Rebecca – July 1983
Dylan had lost no time in contacting Charles and making his peace ably supported by Penny who had a soft spot for her husband’ s childhood friend. Caitlin and Penny had thereafter both broached the subject of Dylan’s remorse to Rebecca; telling her of his return to London and his desire to connect with his children.
The news was wholly unwelcome to Rebecca. She had struggled to forget him and had largely succeeded although her second son Reuben’s appearance gave her no true respite. He was the spitting image of his father. To adore the one made it difficult not to think of the other. Gradually she had been persuaded to give Dylan the opportunity to see his sons. Her greatest concern was that he would seek an official injunction through the courts if she didn’t allow him any access at all. They were still married and he may have a case though she would be able to prove desertion easily enough.
Today was Reuben’s fourth birthday and he was to have a party at the Pimlico House. The big excitement was that Penny was coming to stay for a few days bringing Simon and Lucy with her. Jane, Charles’s mother was staying at the Rectory to help look after the six-month-old twins. Suzanne would also be home having arranged a short break from work. It was four years since all four of the girls had been together. The part that Rebecca wasn’t looking forward to was that Dylan had been invited. She had known that she would have to allow him access at least once while he was in London on his assignment and in a weak moment had agreed to his inclusion on the guest list.
Dylan had made sure that he had accidently bumped into Caitlin and Charlotte one morning on their way to nursery. He had made Caitlin and Charlotte laugh with his exaggerated Gaelic charm and had informed Charlotte that he was Tyrone and Reuben’s daddy.
‘Well you can’t be’ she had answered promptly, wrinkling her brow, ‘Tyro and Ben do not have a daddy.’ She supplied matter-of-factly, ‘I do though’ she had added, ‘but my daddy lives in New York.’
‘That’s funny’ Dylan had responded pretending surprise, ‘So do I.’
‘Do you know my daddy?’ asked Charlotte, hopefully. Caitlin cut in on Dylan’s conversation with her daughter.
‘New York is very big, don’t you remember Charlie. Dylan doesn’t know Daddy’.
Charlotte skipped alongside her mother and Dylan, as he showed no signs of leaving them.
‘Are you coming to Ben’s birthday party? He’s four. I’m four and a month.’ Charlotte informed. Caitlin made a grimace at her daughter and feigned a distraction with,
Oh, look Charlie, there’s Bootsie.’ This was Charlotte’s name for a large white cat with black feet and legs that often sat on a wall outside one of the houses that they passed on the way to nursery. Charlotte was distracted immediately but not Dylan.
‘Will you ask Becca if I can come? Please Caiti?’ there was no doubt that Dylan was genuinely desperately keen to see his children.
Caitlin had apologised again to Rebecca when she had raised the subject with her friend. The whole situation made her feel bad but despite everything that Dylan had done she still thought that he should have a chance.
Hence the long awaited birthday party and reunion of the friends had a black cloud hanging over it as far as Rebecca was concerned. Firstly she had no idea what to tell her sons. She had to say something. She couldn’t just let Dylan walk in and announce his fatherhood. After much introspection she had just told them succinctly that their father was on a visit from New York and would like to see them both.
‘Would you like to see your daddy darlings?’ she had asked of Tyrone and Reuben one evening at bedtime. Ty looked slightly anxious, his grey-blue eyes inspecting his mother’s face for a clue to how he should respond. Reuben pragmatically asked if his daddy would bring him a birthday present.
Caitlin – March 1983
Caitlin had been perfectly correct. Mario had not wasted any time in discovering the whereabouts of his wife and child. Fortunately by the time he had hotfooted it to England his sense of perspective had kicked in. The last thing that he wanted to do was upset his little princess. Consequently Mario had booked himself into the Savoy and placed a call to Caitlin prior to arriving on her doorstep. The couple had an adult conversation and made an arrangement for Mario to visit his estranged wife and daughter at Pelham Crescent.
Mario arrived clutching a huge bouquet of pink roses for his wife and half of Hamleys toy shop for Charlotte.
Charlotte had thrown herself into her father’s arms with ecstatic cries of,
‘Daddy! Daddy! I knew you’d come’ she wrinkled her pretty nose and blinked the tears of delight from her eyes. Frankly Caitlin was barely less excited to see him. She observed the depth of love that he held for his daughter and felt newly confident that he truly loved her, his wife as well. Not for the first time she felt deep sorrow for her husband. Poor Mario he had tried so hard to be what he was not. Caitlin hugged him with genuine affection.
