Three years after their wedding Ella’s husband Andrei ran away to sea. He was a Romanian bricklayer who had always had a dream to sail the oceans. It came as no surprise – he had always been so impetuous and unpredictable – but it did distress her. She had loved him.

Sometime later Ella had her hair cut short and found a job. It was satisfying to earn her own living and not depend on another person. She settled into her new life and enjoyed being in control and having a routine.  She wanted the days to pass without nasty surprises.

Ella had never wanted children, but she found that she didn’t enjoy living alone. So she asked her widowed father, whom she hadn’t seen during her marriage, to come and visit her. A lengthy stay became permanent. Fred was a retired chef and made delicious meals for his daughter when she returned from the office. They often played cards afterwards, or watched TV, or tried to complete the puzzles in the newspaper. They never argued, finding that their tastes and abilities were in tandem. They were both good losers – or winners.  Ella rediscovered laughter and affection.

One Wednesday afternoon the doorbell rang. When Fred answered it, a man with a shaven head was standing on the doorstep and asked if Ella was still living there. He didn’t recognise Andrei, whom he had never met, and decided he didn’t like the look of the fellow or his foreign accent. He told the stranger he had never heard of the woman. The man nodded, thanked him politely and walked away.

During supper that evening, Fred told Ella about this incidence and described the man. She looked startled and said, “That must have been Andrei.”

Her father seemed distressed. “I had no idea.  I sent him packing – what a disaster!  I’m so sorry.”

His daughter recalled her husband’s eyes and his touch, and then swiftly banished them from her mind.  She preferred the balm of celibacy to the pain of love and passion. “Don’t worry, Dad. He didn’t like cards and was a terrible cook. Why would I want him back?”

Her father noticed the slightly forced note of bravado in her voice, but it suited him to ignore it.