Back to Bristol Ch. 22


"No. I assumed you'd want to do your thing in the canteen."

"What's on this afternoon. I know I've got an accounts meeting, but what else?"

She looked at the diary, and gave me a list of four other internal meetings. Nothing was vital or time critical, "Give them my apologies, but I'm taking the afternoon off. If anything terrible happens, then phone me, but I want to talk to Molly."

Carole looked at me, "OK. Probably the best thing you can do." And I wondered how much she knew from some chat to Pamela.

I phoned Molly, "Hi, it's me and I'm wondering what you're doing for lunch."

"Not a lot. I thought I'd go home and get a sandwich. Why?"

"I was wondering if I could entice you to something more. If I called for you at one o'clock say?"

"I've got my car. Tell me where and I'll be there."

"OK. Outside the theatre at one fifteen. There are plenty of restaurants in King Street."

"OK. I'll look forward to it. I love you." And that was it.

We met as I suggested, and we walked down the road. Suddenly I decided it was time for her to face up to some final demons, and I headed for the lime green fronted Italian. And just as suddenly she saw where I intended, and she held back.

"No. Not there. Not three days after he died. It's bad enough, but not now, please Chris."

I turned and looked at her. Maybe I should press it. I hated the idea that there was a no go area in our lives. It was just a restaurant. It sold food. It didn't enforce adultery. I looked at her, but I loved her and relented. Instead, a turned to the other side of the road and chose the one that we had used on the day of our ill-fated tryst. She even seemed to have some doubts about that, but followed me.

As we sat down she said, "You're not going to let me off this are you? You'll drag me into that place if it's the last thing you do."

I looked at her, "Yes, I will. We have no secrets; no places that can't be visited; no bad memories that we haven't faced up to. But we haven't a time limit either." And I blew her a kiss.

"OK. Next time I'll go there."

We talked about my future, I was coming to terms about having to leave ITI, and I needed to talk to my partner about what the future held. But I was also concerned about her, I knew she was going through a rough time after Peter's death, and that was something that she couldn't really share with me. I could be there for her, but I couldn't share it with her.

She sounded weary and hesitant combined, "Sheila Armstrong phoned me this morning. They've taken up my suggestion that Peter is buried up in Nottinghamshire near his mother and father. They have preliminary plans that it will be next Wednesday, a week today, assuming the coroner will release the body."

I nodded, I'd seen an email from Sheila this morning. "I won't be there. But don't let me influence you, I quite understand that you would want to be there. I'll chauffeur you if you want, but it'd be wrong for me to pretend to mourn him."

She looked at me and nodded, but didn't say anything.

After that we talked about my job. I'd decided that I'd hang on until the January Board Meeting. I'd only resign when I had to. I'd decline the offer of going to the States, and wait for Stephen to push me, and only when pushed would I resign. We talked a little about my wanting to be my own master. But, try as we might, neither of us could come up with the start-up opportunity that lit the fire in my belly that I needed.

And then I tried her on my other thought, "How do you fancy living in Exeter?" and we talked about the MBO, and the possibility of my being part of it. I told her that I could only do it if I had the support of Stephen Hobbs and the guys in Exeter, and that I'd go and see them soon.

After lunch we walked, hand in hand, back down to the car park. As we stood beside her car, I kissed her, "I don't suppose I could talk you into coming back to my flat for a coffee, could I?"

She saw the reference, "Easily. But I can drive myself this time. And you don't have to seduce me. You can just send me into the bedroom and tell me to take my clothes off."

I didn't quite do it like that, because I undressed her. And what delighted me was that when I took her dress off, I found that she was wearing quite a sexy bra and matching panties and suspender belt all in powder blue, with dark brown stockings. I recognised them all as one of the sets I'd bought her on her birthday weekend.

"You look good. Thank you."

She smiled and kissed me, "It's important to me as well. I wake up in the morning and my first thought is you. And especially if you're not there, then I spend a moment thinking: I wonder what he'd like to find me in today, if you were to surprise me as you have today. It brings me closer to you somehow."

