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Dad! Home from work! Nigel with his trousers round his ankles panting and moaning and trembling from the aftershocks of my mouth. Me with a mouth full of cum, flushed face, and a suddenly wilting erection. And a chill feeling in my stomach. And some serious unfinished business to attend to. Which would have to wait. I swallowed. It's amazing how your mouth muscles refuse to work after you've been working hard on making your boyfriend have a shattering orgasm.
I made my voice work. "Yeah, Dad. It's me." And to Nigel, probably unnecessarily, "It's my Dad. Downstairs."
"Damn." At least he said it quietly.
"Down in a second, Dad," I called. "I'm in the loo. Oh yes, Nigel's here. Er, in my room, I mean, not in the loo!" Of course I wasn't in the loo. And Nigel dissolved into a fit of giggles. I watched him force his fist into his mouth to keep the noise of his giggling from coming out. Then I whispered to Nigel, "Get your clothes back on quick
"Oh shit," he giggled round his fist. "Yeah. I'd wondered where the draught was coming from."
In the meantime I nipped into the loo and flushed it to complete the pretence, washed my hands, rinsed my mouth out and splashed my face with water. A quick check in the mirror. A bit flushed, but not as bad as Nigel. I just hoped my breath didn't smell of him!
And I headed for the stairs. Dad was in the kitchen. "I thought Nigel was with you?" he said, more a statement that a question. "I was just putting the kettle on for a cuppa. Do either of you want one?"
"Please. Both of us I expect. Nigel will be down in a tick."
"That's nice. I hardly met him at the station. It'll be nice to meet one of your friends.
"Don't worry, Dad," I laughed, "there'll be plenty of time to get to know him. We're going to hang out together quite a lot." Do you know I found I wanted to tell him. Then and there. I was looking at my Dad, standing there, in our kitchen. Everything was so familiar and safe. There he was, so, well, ordinary and normal. I was almost ready to bet that he even knew what was in my mind.
How do I describe my Dad? Middle aged I suppose. Greying at the temples, and a kind man. At least I had always thought of him as kind. A bit overweight, and inclined to be embarrassing in front of my friends, but more a friend that a father. I was really lucky in having him. I mean I'd heard all sorts of stuff about other kids' parents. Being beaten and so on. He used to smack me when I was smaller, but it never actually had any effect, so he'd given up. I suppose for the most part we talked out problems out.
Almost ready. Just not ready yet. Because I had no real idea how he would react to the news. I mean, he seemed all right with gay TV personalities. But I was his son. His only son. And I was so unsure, suddenly. I remembered that he had once said to me, 'Chris, there is no problem you can bring to me that will stop me from loving you.' But I wasn't ready yet.
I was saved from myself by Nigel's arrival in the kitchen.
"Ah, you must be Nigel," Dad said. "Good to meet you properly."
"Hello Mr Jenkins." Nigel held out his hand. "I saw you at the station, but I didn't really have time to say hello." And he smiled as they shook hands.
"No, it was all a but of a rush there, wasn't it? Cup of tea? Or a mug?"
I was just waiting for the 'sweet enough already' gag, but he didn't use it. "No, thanks. Mum made me give it up last year. Said I was going to get fat!"
"Doesn't look as though you will to me," Dad said to him. "Does he look fat to you, Chris?"
"Oh yes, sorry. I must remember never to ask a boy to comment on another boy's looks. Something macho I suppose." And he turned to pour three mugs of tea. "Do you boys want biscuits? Go on, give me an excuse to open a packet? If I just have one myself, Mum will shoot me!"
"Go on then, Dad, Open the Bourbons. I can dunk them in my tea!"
"Disgusting child. I don't know where you get these habits from," he said, taking one for himself and dunking it at once. "Do you dunk Bourbons as well, Nigel?"
I looked at Nigel as he smiled at Dad. "Is there anyone who doesn't dunk them?" he asked with a twinkle in his beautiful eyes as he put soggy biscuit into his mouth. I swear he was winking at me as he licked his lips as the biscuit vanished! I knew what I wanted to have in his mouth, and it wasn't a Bourbon Cream!
"So, what have you both been up to since I saw you last?" Dad almost made me panic. I suppose I heard what he said but read into it all the hidden meanings about Nigel and me. And felt as though he knew. Stupid, but I did.
