By Paul Jamison
We’d not been taken by surprise by Liam’s news of the earthquake as we’d been sent an email too. I also recalled how I’d seen it on the TV news but had simply not connected it properly with Liam’s father Jeremy until we’d got the email. I put that down in my mind to so much else going on that last week that Liam’s situation had taken a back burner position for the time being. I was eternally grateful that there was no major loss of life and that Jeremy himself and his friend were just fine.
After supper and while the boys were loading their dishes into the dishwasher and were beginning to drift away to their rooms presumably to do their homework, I said to Chris
“Would you come into the sitting room for a moment when you’ve finished in here?”
“Um… yes, sure,” Chris replied, and added. “Is anything wrong?”
“No, definitely not. We just want to go through things with you about the funeral and a few other matters,” I answered.
“Oh, right,” he replied, with an obvious look of relief spreading over his face.
Rick had made some coffee and took the tray through to the sitting room and Chris followed us and sat on one of the sofas facing the other where we’d sat down. Rick poured and offered a cup to Chris which he took and set on the side table next to the sofa. After we’d both taken a drink Rick began
“I’ll be here on Tuesday when Mrs Sutherland brings you and Jamie back here after morning school. You’ll have time to change into a clean shirt and spruce yourself up a little. I’d clean your shoes as well. They seem to get in quite a state with the kicking they get at school, and it doesn’t harm for you to look reasonably smart on these occasions.” he explained.
“Okay, I’ll do that. Who’s coming to the funeral now then?”
“I can’t I’m afraid Chris. I have too much work on next week and cannot
get the time free. Rick’ll, as well as your grandfather, Mrs Sutherland, Jamie
of course and Will’s Dad will all be there with you. You know he knew your
granddad in the navy. There’ll be people from your mum’s work as well and
“Yeah, I’ve got it printed in decent type so I can read it easily but I pretty well know it by heart. I’m quite good at learning lines with drama group, you see,” Chris explained.
“Yes, of course. I nearly forgot that,” I said.
“I think it’s also being printed in the order of proceedings too,” Rick added.
“Now, quite a few things are or may be going to happen this weekend, mostly about you and what happens next.”
“Is it still possible for me to live here?” Chris asked.
“If that’s what you want, then Rick, me, Will and Liam are very
happy that you should make this your home. As
“What’s Granddad said so far then?” Chris asked, and added “He’d hardly say anything to me when I phoned, you know. It was just ‘awfully sorry, how was I, was I getting better from my injuries and he’d see me for the funeral’ and that really was it. I felt very sorta ‘let down’ actually.”
“He’s not spoken to either of us, which considering that we’re
looking after you we find rather strange. He has exchanged letters and phone
“Yeah, I know. I’ve been on the internet finding that stuff out.
There’s an academy school which is fine for their equivalent of GCSEs and that
sort of thing, but the curriculum won’t be the same, so I’ll have trouble
adjusting to their system. It also doesn’t have a proper drama department or
many of the other features like swimming facilities that the
“Yes, well, I know you told
“Oh, yes, that’s for certain. I very much do. I’ve been happy here from the start,” Chris replied emphatically.
“So, we just have to hope it works out that way in the end then,” I said.
“Right, Chris, that’s all. I guess you’d best be off to finish your homework,” Rick added.
Chris nodded and as he headed towards the door turned and said
“I really do appreciate everything you’ve all done since… you know, the accident.”
“Chris, we were glad to help. We all hope things work out for the best for you as well,” I said, as he left the sitting room to go up to his room.
After watching a programme and the TV news Rick and I headed up to bed and the house soon went quiet.
The following day everything went along just normally and the boys had all turned in to their rooms by half past ten. Rick and I were quite pleased to follow them as Saturday was likely to be an eventful day with Frank due home and a house full of Harry Potter fans to feed as well.
* * *
The Saturday morning I got up at half past eight and booted up my
computer. I wanted to see if there was another email from my dad and check out
the site he’d sent me links to, to see what the earthquake had done to
After showering and dressing in my work clothes I then went down to the kitchen and was a little surprised to see both Will and Chris sitting in the window seat with mugs of tea. They grinned as I came in.
