Back to Bristol Ch. 17byGaryAPB©
I left Molly at about ten o'clock on that Friday, but I was back before eight the next morning. I knew she was scared that Susan would make more trouble, or that Peter would start something now that Susan had failed.
So, we hung around together, and I began to realise how comfortable we had become with each other. I guessed we were beginning to get near to what I had wanted and hoped for, that we could become good friends.
I'd just finished watering Ralph's tomatoes and wandered back into the kitchen. Molly was leaning against the wall alongside the kitchen telephone, ashen faced. She looked at me, "It was her."
"Susan? What happened? What did she say."
"I was just putting the breakfast things into the dishwasher, and the phone rang. I picked it up without thinking. I answered with the number as I usually do, and she then said: Molly, I want you to know that I was extremely hurt with what you said last night..... And I put the phone down. I don't know what else she was going to say."
"You did exactly the right thing. Putting the phone down on her will get the message across that you meant it. Don't answer her if she calls."
I put my arm around her and gave her a hug. "Come on, let's have a cup of coffee."
We were just sitting in the kitchen, drinking our coffee and conjecturing as to what Susan's next move would be, when my phone started to vibrate in my pocket.
I looked at it, it was Carole calling me. "Hi, Carole, There's nothing wrong, I hope."
"Not at this end. But I was worried how things turned out last night."
"About as expected, I guess you'd say. Molly met with her mother and told her where to get off."
"Poor Molly, having to disown her own mother. It must be awful for her. But she did the right thing. Tell her that from me, please."
"You can tell her yourself, if you like. She's sitting right opposite me."
I looked up at Molly, "It's Carole; she'd like a word." And I passed the phone across.
Having said a tentative Hello, Molly was mainly quiet, just listening, with the occasional 'Yes' or 'It was' and a lot of 'Thank you's' until she eventually passed the phone back to me.
"It's me again, Carole."
"You know I believe shit happens. But no one deserves the amount of shit that's happening in Molly's life. You be kind to her, Chris. Otherwise you'll never forgive yourself."
"And I know that sometimes it isn't easy. You're in my prayers. Now I'll let you get on, and I'll see you on Monday."
I looked at Molly, "Carole is a nice lady; she's a sort of extra mum to me."
Molly smiled, "She is a nice lady. I'd met her, of course, but I don't really know her. But you can tell her from me, it really did help that an older woman told me that I'd done the right thing."
"Somehow I don't think I'll tell her that she's an older woman." I smiled.
She smiled back, more confidant this time, "I am OK. I can't imagine that Susan will try again. To be put down twice, last night and this morning, will be quite enough for her I'm sure." She paused, "Thank you. Last night I didn't know who else to call. I don't really have a right to call to call on you for my problems."
Now that was something that had never crossed my mind. Of course I was there for her in an emergency. But all I said was, "Well, I guess I'm not needed now, and we've both probably got lots to do."
She looked disappointed, but all she did was to say "Why don't you come round tomorrow evening. Ralph should be back by about seven o'clock, and I thought we'd wait for him and have a family meal.
So, on the Sunday I was back, in fact I just arrived after Ralph had returned. Molly said that he was upstairs having a shower, and that he'd be down soon, and that he seemed to have had a nice time.
"How is he?" I asked.
"Good, very good. But he really wanted to know if we were OK, and so I told him about Susan on Friday."
"So he knows all that. Good." I said.
Ralph was glowing, with both a suntan and excitement. He'd had a wonderful time, "You know I thought this holiday was going to be like taking medicine. It would be good for me, to see if I could do it without Susan. Hold my nose and swallow." He paused to look around the table, "Of course I missed her, but nowhere near as much as I expected. For the whole holiday I never had to dine alone, there was always someone or some couple that would invite me to join them. And there was a friendly crowd in the bar as well."
Molly beat me to the next question, "So what does that mean?"
"It means that I don't have to make a compromise that I would be ashamed of. That I don't have to share the rest of my life with someone who disgusts me. Tomorrow, I'll phone the solicitor and get things underway, and then I'll sit down and write to her. I don't want an unnecessary face to face, we've said all there is to be said."
Jamie looked up, "Are you going to divorce Nanny Susan, Grandpa?"
"Yes, Jamie, I am. I'm sorry. It means you won't be seeing her very much."
