Sins of the Father(2)

By: Hannah Howe

As we strolled through a field, bone-hard and parched like the rest of the landscape, I said, “I bet you break an ankle, or your plane will be inexorably delayed on the way back.”

“I’m going to Australia to a psychology conference,” Alan smiled; I’m not going to Austria to sample the skiing.” He gave my fingers a reassuring squeeze. “I’ll get to the church on time; nothing will stop me.”

“We’re not getting married in a church,” I said.

“A figure of speech,” he said.

“A simple wedding.”

He nodded, “It’s what we both want.”

“Definitely,” I agreed.

The wedding would be a simple affair, with just a handful of family and friends in attendance. First, the thought of those ten long days without Alan. Don’t wish it away, Elton sang, adding, I guess that’s why they call it the blues...

I was singing that song quietly to myself when Alis, Alan’s teenage daughter, appeared at the garden gate. She waved to us and we waved back. Then Alan checked his wristwatch. Time was ticking; only minutes to departure.

“Make sure Sam behaves while I’m away,” Alan said as we joined Alis at the gate.

“I will,” she smiled.

After the wedding, Alis would prepare for university; she’d create a new life for herself, pursue her ambition to become a doctor.

“And make sure Alis behaves,” Alan said to me.

“Dad,” she scowled. “I’m not a child.”

“No, you’re not,” Alan said. Before replying, he’d gazed long and hard at his daughter, no doubt acknowledging the fact that his pretty little girl had grown into a beautiful young woman. There would be fun times ahead at the university and Alis would no doubt break a few hearts. Of course, we’d maintain her room at the house and she’d visit frequently. But the patterns of life were changing, the kaleidoscope was turning, forming new pictures; time was moving on.

With his suitcases safely loaded into his Jaguar XJ6, Alan turned and hugged his daughter. He kissed me then climbed into his car. Within a minute, he was away, to Heathrow, on the first leg of his journey to Australia.

As the Jaguar disappeared into the distance, Alis smiled and waved, shared in her father’s excitement. Meanwhile, I sighed, climbed into my Mini, engaged gear and drove to my office. Time goes faster when you’re busy and, thankfully, I had plenty of work to do.

Chapter Two

I drove the short distance from Alan’s house in St Fagans to my office in Butetown, heading east, along St Fagans Road. With every mile, the fresh air of the countryside gave way to the heat of the city, to the shimmering tarmac, the police and ambulance sirens, the blaring of car horns. Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty...The Lovin’ Spoonful nailed that one, all right.

In Butetown, I parked outside my office, in Marquess Terrace, then climbed the creaky Victorian staircase to my office door. Inside the office, I found Faye Collister, my assistant, sitting at her desk. Faye was one of nature’s organizers. In truth, she was obsessed with neatness, a problem born of childhood trauma.

Like its occupants, our office was neat and petite. The furniture was basic – two desks positioned at right angles, a large filing cabinet, a small bookcase, a coat stand and a sink. A vase of fresh flowers provided a splash of colour while three cacti, supplied and painstakingly arranged by Faye, added tasteful decoration. Furthermore, a double glazed window, situated behind my desk, offered a source of natural light. That window was open, to allow fresh air to circulate in the tiny room. Indeed, Marlowe, our office cat, was sunning himself on the window ledge, his bulk sprawled across the concrete sill, his whiskers twitching as he dreamed of nefarious delights.

“Ooh, look,” Faye said, offering me a saucy smile, “it’s the blushing bride.”

“Knock it off,” I complained, duly blushing for no apparent reason, “if you’re going to start the wind-ups now, it’s going to be a long ten days.”

I dropped my shoulder bag on to my desk, ran a casual eye over a mountain of bills and sighed.

“Alan got off all right?” Faye asked. She stood, walked over to my desk, picked up my shoulder bag and placed it on the coat stand. Then she gave me an apologetic shrug. Faye’s obsession with neatness and order could be trying at times, especially for her. But we’d found a way to cope; basically, I didn’t question or interfere with her actions while she studied self-help manuals and tried to reduce her stress levels; her obsession with neatness intensified when she felt under stress.