The True Heart - Helena Halme - ebook
Opis

‘Romance for the thinking woman.’ Valisa Iskander, Head of Fixi London PublishingWhat is true happiness?London 1990. When Kaisa suffers a third miscarriage, her submarine officer husband Peter is devastated. Kaisa, who has chosen a job with the BBC over the traditional life of a Navy wife on a marriage patch in Scotland, feels guilty. Has living apart from her husband to pursue a demanding career, contributed to her inability to keep hold of a baby?But childlessness pales into insignificance when her old friend Rose tells Kaisa about a former lover’s serious illness. The consequences of Duncan’s condition could wreck Kaisa and Peter’s future.And then life takes another heart-breaking twist … Can love conquer all?The True Heart, the fourth, standalone, book in Helena Halme’s acclaimed The Nordic Heart Romance Series explores what true love is.Read this stylish European love story today!

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The True Heart

Helena Halme

Contents

Preface

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

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Coffee and Vodka

Also by Helena Halme

About the Author

Acknowledgments

Copyright

Will I spend my life longing for him? Or feeling guilty about a secret I’m keeping from him?

One

London April 1990

Kaisa was trying to concentrate on the news bulletin she was preparing for broadcast later that afternoon when the phone on her desk rang.

‘Hello, darling!’ It was Rose.

Kaisa tried to hide her disappointment. ‘How lovely to hear from you,’ she said, lifting her voice higher than it normally was. She stifled a sigh in her hand and decided not to think about Peter. He was due home from a long patrol any moment, so when a phone call was put through to her at work, Kaisa immediately thought it must be her husband. He usually called from somewhere in Scotland as soon as he could, to tell her he was safe. Kaisa hadn’t spoken to Peter for over six weeks and she was desperate to hear his voice.

‘I’m up in town and wondered if I could see you after work?’ Rose said, unaware of Kaisa’s disappointment.

Rose met Kaisa outside Bush House, the headquarters of the BBC’s World Service in Aldwych, central London, where Kaisa had been working for over three years.

‘You look good!’ Kaisa said, hugging her friend hard. She felt bad for wishing it hadn’t been Rose on the phone. She rarely saw her good friend these days, not since she’d retired to the country.

‘How’s Peter?’ Rose asked, letting go of Kaisa.

‘On patrol, ’she said, trying not to sound too miserable.

‘You poor darling, I don’t know how you do it!’ Rose suggested they hop into a cab. ‘Terroni’s, yes?’ she said. Kaisa nodded.

Kaisa loved the Italian café where she’d worked a few years ago, even if she had to cross town to visit it. During the months she’d been a waitress there, Kaisa had become one of the family and had even learned some Italian. She’d spent one potentially lonely Christmas Day with the Terroni family, and after that the Farringdon café, with its large steaming coffee machine, small round tables and curved chairs, and the best coffee in London, had been like home to her. Kaisa had got to know Rose, who had introduced her to Toni, the head of the Terroni family, through Duncan, a former friend of Peter’s.

Rose had been instrumental in Kaisa’s career. She’d first employed Kaisa at the feminist magazine Adam’s Apple, whichshe’d run in the mid-eighties, then encouraged her to attend journalism school, and eventually to apply for a job in the BBC’s Finnish section. Without Rose, Kaisa was certain she’d still be living in Helsinki, miserable and divorced from Peter, and probably working for a bank like her university friend Tuuli. Not that Tuuli was unhappy, far from it, but work in finance suited her, whereas Kaisa knew it would have made her miserable.

When she’d first met Rose, Duncan’s cousin, during a trip to London from Portsmouth, she’d thought her the most glamorous person she’d ever met. Her hair, clothes and manner had reminded Kaisa of Princess Diana.

Kaisa had been newly married and had only lived in the UK for a matter of months, but Rose had offered Kaisa a job as her assistant during a boozy meeting in one of the city’s fashionable wine bars.

