by Paul Jamison

Chapter 15

Paul's viewpoint cont...

I smiled at the first sign of happiness Chris had displayed since the awful events of Wednesday night and said

"I really do mean we'll try, but it may take some time before anything can be settled. I'm really very surprised that your Grandfather hasn't telephoned here to see how you are, at least."

"Should I call him?" Chris asked.

"I don't see why not. Let me just ask Adrian first about that. It's really quite odd. I'll go and call him now. Back in a few minutes" I said to Chris, who nodded and turned his attention back to his schoolwork.

I got up and went through to the sitting room and after closing the door, picked up the telephone and quickly dialled Adrian's number. After just two rings I was answered.

"Adrian?" I said as soon as I'd heard him rattle off the name of the firm.

"Hello, Paul, yes it is."

"HI, I just wanted to clear something with you. Chris wants to call his grandfather. I thought I'd just mention it to you first as it's most odd that he's not heard a thing from the guy. Nothing at all, not even a phone call... I just thought it a bit strange, that's all," I said.

"Yes, I agree. Can't think of any particular reason. He's shocked by the whole thing and more so, I think, by the ramifications of the responsibilities he's now been landed with. I get the feeling he's none too happy having his life upset in this way. I'm working on that, but I will need the Commander's help, as Mr Griffin, or Chief Griffin as he likes to be known as, is a retired *CPO, and is not looking forward to changes to his arrangements. But he doesn't know you two. Frank does, very well indeed in fact, and for a few years as neighbours also. So I'm counting on his support for my proposals," Adrian explained.

"I had a feeling that was what you had in mind, when you asked about Frank's leave at the police station the other day," I replied.

"Yes, you have it in one. Frank's the key as I see it. He knows you well, he's already entrusted William to your care and he's a serving officer and that should engender a degree of mutual trust between the two seafarers. At least, that's what I'm rather hoping for anyway."

"We can keep our fingers crossed that's the case. It'd be good news for Chris, who, by the way's just asked if he could live with us also. He's just done that this morning when I chatted with him about what he wanted to do. Do you know when Mr Griffin is now coming down? I mean, perhaps things need to be sorted out a bit at Chris's house? The fridge, post, rubbish putting out, etc, if there's not going to be anyone there for a few more days I was thinking, that's all."

"Yes, can we meet there tomorrow morning? I've a box of papers to look for. The letter attached to the will says they're stored in a fireproof box in the bottom of the bedroom wardrobe. I've one of the keys. It was in an envelope with the will."

"Sounds straightforward then, I'll see you there with Chris, at say ten thirty tomorrow morning?" I suggested.

"Sounds fine. See you then," Adrian said and rang off.

As I put the phone back down I had another thought and made one more call to Vanessa. I just managed to catch her before she left for the hospital.

"Hello, Paul here."

"Good morning, Paul. How's Chris doing?" she asked.

"What's the phrase... as well as can be expected?" I replied.

"Oh, better than that I hope?"

"Actually, yes. I was wondering if you could ask Jamie to have Chris over with you on Saturday afternoon and evening?"

"I should think so. Is there any special reason?" Vanessa asked.

"Yes, Liam will be having an important call in the evening and I wanted him to have some privacy for that," I explained.

"Oh, yes Craig's told me all about it. He's hoping his father will call."

"He is, and I thought that it'd be better for him perhaps, if just Craig was with him," I suggested.

"Yes, that's fine. I'll suggest to Jamie tonight that he might like to invite Chris over from after lunch on Saturday. How's that sound?" Vanessa replied.

"As the boys would say... 'sorted'," I laughed.

"How is he otherwise? Is the wound healing well now? And have those dressings been changed and fresh on every day?" Vanessa asked.

"Yes and yes," I laughed. "And this morning he asked if there's any chance he could live here," I paused and added "We'd be happy for that if it works out as best for him in the long run. That's our only concern," I explained. "Oh, and did you realise that Wednesday was his fourteenth birthday? The trip to the theatre was a birthday treat," I added.