That same evening Mario and Caitlin had talked late into the night long after Charlotte had been tucked up into her new bed by her adored father. Caitlin was adamant that Mario should not and could not live a lie. She was also convinced that he should forge a new life for himself as a homosexual. Caitlin’s understanding had been tempered by her experience of her father’s staff. She had grown up accepting the unusual arrangement between Hughes and Juan both of who made a fuss of her in their different ways.
Mario had been very emotional. He adored Caitlin and had wanted so much to be a perfect family man. They both had decided that they would continue an outwardly united front for Charlotte’s sake. They would divorce but Mario could visit and see Charlotte whenever he would like to. When she was older Caitlin promised she would let Charlotte stay with Mario in New York on condition that she was never exposed to any of his boyfriends. Mario expressed his shock that she could think that he would be so careless of his beloved child’s welfare. Caitlin excused herself for her over protection knowing in her heart that Mario never would let anything hurt Charlotte.
The arrangement between them settled the two forged a relationship that was based on mutual love of each other and care and adoration of Charlotte. The new status quo was to last throughout their lives.
Not long after Mario’s visit Caitlin received a call from her father and Ariel. She decided to keep the arrangement between her and Mario to herself for the time being so merely chatted about Charlotte and life in London and Sebastian, Emily and life in New York. Caitlin set their minds at rest by telling that she and Charlotte had settled into Pelham Crescent and Charlie had new little friends in the form of Rebecca’s boys Ty and Roo who were really cute.
Remembering her chance meeting with Dylan Ariel updated Caitlin on the whereabouts of Rebecca’s missing husband and told her about his celebrity status on the New York fashion scene. After lengthy farewells and protestations of missing each other Caitlin put the phone down only for it to ring again. She recognised Dylan’s voice immediately but tried to gain some time by pretending not to.
‘Caitlin? It’s Dylan. Rebecca’s husband’ he added unnecessarily. Caitlin uncertain what to do hesitated before responding in a neutral tone,
‘Yes?’ Dylan thought positively, at least Caitlin hadn’t slammed the phone down right away.
‘I ran into your stepmother earlier. She told me that Becca has two boys’ he left a long pause, the words hanging in the air, ‘I didn’t know. I didn’t know she was pregnant and I never mean to hurt Rebecca and for any of this to happen. Please believe me. You…she must think that I’m a complete shit’ he finished unhappily.
‘Well yes we do’ agreed Caitlin, trying hard not to let any sympathy slip into her voice.
‘Do you think she would consider letting me see the children?’ Dylan asked, dejectedly, surprised at the intensity of his desire to reconnect with his offspring.
‘Why would she?’ Caitlin countered.
‘She was persuaded to marry me so that the baby would have a father. Maybe she might still think that he err they need a father figure.’ Dylan was trying hard to sell the idea to Caitlin now he had a hold of a plan. He knew that Rebecca might listen to her friends.
‘I’ve really changed Caitlin. I have work now as a freelance photographer. I make good money and I could help you know with their upkeep’ he hazarded sheepishly.
‘No need, Rebecca’s business if flourishing and they boys have Jack as a father figure.’
‘Jack!’ Dylan’s voice rose in indignant disbelief. He had believed from Ariel that Rebecca was still single. Caitlin almost didn’t disabuse him but couldn’t quite bring herself to be mean to Dylan however much he may deserve it.
‘Yes Jack, Suzanne’s father; Becca and the boys live in her house right now.’
‘Oh, that Jack’ Dylan said relieved, ‘would you mention to Rebecca that I called? I have some assignments coming up in London and y’know if they work out I may be spending a lot of time back in the UK. I know she won’t want to see me but…’
‘I don’t want to upset her’ said Caitlin stoutly, ‘better if you just forget about her and let her get on with her life.’ She hated being in this position because she knew she wouldn’t be able to not tell Rebecca and then it would be her, Caitlin, that was opening the can of worms. Dylan sensed the wavering in her voice and pushed on with an apology to her,
‘I’m sorry Caitlin, I’ve put you in a difficult position now and I didn’t mean to. I just thought that if I turned up at the shop she’d set the dogs on me or something.’ He pleaded miserably. ‘I wouldn’t blame her if she did.’
‘I’ll think about it’ Caitlin answered.
‘One more thing, sorry Caitlin, do you have Charles’s contact details? I called the old place and some crusty old vicar answered!’ Caitlin saw no harm in this and had thumbed through her address book and supplied Penny and Charles’s address in moments.
