Thursday, 28 February 2008

Episode 16 - Time spent playing is never wasted

‘Granny can we go in the pool please?’ asked Olivia as she passes the breakfast dishes to me for loading into the dishwasher.

‘I thought that you might like to go the beach today. Would you like Granny to help you build a sandcastle?’ I ask Grace as I lift her down from the work top. She’s been having great fun stirring the jam pot, apparently, she tells me, it makes the jam really sticky and she loves sticky jam. Judging by the amount of the strawberry jam on her face I don’t doubt it.

But Granny,’ says Olivia looking very solemn in a big sister kind of way ‘I promised Mummy that we would practice our swimming every day’

‘I’m sure that Mummy won’t mind, she wants you to do fun things as well’ looking at Olivia’s worried little face I add hastily ‘so why don’t we do both. We can have the morning at the seaside and then later when the weather is a bit cooler we can all have some swimming practice’

Olivia pondering the compromise for a minute then nods sagely ‘Grace likes the seaside, so maybe we should go’

If I didn’t know better I’d think that Olivia was frightened of upsetting her Mum, surely not. Sophie only wants what’s best for the girls. I’m just not convinced that she knows what the best is. Why does she think for example that the girls should only spend time doing sensible things like swimming practice or French lessons? Doesn’t she realise that children need time to play, make sandcastles and have fun. I’d love to think that if she could stop worrying about work for just one day and come to the beach with us we could all have a lovely time together. After all it isn’t just children who need to have fun, some adults could do with a lesson in letting go and being silly every now and again.

I know that Sophie’s career is important to her and I admire the way that she seams to be able to juggle the demands of her job with being a wife and Mum. It can’t be easy and I worry that maybe she is trying to do too much, but unless she starts putting some quality time aside for the girls they’ll have grown up before she has had a chance to enjoy them being little. They are at that wonderful age where every thing is new and exciting and if Sophie isn’t careful she’ll have missed it.

There’s plenty of time when they’re at home for swimming practice, not now when they’re on holiday. This week is a time for paddling and ice cream, picnics of sandy sandwiches and cricket on the beach.

Damn Sophie, if she wants her daughters to have swimming practice every day she can get in pool with them herself and not expect me to be the one who has to alter my plans to suit her. If she wanted a Nanny to look after Olivia and Grace while they are in Spain she should have brought Mary.


Sitting under the dappled shade of one of the few trees that edge this beautiful beach and watching the girls building sandcastles with two the little Spanish boys they’ve befriended I sigh contentedly. This reminds me so much of Sophie and Ella when they were this age. We used to spend hours on the beach finding shells and racing down to the waters edge to collect water for the moat that I would dig around their lopsided sandcastles.

While the girls are playing happily I take the opportunity to look again at my party checklist and make a mental note to phone the golf club later. Everybody has now replied to the party invitations so I can tell the club chef to cater for 150 for the finger buffet. The cake is being delivered to the club on Saturday morning and the florist supplying the table flowers and balloons has confirmed the order. The only thing I have to do is to collect the watch that I have bought for his present. I’ve had it engraved, With All My Love

I do love him, I know that might sound strange after what happened with Paolo the other week, but I really do. I can’t imagine what life would be like without Martin. We have our differences sure, and the past couple of months have been difficult. And I’ll admit that maybe I have become a bit set in my ways since we moved out here but then again Martin isn’t the easiest man in the world to live with.

This week with Sophie and the girls has been the wake up call that I’ve needed. I haven’t had time to worry about what Martin is up to in London or even time to worry about that day with Paolo. I’m not in denial, I know what Paolo and I did was wrong but it was a one off and we both know that it will never happen again not because we don’t have the opportunity but because I don’t want it to.

I’m determined that Martin is going to have a wonderful birthday surrounded by his family. And afterwards when the party is over and the girls have gone home I want us to spend some time together, like the old days. I’ve made up my mind to ask him to cut back on his work and spend less time in London. Let’s face it, money isn’t everything. Our marriage is more important to me than how much we have in the bank. With the investments Martin’s made over the years and if we sold the flat in London I’m sure that we would have more than enough for a very comfortable life together.

So that’s the plan, a party to remember and the chance for us to start planning a new life together. Martin isn’t going to know what’s hit him….

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Episode 15 - Love hurts

From my vantage point behind the barrier in the Arrivals Hall, I can see the passengers from the Stanstead flight coming through from the baggage hall. I can’t believe that Sophie and the girls haven’t come through yet. It’s not like Sophie to be at the back of a queue. Maybe I should check the fight number on the Arrivals Board, I’d feel a right fool if I’ve met the wrong flight.