"Oh my goodness, no!" Vanessa said in a shocked voice. "Leave this one with me, Paul, please. We'll make Saturday a quiet birthday treat for him. I'll talk to Jamie later and find out who Chris's other friends are and see what can be done at short notice," she said.

"If you're sure. I'd been wondering what and how to do something for him, considering the awful circumstances of the day," I replied.

"Yes, very sure. Just let Chris wait for Jamie's phone call after school today. I'm going to try and have words with him at lunch time, if possible, before going into the hospital."

"Text Craig to get Jamie to call home as soon as he's on lunch period," I suggested.

"No, won't do, I'll already be on my way into town, so wont be here. I'll text Craig to get Jamie to be by the doors if I can, so I can have a quick word. Jamie's not got a mobile yet, you see," she explained.

"Whatever works!" I laughed.

"Okay, thanks for calling Paul. I'll see you later to confirm arrangements?" Vanessa replied.

"Yes, okay, bye for now," I said as I rang off.

I paused for a few moments' thought after putting down the handset and having made up my mind went upstairs to the little back bedroom and booted up the computer there. I opened the email and composed a message to Frank giving him as much background as I could about Chris's situation and our thoughts on possible ways forward and despatched it to Frank. I hoped he would be in a position to reply fairly soon. I had also asked him about his schedule for his Christmas leave.

As I came back down the stairs to go back to the kitchen from emailing Frank the house phone rang again. I heard Chris answer it and a few seconds later he called out that Mr Stonebridge was on the line for me.

"I'll take the call in the sitting room," I said to Chris, as I hurried down to take it there. As soon as I picked up I heard the click as Chris put down the receiver in the kitchen.

"Mr Stonebridge, Paul Frost, good morning," I said.

"Mr Frost, good morning. I've just had your note from Liam with the tickets for Saturday's matinée," he said.

"Oh, excellent I hope you can use them? I occasionally get these perks from colleagues," I explained.

"Certainly hope to. Fortunately we've enough boys in our senior English class who may be able to come at short notice. They'll be busy this lunchtime obtaining the necessary parental permissions. Those together with me and a colleague should fill that box nicely. It's very much appreciated. May I take it that Liam has your permission to attend?"

"Yes, of course do you need it in writing?"

"Yes, these days we absolutely have to. Those that get verbal permissions today'll go home this evening with parental permission forms that they'll absolutely have to bring with them to the theatre. We'll all meet up twenty minutes before the performance begins. No signed form, no can attend. Simple as that, I'm afraid," he said.

"Well, Liam'll have his signed as soon as he's home. Being older boys hopefully none will forget?" I asked.

"Oh, don't you believe it. They're perfectly capable of forgetting anything and everything, believe me," he laughed as he replied.

"Oh, I'm sure that's possible," I agreed.

"Again, very many thanks indeed for your colleagues' generosity. It's certainly appreciated. I think the Head will write to thank you personally too. I've just spoken to him and he's all for the boys being exposed to good live theatre," Mr Stonebridge replied.

"Thanks for calling. I'm delighted it's worked out to everyone's advantage," I said and added "Goodbye for now, Mr Stonebridge."

"Goodbye, and many thanks, Mr Frost," he replied as he rang off.

I replaced the handset and went through to the kitchen to see about some lunch for Chris and myself. As I went in he looked up from the table where he'd been working away at some maths problems and made a seriously pissed off face.

"Looks like we have another whose affinity to mathematics is not as one would wish," I queried.

"Sorry?" Chris replied, looking puzzled.

"I saw your expression, I read the text book title and your face was similar to Will's last term when he had serious problems with equations," I explained.

"Ummmph," Chris grunted and continued "I just don't get them at the moment," he admitted looking down and very frustrated at his efforts.

"I have to confess I'll be of no use to you either, but we know a man who can."

