Chapter 31: Penny – February 1978

Penny had no hesitation when Rebecca called her a short while later.  It was Sunday and Charles was conducting the Matins service.  Penny was at home with Simon and the baby.

‘Becca, darling come down here for a few days, pack your bag now and hop on a train.  Rebecca choked back a sob of gratitude.  She needed help and Penny was the one who knew about pregnancy and babies.  Babies she thought.  God how am I going to cope?

Rebecca ran into Penny’s arms on the station platform.  She sobbed and hiccoughed in turn,

‘Thank you Pen, I’m so glad you’re here.  What a mess I’ve made of my life.  My parents will be so upset and….’

‘Hush! Hush!  Everything will turn out all right’ soothed Penny; inwardly worrying for her friend’s situation.  ‘Let’s get you home and we’ll be able to talk about it later.’  She had left the children with Charles as soon as he had returned from church rushing off to meet Rebecca.  She had not briefed him regarding Rebecca’s bombshell and wondered how he would take the news.  She had no doubt that he would be supportive of her friend’s plight but not sure what his moral scruples would be.  She knew that he had distanced himself from Dylan over the years.  Would he want Penny to do likewise with Rebecca?  The thought of having to let down or displease either one of them filled her with alarm.  Penny did not take her obligations lightly.

Charles was a sensitive and intelligent man well able to deduce what may have brought Rebecca to their door so precipitously.  He still felt a degree of responsibility in the matter as he had introduced Dylan into Rebecca’s life however inadvertently.  When his wife arrived with Rebecca he was able to greet her with sincere warmth already aware of her condition.  Penny was once more deeply grateful for her good fortune in meeting and marrying Charles.  Rebecca had pulled herself together on the short journey to the Rectory and was able to greet Charles with a smile of affection, the new baby (her namesake) with goo’s of admiration and Simon with whoops of delight.  As she admired baby Lucy Rebecca and played with the two year old she wondered what it would be like to do this with her own child and felt the first small stirring of maternal feelings.

That evening the three grown-ups talked late into the evening.  Charles and Penny told of the call from Caitlin after Rebecca had returned from Rome to London.  Her call had alerted them to Rebecca’s unhappy relationship with Dylan.  Charles then recounted some of the stories of his childhood friendship with Dylan, stories of which Rebecca had heard from Dylan.  Penny added some of the information that Jane had afforded and Charles added his own concerns and apologise.

Rebecca painfully told some of the sorry tale of her meeting and falling for Dylan and the confusion of emotions that she had been feeling ever since their involvement.  Then she told them both together that she thought that she was pregnant and that she had not seen or heard from Dylan since the day that the baby was conceived.  By the end of the evening all three were completely drained of emotion.

Penny ran a hot bath for Rebecca and added bath oil and provided lots of fluffy towels and a bathrobe.

‘Go and have a long soak to relax and I’ll bring you up a mug of cocoa to help you to sleep.’  Rebecca obediently did what she was told and felt a lot better for the advice.  Once Rebecca was in bed and fast asleep and baby Lucy had been fed Penny and Charles spent another half hour discussing the events of the day as they always did.

Charles had seldom felt as compromised, torn between his vows as a clergyman and as a husband and friend.  Marriage was sacred to him, as was life.  The idea that Rebecca may choose to have an abortion worried him enormously but beyond everything he felt that he should do his upmost to right the wrong that he had inadvertently caused.

‘I don’t think that Rebecca will choose to have an abortion’ Penny defended stoutly, ‘but if she does I must support her wishes.’

‘I know you would, my darling’ Charles returned, ‘but I pray that you are right and that she will choose to keep the child.’

After a long moment’s silence he continued, ‘Perhaps if Dylan knew that he had fathered a child he would feel some obligation towards it, maybe he could learn to give it the love that he never had himself.’

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