Back to Bristol Ch. 18

byGaryAPB©

I looked at them and smiled, "Perhaps you'll excuse me for a minute or two, I think my secretary wants a word with me." And I left them to talk.

When I came back into the room, it was Derek talking to Brenda, "....I know she's your sister, but we can't have her talking to the guests like she was last night. It'll cost us our reputation. She's got to start living her own life...."

Brenda smiled at me, "I'm sorry for what my sister did. I guess history is repeating itself in its way. And it was Susan that was so vehemently angry when it happened to her."

Now that got my interest, "Tell me."

Brenda sat back, "I don't think you ever knew our father, he'd died before you came onto the scene. He was a very straightforward sort of man. Men worked and earned the money, women kept house and looked after the men. Well Mummy died when she was only forty eight, I'd left home by then, but Susan was still at home. Daddy naturally thought that Susan's job was look after him, now that Mummy wasn't there to do it."

Suddenly she looked worried, "Nothing sexual. Please don't think that. No, but it was her job to keep house and do the cooking. She could have boyfriends and go out on dates, but only after she's cooked him a meal and washed up afterwards. And she had to be in by ten thirty because he liked to lock up and go to bed around then. I think she only married Ralph to get away from Daddy." She frowned, "I think that's why Ralph doesn't like me very much. About two weeks after their engagement, I told him he was a silly fool. But they've made it last well over thirty years, so I guess there must have been something in it. But I still think it was more Ralph loving her than the other way around. I guess the imbalance has finally showed."

"And that's where Susan learnt that the older generation has a right to demand love and support from the younger generation, I guess." I concluded, but then added, "It's easily done, taking the wrong lessons from the past. I used to think that because I grew up without a father, it didn't matter too much to my sons if I wasn't there. I was wrong. And Susan is wrong."

Both of them nodded their heads, "But Susan hates her father for what he did, but she doesn't see the parallel, or certainly doesn't admit to it. She blames you for all of this. When she found out that we were coming here today, she was quite upset that we were being disloyal to her. We were going to talk to the enemy, the man who had wrecked her life. But we just had to find out what was going on."

"I know she hates my guts. Well, I guess my coming back to Bristol was the start of it all going wrong for her and Peter. By the way, I don't know how much Peter and Susan are still talking, but I'd be grateful if you don't tell Susan too much about Molly's divorce, or that Molly and myself are talking. It might just spark off some reaction by either Susan or Peter, and I don't want that. Let things just take their natural course. Please."

Derek immediately responded, "Not a problem We understand. It can't be easy for you or Molly, or Ralph come to that."

As they said goodbye, I wished them well. I'd met them a few times at family gatherings, years ago, but this had been the first time I'd sat down and really talked to them. I thought they were rather nice, but I didn't envy them their problem of having a bitter Susan on their hands.

That weekend, Molly and myself had another long discussion about Susan. She did say that Heather Washington was really helping her accept that her mother was out of her life. Apparently, Heather had some difficulty with this, her career was based on bringing people back together and not breaking them up. Molly did admit that she still felt bitter about Susan's betrayal, but it seemed that she was now reconciled to never wanting to see her mother again, and seemed quite philosophical about it.

The next couple of weeks went by quickly. I think Molly and myself were really beginning to enjoy our relaxed routine. A pattern was emerging of still spending at least one night a week talking about some aspect or other of all that happened, and that wasn't always easy. But we also went out to dinner, or to see a film or to the theatre on other nights.

It was on one of our serious discussion nights that Molly asked about the girls I'd known, especially Helene. It took me some time to tell her everything as well as I could. But, she really didn't like that I'd used prostitutes and brothels, that was somehow beyond acceptable behaviour to her. And Helene warranted a discussion over dinner all to herself, and that was very rough for Molly. Partly, I think it was because Helene and myself had come to no emotional end, except that I moved away, and thought it better for both Helene and myself that I left her in Holland. I couldn't say that I grew to not love her, or that she cheated on me, or a hundred and one endings that Molly would have preferred. I could only say that I had left her behind in every sense.

