One Day 13
Chapter thirteen The Pleasures of Fatherhood Saturday, 15th July 2000
Richmond, Surrey, England
Jasmine Alison Viola Mayhew - Dexter and Sylvie's daughter - had been born on the third day of the year. She was always going to be the same age as the century. Dexter loved her dearly. He wanted to do everything that was best for her.
After work on 15th July, he was hurrying home to the pretty house in Richmond where he and his wife and daughter lived. Richmond was ten miles west of London, so Dexter was no longer a Londoner. His flat in Belsize Park was rented to someone else.
Dexter really had almost given up alcohol. That was something he was proud of. He often felt pressure to have just a small drink, but he rarely gave in to it. He had given in to pressure about something else. The pressure had come from Sylvie, who wanted him to find a real job. He had been getting very little TV work in the last year, so finally he agreed to have a meeting with Callum. Sylvie really liked Callum and Callum wanted to help them.
Callum had given Dexter a job. One day, it might become a very good job but at the moment Dexter wasn't enjoying it. The problem was that Dexter had to 'start at the bottom', as Callum said. He had to make sandwiches. He had to sell sandwiches in the shops. He had to drive a van around London. It was very menial work. The worst thing about it was that he was frequently recognized by people. Customers in the shops often asked him why he was no longer on TV and that hurt him. He also worried that Sylvie was disappointed in him. She had pressured him about the job but he felt she was angry that his TV career had ended. He worried that she was no longer very interested in him. They often argued these days. And they hadn't made love for weeks. Dexter was thinking about all this as he arrived home. But tonight he was going to prove to Sylvie that he was a new person. Tonight he was going to look after Jasmine alone while Sylvie went out with friends. It was going to be the first time Sylvie had left the baby for more than a few minutes.
'I'm going out for a meal in Central London with some of my girlfriends,' Sylvie had told him. 'Then we'll stay at a hotel overnight. I'll be back the next morning. It will be all right, you'll see.'
'Yes, it will be all right,' Dexter told himself now.
Sylvie looked tired and unhappy when Dexter entered the house.
'What's wrong, darling?' he asked her.
'Oh, it's just been a bad day,' she replied. 'Jasmine hasn't slept at all. She's been crying all day. And life in the house gets very boring when you aren't here. I'll feel better when I get out of the house tonight. Now, are you sure you'll be all right on your own with Jasmine?'
She tried to sound friendly, but Dexter knew that she didn't really trust him.
'She thinks I'll start drinking,' he told himself. 'But I will not! I will certainly not!'
'We'll be fine,' he said. 'Don't worry about us.'
'If there's a problem, call me,' Sylvie said. 'But call my mobile, not the hotel number. Do you understand?'
From the beginning, Dexter's evening was a disaster. Moments after Sylvie left the house, Jasmine started to scream and she didn't stop. She missed her mother. She didn't let Dexter feed her. Soon there was baby food all over her clothes and she was wet through. Dexter changed her clothes and laid her down, but she refused to go to sleep. Then she screamed when Dexter turned on the television and saw the face of Suki Meadows. Jasmine's scream was even louder than Suki's voice. Soon Dexter was desperate. And soon he was walking to the wine shop in the next street, with Jasmine in his arms. When he returned home, Dexter opened one of the bottles of wine he had bought. As he drank, Jasmine finally went to sleep. Dexter began to feel calmer, but he didn't stop drinking. He looked at the baby food, the baby clothes and the baby toys that were all around him. He felt trapped. He drank some more wine. 'I need to talk to someone,' he told himself.
He tried to phone Emma Morley, but she didn't answer her phone. He waited for a few minutes and tried again. Still she didn't answer. Much later, and feeling desperate, he called Suki Meadows.
'Hi, Suki, it's me - Dex,' he said. 'I saw you on TV earlier. You were great.'
'DEX, HEY THERE! WELL, HOW ABOUT ALL THIS? I HAVEN'T HEARD FROM YOU FOR A LONG TIME,' Suki shouted. Suddenly she spoke quietly. 'In fact, it's been five years since we spoke.'
'Where are you, Suki?' Dexter asked her. 'I'd love to see you. There's so much to talk about. I want us to be friends again. Will you come to my house? Get a taxi - I'll pay for it.'
'I'm at a party with some friends,' Suki said, still speaking quietly. 'I'm not free. When we were together, you treated me really badly. Do you remember that? You can't just phone me after five years and tell me to come to you.'
At that moment, Jasmine woke up and started crying again.
'What was that noise?' Suki asked.
'It's a baby... it's my daughter, Jasmine,' Dexter said nervously. 'Didn't you know I had a daughter? I married someone and -'
Suki said several very rude words and then ended the call suddenly. Dexter opened the other bottle. Just before midnight, Sylvie used her mobile phone to call Dexter. She was sitting naked on the bed in her hotel room. They spoke for a few minutes, then Sylvie ended the conversation and began to cry.
'He was drunk,' she said to Callum O'Neill, who was sitting beside her. 'I knew he was going to be drunk.'
'Well, I've given him a job, there's nothing else I can do about him,' Callum said. 'The question is - what are you going to do about him? And when are you going to do it?' He turned on the television angrily and got into bed.