Paul's in a pub one night and sees Baxter Dawes, Clara's estranged husband. Paul knows from talk around town that Baxter's life is falling apart.
Baxter and Paul are confirmed as enemies. There's a strange sort of intimacy between them, kind of like the way that there's intimacy between Batman and the Joker.
Paul offers to buy Baxter a drink, which is customary because Paul is the superior employee at Jordan's. Baxter wants nothing to do with his offer.
Paul and Baxter rag on each other a while. It's insinuated that Baxter knows what goes on between Paul and Clara.
Eventually, the two start really fighting.
The bouncer throws Baxter out of the bar, even though he tries to argue that Paul started the conflict.
See, Mr. Dawes is actually getting thrown out because he has the lower reputation of the two.
Paul doesn't want his mother to get wind of this encounter with Dawes. But keeping the secret makes him feel ashamed around her.
He doesn't see Mr. Dawes for days after that. But one day, Paul nearly collides with him as he's running up the stairs at Jordan's. Paul says sorry and rushes on, though but wants to make something of it, telling Paul that he'll answer for what he did at the pub.
Dawes ends up grabbing Paul by the arm, and Mr. Jordan comes running out of his office, telling Dawes not to come into work half-drunk. Dawes says he's no more drunk than Jordan himself, which is a big no-no.
Shmoop does not recommend talking to your boss that way.
Jordan tells Dawes to get back to work before he fires him. The two get into a kerfuffle, and Dawes ends up assaulting Jordan, who presses charges against him.
One day, Paul is hanging out with Clara, and she asks him if he'll always be at Jordan's. He says no—he'll move abroad eventually.
This is news to Clara.
That spring, they go to the seaside and live as man and wife. Mrs. Radford sometimes visits them.
She realizes that he likes to be alone during the day, and wants her by night. He admits this is true.
He asks her if she'd ever like to get married. He says he'd marry her and have children, but she admits she doesn't want a divorce from Baxter, though she doesn't know why.
For a moment, Paul and Clara hate each other, though they laugh.
Clara then goes to live with her mother in a place called Mapperly Plains. One night, as she and Paul are walking along, they run into Baxter again.
Clara now tells Paul that he knows nothing about her as a person, that he talks on and on about the cruelty of women when he should talk about the cruelty of men.
Paul is angry at the accusation that he knows nothing about her.
Over time, Paul and Clara start to realize that having sex with each other never really achieves what they want it to. At best, one of them takes pleasure while the other doesn't.
One night, as Paul is walking away from Clara's, Dawes appears and punches him in the face.
Dawes basically kicks the living daylights out of him.
When he regains consciousness, Paul washes his blood off in a lake. He realizes he's filled by the urge to see his mother.
Yep, his mother. Not Clara. Or Miriam.
Later, he wakes up in his mother's arms. He admits that Baxter Dawes was the one who hurt him, though he insists that he's not in much pain, which is a lie.
He has a dislocated shoulder and some bronchitis settling in. Now his mom is very old and pale.
We find the situation pretty stressful, too.
The Morels decide to tell everyone Paul was in a bicycle accident.
After this, Paul avoids Clara, but also his mother, since something seems to be between them now.
Paul decides to go away for a few days with a friend of his named Newton. For those days, Paul forgets every woman in his life and just enjoys himself.
When he goes to see his mother at Annie's, he discovers that Mrs. Morel is sick.
He finds out she has a tumor. Her prognosis isn't good.
Mrs. Morel has had the tumor for a long time, and she's been suffering all alone with no one to take care of her (this is a nice guilt trip for Paul).
Two doctors visit Mrs. Morel. Dr. Jameson says it's just a tumor and they can "sweal it away."
Paul has to leave for work on Monday, and he makes his mother promise him not to get any worse before he's back. He cries all the way to the train station.
In the afternoon, he takes another walk with Clara. When he tells her the news, she clutches him to her chest and tells him to try and forget his trouble.
Two months pass, and Mrs. Morel isn't all that much better.
She just wants to go home.
So they rent a motor-car to drive her home. She is jolly on the trip, but everyone knows she's dying.
What will our boy Paul do with out dear old mom, we wonder?