58. Within You, Without You

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When you've seen beyond yourself then you may find
Peace of mind is waiting there,
And the time will come when you see we're all one,
And life flows on within you and without you.

'I know it's you,' she says, her voice as sharp and cold as an icicle. 'At least have the decency to answer me, Hannah, instead of calling and hanging up without speaking all the time.'

I pause. I was about to hang up. George never seems to answer his phone these days, it's always Pattie.

'Answer me, you bitch,' she continues, her voice low. 'It is you, isn't it?'

'Yes,' I reply.

'What do you want?'


...Need to speak to George. I really need to speak to him.

'I know what you want,' she says, spitefully. 'It's the same thing you've always wanted. My husband.'

I close my eyes and press my lips together. I should hang up, but I remain still, holding the receiver to my ear in the cold phone box. I suppose I deserve to hear what she has to say.

'Well, he doesn't want you. He's told me all about him and you. And it wasn't because of that... that newspaper story, it was because he regretted it. He confessed everything, and begged me to forgive him.'

I sigh silently.

'There's a name for women like you, Hannah West,' she continues, anger rising in her voice. Anger and tears. 'Pathetic. That's what you are. Pathetic and worthless, and... and God, are you stupid? Did you believe him? Did you think he'd really leave me for you? All he wanted was to get you into bed. He didn't want you for anything else.'

'I'm sorry,' I say and she laughs humourlessly.

'I bet you are. They always go back to their wives. Don't you know that?'

'I never meant to...'

'What? You never meant to what? You never meant to sleep with my husband? Did it just happen?!'

'Is George...'

I open my eyes and try to peer out of the frosted phone box windows. They've fogged up. I rub a small circle in the condensation with my mittened hand so I can see out. The Yorkshire moors. A bleak grey, blue and olive landscape as far as the eye can see. No houses, except for the cottage. It's only three in the afternoon but it's already getting dark.

'What?' she snaps. 'Is he what?'

'Is he alright?'

She's taken aback by the question. She pauses. 'He's... He's fine. Better than fine now. He doesn't need you turning up here again and...'

'I'm not going to. But I do need to...'

'Listen to me,' she says, cutting me off. 'What you need is to leave George alone. He doesn't want you. Don't try and see him. Don't call here again. If you do, I'll report you to the police for harassment.'

'Pattie, wait...' I start, but she's already hung up.

I replace the telephone receiver and pull the drawstrings on my heavy green parka tighter around my body. It's freezing today. It's cold all the time anyway, but today must be below zero. Digging my hand into my coat pocket, I take out a handful of loose change and drop the coins onto the phone book shelf. Picking up the receiver again I dial the number from memory.

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