Reluctant Wife(5)

By: Lindsay Armstrong





Roz watched him go, her eyes wide and wary and confused.



They hadn’t originally had separate bedrooms, but it had seemed to be a good idea because Adam often worked late and she had trouble sleeping, so he didn’t have to disturb her if she was asleep. But now, suddenly, they seemed to represent more to her than that. Now they represented the deep rift in their marriage which had been exposed to the light tonight.



She sighed and turned away and her eyes fell on the glass of gin and tonic, and she sighed again because she hadn’t liked it, and the last thing she wanted to do was finish it.





Curiously, she did enjoy herself without quite knowing how or why, but she suspected that her state of mind had become too much to bear, so she’d switched off, in a manner of speaking. Then also, she was surprised and touched by the gifts she received and the warmth of the congratulations and the fact that everyone seemed to be really happy and determined to make it a happy, memorable night for her. She’d always thought she was a bit of a disappointment and knew she was something of an enigma to the Milroy clan.



But although Flavia, Adam’s mother, subjected her to the usual fleeting scrutiny directed squarely at her waistline, the gaiety was obviously infectious, and anyway, Roz knew that Flavia was as proud as punch of all her grandchildren so far and could be expected to be eager to add her eldest son’s children to the growing score.



Flavia Milroy was Italian, had borne Adam when she was nineteen and subsequently five more little Milroys at irregular intervals—to the embarrassment of Adam’s father’s side of the family, all two-and-a-half-children-at-the-most families themselves, and aggressively Anglo-Saxon, as was often the case with colonial offshoots of the real thing.



‘Never,’ Adam had said to her once, ‘allow my family to get to you. They’re all mad, on both sides, and I disregard them.’



He might disregard their opinions, Roz had decided, ‘but he certainly provided for them very well, which probably accounted for their eagerness to meet under his auspices despite their sometimes acute differences. And she often wished she’d known Adam’s father, Charles Milroy, not only as a clue to his eldest son but as a guide to this melting pot of a family which he had instigated by marrying Adam’s mother.



In fact the sheer weight of numbers had made Roz, an only child herself and an orphan, dizzy at first, until Adam’s cousin Margaret had taken pity on her and drawn her a family tree, Margaret was widowed with two children, Amy and Richard, eighteen and twenty.



But Margaret had gone further, in her forthright manner,and said, ‘Now, there’s one tour de force in this family, and that’s Adam, as you might have gathered. Anyone who can make himself a million from nothing before he’s thirty has to be someone to be reckoned with, but then even when we were all kids Adam was a force to be reckoned with. But there are several minor forces too, and it might help you to know about them. Aunt Flavia is one. She runs an unparalleled spy network and knows everything that goes on. Don’t ask me how, but she does.’



‘Even in your side of the family?’ asked Roz,



‘Even there,’ Margaret said ruefully, ‘You see, when Charles married her, he and his two sisters, of which one was my mother and the other Aunt Elspeth, had inherited Werrington jointly. They all lived there and worked it together—that’s what Charles brought Flavia home to after a whirlwind romance in Rome, and that’s how we all grew up together and became so engrossed in each other.’



‘That must have been rather hard for her.’



‘It had to be. She could barely speak English when she got tossed in with the Milroys, she had no relations of her own to fall back on, she must have been homesick, not to mention … other obstacles,’ Margaret smiled.



‘Oh?’



‘Mmm … my mother got on well with her and personally I’ve always admired and liked her but Aunt Elspeth—well,let’s just say they took an instant dislike to each other and used to have some jolly old dust-ups. But to get back——the second minor force is Lucia, Adam’s sister and the eldest daughter.’

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