Johnnie and Owen's meeting with the medical council had gone reasonably well, so Johnnie thought. Considering the medical profession in general were somewhat critical of his work, the council itself hadn't that many objections – just as long as Johnnie himself did all the hard work.
He and Owen were waiting outside the meeting room waiting for a decision.
"So, if this goes well, they'll be a lot of changes then?" Owen asked, helping himself to some tea and wishing these stuffy meeting places served coffee.
"I've already asked Rose, she's keen on the idea of a slight promotion and of the prospect of working closely with the patients. I know I wanted private as well as health service patients but we will have to have a balance," Johnnie told him, accepting the fancy cup from Owen.
"Yes, well we know where most of the money will come from, if you and Rose are getting married, you'll need all the money you can get," Owen told him, stirring his own drink. "I hope you know what you're letting yourself in for Johnnie?" he raised his eyebrows.
"Rose is not like my ex you know Owen, she's not out for what she can get. Rose has a humble background, she's just happy at bettering herself," Johnnie defended his now fiancée.
"Hey, I'm on your side," Owen laughed, raising his free hand. "All I'm saying is, don't do all these expansions for the wrong reasons. If you take on too much, think of her. It's all very well making more time for the new patients but what about when you're married and you have a family? You need a fine balance Johnnie, make sure you get it right or it will be for nothing," Owen advised him.
Johnnie stopped pacing up and down the fancy waiting room and sat down. Yes, he did have Rose to think about and a future family. Would what came in with new patients from the health service be enough? He couldn't bring himself to discriminate against those who couldn't afford his private fees. He did still have a waiting list for those who wanted to stay at the clinic and only one person was ready to leave.
"Then we'll have to find that balance Owen," Johnnie replied. "I can't just take private patients, that would not be fair on those who can't afford my fees. So, we have to work out a way."
"I agree Johnnie but that depends what they say when we are called back in there," Owen nodded to the closed thick, polished oak door.
Rose was getting nervous for Johnnie as she waited his return. Laura made one of her rare visits to Johnnie's general office and sat opposite Rose.
"Anyone would think it was you facing the board," Laura told her.
"I've got a lot of confidence in him," Rose told her, wishing she'd go.
"I'm on your side Rose, okay, I know I got on your bad side when you arrived but you can't blame me, after his last assistants and not forgetting a certain sister. I thought you were just another hopeful, the others, apart from Martha all ran off or disagreed with his methods."
"Well, I'm not one of them am I?" Rose replied. "Just forget it, I'm here to stay, we're getting married and that makes all the difference. Did you know his ex?"
"Not really, she never deemed to visit the clinic, when he moved here and from what I can gather, she spent very little time at the old place. His patient co-ordinator came with him but was doing a terrible job. He was really defensive of you, I almost got fired," Laura joked.
Rose decided it wasn't worth continuing the hostility and let it go, since Johnnie would be telling her they both had to work together if his plans worked. When Johnnie returned, Rose couldn't tell how it had gone, until he put his arms around her.
"Well, seems like there are going to be a few more changes around here?" he told her when they'd kissed, something they didn't normally do in working hours. "So, what do you want your new title to be?"
"You mean besides Mrs JD Smith?" Rose teased him, playing with his more moderate design shirt buttons.
"Be serious Rose. You could be a receptionist, clinic manageress, take your pick."
"I'll go with whatever you want Johnnie. So, I'll call Donna then? We still have to go visit her dad yet. Maybe we can set off early tonight?"
"Yes, we should call and get some small token, check with your friend first eh? Rose, I have so many plans now but I want you to know, I will not overdo it to the extent we don't have any time to ourselves. You do know that love?" he asked her.
"Yeah, I know your work's important but I'd never think that you'd neglect me Johnnie. You just do what you have to and every teatime, I'll drag ya out – deal?"
"Deal love. Now, have you got much work to do? If not, we could sneak back to our room and I can do what you like the most?" he smiled.
"Yeah, there's nothing that won't wait but I had a call while you were out. You said I could answer your phone so I did and whoever it was hung up. Do ya think it was Simone?" Rose asked him.
"I don't know love," he replied, his arms around her neck and kissing just below her ear. "Until the telephone company invent a way for the public to tell who someone is when they hang up, we had best hope if it was her she will not bother ringing back."
"She'll get a real shock if I keep answering your phone Johnnie," Rose smiled into his side, her arm around his waist.
"Then maybe I should stop answering it love?" he moved her head to smile at her.
As they were about to leave, his phone rang again, Johnnie saying he would get it and if it was the annoying Simone, he would tell her not to call again.
"Let me answer it," Rose insisted as he crossed to his desk. "We just got rid of Martha, I can't go through that again."
"Rose, I promise it will not get as bad," he replied as he picked up the receiver and answered with 'Doctor JD Smith'.
"Johnnie, so you are there after all," came the still French accent though sometimes he thought she overdid it.
"Simone. Did you call earlier?" he had to know.
"Yes, it seems your assistant broke your rule of answering your phone," Simone replied sarcastically.
"Rose has my permission to answer my phone as my assistant but now, well you may as well know, I will be making the announcement shortly that Rose and I are engaged."
"What?" Simone raised her voice that Rose could hear, since she had her arm around his waist and was leaning her head on his back, since she loved the feel of his blue velvet jacket. "Tell me you are not serious?"
