Basement. She and Estelle had maintained a huffy superior silence on the subject, but she wasnât sure who they were fooling. Stan and Terryâs place was full of customers, theirs empty. So what price superiority when you had a living to make?
Suzi arranged the seedlings on the slatted shelf of the greenhouse. In the event, sheâd barely had the time to think of Michael, let alone miss him. She paused, seed tray in hand. And realised that she liked it that way. But wasnât that terrible? How was it that years of living alone had made her so independent, so selfish of her own time, her own space? Was she irredeemable? Was she a hopeless case? Was she destined to be a gardening spinster, her animals and her plants substitutes for a man, children; items of life that were supposed to be more desirable?
âSuze!â The voice was faint.
Suzi replaced the last tray, straightened up and watched Liam as he picked his way across the soggy lawn of her riverbank garden. At his feet were Samson and Delilah, the two rescue dogs that had hated each other on sight when Suzi had acquired them and who were now inseparable.
As Suzi watched, Liam bent to pet Samson, big, black and ugly but solid and dependable as a rock. Delilah, in contrast, was a tiny cream Jack Russell lookalike â though something indefinable had been added and the temper was missing. Delilah hadnât snapped at an ankle since Suzi had taken her in. But she was still running scared â you could read it in her brown eyes and couldnât help but wonder about her past. Suzi watched her now, trotting along in Samsonâs shadow. Samson was a whole lot of dog to hide behind.
âI thought Iâd find you out here,â Liam yelled through the greenhouse door. He must have come along the riverside path, she realised. He had a canvas bag slung across one shoulder, and in his free hand he held a bottle of wine, carried loosely by the neck. Two sure signs, Suzi knew, that he planned to stay awhile. She felt Bryan Ferry and her bath drifting sadly away from her.
She slid open the door. âSheâs moved out then?â As predicted, the sea breeze almost blew her breath away. A gaggle of gulls flapped overhead, screeching and cawing to the wind.
âI know itâs pathetic.â Liam was not a big man but he leaned so heavily against the side of the greenhouse that Suzi couldnât help feeling twitchy about the glass. âI should go out and get drunk, or stay in alone, write a few poems and have a good bawl, I suppose.â
âNot necessarily.â Suzi braced herself for another mini-tornado â ah, she thought, the pleasures of living by the sea â stepped out of the greenhouse and pulled the door to, leaving a cat-sized gap for Treacle, should he eventually summon enough energy to move.
âBut the flat seems so bloody emptyâ¦â
âThatâll be the day.â Suzi pictured the organised chaos that characterised Liamâs living space.
âI donât want to be alone,â Liam said sulkily. He had flung his bag down on the grass and it was proving to be of interest, not just to the two dogs, but also to Hester the goat, who had strained her leash just as far as it would go and had already managed a decent masticate on the strap. âI need to talk to someone,â Liam went on. âTo you, Suze.â
Despite herself, Suzi remembered Estelleâs words. Itâs always his needs, she had said. âPerhaps you should be talking to Estelle,â she countered, kicking the bag out of Hesterâs reach.
Seemingly unaware of the wet strap, Liam picked it up and followed her as she made her way back inside the cottage. Hopeful of food, Samson and Delilah trotted alongside and by the back door they were joined by Castor the white cat, who jumped elegantly down from the fence to beat them all to it.
âShe doesnât want to talk to me,â Liam grumbled. âNot