Diana finds herself a social outcast when her husband, a British Member of Parliament, is exposed as gay. Her happy, tranquil fifties, upper-class world is shattered. As a consequence, she discovers a great deal about herself, being a mother, love and the things taht really matter to her.
My life began to unravel on the day my daughter announced her engagement. I'd had no idea things would turn out so dreadful when, over breakfast, Daphne asked if she could invite Duncan to tea that afternoon. Not wishing to appear eager or intrusive, I did not ask my daughter what the occasion was, but secretly hoped the young man she'd met last year during her Season had asked her to become his wife. While my own life had become somewhat stagnant in recent years, my daughter becoming a debutante had enlivened our home once more. Every other day she enthralled me with her tales of the balls and charity events she'd attended. Duncan Wilkinson was the son of Horace Wilkinson, MP for Reading and his mother was Lady Clare Fenton. Clare was the only living child of the Duke of Berkshire, which meant, as Duncan was the only son, one day my daughter would enter into the aristocracy. Something most mothers could only dream of.
It was good to know one of my daughters was behaving in a respectable manner. Natalie, my youngest served to be nothing but an embarrassment with each passing day. At just sixteen, she considered herself grown up enough to decide the path she wanted to take in life without intervention from her father or myself. On the last day of term she'd declared she was leaving St Bennett's and was going to art school in Paddington. I could have tolerated that, had it not been accompanied by her friendships with inappropriate young men she met on the Kings Road - longhaired beatniks who smoked strangely coloured cigarettes and quoted French writers. It was becoming a common occurrence at coffee mornings to be taken to one side by a friend who would quietly inform me they'd seen my daughter kissing a man twice her age in broad daylight. Frankly I could not wait for her to move into the flat in Notting Hill she was going to rent with one of her unsuitable female friends. I was her mother and would love her forever, but I had a position in society and could not bear for my own offspring to jeopardise all I had worked for.
I was thankful that today she was out and I could entertain Duncan and Daphne in peace. I was hoping Charles would be home in time to join us but as usual he was caught up in parliamentary business. My husband was the MP for Hardwell - some little hamlet in Lancashire but thankfully his visits there were limited to once a fortnight when he held his surgeries. The thought of moving north filled me with dread and horror and I was glad we could remain in Eaton Square.
By the time Mrs Laine, the housekeeper, served tea, there was no sign of Charles and I realised I had to give up on my husband being here to witness our child's happy day. Duncan was such a lovely young man; well-connected, polite and not handsome in any way. I had no worries of him every becoming a ladies man, cheating on my daughter and causing social embarrassment. He was a solid, dependable fellow and I knew he would make Daphne nothing but happy.
'This really is a super angel cake Mrs Osbourne,' he said.
'Call me Diana,' I said. 'We're practically family after all.'
'Mummy!' Daphne scolded, blushing into her tea cup with a playful smile.
'W-Well, yes,' Duncan stammered, his expression becoming most earnest. 'That was the reason why we wanted tea with you this afternoon Mrs....Diana. I've approached your husband about the subject and he was most supportive and so I've asked Daphne if she will become my wife.'
'And I said yes!' Daphne beamed.
'Oh my darling,' I smiled, clasping my hands together in delight. 'Congratulations. I wish your father were here now. Have you any dates in mind?'
'We thought next summer,' Daphne said. 'And we'd like to have the wedding in Frimmington. I know it breaks with tradition to marry in the groom's village, but Frimmington Hall is so much more suitable for a reception.'
'Darling you don't have to try and convince me,' I replied with a reassuring wave of the hand. 'Whatever makes you happy.'
'Thank you mummy,' she smiled warmly, her pretty face lighting up. 'I don't deserve you.'
The doorbell rang and I left it for Mrs Laine to attend to. Occasionally people had the audacity to drop by and request Charles' time, as though by being an MP it made him public property and there to solve the most trivial problems at the drop of a hat.
'I was thinking of making Natalie a bridesmaid,' Daphne continued. 'Perhaps if she had something like a wedding to focus on then she wouldn't behave so badly for you and daddy.'
I glanced at Duncan and could see the embarrassment upon his face. This was not the time to be discussing family matters.
'We'll see,' was the only response I gave, drawing a line under the subject.
There was a knock on the door, and before I could even say 'come in', it opened. Mrs Laine stood there ashen faced, as though she had seen a ghost.
'Could you come outside please Mrs Osbourne?' she asked quietly.
'Who is it?' I replied, letting her hear the irritation in my voice.
'It's the police,' she answered.
'The police? What do they want?'
'To speak to you.'
I apologised to my daughter and her fianc? and left the room, closing the door behind me.
