Back to Bristol Ch. 05byGaryAPB©
I had quite a good weekend. I was beginning to let my hatred of Peter Davies die within me, I guess. I still wasn't happy with him. I still believed that he was an immoral little shit. But maybe I got it back into proportion. There are plenty of immoral little shits in this world, and I would never claim that I was as pure as the driven snow.
On Sunday I brought the boys back to my little flat, and I cooked. Well I followed the instructions on the packets, but it was a fairly healthy good meal. The boys seemed really relaxed, and never seemed to question their lifestyle. I guess a lot of their school friends are in similar positions these days. I did start discussing school, and how happy they were and how well they were doing. I was beginning to wonder if I might pay for private education for them, I could easily afford it. I guess I'll have to talk to Molly about it sometime.
It was on Monday evening in the office that things took another turn. I'd noticed that I was beginning to drift into a bad habit of taking too much paperwork home with me. So, I decided that I'd stay in the office until about six thirty or even seven o'clock, and read some there, but then go home with an empty briefcase.
It must have been sometime after six o'clock, Carole had left, and I was sitting at my desk, just writing notes in the margin of a memo when I heard someone coming down the corridor towards my office.
Piers McBaine came through my door. "You bastard! You fucking bastard!"
I stood up and waved him to sit on a sofa. Although he was defamatory in his language, I could see that his eyes were sad rather than angry. I went over and poured us both a whisky, handed him one and sat down in my armchair.
He took the glass, "Whisky? In the office?"
"I keep it especially for people who come through my door calling me a fucking bastard. I get through quite a lot of it." I smiled.
His face softened, and he smiled, "Somehow I doubt that."
We sat and looked at each other for a long moment, "Well, are you going to tell me, or do I have to guess?" I asked.
"You'll guess it's about Peter Davies, and the other bit you know."
"Still, tell me."
"He was a sexual predator on attractive women. Your wife was the last in the line." He said it as a matter of fact, rather tersely.
I sipped my whisky, he sipped his, and then looked at his glass, "Lowland?" He looked at me and smiled, "Glenkinchie I think. Good choice."
"I shan't challenge you in a whisky tasting competition."
"Years of practice. But I need a few more years, then I might get to be good at it." He laughed.
I laughed and the atmosphere relaxed, "So tell me, how did you come to this expected conclusion?"
He looked at me, "You knew I would, you set me up. You knew I wouldn't be able to leave it alone, I'd have to know the truth. I'm a researcher, it's what I do."
I shrugged my shoulders, "I let people play to their strengths. I'm a managing director, it's what I do."
He smiled, "Bastard!" We both smiled, "Well, Peter was so guarded about the start of his affair with Molly, so I decided that I had to get him very relaxed if he was to tell me anything."
"Pissed you mean?"
"Yes. I know that Peter can hold his liquor well, but I also know that I can hold mine better. So I told him that I wanted to talk about a lot of Abbey business, off the record, out of the office. I suggested that I'd buy him dinner at the George after Friday drinks, and taxis home. Actually, I think he got Molly to give him a lift in on Friday morning, so he was prepared. Maybe he's being feeling a bit insecure, and was looking forward to a boozy dinner with his boss."
"When he would feel wanted and relaxed."
"Exactly, so after two or three rounds downstairs, I took him upstairs to the restaurant. And we had a bottle of wine with the meal. And then a second bottle. But we did talk, nothing but Abbey business. In fact it was a good talk, we cleared up quite a few genuine issues. Then I ordered a third bottle, and we were both fairly relaxed by then. It was getting late, and they wanted to close the restaurant, but we are so well known there that they just left us to it, in a deserted dining room."
"Well I remarked that I was fairly drunk, and that Jeanette would be annoyed with me. And, as drunks do, I suddenly went off into a story about Jeanette. About the moment when I knew, really knew, that I was in love with her. We'd been going out for about eighteen months, and we were in London on a beautiful summer Sunday. We went to Hyde Park and took a rowing boat out on the Serpentine. Well Jeanette, being an independent sort of a girl, insisted on rowing. And she was throwing up so much spray that I was getting soaked sitting in the back of the boat. But it was then that I knew that I just had to spend the rest of my life with this girl, that I loved her. We got engaged about a month later."
