On an impulse Maggie got up and crossed over to Sylvia to hug her with some difficulty that caused them both to laugh.

‘I’m so happy for you,’ Maggie said, with a genuine feeling of warmth.

‘Would there be—any possibility your mother and father have—have…?’ Sylvia hesitated.

‘Got together again?’ Maggie supplied. ‘Yes! They have and it’s wonderful to see.’

Sylvia breathed deeply. ‘That’s an enormous relief. But has he forgiven you for Jack, and this?’

‘This?’ Maggie patted her stomach affectionately. ‘He’s putting a good face on it. I don’t think they’ll ever be friends, but somehow or other I made them see that they had to be civilized at least. Not that they’ve met yet.’

‘Maggie, why won’t you marry Jack?’

‘Sylvia…’ Maggie paused and searched Sylvia’s blue eyes ‘… you could be the one person who knows how hard it is to pin the real Jack McKinnon down. I think there’s a core in him that will always shy away…’ she stopped to think carefully ‘… from any true attachment and it goes right back to being put up for adoption as a baby.’

Sylvia heaved a sigh. ‘Even under a loving adoption arrangement, it can be like a thorn in your flesh or you can secretly hold the belief that your mother was this wonderful, wonderful person who is always tied to you by an invisible string. That’s the path I opted for. Jack went the other way. You could be right but—’

‘The thing is,’ Maggie interrupted quietly, ‘I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person.’ She raised her eyebrows. ‘In lots of respects I’ve come to see I might be a chip off the old block, after all.’

‘He, Jack, I mean—’

Again Maggie interrupted. ‘He’s been wonderful in lots of ways.’

‘He was wonderful to me when I—when your father—without Jack to pick up the pieces, I don’t know where I’d be.’

‘Yes, he is rather good at picking up the pieces, isn’t he?’ Maggie said slowly.

Sylvia looked awkward. ‘I didn’t mean you.’

Maggie grimaced and decided to change the subject completely. ‘Tell me about your new man? And would you like to see the nursery?’

‘Well, well, kiddo.’ Maggie patted her stomach after Sylvia had left—she’d taken to talking to her baby ever since she’d come out of her slough of despond. ‘That was your aunt. Come to think of it, that’s yet another difficult situation resolved. Which only leaves us but, hey, between the two of us we can conquer anything!’

A couple of days later, she got an even greater surprise.

Jack held a dinner party to celebrate the retirement village foundations being dug.

Actually, it was Maisie who organized it all down to the caterers, the flowers and guest list.

Maggie received her invitation in the mail. Jack was overseas until the afternoon of the dinner, but she didn’t RSVP until the last moment. She was in two minds.

Then she thought, What the heck? She was part of the team and although, at eight months, sitting for any length of time was uncomfortable, she felt absolutely fine.

She also went out of her way to look absolutely fine. She chose a long French navy dress in a silk georgette that, despite being a maternity dress, was the essence of chic. It was round-necked, sleeveless and spring-like in tune with the new season. The fine pintucking on the bodice was stitched with silver thread.

She got her hair and her nails done; her tawny hair was loose and lightly curled so that it looked gorgeously windswept as only an expert hairdresser could achieve.

Her shoes were a complete folly, she knew—high, strappy silver sandals she couldn’t have resisted if she’d tried. She covered the few patches of pregnancy pigment on her cheeks with a glowing foundation and her lipstick matched her nail polish.

She stared at herself in her beautiful rosewood cheval-mirror and addressed her unborn child again…

‘You couldn’t say we were hugely pregnant, honey- child. I’ve been very careful dietary-wise and I’ve been pretty active. Incidentally, you’re pretty active these days, a right little gymnast! But I am more, well, rounded, even in the less obvious areas, although it doesn’t seem to look too bad. Not tonight anyway.’

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