The Italian Boss's Secret Child(6)

By: Trish Morey


‘YOU look like a princess!’

Philly smiled and did a twirl as she entered her mother’s room, the ends of her black wig flicking out as she spun. ‘You don’t think it’s too much? The woman in the costume shop said it was fine.’

‘Too much? No, dear, it’s just perfect. You’ll be the belle of the ball.’

‘I don’t know about that.’

‘Oh, but I’ve got some lovely perfume I never wear any more that would be perfect with that outfit.’ She pointed the way to the cabinet and Philly followed her directions, giving a spray to her neckline and wrists. It was nice, rich and exotic, and quite a change from her usual apricot scent. Well, tonight was the night for change, or so it seemed.

She plumped the pillows behind her mother’s frail back, making sure she was comfortable before fetching her a cup of tea. Then she sat down on the bed alongside and held out a small saucer holding several brightly coloured pills.

‘I still don’t know why I’m going, really. If you’d prefer, I’m quite happy to stay home.’

‘You don’t get out enough as it is,’ said her mother, her fingers hunting down a fat capsule. ‘You should enjoy it when you get the chance.’ She dropped the pill on her tongue, washing it down with a swig of tea as she foraged for another.

‘I guess going out just doesn’t bother me all that much,’ she said with a shrug.

‘Then it should. It’s not natural for a young woman to shut herself away from the world when she should be out there enjoying it and meeting people.’

‘I’ve got a job. I meet plenty of people.’

Her mother took another sip of tea, picking up the last few pills.

‘You’re not still pining over that Bryce, are you?’

Philly pulled a face in response, putting the now empty dish over on the bedside table. Of course it had hurt, being dumped for another woman like that just before their wedding—another woman she’d discovered he’d been seeing for a year, another woman he’d made pregnant. She’d felt stupid, naïve and desperately hurt. Most of all she’d felt cheated of the child she was so desperate to have, a child he’d so freely given someone else, and for a while she’d longed to have him back. For a while.

‘No,’ she said on a sigh, knowing it was true. Abandoning her one week before their wedding had come as a huge shock. He’d let her down badly and knocked her confidence for a six but she wasn’t exactly without blame over the failure of the relationship herself.

She’d fallen in with his plans for marriage, indeed his plans for everything, because it had suited her to do so. And while she’d believed she loved him, she knew now that she’d talked herself into it because she’d so desperately wanted it to be right, to make forming a family with him and having his child right.

But it hadn’t been right. She would have been marrying him for all the wrong reasons.

‘Marriage to Bryce would have been a mistake; I know that now,’ she said, squeezing her mother’s hand. ‘He did us both a favour by walking away when he did.’

Her mother nodded. ‘He just wasn’t the one for you. But the right man is out there, you mark my words. Look at Monty; he took out dozens of girls before he found that one special woman. Annelise was so sweet. They were so happy together.’

Her mother sighed wistfully, and together their gazes drifted to the framed photo standing in pride of place on her dressing table. The smiling couple, beaming their happiness and their pride as together they held up their newborn son for the camera.

It was happiness that had been tragically short-lived. The very next day, on their way to show off the new arrival to his grandmother, all three lives had been wiped out, victims of foul weather conditions and a horrendous light plane crash.

Philly drew in a breath and turned to her mother, still transfixed by the photo and clearly thinking, remembering, as two tears slid a crooked path down her hollow cheeks. Then her mother sniffed, still looking at the photo.

‘I’d just love to see you settled, dear, bef…’ Her words trailed off mid-sentence but she didn’t have to finish them. Philly knew what she’d been going to say—the unspoken words hung fat and heavy in the air, weighed down with the inevitability of what was to come.

Before I die.

Something squeezed tight in her chest.

Less than twelve months to live. Her mother deserved some happiness, something to look forward to. Something that promised a future that would take her mind and thoughts beyond the doctors’ sad prognosis. Something to help her—not forget, she could never forget—but maybe just ease the pain she was feeling at the premature deaths of a young family who’d had everything to live for.

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