Back to Bristol Ch. 19byGaryAPB©
I nodded, "I think that too. You know what Brenda and Derek said, that Susan never really loved him. I guess that's all caught up with him and her now. In some ways, and despite the strain of the divorce, he actually seems happier now than before. Anyway, why don't you give Peter a call, and tell him what's going to happen. Do it now, get it over with."
And she did, holding my hand the whole time. He obviously didn't like it, and didn't take her up on the idea of meeting after the divorce was final. As far as he was concerned, everything was terribly urgent. But Molly held firm and even just spoke over him to close the call when he started just repeating himself.
At the end, I congratulated her, "Well done." And gave her a kiss.
We did spend all that Saturday together, and on the Sunday I went over to Ralph's house and we all went out to lunch. We used Ralph's car for the five of us, and when we got back to the house, Peter was sitting in his BMW parked on the other side of the road. As we pulled up, Peter got out of his car, but then as I got out of Ralph's, he got back into his. I told Ralph to take everyone in, and I started walking towards Peter. I heard him start the engine, but he also lowered his window, and turned and looked at me.
As soon as I was close enough, he said "I came to talk to my wife. I see it's not the right time. But I will talk to her."
Before I had a chance to answer he just slipped the car into gear and pulled away.
I turned back to the house, where I stayed until well after the boys had gone to bed, just in case Peter did come back, but he didn't.
On Monday, Carole looked at me and just asked, "Shit is still continuing to happen?"
"Yup. Phone calls on both Friday night and Saturday morning, plus he was sitting in his car outside the house yesterday, just waiting for his chance." I smiled, grimly.
"That's almost stalking. Poor Molly. Doesn't he understand that it's over?"
"It's a long way from stalking yet, but it has all the signs. Is there any chance I can get over to the Abbey today? I'd like to see Piers anyway, I want an off the record official chat."
Carole smiled, "An interesting arrangement. Would you like me to come along and take minutes just so that I can shred them?"
Now I laughed, "No. I want to suggest that he should join the Board. What do you think?"
Carole nodded, "I think he's a natural. But it doesn't solve the problem of a younger, less masculine Board."
"No, it doesn't. But that isn't a reason to hold a good man down. It just makes the problem slightly more urgent. At the moment, Annette Morgan is my only hope. Maybe I should try increasing Tim Johnson's role and see where he goes."
About half an hour later Carole told me that I was having lunch with Piers at the George in Marston, it was up to me whether I actually went to the Abbey.
I decided against going into the Abbey, at least until after I'd spoken to Piers. An unseemly confrontation between myself and Peter about personal matters in the middle of the office was not going to help. Piers was waiting for me in the bar when I arrived, but I immediately whisked him upstairs to the dining room. We kept our conversation to pleasantries until after we had ordered.
"Can I guess that this is about Peter causing problems? He's been in a funny mood for the last few days, as if he's all keyed up for something."
"Actually, you're wrong. Peter is causing problems, he's on ice that is getting thinner with every step he takes, but that isn't why I wanted to see you." I paused to look at him, straight into his eyes. "I wondered if you'd be willing to join the Board if I asked?"
"Director of Research."
I was expecting a happy smile and some enthusiasm. I got thoughtfulness.
After a considerable pause, in which time our food was delivered, Piers looked at me, "OK. I think I've got to. Henri offered it to me a few years ago, I turned it down then. At that time I thought I was better off keeping out of the commercial side of the company, but having listened to the ITI plans for the health market, I reckon I should put a marker down for research and our true interest in the market, in medicine. So, thank you very much, Chris. I'd be delighted to accept......if it was offered" And, at last, he smiled.
"I have to sort out Head Office procedures, but I know I can do that in the coming weeks. You made a very good impression in Hawaii."
After that, we talked for the rest of the meal about company issues. And we were on to the coffee before Piers asked, "So what has Peter been doing to be skating on thin ice."
I told him about everything since the decree nisi, and we talked about how Peter must have had this campaign to win Molly back planned out for weeks or months.