Yes I was right, that was their flight, so where are they? Maybe they missed the fight or maybe one of the girls has had an accident. Don’t panic, if they don’t appear soon just go and find somebody to ask if they can look for them.

Oh, thank goodness, here they are now. ‘Darlings, where have you been? I thought that you’d missed the plane’

‘Hello Granny, the silly men lost our luggage’ gabbled Olivia running through the barrier towards me with Grace not far behind her.

‘Darling how awful haven’t they found them yet’ I ask bending down to scoop up my granddaughters.

‘No Mum quite obviously they haven’t’ snapped Sophie carrying only her hand luggage. ‘It was chaos at check in. I’m not surprised that cases go missing. I don’t know how Dad copes with these budget airlines every week’

‘Sophie I am so sorry’ I say putting my arm around my daughter’s shoulder ‘Let’s get you out of here and I’ll make some phone call when we get to the villa’

‘Mum please stop fussing’ said Sophie, shrugging away from me. ‘The official in the baggage hall has tracked down the cases and is arranging to get them here tomorrow. So I suppose I’ll just have to come all the way back and collect them.’

Fussing, how can it be fussing when all I want to do is help? ‘I’ll come back tomorrow and pick them up for you if you want’

‘There’s no need Mum, I’ve just said that I will come back for the cases; you can stay at the villa and look after the girls’ snapped Sophie.

Doesn’t Sophie realise that all I’m trying to do is help. I know that Martin would probably have taken control of the whole situation in about five minutes but he’s not here, so she stuck with fussy old Mum.

I know that it’s not fashionable any more but all I ever wanted, after Martin and I married, was to be a Mum. I couldn’t wait to have babies and when the girls were little was the happiest time of my life. I thought that I had such a perfect little family, two beautiful girls and a loving husband.

I suppose that Sophie and I started drifting apart when she was a teenager. Sophie was serious even then and had worked so hard in school. She always wanted to go to a good University and was determined to pass her Oxbridge exams. Looking back, I think that was probably when all her relationships began to suffer. It wasn’t easy for her to study for such long hours and keep friends who wanted to go out and have fun. One by one they stopped calling and soon Sophie stopped going out altogether.

Martin couldn’t understand why I was worried about her. After all she was working hard at school and doing well at her exams. He wanted the best for her, the best University, the best job, and I wanted those things too but I also wanted her to go out with her friends have fun. But it seemed Sophie didn’t need friends and she certainly didn’t need me.

Looking at her now, striding towards the Exit doors leaving me to gather up Olivia and Grace I feel more like her Nanny. Doesn’t she realise that all I want is to look after my family and do the best I can for them. I know that she thinks of me as relic from the past who couldn’t possibly be fulfilled as a woman by being just a housewife and mother, but what she doesn’t realise is, that’s what I want to be. And what’s wrong with that.

After making sure that Olivia and Grace are safely strapped into their car seats, I carefully drive out of the airport. Sophie wastes no time in telling me how she will have to spend a few hours each day working on her big American contract.

‘But Sophie it’s been so long since you’ve had a holiday, don’t you think that you deserve a rest from work?’ I know that I’m pleading but this really is too much, even for Sophie.

There will be plenty of time for holidays when I make partner’ said Sophie ‘besides I thought you were looking forward to spending time with your granddaughters’

‘Yes, of course I am, but I was looking forward to having time with my daughters as well’ I say gritting my teeth.

‘Ella will here on Friday and I’m hoping that I will have most of my work done by then so you will have us both for a whole weekend’

‘A whole weekend’ I say, trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice for the sake of the little ones, ‘I was hoping that it could be for longer’

‘Are you sure Mum? You know how argumentative Ella can be’.

Glancing across at my eldest daughter sitting upright in the passenger seat next to me, I can’t believe that she could have said that about Ella without a trace of irony.

As we head inland towards the village driving through the farmland that runs through along the plain, Olivia and Grace squeal with delight as we pass a group of young boys jumping from the newly mown hay which has been stacked at the edge of a field. Thank goodness they seem happy to be happy to be on holiday even if their Mother looks like she would rather be anywhere else but here.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Episode 14 - A nice day for a drive

With the voucher for her Dad’s flying lessons safely tucked into her shoulder bag, Ella drove out of the small airfield and made her back to the motorway.

Although she was still angry with Sophie for expecting her drive down to Kent on her day off but with the sun shining and Steve Wright’s Sunday love songs on the radio she had to grudgingly admit that she had enjoyed the drive down to the airfield. It’d made a nice change to have something other than work to think about.

The last few months in work had been frantic. With the all the government cut backs everybody was now responsible for twice as many clients as they were a year ago. There just wasn't enough hours in the day to get all the work done. During the week she was spending so long out of the office on casework that she was spending her precious weekends just catching up with all the paperwork.