"Really?" Chris replied.

"Oh, yes. James, Adrian's partner, is a really wonderful maths teacher. Would you like me to see if he's free to help at all over this weekend?" I asked.

"Umm, if it's not too much trouble, yes please," Chris replied.

"Don't think of things like that as being trouble. If it's necessary for your education, it's not any trouble, okay?" I explained.

"Oh, okay, thanks," Chris replied.

"So, what would you like for lunch?" I enquired.

"Just a sandwich please. It's usually all I have at school," Chris replied.

"Okay," I said, as I opened the fridge to see what was available. Spotting a pack of sliced ham and some tomatoes, I quickly made up a plate of sandwiches, opened a tin of soup and set that to warm in a pan on the hob. While I was doing that Chris completed what he'd begun in his work book and then tided away his schoolbooks back into his backpack.

While I was waiting for the soup to warm through I sent a text to Adrian regarding help from James for Chris. Once done I slipped my mobile back into my pocket and served up the soup and sandwiches for me and Chris.

Just as I'd finished and was putting the used plate and cutlery into the dishwasher I got a text. After closing the machine I fished my phone from my pocket and checked the message.

"James'll be here at six thirty to help you with your maths," I said, and added by way of explanation "I sent a text a few minutes ago and he's got this evening free and so will be over to give you some help with those, okay?"

Chris nodded at me as his mouth was full of ham sandwich and as soon as he'd disposed of the obstruction to speech said

"Really, wow! That was quick. Thanks very much."

"No problem, where we can help, we always will. James helped Will a great deal last term when he'd difficulties with the wretched things," I explained and continued with "Now when you've done with eating, put the plates and cutlery into the machine and I'll set it going as it's nearly full. Then I suggest you go and sit down in the sitting room and call your granddad to see how the land lies with him and you. After that, if you wouldn't mind, Mrs Watson, our 'lady wot does' will be here and I'd like you to go get any dirty washing you have down here and into the washing machine so we can get it all sorted ready for her to iron this afternoon," I said.

"Okay," Chris replied and quickly finished his meal, put the things away as asked and went through to the sitting room to make his call.

* * *

Liam's viewpoint...

We were coming to the end of our English class when Mr Stonebridge announced

"Right, your attention for a moment please." He waited until we had stopped our work and had our attention, and then he announced "I've received some tickets for a theatre trip for Saturday afternoon's performance of The History Boys by Alan Bennett at our local theatre. I have ten tickets available and those who think they can get permission to attend, will please see me after class for a parental consent form. You must bring that with you tomorrow or you cannot be allowed to see the performance. We'll meet in the theatre foyer at ten minutes past two, sharp, and make our way to the seats. There's no need to be in school uniform for this trip," he finished, to comments of "Yeah" and "Thank goodness," from some of my form-mates.

I looked at Craig and he simply nodded back at me. So I smiled and sorted out my books as the bell went. Craig and I went forward to collect a consent form and as Mr Stonebridge handed one to me he said "I know you can attend as I've already spoken to your guardian this morning to thank him for these tickets."

Realising that it must have been the letter that Paul'd given me after breakfast to hand in I just smiled back and said "I'll definitely be going I've looked up the play on the internet and it's one I've wanted to see," I replied.

Craig looked at me questioningly as he took a form also and we headed off to the cafeteria.

"I've got to grab some sandwiches and find Jamie. Mum wants to see us in the car park in five minutes. Something's cropped up," he tried to explain as we hurried towards the cafeteria.

"I'll grab some food for you. You look for Jamie, okay?" I suggested.

As we got there Jamie and a group of his friends arrived also. Craig gave me a smile, grabbed Jamie and after a few words they went quickly off towards the exit together. I got out my mobile and made a call into work to see if I could change my hours for the Saturday or not. Once I'd explained that it was a school trip my supervisor suggested I worked from nine till one pm, a couple of hours less than usual, so I'd not inconvenience them too much. I readily agreed and after thanking them, I rang off. I collected a pile of sandwiches from the selection available and once I'd paid, I made my way over to our usual table and sat down.

