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Three’s a Crowd

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Three's a Crowd by Grace L Sutherland

David sat alone, watching Sue walk away from him down the hill, her hand clasped firmly by the other man in her life, and he mused how different things could have been.

He had known her since childhood, in a distant sort of way. At school she had always been the inaccessible one – too bright, too beautiful, too popular – always beyond his reach. He doubted that she had even been aware of his existence. She graduated top of her class from uni, and became engaged to a promising young solicitor. Then her world fell apart. Her fiancé was killed in a tragic accident, and within months it became obvious that she was pregnant. She quit her accounting job, took a single mother’s pension and devoted herself to raising her child.

David saw little of her in the ensuing years, and the few times people spoke of her it was always with strong mention of “that brat”, the child over whom she seemed to have little control.

It was with some surprise he had met her that first day. A fitness kick had caused him to leave his car two blocks away and walk through the park to his job at the toy factory. He had recognised her immediately, her coppery mane spilling over her shoulders. He called a cheery hello, but as soon as he tried to approach her the carrot-topped child beside her began screaming furiously. He backed away, but secretly hoped he would see her again tomorrow.

Sure enough, they were there again. But again, as soon as he tried to come closer than shouting range, the mini-hurricane went into action. The same thing happened next day. And the next. On the fifth day, before he could even call his hellos, Sue shouted at him in a voice mixed with fear and anger, “Go away! Every day you upset Matthew! Leave us alone!”

David shrugged and backed away. He had come prepared today, and as he drew the ammunition from his pocket he made a note that now at least he knew the enemy’s name: Matthew. He smiled to himself as he slipped his finger through the ring of the Zappy Toy Company’s hottest new line, a battery powered yo-yo which lit up as it moved up and down the string. Pretending to totally ignore Sue and Matthew, he strolled along, demonstrating all the yo-yo tricks he knew – and some he didn’t know!

It worked. Not only was that high-pitched scream notably absent, but before long a small voice beside him was asking, “Can I try?”

Each day after that David had some new, eye-catching novelty with which to entice his young opponent, and while Matthew explored the possibilities of each new wonder, David began to draw Sue out. He talked little about himself, but rather encouraged her to share all that had happened in her life since those heady days at school. In those days he had desired her as an unattainable prize. In the years that followed he had pitied her as a lost soul. But now more and more he found himself loving this gentle, tough, laughing, sad-eyed woman. Slowly she began to unfold, like a rose bud opening to the warmth of the sun.

Then, just when he had finally decided the time was right, and asked her to marry him, she backed right off. It was as though a wall of fear shot up between them.

“No, David, no.” She trembled. “I’ve never shared my life with two men at once. First there was Tony, but he died before Matt was born. Since then there has only been Matt. He’s all I have. I don’t know…..” she hesitated, searching for words. ” …. I don’t know if I have enough love for both of you. I don’t want Matt to miss out, just because I love you.”

That had stumped him. There seemed to be no answer. He shook his head as he watched them disappear around the bottom of the hill: the girl he loved and her “other man”. It could have been so different! Then he broke into a grin big enough to light the city as he remembered that last, brilliant, desperate stroke of genius which saved the day.

“Well, Sue,” he had said, “if you don’t want me I guess I’ll just have to ask someone else.” Ignoring her expression of stunned disbelief, he called Matt over and knelt beside him. “Listen, Mate, I want to marry your Mummy, but she doesn’t think she has enough love for both of us. What do you think? Would you like me for a Daddy?”

Matt had looked at him with the kind of wide-eyed seriousness mastered only by six-year-olds. “Mummy’s happy when you’re around, and when she’s happy she makes me happy. I think you should be around all the time.”

Sue had laughed softly as the wall of fear melted. “O.K. I guess it’s two against one. But,” she grinned impishly, “as soon as we’re married I’m going to do something about having a little girl so I can have someone on MY side.”

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