Back to Bristol Ch. 19byGaryAPB©
After Piers had said that I could expect problems from Peter Fucking Davies, I just excused myself from breakfast and went up to my suite and phoned Molly.
Before she really had a chance to answer I said, "Hi. It's me. Have you heard anything from Peter?"
She obviously was not expecting to hear my voice, "Chris! What time is it in Hawaii? No, I haven't heard anything from Peter. Why would I?"
"Sorry. It's just gone seven in the morning here, and Piers has just told me that he spoke to Peter who apparently said that he doesn't expect to be divorced. I can only assume he has some legal trick up his sleeve. I can't think what else he could be planning."
The was a long silence from the other end, then "I don't think there is anything that he could do. He's signed all the papers, the actual Court procedure is really just rubber stamping, and that's in under a week. I guess I should speak to my solicitor, just to be sure. But I can't do that until tomorrow, she'll have left the office by now."
Now I was silent for a while, "Well, the only other thing I can think of is that he intends to ask you to a give him a reprieve."
"To do that he'd have to come and see me, and he hasn't, thank goodness. The only contact that either Ralph or myself have had in the last few days is that Ralph had to have a face to face with Susan at the solicitors. But he didn't mention Peter at all. It was pretty rough going, I don't think she can understand what's happened to her, and she's fighting all the way to stop it happening, if that makes sense. But, I wouldn't have thought they talked about Peter."
"I suppose the other explanation is that he's playing silly mind games. He would guess that saying something like that to Piers would get back to me."
"That's not his style, but who knows? The quicker we get to next Wednesday and this is behind us the better."
I paused for a second or two, there seemed nothing else to say about Peter Fucking Davies, so I asked, "Well, how are you?" and our conversation drifted into a general chatty update.
After we'd said our goodbyes, and I'd put the phone down, I considered what I'd do. Molly's attitude and words had calmed any inner fears I had about her, and I felt confident about Peter again. I thought that maybe I should face him, give him a show of confidence, and that I wasn't going to buckle under his silly mind games. So I emailed Carole and asked her to arrange a planning meeting for the new Laboratories for the next Tuesday, the day before the divorce was in Court. And then I went down to rejoin the Conference.
At the coffee break, Piers asked, "And how is Molly?"
I smiled, "Very well. And she hasn't seen anything of Peter. So whatever he's playing at, he doesn't seem to have done anything yet. And by the way, I've got Carole arranging a meeting on the design of the new Laboratories for next Tuesday. I expect you'll get an email about it." I stopped stirring my coffee and looked straight into his eyes, "And Yes, you will be able to make it."
He smiled, "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"Wouldn't miss what?" Myra had just come up.
"Perfect timing. Carole is arranging a meeting for the new Laboratories on Tuesday. I hope you can make it." I answered.
Myra looked at me and then at Piers, and she understood the implication, "I'll be there. It sounds like fun."
I phoned Molly again on Friday morning to check that Peter had caused no problem. But he hadn't, and Molly had spoken to her solicitor, who had then checked with Peter's solicitor, and there was nothing wrong with the divorce case, and it was going ahead without a hitch. So, Molly and myself decided that Peter was just having a little fun at our expense.
On the Friday I was summoned to a meeting with The Old Man. I wasn't quite sure what he wanted to talk about, he seemed to be just encouraging me to talk, which probably had a purpose. So, I talked about restructuring the board of Franks. How I would be working on revitalising the production and client service side of the business, and that I wanted to bring Piers McBaine onto the board. He liked that bit, he'd met and been impressed by Piers, and just gave the idea his blessing. Otherwise, he just advised me to bring some new blood into the company at a senior level, even as a Number 2 to me. He did ask after Stephen Hobbs, who he had also met, but I gave Stephen the thumbs down as a candidate for the board. I said I wanted to leave him as head of the Exeter operation, where he was happy and good, he wasn't corporate material for higher office.
When we got back to Heathrow, bleary eyed off the red-eye, there was Molly waiting to meet me. She was standing chatting to Jeanette who was waiting for Piers. I knew the Piers and Jeanette were off to see Fraser and their daughter-in-law, but I was surprised to see Molly.
"Hi." I said as I hugged and kissed her, "This is a surprise."
