There is one number Ursula hasn’t tried. Mack gave it to her for emergencies. “Honestly, you won’t want to use it unless you have to.” He’s never spoken about Lindsay in favourable terms. The kindest reference he makes to her is ‘the mother of my three boys’.
Soon to be Ursula’s stepchildren.
She thinks of them, arriving chauffeur driven for weekends, hair neatly parted and slicked down, dressed in impractical white shorts. If the message Lindsay intends is that Mack shouldn’t mess them up, she needs to be less subtle. The first thing he does is ruffle their hair, then he engages them in the kind of rough and tumble that always ends with grass stains. Mack loves those boys. Might he not use her absence as an opportunity to visit them in their own home? He’s probably decided it would be good to talk things through with their mother, face to face.
The thought takes root.
How silly that Mack feels the need to keep this from her! If only she’d agreed to meet her ex-husband and talk things through. Not in the home she shared with Robin and still part-owns – that would have been too complicated. Somewhere neutral. A hotel overlooking the sea. Brighton, perhaps. Hasn’t Ursula often told Mack that she wished she didn’t need to write to her own daughter care of a solicitor? Of all people, an actress knows how easily inflections read into words on a page can alter their meaning.
Ursula can’t avoid Lindsay forever. When she becomes Mack’s wife, Lindsay will have to accept her role in the boys’ lives. It’s better that they learn to rub along sooner rather than later.
A decision, then.
She dials reception and asks to be connected. There is a wait. Ursula touches cold fingertips to her lips. Thinking and doing are very different things. This is stage fright, pure and simple.
“Miss Delancy, how wonderful to hear from you.” A far cry from the cold sarcasm Ursula expected. “I wasn’t aware that you were part of Donald’s current project. In fact, I’m sure I remember reading someplace that you’re busy treading the boards of the London stage.”
“That’s right, I am. I just wondered if you’ve heard from him recently.”
“Oh, you Brits and your sense of humour. What a funny thing to say! We’re just having breakfast with the children. We have so little time together, it’s become something of a family ritual. But listen to me, lecturing the world’s first leading lady about studio hours! Would you like me to disturb him?”
An actress is supposed to suppress her own personality, embody her character’s motivation, reflect her director’s vision. Sometimes, by the end of a movie, Ursula has done her job so thoroughly it takes a few days to find herself again.
“Miss Delancy, are you still there?”
“I’m still here. No, please don’t disturb Mack.” Ursula winces. However bright she meant to sound, by using her nickname for Donald she’s slipped up. “Let him enjoy his time with the boys.”
“Speaking of the children,” Lindsay lowers her voice.
Here it comes, Ursula braces herself. The ‘Don’t ever think that you can replace me.’
“We have the most exciting news. Quite unexpected.” Inside the hotel dressing gown, Ursula feels herself shrink. She goes to sit, putting one hand behind her to locate the edge of the bed. “But perhaps I should let Donald tell you. I don’t like to speak out of turn. Although you and I are such old friends.”
Before this moment, Ursula would have passed on the opportunity to hear ‘news’ that follows this kind of fanfare from anyone other than Mack. When people are as famous as they are, even rumours with little substance tend to stick. Once, not long after she and Mack got together, after making the mistake of giving an old friend a peck on the cheek, she’d been forced to phone him from a film set, warning that he could expect the dear folk from the papers to delight in telling him she was having a full-blown affair. “Honest to God, you’re insatiable,” he’d said. “Where do you find the energy?” Whatever this is, it will be the explanation for Lindsay’s confidence. Better to know, rather than allow Mack to do-si-do with the truth.
“Lindsay,” she clutches the receiver harder, “after a build-up like that, you can’t leave me guessing!”
“Well, alright. So long as you promise not to let slip that I was the one who told you.”
“There you go again!” Lindsay laughs, pauses, then says, “We’re expecting.”
Breath forces itself from Ursula’s mouth. How? Her hand goes to her stomach, so that she might shield her unborn child from the force of the blast.
“I know, I know! I’m as surprised as you are. After all, I’m pushing forty, which, let’s face it, is going to make me pretty old for a mother. But we’re both thrilled. It just feels right.”
Ursula has played this role in a movie. She knows her lines. It’s just that she never imagined she would speak them in her own life. “And when will the happy event be?” Her delivery is not quite as she would have wished it.
“June, we think, but both of my boys arrived early. They come when they’re good and ready, don’t they?”
“Oh, they do.” September, October, then. The trip when Mack went to break the news to Lindsay that Ursula was expecting his child. And her reaction was to seduce him. One last waltz, for old time’s sake. After all that they’ve been through, he’s the one who found the energy for an affair. With his ex-wife. “Well. My very best to you both.”
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