Peter’s career had taken the couple to Scotland, so Kaisa hadn’t been able to accept the job in London. Sometimes she wondered what would have happened if she’d refused to move up to Faslane, and had accepted the London job at that point in her life instead of later. At the time, Peter and Kaisa had both thought the idea of living in London impossible; Kaisa’s salary wouldn’t have covered the living costs, and with Peter serving on a Polaris submarine, going away to sea for weeks on end, they would never have seen each other.

Kaisa grinned as she sat down opposite Rose. It was the life they had now, so why couldn’t they have tried it sooner?

‘What’s so funny?’ Rose asked.

‘Nothing, just thinking of the past,’ Kaisa replied. She gazed at her friend. Rose was quite a few years older than her, and since her move away from London and marriage to Roger, she’d put on a little weight. The added roundness suited her. Her face, framed by dark unruly curls, now mixed with grey, looked softer, and the few lines around her pale eyes just made her look friendlier.

‘You look very happy,’ Kaisa said and put her hand on Rose’s as it rested on the table.

They’d been through the obligatory hugs and kisses from the café owner, Toni, and his wife, and ‘Mamma’, and were now facing each other at one of the corner tables by the window, their favourite, which Toni – miraculously – was always able to reserve for them.

‘No point in dwelling,’ Rose said.

‘I guess not,’ Kaisa said and thought about her own present condition, which wasn’t a condition anymore. She was just about to tell Rose about it, when her friend said quickly, as if to get something out of the way, ‘But talking of the past, I saw Duncan last weekend.’

‘Oh,’ Kaisa said and watched her friend as she lowered her eyes and fiddled with her large diamond engagement ring, now next to a gold wedding band on the ring finger of her left hand. Kaisa knew Rose felt guilty and responsible for the affair between Kaisa and her cousin Duncan. Rose believed that Duncan had used her in order to impress Kaisa, and in a way that was right.

On the very night that Duncan had first introduced Kaisa to Rose, who had scheduled a date for a job interview with her, Duncan had tried to seduce Kaisa in his house in Chelsea. That had been the first time. Kaisa had barricaded herself in the guest bedroom, and the next morning had believed Duncan’s profuse apologies and promises never to try anything like that with her ever again.

Yet Kaisa knew she had gone to bed with Duncan willingly months later in Faslane; it was her unhappiness at being so far away from home, frustration at not being able to find a job, and her loneliness without her new husband that had contributed to the events of that awful night.

In a way, Kaisa had also benefited from the guilt Rose had felt; she’d done so much for Kaisa that Kaisa herself often felt bad. They had discussed these feelings many times over the years, often without mentioning Duncan’s name. Kaisa didn’t want to think back to her awful mistake, and she also understood that Rose had severed all ties to him and didn’t want to talk about her cousin. Kaisa was surprised that her friend mentioned Duncan now.

Rose lifted her cup of coffee up to her lips and gazed at Kaisa over the rim. ‘He’s not very well.’

Kaisa swallowed a mouthful of the strong black coffee and put her cup down.

Rose told her that Duncan had been unwell with a severe flu during the winter. A week ago he’d been to see a specialist and been diagnosed with AIDS. Rose whispered the last word, and looked around the café to see if anyone was listening to their conversation.

‘AIDS!’ Kaisa exclaimed.

‘Shh, keep your voice down,’ Rose said and leaned over the table to take hold of Kaisa’s hand. ‘I’m only telling you so that you go and get tested.’

Kaisa stared at her friend, ‘Tested, me?’

‘And if you have it, Peter may have it too. And all his – and your – sexual partners for the past five years.’

‘Oh, my God,’ Kaisa felt her heartbeat quicken. The thought of having to tell Peter he had to go for an HIV test was beyond Kaisa. And for Peter to have to tell the two women he’d had affairs with while she and Peter had been separated would be unthinkable.

‘And Ravi?’ Kaisa gasped.

Rose nodded.

Kaisa felt sick. She took another sip of her coffee, but it suddenly tasted vile. ‘But we’re trying for a baby.’

