Chapter 1

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Nicholas is becoming restless as the plane circles Heathrow once again waiting for clearance to land. What in the bloody hell has happened to England, thinks Edith. Since leaving New York, there have been several announcements about heightened security at Heathrow and the possibility of delay. Now they have been trying to land for an hour. That blasted David better have the car waiting or he'll hear about it.

Why is there always a cock-up when she returns to England? Fortunately, this will be the last time. She left England following med school for a residency and fellowship at McGill University in Montreal. After nine years in Canada, she went on to New York for another nine years at Cornell's renowned fertility clinic. Now she is finished with the States and can choose any post she wants in England. Her impregnation rate at Cornell was among the best in the world, particularly for those in their 40s. And the States is swarming with them. Every law firm partner, every financial muckety-muck, even doctors who should know better think 45 is a perfectly respectable age to resuscitate aged ova and sperm and make a go at pregnancy. Fortunately, she was there to help and made buckets of money doing so.

"Mum, I have to go to the lavatory."

"Nicholas, don't bother now. You can wait until we land, can't you?"

"No, Mum, I really have to go."

"Alright then, off with you."

Edith quickly unfastens seven-year-old Nick's seatbelt and ruffles his hair as he squeezes by her. She forces a smile hoping that will settle him a bit. Patrick was right: he is a sensitive child - unlike his father! Throwing money at Patrick rid her of him and any thought he would see Nick again. The divorce was painless, and their marriage ended as dispassionately as the passion which brought it about. No more younger men vows Edith.

As Nick returns, the pilot announces they are cleared to land, and Edith bestows another smile on her son. "You'll have a nice visit with your cousins and the horses. Then Uncle Simon will take you to St. Benedict's. They'll turn you into a proper British gentleman like your uncles and grandfather, not like the ruffians who terrorized you at Montessori."

Nick gives her a fearful look, but there's nothing to be done about it. He is off to boarding school in September. She has a career to make in London.

An hour later they are through the wretched customs at Heathrow, and Edith sees what could only be one of the aged retainers from Larchmont Hall holding a sign reading "Montgomery." Nicholas spots the man and hesitantly asks: "Is he to meet us, Mum?"

"I'm afraid so, Nicholas. Let's just hope whatever wreck Uncle David sent doesn't break down on the M-25. I'm not in the mood."

As she approaches the man, she recognizes Mr. Waycroft, once her father's chauffeur. "Waycroft, you are much too old to drive. Why did Mr. Montgomery send you?" Looking a bit startled, he bows his head saying: "I'm only to greet you, Dr. Montgomery, and make certain your luggage is organised. Mr. Montgomery's PA is outside with the car. I'll phone him now." With that Waycroft takes a mobile from his pocket and presses a button.

What's this? David has equipped the staff with mobiles! Does he have any idea of the calls they likely make and the cost? Has he gone mad? A few minutes later a tall young man sprints toward them saying, "You mind the car now, Waycroft, I'll collect the bags."

"Who might you be," Edith asks.

"Teddy Latham. I'm David's driver at the moment, but I'm actually his PA. Are you Edith?"

Cheeky little sod, she thinks. "No, whoever you might be. I'm Dr. Montgomery and this is my son, Nicholas. Now if you would be good enough to gather our bags and get me out of this dreadful place, I won't have David dismiss you immediately."

"God, David was right about you. Said you were a bit shirty."

Giving him a withering look but relishing David's comment, Edith commands the young man to follow her to the baggage reclaim area. Their two large bags appear and Edith points to them: "You, mind the cases then." He easily lifts them and leads her from the terminal. Outside, Waycroft is standing next to a shiny, black Bristol automobile. She looks at the PA: "Don't tell me David bought one of those?"

"Yes, from a musician in The Netherlands. It's a fantastic car. He and I are the only ones who drive it."

"Nonsense. Give me the key. I'm driving to Hertfordshire."

"I'm sorry, m'am, but only David and I drive the Bristol."

"Look you little twit. Hand me the key immediately or the next job my brother gives you will be mucking Mum's horse shed."

Waycroft nods to the young man saying: "Do as she wants. Mr. Montgomery said not to upset her."

