Back to Bristol Ch. 09byGaryAPB©
The rest of Tuesday was just plain busy. It wasn't a good day. It started with me being tired, upset and frustrated. Then I'd had to sack a senior director, and although I knew it was right that he should go, it was inevitable that I would still worry about the man underneath all the business bravado. Sacking people is simply not a nice thing to have to do. But he's only a few months off being able to draw a pension, and an ex-gratia payment should see him through.
It was the evening and I was back in my flat before I really had time to reflect on the events of the day. I began to really like Carole's theory that Peter Davies was a cheat even in his marriage. It was consistent with what I know of him before his marriage. It may explain a little of why Molly was willing to cheat on him with me. And it would explain why she was upset to be reminded that I didn't cheat on her, ever.
Interestingly and by chance, Dennis Murrell's little outburst seemed to support the theory.
But it didn't explain what it was that was so important for Molly to want to talk to me about. There seemed to be only two possibilities. She was going to ask if she could swap back again, that her first husband was a better buy than the second, so she wanted to come back. But I still didn't believe that of Molly. She was too true to her own emotions, she married for love, not because the man was good husband material. The second possibility was that she was going to ask me to move away and leave them in peace. That despite what sort of man Peter Davies was, she was going to see it through. I remembered that was her commitment to Ann Walters years ago when they had met.
Well, whatever the explanation, my answer was the same - No. I'm not taking her back because she sees me as the lesser of evils, nor am I giving up my children.
On Wednesday, I spent the morning doing my bit for a sales presentation, but it ran late. I got back to my office pretty certain I was going to miss my train for London.
Carole was waiting for me, "Don't worry. I've packed your briefcase with all the files you'll need. Now give me your keys, I'll drive you to the station, and then I'll take your car and park it at your flat, I'll leave the keys with the porter, and take a taxi back here."
As she drove along, she asked, "And how goes my soap opera? What's the latest instalment?"
"I don't think there is one. I haven't heard from Helene since she was in my office. I guess that's for the best. And Myra and myself are OK. I think we are at the beginning of what could be a very good personal and business friendship."
"And how about the one great love of your life?"
"Molly? Well, I hope you're wrong. She may be a great love of my life, but I hope there's room for a second great love one day. Just, not yet. I'm in a pretty good place at the moment. I'm beginning to build a good relationship with my sons. I'm back living in a city I know and love. And I'm the managing director of a great company with a great future. Things are pretty good. But I'll admit there's a vacancy for a little companionship, a little delecting as you would say. But that's all."
"So nothing's happened about her tearful walk out?"
"No. But I wasn't expecting anything. Anti-climax seems to be the name of the game with her. I really do think that Molly is a nice person, she doesn't mean to hurt or upset people. The same's true for Ralph, her father. But I begin to feel that they are playing mind games with me. Maybe they don't mean to. But they do, and I'm fed up with it. I'll sit peacefully on the train and think about it for a couple of hours."
"I hope you don't. I put the first draft of your quarterly report to the Group Board in your case. I need you to go through it and mark it up with corrections."
"Something to look forward to!"
Wednesday afternoon in Head Office was good. I seemed welcome, and anyone who I saw and who I respected as having influence, seemed to think I was doing OK at Franks. I was called into HR. They knew of the Dennis Murrell debacle, but they weren't surprised. Apparently, Charles Dyer and the takeover team had spotted Dennis as having to go when they did their review. HR just wanted to be sure there would be no nasty repercussions.
Coming out of HR, who do I bump into the delectable but now untouchable Myra?
"Hello, I wasn't expecting to see you here."
She smiled, "I could say the same."
"Are you doing anything this evening by any chance?"
"Yes. Heading back to Bath. I'm in Bristol tomorrow."
"Could I convince you to catch a later train, and we'll have an early dinner? I'm at a bit of a loose end. I'm sure we can grab something to eat and you catch a nine or nine thirty train."
"Sounds good. I'll see you in Reception at six say?"
Dinner with Myra was good. Maybe because there was no shadow of 'what happens later' hanging over us, we both knew that later she was going to catch a train for Bath. After we left the restaurant, we took one taxi between us, first going up to Paddington Station to drop off Myra, and then to head back to my hotel in St James. It was just after we'd dropped Myra at the station that my phone rang. It was Molly. My first thought was for the boys.
