Chapter 195

I was lying in bed, but sleep wouldn't come. I was still wondering what I had done to please Louisa. Nothing I did had been out of the ordinary.

I was lying awake for over an hour already when I finally heard Louisa coming upstairs. She silently used the en-suite and slid into our bed without turning the lights on.

I was about to comment on her working late, but that would have meant revealing that I was still awake. I wouldn't risk that, as I was in no mood to talk.

Louisa was turning this way and that way before she finally settled down, her arm slung over my chest.

I tried to breathe steadily not to reveal that I was not sleeping.

We had been lying like this for quite some time, when I heard Louisa whisper.

"You're awake."

It was no question, Louisa simply stated the fact.

"Hm."

"Anything wrong?"

"I'm fine."

"It's just…"

Louisa paused. I hated this habit of her of starting a sentence and then leaving me in the limbo whether she was planning to continue or not.

"Just what?" I finally asked.

"You're acting odd."

"I am odd." That seemed to be the general opinion.

"You're not odd. More like…unique."

"There's a difference?"

"Yep." Louisa gave my chest a playful slap. "Still, it doesn't explain why you were acting odd today."

"Hm."

"Anything I need to know?"

I was pondering. Was it anything she needed to know? Well, maybe.

"I...could hear your phone call when I was in my office." I confessed tentatively.

"Oh." Louisa went quiet. "I'm sorry. I hope I didn't disturb you. So the windows aren't as soundproof as you hoped they'd be?"

I didn't quite get why she was detracting from the content of the call by talking about the technical details.

"I had opened the window as it was quite stifling in there."

"I'm sorry. So the new office doesn't really work in hot weather? That's bothering you?"

"No." I might have sounded a bit enervated, as I could feel Louisa shift. Next thing the light was being switched on.

"No need to bite my head off. I couldn't know. Next time you need to tell me and I won't disturb you, but how was I supposed to know, hm, Martin?"

"You didn't disturb me." I tried to keep my temper, but my voice sounded a little bit strained.

"Good."

We both fell silent again. A couple of minutes later Louisa switched the lights off again, for which I was grateful. She settled back onto the pillows.

"Thank you." I said into the dark silence.

There was a long pause, and I already thought Louisa hadn't heard me as she might have fallen asleep.

"What for?"

"I…heard. The call."

Pause.

"I had a couple of calls today."

"This morning? Poppy?" I clarified.

"Haven't heard from Poppy in ages." Louisa fell silent again. After a while she asked. "Pippa?"

"Yes." I confirmed.

"She offered to help. Bless her."

"Hm."

"There's more to it?"

"Uhm…"

Louisa nudged my shoulder in the darkness. "Come on, tell me."

"You had to defend me…again."

"Actually, no, not really." Louisa paused again for a moment. "Come to think of it, I very rarely need to nowadays. You know, I think it was partly my fault. I mean, I hated it that I felt I had to apologise for you all the time..."

I grunted.

"…but actually, I didn't have to. As soon as I decided that I wouldn't apologise for you, whatever you did, people stopped complaining. As soon as I made it clear that I do not share their negative views, people stopped running you down in front of me. In a way, I had encouraged them. They know now that I'll stand by you, and now it's no fun anymore, I suppose."

"Sounded different to me." I grumbled.

"Well, I suppose she thought I needed rescuing from my reclusion now that I am home-bound. Besides, she thought with you having to work full time, you wouldn't be able to support me properly."

"I'll manage."

"That's what I told Pippa, but most men wouldn't. You'd be surprised how little some men are doing around the house."

"Least I can do."

"It's highly appreciated nonetheless."

"It's a small price to pay for you having to justify yourself all the time. Must be a nuisance."

I could feel Louisa adjust herself on her side of the bed, and I was afraid that I might have enraged her.

Suddenly the light was switched on. Louisa adjusted herself to look down at me. I tried to shield my eyes, as the unexpected flood of light had stung.

"Sorry, Martin. I just want to make it clear that I don't mind standing by you. That is just the thing that a wife should do. Besides, it is quite easy not to get you. Quite easy. However, the deeper you dig, the better it gets."

I squirmed.

"That's the risk of bringing up a subject like this. Don't mention it to me, if you don't want to hear anything good about yourself. Actually, I've never met anyone so uncomfortable with praise as you are. One of your endearing qualities. Still, I would really appreciate it if you would get over this issue with us, once and for all. I confess, I did have a problem with the way you are to start with. I wished, back then – stupidly – you'd be more…well…conventional, I suppose. However, if I really wanted that, why would I have chosen you? So there was a substantial flaw in my thinking. Martin, I give you that you're not really every girl's dream."

I cringed again.

"No, Martin, you certainly aren't. You're not any girl's dream. You're grown up stuff, and very real. So I had some growing up to do to realise that you cannot be anybody's dream, but you can be the right man for this woman." Louisa was pointing towards her. "And that's good enough for me." Louisa turned around as quickly as her advanced pregnancy permitted and switched the light off.

To be continued...