Authors: Jenny Lane
Lindsey leant miserably against the banisters. Oh why couldn't she bring herself to tell Simon outright that she had made up her mind to marry Gavin and to return to Africa as soon as possible? Was it because even now, deep in her heart, she just wasn't sure . . . and she had to be?
"Merry, are you coming? I can't find my pyjamas anywhere," shouted Tommy.
"All right Tommy, I'm coming." She could almost hear her father saying, "Chin up girl, things
are never so bad as they seem."
Friday dawned bright and dry. It was a beautiful drive through Kent, in spite of the time of the year. They arrived at their Kensington hotel before lunch, and went for a stroll in the gardens. To Lindsey it was pure heaven. They went down to the Peter Pan statue and watched an artist at work and then they wandered for a while along the river bank. All too soon, however, Simon had to leave for his publishers, leaving Lindsey to take the children to Regent's Park.
Susan was inclined to be sulky. "I knew it would be like this, daddy's always bombing off to see someone or the other just as we arrive. Anyway who wants to go to the stinky old zoo?"
"I do," said Tommy. They had quite an enjoyable time, and met up with Simon again outside the Palladium, where he had managed to get tickets for that evening's performance.
At any other time, Lindsey would have been thrilled, but somehow she could not seem to keep her mind on the show. She kept glancing at Simon, who was obviously miles away, and wondering whether he had in fact been to see Sonia.
Later, back at the hotel; having settled the children, Lindsey encountered Simon in the passageway. He persuaded her to have a drink. It should have been a wonderful time, just the two of them together, but somehow there was a barrier lying between them…Sonia Vincent? Lindsey wondered bitterly.
"Tomorrow we'll get the children some new clothes. I've got some business to attend to in the afternoon but, apart from that, I'm free. Do you want to ring that brother of yours?"
"He'll be out with Valerie Marks tomorrow, I expect. I thought perhaps Sunday, if that's all right with you, Mr. Kirkby?"
"Oh, call me Simon!"
"Simon," she said and suddenly wished with all her heart that these few days could last for ever…This precious time together had to last her for a life time.
"You know Sue's going to be thrilled, Lindsey, when I tell her Sonia's got some complimentary tickets for us to attend her fashion show on Monday morning."
"Did you er—did you manage to see her today?" Lindsey forced herself to ask him.
"Yes, as a matter of fact we lunched together—
If you can call a lettuce leaf and cheese and biscuits lunch . . . You don't approve of Sonia, do you, Lindsey?"
"Who am I to approve or disapprove of your friends
He swallowed his drink rather quickly. "I take a lot of notice of your opinion,
Lindsey, even though you mightn't believe it, but over Sonia you are very wrong. Anyway, perhaps you'll come to the fashion show—It's naturally not one of your duties, but Tommy could be a bit of an encumbrance, I suppose. He's liable to say the wrong thing."
"Tommy's a very frank little boy," said Lindsey.
Simon laughed. "Not like his sister. Poor old Sue, perhaps she just has an over-vivid imagination."
Lindsey said seriously, "Adolescence is a difficult time, Simon. She needs a mother."
"Don't I know it—I shall have to do my best to get her one. In the mean time you get her wardrobe rigged out, and that will no doubt keep her happy..." He looked at his watch and jumped to his feet.
"You'll have to excuse me. I've got to make a 'phone call now. I'd almost forgotten."
Sonia Vincent, she supposed. Lindsey drank her wine in two gulps and went up to bed.
Shopping proved to be an exhaustive business. Susan had developed quite
a fashion flair. This morning they were just like a happy family. They rode up and down escalators for Tommy's benefit, and went to Hamleys to buy something for his train set.
"You haven't got anything, Lindy," said Susan, who was feeling elated after her purchases.
"I spent far too much money on clothes when I first came to London, Sue, but I wouldn't mind having my hair done. It badly needs trimming.”
"Ooh and me!" cried Susan.
"Well I'm not going to watch that," said Tommy in disgust. In the end, Simon took Tommy to buy some new shirts and a jacket and arranged to meet Lindsey and Susan for lunch.
Lindsey had a couple of inches off her hair, and it was shampooed and gently waved, so that it just reached her shoulders. Susan had slightly more off hers.
Simon raised his eyebrows when he saw them. "Good gracious, I don't know these two young ladies, do you Tommy?"
"You look terrific!" Tommy showed them proudly the floral shirts and matching ties, new long trousers and jacket. Simon must have spent a small fortune. He had purchased some new clothes for himself too.
