Back to Bristol Ch. 13byGaryAPB©
I arrived at my office feeling very bright and cheerful on the Monday morning. But there, waiting for me was Peter Davies. My heart sank, I didn't want to start my week with an unseemly macho row.
He stood up as I arrived; I noted Carole hadn't arrived yet.
"Peter Davies! I guess you are waiting for me." I didn't stop, I kept walking to my office.
He followed me. As I turned and looked at him I had to admit to myself that he really is a handsome man, damn him. He also looked very fit and well, I was hoping that at least he'd look pale, tired and worried. Instead he looked as if he'd been out in the fresh air all weekend.
He smiled, "I came here first, before I go in to the Abbey and see Piers and tell him that I'm back at work with a completely new attitude. I wanted you to know."
I looked at him, "I'm glad to hear it."
"Well, I did a lot of thinking over the weekend. I realised that it is no good living with what has happened in the past, I've got to accept the challenge of the future."
That sounded hopeful, "Good. Well I know you are good at your job, so you've still got a great career in front of you."
He smiled, "I know that. I'll be talking to Piers about that. I rather let things slip recently, and I need to catch up with him. But it's part of the reason I came to see you, to apologise and promise that I'm back at work, full time and committed." He paused and looked at me, I felt he was hesitating before he said something else, "I assume you've talked to Molly?"
I froze inside, "Yes. I have."
His eyes were searching my face, "And nothing's changed?"
"No. She was very upset. She's been through quite a lot."
He smiled again, "Well, it's time for forgiveness, and for everyone to move forward. What happened in the past is in the past. I realise that we can't go on with a marriage that is always looking over its shoulder at what happened, and the bits we regret."
I was beginning to believe that he had accepted things. Thank God for that.
He held out his hand, and I surprised myself by taking it and shaking it. I even wished him, "Best of luck."
I watched him leave. Fucking Hell! Life is full of surprises!
I got on with my work, and ten minutes later Carole was delivering a cup of coffee to my desk.
"I met Peter Davies as I was coming in. Did he come and see you?" She asked, trying to keep it casual, but with a keen edge to her voice.
I leant back and smiled, "Another exciting instalment in your soap opera. He came to tell me that he's going to forgive everybody, what for I'm not quite sure, but then he's going to get on with his life."
"Well, well. I thought he had a spring in his step. I remarked on it, and he said it was the sea air over the weekend. Well, I guess it's a good thing. The best thing he could do really."
"Yes it is." I agreed, "Anyway how was your weekend?"
"Quiet, but good. How about yours?"
I smiled, "It started badly. Got worse. But then it sort of started going a lot better, and yesterday was great."
"Any other news?"
"If you mean did I decide anything, No. But I've decided that I'm going to take as long as I need to decide anything."
She sat down and looked at me, "Can I say something?"
I shrugged and smiled, "You might as well; everyone else has."
"Well, I was thinking over the weekend about what your mother and step-father said. And I came to the conclusion they were wrong. You don't have a duty to patch something up with Molly, irrespective of how you feel."
I smiled, but she continued, "But it is your duty to try."
Suddenly I wasn't smiling, "I was wrong. No, you can't have your say."
She smiled, "Could you look your sons in the eyes and say: When I had a chance to put the family back together, a chance to give you the sort of home and life that you need to grow up, loved and supported, I walked away?"
"Surely, it's better to walk away than to give them hope and then fail?"
"Do you respect people who walk away from opportunity without even trying?"
I sighed, "OK. Point made." I half smiled, "Get the diary and let's talk about the week...."
My morning passed quite well. I was very busy, and that's the way I liked it. I had lunch in the dining room with Stephen Hobbs, who was up from Exeter, and Annette Morgan. From my point of view, this was so that I could watch the dynamics between them. After lunch I walked upstairs to my office with Stephen, as we were both going to my first Heads of Departments meeting, that I hoped would effectively supersede the Board in everything except rubber stamping and legal necessities.
I was just standing in my office with Stephen, chatting about nothing in particular, and really waiting for everybody else to assemble, when Piers McBaine came in.
He looked troubled, "Ah! Chris. I was wondering if I might have a word....."
