CLOSER TO HOME
Jilted businesswoman turns back on successful career to save family from ruin, and finds love along the wayâ€¦
Synopsis: Kath Oâ€™Connor has everything a woman could desire â€“ fantastic job and chic apartment in Boston, USA, good looks and loyal friends. Everything, in fact, except the marital bliss and family life she craves.
With her 40th birthday looming, she asks her boyfriend, the suave sophisticated Carl Scholtz, to marry her - but doesnâ€™t get quite the answer sheâ€™s expecting . . .
Soon her world is falling apart and itâ€™s not long before Kath finds herself back in her native Ireland trying to come to terms with a broken heart and facing the greatest business challenge of her life. Meanwhile, her brother David must confront a painful truth, her sister Bridget reaches crisis point with her husband and children, and their mother Fiona is trying to be strong as she faces losing everything. But none of them is prepared for what is to come.
Will Kath win through and find, much closer to home, the love she sought three thousand miles away?
â€œIâ€™ve decided. Iâ€™m going to do it.â€
Kath Oâ€™Connor paused, wondering why the words she wanted to say did not come easily. She stared out the window of the coffee shop while she summoned the courage to formulate the sentence she had thought about so often, but never vocalised. Outside, on Bostonâ€™s chic Newbury Street, the rush-hour traffic crawled by like a caterpillar, its progress hampered and muffled by the falling snow. Already a thick layer carpeted the sidewalk and the road. The dark grey clouds, swollen with snow, had brought with them a premature nightfall.
â€œEmmy,â€ she said at last, â€œIâ€™m going to ask Carl to marry me.â€ The fingers on her right hand trembled. Quickly, she replaced the glass teacup on the saucer. The camomile tea glowed amber, like melted butter, in the yellow lights of the coffee shop.
â€œOh! I see,â€ said her best friend, sounding surprised. Then she put her elbows on the table and rested her head on her hands. She regarded Kath thoughtfully from under black arched brows, her wide-open green eyes outlined in soft grey eye pencil. Her cheeks were rosy from the cold, like the bright-cheeked baby Kath had spied that very morning being carried into the nursery at the end of her street. â€œWell,â€ she said finally, â€œthat is a surprise.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t think I should, do you?â€ said Kath and she looked at her hands, folded together on the table. The huge diamond-and-emerald-encrusted band that Carl had given her for Christmas sparkled on the ring finger of her right hand like ice â€“ a painful reminder of the engagement ring she had hoped for, but not received.
â€œNo, no, itâ€™s not that at all,â€ said Emmy, concern clouding her pretty face, and she gave her head a little shake.
â€œWhat is it, then? Because I sense that you donâ€™t think this is a good idea.â€
â€œI just wasnâ€™t expecting it, thatâ€™s all. One minute youâ€™re dating the guy, the next youâ€™re talking about proposing to him! It just seems like a big leap to me.â€ She smiled then, and went on with more enthusiasm, â€œBut, seriously, if itâ€™s what you want â€¦ well, then, go for it!â€
â€œRight,â€ said Kath but Emmyâ€™s half-hearted reassurance was not the reaction sheâ€™d hoped for. She watched a snowflake splatter on the window, cling for a few seconds, then slither down the glass until it melted into a miniscule rivulet. Her Celtic-pale face, reflected in the glass, was tired-looking, the freckles faded by a winter spent mostly indoors and her red-brown hair darkened by lack of sunlight. She sighed inwardly. What she needed right now was full-hearted support from Emmy, not reservations.
â€œI know youâ€™ve never liked Carl â€“â€ she began, trying not to sound piqued.
â€œNo,â€ said Emmy, interrupting quickly, â€œthatâ€™s not true. Itâ€™s just I â€¦ itâ€™s taking a while to get to know him properly. I hardly ever see him because heâ€™s away most weekends when I usually see you. I would like to get to know him better, Kath, I really would. Iâ€™d like us to be proper friends.â€
There was a lull in the conversation during which Kath reflected that she was being over-sensitive. It must be nerves.