‘I know, that’s why I wanted to tell you so that you can get tested in case …’

Kaisa was quiet. Her mind was full of ifs and buts.

‘Look, it’s highly unlikely you have it. Duncan, as I understand it, has been more active sexually since you two, were, you know, together. I’m sure he was fine before.’

Kaisa sat with her hand over her mouth. She caught sight of Toni, who was watching the two women from his usual post behind the glass counter. Kaisa took her hand away and attempted to smile at him. The café owner nodded and waved a cup in his hand, asking if they needed a fill-up. Kaisa shook her head vigorously; the last person she wanted to tell Rose’s news to was Toni. That would mean half of London would know it by supper time.

‘But I thought he was living in the country?’ Kaisa remembered a letter she’d received from Duncan, and immediately destroyed, when she was staying in Helsinki after the separation from Peter. He’d complained about the lack of female company in the countryside. Suddenly, Kaisa realised. Duncan must be gay! Or bisexual.

Rose raised her eyebrows. ‘It only takes one sexual partner to be infected.’

Kaisa nodded. ‘Of course,’ then added carefully, ‘But I thought you could only get it from gay sex?’

‘No, that’s not true!’ Rose said emphatically. ‘Anyone can get it.’

‘Oh,’ Kaisa said. Suddenly a picture she’d seen of a family somewhere in America, where a father was hugging his dying son with AIDS, came to her mind. In the photo the son had sunken cheeks and eyes, and his father’s face was twisted in anguish as he embraced his son. And she thought about Freddie Mercury. There had been reports that he had AIDS. He’d looked thin and gaunt in the pictures Kaisa had seen in the papers.

Kaisa’s thoughts returned to Duncan.

‘How is he?’

Suddenly, Rose burst into tears, and before Kaisa could do or say anything, Toni and Mamma had come over and were making a scene, talking loudly and asking what the matter was.

Kaisa managed to calm her adoptive Italian family down, and eventually after they had made sure ‘Rosa’, as Toni insisted on calling Rose, was fine, Rose and Kaisa left the café and walked along the Clerkenwell Road towards Holborn. While they waited to cross the busy Grays Inn Road, walking arm in arm, Rose told Kaisa how Duncan had pneumonia, and the doctors were concerned about him. ‘He’s just not getting better, Kaisa,’ Rose said. Her eyes filled with tears again and Kaisa pulled her into The Yorkshire Grey, a large pub on the corner of Theobalds Road.

‘I think we need something a bit stronger than coffee,’ Kaisa said.

Rose nodded and settled herself into a corner table. The pub was quickly filling up with post-work drinkers, but it wasn’t yet crowded. It was a few minutes past five o’clock on a Friday evening after all, Kaisa thought. The sun streamed into the dark space, making the interior feel stuffy.

Rose took a large gulp of her glass of wine and said, ‘Look, I know it’s unfair of me to say so, but he’s been asking after you.’

‘What?’

‘Actually, he’s been talking about both you and Peter.’

Kaisa looked at Rose. Seeing her friend so upset and the news about AIDS were affecting Kaisa’s head. The room began to sway in front of her eyes. Suddenly all the memories of the first year of her marriage came into her mind. After the months she and Peter had spent apart, when Kaisa had forged her own career, finally getting the coveted job as a reporter at the World Service, she had tried to forget about Duncan, and her infidelity. When she and Peter had eventually reunited after several false starts and misunderstandings, they had vowed to forgive each other and forget the past. Since then, they had rarely spoken about the events leading up to their separation, or about the other relationships they both had had during that time.

‘He needs to see that you’ve forgiven him.’ Rose said, placing a hand over Kaisa’s arm. Her pale blue eyes were pleading with Kaisa.

Kaisa said, with hesitation, ‘You can tell him there are no hard feelings.’

Rose tilted her head sideways, and took another large gulp of wine. ‘You don’t understand.’

