By Paul Jamison
The next day I returned from work at my usual time to be greeted in the carpark by Michael getting out of his car and waving to me.
“Hi, I wasn’t expecting you quite this early.”
“It’s an emergency. My shower’s packed up and I need to borrow your bathroom.”
I immediately burst out laughing. “I thought it was something really important like… um… your hair dryer’d blown up!”
“No, that’d be a national emergency, heaven forbid,” Michael quipped back.
I laughed again and the two of us walked together into the foyer of the flats and walked upstairs to my flat. Once inside the flat, I opened the bathroom door and said
“Help yourself. I’m just going to turn on my computer and then I’ll join you in freshening up before we go to um… Chris and whatsisname’s place. Um…”
“Chris and Stephen’s. You’re hopeless with friends’ names,” Michael remonstrated.
“I knew it was Chris, but I couldn’t for the life of me recall his new friend’s name. He changes them almost as often as he does his laundry,” I complained.
“See you in a few minutes then,” Michael said laughing, as he started the shower and closed the bathroom door.
I turned and went to the computer and quickly checked to see if any
new emails had arrived. I clicked through the spam deleting as I went and saw
there was one reply from the
Some fifteen or so minutes later we were both were sat on stools at the kitchen work surface and I showed Michael the email I’d printed off.
“Oh, you’re going to contribute to Liam’s expenses then,” Michael observed, smiling at me across the worktop.
“Yes, it was a done deal the minute I spoke to Liam again really. His mother’s made it impossible. So it’s Dad’s turn again now and I won’t let him down,” I explained.
“I knew you’d do exactly that. I just did. It’s the right thing of course. Oh! You’re going to invite both boys to come and stay for their long summer holiday,” Michael exclaimed.
“Yes, it has to be their summer as that’s the only time they get
more than four weeks together when they could come out here. It’s our winter,
I know, but that can’t be helped. There’s so much to see and do here in
“Yes, and I guess letting the boys know this at Christmas will give ’em time to prepare and have something to look forward to as well,” Michael replied. “I mean, have you actually fixed this all up yet? Also, there’s Craig to consider. What if Liam’s no longer going out with him by next July?”
“That’s a possible flaw. I know that teens can get all very intense and then the whole thing blows over in a matter of weeks or a few months at most. I’ll hold off on the tickets until after Easter. I’ve to get Craig’s parents’ permission first anyway, and then if it’s all still on course, I’ll get them sent over to them both. I’ll have a better idea by Easter too, as to how strong their relationship is. I expect to have many more phone calls and emails before a decision has to be made.”
“Yes, as usual you’ve thought it all through, haven’t you?”
“I think I have, although as you’ve just said there’s that one possible flaw, but, hey, let’s hope that doesn’t happen, but if it does, it won’t be the end of the world or anything, just a change in the arrangements, okay? And can you cope with the last item too?” Jeremy asked, smiling widely.
Michael scanned the email again and looked up to Jeremy grinning widely said
“Really! amazing, er… yes, I can manage,” he replied grinning at Jeremy.
“Yes, really!” Jeremy grinned back. “Good, I hoped you’d be able to say that. Right, let’s get to this dinner party.”
I went back to my little office and tucked away the printed email in the folder I had marked Liam and with a sense of inner satisfaction shut down the computer. A few moments later after putting a bottle of wine into a carrier bag we both left the apartment for the evening dinner date with our friends.
* * *
On Wednesday morning I let Mr Clarke in just after the boys had left for school and was sitting in the kitchen when the house phone rang.
“Paul Frost, hello.”
“Oh, we’re all just fine… so to what do we owe the pleasure?”
“Right, we can go ahead and arrange the funeral. I’ve been in touch with the coroner’s office and the undertakers and they can get it all arranged for next Tuesday, at the crem, two-thirty in the afternoon, okay?”
“Yes, I’ve got all of that. So what arrangements should we make?”
“Would you ask Chris tonight if he wants anything read or wants to read anything himself, okay? Marilyn wanted a non-religious simple funeral. So we’ve got a celebrant and one of our partners’ll say a few words about her career. I’m waiting to hear back from Rory Griffin shortly about life details and anything he wishes to add.”
“So we need to make arrangements with school to collect Chris at lunchtime then. His school uniform will be fine. Most of it had to be replaced as you know. He can shower, change his shirt and eat here beforehand and be ready for the funeral car. What arrangements are you making for Mr Griffin?”