“Hey, we’re just chatting about the film this afternoon,” Chris said as Will nodded his agreement, got up and turned on the kettle for me as I took down a mug from the cupboard and dropped a tea bag into it.
“It should be good,” I agreed and added “The reviews are super. I looked online last night after I’d finished my homework.”
“They are,” said Chris excitedly. “I checked them myself as well. I can’t wait for part two now, but it’s not out till around the summer holidays in July,” Chris explained.
“Rick gave me the tickets for all of us last night, so I’ll see you guys in the foyer at about four fifteen. I’m coming straight from work,” I explained.
“Yeah, my dad should be home by the time we’re back too,” Will said with a hint of excitement in his voice.
“Who’s coming to take us home then?” Chris asked.
“Mrs. Sutherland and Rick or Paul. We’ll need two cars with us lot,” I answered.
“Oh yeah, there’ll be all eight of us, won’t there?” Will said.
“You’ve made arrangements for your friends to be picked up haven’t you?” I asked Chris.
“Yeah, Stephen’s coming here for four,” Chris replied. “I think Jamie’s made arrangements with Michael,” he added.
“So, we’re all sorted then?” I checked as my toast popped up and I buttered it before adding some marmalade and sitting at the table to eat my breakfast.
“Yeah, think so,” Chris and Will said together.
“Good, see you guys later then,” I said as I finished my breakfast and after tidying away my mug, plate and cutlery into the dishwasher I grabbed my coat from the hallway and went off to work.
At five past four I hurried out of Boots, the chemist’s store that I worked in part time and hurried across the precinct to the multiplex cinema. I made my way to the foyer area and sat on one of the many covered benches that were around and looked about to see if any of the gang’d arrived. At just after twenty past four they all come into the foyer together laughing away to each other. I saw Craig scanning around looking for me and so I immediately got up and went towards them all.
“Hey,” I said as soon as I was close enough.
“Hi,” they all replied.
“Is our screen open yet?” Chris asked.
“No, not for another five minutes,” I replied.
“Good we’ve got time to get snacks then,” Justin said and headed off with Will towards the counter.
After a few more minutes we’d all got the stuff we wanted and so we made our way towards our screen entrance just as they were opening it up. After getting our tickets checked by the young attendant we got through the doors and made a run for the seats, slap bang in the middle of the auditorium. Craig and I decided to sit in the row behind the younger lads and we got right in the middle of that row directly behind Will and Justin. Once everyone was all sorted and sat down, we waited for the previews and advertising to begin. Loads more people were pouring into the auditorium and it soon seemed to fill. After several more minutes the lights went down and the previews began.
* * *
It was an exceedingly cold day. Snow had been forecast and I’d told Mary to be wary of ice as she’d driven off with all seven of those from our end to go to see the Harry Potter film.
I was in the kitchen preparing the meal for later when Rick came in and asked
“Are we using the dining room with a gang this large?”
“I think it might be easier if we do, but use the everyday crockery and cutlery,” I suggested.
“Yeah, good thought. I’ll go put the table protector and a cloth on it too,” Rick replied.
I nodded as he left the room to do that. A few minutes later he popped his head around the kitchen door to ask “How many altogether this evening?”
“Eight boys, two of us plus Frank, so that’s eleven,” I replied.
“Right, that’s easy enough. Five down each side and one at the end. We’ll give that to Frank with Will one side of him and whoever… perhaps Chris on the other. How’s that sound?” Rick asked.
“Yeah, that’ll be fine. Oh, I think Frank’s back. I’m sure I just heard a car pull in,” I said, as I made my way to the window and looked out onto the driveway. “Yes, he’s back. Did you go in and turn up his heating this morning?”
“Yes, I did and made a big pile of his mail in the kitchen too,” Rick replied.
