Saturday, mid-February 2009
It was about seven thirty the next morning when I remembered.
Lawyer Number Four.
(Perhaps I should explain that the church, too, had insisted we consult a lawyer. Even offered to pay. I later thought perhaps this is a legal requirement, if you sack someone? Only thing was, their budget was just enough to pay for the kind of lawyer who would tell us to sign anything, at first skim-reading. Presumably a cheap lawyer can be as dangerous as a cheap personal trainer. Or, worse, hairdresser. You end up in more of a mess than doing it yourself in the bathroom mirror.
Anyway, we had done as instructed. No point paying for all that cleverness if you don’t listen to it, is there?)
Mark’s words had lodged, like tiny shining seeds, glistening in my memory.
Something is missing from this settlement offer. I wouldn’t have drawn it up like this.
“What your husband should do, Mrs Atkins,” I could still hear his clear, courteous words as I walked up The Avenue in Trinity, “is get a job, and take the money. Both.”
“Shaun,” I kicked him awake. “He mustn’t announce it.”
He rolled over in the other direction. Joanna had insisted on quite a lot of champagne...
“Oi. This is important.”
“The Head Master. He mustn’t announce your appointment. Not until we’ve taken legal advice.”
“I can’t tell him that!”
“I can. Give me his number.”
It wasn’t quite eight o’clock. The Head was still at home.
“Would you mind,” I asked, “please, not telling anyone about Shaun’s appointment? Yet.”
I explained briefly.
“I don’t mind. But I told the bishop last night.”
“Could you tell him not to, as well?”
He sounded, if anything, amused.
He knew what we’d been through, because I’d nearly pulled out of going to speak at his church six months earlier, when Shaun had a breakdown.
Not a soul. No exceptions whatsoever. Not even Alex, away at university.
Not even my parents.
I hate secrets.
(That Saturday afternoon an old friend, an elderly clergyman, came to pray with us and support us: Shaun with no job to go to, and all. It felt bad, not telling him. Very bad indeed. When we eventually did, over a week later, asking him not to breathe a word to anyone, he instantly announced it to an entire conference of fifty clergy. Must be the long years of confidentiality training in the confessional, I suppose. Leakier than a popped paper bag in the bath.)
Shaun’s response to the settlement offer was due in by tomorrow, Sunday. The four-week deadline.
We had written the letter and appendix. Refuting everything, accepting nothing.
It now just needed a final paragraph. The merest hint that he might be open to negotiation, perhaps…
I had made it very clear, in person, a number of times, that we could never afford a settlement without Shaun’s having another post to go to. We never could accept one. We needed a roof over our children’s heads.
If anyone had believed me, they would now know he had a job offer.
I also knew they wouldn’t.
Some churches are like that.
I’m a woman.
We had the weekend to read and reread and check.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have Mark Jones’s out-of-hours number. So, Sunday evening, we ran our week’s work past Lawyer Number Two. He couldn’t see any spelling mistakes.
The two cheerleaders would expected a discreet response, just to them. Shaun wouldn’t want the entire church knowing he’d been accused of Gross Misconduct, surely?
I thought it would be fun to deliver, by hand, hard copy to everyone on the church Parochial Church Council, as well as to the bishop. But there were nearly forty of them. An amusing gesture, but it would take us all night.
Email to everyone would have to do.
Shortly before midnight we sat round the table. (All Atkinses except Rose, in bed; and Alex, at university – I’d asked him if he wanted to be kept informed, but he said no: it would worry him.)
Agreeing that we were ready.
We pressed send...