43. Marching Orders
Bruce left the party at Watson Cooke’s flat without saying goodbye to Julia. From his point of view, the whole thing had been an unmitigated disaster.
For a short while Bruce had toyed with the idea of talking to the woman who had looked at him invitingly, but he found that he simply could not face it. It would have been a way of reminding Julia that she was not the only one and that he could get anybody – anybody – at the flick of his little finger. But somehow that was not what he really wanted. He wanted Julia herself, that infuriatingly stupid, gormless girl; he wanted her. He wanted the woman who was bearing his baby.
So he prepared to slip out of the flat while Julia was still in the kitchen, where he now glimpsed her talking to a dark-haired woman and the tall, rather thin man whom he had earlier on seen with Watson Cooke in the sitting room.
Watson came across him just as he was about to open the front door. “Leaving already, Duncan?” asked Watson.
“Bruce. It’s Bruce. I told you three times. Bruce.”
“Yes, sure. Leaving?”
“What does it look like?”
Watson smiled. “Looks like you’re leaving.” He paused. “Do you want me to tell Julia?”
Again Bruce felt his heart beating hard within him. He wanted to punch this man, with his supercilious, superior manner. He wanted to reach out and punch him on his… on his Watsonian chin. It would be so easy. Then he could slip out of the door and run downstairs before his host had the chance to react.
Bruce took a deep breath. “Oh, Julia. Yes, well I’m sure that she’ll come home in her own good time. She’s obviously enjoying herself. What with the dinner you had. Now the party. It’s been a great evening for my fianc'ee.”
He stressed the word “fianc'ee” and watched the effect on Watson Cooke. It registered. Watson’s mouth twitched slightly at the edges.
“Oh yes,” said Watson Cooke. “You should take her out a bit more yourself, you know. Women like to be fussed over. Did you know that?”
Bruce’s eyes narrowed. Does he think that I don’t know about women? Does he really think that? How many girlfriends has this stupid… stupid hunk had? Two?
“I have to go,” said Bruce suddenly. “Thank you very much for the party.”
He opened the door and went out onto the landing, slamming the door behind him. On impulse, he stopped for a moment and detached the note from the neighbour that he had found stuck to the door. To the message which the neighbour had written, he added two brief, scrawled scatological words, addressed to Watson. Then he pinned the note back on the door and went downstairs, out into the night.
He walked straight home, mentally rehearsing exactly what he would say to Julia when she came back that night. He thought that for a few minutes at the outset he would refuse to talk to her at all; the cold shoulder always registered with women. She would approach him, of course, and come up with something about not knowing why he was being so cold, and that would be his signal.
“Cold?” he would say. “So I’m cold, am I? Well, that’s not something that you suffer from, is it? Particularly when it comes to other men. Nobody would describe you as cold.”
Her jaw would drop. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Oh don’t you? Little Miss Innocent? Well, I refer to your habit of dining t^ete-`a-t^ete with other men when you’re meant to be engaged. That’s what I mean. Dining with that Watsonian gorilla and lying about it. Yes, lying. Oh, I can tell all right. Don’t think for one moment that I couldn’t tell that you were lying.”
Her face would crumple. “Oh, Bruce, don’t! I beg you! I love you so much. I worship the ground you tread on, I really do. I’d do anything for you, Brucie, anything. Oh, Brucie, please forgive me. It was madness, pure madness. And he’s such a creep, Watson Cooke. I hate him. I really hate him. He’s useless. And he’s impotent. Did you know that? Something happened in a rugby scrum and he’s impotent. You should feel sorry for him, Brucie. You should. You’re so… so… and he’s so… so… Really, Brucie, it’s true. Please forgive me. I feel wretched.”
He would be magnanimous. “All right. And are you going to be a good girl from now on? Promise.”
“Oh, Brucie! You know I’ll be good.”
He reached the flat with this satisfying dialogue still in his head. It made him feel considerably better, and by the time he had had another shower and slipped into his purple dressing gown he had almost forgotten his distress of the earlier part of the evening. Now he went through to the kitchen, prepared himself a bowl of muesli and began to watch a television replay of a Scottish football defeat.
He was still watching that when Julia came in.
“Why did you leave without me?’ she asked, flinging her coat down on the kitchen floor.
“Leave?” asked Bruce. “Oh, the party. Well, it was pretty dull. I got bored, I suppose.”
“And how do you think I felt?”
Bruce looked up from his muesli. “You had your friend there. Watson Cooke. You could talk to him.”
Julia picked up a copy of Vogue from the table and then, quite suddenly, but accurately, threw it across the table at Bruce.
“Temper!” said Bruce. “Temper! Temper!”
“You can get out,” said Julia quietly. “Tomorrow morning. Get out.”
Bruce stared at her. “You… You’re my fianc'ee,” he said. “And that, that’s my baby. You can’t…”
“Oh yes I can,” she said. “Engagement over. And the baby…well, sorry, Bruce, it was Watson Cooke’s all along. I meant to tell you, but you know how it is. Anyway, please move out tomorrow morning. I’ll phone Daddy and ask him to get a couple of his men to help you. You know those bouncers from that place he owns? They’ll help you move.”