Baby Out of the Blue

By: Anne Mather

Lunch? Jane only just managed to suppress a groan. There was no way she was going to feel up to having lunch with her mother today. ‘Not today,’ she said apologetically, knowing Mrs Lang wouldn’t take kindly to her refusal. ‘I’m beat, Mum. I need at least eight hours of sleep before I do anything else.’

Her mother tutted. ‘Eight hours. Really, Jane, I rarely get more than four hours a night! Didn’t you sleep on the plane?’

‘Not much.’ Jane wished she were less honest. ‘How about lunch tomorrow, Mum? That’ll give me time to come round.’

There was silence for a moment, and then Mrs Lang said, ‘You’ve been away for almost three weeks, Jane. I’d have thought you’d want to see your mother. Particularly as you know I’m stuck in this house most of the day.’

Whose fault is that? Jane was tempted to ask, but she didn’t want to start an argument. ‘Why don’t you ask Lucy to have lunch with you?’ she suggested instead. ‘I’m sure she’d jump at the chance.’

‘I’m sure she would, too.’ But Mrs Lang was not enthusiastic. ‘Besides, if your sister comes here for lunch, I’ll have Paul and Jessica running all over the house.’

‘They are your grandchildren, Mum.’

‘Yes, and they’re totally undisciplined.’

‘Oh, Mum…’

‘Anyway, if you can’t be bothered to visit your mother, I’ll have to make do with my own company.’ Mrs Lang sniffed. ‘What a shame! I wanted to tell you who came to see me last week.’


Jane expelled a calming breath. ‘You had a visitor?’she asked, trying to sound only vaguely interested. ‘Well, that was nice.’

‘It wasn’t nice at all,’ her mother snapped angrily. Then, with a sound of impatience, ‘Oh, I suppose he told you. Is he the reason I’m being put off until tomorrow?’

‘No!’ Jane caught her breath. ‘But I assume you’re talking about Demetri. He left a couple of messages on my machine. When he couldn’t get an answer, he must have guessed you’d know where I was.’

‘Which, of course, I did.’

‘Did you tell him?’ Jane was wary.

‘I said you were abroad,’ declared Mrs Lang tersely. ‘I hope you didn’t expect me to lie for you, Jane.’

‘No.’ Jane sighed. ‘Did he say what he wanted to speak to me about?’

‘As I said earlier, if you want to hear all about it, you’ll have to wait until you have time for me in your busy schedule. You know I don’t like discussing family matters over the phone.’ She paused. ‘I’ll expect you tomorrow, shall I?’

Jane gritted her teeth. She so didn’t need this. She’d had a successful trip and she’d been looking forward to taking a couple of days break before having to return to the gallery. Now she felt compelled to go and see her mother, if only to find out what this was all about.

‘How about supper?’ she asked, knowing Mrs Lang was going to love this. Having her eldest daughter over a barrel was one of the joys of her life. It so rarely happened these days, although when Jane had been living with Demetri she’d constantly been aware that her mother was waiting for the marriage to fail. When it had, she’d been there to pick up the pieces, though Jane had known there’d been a measure of satisfaction in being proved right once again.

‘Supper?’ she echoed now. She considered. ‘Tonight, you mean?’

It was a game, Jane knew, but she was too tired to play it. ‘Whenever suits you,’ she said wearily. ‘Leave a message when you’ve made up your mind.’

‘Now, is that any way to treat your mother?’ But Mrs Lang seemed to realise it was time to back off. ‘Tonight will be fine, darling,’ she said serenely. ‘Shall we say seven o’clock? Or is that too early for you?’

‘Seven’s OK.’ Jane’s tone was flat. ‘Thanks, Mum. I’ll see you then.’

It was a relief to hang up the receiver and, when the phone rang again before she could move away, she snatched it up with a definite edge to her voice. But it was only a cold call, asking her if she was interested in buying a new kitchen, and she slammed it down with a definite feeling of exploitation.

Of course, she realised belatedly, it could have been Demetri, but she didn’t think that was likely. Demetri was no doubt in London on business and he’d have no time to think about his estranged wife if he had meetings to attend. She would come fairly low on his agenda. As she’d always done, she thought bitterly. Judging by his tone of voice, she had no reason to think he’d changed.

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