The Ultimate Surrender

By: Penny Jordan

It was less than a week later when Richard burst into the flat, full of excitement to tell her of the ‘terrific idea’ that Marcus had had. He picked her up and whirled her round in his arms despite the bulk of her pregnancy, until she was so dizzy she had to beg him to stop.

‘What idea?’ she asked him.

‘Instead of selling Fraser House Marcus says that we should keep it…’

‘But we need the money from it,’ Polly protested anxiously. One thing she had learned about her husband was that he was something of a dreamer, prone to wonderful ideas that he painted for her in all the rich colours of his imagination; but, strong as he was on imagination, Richard was rather weak on practicality, and her heart sank a little as she prepared to listen to him.

‘We need money, yes,’ Richard agreed. ‘But Marcus has come up with this wonderful way for us to make some. You know how he’s just got that recent promotion which involves him spending more time here in the UK and entertaining a lot?’

Cautiously Polly nodded. Marcus had recently been made the head of his department, travelling daily to the company’s UK offices in the city and returning each evening to the luxurious apartment he retained in the small commuter village where his and Richard’s family roots were. And she had learned, through listening to his conversations with Richard, that he spent a lot of time having meetings with his overseas colleagues.

‘Well, apparently Marcus’s boss has just come back from a prolonged visit to their American parent company in the States and he’s told Marcus that over there the trend is for visiting execs and their wives to stay as house guests with their US counterparts. Apparently he’s very keen to introduce the same sort of system over here. Marcus would get a special expenses allowance to cover all the costs but, as he was saying to me, it would be virtually impossible for him to provide the standard of hospitality that would be needed as an unmarried man living alone in a service flat. That’s when he realised what a perfect solution it would be for all of us…’

‘What would be?’ Polly asked him in bewilderment. The baby had started kicking quite hard and her head was still full of flu, and what she really wanted more than anything else was to go to bed—a nice warm bed in a nice warm bedroom…not the horrid, lumpy, uncomfortable bed she and Richard shared in their cold, damp room.

‘What I’ve just said,’ Richard told her. ‘What a terrific idea it would be if the three of us moved into Fraser House and you and I…well, you, I suppose, really,’ he admitted a little ruefully, ‘looked after Marcus’s colleagues…you know…tidied up their rooms, cooked their meals—that sort of thing,’ he told her vaguely. ‘And Marcus would pay us for doing it. Oh, and of course he’d be living there as well, and I suppose you’d have to cook for him too, although he’d still be away some of the time…’

‘Richard…’ Polly stopped him faintly.

‘What is it? Aren’t you feeling well?’ he demanded anxiously as soon as he saw how pale and shocked she was looking. ‘It isn’t the baby, is it? It isn’t time yet…’

No, it wasn’t the baby, although the shock to her system of what he had just outlined could well have caused her to go into premature labour, Polly reflected a little later on as she tried and failed to find the words to tell him how impossible what Marcus was suggesting was. For one thing she just couldn’t see how Marcus—immaculate, lordly, impatient Marcus—was ever going to be able to live side by side with a small baby…never mind side by side with her.

Then, during the night, the ceiling above their bedroom fell in, sending plaster and water cascading everywhere causing Richard to say worriedly that there was no way they could continue to live where they were, especially since he was having to leave in the morning to spend the next ten days working on a private commission for his father’s regiment. He had been asked to paint the regiment’s mascot—an elderly goat which was ‘stationed’ at regimental headquarters near Aldershot.

While Polly still wandering round the flat in a daze, trying to remove bits of fallen plaster from her carefully washed and ironed inherited baby things, Richard was on the telephone to Marcus. Marcus arrived shortly after surveying both the flat and Polly in grim silence before announcing that the place was totally unfit for anyone to live in, never mind a pregnant child.

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