I told her that I loved her, then I kissed her and we made love. And after we'd showered, we did something else that was important to me, for the first time ever I went with her to pick up the boys from school. I needed my family around me as I faced an unknown future, and they were there.

We got through to the day of Peter's funeral, Wednesday December 19th. Molly had stayed with me the night before, she never complained about this weird life she had, where some nights she stayed over with me, and had to get home early enough to get the boys to school, and other nights she went home. But I knew it must be a strain, and the sooner we got to all four of us back under one roof the better.

Anyway, that morning I was sitting up in bed watching her get dressed. She had to leave quite early for the long drive to Nottinghamshire and the funeral. Although I'd offered to be her chauffer, I think this was something she wanted to do alone. She was sitting on the bedroom chair staring into her jewellery box. In it, I knew, were her engagement and wedding rings from Peter. I wondered if for that day she was going to wear them. Maybe not on her wedding finger, but on the other hand, or on a chain around her neck, or even just carry them, as some sort of last tribute to the four years they had shared, good or bad. But then I realised that she knew I was watching her, and that was unfair to her. So, I got up and had a shower.

I wasn't going into the office that day. It would have been hypocritical of me to go to the funeral, but somehow I wanted to be around if Molly needed me. In truth I wanted her to need me, but knew she was strong and self-sufficient. After breakfast, I kissed her goodbye and told her to drive carefully, and to phone me if she had any problem. She looked pale and white and nervous.

As soon as she had left, I went into the bedroom and checked the jewellery box. Neither of Peter's rings were there.

I didn't have a lot to do. I had a meeting with Stephen Hobbs and his senior colleagues planned for mid-morning, to tell them that ITI was going to put their operation up for sale. I just hoped they'd accept my tentative suggestion that I might help them in that. And for the afternoon, I had a shopping list of things to buy for Christmas, and for the boys for their trip to Australia.

The morning meeting with Franks Engineering went as well as can be expected. Telling a bunch of guys that their whole future is in jeopardy is never easy to say (or to hear). But the significant thing was the lunch with Stephen afterwards.

I opened with, "I meant it, Stephen. I really am sorry to be the one having to throw such a spanner in the works. It was my idea, and for ITI it's right. But I am sorry for the uncertainty it brings everybody. I hope you'll see it as an opportunity. "

He looked at me, "It's not your fault, Chris. It's life these days. I just wish we had a way of actually putting an MBO together. Then at least we'd be masters of our own destiny. What with TDF and now ITI, I think we've had just about enough of big corporations. I think most of us would just love to go back to what we used to be, a profitable, professional specialist engineering company, with no special allegiances to anyone."

"Then, why don't you? Here is a golden opportunity. I'm pretty sure ITI would give you some secure contract for the next few years. What else are they going to do? They need you, but it just doesn't make sense to own you. That's a great jumping off ground."

"You see, you immediately see a way forward." He paused and looked at me, "How do you see your future. With this sale, your empire has just got a little smaller. Have you been a bad boy?"

I smiled, "No. In fact it appears I've been a very good boy. They have plans for me to be whizzing off all over the world building a bigger and better Health Division."

He looked at me, slightly surprised, "You sound slightly cynical. Isn't it the future you planned?"

I gave him a wry smile, "You're not the only one who wishes he was the master of his own destiny."

"Well, I hinted once that what we need is a leader. You didn't take me up on it. Any chance that I could convince you this time?"

And that was the answer I wanted. By the end of lunch we'd agreed to keep in close touch, and to meet up again as soon as I was back from Australia.

I got back to my flat with all my shopping errands done. I was feeling satisfied with my day. I checked my watch, the funeral was long over, and Molly should be well on her way home. Our agreement was that she'd call just call in to Ralph's to see the boys, and then come on to me. I was tempted to go round to Ralph's and meet her as soon as she got back, but I thought we might need some privacy. I knew Ralph would respect that, but I equally knew that the boys wouldn't. So I sat around and waited.

Eventually she got to me. She looked tired, but I couldn't read anything else.

So, as I poured her a G&T to match my half drunk one, I asked "How was it?"