“He’ll be knocking shortly for a brew I shouldn’t wonder,” I said as I got back to rolling out the pastry for the top of the large steak and kidney with mixed winter vegetables pie filling that I’d poured from a casserole dish in which they’d been slowly cooking for a few hours into the two prepared pie dishes. I then carefully transferred the pastry covers over the tops and crimped them to the edges of both before standing them back on the worktop until they needed baking off ready for the ravenous horde to descend back on us after we’d collected them from the cinema at around seven fifteen.
“When are they all due back here?” Rick queried.
“They come out at seven ten. So if we’re there for seven fifteen, we should be back here by seven forty, so we can eat at about eight then. Is that all right?” I asked.
“Sounds good to me. Anything else need doing?”
“Yes, can you bring another large pack of Cokes in from the garage to the utility room? We’re likely to go through a full pack with that horde don’t you think?” I said.
Rick got up and went out of the kitchen door to the garage and a few minutes later I heard voices outside and Frank came in followed by Rick with a pack of Cokes each in their arms. They put them down in the utility room and came into the kitchen together.
“Frank, hello, welcome back,” I said, and added “I see Rick’s put you to work at once.” I laughed.
“Hello Paul. Yes, Rick was struggling with the door handle and the two packs and so I took one. How’re you both?”
“We’re just fine, as I’m sure Rick’s just said. But, as you know there’ve been some interesting and some sad developments here. I’m sure you know some of the stuff that’s been going on,” I replied.
“Yes, some, but I’d like to hear from you your side and let’s see if we can come up with a sensible outcome for this lad, Chris?”
“Yes, that’s right. But first things first. Have you all that you need over there? We got the heat up for you last night. So you should be pleasantly warm now?”
“Oh, yes, thank you, no problems there. I’ll need to lay in some more supplies in the morning, but I’ve got everything I need for now.”
“Right, that’s fine then. So some tea?” I asked.
“Thought you’d never get to it. Yes please,” Frank replied as he took a seat at the kitchen table.
Rick made the tea while I finished the preparations for supper. We all talked as we did that and a few minutes later all sat down around the table to discuss the situations that had arisen.
“I thought we’d bring you up to speed with Will first,” Rick began.
“Okay, are there things I don’t know, but should?” Frank asked.
“No, not really. He’s struggling with his maths and we’ve had
I know we’ve had this before in lower years too. If he just does his best, I’ll not come down on him at all if the report’s not brilliant. I know he both hates and lacks, as you say, the aptitude in the subject. Not all of us were born to be mathematicians,” Frank replied, then added. “Is that all for Will?”
“Yes, pretty much. He’s been very supportive to Chris, as indeed all their friends have too. There’ve been no domestic issues at all and his friendship with Justin seems as secure as it was back in the summer.”
“So who’s next?” Frank laughed.
“Well, just to bring you up to date really. Liam’s father has been
“Oh that’s excellent news, isn’t it?” Frank enthused. “So his father is now more involved in support and taking a parental interest in the lad as well?”
“Yes, it would appear so. We know much more of the detail of the separation of his parents and’ve had things explained that makes sense of it all. I think that’s all going along just fine, although we did have a hiccup with that earthquake over there. Had a quick panic call from Liam to his dad to make sure he was okay. Not sure what’ve been the outcome if he hadn’t’ve been though,” I said.
“Oh, yes. Well, let’s not go there as it didn’t happen. Now, Chris
Griffin, grandson of my first CPO Chief Griffin. Where are we on that score so
far? I recall the old sod really rather well and I think I can do any
persuading if it comes to that, but to be honest I don’t think it will and I’ve
good reason to think that too.” Frank took a drink of his tea and continued. “He
was a little on the lazy side, had a cushy number going when I knew him and my
opinion is if he’s offered a way out that satisfies the niceties, looks good on
the surface, saves him face, as he’ll be able to say to anyone that it was the
best choice to be made under the circumstances and also very importantly the
expense, as he’s a mean old bastard, then he’ll go for it. I just need to be
really sure that you guys are up for yet another teen in your home for at least
four more years. He’s just fourteen, I think
“Yes, we are. We’ve talked it through thoroughly ourselves and with the boys. The answer’s a definite yes on that, and yes, he’s just fourteen. It happened on his birthday. They were on their way home from a birthday treat trip to the theatre,” I said.