I looked at Stephen, "If you could give me a minute please, Stephen..." Both Piers and myself watched him leave and close the door behind him.
When he'd gone I turned to Piers and smiled, "I had Peter Davies come to see me this morning, which was a bit of a worrying surprise. But it turns out that he's going to get on with his career and his life, and forgive and forget. Which is a bit of an anti-climax, but probably a good thing."
Piers still looked worried, "He told me he'd seen you. He came to see me first thing, as soon as he got in. And he said to me that he was now really focussed on his work, and that he was going to let go of the past. He even said it was a matter of acceptance and forgiveness, and not a moral issue, which I assumed was a dig at me about some of the things I'd said to him."
"Well, I think we both misunderstood him. Rather like you, I was delighted that he was turning over a new leaf. And then, just before I came over here, I thought I'd put my head round his door. I wanted to tell him that I would see him when I got back from this meeting. I've got a load of things that I should hand over to him, that I've protected him from in the last couple of weeks, but he can have them all on his plate if he's back, firing on all cylinders."
"OK. And this concerns me, how?"
"Because he said he was going to leave dead on time this afternoon, maybe even a bit early. He's got to get to the florist to pick up a special bouquet of sweet peas that he's ordered. And then he's got to get home and change. He's arranged a babysitter, and he's booked a table at their special restaurant down in King Street, and he's going to talk to Molly, forgive her everything and put the past into the past, and put his marriage back on track."
I gave a single word response, "Fuck!"
Piers smiled, relieved that he'd told me, "I think we both misunderstood him, don't you?"
I smiled, "I think we might." I was deep in thought.
Piers stood, watching me for a while, then asked "Are you going to phone Molly and warn her?"
I looked his way, "That's precisely what I'm thinking about. But No, I don't think I am. He's her husband. It's up to her to tell him that it's all over. And if she doesn't, and decides to go out dining with him, well I'll know where I stand, won't I?"
"Are you sure?" Piers asked, and looked very doubtful.
"Yes. One of the bits that I don't understand, that I'm having great difficulty with, is the relationship between Molly and Peter. OK, they got it together one afternoon, that's wrong, and I'm not sure I can forgive her that bit. But after that, if she never loved him, why did she go on to marry him? And if she can't get rid of him now, well....I don't know."
Just then Carole came in, "They're all in the Boardroom waiting for you. Or do you want them in here?"
"No, there aren't enough seats in here. And I want you there to keep minutes." I looked round at Piers, "Come on. I'm relying on you to keep this meeting effective. It's not a waffle shop, it's to take decisions."
I had a good afternoon, and at the end of it I was sitting at my desk, wondering if I'd done the right thing in not warning Molly. I was deep in those thoughts when I sensed that there was someone in the room. I looked around, it was Myra.
I smiled, "Hello, stranger. I haven't seen you for days."
She came and sat at my desk, "I was in London for a couple of days last week, and one day in Exeter. But I did try to catch you on Friday evening, but you'd gone."
"Sorry. I had to get to a little party for Jamie's birthday."
I realised that the last time I'd seen Myra it was to announce that Molly loved me, and I hadn't told her anything else.
Then a thought occurred to me, "What are you doing this evening?"
She looked suspicious, "Nothing. But should I be washing my hair or something? I've got a boyfriend you know."
"It's purely platonic, I assure you. No, it's just that you want to know my story. I need to eat, and I think I'd like some company this evening. So, why don't I combine all those and buy you dinner?"
She smiled, "OK."
"Let's take two cars down to King Street. We could go to that place we went to before. You can't miss it, its painted lime green."
OK, I thought. If Molly does accept Peter's invitation, then it'll be a nice surprise for them to find me and Myra having a little dinner together in their special restaurant.
We had a leisurely dinner. Although we agreed that we'd stick to one bottle of wine, we still chose to drink a glass before we even ordered any food. I refused to tell her anything of the Molly story until I asked how Myra was doing with Dr Will. Apparently that was going well, I suspected it was going a lot better than just well, by the smile and warm look in her eyes as she talked about him. But, I expect that she'll tell be all about it in good time.