Ella hadn't been naive. She knew that being a Social Worker in London would be demanding but she'd be the first to admit that coming straight from University in Bristol to full time work in London, had been a shock to the system.
Ella had been thrilled when after graduating from Bristol she had found a job straight away. A lot of her friends had taken months to get their first placement. She knew that she was lucky but it didn't stop her from feeling tired.

What I need, she thought, is a holiday. Maybe while I’m in Spain I could hire a car and take off for a few days after the party. I probably just need a break, let's face it I don’t even go out of an evening after work any more. My last night out must have been about two months ago and that was with my Dad. The problem is every thing is just so expensive in London. By the time I’ve paid my rent and filled the car with petrol, I don’t have a lot left over.

It was at times like this that Ella wondered to herself how different her life would have been if she had still been with Jake. They had met in their first year at University and in the hot house atmosphere of Halls their relationship had quickly blossomed. When for their second year they had to look accommodation off campus, it had seemed the most natural thing in the world to move in together.

Their parents had naturally worried that they were getting too serious too quickly, but Ella and Jake weren't worried, after all they were in love, what could possibly go wrong.

Ella looked back now to those days with fondness and a certain longing for the feeling of contentment that only young love can bring. The fact that they were permanently broke didn’t worry them; all their friends were in the same boat. Their pleasures were simple, a walk in the park on a sunny Autumn morning, a bottle of cheap wine shared with friends by the river in the summer and curling up on the tatty rug by their two bar electric fire on a cold winter’s night.

Jake’s business degree had meant that he had to spend a year in Industry. Ella knew now that she had been fooling herself when she thought that he would look for a placement in Bristol. Jake had set his sights at the top and when he had been offered a year with a big American accountancy firm in New York, he had jumped at the chance.

The bright lights of the Big Apple soon made Jake realise what he wanted from life. Money and power were a lot more exciting than a draughty flat in St Pauls. His emails to Ella became less frequent as the months went by, his work was his priority now, he explained. Ella had met him at Heathrow Airport when he had flown back for the Christmas holidays knowing in her heart of hearts that they were over.

The drive back to Bristol had been awkward, neither of them wanting to admit the obvious, that after only three months apart they had very little left in common.

The atmosphere in the flat over the Christmas and New Year holiday had been strained and it was with a sense of relief on both their parts that they had agreed to split up.

Now three years later Ella still had the occasional email from Jake. After graduating he had returned to a full time position with the American company. He had found a room to rent in a colleague’s apartment in Queens and was now dating a very glamorous girl that he had met at work. Ella was happy for him, she wished him well with a life that she knew was not for her. There was no way that she could have been happy being a corporate flunky.

But occasionally, just now and again, she wondered what her life would have been like if he had been prepared to change direction and look for work in England, instead of moving over to America. They could have had a good life together, she thought, or was that just wishful thinking?

Who am I trying to kid, she thought to herself, Jake would never have put up with having a poorly paid Social Worker for a girlfriend.

‘Love me, love my job’, she laughed to herself as she drove down her street looking for the illusive parking space outside her block of flats.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Episode 13 - The Perfect Daughter

Sophie sighed as she put down the phone. Why does Mum always have to make life so complicated? All I wanted was for her to arrange Dad’s present with Ella. At least she seems to have everything under control for the party, thought Sophie, but then again it isn’t as if she has anything else to do.

Getting up from the desk in her study, Sophie paused by the large mirror on the landing. Not bad she thought, running her fingers lightly through her newly cut hair, thank goodness this new hairdresser had been an improvement on the last one. That silly girl hadn’t understood the simplest of instructions. It wasn’t rocket science, a trim, highlights, low lights and a blow dry, how hard could it be? Walking along the landing, she was replacing her earring as she heard the front door open.

‘Hello darlings, did you have a good day in school?’ she called to her daughters as she made her way down the stairs.

‘Yes Mummy, Mary took us to Regents Park to see the ducks on the way home but Grace was stung by a huge wasp and cried and cried’ gabbled her oldest daughter Olivia. Olivia always wanted to be the first with any news, no matter how gruesome.

‘Let me see darling’ said Sophie lifting Grace’s arm to see the red welt glowing just above her elbow. ‘Oh you are a brave little girl that looks sore’

‘Mary put cream on it and made it better Mummy’ Olivia announced

‘That’s good darling. Now off you both pop and wash your hands’ said Sophie distractedly as she patted Grace’s head and looked around the hall for her briefcase.

‘Do you mind staying in this evening Mary? Asked Sophie, turning from her search to look at the children’s latest Nanny. ‘Alistair isn’t due home until eight o’clock and I have a meeting at five thirty.

