By Paul Jamison

Chapter 23

In Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Caroline Ashton replaced the receiver as her fourteen year old son Marcus raised himself from the sofa where he’d been watching television to ask his mother

“Wassat about, Mum?”

 “I’ve got a second interview for a new and better job, bigger firm and I’ll be away Tuesday night for the interview,” she explained.

“Will we have to move then if you get it?” Marcus asked.

“Yes, lock, stock and barrel, if I get this appointment,” she replied.

Marcus sat up and looked glumly at his mother before saying

“So, another new school, just after I’ve got settled and actually feel safe being myself, for once,?”

“Let’s not jump any fences till we have to. I need to get the appointment first. That was the firm’s principal’s secretary and I’m one of two ladies up for the position. They’re booking a hotel for me and my interview is in the morning and the other applicant in the afternoon. We can expect a decision probably the next day she’s said.”

“Okay, but do you want this new job? And when was the first interview? You never said anything about going to one,” Marcus asked his mother.

“The first interview was a telephone one. That’s quite common practice these days, especially where applicants are some distance away. They only bring you down for face to face when they’ve compiled a shortlist,” she explained.

“Oh, I see. Why do we have to go through all this? I thought we were settled,” Marcus asked.

“My job’s going in a matter of a few months. Mr Edgington’s retiring and as he’s always been a sole practitioner, the firm’s closing too. He put me on to this job possibility himself. This other firm’s principal and he were in junior practice together and some recent work brought them in contact again and it seems that a senior legal secretary has suddenly died and a really good position has opened up. I’d be a fool not to try for it, especially as Mr E wrote me a glowing reference when he mentioned his situation to the other firm and suggested that they interviewed me. They sent an application form by email straightaway. I returned it last week with a covering letter and Mr E emailed them a reference also. I was telephone interviewed last Thursday. That seemed to go very well indeed and as you’ve just heard I’ve had the offer of a second interview next Wednesday. It seems the firm’s as good as closed on Tuesday afternoon for the funeral of the lady who died. But they’re keen to appoint a new legal sec as soon as they can now. I’d be working for the son of the firm’s founder, a Mr Adrian Machin. Mr E said I’d be a particularly good candidate for the position, but wouldn’t say anything more. I suppose because I’ve similar experience to the lady who’s died, I expect,” she replied.

“Did they say how she died?” Marcus asked.

“Only that it was a road traffic accident, no other details,” Mrs Ashton replied, and added “And it’d be awfully bad form to ask.”

Marcus nodded and was deep in thought for a while before he looked up and said

“So do I stay on my own Tuesday night or do you want me to stay with a friend?”

“Mmmm, I’d thought of asking Uncle James to have you, but do you think you could stay with one of your friends? I’d be happy to talk to their parents to explain,” she asked.

“I can call Dougie, I mean we’re always doing stuff these days and I stayed there two nights during half term. So don’t see it’d be a problem to them he’s got bunk beds in his room and I get the bottom bunk which he normally uses to dump his clothes on… Marcus giggled in reply, and added “Shall I call him now?”

“Let me talk to his parents. Yes, please call him right away, Marcus.”

Marcus flipped out his mobile and within seconds was talking to his mate. A moment or so later he handed his mobile to his mother and said

“Dougie’s mum to chat to you.”

His mother walked through to the kitchen to have her conversation and about ten minutes later returned to the lounge of their flat to say

“All fixed up. You’re to go home with Dougie tomorrow after school and I’ll come over there on Wednesday as soon as I get back to collect you. The Selbys’d be happy to have you for the one night, considering the situation.”

“Yeah, Dougie said it’d be okay with his peeps,” Marcus replied.

“We both need to pack, you for staying at Dougie’s.  My train leaves Wakefield Westgate at 13.24 and it takes about three hours. I’ve to take a taxi to the Travel Lodge where I’ve been booked in and there’s a taxi for me at 8.45 on Wednesday for the interview that’ll be about three hours. That’s really quite long. I’m wondering what on earth will take all that time,” Mrs Ashton pondered.