"And Peter had to reply."
"Exactly, I asked him when he knew that Molly was the one. And he said, it happened a lot earlier in the relationship. He had been 'working' on Molly for a couple of months, and at last after a lovely lunch, he had got her back to his flat. He had a very smart flat down by the harbourside in those days. And he said he got her to bed for the first time, and they made love. Well, afterwards, she had to get dressed and leave, but he just lay in the bed and knew that he'd met the one for him."
"So, up until he'd seduced her, he didn't love her." I said bitterly.
"I asked: But what about before? And he said he was just busy working on getting into her pants, as he put it. So I asked, well what did you see in her when you first met? And he said with a leer, 'Well you know what I was like in those days, Piers.' I knew I just had to leave, otherwise there would have been a very drunken row very quickly after that."
"Point proven, and from his own lips." I said, vindicated.
"He might argue that it was love at first sight, that he just didn't know it. I think something along those lines is his usual, sober version." Piers observed, taking a sip of his whisky.
I added wryly, "And it doesn't explain why Molly let it happen."
Piers nodded, "No it doesn't. And that does lead me back to Jeanette."
I looked at him and waited for him to continue.
"Jeanette was in bed when I got back, which was probably as well. But on Saturday we talked. You have to understand, Jeanette is a daughter of the manse; her father was a Presbyterian minister. She was brought up with a pretty strict moral code, and now she is so upset with Peter. And I think you made a big impression on her."
"It was the flowers." I said deprecatingly.
"I think it was the sad look in your eyes when you talk about the divorce. And the love in your eyes when you talk about your boys." He paused, "But anyway, she has had a lot of doubts about Molly in all of this, especially since that lunch with her. I think she's been holding it in for my sake. Well now, she doesn't want anything to do with either of them."
"That's sad." I said, and I meant it.
"Well, maybe she'll get over it in time. But, we were meant to be having Peter and Molly to dinner this coming Saturday. So this morning I had to have a very unpleasant interview with Peter, and tell him that they are no longer welcome."
"I'm sorry for you."
"So you should be. My knowing that he was someone who would spark the destruction of a family is not what I want to know about my deputy. And I've got to work with him. That's why I'm over here this afternoon. I've been talking about it to Neil in Personnel."
"And what did he say?"
"Personally, I don't think he liked it very much. But he reminded me that I have to find a way of working with him. We can't sack him, he's done nothing illegal. I just don't know how we can get along, and unless Jeanette eases up a bit, I'll be getting hard comments at home. I'll be in the middle."
"I'm sorry. I really am. But Neil's right."
We paused, then he smiled, "Well, I'll live. You must come over to dinner again. Jeanette is even more anxious to see you again now."
After Piers left, I sat in my office thinking things over. I don't know what I felt. I was vindicated, but what good did it do me? Molly must have been totally infatuated by him. In some ways it seemed rather sad that she'd fallen in love with someone who had such dubious morals towards others. I went home feeling slightly deflated.
On Tuesday evening, as I was walking along the street towards a café where I was becoming a regular, Molly phoned me.
"I was wondering if we could meet, sometime soon, please Chris."
I wondered what about, and wondered if I was going to be accused of breaking them up with Piers and Jeanette, another thing I'd done wrong.
"Sure. When were you thinking of?"
"Any chance of a lunch? I'll pay."
"You don't need to do that, I'll happily pay, but I haven't got my diary on me for a weekday lunch. Carole tends to keep it. From memory I think Friday is clear, but I'll have to check in the morning."
"I'll phone you in the office in the morning. Is that OK?"
"Of course it is. Just in case I'm not there, I'll tell Carole to expect your call. Do I get a clue as to what it is about?"
"No, but there is something I need to say, but I'll say it when I see you. But try to leave plenty of time, so that we can relax and talk."
"OK. Speak to you in the morning."
Afterwards, I thought: Well, at least it'll give me a chance to sound her out on private education for the boys.
The next morning, I beat Carole into the office, but Myra was waiting to see me. I waved her into my office and we sat comfortably. She was telling me about the argument that was going on between Franks and ITI HQ as to who was going to pay for the new ITI accounting systems. The Franks team argued they were being imposed by HQ, and should be part of the takeover costs. HQ argued they were improving the current systems and should be borne by Franks.