“I emailed Frank a day or so ago and I’ve arranged with him to collect Rory Griffin from the station and to put him up at his place for the few days he’s likely to be down here. My plan’s for Frank to do some of the talking for us. He’s already placed Will with you and that’s an ongoing situation. Rory Griffin can’t cope with taking Chris on. That’s now a fact. He just came out with it when we discussed the funeral a few minutes ago. He’s looking for a way out of his predicament. I’ve suggested that I’d see what I could come up with… But I think that Chief Griffin will open up somewhat more to a fellow RN man who’s now a senior officer and possibly ask Frank for advice. That’s my thinking. Frank, by the way, feels fine about it. He’s got no doubt’s that you can manage Chris’s situation in the same way you both have done so with Will and now with Liam. He wants to talk it all through with Chris first of course, to check on what the lad actually would like to happen. But it’s partly up to you. Do you want to take Chris on?”
“If everyone’s agreed that it’s in Chris’s best interests and Chris himself wants it, then yes, we’d be willing to take Chris on. I take it his mother’s estate will be able to support Chris somehow until he reaches his majority?”
“Oh yes, decidedly so. You needn’t worry on that score, okay?”
“Well, I am sure you and Rick can discuss all those details. He’s better at that than I am, as you well know… Yes, we’ll take Chris, if it’s what he wants and everything can be agreed amicably.”
“Right, we’ll tie it up in a proper private guardianship agreement with our firm as the trustees of the estate, which we’ve already been appointed as anyway, so it’ll all be perfectly legitimate.”
“In that case, I hope it all works out. Chris’s is actually such a pleasant lad. I’m sure there won’t be any problems we can’t manage. Will has his moods, but it’s mostly to do with his frustrations over schoolwork… we seem to have sorted out those so far, mostly with James’s help, I might add.”
“Yes, lucky that. He doesn’t mind at all. In fact he quite enjoys the boys’ company and does appreciate their thanks for getting them through the awful stuff. I’m no better at it than you are, either.”
“That’s good to know. I mean I got through what I had to, but give me a calculator any day. I don’t think I’ve actually needed any of it since, either.”
“Me neither. Is Frank back on Saturday?”
“Yes, all being well. We’re expecting him in time for a meal. I guess that means you two would like an invite?”
“That’s good of you, but no, not that soon. I’d like some time with him on Sunday when he’s had a chance to recover. Let him meet Chris on Saturday and let’s see how things go from there, okay?”
“Righto, if you’re sure. You’re both welcome, you know that.”
“Yes, we do and we’ll take you up on that very soon, I assure you.”
“Okay, you do that, please. Bye for now.”
I made a quick note to call Rick to suggest we had a private chat with Chris after he got home from school that evening, now that hopefully some of the initial shock of everything had passed. He could tell us what he thought he would like to be the eventual outcome of all the discussions going on about arrangements for his care.
I then made a brew for Mr Clarke and took it upstairs to the new bathroom. I was impressed with the progress and said
“You’ve really got on with this. When do you hope to have it completed?”
“Oh, early next week. It’s the tiling that takes the time you see,” Mr Clarke explained, as he took the offered mug of tea and paused for a moment or two.
“That’s just fine with us,” I replied smiling and left him to get on with the job.
Once downstairs again I looked at the few notes I’d made when we had visited Chris’s home that last Saturday to see if I’d made a note of the size of his room. I had not, but I recalled that it had been similar in size to our old bathroom. I made a note to consider moving all of Chris’s things directly over to the new room when it was ready so he’d have all his own things around him again. I then picked up the phone and called Veronica.
“Hi, Paul here. How’re you today?” I asked when she picked up.
“Just fine. I was getting ready to leave for work, but I’m in no rush today as Mary did the school run this morning.”
“I’ve just had our friend Adrian on. Funeral’s fixed for next Tuesday at the crem at 2.30.”
“Right, thanks for that. I’m sure I can get that shift off and I know that Jamie wants to be there for Chris as well. So I’ll give the school a call this afternoon.”
“Will a phone call do for them? I’ve had to go and see them or send letters for everything else?”
“Just to do initial arrangements and get their agreement. They like to have a follow up letter for their files, especially if it’s an absence they’re authorising and this’d count as that.”
“I’ll call them now and send a letter with Chris tomorrow as well. That should suffice, I hope.”
“What about afterwards?”
“Oh, that’s all arranged. The law firm are hosting drinks and
refreshments at the pub opposite the crem.
“So all sorted then. That’s excellent.”
“Certainly seems to be, which is good of course. We’ve just to have the boy’s ready for the cars at two pm.”
“Right, I’ll call the school. Thanks for letting me know, Paul. Talk again later, bye for now,” Veronica said and rang off.