‘Not at all Miss, no problem’ said Mary.

Thank God this one doesn’t have a boyfriend that she wants to rush out to every night, Sophie mused, the last girl was an absolute nightmare.

‘Did you want me to take the girls to their French class as well?’

‘Oh flip, forgot about the French class. Would you be a dear and take them, I won’t have time before my meeting.’ said Sophie.

Mary stood at the kitchen door watching Sophie as she rushed into the study to find her bag. ‘I have my mobile if you need to get me urgently but I am sure that you will be able to cope. Bye-bye darlings, Mummy has to go to work now. I’ll see you both tomorrow’

‘Bye bye Mummy’ called the girls from the top of the stairs to Sophie’s back as she rushed out of the front door.

‘Come on girls, milk and cookies before your French class, otherwise you might faint with hunger’ laughed Mary as Olivia and Grace raced into the kitchen.

They are such good girls, thought Mary. If I was their Mum I would want to be at home with them of evening, never mind sending them to all these after school classes. Swimming, French, music, gym and ballet there wasn’t one day of the week when they could come home from school and just relax.

Picking up her cavernous shoulder bag Mary sighed and said ‘If you’ve finished your snack we’d better get a move on. So best foot forward young ladies, it’s time to parle vous francais’

‘Oui mademoiselle’ giggled Olivia.

‘Oui oui mam sill’ stuttered Grace as they followed Mary out of the house.


Sophie sat at the traffic lights on the Edgware Road and seethed. She had planned this afternoon out so well. She’s arranged to work from home so that she wouldn’t get called into an unexpected meeting in the office. She’d even scheduled in the phone call to her Mother out in Spain still leaving her with plenty of time to get across London for her meeting with the Americans. Sophie prided herself on her ability to organise her life down to the last minute but all the planning in the world wouldn’t make the traffic in London move any faster.

She was determined that nothing should go wrong with this meeting, it meant far too much to her career. Getting a partnership with the firm before her thirtieth birthday would be a fitting reward for all the hours she had given to Crabtree and Wright. It was time she knew that she should have been spending with Alistair and the girls. But all the sacrifices would be worth it when she could look at that five figure salary in her bank account.

With the annual bonus the promotion would bring, she knew that she would at last be able to afford a smart little summer house in Tuscany. Alistair had been hinting for ages that they should be looking for a bolt hole somewhere. Somewhere they would all be able to spend quality time together. Tuscany was just the place, thought Sophie. Lots of their friends had places out there. Plenty of sunshine and quaint little mountain villages to explore and with internet access she could still be in touch with the office, it would be perfect.

This deal with the Americans could do it for her. If she managed to pull it off the partners wouldn’t have any excuse for not promoting her.

Simon Crabtree himself hadn’t been able to convince the Texans that Crabtree and Wright would be able to provide all their investment banking needs in London. It was only when Sophie had taken over the negotiations that they had started taking the deal seriously and she was determined that Amtex Inc would be signing the contract tonight.

Finally pulling off from the lights Sophie took a shortcut that she knew came out behind Selfridges. She was determined that three months of hard work was not going to be wasted because of the chaotic traffic in London.

At five twenty Sophie parked her Audi coupe in the underground car park at Hyde Park and dodging the rush hour traffic, ran across Park Lane to the Dorchester Hotel.

Sophie entered the hotel lobby, made it she thought, with 2 minutes to spare. But then her heart sank when she saw that of Amtex’s more junior accountants was already standing there waiting for her. Damn, she had been hoping to arrive in time to prepare herself properly for the meeting, so much for Ken Livingstone reducing traffic congestion in London she seethed.

‘Sophie, good to see you’ Tom Allen walked towards her. ‘Mr Wegryn is waiting for you. Would you follow me please?’

Sophie followed Allen into the lift and glancing at the mirrored walls quickly straightened her jacket and smoothed back her hair. ‘Lead on Tom’ she said smiling at her reflection, let battle commence.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Episode 12 - In a spot of bother?

Fresh from her shower and dressed in a pale grey Marc Jacobs business suit, Laura walked into the small kitchen as Martin was pouring the freshly squeezed orange juice.

Martin turned to hand her the glass ‘How do you manage to look so beautiful on so little sleep’ he asked

‘Just lucky I suppose’ she answered while at the same time checking for messages on her mobile phone. ‘I’ve been thinking’ she continued turning to help herself to a warm croissant from the basket ‘why don’t I have a word with Tony for you. I’m sure he would be happy to arrange a loan for you and he knows that you are good for the money’

Tony Eagleton was a big player in the City and Laura’s boss at the Investment Company she worked for in Bishopsgate. This could be the chance Martin needed to get his accounts back in order. The only problem was Tony had a reputation in the square mile that wasn’t as squeaky clean as he liked to make out.