"But Lindy hasn't got anything!" protested Tommy.
"Lindsey is to have a new dress, which I shall personally choose to match her hair and eyes," said Simon firmly. Lindsey protested, but after lunch, Simon took her straight to the evening dress department in a most expensive store. After some time, he eventually selected a most beautiful turquoise gown and holding it up said,
"Yes, the very thing."
"Simon, I couldn't possibly consider it, have you seen the price?"
"Don't you like it?" he demanded.
"It's beautiful, Simon, but…"
"Try it on," he commanded. Lindsey reluctantly did so. She looked at her reflection in the mirror. The halter neckline showed off her figure superbly. With her slightly shorter hair in a golden curtain about her still tanned honey-gold shoulders and throat, the gown suited her colouring, as Simon had remarked. Shyly she stepped out of the cubicle.
"Oh it's gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous," cried Susan ecstatically. "She must have it, daddy."
"It's super," said Tommy.
"Madam, it was made for you," said the shop assistant. But Simon said
nothing, he just looked at Lindsey, as if there were only the two of them. She said in a whisper, "Do you like it, Simon?"
Simon emerged as if from a trance. "I always like the things I choose. I knew just how it would look."
"Sir will have it?" asked the hovering assistant, in her slightly foreign accent.
Wrap it up, will you."
"But Simon, I couldn't possibly, I…"
"So you don't like it?"
"Simon, it's the most beautiful gown I've ever seen in my life, but it's far too costly and I couldn't let you…"
"Nonsense.—I'll take it, thank you."
The shop assistant smiled. "Madam, it is an exquisite creation. Your husband has good taste."
"Oh, she's not his wife. She's just the housekeeper," said Susan.
How they ever got out of that shop, Lindsey would never know. Simon was more furious than she had ever seen him before. He strode along clutching the wretched dress box, with Susan and Tommy bewilderedly trailing behind. It was not until they got back to the car that he said in a voice shaking with barely suppressed rage,
"Susan, if you ever make such a tactless remark again, I shall publicly spank you. Do you understand? You are quite old enough to be discreet."
"Yes daddy, but I merely stated a fact." Susan with her new hair style suddenly looked so grown up and so like Lucy, that words failed Simon. There was an uncomfortable silence for a few moments, and then Simon coughed.
"The dress is, of course, a thank you for all the typing," he remarked shortly. "Now I'm going to the publishers. Perhaps you'll take the children to the Tower of London, Madame Tussauds or wherever they most want to go—Leave the packages in the boot. You don't want to be lumbered up."
But, for Lindsey the day was quite spoilt. She wished he had never bought her the wretched dress. It was now a thing of embarrassment between them. For a few wonderful moments, she
had flattered herself that he had wanted to give her a present for the pure sake of giving, but of course there had to be a reason. He was paying her in kind for the typing. She must easily have saved him the price of the dress, after all.
The time at the Tower was pleasant enough, but for Lindsey it passed far too slowly and she was glad when it was time to meet Simon in the foyer of a cinema in Leicester Square. The film was good, and Lindsey found herself enjoying the evening in spite of
The bar was closed when they got back to the hotel.
"Pity," said Simon. "I don't feel like sleeping. Come and sit in the lounge and talk to me for a bit. We can at least have some coffee." The lounge too was empty. "The children seemed to enjoy the film. It wasn't bad, I suppose."
"I thought it was fantastic," Lindsey said dreamily. "You see, I rarely get the chance to go to the cinema in Kenya, unless I'm in Nairobi, and then it's generally a drive-in-movie."
"I thought they only went in for those in America—Have a cigarette." He lit it for her. "I've always fancied a drive-in myself."
"But you get far more atmosphere in a proper cinema somehow—audience reaction, call it what you will."
He leant towards her, grey eyes alight, "You're a funny one aren't you…! Tell me how you come to live in Africa when you were born in Cambrook . It's all very sketchy, and I think it's high time you filled in the details of your background."
He listened attentively, as she told him the story of how her father had been born in Africa and how; just like Rob, he had come over to college in England, where he had met her mother, married her and settled down in a house belonging to his father in Cambrook —White Chestnuts. She explained how her Aunt Mary, who was a great deal younger than her father, had come over to university and had decided to stay in England.
"After Rob was born, father developed a dreadful hankering to return to Africa. His father wanted to see us and so that's how it was. I don't think daddy ever intended to stay, but there's something about Kenya—the wide open spaces and majesty of it all and it got in father's blood…"
"And is it in your blood too, Lindsey?"