"Hello, Molly. I wasn't expecting to hear from you. Are the boys OK?"
"They're fine. Don't worry. Are you OK to talk, you're not at dinner or anything?"
"No. I'm in the back of a taxi just going round Marble Arch, and I've had dinner."
"Are you alone?"
"Did you have a lonely dinner?"
I felt myself reacting: mind your own bloody business. Maybe that's why I replied, "No. I had dinner with Myra Hepsted. You've seen her. She was the girl I took to the RNIB Ball, remember?"
"Oh!" I could hear the disappointment in her voice. Good. Maybe her love life is in tatters, there's no reason for her to think mine is. It is, but there's no reason for her to know that.
I left a pause, before I asked, "What do you want, Molly?"
"I just wanted to say.... Well, for a start I wanted to say how wonderful it was, having all four of us playing board games on Monday, it was like we used to be."
A wave of sadness and regret hit me. How dare she conjure up emotions for something she chose to break up? We'd still be a family is it wasn't for her. "Yes it was. It's a pity we don't do that anymore. I wonder why?"
I waited for a reply. There was nothing, until there was an eventual deadness to the sound and I knew she had gone. Sod her!
I stared at the dead phone, and I felt that knot in my stomach. Why does she do this? How does she do this? We've been divorced for four years, and yet one phone call and she can get me making thoughtless barbed comments, she can get me so angry, so frustrated, so ...I don't know what.
I accept that she is a great love of my life, but how many girls have I been with since? How many miles have I travelled around the world? How many times have I cum without a thought of her? Surely, I should be over her by now?
I realised that my cab was stationary, we'd arrived at my hotel and the driver was waiting for me to get out.
Thursday was hectic, a major sales presentation in the morning, followed by a meeting with our American partners who hold the patents on our scanner, then some internal meeting, and finally another sales dinner at the Savoy Hotel. In the end I caught the last train, a stopper all the way to Bristol, and eventually I got home at two o'clock on Friday morning.
But I was up at my usual time. I changed the clothes in my overnight bag from the dirty ones from the London trip to clean ones for the Exeter trip. I decided not to bother with breakfast, but, between cups of coffee, I did walk down the road for a paper.
When I got back I collected my car keys and loaded up. I was standing on the top step at the main entrance waiting for Myra to turn up, when who should come along, but Molly.
I looked at her, I was suspicious, "Molly! Good morning. What brings you to see me this early on weekday?"
"Carole told me that if I wanted to see you before the weekend, my only chance was now."
"And I want to say I'm sorry. I'm sorry I rang off the other night. I'm sorry that I ran away on Monday.... ..it's just that you say these things. I know you must hate me, but why do you have to say things to upset me? It's been five years now...."
The irony of it struck me, "I guess I could ask you the same question. Anyway, what is so important?" I paused before she could answer, "I'm a bit pushed for time right now. I'm going away for the weekend, down to Exeter, I'm hoping Carole's booked a nice country house hotel outside Exeter somewhere. But I'll be back on Sunday."
"Well, I wanted to say sorry. And I wanted to agree some time when we might talk. I want to talk to you, Chris, please...."
"So you and Ralph keep saying. Well actually I want to talk to you, I don't know what to get Jamie for his birthday. I don't want to buy him anything that'll upset you or Peter. But, it'll have to be Sunday, I'm afraid. How about I have the boys on Sunday afternoon, about two thirty say, and then we can talk when I come back. Will they be at your place or Ralph and Susan's?"
Just then, we both turned, as Myra was staggering up the steps with a bag over each shoulder, a briefcase in one hand and a very heavy looking overnight case in the other.
Myra just looked at me, "Car keys please. I'll put these in your car." She glanced at Molly and probably realised that she was interrupting a private conversation, "Sorry, I'll wait for you in the car. OK?" and she held her hand out for the keys. I gave them to her and she staggered off.
I looked round at Molly, she looked rather shaken, which was odd, Myra wasn't that rude.
"So where will they be?" I prompted.
Molly started down the steps, "Oh. They'll be at Ralph and Susan's. I'm going there for Sunday lunch....it doesn't really matter....no, it doesn't matter." And she was gone.