Then Emmy said tentatively, â€œAbout Carl â€¦â€
â€œI didnâ€™t think you had talked to him about marriage â€“ even in the most general terms . . .â€
â€œWell, no, I havenâ€™t â€“ this is why Iâ€™m thinking of asking him. I told you before â€“ every time I try to steer the conversation towards it, something happens. The moment never seems right somehow.â€
â€œI see,â€ said Emmy slowly. â€œAnd have you considered that maybe heâ€™s not ready for it, Kath? Youâ€™ve been seeing him for what? Just over a year.â€ â€œ
Nearly a year and a half,â€ said Kath, defensively.
â€œWell, whatever. Itâ€™s not a long time as relationships go.â€
â€œAre you trying to stop me from doing this?â€
â€œNo, not at all. I just want you to go cautiously. I donâ€™t want to see you get hurt.â€
â€œEmmy,â€ said Kath, suppressing the irritation that welled up unexpectedly, â€œIâ€™m ready for it. If I wait any longer itâ€™ll be too late.â€
â€œToo late for what?â€ said Emmy, turning her palms upwards to indicate her incomprehension. â€œYou could always move in together like me and Steve. Marriage is only two signatures on a bit of paper. It doesnâ€™t mean anything.â€
â€œIt does to me,â€ retorted Kath quickly and then she added, her voice softening as she addressed the drinks card in the middle of the table, â€œItâ€™s not just about marriage, Emmy. Iâ€™m going to be forty this year. And you know I want to have children.â€
â€œAh, I see,â€ said Emmy and she leaned back in her chair. â€œAnd youâ€™re sure that Carlâ€™s the man you want to have them with?â€
â€œOf course â€“ I love him,â€ said Kath, meeting Emmyâ€™s gaze, â€œand he loves me. I want us to live together, to be a family.â€
â€œWell, in that case I guess you should ask him,â€ said Emmy, nodding her head sagely. Then she added, more light-heartedly, â€œHey, donâ€™t look so worried!â€
â€œBut what if he says no?â€
â€œHow can you be sure?â€ asked Kath, feeling a little confused. A minute ago Emmy had been worrying about her getting hurt.
â€œBecause heâ€™d be absolutely stark raving mad to say no, thatâ€™s why! Look at you! Youâ€™ve got the skin of a twenty-year-old, gorgeous chestnut hair without a hint of grey â€“unlike me,â€ she said ruefully as she pulled taut a lock of her shoulder-length, unnatural Cher-black hair while her eyes strained to examine it. â€œAnd, youâ€™ve got the figure of a model. Not to mention a well-paid job as a management consultant. Who wouldnâ€™t want you as their wife?â€
Kath smiled then, aware that her friend was trying to boost her confidence. â€œYou know, youâ€™re a real honey. The very best friend.â€
Emmy grinned and said, â€œI know. What would you do without me?â€ Then she glanced at her watch and added, â€œGod, would you look at the time! Steveâ€™ll be wondering where I am.â€ She peered out the window. â€œI suppose Iâ€™m going to have to face the Arctic out there sometime.â€
â€œSometimes this weather gets you down, doesnâ€™t it?â€
â€œOh, the snow can be a pain all right,â€ Emmy replied, â€œbut itâ€™s magical too, isnâ€™t it? When did we ever get a white Christmas in Ireland? I think thatâ€™s one of the best bits about living in Boston. A white Christmas. Most years anyway.â€
Emmy slipped into a knitted black cardigan draped on the back of her chair, and twisted a long, thin red scarf round her neck three times, before tying it in a secure knot under her chin.
â€œThere was one in Ballyfergus when I was a child,â€ said Kath, remembering fondly. â€œThe trees in the garden were laden with snow and Dad could hardly get the car out of the drive.â€
She watched while Emmy pulled a long, tangerine-coloured, padded duvet of a coat over her neat frame.
