Goodmans Hotel (Chapter 3, page 1 of 12)


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The next morning I woke up alone in Tom's bed. A faint smell of fresh paint was discernible, so faint that it had not been noticeable among the flood of powerful sensations of the previous night. When I drew back the curtains bright daylight illuminated an assortment of secondhand furniture. In the kitchen a note written on an old envelope told me he had gone off to work. He asked me to help myself to breakfast, to use anything of his I needed in the bathroom, and to call him on his mobile 'phone.

The door bell rang when I was half way through a bowl of breakfast cereal. Andrew stood outside, smiling cheerfully. 'Hello, bet you're surprised to see me,' he said, evidently himself not at all surprised at seeing me.

'Tom isn't here.'

'I know, he's off doing some job or other. Fitting a kitchen or bathroom for one of the local spinsters.'

'You don't know which? He works for you, doesn't he?'

'Oh, that's an arrangement we came to, saves him having to keep a set of accounts. He'll do jobs for me when the need arises. He prefers building maintenance: plumbing, electrics, decorating, that kind of thing. I don't have enough call for a handyman to keep him going full time, but he'll help me out at Ferns and Foliage whenever I'm stuck, otherwise he finds his own work. He probably thinks gardening isn't manly enough for him. That's one of the reasons giving him an employment contract is difficult. You must have had a poor impression of me as businessman last night, but my arrangement with Tom is a rather unusual one. He finds work for himself, his earnings are paid in with the Ferns and Foliage takings, tax and National Insurance are deducted, and he gets back what's left. Anyway, you're the one I've come to see.'

'Me? I'm not shaved or anything... You've caught me eating... You knew I'd be here?'

'Tom uses one of my vans. He said he'd left you asleep when he came to collect it. You're probably wondering what I'm doing here. There's a house nearby I was interested in buying, but it proved too expensive... a promising investment for someone with the capital. I was going to have another look at it this morning, hoping for last minute inspiration before giving up on the idea. You probably have other things to do, but if you happen to have an hour or so to spare...'

The prudent thing would have been to refuse, leave Tom a note with my telephone number, and allow a day or two for my mind to settle after the elation of the previous night. We could talk again by 'phone when my customary routines at home and at Lindler & Haliburton had brought me back to the real world, and arrange to meet again or decide calmly and sensibly that one night's love had been enough. However the euphoria had not worn off, and the prospect of learning a little more about Tom was tempting. I vacillated. 'I ought to be on my way. You invest in property as well as running Ferns and Foliage?'

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