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Roses Aren't Everything: Chapter 45: Garden Guidance

...God, Ingrid vented silently, how had that happened? She had almost caused a multi-car pileup. Her brain had switched off for a split second, but at a hundred and twenty kilometres an hour, it had been enough time to cross the middle line and drive into the face of approaching traffic...

Ingrid puts lives in jeapardy while dreaming about Carl.

Leanne Hunt continues her novel about a woman facing a romantic crisis. The story is set in present-day South Africa.

Carl and Ingrid dined as before in a deluxe restaurant. His conversation was even more provocative than on their first date. Giddy with wine, Ingrid accompanied him to a star-studded show at the Superbowl. Back in the suite, he closed the door softly behind them and pulled her towards him. In the darkness, her body felt slippery with desire. She let him lift her chin and kiss her lips. His breath smelled of coffee…

Suddenly, Caroline screamed, “Mom! Watch out!”

Tyres screeched, a hooter blared, and a blur of yellow flashed past the driver's window. Instinctively, Ingrid yanked the steering wheel to the left. They were all thrown sideways as an oncoming truck roared towards them and thundered past.

Shaken, Ingrid swore violently. Behind her seat, Debbie burst into tears. Caroline recovered herself sufficiently to sit stiffly, eyes fixed on the road ahead but the tension in the car was palpable. God, Ingrid vented silently, how had that happened? She had almost caused a multi-car pileup. Her brain had switched off for a split second, but at a hundred and twenty kilometres an hour, it had been enough time to cross the middle line and drive into the face of approaching traffic.

Gathering her wits, she apologised to the girls. Debbie continued to sob noisily. It was no good. She spoke sharply to her daughter. “Debbie, that’s enough crying. Blow your nose and dry your eyes. We’ll be there in ten minutes and I promise you can have an ice cream after we’ve seen Daddy.”

Debbie quietened down instantly and Ingrid shamelessly went back to thinking about Carl. This time next week she would be coming back from Dunmore, having spent two nights at Sun City. How would she feel? She would have transgressed the forbidden boundary and just faced her husband with the knowledge that things would never be the same again. What would that make her? An adulteress? There was no other word for it.

But why? Why was she doing this thing that was against every principle she had ever stood for? Why was she breaking her daughters’ trust in this way? Her actions, if they became known, would have disastrous repercussions. She would be disowned by the Steeles. The town would scorn her for running after a city slicker. Their church would be rocked by her disgraceful conduct. Beaver’s joy over Gavin and Tracey’s relationship would be marred.

On the other hand, she would have embarked on an adventure with infinite possibilities. She would be riding high on the thrill of newfound independence. If she was careful, it wouldn’t need to impinge on life at Steelesbury at all. Naturally, this would require skilful balancing - she would have to bracket her relationship with Carl and keep it entirely separate from her life at home - but it would at least mean she no longer felt trapped. She would be able to escape the pressure of Alice’s perpetual domination. Her freedom to be herself would be restored.

Later that morning, Ingrid tried to explain this line of thinking to Dr Rawlings as they walked in the grounds of the hospital. The sky was blue, dotted with puffy white clouds that promised more rain towards evening. Crested bull-bulls, brightly coloured starlings and cheeky mina birds chirruped above their heads, but Ingrid resolutely ignored them. It was important that she put her case clearly to the psychiatrist, because she desperately wanted his approval and support.

The girls were safely out of earshot, sitting in the cafeteria eating ice-creams and reading comics. They had spent a fairly satisfying couple of hours with Warren. Caroline had read him a newspaper article about the African Dream Casino’s involvement in the AIDS orphanage and the concert they had attended with Beth and Brian. Debbie had brought along a series of photographs which Tracey had taken of the nativity play and of her hoop routine in particular. As a result, they were both feeling relaxed and happy.

Dr Rawlings stopped under a willow tree and tugged lightly at a branch that trailed its leaves almost to the ground. Turning to face her, he asked. “Aren’t you avoiding the issue? If you want to cast off your mother-in-law’s restraint, why not do it openly?”

Ingrid frowned. “I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

“What I mean,” he said carefully, “is that you have other options. You don’t have to compromise your integrity to get your point across.”

Meeting his gaze, she replied, “I’ve already compromised my integrity, remember? I used to pride myself on having it all together, but not any longer. Lately, it feels as if I’m coming apart at the seams. I hardly know who I am anymore.”

When he failed to respond, she went on impulsively. “For a while, I thought I could silence the rebellious part of my nature by pushing it down and calling it wicked. But not even that works now. I’m afraid the rebellious part is winning the fight hands down.”

“Lots of people go through that,” Dr Rawlings said matter-of-factly. “You can look at it two ways. Either you can give up on yourself as a failure, or you can look for new opportunities that are opening up.” He pulled harder on the willow branch, and it sprang upwards with a rustle of slender leaves. “Don’t think the first opportunity that comes your way is also the last one. Times of crisis have a way of opening multiple doors. You simply have to take your time and choose the one that is best for you.”


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