"Nothing much, Mr Jenkins. We mucked around here yesterday afternoon. I had to go home a bit early, but Carol came over with Chris, and then my Mum suggested that Chris sleep at our place."
"Spent all night talking, I suppose? Not a wink of sleep?"
"Well, not much sleep, no."
"Funny, you've just shared a room all week in France, and still you muck about all night!" Dad was grinning. "Boys!"
"Then today we went to the rec and then the cinema," I added.
"What did you see?"
"Oh, it was one of those wet thrillers, Mr Jenkins. You know, Arnold Schwarzenegger against the world!"
"Did he win?"
"How could he lose, Dad?"
"Yeah, I know. Like a Columbo episode. You know it's got to work out, you just don't know exactly how."
"Not cool, Columbo?"
"Seriously not cool," Nigel giggled at him.
"So you don't want another biscuit, then?" And Dad tried to shut the tin.
"Yeah, Columbo is really cool!" We were both laughing now. "Leave the lid off, Dad!"
It doesn't take long to demolish a tin of biscuits. Well it doesn't take Dad long. And it didn't that day either. Eventually, after at least three more minutes all the Bourbons were gone.
"Are you staying to eat with us tonight, Nigel?"
"If Chris wants me to, Mr Jenkins, er, if it's no trouble I mean?"
Did I want him to? How could I not want him to. But how was I going to stop looking at him all the time we were eating. Supper in our house was a dining table affair. No laps in front of the television and food slopped down the front of the shirts for us! Or that's what Mum said, anyway. 'Be restrained,' I thought. "Of course I do, idiot!" Oh yeah. Very restrained. Just like an over eager kid. 'Oh heck,' I thought, 'go for the lot.' "Dad?"
"If he wants to, could Nigel stay the night?" as the words came out of my mouth I wondered if I should have even asked. It flashed across my brain as fear. Fear of being so stupid as to ask.
"Well," Dad said, hesitantly, "You guys have seen a whole lot of each other, and Mum and I were hoping to see you tonight. We don't know a whole lot about the trip yet. I don't know, Chris."
"It's OK, Mr Jenkins, I expect my folks want to see me as well," Nigel said. His head shook 'don't press it' at me. Imperceptibly, but just enough for me to see. "I'd love to stay for supper, but I don't want to be in the way." Oh wow. Cool head. I knew he wanted to stay, but he stopped me making a fool of myself. "Do you think I could ring them and check that I can stay to supper, please? And ask them to pick me up? Er, what time should I say?"
"About nine? Tell you what, Nigel, ask your folks if they want to pop in for coffee or something when they pick you up. Then there's no hurry to be ready." Dad must have known, I suppose, that I was disappointed. "The phone's in the hall. Help yourself."
While Nigel was out making the call, Dad said to me "You boys seem to get on really well."
"We do, Dad." I wanted to tell him. You know when you can sense it's right, but can't quite manage to speak? "We hadn't met properly before the trip, but I wish we had."
"He's a good looking lad," Dad said quietly. ""He's in your year I take it."
I caught my breath when Dad said that Nigel was good looking. And I couldn't speak. Not for a second or two. "I suppose he is, yes. And he's in my year. Different sets for stuff, but we share some lessons."
"Why haven't we met him before....?"
'Here goes,' I thought. 'I can do this.' "Well, you know you've always said I can talk to you?"
"I mean it."
"About anything at all?"
He took me by my hands and turned me to face him. "Anything at all. However bad it seems. Anything."
"I, oh Dad, I'm..." 'Do it NOW!' "Dad I'm, I, er, I love him, Dad." 'Done it. Now wait. Hope.'
"It looks mutual."
"Look, let's wait until he comes back in, OK? Unless you need a hug?"
There wasn't any need to answer. I jumped forward into his arms, and he put his arms around me. "Chris, it's OK, you know? To love him, I mean. It doesn't stop me from loving you, Chris."
And my eyes filled with tears as Nigel came back in saying "They'll be here at nine... Oh." I suppose he saw us holding each other. I don't know if he worked out at once that I'd told Dad, but he didn't get any chance to wonder.
"Dad?" I was full of wet tears. "It is. Mutual, I mean"
"You've told him?" Nigel's voice.
"He's told me," Dad said quietly
"And?" Nigel was looking concerned, worried. I could see over Dad's shoulder.
"It's all right Nigel." I heard Dad's voice telling him, so softly. "We're fine. Well I think we are." And then, "Chris?"