It was Kaisa’s turn to take hold of Rose’s hands, resting on the small, grubby mock teak table. ‘What, tell me!’

‘He is staying with us, Roger and I, and I wondered, well, we wondered …’ Rose began to dig inside her handbag for a tissue. She blew her nose, soliciting sideways glances from a group of men in pinstripe suits who were drinking pints of beer at the bar. When Rose had recovered a little, she finished her wine and Kaisa said, ‘Want another?’

‘Yes, let me,’ Rose went back to her handbag, but Kaisa replied, ‘No this is on me. You’ve bought enough drinks for me in the past.’ She smiled, and got a nod from Rose.

Back at the table, when Kaisa was again facing Rose over their glasses of wine, Rose took a deep breath. ‘I wondered if you might be able to come and see him.’

Kaisa stared at her friend. ‘I, I don’t know …’ she hadn’t set eyes on Duncan since the awful fight between him and Peter in the pool. Duncan hadn’t even turned up at Peter’s Court Martial a few weeks later. He’d been dismissed his ship immediately after the fight, when his actions, ‘unbecoming an officer of Her Majesty’s Service’ against a fellow naval officer, had come to light, and he’d left Faslane by all accounts that same night.

‘Please, do this for me. I know his behaviour has been despicable, but he is a dying man.’ Now tears were running down Rose’s cheeks.

Kaisa glanced at the men behind her, and put her hands over Rose’s on the sticky table.

‘Of course I’ll come,’ she heard herself say, even though she had no idea how she would be able to face Duncan. Or how she would tell Peter any of it: her planned visit to see her former lover, or the AIDS tests they may both have to take. Or the consequences for their plans to start a family. What a mess she had created.

Two

When Kaisa heard the phone ring as soon as she stepped inside their terraced house in Notting Hill, she knew that this time it must be Peter. She dropped the bag of cheese, ham and a small loaf of sliced bread that she’d picked up from the corner shop onto the floor and hurried to the phone in the hall.

‘Hi darling,’ Peter’s voice sounded tired.

‘How are you?’ It was wonderful to hear Peter’s voice. She’d not seen him for over two months, and hadn’t spoken to him for weeks.

‘I’m good. Tired. We’ve had a royal visit so we’ve literally just docked. It’ll take at least two to three days for the debrief.’

Kaisa sat down on the wooden bench that she and Peter had found in a second-hand shop the week they moved into their new home three years ago. It had one wobbly leg, but there never seemed to be enough time to fix it while Peter was at home. She was silent while she waited for what she knew would be the next thing Peter said. He wouldn’t be coming home that evening.

To delay the inevitable, and to hide her disappointment, Kaisa said, ‘A royal visit! Who?’ She tried to sound enthusiastic. She knew how boring life onboard the submarine could be, and how a VIP could boost the crew’s morale, including that of the officers.

‘Lady Di.’

‘What?’

‘Yes, it was a surprise to us too,’ Kaisa could hear Peter’s grin and saw the handsome face of her husband in her mind. How she missed him!

‘She came onboard at the Cumbrae Gap and afterwards insisted on visiting the families at the Drumfork Club.’

‘Oh.’ The name of the place where Peter had suffered the humiliation of a Court Martial put a stop to Kaisa’s questions.

‘She was so lovely, just natural, talking to all the wives as if she was one of them. You should’ve been there!’

Kaisa was taken aback a second time. Peter knew full well why she wasn’t living up in Faslane with all the other Navy Wives. They’d tried it and it nearly cost them their marriage. Kaisa took a deep breath and decided she wouldn’t let her disappointment show.

‘What was she wearing?’ she asked instead.

Peter’s laughter at the other end made her smile. ‘You’re asking the wrong person!’

‘You’re hopeless, but I miss you. When do you think you can get home?’

‘Perhaps Monday. You’ll just have to wait a few more hours to ravish me!’

