Why did I pick up his phone? 'As any fool knows, you don't read other people's letters, or e-mails'

Jane wrinkles her nose, before pouring us another glass of Merlot each. "What I don't understand," she says, "is why you thought it was a good idea to pick up his phone in the
first place."

Jane wrinkles her nose, before pouring us another glass of Merlot each. "What I don't understand," she says, "is why you thought it was a good idea to pick up his phone in the first place."

"Well, thanks very much," I say, giving her one of my best Force 10 glares. "I'd rather hoped for a more sympathetic response from my closest friend. Why shouldn't I answer Jaap's mobile? We've been going out for ages, we're practically living together and one day we're going to get married. And he'd only popped out to buy the newspapers."

This outburst has, I realise, all the hallmarks of a major huff-and-puff on my part and, like so many h-&-ps before it, it's designed to cover me being on shaky ground.

As every fool knows, you don't read other people's letters or e-mails or diaries - and you don't go trawling through the text messages on their mobile, either.

"What was I supposed to do?" I say, a more plaintive note creeping in. "It made that horrid beeping noise so I picked it up. It's just that when I realised it wasn't mine, I didn't put it down again. I wish I had. But, I don't know, Jaap's been behaving a bit oddly lately, so I suppose I was feeling insecure and ..."

"Nosy," Jane says. "And this is what happens to nosy people." She pauses, then adds, more kindly: "Look, it may be nothing. Jaap doesn't seem the type ...

"Everyone's the type," I say, sadly. "Everyone with a pulse. And, anyway, how can 'READY FOR YOU ANY TIME. CAROLINE' be nothing? Nice try, but it'll take more than that to convince me I'm wrong."

Suddenly, the room goes blurry and I find myself gulping and sniffing. "Oh, Jane," I say, my face all crumpled up, "I love him so much. How can this be happening?"

The next day, I have a horrible, horrible hangover and a heart of lead. I can hardly bear to even look in Jaap's direction.

Yet, when he comes over and asks if I'm all right and says he obviously needs to take me out somewhere nice this evening, I can't think of a reason to turn him down.

This, it turns out, is a huge mistake. The dinner, to be fair, is delicious, and I even manage to eat some of it; and Jaap is kindness itself, clearly concerned I'm not my usual self. It's when we go back for coffee at my place that things start to go terribly wrong.

"What is the sell-by date on this?" Jaap asks, sniffing the carton of milk in the fridge. "Oh God, that's dreadful," he says, screwing up his nose. "I should go and get some more. I won't be long."

He's barely out of the door when his jacket starts to ring. Should I answer it? Every instinct is telling me that no good will come of it if I do. So I override it.

"Hello?" I say down the phone, and a woman's voice answers, "Hello? Who are you?" followed by, "Oh no ..." Then she hangs up.

"Are you all right? You look shattered," Jaap says when he returns with the milk. "You should go straight to bed. Don't worry about me; I'll have my coffee and go home, give you some peace."

He's right; I am tired - too tired to keep up the protective front any more. There's the now-familiar prickle in my nose and I can't hold back the tears any more. Jaap looks both bewildered and distressed as he says: "What's wrong? What's happened?"

"You should know," I wail, pushing him away. "Stop pretending you don't. How could you? Just get out! Get out and don't come back! I never want to see you again. It's over!"

thetrader@hotmail.com

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