woman who brought Lisa Jackson in?"
Ellie jumped, startled from her grim thoughts by the tall man standing before her. His white coat indicated he was one of the doctors and his grave expression suggested all was not well. Her heart began to thud painfully in her chest. Please God let everything be okay...
"Yes, I'm Ellie Donnelly," she replied quickly. "How is she?"
"Could you come with me, please?" The doctor didn't wait for her to answer — he turned and strode off down the long corridor and Ellie was forced to jog after him. He reached a door and pushed it open, indicating for Ellie to go into the room.
She spun round. "Please, tell me what's happening?"
"It's not good news I'm afraid. As you're aware, we had to perform an emergency caesarean. Unfortunately, there were unexpected complications, and despite all our efforts, we lost Lisa."
Ellie heard the words, but she didn't quite believe them. Surely this man was joking! Women didn't die in childbirth in this day and age, did they? She sat down abruptly, the shock knocking the stuffing out of her completely.
"What about the baby?" she croaked. She could hardly comprehend that Lisa was gone. It seemed surreal. She should be standing beside Lisa's bed now, cooing over a baby while Lisa beamed happily. Instead, she was having this bizarre conversation with a man who was telling her Lisa was dead.
"The baby is fine — Lisa had a little girl." For the first time, the Doctor allowed a faint smile to briefly illuminate his tired features. "Which brings me to my next question - do you know who Lisa's next of kin are? We'll need to contact them."
"She doesn't have any."
The doctor looked slightly taken aback. It obviously wasn't the answer he was expecting. "What about the baby's father?"
"That's a difficult one," admitted Ellie. "I don't know much about him." She racked her brains, trying to think if Lisa had given her any information over the last few months. The trouble was Ellie hadn't known Lisa when she was seeing that man. She'd only moved into the street after she was pregnant and the relationship was over.
"Nothing at all? If the baby's biological father is not on the scene, we'll have to call social services."
"Look, let me see what I can find out."
The doctor nodded. "Okay, but I'll still have to set things in motion." This was not the outcome he expected. To lose a patient was tragic enough, but to find out the baby was effectively an orphan, was the worst-case scenario.
He left Ellie sitting in the pale green room, still in shock. Days like this made him wish he'd studied art instead of medicine. Abruptly, his pager went off, alerting him to a fresh problem. Pushing the image of the dead girl from his head, he dashed back down the corridor.
Michael silently washed the dishes as he stared unseeing out into the garden. The water was scalding hot, but he barely noticed. For some reason, he'd been thinking about Lisa again. Despite the months that had passed since they parted, he hadn't really forgotten about her. Once, he'd tried ringing her mobile, but the number was no longer in use.
He guessed she had met someone else by now; she was too pretty to be on her own for long. This was one of the reasons he hadn't tried contacting her when things changed — the thought of finding out she'd fallen in love with someone else was too painful. No, he had to accept that he'd blown it big time. It had been his own fault — Lisa had given him every opportunity to choose her, but he'd been unable to do it. In the end, she'd given up on him and their relationship.
At the time, it had felt like he had no choice but to cool things off for a while - Helen's tearful announcement of her illness had rocked him to the core. To abandon his wife in her hour of need was not something he was capable of. He may have been a lousy husband, but even he wouldn't do something so callous.
By the time he had discovered Helen's betrayal, it was too late. He had desperately wanted to contact Lisa, but she had moved house and changed her job, thus, effectively cutting him out of her life. As much as it killed him, he realised that staying away from her was probably in her interests. He had hurt her enough and he didn't want to cause her any more pain had to respect her decision
He never intended to hurt Lisa, but he couldn't give her what she needed. He had to be there for Helen. Michael gripped the edge of the sink tightly, as he thought about Helen and how he'd been duped. He still found it difficult to forgive her for what she'd put him through. She was lucky he hadn't killed her when he'd found out.
Thinking back to that final time he saw Lisa, he wished he'd known then what he knew now. He would have held her and never let her go again. But he hadn't. Instead, he'd lost the woman he loved.
