The morning rush-hour traffic was heavy, and Ellie’s progress along the high street was intermittent. The rain trickled down the windscreen in concert with the tears slowly making their way down her cheeks, and at the traffic lights, she rummaged in her handbag for a tissue.
It was done. She’d been dreading it for months, the fear and anxiety made even worse by the fact that there were no alternatives. There had been no choices, she must remember that.
But Jacob’s crestfallen face swam again into her mind; tears welled up once more and she dabbed carefully at her eyes. There must be no trace of this when and if she finally reached the office; she’d have to pass it off as a cold or an allergy of some kind.
He hadn’t understood why she would do this, and the more she tried to explain, the less convincing the reasons sounded, even to her practiced ear.
“I thought you loved me,” he’d said slowly as she left, “please don’t go.”
But she had gone, hurrying with her head down, not daring to turn round, slipping over the newly fallen leaves lining the pathway to her car.
The traffic halted again and she groaned. She would definitely be late.
Two school girls hurried along the pavement beside her car, their skinny bodies clad in raincoats and their white wellies patterned with ladybirds. Thick braids lay heavily down their backs, glittering with raindrops, and she heard their screams of laughter as they jumped from puddle to puddle. Not a care in the world, those two.
Her spirits lifted slightly. It would be all right. He would forgive her, take up the reins of a new life, and in time everything would be fine.
The queue of cars lurched forward again, and she switched on the radio.
Glancing up she caught sight of her swollen eyes in the rear view mirror and grimaced.
“Ellie Thompson, you really are a complete wuss. Everybody’s child has to start school sometime. Now get a grip, woman.”