Back to Bristol Ch. 16byGaryAPB©
Dispirited is the word. I was dispirited. Luckily, the Friday after my short meeting with Molly was a very busy day. So, I threw myself into work, and tried to make sure that I was as busy as possible. I noticed that Carole must have picked up on my mood, because she didn't say a word about her soap opera, but she just mothered me all day, making sure that she got me to every meeting on time, that I did return the important calls, and that I had a proper lunch.
One meeting in the afternoon included Piers, and as he came into the room he looked at me and said, "Chris, have you got a minute?"
I guessed this was going to be the latest news from the Peter front, and I was interested. My office was too full of people, but we found privacy in an empty boardroom.
Piers started as soon as the door was closed, "Peter came to see me this morning. I hadn't realised that Molly had moved out. But, apparently in this morning's post he got a set of divorce papers."
"How did he take it?"
"He is one very unhappy man. At the moment, the world is against him. And it's all your fault."
I smiled, "No surprise there then. Why can't he see that this is the consequence of his own doing. He shouldn't have tried picking up a married woman. And he shouldn't have inveigled her into marrying him with her mother's connivance. It was bound to end in tears, and lo and behold, it has."
"He doesn't see it that way. Has she moved in with you?"
I looked at him, "No." I paused, "But we are talking. We agreed we would talk everything through, and then see where we are, on Tuesdays and Thursdays."
"And how's that going?"
"Lousy. We met twice. Tuesday wasn't so bad. But last night we argued, and she went home early. Nothing dramatic, just a difference of opinion."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
I sighed, "Not now. Let's see how the weekend goes. And anyway, if I'm going to cry on your shoulder, I need whisky to mix with my tears."
He smiled, and I asked, "What's Peter doing?"
He shook his head, "I don't know. I suggested that he takes the day off, and that he goes and sees a solicitor. And I suggested that he might go off to his Welsh cottage for the weekend, that's where he seems to do his thinking. But whether he will or not, I don't know. He was still in his office when I left."
"Well it's his life, and it's up to him." I opened the door and started to head back to my office and the meeting, with Piers at my side, "As long as he doesn't make a nuisance of himself with me, Molly or the boys."
I worked on, Carole went home having had a very searching look at me, and then Myra came through my office door, with a file in her hand.
"Carole said you wanted the best projections for next quarter's figures."
I stopped and thought for a moment, "If I had wanted them I would have asked Trevor Gale."
"Oh." She said and sat down in a visitor's chair at my desk and looked at me.
"And did Carole say someone should be my friend?"
She smiled, "You don't miss a trick, do you? So, fancy a quick drink then? It is Friday night after all."
"I've got work to do. Help yourself to a whisky." I said, nodding my head towards the decanter.
"Not for me thank you. Come on, Chris, if you must do some more, then pack up some things to take home for the weekend, and buy me a G&T. I need one."
"Because I've got a depressed boss who's fast turning into a workaholic, and it worries me. I need someone to talk to about it all."
I laughed and admitted defeat.
We went to the pub, but not for a long drink as Myra told me that Dr Will was coming up to Bath for the weekend, which put pay to my thought that I might invite her to dinner. In fact we hardly talked about Molly, I just told her that last night was a bit disappointing, and she told me to have patience. Other than that it was Will this and Will that. It was wonderful to see her so cheerful, but it did worry me slightly. I reminded her of a phrase she'd just used about Molly and myself, "Remember Myra, it's early days."
On Sunday I turned up at Ralph's house quite early. I'd hardly said hello to everybody when Ben dragged me off to see his new bedroom. He was sharing with Jamie, which I guess they wanted to do, as there was a fourth bedroom available. I guess the two brothers were drawing together in a time of uncertainty.
As I came down stairs again, Ralph looked at his watch, "Plenty of time before lunch, how about making it a fourth time?"
"Down the pub? No, I'm here to see the boys." I looked at him and he looked disappointed, so I added, "Unless, of course, we take Jamie and Ben."
He smiled, "Sure."
I went into the kitchen where Molly was making pastry, "Ralph has suggested that he, I and the boys should go down to the pub. Are you OK with that?"
I thought she looked relieved, "Sure. Be quick and be back for one thirty."
I kissed her on the cheek, "Are you OK?"