I watched her go. I think I was probably shaking my head in bewilderment.
I walked over to my car, Myra was sitting in the passenger seat, waiting for me, "I hope I didn't butt into a private conversation."
"Nothing I understood. Don't worry. Why so many bags?"
"Oh! I'm the delivery girl for a whole set of ITI Staff Handbooks, and ITI Pension Scheme Books. That's all."
Friday in Exeter was good. Stephen Hobbs had heard of Dennis Murrell's demise. He was very cautious in his words, until I let him understand that I wasn't sorry to lose Dennis, when Stephen smiled and just added, "So can we give up steam hammers and the water wheel and use electricity and other modern gadgets?"
I did tell him that I may ask him to help in some way as I reorganise the Production team, but I wasn't sure how yet. He was happy to be in Bristol whenever I asked. Later, he offered to take me to dinner, but I'd already arranged to meet Myra.
My dinner with Myra was much like Wednesday night. We had a pleasant dinner, and we were agreed that the Exeter operation had great potential. We soon had put together a shopping list of things we needed to know to help us plot a future. We didn't have a lot of time for socialising, as Myra had found out that the last train from Exeter to Bath was at about eight thirty, but it was a tribute to our professional relationship that we could get through a lot of work in a short time, and I dropped her at Exeter St David's station just in time for her train.
On Saturday, I became a tourist in Exeter. It was a city that, although really only just down the road from Bristol, I hardly knew. And I was impressed, I liked it. And in the evening, I turned up for the Company Barn Dance. Again I was impressed by the nice people that all the staff seemed to be. At one point I remember sitting by myself for a moment, thinking it's funny how birds of a feather do flock together. Just like Dennis Murrell was obviously a friend of that other alpha male, Peter Davies; so Stephen Hobbs seemed to have recruited a bunch of nice characters, like himself.
With a few glasses of wine in both of us, I felt relaxed enough with Stephen that I asked him, "Why did you allow yourselves to be taken over by TDF? You must have had a great future as an independent operator."
He smiled, "The previous owners were two brothers who both wanted to retire. TDF had a pretty big chunk of our order book. The brothers were both our top management and our sales team. Without them we didn't have either a sales channel or a managing director, and they wanted their money. It was their retirement fund, you can't blame them. We're a bunch of engineers. Good ones, but that's what we are. And we didn't have the leadership to get us the money for a management buy-out." And he turned and looked at me with a very questioning look in his brown eyes.
I was flattered, but also the MD of the parent company, I smiled, "Managing Directors are two a penny. They're easy to find." And we let the matter drop.
The Barn Dance went on until well after midnight. The following morning, Sunday, I slept late, had a wonderful cooked breakfast and read the Sunday papers, before setting out to drive back to Bristol. I'd enjoyed Friday and Saturday, and life was pretty good.
I turned up at Ralph and Susan's at almost exactly two thirty. The boys ran out and jumped into the car. Beyond a Hello and a smile from both Susan and Molly, nothing was said.
I was just about to get in my car when Ralph came up to me. I looked at him, I would guess somewhat suspiciously, "Yes, Ralph?"
"I just thought I'd let you know, I asked Susan about seeing Peter on Good Friday. You were right, Peter was heading here, just as Susan was walking back from Jean Pilton's. He stopped and gave her a lift for the final few yards. But he saw your car here and didn't come in, he didn't want an argument."
That didn't sound right to me, but I just said, "Well, it isn't important. It wasn't keeping me awake at night, Ralph." And I smiled and got in my car.
As I drove away, I realised what was wrong with the explanation. It was total crap, but I'm not going to worry about it.
The weather wasn't so good, so I just took the boys back to my place. I got them something to eat later on, and we watched a couple of DVD's. I was quite pleased that they seemed happy not doing anything particularly special. But I was still nervous about whatever the evening was to hold. I was about to have the promised talk with Molly - again!
When I took the boys back, it was Susan that opened the door.
"Hi, Two young tearaways returned, duly fed, watered and entertained."
"OK. Thank you."
I stood there and waited, expecting to be asked in.
Susan looked at me, "Is there something else?"
"Yes. I was expecting to see Molly. She wants to talk to me apparently."
Susan smiled, very sweetly, "Well, she's not here. So, you can assume she doesn't want to talk to you, apparently."