"The only problem I've ever had with Peter work wise is that he doesn't know when to give up. It's the only thing where we have ever had real rows concerning his work. As researchers we get an idea that the answer is in there somewhere. We devise an experiment, we test our theories. If we're very lucky it works first time, otherwise we adjust things and try again, and again and again. But there comes a time when we have to give up..." He smiled "Normally because we run out of money."
"But with Peter, he never wants to give up?" I asked.
Piers half smiled and nodded, "Exactly. That's the time I have to give him a direct order, normally in writing."
I leant back, "Ralph, that's Molly's dad, says he thinks Molly was Peter's first and only love. If you've got the level of commitment that you say he has, and you focus it on his only love, well I guess you end up obsessed."
Piers looked at me and asked, "Do you want me to have a word?"
"No. That would look like it's become official within the company. This is not company business. I guess if he really causes problems it could become that, if Molly has to take out an injunction against him, or if she reports him to the Police for stalking, if it gets that bad. Well, then I guess the company can take an official interest. We don't like our senior executives getting into those sort of problems." I sighed, "I guess I have to nip it in the bud, but God only knows how."
"Rather you than me." Piers observed.
"I guess there's no time like the present. Is he in today?"
"No, he's at a seminar in London. He might be back late tomorrow afternoon, depending what time it breaks up."
"I guess I should be grateful for that respite." I said rather grimly, but then I brightened up, "When all of this is over, you and Jeanette must have dinner with myself and Molly."
Piers laughed, "Great minds... Myself and Jeanette were talking about that last night. We'd love to, but only when the time is right."
I left it there, and went back to my office.
It was the following day when I found Molly at my place when I got home. She was in the kitchen, and seemed to be halfway through her second glass of wine, going on how much was left in the bottle. And she was looking pale and angry.
I gave her a hug and a kiss in greeting, but as I let my arms drop from around her, but she just sort of clung.
"What's the matter? Don't tell me, Peter?"
"You got it in one. He was waiting for me outside the school when I went to collect the boys this afternoon. I saw him as soon as I arrived, and I stayed in the car with the windows up, but he came over and started rapping on the window and shouting that he wanted to talk to me, that I was his wife, and I've got to talk to him. Everyone was staring, it was horrible."
"So what did you do?"
"I let the window down a little bit, and I told him that I wouldn't talk to him, that there was no point. That I'd made an offer to talk in a few weeks, but not before. But he kept going on and on. I felt trapped in the car. Then, by accident, I hit the horn button, right in the middle of one of his tirades about how I must listen to him, how I've got to remember all the good times and not throw them away like this. And the noise of the horn threw him, and made everyone stare even more, and he realised that and didn't like it. So, when he'd gone quiet, I told him that I wasn't going to talk, and then I pipped the horn every time he started. Thank Goodness, the boys came out and saw me and the car, and came and got in the back seats. Peter gave up then, and I drove away."
"To be honest, that sounds quite funny. You hitting the horn every time he opened his mouth." Then I realised that now was not the time for humour, "We're going to have to think about getting an injunction to stop him. I can't think what else to do. I'll have a word with a lawyer first thing in the morning."
Just then her phone started ringing. She got it out and looked at it, and then at me, "It's him."
I took it from her hand, without asking, and hit the green button, "Peter, I guess you want to talk to Molly. Well,...." He rang off.
I gulped down my wine. "This is harassment." I said.
"Maybe I've just got to see him. Let him have his say, and then maybe it'll be over." She sounded hesitant and reluctant. "I don't want to bring lawyers in on it. He was my husband for four years, I've hurt him enough, I don't want to hurt him some more." She paused and topped up her wine, "I think that's why I'm scared to meet him; I think I'll have to say some horrible things just to convince him."
"So say them. You say you don't love him, and the hurt is inevitable." I said firmly, but then I softened, "Look, let's do it on our terms, and on our territory. How about if I summons him to my office on Thursday evening say? I'll be there, but it has to be up to you. It would mean that you have to let him have his say, whatever that's going to be, and then you have to say whatever is necessary to make him believe that it is over. The alternative is it'll end up with lawyers or police, one way or the other."
Now she really did look doubtful. "I don't know Chris. He's highly likely to either just walk out, or say some pretty horrible things to you. And you don't deserve that."
