The next morning at breakfast, Anna was a bit shy, until Ted looked at her rosy cheeks and took pity on her.
“Your house” he grinned “and anyway you weren’t that noisy. I was right next door and all I heard were a few giggles. This is an old house with thick walls. Just don’t try it in a Travel Lodge.”
Even Anna joined in the laughter and was able to hand out pieces of wedding cake and kisses with her usual equanimity as most of their friends piled in to an assortment of vehicles and headed home. The Cracksman clan, having enthusiastically accepted an invitation to lunch, had temporarily retired to the annexe to give Anna and Sam a few moments’ privacy.
Sam looked contrite.
“I didn’t mean to embarrass you love.”
“You didn’t. I did it all by myself. Anyway Ted set me straight.”
“He’s one of the good guys isn’t he? When you think about Justine, it’s a miracle he is so sane.”
“Yeah. I’ve often thought that. He says it could be the defining feature of his life, but he decided not to let it. He can’t ever forget that she’s his wife, but equally he won’t let her condition stop him living.”
“Brave man. If it’s not too nosy how did Justine get like she is? Is it some form of dementia?”
“No. Brain injury. Justine always boasted she could ride any horse that God put legs on. She insisted on getting on a half-broken bronc in Arizona and it got spooked. Threw her. Head first. Her head hit a rock. At first they thought she’d die. But she didn’t. She has been in her twilight world for the better part of two decades. And she could easily live another thirty or forty years. It’s beyond sad…”
“It is. Though I did notice Ted whispering sweet nothings in Carrie’s ear last night.”
“Me too. But you don’t need to worry. He’ll have been straight with her.”
“I figured that one out for myself. And she’s an adult. And he’s a lot nicer than the assholes she usually takes up with. The last one broke her arm before throwing her out of her own house into the street. Luckily, Geordie was visiting Mrs J. He found Carrie in the gutter. Went and had a few words with lover boy. Who left the district with his tail between his legs and a few bumps and bruises of his own.”
“Geordie probably had fun.”
“Oh. He did. And. Did you notice how he looked at Patsy? If Jim wasn’t so bloody big I reckon he’d have made a play for her.”
“She’d rip his head off and shove it up his bum.”
“That I’d like to see. Now. Shall I help you to clear up?”
“No. I’ve got that. But you could scoop up Danny and Paul and take Bon Bon for a hike.”
“I could indeed. But it seems a bit unfair. Whyn’t you take Bonnie and I’ll clear up?’
“Oh. You are a nice man. But no. I need to prepare lunch. And I like doing that, so it is a fair division of labour.”
“If you’re sure.”
By the time Sam, Bonnie and the boys got back from their walk, Patsy was sitting at the kitchen table chatting to Anna, and the Cracksman males were engaged in a game of Australian Rules football.
“Sam,” Patsy she said a bit diffidently. “I hope you don’t mind us here today.”
“No” he grinned engagingly. “My idea. I’d like us to be friends. Just as long as you remember Anna is all grown up now. But I think you noticed that already.”
“I did. It’s a good thing. It’s just that…”
“Just that she had it hard, that her own mother nearly killed her, that she’s a very wealthy woman and you’d hate it if some chancer was after her money. And so forth.”
Patsy looked at him with dawning respect.
“Yeah. All them things. Plus, I really, really do like her a lot. Enough to piss off if my being around will stuff up her new life.”
“And why would that be?”
“Well I ain’t exactly classy.”
“I dunno. I reckon you are exactly what you are and I can respect that.”
“You might. But what about other people?”
“Stuff them. I learned to ignore people’s opinions from a very early age. My grandfather was Jamaican, and Granny was Chinese so I had plenty of shite thrown at me. I decided pretty early on that the only sensible response is ‘fuck you, then’. I choose my friends where I find them. Maybe you and Jim will want to befriend me. I certainly hope so.”
“Mixed race, eh! Explains why you are such a handsome devil,” Patsy grinned.
Jim had wandered in from the garden and piped up.
“Well, we’ve all had stuff flung in our faces then. Pats got council estate and a sister who has a whole quiver-full of kids by various men. Anna got council estate and mad mother. I got gyppo and pikey. And you got the race stuff. I reckon we ought to stick together. Here’s my hand on it.”
Sam’s hand was lost in Jim’s huge one as they shook hands, and Anna smiled at them.
“You lot finished bonding?”
Patsy smiled happily.
“Yeah. I reckon we have. Your man actually gets it doesn’t he?”
Danny went to the garden door.
“Get on you lot,” he commanded, “I, for one, am starving and the smells in here are enough to drive me mad.”
Paul laughed behind him.
“Shut up fatty.'”
Anna howled with laughter.
“That’s you told bro. Just come and have a drink for a minute. I’ve opened a bottle of champagne.”
“Champagne, eh? What’s the occasion?” Sam asked genially.
“I dunno,” she shrugged her elegant shoulders. “I just got in the mood for champagne.’
“Good enough for me. Is it the pink stuff?”
“No. That’s not proper champagne. And it’s as cheap as chips.”
“Is it? I like it better than any other champagne I’ve ever had.”
“Well. I’ll open a bottle of that if you like it better.”
“I can open it myself. You don’t have to wait on me. I’ll get spoilt.”
Anna rubbed her face in his broad chest.
“You can’t spoil perfection,” she said as Paul made retching noises.
“No champagne for rude little boys,” Sam said with a grin.