‘Thank you, Caiti, I really appreciate that you listened to me’ Dylan finished humbly with genuine gratitude. All though he had made a success of his years in New York and had his choice of some of the best looking young women in the world he missed England, London, his old friend Charles and most of all Rebecca. He had genuine hopes for a partial reconciliation. If only Rebecca would let him try to form a relationship with his sons.
Ariel – March 1983
Ariel missed having her stepdaughter, Caitlin around. Consequently she reconnected with old model friends. She had kept up with two of them in particular, a stunning black girl Kara and Jordana a fellow Texan. At a loose end with her children in school and Frank still working long hours Ariel had taken up an invitation to attend a studio photo shoot in downtown Manhattan.
Arriving at the location Ariel was transported back into her old days of fashion shoots. The recollections were both good and bad. She remembered the excitement of the early days, spotting famous photographers, models, magazine editors and other hangers on. Remembrances of the less than glamorous locations, the long hours in broiling or freezing temperatures trying to get the perfect shot in a fur coat or a bikini also intruded into her thoughts. Nevertheless Ariel greeted her old friends with genuine affection though less than genuine air kisses. Kara and Jordana made a striking contrast as they modelled swimwear for the July issue of American Vogue.
Ariel felt rather disconnected from this world since she had married Frank and had two children in quick succession. She certainly didn’t need to work but since the children were in school she was feeling the need to do something with her life. She quickly realised that it would not be a return to fashion modelling. Much as she had enjoyed the past the whole fashion industry appeared rather vacuous now.
Perhaps she would return to her studies that had been interrupted. She had been scouted for modelling back in the early 60s while she had been studying literature at Brown. She had been the first of her family to go to University. That she was also a stunningly attractive girl made the fact even more of a coup. Her mother, who had named her daughter for the Shakespearian character, was immensely proud of Ariel. It was a difficult choice for Ariel and for her mother to forsake an academic education for the world of modelling. Fame and fortune had beckoned Ariel however.
Ariel was woken from her reverie by the arrival of a new photographer on set and the frisson of excitement that accompanied it. She recollected the gossip that she had heard about this guy. Apparently he had screwed most of the top models all of who were gagging for more. Ariel assessed him nonchalantly under her lashes. Not her type she decided immediately but there was no doubt that he was a good-looking guy. His olive skin and black curls giving him a raffish gypsy air. The more Ariel observed him the more she felt that she knew him from somewhere. She racked her brains trying to place him to no avail.
Ariel hung around as she had arranged to go for drinks with her friends when they had a wrap. The shoot completed most of the entourage drifted off, Kara and Jordana to get dressed. The photographer busied himself gathering his equipment pausing for a moment as he caught sight of Ariel sitting quietly. Dylan knew her immediately. He never forgot a face, particularly one as strikingly beautiful as Ariel’s. He searched for her name as he crossed the room with a self-assured stride extending his hand in greeting.
‘Ariel isn’t it? We met at Caitlin’s wedding? Dylan Byrne.’ Of course that was from where she knew him. So this handsome bastard was the one who had left his wife with two babies and had not been heard of since. Ariel smiled and executed a perfect air kiss and an exclamation of pleasure nevertheless. You never knew the full extent of a story from one side she reflected. Close to he was remarkably attractive. ‘How is Caitlin?’ Dylan continued, genuinely interested. He had obviously heard the gossip about her husband.
‘Well thank you’ responded Ariel, ‘she’s moved back to London for a while. We miss her of course but she is enjoying spending some time with her friends again.’ This remark was too pointed to ignore. Dylan knew that she knew. It wasn’t surprising that Caitlin would have discussed her friend’s situation with another confidante.
‘Do you happen to know err…’ Dylan searched for the way to ask his question, ‘how Rebecca is doing?’ He asked lamely.
‘Fine I hear’ Ariel responded, trying to remain neutral, ‘I understand that she and her two boys are living in…Pimlico? Is it? They’re at another friend’s house. Her business is very successful…’ Dylan had stopped listening.
‘Her two boys?’ he echoed, ‘is she…is she with someone else then?’ Ariel was puzzled by his response,
‘No. No one else; at least not that I’ve heard.’ Dylan looked less than assured; his mind was digesting this information. Could he be the father of another child? Dylan was uncomfortably aware just how much of a bastard this would make him appear. He wondered how to find out. He was, despite himself, acutely sorry that he had left his wife and child when he allowed himself to think about it.
‘Is Caitlin at her old place, Pelham Crescent wasn’t it?’ He asked casually, thinking of a way of discovering the true situation.
