Patsy got up and enveloped Anna in a huge hug. Anna patted her broad back.
“Get on with you, and let me find some grub.”
“Yeah. Come on Pats. I’m suddenly starving and badly in need of a beer.” Jim grabbed his wife picked her huge handbag up from the floor, and dragged both out of the room.
“Green bedroom, Sam,” Anna grinned, “then we won’t hear the noisy sex. There are new toothbrushes in our bathroom cupboard, plus shampoo and shower gel. We can’t help them with underwear, ours would be too small…”
Sam kissed her on the nose before sauntering out.
Jim was only a couple of minutes. He came back into the kitchen with a large grey dog at his heels and a smallish bag in his hand.
“Innovation. Overnight bag. Now the company is spread right across the south of England, unexpected over-nighters do crop up. So Pats had the idea of an overnight bag in the truck. It even has some stuff for her in it. Where do I take it?”
“Go to the top of the stairs and yell. Sam will talk you in. Then come back and have a beer. I’ll deal with Gandalf.”
Jim grinned and loped off. Anna patted the rough grey head.
The dog wagged his tail and she went to the utility where she filled a bowl with kibble. When she got back into the kitchen Bonnie and her visitor were licking noses and squeaking happily.
“You two haven’t forgotten each other,” Anna laughed. “Here, boy, supper.”
Gandalf abandoned Bonnie for the plate of food, and she sat watching him eat. Anna put a big pot onto the Aga and emptied two plastic containers into it before slicing bread, cheese, and ham for toasted sandwiches. Jim came back into the room.
“The others won’t be long, Patsy is just getting the grand tour and cooing over the wood.”
“Yeah. I knew she’d love this house. It’s a bit wasted on me as I’d live in a shed as long as it had a nice kitchen. But Sam loves it.”
“And you love Sam, so you’ll never let him know that you are like me in the respect that a house is just a house to you.”
Anna nodded and Jim grinned at her.
“My lips are sealed. Now where’s this beer?”
“Booze fridge is the silver one in the utility. Glasses in the cupboard over the coffee machine. Help yourself.”
“Oh. I will. And thanks.”
He disappeared into the utility.
“Somebody has very good taste in beer. Fursty Ferret, Doom Bar, Proper Job. Yes, Proper Job, I think.”
Jim came back with a bottle and a big grin. He got a glass and Anna put an opener in his outstretched hand.
“What will Pats want? Brandy? Wine? Lager?”
“I saw some of that pink bubbly stuff in the fridge, I reckon that would hit the spot.”
“Good idea. Open one will you? And get out a couple glasses. I’m just going to set the sarnies toasting. So can you give also the wood twins a shout?”
Jim laughed and obliged.
Sam and Patsy ambled into the kitchen just as Anna put steaming bowls of soup and cheesy, melty toasted sandwiches on the table.
“We didn’t know what you would fancy to drink,” Anna said to Sam.
“Beer with this. I’ll fetch. You lot get started.” Then he noticed Gandalf. “Hello boy. Who are you?”
“That’s Gandalf,” Anna said.
The dog came over and sniffed Sam’s hand before wagging his tail and allowing himself to be stroked.
“Patsy’s dog I guess. So, why’d he decide I was OK when he smelled me? Or did somebody give him a sly signal?”
“No signals,” Patsy said. “You smell of Anna and Bonnie, which is good enough for him. Now get your beer and come eat. This soup is amazing. What’s in it?”
“Mixture. One part kitchen sink. One part chicken and leek.”
Sam sat and took a spoonful from the bowl in front of him. “Oh yes,” he said almost reverently. “No two of Anna’s soups are ever quite the same, but they are always delicious.”
“Try dipping your toastie in your soup,” Jim recommended, “it’s a bloody amazing combination.”
Sam looked a bit dubious, but dipped a small corner. He tried it and dipped a much bigger dip.
“You are only right, mate. That is truly delicious.”
Then he couldn’t talk any more, which might have had something to do with having his cheeks distended by a huge mouthful of dunked sandwich.
It became a more and more cheerful meal, and by the time soup and toasties had been chased by meringues, ice cream and clotted cream, they were all feeling considerably mellower.
The Sunday Serial is taking a break for the festive season and will return 6 January.