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While they were in the ladies room, Jim came back. He slumped in his chair, glaring at me. Then he sat upright and leaned across the table.Come on, Jim, I said. You're drunk.I thought we were heading for the big one, but Marion and Cath reappeared.Thanks, I said. You two are the first to know. It's three months today, more or less.And I'm sure you're right. Cath, what's your poison? Bourbon all right for you or are you a little lady like Marion?I held my arms wide. He put his around me, but there was no softness to him. He pushed me away and rubbed his sleeve across his eyes. We stood facing each other. I tried to think of something to say to get him to laugh, imagined his face breaking into one of the gap-toothed smiles that used to dazzle the girls: nothing came.I would have made it anyway. All a man needs is a little ambition.While they were in the ladies room, Jim came back. He slumped in his chair, glaring at me. Then he sat upright and leaned across the table.Oh, yes. I
was just saying to Cath it's really good to meet her and Bill after all this time. I mean, the phone is all right and we have some pictures, but this is better. I like family.They passed Sandy coming back with our drinks and a bowl of pretzels. As she leant over to pass Jim his Jack Daniels, her blouse gaped. I could see the edge of a tattoo - some kind of bird - at the top of one breast. He sat silently, watching, then nodded at her as she went over to meet 'n' greet a young couple shaking snow off their coats.Come on, Jim. Don't let's fight any more. Not today, not now. Look, they're calling your bus and I'm not going to see you off with another argument.I know what you're driving at, Jim, but Bill started with nothing. We lived off credit cards for two years before Harper's turned a profit. My Dad didn't help us expand till we'd been going for three more.We'll call you, Cath said. Come and stay.This is just fantasyland, Jim, I said. Frannie's been in the business for dec
ades. His father started Petersen's back in the fifties for God's sake. Now he's closing the mill because it's not profitable and you're going to turn it around?