So a little about this one. Its a bit more of an examination of my family life. I think I have a very odd family (But then who doesn't) and when I went back to England there was so much going on that I had to write about it.
yep this story is finished, so postings should be regular.
Submitted for your approval.
As usual Comments or questions direct to email@example.com. Feed back is welcome.
The sun never sets on the British Empire.
Of all the things that could go wrong, Scott had been feeling particularly stubborn that day, deliberately ignoring all the pressed shirts and trousers, picking out a stylish pair of white cargos, a tee-shirt he had used to wear when he had whiled away last summer skating. And of course his prized visor cap.
It let his black hair poke out of the top, a little bit of hair wax and the spikes stood out at odd angles. Gran had taken one look at him that morning and had sniffed something about his looking like he'd stuck his fingers into an electrical plughole.
He had ignored her, grinning as he downed a glass of orange juice and grabbed couple of slices of toast before he was out the door. He didn't particularly care what he was going to be doing that day, but he knew it was too warm to stay in the house he just had too much energy, and since he had to pop into town for a Friday Ad anyway, he figured there was no harm no foul.
"You look like a pineapple." Serena grinned as she bagged a customer's purchases, smiling at her politely, "there we go love, and your receipt." She turned finally to give him her full attention, "I thought we were breaking you of your bad habits."
He shook his head, "no way, I'm comfortable. So what time is your lunch?"
She glanced at the clock; "I can go in a couple of hours if you want to come back."
He grinned at her, "Cool, lunch then somewhere good."
She screwed up her nose, "Not down the pub, Mrs. Kerrigan gets right snarky if I take a liquid lunch."
He rolled his eyes, only in England would people automatically assume lunch meant a trip down the pub. He picked up a copy of the magazine he had travelled down town for and rolled it up, "Well see you at noon."
"Okay," she said cheerfully as he wandered back out onto the high street.
Hailsham high street was its usual busy self. The stationery shop was tucked down along one end towards the old school; a tiny brick building that had once upon a time been a schoolhouse. Yeah, back when dinosaurs had walked the earth.
The sun was climbing that morning and warming the whole town, it was going to be another scorching hot day, the kind of day for beer gardens and pools. Scott was certain that if he imported Air Conditioners for days like this, he would make a mint. As it was he just wanted to bum around town, maybe walk into Woolworths and look at their CD's. Kill the morning until his lunch with Serena.
He was actually looking forward to the time he spent with her. Ever since Brighton he had grown closer to the friendly, if a bit crass British lass. For a girl she had tonnes of self-confidence, the kind of girl that had grown up on Spice Girl power, even though she would never have admitted it. She was there, and she didn't give a toss what anyone else thought about her. And with those looks, she got away with it.
Woolworth's was much like Wall-mart, a store with a little bit of everything. Up near the front it had a wall of the latest music, not exactly as broad a collection as the virgin mega stores had, but it was still a decent selection. Even if most of the North American stuff was a few months behind, there was a whole rack of British music he had never heard of.
Slipping on a set of headphones he began to sample some of it, people wanted him to blend in, immerse himself in his culture. Well sure, he would do that in his own way, starting with some decent club music.
He had made it about five CD's into the rack when he felt a hand tap him on the shoulder and he glanced behind him at Travis. He grinned in pleasure at seeing a friendly face and slipped the headphones off, hanging them back on the hook.
"Hey Dude!" Scott said cheerfully, "What's up?"
Travis pointed vaguely into the store, "Oh I was just out with Mia, we're celebrating."
"Celebrating?" Scott asked curiously trying to spot Travis's girlfriend in the aisles, so far there were simply too many forty-year-old women about.
"I got a job," Travis said proudly, he was wearing an odd shirt that would have looked right on a peasant in a medieval castle, laces instead of buttons and puffy sleeves. He reminded Scott of a slightly podgy Errol Flynn, all he needed was a rapier and a chandelier to swing from and the image would be complete.
"That's great!" Scott exclaimed enthusiastically, "Where are you working?"
"The funeral home."
Somehow, in a sick kind of way, Scott had known he was going to say that. But he was struggling to find the right words of... praise, to express his... well... it was work. "Wow," he tried to sound awed, but it came out sounding strangled.
Travis didn't notice, he just grinned, "I am going to become an undertaker."
Scott's mind flashed to a particular character from a wrestling show he had watched in the states, and the image just didn't match Travis at all. Tall, dark and terrifying was kind of the exact opposite to the foppish looking man standing in front of him. "That's great." Scott said finding his voice, "So Mia's here is she?" hopefully a change of topic was in order, move on to something safe, less absurd.
How wrong he was.
"That's her." Travis said pointing to a bespectacled woman sweeping through the store.
Scott's jaw just fell open.