Marcus got up from the sofa and went to his room to sort out what he’d need for the next two days at school and clothes for after school the following night. His mother did her packing also and then after they’d both returned to the sitting room Mrs Ashton said

“I’d better call Mr E too to let him know the state of play, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t actually know already, to be honest.”

“If he fixed this up I bet they’ve called him already. After all, you’re going to be away for a day and a half, aren’t you?” Marcus replied.

“Yes. I’ll go into work in the morning and then instead of lunch go straight to the railway station. I’ll get some sandwiches in the M & S food shop on the station parade for the journey,” she replied, as she dialled her boss’s number.

“Evening, Mr Edgington, sorry to disturb you at home but…” Marcus listened as his mother was interrupted and a few moments later she said

“Many thanks. I thought they might’ve contacted you too. I’ll see you in the morning as usual. Thank you, good night,” she said, as she rang off.

“He knew?” Marcus asked.

“Oh, yes, he did and was waiting for me to call. They called him just before they called me it seems,” she answered and added “He wishes me the best and he’s certain I’m in with a real chance of this job.”

Everything having been dealt with, Marcus idly flipped through the TV channels but not finding anything to watch that interested him he went off to his room to read before going to bed, wondering just what the future had in store for him if his mum got offered the new job.

* * *

Chris’s viewpoint…

I opened the front door to see Commander Barnes with my grandfather on the doorstep,

“Hi, Granddad, hi, Commander, come in please.”

“Hello again, Chris,” Commander Barnes replied.

“Evening, lad,” his grandfather added.

I took their coats and hung them on hooks in the hallway and then showed them through into the sitting room. Rick, Liam and Will were waiting and Paul came in from the kitchen just as we’d gone in.

 “This is my grandfather, Chief Rory Griffin,” I said, and introduced everyone to him in turn. Then we all sat down.

“Straightforward trip down?” Rick asked Mr Griffin.

“Oh, pretty good as long train journeys go,” Grandfather admitted.

“That’s good. Sometimes these journeys from Scotland can get delayed badly if the weather is bad,” Paul chipped in and added “Still you’ve made it in good time and dinner is ready. Shall we go through? Chris, show your grandfather where he can freshen up if he needs to, okay?”

I did as asked and took him through to the dining room and sat him at the table opposite Will’s dad and next to Paul at the top. I sat next to him with Liam opposite and Will sat next to me opposite Rick. Paul then brought through two large pie dishes and Liam went and fetched the vegetable dishes at Paul’s request. Paul then served our guests first and then us with generous portions of the pies and asked everyone to help themselves to vegetables.  

Granddad watched as the vegetables went around the table and saw how all the dishes were completely empty by the time we were all served and said

“How on earth do you manage to feed these lads?  That’s an incredible amount of food all gone in one meal.”

“They’re all growing boys, with the exception of ourselves, Rory,” Commander Barnes replied to him, and added “That’s no more than a teen needs for a main meal of the day, you know.”

My Granddad nodded and looked around the table as we ate and saw it all disappearing double quick time.

“I suppose you’re right,” he said after enjoying some food himself. “I’m very out of touch with what youngsters need, I’m afraid,” he said, and got back to enjoying his meal.

“It’s been a steep learning curve for us too,” Paul said and added   “I mean, it’s only since August that we’ve had a houseful you know. Before that it was just the two of us for years.”

“Oh yes, Frank was telling me, after the accident with his parents, of course.” Granddad replied. “But how did you… um Liam… come to live here too? Have you no parents?” Granddad asked Liam.

“Yes, I’ve got parents, but my relationship with my mother deteriorated to such an extent I could no longer live with her. They’re divorced and my father now lives in New Zealand,” Liam explained.

“I understand the divorce bit, but what happened between your mother and you?”

“It was an irreconcilable difference of opinion over my mother’s religious ideas and my sexuality,” Liam replied, looking anxiously across the table to see what effect his reply would have on my Granddad.

Grandad looked nervously around and appeared deep in thought as he continued eating his food.