"I don't deserve him making my girlfriend's life a misery either. Let me check the logistics of it all tomorrow morning, and you can decide then."
There was a silence between us. It was obvious that Molly was not happy with my suggestion and for a moment I wondered if there was more between her and Peter than she'd ever told me. Suddenly I felt very insecure. But, there was nothing to do but to follow this through to the end.
"Molly, what's the alternative? It can't go on like this. Since last Thursday he's approached you every day. I guess eventually he will give up, but will that be before he's wrecked your life and probably wrecked our relationship. That maybe is what he wants. Don't let him win, please."
"I'm pretty sure that wrecking our relationship is what he wants. You have no idea of the passion with which he hates you. But I love you, I don't want you to get hurt." She paused, and then burst into tears, "Oh God! What a mess. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry......" her words got lost in sobs.
I cuddled her until the tears subsided. Then I asked, "What are you really scared of? Is there some aspect of all of this that you haven't told me?"
She looked at me, "You're right, I am scared. But I don't know what I'm scared of. Confrontation? Having to let hate rule the day? I don't want to have to hate him."
I looked at her, gave her a peck of a kiss, "Let's eat. What were you planning? Or shall we go out?"
"I was going to buy something, but I didn't."
"I see. One chat to Peter and I'm forgotten." I said with over-emphasised dejection. My humour was greeted with a look of horror. It still wasn't the time for joking. I sighed, "Come on, let's go out."
We walked to a nice Spanish restaurant just up the road in Clifton, holding hands but Molly was quiet to the point of being mute. And her silence was beginning to get to me.
Just before we walked through the door of the restaurant, I remarked, "I'm beginning to believe that I wasn't joking, that I am forgotten. It's obvious that bastard Peter, is all you can think about. The guy ruined my life more than you'll ever know, and I'm meant to show kindness and tolerance now that he's having another go. You tell me that you love me; it's a pity you can't show it."
She looked at me sharply, "I am showing it. I'm panicking at what Peter is wanting to do. I've been thinking about it, and I think I've pushed him into a corner. He loves me, he's obsessed. I used to believe that it was just that he loved me a lot, but I'm beginning to think obsession is a better word. And I've driven him into a corner, and he'll come out fighting. And I know that he has a vicious tongue on him when provoked."
We stopped, and looked at each other, "I don't think either of us is really very hungry at the moment."
She half smiled, "I know I'm not. But let's walk, I like the fresh air."
So we strolled along, drifting back towards my flat, but then we walked on past my road, and walked out over the great suspension bridge. Half way across we stood and looked out, at the river Avon far below. The tide was out, and the river reduced to what looked like a muddy stream in the middle of its channel, although in reality it was still a great river.
"Come on Molly, at least tell me what you're thinking."
"I'm thinking that I can't see a way through this without more hurt and pain, and horrid things being said." She turned towards me, "I love you Chris. You've got to believe me. I'm sorry that it's turning out this way." She sighed, "Maybe he'll go away if we can hang on until the divorce is final."
"If you accept that there has to be more hurt, then why not accept my suggestion of a face to face?"
She hesitated, "Because I'm scared of what he might say. I'm sure that he will get really nasty with you, assuming he comes at all. He may just refuse to see me with you there. But I think what he will also do is throw up all my lies, all the times I let him believe that I loved him, that I was committed to him, that I'd put you in the past."
"Well I assumed that you told him you loved him. I can't imagine you married him without saying that." I paused, and asked the question that I dreaded the answer to, "Did you love him?"
"No. Loving you has meant that I know what love is. I liked him, I respected him, I thought he was handsome and sexy and charming and kind and thoughtful and intelligent and all sorts of good thinks. But I never loved him. It's like I told you, for a long time I had two thoughts, that I should love him, that he must be something special to me for me to do what I did. And that I really did want to love him, I tried so hard to love him. There were moments when I felt affection for him, even deep affection. But No, I never loved him."
By unspoken consent, we kissed, and then we started strolling back towards my flat, my arm around her, and her head pressing against my shoulder.
