Chapter 7

(i) Gordon leaves

Gordon phoned me next evening just as I was getting the place tidy before Sophie’s arrival.  His news was that Emily had allowed him back into the flat and that everything was hunky dory again – he said making up had been so passionate it almost made the break-up worth it.  He didn’t apologise for messing up my week or for his drunken behaviour but that’s not his way.  He was very complimentary about Sophie and thought Chakka was simply stunning, even though, as he put it, she was black.  

“Wow”, he said, “you certainly know how to pick them.”

 He said he been invited to go sailing with Bruce and one of his friends in June on a 46 foot Bavaria yacht and that he would try to wangle a space for me too.  I said I’d really appreciate that.  It was nice to hear from him and I was relieved he wouldn’t be dependent on me again in the near future.

I didn’t tell Gordon, because it’s too early to share it, but I think I’m in love.  I feel so happy.  I’ve never felt this way before about anybody.  At least I don’t think I have.  I was pretty keen on Laura before my torn artery problem and I have to admit I was wild about Chakka early on.  But I’m sure this is different.  Sophie and I have made love very successfully.  After each time I have felt strong and manly and Sophie has appeared to be completely abandoned and has told me she has never enjoyed sex so much and I don’t think she’s saying that just for my benefit.  I firmly believe that the intimacy a couple have when there’re making love is an indicator of how they feel about each other.  If they are singing from the same hymn sheet and are so aware of the other person that they both reach an uplifting climax that means they have a good loving relationship.  That’s why I believe I’m in love.  That’s not to say I don’t have qualms about the future.  We come from such different places we will each have to compromise in lots of ways if we’re going to make a success of this romance.  I’ve yet to meet Sophie’s father and from what she’s told me about him that could be tricky.  He’s an ardent capitalist and active member of the Tory party.  He’s separated from his wife and lives with his ‘fancy woman’ as Sophie calls her.  Sophie may reject a lot of what he stands for and think my way of life wonderful but I’m not sure if that’s not just because she wants her independence; to escape from her overbearing father.  When she’s done that she may find that actually her beliefs and way of life are actually not that different from her father’s and nothing like mine.

And I question my own motives.  Is it Sophie that I find attractive or the glamour of her life style?  I enjoy being driven around in a nice car and being the envy of others.  I’ve just been invited to David Cannon’s 50th birthday bash and it sounds as if it’s going to be quite an occasion, probably more glamorous than any experience in my life to date.  I’m looking forward to being served champagne, followed by gourmet food and fine wines.  Not something I get everyday or ever have before if I’m honest.  I’m concerned that I will be sucked in by this good living and become a capitalist myself.   

Anyway it’s early days in the relationship and I shouldn’t be crossing bridges that maybe don’t exist.  We may not even have a long-term future so I have to learn to just enjoy what we’ve got while it’s good.

I finished work today and it’s back to college tomorrow.  I enjoyed my job, I’ve earned over a grand and if I hadn’t worked there I wouldn’t have met Sophie.  Anyway now I must concentrate on my finals.  I will have to warn Sophie that I will need to do some serious revision over the next few weeks and that I won’t be able to see her as often we have been doing and as I (and hopefully she) would like.  I think I’ll have to restrict it to just twice a week and then perhaps we can FaceTime each other after 23:00 on the other nights. I’m seeing her shortly and then on Saturday for her father’s 50th bash.  It’s not going to be easy to concentrate on my studies as my thoughts keep drifting to Sophie and our relationship.  It’s difficult to think of anything else.

(ii) Sophie takes Tim to David’s 50th

When I was younger I used to keep putting things off and I’m not much better now, hopeless at facing up to difficult situations. I still haven’t introduced Tim and Dad and it’s Dad’s 50th birthday celebration this Saturday. I know they will have to meet if Tim and I are going to have a future together but I’m anxious as they seem so different. Dad’s brash, single minded, a bit of a bully if I’m honest and Tim is anything but any of these. He’s modest, self-depreciating and gentle.  He’s not bothered about the trappings of wealth whereas Dad is. If he doesn’t have a new Roller every two years he worries people will think he’s not the success he was. Yes, I suppose that’s the biggest difference, the way they measure success. Tim thinks you’re successful if you have a well-rounded personality, if you’re kind and generous. Dad measures his in possessions that show he’s wealthy.

I’m not proud to still be living at home at 19 when most of my school friends live away from home and I know our home won’t be to Tim’s taste. It’s flashy although impressive to start with as the setting is so stunning.  You go up a long drive past trees and shrubs and the tennis court. Opposite this is the house and you can see over the top, as it’s a bungalow, to the old mill lake, with trees around it and some lovely reed beds. Inside is completely different, tasteless and brash. The kitchen’s nice, big with granite work surfaces, very modern. Tracey got Dad to renew it very recently and she’s got good taste but the lounge hasn’t been touched and is frankly awful, vast with trendy uncomfortable sofas, marble topped coffee tables, a huge painting on one wall of a lady with a blue face and another wall that’s completely glass overlooking a swimming pool. The whole effect is ostentatious, bright and sterile. Dad and Tracey’s bedroom is in the same vein and  I’m worried what Tim will make of it all.

