When everyone had eaten their fill they sat with their chosen beverages before them.
“That,” Danny said, “was just one of the reasons for my life’s biggest question. Would I like to live with my sister? I would because she’s kind and funny, and sweet. I wouldn’t because she sees through all my crap, and because I’d be as fat as a pig on her cooking.”
“Well,” Sam grinned, “it don’t arise now. She’s living with me. And I’m not sharing. I’ll just keep going to the gym to keep the weight off.”
“You do that mate.” Rod recommended. “And keep the kick boxing up. You might even be half decent one day.”
“Why thank you most to death.”
Jim drained his bucket-sized cup of tea.
“We better be off. It’s quite a long drive home.”
“Yeah,” Sam said, “I guess it is. Which has just made me think of something. You wanna stay over after the party?”
“You got room?”
“We do don’t we love?” Sam grinned at Anna.
“We do indeed. And what a good idea. You most certainly don’t want to drive home after the party. You wouldn’t be able to have a drink. We can put you in the annexe. Three bed two bath, so Pats won’t have to climb over your sons if she wants a wee in the night.”
“I dunno what to say,” Jim rumbled.
“Say thank you, we will,” Rod recommended.
“Okay. Thank you. We’d love to stay over.”
“Me too?” Rod asked.
“Yeah. If you promise to be a good little boy,” Anna giggled.
“Now we really do have to go.”
The assembled company went out to the truck, and there was much back slapping and joshing as Rod got into the driving seat. Sam opened the gate and waved them out.
“See you on the thirtieth,” Rod grinned and gunned the beefy engine.
On the drive back to Brighton, Jim wondered what sort of a reception he would get, having left home in the early hours of Saturday morning, right in the middle of a row with his wife. It was full dark before Rod dropped him off and he walked into the glorious noise and chaos that was a home full of large sons. Patsy bustled over and kissed him.
“Sorry about yesterday morning,” she said looking him in the eye bravely.
“It’s all right Pats. I do understand you know.”
“I do know. That’s what made me mad. I really do miss Anna. Not the free babysitter. Just Anna. Anna to talk to. The unrestrained giggles. The way you don’t have to explain things to her. The way she never judges. I may not always have been a good friend to her, but now I’m worried because I don’t know if she’s well and happy or not. You could find out, couldn’t you? If she’s OK I’ll even leave her alone.”
She knuckled a tear from her eye in an irritated manner. Jim took her heavily ringed hand in his.
“Come and sit down. Let’s talk about this.”
Patsy allowed herself to be led into the sitting room, where Jim jerked a thumb at the twins.
“Out. I want to have a private chat with Mum.”
The boys left, closing the door quietly behind them. Pats turned into her husband’s huge embrace. He lifted her face and kissed her tear-wet cheeks.
“Right. Anna’s OK. I saw her today. Unexpectedly. She’s got a bloke. Just moved in with him.”
“What’s he like, Jim?”
“Seems like a good guy. Obviously nutty about her.”
Patsy looked dubious and he grinned down into her face.
“He really is OK. Bonnie likes him.”
She still looked worried.
“You’ll like him too. In fact, you already like him.”
“What do you mean, I already like him?”
“Well. He’s a doctor. Lives near Cheltenham. Knows Rod.”
She still looked puzzled and he grinned.
“He’s one of Bill’s best friends.”
“You mean it’s Sam Henderson?”
“It is. And Anna looks a different woman. Got a glow on her. Sporting a darned great emerald – engagement ring I reckon. We knew Sam was divorced, but I asked Rod about it on the way home. He tells me wife number one was a bitch who treated Sam like shit. Reckon he’ll appreciate Anna all the more because of it.”
Pats relaxed against him.
“That’s so good to know. Poor little cow deserves a bit of happiness. But how come you saw them today?”
“Oh. Rod got it into his head that we’d go and drag Sam out for a pub lunch. But when we got there Anna and Bonnie were in residence, and Anna had cooked roast lamb. Danny and Paul was there too. We had a blast.”
Patsy smiled, but there was a trace of sadness at the back of her eyes.
“Would you like to see them?”
“Course I would. But I ain’t sure she wants to see me.”
“She does. They are having a party for his birthday on the thirtieth of next month. The whole family is invited. And we are asked to stay over afterwards.”
“Isn’t that just like her. But are you sure she wants to see me?”
“She says she does.”
“Yeah. But she’s so kind she’d say that anyway. And I know I haven’t always been a good friend to her.”
“I dunno about that. Yes, you took advantage of her good nature, and yes you bullied her sometimes. But you always had her back. And she knows that.”
“Oh Jim. I’d love to go, but what will her new friends think of me? I ain’t exactly classy.”
He hugged her very tightly.
“I do love you, you silly old bat. And I know Anna won’t give a flying fuck what anyone else thinks of you. She wants you there. So stop worrying and say yes. Are we on?”
“We are. Cheltenham. That’s a bit of a drive.”
“Is. That’s why I said we’d love to stay over. Plus we can have a drink if we ain’t driving. So. If the party is boring we can get pissed.”
She howled with appreciative laughter.
“I love you a lot Jimmo. I just don’t tell you often enough.”