"I wanted to meet you. I missed you." She answered with another kiss.
"Do we now have two cars here?"
"No. I came up on the train to Reading, and took the link bus. So it's just one car."
Once we'd collected my car from the long-stay car park, and that seemed to take half a lifetime, she said, "I haven't seen anything or heard anything from Peter." And I understood why she had come to meet me, the stress of what he might do was getting too much for her. So I told her that I'd arranged to face him in a meeting on Tuesday, to see if he was giving any clues as to what he planned.
We continued to hear nothing from Peter up to four o'clock on Tuesday when we gathered in the large meeting room at Marston Abbey for the planning meeting. I was talking to Carole, who I'd taken along to keep minutes, when he came in talking to Sharon Booth. He paused for a second and our eyes met, but neither of us said anything, and we only broke the moment when Carole nudged my arm to ask about getting teas and coffees.
The meeting itself went very well. Piers and his team had huge demands for the most luxurious laboratories in the world, but once I'd challenged that and guided the thinking to more realistic expectations, it was a very productive session. When it finished and was disbanding, with little groups talking amongst themselves, I noticed Peter had his eyes on me.
"Mr Davies. Are you waiting for me?"
"I think you can guess what about."
"Molly. What about her?"
"Is she well? I worry about her." And in fairness, he really did look concerned.
"Well you needn't. And Yes, she's very well. She's had a holiday for a couple of weeks in Majorca and she came back very fit and tanned."
He paused before he pressed on with what I suspect was a more important question to him, "You know what happens tomorrow. What are you going to do after that?"
"I guess we'll go on seeing each other and talking. We're really good friends now. But, who knows what the future holds."
"No." He answered thoughtfully, as if he really was considering my wise philosophical statement. And then, after a lengthy pause, he said "From tomorrow she'll have her freedom. It is the start of the rest of her life. And she deserves happiness and security."
Was this code? Was this asking me, telling me, to marry her? Was he, in some way, handing her over to me?
I looked straight into his eyes, "At last, something we can agree about. She needs to get the past into proportion, to move on to her own future and something better. And as you say, tomorrow is the start of that. Although I suppose it doesn't really start until the decree absolute."
"Yes. As you say, those last few weeks will give her a chance to look both back and forwards, from a position of having her freedom."
And like last time, when I thought he was going to face up to his new life, which had been a totally false impression, he held out his hand. And like last time, I shook it.
After he'd left, I headed out, towards my car, when Piers called to me as I passed the open door to his office.
I went in and stood in front of his desk, "I thought that went well, once I'd convinced you lot that we weren't designing the Ritz of research laboratories."
"You can't blame us for trying. So, what did Peter want? I saw him hovering, waiting for you, I assume."
I shrugged, "I'm not sure. Sometimes I think he speaks in codes. But he didn't say he had any legal jiggery pokery up his sleeve for tomorrow. But I guess we'll know that for sure by this time tomorrow. Is he taking the day off?"
"Not as far as I know. And I should know. Is Molly going to the Court?"
"No. She decided against it. As far as she's concerned it is just a necessary bureaucratic process."
"Well, give her both mine and Jeanette's love." He smiled, and our eyes met for a moment.
"Thanks, I will." And I went to find Carole waiting by my car.
I don't think we were out of the drive of Marston Abbey before Carole said, "That was a short instalment."
"Yes, it was, wasn't it." I answered, as neutrally as possible, but only because I was teasing her. After that we chatted about Peter Fucking Davies, and what his options were come the morrow. But, we couldn't think of any that were particular worrying or dramatic.
Molly came over to my flat that night. She was uptight and nervous, but trying not to let it show. I don't know whether she was trying to protect me from how stressed she was as she came to this final point of losing Peter from her life, but I decided to face up to it. "Why don't you tell me about your happiest memory of your marriage? You said it wasn't so bad a relationship. If you start remembering the good bits it might help."
She smiled weakly and shrugged, "I don't know what the best bit was, not with Peter. There were happy moments, but they were usually provided by Jamie or Ben. We had good holidays with them, but Peter wasn't important, he was just there, and I got on with him." She looked at me and smiled a bit more warmly, "But you're right, I should think of the good bits. I've got into the habit of just thinking it was a dreadful vale of regret, without you, without our family together. And I'm glad Peter seems to have taken it better now, once you told him a few facts of life. He hasn't made me hate him. Thank you." And she kissed me.