She shrugged, "About as I expected. There weren't many there. Some from the Abbey and Piers and Jeanette, of course. Some cousins I think I've met before. One old school friend who got to hear of it from somewhere. Susan, someone must have told her. And an old couple who were neighbours of his mother's. Oh, and Sheila Armstrong, who organised everything. She was ever so kind, but she sort of stayed in the background."

"Was it hard?" I asked, as I handed her the G&T.

"Not as hard as it might have been. It was odd, saying goodbye. Somehow, I don't think I was quite ready for him to be dead." She paused and sipped her drink. "Mmmm...I needed that." She looked at me, "You started out hating him, I know you did and I don't blame you. But now I think you don't feel a lot about him. Me? I started out liking him, respecting him and feeling sorry for the way I was treating him. But I'm the one that grew to hate him."

"Just let him go, Molly. For your own sake."

"That's what Jeanette said. When the mourners left the grave side, I just stood there wondering what I felt about him. And Jeanette came back to see if I was alright. She asked if I had stopped hating him yet. She even asked if I'd forgiven him. And I think I have. I certainly don't hate him anymore, I just hate what he did. I think I see him as a tragic figure now, he got hurt as much as anybody by what he did."

Then she looked up at me, "I know you were watching me looking at his rings this morning. I was wondering what to do with them. I stopped three times on the way up, until I found what I wanted. I had to buy a stupid little collection of plastic children's jewellery, but I got a little black velvet pouch with it. That's what I wanted. I put his rings in it, and when it came to the bit where you throw a handful of dirt into the grave, I threw the rings. I gave them back to him. I should never have had them in the first place."

I sipped my drink, partly to cover up that I didn't have anything to say to that.

"And as Jeanette led me away from the grave side, Susan came up. She said that all she ever did was to try to help a man who was in love with me and wanted me when you rejected me. Then she said that it was Peter that asked her to buy the Longleat tickets, and that it was his idea to swap the letters."

"And what did you say?"

"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It's a rewrite of history, conveniently coming along after his death. If he wanted Longleat tickets why wouldn't he buy them himself, even if he was going to lie about where they came from? And she forgets, the reason I was writing to you was that I had been given a few days break from the pressure of Peter, I might have even been beginning to think straight. He was at a week's conference in Harvard at the time."

I just held her in my arms for a long quiet hug.


Well, that's over a year ago now, and Peter's name hardly ever gets mentioned these days. It's not that he's unmentionable, it's just that he's not very important to us. And partly because this last year has given us so many good memories.

But the first thing I remember after the day of Peter's funeral was the very next day, and it was fortuitous but somehow distasteful. Neil Davidson came into see me.

"Chris, I've got something that I think I should tell you. I've checked the records, and Peter Davies never re-assigned the beneficiary of his Company life assurance. It says Molly Davies. And I've checked with the insurance company, and Molly Davies gets it. In this day and age, with so many odd relationships in people's lives, the named person gets it whatever their relationship to the deceased."

I looked at him. "How much?"

"Exactly? I can't remember. But something over £300,000. Four times his gross salary."

"Oh! I wonder how that's going to go down." I pondered.

Neil looked sympathetic, "I wondered. Will she have problems? Do you want me to start investigating if it can be transferred to a charity say, without tax implications?"

I looked at Neil for several seconds while I decided, "No. I take it you're writing to her? I'll tell her tonight. And I honestly couldn't tell you how she's going to react."

In fact, when I very hesitatingly told Molly, she wasn't over the moon about it, but seemed to think that she was the lucky recipient of a bureaucratic error, and it wasn't Peter's money but the insurance company's. And it might help if I was going to be unemployed.

After that bittersweet memory, I remember a far happier one, Mum's face when a family of four walked out into the Arrivals Hall at Melbourne airport. She just didn't know what to do with herself. She did do one thing that pleased me, she went straight up to Molly and hugged her, even before she acknowledged the boys, let alone me.

The Christmas in Melbourne was great. Within two hours of us all getting back to Len and Mum's house, Len had phoned Ralph and he was on his way. He made it by a circuitous route on Christmas Eve. Mind you, he only stayed with us for a few days before he was off in his hire car for every botanical garden in Southern Australia. Then back with us to celebrate Ben's birthday, when we had a beach barbeque which made it very memorable for a little boy with a January birthday. But then Ralph was off for a visit to New Zealand, before he headed home to hear his divorce petition granted.

