My thanks go to LadyCibelle and my friend SH for proofreading and editing this tale of woe.
Of course I was expecting the doorbell to ring, after all I knew she was coming and I'd even heard the car pull into the drive, but it made me jump anyway. I suppose I must have been day dreaming again; whether I like to admit it or not, old wistful memories of the good times kind-a creep up on me unexpectedly, and sometimes, nostalgia for what once was, can be a real pain in the arse as well.
I really had wanted to play it cool, as if her visit was nothing special. Because to me, it wasn't, but after all the years we'd spent together ... shit, there were some feelings there in my heart for her, whether I liked it or not. I'd always known that Miranda's visit was going to stir both anger at her, and the residual affection that still (even after all she'd done) lingered buried deep in my heart.
Also I had no idea how the children were going to react to her sudden re-appearance. Since Eda and her children had arrived on the scene, my children appeared to have sort-of transferred their affection to her, even more so, once Eda and I had tied the knot. It was to Eda they went to with all of their minor ailments, little disagreements and all the other things that children normally require their mother to sort out for them. I had to wonder how Miranda was going to take to that knowledge.
I took my time getting to and opening the door, maybe because I wanted Miranda to wait, as she'd made her children wait to see her, or possibly because I felt some trepidation concerning her visit.
As I did open the door I was asking myself. "After all this time, what kind of fall-out is your showing up here going to have for our new happy family, Miranda?"
I must admit that I was surprised to see Karen's face smiling back at me, as she stood behind, a rather annoyed and impatient looking Miranda.
"About time too; you took long enough didn't you? Jesus you knew we were coming and "we" are right on time." Miranda blustered, stomping past me into the house without a by your leave."
Miranda had laid emphasis on the "we", but I had had no idea that Karen was coming along as well. But a glance at the car they'd arrived in, told me exactly why her stepsister was there. It was Karen's old banger, the one I'd helped her buy several years before. I suppose that I deduced from that, that Miranda could no longer afford to run a car of her own.
Miranda having charged past me into the house, Karen stepped up to me, and placing her arms around me and gave me a big hug at the same time that she kissed me gently on the cheek.
"Hi handsome. I'm afraid that our favourite silly bitch, is a little emotional today!" Karen whispered in my ear.
"Hi Karen, god it's so nice to see my favourite sister-in-law again. I miss you and Benjie you know; so do the kids. Where is he, in the car?"
"No Harry, he's with his father this weekend. I'm sure he'd have loved to have come and seen his favourite uncle and cousins, but I'm not sure he'd have enjoyed the journey very much. Someone has spent most of it trying to justify her actions. Why she keeps going on about it so much, I don't know, but she really does drive me up the wall sometimes. I think she's trying to convince herself that she didn't make the biggest mistake in her life." Karen said quietly.
"Where are my children?" Miranda's voice demanded from behind me.
I'd forgotten my manners, probably because I was so happy to see Karen; we were still standing on the doorstep talking. I assume that Miranda must have made a quick search of the ground floor in that short time, probably expecting to find the children sitting there waiting to welcome her with baited breath. She was in for a surprise on that one; the children had hardly reacted when I told them she was coming that day.
Honestly, I had no idea how the day was going to go, but I feared things were not going to go quite as Miranda expected. I just hoped and prayed that there weren't going to be any fireworks. After giving Karen a look that I hope portrayed the frustration I felt with Miranda, I turned to face my ex-wife.
"Miranda this is what ... the third, no sorry, the fourth time you've bothered to come and see your children, in over three years." I replied, I suppose a little more sharply than I should have done under the circumstances; considering that I wanted to keep things as ... er ... as amicable as they could be. "it's a sunny day out there, and the children wanted to go play in the pool. I have no intention of keeping them locked up in the house waiting, just in case you might deign to actually show up this time. I can't count the times you've cancelled at the last minute."
"Well if you hadn't moved away from town to this godforsaken place in the back of beyond, it wouldn't be so damned inconvenient to get here!" Miranda retorted.
"Don't try to give me that bullshit, Miranda; we've been through all this before. It only takes two hours on the train, and you know that Eda or I would pick you up from the station whenever you want, you know that damned well!" Miranda's face had screwed up a little when I'd mentioned Eda, but she made no comment. "Now, all the kids are around in the walled garden, with their ... with Moeder, in the swimming pool. I'll show you the way."
Shit, I nearly put my foot right in it, I had been trusting to luck, that Miranda would have no knowledge of Dutch. Since Eda had come over to live with me — and eventually marry me — our children had kind of developed a language of their own. By that time my children spoke Dutch, and pretty well according to Eda. On the other hand Eda's two children had absorbed English amazingly quickly; all four children had rapidly become bi-lingual.
