She watched them go towards the gate, with Bonnie leading the way and Bill riding on his uncle’s shoulders. On impulse she dug out her phone and took a picture of the happy foursome. Then she grinned and made a call.
“Pats. We’re gonna be a while yet. We’ve barely got out of Scotland. Adults too tired to drive any further. Rod was wiped. He loves Bill a lot, and the worry took its toll. So. We’ve had a huge breakfast, and now the boys have taken Bonnie and Bill for a run. I should imagine it’ll be eleven before we get off. Yeah. Depending on stops. Very late tonight. Or tomorrow. I’m sorry you are being kept waiting, but we’re keeping things as normal as possible for Bill. Of course. I thought you’d understand. I’ll let him phone you once we are on the road. In the meantime, I couldn’t resist this image.”
She sent the picture she had just taken, and awaited reaction.
The next voice she heard was Jim.
“She’s having a happy cry. Just seeing him helped. A lot.”
“Should’ve done it before, shouldn’t I? In my defence I do have to say I was too tired to think straight. Though I should’ve taken a shot of him in my bed with Rod and Bonnie, and his bloody jumper. I will tonight if we don’t make it home. See you soon.”
She smiled at her phone then hurried into the pub to see if she could persuade them to sell her some foodstuffs. Fortunately they were amenable so when the quartet returned from their run, she had a full fridge, and everything else tied down ready for travel. Rod took Bill to the toilet, and Sam stood in the doorway of the camper grinning up at her with Bonnie at his side.
“That did us all good. Specially the wee man, who wound up running round and round in circles and throwing earth at Rod who pretended wrath, but was as pleased as punch to see how Bill is gradually relaxing. Those two are exceptionally close.”
“They are. Rod is Bill’s Sponsor?”
“Kinda like a Godparent, but the responsibility is taken much more seriously. Rod sees himself as a sort of third parent. Which is good for him, and good for Bill who is, when left to his own devices, a somewhat solemn old-fashioned child. But when he’s with Rod he positively glows with fun and cheekiness.”
“Yeah. I got that. But where does the old-fashioned reserve come from?”
“Oh. He’s like his grandfather. Patsy’s Dad. He was a copper like my father, and they were both big, quiet, reserved men with strong and old-fashioned values. He even looks a bit like a brown-skinned Uncle Reg.”
“Nah. Unfortunately not. But we were neighbours, and Patsy’s family looked out for me, because my own mother despised me.”
He put out a hand impulsively.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to rake up old troubles.”
She smiled at him.
“It’s okay. I think. I didn’t mind telling you. You are a very calm presence.”
He smiled back.
“Well then. Are you going to give me your number?”
“Do you want it?”
“Yeah. Or I wouldn’t have asked.”
“I’ll think about it” she grinned cheekily. “Here come Little and Large. I think you or I will have to sit next to Billy Boy. The seat isn’t big enough for Rod.”
“Probably not. Are there seatbelts?”
“There are. I’ve even pulled them out of hiding. So we’re ready for the off.”
Then she beckoned to Rod and Bill, and Bonnie who had gone to meet them
“Come on you lot. Time to be off. Who is taking the first stint at driving?”
‘I would’ Rod offered. ‘But I don’t know how to get back to the motorway from here.’
“I do,” Sam supplied. “So I’ll go first. Two-hour stints?”
“Sounds like a plan,” Anna agreed. “We can stop in four hours and have a snack. I’ve got sandwich fixings and a quiche I bought from the pub.”
Bill patted her approvingly.
“Clever Anna. I’m stuffed right now. But I’m sure we’ll all be hungry later.”
She picked him up and kissed both his rosy cheeks. “Window seat or aisle, sir?”
They got themselves strapped in and Sam manoeuvred the camper out onto the village street.
“Brighton here we come.”
“Isn’t that a song?”
“No that’s California.”
“So it is.”
“Is California as nice as Brighton?” Bill asked.
“Some people would say it’s much nicer. But I reckon that’s down to your viewpoint. I like Brighton, because it’s home.”
“Me too” Bill agreed.
Anna dug out her phone.
“You wanna talk to Mummy and Daddy?”
“Oh yes. Please.”
“Go to it then.”