Espresso Tales

Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith

Book: Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alexander McCall Smith
lawyers in Charlotte Square. They look after me very well, those people. I’m seeing them at eleven, and I thought I’d drop in and see how things were going. I gather you’re turning in a profit.”
    Matthew sat back in his chair and smiled. “Yes,” he said. “Surprised?”
    Gordon looked down. My son knows what I think of him, he thought. He expects me to be surprised if he does anything well. And that’s my fault; nobody else’s–mine.
    â€œI wanted to congratulate you,” he said. “Yes, I was a little bit surprised. But perhaps…perhaps you’ve found your niche. And good for you.”
    Matthew looked at his father. There was something about him which was slightly different. He had had a haircut, yes, and he was losing a bit of weight. But there was something else. Were his clothes slightly younger in style?
    â€œYou look in good shape,” he said. “Have you started going to the gym?”
    Gordon blushed. “As a matter of fact, I have. Nothing too strenuous, of course. A bit of weight training and those running machines–you know, the ones which make you sweat. I do about two hours a week.”
    Matthew raised an eyebrow. “Do you go by yourself?”
    Gordon hesitated before he answered. “Actually,” he began, “I have somebody who goes with me. She does aerobics and I do my running and pushing weights.”
    Matthew said nothing for a moment. She. That would explain the change. He had found a girlfriend. “Good,” he said, after a while. “It’s nice to have company. Who is she, by the way?”
    Gordon moved across the room. He continued the conversation as he leaned forward to examine a painting.
    â€œNice landscape this,” he said. “She’s called Janis. I met her a few months ago at the Barbours’. Remember them? They send their regards. Anyway, Janis was at a dinner party there and…and, well, we hit it off. I’d like you to meet her.”
    Matthew looked across the room. Why was it so hard to imagine one’s parents having an emotional life? There was no reason why this should be so, but it just was. And his father, of all people! What could any woman possibly see in him…apart from money, of course?
    â€œWhat does…what does Janis do?” he asked.
    â€œShe owns a flower shop,” said Gordon. “It’s a nice little business. People still buy flowers, you know. She says that flowers are all about guilt. Men buy flowers because they feel guilty about something. About neglecting their wives, about all that sort of thing…” He tailed off. And what about neglect of sons? he thought. What about that?
    Matthew listened to this information. A woman who owned a flower shop? There was nothing wrong with that, of course, but he could picture her–alone in her flower shop, amidst all those carnations and bunches of red roses, waiting for her chance. And along comes his father, with his GBP 11.2 million (or that was the figure that Matthew had last heard) and, well, it would be infinitely better, would it not, than selling flowers to guilty husbands.
he thought.
    Gordon turned round from the painting he had been examining. “I’d like you to meet her,” he said. “How about dinner in the club this Friday? Would that suit?”
    There was something almost pathetically eager in his tone that made Matthew regret what he had been thinking; more guilt, but this time the son’s rather than the father’s. There was so much guilt in Edinburgh, everywhere one turned. Everyone felt guilty about something. Guilt. Guilt.
    â€œYes,” said Matthew, guiltily. “I could be free. What time?”
    â€œSeven-guilty,” said Gordon, and then rapidly correcting himself, “I mean seven-thirty.”
    â€œFine,” said Matthew. “I look forward to meeting…”
    â€œJanis,” supplied his

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