And then there was Myra! Molly really had a thing about Myra, and I could never quite work out why. My first clue was the monosyllabic replies to my chatting over dinner one evening, telling her about some of the things that happened at work. The day before I was meant to have had a late afternoon meeting with Myra to discuss Exeter. But I was running late, and the meeting was only meant to be a short discussion, so when I did get to Myra I apologised for my lateness by sharing a bottle of cold Chardonnay in the local wine bar, and we discussed Exeter there. It was a business meeting of two friends, but Molly obviously didn't like it.

And that brought us to mid-August. It was odd going to the airport, four of us in the car. They all took off first, heading for Majorca, but I was only one hour behind them, heading for Cannes.

The Group Strategy Conference was good. It was very high-powered. Effectively, it was the main board, plus some support staff from Head Office, and a stream of guys like me, making special presentations. But almost all of those other guys were in and out merchants, only there for a day or even a half day. There was only myself and one other guy, Patrick Redmond, who were there for the whole three days. Obviously, Patrick and myself were destined for great things, we were marked men. Patrick was a really nice guy, and Managing Director of one of our financial services companies in Canada, and we got on really well, which was interesting, as we were obviously rivals for some unnamed prize.

My session with the Board was particularly interesting. Not only did I give my report on the future for Franks, but I was allowed to discuss the growth of the health market, especially in Europe, and ITI's possible future. It was at that point that the meeting was joined by two consultants from Hedgerton & Partners, some exclusive corporate advice company from the USA. They had a lot of facts and advice about the health market. By the end of the session it was apparent that the plan was going to be to grow ITI's position in Europe by opportunity, buying companies that seemed appropriate and available. But the core strategy would be in the USA, where corporate takeovers would be actively made to happen to a pre-determined strategy. It became obvious that the centre of any future health division would be in the USA. But the fact that I was there for this discussion made it clear that, at the right time, I would be part of that strategy.

When I got back to Bristol on Monday, it was all a bit of an anticlimax. I was bubbling with excitement at having been part of the Strategy Meeting, but I didn't have anyone to bubble to. I missed Molly, and I guess it showed.

By Wednesday, Carole had had enough, "Missing them then?"

I sighed, "I'm surprised at how much. I guess Molly and the boys and your soap opera have been the focus of my life for months now. And suddenly they're not there."

"Have you thought, we have a long weekend coming up, and they do still run flights to Majorca, and they even run them back again on Mondays, even bank holiday Mondays?"

"I can't just descend on them for three days. It'd knock their holiday routine completely out. I couldn't, could I?"

"I'll check flights." She said and was gone.

She was gone a long time, before she came back and said, "Do you know, there isn't one appointment in your diary for tomorrow or Friday and Tuesday that couldn't be cancelled or postponed? And, there's a flight to Majorca leaving at nine o'clock this evening with space on it."

"Bloody hell, Carole. How did you do that?"

"Easy, you just look up airline travel on the internet." She said with a silly smile.

"No. That you can clear my diary for this week and Tuesday. Are you sure? I can't imagine John Wheeler letting me off that sales trip on Tuesday afternoon."

Carole smiled, "I haven't worked here sixteen years without knowing where a few of the bodies are buried. Let's just say I called in a few favours."

"You'll have to tell me."

"I can't. That was the deal."

I smiled, that was logical I suppose. And then looked at her, "Do you think I can?"

She looked straight at me, "I know you can. But it's up to you whether you do or not." She paused, and leant forward over my desk, "You haven't had a day off since you got here. And not only have you had to learn a new job in a new company, but it's probably been the most turbulent period of your private life ever. Personally, I think six days R&R would do you the world of good."

I stared her in the face as I made up my mind, "OK. I'll phone her. And can you clear a bit more of my diary? I've got to go home to early. I've got to pack and get to the airport by seven-ish, if it's a nine o'clock flight."

Carole and myself seemed to get through a lot of work in the rest of Wednesday. Every meeting I held seemed to finish early, and I squeezed three extra meetings into one day. I accused her of telling everybody that they had to be quick, but she only smiled, and said that it was surprising what we could do if we tried. I left at four o'clock, promising myself that I must bring back a present for Carole, she deserved it.

