An idea

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A whole week had passed since Laura had seen Richard, the only contact she had had since that disastrous night being a brief phone call to tell her he needed some time alone. When she heard a knock on her door late Friday night, she thought it was him and hurried to open it. She was astounded and a little alarmed to see Bill Harper there instead. He looked rather intimidating, dressed in a dark-grey three-piece suit; evidently he had come straight from work. He appeared uncomfortable but determined. "Can I come in? I promise I'm not here to cause any trouble."

She hesitated for a minute, then opened the door wide. "Come on in." He sat down and accepted a drink, turning the glass round and round between his hands.

"I think we need to talk about Richard," he said.

She looked at him warily and he continued, "I haven't seen him all week. Have you?"

She shook her head, and he nodded as if that was what he had expected. He leant forward. "I think he's going to run. That's what Richard does when he's scared or doesn't know what to do."

Laura stared at him.

"Don't get me wrong, when he commits to something there is no one stronger, but when he can't commit, he runs. He's done it before." He looked as if he was remembering something painful.

"I love him," he continued. "You—I presume—love him. He loves both of us in different ways. Maybe he loves you more, but I think he still loves me and this... this triangle is tearing him apart. It's not too good for you and me, either!" He tried to smile. "So I've been thinking, and I've got a suggestion for you. Maybe we could share him." Laura blinked, but he was concentrating on what he had to say and didn't notice. "What I mean is, if you were okay with it, he and I could still see each other maybe once or twice a week, you know, go out to dinner or something."

"You'd be okay with that?" Laura asked, dubious.

Harper nodded tightly. "I think so. I do know that not seeing him at all is killing me."

Laura pursed her lips. "I'd have to think about that. It's not something I've ever considered."

Harper stared at her, a frown between his eyes. "It's surely not that unreasonable? It's not like I'd still be having sex with him or anything!"

Laura stared right back. "Not...?"

The silence was deafening.

"You thought I was suggesting we share him?" Harper swallowed his drink in one gulp. "Could I have another?" he asked.

Laura got up without speaking and poured them each a large drink. Now that the thought had been planted in her mind, she found it had taken root. Ideas and images were fizzing around in her brain—could this really work?

"I'm jealous of you," she told him suddenly, "but only because he's your lover and not mine. I know some women get incredibly upset if their partner leaves them for another man, but I've always thought that would be better than being left for another woman. At least you could say, 'Aha! It wasn't something I did or didn't do.' I wouldn't even be considering sharing him with another woman." She drained half her glass. "I think we should have Richard present before we talk any more about this."

Harper was still staring at her, looking as if he had been struck by lightning. "Are you serious? You think that could work? You'd be okay with the idea?"

"I think it's worth considering. Look around, do you see any happy people here at the moment? We are all utterly miserable. Maybe this will work, maybe it won't, but surely it can't be any worse than what we've got—or haven't got—now. After all, this is the seventies, right?"

"Do you think he'll see us? He hasn't been answering my calls," Harper said.

"Nor mine," Laura confessed. "Let's send him a letter, from both of us, saying we want to meet with him together and talk—no yelling, no blame, just talk."

Harper took a deep breath and nodded. "Let's do it."

Richard had to read the letter twice before he could understand it.

Dear Richard,

Laura and I have been talking, and we really want to see you. We promise no blame, no yelling, no tears. We just want to talk to you, we have an idea to discuss. Unless you ring us up and tell us differently, we will meet you at your flat around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Bill and Laura

His heart was pounding when he opened the door on Wednesday evening, and his stomach was churning. He hadn't been able to eat anything all day. What were they going to say? He wasn't quite sure he believed their assurances; half of him was convinced they were going to give him an ultimatum, and the other half thought they were both going to dump him.

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