Goodmans Hotel (Chapter 7, page 1 of 12)


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The daily onslaught at work prevented me from brooding, but the true nature of the change from being half of a couple to being what might optimistically be called unattached or available became clear within a week. The word desperate might be a better one for my state of mind. Tom, evidently, had tired of me, but my notions before his departure that I might be tiring of him had been delusions.

At Lindler & Haliburton a myriad of technical and staffing issues filled my days and left me tired in the evening and at weekends. Peter's absence in the US made work more predictable, probably less stressful, but less interesting too. He was anxious to keep up with office politics and retain as much influence in the firm as possible, and we exchanged e-mails every couple of weeks.

He flew back to London for the quarterly meetings, and on the first of these return visits invited Lizetta and me for lunch. Caroline and Vincent, a new client he had recruited at the last Hotel and Catering Exhibition where the firm now had a small stand, joined us at the restaurant. At first Vincent's presence puzzled me, business lunches with clients usually being separate events from social meals with colleagues or friends. Momentary but very expressive eye contact between him and Lizetta after we had ordered our meal revealed that to her he was more than a business client with us to be entertained. He was not a handsome man, balding and a bit overweight, but he had a warm friendly smile and an easy confident manner.

Later, when we were on our own, she pretended that their affair was my responsibility, saying that they would never have met had I not encouraged Peter to involve the firm in the Exhibitions. They lunched together a couple of times and arranged to meet for dinner a couple of weeks later, and after it she took him back to her flat. He ran a management consultancy specialising in work for the tourist industry and was married, but not - according to Lizetta - happily.

Caroline, wearing a charcoal business suit tailored perfectly to her figure, sat next to me on my right. Events at the Hotel des Amis, now over a year ago, were clearly forgotten. After the first course she took my hand in hers for a few moments and said she thought it was unfair that so many good-looking men were gay, blatantly teasing Peter by making up to me in front of him. Pleased to be able to make a fresh start with her I made ambiguous comments about not wanting to be stereotyped and saying that, like a lot of gay men, I found some women very attractive. For a while Peter ignored us.

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