Chapter 37 – Pimlico House

Caitlin – August 1985
Caitlin had spent almost the entire fortnight of Charlotte’s absence in furtive sexual assignations with Michael. The excitement was wearing off and she had begun to resent his cavalier attitude, which had started to make her feel like a cheap tart. Time to finish it she determined. When he called to suggest meeting she agreed but insisted on her own choice of venue. It seemed unfair to just dump him over the phone.
She chose an eminently respectable bar where they would be afforded enough privacy for her to break the news but not enough scope for Michael to persuade her into having sex. Being honest Caitlin had to admit that she had thoroughly enjoyed the sex but that was all it was. She had barely got to know him as a person at all. She had behaved like a call girl in all but the receipt of money she recognised embarrassed at her own behaviour.
Michael received the break-up information less than politely showing an ill nature that somehow didn’t surprise Caitlin. What was I thinking about? She thought as he ungallantly left her alone to finish her drink. She would call Rebecca when she got home and make an arrangement to meet-up with her the following evening and Suzanne as well if she was back from Yorkshire by then. It would be the last night before Charlie returned accompanied by Caitlin’s father, Ariel and their two children. Caitlin could hardly wait for everything to get back to normal.
Unfortunately for Caitlin that is not what was to happen. The next morning Caitlin woke feeling unaccountably sick. She lay still for a moment waiting for the feeling to subside and when it didn’t she had to run to get to the en suite in time to throw up. Caitlin climbed back into bed and rested her head back on the pillow. She couldn’t think when she had last been sick. She must have eaten something off. Or…Oh my God, she was pregnant. She knew it was true the moment the idea entered her head. That first time after he brought her back to the house when they’d had the embarrassing meal with Robert and Chloe. What a damn silly fool.
Feeling better since she had thrown up Caitlin slipped into a silk dressing gown and slid her feet into mules and made her way downstairs to make a cup of tea and toast. Dry toast always did the trick when she had been pregnant with Charlie. The doorbell rang and Caitlin answered to a florist delivering a vast bouquet of beautiful creamy yellow roses. The card was hand written from a seemingly contrite Michael who begged her forgiveness. The flowers were followed shortly by a phone call in similar vein. Would she dine with him tonight at the Dorchester? You could hardly get more respectable than that Caitlin thought irrationally before refusing for a prior engagement. Michael persisted:
‘Lunch then?’ he begged, ‘Please Caiti, I’ve been a fool. I can’t bear the thought of loosing you.’ Caitlin was astonished by his assertion and weakly agreed to meet for lunch. Lunch with Michael was almost as bizarre as their first encounter. It was as though he were a different person. He was polite, charming, attentive to her every need. In fact it was like being with Mario except she knew that Michael liked sex with women. Caitlin almost laughed aloud at her thoughts.
At the end of the meal he pleaded pressure of work and ordered a taxi to take her home (in an almost replica of her first date with Mario) but not before asking to see her again the next evening. Caitlin reminded him of the arrival of her daughter and family as an excuse not to see him. To her surprise Michael persevered. He would like to meet Caitlin’s daughter. He would particularly like to meet her father who he held in high regard. Frank Alexander’s name was legendary on Wall Street and in the City of London Michael asserted.
Caitlin promised to find an excuse to effect the introductions and she parted from him outside the restaurant with a kiss to each cheek; again more Mario than Michael. Caitlin was by now so mixed up about everything that she re-directed the taxi to the Kings Road Palmerstone. She was seeing Rebecca that evening at the Pimlico house but she felt restless and at a loose end. She would do a little retail therapy and go back to Pimlico with Rebecca afterwards.
Carole greeted Caitlin with a friendly smile of recognition, Caitlin responding likewise saying,
‘Hi Carole. Good to see you’. I was hoping to catch up with Rebecca though. Is she at one of the other shops today?’