â€œMay I ask you something, Emmy?â€
â€œDoesnâ€™t it bother you at all that youâ€™re getting older, and Steve and you arenâ€™t making plans to have children?â€
Emmy paused and screwed up her face so that her eyebrows nearly met in the middle. It was some moments before she answered.
â€œTo tell you the Godâ€™s honest truth, I just donâ€™t think about it. Iâ€™m just too busy doing other things, I suppose. And you know I canâ€™t see myself changing smelly nappies and cleaning up sick all day!â€
Kath laughed and said, â€œIâ€™m sure itâ€™s not like that all the time!â€
â€œWell, rather you than me. Now, when are you planning on asking Carl?â€
â€œTonight. Weâ€™re going out to Piattiniâ€™s â€“ that new Italian on Columbus Avenue.â€
â€œOK,â€ said Emmy doing up the last button on her coat. She leaned over, kissed Kath on the cheek and hugged her. â€œGood luck. Now phone me first thing in the morning with the good news.â€
Outside, Emmy waved goodbye, her mittened hand like a paw in the dim light. With the hood of the coat pulled over her head she looked like an over-sized version of one of the orange traffic cones that accompanied the progress of the â€˜Big Digâ€™ through the city. Conceived on a phenomenal scale to combat Bostonâ€™s horrendous traffic problems, it was the biggest construction project ever undertaken in the United States. Kath, like the other city residents, had often bemoaned the impact of the works on her life. But now it was nearing completion and everyone was both relieved and proud of their rejuvenated city. The exuberant civic pride and general optimism of Bostonians was one of the reasons Kath loved it here.
That and her friends and, of course, Carl. She gathered her things together, paid the cheque and headed for the subway station. The snow was falling steadily and she worried briefly if the bad weather would scupper her plans for tonight. After finally working herself up to ask him the â€œbigâ€ question that would be a complete anti-climax.
Remembering that she wanted to have a full pamper session before going out, Kath quickened her pace to the station, swiped her travel pass in the turnstile and descended on the escalator. During the journey she changed subway lines, swept along at a brisk pace by the flow of commuter traffic, like a leaf carried on the surface of a fast-flowing river.
She thought about the conversation sheâ€™d had with Emmy and how, though they came from very different parts of Ireland â€“ Emmy was from Waterford while Kath came from Northern Ireland â€“ they both referred to it as â€œhomeâ€. Kath was happy with her life in Boston but home for her would always be Highfield House, where sheâ€™d grown up and where her mother and father still lived. Was that a peculiarly Irish phenomenon, she wondered, or did all emigrants feel the same?
But she was sure that she would feel differently about living here when she had children and was more fully integrated into a suburban community, where she imagined she and Carl would make their home together. Moving to Ireland, she assumed, was completely out of the question. Even if Kath wanted to, she guessed there was no way Carl would consider it. He thought that the USA was the best country in the world and, peculiarly, seemed to have no desire to see other parts of the planet.
Before she entered her own apartment in a well-maintained brownstone building, Kath knocked on the dark brown door across the hall. She glanced at her watch impatiently while she waited for Mrs Eberstark, a widow who lived alone, to open the door. Kath heard the telltale scraping sound as the little metal flap over the spy-hole was pulled back â€“ she looked at the small glass orb and smiled â€“ then the clink-clink of the safety chain being released and the sound of the lock sliding back.
â€œKath, it is you,â€ said Mrs Eberstark, in her thickly German-accented voice, as she pulled back the creaking door. â€œCome in, come in!â€ She gestured with her right hand for Kath to enter the apartment. Her gnarled left hand gripped the marble head of an elaborately carved ebony walking-stick without which she would have fallen over. Her white hair was swept up elegantly into a tight chignon, a hang-over from her days as a ballet dancer. The latter part of her career, until her retirement nearly twenty years ago, had been spent in various administration roles with the Boston Ballet.