It was about four o'clock on the Wednesday that Molly phoned me to tell me that she'd heard from her solicitor to say that the decree nisi and had granted, with no complications raised by Peter. We both breathed a sigh of relief, and I suggested that I take her out to dinner.
When we met she looked slightly worried. "What's the matter?" I asked.
She paused and looked at me, into my eyes, "I better tell you, although I don't know what it means. I got a text message Peter. That this was the worst day of his life, but he hoped we could both move forward now."
I thought about that, "He's a master of the ambiguous comment, isn't he?"
"I chose to take it that it was to move forward separately not together." And she smiled weakly.
I smiled, "Let's give him the benefit of the doubt unless we're proved wrong."
Afterwards we went out to a nice, but nothing special, restaurant. It was when we were seated at the table that she carefully took off her wedding ring. "I insisted on wearing your ring right up until after the Decree Absolute was granted, but I don't want to wear this anymore." And she dropped it into her little handbag. After dinner we went back to my place and made love, and it was different somehow, it was less intense but more enjoyable.
But, at three o'clock the next day, Thursday, Molly phoned me and I answered it cheerfully, "This is becoming a habit. You phoning me at work."
But she hardly uttered the first syllable for me to know that something was wrong, "I've just received a huge bunch of flowers from Peter, with a card saying I Love You."
Now that worried me as much as it did her, but I thought it best to calm her fears, "It's probably nothing more than a romantic final gesture."
"Then he'd say 'Thank you for some wonderful memories' or something. He wouldn't pledge love in the present tense."
"Just a bad choice of words. Look, a bunch of flowers isn't going to hurt you. Put them in a vase, and ignore it. If he tries anything else, then let me know."
And she did, before breakfast on Friday morning, "He's hand delivered a letter again. It was waiting on the doormat this morning."
"What does it say?"
"That now he has given me my freedom, I'm free to remember how good our marriage was, and to come back to him. That he wants to talk, and that we've only got until the Decree Absolute to save a wonderful marriage." She paused, probably waiting for my reaction, but then she added, "Oh, and he loves me, of course."
I paused, thinking I'd like to suggest that she tells him to fuck off, but that would probably be a tad insensitive on my part, "How do you feel?"
"Sad for him, I'd hoped that he had got his life together. Angry that he's trying this, after all these months. And a bit nonplussed. I don't want to hurt him more, but really I just want him to go away."
I very nearly offered to phone him up myself and tell him to fuck off, but I didn't. This was a problem for Molly, not me. "Why not send him a short note to thank him for the flowers, and to say that there is no point in talking? If you write it some time today, you could put it through his door before he gets home from work tonight. He still lives in your old house?"
"Yes. It's under offer, but not sold yet. Actually, that's not a bad idea. To reply to a letter with a letter. I'll think about that."
"And remember, we're going to see that film tonight. Don't let him interfere with us."
"No. I'll be at your place by the time you get in from work." She paused, and I was just about to say goodbye, when she added, "Oh, and by the way, I'll warn you now, Ben wants to go out on your bikes tomorrow."
"Tell him that's OK by me. I rather like the exercise."
There was a pause before Molly answered in a very gentle voice, "Chris, I'm sorry that Peter is somehow back. I do love you, and thank you for being patient about him."
"Hey, if we have anything surely it's a friendship to sort out problems. And I love you."
We left it there, and I finished my breakfast and went into work. I guess I looked troubled because Carole asked what was worrying me.
"What, or who do you think? Peter seems to have got it into his head that by letting Molly win her decree nisi, somehow she will be free of being obliged to be married to him, but will realise what she is losing.. Or something like that. Anyway, so far it's flowers and love letters."
"As I have been known to say before, shit happens."
"It certainly does." I said and sipped my coffee.
The film in the evening was very good, and it certainly took my mind off any personal problems. I did ask Molly whether she had written to Peter, and she told me that she'd bought a blank greetings card and written inside it, just as I suggested, to say thanks for the flowers but there was no point in meeting, the relationship was over. She added, when I asked, that she chose to use a greeting card as it seemed less personal than a handwritten note.