I quickly made a call to Rick to bring him up to date and then looked in my diary to find the school secretary’s number and then called her. After explaining what I wanted, I was put through to the Headmaster’s office and after a few moments was through to the Headmaster.
“Indeed, yes. It’s about the funeral for Chris Griffin’s mother. We’ve a date of next Tuesday at 2.30 at the crem,” I explained. “I’d like to collect Chris and if you’re agreeable, his best friend Jamie Sutherland at the end of morning school, is that acceptable to you?”
“Yes, I’m pleased it’s only a half-day and the afternoon. There’s mostly sports and PE on Tuesday afternoons. So very few academic periods would be missed. Hopefully this’ll bring some closure to Christopher and he can begin to put this all behind him.”
“Well, we’re all hoping that’ll happen. Time will tell of course.”
“Indeed, we shall do out best to provide support from the school in any way we can. Do you have any indication regarding arrangements for Christopher’s permanent accommodation?”
Not as yet, though there are discussions underway between Chris’s grandfather and the lawyers who are the estate executors. We’ll have to see what evolves. I can’t say more than that at the moment. There’re some possibilities under discussion, but nothing has bee decided yet. I do know that much,” I replied.
“I see. In that case we must all wait for the outcome and hope it all works for Christopher’s best interests. I would have to say that I’d feel that if he can continue here, his education would be best served. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?” the Head chuckled.
“Of course, but from what little I have seen, not without good reason.”
“Thank you for that. We do try. At least I think so, more than many and a great deal more than most. I’ll leave you with that. Thank you for letting us know, and yes of course there’s no problem with Christopher and Jamie having that time as authorised absence. Some don’t bother, you know.”
“Well, possibly there may be reasons, but we had ample warning. Thank you for your time. Goodbye for now.”
“Goodbye, Mr Frost, thank you for calling,” the Headmaster replied and rang off.
I made a few notes and then headed off to the studios and work.
* * *
I came in at my usual time to find Chris sat at the kitchen table doing his schoolwork.
“Hi, how was your day?” I asked.
“Yeah, not bad,” he replied grinning. “You want some tea?” he asked.
“Yes, but I’ll make it. You carry on with your schoolwork.”
“Will do,” Chris said and continued with his homework.
I made myself a brew and then sat down opposite Chris at the table.
“We’ve some news for you,” I began.
“Jamie’s just told me about the funeral on Tuesday. His mum told him as soon as he got in from school. So he called me a short while ago,” Chris interrupted.
“That’s good. We’ll be collecting the two of you after morning
school. We’ll come back here to have some food, freshen up and wait for the
funeral cars. Then we go to the crematorium for the ceremony. Now,
“Yes, I will. I might have something I’d like to read, thanks,” Chris replied.
“Now, after that, your mother’s old firm has arranged a small reception at the pub over the road from the crem for all those attending. I don’t think that’ll be too long. There’ll be a bit of adults chatting and a few sandwiches, that’s all. We’ll all be having a proper meal back here afterwards anyway. From what Adrian’s been saying your granddad’s coming down on the train on the Monday and staying next door with Will’s dad, Commander Barnes, who knows your grandfather from his first ship years ago. So we can hope they might have plenty to chat about and we expect him to stay until the Saturday morning when he’ll return to Luss as he’s got church things he needs to be involved with.”
“He’s being very odd. He seems to be avoiding me as much as he can!” Chris loudly exclaimed.
“We can’t be certain of that,” I replied in an attempt to soothe. “I think it’s probably a case of he’s more than a bit devastated by what’s happened. You’ve lost your mum, but he’s lost his only daughter and more importantly the fact that he’s now got some serious responsibilities he frankly doesn’t seem to be able to deal with. Which brings me right to… What do you want to happen, Chris?”
“He doesn’t want to be stuck with me more like,” Chris snarled back.
“It might appear to look like that… but maybe it’s simply a case of he’s got no room for you where he lives now and the arrangements that’d be needed for seeing you continue school and have somewhere to call home are all a bit too much for him at his time of life. He’s no longer a young man. He’s been retired over ten years now and although seemingly active that doesn’t mean he’s fit enough to cope with a teen like you.”
“I guess not. I didn’t think of that,” Chris mumbled and added quietly “Sorry I said those things.”
“Actually, that’s okay. You’ve every right to feel aggrieved by some of what’s happened. I’m surprised you’ve been as cool as you have over it all, to be honest,” I answered.
“I’d just like to know where I stand, what’s going to happen about everything, that’s all,” Chris replied.
“Yes, that I can understand. Now how about you tell me what you’d like to happen?”