I just about said "Oh." before the door was shut in my face.
I walked away very slowly, but with increasing anger. Fuck her! She's done it again. She comes to me on Friday with how important it is to talk, and now she's not here. Well, damn her, and fuck her, and I don't give a shit anymore!
Ralph came down the side of the house. I looked at him.
"She does need to talk to you, Chris. She's gone home, but you could go round there."
"No, Ralph, I couldn't. I've just about had a bellyful of you and your bloody daughter telling me that we need to talk, and every time, every bloody time she runs away. And I am most certainly not chasing around after her."
He watched me, and when he thought I'd calmed down a bit, he said, "She's upset and scared. Please, Chris, go and see her. There's so much she should talk to you about."
"No there bloody well isn't. She wanted to talk to me, so we go out to lunch, and I spend the whole afternoon with her, and she didn't say a damned thing. Then she comes to my office, takes one look at me and walks out. Then you say we must talk, so I come round here last Monday, on what would have been my wedding anniversary of all days, and when I tell her that I tried to be a halfway decent husband, she bursts into tears and runs away. Then she phones me, and rings off. And then she turns up on my doorstep and runs away with it apparently not mattering at all. And now she's hiding at home. I've had enough of it. I'm pissed off, fed up and angry."
He smiled, conspiratorially, "Women, eh? We can't live with 'em and we can't live without 'em."
That supercilious little epithet just made me angrier. I think at that point I lost it, "Fuck off, Ralph. I'm totally pissed off with you and your bloody daughter. You may like playing silly mind games. You may be happy that your wife lies to you. You may think your poor little daughter is all hurt and upset with me. But I don't fucking care. Understand? No more. Not now, not ever."
Ralph looked hurt. We stared at each other in some stand-off.
My problem was that I liked Ralph. He was an honest and trustworthy man, I was sure of it. I just couldn't really believe that he was playing games or interfering in my life without reason.
He very tentatively asked, "Cup of sherry? I think we both need one."
"Only if we can keep off your bloody daughter and her need to talk to me. OK?"
He didn't answer, but we both walked down their garden to his shed. As he poured two very healthy cups of sherry, he asked, "Why do you think Susan lies to me?"
I regretted throwing that one at him, it wasn't important, and it was in the heat of the moment. I sighed, but I answered him, "Because I was driving away from this house, down the road, that is turning left out of your drive. OK?"
He nodded, so I continued. "I passed Susan in Peter's car about three hundred yards down the road. Now, Jean Pilton's house is about four hundred yards up the road the other way. So, Peter didn't pick Susan up on the way back from Jean Pilton's. And by the time they got here, my car would have been totally out of sight. There would have been no reason for Peter not to come in. OK?"
Ralph looked troubled, but then he brightened with, "I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation. Let's not make a big thing of it."
"I agree. There are a lot more important things in this world."
There was a long silence, before Ralph asked, "How's Myra?"
I looked at him, surprised. "She's very well as far as I know. Why?"
"You told me she's not in your life. Right?"
"Right. She and I had a very, very quick fling some weeks ago, But we're just friends and colleagues now. Why?"
"Think about it from Molly's point of view. She was your date at that Ball, and she said to Molly that she was going to get her hooks into you. Right?"
I smiled at the memory, "Yes."
"And then you're at the Theatre with her. Right?"
"Yes. But how did Molly know about that?"
"Susan found out from somewhere. Someone must have told her, I don't know who. And then you're having dinner with her in London this week. Right?"
"Yes. But only because I was at a loose end that night."
"And now you've just been away for a romantic weekend in Devon with her. Right?"
"No, wrong. But I can see how Molly might have thought that. I gave her a lift down to Exeter for a day's work at Franks, on Friday. We met up in the evening for an early supper, whilst she briefed me on what she'd discovered. And I put her on the eight thirty train back to Bath where she lives. Myself and Myra are not an item. But, even if we were, so what? Can't I have girlfriends? I am single man, or have you forgotten that?"
"I know you are." He paused, apparently deep in thought, "My guess is that Molly will ask you to do something that is probably the hardest thing you'll ever have to do in your life. And she fears that you are currently building a new life with Myra right here in Bristol, and that she has no right to ask anything of you."