“I see. Thank you for being so forthright. I’m sorry I pried into personal matters. I couldn’t work out why you were living here and so had to ask,” he replied after a while.

“Rory, I should’ve warned you that Paul and Rick had given a home to another young man apart from my son and your grandson,” Commander Barnes said, smoothing down the atmosphere that had become decidedly ‘on edge’ in the last few minutes.

“Oh, it was pure curiosity. I’m sorry to’ve been so inquisitive. I just wasn’t expecting such a house full, you see,” Granddad explained. “Everything’s been a bit of a shock, you know. Marylyn’s sudden death from that accident and now so much to sort out from the mess left behind,” he said.

“Well, tomorrow morning you’ve a meeting with Adrian Machin from the lawyers. So hopefully he can show you all the options and then perhaps there can be a way forward out of all this to everyone’s satisfaction?” Paul said.

“I know your voice from somewhere?” Granddad  said.

“That’s possible. I produce and sometimes present a radio music programme. Are you keen on jazz?” Paul asked.

“Not Jazz in the Afternoon?” Granddad replied, with an incredulous expression.

“Yes, for my sins, that’s it. Not my title choice as I took over the programme three and a half years ago now and have changed the original format quite a bit. We have more live session items than the previous production team had.”

“Yes, and it’s a great improvement too,” Granddad said enthusiastically.

He and Paul then started talking jazz and the rest of us were all but forgotten. I nudged Will and just did a ‘thumbs up’ to Liam and giggled.

Rick rolled his eyes and looked around the table noticing that we’d all finished eating and were simply waiting for Paul and Granddad to finish yakking. He said

“Clear the plates and bring the pudding in, please, guys.”

We got up and did as asked while Paul and Granddad just carried on talking jazz as we did so.

Once we’d brought the pudding in Rick served up as Granddad and Paul were still going on about the merits of live performance over studio recordings of a jazz band and we all laughed when Rick banged a spoon on the table and said

“Time to eat, guys.”

So we did. Once the table was cleared, Rick suggested that Granddad and Commander Barnes should join them in the front sitting room again.

“I’ve homework to finish,” Liam said, and quietly left the room. I heard him loading the dishwasher before he went up to his room. I followed them into the sitting room not quite sure what to do. Paul and granddad had stopped talking jazz long enough to pour coffee and sit down. Rick looked across at me and rolled his eyes, but also giving me a wink too which I think was meant to be a good indication that Granddad was being won over, at least as far as jazz was concerned. Will sat next to his dad on one of the sofas and they were quietly talking together and looking occasionally at me and at Granddad talking to Paul. Rick looked at me and asked

“All your homework done?”

“No, not quite. I’ve some reading to do. About another hour’s all I need,” I replied.

“Okay, just as long as it is,” and he smiled.

I nodded back and took a cup of coffee and sank back into a corner of the other sofa and just watched. Once I’d finished my coffee Rick smiled and said

“How about you get that homework sorted and then an early night? It’s going to be a long day tomorrow.”

I realised that the adults probably wanted to talk about me and took the hint. I smiled back and said.

“I’ll see you tomorrow Granddad. I’ll be home from school at one for a snack and to get ready for the funeral.”

Granddad stood up grasped my arm and said

“Probably best, Christopher. Good to see you so well under the circumstances… we’ll talk much more tomorrow after… you know, it’s all sorted out…” He broke off and sat down.

“Night, everyone,” I said.

“Night Chris,” they all said back. Then Will got up and said goodnight to his dad and the others and joined me as we went out of the sitting room to go to our rooms.

“I know it’s way too early for bed, but it’s obvious they want to talk without us there, especially the way Rick kept asking about homework,” Will giggled as we climbed the stairs.

“Yeah, you’re right. I just wish I’d a little longer to talk to granddad. He’s only here one more night and I’ll be at school tomorrow morning and again on Thursday when he goes home,” I protested.

“It’s really odd that he’ll not be staying here for a few days more, isn’t it?” Will observed. “I mean you’d’ve thought he’d’ve wanted to get to know you some more. After all it’s years since he’s seen you, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. It was, I dunno, I was eight or nine when I last saw him. I mean that’s five years or more. I just don’t get it.”