Chris toyed with his schoolbooks and pencils while he thought for a few moments and then replied “I’d like to continue at the school I’m at. I don’t want to move away from here, school or my friends. Can that happen? Can I stay here?” he asked, looking hopefully at me from his side of the table.
“If it was just down to what you wanted and what we said, then the answer would be yes, it could. There are though other people and factors involved. But from what I know of your grandfather’s situation he’s not in a suitable position to be able to offer you a home where he is without a considerable change to his circumstances. He has a one bedroom cottage and no facilities for you as things stand. He’s said as much to Adrian, your mum’s boss, so that’s how we know. So we’re hoping that if it’s what you really want we can arrange for you to live here, continue your schooling exactly where you are and then when you are eighteen you can see where you are in life and hopefully, make your own choices. Until then you’d have to put up with me and Paul and your mother’s executors making a lot of the decisions for you.”
“I see. I think so anyway. So if Granddad agrees, I can stay here and carry on at school till I’m eighteen and then I can make my own choices about what next and everything?” Chris asked.
“That’s pretty much the size of it and well, we’ve called in the reinforcements to help as well. As I mentioned before, Will’s dad, Commander Barnes is home this weekend. It appears he served on a ship with your grandfather very early in his career. He’ll want to chat with you and see what your feelings are. He’s known your grandfather and will see how the land lies regarding your staying here. So we know what you’d like. Now we have to find out if all that can be made to fit in with your grandfather’s plans on the matter. They’re a complete unknown at the moment, of course. He’s only gone as far as to say it’d be impossible where he is right now. That’s without moving to a bigger home. Let’s see if the solution we put to him is one he can go along with.”
“I really hope so. I don’t want to go and live with him at all. I know my mum left home to go to uni and never went back home to live. She always said he was a mean old sod… Ooops, sorry,”
“Nothing to be sorry for. We’re all guys here. Just be careful if there’s older adults or ladies present. Watch what you say then, okay?” I said grinning at Chris’s slip of the tongue.
“Okay,” Chris smiled back. “So it’s all down to my granddad then?”
“To a large extent, yes. But don’t forget that we’ve got some good persuaders on your side too,” I replied.
“I’ll just have to hope that he listens then,” Chris said.
“Yes, pretty much so, I’m afraid. But most of it should be decided by the time the funeral’s over, I’d hope.”
“I hope so too. There’s stuff at school that’s going to have to be decided soon and I need to know what I can do and if I can get back into swimming and all that,” Chris explained.
“Don’t worry about any of that right now. Carry on with everything you’re involved in as if you’re going nowhere.”
“Right, I will,” Chris smiled, and added “Oh, one of my schoolfriends wants me to go over to his place on Saturday. Is that all right?”
“Yes, of course. It’s always okay for you to go to friends or have your friends come over here. Just tell one of us where you’re going and if you’re not going to be here for meals. Not on school nights though, unless it’s for schoolwork reasons obviously. But this coming Saturday, please be home in time for supper at seven, as we’ve got Will’s Dad coming home on leave and as I’ve already mentioned to you we’re all hoping that as your granddad served with him, he may be able to help with your situation. So it’d be good if you and he can chat at some stage on Saturday.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll text my friend after we’ve eaten and let you know.”
Chris went back to his schoolwork and I went to our room to change and shower. About an hour later Paul arrived home and I told him of the chat I’d had with Chris and then we both went downstairs to get started on supper.
* * *
“When’s Frank due?” I asked Rick.
“Late Saturday afternoon, I think. He’d like to eat with us if we can manage,” Rick replied.
“That’s never a problem. Is everyone here for Saturday supper as far as we know?”
“Um… think so. I haven’t checked to be honest. We’ll need to ask the boys.”
“We’ll ask at supper. There’s a few things we need to mention this evening, not least Chris’s mum’s funeral on Tuesday afternoon,” I said with sadness.
“True. Are we both going?” Rick said as he finished making the salad to accompany the lasagne I’d got heating in the oven.
“If you can go, I’d rather be at work. I’ve had too many afternoons not there just recently,” I replied.
“I can be as it happens. I’ve still quite a bit of annual leave not taken yet. I think I’ve still seven or eight days to take before the end of March,” Rick replied and added “How long till the food’s ready?”
I glanced at the oven timer. “Only ten more minutes now.”
Just then Liam breezed into the kitchen smiling away at us both. “What’s for supper tonight?”
“Lasagne and salad. Okay with that?”
“Oh, yeah, deffo, smells great,” he grinned back. “I’ve never eaten so well for… I don’t remember… I’m going to have to do more exercise to stay in shape for swimming though,” he commented half to himself while feeling his stomach checking for any signs of a bulge where he didn’t want one!
