‘I can’t sell the Rolls. I’m going to start the weddings business up again.’
‘It’s been rusting in our garage for the best part of two years.’
‘I know. And I’ll come and get it. I just haven’t got anywhere to store it safely up here.’
The voices had that edge now. Their conversations often ended up like that. They would start off with Mum being all nice and then something would happen so that they both got really clipped and tense with each other. She heard Mum take a deep breath. ‘Can you at least think about it, Marty? She really wants to go to this place. Really, really wants to go. When the maths teacher spoke to her, her whole face lit up like I haven’t seen since –’
‘Since I left.’
‘I didn’t mean it like that.’
‘So it’s all my fault.’
‘No, it’s not all your fault, Marty. But I’m not going to sit here and pretend that you going has been a barrel of laughs for them. Tanzie doesn’t understand why you don’t visit her. She doesn’t understand why she hardly gets to see you any more.’
‘I can’t afford the fares, Jess. You know that. There’s no point you going on and on at me. I’ve been ill.’
‘I know you’ve been ill.’
‘She can come and see me anytime. I told you. Send them both at half-term.’
‘I can’t. They’re too young to travel all that way alone. And I can’t afford the fares for all of us.’
‘And I suppose that’s my fault too.’
‘Oh, for Christ’s sake.’
Tanzie dug her nails into the soft parts of her hands. Norman kept looking at her, waiting.
‘I don’t want to argue with you, Marty,’ Mum said, and her voice was low and careful, like when a teacher is trying to explain something to you that you should already know. ‘I just want you to think about whether there is any way at all you could contribute to this. It would change Tanzie’s life. It would mean she never has to struggle in the way that … we struggle.’
‘You can’t say that.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Don’t you watch the news, Jess? All the graduates are out of work. It doesn’t matter what education you get. She’s still going to have to fight. She’s still going to struggle.’ He paused. ‘No. There’s no point us going further into hock just for this. Of course these schools are going to tell you it’s all special, and she’s special, and her life chances are going to be amazing if she goes, et cetera, et cetera. That’s what they do.’
Mum didn’t say anything.
‘No, if she’s bright like they say she is, she’ll make her own way. She’ll have to go to McArthur’s like everyone else.’
‘Like the little bastards who spend all their time working out how to bash Nicky’s face in. And the girls who wear four inches of makeup and won’t do PE in case they break a nail. She won’t fit in there, Marty. She just won’t.’
‘Now you sound like a snob.’
‘No, I sound like someone who accepts that her daughter is a little bit different. And might need a school that embraces it.’
‘Can’t do it, Jess. I’m sorry.’ He sounded distracted now, as if he’d heard something in the distance. ‘Look. I’ve got to go. Get her to Skype me Sunday.’
There was a long silence.
Tanzie counted to fourteen.
She heard the door open and Nicky’s voice: ‘That went well, then.’
She leant over and finally rubbed Norman’s tummy. She closed her eyes so she didn’t see the tear that plopped onto it.
‘Have we done any lottery tickets lately?’
That silence lasted nine seconds. Then Mum’s voice echoed into the still air:
‘Well, I think maybe we’d better start.’
Ed was in the creatives’ room drinking coffee with Ronan when Sidney walked in. A man he vaguely recognized stood behind him; another of the Suits. In their sombre grey, with their end-of-the-world expressions, they resembled a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
‘We’ve been looking for you.’
‘Well, you found us.’
‘Not Ronan, you.’
He studied them for a minute, waiting, then threw a red foam ball at the ceiling and caught it. He glanced sideways at Ronan. Investacorp had bought half-shares in the company a full eighteen months ago but they still thought of them as the Suits. It was one of the kinder things they called them in private.
‘Do you know a woman called Deanna Lewis?’
‘Did you give her any information about the launch of the new software?’
‘It’s a simple question.’
Ed looked from one to the other. The atmosphere was strangely charged. His stomach, a packed elevator, began a slow descent towards his feet. ‘We may have chatted about work. No specifics that I remember.’
‘Deanna Lewis?’ said Ronan.
‘You need to be clear about this, Ed. Did you give her any information about the launch of SFAX?’
‘No. Maybe. What is this?’
‘The police are downstairs searching your office, with two goons from the Financial Services Authority. Her brother has been arrested for insider trading. On the basis of information that you gave them about the launch of the software.’