Will and Justin were already sat down eating their lunch and they'd both nodded to me between mouthfuls of food. Justin asked

"Where's Craig and Jamie today?"

"Craig grabbed Jamie as we came in and they've gone off to see their mum about something," I explained.

"Oh," Justin managed to reply as he stuffed more burger. "What for? Do you know?" he asked me.

"No, he didn't say," I answered and then as both Craig and Jamie suddenly appeared, I added "You can ask them yourself now anyway."

"Hey, all okay?" I queried as Craig sat down and grabbed a sandwich.

"Yeah, got my form signed already," he replied.

"What form?" Will asked.

"English Lower Sixth are going to the theatre Saturday," I explained. "It's just the usual parental consent form, that's all," I replied.

"Oh," Will replied, rapidly losing interest.

Jamie grabbed a sandwich and then looking around the cafeteria and spotting someone, turned back and said. "I gotta go find Stephen Myers and Michael Schofield before afternoon school," as he disappeared towards another table at the far end of the room.

"What's all that about?" Will asked.

"It was Chris's birthday the day his mum got killed," I explained. "Mum's having a quiet sorta party for him and his friends at ours on Saturday," I told him.

"Why didn't he tell us? We'd've done something," Justin said.

"I don't think he was in much of a birthday mood after what happened," I replied.

"Nah, he wouldn't've been," Will said and added "Still, I think we ought to get him a card and something anyway, don't you think?"

"Yeah, definitely. "What music does he like?" Justin asked.

"Dunno, he's got an iPod so we could all club together for a gift card?" I suggested.

"He loves Harry Potter movies too," Will said. "He brought the two he has with him from their house.

"Which ones has he?" Justin asked.

"First one definitely," Will said, and added "I saw two more as well on his chest of drawers."

"There're six so far," I added.

"Let's get him the latest one then," Justin suggested.

"And a card to go with it," Will added.

"Yeah, I'll text Paul and ask him to get it today if he can as we haven't got any time to go shopping before tomorrow," I said.

"Don't give him the same card you gave me!" Will chipped in giggling.

"No, I'd better ask Paul to get something a bit less graphic," I said.

"It was brill, though," Will added, still giggling away.

"Oh, was that the one with the pipe figures on it?" Jus asked.

"Yeah," Will replied, still smirking.

"Paul's collecting us today, so let's ask him to drop us off at the precinct for half an hour on the way home," I suggested. I got my mobile out and sent a text. Just then the ten minute bell went so we cleared away our lunch rubbish and headed out towards the hall for assembly. Luckily I had my phone on 'vibrate' setting or it would have gone off during the Head's announcements, which would not have been good at all. On the way out I checked the message and nodded to Will and Jus. Paul had said we'd go straight to the shopping precinct after school and we could get our own gifts. He'd said he already knew of Mrs Sutherlands plan for a small party for Chris. So, with all that sorted out, we all headed for our afternoon classes.

As soon as school was out for the day we headed for the car park and after a few minutes Paul arrived. Jamie was still chatting to two other lads from his year and after they'd exchanged pieces of paper he came over and joined us all in the car. We then headed off to the precinct.

"So, what've you decided to get Chris?" Paul asked as he negotiated his way through the traffic.

"A Harry Potter DVD," Justin replied.

"Oh, which one?" Paul asked.

"Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince," Will said.

"The latest one," Justin added.

"The last one's coming out in two parts and not out yet," I threw in for good measure.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?" Justin asked.

"Yeah, part one is out before Christmas and part two next summer," I said.

We'd been chatting away and hadn't noticed that we were at the precinct entrance until Paul said "Right, guys you have an hour, okay. I'll be back here dead on time so don't loiter around. Get what you need and be back here by five please."

"Okay," we all said back as we got out of the car.

