‘Faith, Hope and Love’ Part 27

Elaine was home when we got back, and thoughtfully met us at the door. Seeing her wide smile, I wanted to sweep her into a hug and ask her how the day had gone, but before I could, she was taking bags from me and diligently placing them out of the way.

“Come in, Mum!” She smiled shyly at Arthur as he nodded, suddenly self-conscious at our impromptu welcoming committee.

Though Arthur stood quiet, his eyes gradually warmed to the scene. Clearly, he was pleased to be away from the pale walls and sluggish warmth of the hospital. He shrugged his shoulders tiredly as I carefully took his coat and slung it over the bannister. “Let’s have a nice cup of tea, shall we?” Arthur nodded slightly, gratefully, and followed me through to the back of the house as if suddenly afraid he might get lost, detached.

We were all feeling emotional, I think, when James suddenly appeared in the doorway.

“Dad!” He tried not to sound too excitable. “How are you, Dad? What are you doing home?” His face registered open astonishment, delight and worry all at once.

“They’ve let me out, at last,” Arthur replied, clearly equally amazed to see his son. It was just as well he was standing near the kitchen units, or the shock might have tipped him off his feet, but he managed to shake his son’s hand, pull him into an embrace and kiss his cheeks fondly.

“It’s lovely to see you, James, Lovely.”

“You too, Dad.”

“How – I mean, why are you here?”

“Well, Marian asked me to come down for a few days, just to help out.” James winked at Elaine who smiled broadly at him and was laughing quietly into her hands.

“So!” Arthur nodded, “We’re all together, are we?” He looked speculatively at Elaine grinning, at James hovering, ever so slightly furtive, and at me, pouring boiling water into a teapot.

“Yes, my darling. We didn’t plan it quite that way, though. Elaine, do you want to tell me what happened today?” I smoothly took the focus away from Arthur so that he could relax a bit, and Elaine launched happily into her story.

“Well, you see, Mum, when we got to school, Jamie was playing the fool, running about and yelling a bit, drawing attention to himself, I think. We were mucking about, when Susan walked past.” Elaine burst out laughing, and could hardly speak for giggles. “When she saw us, she slowed right down, and I could see she was just dying to -”

“She was being totally nosy,” said James, “desperate to know who I was, and what I was doing there, all the usual stuff. But of course I just smiled. Elaine called out, “Hello, Susan!” and carried on walking past. You should have seen her face!”

“And all through class today, they kept away from me, and then, after lunch, Susan comes right out and asks, ‘Who was that boy?’ and I just said, really casual, you know, ‘Oh, just a friend.’ I could tell she was desperate for details, and annoyed that I would not tell her, but why should I? She is just a nosy cow. Oh, and you should have seen her face when Jamie was waiting for me after school! He just gave me a great big hug, like he had so been missing me, and he took my bag and we walked home together really slowly.”

“Thank you, Jamie,” I said, knowing he would have enjoyed his part. “As tomorrow is Friday, I was wondering… When are you thinking of heading back to Uni?”

“Well, I should really get back, so maybe I could go to the station after Elaine’s at school on Monday. Would that be okay?”

“That would be just – just perfect, James, thank you so much.” I turned to face the counter so that he would not see how relieved I was. Knocking open cupboards and banging drawers – noisy displacement activity – I hoped no-one noticed my eyes misting over with tears, again.

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