Fiction Tony Parsons Man and Wife

ISBN 13 : 9780006514824

Man and Wife

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9780006514824: Man and Wife

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Synopsis :

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Extrait :

Part One

The Man of Her Dreams

Chapter 1

My son has a new father.

He doesn't actually call the guy Dad -- come on, he wouldn't do that to me -- but I can't kid myself. This guy -- Richard, bloody Richard -- has replaced me in all the ways that matter.

Richard is there when my son eats his breakfast (Coco Pops, right? -- see, Pat, I still remember the Coco Pops). Richard is there when my boy plays quietly with his Star Wars toys (playing quietly because Richard is more of a Harry Potter man, not so big on light sabers and Death Stars and Jedi Knights).

And Richard is there at night sharing a bed with the mother of my son.

Let's not forget that bit.

"So how's it going?"

I asked my son the same question every Sunday as we took our places in the burger bar, our Happy Meals between us, among all the dads and little boys and girls just like us. You know. The weekend families.

"Good," he said.

That was all. Good? Just good? And it's funny, and a little bit sad, because when he was smaller, you couldn't stop him talking, he was full of questions.

How do I know when to wake up? Where do I go when I am asleep? How do I grow up? Why doesn't the sky stop? You're not going to die, are you? Obviously we're not going to die, right? And is a Death Star bigger than the moon?

You couldn't shut him up in the old days.

"School's okay? You get on with everyone in your class? You're feeling all right about things, darling?"

I never asked him about Richard.

"Good," he repeated, poker-faced, drawing an impenetrable veil over his life with one little word. He picked up his burger in both hands, like a baby squirrel with a taste for junk food. And I watched him, realizing that he was wearing clothes that I had never seen before. What family day-out were they from? Why hadn't I noticed them before? So many questions that I couldn't even bring myself to ask him.

"You like your teacher?"

He nodded, biting off more Happy Meal than he could possibly chew and making further comment impossible. We went through this routine every weekend. We had been doing it for two years, every since he went to live with his mother.

I asked him about school, friends and home.

He gave me his name, rank and serial number.

He was still recognizably the sweet-natured child with dirty blonde hair who once rode a bike called Bluebell. The same boy who was so cute at two years of age that people stopped to stare at him in the street, who insisted his name was Luke Skywalker when he was three, who tried to be very brave when his mother left me when he was four and everything began to fall apart.

Still my Pat.

But he didn't open his heart to me anymore -- what frightened him, the things that made him happy, the stuff of his dreams, the parts of the world that puzzled him (why doesn't the sky stop?) -- in the same way he did when he was small.

So much changes when they start school. Everything, really. You lose them then and you never really get them back. But it was more than school.
rd

There was a distance between us that I couldn't seem to bridge, no matter how hard I tried. There were walls dividing us, and they were the walls of his new home. Not so new now. Another few years and he would have spent most of his life living away from me.

"What's your Happy Meal taste like, Pat?"

He rolled his eyes. "You ever have a Happy Meal?"

"I've got one right here."

"Well, that's exactly what it tastes like."

My son at seven years old. Sometimes I got on his nerves. I could tell.

We still had a good time together. When I gave up my inept interrogations, we had fun. The way we always had. Pat was always a pleasure to be around -- easygoing, sunny natured, game for a laugh. But it was different now that our time together was rationed. This time together had a sheen of desperation because I couldn't stand to see him disappointed or sad. Any minor unhappiness, no matter how temporary, gnawed at me in a way that it really hadn't when we still shared a home.

These Sundays were the high point of my week. Although things were going well for me at work now, nothing was as good as this day, this whole glorious day, that I got to spend with my boy.

We didn't do anything special, just the same things we had always done, bouncing merrily between food and football, park and pictures, games arcade and shopping mall. Happily frittering away the hours.

But it felt different to when we lived together because now, at the end of all these ordinary, perfect days, we had to say good-bye.

The clock was always running.

There was a time in our lives, in that brief period when I was looking after him alone, when his mother was in Japan, trying to reclaim the life that she had given up for me, that I felt Pat and I were unique.

I stood at the school gates of his primary school, separate from all the mothers waiting for their children, and I felt that there was nobody like us in the world. I couldn't feel like that any more. The world was full of people like us. Even McDonald's was full of people like us.

On Sundays the burger bar was always packed with oneday dads making stilted small talk with their children, these wary kids who came in all sizes, from lovely little nippers to pierced, surly teens, all those fathers making the best of it, looking from their child or children to their watch, trying to make up for all the lost time and never quite succeeding.

We avoided eye contact, me and all the other one-day dads. But there was a kind of shy fraternity that existed between us. When there were unpleasant scenes -- tears or raised voices, the egg McMuffin abruptly and angrily abandoned, an overwrought demand to get Mummy on the cell phone immediately -- we felt for each other, me and all the other Sunday dads.

