I closed the door, listening as he walked away. A few moments ago I had been in Josh’s arms, being kissed by a man who was not my husband. The kiss was assured and I’d felt a flicker of warmth in the pit of my stomach as I pulled back steadying my breathing. Was this how things had started for Russell?
Had I enjoyed my first illicit kiss? It was something I’d wanted to happen, something I knew would happen since I first met Josh two days before. Being with him, talking with him had brought a splash of colour to my day-to-day existence.
I hadn’t really wanted to go to the conference. My world had been permanently grey for weeks. Normally, working with the children I felt inspired, but now each day sapped my energy, my creativity. The last thing I wanted to be involved in was a special needs teachers’ conference, with workshops and everything else that it entailed.
‘Oh you must come, Carrie,’ my colleague Rachel from a neighbouring school had said on the phone a few weeks before. ‘We always have a laugh when we get together.’
And we always did, but the day before we were due to leave Rachel was struck down with flu. I thought of withdrawing myself then decided a few days away from Russell might be what I needed.
I’d not been, as they say, looking for anyone, but I’d met Josh during one of the first workshops when we’d been paired up. I couldn’t help but notice how attractive he was. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he was a George Clooney look alike, but he was certainly out of that mould, though with slightly less hair. I was glad that in spite of being married eight years I hadn’t lost the art of flirting.
‘Nice to meet you, Carrie’. His voice was warm, clear, cultured. I looked up into dark brown eyes that smiled into mine. ‘He glanced at the task we’d been given. ‘I may not come up with the correct answer, I’m a behaviourist not a teacher, but let’s have a go.’
The weekend had flown by and tonight was the last night before we all went our separate ways. I was glad now that at the last minute I’d thrown my Karen Millen dress in the case before I left home. I’d snapped it up in the summer sale planning to wow Russell when we went for our customary anniversary dinner, a dinner that never took place after I found the hotel receipt in the jacket he’d asked me to take to the cleaners. He didn’t attempt to deny anything when I’d confronted him. He said that it didn’t mean anything, that he’d had a moment of weakness, that our marriage was worth saving. I hoped it was. It wasn’t perfect – what is – but should I throw eight years away? But Russell travelled quite a lot in his job, how could I be sure this was an isolated incident.
I checked myself once more in the full length mirror and walked out. Josh was waiting at the top of the stairs. He was well-dressed, self-assured but with no trace of arrogance. He smiled as I approached and I felt my heart thudding. Was he to be my moment of weakness. ‘ ‘You look lovely,’ he said as we walked down the stairs. Beautiful in blue. There’s a free table over there Do you want to grab it while I get us
something from the bar?’
I Iooked around the room glad the table was in a more secluded section, I wanted Josh to myself in the few hours that remained before I returned to the real world. I watched him wend his way through the crowded room, drinks in hand, smiling at me.
‘It’s fairly quite at the moment, but once the band starts up it’ll be more difficult to talk,’ he said leaning towards me. ‘I’ve just realised we’ve talked about many things but …’
‘I’m married,’ I suddenly heard myself saying. I’d removed my wedding ring when I’d arrived but I wanted to be honest with Josh.
He took one of my hands, gazing into my eyes. ‘Happily married?’
‘We have our problems.’
‘I’m long divorced,’ he said ‘no children, just Ben, one boisterous Border Collie cross.’
The band was playing now but we were far enough away for it not to interfere with conversation. The evening whisked by. We talked and were easy with each other, exchanging details of our lives. The more we talked the more I liked him. I could imagine breaking my wedding vows with Josh, not to get even with Russell, in a way he no longer mattered and I realised I’d never really forgiven him.
‘It’s the last dance; would you like to?’ Josh asked taking my hand.
The lights had lowered as Make You Feel My Love wafted round the half empty room. I fitted the curve of his arm perfectly and enjoyed the proximity, the warmth, the subtle smell of his cologne. It was almost like being in my twenties again, carried along by the music, wondering what might happen afterwards.
‘I’ll walk you to your room,’ he said as the music faded away.
As we walked along I was almost holding my breath. Was this the moment? Should I invite him into my room? Taking my key he opened the door and we looked at each other without speaking. And that was the moment when he kissed me.
‘I’d ask you in,’ I said, ‘but I don’t want a one-night stand, something tacky.
He held my hand. ‘Does that mean we’re going to see more of each other, that you might meet Ben?’ Then he bent his head and kissed my cheek.
I nodded, thinking of the decision I’d reached. Thinking of how I was going to tell Russell I wanted to end our marriage.