“Yes, I recall now. Right, I’ll talk to the lad over the weekend. Then I’ll go collect Chiefy from the station Monday afternoon and look after him next door until he goes back on Thursday morning’s train. I’m sure he’ll be looking for options and I’ll offer advice if it’s asked for… which it almost certainly will be to be honest. I suspect he’s out of his depth with all of this.”
“Exactly, there’re two good, solid reasons why he’ll be looking for a way out. One, the prohibitive expense to him of uprooting and getting a bigger place and, two, supporting his grandson through to university is more than he wants to be involved in, mark my words, I know him well enough to be fairly certain on that score.” Frank said, as he smiled ruefully to himself.
“Adrian said just last week that he felt the guy simply didn’t have a clue about what a modern teen needs by way of support and investment to get him towards a career,” I said, and added “and was frustrated beyond belief that the guy wouldn’t make a telephone call before the cheap rate started or have a computer for email. Everything was by second class post. It took ages to get basic things sorted out because of all that messing about over stuff,” I said.
“Pedantic, would describe him perfectly,” Frank said smiling. “But he’s actually a decent man, not vindictive nor any unpleasant traits that I ever saw. Just very stuck in his ways and extremely resistant to new things or changes to his way of doing things,” Frank said and then glanced at his watch. “Where are the boys today?”
“Oh, sorry, Frank, I should have mentioned. They’ve all gone with friends to see the new Harry Potter film at the multiplex this afternoon. We need to go and collect them all at about twenty past seven, and then we’re feeding them here. Craig’s staying over with Liam and I think Justin’s here for the night too as his parents have gone out or away somewhere this evening,” I explained.
“So, that’s what, a dozen, to feed?” Frank asked.
“Almost. There’s two steak and kidney with winter vegetable pies going in the oven just as we go to collect them, so there’ll be plenty for all of them, but I don’t expect any left over. You’ve seen them demolish meals before,” I grinned at Frank.
“I have indeed,” Frank replied and added. “Human vacuum cleaners when it comes to food. Mine’s always been a good eater. Still I’ve always enjoyed good grub too and it’s not something I’ve had much time for after my wife died… I’m afraid we resorted to frozen and chilled meals from the supermarket rather a lot. I’m very much looking forward to your Christmas dinner and you must allow me to contribute to the expenses. I’ve brought some duty free back as well for the adults!”
“Of course Frank. The Sutherlands’ll be joining us too, all four of them, and they’re contributing as well. I think we’ll have a great day… if all goes well next week… with Chris I mean. We’ll be doing a big shop next week as I have to make a start on the Christmas cake as the fruit has to soak in brandy for a few days before we make and bake it. Vanessa’s mother’s already got the Christmas pudding made, apparently,” I explained.
“Oh, and there’s something a bit special planned too… but we’ll need to have a chat with you later about that.”
“Okay, no problem. I’ll help out anyway I can, but don’t expect culinary skills… I don’t have any,” Frank grinned.
Frank laughed heartily and I just grinned. We chatted for another hour and discussed the funeral plans in detail and went though how we hoped Christmas preparations would go. Frank readily agreed to help out with one particular aspect and said he’d send an email the next day to set the wheels in motion. That all having been agreed, we were disturbed by a knock on the kitchen door. I got up to open it, but it opened before I got to it and Vanessa’s head appeared.
“So you’re all in here drinking tea,” she laughed as she came in and closed the door.
“Hello Vanessa, you remember Frank… Commander Barnes of course, Will’s father?”
“Yes, of course, hello again, Commander…” Vanessa began.
“It’s Frank, please, Vanessa, we’re not working now,” Frank interrupted and added “I mean I’m hardly likely to address you as, ‘Sister Sutherland’, am I?” Frank said grinning.
Vannessa laughed and said “Oh, I hope not I get that enough at work.”
“My point exactly,” Frank grinned and added “So, have you all settled in now?”