I didn’t know what to say and Will had no more ideas either. So when we got to my room I went in to read and Will carried on up the next flight to his room to do homework too. I settled down to read my English literature set chapters and made a few notes as I did. About halfway through I’m pretty sure I heard Paul and Rick say goodnight to Commander Barnes and my grandfather at the front door and lock up the house before going back into the sitting room to watch some TV.

I got ready for bed in a state of extreme nervousness. I was very anxious about the outcome of the meetings the next day at the lawyers when I knew that decisions would be taken that would decide my entire future. I felt powerless and very alone. I’d been asked countless times what I thought, what I wanted, but did they really understand? I wasn’t sure. I sat on my bed and slipped under the covers when I felt an overwhelming sadness come over me and I was crying again. I hugged the pillow to me and quietly sobbed.

Suddenly my door slowly opened and someone came across the room towards my bed. I sat up quickly and heard Will say

“Shift over, there’s room for two in there. I’m not leaving you on your own tonight, okay?”

I must have nodded as he pulled back the duvet and slipped into bed with me. Five minutes or so later, with the warmth of Will spooned up against me as he gently held me, I drifted soundly off to sleep.

* * *

Will’s viewpoint…

I woke earlier than usual to find that Chris and I had rolled over in the night and he was spooned into me from behind. I could certainly feel his morning stiffy pressing against my bum. I eased myself away gently and once parted I slowly started to get out of bed.

I’d just stood up when Chris gave an enormous yawn, stretched, opened his eyes, grinned at me and then giggled. I looked down and realised he’d spotted my hard-on and quipped “Yeah, like you so don’t have one too. Come on, lets go pee and shower. There’s lots to do today.”

“Mmmmm, okay,” Chris yawned, stretched again and got out of bed. The obvious matching bulge in his boxers was testament to what I’d just told him.

“See, I was right,” I said, and giggled as I headed through the door out onto the landing and up to the bathroom above. I wanted to get in there before Liam woke and took it over for twenty minutes as he occasionally did some mornings. The second I was in the bathroom I started the shower and got under the hot water. A few moments later Chris came in and attended to his other necessities. As soon as I was out of the shower and towelling down he slipped off his boxers and went under the stream. Finishing just as I’d done towelling, he quickly towelled himself while I dealt with the other needs. Once done, we scarpered back to our rooms to dress and get ready for school.

We both went down to the kitchen together carrying our school backpacks and were surprised to see Paul already in the kitchen making bacon sandwiches.

“Hi,” I said, “that’s great… wow, bacon on a weekday!”

“It’s not a usual weekday really and I think Chris needs a good breakfast as he’s a long day ahead.”

“Yes, please,” Chris said grinning at us.

Just then Liam came in and said “Bacon. I thought I was dreaming… Bacon on a Tuesday?”

“Yes, I thought you needed something more substantial today. At least Chris does and so I can hardly do them for him and not you two gannets, can I now?” Paul replied.

“No, definitely not,” I giggled in reply.

“Definitely,” Liam agreed too, as he made tea for us all.

We quickly demolished the plate of bacon sandwiches Paul had made and after grabbing a mug of tea each we were all ready when Craig and Jamie arrived a few seconds before Mrs Naylor drew up to take us all to school.  Moments later we were all out of the kitchen door and on our way.

* * *

Rick’s viewpoint…

I arrived in the kitchen just after the boys had left for school Paul was sat munching toast, but got up as I came in and said

“What’d you like to eat? The others’ve had bacon sandwiches.”

“Yeah, why not sounds good and coffee too, please,” I replied, as I sat down while Paul busied himself with making me a brew and sandwich.

“Busy day?” Paul remarked, as he put a coffee in front of me.

“Very. School tour in an hour, then on to the house for him to appraise it, then down to Adrian’s offices for the big discussion. Then a snack lunch, and back here to wait for the boys and the funeral. Next off to the Crem and then finally the reception thingy afterwards… I’ll say something, he’s being very tight lipped at the moment and not saying very much at all about anything. Well to you and me anyway. Let’s hope he’s opened up to Frank.”