There was a silence. Kaisa didn’t know what to say. She didn’t want to tell him her own sad news; nor what she’d just learned from Rose. She also knew she was supposed to go along with Peter’s false jolliness. It was the English thing to do, this ‘stiff upper lip’ that everyone kept going on about. But she hadn’t seen her husband, hadn’t felt his arms around her for such a long time, and she needed him now more than ever.

‘Don’t be like that, Kaisa.’ Peter now said, correctly interpreting Kaisa’s silence. ‘Tell me instead how you are feeling? Are you getting enough sleep?’

‘But I miss you so much!’ Kaisa managed to say. She was swallowing tears, tears of disappointment, but also tears for what she had to tell him. And it just couldn’t be done over the phone.

‘Me too, my little Peanut. But I’ll phone you tomorrow again. A few more days isn’t that bad, is it?’

Kaisa wanted to say, ‘Perhaps not for you,’ but instead sucked in air through her nostrils and replied, ‘I know. But I’m at work Monday till Thursday.’

‘Ah, I hadn’t thought about that. Couldn’t you swap with someone? And work the weekend instead? Or better still, sleep all weekend, so you’ll be refreshed when I’m there. You won’t get much sleep with me in your bed!’

Kaisa could hear Peter’s desire for her in his voice and her longing for him became almost unbearable.

‘I’ll try,’ she whispered.

‘There’s my girl.’ Peter said and added, ‘I love you.’

‘Me too,’ Kaisa said and put the phone down.

She remained on the seat, still in her overcoat, for a while longer and watched as the last rays of the spring sunlight filtered through the back door. The wall of light revealed tiny specs of dust in the long narrow hallway. Kaisa tried to remember when she’d last hoovered. She decided not to swap her shift that weekend, but to work something else out, as Peter had suggested. She was too exhausted after the week she’d had, not least after her meeting with Rose.

She’d been on duty the weekend before, preparing her daily news bulletin on Saturday afternoon, when news of a crowd rioting over the new council charge, dubbed the Poll Tax, had come through.

Kaisa and two male reporters, one from Italy and one from Hungary, had decided to walk down the Strand to take a look. They’d had a sound engineer with them too, and Kaisa had been excited. This could be her big break, getting a live report of an historic event. But even before they’d reached Charing Cross, police had closed the streets leading up to Trafalgar Square. They had heard the crowd, and seen mounted police in the distance, and had even smelled smoke, but they couldn’t get close. Kaisa had tried to show her press badge to a WPC, the only one in the wall of uniformed police wearing riot helmets who looked friendly, but the woman had just shaken her head and said, ‘You don’t want to get into that, love.’ It was then that she had slipped.

She didn’t know if the fall had contributed to what happened later, and she didn’t want to speculate. She’d stayed on the pavement, feeling very dizzy, and the WPC had come over and helped her up. The two other reporters and the sound guy then said it was time to give up and go back to the office, so she’d followed them back to Aldwych.

Late that night, the Tube station at Holborn had been closed, and she’d had to wait nearly an hour in drizzling rain for a cab to drive her home.

The next day, on the Sunday, after reports had revealed how remarkable the protest had been, Kaisa’s boss had asked her to write a long piece on the Poll Tax for a feature bulletin. She’d spent most of the night at Bush House. Although she’d been due to take Monday off, she’d gone in to read the special news report herself.

At midday on Monday, she had fallen into bed, and by the next morning her condition wasn’t a condition anymore. She’d put the bloody sheets in the washing machine and was back at her desk in Bush House on Wednesday morning even though it felt as if her insides were being pulled off in waves. She swallowed aspirin after aspirin and told her colleagues it was a bad case of the time of the month. Which she guessed it was in a way.

She wasn’t looking forward to telling Peter the full details of the riot and her reporting of it, or about the fall. She knew his hopes were up, and that he’d think she’d been careless, which she knew she had been. It was so hard to remember to take care of herself when nothing seemed to have changed in her body.

Three

Peter put the phone down and cursed under his breath. When would he learn not to upset Kaisa? She was so sensitive about not living at the base.