"No, I always carried memories of England whenever I was in Africa. I came over here for a commercial course, and fell in love with the country then. For years, my dearest wish was to come back here."
"You came with something on your mind—a decision to make," he pressed. "Was it to do with marriage to this boyfriend of yours?"
Startled at his astuteness she spilt her coffee in her saucer.
"I think I have the right to keep just a few affairs private don't you, Simon? Even if you and Susan don't seem to think so…”
He was surprised at her reaction; it was evident she was still keeping something from him and he was unaccountably hurt that she was not prepared to confide in him. He shrugged his shoulders.
"Okay—no more questions. If I'm intruding, I'm sorry…Tell me, are you enjoying your holiday?"
She smiled, her green eyes full of pleasure. "Oh yes, thank you although I still feel embarrassed about the dress."
"About the cost, or that woman thinking you were my wife?"
"Both," Lindsey said miserably.
Simon laughed. "You know you're the first woman I've met who studies the cost of things. Lucy and Sonia were always wanting to know what I'd brought them, and my daughter's just the same—but you, Lindsey—You worry in case I don't buy you something because I really want to…I don't do anything unless I want to, just you remember that…"
A wicked gleam came into his eyes. "All I ask is that you thank me properly."
"I've said how beautiful it is and how much I like it. What more can I do?" she asked him shakily.
He set down his coffee cup deliberately, "You can come here and thank me properly, Lindsey Meredith." And before she realised it, she was in his arms and he was kissing her. She sank into a world of ecstasy, time was suspended. She had never before experienced emotion such as he evoked in her; every fibre of her body tingled.
"After all," he said in between kisses, "You kiss beautifully, Lindsey. Your Gavin Evans is a very lucky fellow."
"Oh!" cried Lindsey, furiously tearing free from his embrace. "Just because you buy me a dress, you needn't think it entitles you to treat me how you like. I'll repay you every penny."
His face became grim. "Oh confound the blessed dress," he said angrily. "Why can't you grow
The tears stung Lindsey's eyes, as she turned blindly and ran upstairs, almost knocking Susan over. Why ever was he constantly humiliating her? Her pillow was wet with quietly shed tears that night.
The next day was Sunday. They went to morning service at St. Martin's in the Fields, and then on to look round St. Paul's Cathedral. They had lunch in an Indian restaurant Simon knew, and then he took charge of the children whilst Lindsey caught a tube to see Rob.
Lindsey spent that afternoon with Rob and his friends, drinking dubious looking coffee in a grotty little corner cafe. They told stories of college rags and ranch life, until they even had the waitress in fits of mirth.
At last they ordered great platefuls of hamburgers and chips which seemed to be the staple diet of students.
When it was time for Lindsey to leave, Rob walked with her as far as the tube station.
"Lin, are you still toying with the idea of going home?"
She sighed. "Well, there doesn't seem to be much point in staying on, but, on the other hand, there's no urgent hurry to leave, as father's progressing satisfactorily, so I might as well stay until Easter."
"Have you told Gavin you've changed your mind about marrying him, yet?"
"No, I wanted to be really sure." She had had advice from so many different people, but when it came to it, she was really the only one who was capable of making the final vital decision about her future. She would surely be better off marrying Gavin; after all she was quite fond of him, she supposed. They were both rational people and would make a go of it, no doubt.
Rob looked thoughtful. "What time are you planning to leave London tomorrow?"
Sixish, I should think—But why all the questions?"
He kicked a coke tin into the gutter.
"It's just that something's cropped up that might just alter your decision to stay on at the Point for even that length of time—that's all."
"Rob, don't keep me in suspense—
What's happened? Is father worse?"
"No, no, nothing like that, don't worry." He looked down at his feet, but not before she had noticed a mysterious expression on his face that she could not fathom. "Look Lin, can you just make sure you're back at the hotel by five o'clock tomorrow night? I might have to
'phone you before you leave town…It's very important, but I really can't tell you anything now."
"Oh, well, I suppose I'll have to take your word for it. Don't tell me you're becoming like father with a passion for surprises."
He grinned at her. "I'm sworn to secrecy, as a matter of fact. Not my doing. Just be there by five o'clock. And be sure to give me a ring if you're leaving any earlier, that's all."
Lindsey puzzled about it all the way back to Kensington. Whatever could he mean? Oh well, she would just have to wait until the following evening at five o'clock and hope for the best she supposed.
"Can I see your ring, Lindy?" Tommy asked, as Lindsey helped him to pack his suitcase that evening.