"I need a cash point," Will said. "I didn't bring much with me today as I wasn't expecting to go shopping," he explained.

"Me neither," I added. So with the others in tow we headed towards a cash point and then in to the main precinct and the HMV store. We selected the double disc version of the movie and paid for it between Will, Justin and me. Craig and Jamie got him the one before, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. We went next to a card shop and bought birthday cards from all of us together with some gift wrap and ribbon. Once all that had been done Will looked at his watch and said

"We've fifteen minutes left before we get collected."

"Burger!" said Justin.

We all agreed and hurried across to the BK and just about managed to get served in time. I got an extra one to take back for Chris as I didn't want him to feel left out in the fun we'd had.

As soon as we'd all got our food we hurried back to the pick up point and Paul was just pulling in as we arrived. We piled into the car, belted up and set off for home.

"I smell junk food," Paul said.

"Um... yeah, we all got some while we were waiting, got some for Chris as well," I replied.

"Good, don't want him to feel left out," Paul said.

We hurried home and as soon as Paul'd stopped we piled out of the car. Craig and Jamie said goodbye and headed off down the road to their place while we all went in through the kitchen door. Chris was sat at the table reading a book and looking rather glum.

"Hey, Chris, we've brought you a BK from the precinct," Will said, as he set the bag of food down on the table in front of him.

"Oh, hi, thanks," Chris replied setting his book down and taking up the bag he opened it and peered in.

"It's a Whopper and fries," Will explained.

"Thanks, Chris repeated, as he took out the burger, unwrapped it and tucked into the unexpected treat.

Justin and Will quietly slipped out of the kitchen and upstairs to Will's room with the presents they had bought. I sat down opposite Chris while I was waiting for the kettle to boil that Paul'd just filled to make some tea.

"What've you done today?" I asked him.

"Oh, just schoolwork mostly. I talked to my Granddad on the phone after lunch too," he replied.

"Oh, how was he?" I asked.

"Bit odd really. He said hallo and asked how I was and about my injuries, all that sort of thing. He hardly mentioned Mum's accident or his coming down for the funeral. I actually had to ask him when he was coming."

"What did he say?" Paul asked turning round from where he was making the tea.

"He said there were things he needed to sort out, but he'd be coming down the day before the funeral at the very least. I just thought that was a bit odd, that's all," Chris said, looking a bit puzzled, and added "I expected him to arrive the next day really."

"It's probably been as big a shock for him as it has for you. It seems he'd got some commitments planned that would have been difficult to get out of and as you were okay with us, he felt he could leave coming down till nearer the day of the funeral," Paul explained.

"I like it here anyway," Chris said and showed a rare smile to us both.

Just then the phone went and as I was nearest I answered.

"Hello, Liam here."

"Hey Liam, it's Jamie. Is Chris there, please?"

"Hi, Jamie, yeah, sure, I'll pass you over. Hang on."

I turned around and said "Chris, it's Jamie for you," and handed him the handset.

Chris got up from the table and took the phone from me and leaning on the worktop said "Hi, Jamie."

Paul and I left the room, leaving Chris to have his chat with Jamie. I went upstairs to my room and was just about to go in when Will followed by Justin came out of his room and said

"Come and sort out Chris's presents, okay."

"Yeah, sure," I replied and followed them back into Will's room.

We spent a couple of minutes wrapping Chris's two DVDs and writing the cards we had bought. Will and Jus signed one and I signed the other from me and Craig. Then we headed back downstairs to the kitchen where Chris had just put the phone down from his chat with Jamie.

"I'm invited to Jamie's tomorrow afternoon and evening," he said, smiling at us all.

"Yeah, Craig told me Jamie was going to invite you over as it was your birthday on Wednesday, wasn't it?" I replied.

"Yeah, I was fourteen, the trip to the theatre was a birthday treat," Chris said as his eyes started to water a little.