However, in the house together - and with Eda and I - they spoke a confusing mixture of the Dutch and English, that could be pretty difficult for the uninitiated to understand. I'm pretty sure they purposely used it to confuse their teachers at school as well. But one thing that neither Eda or I had ever been able to find a way around, was that my children - very soon after she moved in - had taken to addressing Eda as Moeder, just as her own children did. I was vaguely hoping that Miranda didn't pick up on the fact.
Yeah, I know, it's pretty obvious to you and me, but I really hoped that Miranda wasn't going to work out what it meant. I figured that if I also called Eda, Moeder in Miranda's presence, then she might think it was some sort of nickname. There was a vague possibility that she wouldn't, and to be honest, Miranda isn't really that bright a light, or she'd never have got herself hooked up with Sven, would she?
"Nice house you've got yourself here, Harry!" Karen commented looking around, as I led them through my once dilapidated Victorian mansion. "Jesus it's massive!" she added as we passed into yet another room.
Miranda, although she took a very critical look around the house as we went, remained silent on the subject.
"Almost derelict when I bought it, but the price was right and that was all that was important at the time. Moeder and I have had a lot of work done on it since."
"I can see you have. God Harry, what I would give to live in a house like this." Karen went on.
I stopped walking and turned to look at Karen over my sunglasses for a moment.
"Yeah, don't say it, Harry; I know I had my chance!" Karen said with a wistful smile on her face.
Miranda - who also stopped when she heard Karen's words - gave her sister — and me - a very black look indeed. I just grinned back at Miranda, wondering how much she did know about what went on between Karen and I after she walked out on us. The "us" I'm referring to here, being our children — Miranda and mine - and myself, by the way.
I should add, that nothing untoward ever happened between Karen and myself. Well, whilst Miranda and I were married, anyway. After the divorce Karen and I were technically free to get all, "up close and personal" with whomever we wished.
Not that I suppose you would ever convince Miranda of that fact. It served Miranda's purposes far better to paint me as a heartless, unscrupulous womaniser.
I should add, that I had been quite a close friend of my ex-wife's stepsister at one time, well before I'd ever met Miranda in the first place, or even knew she existed. You could say that Karen and I had always got on well - very well — together, but that special spark had always been missing. I think it was a real shock to both of us sometime later, when my then new fiancé -Miranda - introduced me to her family.
Oddly — considering what she has told me since of her own opinion of Miranda's character — Karen has always been very supportive of her stepsister. Later, that possibly had something to do with the fact that they are now both orphaned, consequently they only have each other left. But from my perspective it's always been a very one-sided arrangement, even before their parents passed away.
Even if there is a part of my heart that will always love Miranda, I have to admit that my ex-wife is a selfish cow, and can be a complete bitch. Well I should imagine anyone should be able to work that one out, what mother other than a selfish bitch walks out on her husband for another man and leaves her children behind without a second thought.
Just to ensure that no one misconstrues Karen and my relationship I think at this time I should explain exactly what it was.
When Miranda dropped her bomb on me that she wanted a divorce and that she was leaving me to go live with her super stud boyfriend Sven; and I'll add, that she was abandoning the children as well. I'd been taken completely by surprise and was pretty much devastated! The children had been totally bewildered, they had no idea what the hell was happening. I'd had no clue that Miranda had been running about with Sven behind my back, and I'm sure too that the children had been far too young to have known what was going on anyway or understand the implications.
Anyway Karen - who'd been deserted by the father of her child, well before little Benjamin had even been born — had dashed right over to the house when she heard the news. She had consoled me, and the children. I'm not sure how we would have survived those next few weeks, had not Karen been there for us.
I'll add that the relationship that did developed — or redevelop — between Karen and I, stayed strictly platonic for many months, until shortly after the divorce became Absolute (final). By unlucky co-incidence, it was at that time, that Karen's mother, and Miranda's father, were killed in a road accident.
Karen and I then had reason to consol each other. Miranda was off with her new man Sven, and besides showing an acute interest in how much their parents had been worth, and what her share of their estate was likely to be. I'd say the loss of her parents hardly affected Miranda at all. I think I've explained that Miranda can be an unbelievably callous and selfish bitch sometimes.
Some folks might say that we — Karen and I - let things get a little out of hand. But what both Karen and I needed at that time, was someone to hold close; so we held the one person we knew we could rely on at the time, as close as we could. It's with more than a little regret that I have to say that, although Karen and I enjoyed each other's company, and that we had very similar ... er, tastes in bed; we both had to admit that that vital little spark just wasn't there. A permanent relationship that just relied on friendship and sex, but didn't have that extra little bit of chemistry ... Well, neither Karen nor I thought it would stand the test of time.