"Yes, I am serious so whatever you wanted Simone, forget it and I will thank you not to call again. I suggest you go back to Paris, there is nothing here for you now."
Rose was smiling. "That told her," she giggled behind him, Johnnie trying to waft her to be quiet.
"Well how rude of you Johnnie. I came back because I missed you and even though you snubbed me and made a fool of me at that party, I was still willing to forgive you. I tried to call several times but no-one was answering your phone."
"That's because Rose and I were away for the weekend, which is when I asked her to marry me. Don't play the 'I missed you' excuse Simone, it won't work. Rose and I plan to marry soon, I doubt you will want a wedding invitation?" he asked, knowing Rose was finding this amusing.
"Well, you hurt my feelings Johnnie, I hoped you'd forgive me for going away but we obviously weren't getting anywhere. I thought going away, when I came back then things would be different?" Simone continued.
"What? You mean I would have met more influential people to introduce you to so you could climb further up your social ladder?" Johnnie asked her as Rose almost spluttered.
He held his free hand over the phone and told her to shush. "I mean it Rose, this is not amusing," he whispered to her, trying to stop her putting her finger in a gap between his shirt buttons.
"Johnnie, are you paying attention to me?" Simone was asking him. "Is she there?"
"Yes, Rose is here, since I am in my office and she works here. This is the last time you call, do you understand Simone? I do not want to hear from you again and don't go telling everyone how I broke your heart, you did that to me and everyone knows it was you who left me. Now, Rose has my heart and I trust her with it. Bye Simone, I don't want to hear from you again," he repeated for good measure.
He put the phone down after Rose detached herself and put his arms around her.
"Happy now?" he asked as she rested her head on his shoulder.
"Well I hope she takes notice, I don't want to be on the front page of the social papers," Rose teased him.
"Forget it love, they won't be interested in her now she's not associated with me," Johnnie assured her. "Are we standing here or are you wanting me to take your underwear off in here and kiss you where you like me to?" he asked.
"Best not, Laura was here earlier, she might come back," Rose was still giggling.
"You two made friends then?" he asked as he opened the door for her.
A while later, as Johnnie was under the cover he'd put over him and his fiancée as they'd fallen on the bed, he crawled back up, making Rose laugh.
"Shush love, there will be people around at this time," he tried to warn her.
"Yeah, sorry. You make me feel so good Johnnie."
"Then I am glad to do so my love. I must remember to take out an ad in the morning newspapers, to announce our engagement."
"Do ya have to? I mean can't we keep it quiet?" she asked him, running her finger on his chest.
"You want to wait and announce we got married?" he smiled, going to kiss her cleavage, her bra just hanging loose.
"Well yeah, unless ya wanna make something big out of it?" she smiled back.
"Whatever you want love. We still have to set a date anyway. Why not ask your friend to be your maid of honour?"
"Oh crumbs, I've not even called her yet and told her, I forgot all about it, with waiting to see if you could go ahead and get more patients."
"Then go in the office after tea and call her. We were going to see her father but since we have been otherwise occupied?"
"Excuse me, it was your suggestion, mister can't keep his hands out of my knickers," Rose giggled.
"That is not true, that also includes other parts of me," he corrected her. "Want a demonstration?"
They were the last to arrive for tea, something the others were going to have to get used to while they were still living there. Rose went off after Johnnie unlocked his office, since she didn't want to call her friend from the entranceway.
It was Donna's mother who answered the phone.
"Oh, hello Mrs Noble, is Donna home yet?" Rose asked, since she'd no idea where her friend worked.
"Is that Rose? Hold on, she's in the kitchen. How are you dear?"
"Fine, I have something to tell Donna, she'll tell ya. How's Mr Noble?" Rose asked, since she was going to ask Donna anyway.
"We're on our way to the hospital, we're just waiting for James to arrive. It's not good Rose, he's a lot worse, they don't expect him to get any better," Sylvia told her.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Rose replied, wishing Johnnie had stayed. "I was gonna ask if we could come and see him?"
"You mean you and that Doctor Smith?" she was asked. "I'm sure he'd appreciate it Rose but he's not in a very good state, he's on a breathing machine so he's not coughing as much. Thank you for offering but it's not a good idea. I'll get Donna for you."
Rose was sad to hear her friend's dad wasn't getting any better. Donna tried to sound cheerful as Rose told her that she and Johnnie had got engaged.
"I'm really pleased for you Rose. Are we meeting this Saturday? I expect you'll be wanting to spend the weekends with him now?" Donna asked her.
"What? No, I don't want to stop our Saturday coffee morning Donna. I have something else to ask. How's that job of yours?"
"Which one? I left the travel agency, that manager was a bit much. Mum's friend's trying to get me into where she works, a PA job in a new copying business, not that it'll ever catch on, who'd use such a thing?"
"Then, you might be interested in a job I know's coming up?" Rose laughed.
"Stop messing around Rose, what job?" Donna wanted to know as her mother let James in.
"Just a personal assistant's job, interested?"
"You're leaving now you're engaged?" Donna let everyone know, including her cousin who had hoped Rose would change her mind.
"Not exactly. Johnnie's extending the number of patients, I'm gonna help with that so my job will be vacant. It's yours if ya want it?"
James was nudging her that they had to go.