‘Yes she is’ Ariel responded distracted by the arrival of her friends. The three greeted each other, Jordana raising an eyebrow and smirking at finding Ariel deeply engaged in conversation with the handsome photographer. Kara took the opportunity of flirting suggestively with Dylan whom she had already shagged and wouldn’t mind a repeat performance. He was hot! Dylan responded on automatic pilot, he was preoccupied with plans for the phone call he would make to Caitlin shortly. Would she just put the phone down he wondered. He knew that there was no point calling Rebecca she definitely would.
Penny – December 1982
Penny and Charles’s twin girls arrived on Christmas Eve by which time Penny was as she had predicted elephantine. Susan and Katy were identical and adorable. The girls were destined to be thoroughly spoilt with the devoted attention of their parents, two older siblings and two sets of grandparents to attend to their every want. All of the grandparents were staying at the Rectory for the Christmas period everyone ready and willing to support and nurture Penny and her new babies.
Penny had the luxury of a few days idle with Gwen and Jane sharing the cooking and other chores while she had time to enjoy her new born twins. Conscious of Penny’s previous bout of debilitating depression Charles spent as much time with Penny as was possible for him at this particular time of year. He also called Suzanne who in turn communicated with Rebecca and Caitlin consequently all of Penny’s friends called her over the holiday period to congratulate her on the births and to chat and be supportive.
The household was expecting a visit from Charles’s sister Jo, her husband Julius, and their two-year-old son. William was a striking combination of both his parents in looks and nothing like in temperament. He was a delicious chocolate colour with black hair and brown eyes framed by thick black lashes. Tall and already outgrowing his baby chubbiness William was a whirlwind constantly on the go and needed to be worn out with endless activity for either parent to get any sleep.
Football was William’s passion. A ball accompanied them wherever they travelled and Julius would spend hours dribbling, making passing shots and standing in goal whilst his baby son tore around the garden or park screaming and laughing with delight as he kicked the ball. Julius was more than happy to hand some of the activity over to Simon and Lucy who were delighted to play with their younger cousin.
Jo and Penny had become great friend ever since Penny had lived in their family home in Lincoln as a student. She sat with Penny on the afternoon of their arrival holding one of the babies whilst Penny fed the other. She watched the baby suckling at Penny’s breast and observed the look of contentment on Pen’s face, smiling to herself as she remembered the bonding process. Baby number two fed, Jo changed one nappy as Penny changed the other. The two women chatted together contentedly rocking a baby each.
‘How are you feeling?’ Jo asked fairly unnecessarily as Penny looked radiantly happy.
‘Wonderful! Aren’t they the most beautiful and adorable babies?’ Of course they looked much like any other babies but Jo made all the right noises. With the family genetics they certainly had a great start in life. Simon and Lucy were both gorgeous children in looks and nature. Jo was hoping that her own son would have calmed down a little before their next was born. She and Julius had just had the news of a second pregnancy confirmed. She now related this information to Penny who she knew would be pleased for her.
‘That’s great news’ Penny smiled her approval, ‘when is it due?’
‘Middle of June we think. I just hope that William needs less attention by then. He’s more than a full time job at the moment!’ Jo was not exaggerating; she had given up work to take care of her son as no childminder or nursery would have him. Not that he was naughty deliberately he was just totally hyperactive.
Jo found it difficult to admit, even to herself, that she sometimes couldn’t cope with him. She didn’t have a way out though. Jo sometimes had to grit her teeth and force herself to be patient when she was way too tired to cope. In some ways she was dreading her second. Julius’s job as Deputy Head of a large comprehensive school was very demanding meaning that he often needed to work late. They had moved away from family and friends for him to take up his post in Reading. It was difficult to make friends and Jo was rather isolated not working and with a child not in school.
It didn’t help that they were a mixed race family but Jo tried not to see this as an obstacle.
Rebecca – September 1982
Caitlin and Rebecca talked long into the night. Caitlin spilled out the story of her marriage to Mario. How much she loved him yet how disappointing and unfulfilling was their marital life. She was truly distraught by the way that she had left him and was worried about his reaction and the effect that the whole trauma may have on Charlotte. Rebecca listened and comforted; she in her turn felt traumatised on behalf of her friend.
There were echoes of the pain of rejection that she had felt when Dylan had left her with a small child and a baby on the way. She had to examine her feelings for Dylan who she had long since thrust out of her mind. Caitlin was so devastated that she had left her good kind husband that she hardly considered the choices that he had made to absent himself as a husband and father and follow his homosexual instincts. The one thing with which she wholehearted agreed with Caitlin was that the whole sorry story was a major fuck up.