"Yes." She said in a tone that proved she wasn't. "I'm just feeling a bit harassed with the cooking at the moment."
"Well calm down. It won't matter if it's a bit late or one of the veggies is a bit overcooked." And I left her in the kitchen.
Ralph and myself collected the two boys and we headed for the pub. We took a table in the garden and I went and got the drinks. Of course the boys sat with us while they drank their drinks, and ate their bags of cholesterol. But after that they lasted about another thirty seconds before they were off. Their excuse was that someone came in with three large and very friendly dogs, so Ralph and myself were deserted.
Ralph watched Jamie and Ben leave, "Good. I wanted a word."
"Tell me to mind my own business, but what happened on Thursday evening? It was obvious that she came home earlier than expected, and she wasn't in a good mood. She was very quiet and withdrawn. But she won't tell me what's wrong."
I considered things for a moment, "I'm sorry Ralph, but if she won't tell you, then I won't."
He looked at me for a moment, "Quite right. I should keep my big nose out of it." And he smiled. "But if it was anything to do with Him, well I think he's a bit of a sensitive subject at the moment. Poor little Peter, all hurt, and she feels sorry for him. But it was his only silly fault. Or his and my wife's."
"And how is your wife?" I asked, grateful for a way of changing subject.
Ralph took a long draught of his beer, and considered his answer. "I know what I'm going to do. Molly doesn't know this yet, but I've decided."
"Well, don't tell me if you don't want to. Are you still seeing her?"
"Not since the letter incident. She's phoned a few times, she can't see what the problem is. And I feel that it's one of those situations where if she doesn't see there's a problem, well that is the problem." He paused and looked at me, "She just makes me so angry. She even said that as you and Molly now know the truth, and can talk as much as you like, well that's alright then. What she did hasn't done any harm. I ask you, how fucking stupid is that?"
"I expect it's just a desperate argument. Anything to paper over the cracks."
He sighed, "Well, it won't work." He drained his pint, and looked at me, "Fancy another?"
"I do, but two boys probably fancy their lunch."
Why is it that everything seems to have emotional overtones these days? Back at the house, Molly had cooked a wonderful roast leg of pork. The last time she, I and the boys had sat down to roast pork was the Sunday before we broke up years ago, precisely three days after she'd screwed Peter Davies in his flat.
I decided a frontal approach for once. "Do you remember the last time we sat down to roast pork?"
Molly looked at me across the table, "Yes. It was the first Sunday of the worst years of my life. I hope this is the first Sunday of the best years of my life."
I liked her honesty. I remembered a phrase she'd used at Longleat, that maybe, just maybe, she'd get her life back. And for a moment I wondered if she might make it. But that's stupid, there's been too much hurt, too much has changed.
When we'd finished the meal the boys were up and off. Ralph told us to sit still and that he'd get us a coffee, because he wanted a word with us both.
As we sat at the table, I looked at Molly, sitting opposite me. She had been brighter whilst we ate our lunch and had chatted, but now the cloud of doom seemed to have descended on us again, "Come on, Molly. Something is obviously wrong. What is it?"
Molly looked at me, searching my eyes, "You won't be angry?"
"I don't know. Tell me what it is and I'll tell you."
"The solicitor phoned on Friday. She said Peter would have received his copy of the petition on Friday or Saturday. And I haven't heard a word. I guess I'm worried about him, I fully expected a broadside."
"Well, Piers told me he got it on Friday morning. And he was upset but OK. And Piers told him to go and see a solicitor, and then suggested that he goes up to Wales, as that's where he goes at times like this. So maybe he has. And, no, I'm not angry." I reassured her.
I also thought: I'm not particularly pleased that you're fretting over him either, but I can understand it, so I'm not angry.
Just then Ralph returned with a tray of coffee. Once that had been served and Ralph had resumed his seat at the head of the table, he looked at both myself and Molly, "I want to talk about Susan."
I sipped my coffee and waited. I noticed that Ralph was talking to Molly rather than me, I guess I was only there to support, if Molly was upset with whatever was coming.
"We've met seven times in the five weeks I've refused to let her come home, and I've talked to her on the phone plenty more times as well. She shows no signs whatsoever of understanding that what she did was wrong. Her value system is totally wrong as far as I'm concerned. On top of which, she treats me as if I'm some little boy that's having a tantrum over a broken toy, and that I'll calm down and accept things sometime soon. She is becoming impatient, she just wants to come back here and get on with her life."