"I think it's Nigel who needs to hold you, not me."
"Just go and hug him instead of me."
"Dad?" A little more urgently as I moved to be by Niger's side, and took his hand.
"How did you know?"
"Sit down, both of you, at the table here. I'll tell you." We sat next to each other, and I sneaked hold of Nigel's hand. "I suppose," Dad said, "I suppose it wasn't exactly obvious. Unless, oh heck, unless you knew what you were looking at. Damn, I'm not explaining this well."
"What do you mean, Dad? 'Knew what you were looking at'?"
"It's the way you act together. I knew on the station when you were hugging each other. The look in your eyes. Each of you. Your eyes lingered. And Chris you were so excited when I suggested that Nigel come round. And it was obvious. To me, at least."
"To you, Dad?"
"Well, Chris, it isn't unusual to love another boy, you know."
"Not at all unusual. I suppose it helps if the boy you love is as beautiful as Nigel. But it isn't unusual. Chris I was in love at school too."
"But Dad, your school was all boys..."
"Yes. It was. It's OK, it was a long time ago. He was beautiful, too. But he hated me for it. So I suffered. But this isn't about me...."
"Oh Dad." And I hugged him. My Dad I mean.
"It was a long time ago, Chris. But it meant that I could know what you might go through. And it meant that I could work out what to say to you, how to help you. Though I hoped I wouldn't have to."
"Sorry, that came out wrong. I mean I hoped that you wouldn't have to suffer, agonise, because you could talk to me, and I thought that you were settled with Carol."
"You're OK about us?"
"I don't really know you, Nigel. Not yet at least. But you're Chris's friend, not mine. And I can see him holding your hand and I can see the way he looks at you. Yes, I'm OK about you. A little envious if the truth be told. Of the love you have for each other, I mean. And I'd like to get to know you. Please. If you'll let me."
"Love at fourteen. Returned love at fourteen. You do love him, Nigel? You aren't going to let him down, or hurt him?" Dad was looking right into Nigel's eyes.
"I love him Mr Jenkins. I've always loved him. Always."
"At fourteen you love hard, I think. Fiercely. It's raw. I love your mother, Chris. But loving another boy is special somehow. I told you. I know what it's like."
"Well, er, oh, this seems so weird, but, er, I never knew, I, er, felt alone."
"Alone?" Niger was smiling at me.
"Well, you know...." I tailed off.
"Neither of you are alone," Dad said. "Neither of you." And he was rewarded by being swamped by two fourteen year old boys, both of whom who were taller than him, but neither of whom were as round! "Oh get off!"
"Does Mum know, Dad?"
"About you? No."
"No, Dad. About you."
"She didn't need to know. I mean I'd put him to the back of my mind, so it wasn't 'important' any more. I suppose I wasn't over him exactly, but I knew how he felt about it. So I never told her. I didn't think she needed to know. Still don't." He looked sad for a moment. "Nigel, do your parents know? I mean have you told them?"
"My mother knows, Mr Jenkins. I think my father will be OK. Well I hope he will. We, er, told my Mum this morning. Kind of had to."
"It's embarrassing. Well a little."
"We were in bed, Dad. Together, I mean. When Claire came in. With morning tea."
"Ah! Woke up too late?" And Dad smiled at us both.
"A bit like that, Mr Jenkins."
"How did she react?"
"Came back with more tea, then made us a cooked breakfast! She was great," Nigel said.
"Nigel, this is silly, you are going to have to call me something other than 'Mr Jenkins'! How about Peter?"
"Call you Peter?"
"It's my name, Nigel. People call me Peter. They do it all the time."
It was odd. Dad looked so happy. I'd never expected him to blow up exactly, but I hadn't expected him just to smile and look, seem, act, no to be pleased. Oh wow!
"What did your mother say, Nigel? I don't mean when she found you together. I mean about the whole thing?"
"I don't remember too much," Nigel said, "but I do remember that she said that she loved me just the same, and that Chris was welcome. She hugged us a lot!"
She and I need a quiet chat, I think," said Dad. "Look I'm losing the plot here. Does your father know. Did you say, Nigel?"
"Not unless Mum has told him, er, Peter." Nigel smiled sheepishly as he called Dad by his name for the first time. "I don't think she will have done."
"So, who else knows?"
"Carol knows, Dad."