Then, at her prompting, I told her Molly's story. Straight up, much as I'd told Carole, and Piers McBaine in his Scottish pub last week. I finished with telling her Carole's view that it was my duty to try to build something with Molly. I didn't tell her about Peter's little charade today, partly because I thought that if we did get some special fellow diners, it would look better if it was an accident, and partly because I didn't know what I thought of it myself. I was beginning to wonder whether Peter hadn't carefully devised his script to give me the wrong idea this morning, just out of malice.
She looked at me across the table, "So, what stops you trying?"
"Simple. It isn't worth it. Even if I could forgive her adultery, and even if I could understand why she married him, we are different people now. You just can't put it all back together. She's been another man's wife for four years, and I've travelled the world and done all sorts of things, most of which I probably shouldn't have, but ... too many experiences. We've changed."
Myra took a sip of wine, "OK." She paused in thought, then she looked up and smiled, "Change of subject. I don't think I've ever told you about me, about where I came from. We've talked about Jonathon, but not the me before that."
"No. You're right. What terrible secrets do you feel a need to confess?"
"None. Hard luck. I grew up with a Mum and Dad, and a sister and a brother, in Bexleyheath. A very average middle class suburb of south London....."
"I don't know it."
"Well, take my word for it, it's OK and the people are nice enough, but it's average. Anyway, I had a special childhood friend. Her name was Tilly. Matilda actually, but she always called herself Tilly for obvious reasons. She was a week older than me, six days to be precise, and she lived a few doors away. I think our Mums met in ante-natal classes. Well, Tilly and I grew up like sisters. We went to the same nursery, then the same local schools. We even went to the same University. She studied Modern Languages, and I did my Business Administration degree. In our second and third years we shared a flat. We were so close."
"Am I meant to say Aah? Or are you going to admit that you are really a closet lesbian, and that Dr Will is really a dyke in drag?"
"None of the above." Then she smiled naughtily, "Except we did practice kissing for one afternoon, when we were about fourteen, just so that we wouldn't get it wrong when we got to boys."
I smiled, and she continued, "Well in our third year at Uni, Tilly met a Spanish guy. He was quite fit, but I soon learned that he had quite a reputation for love 'em and leave 'em. I tried warning her, but she just used to tell me I was jealous. It got to be a real problem between us, and I learnt to keep my mouth shut. I just prayed that they'd split up before she got really hurt."
"And so you learnt the art of diplomacy. Pity you don't practice it now." I said with a smile.
She poked her tongue out at me, and continued, "Then, in the summer term, Tilly told me that they were going to get engaged when they graduated, and get married soon after. I didn't know what to do. But I decided that there was little I could do, and I just hoped that he'd changed his ways. Then, one weekend, Tilly went home for some family do, and there was a party at Uni that I was going to go to. And, guess what? Her fiancé spent the whole evening trying to chat me up."
"And did you tell her?"
"No. I convinced myself that he'd drunk too much, and I chose to overlook it. But a couple of weeks later, we're all at another party, and this time he suggests that Tilly has agreed to a three in a bed romp. So, I did tell Tilly. I was pretty sure she'd agreed to no such thing, and I decided that it was time she knew what sort of man she was marrying."
I sipped some water, and prompted her, "And?"
"And we had the only screaming cat fight I've ever had in my life, right in the middle of the party. He, of course, denied ever saying anything to me, and she never spoke to me again."
"Don't be. It happened. What does Carole say? Shit happens? You can't always avoid it. Anyway, she married him, I wasn't even invited to the wedding. My parents were, I wasn't. And she went off to live in Spain with her new husband."
"And the moral of this story is...?"
"We haven't got that far yet. Last Christmas, that's seven years later, my Mum phoned me and said Tilly wanted to get in touch, and she'd given her my address. Sure enough she turned up on my doorstep some three days later."
"Was it a happy reunion?"
"Yes, it was. It turns out that I'd been right all along and she admitted it. He gave her a terrible time and they were divorced within three years. But she stayed on in Spain, and built a business of advising ex-patriots living there on language, culture and some of the laws. She employed German and Swedish speakers and had quite a business. She was a success."
"Good for her. So a lousy partner doesn't stop you being a good businessman or woman."
