Chapter 39: Suzanne – February 1978

Monday had been a momentous day for Suzanne too.  She had cleared her diary so that she could attend the meeting requested by Mr Reynolds and she had spent the weekend preparing for the event.  Suzanne approached the informal meeting as though she was to attend an interview.  She re-examined the job description and carefully audited her own skills and experience to match the criteria.  Where she lacked experience she thought carefully about the transferability of her different skills and experience and how these would benefit the new situation.  By Sunday evening she felt confident that she could impress Mr Reynolds with her abilities.  It was then time to relax and enjoy the evening, cooking a meal to share with her father and playing with the cats.

The meeting had gone extremely well.  Suzanne felt assured that she had performed well and she had liked Mr Reynolds.  He was very different from her mentor, Henry Lewis, in respect of appearance and manner.  Reynolds was short and rotund with a ruddy complexion and happy expression.  She liked him immediately; he was a Mr Pickwick lookalike she thought.  Once he moved from social niceties to the subject in hand she was aware of a phenomenal intellect lying behind the outward urbanity.  She was glad of the training that she had received at the hands of her father.  His demeanour belied the content of the conversation almost entirely.  Suzanne thought later that many a person may have come unstuck thinking that they were having an idle conversation with Mr Reynolds.

Suzanne had spent an hour with him discussing the workings of the civil service in general, her own department at the Foreign Office on which he was very well informed and upon the workings and demands of the Home Office.  When she left his office he rose and shook hands with her warmly,

‘Thank you for your time Miss Harrison, I seldom find a flaw in Henry Lewis’s judgment.  Yet again he has been proved correct.’  He smiled benignly, ‘We will be in touch shortly.  I’ll see if we can circumvent the interview process, if that is you still want the job?’

‘Thank you, yes’ Suzanne returned, gratified.

By the time Rebecca arrived for dinner the following evening Suzanne had received a call from Mr Reynolds confirming the offer.  She was over the moon with delight and excitement about the new challenge.  Rebecca still looked pale and thin Suzanne noted with concern and her natural ebullience had been lacking for some time.  Suzanne was keen to counter her friend’s depressed state with a comfortable evening, good food and cheer.  She knew too that the shenanigans of Ziggy and Zorro could be counted on to bring a smile to Rebecca’s face.

They sat in the kitchen and chatted of this and that as Suzanne busied herself translating her Andalucían recipe to fit the English ingredients she had sourced.  The smells were good enough to draw Jack from his study and alert the cats to their dinnertime.  Once fed Ziggy hoped aboard Rebecca’s lap, curling up and purring contentedly as she stroked his soft fur.  Rebecca smiled as she fussed him, the action made her feel relaxed and homely just as Suzanne had hoped.  She had long been aware of the recuperative powers of her cats.

The rabbit stew turned out very well indeed and Rebecca ate better than she had in a long time, even breaking off pieces of bread to mop up the delicious sauce along with the others.  They finished the meal with some cheese and celery and another glass of red wine.  Jack then returned to his study to leave the girls to gossip alone.  He gave Rebecca a warm hug goodbye as he made off.

‘Take care of yourself young lady.’ He admonished, ‘you look tired and much too thin.  Working too hard like this one I expect.’  He added, nodding at his daughter with affectionate pride.  Rebecca continued to smile after Jack had departed.  She felt at home here, comfortable, well fed and nurtured.  Ziggy continued to purr happily on her lap his front paws stretched out and resting on her stomach.  Zorro had made himself comfortable likewise on Suzanne who stroked him absently as the girls chatted.

‘I have news’ said Suzanne, ‘I’ve been offered a job at the Home Office, a promotion; quite a good one.’  She smiled, pleased with herself.

‘That’s brilliant Annie.  I think you’ll be running the show before long!’  Rebecca remarked only partly in jest.  She had a great deal of respect for Suzanne’s capabilities and her work ethic.  ‘When will you start?’  She had no doubt that her friend would pursue the opportunity, even though she knew that Suzanne had ambitions of the Diplomatic Service one day in the future.

‘Beginning of next month.  I thought I might take a few days off before.  Do you fancy going away somewhere for a few days?’  Suzanne asked.

‘I don’t think I’ll be able to, sorry Annie.’  Rebecca searched for the right words to tell Suzanne her own news.  ‘I’ll be a married woman by next week,’ she stated baldly.  She told Suzanne of her visit from Dylan accompanied by Charles and what had been decided.  ‘Will you come to the registry office?  I’d like it if you where there.’  Rebecca paused briefly, then continued, ‘I know that you’re not that keen on the idea of me and Dylan and the baby but I think it’s what I have to do.’

‘Hey!’   Suzanne reached over and patted Rebecca on the arm, ‘It’s nothing to do with what I like.  I want you to be happy and that’s the end of it.  Do you think you can be with Dylan?  He seems to come with a lot of baggage.’  She sounded doubtful but not against the plan.

‘I can try.’  Rebecca responded, looking more her old self than she had for a while.  ‘We have a chance if he tries as well, and he said he would.’

The two girls talked about their hopes and plans for the future each supportive of the other even though their direction of travel was so different.  When Rebecca finally got up to leave, regretfully pushing Ziggy off her lap, she said to Suzanne, ‘I know it’s rather premature to ask this but will you be godmother to my baby please?’  She patted her still flat stomach as she spoke.

‘I’d love to.’  Responded Suzanne deeply touched.  The two hugged each other farewell.  Rebecca thanking Suzanne for a lovely meal and a great evening,

‘I feel so much better Annie.  Thank you so much.’

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