â€œOh, I canâ€™t, Mrs Eberstark,â€ said Kath without moving. â€œIâ€™m going out tonight. But I just wanted to check that you were OK.â€
â€œAh, you will be seeing Carl, I suppose?â€
â€œYes. Look, can I get you anything? Milk? Bread?â€ said Kath, anxious, in spite of her concern for Mrs Eberstark, not to become involved in a lengthy conversation.
â€œHeâ€™s a fine man, Kath,â€ said Mrs Eberstark. She had a soft spot for Carl on account of his Germanic ancestry.
â€œI know,â€ replied Kath, smiling in spite of herself.
â€œBut when is he going to make you â€¦ what do you call it?â€ She mumbled to herself for some moments and then said with flair, â€œA trustworthy woman!â€
Kath smiled and supplied, â€œI think you mean â€˜an honest womanâ€™.â€
â€œAn honest woman, thatâ€™s it!â€ said the old lady with a wicked grin and Kath blushed like a schoolgirl. â€œWhen is he going to make you an honest woman?â€
â€œWell, if you donâ€™t need anything â€¦â€ said Kath, choosing to ignore the question, and took a step backwards.
â€œIâ€™m perfectly fine, Kath. My daughter called over today, on account of the snow,â€ said the old lady, a smile still playing round her lips. â€œBut thank you for your concern.â€
â€œIâ€™ll pop over at some point over the weekend then,â€ said Kath.
â€œYouâ€™re a good girl. Now go and have a lovely time with your beau!â€ she commanded.
Mrs Eberstark was an inspiration, thought Kath, as she let herself into her pristine apartment, checked the post, the answering machine and turned up the heating. Mrs Eberstark lived a lively and independent life in spite of her age and lack of mobility â€“ the years of dancing at professional level had taken their toll on her body. And she was a good friend to Kath, a surrogate grandmother for the ones sheâ€™d left behind in Ireland and who were now dead.
Kath put a Nora Jones CD on and turned the volume up loud. Then she chose her clothes for the evening with care â€“ fine wool trousers, black kitten-heeled leather boots and a crimson cashmere sweater â€“ and laid them carefully on the quilted bedspread. She ran a hot, deep bath, poured in her most expensive bath oil, a present from Carl, and poured herself a glass of Vouvray, her favourite white wine. After replacing the bottle in the fridge, she changed her mind, retrieved it and carried it into the bathroom where she set it, along with the glass, on the corner of the white bath.
She eased herself gratefully into the fragrant rehabilitating water, her knees emerging wet and glistening above the surface like two small islands.
Kath tried to imagine sharing her home with Carl. Sheâ€™d become used to living on her own these last eight years since her previous relationship broke up. It would be strange lying in the bath like this, knowing that Carl was pottering around outside the bathroom door. Strange but nice.
She knew very well why she was nervous about asking Carl to marry her. It wasnâ€™t that she doubted his answer, rather it was the very act of asking him that caused her disquiet. For Kath had been raised to believe that, when it came to men, a girl should retain an air of mystery and aloofness. Asking a man outright to marry you was brazen â€“ it smacked of desperation. At least thatâ€™s what her mother wouldâ€™ve said.
But, Kath reminded herself, her motherâ€™s views were moulded by the 1950â€™s Ireland sheâ€™d grown up in. This was twenty-first century Boston and a very different place from the insular, backward-looking island her mother had known as a young woman. Nowadays women went after what they wanted as surely as men did. The nagging doubts that had held her in check until now, Kath reminded herself, were nothing more than antiquated notions from a different world and time. And she wasnâ€™t going to let her chance of happiness slip by because of them.