"I'm sorry, Lisa," he had said sadly, as they stood beside his car the last time he'd seen her. "I love you, but I can't leave her now. She needs me."
"I need you too, Michael," she replied brokenly.
Her pain cut him to the bone. It was his pain too. Silently, they held each other one last time.
"Maybe when things are different..." he tried to say, but it was no use. He was clutching at an invisible straw and they both knew it.
"Goodbye, Michael," she said sadly, a lone tear sliding down her pale cheek. Without further ado, she walked away and climbed into her car. Before Michael could stop her, she was gone, forever.
Ellie unlocked Lisa's house and walked in. Dirty dishes were laid in the sink and she noticed a vaguely stale smell lingering in the air. For a while she stood in the hallway, listening to the sound of silence. It was still difficult to comprehend that Lisa wasn't coming back. Everywhere Ellie looked, there were reminders of her friend.
A copy of Parents magazine was open on the sofa, a half drunk mug of tea congealed on the table. Ellie perhaps imagined she could hear the radio playing pop tunes in the kitchen and Lisa would appear at any moment, grinning as she produced a packet of chocolate biscuits for them to eat.
But Lisa wasn't ever coming home. The house would soon be cleared and offered to another tenant and all traces of Lisa would be gone. Apart from the baby she'd left behind. Ellie had been to see the baby that morning. She was tiny; a little doll in an oversized stretchy suit. It almost broke her heart to see the infant in the crib, happily sucking away on her thumb as she slept; obliviously unaware that she was an orphan.
Which was why Ellie had come back to the house - she felt certain there had to be something here that would give her a clue as to the whereabouts of the baby's father. Irrespective of what had gone wrong between them, Lisa would have wanted him to know about the baby now that she was gone. The thought of Lisa's baby ending up with foster parents, when she had a father somewhere, felt wrong. Ellie was determined to do all she could to help.
She began to hunt through drawers in the dresser, trying not to think too much about how only a day earlier, Lisa had sat in this very room, excited about the impending birth. It still felt unreal.
When she found nothing of interest downstairs, Ellie moved on to Lisa's bedroom. Now she felt really uncomfortable, like she was prying, but she kept reminding herself of the fact there was nobody else to look. Ellie was the closest thing Lisa had had to family.
There was a shoebox on the top shelf of the wardrobe. Standing on a chair, Ellie managed to reach it and she carefully lifted it down. Inside, there were several letters, cards, and photographs. As soon as she glanced at them, she realised she'd found what she had been looking for.
The first photograph showed a smiling Lisa with a tall, dark haired man. He had his arm draped around her shoulders as they stared into the lens of the camera. The picture appeared to have been taken a while ago because Lisa looked younger; her hair was much longer than it had been in the time Ellie knew her. The man appeared older than her friend, but they seemed happy in the picture.
The next picture showed the man smiling as he sat beneath a huge tree. There were a couple more of him at the same place, then a final one of the two of them, arms wrapped round each other.
Whoever he was, it seemed that it had been more than just a casual relationship, that much Ellie was certain. There were three valentine's cards carefully placed in the box, each one, cute and sentimental; no name inside, just a scrawled M and a few kisses.
There were also a few hand-written notes, love letters for want of a better word. Ellie glanced at the words; it felt like an invasion of privacy to read such personal stuff. Since there was no real information in them, she started to put them to one side. The last sheet of paper caught her eye. It was a print out of an email conversation. From the content, it looked like it was one of the final pieces of correspondence between Lisa and Michael.
He appeared to be justifying his reasons for not ending his marriage in order to be with Lisa. Ellie realised, then, why Lisa had not wanted to discuss it. She'd been having an affair with a married man. Judging by the date on the emails, they were sent nine months ago, which suggested Lisa had ended the relationship around the time she fell pregnant. Had she even told him about the baby? It seemed now that there was a possibility she hadn't.