After their bags are stored in the boot, Waycroft enters the rear seat with Nicholas and Teddy takes the front passenger seat. "Shall I go through the various controls and such, Dr. Montgomery?"

"Not necessary. Waycroft taught me to drive at 13. There's nothing you can teach me. Unless, of course, I decide to become a PA - whatever that might."

"Personal assistant. A PA is a personal assistant."

"So you're a secretary then," Edith smirks.

"No. I do the distasteful things David doesn't have the time or interest to manage: the house renovation, staff and accounts, fetching visiting sisters, that sort of thing."

Laughing, Edith says: "You can't insult me. I've been insulted by the best and insulted them even better. Now give me the key."

The PA hands her the key saying: "It's your funeral Dr. Montgomery."

Edith tinkers a bit with the instruments and adjusts mirrors. Looking into the rear seat both Waycroft and Nick are dozing. Good. She can show this PA person a thing or two. She quickly pulls from the kerb and heads toward the M-4.

Trying to be as nonchalant as possible, the PA scrolls through his mobile, pointedly ignoring Edith's erratic driving. David warned him not to ruffle her feathers, no matter what she said or did. He's dealt with investment bankers since leaving Cambridge four years ago. His boss's sister may be arrogant and condescending, but they are worse. Perhaps he should tell the sister to get stuffed and see if David sacks him. With his impressive CV, he can name his price. Plenty of rich men need help managing their lives.

After 10 minutes of silence as Edith swerves in and out of the heavy traffic, she looks at him: "Not a bad car. Handles well." He only nods and returns to his mobile.

"Aren't you to talk to me?"

Sighing, he looks up from the mobile. "What do you want to talk about?"

"Oh, I dunno. The car, David, that cow Charmaine, their gaggle of brats."

"Charmaine's not a cow. She's a lovely woman and a wonderful mother. David's mad about her."

"Of course he is. Who else but Charmaine would pro-create with him?"

Now he understands David's warning to tread lightly with the insufferable sister. Well, then, he'll at least defend Charmaine. She's been nothing but kind to him, and he likes her and the children.

"Well, she's done quite well with the children. They are quite bright and fun to be with. Your son will enjoy them."

"How many are there now?"

"Still the six. Although Char would like one more before she reaches 40. Says she needs a tie breaker with three girls and three boys."

"She just wants to best Mum's six. She wants to outdo everyone, even Mum."

"I'd say not. Your mother is quite fond of Char. She's been such a help with your father. Moved everyone from London to Larchmont only to lend a hand."

"Well, it's not like they don't have help. Mum says there's a nurse and Charmaine only reads "The Times" to him or brings in the children at the odd moment."

"Your father seems to like it. Not that anyone can truly tell. He seems calmer when Char or your mother is with him."

Bloody Parkinson's. Her father was vital until a year ago. Overnight he turned into a drooling, trembling wraith of a man that Edith couldn't recognize from his photos. Well, she's home now and can play dutiful daughter for a bit. But Dad would be the first to tell her to get on with it.

As Edith zooms onto the M-25, she pays more attention to the roadway and drops the conversation with Teddy. Just as well. He found her damn annoying. Looking at her sideways, he sees the glint in her eyes as she speeds along, and her thin lips curl upward. Well at least she is enjoying the drive. If they survive the next 30 minutes, she will have to slow down through the roundabouts, and they will soon be to Hertford. With any luck Charmaine will see her driving the Bristol and report it to David. It'll spare him tattling on her.

Tracking their time on his mobile, Teddy notices that they are approaching Larchmont nearly 10 minutes earlier than the usual travel time from the airport. Good. The less time with her, the better. Heeding the road safety signs, Edith slows the car to a sedate pace as they meander through the village and head toward home. She calls to her son, "Nicholas. Get awake. We are here."

Both Waycroft and Nick jump at her voice and look equally startled. "Mum, is this where we'll stay?"

"Yes, Nicholas. We're at Larchmont Hall. This is where I grew up. Grandmother and Grandfather are here, your cousins and the horses. We'll have a bit of a holiday before school. Look smart now."

Continued. . .