"I have to go Rose, we'll meet on Saturday morning then?" Donna asked, taking a swipe at her cousin.
"Leave off dumbo," Donna mouthed at him as she put the phone down.
"Rose got engaged?" her mother asked, mainly because she thought she'd heard wrong.
Donna was about to answer when the phone rang again. Donna answered it cheerfully but her face turned as she listened. James took the phone from her to hear the hospital telling them her dad had just been transferred to the intensive care ward and they were needed urgently.
Rose went to find Johnnie after locking the office door and told him Donna would think about it.
"She's worried about her dad," Rose told him as he took the key. "She says it's not a good idea to go see him, they were on their way I think."
"Never mind love, at least you offered. Want to watch TV?" he asked, since the were in the lounge.
Thursday morning, Johnnie had gone off, Rose was trying to make sense of the plans he and Owen had come up with and had a load of phone calls to make and letters to send out, which wouldn't please the accountant she thought. She answered the phone just after Johnnie had brought her some coffee and a kiss, it was Donna.
"Hi Donna, wanna take that job?" Rose asked cheerfully, thinking that as why she'd called.
"Oh, that's not why I called Rose. My dad passed away last night," Donna told her, a hint of crying in her voice.
"Oh Donna, I'm so sorry. Were you all there?" Rose asked, hoping they were.
"Except granddad, he'd had a bit of a cold so he stayed at home. It was last night, they took him to intensive care the night before, we got the call after you rang. Mum's in a right state, she's not stopped making all the arrangements and calling everyone to tell them. I don't think it's hit her yet," Donna replied.
"If there's anything I can do Donna, just say. Let me know when the funeral is, we'll be there and don't worry about the job, he's not looking for anyone else. The thing is though, well ya might have to live in, it's a long way from Chiswick."
"Well I'll have to think about that now Rose, leaving mum and granddad might not be such a good idea. How soon would it be?" Donna asked, since she'd no job now.
"I'm not sure, things have to be decided yet, it might not be for a while. Anyway, you just worry about your mum, I'll call mine and tell her."
Rose waited for Johnnie coming back in and got up, flinging her arms around him and beginning to cry. She hadn't known Donna's dad that well, when she'd visited with her mother, he'd been pottering about in his garden shed.
"Hey, love what's wrong?" he asked as he tried to sit her down, not caring the door was still open.
"Donna's dad died last night," Rose sobbed as the phone rang.
Johnnie picked it up then put it down again - it could wait.
"Oh Rose, I am so sorry. Have you told your mother yet?" he asked, getting a tissue for her. Rose shook her head. "Then call her love and whenever the funeral is, we will all go, even if we have to get a taxi, your mother will never fit in my car. I was thinking of replacing it anyway, I mean if you want her to come and stay. Come on, leave all that for now, have the calls transferred to Valerie."
"No, I can work Johnnie, honestly," Rose insisted as she put the phone receiver back.
She called her mother, who was understandably upset and said she'd see her as usual on Saturday unless she wanted to come over on Sunday, to see how things went. That was Johnnie's main concern – Jackie Tyler having lunch with the staff, well those that were in and they'd have to take over the TV lounge.
So Sunday morning after taking their time before breakfast, Johnnie set off to collect his future mother-in-law and hoping Mickey had gone off with Martha so he wouldn't be hanging around. He rang the buzzer to be admitted to the block of flats, smiling at Rose trying to remember the code last week but thought he'd best not let himself in unless Jackie told him to next time.
"Who is it?" Jackie asked.
"It's Johnnie, I've come to take you to see Rose," he replied, thinking she must already know that.
"Well are ya coming up or waiting down there?" she asked, since she wasn't ready.
Johnnie didn't fancy waiting around, since that other clown from last week may suddenly creep up on him.
"I will come up, I know the way," he replied as the door buzzed.
Jackie was waiting for him. "Rose could've given ya the code," she huffed, reaching for her coat.
"I did not want to presume I was welcome to let myself in," Johnnie replied as he waited while she went to get her handbag.
"Crikey, where did Rose find you?" Jackie laughed, checking everything was switched off.
Johnnie wanted to reply that it was he who had been lucky to find Rose but decided not to bother.
Rose was pacing up and down in the TV lounge, which was where Johnnie had told her to wait, since there would be a while to wait for lunch. She jumped when Celia wandered in.
"Oh, hello Rose, waiting for your mum to arrive?" she asked, since Madge had told her there would be one extra for lunch.
Rose wondered when the poor cook got a day off.
"Yeah, Doctor Smith's gone to get her. I'm a bit nervous about it," Rose admitted.
"Don't worry dear, Laura's away, Sally's gone off, there won't be many of us," Celia replied.
"Yeah but I'm just worried my mum will offer to do the washing-up," Rose grinned.
"Well," Celia laughed, "I'm sure Mary won't object, since she gets her few hours off on Sundays."
Rose supposed the cook could take time off if she wanted.
Jackie had objected about Johnnie's small car, glad she'd put some slacks on and didn't want to imagine Rose getting in wearing her short skirts.
"Shame about Geoff," Jackie suddenly spoke.
"Oh, you mean Geoff Noble?" Johnnie asked. "Yes, Rose was rather upset, she's just waiting to hear about the funeral. Will you be wanting to go?"
"Yeah, don't expect I'll get there, you having such a small car. Would Rose even get in the back?" Jackie asked him, trying to turn around.