Although I wouldn't want anyone to think Karen and I didn't agonise over the decision for a very long time. The fact that both of us had recently had relationships that had abruptly and unexpectedly failed has to be taken into consideration. Maybe we could have made a go of it, but we also had to take into consideration the problem of Karen's relationship with her one and only surviving relative, her stepsister Miranda. That, we figured, kind-a put the kybosh on any chance we did have...
After several months, Karen and I parted (romantically) as friends. And for safety's sake we kind-of steered clear of each other for a while, although we did talk all the time on the telephone and still do.
Actually it had been Miranda - and Sven's - obscene haste to get their hands on ready cash from their parents' estate, that had tipped Karen off that something wasn't quite as kosher as it could be about Sven. I'd always thought he was a ... bleeding crook. Well, what would you expect, the arsehole had stolen my wife? Anyway Karen had been well aware that Miranda should have had at least a couple of hundred thousand in the bank from our divorce settlement. The tale they spun her about needing the money for a flat in town, didn't really hold water to Karen's way of thinking. Besides Karen — who has always worked in the estate agent business - was well aware that flats in the block they were talking about, were rented on short leases anyway never sold on long leases.
That's when Karen had come to me and persuaded me to let the dogs loose on Super Stud Sven. It hadn't taken very long for the private detectives I hired to report back that Sven was some kind of gigolo. They'd pretty soon tracked him back to numerous women in different parts of Europe, who allegedly he'd relieved of various quantities of cash. And they also reported that Interpol and several European police forces would be interested in having a word or two with good old Sven. That's of course on the proviso that we could prove that it was the same Sven; the man appeared to use a plethora of different surnames, and identities.
I can't imagine why now, but I really wanted to know a lot more about the guy, and not from reading cryptic reports either. Maybe I wanted to get some idea of how the bugger chose his victims and how he set about seducing them. I've got to admit that I had wondered how hard the bugger had had to work — or maybe how hard he was prepared to work - to get into Miranda's knickers in the first place. The old ego takes one hell of a hit when the woman you thought loved you decides to ditch you for someone else. I think I wanted some assurance that good old Sven had had to work pretty hard to achieve his goal.
My PI's supplied me with the details - names and addresses etc. - of quite a few of his previous alleged victims. After scrutinising the list I picked out the ones who had been married when Sven came on the scene; discarding the widows and divorcees. Mind you, by the time Sven was done with them, those who weren't widowed to begin with, were all divorced anyway, but you understand what I mean.
By the time I got to Lyon (France), to pay a call on the third of his victims, I had come to the conclusion that Sven had good taste in women at least. Or at least he had the same taste when it comes to the female figure as I had. As far as I was concerned, all of his victims were very beautiful. Not surprising really, although I couldn't see it personally every female who I knew - and some of the men as well - had commented that Sven was an exceedingly handsome bastard. Not that that ever did my personal ego any favours.
Anyway, from talking to his victims, I got the impression that Sven could talk just about any female into his bed. A couple swore blind that they had been totally in love with their husbands when Sven came on the scene, and that they had been devastated when they realised how easily he had seduced and swindled them after he left again; more than one, implying that Sven must have hypnotised them or something.
Personally, I had to wonder whether it was the cold light of day, and the fact that Sven had disappeared — taking all of their ready cash with him - that suddenly prompted the wemans protestations of undying love for their onetime spouses.
My final call had been in Holland where I paid an unexpected call on Eda. If I thought that the rest of Sven's victims were good looking ... well, when I first met her I had to admit to myself that I realised that Eda was a different class of person completely. As I have said, all Sven's victims were beautiful, but they were all the type of woman that ... well they dressed to the nines, if you understand me. Like Miranda, they'd never show their face to the world if they hadn't spent several hours ensuring that not a hair was out of place first, and that they were wearing the latest fashions; even if Sven had emptied their bank accounts.
Eda, well if you can understand me, she just didn't need all that. Christ I'm sure the woman would turn most guys' heads even if she was dressed in rags. Eda to my way of looking at things, was the girl next door that most guys have lusted after at one time in their lives or another. She dressed much like a plain Jane, but just because she was wearing them she made those dowdy cloths look like they came off a designer rail at the most expensive boutique in town.
Another thing I learnt very quickly was that Sven wasn't the actual cause of Eda's divorce. The timing was close, but Eda's husband had walked out on her for a younger woman; bleeding idiot. Eda describes her, - my rough translation from Eda's then schoolgirl English — as a Russian Dolly Bird Hooker, whose main interest in life appeared to be catching some idiot who had money and marrying him, so she could legally stay in the EU. Eda inferred that she thought the tart would only stick around with her ex, long enough to catch some American mug. Eda suggested that residency in the US appeared to be the Russian woman's ultimate goal.
