Читать онлайн «An Almost Perfect Moon»
Flin paused. ‘OK. I’ll think about it.’
Over the next few days, he thought of little else. He’d never imagined living there before. Moving to the north of England was one thing – they might be a long way from their friends and family there, but being on the other side of the world was quite a different matter altogether. In Australia, he really would never see them. And with the exception of Tiffany, he wasn’t sure how much he really liked Australians. They always won at cricket and were so damn hearty about everything. He suspected that might grate after a short while. Then there was the climate. Great for some people, but wouldn’t he find it too hot? And there were sharks, and dangerous snakes, and crocodiles. In England there was nothing but the odd midge and an adder if you were very unlucky.
But the idea was out in the open now, and he could tell it was rapidly growing on Tiffany. He never wanted to do anything to lose her, but to emigrate, and leave behind the country he loved, and all his family and friends completely … well, that would be a terrible, terrible wrench.
For a week, they barely mentioned moving again. Tiffany left books on Australia in strategic positions about the flat, while Flin did the same with Country Life, and made a great play of laughing out loud when he read Cold Comfort Farm in bed. But the issue had to confronted, however unwilling Flin might have been to do so. As each day passed, the silence between them over the matter became louder.
‘So,’ he said as they sat down to supper one night. He’d bought some fresh flowers and cooked lamb shanks and mashed potato, a favourite of hers. ‘The Big Move. I’ve been thinking.’ He poured her a glass of wine, and took a deep breath. ‘Give me this summer to find a job and somewhere for us to live in England, and if that doesn’t work out, we go to Australia. What do you say?’
Tiffany put down her knife and fork and, eyeing him carefully, finished chewing her mouthful of lamb before speaking.
‘It’s a deal,’ she said eventually. ‘But you know, Flin, really I just want to know where we’re heading. I can’t relax while everything’s so up in the air. You’re always talking about these great romantic plans, then doing nothing about it, so that I don’t know whether you really mean it, or whether it’s just hot air. I don’t particularly mind if you want to stay here, but I just want to make a decision, then stick to it for a change. I know you’re upset about the attack. It was horrible and gave us both a terrible shock, but is it really a reason for moving? Has it really changed what you feel about London, or is it just a short-term reaction? And you know my current contract at the Beeb is about to end – I need to know whether I should be looking for something else in London or not.’
‘No, I really do want to move, Tiff, I really do. I promise. No more dallying about. Let’s go to the country, and as soon as we possibly can.’
‘If you’re sure. It’s not going to be all sweetness and roses, you know. There’ll be times when you may regret it, and you’ll think you’ve made the most terrible mistake. Are you prepared for that? I am. I’ve been thinking about this a lot too, and this time, it is something I really want to do too. But I’ll tell you now, I’m not turning round and coming back again after six months.’ She took his hand, softening. ‘Sorry, I don’t meant to sound stern, but it’s not all pie in the sky, OK?’
‘Tiff, you have my word. I want to make a success of this.’
‘Then let’s do it. Let’s begin our new life.’
part two: summer (#ulink_3c1d7163-2981-592b-88f3-3d143da455c6)
CHAPTER FOUR the first whole day of Thomas Armstrong (#ulink_4e134190-3093-579e-8698-64c2ed2ee52c)
Everyone told Ben first babies were usually late, and despite Lucie’s desire for a slightly premature birth, he hoped they were right. A delay of two weeks would probably mean the Prospero deal would be signed, done and dusted by the time the baby arrived. Before that, and life could become very tricky indeed.
He’d only been working for Farman Gore for just over six months. They worked him hard – very hard – but he knew he could never regret having made the move. Although he’d enjoyed his time at Landsberg Warner, he’d been unable to resist the offer being made by this American company just setting up in London. Carl and John had been sent over by the New York office to get things up and running and approached Ben as one of their first recruits. It was an exciting opportunity: a good name the other side of the Atlantic, a dedicated team being brought together in the new office, including Ben’s old work colleague Steve, and the prospect of working on some really good deals. Carl and Jon had been big players in the States, and Ben felt sure there was much he could learn from them.
One of the first major deals he’d been working on was the takeover of News Associated, a national newspaper and magazine company, by a regional conglomerate called Prospero Limited. The deal had looked as if it had completely collapsed at the beginning of the year, but had recently suddenly resurfaced. It was back on with a vengeance, and Ben was in the thick of it.
By Lucie’s official due date, there was still no indication that the baby was about to budge. At six-forty-five in the morning, Ben had kissed his sleeping wife and headed off to Clapham Junction to catch the train to work, his mind swimming with details of the deal, rather than the forthcoming arrival of his first child.
Just after seven-thirty he and Steve met in Carl’s office for a be-brief. Steve had been drafted in to cover Ben in case the baby did suddenly arrive. Even so, Steve’s presence would hardly let Ben off the hook.
‘So where are we at then, Ben?’ Carl asked, as immaculate and fresh as ever, as though he’d already been up and about for hours.
‘It’s basically a question of going through the merger model.’
‘OK. So far, I think it should be a straightforward enough job persuading NA.’
‘Good. What about the press release?’
‘First draft end of the day, maybe tomorrow morning.’
‘Excellent. We’ve got to get the underwriting agreement sorted by the end of next week. This deal has to go live a week Monday.’
Ben was still number-crunching on the Excel charts on his computer when the phone rang just after ten o’clock.