"Well you have, er had, been together for a long time. Can I ask what happened? How she knows?"
"It's complicated, Dad." And we told him the bare bones of what had happened in France, and how Nigel had loved me for ever, and had rigged the room sharing. We kind of missed out the sex! He didn't need to know that. And how Carol had come round, was it only the day before? And had dragged me to Nigel's house and made a present of me to Nigel.
"She must love you a lot, Chris," was all he said. Well, almost all. "If things were different... But they aren't. A girl in a million."
"I have to talk to her, Dad."
"Of course you do. But I don't think she'll be able to handle it yet. Wait a while, I should."
"Listen, Mum will be home soon. How do you want to handle this?" He looked first at me, then at Nigel.
"What do you think she'll say, Peter?"
"I'm not sure. It's not something we've ever talked about. My fault, I suppose, but I couldn't ever seem to bring the subject up. Not without reliving my past I mean. And I was so hoping that you wouldn't get stuck with unrequited love like I did that I was almost holding my breath for you. I never dreamed that you'd be lucky enough to find a Nigel, er to find Nigel, I mean. Er, if it wasn't going to be a girl. Oh damn, that sounds so patronising. Almost horrible. I didn't mean it like that."
"I know what you mean, Dad, I think. But what will Mum say?"
"I simply don't know, Chris. And I don't exactly know what to tell her or how to tell her."
"I'll tell her, Dad, if you're there."
"We'll tell her, Chris," Nigel told me. "We'll tell her. Together."
"I'm a bit scared. Dad, what would you do?"
"I'd listen to my boyfriend. I'd do it with him like he says. But Chris?"
"Please think of her when you tell her?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I have no idea whether she has even been half ready to know that she might hear this one day. And I want her to feel good about you both. If she can."
"You're making me nervous, Dad."
"Sorry. I love her, Chris. I know she has to know, but I want you both to do it well, when you tell her."
"Chris, I think she needs to meet me first," Nigel said to me. "If you can keep it quiet for a while, that is."
"I suppose I can. Didn't you feel you wanted to tell the whole world at once?"
"We haven't met the whole world yet, idiot!"
I squeezed his hand when he said that. "I love you Nigel." Then I blushed. I'd just said 'I love you' to him in front of Dad. Oh embarrassing!
"I love you, too." And then he capped it. He kissed me. On the lips, just simply. "Now stop blushing and get used to us as 'Us', OK?"
"Er," I looked at Dad. Dad smiled at me. "Well, yes. Yes. Yes!"
"Right, now we know who we are, let's talk about your mother."
"OK. Why don't we talk to her just after supper?" I wasn't sure, but it seemed like a good idea. "I mean, she can talk to you while we're eating and stuff, and then when she knows you, then we can tell her about us."
"Sounds a good plan. Mr, sorry, Peter, what do you think?"
"Let's just see how it goes, shall we, boys? Now let's get supper started." And he got some pork chops out of the fridge. "Chris, I need some onions."
Domesticity. I liked cooking. Always did. I got him all the ingredients he needed. And Nigel and I hovered round him doing what he asked. Pork chops under the grill, a good sprinkle of olive oil, a drip of Tabasco on each, a little salt. And we chopped the onions roughly and put them in the pan, too. Rice cooking in the microwave, we added some frozen peas, chopped red and yellow peppers, and last of all, as we heard Mum's key in the lock rough chopped tomatoes. Just to heat, not to cook through. Flavour and texture.
"OK, Nigel, get the rice out and put it onto four plates. Chris, serve the rest neatly round it. I'll go and tell her you're here. No, nothing else!"
While we were busy we heard muffled voices in the hall. And Mum's voice "Oh good, yes I wanted to meet him properly." And she came into the kitchen. "Hello Nigel." She was smiling at him. "No, don't shake hands, you're busy! I'll sort out knives and forks and glasses, shall I?"
"Not a chance, Jean," Dad said. "We've done it. Table's laid, we're all set to eat. If you're ready, that is?"
"I'll wash my hands and go and sit down then," she said. "I like being waited on. For a change!" And she went into the dining room.
"Nigel, I don't know if I can wait," I was on tenterhooks. "I feel as though I'm waiting for Christmas and a bad school report at the same time."
"At least let her catch her breath," he said.
