I don't own LWD…

Chapter One - Dinner, August 2020

The night he moved to Montreal, I lay on top of my bed, on top of the covers, fully dressed from dusk till dawn. I didn't close my eyes. I didn't cry. I couldn't cry.

There I was, thirty-one years old and struggling to think of reasons why I should get up in the morning. Of course, if you count my fabulous lecturing job in the department of English at McGill – yes, I'd been living in Montreal for the past ten years – or my wonderful supportive mother and sister, who always wrote me and gave me all the news, especially if it concerned me; and my lovely old apartment, just off glittering Saint Denis at dignified Sherbrooke, with a tree in the back yard and just the right amount of light in winter; or my book about new Canadian songwriters, which was about to be released. Well, I had plenty to be thankful for.

But there I was, as they say, quite beyond tears.

For, instead of coming to dinner at mine alone, as I thought he would after he rang to say he was moving in that evening and did I want to meet for dinner? blah, blah – oh, we'd met every so often over the past few years and there'd been sparks, albeit invisible ones – Derek went and brought a wife with him.

Yes. You read me right. A real flesh and blood wife, down to her tailored suit, silky blond curls and English accent. An Equine Arranger she said she was. Or something combining sports, management and horses; I was too dazed to take it in.

On the telephone I'd tuned him out, after the first few sentences, partly because my heart was racing at such a phenomenal pace that I almost dropped the handset; (you're thinking why would the mere voice of my stubborn stepbrother, with whom I traditionally fought and whom I had not seen for months do that to me, and of course, I'm going to tell you; but you'll have to wait).

So I got through the evening somehow, made casual chitchat about horses, her daddy's farm (somewhere in rural Oxfordshire, where I never ever want to go), her ex-boyfriend (go figure!) and the mushroom soufflé – thank goodness I'm a better hostess now than I was all those years ago when my father came to dinner at George's or else her pink woollen suit might not have escaped unscathed.

All through the wine, Derek was staring at me as if his gaze could melt bones. Just staring and staring in a way that I would have thought so utterly rude if I'd been his new bride. But then, she didn't seem to mind at all, or even to notice, as his dark eyes followed me, and as my hands shook whenever I poured the wine. Quite incredible! He'd gone and married someone with just the right thickness of skin.

But me – yes, always back to me again – I didn't dare look at him. There he sat, so languid and handsome on my couch, with his thick hair now threaded with an occasional grey streak, and his brown sweatered arm across the back, as if it were curled around an invisible ghost. If this was a game then he had gone and won it, hands down. No sangfroid on earth, no stiff upper lip, no lady-like grace was going to get me through more than one such dinner. And then, when the door closed behind them – after her horsy squeals of delight at the pudding I packed for them to take home to their new flat (because, face it, I wasn't about to have them in my home one infinitesimal moment longer than was absolutely necessary), and after his lips had brushed mine in eerie mimicry of our real selves – it was only then that I allowed myself to sink down onto the floor and cry. And I'd been feeling the tears all evening, scratching at the back of my throat, pinching the corners of my eyes, urging me to behave like a fool. So it was odd when they didn't come. When, instead, nothing came. No thoughts, no tears, no energy, no will: just an animal urge never to leave my hole again.

Painful things had happened to me before. Oh yes, and for sure I will be telling you about some of them. But the night Derek moved to Montreal, and came to see me with his fresh new wife in tow, that beat every one of them. And if you think this makes my character shallow – well then, I'm just going to have to explain myself, and my inability to get up off the bed until dawn exposed my cowardice and misery for all to view. Aren't I? Or perhaps you're one of those brusque types, who just doesn't want to know...

If you wish Casey (now Dr. McDonald) to tell you the rest of her story, send me a message... reviewers, readers. And for the record, I missed you.