She glided through the aisles, her black velvet skirts falling about her in waves that rippled as she moved. Silver jewellery clattering against her, shining with intricate Celtic designs that looked painstakingly hand made. It would have been tasteful, if it had been used in moderation. She pulled a black shawl closer about her shoulders as she moved with regal purpose past the dumbstruck patron's of the store who just turned to follow her with gaping mouths. All she needed was a pointed hat and a broomstick. It was just ironic that she happened to be walking down an aisle filled with vacuum cleaners.
It took a sheer force of will to close his mouth, turning to Travis and hoping against hope that he wasn't serious. But one look at the happiness in Travis's eyes, and the laces on his puffy sleeved shirt, Scott had that sinking feeling again.
"Well," he said, "she looks... nice."
Travis grinned and bobbed his head, "She's gorgeous isn't she." He stared at her like a lovesick puppy craving attention, and she treated him like one.
She handed him her shopping basket to hold and affixed Scott with a regal look, sweeping from his sneakers up to the spiky hair and back down again. Skateboard chic meets Gothic vogue. He slouched a bit, and tried desperately to hide the fact that he found her appearance hilarious.
"Mia, this is my friend Scott, Scott this is Mia..." Travis began the introductions.
She extended a hand, a long and slow gesture the back of her hand upwards as if she expected him to bow and kiss it. He did exactly what he father had shown him to do in such circumstances, he clasped it firmly and shook it up and down in the age old used car salesman routine. "Nice to finally meet you, ma'am." He said politely.
Her eyes narrowed a little at being called Ma'am by someone the same age as her boyfriend, but Scott gave her his best charming grin. The old, I'm a kid, love me look that seemed to always work on old women... older...oh damn...
"So what did she do next?" Serena asked poking her salad dubiously with her fork. Scott could tell she didn't want to eat it, she kept eyeing his Shepard's pie with ravenous eyes, but she was on another `diet' and couldn't possibly eat anything with so many Carbohydrates.
Scott pushed his plate till it sat between them and reached over to spear one of her lettuce leaves with his fork. She hesitated a minute, before she attacked the Shepard's pie with reckless abandon, so much for the Aitkin's diet.
"Well she insisted that Travis take her to the antiques store, you know the one, tucked into the old stables across from the market?"
"Yeah," Serena nodded around a mouthful of potatoes, "They have some nice jewellery in there."
"Yeah well, I haven't seen Travis since that day we were all in Eastbourne, so I decided to tag along." He liberated another leaf from her plate. It was odd, he had ordered the pie, and she the salad, but they were more interested in the other person's lunch than their own.
"Oh I bet she liked that," Serena said sarcastically, "I think I've seen her, she looks like an owl."
"Yeah," Scott replied, "so any way's we're in the antiques store and she starts going on about all the mystic energy she feels in the room."
"The what?" Serena asked sceptically.
"Mystic energy, she was talking about all the antiques and the stories they were trying to tell her. Apparently she had a great conversation with a mirror..."
"Mirror mirror on the wall, who's the strangest of us all..." Serena giggled, she shook her head, curls as usual bouncing to and fro, "She sounds a right nutter. And you say she's forty?"
"Forty two." Scott replied, "Travis is all over her, she just has to crook her finger and he comes running. I just don't get it..."
Serena rolled her eyes, "You really are a mo aren't you. Have you never been whipped by a guy?"
"I'm sure I'd remember," Scott replied with a grin.
"Not that kind of whipped," she said disparagingly, "Honestly, you're right dirty some times."
He bowed his head, "I learned from the best."
She gave him a big smile. The small restaurant was more of a diner without the large counter and the over worked waitresses, it served an odd assortment of low prices food. Cornish pasties, sausage rolls right up to what looked like school cafeteria stew. Why they had come there Scott couldn't fathom, but Serena had made the choice, probably because it was just a few doors down from her shop.
"My mom sold our old bathroom suite to that shop, I hope she wasn't communing with that..." Serena mused idly.
"Well she did mention something about this mole on your..."
Serena flashed him a gleeful look, "I could show you if you want."
"I'll pass," Scott said turning up his nose at the thought, "Anyway, I wanted to say thank you for the other Friday night."
"You had fun then?" Serena asked with a grin.
"I don't remember much, but I woke up the next morning with a hangover." He chuckled one hand holding the coffee cup in his fingers gesturing with it, "Gran had fun that morning, she decided to make pancakes and banged everything together she could get her hands on." He winced at the memory, "yeah I think she took delight in it."
He stopped and looked thoughtfully at her, "Was it just me, or was Dickie not enjoying himself?" he asked abruptly.
"Yeah, he kept wanting to bag," she replied, "don't worry about it babe, Dickie just likes to be the centre of attention, he likes to think he's the dog's bollocks, when he isn't he sulks."
"Ah," Scott replied, "Well so long as it wasn't anything serious."