"Daddy..." That was the first time I heard Molly call Ralph Daddy for years, "Don't do anything silly on my account. Please. I hate her at the moment, but ...."
Ralph squeezed her hand, "I'm not, Molly, I promise you."
They looked into each other's eyes, I don't think I was in the room at that moment. Which is possibly why I asked, "So, what are you going to do, Ralph?"
"I've found a short holiday, it's only eleven days, out in Madeira. It flies out on Thursday week. I've checked, they've got at least eight spaces available, and I doubt whether they'll sell them all now. So, I'm going to pack up everything that is Susan's personal stuff from this house. All her clothes, her pictures, her keepsakes, absolutely everything. I may need your help with some of that, Molly. And I'm going to visit her on the Wednesday before I go. I'll give her all her stuff, and tell her what I'm doing. It'll be up to her, I will ask her to apologise for what she did to you two, and for all the lies she told me. And if she does so, then I'll ask her to come with me on the holiday and to start to put things right in our marriage. And if she doesn't do both of those things, then I guess we really are heading for divorce as soon as I come back."
Molly looked worried, "What do you think she'll do?"
"I think she bluster and protest, and I think she'll let me go alone. And I think she'll swear I deserted her for no good reason whatsoever. She doesn't think she's done anything wrong. And she won't see why she should have to go on a trip she doesn't want to go on, just to apologise for something she hasn't done."
Now Molly looked very nervous, "What happens if she comes back here when you're away? What will I say, what do you want me to do?"
Ralph paused for a moment. "I'll tell her not to. And I'll change the lock on the front door. Keep the back door bolted. Then she won't be able to get in, but I'll tell her I'm doing it. I suspect that it won't be quite legal, but she'll have to get a Court order to break in, and I can't see her doing that. And Chris will see that nothing happens to you." He turned to me, "Won't you, Chris?"
"Of course. She's been down in Weymouth for nearly five weeks, another week or two isn't going to hurt her."
Molly didn't look convinced, "I'm just scared that she'll make trouble for me and the boys."
Ralph reassured her again, "She won't. You're her daughter. If anything, she's more likely to want to mend her fences with you."
Molly now smiled grimly, "Well she can't do that. And she should be scared of what I could do to her if I do see her."
Ralph smiled, I relaxed, he added, "That's more like it. I know it can't be easy, your parents splitting up at exactly the same time as you're having to go through the divorce process again. But this time, we both know that what we're both doing is right."
I interrupted, "I hope you do know what you're doing Ralph. Personally, I can understand where you're coming from, but I warn you, being divorced is a pretty lonely place to be. Trust me, I know."
Molly looked up, "Being in a bad marriage can be a pretty lonely place as well."
I looked at my watch, "I must be going. I'm flying to Stockholm tonight." I caught a concerned look in Molly's eye, "It's alright. I'll be back by lunchtime on Tuesday. It's just an important sale, and I'm doing my bit to make it happen. I'll go and say goodbye to the boys."
After a few more minutes of reassuring looks, hugs, chaste kisses and words, I was driving away.
I got back to my office just before lunch on Tuesday. Carole had arranged a working lunch in my office, just for the two of us, as a way of catching up on my day out of the office, and on my diary ahead. But before I even got as far as my office, she said, "Can you phone Ralph Tremaine? He wants a word with you semi-urgently."
When I phoned Ralph, it was that he wanted to warn me that on Monday evening, Peter had turned up, demanding to talk to Molly. Eventually, and very reluctantly, Molly had agreed to let him say his piece. It wasn't a pretty piece. At heart, it was that he wanted to try again, but it included blaming anyone and everyone for their problems, but mainly blaming me. After about half an hour of it, Molly had apparently told him that she had listened, that it didn't change anything, and would he now please leave. At that point it turned fairly ugly, and ended up with Ralph threatening to call the Police, but he did go eventually.
Apparently, Molly was very upset for the rest of the evening, and was still very quiet at breakfast. He knew she was coming to see me as planned this evening, but that I shouldn't expect too much. I promised to be very gentle with her, and that I intended to give her some gentle indication that Peter wasn't always the honest and trustworthy gentleman that he pretends.
