My Friends' Wives And Me

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Chapter 11

Over the next few days, I bumped into Debbie at the school and she told me that John hadn’t drunk anything at all and he was being nice to her, and Dawn. Then, on the Friday, Lucy phoned me at work and told me that Colette had phoned her Wednesday night, to see when she was going over to France. I told Lucy to arrange a weekend and let me know the Monday before she was due to go. Then I collected the cheques together I had been given and went to the bank.

As I was driving along, I thought about asking the bank for a loan. I parked the car, deposited the money, drew the wages, and asked the girl at the information desk if it would be at all possible to speak with the manager. She phoned him and asked me to take a seat, saying he would be down in a minute. I wandered around, looking at the posters on the wall. They said things like, ‘If you need a loan for anything, just ask’ and ‘low coast loans available here’.

While I waited for the manager, I thought about what I wanted to say and what I didn’t want him to know. The girl on reception said, “You can go up now, Mr Vaughan.”

I made my way to his office and knocked on the door. I heard him say, “Enter,” so in I went. I shook his hand and sat down opposite him at this big oak desk. Then he clasped his hairy hands together and leaned forwards on the desk. “What can I do for you?” he said, as he peered over his tiny round glasses.

“I could do with my overdraft raised, or a loan to help me through this quiet patch we’ve had. We are quite busy now but a few people are chasing me for money.”

He lifted his hand and carefully placed it on his chin, with his elbow propped on the desk. Then he said, “Go on.”

I explained to him that, in a few weeks, the money would start rolling in again. He opened a blue file that was on his desk and, as he looked through it, his head drooped and he scratched the top of his bald crown with his index finger. He flicked through the pages and lifted his head again. “How much is owed to you for work you have already done?”

This is where the real bullshit started. “Last time I looked, it was about £5,000. It may be more now, I haven’t had time to bring the books up to date because I have been in the workshop. There’s probably about £6,000 worth of fuel, underground in the tanks, and work in progress must be somewhere in the region of £4,000.”

His eyebrows went up as he looked back at the file. I thought to myself, I’ve got this in the bag; it’s going to take the pressure away for a while. He looked at me again and pushed his glasses back up his nose. “According to the figures I have here in front of me,” he said, as he pulled a hanky from his pocket, “you already have £16,000...” He sneezed twice and wiped his nose. My eyebrows went up then. I didn’t realise I had that much, until he said, “Of our money.” He put his hanky back in his pocket and carried on. “We paid a cheque on Wednesday for £7,234 for fuel and, unless you reduce the borrowing within the next week drastically, we won’t be able to pay for the next delivery. So the answer is: no, I can’t help you, I’m sorry.”

I felt deflated; it was as if he’d stabbed me with his Parker pen. I smiled and shook his apelike hand again and left quickly, before he asked for the wages back.

When I got back to the garage, I gave the lads their wages and we locked up. I stopped at the Wooden Cross for a drink. A few of the lads were in there, telling their stories of the week as usual. I asked myself what they would say if I told them mine. I left about 7.30 and went home. I was going out with some of the lads for a drink at nine, to the Arden Oak.

While I ate my dinner, I casually mentioned to Liz that I’d pulled a car into the garage that was involved in an accident; the man that owned it was French and he’d asked me if I would take it to his house.

Liz looked up and said, “In France?”

“That’s what I thought he said, but his English wasn’t very good.”

“If you are going over to France, I could come with you.”

I’d hoped she wouldn’t say that. “He’s coming back to see me on Monday, with the couple he’s staying with. Hopefully they can explain it better.” I carried on eating my dinner and didn’t mention it again.

Liz went to bed; I got changed and arrived at the Arden Oak about ten minutes late. Everyone was there, except Andrew. He had said, in the Wooden Cross earlier, that he would be here. I thought he might turn up later. We all had a laugh and, by eleven o’clock, I was ready for bed. I was worn out after the week I’d had, so I left and drove home. I must have been knackered; I was hallucinating. I thought I saw Andrew driving toward me, on the other side of the dual carriageway. I got home and went straight to bed. I was surprised to see Liz still awake as she was working in the morning.

I woke the next morning when I heard Mick in his room with the telly on. I got dressed and made him some breakfast, then dropped him at his swimming club. We were a bit late and I got to work at eleven, or just after. Lucy phoned me half an hour later, all excited.

“I’m going!” she cried. “I’ve been ringing all morning to tell you the good news. I’m going on Wednesday, this week. I’m flying in the afternoon. I know Liz won’t be there, so will you be able to come?”

“I can’t come on the plane with you but I’ll come over on the train with my car, through the Eurotunnel. You’ll have to give me the address and I’ll meet you in a bar on Friday night.”

“How will I know the bar?”

“When you get there, mention to your friend about going out Friday night and ask her where she is taking you. Tell her you want a couple of drinks first and a club after. Then ring me on the Friday, in my car, when I’m on my way, and I’ll see you there.”

“Brilliant,” she said. “That way, Colette won’t suspect a thing and you can come to the club with me.”

“Hopefully, yes. Is she a bit broad-minded?”

“Well, if you could have heard her when we were skiing, apparently she loves anything in trousers.”

“So, if we slipped off and you didn’t go home till the morning, she wouldn’t ring Ivor?”

“No, she wouldn’t.”

“Ring me Wednesday morning, after the kids have gone to school, with the address, and I’ll see you in France.” I put the phone down and started to look forward to the date.

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