"Let me worry about how you get there, maybe I can hire a larger car for the occasion. I will ask Rose to check tomorrow when the funeral will be."
As Rose was waiting, Madge called her to the phone. It was Donna.
"Sorry I never called before, it's been mad here," Donna told her, wafting James out of the way because she'd said she should tell Rose.
"What do I keep telling ya spaceman?" Donna mouthed to him while Rose was asking if they had a date.
"It's okay Donna, I understand, it was the same when my granddad died."
"Yeah, it was a bit of a shock but we were warned. Anyway, it's Tuesday afternoon, Chiswick crematorium, mum said she doesn't want a big do about it so there's just the service there. Lucky with him being in insurance, he had it covered, just the basics though. You and Johnnie will be coming?" Donna asked, James pulling a face.
"Yeah, maybe my mum if you don't mind?" Rose told her.
"No, mum won't mind. See you there at two, the service is at two fifteen, James is taking us to save costs on the car."
Donna said goodbye and whacked her cousin again.
"I told ya James, she's engaged, forget it. What about that nice new gym teacher you were on about?" Donna asked him.
Johnnie arrived with Jackie, her meeting Madge and being shown where Rose was and they sat down for lunch, Jackie surprised there was no dining room but when she wanted to see Rose's room, Rose had to change the subject.
"How can I tell her we're sharing?" Rose whispered to Johnnie.
"She's your mother, I'm not brave enough to tell her."
They need not have worried as Jackie was satisfied after asking if she could stay the night.
"You did say there was a spare room?" Jackie asked Johnnie. "I expect that's Rose's old room then? Not that I approve of sharing but at least you're engaged."
Johnnie had expected more objections but wasn't going to argue with her. She may not be much older than him but non-the-less, he wasn't risking upsetting her.
"Yes, Rose can show you but are you prepared for staying the night?" Johnnie dared ask.
"I don't need much, Rose can tell me how to get back in the morning then, so it's settled. What do you normally do in the evenings? Is there a pub nearby?" Jackie asked.
Johnnie could hardly say he and Rose spent most evenings in their room, doing unrepeatable in public things and dancing, well Rose dancing in just her skimpy underwear and him all over her. She only kept her underwear on to save any 'accidents' such as him or her going for his trousers' zip and even then, one day, there would be no guarantee that would stop him lifting Rose up and well, he wouldn't be responsible for what happened.
They survived a walk to the pub and instead of going in the room they'd been in before, went into the lounge and Johnnie soon discovered Jackie was totally different once she'd had a few drinks. They got her back to the clinic, Rose making sure she got into bed then Johnnie went to warn Madge to give her free reign in the morning, since Rose had warned him what she'd be like.
"I understand, Doctor Smith," Madge assured him as he'd just caught her. "I'll try to warn the cook. Will she be visiting every weekend?"
Johnnie hoped not but expected it would become a regular thing.
"That's up to Rose," he just replied, making some tea for him and Rose and wishing he had the facilities in their room. "Just treat her as a guest for now, I'm sure she'll tell you if she wants to be treated otherwise. Just don't let her and the cook have a fall-out eh?" Johnnie smiled, hoping Mary wouldn't take offence if his future mother-in-law tried to cook her own breakfast.
He got back to his and Rose's room, Rose already in her dressing gown with just her underwear on beneath it.
"I warned Madge," Johnnie grinned when he'd put the hot drinks down and gone to unfasten the robe, putting his arms around her waist.
"Well I hope she doesn't try to take over the kitchen," Rose smiled. "She's not used to staying out anywhere. I hope you didn't feel like you had no choice but to let her stay though?"
"Not at all love, she is welcome but maybe you can convince her not every Sunday?" he replied, thinking he'd no chance.
"Well you know the alternative?" Rose giggled, unfastening his shirt buttons. "Johnnie, once it starts getting cold, we won't be able to go many places anyway."
"True I suppose. When it does get cold and I start wearing my sweaters, you will be disappointed there will be no shirt buttons to unfasten love," he joked as the shirt parted. "Then what will you do?"
Rose smiled, running her finger down to his middle. "Take your sweater off?"
"I was hoping you'd say that love. Now drink your tea and take advantage I still wear a shirt eh?"
Rose didn't need to be told twice. She was perfecting her keeping quiet technique when Johnnie crawled under the sheets and removed her underwear. She found it all still thrilling but she knew if she kept shrieking all the time, the others would start talking again and they'd just got them to stop.
"Johnnie, did ya warn Laura my mum might be lurking around in the morning?" she asked him when he'd got up as far as her tummy.
"Your mother decided to stay without warning love. Let us hope Laura does not think we took on a new patient without telling her."
Rose let out a giggle. "Yeah, I can just picture her face in the morning when my mum comes out of the bathroom."
"Stop it love, I'm sure your mother will make a point of introducing herself," he replied.
Rose needn't have worried as they arrived in the kitchen the next morning, Johnnie half expecting the cook to have given up and either refused to keep working or had disappeared but Jackie was sat drinking tea and was talking to Celia, Laura not yet present, which to Rose was a new one on her.
"There you are Rose," her mother greeted her. "I was just telling Celia here that you were always late for your breakfast."
"Thanks Mum, I'm sure she didn't want to know all about me before I came here?" Rose asked her.
