Chapter 35: Penny – February 1978

The following day Suzanne left early to get to work.  She tiptoed around the house trying not to wake the others but Penny was a light sleeper used to the night-time demands of babies.  She slipped out onto the landing to hug Suzanne goodbye,

‘Come again soon, Annie.  We love to see you.’

‘I will, and thank you Pen.  I love to come down.’  Suzanne hugged Penny tight, ‘Say goodbye to the others for me please.  I’ll be in touch with Becca as soon as she’s back.  Give a big hug for my godson.’  Suzanne left quickly and quietly.

Penny went back to bed but lay awake thinking some more about Rebecca and the baby and Dylan.  Perhaps Charles was right (he usually was) and Rebecca should tell Dylan.  To deliberately deny Dylan the knowledge of his fatherhood seemed unfair to Dylan and to the child.  Penny ran the idea around and around trying to think of the best solution for everyone.  She knew that Rebecca had been deeply hurt and humiliated by Dylan’s behaviour although none of them knew the extent of the abuse.  Would Dylan change if he were to be a father and husband?  Jane had attested that Dylan was a likable child and young man in most ways, and he and Charles had been very close as children.  On the other hand Charles seemed to think that Dylan could not cope with responsibility.  There was also the concern that Jane had alluded to about Dylan’s behaviour towards Jo.  Perhaps Dylan’s childhood had set patterns too deep to change.  Penny heard Rebecca stirring and decided to get up and make tea.  It was pointless worrying about it all, she may as well do something useful.

Later that morning there was a phone call for Caitlin from Mario.  Penny answered and thought that he sounded very nice and rather dishy.  Caitlin blushed as she went out to the hallway to take the call.  Mario was calling from New York.

‘Caitlin, mia caro, I hope you are having a good time with your friends?  I called to arrange for Sergio to collect you and your friend Rebecca.  Will it be today or tomorrow that you’ll need him?  I will be in London again tomorrow evening if you will do me the honour of dinning with me again?’  Caitlin was overwhelmed with nervous anticipation.  Remembering her manners and trying to remain cool she thanked him for her flowers and the thoughtful gift of those he had sent for Penny.

‘They’re really lovely, my favourite colour.  Thank you again, she breathed, ‘and yes dinner tomorrow night would be perfect.  We plan to return to London tomorrow morning’ she invented as they hadn’t yet discussed their return.  She did feel however that Rebecca was ready to get back to Palmerstone: the return would be therapeutic for her after the calm and recuperation afforded by the sojourn with Penny and her friends.

‘Excellent!’ responded Mario, sounding very pleased, ‘Sergio will come for you tomorrow at 10.30?’ he hazarded.

‘That would be perfect.  Thank you so much Mario.’

‘I can hardly wait for tomorrow evening to see you again ma bella Caitlin. Ciao!’  He finished and hung up.

Caitlin had to suffer a bout of teasing at the hands of Penny and Rebecca about her ardent suitor, which she did with good grace and in good spirits.  She was enjoying the attention and the thrill of the chase.  She tried not to think about the culmination of the chase as she was so erotically charged that she could barely think of anything else once she started in that train.

Playing with Simon and baby Lucy served to distract Caitlin and Rebecca from their respective preoccupations.  Simon aged two was charming to amuse.  He trotted around between the three girls offering toys to play with and conversing in a strange mixture of clear understandable English words and some obscure language of his own.  His head of golden curls, left long by a doting mother, and big blue eyes were adorable and he was beyond cute with his baby sister begging to hold her and planting kisses on her sleepy face.

Rebecca spent much of the day immersed in baby talk with Penny and again felt the stirring of maternal feelings mixed with the sheer inconvenience of her situation.  Penny chose her moment with care to broach the subject of the father.  She wondered aloud if Dylan may like to know about his fatherhood and what he would feel.  Rebecca was silent for a few moments before she sidestepped with,

‘I’ve been wondering how to break the news to my parents about having an unmarried mother in the family.’

‘How do you think they will react?’ asked Penny.

‘I’m not really sure.’ Mused Rebecca, ‘they’ll be pleased about the grandchild bit.  How they’ll take the unmarried I’m not sure.  I expect they’ll be OK with it as I’m far enough away from home to avoid any embarrassment in their circle.’  Rebecca had got to know her mother in an adult relationship over the last few years since she had been at college and in London.  Mary had proved to be much less strict and straight-laced than Rebecca had viewed her as a schoolgirl.  Indeed she suspected that her mother might have been a bit racy in her youth.  Penny dropped the subject of Dylan.  She knew that Rebecca would not be talked into anything she wasn’t ready for.

The three girls spent a relaxed and chatty evening with Charles as though nothing was out of the ordinary.  Caitlin had presented Mario’s offer to Rebecca and Penny earlier in the day and they had all agreed to it.  Rebecca needed to get back to work; she was beginning to fret about Palmerstone without being at the helm.  Penny though thrilled to have her friends to stay was ready to return to normal family life with just Charles and her babies.  Caitlin was itching to get back to London and to see Mario again.

Penny waved her friends off the next morning as they disappeared waving in turn from the back of Mario’s sleek Mercedes.  She sighed to herself partly sad and partly relieved to be alone again.  She spent the day tending to the baby and helping Simon to scribble across the outlines of his picture book, amused at his selection of colours and his constant and largely unintelligible chatter as he played.

Penny was very content in her marriage and with motherhood and it disturbed her that Rebecca would not have the same support and love that succoured her.  Her mind kept returning to the conundrum that was Dylan.  Could he make Rebecca happy? Would it be the making of him having to face up to responsibility?  Could fatherhood compensate for his own disastrous childhood?

That evening once the children were in bed she brought up the subject again with Charles.  He paused in the midst of stirring the supper that he was preparing,

‘It’s been on my mind too.’  He continued, stirring and inspecting pans, turning the heat up and down.  Penny watched indulgently, he was a great cook and enjoyed experimenting.  ‘Personally I think that Dylan should know.  He has a right to know.  A child is made by two parents, not just the mother.’  He smiled at his wife understanding her internal conflict.  ‘Darling you know how much the children mean to me and how much they love to be with me.  You as their mother are more important to them but nevertheless sometimes Simon or even Lucy wants their Daddy more.  What would the family be without me as part of it?’  Penny understood exactly what he meant.  Rebecca’s child would never know the experience of having a father.  Was it fair to deny it that experience without at least trying to repair the damage?

Over dinner their conversation continued to revolve around Dylan, Rebecca and the baby.  Penny cleaned up afterwards while Charles went upstairs to check on the children.  When he came back down Penny was yawning sleepily.  He took her into his arms and administered a bracing hug.

‘Go to bed baby, you look tired out.’  He placed a kiss on her forehead, turned her around and gave her a little push and a playful pat on her bottom.

Charles sat up for an hour or so after Penny had retired.  Finally coming to a decision he made a phone call to the Chelsea number he had for Dylan and arranged to meet him the day after.

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