She smiled at him, "Dickies a good mate, he likes you a lot."
"Yeah, we got to talk at the arcade, what's up with him and Fleur?" Scott tapped his visor cap, re-tucking his hair under it.
"Your ear's really stick out when you do that," Serena observed with a grin, making it clear that it wasn't a bad thing, he was getting used to her constant flirting, "He got her pregnant at University," she shrugged, "she wasn't even supposed to be seeing him any more they broke up, he started dating this other girl then next thing you know he's back here with Fleur and turns out they've been shagging the entire time."
"Oh, right..." Scott said, getting entirely too much of a mental image that time.
She rolled her eyes at his expression, "Oh give over, you wanted to know. But the funny thing is, no one's said anything about it, Dickie still goes out skunting every chance he gets..."
"Skunting?" Scott asked, "Do I want to know?"
"Skank hunting," she replied simply, "Fleur knows what's going on, but she doesn't do anything about it..."
"One of those," Scott replied knowingly.
"Yeah," Serena glanced down at the Shepard's pie that was no suitably demolished, "Sorry," she said seeming concerned that she had polished it off.
"No worries," Scott replied making to get up, "I should be getting home anyway, Gran's got to be wondering where I got to."
Serena got up as well, "Yeah no worries, we'll go for a pint later."
"Sure," he replied.
He came dashing back into the house entirely too enthusiastically, slapping the Friday Ad down onto the counter and turning to look for his Gran.
The small man sitting at the other end of the table polishing his spectacles looked up at him. East Indian with a bright smile and a cunning expression in his eyes, "I guess this would be the lad in question Rita."
Gran was looking slightly mortified at Scott's exuberant entrance, "Well that would be my grandson, though lord alone knows where he's been all day. Scott dear, I'd like you to meet Mister Karmali."
Scott cocked his head as he caught his breath and crossed to the man, shaking his hand, looking at his Gran quizzically.
"Zulee Karmali," Mister Karmali clarified, "Your Gran was telling me that you needed a job."
Scott was suddenly painfully aware of how underdressed he was for that meeting. So much for that, Zulee would write him off as a punk kid and be done with it. "Yeah, uh you sorta caught me unprepared."
Zulee shrugged, "It's an informal meeting Scott, you need work I need someone to do some general office work. And the fact that I owe Mister Robert's a few favours we can consider a trial run, if you survive two weeks you can keep the job, fair Scott?"
Scott blinked, just like that. He nodded his head, "Uh, okay..."
"Good," and he gave Scott a quick look over, "Suit and tie as well, I don't think my resident's will... appreciate your current look."
Scott glanced at Gran, who was trying hard not to look very pleased with herself, "You have a deal Mister Karmali."
Working at the Ashley Garden's retirement home was a new experience for Scott, he had expected a nursing home, maybe a workspace sandwiched between a bathroom and a lounge of something. Instead there was an entire corner of the building devoted to office space. A staff of about five people running administration and ensuring that the home ran properly, scheduling events, making arrangements for doctor visits and of course the darker side of geriatric care, deaths.
When Scott arrived in his trusty suit, standing nervously in the hallway looking about for someone to tell him where he should be, he was surprised to see all the activity. He had shifted from one foot to the other glancing about him as a pretty young woman pointed towards a large oak and glass door.
He nodded and tapped on it gingerly.
Zulee was sitting behind his desk drinking a cup of coffee and talking into a very expensive cordless phone. One of those GHz varieties that were powerful enough to be used any where in a building the size of Ashley Gardens. He looked up at Scott and nodded at him before bending back to the phone.
A few moments later he clicked off and smiled at his new employee, "I see my new gopher has arrived. What do you know about computers?"
"A bit," Scott replied a little uncertain of himself.
"Good, because nobody here knows anything about the damn machines. You've just become the computer technician." He got up and walked around his desk.
Scott stared at him uncertainly but the small man was serious. But Scott had the usual teenagers fascination with the machines, played with his own from time to time, he knew how to keep one working, but an entire office? He suddenly felt very out of his league.
"Come along," Zulee took him by the arm and led him across the hall, "This is Ben," he said introducing Scott to a very attractive man in his mid twenties, "He's my accountant you are going to be sharing his office."
Scott looked apologetically at Ben, but Ben simply shrugged and gave him a friendly smile standing up, "Shouldn't we get him a desk Zulee?" he asked looking about the large, if rather barren room with its double row of filing cabinets.
"Already arranged," Zulee said pushing Scott aside to allow the man wearing maintenance coveralls through with a broad table.
Within minutes Scott had his own workbench, stool, tools, and four computer boxes piled on the table. He stared at Zulee for a moment, but the old man was talking into his phone again wandering back to his office.
He gingerly sat down on his stool at the bench facing Ben's desk, and looked up at the other young man, "Uh hi." He said still not exactly sure what was happening.