"I'm sure your mother didn't mean anything love?" Johnnie replied, helping Rose with her chair and Jackie staring at him.
Then Laura walked in, followed by Norman and Sally, who was late for a change, having been off for the weekend.
"Everyone, this is Mrs Tyler, Rose's mother," Johnnie informed them.
"Oh don't be daft, call me Jackie," she told them all as they took their reduced spaces since Molly had been sent to find another chair from somewhere.
Then Owen walked in as the others were seating themselves.
"Oh, what have I missed?" he asked as he sat opposite Jackie. "You have to be Rose's mother then?"
"Yeah, how did ya know?" Jackie asked, Rose thinking that was it now, she'd keep finding excuses to come round more often since Owen thought himself a bit of a charmer.
They got to know Jackie over breakfast and as they were leaving, Johnnie got some coins out of his pocket and gave them to Rose.
"Here, offer to pay your mother's bus fare love," he hinted as everyone said goodbye to her and Rose swore her mother would get up and start washing the dishes. "Walk her to the bus stop and make sure she knows how to get home eh?"
Rose reached to kiss his cheek.
"Yeah, thanks. I'm sure she'll want to come back, everyone seemed happy to have her here," Rose replied.
After Jackie got her coat, Rose was waiting to take her to the bus stop and tell her where to get off and change buses. Madge saw her waiting at the bottom of the stairs.
"Your mother's visit seemed to go well," Madge told her as Rose leaned on the inner door frame. "You expected it to go worse?"
"Just a bit yeah. She's not used to being waited on. I'm just gonna see she gets on the right bus to get home," Rose replied as her mother came down the stairs.
"It was nice to meet you Jackie," Madge told her.
"Yeah, everyone's been so friendly. Rose, when ya talk to Donna again, tell her I'll try to get to her dad's funeral will ya?"
"We'll take ya Mum," Rose assured her as they went outside. "Johnnie could always borrow Owen's car for the day, I'm sure he was already planning to do that."
"How does he manage to get his long legs in that car of his?" her mother asked, nodding towards the green sports car.
"I've no idea Mum," Rose grinned, looping arms with her. "He's thinking about changing it anyway but I like it. It's really easy to drive."
"He lets you drive it?" Jackie asked as they walked to the bus stop. "I'm gonna go into town first before I go home. I know how to get home from there."
It was the first time Rose had stood there since the scuffle with Martha and it didn't bring back pleasant memories. She'd thought they would be waiting opposite.
"So, have ya seen anything of Mickey then?" Rose dared ask as they waited.
"Thought you weren't interested any more?" Jackie replied.
She was if it meant he kept Martha from spying on her and Johnnie.
"Not really, just it keeps Martha away. She was watching us Mum, every time we left the clinic and it scared me. She was jealous of me getting together with Johnnie. If ya see Mickey, don't tell him I got engaged, he'll see it in the papers, well if he reads the classy ones, not those cheap ones with nudes on the front page anyway."
Rose thought they were pretty safe, since that was all Mickey had started getting hold of a newspaper for. How low had society become that putting semi-naked girls on the front page was required to sell more copies? At least Johnnie had a more reputable newspaper delivered every morning. He didn't need to see so-called 'models' showing themselves up staring at him from the kitchen table anyway – not when she showed herself off to him.
The bus arrived, Rose waved to her mother then went back inside. Now that was over with, all she had to worry about was Mickey and Martha staying away from them and Donna accepting her old job when Johnnie started his plans to expand the clinic.
Johnnie successfully persuaded Owen to lend him his car to take Rose and her mother to her friend's father's funeral and they went to collect Jackie the next day. Rose had teased he was wearing a more conservative jacket and trousers and that he'd dug out a black tie for the occasion.
"You find it amusing love?" he asked, looking serious as she observed him.
"Sorry, I know it's a serious occasion, I wish we weren't even having to go. We'd best get off, it's a fair way to my mum's then all the way across to Chiswick."
"Maybe your friend will decline the job, now this has happened?" Johnnie asked as they got ready to leave.
He'd already got Owen's car keys after breakfast, Owen instructing him how to handle a bigger car. Rose had thought it was funny.
"I had a larger car before this one," Johnnie assured his friend and business partner. "I will bring it back in one piece, before you leave for the day."
"I was joking Johnnie," Owen laughed, looking at Rose. "Give my regards to your friend and her family will you? Maybe you should let Rose drive it."
Johnnie saw Rose was hiding behind her coat collar.
"So you agreed with him?" Johnnie asked as they were leaving, Rose straightening her face.
Then she saw him smile. They set off to collect Jackie, Rose admiring the way Johnnie did actually handle a bigger car.
"So, now you're driving a bigger car, mum will expect being collected in one every time," Rose joked.
"Well she's in for a long wait love," Johnnie smiled as he stopped at another set of traffic lights, which were becoming the replacement for a normal junction.
"I'm sure these traffic lights were not here on Sunday."
"Maybe they just installed them?" Rose wondered. "I hope Donna's mother got the funeral flowers."
"I'm sure she did love, you ordered them to be delivered today did you not?" Johnnie asked her.
Rose nodded as he eyed her through the mirror.
"I'll call mum from the intercom, no sense in going up. Did you wait downstairs for her on Sunday?" Rose asked him.