Peter loved it that his wife was a news reporter and was very proud of her. Yet at the same time, he knew she worked too hard. And the fact that the job was in London meant that after each patrol he had to wait longer than the other officers and sailors to see his wife.

Most of the crew had wives living nearby, either in the grim married quarters on the hill in Rhu, overlooking the steely grey Gareloch, or in homes they’d bought in the small villages outside Helensburgh. Peter shuddered. He’d never want to buy a property in the cold and rainy West coast of Scotland. When he was ashore, he couldn’t wait to fly back down south, not just to see Kaisa, but also to be away from Scotland.

At the same time, he couldn’t help but feel that if Kaisa was up in Helensburgh, she wouldn’t find it so difficult to have a baby. Her job at the BBC meant early mornings and long days and a lot of weekend working.

Up in Scotland, her life would be quieter, she’d be able to rest, and she could concentrate on having a baby. Peter knew, of course, that it was a pipe dream, but he would have loved to see Kaisa as soon as the submarine docked, and see her enjoy events such as the surprise royal visit.

The rumours of a VIP visit had been doing the rounds in the wardroom, and around the submarine, for a week before they were due back in Faslane. Out of the six patrols Peter had been on, only one other had ended with a VIP visit of some kind. Usually it was the Secretary of State for Defence, especially if they were newly appointed.

Last year, on his first patrol back at the Polaris submarines since his unfortunate dismissal from the submarine five years previously, he’d met the current incumbent, Tom King, who’d come onboard as they were approaching the Faslane base.

King had been a dull man, shaking hands with each of the officers quickly, and hardly speaking to anyone apart from the captain. Peter and the rest of the Wardroom had felt they were too lowly to interest their new Secretary of State, but King had taken great interest in the equipment, including the war head, asking the senior rates several questions in the engine room and in the weapons compartment.

This time, when the Captain told them over the tannoy on the morning of the visit that ‘Her Royal Highness Diana, Princess of Wales’ would be coming onboard the submarine, the whole vessel had been buzzing. Even the leading galley hand who’d served him breakfast that morning had said, ‘You looking forward to diving with Lady Di, Sir?’ He seemed to be talking about the impending royal visit, but Peter knew the reference to diving was a sneaky jibe about his past. There was no way they were going to take the princess on a dive, Peter knew that much.

When the Captain, Stewart Harding, an unusually good-humoured man, with a belly that moved when he laughed (generally at his own jokes), met Peter in the gangway an hour or so later, he said, ‘This is a huge honour Peter, so make sure to be on your best behaviour?’

‘Yes, Sir,’ Peter had replied and wondered as he watched the Old Man make his way to the control room if the Captain doubted Peter’s ability to act correctly in front of royal visitors. He’d been at Dartmouth Naval College with Prince Andrew, and had met the Queen, for goodness sake! But he knew what the problem really was. Peter had been found guilty on an assault against a fellow Officer. It was behaviour unbecoming of an officer of Her Majesty’s’ Royal Navy.

He knew that the joke the rating in the galley had made about his ‘diving’ was because the fight he’d had with Duncan, his so-called friend, had taken place in the swimming pool at the naval base in Faslane, but why did the Captain have to remind Peter to behave? Would they ever forget about the Court Martial, he wondered, as he tried to distract himself with the tasks he needed to oversee as the Navigating Officer onboard.

Kaisa fell asleep in front of the TV that night, and was woken up by telephone ringing.

‘Hello Kaisa, how are you?’

Kaisa glanced at her watch; it was five to six in the morning.

‘Mum.’

‘Did I wake you? Why aren’t you at work? Did you oversleep?’

‘No, it’s only just six am here. And it’s Saturday. I’m off today.’ Kaisa sighed; how could her mother always forget the two-hour difference between Finland and Britain?

‘Well, you’re awake now. How are you feeling?’