“Could be just overwhelmed by the scale of everything and so much to deal with in a very short space of time, I guess,” Paul suggested. “What’s with this school tour?” Paul asked.

“Frank’s arranged it at short notice. He was on to the Head the minute he got in at eight this morning and fixed it up. He’s very persuasive is Frank when he gets going, you know.”

“Oh yes, we do know,” I grinned at Paul. “That’s what got us into this situation in the very beginning, Frank’s persuasiveness.”

“I think you’re right there… let’s hope it’s firing on all four today then. Right, I’ve got to go. Here’s your sandwich. Would you tidy before you go next door? I’ll see you this evening and text me if there’s a result… any result, please,” Paul said, as he got ready to go to work.

“Thanks, yes of course I will. Bye for now,” I replied as Paul left for the studios.

I finished my sandwich and coffee, got my coat and made my way next door. I gave a sharp tap on Frank’s kitchen door and it opened almost immediately to reveal Rory sat at the table enjoying tea and toast and Frank obviously having the same.

“Good morning, Rick. Ready for the fray?” he greeted me.

“Morning, Frank, Rory. Sleep well?” I asked.

“Good morning, Rick,” Rory replied. “Yes, very well, considering it’s not my own bed, thank you?”

“I agree with you there,” I replied. “I mean, they’re good beds, but there’s nothing like the comfort of your own though.”

Within a few minutes we were ready and set off to see Chris’s school and the Headmaster. On arrival, Frank parked up in the visitors bays and went directly to reception with Rory and me following him. He introduced himself and us to the receptionist, who had us all sign in and issued visitor permits. A few moments later the Head’s secretary appeared and took us through.

The Headmaster welcomed us all into his office, but paid particular attention to Chief Griffin in his comments and explanations as he then took us on a tour and showed us quickly the facilities that the school offered and made several points about how well Chris had fitted in with work well above the average standard and how he had through his own efforts obtained the scholarship worth many thousands in fees that would take him right through to the sixth form.

“So there are no fees payable by the family to keep Chris here then?” Rory Griffin asked the Head.

“No, none at all, as long as he stays here. He’s only got his uniform, school trips and field courses to pay for,” the Head explained.

“Oh, right, I hadn’t appreciated that,” Rory Griffin replied.

I looked at Frank and smiled. He just brought a finger to his nose, touched it slightly and brought it away again in an easily recognisable gesture. So I hoped their chats had gone well. After we’d been shown the auditorium and gymnasium facilities, we were headed towards the pool when Rory turned to Frank and said

“It’s all too obvious that all this is so very much better than Chris’d find  near where I am.”

“Yes, I believe it is and he worked hard to get here too,” Frank replied.

Rory Griffin just nodded and looked around the pool facilities quickly before turning to the Head and saying

“Thank you very much for showing us all this, especially at such short notice. I do appreciate your trouble.”

“Our pleasure, I assure you,” the Head replied. “I hope that it all helps when you’ve to make decisions regarding Chris’s future,” he added.

Rory Griffin nodded, but said nothing as we made our way back to the main school building where the Head took us into reception and shook our hands before returning to deal with his own appointments.

“Well, there you have it, Rory,” Frank began and continued “A very fine school with facilities difficult to match, believe me.”

Rory Griffin nodded and again appeared to be deep in thought. He glanced around him at the school buildings as we walked across the car park to Frank’s car and got in.

“Rick, quickest way to Marilyn’s house?” He asked.

I gave directions and some fifteen minutes later we drew up outside the neat three bedroomed house with small garage attached. We all got out and Rory gazed at the outside of the house for a few moments.

“I remember how proud she was when she bought this. She sent me photos the first day she moved in here,” he said quietly.

Frank put a hand on Rory’s shoulder and guided him up the path to the front door. He took a key from his pocket I recall Adrian giving him previously as this was part of the general plan to show Rory the rental possibilities and to allow him to have anything he wanted to take as a memento of Marilyn, and opened up the door. The house was cold and a little uninviting having not been lived in for a week or so now.