While we were in Australia, Molly and myself did some real wedding planning. And Mum got involved, and she was so happy. She'd been little more than a guest flying in our first wedding, and she just loved talking to Molly about our plans. We chose to get married again on the 23rd April, our old wedding anniversary. We'd overwrite one anniversary with another. And we decided that we'd have as simple and minimal ceremony as possible, we just wanted to put right a five year mistake. But the party afterwards, well that was a different matter.

And then we came back and a couple of weeks later it was my birthday. And that I made very special. The boys gave me a book on malt whiskey and a bottle of the stuff to drink while I read it, and Molly gave me some diamond cufflinks. As she said, "I know you hate jewellery for yourself, but I wanted you to have some diamonds as well."

In the evening, I took Molly out to dinner. And on the day when she could refuse me nothing, I took the opportunity to solve the problem of the little lime green painted restaurant in King Street. But first, I had her dress in that little open topped corset thing under her dress. She'd modelled it for me on a couple of occasions in the bedroom, but she'd never worn it out. But it was the night when she couldn't say No.

She looked at bit hesitant when I determinedly headed for the restaurant, but she just said, "I might have known. But this place does have some bad memories for me."

"We'll overwrite them. Promise." I said and kissed her.

Once our drinks had been served, I told her, "I want you to go to the Ladies and take off that g-string." She gulped, but smiled. And then I continued, "And I want you to work at least two fingers into yourself and then come back. I want to kiss wet fingers that are smelling of you." At that she went slightly pale.

She sipped her drink, looked at me, sipped her drink again and said, "Dutch courage. God, it's bad enough sitting here feeling my boobs floating around. This basque makes me feel so sexy, it sort of holds me firm which just accents that it isn't holding my boobs." She sipped her drink again, and then headed for the Ladies.

When she returned, she made her right hand prominently available to me, and I took hold of it and kissed it, and gently licked her fingers.

"I don't think I'll ever think about that Ladies the same way again." She said with a smile.

Through the dinner, I constantly mentioned sex in various ways. And I knew she was getting more and more excited.

Once we got to the coffee, I said, "Do you know what's going to happen when we get back to the flat?"

She smiled, "I hope it's what I want to happen. God, you've been cruel tonight, Chris. And I love it, even if I am squirming a bit."

"You're going to give yourself like you've never given yourself before."

"That sounds interesting." She smiled, and then a thought crossed her mind, "Anal? I haven't done that in years. I've been sort of putting it off, just a bit scared I suppose. OK, then."

"No, more than that. First you are going to suck me and lick me until I'm as hard and as near to bursting as you've ever managed. Then you are going to turn round, and you're going to fuck me with your bottom. I told you about it. You're going to impale yourself and you're going to do the work. I'll just keep still and have you give me the pleasure of your bottom."

Now she did gulp and go pale, "I'm not sure I can. I don't mind you doing it to me, but me doing it to me, I just don't think I can."

"Don't you want to give yourself totally? Don't you want to give me the pleasure? Think of it as your final atonement. You wanted that, but this way it's you giving yourself to me more than ever before, not me taking you. I've done that many times. Tonight you give yourself to me."

She sipped her coffee. "I'll try."

And she did, and it was great. We took our time, and I had plenty of lube handy. But she did impale herself, and then rock backwards and forwards, fucking herself on me. And I was quite still, well I was quite still until it all got a bit overwhelming, when I was fucking her as much as she was fucking me.

Afterwards, we lay on the bed, and she looked at me, "I love you Chris. You do know that, don't you."

I kissed her, "Yes, and I love you."

"And I want you to have me do that again, once in a while. I felt so totally yours, you were all I was thinking about. And I liked that. You can have me anally whenever you like, but just once in a while, when you think I need it or you need it, make me do that again."

"And how do you feel about that restaurant now?"

"I think I'll never forget this evening. I've never felt so naughty and sexy, and loved and loving. It'll never be my favourite restaurant, but now I've got some good memories to counter the bad."

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