"It's okay Chris," I said. "Um... we've got you a few things too seeing you're living here now and sort of part of this family," I said, as I handed him my present and card.

"Chris haltingly took the wrapped present and sat down at the table. He turned it over in his hands and then picked the card up to open it. Will came up and handed him another package with a card too.

"Here's something from me and Jus too," he said.

Chris took the present from Will and just sat down eyes streaming with tears.

"What's wrong, Chris?" Will asked him with deep concern showing all over his face.

Jus being Jus picked up the big box of man size tissues from the worktop and dumped it down on the table in front of Chris.

"Don't get the cards too wet," he quipped.

That was it, we all paused for a moment, Chris raised his head and then suddenly we all howled with laughter at Justin's immaculately timed comment.

The sadness passed and Chris tore open his presents. The looks of satisfaction from Chris, as the Harry Potter DVDs appeared from their wrappings were amazing.

"Oh, thanks, I've wanted more of these. I've got the first three already. This is really great, thanks again guys," he said with a real smile and still giggling a little from Jus's remarks earlier.

We sat down and were all drinking a brew while we chatted about the two DVDs when Paul came back into the kitchen.

"So, who's doing what and who's here or not here this weekend please," he asked.

"I'm here all weekend," Will said.

"I'm here tonight until after lunch tomorrow," Justin added.

"I'm here all weekend, but work tomorrow morning and a school function tomorrow afternoon," I said, as I handed Paul the parental consent form for the theatre trip.

"Chris, what about you?" Paul asked.

"Oh, I'm here all weekend, but out at Jamie's from two pm tomorrow till after supper," he replied. "Sorry, I'm not used to this yet." He added.

"That's okay, Chris," Paul said and added "It'll take you a little time to adjust to this madhouse. Right, supper at half past seven, okay? Go and get some homework out of the way in the meantime."

We all grinned and said "Okay," and drifted off to our rooms. Jus went with Will. Chris turned to me and asked.

"Is Jus allowed to stay over?"

"Yeah, he has been since the summer, not every weekend, but most of them," I replied.

"Do they, you know... um..."

"You'll have to ask them that, but I'd expect so, wouldn't you?" I replied, grinning at his now bug eyed expression.

"Oh, wow," Chris replied and then said "Unless Jamie's brought more work home for me, I'm done on schoolwork."

"Oh, yes, he did, sorry. I've got some for you in my pack. I forgot, what with sorting out your presents and stuff," I replied, as I rooted in my backpack and retrieved some books in a plastic carrier and handed them to Chris.

"Thanks, Liam," Chris replied as he sat down and tipped out the books and began to look through the work set.

I picked up my bag and headed off towards my own room so as to get started on homework myself. I wanted as much as possible of it out of the way, as I had work followed by the theatre trip, followed by the all important phone call on Saturday evening too. I'd still have Sunday for anything left, but I wanted to have some time just with Craig too over the weekend.

* * *

Paul's viewpoint...

The Friday evening passed without further incident. The boys had supper after Chris had spent an hour with James in the dining room, just as Will had some couple of months before on the same problems with maths. Chris had forgotten he was to have that tutorial, but within a few minutes of meeting James, seemed to be getting on fine and they headed off for the comparative quiet of the dining room to work. James declined the invite to stay for supper saying that he and Adrian had an arrangement with friends and he'd better be going or they both would be late for that.

"Don't forget to meet Adrian tomorrow at Chris's house, will you?" James said on parting. I was grateful for the reminder and wondered how we'd fit the clearing out of the box room in before Mr Clarke turned up on Monday.

On Saturday morning it all seemed like a school day with everyone rushing around to get ready for things. Liam shot off to work an hour earlier than normal. Will and Justin came down to breakfast an hour later then normal and Chris appeared at the same time as Liam as he was not sure what time we should be leaving to go to his home again.

