“You’d better make this house your base until you flip back to DC.” Sam said firmly. “Any ideas for wedding dates?”
“Um. Yeah” Danny was blushing again. “Seems to me like we’ve been taking rather a lot for granted, but we have provisionally booked the twenty-ninth of this month at ten in the morning.”
Sam got up and stood beside him.
“You Daniel Marshall are a proper eejit. You are my wife’s only brother. You’re allowed to take things for granted. For Pete’s sake Danny who was it helped me to surprise my love with a new car? Any more daft problems?”
Danny studied his face for a moment, then relaxed.
“No. Not a one. I always wanted a brother.”
He held out his hand and Sam took it.
“Okay bro. Talk numbers to Anna. She likes numbers.”
Paul pulled out a large hanky and blew his nose noisily.
“All this male bonding is a bit much for a delicate flower like myself,” he said wryly before starting to count on his fingers.
“Danny, yours truly, Anna, Sam, Jim, Pats, Denzil, Jaimie, my brother Keith and his wife Joanie, Ted, Ben and Colin, Chris and Adam. And I think that’s all.”
“Chris and Adam?” Sam asked.
“Friends of ours from Washington. Gay couple. Is that a problem?”
“Not. Just trying to sort people in my head.”
“Okay. Sorry. Hypersensitive gay person alert.”
“How many do we need to offer B&B to?”
Danny grinned wickedly.
“Keith and the ginger whinger. Chris and Adam. Ben and Colin, the Cracksmans. Is that OK?”
“Absolutely fine. You better confirm your time slot before you lose it, then go do some inviting. I just need to climb into Sam’s lap and have a happy cry now. And I’d rather do that without an audience.”
“Before Anna has her cry,” Sam said in tones of deep puzzlement, “will somebody please explain ginger whinger? Otherwise it’ll sit in my head for weeks like one of those tunes in a lift.”
“My sister-in-law is most definitely ginger. She has that crinkly ginger hair that looks a bit pre-Raphaelite, and until relatively recently she was a champion whinger. Then Keith had a skiing accident, which you would have thought would give her something to whinge about, but no she stood firm in her Birkenstocks, hauled up her sensible white cotton knickers and got on with it. Me and Danny have formed the opinion that she whinged because she was bored. Now she is busy she’s a much nicer person – if still boring.”
“Paul. You are a bugger,” Anna grinned. “I should probably do some sort of female solidarity thing, but I can’t. Every word you say is true. A more chintzy, middle class, politically correct person than Joanie probably don’t exist. But you have to respect how she buckled down to it when Keith crocked himself. Speaking of which, does he still have that male nurse in tow?”
“Nope. He and Ginge manage just fine now…”
“Right. That’s fine. One of the bedrooms in the annexe has a full wet room and twin beds. So that’s that sorted. Now go away and let me cuddle my favourite husband.”
They went. Sam dragged Anna onto his lap.
“You really going to cry?”
“Was. Am not now. But I do feel a bit wobbly.”
“Well. Just cuddle in and enjoy the feeling then.”
They were still sitting when Paul poked his head into the room.
“Everyone invited. All accepted happily. Nearly my turn for a happy cry – except that it annoys Danny if I do that.”
Anna got off Sam’s lap and put her arms around Paul.
“He’s an insensitive bugger ain’t he? It’s a wonder we love him…”
“Is. But we do.”
At that moment the insensitive bugger ambled into the room. He peeled Anna off Paul and pulled him close.
“Just this once, you are allowed a happy cry.”
Paul looked at him in amazement.
“What? Oh OK. I sort of thought I ought to try and be a bit more thoughtful seeing as how you actually agreed to marry me.”
At which, Paul really did start to cry. Danny tugged him gently out of the room.
“Come on you soft bugger. Let’s go to ours and have a cuddle.”
He shut the door gently behind them.
“Well fuck me sideways,” Anna said. “In all the years they’ve been together that’s the first time I’ve ever seen Danny consider Paul’s feelings.”
“That must be an exaggeration love,” Sam grinned.
“Not much of one. Danny is a selfish sod in a lot of ways.”
“From what I’ve seen, I think selfish is the wrong word. Unimaginative is closer. And with one of those cold-eyed clinical intellects that rejects knee-jerk reactions.”
Anna looked at him quite crossly.
“Sometimes you are so clever you make me sick.”
He grinned amiably.
“Can’t help it. Comes of having a trick-cyclist for a father. Shall I do something thick to make you feel better?”
She snorted out a laugh and jumped on him.
“How about taking me to ours for a cuddle?”
He swooped her up into his arms and all but ran from the room .
“With a bit of help,” he said laughingly, “I might even work out fuck me sideways.
Supper that evening was fine and festive meal, courtesy of the local take-away. Even Anna was happy to let Danny and Paul buy in as she got crispy duck pancakes – which even she felt were a bit of a fag to make from scratch.
Once everyone had eaten as much as they could Paul pushed back his chair and groaned.
“Christ, I’m full. But to business. We have to go to the register office tomorrow morning and sign forms and stuff. Then I’m thinking we can get a train to London and do our business there. We should be back by Monday or Tuesday at the latest. Can one of you give us a lift into Cheltenham.”
“What time do you want to go?” Sam asked. “My list starts at eleven, so I’ll be leaving here around nine. That do?”
“That’d be great,” Danny grinned. “You be okay on your own Anna?”
“Yeah. Except I won’t be on my own. Carrie is here all day. There’s mucking out to do. And food shopping. And washing.”