Ben smiled; it was a friendly one filled with teeth. And Scott was instantly in love, well not love, more like in lust. Ben was an amazingly handsome man, perfect face, smart suit and a smile that could curl toes.
"Welcome to Ashley Garden's," Ben said beaming at him, "I take it you have no idea what on earth your supposed to be doing, right?"
Scott sucked in a breath, smiled tightly and nodded, "yeah..."
"Neither did I when I started, I was plopped down into this desk and told to balance his books. That was five years ago, I just had to learn it as I went." Ben's finger's flew across his keyboard inputting numbers, "I just make sure everything balances and if it doesn't I figure out why it doesn't."
"That's it?" Scott asked incredulously, it sounded easy but as his eyes looked down at the broken computers he felt his chest clench, this was going to be a lot harder than just entering numbers. He would have to try to figure out what was wrong and how to fix it.
"Coffee?" Ben said, and something about the way he said it caused Scott to start.
"You're American?" he asked incredulously.
"Canadian, Vancouver bud." Ben replied standing up, "but I get that all the time, from the sounds of it you've spent a little time across the pond yourself."
"Eight years in Brooklyn," Scott replied.
"Great, I'll be right back," He gave Scott that smile again and immediately Scott knew that working across from him would be one of the hardest things he would ever have to do in his life. Especially perched on top of a stool in a monkey suit.
Scott adjusted the stool, one of the swivel kind used by drafters, so that it was more comfortable, and he plugged in the first computer, rewarded by a whine of it booting up. It ran through its normal checks, but froze while trying to load windows. He grabbed a sheet of paper and made a note of that before unplugging it and moving onto the next one.
That one hissed at him and refused to start at all. He chewed his lip, taking off his suit jacket and draping it over the shoulders of the chair, rolling up his sleeves, he pulled out a screwdriver and had the case open. Finding the loose cable he plugged it back in, stepping back to try it again. This time it booted first time. Five minutes and one of his five was working again.
"Hey, pretty cool," Ben stated returning carrying two mugs of coffee, he set it down and walked around to his desk, returning to his numbers.
"Got lucky," Scott replied trying the next one, which actually loaded Windows this time, however the settings had been fiddled with. He knew that because his brother had pulled similar tricks on him back before he left home. A few clicks and it was back to normal.
"Get too good at that and you might make me look bad," Ben chipped jovially watching him.
Scott shook his head, but he was smiling, he could do this, he just needed to remember that he had played with similar machines the entire time he was growing up. His Dad had been a technophile, buying one of the first computers back in the day and upgrading to the newest model each year.
The next machine was stubborn; he couldn't figure out why it wouldn't turn on, there were no lights, no sound of a fan, nothing. He poked around inside it and could see nothing physically wrong with the computer itself, but the thing remained dormant.
An hour and a half later, he had two computers completely dismantled and he was attempting to build one out of the two. Ben watched him in between inputting his figures, and each time Scott drained his mug Ben would refill it, leaving him to uninterrupted work.
He flipped the machine on for a quick test, and was rewarded by life. He crossed his arms and stepped back, happy that he had actually accomplished something. He had managed to fix three of the five, one was still sitting there for him to reload windows on to it and the last was being scavenged for parts.
"Great job!" Ben commented, those blue eyes captured Scott's as he spoke, "I spent most of my first day sitting and staring at three filing cabinets and four years worth of receipts before I worked up the courage to get started."
Scott grinned his usual dopey grin, "it seemed like a good idea to just get stuck in." he replied taking another drink.
"Zulee likes that," Ben crossed his legs in his chair and slid it back, "He's an odd one that's for sure. Sink or swim kind of guy, if he likes you you're set, if he doesn't you're out. But all things considered," he motioned to the bench full of working computers, "I think he is going to like you."
"Thanks," Scott yawned and sat down on his stool, immediately realizing how uncomfortable the thing was, he was a good foot higher than his workbench, and he felt like an idiot sitting on it looking down at the confidently smiling Ben who was staring back up at him.
"So how long have you been out?" Ben asked out of the blue.
Scott's jaw hung open, not entirely sure how to answer that, had he been staring at Ben too long? Had he just blown it? He struggled to figure it out, all the time keeping his composure; he wasn't about to let Ben know how ruffled his feathers were. Playing it cool was second nature, "a year, you?"
His heart was racing now, was he calling it right? If not he was going to be left hanging over an awfully high drop.
Ben grinned at him and rapped his ring finger on the desk. The gold wedding ring making a dull thudding as it tapped the highly polished surface. "Nice try though." He responded as Scott's eyes travelled down to it, "My Brother is gay, I figured if I got it out in the open you wouldn't feel so uncomfortable working up there," he grinned at Scott seated high above him.
