Excerpt from "Harriett Rowbotham"

The perfect partner for Harriet Rowbotham was Paul Dobson. The trouble was he had not yet realised this. She felt certain he would reach this conclusion too and would not allow any doubts to surface in her mind. Why…. had he not readily come to her assistance on Saturday when she had locked herself out of her house? Insisted even that she get down from the ladder and let him climb in through the open bathroom window?. Afterwards, she had invited him to stop awhile for coffee and homemade fruit-cake and he had told her how delicious it was, declaring ‘You can always tell a home-made cake from a shop bought one, it tastes richer and far less sweet’. She had enquired then about Stephanie. Stephanie, the thorn in her side and her only obstacle in the way of getting closer to Paul. She really only asked because she thought it the polite thing to do. ‘Does Stephanie do much baking?’ Paul laughed as he answered ’Stephanie can’t cook beans on toast without burning them. So I’d hate to see what she’d do to a cake!’ Harriet was horrified but not surprised. A wry smile spread across her face as she realised that life with Stephanie must be hell on earth, eating pizzas and other takeaways that she had seen being delivered many times a week. Oh yes. Paul must be a patient and caring man. She loved him even more for this. But even his patience must surely wear thin over time?. ‘Won’t you stay for another slice of cake?’ Harriet asked ‘Thanks but I really should be going. Steph will be home from work soon and there are still dirty dishes to be stacked in the dishwasher’. Harriet smiled, hoping that he wouldn’t see the effort she had trying to keep the anger from her eyes. She wouldn’t mind, but Stephanie didn’t have a REAL job. Just filed and painted the nails of other empty air-heads like herself. But Harriet had to keep up the pretence. She knew it would take a while longer for Paul to seize the bait she would so lovingly prepare for him. ‘I’ll just see you to the door’ ‘There’s no need’ Paul said smiling ‘I can find my own way out’ then added ‘perhaps I’ll bring Stephanie over for a cup of tea one day so that the two of you can become better acquainted, What do you think?’ ‘How nice. I’ll be sure to save some cake for her to try’ ‘Oh heavens, don’t do that. Steph’s permanently on a diet!’ She had guessed as much. Steph was stick-thin and her face was sallow.  Probably from lack of certain vitamins. Whilst her own figure was ‘curvy’. Surely, Harriet thought,  any man would prefer to grab at flesh than bone? She heard the click of the front door as Paul left and hurried quickly to the window-seat in time to see Paul open his own front door and disappear inside.

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