As we were speaking I heard Carole arrive, and I excused myself from Myra.
I went out to Carole's desk, closing my own office door behind me. "What does the diary look like for Friday?"
"Ah! I've been meaning to talk to you about that. Stephen Hobbs has been on the phone, he wants to know if you'll go to their Planning Meeting in Exeter on Friday."
"Is there anything else in the diary?"
"No. I couldn't put anything else in if you were going to be in Exeter all day."
"Well, phone Stephen and say OK, but only for a short morning. Molly phoned me last night, she wants to see me for lunch one day, and I wondered about Friday."
Carole looked at me, "And what's that about, or shouldn't I ask?"
"I suspect she wants to knock seven bells out of me, because she probably blames me that Piers McBaine and her Peter aren't talking."
I then went on to give her a summary of Piers's news from Monday. At the end, all she said was, "Well, I guess you weren't surprise. And it's hardly your fault that Piers doesn't like the way Peter Davies behaved."
I then continued with trying to sort out Friday, "If Molly phones, tell her that I'll pick her up for lunch at twelve thirty at the hospital. And afterwards, I'll come back here, assuming that she's not actually put me into the hospital. But I may stay out all afternoon anyway, Molly said she may take some time."
I turned to go back to Myra, with a final request, "I've got Myra in there. Any chance of some coffee for us both?"
About an hour later I was still talking to Myra, and enjoying the glimpses I was getting down her blouse, as one button seemed to have come undone, when Carole came in. She brought us a second tray of coffee.
But then Carole looked at me, "I can confirm that Exeter is expecting you just for the morning on Friday. And I've sorted out your lunch. Your guest is coming here for you to go out, at one o'clock."
I smiled at her discretion. "Thanks."
I turned to Myra. "I'm going to Exeter on Friday for their Progress Meeting. Any chance you can join me, and we can start the ball rolling on all the work we've got to do down there in incorporating them into ITI?
Myra looked doubtful, "I've got a lunch up here on Friday. And it may drift into the afternoon..."
"That's fine. I've got to be back for lunch as well. So meet me here at 7:30, and we'll go down in my car, and I can bring you back as well. And we can finish this conversation in the car. How's that?"
"OK" she said, and started tidying her papers.
Later, as I left my office, I stopped at Carole's desk, "Thanks for sorting out Molly. Friday looks very promising, I'm taking Myra down to Exeter for the morning to get her started down there." I smiled, "My two favourite women in one day. One may be my future, and one is definitely my past."
"You fancy Myra? Mmmm, good taste!" was all she said.
On Friday morning Myra was standing just inside the main entrance, and as I pulled up she came out. She was wearing a suit, made up of a long jacket and a short skirt. Those legs were going to be something to admire as we drove along.
The conversation going down to Exeter was all business, a sort of informal progress meeting. I asked if she'd done anything about getting a revaluation of Marston Abbey. "That's why I have to get back, I have lunch with the Planning Officer for the local Council, and an architect that is liked and trusted by the Council." In fact she was making good progress on all the projects that she had under her wing.
The meetings at Franks Engineering went well. I really like Stephen Hobbs, he is very professional, intelligent and quick on the uptake. His whole team are a very likeable bunch, and although we got through a lot of work in the morning, we also laughed a lot.
The journey back was a lot more relaxed. Myra and myself naturally chatted about the Exeter operation on the way back. Both of us were not surprised that TDF had bought them, but we were surprised that the Exeter company was willing to be bought. They had a tidy, profitable operation down there. When business topics were exhausted, Myra and myself just generally chatted. A bit of HQ gossip, world affairs, today's headlines, anything and everything. We really were getting on well. I considered pushing for a date at the weekend, but decided that it was better to write the morning off as a confidence building exercise. There'll be time to pounce later.
Soon we were back at the factory, and I found Molly waiting for me, sitting on the sofa in Carole's office. She stood up as I arrived, I was hit by how nice she looked. Her dress was deep purple wool, pleasantly above the knee and with just an intriguing amount of cleavage showing. She was wearing the pearl necklace that I'd given her on her twenty-first. I kissed her on her cheek and could smell that perfume again. I politely checked that she knew Carole, which was totally unnecessary.
