|“Frank, I don’t understand. Are you trying to tell me that I’ve not got a job anymore?” Rix asked, in disbelief.|
“Of course not. What I was trying to say, “ Frank sighed, exasperated, “Is that you’re going on sabbatical for six months. On full pay.”
“But that’s ridiculous, we don’t go on sabbaticals. What would I do? Anyway, we’re far too busy.” Rix protested. “Is this a joke?”
“Richard, I’ve been in that meeting for three hours, arguing with the Board, who were unanimous about terminating your employment. This is the best I could do. And even then, it could’ve been a suspension on no pay, with a great deal of damage to your professional reputation.” Rayner replied, in tones of exasperation. “Believe me when I say this was the best I could do for you.”
“I know it is – thank you.” Rix said, chastened. “Is this because of what happened at the wedding?”
“What do you think? I know Lady Brentford has offered to donate the money instead, but you still assaulted Ellingham and he has a number of influential friends."
Rix sat down behind his own desk. Rayner could tell he was upset.
“Well, it’s done and it can’t be undone.” He said, philosophically. “I told them you wouldn’t make a fuss – you won’t will you? After all, it’s only six months and you’ll be able to do write some more articles and have a long honeymoon. Then you can come back here and start training your own assistant. Yes, I telephoned the Royal College this morning and you’ve been awarded Membership. Congratulations.”
Rix grinned, then sobered. “I am sorry, Frank. I should’ve kept my temper. I’ve made things difficult for you as well. And Ellingham was your friend.”
“We weren’t that close, don’t worry. And the Board will come round in time. Now, I hate to say it, but you’d better make yourself scarce. I’ve got to welcome my new assistant, and if I don’t see you before, I’ll be at your wedding – in three weeks’ time, didn’t you say?”
“Great.” Rix replied, but he felt extremely miserable as he left the hospital.
“It’s not too bad –” Mary-Lou sympathised later, as she cooked dinner in the kitchen of his flat. “I mean, it could be so much worse, couldn’t it? And I can always see if the Museum will let me retract my resignation if we need the money.”
“I suppose.” Rix agreed from the kitchen table, where he was scribbling on a piece of paper. “No, don’t worry, we’re fine for money, even if you wanted a big wedding. I’ve got some money saved. You don’t have to work anywhere you don’t want. The only thing is – well, I can’t see how I’ll be able to refuse to go out to the Oberland now.”
“Six months isn’t forever, though. And I don’t want a big wedding, I just want you.” She came over and kissed him, abandoning her cooking to perch on his knee. “I’ll come with you of course. Do you know, I might write to those people and thank them for letting me have you all to myself for a while.”
Three weeks later, they married in Marylebone Registry Office. Mary-Lou wore the blue dress that she had worn in the Quadrant. The ceremony felt a lot less grand than Maeve’s large and expensive affair, but neither of them cared. Mollie, Dick and Daphne, together with Bride and Simon Carrington were there and to Mary-Lou’s delight, Verity and her husband Alan Trevor were able to attend also. A number of their friends were there, including Rayner and Daniel Lyndhurst, standing in as Rix’s best man, as David had refused to attend.
Rix frowned to remember their discussion, which had taken place two days after he had started his enforced sabbatical. He had phoned David and arranged to meet in a pub by David’s hospital.
Their conversation had been stilted; Rix felt uncomfortable about the way he had not told David that he loved Mary-Lou and David was frankly jealous and unable to comprehend that for once Rix had put himself before his cousin.
“Will you be my best man, Dave? We’ve always been more like brothers than cousins…” Rix had said, to be cut off almost at once.
“No, sorry, I can’t make it.” David had said, cursorily. “I’ve got things to do that day.”
“But – ”
“Look, I’ve got to go. I hope you’ll both be very happy.” His tone had been sarcastic and Rix had fought to keep control of his temper.
“We will. Thanks.” He had replied, stiffly. David had left and they hadn’t spoken since.