"No, she made me go up when I pressed the intercom. She said I should have used the code to get in," he admitted.
"So she was proving a point?" Johnnie gathered, seeing it amused her.
"Ya think?" Rose giggled back, touching his leg, that she had to stretch to do in the bigger car. "If we get a car like this Johnnie, we can drive out somewhere and make out in the back seat," she teased him.
Johnnie thought if that wasn't a hint or incentive, then nothing was.
Rose went to call for her mother, telling her she wasn't going up and Johnnie was waiting on the main road, then going back to the car, got back in the front seat.
"Won't your mother want to sit there?" he queried.
"She's got plenty of room in the back. Will we get there in time?" she asked as Johnnie studied the map of London.
"Yes love. Do you plan going back to your friend's house afterwards?"
"Yeah, mum will want to, you don't mind do ya?" Rose asked, tempted to touch his leg again but people were passing by.
"No love, I expected you would. She's your friend."
Rose got out to open the passenger door for her mother, who asked if they were going to be late.
"No Mum, Johnnie said we'll be there on time, don't worry. Did ya have lunch?" Rose asked, since they'd had a sandwich with their morning break just after eleven.
"I just made something quick," her mother replied, sitting back on the more comfortable padded seats.
Johnnie thought if it kept her mother quiet and Rose was willing to 'make out' on the back seat, he may see about trading his beloved green sports car.
They arrived at the crematorium and he found a place to park just as a funeral procession was approaching the gates but Johnnie said he'd go and check it was the right one as there could be several taking place. He'd just gone off when Rose saw Donna's granddad getting out of a car similar to Owen's and she caught a glimpse of Donna's cousin.
"Come on Mum, it's them," Rose told Jackie.
"Is that Wilfred over there?" Jackie asked her as he put his arm around Sylvia and James got out and stood beside Donna.
Johnnie had reached them and approached Donna but then spotted who could be his almost twin.
"Oh, where's Rose?" Donna asked as James and Johnnie had a staring contest, Donna hitting her cousin's arm.
"Oi, spaceman, go see if my mum's alright," she told him.
"Donna, she's with granddad," James replied, not getting her point.
"I should go get Rose and her mother," Johnnie decided before this went too far.
He wondered if Rose had ever really noticed the striking resemblance he had with her friend's cousin?
Johnnie took Rose's hand as the funeral directors led the way into the small chapel and they sat just behind Donna, who turned around.
"Thanks for coming," Donna managed, a handkerchief held firmly under her nose.
"How could we not come?" Rose asked, patting her friend's shoulder.
After the short ceremony, to which the vicar had asked James to say a few words as everyone else seemed incapable, they watched as the coffin disappeared then followed Donna outside while they waited to collect the urn.
"So, are you all coming back with us?" Donna managed to ask Rose. "Don't worry, not everyone's been invited but your boyfriend and my cousin had better not start a fight."
"Donna, why would they?" Rose asked her.
"Maybe because they could be twins dumbo," Donna replied.
"Can't say I ever noticed," Rose lied as Johnnie was talking with Donna's granddad and her mother with Donna's mother.
The urn collected, it was placed by Donna's mother in a spot they'd reserved in the garden and then everyone else was saying goodbye except those going back to the house. Johnnie followed James's car and once inside, Johnnie took Rose to one side.
"You never said anything about your friend's cousin love," he told her as Rose held a glass of sherry, which she hated and a plate of nibbles in the other hand.
"There was nothing to tell you Johnnie, I hardly know him," Rose tried to assure him.
He had no choice but to believe her. He loved her but other men had sure to have been interested in her or had Mickey warned even Donna's cousin off? Somehow he doubted it, they hardly moved in the same social circle.
Just after four, Johnnie said they should be leaving to get Jackie home and return Owen's car.
"You should have offered to lend your car to Owen," Rose teased him as they tried to pry her mother away from Donna's mother.
Johnnie wasn't paying attention as he was watching James, who had been cornered by an older woman who obviously knew him by the way he was looking uncomfortable.
"Why don't you say goodbye to your friend and I will get your mother?" Johnnie suggested while James was otherwise occupied.
Rose agreed and went off to find her friend, just as she'd steered James away from a distant aunt of theirs.
"James, you've not even spoken to Rose or anyone," Donna reminded him as she saw Rose and Johnnie talking.
"What's the point Donna? She's engaged and she makes a point of twisting the ring on her finger," James replied, feeling dejected.
"Well you took too long spaceman," Donna reminded him. "Women like Rose don't come along very often, you missed your chance, you skinny boy in a suit," she laughed nudging him.
"There was never any chance Donna, when she came around, you hogged her all the time," James reminded her.
"Yeah, I was warning her about you spaceman," Donna replied as Rose approached them.
"We have to get going Donna," Rose told her, wondering if Johnnie was watching or had gone to get her mother.
"Hello Rose, how have you been?" James dared ask before Donna replied.
"Fine. Donna, did ya tell your mum and granddad I got engaged?" Rose asked her.
"I think that's pretty obvious Rose," Donna laughed. "Though not everyone was pleased when I told them."
Rose knew who she meant.
"Do ya want to meet on Saturday Donna?" Rose asked.
"Yeah, it'll be good to get out but no shopping this time, I'm between jobs," Donna replied.
"Then take the job I offered," Rose suggested. "It's yours Donna, we're not even looking for anyone else."