She ignored my interruption, "After a couple of years she met another man. A Brit as it happened, but he lived in Spain. And they'd fallen in love and it turned out he was a good bloke. And then she got pregnant, but that was fine. They were going to get married, and everything was rosy. But he got killed in an ETA terrorist attack. I suppose it isn't surprising, but she was so shocked and grief stricken that she lost the baby, she had a miscarriage."
"So, in seven years, she'd argued and split with her best friend, married a lousy man, got divorced, built a business, fell in love, got pregnant, was widowed and had a miscarriage. That's some going in seven years."
"Yes it is. How was she after all that?"
"And this is my point. She was still exactly the same person that I grew up with. She still had the same sense of humour. She still had the same moral values. She still had the same way of glancing at me sideways when she pulled my leg. She still even smoothed her dress in the same way as she sat down. She was still Tilly, as I'd always known her." She paused and looked at me, "Chris, I'm sure there are a thousand and one reasons why you couldn't put it back together with Molly, but that you're different people isn't one of them."
I hadn't seen that one coming. I paused, wondering how to reply. I looked up, "Could you tell me some of the other reasons, I might need them."
She didn't see the funny side of my comment, "And that's your answer, is it?"
I looked at her, "No. I haven't the faintest idea what my answer is, but I'm sure that in time I will."
I looked at my watch, it was nearly half past nine, and the wine had run out long ago. I looked around the room, Peter and Molly hadn't shown up, and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't now. So, I suggested I pay the bill, and that we go home.
As I drove home I thought: I want to find just one person who would be on my side. Someone who would say, 'Reconciliation? You must be fucking joking. Steer well clear of it. Build a good relationship with your sons and just get on with your life.' Just one person like that would be nice.
Not long after I got home, Ralph phoned me.
"Sorry to phone you so late, I tried earlier and you had it switched off."
"I was out for dinner, and I always try to switch it off when I can remember and I'm in a restaurant. Anyway, what can I do for you?"
"I was with Molly this afternoon. What happened to you on Saturday night? She's convinced something did, and she's as bad as she ever was about not having any right to interfere with your life."
"Well she's a bit late to decide that. But as for Saturday night, I'm sorry Ralph, but I'm going to say: Mind your own business."
"Was it a woman? Was it that Myra?"
"It's got nothing to do with you. To the best of my knowledge I'm a single guy with no commitments to anyone, including your daughter."
"Well, I'm sorry, but when my daughter is upset that the man she loves, the man she's committed to, starts other relationships, then it is my business as far as I'm concerned."
I paused to choose my words, "Whatever happened on Saturday night has absolutely nothing to do with you, nor has it anything to do with your daughter. Now, I suggest you get off the phone, before one of us says something that they regret. Tomorrow is Jamie's birthday, I'm meant to be taking Molly and the boys out to dinner. Now if Molly has problems with how I spend my Saturday nights, then she can tell me tomorrow. Good night, Ralph."
And I switched off the phone. Poured myself a whisky and calmed down.
Later, as I lay in bed that night, my mind didn't dwell on Ralph's little parental outburst. Instead my mind went over every possibility of what was happening between Molly and Peter. I was pretty sure that Molly would hate to make a scene, but I knew that the only version of events that would satisfy me was that Molly made it absolutely clear to him that the marriage was over, and one way or another, she would have her divorce.
The next morning Carole brought me my first coffee, and she just stood there looking at me, questioning me with her eyes.
"It's no good looking like that. I don't know what happened. I haven't heard from her. And I'm not going to chase her."
"Oh." Was her only comment.
"But if she phones, or some gossip comes in from the Abbey, then let me know." I shook my head, "I can't think about much else."
She smiled, "Shit happens."
As she turned to leave, I called her back, "One thing. I'm meant to be taking Molly and the two boys out for a family dinner tonight, it's Jamie's birthday today. Any ideas where I can take them? Molly's a bit wary that I've been feeding them too many burgers and pizzas, so do you know any restaurant where the food is both healthy and will appeal to a nine year old?"
She paused in thought, "Just one. I'd have to try and get the details, but one of the twins told be about a place where they specialise in all sorts of odd meats. You know, ostrich steaks and crocodile burgers. That might appeal."