Rebecca persuaded Caitlin to stay over. It was already almost 3.00 in the morning. The guest room was set up with all Suzanne’s things so a bath and crawl into bed was easy to accomplish for the exhausted Caitlin. Rebecca checked on the children; her two boys sprawled across their beds as normal. Their new friend Charlotte in the guest bed under the eaves of the boy’s eyrie had barely moved since she had been tucked in by her mama and ‘Auntie Becca’. For once Ziggy had deserted his Master in favour of comforting his new little charge. He lay curled up next to Charlie’s side purring rhythmically. Rebecca smiled fondly as she withdrew quietly from the room.
It took longer for Rebecca to fall asleep despite the late hour. Caitlin’s account of her marriage and all the mixed feelings that she had experienced had a profound effect on Rebecca. Not only was she upset and worried about her friend the whole evening had thrown up comparatives of her own love and loss. She was painfully aware of things that she had buried for a long time.
Her love affair with Dylan, his betrayal of her trust, their subsequent reconciliation and marriage, his rejection of Tyrone and final departure all ran through her mind. Dylan didn’t even know that he had a second son Reuben who was the spitting image of his father. She finally fell asleep wondering why? Why had she and Caitlin had such bad luck in their choices of men?
Rebecca woke late with a start. She reached for her watch and seeing that it was almost 10.00 jumped out of bed panicking about being late to open the shop. Gradually the events of the night before intruded into her mind and then the realisation that it was a Sunday. She could hear movements in the house so quickly pulled on a tee and jeans to go and check that all was well. She emerged from her bedroom directly into a wild-west encampment. Her sons, cantering on imaginary horses, whooping bloodthirstily, were surrounding Charlie who was tied to a ‘stake’ in the middle of the room sporting a headband and feather giggling happily.
Rebecca sauntered through the melee with smiled hellos and headed for the kitchen as though nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Here she was greeted by Caitlin seated at the table clutching a mug of coffee talking companionably with Jack as he produced his only culinary achievement. Bacon and eggs, delicious! Seeing Rebecca arrive he poured another mug of coffee and revisited the fridge for replenishments. The girls were both silently grateful for the hot strong coffee and the comforting smells emanating from the frying pan.
As though by osmosis, the plan for rest of the day emerged. Rebecca and Caitlin packed up a picnic and took the children the short walk to Warwick Gardens where they had once gone all four friends together, the weekend of Ty’s Christening before their lives were cast asunder. Comprising all the things their children were not usually allowed to eat the picnic was a huge success. After which the wild-west adventures continued virtually unabated apart from Charlie now being a cowgirl rather than an Indian squaw. Jack had declined to accompany them saying that his old joints were too stiff for sitting on the grass. He preferred a quiet read and a short nap in his study.
Watching their offspring playing together comforted Caitlin and Rebecca. They exchanged smiles of genuine pleasure. The children happily engaged Rebecca raised the subject of the last evening’s debate.
Have you decided what you’re going to do Caiti?’
‘Yes, I think I have’ Caitlin hesitated and then said in a rush, ‘I’m going to stay here in London with Charlie. I’ll get a divorce from Mario but he can come and see us here in London when he wants to. It’s not fair for him that he should lose his daughter for no real fault of his own; just misfortune really.’
‘Do you think he will accept those terms?’ Rebecca asked,
‘I don’t think he will have any choice’ said Caitlin with a sigh, ‘my father will push everything through. He’s a powerful figure in New York.’
‘Is it what you want though?’ Rebecca persisted.
‘No. But I don’t have the luxury of choice either. To stay with me would be living a lie for Mario, which would not be good for any of us. We must all make the best of it.’
Caitlin’s fears for her daughter’s happiness were somewhat abated that evening once Rebecca had dropped them back to Pelham Crescent. While Charlie was drinking a glass of milk and eating a piece of cheese on toast she announced casually to her mother,
‘Not everyone has a daddy y’know. Tyro and Ben don’t have one. Don’t I have a daddy anymore?’ she looked under her lashes at her mother as she asked. Caitlin nonplussed by the question was quick to answer,
‘You still have a daddy darling but we might not see him as often as we used to.’
Charlotte seemed unconcerned by the answer and had soon reverted to her customary diversionary tactics around bedtime.
Once persuaded up to bed, bathed and tucked in she chose her favourite bedtime story about Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. Just as Caitlin thought she was asleep she opened her eyes wide to elicit a promise from her mother to go shopping on the morrow for her new bedroom. Moments later Caitlin kissed her sleeping child goodnight marvelling at the resilience of the young.
