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In the five years since their marriage ended, Sarah had devoted herself to her beloved twins. Theirs had been a whirlwind courtship. Rafael loved with passion; he created hauntingly beautiful works of art with passion; and Sarah realized now on a tide of pain and regret, he hated with that same emotional intensity. He smiled down at her, his shrewd grey eyes softening.
At school, Sarah and Karen had been poles apart. Popular and full of mischief, Karen had been the high-spirited centre of an admiring throng. Quiet and introverted, Sarah had been a loner, invariably on the outside of the girlish gossip sessions. Last winter she had run into Karen again quite by accident. Within ten minutes, Karen had been telling her that she had changed out of all recognition. You were quite disgustingly beautiful as well as being hatefully well behaved. You matured so much faster than the rest of us.
I suppose that was the problem. Listening to her, Sarah had come ridiculously close to tears. Karen recalled their schooldays with amused affection. Sarah recalled them with sharp pain.
Nobody had sensed the crushing insecurity and loneliness she was concealing. Nobody had ever guessed how fiercely she had longed to be one of the crowd. From earliest childhood, Sarah had been taught to hide her feelings from others. Her wealthy parents had adopted her as a baby.
Her father was a merchant banker, her mother a lady of leisure who did nothing more strenuous than consult with her housekeeper about the seating arrangements for her dinner parties. Charles and Louise Southcott were very controlled people, physically undemonstrative and uncomfortable with any strong display of emotion.
Disapproval had been signified by chilling silence. By the time she was four years old, the sound of that silence had quelled Sarah more thoroughly than the coldest rebuke. But unhappily that silence had done a lot more emotional damage. Like any young child, Sarah had swiftly learnt how best to please her parents.
She had conformed to their expectations of her. It had been unacceptable to get dirty or be untidy, even more unacceptable to fight, lose her temper or cry. In return for her obedient docility, Sarah had been rewarded with every material advantage and an inordinate amount of proud parental attention. Nothing she ever did or said had been too trivial for their notice. What age had she been before she realised that it was odd for her to have no friends in her own age-group?
Friends had never been encouraged. The ability to join in rough and tumble games or relax into the chattering, secretive intimacy of other young girls had been stolen by her antiseptic upbringing. She had attended an exclusive boarding school as a day-girl, kept scrupulously close to home, cosseted and protected by two extremely possessive parents from every potentially harmful influence. She had grown up with an outer shell of poise that was inevitably mistaken for a maturity beyond her years.
But deep down inside she had been as wound up as a spring in a dangerously tight coil. She could not have gone on indefinitely as she was…as much a free-thinking individual as a one-dimensional cardboard image. The perfect daughter, the perfect teenager, always immaculately groomed, smilingly polite and obedient.
A shiver ran through her, disrupting her ruminations. She shrank from recalling the years between eighteen and twenty. What would Gordon make of Karen? Sarah wondered amusedly. Her friend was a successful photographer, extrovert and outspoken. Gordon was a banker, ultra-conservative in his tastes and inclined to take himself a little too seriously.
Glimpsing the casually dressed crush in the hall, Gordon frowned and curved a protective arm to her slender spine. Karen gave a frantic wave and waded towards them. A long-legged brunette, she wore a spectacularly short skirt and an antique lace top that exposed plenty of smooth, tanned flesh.
Sarah grinned. Better late than never. Single parents do carry double the responsibility. All Rights Reserved. Lynne Graham. Website by Web Dandy. August 9, Preview Why had Rafael come back? Karen and I are about as different as two women could be!
A Fiery Baptism