Chapter 17 – Pimlico House

Caitlin – July 1982
Caitlin and Mario both adored their three-year-old daughter. Apart from Charlotte their marriage was crumbling in a civilised way. They never argued. Mario treated both his wife and daughter as princesses; he idolised them. Caitlin never wanted for anything. Mario often bought thoughtful and tasteful gifts home for her from his travels. The one thing that he was unable to give her was a successful sexual relationship.
Charlotte was a real mixture of both parents with Mario’s olive skin and brown eyes and her mother’s golden curl, a striking combination. She was independent in spirit and very self-sufficient. She was happiest with a pad of paper and some pencils and would spend hours drawing and colouring. Her closest playmates were Ariel’s children who were in fact her Uncle and Aunt being the progeny of Caitlin’s father’s second marriage. Caitlin’s half-brother, Sebastian was almost five and her half-sister, Emily almost four. Charlotte played happily with Emily who was very outgoing and sociable.
Mario had tried to fight his natural urges but he had become aware that he was homosexual in the very early days of their marriage. Mario had succumbed to his first homosexual experience when he had been in Miami Beach setting up a boutique hotel for his burgeoning chain. It wasn’t an easy time for Mario as he had found it extremely traumatic recognising his sexuality as well as shouldering the guilt of disloyalty to his wife and child, both of whom he adored.
He felt racked with shame after every encounter but once he had sampled the goods he couldn’t get enough and began to make excuses to be absent overnight. A time he spent copulating with one gorgeous gay guy after another. He had started to take risks when and where he availed himself of sexual opportunities. The rumour mill started to operate in Manhattan and news of Mario’s undeniable homosexuality reached the ears of first Ariel then Frank.
Caitlin was making one of her regular visits to Park Avenue to visit her stepmother Ariel. The two had become firm friends since Caitlin’s marriage and subsequent return to New York. Caitlin got Charlotte ready to walk the short distance from the Triplex she shared with Mario to her father’s house on Park Avenue. The two chatted together as they walked, Charlie trotting to keep up with her mother who walked slowly to allow her daughter’s short legs to keep up. Charlotte already didn’t like to be pushed. Once they arrived Charlie went off to the nursery quarters to play with Emily under Nanny’s supervision. Ariel and Caitlin had lunch served in the garden.
Ariel had been dreading the conversation that she needed to have with Caitlin. She had been aware for some time that things were not quite right below the surface of what appeared to be a perfect match. She had once or twice tried to elicit a confidence from Caitlin but respected her loyalty to her husband. Things had changed now that Mario’s homosexuality seemed to be an open secret in New York society.
Frank had been adamant that Caitlin must leave Mario as soon as possible and that she should leave the city. Much as he loved having his daughter nearby he thought that she should quit New York for London. Ariel agreed with Frank but wished that she didn’t have to lose her stepdaughter who had effectively become a dear friend. She also wished that she didn’t have to broach the subject but she knew that she must.
Hughes wheeled a trolley replete with chilled wine and a plethora of delicacies for a buffet lunch. He greeted Caitlin in his customary polite and restrained manner, which almost hid the affection in which he held her. She responded with a wide smile and solicitudes for himself and his partner, Juan. Hughes smiled in turn and assured her that all was well with both of them. Inwardly he was worried for Miss Caitlin as he always called her. Juan had heard the rumours several months ago about Mario, her husband, being ‘out’. Juan was vindicated by the news that he had predicted some time ago. However, it was an empty victory as he too was very fond of Caitlin. The two gays had known her since she was a child and neither would wish her to be hurt.
‘Thank you Hughes, we won’t need anything else’ Ariel smiled and dismissed the elderly retainer. Ariel poured wine for Caitlin and for her and the two selected some delicious looking intra messes to pick at as both were needlessly watching their weight. Ariel had practiced how she would start this most difficult of conversations over and over but when the moment came she resorted to her customary blunt honesty.
‘Caiti, I know that what I have to tell you will be very unwelcome. We have heard through the grapevine something of an unacceptable nature about Mario. It has become open knowledge that he is homosexual and is taking risks to satisfy his desires.’ She looked across the table at Caitlin’s face and steeled herself to add, ‘Your father and I have discussed our concerns and we both feel that you and Charlotte must leave Mario and New York as soon as it’s possible. I’m really, really, sorry to have to break this to you and even sorrier that you will have to leave New York. Your father thinks you should go to your place in London before the gutter press get a hold of the story.’
Caitlin’s head spun for a few moments as Ariel’s words sunk in. Mario gay? her kind, considerate and loving husband having affairs with other men? It didn’t seem real. Yet she had known since their fairy tale wedding that Mario didn’t fancy her. It was a miracle really that Charlotte had been conceived. Bit by bit the information started to drop into place. The nights away because Mario was visiting one of his hotels, the late nights call excusing himself for staying over in the office because he was still working. She had not suspected an affair because in her experience Mario was virtually asexual. Why hadn’t she thought that he might be gay? Had she thought it and then put it out of her mind? All these thoughts spiralled in her head.
Ariel’s heart clenched in sympathy for Caitlin as she witnessed the bemusement, the pain and regret cross her lovely young features. Then she observed the silent tears that slid from Caitlin’s eyes. The one thing that Caitlin wasn’t able to do was to deny the accusations.

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