Caitlin – September 1982
It was not in Caitlin’s nature to be underhand so the advice she was following from her father and Ariel was foreign to her instincts. Frank and Ariel had advised her to pack a minimum of possessions for Charlie and her and to pretend to Mario and the staff that she was going out to Easthampton with her parents as she sometimes did. They advised that she was best away from the city and Long Island lest the story broke. Whisperings were growing louder in their circle and Frank wanted Caitlin and his granddaughter well away from any malicious gossip.
Frank arranged the flight and sent his driver to collect her. Caitlin was not comfortable in her subterfuge to Charlotte and worst of all to leave Mario without him knowing; without first talking to him seemed almost criminal. She knew that he would be distraught to lose his wife and even more his adored daughter. Despite everything Caitlin loved Mario. In his way he had been a loving husband to her and an adoring father to Charlotte. Everything was such a fuck up she thought bitterly.
Caitlin arrived at Heathrow in the early morning of the last day of July. Charlotte was quiet and withdrawn sensing that things were amiss. They were collected from the airport and taken straight to her Pelham Crescent house. The third period in her life that she was to come here Caitlin reflected. Her father had arranged to have the house cleaned and aired and as always Caitlin felt a sense of homecoming when she approached the front door. She had had some happy times here, as a teenager with her parents, than later when she had inherited the house from her mother and turned it into a single woman’s party pad; albeit a very sophisticated one.
She held out her hand to Charlotte as they walked up the short path to the door.
‘Mama loves this house Charlie. We’ll make a new room especially for you and you can help Mama pick out all the colours you’d like. Charlotte looked around the chequer board hallway and up the curved Georgian stairway her face stricken,
‘Where’s Daddy?’ was all she could manage, her big brown eyes brimming with tears. Caitlin knelt on the floor and held Charlotte close, trying hard not to cry herself.
‘We’re having a holiday darling. Just like when we go to stay with Grandpapa and Ariel. Daddy will come and visit us soon don’t worry baby.’ Caitlin smoothed the curls back and placed a gentle kiss on her daughter’s furrowed brow. As she said the words she knew it was true. Once Mario realised that they had left he would go straight to her father’s Park Avenue house or out to Easthampton.
When he found that Caitlin and Charlotte weren’t with Frank and Ariel he would deduce that they were here in London even if Frank would not admit to it. Poor Mario she thought. She knew that he would be distraught. What a goddamn mess her life had become. Caitlin thought that above everything she must protect Charlie from distress. If she pretended that everything was normal Charlotte would be fine.
With this thought in mind she and Charlie spent the day first inspecting the house and then sitting at the kitchen table drawing and colouring. They chatted happily together as Charlotte picked her bedroom, the one that had been her mother’s room, and then proceeded to design her colour scheme. Caitlin was astonished by her daughter’s concept and application for one so young.
Clearly she had inherited her father’s talent for design and his prodigious gift of recollection. She drew the window with curtains and a toy box beneath, with a padded lid she explained to her mother so she could sit on it and look out of the window. She drew a bed and a desk and chair in the way that children do and coloured the whole meticulously in pink and yellow stripes, checks and flowers. Caitlin admired her daughter’s design and sincerely hoped that they would be able to find the products to realise her vision. A trip to Peter Jones seemed on the cards.
After the two had lunched together eating beans on toast in the kitchen. Charlie’s head began to nod. Caitlin scooped her up and took her upstairs for a nap. They were both exhausted. While Charlotte slept Caitlin put in a call to Rebecca at the shop. She was put through immediately by one of Rebecca’s team.
‘Becca, we’re here. We got in this morning. Charlie’s just dropped off to sleep, she’s so tired.’ Caitlin sounded tired and flat but much less distraught than the day before, Rebecca thought with relief,
‘Shall I come over now Caiti? The girls can look after the shop and Ty and Roo are in the crèche here so I can get away easily.’
‘Thanks Becca, I’m trying to make everything seem normal, like a holiday, for Charlie. Perhaps if we came to see you at Pimlico tonight and she can play with your two while we talk…’ Caitlin didn’t want Charlie to hear her mother crying if she got distressed which she surely would. Rebecca thought fast,
‘How about I call round to you after work, about 6.30? I’ll have the boys with me but we can squeeze you and Charlie into the car. Pack Charlie’s PJs and she can bath and story with the boys. Once they’re all asleep you can fill me in over dinner. Jack knows there’s something wrong and he’s a marvel of discretion knowing exactly when to disappear!’
‘That sounds brilliant, thanks Becca, I seem to have lost the ability to think straight.’
‘I remember only too well what that feels like. Remember our holiday in Rome? It’s as though your mind goes into hibernation to avoid thinking unpleasant thoughts.’