"Just let me dump these papers on my desk.." I said and went into my office.
"Gosh! It's nice in here." She had followed me in, "I saw it once when it was Henri Bauer's office. It was so stark."
I smiled, "I think it's an improvement, but it is really down to Carole."
On the way out I stopped for a word with Carole, "Anything I need to know about?"
"Nothing urgent. Have a nice lunch, and if you don't make it back, well have a nice weekend."
As we sat in the car, we talked about nice, safe, neutral things, amongst which I sang Carole's praises. I was feeling good and pretty relaxed, I'd had a good morning, I was pretty certain I was on track with Myra; it was Friday on what had been a pretty good week overall and I was beginning to feel confidant about running the Company; Peter Davies had got a bit of a comeuppance; it was a lovely spring day and the world was waking up from winter; and I was going to lunch with an attractive woman who had obviously dressed to impress me. OK, there were some question marks and shadows in my life, may be even in this lunch, but things were looking up.
I suggested that I park near the Bristol Old Vic as there were plenty of restaurants in the area, and we could easily find one. I was thinking of going back to that Italian place with the lime green frontage that Keith had introduced me to on my first Sunday. It was relaxed, friendly place, and I knew that Molly loved Italian food.
As we walked up King Street, I began to realise that Molly wasn't anywhere near as relaxed as I was. I began to feel that I was about to get balled out for Peter's problems, and she was building up to give it to me. I asked what she fancied to eat, and she told me that I could choose, so when I got to the lime green monstrosity I started to head her towards the door.
It was as if Molly had a panic attack. Suddenly her face drained of colour, "No, not there. Please not there."
"OK, OK. We'll choose somewhere else. How about that one over the road?"
She seemed to be looking at me with deep suspicion, but I didn't know why, "Yes, anywhere." She answered, sounding relieved.
So we went over the road. It was nice enough, slightly classier if anything than my choice, and was another Italian. Once we were settled at our table, I had to ask, "What's wrong with the one over the road?"
She looked at me, still seeming to search my face for something, "Nothing. I don't particularly like it, that's all, but Peter likes to take me there. Did you know that?"
"How could I?" I could understand now, if she is well known as Peter's wife over the road, I doubted that she wanted to be seen lunching with another man in there.
She smiled, and seemed to relax. I asked her what she would like to drink, and she asked for a gin and tonic. I ordered a bottle of red wine, excusing myself that I was driving, so I'd stick to a couple of glasses of wine. That led me to ask how she got to the factory, was her car parked there? No, she'd come in by taxi, so that she didn't have to go back there after we've finished.
She opened the conversation once the drinks had arrived, "How are you getting on with the boys? They loved going to the rugby."
"Good. You've done a great job in my absence. I haven't really had one awkward moment." I paused, and smiled, "Well maybe a couple, but only because I don't know them as well as I should. Nothing that was their fault."
"They talk about you all the time, especially to Ralph and Susan apparently. They've obviously missed you from their lives. You were very important to them. And you were a good Dad before ...." Her voice began to break for a second. But she paused and took a sip of her cocktail, "I remember you were such a good Dad for the week before we broke up. You were such a good Dad and I was wracked with guilt because of Peter..." Again, she faltered.
I picked up her theme, "I was only putting in a special effort because I was feeling guilty that I'd neglected you all. I guess I had..." Emotion is catching, I found.
We stared at each other in silence. I took a positive decision not to go over old ground, let's get through this lunch without argument or emotion, it should be an opportunity to build a new relationship.
She must have had similar thoughts, because she changed subject, "Have you heard, Peter and Piers McBaine have fallen out?"
I welcomed a change of subject, but not to this one, "I had heard." I answered cautiously.
"Yes, Peter won't really tell me what about. He says it's about morals or ethics or something, and it all happened a long time ago, but although he has changed his ideas since then, he doesn't regret a thing."
I shrugged my shoulders, I certainly wasn't going to enlighten her.
She continued, without me having to say anything, "My guess is that it's something that's upset Jeanette McBaine. Peter and her are always having heated arguments about ethics, especially in scientific research. I don't think they agree on anything. But I'm a bit surprised that Piers has got involved, he's normally a bit like me and stays well out of it."