“Yes, we have and it’s got a lot to do with these two that things have gone so smoothly as well,” Vanessa said while waving a hand in Rick’s and my general direction. “Our eldest, Craig, is the happiest he’s been since becoming a teen. We’ve the house sorted out after copying what Paul and Rick’ve done here, and it works very well. Mr Clarke’s had a good year’s work out of the three families, I reckon,” Vanessa laughed.
“He’s here again this week converting the old bathroom to a bedroom and creating a shower room out of the box room that was just a junk store really,” I said.
Rick looked at his watch after a bit more chatting and said “You’ll have to think about going now. They’ll be out of the cinema in fifteen minutes.”
Vanessa and I got up and started to put our coats on. I turned to rank and asked “Coming for the ride to collect Will?”
“Is there room?” Frank asked.
“Yes, plenty. We’ve two seven seaters and there’s only eight boys. You take Will, Justin, Craig and Liam and I’ll take Jamie, Chris and their two friends, Michael and Stephen,” Vanessa suggested to me.
“Plenty of room, Frank,” I said as Vanessa and I, accompanied by Frank left the kitchen to go and collect the lads.
* * *
The film had very much been the best of the set so far and I was so disappointed when the end credits rolled at such a crucial moment. I simply couldn’t wait six more months for the second part… but we had to. So reluctantly I got out of my seat with the others, grabbed my coat and followed them out of the auditorium and into the foyer. We were all animatedly going through the high points of the film and I listened and joined in when they got bits wrong.
Before long we’d all got our coats and stuff back on and were ready to go and wait for our lifts in the pick up set down parking bay. We did not have to wait too long before Paul’s and Mrs Sutherland’s cars arrived together and we got in. Jamie, me, Michael and Steve went with Mrs Sutherland and the rest with Paul and someone else with him who turned out to be Will’s dad and Will was very chuffed, as he got in the car that his dad was back home too and so we all set off for home.
Mrs Sutherland asked us all how the film had been and we told her some of the plot details and then she asked
“What time’ve Michael and Stephen to be back home?”
“I’ve to be in by ten at latest,” Michael replied.
“Me too,” Stephen added.
“Okay, make sure Paul and Rick know that, or do you already have arrangements for getting home?”
“I’ve to call when I need a lift if I’m not offered one,” Michael said.
“Stephen, have you arrangements,” Mrs Sutherland asked.
“Um… not really, I could call home too, but I’m expected to make my own way home usually,” He replied a little anxiously.
“We’d got back to the house by then and Mrs Sutherland pulled up outside as Paul took his car up onto the drive. We all piled out and followed the others into the kitchen.
“Okay, guys welcome and please use the bathrooms to get cleaned up to eat. Right now, okay?” Paul told us all. I showed Steve and Michael where the downstairs cloakroom was, then rushed up to the first floor with Jamie to use Rick and Paul’s room while the others went with Will and Liam to the top floor bathroom. In a few minutes everyone was back downstairs again and we all trooped into the dining room that’d been set up and we found places to sit while Paul, Rick and Liam were carrying dishes through from the kitchen to the table. Will was organising Cokes from the sideboard and Will’s dad was opening a bottle of wine for the adults. Although, when we were all sat down, Rick asked Liam and Craig if they would prefer wine.
“Yes, please, Craig and Liam replied together.
Commander Barnes poured wine for Rick, Paul, himself and then Craig and Liam and sat back down. Paul then stood and began serving out portions of pie and we passed the plates down the table till everyone was served. He put the empty dishes back out in the kitchen and when he came back into the dining room said.
“Don’t wait. Help yourselves to veggies and get started, please.”
We all did just that chatting as we passed dishes around the table. Then we got stuck in. Will was trying to talk to his dad at the same time as eating his food and Commander Barnes turned to him and said
“William, talk or eat, not both at once, okay?”
“Sorry, Dad,” Will replied, between mouthfuls, but, he went awfully red faced when his dad pulled him up about it in front of the rest of us. That shut the rest of us up too and the only noise to be heard for a few minutes was cutlery on plates.
“This food’s just gorgeous,” Michael said quietly to me.
Paul who was opposite and had heard him said
“You, young man can come back anytime,” and laughed, before adding. “I’m sorry that’s it, no seconds today.”