The only positive side to these emails was that he had sent the messages from his work account. This gave Ellie a starting point to finding him. She now had his full name, Michael MacArthur, plus his company name. Assuming he hadn't changed his job, she should be able to contact him. Just what exactly she was going to say to the man was something she hadn't yet considered. Nevertheless, she felt she owed it to Lisa and her baby to try to find this Michael. If he truly didn't want to know for whatever reason, then at least she'd done her best. Thereafter, it would be up to Social Services.
Michael replaced the receiver on the phone and realised his hands were shaking. His whole life had just shifted on some invisible axis and nothing would ever be the same again.
"Would you like a cup of coffee, Michael? I'm just--" Jenny, his PA, stopped dead when she saw his demeanour and the rest of her sentence was left hanging.
He took a deep breath and tried to compose his thoughts. Judging from Jenny's continued look of concerned curiosity, his attempt to look normal wasn't working.
"No, I have to go out. Can you hold all my calls and cancel that meeting with Rod James? Tell him I'll reschedule for later in the week."
"Sure, no problem," Jenny said carefully. "Is everything okay?"
"No, not really," Michael said as he began to pack his briefcase hurriedly. He doubted it would ever be okay again.
Jenny waited for him to elaborate on this intriguing statement. When he said nothing more, she gave up. "When will you be back?"
"No idea," he said. "I'll call you later." He swept out of the office, oblivious to the discreet glances from the staff. The only thing on his mind was the news he had just been given.
Ellie sat in the coffee shop wondering what the hell she was going to say to this stranger whose life she had just upended with the most catastrophic news. She supposed that she should be pleased he had even listened to her. For the first few moments, she had expected him to hang up — but he had been willing to listen when she mentioned Lisa's name. For that she was grateful.
She recognised him as soon as he strode through the door. He, on the other hand, had no idea who she was, so she stood, feeling a little self-conscious, and waved at him.
Michael sat down and faced the petite dark haired woman who had just dropped the biggest bombshell of his life on him.
"You must be Ellie," he said, for lack of anything better to say.
"And you must be Michael," Ellie replied with a ghost of a smile flickering across her face. "I'm sorry to have to be the bearer of such news," she apologised, "but I felt you had a right to know."
Michael looked down at the table and studied the scratches in the worn pine surface. He sensed her sympathy, but he wasn't sure he deserved it.
"How did you find me?" He was still mystified about that.
"Lisa had kept some letters amongst other things. There was a print out of an email you'd sent her and I found your telephone number through the company details. Can I fetch you a coffee?"
"No, it's okay. I'll get it. Would you like another one?" Michael needed a moment to collect his thoughts. This was all too much.
Ellie shook her head. "No, thanks," she replied. "Too much caffeine is bad for me."
He stood and joined the queue for drinks. For some reason, this reminded him of the many times he'd met Lisa for coffee at lunchtime. When their affair first began, they had spent many hours talking over coffee. Short, stolen, blissful moments, all fitted in between meetings. The local coffee shop had been a refuge from all that was wrong with his life.
"Can I help you, sir?" the blonde girl behind the counter repeated with an expression of irritation on her pretty face.
Only then did he realise she had been impatiently waiting for his order. He hurriedly asked for an espresso. Once he had paid for the drink, he returned to Ellie and sat down again.
He sipped the scorching hot coffee. "How was she ... before she--" He broke off abruptly. The words just wouldn't come, no matter how much he tried to spit them out.
"Lisa was good," Ellie said softly. "She was happy and looking forward to the baby's coming." Tears welled up at the corners of her eyes. She fought to contain the tide of emotion that threatened to spill out from behind the carefully built wall of control. This wasn't about her; it was about the child.
"I didn't want things to end the way they did," Michael said slowly. He wasn't sure why he was justifying himself to this stranger, but he felt he had to explain. "She never told me about the baby."
Ellie reached out impulsively and covered Michael's hand. It felt cold despite the warm day. "That's in the past now," she said gently. "I'm not here to cast blame on anyone. I'm only trying to do the right thing for the baby."