As Pat and I lapsed into silence, I noticed that there was one of them at the next table being tortured by his daughter, a saucer-eyed ten-year-old in an Alice band.

"Je suis vegetarienne," said the little girl, pushing away her untouched Big Mac.

Her father's mouth dropped open.

"How can you possibly be vegetarian, Louise? You weren't a vegetarian last week. You had that hot dog before The Lion King, remember?"

"Je ne mange pas de viande," insisted the little girl. "Je ne mange pas de boeuf."

"I don't believe it," said her father. "Why didn't you tell me you've turned vegetarian? Why didn't your mother?"

Poor bastard, I thought, and I saw the man's love life flash before my eyes.

Probably a corporate romance, the woman in from the Paris office, trailing clouds of charm, Chanel and an accent that would make any grown man melt. Then a whirlwind courtship, seeing the sights of two cities, the time of moonlight and Interflora, an early pregnancy, probably unplanned, and then the woman buying a one-way ticket back to the old country when the sex wore off.

"Je suis allergique au Happy Meal," said the girl.

Pat had stopped eating. His mouth hung open with wonder. He was clearly impressed by the little girl at the next table. Everything bigger children said or did impressed him. But this was something new. This was possibly the first time he had seen a bigger child speaking a foreign language outside of the movies or TV.

"Japanese?" he whispered to me. He assumed all foreign languages were Japanese. His mother was fluent.

"French," I whispered back.

He smiled at the little girl in the Alice band. She stared straight through him.

"Why is she talking French then?" he asked me, suddenly perking up. And it was just like the old days -- Pat bringing me one of life's little puzzles to unravel. I leaped upon it with gratitude.

"That little girl is French." I said, keeping my voice down. I looked at the poor bastard who was her father. "Half French."

Pat widened his eyes. "That's a long way to come. French is a long way."

"France, you mean. France is not as far as you think."

"It is, though. You're wrong. France is as far as I think. Maybe even further."

"No it's not. France -- well, Paris -- is just three hours in the train from London."

"What train?"

"A special train. A very fast train that runs from London to Paris. The Eurostar. It does the journey in just three hours. It goes through a tunnel under the sea."

My son pulled a doubtful face. "Under the sea?"

"That's right."

"No, I don't think so. Bernie Cooper went to French in the summer." Bernie Cooper -- always addressed by his full name -- was Pat's best friend. The first best friend of his life. The best friend he would remember forever. Pat always quoted Bernie with all the fervor of a Red Guard citing the thoughts of Chairman Mao at the height of the Cultural Revolution. "Bernie Cooper went to the seaside in French. France. They got a Jumbo. So you can't get a train to France. Bernie Cooper said."

"Bernie and his family must have gone to the south of France. Paris is a lot closer. I promise you, darling. You can get there from London in three hours. We'll go there one day. You and me. Paris is a beautiful city."

"When will we go?"

"When you're a big boy."

He looked at me shrewdly. "But I'm a big boy now. I'm already seven."

And I thought to myself -- that's right. You're a big boy right now. That baby I held in my arms has gone forever and I will never get him back.

I glanced at my watch. It was still early. They were still serving McBreakfasts in here.

"Come on," I said. "Let me help you with your coat. We're going. Don't forget your football and your mittens."

He looked out the window at the rain-lashed streets of north London.

"Are we going to the park?"

"We're going to Paris."

We could just about make it. I had worked it out. You don't think I would just rush off to Paris with him, do you? No, we could do it. Not comfortably, but just about. Three hours to Paris on Eurostar, an afternoon wandering around the sights, and then -- whoosh -- back home for Pat's bedtime.

Nobody would know we had gone to Paris -- that is, his mother would not know -- until we were safely back in London. All we needed were our passports.

Luck was with us. At my place, Cyd and Peggy were not around. At Pat's place, the only sign of life was Uli, the dreamy German au pair. So I didn't have to explain to my wife why I needed my passport for a kickabout on Primrose Hill and I didn't have to explain to my ex-wife why I needed Pat's passport to play SEGA Rally in Funland.

It was a quick run down to Waterloo and soon Pat had his face pressed against the window as Eurostar pulled out of the station, his breath making mist on the glass.

He looked at me slyly.

"We're having an adventure, aren't we? This is an adventure, isn't it?"

"A big adventure."

"What a laugh," my son said and smiled.

Three little words, and I will never forget them. And when he said those three little words, it was worth it. Whatever happened next, it was all worth it. Paris for the day. Just the two of us.

What a laugh.

My son lived in one of those new kind of families. What do they call them?

A blended family.

As though people can be endlessly mixed and matched. Ground up and seamless. A blended family. Just like coffee beans. But it's not so easy with men and women and children.

They only lived a mile or so down a London road, but there were things about their life together that were forever hidden from me.