"That's OK. She had funny ideas, I didn't like them very much."
I was interested, "What ideas were those."
"Well, when you left us Dad, I cried, I was only little then of course. And Nanny Susan told me that I shouldn't cry, that I'd have a new daddy very soon. And I didn't like that, you were my Dad and I wanted you to come back."
I looked at Molly, who shrugged and looked mystified, "When was this?"
"It was one night when Mummy went to dinner with Peter, and Nanny Susan was with us. It was the first time Mummy had been out by herself; I remember that, 'cos I was worried about her. I didn't think she wanted to go, but Nanny Susan made her."
"Psalms 8:2" I muttered under my breath.
And Ralph said, "No, Matthew 21:16"
Which was followed by a friendly argument between myself and Ralph as to where 'out of the mouth of babes and sucklings' came from. And, after Jamie had fetched the Bible, we were both proved right, which was the best result for both of us. But then Ben, who was meant to be helping his mother serve, pulled my hand and led me to the kitchen, where Molly was meant to be collecting the pudding. She was in tears.
I looked at her and understood, "Of course they cried. Their home was broken. What was horrible was Susan using all her guile to break it."
"Yes, but it was them having to be old before their time. Jamie was four years old and he was worried about me." And a new wave of tears poured down her cheeks.
"I know. They never deserved this. There are no winners in this. We're all losers."
She looked at me, with anger in her eyes, "No, there were winners, Susan and Peter."
"But they're losers now. Everything comes full circle."
After that, for the next week, things were really good between myself and Molly. Our relationship was now fully back as a pair of parents, and as friends.
Ralph, on the other hand, had a rough week. On Thursday, Susan got her 'I'm going to divorce you' letter from Ralph, and apparently she was none too pleased. She phoned Ralph and told him that he had no right to divorce her, that she'd fight it all the way, followed by a one hour diatribe on all that was wrong with him as a husband. After that he refused to take her calls, and if he did answer her, it was only to tell her to let the solicitors deal with it.
It was on the Friday, I was beginning to unwind at the office before I went home, just sitting at my desk reading a daft report on Myra's investigations into he financial status of the Exeter operation, when Carole put her head around the door to say Peter Davies wanted to see me.
I was tempted to send him away, but there was a possibility that this was business, and there was a duty on me to meet senior staff at their request. So, I told her to send him in.
I got up from my desk as he came through the door, I nodded towards the sofa group, and I sat in my favourite armchair. He looked tired and pale with heavy black bags under his eyes.
I waited for him to speak, which he eventually did, "You know what I want."
And that was precisely what I didn't know. I knew what this was about, but I didn't know what he wanted. "Actually, no I don't. You'd better tell me."
"I want my wife back. I need her in my life." He ran his hand through his hair, "I know she has some idea that she loves you, that you will want her back. But, you haven't taken her back, have you?"
"We talk. I think both of us are just trying to understand what happened in our marriage, especially when it broke down." I answered as neutrally as I possibly could.
"Yes. But you haven't taken her back. I guess you rather like the freedom to pursue your career, to travel wherever ITI sends you. You don't want a wife and kids around your neck. Well I do. I love her, I want her, and you've got to stop letting her think that you are ever going to take her back. It's not fair to her and it's not fair to me."
"I don't believe this! You are turning to me to help you. I loved Molly, she is the mother of my sons. You're seduction of her bust up that marriage. And you expect me to help you?"
He looked defensive, "She won't talk to me. She's threatening to just go to a judge and force a divorce." He ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know what to do." He looked up at me, and there was desperation in his eyes, the desperation that had brought him to plead with his enemy, "Look, if you want a family weekend, or even a family holiday once in a while, well I won't ask too many questions as to what goes on, but please tell her to come back to me, I've got to have her back. I can't think straight without her."
If I was surprised before, now I'm shocked, "Did I hear you right, that you're suggesting that somehow we share her? Have you spoken to Molly about that one? She might have a view on that idea."
Tears welled up in his eyes, "I don't know. Of course I don't want to share her. I love her and want her and miss her so much. It's just......it's just that as I lay awake at night, I try to think of something, someway..... I want my wife back. How can she do this to me? I love her."