“Why are you scowling like that? Having second thoughts?” Daniel Lyndhurst asked, making a joke. He had been quieter than ever since the wedding at the Quadrant and Mary-Lou had confirmed her suspicions that he loved Maeve. The Brentfords were still on their honeymoon and unable to make the wedding, though Mary-Lou had written to say how thrilled she was.
“Of course not.” Rix grinned, it was his wedding day and nothing could keep him down for long. Not even the fact that after their short honeymoon in France they would be going to the Oberland at Jack’s invitation, so he could start working at the San.
After their all too short honeymoon, they took a train from Toulouse to Paris, spending an evening there, and then the morning train to Berne, where they would change for Interlaken. They were fortunate enough to have the compartment to themselves and Mary-Lou spent most of the journey in Rix’s arms.
“Jack’s meeting us in Interlaken with the car.” he told her, “And we’ll stay at Freudesheim for tonight, and move into our own chalet tomorrow. How does that sound?”
“Marvellous. I’m really looking forward to seeing Joey and everyone again. I know it’s the holidays, but I expect some of the mistresses will be there. Aren’t you longing to see the Platz again?”
“I’ve never been there. You’ll have to show me round.”
“Of course I will, I’ll show you all my pet walks. I wonder how much it’s changed? The last time I visited was when Len got engaged – and now she’s a proud mamma! I’m looking forward to seeing her and the baby. I say, darling, do you think you’ll be working long hours at the San?”
“I’m hoping not – Jack did say I could just go in for a few mornings a week, but I’ll have to see. Hello, this looks like Berne.”
“It is – and there’s the Interlaken train over there! We should do it if we run. Give me that case, won’t you? And where’s my handbag?”
They made the train just before the guard blew his whistle and found seats together, although the train was busy. Mary-Lou gazed out of the window, thrilled to see the familiar scenery she remembered from her schooldays.
Upon arrival, she was one of the first out of the train, looking at her surroundings eagerly.
Rix followed her with the cases and they looked around for Jack Maynard and his car.
“I wonder where he could be?” Rix asked, after they had waited for twenty minutes in vain. “Look, let’s get a coffee and find a telephone, I’ll ring them up…”
“No need, look, it’s Con. Con!” Mary-Lou waved and a few seconds later, Con was with them. “Why, Con, what’s wrong?” she added, at once.
Con was very pale and her eyes were brimming with tears. She looked as if she was in shock. At first she could only shake her head and sob, but eventually they managed to calm her down between them, so she could tell them what was wrong.
“It’s Papa,” she managed; in her distress she reverted to the name she had called him as a child. “There’s – there’s been an accident.”
“What’s happened?” Rix took charge immediately. “Come on, Con! Is he badly hurt?”
“He’s broken his leg – he fell down the stairs in the San. But Rix, he banged his head too, and – he was knocked out.”
“Is he still unconscious?” Rix manoeuvred her into a nearby café and Mary-Lou ordered some coffees.
“No, he’s awake now, but, he’s – Reg said it’s a bad fracture and it’ll be months before he’s back on his feet. It’s just – “
“It’s a shock, I know.” Rix said supportively. “I’m sure he’ll be fine, Con. He’ll get the best of care and even bad fractures generally heal fine. He hasn’t lost his memory or anything?”
“He’s gone really quiet. He asked for you, he said he urgently needed to speak with you, but he won’t talk to Mother, hardly at all. But he hasn’t lost his memory.”
“It’ll only be about San business,” Rix hedged, thinking about what Jack had said about financial problems, not wishing to worry her further. “I don’t expect it’ll be anything important. I’ll see him as soon as we get there, OK? How’s Aunt Jo?”
“She’s with Dad in the San.” Con shuddered, “I keep thinking that he could’ve died.”
“Don’t think about that.” Rix said, paying for the coffees in preparation for their leaving. “He’s going to be fine, and that’s the important thing. And I’m sure someone will be able to take hold at the San, so that’ll be a relief for him.”
Con, now much calmer, drove them to the San. Mary-Lou sat next to her and they chatted about Con’s writing, although she still seemed subdued. Rix sat in the back of the car, wondering just how serious Jack’s financial problems were.
This is a sequel to A Friend of the Family