‘Do you think that Tony would be interested?’ asked Martin nervously as he walked Laura to the front door

‘I can only ask the question sweetie. I’ll let you know what he says when I see you later. Are we still meeting up for lunch today?’

‘Of course darling, the table is booked, Lay and Wheeler’s at one o’clock. I’ll be tied up on the phone all morning, so if it’s OK with you I’ll meet you there’

‘Yes, no problem’ Laura answered distractedly as she slipped into her new red patent Christian Louboutin pumps, ‘I’ll see you later.’ and kissing him on the cheek, she picked up her car keys from the hall table and left for work.

Martin spent the rest of the morning on the phone with his clients, smoothing furrowed brows and trying his best to reassure them that this dip in the commodity market was only temporary.

At twelve thirty exhausted from the strain, Martin decided to walk through to the restaurant in Leadenhall Market to try to clear his head.

He knew that he had bought himself a couple weeks grace with his biggest clients. He’d managed to convince them to keep hold of their investments until the end of the month when he was sure the markets would be showing signs of recovery. All he needed now was the promise of a short term loan from Tony to keep the auditors happy and he would be OK. At least until his fees started coming in.

As Martin made his way through the crowded restaurant he spotted Tony standing alone at the bar with a bottle of Bollinger and two glasses.

‘Martin old chap, Laura sends her apologies, can’t make lunch I’m afraid, tied up with a client’ Tony laughed ‘Afraid you are stuck with me old chum’

As their table was called Tony strode ahead through the dining hall calling greetings and shaking hands with what seemed like half the diners before settling himself at the table.

‘We won’t bother with the menus John’ he called to the Maitre d’ ‘Just send us my usual two dozen oysters if you please’

Tony smiled as he poured more champagne into Martin’s glass ‘Now then old chap, a dickey bird tells me that you have got yourself into a spot of bother’

‘Only temporarily Tony, I’m looking for £250k to be repaid at the end of the month’

‘Trouble at the tables I believe’

‘Well partly’ agreed Martin ‘but the downturn in the markets hasn’t helped’

‘I’m sure it hasn’t’ smirked Tony ‘But how can I be sure that my loan would be safe. How do you intend honouring the debt?’

‘As soon as I bill my clients for their quarterly fees I will be able to repay you in full’

‘Sound good old chum, but what if your clients are tardy in settling their bills, what do you have as collateral?’

‘The villa in Spain is probably worth about 1.5 million euros now and the apartment in Southwark has doubled in value since I bought it and that’s without the equity in my business. So you see I am good for the money in the long term. It’s only a short term loan I’m looking for’

‘Why not approach your bank?’

‘I’d like to keep my bank out of this for the moment. Fliss would have to sign any loan agreement on the business and I don’t want to have to worry her’

‘Ah yes, the lovely Fliss, I hear that she is out in Spain full time now’

‘Yes she loves the life out there’ Martin looked at Tony and wondered where this conversation was going. How much did Tony know about him and Laura?

‘Rather a good cook if I remember. Well old chum, I am happy to transfer the funds through to you. Maybe you could pop into the office after lunch and sign the necessary. Just one thing though, only a technicality but I do have to keep the board happy, shall we say that you are putting the villa up as security. As I say purely a technicality’

Martin was stunned, ‘Tony, you know that I am good for the money’

‘Yes old thing, I’m sure there won’t be any problems, but as I say, I have to keep the board happy’.

Martin knew that Tony answered to no man but in the circumstances what could he do. If he didn’t get the money soon it could mean the end to everything. ‘Yes Tony, I understand, thank you’

* * *

Laura stood looking out at the City sky line from Tony’s office on the 10th floor.

‘Sweet as a nut, you were right my dear, he is desperate for the money. Good old Martin has been a naughty boy’ Tony stood behind her with his arms around her waist. ‘This time next month if all goes according to plan we should have a nice little bolt hole in Spain’

‘Poor Martin’ said Laura as she turned to face Tony ‘It’s true what they say, there’s no fool like an old fool’

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Episode 11 - Back in London

Why, thought Martin, is it always raining as soon as I get off the plane in Stanstead? Does it deliberately wait for me to get back? he grumbled to himself as he made his way to the long stay car park.

He knew it was an extravagance to have a car in London but Martin couldn’t bare the thought of relying on taxis and public transport. It was bad enough being trapped on a Sunday night budget flight with the drunken stag parties without having to endure their company on a train back into London.

Once he was out of the car park and onto the M11 Martin was able to put his foot down and speed off along the motorway. The rain had now subsided into a light drizzle and luckily at nearly midnight, the roads were quiet. Finding Smooth FM on the radio he set the cruise control and settled back to enjoy the drive back to the city.

