Suzanne travelled back to London with thoughts of Rebecca’s difficulties vying for attention with the meeting that she had planned with Mr Lewis. Suzanne privately thought that Rebecca would be wise to have an abortion however unpleasant. It would be extremely difficult for her to bring up a child at the same time as managing the growing demands of her business. But it was not her affair and she would not have dreamed of influencing her friend either way. Suzanne had no thoughts of Dylan proving to be an adequate partner and parent having heard the accounts of his past and of his recent behaviour. Deciding there was nothing that worrying would accomplish she put the matter aside. She would call Rebecca the next day and invite her around for one of their regular evenings. Rebecca would need the support of all her friends.
Suzanne had arranged to have lunch with Henry Lewis who had become a confidant as well as a mentor to her. They would just slip out for a quick bite at one of the local pubs; nothing fancy. She wanted to ask him what he thought of her chances for the vacancy at the Home Office. Moreover whether he thought that it would be a good move for her career. Henry came by her desk at 12.30 prompt causing a ripple of interest from the junior staff. The most senior people seldom visited their ranks. Suzanne placed her papers in the desk drawer and locked it prior to getting up and greeting him formally. The two left the office together and made for the nearest pub. Henry Lewis was an ex public school boy (Eton) and as he freely admitted had retained a taste for what he referred to as school dinners. His favourite was Shepherd’s Pie and when really expansive could be relied upon to order Spotted Dick for pudding.
Once they had ordered their food they settled into a corner with a pint of beer for him and a half of lager for Suzanne. She swiftly moved to the topic she had in mind and was gratified to get a very positive response from Henry,
‘Ah, well my dear I’m glad you asked me about that. I heard about the position myself. On the grapevine you know…’ Suzanne did know. She knew that Henry Lewis could be relied on to know everything that was happening around Whitehall from his formidable array of networks. ‘I thought I would mention it to you myself,’ he continued, ‘It could be just the thing to get you noticed more widely. Show that you have ambition that sort of thing.’ He added.
‘I wondered if you’d heard anything about it.’ Suzanne paused as his Shepherd’s Pie and her Bangers and Mash were delivered to the table, ‘Do you know if they’ve lined anyone up internally?’
‘Um, I did hear that they have an internal candidate. Someone very keen but not considered to be quite right for the position. You would be the better candidate by far. Could be a tricky role managing the, ah, disappointed candidate.’ He added as though Suzanne would definitely get the job. Their conversation ceased while they both tucked into the rather good pub grub.
‘I don’t know what I’ll do without you!’ Suzanne declared suddenly and honestly. They had both finished eating and were sitting drinking indifferent cups of coffee. ‘I mean,’ she continued, ‘When you retire and you know…’ she hesitated, ‘lose touch with your networks and also forget about all this silly stuff.’
‘Ha! My dear, I still have my inside track for information. A mole in every department so to speak, though of course in the non-espionage sense’ he added with a laugh, but also with a quick look around to make sure he had not been overheard uttering an indiscretion. Civil Service habits die hard he thought.
‘Henry, may I ask what you’re planning to do when you retire?’ Suzanne asked. It was a subject that had interested her for a while but she had felt awkward asking. Their relationship had revolved entirely around the world of work. He smiled benignly at his young friend,
‘Well I’m going to travel for a few months. I have a sister in the United States and her daughter, my niece, in Australia. I have planned an around the world trip with stops in some exotic places; Hong Kong, Singapore, Haiti, Trinidad, Jamaica, many places that have long fascinated me.’
‘How wonderful!’ Suzanne enthused and added, shyly at first, ‘I plan to go to live in Spain one day…’ she warmed to her topic, ‘I went away earlier this year and travelled around Andalucía.’ She began to tell of her adventures. Henry listened attentively, once again admiring the talents and abilities of his young protégé. She was an unusual and interesting young woman. He nodded and smiled as she spoke eloquently about her experiences, asking here and there a question. When she paused in her account he smiled and astonished her by saying,
‘Once I’ve finished my wider travels I too intend to settle in Spain. Well on Mallorca to be precise. I bought an apartment out there a few years ago now and have been visiting regularly since.’
‘Oh that is such a coincidence!’ Suzanne remarked, ‘Do you speak Spanish?’
‘Si, un poco mas,’ he replied in reasonably good Spanish, ‘but I suspect not as well as you do. I’m no linguist, unlike you Suzanne.’ She flushed with pleasure at his compliment of her ability. ‘Now I think we had better be getting back to the office.’ Mr Lewis returned to brisk authoritative manner. As they returned to work walking together he thought to himself that he would have a word with Reynolds at the Home Office about Suzanne and her interest in the promotion. She would be perfect for the job.
That evening Suzanne called Rebecca and had a long chat mostly inconsequential as the purpose was to arrange for a visit.
‘I have a great recipe for an Andalucían speciality that I want to try out. I got it from a woman in a tiny village. She said it was a secret family recipe that her mother, grandmother and great grandmother had cooked before her. Sort of rabbit stew really,’ Suzanne laughed, ‘but delicious all the same. Well it was when she cooked it!’
‘Thanks Annie, it sounds great and I’m sure you’ll do justice to the dish. How about next Tuesday? We’re remerchandising the shops this Monday and Tuesday so it’ll be good to relax a bit after that.’
‘Perfect! We’ll look forward to it.’ She often spoke in plural, as her father was almost always included. She wondered momentarily what he would think about Rebecca’s pregnancy; if she were to tell him that is.
The next day Suzanne received an unexpected call from the Home Office. An appointment was requested for her to meet with Mr Reynolds. His secretary asked if she could manage Monday late afternoon for an informal chat. Suzanne was delighted and knew that she owed the opportunity to Henry Lewis. Mr Reynolds was his counterpart. She would spend the weekend preparing for the meeting as she was aware that it would be anything but relaxed even though it was to be informal.