I looked over at Will who was trying to look hard done by at that announcement and I just laughed. He went very red again and tried to hide his face for a moment or two.
As soon as we’d all finished eating Craig and Liam collected up all the plates and Will and I helped carry dishes out to the kitchen as well. Paul came in and took through two bowls of fruit trifle that he seemed to have made and I carried back a pile of dessert bowls. Paul then served up the trifle and it was all gone too. So Liam too the empty dishes back to the kitchen.
When we’d finished it was almost a quarter to nine and Paul, Rick and Commander Barnes went off to the sitting room to chat. Liam and Craig organised the rest of us in the kitchen loading the dishwasher and then Will and Jus went off to Wills room and Liam took Craig off to his too. Jamie smirked at them and them me as they went off upstairs and Michael looked strangely at them and then back at me with questions showing all over his face, but then I quickly said
“You guys want to come up to my room for a bit?”
“Yes, sure but can’t stay long. I’ve to be home by ten too,” Michael replied.
We all piled into my room and started chatting about the film for a bit. Then Michael said
“Um… think we could ask someone to run me home? it’s just after half nine now”
“Yeah, sure, we’ll go downstairs and ask now,” I replied.
We all headed down to the sitting room and I stuck my head in.
“Chris?” Paul asked when he saw me
“Um… can someone take Stephen and Michael home, please?” I asked.
“Rick got up and said “Yes, sure, where to?”
“Oh, that’s the new estate. I know that,” Rick said as he headed towards the hallway where the coats were all hung up.
Just as I was turning to follow, Commander Barnes said
“Chris, would you come over next door tomorrow morning after you’ve had your breakfast. Ask Will to bring you over, all right? I need to have a chat with you about… you know… your grandfather and what’s to happen now. I need to know how you feel about various courses of action that’ve been discussed and then we can get a clear idea of what you want for an outcome of this sad business. Then when I see your grandfather again… and it’s been a few years now, I’ll know how best to put your feelings across. Is that all okay by you?”
“Yes, sir,” I replied instinctively.
“Not sir, Chris. Mr Barnes, Commander Barnes if you like, but not sir, got it?” he smiled at me.
“Yes, sir… um… Commander sir,” I stammered away, going as red as Will does in embarrassment.
“Away with you. See your friends out. We’ll chat properly tomorrow,” he grinned, as I left the room hurriedly to avoid further faux pas on my part.
I went to the front door and shivered as I said goodbye to Jamie, Stephen and Michael and then, as they headed to Paul’s car and Jamie scooted off out of the drive and down the road towards his place. I waved quickly as Paul pulled out and hurried back indoors as the wind was getting up and it was icy chilly out there with no coat.
I shut the front door and went up again to my room and then on up to the top floor bathroom. I went in and saw towels over the floor and guessed that the others had had their showers and were back in their rooms. I heard lots of giggling coming through the doors.
I undressed and after running the shower for a few moments stepped in and had a good wash and soak under the hot water stream. It felt good, but I felt lonely and could hear the muffled chatting going on in the rooms alongside the bathroom. I wished I had a special friend the same as both Will had Justin and Liam had Craig. I turned off the water, towelled down dropped my towel back over the hot rail and went downstairs to my room. It was only ten past ten and I heard Paul come back into the house and lock the doors before going back into the sitting room where Rick and Commander Barnes were still talking.
I got ready for bed and sat up reading for a short while then put my book down and turned out the light. I lay there in the dark just wondering what the next week would bring. Oh why… why… did my mum have to go like that? It was all so bloody unfair… I bashed the pillow with my fist and cried myself slowly to sleep.
* * *
End of Chapter 21
you very much for the last crop of emails. I very much enjoyed reading
your thoughts and I believe I have written back to all who wrote. Do
join the yahoo group and then you will get immediate notifications of
new chapters as they are published. Many thanks,
Thank you very much for the last crop of emails. I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts and I believe I have written back to all who wrote. Do join the yahoo group and then you will get immediate notifications of new chapters as they are published. Many thanks,