Authors: Wensley Clarkson
It was hardly a grand affair – as weddings go. But then Graham and Gillian Philpott would not have wanted it any other way really.
As they walked out of the quiet suburban registry office into the autumn sunlight, they felt a sense of relief that they had finally done it.
After all, they knew each other pretty well, having lived together for five years. Hardly a sin, but
for most of that time, bank manager Graham had pretended to be married to avoid the bigoted gossip that their neighbours loved to indulge in.
It just would not do for a 45 year-old, recently divorced father-of-three to be setting up home with the pretty 21 year-old clerk from his branch of a major high-street bank.
For Mungo Park Way, near Orpington, in Kent, was one of those sort of places. Lots of net curtains and perfectly mowed lawns. A veneer of respectability hiding a multitude of sins.
Graham Philpott’s house was a classic example of early 1970s architecture. Functional, practical and entirely lacking in style. But then it did have a built in garage – and that was very important in Mungo Park Way.
Now Graham and Gillian had got married at last. With two failed marriages behind him, Graham wanted to start afresh. Gillian made him feel so much younger.
For her part, she’d put her spotless past on the line to marry a man more than twice her age. Not surprisingly, her parents did not entirely approve of the match.
Her father, retired special branch police detective Leslie Smoothy, was philosophical. ‘They seem happy,’ he observed dryly. Gillian was old enough to make up her own mind whom she should marry.
In her stunning off-the-shoulder wedding dress complete with lace veil, she really looked the part as they left the ceremony to a cheery send-off from a handful of friends and relatives.
She was an attractive woman in a chiselled sort of way, possessing one of those faces with sharp features that people either love or hate. There was no middle-of-the-road reaction about Gillian.
At work, she was always immaculately dressed and bubbled enthusiasm wherever she went. Her gregarious behaviour certainly caught the eye of her colleague Graham. Balding and nearly always wearing the same style of grey flannel suit in the office, he looked the archetypal bank manager.
Within a few months of Gillian joining the bank, they had become a definite couple. Soon, they were openly holding hands and kissing and cuddling as they travelled to and from the City by commuter train each day. No-one objected so long as it did not interfere with their work – and Graham made sure of that.
Now – five years later – she had actually persuaded him to marry her. They had learned to live together. To accept each other’s habits. To enjoy each other’s company. They were probably much better prepared than most other couples. The marriage meant something really special to them despite having been live-in lovers for so long. They wanted the ceremony
to be an occasion to remember. A time of great happiness.
So when Gillian’s sister Janet turned up at their house just a few days before the wedding in tears, it pained them both to see her in such distress. It was only natural that they should offer her a shoulder to cry on.
Janet had just finished a particularly turbulent love affair and her life seemed in tatters. She did the only natural thing – and turned to her twin sister for comfort.
They were not absolutely identical. But the facial resemblances were startling similar. The nose, the eyes, the mouth, the shape of the face. If you met the sister you did not know in the street, you would be sure you had seen her before.
They did not dress identically because they abhorred the habitual obligation that so many twins seem under. They were individuals and they wanted to be treated as such.
If anything, being twin sisters had made Gillian and Janet more determined to succeed on their own. Throughout their childhood, they had suffered the pressure of always being expected to perform like circus clowns. People tried to make one person out of two. It was so infuriating they promised each other they would never treat their own children that way.
It was no surprise, then, that they went their own separate ways. Even so, despite the distance they kept from each other, Janet still managed to have exactly the same job as her sister, for the same bank – but at a different branch.
Perhaps that was why the guests at the wedding that day were not the least bit shocked to see Janet sitting with her sister and brand new husband in the back of their chauffeur-driven limousine as it drove off to London Airport.
Earlier, Gillian had been relieved when her husband had put up no resistance to her suggestion that Janet should accompany them on their honeymoon to beautiful Bali. It wouldn’t mar the holiday. In fact, she thought, it would be quite nice to have some female company. Graham could be awfully staid at times. And Bali sounded like such a wonderful place. Situated just south of Indonesia and west of Java, it really promised to be the trip of a lifetime.
Graham Philpott had been bemused by his wife’s suggestion at first. Slightly irritated that the romantic holiday was going to be with someone else. But, when she had explained the anguish her sister was going through, he thought it would be heartless to object. In any case, Janet was going to return to London after two weeks – to leave them with a full week to themselves.
As they sat together chatting on the flight to paradise, Graham studied Janet more closely. They really were identical twins in more ways than he had at first realised. Talking to Janet was just like talking to a more sophisticated version of Gillian. She seemed less hard-faced. More demure. More ladylike in the way she dressed and behaved. He examined all the features of her body. It was her eyes that struck him most. They were so inviting. She would look at him in such a way that he felt as if she were reading his mind.
Janet possessed something her sister lacked. He wasn’t entirely sure what it was. But he thought he might like to find out.
Graham and Gillian had the honeymoon suite. It was a sumptuous place. Servants at your beck and call. Food, drink, sunshine, even massages on tap.
At night the two newly weds walked barefoot along the endless palm-fringed beaches, golden sand scrunching beneath their feet.
Bali has been called ‘The Morning of the World’. An enchanting island, it is without doubt, one of the most magical places on earth. Scattered between the trees are tiny villages where craftsmen build countless temples in honour of their gods. Every night, after the sun goes down, traditional Balinese dancing takes place. The perfect place to relax. The perfect place for a honeymoon.
There was so much for the newly-weds to do.
Then there was Janet. She was always around. Laughing. Joking. Playing a hostess-type role to the two lovers. Whenever she felt in the way, she would disappear, sensing it was time to leave Graham and Gillian alone.
As the honeymoon went on, however, they both felt they couldn’t just cut Janet out of the picture. More and more, they insisted she joined in with them. They wanted to make sure she didn’t feel awkward with them. This was her holiday as well.