I came through from customs at Palma airport at five minutes to midnight, and all three of them were there waiting to greet me. Ben ran forward towards me and I swept him up in my arms and I hugged him, "You're up very late."

"Mummy said we could all stay up and come and meet you."

"And are you having a nice holiday?"

"Yes. We've got a swimming pool and there's a big one, and a pizza shop."

By now I had got as far as Molly and Jamie. I put Ben down and kissed Molly, but Jamie just stood quietly at her side. "Hello, young man." I tweaked his hair, "Don't you say Hello to your Dad?"

"Hi, Dad." He was smiling, but there was a vibe that wasn't quite right. I looked at Molly who mouthed, "It's late and he's tired."

Jamie on the other hand, was bubbling. "Come on Daddy, you've got to see the car Mummy's got." He said as he took my hand and started to pull be towards the exit.

The car turned out to be a perfectly standard Peugeot Coupe Cabriolet, but when your seven years old and on holiday, I guess driving around in an open car is exciting, especially if it's after midnight.

We got back to the villa, which was rather nice in a simple way. It was one of many in a large holiday complex, but it had it's own little swimming pool, as well as access to the big one at the centre of the village. And within ten minutes of getting there, we had the boys in bed. Both myself and Molly saw them to bed, and as we came out, we stood and hugged and kissed in the middle of the living room.

"What brought on your need to come out?" She asked.

"I missed you. I suddenly realised how much you and the boys are part of my life, and I missed you all. And Carole convinced me that I could do with a few days rest, so here I am."

Molly kissed me again, quite passionately, but then said, "There is a sort of a problem."

"What?"

"Have you forgotten that when you booked this place, it has two bedrooms?"

"So?"

"So the boys will know that we sleep together."

"We haven't slept together since you came back into my life. But we do have sex. Does it worry you that they'll realise if we're in the same bed all night?"

She thought about it, "I don't know. It's sort of a public statement, they'll think we're back together, and we aren't, are we?"

I smiled, "And that's what I don't know. I'm a long way from convinced that we can make it in the long term. But we are trying, and we've got all the time in the world." I paused and looked at her, she didn't look too upset at my rejection, so I continued, "But I don't see any harm in being honest with the boys as to where we are. Do you?"

"I want to sleep with you. I want to wake up next to you." She smiled, "But you can answer any awkward questions that come up."

So we went to bed, and we did make love. There was an urgency for both of us, but it wasn't the greatest ever, we were too tired. But it was nice that she didn't have to get up and dressed to go home, and we fell into a contented sleep. It was even better when we woke up in the morning and could resume where we'd left off the night before.

Afterwards, we lay in bed and Molly asked, "Can we go shopping sometime today?"

"Sure. What for?"

She propped herself up, "Well, I didn't know you were coming, so I only brought ordinary cotton panties and bra's. And I've only got one pair of heeled sandals. And I know you like me to dress sexier than that, and I like to. It's important to me too."

I smiled, "I do like it - a lot. I think if you asked me for one simple thing I'd change about our marriage, it would be that you wore sexier undies all the time. I know it was good practical sense to wear what you wore, but if I was feeling a little frisky on an average evening, and the boys were in bed. Well I could give you a kiss and a hug, but if my hands wandered under your skirt, what would I find? Run resist tights with those ghastly thick trunks at the top and a pair of supermarket cotton knickers from an economy pack of five. That's a bit of a passion killer, you know."

She looked slightly hurt, "I'm sorry. I didn't realise. OK, I'll try to do better in the future. That's why we must go shopping today."

"No, it's lovely and warm here. We can get through six days. How about no bra's in the evening, or even no knickers after the boys have gone to bed? And I'll take you shopping for some really nice undies when we get back to the UK, including lots of pairs of stockings."

She smiled, "OK. But, I feel awkward if I'm too obvious in front of the boys, it makes me feel uncomfortable. And when we go back, I won't wear thongs and strings all day at work, Sorry. I don't mind them in the evening, then they're special, but not on work days. And I want to be able to wear tights in winter. It can get too draughty for stockings on cold winter days."