"What's her name?" he asked hesitantly, grateful for Ellie's empathy. "The baby, I mean."
"She doesn't have one, but Lisa liked the name Hope. She said it was fitting for her baby." Ellie wondered if she'd had some kind of premonition.
"That's a nice name," he said. "Can I see her?"
"Yes. If you want you..."
He knew there was no way on earth he could NOT see her now. She was all he had left.
The shadows lengthened in the dark room as night fell. Still, Michael continued to sit, immobile in his worn leather armchair. A glass of scotch sat untouched on the table beside him. He was too lost in his memories.
Helen had rung earlier, ostensibly to chat about things, but he knew it was her way of checking up on him. Even from three thousand miles away, she still felt the need to control his life. As he listened to her familiar voice echoing down the phone line, it was on the tip of his tongue to tell her everything. But self-preservation prevented him. It could wait until she returned to finalise their divorce in a few months time. He had no desire to open Pandora's Box too soon.
Not that his life was any of her business anymore. Once he'd kicked her out, she had decided to travel and take some time to decide what she wanted from her life. In her own inimitable way, she had calmly stated that she no longer needed him and now she wanted her freedom.
He sometimes wondered why he had ever thought it was possible for things to change. How naïve he had been. Duty and a sense of misguided loyalty had prevented him from seeking happiness with the woman he loved - and for what exactly? Now he was the one left with nothing.
Well almost nothing, he silently corrected himself. He had Hope.
If only Lisa had told me, he thought miserably. Maybe then things would have been different. But she had said nothing. She had simply walked away from him that day. Of course, now he knew why. She must have known that if she had told him of her pregnancy, he would have felt utterly torn.
He could still picture her face during those final moments, as she shook her head with sorrow. How he wished he could turn the clock back. If he knew then what he knew now — would it have made any difference? They would never know. He had made a terrible decision and the die had been cast.
Tomorrow, he would go and see his daughter. Despite the desolation he felt by knowing Lisa was gone forever, a small flicker of hope burned deep within the barren wasteland of his heart. He had to be strong for Hope. She needed him.
The nursery was empty but for the crib in the corner. Michael walked across the room while Ellie stood near the door and watched. She still wasn't sure if this was going to work. What if he rejected the baby? Instinct told her he was a decent man, but who knew for sure.
The social worker had certainly seemed pleased at the news that Hope did, in fact, have a father. Assuming Michael was willing to accept his responsibility, she had said Hope could be taken home as soon as he was ready. She would continue to monitor the baby, but she wasn't going to stand in Michael's way since he was the natural father.
Ellie was rather relieved by this decision. She wasn't all that certain Social Services would be amenable to Michael's assuming parental responsibility. Fortunately for everybody, reason had prevailed for once.
Hope was asleep. For what seemed like ages, Michael stood watching her, his face turned away from Ellie's gaze. She tried to relax, but the tension and emotion of the moment was almost unbearable. Part of her couldn't help but wonder if Lisa was watching them all. Ellie hoped so. Yes, she really did.
There was a small sound from the Perspex crib, followed by a muffled cry. Michael turned round, his face worried. "What do I do?" he asked.
"You could try picking her up," replied Ellie with a smile. "She won't break!"
"But she's so tiny," marvelled Michael. "Like a little doll. I've never seen anything so delicate." He seemed in awe. Ellie wondered if he had any idea of how much work was involved in looking after a baby.
Ellie knew - she was the eldest of seven children. That was probably why she'd made a subconscious decision not to have kids of her own. Besides, she hadn't met any man she considered worthy enough to father her children. She was resigned to the fact that she probably never would.
Hope began to cry more vigorously. As Ellie considered intervening, Michael reached into the crib and gingerly picked her up. Immediately, she ceased her wailing.
"Hello, Hope," he murmured almost inaudibly.
Michael couldn't believe that this precious child in his arms came from him. It seemed impossible. She was far too perfect. Her wisps of blonde hair were like threads of gold and her cornflower blue eyes reminded him of Lisa. In fact, everything about her reminded him of Lisa — from the sweet rosebud of her mouth, to the way she looked at him unflinchingly as if she could see right into his soul. For a second, he swore Lisa was there, standing beside him, smiling at them both.