“After you Rory,” Frank said, waving Rory into the house ahead of us both.

We allowed him to traipse around the rooms looking as he did. In the sitting room where we’d sat and waited for him were some framed pictures of him and his daughter and a very small Chris and most of Chris’s school year pictures and some of him and his mother on some holiday somewhere, perhaps just last year. He came into the sitting room and picked up the pictures one by one and studied them for a while. Then he selected two and said

“I’d rather like to have these two if no-one else minds.”

“I’m sure that’ll be fine. I know Chris already has one like that in his room at our place,” I said.

Frank looked at his watch and with a glance at me said

“Well, Rory, if you’ve seen all you wanted, shall we take those with us and go into town to the lawyers’ office?”

“Yes, that’s fine. There’s nothing else I want. Did you say arrangments’d been made to clear the house now?”

“Not yet, but as soon as the funeral’s done then we’ll bring Chris back for the rest of his things and arrange disposal of anything else that’s not to be left once it’s all been decided what’s to happen to it all,” Frank replied.

“Nice house, you know,” Rory said as we made our way out. “No mortgage either?” he asked.

“I’m not sure. Adrian will know. That’s all in the things he’s waiting to discuss with you, I expect,” Frank said quickly, not wishing to jump the gun on anything Adrian had planned.

Rory Griffin nodded again and after another look at the house we all got back into the car and headed off to Adrian’s offices. Once there we were ushered into a conference room by one of the secretaries and seated at the table. A few moments later Adrian appeared, quickly followed by another secretary carrying a bundle of files. She set those down on the table opposite us and got out a legal pad and settled to make notes.

“Good morning everyone. We’re here to settle the affairs of my late secretary and your daughter Marilyn Griffin and to determine the ongoing care of her dependant Christopher Griffin there being no other parent surviving.” He addressed Rory Griffin.

I looked at my watch and interrupted. “I think that unless you actually need me, I ought to get home to wait for the boys and give them something to eat before the funeral cars arrive.”

“That’s fine, Rick,” Adrian said. “We might well need both you and Paul later on today, but you get off and see to the lads.”

We quickly made arrangements to meet before the cars arrived and I left the room just as Adrian passed a folder to Rory saying “Here are the three possible proposals that I sent you last week for consideration… Have you come to any decision as yet? Or do we need to talk the implications of each of these through?”

“If we could go through each one if we’ve time, I would prefer that,” I heard Rory Griffin reply, as I left the room and headed out to get a taxi home.

* * *

Chris’s viewpoint…

The morning seemed to drag interminably and I could hardly concentrate on the lessons and was really rather grateful when the final bell before lunch rang and me and Jamie grabbed our bags to head out to the car park to wait for his mother to pick us up. As I passed Mr Stonebridge’s desk he looked up and said

“Hope all goes well this afternoon, Christopher. I shall be thinking of you. Off you both go now,” he smiled, and nodded as I said

“Thank you, sir,” and hurried out after Jamie.

“What did Mr S want?” Jamie asked as we waited.

“Oh just hopes it all goes okay this afternoon, that’s all,” I told him.

“He’s okay, isn’t he?” Jamie said, as his mother pulled in.

“Yeah, he’s a brilliant teacher too,” I replied, as we got into the back of the car, belted up, and set off for home.

“Who’s a brilliant teacher?” Mrs Sutherland asked.

“Mr Stonebridge,” Jamie replied. “He stopped Chris and said he hopes all goes well and stuff today, that’s all,” Jamie explained to his mum.

We were home quite quickly as there was a lot less traffic at that time of day and we all got out and headed for the kitchen door as usual. Rick must have heard us pull in, as he opened the door just as soon as we reached it.  We all trooped in and saw there were a pile of sandwiches made and some hot soup on the stove waiting for us.

“Right, get some food in you, then away upstairs, shower, change and back down by two pm on the dot.”

