The old lady sometimes went for a bit of a rootle in the fridge when she felt peckish in the night. It was quite a trek from the bedroom, but worth it, especially as she knew there was some of that apple crumble left over.
She frowned as she went down the long corridor. Somebody had left the kitchen light on. Hadn’t they had that meeting about energy saving? Her frown turned to a scowl as she saw a shape hunched at the kitchen table, then softened into a smile when she realised it was merely her eldest son. He had a cup of cocoa by his side and was reading the latest Philip Pullman.
“Hello! What are you doing up?”
“Mother! Well…I couldn’t sleep. You know how it is. All the excitement of the day.”
She tightened the belt on her pink dressing gown and made for the fridge. Nothing would keep her from her crumble. It was only as she passed the table that she saw the empty dish, the last remaining crumbs mocking her from the bottom.
He gave her a sheepish look.
“Sorry. I was a bit peckish. Always have more appetite when I’m here, somehow. And, well, the reception finished several hours ago.” An awkward pause. “There’s some organic cheese. Or one of our new lemon tortes…”
She quelled her disappointment and made for the freezer. This called for chocolate ice cream, not one of his worthy puddings.
“Haagen-dazs or Ben & Jerry’s?”
“Sorry, mother, what?”
“Which is better?”
“Oh. Well, I don’t really know. I generally stick to my own stuff. We’ve just launched a terrific organic gooseberry posset…”
“Ben and Jerry’s, I think. Here we are. Chunky monkey. Scrummy.”
She jiggled the freezer drawer closed, struggling against the thick ice that had built up on the shelves. Must defrost, she thought. She hobbled back to the table. It had been a long day. All that excruciating small talk with the new in-laws.
“I’m glad I’ve caught you, actually,” she said. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to discuss with you now that today’s over and done with.”
He laid the book down on the table and looked up at her, his trusting eyes glistening. He had no inkling of what was to come. Poor boy. Always two steps behind.
“Oh yes? What’s that, mother?”
“I’m tired, Charles. I’ve had enough.”
“It’s time for us to move on. As a family.”
Was that hope in his eyes? Or something else?
“Well…of course, whatever….it’s your decision…absolutely.”
She hoped she was reading the signs right. There was no use evading the issue any further. She looked him in the eye and told him her plan.
As she spoke, she watched him carefully as he came to terms with the new situation. He looked more and more like his father as the years passed.
“Well,” he said after she had finished.
“That’s that then.”
“And what if I…?”
He didn’t even dare speak the words. She had been right.
“I would stay until…” Her turn now to avoid saying the unsayable. “Whatever happens…it’s for the best. It’s a young man’s job.” She looked him in the eye. “You’ve never wanted it really, have you?”
There was a long silence while he pretended to allow the thought to take root, but she knew it had been there for years. She knew how it would pan out. He would acquiesce for now, but tomorrow the objections would miraculously appear, and then they would have to thrash out a deal. But she also knew from looking at him now that deep down he was relieved, that his lifelong aversion to the limelight would override any arguments that he or anyone else might find.
It was done. The family business was in safe hands.
There was a commotion from the corridor and her husband appeared in the doorway. He was brandishing an umbrella in one hand and a bottle of Courvoisier in the other. Behind him lurked a bespectacled and bearded figure, peeking palely from behind his companion’s skirts.
“Wahay! Still going on in here, are we? Come on in, bish! Party time!”
His companion retreated a pace.
“Oh no, really. I’ve already outstayed my welcome…”
“Nonsense!” thundered the old man. “Plenty of life in the old dog yet, eh? Now let’s see if there’s any cake left.”
She halted him with her death stare.
The old man stopped, his craggy features all of a sudden etched with uncertainty.
She craned her head round to address his companion.
“Good job today. It all went very smoothly. Now I wonder if you could put my husband to bed on your way out?”
Date: 30th April 2011 03:37 GMT
Subject: You Know What
Great day. Congrats to both.
The deed is done. All yours.
You’ll find it’s a lot easier than you think. All you need is a strong bladder and an unending repertoire of fixed smiles. Lol! (Is that right?)
PS Tell K she was a real pro, but the wave needs some work.