Eda's ex-husband had reluctantly handed over half of their joint worth during the divorce and had then left for the US with his new Russian bride. Eda had neither seen nor heard from him since.
Much like I, Eda had taken her spouse's sudden — and unexpected - desertion of her and their children very hard, and it was about then, - whether by coincidence or design - just as her divorce was in its final stages, that Sven had chosen to appear on the scene. He found Eda in a vulnerable state of mind just perfect for his purposes. It hadn't taken him long to gain Eda's trust, then clean out her bank accounts, before disappearing again.
Eda had been forced to sell her house and move in with her brother and his family. Regrettably, Eda had married very young, and she'd never had what one would term a career. Since she'd been married she'd been a housewife and mother, consequently she'd only been able to find menial low paid jobs to support her family.
I've got to admit that I was taken with Eda from the moment we met. And what's more we did have a lot in common, having both been dumped by what we had thought were loving spouses. Even our children were the same ages. And when I'd happened to mention that I was going to need a housekeeper, Eda had laughingly replied that she might apply for the job, because it was all she really knew how to do.
Exactly when the joke became a serious offer, I'm not quite sure. I'd interviewed several battleaxes and more than a few scatterbrained young girls, before I called Eda on the telephone and asked her whether she had been joking about becoming my housekeeper. When Eda went very quiet and didn't reply straight away, I sort of panicked, blurted out that it was a silly idea, then apologised for disturbing her and hung up.
Was I surprised a few days later when my doorbell rang and I opened it to find two people in uniform standing there. They were to turn out to be Eda's air stewardess sister-in-law and her English pilot boyfriend. To put it bluntly - and cut a long story short - they had been dispatched to enquire exactly what my interpretation of "housekeeper" was, i.e. the poor pilot guy had to enquire whether I was under the impression that Eda's duties as a housekeeper would extend beyond the bedroom door. Come on, you know full well what the poor bugger was trying to discover; a touchy subject that it was embarrassing for us to have to discuss.
Anyway, the net result of that unexpected visit was that Eda and her children arrived themselves a week later for a month's stay; to see if there was any possibility that it could work. Much to both Eda's and my amazement everything went swimmingly. They did go back to Holland at the end of the month, but only to bring the rest of their gear over to the UK.
I suppose there was one sticky moment when Eda's children first met mine. Our two seven - almost eight - year old daughters, possibly because Eda's daughter had a rudimentary knowledge of English she'd learnt in school - disappeared into the garden together almost the moment they were introduced. The two six-year-old boys, just stood and stared at each other for what seemed like ages. It was apparent to me that they were sizing each other up, and I'll admit I was wondering whether they were actually going to have a fight or something.
But then Eda's son suddenly pointed to my son's football that was still lying in the middle of the lawn where he'd been kicking it about earlier with his sister. Just like that, the two boys were gone and shortly yet another window was required in the old green house. Somewhat surprisingly, both boys insisting that they alone were responsible for the breakage.
Why did the children hit it off so quickly? Well you have to take into account that they had a lot in common. They'd had one parent literally abandon them, and my children and I had only recently moved away from the city. At that time they were yet to make many friends among the local children, so they were probably feeling just as lost in a strange place as Eda's children were. Whatever, they all became firm friends in a matter of hours, even if conversation between them was a little stilted to start with. It was during those first few days that their English-Dutch double talk began to materialise. They managed to confuse the hell out of me for weeks. I won't try to claim that a little gender rivalry didn't raise its head now and again either, once they had someone of their on sex to gang up with against brother or sister; but nothing serious or beyond what was to be expected.
My idea of giving each of the children their own bedroom went right out of the window; that first night the two girls shared my daughter's room and the boy's my son's. That's the way things remain today. I figure that sometime when they are older, they will want separate rooms, but we'll leave that decision up to them. There's no shortage of bedrooms in our old house.
There were several things that I hadn't taken into consideration when I invited Eda and her children to come live with us. My Beemer although there was plenty of room, wasn't really satisfactory for carrying six around in. Here Alana Carter - my boss's wife — and most likely with his encouragement and connivance - was not only one-step ahead of me, but came to our rescue.
A few days after Eda first arrived, Alana turned up at the house in her people carrier with her children, and not very subtly let it be known that her new car was being delivered the next day. The next thing I know — and leaving me to look after all of the children — Alana has taken Eda out in the people carrier to familiarise her with driving a right hand drive car, on what to Eda, was the wrong side of the road.