Which ring?" she asked, puzzled.
"The one Susan told Daddy you wear round your neck—
Your engagement ring that man Gavin gave you."
Susan went bright red, and looked uncomfortable. So that was what Simon thought. "Susan, you know very well I don't have any such ring. I am not engaged to Gavin yet. How dare you tell such a
Cor," said Tommy. "That really was a whopper, Sue."
Her cheeks burned hotly. Susan had scored again. It would appear that Simon had ferreted out all he could about his housekeeper without telling her anything further about himself. She had only gleaned things from Andrew, she reflected miserably.
Lindsey tackled Susan about the incident later that night.
"Susan why do you tell so many stories?
It's not clever, you know."
Susan looked sulky. "Daddy calls them prefabrications. I tell them to protect people."
Lindsey sank down wearily on the bed. "Whatever do you mean, Sue?"
"Well, when I thought Uncle Andrew was in love with you, I told him things, and now Daddy, to stop him falling in love with you. I mean if he thinks you're engaged, he won't will
"Whatever makes you think your father could possibly fall in love with me?" Lindsey asked shakily.
"Well it could happen—He bought you that dress didn't he?" She sat up in bed. "Lots of people think Daddy's going to marry Sonia—He's gone out to dinner with her again tonight…I wouldn't mind, I s'pose, but most of all I think one day Mummy will come back, and so I'm just making sure that no-one sort of comes in between. I mean, it's not that I cared about Mummy all that much really. It's just that I want to be a proper family like—like Katy Browne."
Lindsey put her arm round Susan's shoulders. "Darling, I know how you feel, I really do, but don't bank on it too much will you? Your daddy hasn't heard from her for a long time, has he?"
"That's where you're wrong. He gets letters from her. He got one on Friday when he went to see his solicitor. I saw it when he took out his wallet—I saw the stamp."
Lindsey felt a pang of nausea. She had known all along that there was no hope, but had half talked herself into thinking that there was a way out of this tangle. But now she had to face up to facts. Simon was a married man still and perhaps, even now, he was planning to go back to his wife. For the second night running, Lindsey's pillow was wet.
It was a magnificent room for the fashion show. There were deep banks of hot house flowers and evergreens. Chandeliers provided opulence. There were reporters from various fashion magazines. The hum of many voices and the pervading smell of heady perfume filled the room.
Tommy wrinkled his nose, "
Cor what a pong!" he said in a very audible whisper.
"Tommy, will you please keep your thoughts to yourself!" Simon hissed fiercely. Lindsey turned away to hide her amusement.
The noisy hum died down, as the show began. There were several models, but to Lindsey's mind, none compared with Sonia Vincent. Sonia in silver lame, Sonia in emerald satin, Sonia in champagne mink, in pure white velvet trimmed with fur—Even in purple, Sonia looked magnificent. Simon never took his eyes from her. Only Tommy was fidgety. A woman wearing a fantastic creation of feathers, beads and very little else, gave him a fit of the giggles which he could barely suppress. "She looks like an ostrich," he gasped and that set Susan off. Simon nudged him and told him fiercely, to behave himself.
After the show Simon said, "Lindsey, would you mind if I took Sonia to lunch? She doesn't get long, and I promised to see her again before we left London…Perhaps you can take the children to the park or something."
"But why can't we come too?" protested Susan.
"I'll take you to the Post Office Tower —How about that?"
"Oh terrific!" cried Tommy.
Sonia arrived at that moment and put her beautiful face up for Simon to kiss, making Lindsey feel how hopeless the situation was. What a fool she had been to imagine she could ever compete with Sonia. Her heart was heavy as she led the children away.
Later on Simon drove them to the Science Museum where they spent a short time before returning to the hotel to finish packing.
It was almost five o'clock when they arrived back. Lindsey and Simon walked into the foyer together. A tall, tanned figure heaved
himself out of a wicker chair and caught Lindsey in a clumsy embrace.
"Gavin!" she cried. "Am I dreaming? Whatever are you doing in England? Father's not worse is he?"
"Hey, steady on. One at a time. Your father's doing fine, Lindsey, and he's given me exactly one week to make you change your mind, and bring you back with me. So I'm going to move heaven and earth to do just that."
It was suddenly all too much for Lindsey. "Oh Gavin, I suppose the accounts are in a fearful muddle and the houseboy's scorched Daddy's favourite shirts!"
"That's about the size of it, so you will come back won't you, Lindsey, because we all need you very much. We can't manage by ourselves, you see. Your father and I, and your Aunt Mary, all want you back." And to prove it he kissed her in his awkward way.
