“She did what?” Sophie was pacing up and down the lounge.
“She asked me to marry her.” Jonathan was sitting on a kitchen chair, legs together, hands on knees, looking for all the world like a child being chastised by a bullying nanny.
“What the fuck does she think she is doing?’ Jonathan recoiled in horror at the first time she had heard his daughter use the F-word.
“Watch your language, Sophie,” Jonathan still looked like a kid that had stolen the apples from the orchard. “She’s entitled to ask whatever she wants. It’s the answer that counts.” Sophie stood in front of her father, hands on hips, thrust forward and looking as stern as a female Conservative Prime Minister on the edge.
“Sod my language. That desperate, dried up old woman is trying to get her claws into you in an attempt to get rid of me.” Jonathan could have sworn that he saw actual steam coming out of his daughter’s ears.
“You’re being too hard on her. She’s really quite nice. I know you’re still upset about her allegations against you, but that was all so long ago and at some point you have to let go of that.” Sophie turned away and stomped across the room with all the elephant noise of a six year old. She rested her forehead against a wall.
“Sophie,” Jonathan said in a quiet whisper, his bid to diffuse the fiery atmosphere, “please listen to me.” Sophie relaxed her shoulders and stepped back from the wall.
“Go on,” she said, “and it had better be good.” Jonathan stood up. He walked over to Sophie and put his hands on her shoulders. She turned round and looked at him like a trapped animal.
“She asked me, completely out of the blue I might add, to marry her. I told her that……I told her that I….I…..I told her that I would…think….about….it.” Jonathan coughed from somewhere in the driest throat of his life. Sophie jolted back.
“Jesus Christ, are you completely insane? You mean to tell me that you hesitated, that you didn’t tell her there and then to sling her hook. It can only mean that you’ve got, oh God it makes me want to vomit just saying the words, that you’ve got feelings for the bitch.” Sophie threw herself onto the sofa. Jonathan detected slight sobs. He moved towards her.
“Oh Dad, just stay away from me. Just stay away. She brushed past her father and went to her bedroom, banging the door with as much force as she could muster. Jonathan moved a step in pursuit and then withdrew, knowing that whatever he did for the next few hours would only worsen the situation. Maybe Sophie was right, maybe he should have been more decisive with Dot. Maybe he did have feelings for her. Maybe Sophie had hit the nail on the head. What the fuck did he think he was doing? He knew he had no desire to form a relationship beyond friendship with Dot, let alone marry her. Why hadn’t he just said no there and then? Okay, her feelings would have been hurt and things would have been a bit frosty between them for a while but he reckoned the cold shoulder treatment would have passed given time. She was a forgiving soul and she would conclude that her romantic target was a bit of a wimp anyway.
He poured himself a whiskey and pulled out his file on Molly Kingston. It had been a while since he had looked at the material. He missed her a lot and particularly their meetings. He understood at times that Molly found the whole process of recalling details a little intrusive. Sometimes he had probed a little too much into the more private and emotional moments but that was all academic now that Molly was dead. Jonathan had to decide whether or not to shelve the project or proceed. He needed a change of direction and a biographer or novelist seemed to be something worth pursuing. He needed a reasonably steady income to supplement his pension from his old job but he wanted to respect this lovely lady by doing the best job he could at recording her life.
The phone rang just as Sophie ran out of her room, across the lounge and out the front door without saying a word.
“Er, hello?” Jonathan.
“Jonathan, it’s Angie. I’m in the car. Don’t worry, I’m hands free.” Jonathan was staring at the front door wondering why his daughter seemed to be on a mission to somewhere.
“I know this is unusual but I’ve just had a wonderful spa day which gave me lots of down time to think and I need to talk to you.” Jonathan blinked twice.
“What about, Angie?”
“Well, I’d rather talk in person. You know, over a glass of wine, sort of like a modern peace pipe.” As ever with Angie, Jonathan was as suspicious of her as Sherlock Holmes would have been standing looking at a dead body and the man standing next to it holding a smoking gun.
Jonathan sighed. “Angie, you’ve got form, I mean we’ve got form when it comes to chats. We stopped having them a long time ago because we couldn’t think of anything significant to say to each other. What’s this about?” Jonathan heard Angie cough to clear her throat.
“Jonathan, I think we should try again, repair the damage to our relationship, renew our vows, do whatever it takes to sort ourselves out. What do you think?”
“I don’t know what to say. What’s brought this on all of a sudden?”
“Dear, dear Jonny,” breathed Angie, “ true love will always be true love. Lying in the mud bath, I realized what was important to me and I just want us to talk it through to see if there is any way we can, you know, start again.”
“What about Chico?”
“A plaything, a sweet, wonderful plaything. But we grow out of our toys, don’t we?”
Jonathan shook his head to ensure he was taking all of these words in. He didn’t say anything for a few moments.
“Are you still there, Jonathan?
“Yes, I’m here. You’d better come over then.” He put the phone down, aware that his head was spinning about Dot’s proposal, Sophie’s temper and the same question that seemed to buzz around in his head like an agitated wasp in a jam jar. What the fuck?