Thursday 1st December

      And not long after, Jane came along too…

Phil had been pre-occupied for most of June’s pregnancy, the constant worries about money and how he could afford the mortgage on his own, and then when he started doing little bits of business on the side he was always scared that some idiot would blab, and Jameson would find out.  But it all seemed to sort itself out one way or another; he was quietly building up a steady stream of private work, mostly a bit of conveyancing that he slipped through with Jameson’s clients work, and the legal business was all trust really, so once Jameson trusted him, nobody thought about checking what he was actually doing.  Besides he told himself  – ‘it wasn’t as if he was actually stealing any of the firm’s clients, these were just small bits of business on the side, most would never have used the firm anyway as they were too expensive.’  So he justified it all as somehow harmless and he felt he wasn’t really hurting anyone.  He also helped a few friends, (which was how he now saw them – not as clients really) with the odd bit of buying and selling.  When they wanted someone in a suit to represent them at a meeting or needed a letter drafting to sound legal and correct, even if it was just fluff and stuffing, he could make it sound right, he could dress it up, and that was often all that was required.  But he could never really get enough regular and reliable business going on ‘on the side’, it was always touch and go, and getting paid for his troubles was like pulling teeth.  They knew he wasn’t going to tell anyone what they were up to; he had more to lose in most cases than they did, so what was he going to do about it if they held onto their money for a few months.  They were always full of promises, but promises didn’t pay the bills.

In the end he had to face up to old Jameson and tell him that he was a bit overstretched and could he help him out on the wages front.  Even though they got on really well, Phil wasn’t at all sure how he would take it; he’d given him a decent rise when he got married and he hadn’t even asked for that, Jameson had seemed to really enjoy his largesse.  But that didn’t make this any easier.  In the end it wasn’t as hard as he had feared.  Life is like that isn’t it; the things you dread are often not as awful as you had feared, whereas you get tripped up by the easy stuff – the things you hadn’t even worried about are the ones that cause you the most problems.  He listened to Phil carefully then asked him to give a breakdown of his expenses and it came to very nearly the same as his salary, especially without June’s money.  Obviously he kept quiet about the rent he was receiving for the shop, and the little bits of business he was doing here and there too.  Old Jameson folded the page he had written the numbers down on and put it in his pocket, and said he would give it some consideration.  At least he hadn’t said no, although he had raised his eyebrows at the size of the mortgage repayments each month.  Phil supposed he thought he had been too greedy in buying the big house so early, but he told him what a bargain it had been, and how house prices were bound to go up in the next few years, and how he considered it as an investment really.

Then just in the week that Harriet was born Jameson told him he was almost doubling his salary.  Phil was stunned; this was like winning the Pools.  This was far more than he had ever hoped for; it seemed he could do no wrong – that somehow the Gods were smiling on this young solicitor – even if he was still only training.  He told Phil to keep the good work up, and carefully looking around he leaned forward and confided that he was considering making Phil a Junior Partner in a few years time, the firm was making good profits, and he was doing the work well, and that he had a brilliant future if he stuck with them.  Then he shook his hand, only the second time he had ever done that.  He even offered Phil a sherry, the sherry he kept for his best clients, and said that ‘as he would be a father any day now we might as well wet the baby’s head a few days early.’  Jones came into join them, and Janet the secretary, and they toasted Jameson and Jones, and Phil, father to be and the baby Wilkinson and all their futures, with a jolly glint in all their eyes.

*  * *

As it turned out Harriet took a long time being born, as if she was far too comfortable in the womb to ever venture out; June never thought it was going to end.  She just wanted Phil to be there to hold her hand, but they would let him in for five minutes, and then when another contraction came on send him out again.  And she just wanted him to be there with her, she had to ask them to go fetch him time after time.  Then they told him the baby wasn’t ready to come yet, that he had been up all night and he might as well go home and get some breakfast and come back at ten.  That was just an excuse to get rid of him, of course.  They knew she was having a hard time and in the end they had to use forceps and little Harriet had these big red blotches on her forehead for days after she was born.  And she was a small baby too, only five pounds in the end, but she had given June enough trouble in the process.  Julie had the first of her boys two weeks after her sister on the day June was coming home, and they all met up a month later at their Mother’s.  June’s poor Mother sat there with two babies in her lap, looking quite confused and almost terrified, while Phil and Ted, who were getting on far too well for June’s liking, opened some bottles of Pale Ale and stood there with big grins on their faces looking as if they had done all the hard work.

*  * *

Phil too was exhausted, he was at the Hospital for hours, the very Hospital that his Dad was still a Consultant at, he had never realised having a baby would take so long.  He was so tired and relieved when they sent him home, they told him June was asleep and the baby wouldn’t arrive for a few hours.  Glad to get some sleep he drove home in the dark, he really had no idea about babies and how they emerged into the world; it made him uncomfortable to even think about it.  Then when he arrived back at the hospital the baby had already been delivered after all.  Harriet was so beautiful though; actually they both were, even June with her hair all matted and her face blotchy, he loved her more than ever now.  He even promised himself that he would stop doing those little bits of business on the side, it was stupid and dangerous; if Jameson found out he might sack him on the spot.  He also vowed that he would be a better husband to June; he had been so busy with work and that other nonsense that he had begun to neglect her, spending far too many evenings out of the house. No, from now on they would be a real family.  And now that he was earning a decent salary she could have anything she wanted, they would have some proper furniture for a start, no more old hand me downs, and a decent car too, the Austin was all very well for running around in, but Phil had always fancied a Bentley, he would start making enquiries, ‘you never know where you might pick one up cheap, he was owed a few favours and maybe it was time to call them in.’

*  * *