Scott licked his lips, "Yeah well all the good seats were taken," He balanced his cup on his knee, "Okay then mister big shot, how'd you know I was gay?"
Ben craned his head to make sure no one was listening, satisfied the hall was empty he leaned forward, "You're eyes did this three point check thing that my brothers always used to do."
Scott broke out into a broad grin, "Eyes, belt buckle and shoes."
"That'd be the one." Ben responded, "Eyes for intelligence, belt buckle to see if he's in shape and shoes to see if he takes pride in his appearance. All gay men do it subconsciously." He stopped and frowned, "What made you think I was?"
"Cute ones are always gay," Scott shot back quoting Serena.
Ben turned red as a tomato, and Scott was pleased that he had finally turned the embarrassment tables about on him. Cocky, arrogant Canadians were all the same, too laid back for their own good, catch them off balance and they always blushed. "Gotcha," he said with a smile.
"Watch it big ears," Ben was laughing, "a pretty boy like you in a nursing home, just think of all the dirty old men."
"That why you work here?" Scott was enjoying the verbal sparring; it was a great way to pass the time.
"Funny guy," Ben stated pointing at him, "But seriously though we have a number of nurses here, mostly women but most of the male ones are... well they aren't shy about it shall we say. And I thought my office was popular before, with both of us in here they are never going to let us get any peace."
"Any cute ones?" Scott grin became predatory.
Ben laughed again, "No, they're really not, unless that's your thing though... if it is I'm sure you will be popular."
Scott shook his head, "I think I'll pass thanks."
Ben smirked at him, "Thought you might, besides you're too busy staring at me."
"Not the only one staring," Scott countered.
Ben tapped the ring on the edge of the desk again, "Sorry."
"No you're not." Scott stood up laughing as he set about repacking his tools into the toolbox.
Ben leaned forward shaking his head still smiling as he set to work, "You realize we could both be done for sexual harassment." He glanced over at Scott.
"You think I'm coming onto you?" Scott asked now thoroughly amused by the whole conversation, "And here I was thinking you were coming onto me."
Ben shrugged, "I'm a terrible flirt, my wife thinks I just like the attention."
"Married long?" Scott asked hoping to steer the conversation back to something more manageable. He was really starting to like Ben, and not just because of that odd smile of his, nor the way he tapped his wedding ring every time Scott accused him of hitting on him. There was a bond forming with someone that gave as good as he got, and knew a joke when presented with one. Besides, in the Spartan office, what else was there to look at?
"Five years this Fall," Ben gave a smile as he pulled his hand's back from the keyboard, "Five long and happy years before you get any ideas."
"Why is it," Scott stated setting the toolbox aside, "You always steer the topic of conversation back around to that? I think you have some repressed issues over there my friend."
Ben grinned as he tapped his ring again, "Sorry don't know what you mean."
Scott looked down at the ring then slowly back up at Ben, "Uh huh, well my Daddy always said not to rub another man's rhubarb, especially not when's someone's rubbing it first so it's you who can be forgetting the ideas."
Ben chuckled shaking his head, "I can see this is going to be a lot of fun."
The Golden Martlet, the pub in Hellingly that Darren had first taken him to, was dismally quiet on a Thursday night. But that wasn't important to Serena who had insisted that she wanted them together after work for a drink.
Scott was still in his suit, tie loosened, holding onto a pint and leaning up against the edge of the bar, one hand on the back of Serena's chair, looking across at Darren who was telling them both about the Darlington races that were coming up.
Scott was only half-listening while looking about the bar; it had been a long day at work, and Zulee had given him the onerous task of trying to get a computerized fax modem to actually receive faxes. However, much to Scott's dismay, it seemed to like receiving faxes and turning them into pictures about the size of a postage stamp. Not exactly the most useful format in the world especially since they were usually important contracts.
When Zulee had complained, Scott had recommended a magnifying glass and things had spiralled downhill from there. He had ended up being made to drive all over town to pick up the original documents by hand. At least it had been an excuse to drive his boss's car. And no matter how much Zulee made it out to be a punishment, when you were cruising around town in a Beamer with the windows down and the music turned up you couldn't help but enjoy it.
"So, are you going to buy a car now?" Darren asked suddenly switching topics on Scott.
"Well..." Scott was suddenly aware that he could finally afford one. That in itself was a revelation, for the first time in his life he could actually afford to own a car. He was getting a decent wage from Zulee, and given the way the old man would roll his eyes whenever he had to fork over the keys to his prized BMW when he sent Scott on an errand, it would be a welcome asset to work.
Darren could see him mulling it over and he grinned at Serena, "He's thinking `bout it."
"I am, actually," Scott responded taking a pull on his pint and staring thoughtfully up at a bare patch of the wall. He could, he reasoned, and not be stuck in town dependent on his friends every time he wanted to go anywhere. Brighton would suddenly be a whole lot more accessible, as would Eastbourne.