"So you keep saying." I whispered to myself, under my breath. I got up and walked over to my whisky. I poured two glasses. I could hear Peter Davies behind me, he was sobbing. I knocked back one whisky in two gulps.
I'm meant to love this bit. I've waited five years for this, and now that it's arrived, I feel a bit sorry for the guy. I've had plans, how I was going to rub his nose in his miserable sex life, tell him how I liked it when Molly used to offer me anal sex, or how great her impromptu blow jobs were, or about the evening that I trimmed her pubes, or about the sexy underwear she happily wore. I'm sure I could reduce Mr Macho to tears with all of that, but now he's reduced himself to tears and spoilt my fun.
I poured myself another whisky, and returned to the conversation, putting a whisky in front of him. I guess I should try and turn this to be constructive, for Molly's sake. But I did want some fun. I passed him a whisky and sat down.
I waited while he sipped his drink, then I started, "You really are a miserable, self-centred, selfish, immoral little shit, aren't you? About five years ago, you saw an attractive woman that you fancied. You wanted to get into her pants, and that's all that mattered. She was wearing a wedding ring, but that didn't bother you. You wanted to get into her pants. She told you about her two sons. That didn't matter to you, you wanted to get into her pants. She told you about her husband, about her loving family, but none of that mattered to you. You were all that mattered to you."
He looked at me, shocked at my vehemence, "And that's all that matters to you. Revenge? You've had your revenge. You seduced her into our bed. In my house. You knew she still had some stupid sentimental memories of you, and you used that to try getting back at me. You've had your revenge."
I paused, wondering if I should respond to his jibes. But I didn't want my lecture to descend to an argument, so I ignored his interruption, "And one day you managed it. You were The Man. You'd seen want you wanted and you'd got it, without any thought of the damage to other people that you hurt. But then you wanted something more. You wanted her so much that you couldn't stop there. You couldn't give her the time to repair the damage that you'd caused to her marriage. Oh No! Now you wanted her all to yourself. But you couldn't do that on your own, you had to recruit her mother to help you. Because what you wanted was all that mattered. And you managed that. You got her to marry you. A marriage, not built on mutual love grown over months, but pressurised in the trauma of divorce. You selfish little shit."
He looked at me, and I could see he was forming a reply, so I kept going, "Well, now, just for once in your miserable life, how about doing something for this woman that you claim to love? How about giving her what she wants? Give her the divorce she asks for, and give her the fair financial settlement that she's entitled to. Maybe, just maybe, then she won't look upon you and your marriage with disgust."
"What do you mean?"
I took a large sip of whisky, and paused, "I mean: I know because Molly has told me, that there was a lot of your marriage that was good. But she wants a divorce now. So before you destroy everything that was good in the last four years, give her her freedom."
He blew his nose and gulped back most of his whisky, "I know I behaved badly in the very beginning. I'm not proud of that. I didn't know any better then. I can't blame her for thinking badly of me about all of that. But we do have something special. She told me that she loves me. She is my wife. I know she's upset with Susan about everything. If it wasn't that no one else is talking to Susan, I think Susan would be furious with me for what she and I did. She had her reasons and I had mine, they just came together. But now she needs a friend." He looked up at me, more composed now, "I take it that you know that Ralph is divorcing Susan. She has no one now."
"Yes a thirty six year old marriage bites the dust, and partly because of the consequences of your immoral behaviour towards a wife and mother. For Christ's sake, redeem yourself a little, do the right thing now."
He drank the last dregs of his whisky, "But that's what I want. That's why you must help me, to give her a chance to see all that was good in our marriage. To look on it in a different light."
"Well, you'll have to make your own chances. I'm not going to help you."
"Are you saying we need to put this behind us? Well, that's what I want.
I didn't respond, and he was obviously thinking, but then he asked, "What will you say to Molly?"
"I will probably give her as good a verbatim account of this meeting as I can. I see no point in having secrets, in trying to use people or telling only half truths. But I will never interfere in someone else's marriage if I can possibly avoid it. And the one time that I slipped and did cause a problem in yours, well I guess I should apologise for that. I will say this, if Molly wants to talk to you, or to stay married to you, then it doesn't matter what I think."
He stood up and looked at me, he didn't offer me his hand, and I didn't offer mine. He just said, "Thank you for your time." And turned and left.
No sooner than he was out of the door, than Carole was in it. "I heard every word, he left the door open."
