Networks of contacts are invaluable in developing business and just as useful in opening other kinds of doors. A few enquiries here and there with friends he recalled having links with various charitable organisations, led to a meeting with the trustees of an institution helping other charities of all shapes and sizes work more efficiently. It immediately appealed to him and he could see a challenging role for himself within their structure. He accepted the position immediately and was then left with the task of breaking the news to Alex.
“Director of the Institute for Charitable Ideas…it sounds awfully grand, Charles, what will you have to do exactly?” Alex toyed with her seared scallops with samphire. She always enjoyed the food in her favourite restaurant, but Charles was quiet and she had suspected he had something on his mind.
“Pass on the benefit of my extensive experience, to put it bluntly,” he said, wary of her reaction to his announcement.
“Darling, you’re the best. Haven’t I always said so? And I expect this means you will be hobnobbing with some frightfully important people….Mmm this is absolutely delicious.” She finally forked a mouthful and mimed ecstasy in anticipation of grand events in the corridors of power.
“Well, I wouldn’t say that exactly. Most of the people I’ll actually be working with have civil service and welfare department backgrounds. They’re the ones who will be needing my advice on a day to day basis.”
“Oh but it’s bound to lead to great things, darling. Charity work always does. I mean, I can see the honours list beckoning already!” She sipped her champagne and imagined the outfits she would be buying for glittering occasions.
“I doubt it and that’s not actually why I want to do it, Alex. I’m doing this because I want to give something back. I need to do this for myself and for others. I know you are not fully signed up to the concept of altruism, but you have to realise I’m not doing this for the kinds of rewards you are imagining.”
She stared at him, not comprehending. “But there will be rewards Charles? You can’t possibly do this job for nothing. What about the twins? What about me? And what about Rock? You know I’d absolutely set my heart on that.”
He laid down his fork and pushed the plate of proscuitto and melon to one side. He had little appetite. It had seemed a good idea to break the news in the controlled environment of the Puccini, where they always celebrated their successes. He had thought it would placate Alex, reassure her that they would always be able to maintain their life style.
“Would it really hurt us to have a little less than we have now? I have made sure we will be able to manage. The girls will still go to the schools we have chosen for them, they will be able to go to university if they are up to it and we can carry on living in the same house. Do we really need any more than that?”
Her face flushed and her lips pursed for a second in the early stages of a petulant frown, but then she smiled. “Of course not darling, but I just think that you are so clever, so talented, that this won’t satisfy you for long. I know my clever little man. You will be bored in no time at all and then you will be looking for more rewarding challenges. ”
“Alex my love, you can flatter me all you like, but I’m not going to change my mind. I really need to do this. Would you rather I became depressed and went slowly insane? This matters to me and I will be taking that position.” He drained his glass and beckoned to the waiter for more. Virtuous abstinence could wait. Right now he needed the sustenance of alcohol.
Alex smiled the brittle smile he had often seen her use on ignorant shop girls and inefficient airline staff. “Of course, Charles. See how it goes. I’m sure you can always change your mind and go back to what you are really good at if you want. I’m positive you’d be snapped up in an instant, darling.”
And now sometimes in the night, he would wake and think he had seen Mary again. He so wanted to tell her he had done it. He was making a difference. He wanted her to be proud. His new job was more satisfying than he could ever have imagined, with eager committed people absorbing his ideas and advice, then rushing back with excitement to tell him how they had succeeded. It was also leading to influential contacts and probably, in time, could well lead to recognition of a public nature, which had pacified Alex somewhat.
But that was of little consequence to him. He desired only Mary’s blessing. And when he sometimes dreamt of her coming to him, she held his head again between her breasts. Only now it was not erotic; he suckled, feeling nurtured by her warmth and uncritical encouragement.
to be continued June 6