Later as they sat at the supper table Anna smiled softly. “Better?”
“Yeah. Much. Sorry about the Marlon Brando impression.”
“S’okay. Just shows how easily misunderstandings can grow. I should’ve thought to tell you, but it just never occurred to me how vulnerable you are. Your ex has a lot to answer for. Silly cow! I hope she finds a man who beats her.’
“Nah. She’s more likely to don a corset and a strap-on herself.’
They both giggled like children and felt the better for it.
“Oh Sam. You are naughty. But. While we are playing the truth game I do have one question. I know you and Rod are close, and I wondered why we haven’t seen him. I feel a bit guilty in case it is because I’m avoiding Patsy for a while.”
“It’s not. Rod is in the States at the moment. There’s a big cage fighting tournament in Tennessee, and he’s the top referee cum judge.”
“Good. I wouldn’t want to come between you and Big Rod.”
“You’d get squished….”
“I would. Now, do you want to come to Brighton?”
“Course I do.”
“I’d like it if you would. If we went in your car we could get all my stuff one go. I know a pub where they accept Bonnie. I could book us a room for Saturday night. One thing, though. I would like to take Bonnie to visit Ted’s wife, if you wouldn’t mind. Bonnie is the only creature in the world she recognises.”
“Of course. What is your Ted likely to think about us?”
“He’s not my Ted. And I haven’t the faintest idea. I hope he is happy for me. But if he isn’t that’s his problem.”
Then she grinned.
“Actually, knowing Ted, we’re in for a bit of a ribbing. Then he’ll probably try to get you on your own and threaten to tear you limb from limb if you hurt me.”
“Seems fair to me. I’d tear me limb from limb if I hurt you.”
“Eejit. Right, I’d better ring the Lamb and Flag and make sure they have a room before we decide anything else.”
Sam moseyed off to the little boys room and when he returned he found Anna at the table, pink-cheeked and obviously torn between amusement and absolute horror.
“What’s up?” he asked mildly.
“They only have one room left. It’s the bridal suite. I’ve booked it, but when I ended the call I had a funny feeling in my tummy. Like you might think I was hinting or something.”
“Oh Anna. I wouldn’t mind if you were. One day we’ll get married, pack Bonnie in the camper, and have a romantic honeymoon in lots of farmers’ fields.”
She looked at him with her heart in her eyes.
“Oh Sam. I do love you.”
“So I should hope.”
“Now. I seem to remember that something pissed you off today. You were going to tell me about it but we got sidetracked.”
“Oh yeah. I was wasn’t I? We have a new Consultant just started at the hospital. He goes by the name of Esmond Wang. And he’s much, much blacker than me. Most people are fine about it, but there’s a vocal minority who made my life unpleasant when I was first appointed. Now the new guy is in the line of fire. We had lunch together. Him, me and two mixed race junior doctors. I heard our table referred to as wogs corner, which did piss me off.”
“Pisses me off too…”
“Thanks babe. But I do wish we could do something for Esmond and his wife. They have recently moved into one of the houses on the new estate just across the park from here, and I’m guessing the neighbours may take a while getting used to them.”
“Why don’t you invite them over one evening? Kitchen supper and a few glasses of wine.”
“Would you mind?”
“Course not. Just no dinner parties.”
He laughed and then yawned hugely.
“C’mon woman, let’s clear up this kitchen. I’m ready for bed.”
He phoned Anna at lunch time the next day.
“Is tomorrow night all right for a kitchen supper?”
“Umm. They’re vegetarians, but not, I’m assured vegan. Is that a bother?”
“And is this weekend sorted?”
“It is. We’ll meet Ted at the nursing home on Saturday afternoon. Then I said we’d stand him dinner at the Lamb and Flag. He’s offered to load my stuff into my car so we can pick it up Sunday morning before heading home. We also need to buy me a kick-ass dress for this bash you’ve been threatening me with for weeks, and I know a boutique in the Lanes that only stocks one-offs and vintage. You wanna help me choose?”
“Yes. Surprisingly. I think I do. Now I have to go and explain to a morbidly obese diabetic why she can’t have new knees unless she loses weight.”
‘Deep joy. See you tonight.”
At seven-thirty on Thursday evening, Anna put the finishing touches to a tray of tempting antipasto, while Sam and Bonnie went to the back gate to watch for their guests. She wondered idly what the Wangs would be like and how they would react to her, then chided herself mentally for silliness. Sam returned with a tall dark-skinned man and his tiny obviously oriental wife, both of whom had obviously fallen for Bonnie’s charms.
Anna held out her hands.
“Welcome,” she said.
“Esmond, Sandra, this is Anna.”
They all shook hands and Anna motioned Bonnie to her bed, where a dog treat awaited. Esmond looked around the kitchen with an almost covetous gleam in his eyes.
“What a great space. And an Aga.”
“Esmond cooks” Sandra said with a giggle “and uses every pot and pan we have.”
“Does he wash up?”
“No. His mother does that. She lives with us. She and her dog Poh.”
“Oh. I know Poh. He’s a white peke isn’t he? Bonnie plays with him on the fields out back.”
“Gosh. Are you Mamma’s new friend? She refers to you as An and says you are as chic as a Frenchwoman. I’d have been scared to come here if I’d known.”
Anna laughed indicating her jeans and plain white shirt.
“I dunno about chic. I’m just skinny. Esmond’s mother is the chic one.”
“Isn’t she just. I always feel underdressed in her presence, and I’ve been with her son for more than a decade. However she’s kind enough not to mention my sartorial shortcomings.”
Anna grinned appreciatively.
“Sam. Get these folks a drink.”
“Sure. What’s your poison?”
“As we both have a rare day off tomorrow, and we can walk home, wine would be lovely,” Esmond grinned happily.
“Red or white?”
“You want to come see what there is?”
The two men headed out to look at the modest stock of bottles housed in the utility room.
“That’s torn it,” Sandra said with a grimace.
“Es is fascinated by other people’s wine. He’ll read every bottle before deciding. I hope Sam’s a patient man.”
“He is, and it gives us a few minutes to get to know each other. How long have you been in your house.”
“Almost two months. The immediate neighbours are just starting to speak. Have you been here long?”
“Less time than you. Sam and I are very recent cohabitees. We’ve known each other a while, but it suddenly escalated, and here I am.”
“Then it’s even kinder of you to welcome us into your home.”
“Think nothing of it. I like entertaining informally.”
“Me too… Hate dinner parties though.”
‘Yup. Where’s the fun in showing off?”
They laughed, pleased to have found some common ground.