Emmyâ€™s less than enthusiastic support of her plan was harder to disregard. But it was only natural â€“ she didnâ€™t want to see her dearest friend hurt. But Emmy didnâ€™t know Carl the way Kath did. She didnâ€™t know how much he adored her. She was the centre of his world, he said, and Kath knew it to be true. The only reason Carl hadnâ€™t asked her to marry him, she was certain, was that he had no biological clock ticking. He probably hadnâ€™t even thought about having children. Men simply werenâ€™t as preoccupied with these things as women.
Kath drank the first glass of wine more quickly than usual and poured herself another. She was going to need a little bit of Dutch courage. For tonight was going to be the most important night of her life.
â€œThatâ€™s it for tonight, guys,â€ said Carl Scholtz, throwing his Montblanc pen onto the black-and-white architectural plans on the conference table, where it landed with a slap. â€œI think weâ€™ve done as much as we can on this for now.â€ Ã˜.
He leaned back in his chair and interlocked his fingers in his thick blonde hair. He felt the shirt strain across his back and, glancing down, noticed a little fold of flesh protruding slightly over the belt that encircled his slim waist. Where the hell did that come from? Carl prided himself on keeping in shape â€“ heâ€™d have to increase his visits to the gym. Quickly he sucked his stomach in, unfolded his hands and sat up erect in the chair. The faces round the table were tired and Carl glanced at his watch. It was after six oâ€™clock on a Friday evening.
â€œI know itâ€™s been a tough week for you all,â€ he said. â€œWhen a client changes the brief this late in a project â€“ well, it can be infuriating. But donâ€™t forget that they are always number one. The customer gets what they want no matter how many times we have to rework the plans. Thatâ€™s what the reputation of this firm is built on. That and innovative design. Do you agree?â€
There were weary murmurs of assent round the table.
â€œGood. Now, team, I want you all to go home and have a great weekend and forget all about this. Youâ€™d be surprised how great your subconscious mind is at solving problems. You just need to give it the space and time to get on with the job.â€
He stood up. Papers were stuffed into folders, and chairs scraped the parquet floor as people stood up from the table.
â€œAnd one last thing,â€ said Carl. All movement halted and a hush descended once more. â€œYouâ€™re doing a great job, every one of you. Thanks. I really appreciate it.â€
With these few words of encouragement he could see the spirits of the dejected team rise. He wasnâ€™t part-owner of Bostonâ€™s biggest and best architectural practice because of his technical skills. At this level it was all about motivating other talented people to do the work for you, something at which Carl excelled.
Some of these youngsters had proven themselves to be better architects than he. Carl was clever enough to recognise this and harness their talent to his advantage â€“ and theirs. He could never be accused of exploiting anyone â€“ few chose to leave the practice, because there was nowhere better to go. And those who felt they were ready to set up on their own, Carl encouraged and supported. They posed no threat to the predominant position of Scholtz & Vives Architects. The name was a misnomer really â€“ at fifty-eight years old, Joe Vives was semi-retired to a beach-front in the Cape where he spent most of his time fishing. The firm was, in reality, entirely under the day-to-day control of Carl.
Back in his office, after everyone had gone, Carl swivelled round in his leather chair and stared at the city lights below and the gently curving black outline of the semi-frozen Charles River. Though he couldâ€™ve stayed in the more affordable former office premises on Commonwealth, relocating to this office suite in the Prudential Tower had been a shrewd decision. It conveyed the impression that this firm was going places â€“ a force to be reckoned with. And that confidence had been translated into impressive business results. Who would have thought that the forty-five-year-old son of a factory worker from Wisconsin would have made it this far?
Pulling himself together, Carl realised that he couldnâ€™t put off making the phone call any longer. He checked the time and frowned â€“ he was supposed to be meeting Kath in less than two hours. Just enough time to do what he had to, get home, changed and out again. He picked up the handset, held it against his chest for some moments while he composed himself, then speed-dialled.