I could guess at what happened between Gina and our son -- I could see her still, washing his hair, reading him Where The Wild Things Are, placing a bowl of green pasta before him, hugging him so fiercely that you couldn't tell where she ended and where he began.

But I had no real idea what went on between Richard and Pat, this man in his middle thirties who I didn't know at all, and this seven-year-old child whose skin, whose voice, whose face was more familiar to me than my own.

Did Richard kiss my son good-night? I didn't ask. Because I really didn't know what would hurt me more. The warmth, the closeness, the caring that a good-night kiss would indicate. Or the cold distance implicit in the absence of a kiss.

Richard was not a bad guy. Even I could see that. My ex-wife wouldn't be married to him if he was any kind of child hater. I knew, even in my bleakest moments, that there were worse stepparents than Richard. Not that anyone says stepparent anymore. Too loaded with meaning.

Pat and I had both learned to call Richard a partner -- as though he was involved in an exciting business venture with the mother of my son, or possibly a game of bridge.

But the thing that drove me nuts about Richard, that had me raising my voice on the phone to my ex-wife -- something I would really have preferred to avoid -- was that Richard just didn't seem to understand that my son was one in a million, ten million, a billion.

Richard thought Pat needed improving. And my son didn't need improving. He was special already. Richard wanted my son to love Harry Potter, wooden toys and tofu. Or was it lentils? But my son loved Star Wars, plastic light sabers and pizza. My son stubbornly remained true to the cause of mindless violence and carbohydrates with extra cheese.

At first Richard was happy to play along, back in the days when he was still trying to gain entry into Gina's pants. Before he was finally granted a multiple-entry visa into those pants, before he married my ex-wife, my son's mum, Richard used to love pretending to be Han Solo to my son's Luke Skywalker. Loved it. Or at least acted like he did.

And quite frankly my son would warm to Saddam Hussein if he pretended to be Han Solo for five minutes.

Now Richard was no longer trying, or he was trying in a different way. He didn't want to be my son's friend any more.

He wanted to be more like a parent. Improving my boy.

As though improving someone is any kind of substitute for loving them.

You mak...

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Description du livre HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2003. Paperback. État : New. 194 x 128 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Harry Silver returns to face life in the blended family. A wonderful new novel about modern times, which can be read as a sequel to the million selling Man and Boy, or completely on its own. Man and Wife is a novel about love and marriage - about why we fall in love and why we marry; about why we stay and why we go. Harry Silver is a man coming to terms with a divorce and a new marriage. He has to juggle with time and relationships, with his wife and his ex-wife, his son and his stepdaughter, his own work and his wife s fast-growing career. Meanwhile his mother, who stood so steadfastly by his father until he died, is not getting any younger or stronger herself. In fact, everything in Harry s life seems complicated. And when he meets a woman in a million, it gets even more so.Man and Wife stands on its own as a brilliant novel about families in the new century, written with all the humour, passion and superb storytelling that have made Tony Parsons a favourite author in over thirty countries. N° de réf. du libraire AA89780006514824

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Description du livre HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2003. Paperback. État : New. 194 x 128 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Harry Silver returns to face life in the blended family. A wonderful new novel about modern times, which can be read as a sequel to the million selling Man and Boy, or completely on its own. Man and Wife is a novel about love and marriage - about why we fall in love and why we marry; about why we stay and why we go. Harry Silver is a man coming to terms with a divorce and a new marriage. He has to juggle with time and relationships, with his wife and his ex-wife, his son and his stepdaughter, his own work and his wife s fast-growing career. Meanwhile his mother, who stood so steadfastly by his father until he died, is not getting any younger or stronger herself. In fact, everything in Harry s life seems complicated. And when he meets a woman in a million, it gets even more so.Man and Wife stands on its own as a brilliant novel about families in the new century, written with all the humour, passion and superb storytelling that have made Tony Parsons a favourite author in over thirty countries. N° de réf. du libraire AA89780006514824

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Description du livre HarperCollins Publishers. Paperback. État : new. BRAND NEW, Man and Wife, Tony Parsons, Harry Silver returns to face life in the "blended family." A wonderful new novel about modern times, which can be read as a sequel to the million selling Man and Boy, or completely on its own. Man and Wife is a novel about love and marriage - about why we fall in love and why we marry; about why we stay and why we go. Harry Silver is a man coming to terms with a divorce and a new marriage. He has to juggle with time and relationships, with his wife and his ex-wife, his son and his stepdaughter, his own work and his wife's fast-growing career. Meanwhile his mother, who stood so steadfastly by his father until he died, is not getting any younger or stronger herself. In fact, everything in Harry's life seems complicated. And when he meets a woman in a million, it gets even more so.Man and Wife stands on its own as a brilliant novel about families in the new century, written with all the humour, passion and superb storytelling that have made Tony Parsons a favourite author in over thirty countries. N° de réf. du libraire B9780006514824

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