"You've got a permanent job then?" James asked, feeling left out.
"She works for her fiancé s clinic dumbo. I told you who he is," Donna reminded him.
"I know who he is Donna," James huffed back. "Excuse me, I should go check on your mother, Donna. Rose, nice to see you again and congratulations on your engagement."
"Crikey, I never thought he was the jealous type," Donna laughed.
"Leave him Donna. Anyway, I'll buy the coffee on Saturday and think about the job. Give me a call and we'll arrange an interview. I should say goodbye to your mum and your granddad."
She gave Donna a hug, seeing James go into the kitchen but what could she do? She hardly knew him and it was all Donna's fault for playing matchmaker.
Rose went back to Johnnie, who was trying to get her mother to leave as James approached them.
"Hello Mrs Tyler, nice to see you again," James offered his hand to her.
"Did anyone tell ya you two could be twins?" she pointed out, since she'd not left the sherry alone, unlike Rose.
"Leave it Mum," Rose advised her as she slipped her arm into Johnnie's. "We have to go."
"Thanks for coming dear," Sylvia told her. "You have a very charming fiancé, congratulations."
"Yeah, I'm really lucky," Rose smiled, stroking his black velvet jacket sleeve and wondering where he'd been hiding it.
Once they left, Rose had to make sure her mother got up to her flat but she was already sobering up.
"Well, I thought those two were gonna fight over ya," Jackie admitted.
"Johnnie wouldn't do that. He only lost his temper over Mickey being pig-headed Mum," Rose defended him. "We have to go, Owen won't be happy having to wait for his car. We'll see you on Sunday then?"
"Yeah, are ya sure I'm welcome?" Jackie asked her.
"Of course you are Mum. Johnnie and I are gonna wait and save to buy a house, then you can stay the weekend maybe?" Rose suggested.
Jackie agreed and Rose gave her a hug and made her way downstairs.
Yeah, Johnnie was just going to love that suggestion.
Over the next few weeks, they settled down as a couple, avoiding Monica's invitations to 'get togethers' and Johnnie's famous former patients and they'd got used to Jackie paying them visits on Sundays. Donna was still undecided about the job so a month after her dad had died, Rose went to meet her on a Saturday morning as Johnnie's plans were almost in place for expanding the clinic.
Johnnie was just dropping Rose outside the coffee house and he reminded her if Donna wasn't going to be able to take her job soon, either they'd have to look for someone else or Rose would have extra work.
"I'll talk to her Johnnie," Rose was assuring him as he got out to say goodbye. "So, you go collect the new car and pick me up from mum's, yeah?"
"Yes love," Johnnie agreed, wondering how Jackie's visits had extended to her staying two nights but he supposed it saved him going for Rose then going back the next day.
Donna was watching out of the window. Her mother had seemed to have recovered and was trying to get back to normal and was selling the house to be able to afford a smaller one and Donna herself going back to the odd temping job wasn't helping.
"Well you have to do something Donna," her mother had reminded her before she'd set off to meet Rose.
"Well I told ya about the job Rose offered me," Donna had replied. "I'll have to stay there during the week and either come back on Friday night or get Rose to drop me in town on Saturday morning. If I take it, I can give you some money every week. Will you be able to cope now?"
"Yes, we'll manage, me and your granddad, at least the mortgage is easier to manage with this new house," her mother replied, still cringing about all the boxes in the shed at the back. "If you learned to drive, you could come home every night though."
"Well I can't afford a car anyway," Donna had pointed out. "I'll ask how soon they need someone then."
Rose greeted her friend and went to get her another drink and one for herself, then sitting opposite.
"Have you made your mind up?" Rose asked her.
"Yeah, I think so. When can I have an interview?" Donna relented.
Rose laughed. "You don't need an interview, when can you start? Johnnie left it to me, I still have a week to teach you everything. Why don't you come over on Monday morning and see if you like it?"
"Yeah, okay but maybe I'll go back and pack, if I like it, I can talk James into bringing my things over later. I suppose I can pack on Sunday though, if you're sure I'll like it?" Donna asked.
"You'll be fine Donna, you'll fit in and feel at home. Watch out for Laura though, she can be a bit catty but she hardly bothers now. I think it was because of Johnnie, they were all a bit defensive of him when I arrived."
"I remember," Donna smiled. "So, have you set a wedding date yet, seeing he was so keen to propose to you."
"No, we're saving to buy a house and it's cheaper to stay where we are for now. We thought about renting but once Johnnie's new plans take off, we'll have enough to go ahead. They're building some new houses not far away soon, I saw the notice for them and when the show house is open, I'm gonna drag Johnnie along to have a look," Rose admitted.
"Does he know?" Donna laughed.
After they agreed a time for Donna to be shown around on Monday, Rose set off for her mother's flat, calling at the bank to get some cash and smiling at Johnnie's suggestion that people shouldn't have to stick to bank opening hours to get their money out.
While Rose was meeting with Donna, Johnnie had been to a garage to get his car cleaned and was debating whether to back out of trading it for a larger one. He loved that car, it now made him more fond of it since Rose had started driving it but cramming her and her mother in wasn't an option and he couldn't keep borrowing Owen's car. He and Rose had chosen one together, sticking to more or less the same colour and make, just a different model that they'd both agreed was more practical.
