Stepping Back – Remembering

By the time Mark arrived home, Rachel had written three separate pieces, spell-checked them and edited them before sending them off to Tony.  Half an hour later she received a very happy email advising her that she had scooped Sam yet again, and that numerous colleagues in the office were still laughing about his beach escapade and subsequent rescue.  The longest of the three pieces was about Lou and Pete; Tony had promised to sit on that one until the funeral had taken place, in order to give the people of the Village the opportunity to pay their last respects without any outside interference. News travels fast on the police network and Mark already knew about the arrest of the D-H boys.  He had texted Rachel earlier to let her know that the boys were being bailed but to their school address rather than home, so there would be no more hassle from them for now. He didn’t ask her if she was okay, because he knew that she would be, and didn’t want her to think that he was being patronising.  He did put several ‘x’s’ at the end however, which made Rachel smile and type a little bit faster.

She changed out of the lilac dress into a pair of the short pyjamas bought on her shopping trip with Lou and the girls, and was settled on the sofa with a fed and dozing Pluto, when Mark came back.  Pluto jumped to his feet when he heard the sound of Mark’s key in the door, and was waiting in the hallway with his tail wagging happily.  Rachel decided to stay where she was until Pluto had finished his welcoming, and Mark had washed the affectionate slobber from his face and hands.

He sat down next to her on the sofa and took one of her hands in his. “It’s been a hell of a couple of days, hasn’t it?”

Rachel nodded and leaned her head against his shoulder with a sigh. “We’ve got through it though, all of us.” she said.  “Except poor Pete.  Even now I can’t hate him; I’d rather remember him as he was in the old days when we all used to hang around the Quay.  Perhaps that’s just as well; I haven’t discussed the funeral with Lou yet. Jeff and the lads have already raised a fair sum courtesy of Sam’s payments, but it will take more than that to giver him a good send off. Lou’s the only family I’ve ever had; I’d like the girls to have a memory of what Pete used to be like.  He was so funny and lively in those days, and it was only when he got into debt that he had to turn to other means of making money.”

Rachel was aware that at some point during the conversation, Mark’s other arm had encircled her shoulders and she liked the feeling very much. She smiled as another thought of the day occurred to her. “I bet Sam was really fed up about being arrested and sent back to London on the train.”

Mark nodded and grinned. “He was not happy at all.  I had to supervise his phone calls.  Interesting though, that he called your editor first to say that you had sabotaged his attempts to get his story. Judging from his response, that didn’t go as planned because he slammed the phone down.  The call to his girlfriend was totally different.  He was SO apologetic and almost grovelling to her, but when he came off the phone he was smirking.  I’m sorry Rachel but I had to walk away from him or I’d have punched him.  Hard.”

“Why are you apologising?  Perhaps if I’d had the courage to stand up to him, we would never have stayed together.  I was beginning to understand what was wrong with our relationship, but this has made me see him for what he really is.  An arrogant little bully.”

Mark held his breath for a moment, considering what he wanted to say against what he thought he ought to say. “What happens next?”

“I’m starving.  I was waiting for you to come home before I started cooking anything.  Mrs K has left the makings of a Shepherd’s pie in the kitchen.  It would probably take me about half an hour to knock up, especially if you peel the potatoes for me?”

“That wasn’t what I meant, but I do love Shepherd’s pie. With garden peas and gravy?”

“Of course.  I haven’t exactly had much chance to cook for anyone but myself for the last few years but Shepherd’s pie was one of the few things that Lou would allow me to make when we shared the house.”

“Can I ask you something Rachel? What happened to the nightshirt?”

“Mrs K said that I should invest in more attractive nightwear. Pyjamas are more practical for taking Pluto out in the garden – and for cooking dinner. Do you like them?”

“I do.  There’s one other thing I wanted to ask you, though?”

“Do your worst?”

“You told me that Lou was your only family, but surely you had parents at some stage?”

“Lou said that you were brought up by your father’s parents.  I never knew who my parents were either. When I was born my maternal grandparents took me on.  I say that loosely.  They were rarely home, and until I was old enough to be sent off to boarding school, I had a number of nannies to look after me.  My grandparents were involved in ambassadorial work, and spent most of their time travelling abroad.  When I turned eighteen, the solicitors advised me that my grandparents felt they had discharged their obligation to me and wanted to cut off all contact.  I had a more than generous settlement to cover living expenses, and all my university fees were paid.  I met Lou and she took me under her wing; she didn’t have a lot of money at the time, her father had just died, and your mother was quite poorly so we looked after each other.  It hit Lou hard when your mother died.”

“I never knew her.  What was she like?”

“She was funny and sweet.  She was a wonderful singer and that’s how she met Lou’s dad.  He played bass guitar in a band that performed in most of the jazz clubs. He was a lot older than your mother when they met, and when he developed Parkinson’s Disease, he had to stop playing altogether.  He died about six months before Lou was due to start Uni and at first, she didn’t want to go but your mother insisted.  We were both oddities at Uni; Lou with her black curls and the stigma of racism, me the plain Jane from a boarding school who didn’t know what a real home was.  We clicked somehow, and teamed up against the snobs and the racists that we met.  I had sufficient money from my grandparents to rent a cottage in the Village when we moved out of halls in our second year. Lou often took me home with her; your mother always made me feel welcome, but by the time we were in our third year, she had faded away as the cancer took hold.  Lou let me pay for your mother to go into a hospice near to our Uni.  It meant that she was safe and well looked after, it also meant that we could visit her and take in little things to make her smile.  She didn’t live to see Lou married though.”

“I take it that you probably helped Lou out with the wedding then?”

“It was one of my greatest pleasures, and I told Lou that if she insisted on putting me in a bridesmaid’s dress, then I’d be the one who paid for it, and all the other things that a wedding required.  I had plenty of money once the hospice fees were paid up, and by then I was well and truly part of Lou’s family. She promised to pay me back when she won on the Lottery; that was our standing joke. We didn’t go mad anyway; a marquee outside the yacht club and a disco provided by a friend from Uni.  I look at the amount of money people spend on weddings nowadays and I wonder if they can possibly have as good a time as we did that day. Come on.  I’m hungry, in which case you must be absolutely starving!”

Pluto followed Mark and Rachel into the kitchen to watch the preparations.  He settled down on his bed and fell asleep feeling safe and happy. Just until the Shepherd’s pie was ready and he could eat up any leftovers.

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