â€œHi, itâ€™s me,â€ he said cheerfully into the phone. â€œHow are you? And the girls?â€
He listened for a while and then said, â€œListen, honey, somethingâ€™s come up.â€ A pause, then he added, â€œI know. I know. You think I like it? Thereâ€™s nothing I can do about it. Weâ€™ve got to get these plans right for Monday or weâ€™ll lose the job. Iâ€™ll be working here â€˜til the small hours.â€ Another pause, then he said with feeling, â€œTell me about it, Lynda! But the buck stops with me and thatâ€™s the way it is. Listen, Iâ€™ll be down tomorrow just as soon as I can.â€
He listened for some seconds more, then said, a little calmer now, â€œYes. Yes. Donâ€™t worry. Iâ€™ll be there in plenty of time for dinner at the Rawsonâ€™s. Iâ€™ll see you then. Give my love to the girls. Love you. Bye.â€
Carl put the phone down, his mood heavy now with guilt. His mother had raised him never to tell lies, but that was all he seemed to do these days. But sometimes a white lie was better than the truth, wasnâ€™t it? If he told the truth people would get hurt, hearts would be broken. The only person suffering at the moment was himself. The rest of them were blissfully unaware and therefore happy. He was, in reality, protecting them from hurt so painful and deep they had no idea what it could do to you. But he did.
In the early days perhaps he should have walked away, before things had become so complicated. But now he was in too deep â€“ it was too late to wish for what might have been. For how could he stop seeing Kath? He loved her. But he also loved his kids, and he cared for Lynda too. Albeit very different types of love â€“ but each as compelling as the others.
â€œThereâ€™s no reason things canâ€™t go on like this forever, is there?â€ he asked himself out loud, but he was shaking his head as he said it, an instinctive answer to his own question.
â€œDid you want something, Carl?â€ said a high-pitched female voice and Carl nearly jumped two feet in the air.
â€œMandy!â€ he exclaimed and looked up sharply.
The short, round frame of Mandy Cruz, his secretary-cum-personal-assistant, had appeared in the doorway of the office â€“ he must have left it ajar. She was staring at him, her black eyes like shiny beads in her moonlike face. Her podgy feet were jammed into smart black high heels, so tight her feet must have ached.
â€œWhat are you still doing here?â€ he asked. â€œGo on home to the kids, Mandy.â€
â€œTheyâ€™re with their father tonight. Heâ€™s taking them to the movies with Charlene.â€
The intonation with which Mandy delivered this sentence conveyed everything she felt about her husband and his new girlfriend, for whom heâ€™d left her. She hated them both.
â€œThatâ€™s nice,â€ said Carl.
â€œHmm,â€ said Mandy, and she marched right up to the desk. â€œIâ€™m sure you donâ€™t want to hear this â€¦â€ She was right. He didnâ€™t.
â€œâ€¦but you should see the state of her. The short skirts, the low-cut tops. And,â€ she added triumphantly, â€œshe smokes! I donâ€™t like her around my kids. Sheâ€™s a bad influence.â€
Mandy had been with him too long, Carl decided â€“ nearly two years. The success of his elaborate deception depended on the effectiveness of the barricade he had erected between work and his private life. If you kept a secretary like Mandy around too long she became familiar â€“ she got to know too much about you. And she felt the need to tell you more than you wished to know about her.
But Mandy was a good, reliable worker and she desperately needed her job. Still, Carl made a mental note that heâ€™d have to do something â€“ perhaps he could line her up with alternative work somewhere else. Heâ€™d have to be careful how he handled it though â€“ he didnâ€™t want her causing trouble.
â€œHe didnâ€™t make his last maintenance payment, you know. Spending all his money on that â€“ that â€“â€ stumbled Mandy â€“ she only just managed to restrain herself from uttering a profanity and finished the sentence with, â€œwoman.â€
Look what telling the truth had done to the Cruz family, thought Carl. In its wake the truth had left a broken home, a bitter angry wife and three fine-looking boys â€“ Mandy kept a picture of them on her desk â€“ turned overnight into single-parent latchkey kids.