I just looked at her, I think I was beyond words, and Carole said, "Don't be sorry for him. I thought you did rather well."
"I am sorry for him. He's pathetic. But that doesn't mean that I don't hate him too."
Just then my phone rang, Carole picked it up, answered it and handed it to me, "Its Dr McBaine."
I got up and went and sat at my desk. I took the phone, and Carole mouthed, "See you on Monday." And left.
It had the hiss and burble of Piers phoning from a party or a pub, "Chris, I'm at the George, and I noticed Peter was missing. I've asked, and apparently he's on his way to see you. I thought I ought to warn you."
"Too late. He's just left."
"How was he?"
"Sad, pathetic and miserable. It was all quite enjoyable really."
"Will he be working on Monday?"
"Who knows? We'll find out on Monday."
"How about a drink one evening next week. You can tell me all about it and you need another lesson in the finer arts. Wednesday?"
"You've got a date." I said.
I did tell Molly all about Peter's visit, after I'd taken the boys out for a cycle ride on Sunday. And we spent a totally futile hour trying to guess what he was going to do. Molly did tell me that Peter only had until Friday, after that her solicitor would be petitioning to proceed with the divorce anyway.
The next meeting for Molly and me to talk was on Tuesday. At my instigation we started going over Peter's courtship of Molly, almost on an hour by hour basis. I also asked her where she was in her meetings with Heather Washington. She admitted that they had got sidetracked into Molly and Susan's relationship. I wasn't surprised, Molly had shocked herself with the vehemence that she felt about Susan. But she did say that the tests she had done about herself in those months had convinced Heather that she had been severely traumatised by the breakdown of our marriage. And in a traumatised state, anyone can be highly susceptible to suggestion, especially from a trusted loved one. Which I guess added up to Jeanette's view of the situation.
I couldn't add a lot to what she was feeling about Susan, except to sympathise. So we returned to the months that led up to her marriage. I did learn about the intensity of Peter's campaign. He was seeing her five or six times a week. On some days they had both lunch and dinner together. It was relentless. And, of course, it was backed up by Susan. When Molly complained, and suggested that Peter should cool it, that he should give her time to get through the divorce at least, it was Susan who argued with her that there was no shame in moving on quickly if she'd found a good man. And in Susan's opinion, Peter was a wonderful man. Apparently Molly and Susan argued twice about this, but Susan won, as she always did.
The conversation was painful to both of us, because as she told it, both of us could see the orchestrated campaign take shape. It made her feel foolish, and it made me angry. It wasn't so much that it hurt me personally, as it made me angry that two human beings would try to manipulate someone who they claimed to love. It was just wrong. I guess from Peter and Susan's point of view, they were helping her, guiding her, supporting her. They probably didn't know themselves how manipulative they were being.
I did have some worries about Molly and Susan. It seemed so dreadful to be permanently estranged from her own mother. I did wonder if some compromise wouldn't be healthier.
I don't know why, but after Molly left on that Tuesday evening, I was feeling dissatisfied, but I wasn't sure what I was dissatisfied with. I wondered if we were approaching the time when I should start raising the idea that this was it. This was as good as it gets. And we might as well accept it, we would be friends, we would provide a united front and a loving relationship for the boys. Maybe we should move on to discuss how we could make that work.
On the Wednesday morning, I had a business breakfast, organised by the Chamber of Commerce. I was seated alongside a rather attractive lady in her early thirties and immaculately dressed. Apparently this was her first breakfast gathering, and she was a bit nervous. Whether it was her nervousness or something else I wasn't sure, but she seemed to want to tell me her whole life story. She had come out of a short but bad marriage some eight years ago, and had focussed on building her own business, a small chain of ladies' fashion shops. She now had seven shops and felt she should now start giving some attention of her personal life, which was why she'd come along to the breakfast. I began to get a message, and I wondered how I felt about it. She was quite attractive, and obviously she found me attractive. But, I was committed to building some sort of relationship with Molly. I had no hope that my relationship with Molly would go much further, it was ridiculous to think otherwise, but I realised that I didn't really fancy this woman. I knew I thought Molly was far more attractive, and that worried me. That I would be trapped into a friendship with Molly that killed any opportunity I might have to build a relationship with anyone else. And that left me in a bad mood all day.