Martin was glad to be back in London and away from the villa for a week.

The whole weekend had been weird and Fliss had been acting very strangely. Take Friday night for example, he thought, collecting him from the airport and preparing ‘special’ meals. What was that all about? He couldn’t remember the last time she was at the airport to meet him and supper………why would she prepare such a heavy meal when all he ever wanted when he got back was a quiet scotch and an early night. Martin was even more confused when after the Saturday lunch fiasco she had stormed off to god knows where.

And today she had been even more weird than usual. It was as if she was trying to keep out of his way. For heaven’s sake, she had even suggested that he went to the club for a drink before lunch. It was so out of character. She usually had a huge list of jobs for him and plans for dinner with friends or even trips to the coast before he had to get back to London. But this weekend it was as if she couldn’t wait for him to leave.

She couldn’t possibly have found out about Laura, he worried, if she had surely there would have been fireworks. Fliss wasn’t the type to take that kind of news well. There would be tears and recriminations. She would make his life a living hell.

He knew that he just needed a bit more time, a couple of months at most, before telling her that he was leaving. It would be a disaster if Fliss found out about Laura before he had time to sort out the problem he was having with his clients’ account.

Pulling the car into his space in the underground garage, Martin switched off the radio and sat for a moment working out the time difference between London and Japan. Hurriedly, rushing past the temperamental lift, he ran up the back stairs to his apartment. Ignoring the flashing light on his answer machine, Martin wasted no time in firing up his laptop and logging on. If he was quick he might just catch Genichi as he arrived in his office in Tokyo.

Genichi Sato was one of Martin’s biggest clients and over the years Martin’s advice had made Genichi a very wealth man. But like most wealthy men, Genichi knew that the commodity market was a fickle creature. And lately he had been dropping hints that he was considering diversifying his portfolio into something more stable.

A quick look at the opening prices in Tokyo did nothing to reassure Martin. He couldn’t afford to loose another client. His finances just wouldn’t take the strain.

Looking back Martin couldn’t believe how he had got into this situation. It had started off so innocently. He had only intended borrowing from the clients’ account to cover his debt to the casino until he had a chance to send out invoices for his last quarter’s fees.

The problem came when the winter storms had hit the American Mid-West and the volatile pork belly market had dipped. Fearing big losses on their investments, two of his best clients had decided to pull out commodities altogether. With such a dramatic drop in his income, Marin now owed the client account the best part of £250k and if Genichi insisted on liquidating his portfolio as well, Martin knew that he would be in serious trouble.

Despite everything that had happened, Martin hoped that the markets would pick up again soon.

All he had to do now was convince Genichi and his other clients that their money was safe and that they should hold their nerve, and their investments, a little longer.

As he finished typing the mail to Japan his mobile rang

‘I tried your landline but all I heard was your sexy voice on the answering service’ purred Laura into her mobile phone as she walked into the apartment. ‘Welcome home baby………are you sleepy?’

Pressing the send button on his mail, Martin hurriedly closed the laptop ‘Not any more’ he smiled.

* * *

With the early morning sunlight streaming through the open curtains Martin switched off the alarm clock before it woke Laura.

Wrapped in a bath towel after his shower he sat on the edge of the bed and watched Laura as she smiled in her sleep. Gently stroking her tanned arm, Martin knew that he would have to sort himself out fast.

He was running out of time. His accounts were due to be audited next week and if he couldn’t make up the shortfall, he was in serious danger of loosing everything. He knew that he needed to raise the money quickly to have a hope of saving his business.

‘Everything OK sweetie?’ asked Laura as she rubbed the sleep from her almond shaped eyes.

‘Just business stuff darling, nothing for you to worry about’

’But I do worry my love, you look so tired’

‘It’s just that cash flow problem I was telling you about’ Martin was relieved to finally have someone to share his worries with. It wasn’t as if he could share them with Fliss, she would go ballistic if she realised the mess he was in.

‘I just need to find some short term finance to tide me over until I can bill my clients for this quarter’

‘Are we talking big bucks here?’ asked Laura as she walked naked into the bathroom.

‘I’m looking for about £250k’, Martin confessed as he finished dressing.’ But it’ll only be a short term, three weeks maximum should do it’

Stepping into the shower, Laura smiled as she caught sight if her toned golden tanned body in the mirror ’don’t worry darling you’ll find the money, I just know you will’ she called as she lathered the shampoo into her hair.

Standing at the bathroom door watching as Laura stood in the streaming shower, Martin’s shoulders sagged a little as he whispered ‘I hope you’re right my love, for both our sakes’

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Episode 10 - Mobile conversations

Martin loaded his golf clubs into the boot of his black BMW 5 Series and switched on the ignition to lower its soft top. Before backing out of the garage he glanced in the rear view mirror to adjust his wrap around sunglasses and smooth back his hair.

