“I’m sorry I’m late Jonathan,” said Angie as she stepped into his flat without a formal invitation, “but the roads are blocked. Someone said they think there was an accident. Probably, some yobs out joy-riding or something. All very inconvenient, I must say. But I’m here now.” Angie sat on the sofa and placed her handbag on the coffee table.
“Would you like a drink?” asked Jonathan.
“A gin and tonic with ice and slice would be just perfect.” Angie seemed to have forgotten how to use words like please and thank you in her new airy-fairy world. Jonathan made the drinks, handed her one and sat down in the armchair opposite her.
“This is nice,” she said.
“The drink?” asked Jonathan.
“Oh, the drink is lovely. You always did make great gins and tonics. I’m never sure whether to say gin and tonics or gins and tonic or gins and tonics. Silly, isn’t it? No, I meant it’s nice, the two of us alone together, enjoying each other’s company.” She sipped her gin and noticed Jonathan looking slyly at her.
“Let’s not go too far down the cosy road, Angie, until we are clear about what’s going on here.” Jonathan sat back in the chair and waited for Angie to speak. They spent a few awkward moments, he sitting still except for short arm movements to siup his drink and she looking everywhere but at her husband.
“Well?” asked Jonathan. “What’s brought all this on?” Angie fidgeted and then sat up straight.
“I just think that life is too short for squabbles,” she declared before taking a large swallow of gin. “We have had too many years together just to squander the good things. I know I haven’t made things easy but………”
“You left us, Angie. You left us and said some horrible things as you disappeared from our lives. You drew a line under your family life, not me, certainly not Sophie, you did.” Jonathan could feel himself getting tense. He breathed in deeply and relaxed back in the chair.
“I know, I know,” said Angie, trying to look as coy as possible. Jonathan could not deny that she was a very attractive woman but he was certain that she was up to something but he couldn’t figure out what it was. He was sure that family life was not really top of her priority list. He knew that she hadn’t the patience to devote time and energy to reconcile herself with Sophie. So, he concluded to himself, she must be after money, property, something tangible to support her aspirational lifestyle.
“Let’s cut to the chase, Angie,” said Jonathan, standing up. “What do you want?”
“Love, Jonathan. I want the love of my husband and daughter back. I want us all to be back together living under the same roof.” She looked at him innocently.
“Bullshit,” snapped Jonathan. “As my grandmother used to say, I didn’t come up the lough in a bubble. I know you want something but it’s not your old life, that’s for sure. You’ve tasted a new existence without the shackles of marriage. You have no intentions of getting back with me, you know the guy you ridiculed and called the most boring dullard since Adam tended his allotment in the Garden of Eden.”
“Oh, well, I thought it was worth a try,” said Angie, putting her glass on the table. “If you want it straight, I want a share of our money.” Jonathan tutted and looked to the ceiling.
“You mean my money.” He shuffled from one foot to the other.
“Jonathan,” she said, standing up, “if we had gone through the divorce courts, I would have ended up with around half of our assets. We can still make this legal of course or you could write me a cheque in full and final settlement for £100,000. Now if you think about that rationally, it’s a very, very good deal. Get it signed and sealed by a solicitor, if you like. In court, I could probably claim three or for times that with all the savings, investments and this flat. You would not hear from me again. Now, do we want all that hassle or can we come to an arrangement?”
“What?” Jonathan started pacing up and down. “£100,000? Are you crazy? Well, I know the answer to that already. I need to think this through. I’ll let you know tomorrow.”
“Okay,” said Angie, picking up her handbag and heading for the door. “Until tomorrow.” Jonathan was abvout to open the front door, when he heard a key in the lock. Sophie came in and came face to face with her mother.
“Been in the wars, dear?” asked Angie, eyeing up a red lump on her daughter’s forehead. “I assume the other person is in casualty, knowing your fiery temper.”
“What’s she doing here?’ Sophie was sneering. Jonathan blushed.
“She’s just leaving. I’ll explain later.” Jonathan ushered Angie out of the flat and closed the door.
“Where did you get that bruise? Are you alright?” Jonathan almost touched the injury with his finger but Sophie ducked under his arm.
“I’ll explain later.” She went to the bathroom. Jonathan fixed himself another gin and tonic and sat back in the armchair. He looked at the rough manuscript of Molly’s book lying on the floor beside him. The call from an interested publishing agent earlier had encouraged him and raised his spirits. But it seemed to be a pattern in his life that as soon as something good happened something else was waiting in the wings to give him a surprise kick in the arse. He looked at Molly’s name on the front of the book and realized that there was an opportunity for Sophie to move out of their flat and into Molly’s old place. They would still be close but living independently. It might just work. He would have to choose his words with care to sell the idea to Sophie properly. But would £100,000 be enough to sever links with Angie forever? If he wrote the cheque, would there be a guarantee that she would not keep returning for more and more handouts? He had little doubt that he would relish getting rid of her from his life once and for all, but he could not make that decision on behalf of Sophie. She would have to come to terms with not seeing her mother – her biological mother, as the crime shows emphasise – ever again. The explanations and discussions over the next few hours between father and daughter would be blunt and bruising.