"Go on," Darren egged him on, "look on your lunch tomorrow. Stop by the garage and talk to me dad. He's got some good second-hand cars sitting there he might let you have cheap."
"Not like that Banger you have, I hope," Serena said, referring to Darren's red rocket that was parked alongside the building; apparently the reverse gear would no longer work so he was limited where he could park. Fuelled on prayer, as Gran used to say.
"Yeah," Scott said hopefully, "I actually want to get to and from work without breaking down."
"Hark at Lloyd Grossman over here..." Darren had decided that Scott's blended accent-- part-American, part-English--sounded like the pretentious host of an English cooking show. Not exactly the most flattering of comparisons. Scott shot him a look; Darren as usual grinned and kept going, "He gets off a plane with the shirt on his back, now is complaining when I try to help him out."
A couple of larger young men walked into the pub, heading for their own end of the bar. Scott felt they looked vaguely familiar. One of them nudged the other, "'ere look at `im, all dressed up; what's he supposed to be?" Apparently Scott was a bit overdressed for the Martlet.
Scott glanced up and felt his chest tighten. Great; all he needed.
The other one shook his head, "He probably has a job." He said it in such a way as to signal to his buddy that he wasn't interested in starting anything, much to Scott's relief. And pints in hand, the pair of them went off to lay claim to the pool table.
Darren was looking at his cousin in concern, "You okay, Mate?"
Scott nodded, "Yeah, I'm fine. So you were saying about cars?"
"Well, Dad could probably work out a deal, find you something you'll like and can use." Darren was all for cars, the way his eyes lit up just talking about them, he could happily while away an entire evening talking about different ones he worked on, or things he planned to do to his own once he got the money.
Serena looked about ready to stuff her pint glass into his mouth to make him stop; finally when she had enough of his incessant babbling about carburettors, she deliberately changed the subject, glaring at Darren daring him to change it back.
"We should do something," she said getting a glint in her eye. "Something special this summer."
"Like what?" Scott asked, politely ordering another pint and leaning in to hear her better.
"Well," she smiled, "last year a bunch of us girls rented a flat on the Isle of Wight for a weekend. It was a right lark. I met this one bloke and..." She stopped herself, looking sweetly up at Scott.
Scott chewed on the idea a moment, looking up at Darren who seemed to be thinking on it as well. It sounded like fun, a good way to spend a weekend and enjoy themselves away from Hailsham. But the prospect of spending a weekend on the Isle of Wight, at least for Scott, sounded about as exciting as watching a flock of seagulls.
"What about Cornwall?" Darren asked. "Scott's dad, Uncle John, used to rent a flat there each summer and take all of us when we were little."
Scott remembered those weekend trips, his dad trying to keep control of a pack of Walker children as they terrorized their way through the small Cornish holiday town, causing mayhem and pandemonium wherever they went. Typically, Darren had always been in the thick of the trouble, so naturally he would think returning there would be a good idea. Scott remembered however, how much his father had dreaded those trips, but tradition was tradition.
"Perhaps we should go somewhere new?" Scott asked, hoping to dissuade Darren before he got too set on the idea.
"Wales?" Serena offered.
"No," both boys stated at the same time; Wales would be cold, wet and miserable. Every time Scott had been he had spent more time inside watching the rain than he had outside enjoying himself.
"Just a suggestion," Serena said, uncertain at the hostility against her idea.
"What is?" Dickie asked, joining the conversation. Scott hadn't even noticed him enter the pub; he looked over at him and shrugged, "We were just thinking about doing something this summer, going somewhere for the weekend or something."
Dickie grinned, "Our Granddad owns a caravan in Kent."
"What's this?" Luke asked, joining them a second later with a couple of pints of Guinness. He handed one over to Dickie and nodded to Darren, "Griff."
"Luke," Darren nodded back. Strangely, Luke didn't look at him with the same kind of suspicion in his eyes as that he directed towards Scott.
Fortunately, busy with work, Scott had been spared Luke's nightly stops past Gran's. At least he was able to avoid the uncomfortable conversation that way. For the moment, Luke gave him a sidelong look while sipping his Guinness and turned a little away from him. Which was fine; Scott was getting used to Luke giving him the cold shoulder.
"We're thinking about taking a holiday," Serena said. She always bristled around Luke; something about the two of them together that just didn't gel properly. Scott suspected it was probably Luke's doing; he just seemed to like pissing people off.
"I was just saying Granddad's caravan," Dickie explained. "We haven't been up this year and if I go and ask him I think it should be alright to use it."
"Ah," Luke replied noncommittally, "sounds like fun."
"You should come," Darren offered, too late for either Scott or Serena to stop him.
Luke nodded thoughtfully as he looked at Dickie who shrugged back at him, "It would be fun," Dickie offered.
