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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
320 pages
Jan 2006

Theodora's Baby

by Penny Culliford

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Sunday 2 July

11:45 p.m.

Shhh! I’m writing this really quietly by torchlight so that Kevin doesn’t know I’m doing it. It feels a bit dishonest, but after two years of jotting down my thoughts in a diary, I feel as if I can’t think properly without it. He’s not at all happy about me keeping the diary. I’m not actually banned from writing in it; he just makes little whimpering noises and looks pathetic when he sees me scribbling away. He even tore out the pages describing our Greek honeymoon on the grounds that if Diana’s grandma found them, she’d have a heart attack. I tried to explain that (a) Yaya doesn’t read English and (b) if she could read it, it would probably brighten her day considerably.

Kevin would have none of it, though.

‘I just don’t like it. It’s like you’re keeping things from me, Theo,’ he whined.

‘They’re nothing, just thoughts.’

‘If they’re just thoughts, why don’t they stay in your head? Mine do.’

‘I don’t know. It’s as if I can sort things out better if I see them written on the page.’

‘You could talk to me.’ He pouted. I couldn’t deny it, he had a point. And I did talk to him; of course I did.

‘It’s just that . . .’ I hesitated, trying to think of a reason.

‘Most of it’s boring stuff like . . . what colour nail polish should I wear today, or do I need to order an extra pint of milk? What was the name of the guy with the spiky hair in the Bay City Rollers? Stuff like that.’

‘Then why don’t you like me reading it?’

‘Because you laugh at me.’ Now it was my turn to pout. He went to the table and picked up the diary. He held it closed as if the pages were fastened with an invisible padlock.

‘Sometimes it’s like you’re . . . shutting me out. Theo, please don’t write in the diary any more.’

I took the diary from him and put it in a drawer.

‘I’ll think about it.’

He looked at me for a long time as if he was weighing me up. I thought he was going to say something else, but he didn’t.

I love him, and I don’t want to keep things from him; on the other hand, he doesn’t have a right to know all my thoughts, everything that is going on in my head. Does he?

Monday 3 July

Didn’t sleep well last night. Dreamed that God was reading my diary. God didn’t say anything, but I watched his expression, which passed from puzzled, to amused, to irritated, to completely perplexed. If I asked Charity Hubble about my dream, she’d pray for my deliverance; if I told my sister, Ariadne, she’d blame it on the blue-cheese dressing I had on my salad last night. The irony is, if I wasn’t so worried about whether to keep a diary or not, I wouldn’t have to keep a diary! What is a girl to do?

One thing this girl must do is to go job-hunting. Despite Kevin’s pseudo-chivalrous offer to be the sole provider, I’ll go mad with boredom and drive Kevin mad, moaning about it.

The job as church secretary occupies less than one day a week, and the only intellectual challenge is how to change the photocopier’s toner cartridge without looking as if I’d just swept a chimney. I can’t deny it’s kind of Chrissie to keep the job for me, but I prefer her being my friend and my vicar to being my boss. I’ve never met anyone so disorganized. I discovered that she’d mixed up the burials register with the register of marriages.

Poor Darren Clooney nearly got booked in for a full service at the local crematorium, and goodness knows what would have happened if his fiancée, Janice, had turned up at the church and found the mortal remains of ninety-seven-year old Mr Gainsborough waiting for her in his wooden box.

11:30 a.m.

Just flicked through the small ads in the local paper.

Unless I have a burning ambition to be a barmaid or an office cleaner, options are limited. I have no burning ambition to be either.

I got rather distracted by the ‘pets for sale’ and was very tempted to ‘provide a loving home’ for a pair of unwanted ginger kittens. I decided against it on the grounds that I preferred Kevin the budgie without a feline overcoat.

Needless to say, the budgie’s name was my mother’s choice.

She cared for ‘Kevin’ while we were on honeymoon.

‘But, Mum,’ I protested, ‘you can’t call it Kevin. Half the time I won’t know if I’m talking to my husband or the budgie.’

‘If he turns out anything like your father, you’ll get more sense out of the bird.’

Tuesday 4 July

Woke up early, made Kevin a cup of tea and brought him breakfast in bed. As we snuggled up, a picture of contentment, Kevin asked me if I was happy.

‘Of course,’ I replied.

‘You’re not worried about anything?’


‘Are you sure?’

‘Positive. Now would you mind telling me what this is all about?’

He opened my underwear drawer.

I was starting to get worried.

‘If everything in your life is so hunky-dory, then why are you still writing in that blasted diary?’

He rummaged through the bras and pants and pulled out my diary.

Discovered. What could I do now? I looked away and pretended to brush some toast crumbs onto the floor.

I’d managed to keep away from the diary for nearly a fortnight after we got back from honeymoon, but I’m like an addict. I just can’t stop. The compulsion is even worse than the worst kind of chocolate craving – and I should know. The only solution would be to agree to let him read it. I was just about to make my magnanimous offer when I discovered a large blob of marmalade in my hair. By the time I’d scraped it off, the moment had passed. He gave me a peck on the cheek and a hug.

‘You smell of oranges. Do you know what you remind me of?’

I shook my head, expecting him to say, ‘An orange grove in springtime,’ or something equally romantic.

He grinned and gave me another squeeze. ‘You’re just like a big cuddly Paddington Bear.’