Then the moment passed and Hope yawned sleepily. "Does she want feeding?" he said.
"I reckon the wee girl is hungry, yes." A stout nurse appeared through the door with a bottle of formula in her hand. "Here you are," she smiled as she passed the warm bottle to Michael. He must have looked stricken because the nurse chuckled.
"I can see you're a novice at this!" she grinned. "Here, this is how you do it." She showed him how to feed Hope. He was surprised to find that Hope had drunk every last drop of her milk in no time and was falling asleep contentedly.
"Now, it's time to change that nappy," exclaimed the nurse gleefully and Ellie couldn't help but laugh at Michael's horrified expression. The relief she felt was overwhelming. After the nightmarish last few days, it seemed like something positive might actually emerge from this unholy mess. If only Lisa could witness this, she thought sadly. All she could hope for was that Lisa was watching, somehow, somewhere.
It was only when the telephone rang that Michael realised he'd nodded off again. He opened his bleary eyes and tried to focus on the small desktop clock. He had approximately ten minutes, before one of the directors was due to arrive for a monthly review meeting.
As he sat wondering how on earth he was going to pull this meeting off, Jenny strolled in with a large mug of black coffee. "Here you go," she said kindly. "I was just about to come and wake you up. Mr Clark is down in reception. I've managed to stall him, but apparently he is going to be up here very shortly."
"Thanks, Jenny," Michael said gratefully. He sometimes wondered what he would have done without his loyal PA. She had saved his bacon several times recently.
"Rough night again?" Jenny asked sympathetically, noting the dark circles beneath his eyes.
"You could say that!" Michael smiled ruefully. Hope had cried every night for the last fortnight. It seemed to be colic — or so he had decided after consulting umpteen childcare books. But whatever it was, the end result was little or no sleep for either of them. Despite these problems, he wouldn't have given up his little girl for all the sleep in the world.
Smiling fondly, he sipped the scalding coffee as Jenny quickly tidied his meeting table and scurried off to make some tea for their guest.
"You're looking ... tired," commented John Clark when he strode into the office.
"Oh you know how it is," replied Michael airily. The last thing he wanted was for John to think he wasn't up to the job anymore. With Helen demanding ever more money he needed every penny he could earn.
"I can vaguely remember," John agreed dryly. "It seems like a lifetime ago since my girls were babies. How are you coping?"
Despite the seemingly caring question, Michael knew very well that with any hint of falling apart the vultures would descend for the final kill. His second in command, Sam Brown, had been snapping at his heels for weeks now and Michael was loath to lose his job to him.
"I'm coping well, John, thanks for asking," he said breezily. "Now, about that report you wanted to discuss, I have two copies here and as soon as Jenny brings the tea in, we can get on with it."
John nodded. He seemed reassured by Michael's confident manner. "Excellent stuff - I'm looking forward to seeing what innovative proposals you have managed to come up with."
Inwardly Michael breathed a sigh of relief. He just hoped that the meeting wouldn't drag on too long — he needed to collect Hope from the childminder before six.
Ellie threw some tins in her trolley and listened to the wail of a small child somewhere in the vicinity. She smiled to herself; it was times like this that she knew not having children had been the right decision. As much as she loved her nieces and nephews, she was also rather glad to hand them back at the end of visits. Sitting in front of the television with a packet of biscuits and a glass of wine wasn't everyone's idea of an exciting evening, but it suited her just fine.
She still missed Lisa. She had new neighbours now, but apart from polite words here and there, she hadn't made any effort to make friends with them. They were a young couple. It had broken her heart when she first saw the removal van pull up outside the small terrace house. The sight of strangers carrying in boxes and pieces of worn furniture only reinforced the knowledge that Lisa was truly gone for good. She had cried herself to sleep that night.