So she became an essential part of the proceedings. No mealtime was complete without her. The three of them would laugh and joke at all the same things. They had built up a remarkable rapport.
Graham was becoming convinced they were all having an even better time – thanks to bringing Janet along. If anything, he began to think, she was an improvement on Gillian. No, he didn’t really mean that. Not really. It was just that she kept flitting into his thoughts – he couldn’t help it. Every time he looked at Gillian, he saw Janet shining through. Maybe it was because they were so similar.
At first, he dismissed it as a natural fondness for his wife’s sister. They were twins and it was obvious that he would find them both attractive. He would watch as Janet plunged into the pool for a swim.
Looking at her body. Examining every minute detail – comparing it all the time to Gillian.
Janet seemed to hold herself much better. Her breasts seemed firmer. Her body seemed more shapely. But then again…
Both Graham and Gillian became quite depressed as the day of Janet’s departure back to London approached. They both enjoyed her company immensely but for entirely different reasons. They didn’t want to see her go. But the plane ticket was booked. It would cost a fortune to change it.
They all decided to go out for an extra special dinner the night before she was due to leave. It was like a leaving party in a way. Gillian was sad. She was going to miss her sister’s company during those long, hot, sunny days on the beach.
As they sat in the corner of the restaurant, Graham proposed a toast to his sister-in-law. It was a nice gesture and Janet smiled warmly at him. He stared intently at her. Delighted that she had responded to him so openly. Gillian paused for moment. She frowned at Graham, then dismissed her suspicions as ridiculous. The dinner party continued.
Graham told a joke and the two sisters listened carefully to his every word. After the punch line delivery, they both laughed in unison. Janet grabbed Graham’s arm purely as a reaction to the wisecrack. She felt good about her brother-in-law. He seemed a
fine person. Someone who would bring nothing but happiness to her family. She was pleased.
Her hand squeezed his arm gently. It was an act of fondness for a new relative she was only just beginning to get to know, but to Graham it was a significant sign. Evidence that Janet was starting to return the feelings he had for her.
If anyone else in the world had squeezed his arm in such a way, he would have thought nothing of it, but when she did it… it had to mean something. A deliberate flirtation. He couldn’t accept it as anything else.
If only Janet had realised what thoughts were rushing through his mind at that moment, then maybe she would not have inadvertently brushed his leg with the toes of her shoe just a few minutes later. To her, it was an innocent movement. Not intended in any way to be interpreted as a show of affection. She didn’t give it any thought at the time. She just pulled her foot away gradually so as not to appear rude.
When Graham felt the movement of her shoe on his leg, it left a completely different impression. He saw it as even more evidence of her attempt to tell him that she fancied him. That she could not wait for him to get back to England so they might make wild, passionate love.
He looked up and glanced at her as her toe rested,
momentarily, on his leg. He smiled discreetly, so Gillian would not see. Janet saw the look on his face and pulled her foot away immediately – but it was already too late. The damage had been done.
Graham’s obsession had begun.
The next day was a sad occasion for everyone. Graham and Gillian were both at the airport saying fond farewells to Janet. It was more like saying goodbye to a relative who was emigrating to the other side of the world, than a sister whom they would both see just seven days later.
Gillian had thought it ludicrous to take Janet to the airport. She was a grown up person, perfectly capable of looking after herself, but Graham had insisted. He told his new wife that he would expect her to do the same thing if the situations were reversed. That was just a smoke screen for the searing passion he felt for Janet. Any excuse just to spend that extra hour in her company. Just to be sitting next to her in the taxi. To feel her leg brush against his own as they got out at the other end. To smell her perfume. To see her smile. To feel her lips.
When Gillian kissed her sister fondly on the cheek before she went through passport control, Graham could feel the excitement in his stomach, anticipating the hug and kiss he knew he was about to receive. It was a rare opportunity for him to feel her in his arms. Gillian looked on, completely
unaware of his innermost feelings.
When the time finally came for his turn to say good-bye, he was like a schoolboy about to experience his first kiss. He felt awkward. Almost embarrassed by the situation. After all those days and nights of fantasy, the reality was now staring him in the face.
He bent to kiss her gently on the side of her face. He wanted desperately to move his mouth over to her lips. He watched them. They were covered in just the right amount of red lipstick. He was certain that for a moment he saw them quiver with expectation but he couldn’t bring himself to do more than brush the side of her cheek with his lips. He waited for a split second, breathing in her scent. Then he pulled away, once more aware of the presence of his young bride. She did not notice his reaction.
They both watched as she waved back at them while walking through customs, all the time completely unaware of the effect she had already had on their lives and the tragedy she had inadvertently set in motion.
Graham had always been an incurable romantic. But now his thoughts were working overtime. Janet consumed his waking hours. When Gillian turned to ask him a question, he ignored her – stuck in a fantasy trance. But this was no fairy tale. He was on
his honeymoon, transfixed by another woman.
‘Let’s have a drink at the airport bar.’
Graham snapped out of his daze. Gillian sensed something was wrong.
However, that request to stop for a drink had an ulterior motive. For Graham wanted to see Janet’s plane as it took off for London. Like a child watching a huge airliner lift into the sky, waiting for a wave from one of those tiny round windows, Graham actually believed she might look out and see him down there.
He was already beginning to lose all sense of reality. He did not even know which side of the plane she would be sitting on. How on earth would she see him?
None of that mattered to Graham. He just wanted to feel that there might be a chance. That was enough to keep him there. Waiting for the opportunity of a glimpse.
They sat in sad silence at a table in the bar. Graham’s eyes kept darting towards the runway every time an aircraft taxied for take off. Gillian did not realise how attentive he was being because he wore sunglasses.