“At your age you’ll burn it off in no time. It’s when you’re that little bit older and a tad more deskbound that you have to watch it. Believe me, I know,” I smiled ruefully back.
“You guys aren’t fat…” Liam laughed… “Oooops… sorry, didn’t mean it quite like that,” he said visibly reddening.
“We know!” Rick laughed back. “Right, for that you can lay up for us all, please,” Rick said, arms folded, smiling ever so wickedly at Liam.
Liam grinned and started to get the place mats and cutlery out of the sideboard drawer. “I asked for that,” he giggled quietly.
Chris arrived in the kitchen and immediately started to give Liam a hand with laying the table. It took them just a few more minutes and just as I was about to suggest that one of them called Will, when his smiling face appeared around the door and he said
“Trust you to know just when to arrive… when all the chores are done,” Liam quipped.
“I’m good at timing,” Will grinned back.
We all laughed and sat down to eat. I served up the lasagne and left everyone to help themselves to salad and French bread. As soon as we’d done and I’d put out a selection of fruit fools for everyone to choose from I said “Guys. We need to let you know a few things about this weekend and next week.”
All the chatting stopped and I had all eyes on me “Will’s dad’s home
Saturday and’ll be here for supper. Could we have everyone home by seven on
Saturday evening, so we can all eat together and welcome Frank back, please?” They
all nodded or murmured a yes. I went on. “Good, also we’ve been informed that the
funeral for Chris’s mum’ll be on Tuesday afternoon at the crematorium. Chris has the afternoon off school and so does Jamie
so he can be with you as a friend,” I said looking at Chris. He nodded his
reply. “And lastly, Chris,
“Um… yeah, Rick said earlier. I think I’d like to read that poem that Will gave me. It’s the one that was read at his grandma’s funeral. I like it and think that it’s appropriate for my mum,” he replied quietly.
“Are you sure that you’re going to be able to read it out yourself?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’m going to practise a bit, so I know it by heart and then I’ll be fine,” Chris replied.
“Okay. Have you got it on computer anywhere so we can forward it to
“I have,” Will chipped in. “I’ll send it, just tell me where to.”
“I’ll give you
“That’s it, guys, let’s clear up, make coffee and carry on with
whatever you need to finish or whatever,” Rick said as he started clearing up
and loading the dishwasher. I scribbled down
“I’ll send it as soon as I go back to me room.”
I nodded and carried on with putting things away from supper and then a few minutes later it was all done and Rick and I went to the sitting room to watch some TV. The boys all went back to finish their homework.
* * *
As soon a supper was over I went back to my room and got out my mobile. I sent a text to Stephen saying that Saturday was fine, but I’d to be home by seven at the latest. I’d just finished that when Will knocked on my door and stuck his head round as I’d not shut it fully.
“Hey, come in.”
“I’ve printed that poem out in 16pt for you on card so it’s easier to hold and read from if you’re really going to do it yourself. I was in too much of a state so Dad read it at Grandma’s funeral. He told me after that she’d chosen it anyway and it was in the instructions that she’d left.”
“Oh thanks,” I replied taking the printed A4 card from Will. “Wow, that’s pretty big, can’t help but see that even if I do go a bit, you know, wet eyed.”
“That’s what I thought.” Small print’s fine as long as you’re not bawling,” Will grinned.
“I’ll try not to. I mean I want to please Granddad and do it for Mum too.”
“I know.” Will just nodded, then just as quickly turned round and went back out and up to his room again.
I heard my mobile bleep. So picked it up to check. Stephen had replied and I laughed as I read his message… U can come all day, but I’ve got to look after younger bro in morning till Mum get’s home from work… come for ten or two whichever suits – let me know 2morrow at school – S.
I pressed the reply button and sent… Wot’s bro like? If awful I’ll come pm – ok – C.
In less than a minute I had the reply… Bro pain in the bum – mostly – just liveable with – wot u wanna do? – S
I quickly texted back… Can cope if u can – C.
After a minute or so I got another reply… Good c u school 2morrow bfn S
I giggled to myself a bit over those messages and then carried on reading my history text book for a test at the end of the week. By ten o’clock I’d had enough and went upstairs to have a shower in Will and Liam’s bathroom. As soon as I’d done, I went back down pulled on some bedshorts and turned in. I was still really worried about what was going to happen. Everyone seemed to think it’d all work out fine… but I wasn’t so sure. Just so much depended on my granddad accepting what I would like. I did not know if he’d go along with that at all.
End of Chapter 19