The little pine dressing table should have been easy for two people to move from one end of the house to the other, but Pluto decided that it was a new game, and getting the way was his main aim. Just as Mark and Rachel were beginning to feel slightly desperate, relief came in the form of Jenny, Sarah and Sally who had arrived to take Pluto out for a walk – and to find out about the exciting news. Rachel proudly showed off her engagement ring, and explained that they were getting takeaway for tonight’s dinner.
“Does that mean that you and Uncle Mark are getting married?” asked Sally.
“Of course, it does silly. Eventually anyway.” said Jenny.
“We need to arrange your Dad’s funeral first, and when that’s over and done with, we’ll have a big engagement party in the Village, and start planning the wedding.”
“Thank you, Uncle Mark,” said Sarah. “I never really liked that Sorrel lady that you were married to. I think you’ll be much happier with Aunty Rachel. You suit each other.”
“Hmm, babes and sucklings and Mrs K, eh? Can you girls take Pluto home with you after his walk. We have some furniture moving to do and he doesn’t like it much.”
“Why are you moving furniture?”
“Shut up Sarah. What kind of takeaway are we having?”
“Whatever you like Jenny. Have a chat with your Mum, and we’ll be down a bit later.”
“What’s wrong with the furniture? I don’t understand.”
“I’ll explain on the way home. Come on.”
Mark winked at Jenny, but wasn’t sure that he had overstepped his role as a sensible uncle just a little. Getting the dressing table into its preferred place was much easier without Pluto. There was plenty of room but the pale pine made the huge built-in wardrobes look even darker.
“What colour should we paint them?” asked Mark as he sat on the bed and surveyed the bedroom with an ill-disguised dislike. Rachel sat down next to him and leaned against his shoulder. “Not white or magnolia – too insipid. How about a sort of pale peach? It would pick up the colours in the dressing table and lift the whole room.”
“Are you any good at painting?”
“I did the flat when I first moved in. It was totally magnolia and white gloss. I didn’t go for all this feature wallpaper stuff but I added a bit of colour here and there. It was quite liberating, actually being able to decorate my own space after years of boarding school, halls of residence, and rented houses.”
“You’re one up on me then. The flat in Edinburgh was decorated by a friend of Sorrel’s. Much in the way of garish wallpaper, clashing colours, and hideously expensive. I always felt that a home should be a soothing place, not somewhere that you get migraines every time you look at the walls.”
Rachel lay back on the bed and smiled. There was a great deal to look forward to. Mark leaned over and kissed her. “It’s only four o’clock. We’ve a couple of hours until we need to leave for Lou’s. So?”
“So, go and double lock the front door – just in case Mrs K decides to pay us an unexpected visit.”
Mark was out of the room like a shot and would have been back even quicker but his work phone rang as he was passing. Rachel took the opportunity to take off and fold her dress carefully, before getting into bed. She didn’t hover by the door this time, but Mark wasn’t gone long and when he returned, he was smiling broadly. “Did you squeeze in an opportunity to contact Tony this morning by any chance?”
Rachel shrugged. “I might have done. He likes me to check in every now and then. We had a quick text while I was getting changed into my new dress.”
“Did you tell him about the complaints?”
“I had to. It was important that nothing happened to get you into more trouble. What’s up?”
“Nothing. All complaints against me have been dropped and my enforced leave has been cancelled.”
“Oh.” said Rachel looking rather disappointed, but happy that Tony had somehow managed to persuade Sam and Adele to see sense.
“I told my boss that I would like to take some leave anyway. He was quite understanding when I explained that you and I had Pete’s funeral to organise, and that we’d just got engaged. I am on leave for another two weeks which should be enough time to get the funeral out of the way, redecorate and buy some new furniture, shouldn’t it?”
“How much time have we got left today?”
“Plenty.” said Mark. “It was very dark last night, and I think that we were too occupied with taking that first step to get to know each even better.”
“Would that be the first time, the second or the third time?” asked Rachel.
“Three times? I intended to have a full voyage of exploration in the daylight this morning and kiss you all over, starting with your very beautiful toes, but Mrs K’s vacuum disrupted me. Now I will be making a complete investigation, and ensuring that your pyracanthas scratches and wounds have well and truly healed.”
Rachel giggled. “Something Sam would never do. Far too demeaning.”
“Sod Sam.” said Mark, but this time he said it out loud.