‘Faith, Hope and Love’ Part 22
Elaine, James and I ate supper in peaceful silence, she occasionally glancing speculatively at our guest. “Will you be staying?” she asked. Normally, this would have earned a rebuke from me, but the gleam in Elaine’s eye was teasing and light.
“I’m not sure,” began James cautiously.
“Elaine, I think you should…” I interrupted heavily.
“It’s okay, I don’t mind.” James said, quite easy with my daughter’s probing; so, shooting her a warning glance, I ate quietly.
“I would rather you just treated me like anyone else.” James coughed and blinked. “I would prefer it.”
Elaine said, “Okay then, bro”, grinning broadly. “How come you’re here, anyway?”
“Well…” James waited. I put my hand over his sleeve.
“It’s okay, James, you don’t have to tell us.”
“But I want to,” he explained with quiet emphasis. “Now that I’m here, and now I know that Dad is –”
So like Arthur. I ached for the familiar words and cadences. Elaine was about to offer another of her not-so-amusing comments, when I flashed her a look.
“Mum and Dad have never really got on. They fight. And Dad, well, he just seems to let Mum get away with it. She hits him.” He flushed, whether in anger or embarrassment I didn’t know.
“He can’t stand up to her, feels guilty, maybe. But she is cruel, you know? Never lets him explain, or make it up to her. She remembers… Doesn’t want anyone to forget.”
We sat dumbly, all thoughts of eating forgotten.
“Anyway, Mum has just been diagnosed – cirrhosis – last week. I came up to tell Dad, but now he is in the hospital and, well…”
“What about your studies? Has the University given you leave?”
James nodded shortly, adopting the same silent, tucked in posture that Arthur used when he felt ashamed.
“Yes, I have a couple of weeks and then I really should be getting back. Stuff to get on with.”
“Well, until you decide, you can stay here.” I wanted to reassure him, but was wary of being too familiar. He didn’t need me to feel sorry for him, so I simply smiled and left the offer open.
“And now,” I said, in an effort to lighten the mood, “I’m going through to veg out and watch TV. Would you like a cup of tea?”
James turned his face up to me. “Would you mind if I went up to my room?”
“Of course not! How thoughtless of me. You must be tired. Come through.” He glanced up, gratitude shining in his eyes, a smile gently rounding his cheeks and I thought how lovely it was to have him staying.