Kaisa was quiet. How had she been so stupid to tell her mother? Suddenly, as she was about to speak, tears welled up inside her. ‘Mum,’ she began, but couldn’t go on.

‘Oh darling! Not again?’

‘Yes,’ Kaisa managed to say.

‘You poor love. Is Peter with you?’

‘No, he was supposed to be home last night, but they had a VIP onboard, so he couldn’t make the last flight.’

‘I see.’

‘He couldn’t help it. It wasn’t his fault.’

Why did Kaisa always have to defend Peter to her mother? She supposed it had something to do with the months Kaisa had spent in Helsinki, sleeping on her sister’s sofa. She’d fled there after Peter’s Court Martial. The fight between the two officers had all been Kaisa’s fault and Peter’s open hostility towards her, combined with the pressure from the other Navy wives on the married patch, and the reports of the ‘incident’ in the national press, had made Kaisa finally flee Scotland.

While she was in Helsinki, Peter had hardly contacted Kaisa and she knew her mother thought that had been unfair. There had also been suspicions that Peter was seeing an old flame. At the time, Kaisa believed their marriage was over, so although it was devastating news to her, she’d thought it part of her punishment for what she had done to Peter. But her mother didn’t see it that way.

‘It was Princess Diana!’ Kaisa said, trying to distract her mother.

‘Oh, really, did he meet her?’

‘Yes, of course he did.’

‘What was she wearing?’

Kaisa sighed. ‘He didn’t notice.’

‘Have you been to see the doctor?’ Her mother asked next.

That diversion tactic didn’t work, Kaisa thought.

‘No.’

‘Why not?’

Kaisa didn’t want to discuss her condition – or lack of it – with her mother. Or why she hadn’t had time to see her doctor. Her mother was another person in her life who thought she worked too hard. There was an implication that if she wasn’t so skinny and stayed at home more, she wouldn’t keep on losing the babies.

‘Look, I’m going to see the doctor soon. And I need to talk to Peter first.’ Kaisa felt bad that she’d told the sad news to her mother first, before Peter, but she also knew her mother thought it was her lifestyle that was at fault.

‘Of course. But you know, you could come over here and see a Finnish specialist? They are world-famous you know. We have zero incidents of …’

‘I know, Mum,’ Kaisa said, interrupting the familiar flow of praise for Finnish doctors and the infamous zero infant mortality rates.

‘Anyway, the reason I called was to tell you that your sister is engaged to be married!’

Kaisa thought about Sirkka, her older sister, who’d been in love with a man from Lapland for years. Theirs was an on-off relationship that Kaisa thought would never come to anything.

‘Haven’t they only been back together for a few months!’ Kaisa now said and immediately regretted the words.

There was a brief silence at the other end. Then her mother replied, predictably, ‘Why do you always have to be so negative about your sister?’

Kaisa sighed. ‘I’m not being negative, I just want her to be happy.’

‘Well she is! Lari is a wonderful young man. He is head-over-heels in love with your sister and will make a wonderful husband. He’s a businessman, you know, with his own building firm. It’s doing very well – he drives a brand-new Mercedes!’

‘That’s wonderful,’ Kaisa replied and spent the next ten minutes convincing her mother that she did indeed think that the marriage between her sister and this Lari, whom Kaisa had met only once, would be a very happy one.

When she felt her mother had been pacified, and she was able to put the phone down, Kaisa was exhausted. She was happy for her sister, of course, but at the same time she didn’t want her to rush into a marriage.

Kaisa thought she knew all about true love, and how rare it was – and how easy it was to walk away from a relationship, but how strong the pull back to the person you really loved was. Did Lari love Sirkka back? Kaisa thought about her own mistakes, and how close she’d come to losing Peter, the love of her life, because of her isolation and unhappiness in the naval community in Scotland. If their love hadn’t been strong, she and Peter would never have survived that crisis.

She shuddered as she thought of what she had to tell Peter now. Would their marriage be strong enough to cope with AIDS too?

Later that same morning,