‘It’s your wife on the line,’ Tara, his secretary told him, emotion absent from her voice.
‘Great, quick, put her through,’ Ben snapped back. A moment later, Lucie was connected.
‘Ben? Ben, my waters have broken,’ gabbled Lucie. ‘It’s disgusting, I was just walking into the kitchen and then whoosh.’
‘Oh my God.’
‘Anyway, it’s about bloody time. I’ve been feeling more than bursting for days now.’
Ben felt stunned. Somehow, he hadn’t ever pictured this moment arriving. It just seemed an event too enormous to contemplate, and now it had happened he didn’t really know what to say or do.
‘Brilliant,’ he told her; it was the first word that came into his mouth. ‘Have you called the midwife?’
‘And a taxi? You need to be in hospital right away.’
‘Ben, calm down. I’m fine – I can certainly wait for you to come home.’
‘Luce, please. You know what the midwife said: as soon as your waters break, you should go straight to hospital in case of infection.’
‘Ben – darling – calm down. I’m fine, honestly. Just come home, and then we’ll go in. An extra half-an-hour won’t make any difference.’
‘Jesus,’ said Ben. ‘Alright, if you insist, but I’m coming back right now, okay?’
‘I am, I promise.’ His heart-rate had quadrupled and his palms were sweating. ‘I’ll be back right away.’ He ran his hands through his hair. This was it. This was bloody it. He was about to become a bloody father.
Tara put her head round the door. ‘Everything Okay?’
‘Yes, no, look, I’ve got to go. It’s beginning.’
‘Deep breaths,’ Tara told him coolly.
Ben smiled at her sarcastically, then rushed over to Carl’s office.
‘Carl, look, terrible timing, I know, but the baby’s on its way,’ Ben told him.
‘Right. So are you saying you’re going now?’
‘OK, but you’re going to have to keep closely in touch with Steve, and I still want you going through that press release when it arrives.’
‘Sure,’ said Ben, as Steve joined them.
‘Steve, you continue the work on the merger model, and e-mail the press release to Ben as soon as it comes in. Ben, let everyone know you’re out of the office and keep in touch with me and Steve. Yes?’
‘Fine,’ said Ben.
‘And Ben – congratulations. Tell your wife her timing’s terrible.’
For eight months, since they’d first found out Lucie was pregnant, they’d been building towards this moment. Ben had read books on the subject, dutifully dragged Lucie to the ante-natal classes, watched Look Who’s Talking, and mentally prepared himself. But sitting in the back of the taxi, anxiously clicking his fingers, he realized he knew nothing. He didn’t know what he should be doing, what they would do when the baby was actually born, or how he could help Lucie. He’d tried to persuade her it might be a good idea to get a maternity nurse – just for a couple of weeks – but Lucie had scoffed at the idea. ‘How hard can it be?’ she’d riposted. ‘I don’t need some total stranger hanging around my house telling me what to do.’ Still, with things as they were at work now, he wondered about raising the matter again. Outside, the traffic slowly crawled along the Embankment, and he cursed repeatedly. It was nearly eleven in the morning, what the hell were they all doing? Hadn’t they realized rush hour was supposed to be over? He leant forward and tapped his feet, wondering whether there was any time in this stupid city when there wasn’t a traffic jam.
‘Jesus Christ,’ he said out loud, throwing himself back in his seat and clasping his head. His heart still pounded, only now even faster and more heavily. He felt sick with worry and nerves. Panic, that was what he felt, sheer panic.
The same could not be said of Lucie.
‘Hi, darling you’re back.’ She said as he rushed into the sitting room. She was walking up and down, eating a yoghurt and looking calm and quite contented, unfazed by the ordeal ahead of her. Ben could only sit down and marvel at his wife’s serenity. She’d been this laid back all the way through the pregnancy. ‘Do we have to go to the ante-natal classes?’ she’d pleaded. ‘They’re all so bloody earnest. I don’t see why we can’t just read about it instead.’ But Ben had insisted, anxiously taking notes while Lucie’s attention wandered. Really, she’d been amazing, as she was with everything. No morning sickness, nor any signs of excessive tiredness. In fact, it was only really recently that she’d grumbled about the back-ache and discomfort when trying to sleep. They’d still gone out, still seen their friends; and where Ben constantly worried about the baby’s health and lived in fear of it developing some terrible deformity, Lucie seemed more concerned that it should have enough outfits, costumes and the right kind of three-wheeled buggy. ‘I’m not going to look like some awful washed-up old hag,’ Lucie told him cateogorically, ‘I want to be a glamorous mother with a glamorous child.’
‘But aren’t you worried about it all being OK?’ Ben had asked her one time as they scoured Baby Gap.
‘Not really,’ she told him, picking up a little pink outfit with ‘Cool’ written on it, ‘you do all the worrying for me. No point in us both getting het up.’
All the same, Ben had still insisted they have an ordinary pram too. At the ante-natal class, they’d been quite emphatic about that: for the first three months, it was important for the baby to lie flat, and he was going to play it by the book, even if Lucie wasn’t.
‘Come on, Luce,’ said Ben. He was standing in the hallway, clutching Lucie’s overnight bag just as the phone rang again. But she had already picked up the receiver. He’d only been back a few minutes and yet in that time Lucie’s sister Susie, and Vanessa, her mother, had both rung. Then Steve had called his mobile, the jarring cacophony of ringing phones adding to his increasing stress.
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