Luke glanced over at Scott, who was holding his breath, gripping the back of Serena's chair, hoping the answer would be no. And he shrugged, "Sure, I'd love to."
Scott exhaled in disappointment; not too loudly, but enough for Serena to look at him funny.
Luke looked over towards the pool table, now free after the two louts had moved to a booth to work on a fresh round of drinks, "Pool?" he offered Darren.
Darren nodded and the two of them crossed to the table, Darren racking the balls. Scott felt Serena lightly squeeze his hand and brought him back into the conversation.
"So if we go, would it be okay for Fleur and I to ride with you?" Dickie was asking Serena.
"Yes, no problem at all," Serena said and looked up at Scott, "If you get a car this week we can use that as well and do a convoy."
Dickie looked pleased, "You're getting a car? Great, it will make Friday nights easier. We can all split up among two cars and not have to cram into the back of your Metro."
Scott ran a hand down his face as he reached for the pen and signed the paper; it was the first time he had ever taken out a loan on anything. Getting credit was a huge step forward for him, only a week or so ago he had been collecting Job Seekers, now he was signing a used-car loan.
He suspected his gran had something to do with him being accepted for it. She had a relationship with the bank on the high street going back nearly thirty years. When you do all your business at the same branch, seeing managers come and go, you apparently develop some pull with the manager.
"How would you like that, Mister Walker?" the bank assistant asked him politely. She was a pleasant girl who had been courteously walking him through every step of the process.
"Uh, cash?" he asked, still a little stunned at how completely painless the experience had been for him.
She blinked at him, trying to make sure she had heard him correctly, "I'm sorry sir, did you say cash?"
He nodded, still reading the contract he had just signed; he was going to make a quick run over to Uncle Ron's garage, see what was available. If there was nothing, he could always visit one of the car dealerships up the far end of the high street.
The assistant returned a few minutes later with five stacks of bills. "Mister Walker, I would advise you to be careful carrying this much money," she warned Scott as she handed him the wads of cash.
His eyes bulged; he had been absently responding to her questions, he hadn't actually expected her to give him five thousand pounds in cash. How was he going to carry that much money across town? He swallowed and accepted them, pushing them into his suit pockets and wondering if he would get jumped on his way.
She gave him a smile as he set out, no doubt thinking the same thing that he was. It was a very brave man, or a very foolish one to do what he was doing.
He hurried through the town, keeping a quick pace all the way down George Street; he was beginning to sweat and looking at everyone nervously as he passed them. It was stupid, but he was suddenly aware of everything around him and he wanted nothing better than to just get to the garage and be off the street.
Luke was standing outside the police station; one look at Scott and he made to intercept him. "Typical," he stated in a tone that said he wasn't happy. "The super gets a call from the bank saying that one of its customers is walking around Hailsham with more money than sense in his pockets and so he warns us to keep our eyes open. And I had this feeling, what person would be dense enough to pull a stunt like that?"
Scott looked Luke dead in the eyes, "Shouldn't you be playing in traffic or something?"
"That's directing traffic," Luke corrected, not registering the joke Scott had made at his expense, "and where am I walking you today?" He shook his head, murmuring something about the taxpayers working hard just so he could babysit an arrogant...
Scott shrugged, "I'm going to Diplocks Way," he replied, hating again that Luke was making him feel like an imbecile.
The two began to walk, and Scott stuffed his hands into his pockets, "Well, if I am stuck walking with you, the least you can do is be civil to me this time."
"Why bother?" Luke responded, as usual his eyes looking everywhere but at Scott.
"Well, for a start, because if you don't I'll kick your ass," Scott replied firmly; he had finally hit his breaking point with Luke. There was only so far he had to go to be polite, and his patience had limits.
"Okay, I'll be civil," Luke replied, softening his tone, "on the condition you tell me why you want to carry that much money on you."
"Buying a car," Scott replied, "I misheard the bank teller and so I ended up getting cash. So rather than look like a complete moron I decided it would be good enough."
"Well, we wouldn't want that," Luke replied dryly.
"I thought you were going to be civil?" Scott bit back.
"I am, I'm sorry," Luke continued, "I didn't get a chance to apologize to you for the other day."
"That was because I wouldn't let you," Scott said as they cut across the recreation ground.
A couple of kids smoking behind the cricket pavilion saw the approaching policeman and frantically stubbed out cigarettes and tried to appear innocently minding their own business. Luke gave them one of his cold hard stares and they immediately scampered away.
"Well, I didn't mean it," Luke took a sigh. "You're a nice guy and besides your gran is..."
"Yeah, I know," Scott replied, breaking out into a smile as they struggled through the dirty track that connected the back of the recreation ground to Diplocks way; as kids it had been the quickest way to get to school. It was nice to finally see Luke relax and actually not be such a complete ass. The smile from the first time he had insisted on escorting Scott home was back in his eyes, and although it never once touched his face, Scott could see it.