We both just grabbed stuff and then sat down to have a bowl of soup. As soon as we’d eaten, we both went up to my room to dump our bags and take off our blazers and ties before going up to the top shower room to get cleaned up and back down to dress again.

Once we were both changed and ready we went down to the kitchen together and saw that Rick had changed into a dark suit with black tie and Jamie’s mum was also wearing a black outfit too. A few minutes later Granddad and Commander Barnes appeared and he was in his uniform. We all went into the sitting room to wait for the funeral cars to arrive. Rick introduced Jamie’s mum to Granddad and explained that she had found me in the A & E on my own and had made all the arrangements that awful night. Granddad thanked her profusely, for ‘being there and getting things done’ as he called it.

A few moments later there was a sound of cars pulling up outside and then a ring at the doorbell. I nervously stood up, Jamie stood beside me and then we both followed Granddad and Rick into the hall and to the front door. Rick opened the door and the funeral director greeted us and showed us to the big car that was behind the hearse with Mum’s coffin inside.  There were just the two sets of flowers, one from Granddad and one from me of white lilies. I set my face and got into the limousine when the door was opened for me. Granddad and I sat together and Jamie and his mum opposite. Commander Barnes and Rick got into Paul’s car and got ready to follow behind the limousine. Once we were all seated the funeral director closed the doors and got in the front of the hearse next to the driver and then we set off slowly to the Crematorium.

We arrived at the Crematorium and all got out of the car. We waited as the funeral director’s people took Mum’s coffin out and got it ready to process into the chapel. Rick, Jamie and Commander Barnes went on in ahead of us and when the director got a signal from the Crem people, he turned to us and had us side by side behind the coffin, the doors opened and he led us into the chapel and we followed the coffin to the dais and took out seats on the front row, while they set the coffin on the dais and then they withdrew.

The celebrant stepped forward and introduced herself and started the ceremony. She read a short eulogy for my mother and gave details of her career achievements and I was mentioned as the son she loved and admired. It was soon my turn to read the poem. So I stepped to the reading desk and put the card I had it on down. Then, looking out to everyone, recited it from memory as I certainly couldn’t read off the card by the time I’d finished, and then returned tearfully to my place. Granddad squeezed my shoulder and murmured “well done, lad” quietly in my ear and the proceedings continued with a work colleague giving some reminiscences of Mum and they were quite funny in parts.

Then the celebrant had us all stand for the committal and as the music played, the coffin began to slide away from view as the curtains came round the dais. The director came back into the chapel and led Grandfather and me out through the exit and into the winter sunshine. We stood together for a short time while all those attending filed past and we thanked them for coming. Jamie stood solidly by me all the time and when the last had shaken hands, Mrs Sutherland came over quickly and got us back into our coats as I was positively shivering by then, and we hurried across the road to the wake.

Mrs Sutherland organised some tea for Jamie and me as we were so cold from standing around outside and brought a plate of mixed sandwiches and sausage rolls over to our table. We polished them off in about five minutes. Granddad went around the room with Adrian meeting Mum’s former work colleagues and eventually I went to join him saying thank you to people I hardly knew, but they’d been there, which was nice of them. Once that was done, Commander Barnes came up and said to Mrs Sutherland

“There’s no more need for the boys to stay. It’s just going to be drinking and reminiscing now. If you’ve had enough, would you take the lads back home?” Then he turned to me and said “Things’re going to be just fine. We’ll tell you later what’s been agreed when we get back to the house, all right?”

“Right, that’s good. They don’t need to be sitting around here for hours. We’ll go back home now and see you all later,” Mrs Sutherland said, as she got her coat back on and we fastened up ours.

Jamie and me followed Mrs Sutherland out of the pub and over to her car and a few moments later were heading back home. It was about four thirty in the afternoon and I was shattered.

* * *

Thank you guys for the bumper crop of emails last chapter. I am obviously delighted that you are still with me and enjoying the story as much as you're saying you are... I don't give plot away... sorry!! to those that sked what's going to happen next! All will be revealed in due course.

All the best to you all

 Paul Jamison

Christmas 2010.