Roxy surveyed the array of cutlery and glanced sideways at Leo’s dad to see which knife and fork he selected. She had been sat next to Joe Harding and opposite Saskia, no doubt to discomfit her, whilst Leo was sat at the opposite end of the table between his mother and Jemima.
But Roxy didn’t mind because she had an idea, if she could locate the courage to implement it. By dessert she’d found it. ‘So,’ she said, ‘you must be looking forward to the launch of Harding’s Bikes.’
‘Must I?’ Joe Harding’s expression gave nothing away.
‘Yes,’ she said stoutly. ‘You must.’ Deep breath. ‘I know Leo broke with tradition, but your approval is important to him.’
‘Miss Pemberton, in this family we don’t really talk about feelings, but if Leo wanted my approval, he should have taken up his directorship at Starkes.’
‘He couldn’t.’ Roxy wondered how to explain. ‘The Hardingo, Harding’s Bikes—it was Leo’s dream. Like the founder of Starke’s shoes felt about his first shoe. Leo had to follow that dream.’
‘And if he had failed?’
‘I can’t imagine that,’ Roxy said simply. ‘But it’s better to try and fail than to live your whole life wishing you’d tried.’
There was silence and then she felt a hand on her shoulder, knew it was Leo. She looked up at him in sudden disquiet—would he be angry that she was speaking to his dad? But his smile was so warm, so reassuring that she knew he wasn’t.
‘Roxy is right, Dad,’ Leo said. ‘I’m sorry I disappointed you, sorry I couldn’t be the son you wanted me to be, but I had to try to follow my dream. Not yours. But I am sorry, not to have been more like Saskia and James.’
‘What’s right for one person isn’t right for another.’ The intervention came from Saskia. ‘When I have children, I want them to have their own dreams, not ones I give them.’ She smiled at Joe. ‘I’m not complaining, Dad. As luck would have it, I love working for Starkes. So does James. But that doesn’t mean Leo has to feel the same.’ She glanced down the table. ‘Oh dear.’
They all turned to look as Jemima pushed back her chair. ‘I think I’m going to be sick.’
Saskia moved away. ‘I’d better help; Mum looks horrified.’
Joe turned to look at Leo. ‘This is hard for me. As I told this young lady, we don’t talk about feelings much. Maybe that’s a mistake. But I’m sorry too, Leo. I should have tried to understand.’
‘Thank you, Dad.’ Leo looked a little dazed, and Roxy wondered if his father had ever apologised to him before. Suspected not.
Joe Harding rose. ‘I’d better go and speak to your mother.’
Leo nodded. ‘We’ll leave you to it, Dad.’
Twenty minutes later, once goodbyes were said, Leo took Roxy by the hand. ‘We need to talk.’
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