He ended the call and stared reflectively at the phone.
“That wasn’t easy. But I think they understood. It was helped by the fact that Jim’s mother had already said a lot of those things.”
“Oh. She would have. She’s amazing. Looks like she’s made of teak, but nobody understands children better. Now you do look exhausted. Recline your chair a bit and have a nap. I’ll wake you when we’re on the motorway.”
Anna drove for a couple of hours, then handed over to Sam who also managed a couple of hours before pulling off into a service area. Anna woke up.
“Yeah. Don’t think anybody is safe to drive much further. This isn’t the quietest place to stop, but…”
Anna knuckled her eyes. She pulled a book from the glove box.
“So. We’re here. There’s a pub about fifteen miles away that lets campervans overnight in its car park. And they do a good breakfast. Do you think we could make that?”
“Yeah. If we keep each other awake.”
“Right. I can book in on the Internet. Then we go.”
Thirty minutes later, Anna was showing Sam how to pull down the overcab bed.
She grinned wickedly at him.
“We’ll have to share. But I promise not to jump your bones.”
“You sure? I mean, we could wake Rod and he could share this one with me.”
“I don’t think we could wake Rod if we tried. But we should get Bill up for a wee, before we doss down. You do that, while I find the sleeping bags for this bed.”
Sam crawled over the comatose form of Rod and picked up the sleepy Bill.
“C’mon Bill. Wee wees.”
Once Bill had been sorted and inserted back into bed, Anna had hunted up two extra-large sleeping bags, and was spreading them out.
“Any preference for sides?” Anna asked.
“Nah. Just take the nearest. I’m for the loo and a quick tooth scrub, then nobody better get between me and some shuteye.”
When she came out of the bathroom, he was already in bed deeply asleep. She crawled onto the bed next to him, grinning inwardly. At least, she thought, the stranger I’m sharing a bed with is a handsome hunk. With which comforting thought she drifted into sleep herself.
She was the first person to wake, and jumped out of bed to put the kettle on. Bonnie came down from her station on Bill’s feet and indicated a desire to go out, so Anna opened the door for her and stood in the doorway waiting for the dog to do her business. Bonnie was brisk, and returned to wait just inside the door for Anna to wipe her dewy feet and tummy. When she was dry, she leapt neatly back onto the bed where Bill awaited her with open arms.
“You are such a lovely dog, aren’t you?” he said admiringly. “But now I need to go wee too.”
“Crawl over dozy Rod and I’ll lift you down. Do you know how to work the toilet?”
“I’ll show you. Then I’ll make a pot of tea.”
When Bill came out of the little bathroom, everyone had woken up and the overcab bed had been pushed back to the ceiling. Rod grinned and ruffled the small head.
Bill poked him firmly in the kneecap.
“Not so much lip, you. I was asleep after you and awake before you.”
Rod picked him up and gently rubbed noses with him.
“You are feeling cheeky this morning. Shall I rub you with my bristly chin for your impertinence?”
“No thank you,” Bill said with some dignity. “And it wasn’t cheek it was facts. Like it’s a fact that your face needs shaving, but mine don’t – and neither does Sam’s or Anna’s. Why is that?”
Rod laughed and set Bill down on the edge of the bed.
“Your face don’t need shaving because you are only seven years old. Anna’s face don’t need shaving because she’s a girl. And Sam’s face don’t need shaving because he is a lucky bugger. You want a cup of tea?”
Anna put a mug of mahogany-coloured tea in Bill’s small hands.
“Careful not to spill.”
Bill nodded and took a deep drink.
‘That’s delicious. It is just how a cup of tea should be, isn’t it Uncle Rod.”
“It is. These here Gadjo have no idea how to enjoy proper tea.”
Anna shuddered visibly.
“Thankfully not. Breakfast is booked in the pub for nine o’clock. We all have time for a shower if we’re quick. I’ll go first while you lot drink your tea.”
She whisked into the bathroom before anyone had a chance to dispute her right to first shower. Rod grinned.
“Bill and Sam. You can be next. Together. I’ll just take my time waking up.”
By a quarter to nine they were all ready to set out across the car park. Sam watched Bill carefully as Anna locked the camper.
The little lad seemed nervous.
“Will Bonnie be all right on her own? Nobody can get her, can they?”
Anna crouched down so they were eye to eye.
“Nobody can get Bonnie. I wouldn’t let that happen. Didn’t I go all the way to Somerset to get the loudest motorhome alarm in the world?”
Bill relaxed visibly.
“You did. I was being a bit silly wasn’t I?”
“Never mind, love. Breakfast.”
The back door of the pub stood open, and Bill tensed again. Rod offered his hand as they went indoors and his nephew gripped on tightly. A young girl greeted them.
“Miss Marshall and party?”
“Your table is ready. It’s in the conservatory if you would like to follow me.”
They took their seats and the girl gave them menus.
“Would you like tea or coffee?”
Rod and Bill opted for tea, which they requested extra strong. The other two asked for coffee. When the waitress left, Bill handed his menu to Anna.
“It’s a bit too hard for me to read. I think it’s the wriggly writing.”
“Probably. It’s quite silly. Let’s do our order together shall we? Do you want cereal?”
“Do they got crispies?”
“They do. How about a sausage and some scrambled egg to follow your crispies?”
“That sounds most nice. Will there be toast and jam?”
“What you having?”
‘I’ll have crispies too. Then some bacon and mushrooms.’
“Porridge, then egg, bacon and sausage.”
“Porridge. Full English, and maybe a kipper on the side.”
“A kipper on his side?”