I do believe Alana spent a lot of time with Eda in the next few weeks, to make sure she didn't feel lonely or abandoned during the day when I was at work and the children were at school. We'd quickly arranged for Eda's two, to have a sort of try-out time at my children's school. Obviously, there were language problems to start with, but apparently nothing that either the schoolteachers or the children found insurmountable.
I've got to admit that Eda and I tiptoed around each other for a good couple of months. I'm not sure if Eda knew what the children found so funny when we were all together, but I had no idea. I thought they were giggling and laughing at my attempts to understand Dutch; I found it much harder to get my head around the language than the children did. In truth, the children had picked up on the atmosphere or unintentional vibes that had been passing between Eda and I. Honestly, I realised that I was attracted to Eda, but I had no idea whether those romantic feelings were reciprocated.
"Well, aren't you going to kiss Moeder, daddy?" My daughter asked, when Eda gave me my present on my birthday.
I stole a quick glance at Eda to see how she'd reacted to Denise's question. And well ... I might be a little slow, but the slightly embarrassed smile on Eda's face told me that was what she was waiting for. Both our daughters clapped when I did kiss Eda. The two six-year-old boys pulled "Yuck!" faces; but then laughed when I asked them what was wrong?
I won't claim that things went very quickly after that, because they didn't. Eda did take to seeing me off to work in the mornings with a kiss on the cheek and welcoming me home likewise. But both of our daughters had been doing the same for a few weeks by then. To be honest I was doing my best to take things as slowly as possible. One has to take the old rebound mentality into consideration, even if you are convinced that you have fallen in love.
Denise and Mena kind-a moved us on to the next step one Saturday when we were all out shopping together as well. Eda and I sort-a lost the two girls in the High Street and when we found them they were staring into a jewellers shop window; at engagement rings! Talk about getting railroaded into something, I left that shop rather less well off than when I arrived. I hadn't actually asked Eda to marry me and she hadn't actually said she would either, but she was wearing a small cluster of diamonds on her finger, only not on her Left hand. Eda held out her right hand for me to put the ring onto. It was all sort of ... well, confusing for me really. The two girls seemed to have it figured that it was a done deal.
I suppose it could have been the fact that I was still on Sven's case at the time, and therefore the subject of Miranda was in the foreground all the time. That stopped Eda and I getting on with things. Once the sting had taken place, Sven was in police custody and I'd dropped the bomb on Miranda that day that she'd been well and truly had; so to all intent and purposes she was out of my life.
Well, lets just say that things between Eda and I took off in a big way. The night I returned from Karen's place was the first night that Eda and I shared a bed together. The only problem is that I can't even claim that I seduced Eda that evening; I think, no I know that I drank a little more than was good for me when I got home that evening.
The next thing that I was really aware of was that someone had kissed me on the forehead, I struggled awake just in time to catch sight of a very naked Eda sneaking out of my bedroom before the children woke-up the next morning.
But what had lead up to us getting into bed together. Other than some vaguely remembered cuddling on the sofa in the lounge - that might possibly be termed light petting -, after the children had retired, was all I could recall — well I'm sorry to say, that that is all lost to me. You know, I can't even be sure whether we had sex or not that night. I had to gather my nerve and actually ask Eda whether I'd been mistaken - or dreamed - that she'd sneaked naked out of my bedroom in the early hours, whilst she was preparing breakfast.
"I believe that seeing Miranda yesterday, upset you Harry. You needed someone to hold you close last night." Eda replied, nonchalantly.
"How close Eda?" I enquired, trying to discover what, if anything, I'd missed out on. Without being too ... well come on how do you ask a woman if you laid her or not. Not to recall the event might well be taken as an insult.
What I can only describe as a wicked grin came on Eda's face. "Ah, what you mean to ask me, Harry, is have you got to marry me now?"
"Eda, I'd marry you at the drop of a hat, you know that." I replied.
"Drop of what hat?" Eda repeated with a puzzled expression on her face.
"It's just an English saying. What I mean is say Eda, is that I'd marry you tomorrow ... no, today if you'd only get around to saying yes."
Eda grinned. Then looked confused again before saying. "Do we really need to ... you know, make it formal, Harry?"
"Look kiddo, I don't know about you? But I don't really fancy the idea of you dashing out of the bedroom before the kids wake up every morning. Besides seeing you naked like that this morning kind-a turned me on again. Eventually they'd find us rolling around on the landing floor together one morning."
Eda grinned yet again and then the confused expression returned to her face again. "I'm sorry Harry, I don't understand, I've been waiting for you to set the date."