Nigel took two plates, I took the other two, and we went into the dining room and sat round the table. The food was lovely. It was one of my favourite midweek meals. I know it was. But I couldn't eat it. Not really. I was chewing and chewing, but nothing was happening. I was so dry suddenly.
Mum caught my eye. "What's the matter, Chris? You don't seem to be eating?"
I looked at my plate. It was still full. Well mostly. "I'm a bit on edge, Mum." I managed to swallow, finally. Much better. "I'm all right. No, really." But I'd started.
"I've got, we, we've got, oh."
"Oh?" Mum was looking perplexed. "What do you mean 'Oh'?"
"Can it wait until after supper, Mum?"
"Chris, what are you talking about? Peter?" She turned to Dad. "What is Chris talking about?"
"Let's finish supper, Jean? The lads here cooked it."
"Well," she still looked as though someone was keeping a huge secret from her. I suppose we were. "All right."
"Thanks, Mum." But I still couldn't eat. Dad saved me in the end by clearing the plates away and whispering to me that he'd save it for later if I wanted. I felt as though I couldn't breathe as we left the dining room. There wasn't any point in dessert. None at all.
As we followed Mum through the hall into the living room, Nigel gripped my hand. He was still letting go as she turned round and looked at us. I beat her to the draw. "Mum, I need to talk to you. We do. Nigel and me. And I." I corrected myself out of habit. Mum was keen on grammar. I was too late.
"You're holding hands! Chris you're holding Nigel's hand!"
I was. I didn't let Nigel let go. I gripped him tight. "Yes, Mum. I, er we, he's..."
"He's holding your hand, Chris!" I wondered if this was going to get repetitive "He's holding hands with you!"
"I'm holding his hand too, Mum. Because..."
"Boys don't hold hands!" She was looking shell shocked. "Normal boys don't hold hands."
"We're normal, Mum."
Nigel spoke for the first time for ages. "Mrs Jenkins, I"
"No!" Her head was in her hands. "No! Not my boy. Not Chris. He isn't. Not, " she almost spat "queer!" And she grabbed me to her, almost flinging him aside. "He isn't. He's fourteen. Fourteen!" She was crying. "It's a phase. He'll grow through it." I needed Nigel, suddenly, not Mum. I pulled back. "No! No, stay here. You mustn't. It is not natural! No! Not my little boy. No!"
"Mrs Jenkins, he loves me," said Nigel simply. "And I love him."
"You can't. He's a boy. It's not right. Not legal. Horrible. Chris, tell me it isn't true? It isn't true? It isn't? True? Chris?"
"I love him, Mum."
"NOOOOOO!!!!!!!" And she was in full sobbing, wailing tears. "No, no, no!"
I watched Dad move to her side. "Jean, it's all right."
"It isn't. It is so not all right!"
"It's all right, Jean. Make your son feel all right. He's the same boy," Oh bless you Dad.
"But it isn't all right." She was gulping for air as she spoke. Sobbing does that "He's my baby. And he's, he's..."
"In love, Jean. Deeply in love."
"But with a BOY?"
"Yes, Jean. With a boy."
"It's my fault," she said to him. "It's something I've done. It's me. It must be me. I.."
She wasn't hearing me "I must have made him soft.."
"No, Jean. Listen to me," Dad had her hands and was looking into her eyes. "Listen! Chris is a normal, healthy boy. So is Nigel"
"Nigel. He did this to Chris!"
"Mum that's not fair!" I was watching Nigel's face. The expression was so hard to describe. It moved from horror to patience and back to horror. I squeezed his hand again. Except I was already squeezing it.
"Ow!" He yelled. Oh heck it must have hurt
"Jean, no-one did anything to Chris. No-one. He's just Chris. Our son. He's your son still, my son. Our son. And he loves this young man."
"You're encouraging him, Peter! Are you queer too? Liking little boys?"
Dad turned to us. "Boys, can you wait outside for a minute?"
"No, Mr Jenkins," Said Nigel. Not 'No, Peter', but 'No, Mr Jenkins'. "It's our life you're discussing here. We'll stay. Mrs Jenkins, You may not like what we are, and you don't have to like me. Not ever. But Chris hasn't changed. I love him. I've loved him as long as I've known him. If I could take care of him, I would. We're kids, Mrs Jenkins. But not kids either. He isn't disgusting suddenly. He just loves me, not a girl. And I love him. You didn't cause it. Mr Jenkins doesn't like little boys as you put it. We just told him earlier. Chris needed to tell him. He's had time to get used to it. To understand, I suppose. I'm sorry you're unhappy." And he turned to me. "Now, we'll give them some time. Washing up. Come on." And he pulled me out and into the kitchen.