Once at Chris's home I took the opportunity to go with him to his room and helped him to pack some more of his clothes as he was obviously going to be with us for several more days at the very least. I glanced around the room and noted that Chris had it nicely set up and the furniture was modern and practical. Something I would bear in mind for if and when Chris moved to us, if things worked out that way. Adrian accompanied by Chris and me went into his mother's room and we dug out the deed box from the bottom of her wardrobe. Adrian produced a key and opened the box.

"Birth certificates, yours and your mother's," he commented. "Oh, good. Here are the items I was looking for," he said as he took out some bank books and after glancing through handed two to Chris saying. "These are yours and this is your passport too. Don't lose any of them will you?" Then he checked what looked like some insurance policies and placing the other items he'd taken out back into the box he re-locked it and we carried it downstairs. He then checked through the post that had arrived since the accident. He took all the items addressed to Mrs Griffin and left the rest on the hall table. He then took the deed box out to his car locking it into the boot.

"We'll store all this in the office safe until everything's all settled," he explained.

We waved Adrian off and then finished packing the things Chris decided he would like to have with him and then after going through the fridge and dumping pretty much all of it into the rubbish bins, we loaded his bags into my car, locked up his house and headed back to ours at about lunch time.

Will and Justin were in the kitchen and obviously about to begin a raid for food when we arrived and so the two of them helped Chris get his stuff up to the guest room while I started to sort out a lunch for the four of us. That done and after we'd all had lunch, Chris went to his room and changed ready to go over to the Sutherlands' for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

I asked Will and Justin for their help in clearing out the small room and between us we had all the junk loaded into my car and the things we wanted stacked into space in the garage. Rick appeared, having been out to the supermarket for me, and helped us organise that and to move the computer and desk to the sitting room as a temporary measure and smash up the old filing cabinet so we could get that to the dump too. Then, finally we all pulled up the old carpet and added that to the pile of stuff for the tip. The room looked ever so much bigger empty and bare of all furniture and so I could now definitely envisage a decent bathroom in there now.

Will and Justin, feigning being shattered from the effort of carrying all the old junk, went back to Will's room for a while. Rick and I looked through some bathroom fitting catalogues that Mr Clarke had dropped off together with his estimate and made some choices having looked at and accepted his quote we gave him a call and told him to go ahead and order the stuff we wanted.

Once that was done Rick and I collapsed on the sofa with a tray of tea and a cake that he'd bought while out and enjoyed a peaceful hour or so until Liam came home with Craig from his theatre trip at about five thirty. They were both full of how great the play and the staging had been. Shortly after that, Will appeared and made himself and Justin some tea and spotting the rest of the cake, apportioned some of that too before he disappeared back up to his room. I started on preparing the pasta supper that I planned for that evening's meal.

Will and Justin came down as soon as Mary Naylor arrived to collect him. As usual, Justin thanked us for having him over. After that the boys laid up the kitchen table and Craig, Liam, Will, Rick and I all sat down for a pleasant supper. We had just finished loading the dishwasher and Rick had carried a tray of coffee and biscuits through into the sitting room.

We were all sat down, Rick and I together on one sofa and Liam and Craig on the other. Will in an armchair. Rick had brought the phone to the table and he poured the coffee. I'd just taken a sip of it and a nibble of my mint biscuit when the phone rang. I nearly dropped my cup and looked over to Liam, who quickly put down his cup of coffee and picked up the receiver,

"Hello, Liam Russell here," he said nervously.

"Hello Liam, It's your Dad here,"

"Um... hi, Dad, it's been a long time..." Liam replied.

End of Chapter 15

Thank you all so very much for the bumper crop of emails I have had over the last few days. I believe I've just managed to catch up with them all as well as getting this new chapter written and edited. If you like it do tell me... If you have queries about British English as I am now very aware some of you do... then ask. I'll find an explanation.

One that I've been asked about is 'Fortnight'

A fortnight is a unit of time equal to fourteen days, or two weeks. The word derives from the Old English feorwertyne niht, meaning "fourteen nights"

Paul Jamison.