Anyway the problem is that its Dad’s celebration and Tim has been invited and Dad wants to meet him.   I’m concerned what Dad will make of Tim’s hippy appearance and laid back manner. I’m even worried whether Tim will own a suit.

Dad’s planned a huge event in a hotel where they host large parties. All the staff from his business are invited, as are our family and there are a few others as well.  I think it’s the Mayor, her husband and the local Tory MP and his wife. He’d loved to have invited some really famous personalities but because he’s spent all his time working he doesn’t really know any.

The evening started with drinks at home for the family and then we were taken in a stretch limo to the hotel. Tim arrived dead on time and looked very smart in a light grey suit. I should have given him more credit instead of worrying. I introduced him to the family, Dad, Tracey, Craig, my brother, Jacqui, his girlfriend, Tom and Susan, my uncle and aunt and my cousins Nicola and Alisa. Mr Billington, the bank manager, his wife. Mr Davies, the accountant, and his wife arrived together a bit later.

“What an amazing setting for a house.” Tim said diplomatically to my Dad.

“Do you think so?  It’s lovely isn’t it,” Dad beamed. “So you’re Sophie’s new young man. You’ve certainly been putting a smile on her face these past weeks.”

“Well I think she’s been putting a smile on my face too.”

Dad didn’t seem nonplussed by Tim’s long hair and made a lot of the fact that Tim was at college when introducing him. In fact I was amazed at how well they seemed to gel.

We were taken in a coach to a country house with a huge ballroom that was filled with about 20 tables each laid out with 8 places, each setting with 3 glasses.  It looked very impressive.  There was a top table on a raised stage which is where we were told to sit. I sat between Dad and Tim. Aunt Susan and cousin Nicola were next to Tim. Tracey, Craig, Jacqui, Uncle Tom and Alisa sat on Dad’s left.

The food was excellent and the conversation seemed to flow. Then it was time for Dad’s speech, he always gave speeches when he had the chance. This one was actually quite good and his jokes went down well. I went to the loo after that and when I came back I got a bit jealous because Tim was sitting next to Tracey and seemed to be getting on extremely well with her. Stupid of me though, I’m sure Tim wouldn’t fancy someone her age, would he?

Mr brother, Craig, got really drunk and his girlfriend, Natalie had to help him outside, I presume, to be sick. He often disgraces himself at public events at the moment. I think he finds it hard, being Dad’s son. People expect something special from him but he’s only a lad trying to find his feet. I was disappointed though that he and Tim didn’t spend any time together.

Tim said he’d enjoyed the evening, the food, the glamour and Dad’s speech but he thought the entertainment was crap.  It was crap – two men with enormous hats covering their whole heads, arms and shoulders and bare torsos painted so their nipples were their eyes and their navels their mouths did a strange dance routine.  Then there was a huge overweight man who obviously fancied himself who sang “Old Man River” and a few other similar numbers.

Tim was quite well gone in the stretch limo on the way back and I don’t think I was completely sober.   Everyone was talking at full volume, as they do when they’ve had a bit to drink, but Tim and I just cuddled.  When we arrived back home and spilled into the lounge Dad was in his loud, domineering frame of mind so Tim and I escaped upstairs as soon as we could. I suggested he stop the night as obviously he couldn’t drive home.  I had an ensuite bedroom with a king size bed.  Our little intimacy in the stretch limo had obviously turned him on and we had a very passionate lovemaking session before we both fell asleep exhausted.  I was very, very happy and so relieved that at last Tim and Dad had met. 

The next hurdle is meeting Tim’s family.  I’m just worried they’ll think me as just a empty-headed rich girl.  They sound so earnest.

(iii) Tim meets Sophie’s family

I dug out my only suit, one I’d had for Teresa and Jock’s wedding, polished my shoes, ironed a shirt and generally spruced myself up for David Cannon’s birthday bash.  I definitely felt overdressed on the public bus on the way to their house on the outskirts of a local village. The house was in a wonderful setting by a lake up a tree-lined drive.  It wasn’t too bad from the outside as it was single storey with lots of glass but inside it was nouveau-riche personified.  All the furniture was flash, white leather sofas, white marble-topped coffee and occasional tables with gold trimming, hideous modern art on the walls and all offset with a shaggy PURPLE (yes it shouted) carpet.  One wall was glass overlooking an illuminated swimming pool.

A tall, imposing, overweight man with a champagne glass in one hand answered the door.

“Welcome, young man,” he intoned, thrusting out his right hand, “you must be Tim, my daughter Sophie’s young man.”

“Thank you and happy birthday,” I said as we shook hands, “we meet at last.”