Ralph's only advice after that was to say "Make sure you can back up everything you say, and go very, very gently." Which I promised to do.
I took home a ready for microwave Chinese meal for two, and waited for Molly. When she arrived she was dressed beautifully, she smelt wonderful, and she looked tired, drawn, pale and nervous.
She told me about Peter's visit on the Monday. It was pretty much as Ralph had described it. But Molly had obviously found it deeply distressing. It took me all of the meal to get her to relax and even smile. And I was getting pretty fed up with having to act as nursemaid because of Peter Fucking Davies!
We took our coffee and went and sat comfortably and Molly asked, "So, what do you want to talk about?"
"Well I guess the best place to start is when you first met Peter. Let's go over the story again, and in detail."
She said OK, and that's what we did. I asked questions about what they talked about, both when others were there and when there were just two of them. But, although I asked quite pointed questions, and on a couple of occasions Molly looked at me with deep suspicion, she never admitted that there was anything wrong with the relationship, or that Peter was trying to feed her ideas about having an affair.
Then we came onto the day of the adultery. I started to be very detailed in my questions. How was she exactly feeling? How quickly did Peter see the opportunity to invite her for lunch? Who's idea was it to go in one car? When she asked for a G&T and he ordered it, was it a G&T or a large G&T or a very large G&T?
She did answer that one, that it was large or very large. She thought it was just large, but he could have asked for a very large one. Was there a difference?
"Maybe. To some bartenders a G&T is a single, a large is a double and a very large is a triple."
After that, I questioned their conversation in the restaurant, was it at all sexual? Well Yes it was, but only in a joking, between colleagues sort of way. Nothing personal, nothing too pointed. When we got to the grappa incident, I asked if Peter had ever got to like grappa?
Suddenly, Molly was looking indignant, "Yes. Now he loves the stuff. He says he thinks of it as 'Our Drink'. But that's what this has been all about, hasn't it Chris? You're trying to prove that he was some bastard trying to seduce me. Well he isn't a bastard and he wasn't trying to seduce me. He's a very nice, honest man, who happened to fall into lust that afternoon, just like I did. And then afterwards he fell in love. Stop trying to make him seem something he's not."
"Honest! Honest! How honest was he with his tickets to Longleat? Was that honest? Was it honest to pretend that sweet peas were his favourite flower? Was it honest to just happen to have veal on your first date? How honest is he, Molly? He doesn't sound very honest to me?"
She stood up and started heading for the door. She grabbed her jacket and bag as she passed, "He's a nice man. You can't blame him for taking tips from Susan. She shouldn't have set him up. But it wasn't really his fault. That first time it was my fault. I wanted him. I've already told you that. I was wrong. I was a slut. But it wasn't his fault. Stop trying to blame him for everything."
By that time she was at the front door, and she was leaving and right now.
"Fucking John 11:35" was my answer to the back of my front door.
Whisky tasted good that night!
Ralph caught up with me by telephone on the Wednesday night. I had just got back to my hotel room in Oxford after a business dinner, when he phoned me.
"Chris, are you free to talk?"
"Well I warned you. Go gently. But you didn't."
"But I did. I can understand that she feels a bit sensitive about Peter. But there's sensitive and fucking stupidly hyper-sensitive..."
"And being even sensitive about another man can't be easy for you...."
"No it isn't, but I know it's reasonable on her part. I'll live. How is she?"
"Feeling a little guilty I think. She wouldn't tell me what you said, just that you made a totally unfair attack on Peter. But I think she feels a bit sorry now."
"One day Ralph, I'll prove to you that I wasn't in the least bit unfair. Is she coming back for more tomorrow?"
"Yes, I thought you two had agreed that you had to keep going. Let her supply the food this time, it might ease her conscience. But lay off Peter."
"OK. I think I've got some things to say or tell her about him, but maybe this isn't the time."
"Pleased to hear it. Have faith, you'll get there."
I laughed, "Could you tell me where 'there' is?"
Now he laughed, "Now that would take all the mystery and excitement away."
So, on the Thursday I found Molly in my kitchen when I got home. She was filling a saucepan with water at the sink when I came through the door, and I instantly knew there was something wrong.