I had no idea what to say. I just held him. He was trembling. And all we could hear were muffled sobs and my parents' voices. Nigel was trembling and I was exhausted. I don't know what I'd expected, but I hadn't expected any of this. But how could I? I just knew that Nigel was wonderful. "Oh Nigel." I just kept repeating it. Into his ear. "I love you." I don't know how long we were there, like that. A lifetime.
And the doorbell rang. And the clock on the mantel struck the hour. 9 o'clock.
"I'd better answer the door." And I went quietly and opened the door.
"Hello Chris," Claire said cheerfully. "Oh. What's wrong?"
"Come into the kitchen for a moment. Is Mr Cropper with you?"
"He's parking the car," she said. "What's wrong?"
"Mum, come into the kitchen, and let Chris wait for Dad," Nigel asked her, eyes imploring.
Then the sounds from the living room crept out through the closed door to her. "Ah. OK."
I heard Nigel saying to her as I waited by the door "Chris's Dad is OK, but his Mum is having hysterics."
Then I saw His father coming up the front path. "Hello Mr Cropper. Er, this may seem odd, but can you come straight through to the kitchen? Quietly? Please?" I reckon he was so surprised he just followed., and I shut the kitchen door behind us.
"What's going on, Nigel?" His father was smiling, but looking puzzled.
"Dad, has Mum said anything, er, unusual to you today?"
"Dad, this isn't the way I wanted you to know. But I really need your help. If you're going to get upset and be shocked, can you wait until we get home?" Nigel looked his father right in the eyes. "Please?"
"Sounds serious." His father was still smiling. "All right. I'm ready. Go ahead."
"Dad, Mum said you and she had talked about this. I'm gay, Dad. Chris and I are in love."
"Oh." His Dad looked taken aback. "Ah. Oh. Yes. I see. Oh."
"Just a bit sudden, Nigel. OK. I'd like to talk to you both at home. But for now let's just be normal. And Nigel, I don't see that this changes anything between us."
"Oh Dad, I love you."
"I take it form the way she is smiling that Mum knew already?"
"Yes. Look, there's a lot to talk through, but I need some help now. Chris's Dad is OK about it, but his Mum's lost it."
"Ah." He paused for a while, looking thoughtful. "I don't quite see what you want me to do."
"I wondered if you could both go and sit with them and talk. I don't know exactly."
"Nigel, I can't work miracles, I'm just your Dad."
At which point Mum and Dad came into the kitchen. And Mum was looking dreadful.
"Dad," I said, "these are Nigel's parents."
"Hello," he said. "I'm Peter. Jean isn't feeling too good, would you excuse us if she..."
"Jean?" Nigel's Mum touched her shoulder. "I.. "
Mum threw her hand off. And stormed out of the kitchen.
"I need a favour, Mr Cropper," Dad had turned to him.
"James. Call me James."
"James, then. Look I know you've hard the same surprise that we've had."
"Yes, I think you can be safe in saying that. It's OK, Peter. I think it's the boys that need the favour."
"it's what I meant," said Dad, "really. I need some time to help Jean, but I need to be with Chris. And I can't be in two places at once, and Jean can't cope with Chris at the moment, and can't even see Nigel."
"Shall we have the boys at our home tonight?"
"I hate Chris to think I'm pushing him away." Then to me, "Chris, if you'd prefer to stay here, stay!"
I didn't know what to do. I needed my Mum. I wanted to talk to my Dad. I wanted my boyfriend. And I wanted to cry. I wanted to be with Nigel, somewhere safe. I made up my mind. "Look after Mum, Dad. I, er, I need her. Tell her I love her." And I went and kissed his cheek. Something I hadn't done for years. "Tell her I need her. When she's ready."
And I turned to the Croppers. "May I stay with you?"
"As long as you need to, Chris," Claire said.
And I grabbed the bag Nigel and I had come in with, still with a few clean clothes in it, and walked out of the kitchen, and through the front door. I passed Mum. She was at the bottom of the stairs, eyes red, tearstained face. "I love you, Mum," I said. But she didn't; answer. And as we shut the front door behind us I heard her voice shouting at Dad.
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