Phyllida Makepeace was dreaming. She muttered in her sleep and flung out an arm. Warm skin in contact with icy sheet woke her and she huddled under the quilt, letting consciousness flood in upon the slowly fading images. Reality was disappointing. In her dream, Alistair had telephoned. The submarine had developed a fault and they'd be alongside for a few days, he'd told her, and she'd been dashing round preparing for his arrival.
Phyllida tucked the quilt more firmly under her chin. The large high-ceilinged rooms of the Victorian villa were almost impossible to heat but she loved the house with its sheltered walled garden and the views across to Dartmoor. She lifted her head to peer at the clock on the bedside table and realised that four-year-old Lucy would be waking soon but she lay a little longer, preparing herself for the chilly dash to the bathroom. The sudden remembrance of the very new life within her caused a little shiver of joy to warm her and she flung back the quilt and slid out of bed. She looked an odd figure in one of Alistair's old shirts and a pair of his warm thick white submarine socks. At twenty-six she was still young enough to find comfort in wearing his clothes in his absence and she clutched his shirt to her as she hurried across the landing.
Shivering in the unheated bathroom, she remembered that it was St Valentine's Day and she wondered if Alistair might have arranged for her to receive a card. He was very thoughtful about special days like anniversaries and birthdays and made great efforts to see that cards and presents arrived when he was away at sea. She loved him so much but, though he made it quite clear that he loved her in return, it still baffled her as to why he had chosen her from amongst all his girlfriends to be his wife.
Her elder brother, Matthew, had brought Alistair home for a weekend just after she'd qualified from Norland, the nursery training college, and was completing her nine months' probation. She'd fallen in love with him at once, accepted his proposal of marriage three months later and immediately put all thoughts of a career behind her. Blessed with a happy open disposition, she'd plunged into naval life with enthusiasm and made friends quickly. Alistair, at twenty-nine, was just taking command of a submarine and his brother officers' wives were rather older than Phyllida. They were charmed by her friendly yet diffident approach, flattered by her awe of their experience and wisdom and unthreatened by her appearance. Although she was six or seven years their junior, her looks were not the kind which aroused envy. Phyllida's brand of beauty was not the obvious type. It was a simple understated attractiveness rather than the eye-catching, head-turning variety; the pure oval of her face, her wide grey eyes and the warmth of her ready smile. She was taken under the Wardroom wing and made much of and the fact that she was the Captain's wife did her no harm at all.
It was obvious that Alistair adored her and his family and friends heaved sighs of relief that he was ready to settle down at last. The general opinion was that he'd played the part of Romeo for far too long but the more cynical - and rejected -looked at Phyllida and wondered how long it would be before Alistair's roving eye began to wander yet again. What, they asked each other, did he see in her? He'd had so many gorgeous glamorous women in tow and, although she was sweet, she was hardly in the same class of beauty as his usual girlfriends. At this point, eyebrows were raised and shoulders shrugged. The more charitable - and those who were taken by Phyllida's own particular charm - pointed out that dramatic good looks weren't everything. Alistair, thickset and barely above average height, was hardly conventionally handsome but there was something in his blue eyes and in his smile which tended to make most women in his vicinity pull their stomachs in and feel irritated that they hadn’t bothered to wash their hair.