‘Yes, that’s it.’ Caiti sounded forlorn.
‘Have a nice hot bath and catch a nap yourself Caiti, you must be wiped out. I’ll see you later. Around 6.30 I expect depending on the traffic. Love you.’ Rebecca finished. Caitlin smiled inwardly glad to have such a stalwart friend and decided to take Rebecca’s advice. She fell into a deep sleep curled up next to Charlotte in case her daughter woke and couldn’t find her mama.
Caitlin and Charlotte were ready and looking out for Rebecca’s arrival. Caitlin waited with impatience to see her best friend, Charlotte with a mixture of delight in the prospect of two new friends, and trepidation being rather a shy child. Rebecca and the boys arrived just before 6.30 and Rebecca hopped out to hug Caitlin and stoop to say hello to Charlotte.
‘Have Charlie on your knee in the front Caiti, we’ll be at Pimlico in no time.’ Rebecca said, taking the small overnight bag from Caitlin and putting it into the boot.
Once ensconced in the large family kitchen the children soon thawed with each other; Ty and Roo vying good-humouredly for Charlotte’s attention. The boy’s cats enchanted Charlotte; the boys proud to display their respective adopted pets. Tyrone had laid claim to Zorro’s affections and Reuben to Ziggy in the early days of their lives at the Pimlico House. Charlie was soon being towed around the house by one or other of the boys showing off their toys and mastery of gymnastics. Jack appeared to pour drinks for the girls and greet Caitlin with affection. Rebecca prepared fish fingers and beans for the children and started to assemble a vegetable lasagne for the adults, Jack seemed to be going off meat lately.
Caitlin found the whole ritual and normality of the tasks quite soothing though part of her mind thought how strange it was to be chatting routinely about inconsequential bits and pieces at the same time as knowing that your whole life had just changed irrevocably. It was what she wanted though; she had requested to Rebecca that she wanted everything to appear normal for Charlotte’s sake.
Little did she know that Charlotte had already been disabused of the fact that daddies were mandatory; when Charlotte had mentioned her own daddy Tyrone had informed her airily that he and Reuben didn’t have one.
Rebecca – September 1982
Rebecca’s business was booming. The 80s was an era of promise for professional women and the upwardly mobile. Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister in the UK since 1979 had spawned a culture of women’s careers and ‘having it all’. The expression: ‘loadsamoney’ was coined by a TV comic and fashion was being influenced by the ‘rich bitch’ showiness of American TV shows ‘Dallas’ and ‘Dynasty’ (jointly referred to as Dysentery by Rebecca and Suzanne).
Rebecca was not about to complain. Women were pouring in to shop at both of her Palmerstone boutiques and she was about to open her third branch in Hampstead. The ranks of her usual well-heeled cliental had been swelled exponentially by the ‘wannabe’s’ who were prepared to spend, spend, spend on their credit cards to get the right look and to be seen in the right label.
Rebecca was somewhat torn as her basic philosophy had always been to encourage her customers to develop their own style, rather than being slaves to fashion. However, she and her family were dependent on the sales generated by her business so she could not afford to be purist. She reviewed her ‘offer’ systematically and objectively and revamped her shops to reflect the new culture without stepping too far from their core market. It worked. Her existing customers were delighted by the new labels: Armani, YSL, Versace, Yohji Yamamoto… and new customers were lured in to shop and persuaded to remain loyal by the outstanding customer service that they received from the Palmerstone team.
Rebecca’s attention to detail and insistence on top-notch service from all her staff was paying off in spades. The Palmerstone ‘family’ was growing and getting stronger by the day; many of the staff having been with her company since she set out in 1974 or not much later as the business had expanded from the original shop in Wimbledon to the Kings Road, Chelsea.
Her manager at the Kings Road shop, Carole had become a good friend. Her staff had expanded and been joined by two ex-colleagues from her days at Liberty. Rebecca was really pleased to have the expertise of Nicky and Juliet on-board and remained grateful to them both for their unstinting support for her when she left Liberty to set up her own venture. They had both been on hand to help her on her first opening night at the Wimbledon shop and had contributed enormously to her first success.
It was the end of a long day. Rebecca had been viewing new collections and starting to buy for Spring Summer 1983. It was a weird time for fashion insiders as they were always at least a season ahead of other consumers. Rebecca got so taken up with forward buying that she often found it difficult to remember what she’s ordered for the previous season. To avoid inconsistencies and lack of continuity in her stock she kept files of drawings and copious notes so that she wouldn’t make expensive mistakes.