After the film we went for pasta and a glass of wine, and then headed back to my place for the night. As I drove along I fished out my phone, just to turn it on as we'd turned them off for the film.
"Good idea." Said Molly as she got out her own phone. "I've got a message. Oh, it's from Peter."
For a couple of minutes she sat with the phone pressed to her ear, listening. Then she closed up the phone and put it away. I waited.
"It sounds like he has had a drink or two, and he sounded close to tears. He's desperate to see me. He wants to talk."
"Ignore it. It really is the best way to get the message across." I said. But as I glanced round, I could see that she really was unhappy.
We made love that night, but I don't think she was really with me. She was just acquiescing to my needs. And on the Saturday morning she seemed nervous. Sometimes she was talking as if she was going to stay with me all day, at other times she was saying she must get back to Ralph's house. I guessed, she wanted to be with me, for the sake of support and security, but needed to get back to Jamie and Ben, and maybe to see if Peter had left any more messages.
We were in the kitchen, just talking about the day ahead, with me saying that we'd do something as a family, and Ben would have to forego his cycling, when her phone started ringing from her handbag.
She got it out, and looked at it, and her face went white. "Yes?" she answered nervously.
After that I heard one half of an argument. I thought Molly was pretty adamant, I would have thought Peter would have got the message. But he didn't seem to. Eventually, it struck me that I shouldn't be listening to this, it was an argument between a man and wife; or assumed they were that until the divorce was finalised. So I left the room.
Five minutes later Molly came to find me. I held her in my arms, she looked exhausted.
"Why did you walk out?"
"I felt I was eavesdropping on a private conversation."
"You were, but I don't have secrets from you. Please, Chris, I know this hurts you, Peter interfering like this, but I don't want to hurt him anymore than I have to, I'm sorry."
"I just want him out of our lives, out of your life, he doesn't belong in it." I sighed, and gave her a hug, "What did he say?"
"That he was sorry that he phoned last night. Apparently he felt terribly lonely. I told him I was sorry about that, but there was nothing I could do. Then he said he wanted to meet me, to talk about what we had, there was a lot of tear jerking emotion. He was really trying to pull my heart strings."
"A bit. There's a little boy in Peter, and now there's a hurt little boy. And I feel that it was me that hurt him."
"But you're not going to see him, are you?"
"That's what the argument was really about. I kept saying No, there was no point. And he kept throwing up every reason he could think of as to why we should. He's hurting, Chris. I know I should never have married him, but he tried to be a good husband for four years, and now he's hurt."
That made me a little bit angry, "He's hurt because of the consequences of his own immoral action. If hadn't tried to chat up a married woman none of this would ever have happened. If you don't want to get burnt then don't play with fire. He played with fire, he played with his own emotions. He didn't know he was doing it at the time, but he was. And now he's burnt and it hurts."
She looked at me for a long time before she said, "He came up with one aspect that I haven't thought about. According to him, he is wracked with guilt that he is partly responsible for Ralph divorcing Susan. That was the only possible reason to meet that I heard. He wants to see if there is a way he can put that right."
"Do you believe him?"
"I'm not sure, I don't think he was particularly fond of Susan, I think he just happily worked with her for a common purpose. When we were actually married he didn't show any great concern for either Susan or Ralph. But if I met him, I could find out a little more of what he did on Susan's instructions, or what she did on his. Maybe I could understand a little more of how they manipulated me."
I thought about that. It struck me that there was a valid argument in there somewhere, "OK." I suggested, "Why not say to him that we can all meet, sometime after the divorce is complete? The extra time and finality of that would allow a proper discussion on what actually happened back then. And there would still be time to save Ralph and Susan's marriage, if that was appropriate. But that would call his bluff."
She looked at me and smiled, "That is a good idea. I'll phone him back in a minute. I'll say that I'm not willing to do anything about our divorce, that must go through. But afterwards we could meet and talk about all that happened with proper retrospection. And if that shows that Ralph has a wrong understanding, then he and Susan would have reason to reconcile." She paused, before she added, "But I don't think it will make any difference. I think Ralph has other reasons. I'm coming to the conclusion that he's never been that happy, and this affair is only the final straw."