‘Yes she’s over at Hampstead at the moment but I’m expecting her in about an hour’ she glanced at her watch, ‘well maybe sooner. Meanwhile, if I can be of assistance?’ Caitlin was already rifling through the rails.
‘Mm, in a minute, let me have a browse first please.’ Caitlin’s eye was drawn to a Pucci wrap dress in shades of aqua. If she was indeed pregnant she would soon need less fitted clothes than her usual shift dresses. Caitlin was conscious that she had got herself into a terrible mess but the funny thing was that she felt happy. She had no thought of having an abortion. Charlie was growing up fast and Caitlin wanted another baby. Recollecting her mission Caitlin shook herself from her reverie and smiled conspiratorially at Carole,
‘I like the Pucci and maybe some tunics, empire line I think, things that I can wear over jeans or maybe even leggings for a relaxed look. Carole immediately wondered if Caitlin was expecting but showed no such imagining. She moved effortlessly around the rails picking out pieces in the soft pastels that suited Caitlin’s colouring, another Pucci dress, this time long, a couple of pretty dresses and tops by a new designer Alberta Ferretti and some more reasonable pieces from French Connection.
‘I’ll put these in the fitting room and you can get started’ she smiled at Caitlin, ‘shall I get you some classic jeans and perhaps some leggings so you can see the effect?’
‘Yes please Carol, and some shoes.’
‘Coming up’ Carole always loved advising Caitlin it was rather like playing ‘dress up’ games. She returned to the fitting room with a selection of shoes, bags, scarves, jewellery and other accessories as well as the promised straight leg jeans and Capri length leggings. Caitlin was executing a twirl to admire the ‘V’ back of the long Pucci dress when Rebecca arrived. Rebecca with an expert eye took in the comprehensive selection that Caitlin was working her way through and knew immediately that Caitlin was pregnant. The friends embraced warmly. Rebecca’s eyes searched Caitlin’s face. A slightly guilty smile betrayed the information she sought. Caitlin was pregnant and she was happy about it.
Knowing that she would hear all about the circumstances later that evening Rebecca stood patiently on the sidelines as Caitlin working her way through the assembled outfits like a child in a sweet shop. Rebecca trusted Carole’s judgment implicitly and did not want to take over from her so she merely raised an eyebrow when Caitlin appeared in leggings and a floaty tunic. Caitlin’s look was usually so classical that it was a bit of a culture shock to see her so attired, but she had to admit that the look worked. ‘Ballet flats’ Carole and Rebecca said in unison. Laughing Rebecca selected a couple of pairs of soft leather flats that would finish off the outfit to perfection.
Rebecca chatted happily to Caitlin as she expertly wrapped her purchases. She had deliberately allowed Carole the pleasure of ringing up the sale. She had remembered Carole’s excitement on a previous occasion when she had set the Palmerstone record for the best sale ever when she had first served Caitlin. Carole’s beaming smile indicated to Rebecca that she might just have beaten her old record.
Rebecca was truly grateful for her rich friend’s patronage and she was secretly proud that her staff all thought that her friend was a pleasure to serve, unlike some of their other customers. By the time the purchase was completed it was time to shut up and head for home. Jack would have already collected the boys from summer school. Leaving Carole to lock up with a smile of thanks Rebecca helped Caitlin cart her carrier bags out to her trusty mini.
‘Shall we drop these around to yours on the way to Pimlico?’ Rebecca asked.
‘We could just leave them in the car until my driver collects me if you like’ Caitlin suggested. Rebecca sensed that her friend was waiting for the right moment to tell the news, and that the moment would probably be over a pre supper drink at the Pimlico house. There was always a special half hour when the boys were playing and before Jack joined them when they talked about ‘girls stuff’.
Her sons appeared briefly to greet Rebecca and Caitlin from whom they wanted to know immediately when Charlie would be home. The answer of tomorrow was greeted with whoops of delight, which prompted Caitlin to issue an invitation for Sunday lunch.
‘Are you sure Caiti you’ll have a house full as it is?’