Rebecca had returned to the Wimbledon shop and poked her head into the crèche area to check on her boys at around four. She glanced at her watch and saw that it was closing time already. Juliet was cashing up and the other girls were doing a final tidy, straightening hangers, refolding items, rearranging displays all of which looked pretty perfect to an untrained eye. Mindy brought Ty and Roo through from the crèche depositing them with Rebecca with a smile saying to the boys unnecessarily,
‘Tell Mummy what you’ve been doing today.’ Both boys were already launched into competing accounts, their shrill baby voices raised to gain Rebecca’s attention. She grinned happily as she listened to their excited prattle putting all thoughts of fashion and business out of her mind for the day.
Rebecca’s Mini purchased in 1978 as a single woman to accommodate the needs of her growing business had swiftly been re-prioritised as a family car. The back seat was taken up by child seats, and a variety of books and toys were on-hand. Juice and snacks were replenished every day for the inevitable blood sugar crash on the short journey home to Pimlico. Rebecca loaded the boys into the car as she listened to their incessant chatter pleased that they were so happy and well adjusted despite not having a father. Once they were home she knew that they would speed in to see ‘Uncle’ Jack and update him with the day’s events before they embarked on imparting the same information to Zorro and Ziggy who seemed to be as equally receptive as the adults by purring their approval.
Rebecca loved the early evening routine that the Pimlico house had settled in to. She would cook for and feed her sons, their favourites being the inevitable fish fingers, sausages, beans, chicken nuggets and baked potatoes. The boys spent some time talking with Jack who expected and got the full attention of the two small boys. He would ask them in turn questions about their day and listened attentively to their answers in much the same way as Suzanne would recognise as the ‘audiences’ of her childhood. Released from Jack’s study the two would tear about the house in search of or in pursuit of Ziggy and Zorro until they were tired out.
Meanwhile Rebecca would prepare an evening meal for her and Jack. Bath and bedtime stories was her next and favourite duty. The boys all clean and in their pyjamas looked so cute. Roo looked exactly like his absent father, Dylan, which often pulled at Rebecca’s heart strings; Ty their first born, nothing like. He looked much more like her friend Penny’s eldest, Simon. He had remained blonde and blue eyed contrary to predictions, his appearance being a bit of a mystery as both his parents Dylan and Rebecca were dark in hair and skin tone with green and gray eyes respectively.
The different looks of her two sons provided a contrast that multiplied the effect of their individual beauty. They were beyond cute Rebecca thought proudly as her boys finally gave in to the sleep that they’d been fighting for the last half hour. She dawdled for a few minutes watching their rhythmic breathing and admiring the fan of eyelashes across their downy cheeks and the splayed limbs emerging from the sheets she had carefully tucked around them.
Jack and Rebecca were sitting contently after a meal of Shepherd’s Pie followed by cheese and celery. Rebecca was enjoying her glass of red wine as well as the company of Suzanne’s father Jack. They could always make each other smile and each appreciated the other’s abilities. Rebecca was the first to hear the phone ring and hopped up saying,
‘I’ll get it. Probably Annie for you though.’ She sped out to the hall to still the ringing before it disturbed the boys.
‘Becca, it’s Caitlin. I’m coming back to London tomorrow.’
‘Caiti, are you OK?’ Rebecca caught the distress in her friend’s voice.
‘No. Not OK. Everything has gone terribly wrong.’ Her voice was throaty and strained as she fought tears, ‘I have to leave Mario and New York. I’m bringing Charlotte with me and we’re going to live at Pelham Crescent. Can I come and see you as soon as possible?’
‘Of course you can. Whenever. But what’s happened?’
‘I can’t tell you now, I have to go.’ Caitlin’s voice was cut off and Rebecca stood for a moment trying to collect her thoughts. It seemed extraordinary, Caitlin’s fairy tale relationship gone wrong so soon. Although she reflected wryly it had lasted some time longer than her own disastrous marriage. But Mario seemed so besotted with Caitlin not like Dylan pushed into the marriage by Rebecca’s pregnancy and his friend Charles’s well-meaning interference.
Rebecca immediately felt selfish when the thought intruded that it would be great to have Caitlin living nearby. It would be good but not at the expense of Caitlin’s happiness she self reprimanded. Her thoughts went back to the Christmas she had spent with Caitlin in Rome. Her own world was shattered at that time and Caitlin had provided the distraction, comfort and support that Rebecca had needed. Rebecca smiled fondly as she remembered what a true friend in need Caitlin had been. Thoughts of her friend’s apparent distress occupied her mind for the rest of the evening.