As we walked along, she started again, "I remember the time when I knew that I didn't and would never love him, that I just didn't have it in me. It was a company do at the Abbey; Piers and Jeanette were there, I can't remember the reason. But, I was standing talking in a group of people and Peter came into the room, and he started talking to another group. I consciously thought: there's my husband, I must go over to him. And then it struck me that I never thought like that about you. In the same circumstances, as soon as you came into the room, I would have known you were there. And within five minutes, and without conscious thought, I would have found myself standing next to you. It was something deep within me. With Peter there was nothing deep within me. I thought about that all that night, lying in bed alongside him, and I allowed myself to cry about it the next day."
I gave her a gentle hug in acknowledgement, and said, "You do know that I love you. I always have."
"Are we going to make it?" She hesitantly asked.
"I don't know. There is so much hurt still around. I thought we were leaving it behind, but this thing with Peter has just brought it all back. There are so many regrets, so much hurt and anger, and it won't go away."
"That's what really scares me about facing up to him. If we do, then we risk everything for ourselves."
"But what's the alternative?" I asked.
"I don't know." She answered. ---
As Carole brought me my first coffee of the morning, I asked her to ask Neil to come and see me and then told her that I wanted her to minute the meeting. She looked at me very questioningly, but did as I asked.
Two minutes later, I had Neil and Carole both sitting on my sofas, and I joined them from my desk.
"Neil, I want a minuted meeting, I hope you don't mind." Neil looked very worried, "Sorry, I only want your advice, but I'd like it on record, just in case."
I told them how Peter had been causing problems since the decree nisi.
"It's only a few days. If you want to do anything official I would think it's got to go on for a week or two at the least." Neil observed.
I nodded, "I think you're right if we wanted to go to the Police for stalking, or maybe even if we just wanted an injunction against him. But I'm inclined to try stopping it before it gets that bad. For his sake as well as ours."
"I want to summons him to this office and have a face to face between him and Molly and myself. Let him say whatever he wants to say. I'll make it clear that we are meeting on non-company business, but I don't want him to have any comebacks that he's been unfairly treated by his Managing Director. What do you think?"
Neil thought about it for a moment, and then asked, "You want to use this office for that meeting?"
"Will he be ordered to be there, by you as his MD?"
"I don't know. I'm tempted, but I see your point. How about if Molly invites him by email, say? And she makes it clear that I will be there, and that this office is just a convenient venue. And he is invited, not ordered?"
"As long as you make it very clear that this is not company business, I can't see that there is a problem. The company doesn't say that staff can't ever meet third party people on the premises, or that two employees can't talk about non-company issues."
I smiled, "Good. By the way, what would happen if we left it, and Molly did end up reporting him to the Police for stalking, or got an injunction? What would our policy be against a company employee who ends up in that sort of position?"
Neil smiled, "I'd have to phone Head Office. But I can't imagine we'd be particularly pleased."
"OK." I said. Then I turned to Carole, "Where am I tomorrow afternoon? Is there any chance that we can do it here tomorrow evening, six o'clock say?"
Carole answered without having to consult the diary, "You're out in the morning and out to lunch, but you're back here for the afternoon. And your evening is clear."
"Great. Now all I need is for Molly to agree."
After Neil had left, wishing me Good Luck as he went, Carole looked at me, "You haven't got Molly to agree?"
"She's scared. But I can't see any other way. Except conceding to him what he wants, and that is to talk to Molly alone. And I think she is even more scared of that."
Carole looked at me, and in unison we said, "Shit happens."
I phoned Molly, but she was at work and with a patient. We could only agree when she would phone me back, which she did. She took a lot of convincing, and it was only that she had no answer to my perennial question of 'What is the alternative?' that convinced her. I left her with clear instructions on exactly what she must say in the email, and told her to copy me in.
The email hit my machine within ten minutes and I thought: Now we wait for his reply.
Just before lunch, Carole came into my office, "Molly's been on the phone. You were busy in a meeting, but she left you a message. Apparently, Peter Davis has emailed his reply. He refuses to come here tomorrow evening, he insists that he must meet with her alone. He even suggested that he takes her out to dinner." She looked at me, and then added, "Sorry."