I laughed, "Are we negotiating? Not that I'm not happy to. OK. But how about a few of those pairs of tights that don't need panties, they've got a sexy panty top and cotton gusset?"

She lowered herself to suck my cock, just saying "We'll see."

"And that's an unfair negotiating tactic." I spluttered as her mouth closed around me.

At breakfast the boys made no mention of where I'd slept, it was just natural that their parents would sleep together. And I guess that helped us all relax into the holiday, and I found that once I started to relax I couldn't stop. By Friday afternoon, you only had to show me a sunbed in the shade and I'd be fast asleep. I woke up once with Ben standing quite near me, but with Molly pulling him away saying "Leave Daddy alone, he's very tired and needs to sleep." I guess Carole was right, I did need a break.

There were a couple of instances when history raised its ugly head. Once I spent the best part of an hour in the pool with the two boys, having a great time. When I eventually rejoined Molly on the sunbeds, I noticed she was watching us and close to tears.

"What's the matter, you look sad." I asked.

"Just the sadness of what I did to our family. It hurts so much." She answered in a very quiet voice.

We both watched the boys for a while as they played in the pool. Then I asked, "What's wrong with Jamie? I get a feeling that something isn't quite right, especially with me it seems."

Molly smiled grimly, "I wish I knew. He keeps it all to himself. I think Ben's OK, he's a more open character, and he can't remember the time before we split. Life is just life as far as Ben is concerned, and anyway he can talk. But Jamie is a closed book. I know he feels things, sees things, thinks things, but I don't know what."

"I'll try having a word with him, if I get a chance." I said.

And it was after breakfast on the next day that I got my chance. Jamie had taken his book and was lying by himself on a sunbed whilst myself and Molly cleared the breakfast things and Ben was watching a cartoon in Spanish on the television.

I pointed Jamie out to Molly, and said, "Here's my chance." And I went out and sat down on the next sunbed.

"You remind me of your Uncle Brian. He always had his head buried in a book. That's how I always think of him when we were boys."

Jamie looked up at me, "Is it? I know I've got an Uncle Brian, but I don't know him." He spoke totally neutrally.

"No. I guess you wouldn't have seen a lot of my side of your family for the last few years." I paused, "The last few years must have been rough for you and Ben. I'm sorry."

"It's been OK." His voice remained unengaged.

"Tell me, have you been happy? Was Mummy happy with Peter?"

"They laughed a lot, so I guess so. Peter's very good at funny voices. And he always wanted to make Mummy happy. But I think she missed you, Daddy. You shouldn't have left us."

I sighed, "I thought it was the best thing I could do. You know that Mummy had an affair with Peter don't you, when she was married to me? Well, that hurt me a lot. And I thought she loved him more than me, so I thought the best thing I could do for all of you was just to go away."

"But she didn't love him." He protested.

"No. I know that now. And she didn't have a very big affair with him either. But I didn't know that then. And I was very hurt and angry."

"Are you still?"

"Hurt? Yes, I guess I still am. But I'm not angry anymore."

"Then why don't you marry her again? She loves you, I know she does. And she's said she's sorry, hasn't she?"

"It takes a long time to put these things right. And we've got lot's of time. She's still married to Peter until she can finalise her divorce."

I could see in his eyes, he wasn't totally convinced. So I tried again, "You don't know it yet, Jamie, but you will. Sex and love are one of the most important emotions we all feel. There are times when you're a young man when you can hardly think about anything else. Every girl you see makes you wonder. Every few minutes you think about sex in some way or other...."

Jamie half smiled, "I think I know that from some of the books I've read."

Now I smiled, "Well, maybe you shouldn't be reading those sorts of books yet." And Jamie smiled at me conspiratorially, and for a moment father and son bonded.

I paused and then continued, "Now sex is a wonderful thing, or it can be. It feels great, but far more important is that it is emotionally so satisfying, especially if you fall in love with someone and you commit your whole life to them. Like your Mother and I committed to each other when we got married. And I was heartbroken when she seemed to commit to Peter, even if it was only a mistake one afternoon."

I paused and looked at him. I think I was beginning to get through, he had sat up on the edge of the sunbed, facing me and listening.

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