“Only one more,” Jim said firmly, “she never warmed up properly, so three’s the limit. Any requests?”
Mrs Jackson piped up, with a bit of a quaver in her voice. “You wouldn’t happen to know The Road to the Isles would you?”
Jim nodded and started to play. By the time the song was over, the old lady had tears running down her cheeks. “Thank you,” she said. “That was my husband’s favourite song.”
Anna and Bonnie went over to Mrs J and while Anna mopped her tears with one of Sam’s big soft hankies, Bonnie laid a consoling head on her knee. The old lady grasped Anna’s wrist and essayed a smile.
“Thank you all. I’ve had a lovely time. And not once have I felt like the old lady invited along to make everyone else feel good about themselves.”
“Well. That’s because you aren’t,” Patsy said from the other side of the room. “Anna doesn’t do shit like that, and from what I’ve seen of him neither does Sam.”
“True,” Sandra agreed in her soft voice, “none of us are like that, I hope. Anyway, you aren’t old inside, and that’s where it counts.’
Mrs Jackson positively beamed, then looked at her watch. “It’s past eleven o’clock. I’m missing my beauty sleep. Geordie. Can you give Gary the Cab a buzz?”
“Aye,” he nodded and ambled out to the hallway to call in the relative quiet. He was back quickly.
Patsy and Jim had been having a whispered conversation and Jim held up his hands for some hush. Which he got immediately.
“Since this is such a special occasion, I’m gonna let Pats sing one more time. This one’s for Anna and Sam.”
He put the harmonica to his lips and the familiar melody of Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine filled the room. Then Patsy lifted her voice. She looked at Anna as she sung the first verses, but finished the song with her eyes locked on Jim. The room went mental, to such an extent that they almost didn’t hear Mrs J’s cabbie at the door.
Sam ran to let him in.
“Sorry. She’s not quite ready. Been listening to some music.”
“That’s OK. I heard it as I was walking up the drive. Whoever that is has a truly amazing voice.”
“Doesn’t she just.”
Sam fetched Mrs Jackson’s coat, and while he was helping her into it, Anna scooted off to the kitchen returning with a small white box in her hand.
“Wedding cake,” she explained, bending to kiss her departing guest on the cheek. “Not traditional, though. Needs to be eaten in the next couple of days.”
“Thank you. Can I come and see you again soon?”
“Of course you can. Just give us a call.”
Geordie offered his arm, on one side and Gary took the other. They progressed down the drive at a stately pace. This effectively broke up the party, with those who lived locally making their way home in various states of merriness. Those who were overnighting, gathered in the kitchen for a quick nightcap before heading for bed.
“Where are the little men?” Sam asked.
“They faded a couple hours ago, so their Daddy carried them to bed. Incidentally, they were enchanted by the bunks. She turned her blue orbs on Jamie. Have you had any booze?”
“Would you like a nightcap?”
“If there’s an amnesty I’d like a glass of red wine.”
Patsy nodded, and Anna handed him a big glass of Zinfandel. He sampled it and grinned widely.
“You tried this, mum?”
“Well you should. I think you’ll like it.”
He passed his glass and Patsy took a sip.
“It is good,” she grinned. “Got any more Anna?”
“I reckon I could find a dribble…”
In the end, the kitchen party went on very late.
As Anna and Sam prepared for the night Bonnie wandered in from the garden.
“Guard duties done?” Sam asked and she wagged tiredly at him.
“Bedtime, everyone,” Anna said with a tired smile of her own.
As he was undressing, Sam looked over at his wife. “Excellent party, wasn’t it?”
“And as for Patsy. What a voice. Why haven’t I heard her in concert at the Albert Hall?”
“Because she sings purely for pleasure. Says making it her job would kill the joy.”
“I get that. I really get that. So that makes it even more of a privilege to have heard her tonight.”
“It does, as she only sings among real friends.”
“She’s a lot more complicated than she looks, ain’t she? But did you enjoy seeing her as much as you thought you would?”
“When you seeing her again?”
“I dunno. A lot depends on you. If you want to be friends with Pats and Jim…”
“Course I do. I like Jim immensely and I’m beginning to like Patsy too. She’s such an amazing mum, and I also like her sense of humour. So… Maybe the first step is asking them to stay for lunch tomorrow. If that ain’t a big bother.”
“Oh Sam. I’d love it. But would you like it?”
“Yeah. I reckon I’d like them as friends.”
Then he smirked at Anna: “Any idea what they might be up to now?”
“Oh yeah. Noisily.” Anna’s smile was positively wicked.
Sam pulled her into his arms.
“Tell me about noisily…”
He bent his handsome head and nibbled Anna’s neck. She giggled.
Bonnie give them a reproachful look from her bed in the corner of the room.
And so, between lust and laughter, Sam and Anna made love noisily and fell asleep still entwined together.