Sunday 21st January
Harriet and Jane weren’t allowed to see their, but their mother did visit him in the police station, and she said that though he was remarkably calm, he had offered no explanation for his actions. Well it eventually became clear that he had been mixed up in dubious money-making schemes for a number of years, some had been spectacularly successful, but some had lost money too. He wasn’t a very good businessman, he should have stuck to the law, in all its’ boring but safe detail. But he had always imagined himself as some sort of financial genius, and one or two of his ‘investments’ had done spectacularly well, but he had always invested any profits into yet another dubious scheme, which had invariably failed. He had borrowed quite heavily too, at first legitimately, taking out larger and larger personal loans, and then he had started to ‘borrow’ from the quite large amounts in client’s accounts held at his office. Over the years this had become a habit, which he didn’t seem able to stop, and he had had to steal larger and larger amounts to repay the smaller ones so that he wouldn’t be detected. Or so he tried to explain to Jane a few years later – he still called it borrowing; what everyone else saw as simply stealing.
* * *
June had thought that once Phil returned safe and sound things might get a bit easier. She stupidly assumed that Phil would take over and somehow make everything right again, or as right as it might possibly get. Even though the Police sergeant had warned her that Phil might be detained she hadn’t really taken it in. She thought they just meant for a few hours, for some sort of formalities to be completed. She knew that Phil’s career as a solicitor was over, even if he escaped conviction somehow he would be duty bound to resign from the partnership. They would have to sell the house, but that didn’t really bother June. She had been far happier in their first little house in Bury Road than this monstrosity, with all those wretched bedrooms upstairs.
Why on earth hadn’t Ted and she used one of the spare bedrooms at the back of the house, the ones that were never used. Harriet would never have thought of opening one of those bedroom doors and then none of this would have ever happened, she reasoned. Ted and she could have still been seeing each other, her sister would never have been hurt and Phil wouldn’t have had to run away. Oh God, what stupidity, she told herself. ‘Were we in some unconscious way wanting to be caught, just tempting fate, seeing how near the candle flame we could fly. Well if we were we flew far too near and got severely burned. Or was it all just stupidity, blind stupidity.’
And now here she was and still on her own, only more scared than ever. Harriet was starting to get aggressive with her again, not quite saying it but blaming June for everything that had happened, as if she wasn’t doing that herself anyway. Phil was being held in the police station, and June was allowed to see him for a few minutes.
* * *
‘Hello June.’ he said almost scared to look up at his wife. She looked haggard, as though she had been crying for days, which Phil now suspected she might well have been. He had never thought of that when he made his break for freedom. He hadn’t thought of anyone else, truth be told. That little adventure had been all about him. If he had stopped for a moment to consider how it might affect anyone else he would never have gone through with it. Even when he left the house with the few pounds from the safe, and the firm’s and a few client’s cheque-books he still had no plan in his mind at all. He had left the wretched safe wide open after all, so he must have been meaning to come back to the office.
He just needed to get away for an hour or so, just drive along some quiet country roads for a bit. His first thoughts had been of simply burning the evidence, the cheque-books and a few incriminating papers he grabbed from my study. Not that that would have really helped, but it might have given him a bit more time to think things through, to decide what he really wanted to do. Everyone was out when he slipped back home, even Harriet, who had discovered Ted and June the day before was out. Phil hadn’t had a chance to talk to her at all, but he suddenly realised that he should. He should have spoken to her when June told him, but he had been so shocked, so stunned by what June was telling him he hadn’t thought about Harriet and what effect it might have had on her. He picked up the keys to the Bentley and decided to give it a spin for an hour or so. At that point he had no plans to run away at all.
But as he was driving along he just wanted this moment to last forever, it was a beautiful day, sunny but not too hot, a few skittery clouds in the sky, mackerel-tails he used to call them, bright white against a clear blue sky. he did think about driving to Scotland or maybe Wales, but he had never been to either, and instead headed East, towards the coast. He suddenly had this burning desire to see the sea. June and he occasionally took the girls to Felixstowe on a Sunday, they would park the Bentley out towards Felixstowe Ferry and walk along the cliff-top, and down to the old ferry. Sometimes they bought some fresh fish, or just walked around and had a cup of tea and back for lunch.
But P|hil didn’t fancy Felixstowe that day, he turned North intending to head for Great Yarmouth. Then he saw the sign for Lowestoft, and recalled he had had a rare holiday with his Mum and Dad when he was a boy there, that would have been before the war even. Suddenly he wanted to see it again, so he turned off.
Even as he pulled in to the Hotel he had no definite plans, maybe he would stay for an hour or two, but he ended up asking if they had a room with a sea-view and only then as he sat in the window chair looking out at the sea did he know that this was where he wanted to be. At least for a few days. He never told anyone that, they all thought he had it all planned out from the start. And if that was what they wanted to think, why should he disillusion them, and besides – what difference did it make.
He was a bit scared of seeing June, he was sure she would be angry with him, but actually she just seemed relieved to see him again. She reached out across the formica topped table and took his hand. She hadn’t done that in a long time. Even when it all came to light about her and Ted, and at one point Phil was all forgiveness and crying she hadn’t held out her hand to him. They had been like two icebergs slowly circling round each other, but not being able to meet. Too much displacement beneath the surface keeping them apart he supposed. But at last he felt some sort of love from her, some little touch of human warmth.
‘I am so sorry June.’ he said. ‘I’m afraid I have made a bit of a mess of things, one way and another. It’s going to leave you in a tight spot for a while. I should have sorted things out a bit better, but there you are.’ I really didn’t know what else to say, and I suppose that sounded flippant, but I hadn’t meant it to.’
‘And I am sorry too Phil. Sorry about all that Ted business, sorry I didn’t try harder with you I suppose, and sorry I wasn’t there for you. Maybe you wouldn’t have done all if this stuff if I had been a better wife.’
‘No no, June, that was all down to me I am afraid. I always thought I was a bit cleverer than I really was, that was my trouble. Should never have been a lawyer I am afraid.’
And they didn’t really have much else to say to each other after that. Lots of empty spaces, where once they could talk like a house on fire. But as she got up to go he leaned forward and looking directly into her eyes he said. ‘June, I may have to go to prison. You do know that don’t you, and you will almost certainly lose the house, but there might be a bit of money left over for you and the girls. If I don’t get to see them, tell them I love them. Will you do that for me June?’
‘Of course I will, but maybe you should have told them yourself before all this.’
‘Yes, you are probably right. June, will you wait for me, if I should go to prison, you know what I mean.’ he asked her, and he grabbed her hand and held it in his.
‘I have to go now Phil. Please let go of my hand.’ She said, calm as you like.
‘You haven’t answered my question June. Will you wait for me?’ he was almost begging by now.
‘I cannot promise you that Phil.’ She said, as he let her hand slip from his grasp.
And then she was gone.