Charles, a recently retired academic principal, reflects on a single thread of his life, a segment that has pursued him almost since the start of his teaching career. He realises now that he reflects, that this part of his life history is inextricably bound up with his relationship with his late mother, who throughout her married life exerted control over the entire family and over Charles in particular, ultimately leading him to enter into a loveless marriage with Gilly his wife, a marriage which he had dutifully stayed with for almost forty years. However, during most of this period of Charles' life he has remained infatuated with Sylvie, originally a pupil whom Charles taught and the person who has been the other half of a relationship that innocently commenced when Charles was a young teacher. The relationship commenced after Charles had taken up his second teaching post when he and Gilly had moved to the West of England, seeking a place in order to establish a new life for themselves, and to allow Charles to escape his perceived dreariness of the imprisonment of his Midlands home, and what he saw as the entrapment of his wife's family. He reflects on his encounter with Sylvie when she was his pupil and how they fought the feelings that grew between them. Surviving that period Charles had moved on with his career and with his marriage, until one day many years later Sylvie tracked him down to the place where he now lived. Thus commenced a new line of communication and a new phase of the story for Charles and Sylvie. From that point on their relationship matured and grew. Sylvie drifted into and out of Charles' existence and each time left him wanting more. Would he remain strong enough to preserve his marriage throughout these tests, or would he ultimately abandon his family in order to make a new life with Sylvie? The story tracks the relationship between Charles and Sylvie and how this impacts on the marriage of Charles and Gilly. It tells the tale of Charles, Sylvie and Gilly, often describing the intimacies that Charles and Sylvie explore, and all the time examining the lives and emotions of these two people, both whilst they are apart as well as when they are thrown together.