â€œAnything exciting planned for the weekend, then?â€ said Mandy, suddenly cheerful, startling Carl out of his reverie.
He stood up, pulled the suit jacket off the chair and shrugged it on, both arms in the sleeves at the same time.
â€œOh â€¦not much. Just a quiet weekend hanging out with the kids. Dinner at a neighbourâ€™s on Saturday night. The usual.â€
â€œHmm,â€ said Mandy nodding slowly, without taking her eyes off him. Then she threw a glance in the direction of the window. â€œItâ€™s been snowing again. Youâ€™d better get on the road if youâ€™re gonna make it home tonight. Youâ€™ve a long drive ahead of you.â€
Carl put his hands in his pants pockets and said, â€œYes, youâ€™re right, Mandy. Now you get off home too, will you? And have a great weekend.â€
Outside, the snow was still falling softly and relentlessly. On the sidewalk it was as if someone had unfurled an oversized roll of cotton wool along its length. The snow came over the top of Carlâ€™s Italian-tooled shoes and clung to the hem of his fine wool pants legs. He cursed himself for not bringing boots to work this morning, but there was nothing to be done about it now. He pulled the collar of his cashmere coat round his neck, bent his head and walked briskly.
It took only a few minutes to reach the condominium on quiet, tree-lined St. Botolph Street, one of the most sought-after locations in Back Bay. Even then the cold had penetrated Carlâ€™s thick coat and he could hardly feel his feet. He fumbled for the key, inserted it in the brass lock and let himself into the classic brownstone building where he lived on the second floor. Carlâ€™s immediate neighbours were, like himself, businessmen who commuted to the suburbs at the weekends. He never saw them â€“ an arrangement that suited him perfectly.
Inside the high-ceilinged apartment, there were fresh flowers on the mahogany table in the hall and, in the bedroom, five crisply laundered white shirts on the king-sized bed â€“ evidence that the housekeeper had been. At once Carl felt the tensions of the day dissipate. All the rooms were tastefully decorated in shades of coffee and cream with subtle touches of gold and burgundy in the curtains, sofas and cushions. Lynda, with her keen eye for these things, had overseen the entire dÃ©cor and no expense had been spared.
At the outset, the plan had been for Lynda and the kids to come to the city for the occasional weekend and during the holidays, when Carl couldnâ€™t always take time off work. But, over time, those visits had become less frequent as the impracticalities of driving two under-fives all the way from the Berkshires became all too apparent.
Lyndaâ€™s life now revolved around the small, friendly community in Williamstown where theyâ€™d bought a family home. This was where horse-loving Lynda had grown up, where her parents still lived, and where she insisted she wanted to raise her family. She had not set foot in this apartment for nine months. Theyâ€™d not needed the three bedrooms after all.
Carl took a long hot shower, dried himself with a cream towel, and wrapped it round his waist. He went into the master bedroom, selected a shirt, a round-necked navy cashmere jumper and slacks from the wardrobe. He dressed quickly, grabbed a beer from the fridge in the kitchen and went through to the study where he checked his personal emails. Then he stuffed his sodden shoes with scrunched-up newspaper and left them to dry out, propped up either side of the cast-iron radiator in the kitchen.
At eight fifteen, he called a cab, donned his coat and rode the short distance to the restaurant where heâ€™d arranged to meet Kath.
In the cab, he remembered a newspaper article heâ€™d read about the late President of France. For decades heâ€™d kept the existence of his mistress and their love-child a secret from the nation and, Carl assumed, his other, legitimate family. Such arrangements, it seemed, were not unusual nor were they reviled in France. But here in the USA, Carl knew that what he was doing would attract nothing but hatred and condemnation.
And there was one vital distinction between the situations of Mitterand and Carl â€“ a fact not lost on Carl: Kath Oâ€™Connor had no absolutely no idea that she was his mistress.