Pushing the awkward trolley with its wonky wheel round the corner, Ellie grabbed a packet of cereal and decided to call it a night. She was tired and there would be something interesting on the television soon. The wailing she'd just heard suddenly increased in volume and she found another trolley in her path. A man was trying to comfort a small baby unsuccessfully.
"Would you mind moving?" she asked politely when she realised she wouldn't be able to pass until he moved.
"Oh, sorry," the man apologised.
It was Michael. He looked at her blankly for a second, before the realisation sank in. "Is it Ellie?" he asked. "Lisa's friend?"
She smiled warmly. "Yes. How are you?" She hadn't seen him since the funeral. The memory of that cold, miserable day made her shudder. They had stood amongst a straggle of strangers whilst Lisa's coffin was lowered into the dark earth. It was not a day she hoped she would ever have to repeat.
"I soldier on," he grinned. "It would help if somebody would shut up for five minutes." Hope continued to wail miserably as he rubbed her back.
Ellie glanced into his trolley. "Have you got much more to buy?" she asked.
"Well, I've finished, so if I chuck my stuff in the end of your trolley and push this, you can carry Hope to the checkout. It might make things easier."
Michael looked at her with relief. He knew Hope preferred being carried to lying in her seat. It wasn't as if she was hungry or ill— she just wanted the comfort of his arms.
"It's a deal," he replied gratefully.
By the time they had passed through the checkout, Hope had quietened down. She stared at Ellie through damp lashes and Ellie felt her heart melt a little. She really was an adorable baby; no doubt she'd break a few hearts when she was all grown up.
"Where's your car?" asked Michael when they left the brightly lit supermarket.
"In the garage — again!" Ellie scowled as she thought about her green Fiat. That car was the bane of her life these days. "I'll catch the bus home."
"No, no. We can drop you off if you like?"
"Are you sure? It might be miles out of your way." Ellie told him where she lived and hoped it was on his way home. Her feet were killing her and she didn't relish a long wait for a bus.
"I'd be happy to drop you off," Michael confirmed. "My car is just over there." He pointed to a black BMW and began to push the trolley towards it. Ellie thanked her lucky stars as she surveyed the long queue for a bus and gratefully jogged after him, her plaits bouncing jauntily.
"Thanks so much for the lift," Ellie said, as Michael pulled up outside her small, terraced house.
"No problem," he smiled. "It was nice to see you again." And he meant it. Ellie had obviously been a good friend to Lisa and he had regretted not taking her telephone number after the funeral. But then again it hadn't exactly been on his mind at the time. All he had wanted to do, then, was go home and grieve in solitude.
He had an idea. "Perhaps Hope and I could treat you to a coffee in the park one Sunday?"
Ellie looked surprised for a moment before her face broke out in a warm smile. "That would be lovely," she grinned.
"How about this Sunday? Is eleven o'clock alright for you?"
Ellie thought about it for a moment. Did she have anything urgent planned for Sunday morning? Housework didn't really count — so no. "Eleven o'clock is fine with me. Shall I meet you by the bandstand?"
"Okay, bandstand it is. Hope and I look forward to it." They both grinned at each other before Ellie jumped out of the car and retrieved her bag of shopping.
"Bye Hope," she said softly, as the baby cooed at her happily.
She shut the car door and Michael drove off down the street. He was feeling more cheerful than he had for a while. It would be good to spend some time with another adult on his weekends. As much as he adored Hope, sometimes he felt very isolated. It was only now that he appreciated how difficult it was being a single parent. Most of his friends had drifted away since he had assumed responsibility for Hope. He was well aware of what they were saying behind his back, but he didn't care.
The only thorn in his side was Helen. His estranged wife was currently trekking through Belize and was, therefore, out of contact. As far as he was concerned, that at least was a blessing. But it wouldn't be forever. He was certain that one of their 'friends' would have enlightened her about his 'situation' via email before he had the chance to talk to her. She was unlikely to be a happy woman once the truth came out. Oh no — he wasn't exactly looking forward to that particular conversation.