Sophie then appeared and kissed me on both cheeks.  She was dressed for the occasion in a rich girls outfit.  What I mean by that is a dress that’s designed to impress with its expensiveness rather than to flatter.  I guessed she’d chosen that for her father’s benefit as she hadn’t worn clothes like that for our dates.  The three of us went through into the main room where the other guests were.

“You look nice,” she said to me, pulling me away from her father, “come and meet my brother, Craig.  Sorry Dad, I didn’t mean to interrupt.  Oh you need a drink; come and we’ll get you some champagne.”

Craig was not as tall as his father but nevertheless still cut an imposing figure.  He was very welcoming but I didn’t really take to him.  I thought he seemed insincere. His lady friend, Jacqui, though was very good-looking although heavily made up and too flashy for my liking and she seemed brighter than Craig.  I do judge people on first appearances and I’m often wrong.  But now I’m going out with Sophie I must get on with her family. I must give them the benefit of the doubt and be glad that they were friendly to me.

Sophie then took me round and introduced me to her step-mother, Tracey, her aunt and uncle and her cousins.  It was lovely because she was obviously proud of me and wanted to show me off.  There were a few more people there who Sophie said were business associates of her father, his bank manager and his accountant and their wives.

After a couple of glasses of champagne I’d begun to relax.  I’d been quite keyed up before, worried that my long hair would make people judge me and that my clothes wouldn’t be good enough but everyone had been very friendly.  I had the feeling that because they could sense how happy Sophie was they automatically accepted me, whatever my appearance.  

“The limo is here,” Craig shouted, and we all trouped outside into the twilight.  A blackbird was singing away and I marvelled at the beauty of the setting.  I noticed a tennis court beside the house, close to the water’s edge and an extensive reed bed to the left of it.  Sophie and I were first on and sat in the front seats just behind the driver.

The limo journey took about half an hour through the Cheshire countryside.  The destination was an old country house hotel with a large extension at the back.  We were let off just by an imposing front entrance.  We walked through a wood-panelled hallway with a grand staircase leading up to a minstrel gallery into a large room set with tables already occupied with, what Sophie told me later, employees of Cannon Pet Supplies and their wives.  They all stood up and clapped as we went in.  We were directed to a table set higher on a sort of stage at one end of the room.  I was told to sit between Sophie and her aunt Susan.

We were served a magnificent meal.  I chose avocado and prawns for a starter and rack of lamb for my main course.  They were both delicious.  David Cannon had a fillet steak as a second main and insisted a growing lad like me needed more so I had one as well, before going onto creme caramel and cheese and biscuits.  I also managed white wine with my starter, red wine with my two mains and port with my cheese.   

Towards the end of the meal, whilst we were being served coffee David Cannon made a speech.  By then he was quite drunk, though probably not as drunk as I was.  He said a bit about how he’d come up from humble beginnings to where he was today through his own hard work:

“People say how luck I am.  I tell them you make your own luck.”  

He said how fortunate he’d been to have come from a loving family, how that had given him the confidence to take the risks he’d had to take to make Cannon Pet Supplies the success it was.  He then went on to say that a lot of the success of the business was due to the hard work of his employees and he singled out a couple of names of people who’d worked with him since the start of the business.

All in all I thought it was an excellent speech and what impressed me more about the man was that after the speech he went from table to table, shaking the hands and chatting to each and every one of the guests.  I could see a couple of people down there that I’d met in the fortnight I’d worked there but didn’t feel inclined to join them.  Instead I leant across Sophie and asked Jacqui what she did for a living.  Apparently she was a model who worked for Tracey.  I hadn’t cottoned on before that Tracey had a modelling agency, although I remembered that Sophie had told me that Tracey had been a successful model when she was younger.

After the meal I was moved and ended up next to Tracey. I found her good company although quite nosy, wanting to know about my family in some detail.  She seemed particularly interested in my parent’s way of life and said that that way of life had always interested her.  I noticed that Sophie was looking agitated and sensed that she was feeling a bit left out.  She had sat next to her dad but he seemed to be talking motor racing to Craig across Jacqui so she just had his back for company.  I did my best to involve her in the conversation.

On the coach back I was sat across the isle from Craig and tried talking cars with him as I’d worked out that was a big interest of his.   He wasn’t very forthcoming and anyway it was difficult to make conversation as the noise level was so high. Sophie wanted to kiss and cuddle which was much more enticing.

When we got back to her house she asked me to stay with her and we went to her bedroom straight from the limo.  I thought I should have thanked her father and said good night to everyone but Sophie just pulled me away.  Her bedroom was cosy and modern, in much better taste, thankfully, than the parts of the rest of the house I’d seen.  There was an ensuite shower and Sophie suggested we had a shower together before going to bed.  She had an amazing body which I was only just starting to appreciate.  

We managed a bit of lovemaking before we fell asleep.  I was happy that the evening had gone as well as I could have hoped. And I’d finally met Sophie’s family.  I had wondered if she was too ashamed of me and was hiding me away.  Now it’s her turn to meet my folks.