They didn't speak for the rest of the walk to the garage, Luke simply nodding goodbye once they arrived and setting off back the way he had come. But Scott knew progress when he saw it, and endeavoured to find his uncle.
Ron was covered in grease; a short, wiry, balding man, he was perpetually covered in grease. He hadn't changed much since Scott and Darren had been kids; a few extra lines and a few extra pounds, that was about it. He rubbed his hands on a cloth watching Luke walking back up the street carefully.
"What did he want?" Ron asked, nodding at Luke.
"Just a friend of mine," Scott dismissed it quickly. "Darren said I should talk to you about a car."
Ron grinned, wiping his nose with the back of his hand and smudging more grease across his cheek. "I have something you might like," he said, pointing to the lot alongside the garage.
Darren was working on a car up on the hoist and waved at his cousin, still holding a spanner. Scott cheerily waved as he was led around back to what amounted to a graveyard of cars. There were all different types, in all different kinds of conditions.
"Well, Darren was telling me that you learned to drive." Ron was never the greatest conversationalist; though he tried his best, it often came across that he was struggling. He preferred to quietly work on his cars rather than actually have to deal with others.
"That's right, Uncle Ron," Scott stated, bending down to look in the window of a rather sporty Peugeot that looked all right.
"Don't want that French piece of junk," Ron said as he kept going, and reluctantly Scott pulled himself away from the car and followed him deeper into the knackers yard.
"What did you have in mind?" Scott said, knowing that he wasn't going to get much say. He just had to trust his uncle knew what he was doing, though he wasn't about to say how much money he had sitting in his pockets. His uncle Ron was honest to a point, beyond that he wasn't above making a little extra cash at the expense of someone else's naiveté, even if it was his nephew's.
"Well," Ron said, coming to a halt, "I was thinking something more durable. My boss was actually going to scrap his old Rover;" he got a glint in his eye as he spoke, "she's about fifteen years old though," he warned, "and there's about 170 thousand miles on her, but she's served him faithfully both on- and off-road."
"Off-road?" Scott asked, looking concerned. "I thought you said a Rover..."
"No, no," Ron clarified, "not a Rover Rover... Range Rover..."
Scott's jaw hung open, a Range Rover? Weren't they ridiculously expensive? When Ron had said Rover he had instinctively thought to the classic banker's sedan.
"She's fallen on harder times, though," Ron said, leading him around the corner face to face with the elegant, if battered-looking vehicle. "We were going to scrap her down for parts to keep other Rangies on the road, but I'd like to see her continue in service a bit longer."
Scott nodded, walking up to her; there wasn't a body panel without a dent, and some of them were really big. The interior was a bit shredded as well, and part of the dash was ripped up. There were bits missing here and there; all in all she looked very scruffy.
Ron nodded as he patted the hood, "That out of the way, here's the good news. The engine, when running..." he looked apologetic, "the engine isn't running at the moment, but when it does run it sounds good and it's very peppy. The gearbox is equally good, the diffs are fine, and the chassis is very solid. Good brakes and electrics." He sighed, "She's going to take a bit to pass inspection. But the price is good."
Scott looked at the old beast and at his uncle, it was a Range Rover... but he wasn't nuts. He wasn't about to pay a ton of money for something that wouldn't...
"Four hundred," Ron said looking hopeful, and Scott honestly thought Ron was trying to mark the price up...
Scott turned to his uncle in surprise, "How much to fix her up?"
"Engine running, and everything so she can pass safety, I'd say another thousand or so."
Scott nodded, "How soon can you have her ready to go?"
Ron looked at him sceptically, "You're going to take it?"
"It's a fucking Range Rover," Scott replied resting a hand on the mirror, which promptly came off in his hand. He sheepishly handed it back to his uncle, "Can we do something about the dash?"
"I can replace that," Ron said with a smile. "I have another one kicking around here somewhere. We junked another Rangie a year ago; some parts are here somewhere. Though I can't help you with the seats."
"Replace them and add it on," Scott said, reasoning he could afford new seats. He walked around the Range Rover, his Range Rover, and grinned a lopsided grin. Man, nobody back in the States is ever gonna believe this.
Four days later his gran was leaning on her hedge when the Rover rumbled to a halt across the road. The engine growled as it came to a halt, thup-thuping as it reluctantly died. Scott hopped down from the cab and slammed the door, stopping to slam it again to make sure it latched.
"What on earth is that?" Gran inquired, nodding to the olive-green monstrosity that was still looking slightly the worse for wear despite Uncle Ron and Darren's best efforts. Despite its appearance it was running perfectly.
Scott gave her his dopey grin. "It's mine," he stated firmly.