With one arm resting on the open window he pulled smoothly out of the drive and sped off down the hill.
With the evening sun low in the cloudless sky Martin put his foot down and enjoyed the thrill of throwing his new car round the steep hill roads. He raced passed the entrance to the golf club, only stopping when he reached the far side of the village.

Pulling the car into a deserted picnic area at the side of the road, he switched off the engine and took his mobile phone from the glove box.

‘Hi, missing me?’ He purred down the phone.

‘Martin where have you been, I was expecting you to call last night?

‘Laura, my love, I’ve told you before, it is really hard to phone from the villa. When Fliss finds out about us all hell will break loose. I’ve told you what she is like. I just need to get my finances in order so that she doesn’t find some clever lawyer who will start demanding half everything that’s taken me so long to build up.’

‘How can she be so selfish’ Laura complained ‘she has had such an easy ride all these years. While you, my darling, have worked yourself to the bone, providing for her and the girls. And are they grateful, no, its just want, want, want.’ she paused, finally stopping to take a breath. ‘Well the lazy madam will just have to get used to the fact that she is going to have to find a job and work for a living like the rest of us.’

‘All in good time darling, once I have sorted out the little problem I was telling you about I will be in a stronger position financially, and then we will be able to be together all the time.’

‘Oh Martin I miss you so much when you are away. I get so lonely here in London while you are sunning yourself back in Spain’

Martin tried to keep the exasperation form his voice ‘Darling that’s not fair. You know that I’d rather be with you but I have to keeping coming back here so that Fliss doesn’t get suspicious. It won’t be for much longer, I promise, I miss you my darling.’ As much as he loved Laura he sometimes wished that she wasn’t quite so immature. Surely she must realise that he wasn’t in a position to just walk away from everything.

Martin put the mobile back in the glove box and rubbed his hands across his face. Life was getting more and more complicated. It had seemed so perfect when he had met Laura six months ago. He hadn’t been looking for an affair, he had Fliss and the girls after all, but living on his own in London during the week, he was lonely. His networking meant lots of socialising of an evening but later, when he went back to the empty apartment he would look out of the window at the moonlight glinting off the Thames, and long for company, a woman’s company.

Years of going to the gym and playing golf meant that Martin was still slim and healthy. And with very few grey hairs in his short dark hair, he looked far younger than his fifty five years.
Not that life had always been easy. When the girls were little, money had been tight when Fliss had given up work to be a full time Mum. For the first few years they had missed the security of Fliss’ salary from the publishing house where she had worked as a copywriter. But Martin had thrived on the pressure of his work and soon his advice on the machinations of the commodity market was in high demand, especially in the boom years of the eighties. His clients were more than happy to pay his large fees for the very profitable way he handled their investment portfolios.

When he was back in London, Martin still enjoyed being one of the boys and liked to spend his evenings in one of the many City wine bars. The night often ended with him at the roulette table in a small casino off Broad Street. When his luck was in at the tables he would round off the night spending his winnings sitting at the bar with a bottle of champagne and a beautiful young woman for company.

That’s how he had met Laura. She was a friend of one of his clients and had joined them for a drink one evening. At the end of the night they had exchanged mobile numbers and Martin was surprised when she sent him a text the next day to say how much she had enjoyed his company. Over the next few weeks they were texting each other everyday, making plans for when he was in London.

Martin was flattered that Laura had wanted to spend time with him. Life with her was exciting and new. He enjoyed showing her off at the trendy clubs in the West End or at the Casino for supper. After a few weeks he had even given her a key to the apartment. On the rare nights when she didn’t stay over he only needed to close his eyes to remember her tanned supple body curled up next to him.
Having Laura made him feel that his life with Fliss was stale, over.

He had married Fliss while he was still at University and he was only twenty five when Sophie had been born.
He remembered how Fliss had been so beautiful in those days, with her slim figure and long auburn hair. He was the envy of all his friends then, but now, he thought, Fliss had let herself go. She was just boring, settled into the role of being a housewife and mother. She was happy with her committees and fund raising and even the occasional visits to the grandchildren back in London.

But Martin knew that he wanted more than that. He wanted excitement and passion, not middle age and routine.
Laura made him feel young again and as soon as he had sorted out the little problem he was having with his cash flow, he thought, they would be able to start a new life together.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Episode 9 - Gone Fishing

Do you remember at the start of my story, I promised that I would always be honest with you? Well if I'm going to tell you what happened today I should start by saying that when Paolo suggested the fishing trip I knew that he wasn’t looking to catch many fish. It was the way that he lifted me into the boat and very gently set me down on the polished deck that sent shivers down my spine.

