Candyfloss and Pickles – Chapter Four: Two-Part Invention
“Claire! It’s early.”
“Vaughan! It’s late.”
Claire’s mother, a lightly liberal, selectively socialist, curiously conservative, fashionable confusion of disposable principles, weighed her pleasure from the unexpected sight of her daughter against the disruption her arrival would impose on her Wednesday routine.
Vaughan’s employer, owner both of the hilltop seagull processing plant and a solid state stomach, weighed his relief at the arrival of his missing assistant against concern for the reason behind his unusually late arrival.
“Why didn’t you let me know you were coming? I’m meeting my ladies this morning?”
“Why didn’t you let me know you’d be late? I’m meeting with the bank at lunchtime?”
“Something came up and I had to make a decision fast.”
“Something came up and took me by surprise.”
“Ah, man trouble.”
“Not a woman, is it?”
“Shame. Your father and I had hoped you’d met a nice young City type by now.”
“Not the woman?”
Yes, I bet you have, thought Claire, seeing the workings of her mother’s mind.
Vaughan wondered whether he had been so wise to talk to his boss of his break-up with Claire.
“Well, hurry on in. From the look of you, we don’t want the whole road to know your news, urged the troubled parent, peering up and down for any sign of inquisitive neighbours.”
Chumpley guessed from Vaughan’s silence that it was the woman. He went to utter words of advice, then decided against it. Who was he to tell the lad what to do? Best let him sort things out for himself.
Once again, Claire felt the confusing feeling of entering her childhood home as an adult now with her own place, except that as of yesterday she no longer had her own place.
Vaughan turned round to retrace his steps along the grubby, neglected corridor of the factory office section to Chumpley’s unimpressive office.
“I’ve come home to Fryeston.”
“She’s come back to Fryeston.”
“You’ll feel better about going back after a few days’ rest,” answered Mrs Fairbrook automatically.
“And this time it’s for good, isn’t it? Or not so good,” added Chumpley.
“I know my own mind, Mum. I’m staying.”
“Why are you so sure?” asked Vaughan.
“Why can’t you be like other daughters and settle down with a wealthy banker or get into the media? Why do you have to throw every opportunity away?” And as her Mum turned away, Claire’s Dad emerged from the kitchen.
“I can usually tell these things,” replied Chumpley in a melancholy tone.
“I wondered when you’d come round?”
“You don’t approve of her, yet you haven’t even met her,” countered Vaughan.
“Did you know Claire was coming?” spluttered his wife, twisting round and turning on him.
“You’re right, I haven’t, but you’ve done nothing but talk about her since you started here.”
“How did you know?” asked Claire, surprised.
And the shock of truth caught Vaughan by surprise.
“I spotted you yesterday, on the beach.”
“Anyway, you’re wiser now and can look after yourself better.”
“You saw Claire yesterday and didn’t tell me?” Mrs Fairbrook screeched at her husband.
“Why didn’t she come . . . where did you . . . ?” her accusation stifled by the realisation of her daughter’s recent whereabouts.
“Do you think she’s likely to?”
“You haven’t gone back to . . . to . . . ?”
“How do I know? Just tread carefully,” suggested Chumpley.
“Vaughan. His name is Vaughan, mother. And, yes, he let me stay last night.”
Vaughan stood in silence, reflecting on events since the previous evening.
“Claire, you could do so much better than a penniless dreamer.”
“But now put her out of your mind, lad; we’ve got Project Scavenger to complete.”
“And that’s all you care about, isn’t it, Mum? Well, penniless or not, who knows if I am going back to him?”
“Yes, I’m sorry,” apologised Vaughan, aware that his personal life was holding up his work.
And Claire turned and marched back out the front door, which had remained ajar as if prepared for her departure.
“Don’t feel sorry for living your life,” replied Chumpley. “Just don’t get knocked off balance.”
“Bye, Claire!” shouted Mr Fairbrook as his wife stood and seethed.
“No, I won’t. Thank you,” said Vaughan and resumed his walk along the corridor to his office.
Out of the garden gate and into the street, the physical release prompted the thought Claire had been suppressing to free itself in a burst of laughter at her foolishness.
And for the rest of the day the drain of Vaughan’s work left unanswered all the questions in his mind about Claire.
© Robert Zarywacz 2008-2009