Deception on His Mind



To Ian Armstrong, life had begun its current downward slide the moment he'd been made redundant.

He'd known when he'd been offered the job that it was only a temporary appointment.

The advertisement he'd answered had not indicated otherwise, and no offer of a contract had ever been made him. Still, when two years passed without a whisper of unemployment in the offing, Ian had unwisely learned to hope, which hadn't been much of a good idea.

Ian's penultimate foster mother would have greeted the news of his job loss by munching on a shortbread finger and proclaiming, "Well, you can't change the wind, can you, my lad? When it blows over cow dung, a wise man holds his nose." She would have poured tepid tea into a glass - she never used a teacup - and she would have sloshed it down. She would have gone on to say, "Ride the horse that's got its saddle on, lad," and she would have returned to perusing her latest copy of Hello!, admiring its photos of well-groomed nobs living the good life in posh London flats and on country estates.

This would be her way of telling Ian to accept his fate, her unsubtle message that the good lite was not for the likes of him. But Ian had never aspired to the good life. All he'd ever sought was acceptance, and he pursued it with the passion of an unadopted and unadoptable child. What he wanted was simple: a wife, a family, and the security of knowing that he had a future somewhat more promising than the grimness of his past.

These objectives had once seemed possible.

He'd been good at his job. He'd arrived for work early every day. He'd laboured extra hours for no extra pay. He'd learned the names of all his fellow workers. He'd even gone so far as to memorise the names of their spouses and children, which was no mean feat.

And the thanks he'd garnered for all this effort was a farewell office party drinking lukewarm Squash, and a box of handkerchiefs from a Tie Rack outlet.

Ian had tried to forestall and even to prevent the inevitable. He'd pointed out the services he'd rendered, the late hours he'd worked, and the sacrifices he'd made in not seeking other employment while occupying his temporary position.

He'd sought compromise by making offers of working for a lower salary, and ultimately he'd begged not to be cut off.

The humiliation of grovelling in front of his superior was nothing to Ian if grovelling meant he could keep his position. Because keeping his position meant that the mortgage could continue to be paid on his new house. With that taken care of, he and Anita could move forward with their efforts to produce a sibling for Mikey.

More important, he also wouldn't have to see the scorn in Anita's eyes when he informed her he'd lost yet another job.

"It's this rotten recession, darling," he'd told her. "It goes on and on. Our parents had World War Two as their trial by fire. This recession is ours."

Her eyes had said derisively, "Don't give me philosophy. You didn't even know your parents, Ian Armstrong." But what she said with an inappropriate and hence ominous amiability was, "So it's back to the library for me, I suppose. Though I hardly see what help that'll be once I've arranged to pay someone to look after Mikey while I'm out. Or did you plan to look after him yourself instead of looking for work?" Her lips were tight with insincerity when she offered him a brittle smile.

"I hadn't yet thought - "

"That's the trouble with you, Ian. You never think. You never have a plan. We move from problem to crisis to the brink of disaster. We have a new house we can't pay for and a baby to feed and still you aren't thinking. If you'd planned ahead, if you'd cemented your position, if you'd threatened to leave eighteen months ago when the factory needed reorganisation and you were the only one in Essex who could do it for them - "

"That's not actually the case, Anita."

"There you are! See?"


"You're too humble. You don't put yourself out. it you did, you'd have a contract now. n you ever once planned, you'd have demanded a contract then and there when they needed you most."

There was no point in explaining business to Anita when she was in a state. And Ian really couldn't blame his wife for the state she was in.

He'd lost