There was a cool breeze blowing through my hair as we set off from the jetty. The Mediterranean glistened in the harsh sunlight as our small boat slowly made its way away from the beach and around the headland. After about 10 minutes and surrounded by miles of empty water Paolo stopped the engine and dropped the anchor over the side.

Walking back to where I was sitting he held out his hands to me. Standing in front of him I slowly slipped the straps of my dress down from my shoulders. I held my breath as he stood there, his hands slowly caressed my warm skin. Then he lent forward and pulled me towards him kissing my neck and face before his hot lips found my waiting mouth. My lips throbbed as our kissing became more frenzied and when I thought that I couldn’t bear to wait any longer he took the cushions from the seats and lay them down for me on the deck. Closing my eyes I held him as our bodies moved in time to the gentle rocking of the boat.

Afterwards laying there against the unused fishing nets, quietly watching Paolo getting a bottle of wine from the cooler I realised what I have been missing all these months. I missed the touch of a man's hands on my body and the passion that only love making can bring. For the first time in a very long time I felt alive.

I suppose that I should be ashamed to tell you all this and admit that I wasn't even thinking about Martin or the girls. I just lay back contentedly, still tingling from our unhurried love making, sipping my wine and listening to the sounds of the sea.

With the sun warming my upturned face I felt utterly relaxed and not even a little bit guilty. I knew that I should. I knew that if Martin ever found out it would be the end of our marriage.

Martin wouldn’t be able to stand the thought of me being with anybody else. Let’s face it he mightn’t want me but I am damn sure he wouldn’t anybody else to want me either.

It may sound strange but being here with Paolo has made me regret even more what Martin and I have become. A marriage without love is no marriage at all. I miss the relationship that Martin and I used to have. Not just in the bedroom, I miss the little things that we all take for granted, the hugs at the end of a hard day or even just having him holding my hand when we are walking along.

Don't get me wrong, I don’t regret this afternoon but, and this is a big but, I have realised lying here that I don’t want to wreck my marriage either.

‘Flees, I’m sorry but we should be going back soon, it is getting late and my brother will be waiting for the boat’

‘I know Paolo’ I sighed ‘I suppose that I don't want this afternoon to end. It's just that out here, on the water, everything seems so simple. Out here I am just Fliss, not somebody’s wife or mother’ I turned to look at him ‘I’m just me.

‘We will, how do you say it?’ Paolo paused trying to find the right word ‘ be discreet back in the village’

‘Don’t worry’ I laughed ‘I am not some kind of love struck teenager. I think that we are both old enough to realise that this afternoon has been a bit of a dream but as soon as we are back on dry land we will return to real life’

‘Real life isn’t always so good, I think’ he said sadly

‘No, not always’ I agreed ‘but what is the alternative?’

Paolo turned away from me and started the boat’s engine. Standing there staring at his strong deeply tanned back I knew then that the moment was lost. Our beautiful fairy tale moment was over and heading back to the shore, the sun didn’t seem to shine quite so brightly anymore.


Later as I pulled up outside the villa I suddenly realise with horror that I can’t remember the journey home. I must have been driving on autopilot for god's sake! Leaving Paolo alone on the beach was one of the hardest things I have ever done. If only life was like a Mills and Boon novel, we would have walked off together into the sunset without a care.

But real life isn’t like that. Real life is making the beds, cooking supper, playing with the grandchildren and being with Martin.

‘Get it out of your system did you?’

I jumped, I hadn’t see Martin sitting beside the pool.

‘Get what out of my system’ I ask walking towards him.

‘Well, you must admit you were in a very funny mood earlier. Where have you been all afternoon?’ he asks, putting down the notes he’s been reading

‘Just down to that little cove we used to go to. You know, the one with the cantina at the end of the beach’

‘The drive must have done you good’ he said putting his reading glasses away in their leather case ‘did the sea air clear your head then?’

I smiled and turned towards the door.

‘Yes darling, things are a lot clearer now’

‘Thank God for that. If there’s time I might go down to the club for a few holes of golf before supper’

‘You’ve plenty of time. I want to have a shower before I start cooking’

‘Jolly good, I’ll see you about eight then?’ He asks as he collects his clubs from the games room.

‘Yes, eight will be fine’ I answer as I walk across the patio.

I know that I should feel guilty but the truth is I don’t. I'm all alone now and staring into the long mirror in the hallway I slip the straps from my shoulders for the second time today. As my dress falls away I can see that all the exercising and dieting is beginning to pay off and running my hands down my sun warmed skin I smile as I realise that for once, there are no white strap marks on my bare shoulders.

I wonder if Martin will notice.