‘No problem, I’ll get caterers to do a buffet; one for the adults and one for them’ she indicated the children as they disappeared back to their game.
Rebecca poured a glass of wine for each of them and made her way out to the small wrought iron table and chairs located in the last patch of afternoon sun on the pocket-handkerchief size patio. If she had any doubt of her surmise it disappeared entirely when Caitlin took a sip and wrinkled her nose in distaste.
‘I think I’ll have some soda please Becca.’
‘So spill the beans!’ Rebecca commanded moments later handing over a glass of ginger beer.
‘I think you’ve already guessed it’ Caitlin smiled ruefully, ‘It must have been that first time, after that I was more careful.’
‘You don’t look as if you mind it, not distraught like I was anyway.’ Rebecca hesitated remembering the time when she had got pregnant and the circumstances when Dylan had humiliated her and then left without a word. She also remembered how supportive Caitlin had been to her when she was devastated. ‘Are you in love with this guy?’
‘No.’ Caitlin responded simply. “I’m not sure that I even like him.’ She added honestly, almost thinking aloud.
‘But the baby?’ prompted Rebecca, ‘I can tell you’re all gooey about it already.’
‘Really, is it that obvious?’ Caitlin was surprised.
‘I was just wondering what you plan to do’ Rebecca insisted gently, ‘Unmarried motherhood is not really your sort of thing.’ Caitlin laughed,
‘No, I suppose not. I know I’ve got to think it through, particularly as my father and Ariel will be arriving tomorrow. Ariel will definitely notice in no time.’
‘Yes; the timings not great for you.’ Rebecca agreed. She sipped her wine and sat quietly waiting for Caitlin to talk through her options. They had often acted as a sounding board for each other over the years.
‘The thing is I’d actually decided to finish it. Well I had done. Then I discovered that I was pregnant and much at the same time Michael changed completely. It was more like being with Mario then Michael when I saw him at lunch.’
‘Does he know?’ Caitlin answered in the negative and preceded to tell Rebecca an edited version of the torrid affair that she’d tired of. Caitlin was honest about her own culpability not attempting to lay blame at Michael’s door. She then related what had happened after she had finished with him. He had appeared to be devastated and had subsequently begged her to forgive him for treating her disrespectfully. He had said that he thought that she was enjoying the excitement of the clandestine nature of their affair so had continued in that vein despite the fact that he wanted to have a more permanent understanding with her.
‘Do you believe him?’ Rebecca interjected.
‘I’m really not sure’ Caitlin answered, chewing her lower lip absently, ‘but I can’t think of another motive for his change of behaviour’ she hesitated momentarily, ‘he can’t be motivated by financial gain he’s made a fortune in his own right.’
‘Money goes to money.’ Rebecca intoned, laughing at her friend’s discomfiture. Caitlin was always loath to talk about her fortune. ‘Maybe he really does love you. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that some red blooded male might y’know’ she teased.
‘No of course it’s not; I’m not that silly’ rejoined Caitlin, who had in reality had her confidence severely battered by her marriage to Mario.
‘So where are you going to go from here?’ asked Rebecca metaphorically.
‘He wants to meet Charlie, and Papa. I may invite him over to meet them. Perhaps on Sunday then you could meet him as well.’
‘I don’t fancy being in his shoes’ Rebecca laughed, ‘all of your nearest and dearest lined up like an interview panel!’
Jack appeared at the patio door asking if they were ready for re-fills curtailing their private conversation at a not inopportune moment.
‘I’d better get on with the supper and I need to feed the boys and get them into bed’ Rebecca vacated her seat and indicated to Jack to sit with Caitlin while she got on with the domestic details.
‘Can I help?’ Caitlin asked, ‘Just sit and talk to Jack for a while. She’s on the wagon.’ Rebecca directed at Jack, ‘Ginger beer again?’
‘Mm, it was lovely’ attested Caitlin, ‘I wondered what it was.’

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