Lindsey was completely oblivious of Simon who, summing up the situation, took this to be Lindsey's final decision. Thrusting the bewildered children ahead of him, he marched wearily upstairs.
Lindsey said in a kind of daze, "Gavin, you must tell me all about father, and Mary and the ranch." And they sat down right there in the foyer and talked for a good half hour during which time,
Lindsey learnt that while abroad, Mary had married her boss, Richard Norris, and that they had flown out to Kenya for their honeymoon.
"Poor Aunt Mary, finding father ill like that."
"Oh, it's all right, Carey's been staying at the ranch so that they could get out and about."
Lindsey had to smile. Carey was Gavin's married sister, and father couldn't stand her because she fussed about like an old mother hen.
Lindsey was itching to ask a question.
"Gavin, did father know about the fire at White Chestnuts and the bungalow being built, before I left for England?"
"Yes, of course he did, my dear. He hoped you'd like the bungalow, and kept it as a surprise for you. What he didn't realise, however, was that Mary had gone abroad, because her first letter explaining everything obviously went astray. Eventually, when he did hear from her, he realised you'd be in financial trouble and kept waiting for you to mention it in your letters."
"And when I didn't, I suppose he realised I'd got a job."
Gavin nodded. "He guessed you were coping somehow, yes, although for a while he gathered you were staying with friends. He knows you've got initiative, Lindsey, even if it was a darned stupid thing to do taking that housekeeper job with that Kirkby fellow." He rose to his feet. "I think I'll order some tea—
All this talking's making me thirsty."
Lindsey's view of reception was obscured by a pillar, and so she did not see Gavin hastily scribbling a note and handing that together with some coins to the receptionist. Nor did she hear the muttered conversation that passed between them, and the receptionist's courteous, "Certainly Sir—I'll see that
Mr. Kirkby gets it right away."
They had their tea in the lounge. Lindsey became so engrossed in what Gavin had to tell her that it wasn't until she suddenly heard a clock chiming that she exclaimed in horror, "Gavin,
it's six o'clock and we're supposed to be leaving at any minute!"
"They might be—you're not." But she didn't catch what he said, as she hurried back into the foyer.
"Oh, Miss Meredith," the receptionist called. "Mr. Kirkby told me to give you this note after he'd gone—He's settled your bill and your luggage is in your room."
Lindsey gaped at her, her mind in
a turmoil. "But he can't have gone—not without me."
"He left about ten minutes ago, Madam."
Lindsey unfolded the piece of paper with trembling fingers. It was curt and to the point.
"Obviously your friend has finally helped you to make your decision. As there is evidently nothing further to be said on the matter, I shall be contacting the agency in the morning. S. K."
Lindsey raced upstairs, convinced that there would be a further message. But there was nothing! If there had been, perhaps even then she would have caught the last train to Balliam Halt, but the rooms looked bleak and deserted, and she realised, sinking down onto one of the beds, how the situation must have appeared to Simon. He must have taken it to be her decision to leave Balliam Point. She was so bitterly hurt. He didn't even seem to care at all. How could he go without even saying goodbye?
Gavin was waiting downstairs, safe dependable Gavin. She hastily flung her things in the case and went down to join him.
Driving away from Cambrook, Lindsey reflected that it didn't seem a week ago since she had left London. So much had happened since that time. Gavin was getting restless. He was
itching to be back in Kenya—at work. He talked incessantly about the ranch her father had purchased, firm in the belief that Lindsey would marry Gavin after all.
Gavin had managed to book an early flight for the following afternoon. Lindsey had been surprised to learn that Mary and Richard intended to live at White Chestnuts after all on their return from Kenya. Gavin had taken her to see the Jacksons who had taken the bungalow on a year's tenancy basis, and had recently managed to purchase a cottage near to their daughter.
After lunch with the Marks, Gavin had said that they must collect the rest of Lindsey's luggage from the station at Balliam Halt and return to London.
"By the way did I tell you an eland got caught in a native trap again? By the time we'd discovered it, there wasn't much left."
Lindsey shivered at the thought of the vultures picking at the poor creature and eating it alive.
"Lindsey, are you listening?"
"Yes…Isn't this a gorgeous view?"
"Oh, for goodness sake, Lindsey!
What about the Meningai Crater or the Rift Valley? What's this in comparison? Why are you so obsessed with England? The sooner I get you back to Kenya the better, I think. You're even beginning to behave like an English woman."