'They're in the dining room,' Mrs Laine said, gesturing to the room at the back of the house.
I thanked my housekeeper for her assistance and went into the dining room to be greeted by two men, one a young PC in uniform; the other, I presumed to be a detective - a burly man with dark hair and a raincoat, looking like something from a cheap B-Movie.
'Mrs Diana Osbourne?' he asked, his voice gruff and almost disrespectful, like his being here was a nuisance to him.
'Yes,' I replied.
'I'm Detective Sergeant Hall, this is PC Jones. I'm sorry to inform you that your husband The Right Honourable Charles Osbourne was arrested this afternoon and is currently being held at Mornington Grove Police station.'
'Arrested?' I uttered. 'Charles? What has he done?'
The detective cleared his throat and the young PC looked to the ground, a blush coming to his cheeks.
'Your husband was arrested along with a number of other men in a public lavatory in Regents Park.'
'I don't understand,' I replied, wondering why anyone would be arrested for using a public lavatory.
The detective rocked back on his heels, squared his shoulders and looked me in the eye and for the first time I could see how painful this was for him. His abruptness was rooted in embarrassment, not contempt.
'Your husband was caught performing indecent acts with another man.'
At that moment all time stood still and I became convinced I was dreaming. This was so far-fetched it couldn't possibly be true and in a moment I would awake and find I'd dozed off in my armchair, awaiting Duncan and Daphne's arrival. Why on earth would my husband want to commit indecent acts with another man? He wasn't queer. How could he be queer? We'd been married for twenty-one years.
'I'm sorry to have to tell you this madam,' Hall said. 'I also feel it my duty to warn you that as he was being brought to the station, a reporter from the Daily Sketch was there and I'm afraid it's likely to be in the newspapers tomorrow.'
This struck me as an even bigger blow than to think my husband was some sort of pervert. Tomorrow everyone I knew would read of how Charles had been mistakenly arrested and accused of being some sort of dirty queer who hangs around public toilets. I slumped down onto a dining chair and the young PC asked if I wanted a glass of water. I declined, saying all I wanted was for them to leave.
'Your husband will be up before Central London Magistrates tomorrow morning,' Hall said as he made to go. 'I'm sure he'll get bail and be home with you by the afternoon.'
'You mean he's not coming home tonight?'
'No, we need to question him I'm afraid.'
'If he's found guilty, will he go to prison?'
'Let's not jump the gun eh?' Hall said but his patronising tone just enflamed me more.
'I want the truth!' I snapped.
'Yes Mrs Osbourne,' he replied flatly. 'Your husband could be looking at up to five years imprisonment.'
I felt faint and it must have showed as the PC repeated his offer to fetch me a glass of water and this time I accepted. He left the room and Hall seemed to take this as an opportunity to approach me once more. He sat down on the chair next to me and rubbed his weary brow with a meaty hand.
'I've got four other wives to go and visit after you,' he sighed. 'Not a pleasant job.'
'Four! How many men were there? What were they doing? One hears such dreadful stories of public toilets and what goes on there. I thought it was some sort of myth; are you telling me it's true?'
'I'm afraid it is madam. I'm not going to go into details because you're a lady but let's just say there are young men who make it their job to entrap gentlemen like your husband and it was with such a fellow he was caught. I must say he was taking rather a chance doing it in broad daylight.'
'I've never been so ashamed in my life,' I cried, although too shocked for any tears to come.
'You have nothing to be ashamed of. It's your husband who's done wrong. But I'll leave it for him to explain it all to you tomorrow.'
'Can you do anything to stop the newspapers reporting it?'
'My hands are tied I'm afraid Mrs Osbourne. Just sit tight. It might not be all that bad.'
The young officer returned with my glass of water and I tried to drink but found my throat was closed. My heart was racing and my palms clammy and I was starting to shake so violently I was afraid I was going to suffer some sort of seizure.
'Will you be alright Mrs Osbourne?' Hall asked and I could only nod in reply. He got up and with a tilt of the head, indicated to the PC it was time to leave.
'We'll show ourselves out,' he said. 'Goodbye Mrs Osbourne.'
'I-I'm forgetting my manners,' I whispered, rising to my feet but feeling the floor tip beneath me. Steadying myself I showed the two officers out to the front door and was glad to see no reporters hanging around outside with their flashbulbs. Perhaps something more interesting was happening in the world rather than my poor husband being caught up in some sort of mistaken arrest.
I closed the door and paused while I decided what I was going to say to Daphne and Duncan. I couldn't possibly reveal the truth to them but at the same time I felt unable to continue with our tea. I needed to lie down in a dark room to contemplate what my future held.