Читать онлайн «An Almost Perfect Moon»
Stephen, who refused to sit down, preferring to pace about instead, caused further anxiety by lighting a cigarette.
‘Stephen,’ said Ben quickly, catching Lucie’s look of horror, ‘let me show you what I’m hoping to do outside.’
‘You great oaf,’ said Tessa, ‘what about the baby?’
‘Really, it’s not a problem,’ added Ben hastily, ‘but let’s go into the garden, just while Thomas is around.’
Stephen shrugged, took a deep drag and followed Ben through the french windows.
‘You’re doing well, really well,’ Stephen told him outside, ‘but how you can put up with London, I don’t know.’
‘You get used to it – all the cars and everything. I quite like it actually. And the park’s just round the corner. I miss the sea, but otherwise … You know, we’ve got quite a few friends here.’
‘Playing much football these days?’ asked Stephen.
‘Try to – every Tuesday night with a few mates, you know, just for a laugh and a bit of kick-around.’
‘Just you wait – a couple of kids and it won’t be so easy,’ Stephen told him, stubbing out his cigarette on the terracotta stone patio. ‘I haven’t done much sport for a long while now. Not enough fucking time.’ It showed too, thought Ben.
Ben offered a second round of drinks. Tea this time, with cake and biscuits, which he made sure took plenty of time to organize. After watching hot mugs scald the waxed table and crumbs being ground into the rug, Ben whisked away the tray and plates, and clattered about the kitchen clearing up and wasting more time.
‘He’s a lovely-looking baby.’ Ben hadn’t noticed his father standing by the door, and he turned with a start.
‘Do you think so?’ Ben smiled.
‘Of course. How are you finding it? Parenthood, that is?’
‘Fine. Exciting. You know.’
‘Ben,’ his father began, ‘I wish, that is, it would be good, if …’ Tony looked down, momentarily shifting feet. ‘Well … you know you’re always welcome at home. Don’t feel you have to stay up here all the time. Or if you want any help with Thomas. A weekend off …’
‘Sure, thanks. I’d love to come down more, but you know, for the moment, we should probably stay in London most weekends. Especially when Thomas is so small. But soon. Lucie and I’ll come down soon.’
His father looked around the room and shrugged. ‘Of course. Well, just thought I’d mention it.’ He smiled sadly, then turned and went back to the others.
They left soon after. As they shuffled out, Ben, clutching Thomas, followed and waved them off, conscious his farewells were considerably more heartfelt than his welcome.
‘Your dad was as chatty as ever,’ said Lucie once Ben had returned and sprawled on the sofa. ‘I swear he says less every time I see him.’
‘He’s got nothing to say,’ said Ben, sighing audibly. ‘I feel sorry for him, I really do. He’s so used to having a terrible time, he’s completely forgotten how to enjoy himself. He asked us to come down more. Said he’d look after Thomas if we wanted a weekend off.’
‘Oh, Ben, it’s so sad. I wish you could get on better. Maybe we should get him up for a few days on his own – take him out, see a show, you know, force him to do something interesting.’
‘Maybe,’ said Ben. Seeing his family reinforced his belief that he’d been right to escape. This was why he’d worked his arse off: so that he wouldn’t end up like them. Was this snobbery? Maybe, but it was more than that. Seeing them always reminded him of those dark days. His father had been hard up and complacent, and his mother had left. He wouldn’t make the same mistake.
For the new parents, Monday came too soon, and Ben’s paternity leave was almost over. He desperately wished he could have an extension, and that Thomas had been born during a quieter period at work, but such was life. He’d been lucky to have the best part of four days off. Carl wanted to announce the deal in a week’s time, and there was still much to be done. The press release needed further ironing out and the week ahead was going to be full of endless meetings with the various parties concerned to confirm the equity financing and underwriting agreement. Steve had nobly carried the can, working through the weekend, but now it was up to him to take up the reins once more. It would be a manic seven days. There was no way round that, and he knew it. If you worked for a high-powered investment bank you had to show total commitment at all times, and this could mean working virtually around the clock when a deal was going live. It was the price to be paid for a good salary and few worries financially. Still, he didn’t have to like it, and hated the thought of leaving Lucie on her own. Even more, he resented having to spend all day away from Thomas. It was going to be a terrible wrench.
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