Now he thought Rose was planning on starting a family, despite saying she wanted to wait until they got married. He wasn't going to stop her, if she wanted a baby, it wasn't like they didn't have enough practice in that department. As the salesman inspected Johnnie's car while he looked at his new one, he just hoped it wasn't going to be more expensive to run but he'd been assured at the more reputable dealership that what he saved in fuel would pay the extras.
"So, Doctor Smith," the senior salesman was saying. "This is a very nice car, are you sure you want to part with it?"
"Well, personally, I'm regretting letting it go," Johnnie admitted as they sat down in the showroom to do the paperwork. "It's a question of transporting my future mother-in-law backwards and forwards when she comes to stay."
The salesman smiled, he'd heard plenty of similar tales. Johnnie was not however going to admit his fiancée had plans to start a family but what else would the salesman think it was for, since it was classed as more of a family car?
He finally drove off the forecourt in his new car, after being asked to present the relevant documents that declared he was insured to drive it away and had left the documents for his old one. He drove back to the clinic, wishing Rose had gone with him but she'd liked the car and had taken a test drive in it after he had, much to the salesman's amusement.
He couldn't help but show it off once he got back though, since Madge was around and he took her out to see it.
"Very nice Doctor Smith," Madge admired it. "Did Rose find it easy to drive?"
Johnnie smiled. "Yes but she had to move the seat forward. That is something we are constantly going to battle over."
"I expect all couples do that with cars?" Madge suggested.
"Yes, I expect they do. Rose was going to talk to her friend today, about taking over her job so expect her on Monday morning, Rose is quite persuasive when she wants to be."
Madge already knew that, Rose had Johnnie exactly where she wanted him and had him tied around her little finger. She was pleased though that he'd finally settled down and despite the few mishaps over Martha being a nuisance, the former sister had been unsuccessful at breaking them up, thankfully.
"Wait until Doctor Harper sees it on Monday morning," Johnnie bragged.
"He was already jealous of your other one," Madge replied. "Is Mrs Tyler returning with Rose later?"
"Yes, seems we have ourselves a permanent guest for the weekend?" Johnnie laughed, going back inside.
He knew he was going to miss his other car, pulling the cloth top over it, squeezing into the driving seat but it was no longer practical. Maybe when the new way of running the clinic took off, he would give the car to Rose and get another sports model for himself.
Rose had got to her mother's and was trying to give her the money she'd got from the bank.
"Rose, I already told ya, I don't want the money," Jackie was protesting.
"I want to help you out Mum, to make up for when I wasn't working," Rose insisted. "Johnnie gives me an allowance, I don't spend much or pay any room and board so it's mine to do as I like. Put it away if ya want? You never know when you might need it for something."
Jackie saw the look on Rose's face.
"Any news of a wedding date yet?" she asked.
"No, not yet, it's not been that long Mum, I don't wanna rush things. We wanna get a house first, the clinic's okay but I want to start married life in a place of our own. Don't tell Johnnie but there's a new housing development not that far away, I'm gonna hint we go look at the show house. It probably won't be up until the new year anyway, then the rest of them have to be built so we can save up a bit more. We can start with just a two bedroom for now."
"So, is he getting that new car today then?" her mother asked, changing the subject since Rose wasn't giving much away in the wedding department.
"Yeah, he'll come and collect us when we're ready to leave. I think I talked Donna into taking that job, she was still a bit reluctant."
"She probably doesn't want to leave her mother," Jackie replied.
Rose hoped that wasn't aimed at her.
Johnnie came to collect them just after five, Jackie admiring his new car, which kept her quiet all the way back. Once they were alone later, Rose asked him about Donna taking over.
"Well if you say she can do the job, I have no objections love," he assured her when he emerged from under the sheet and the gold coloured quilt Rose had bought now it was colder and he insisted on turning the heater off and leaving the radiator on low overnight.
"Yeah, she's not had much luck with temping after her being off for a week. So, when's it all happening then, the big changeover?"
"Very soon love, there's been a lot happening with putting everything into place. We still have to find a waiting room though, any ideas?"
"Well, Donna could move in with Valerie, it's a large office and Owen's hardly ever there and you could use your other office and we could convert our office by moving things around and getting some chairs." Rose suggested, wanting him to go back to what he'd been doing.
"I knew there was a reason I was marrying you," Johnnie replied, diving beneath the bedclothes again.
As he settled with Rose sprawled across him, he wondered though if it was such a good idea to have Donna and Valerie in the same office, since Valerie's current boyfriend worked at one time with Donna's father. Maybe he'd have to think carefully about that?
Donna found her way to the clinic after she called Rose for directions on the Monday morning and Rose greeted her when Madge had let her in.
"So, this is it?" Donna asked, not caring she was stating the obvious.
"Yeah, Johnnie will join us after his first sessions. He's gonna be even more busy now though, since we'll be taking more out-patients soon. I'll go get us a drink then I'll tell you about the job, though I'll still be doing some of it. We're trying to decide where to locate you though, have you any objections sharing an office with Doctor Harper's secretary?" Rose asked, since Johnnie was going to speak to Owen about it.
"Well no, I'm used to sharing an office. So are you staying in this one?" Donna asked.
"Yeah, we were thinking of making this the waiting room but we're not sure yet. Johnnie has another office down the hallway, a smaller one so he can manage there, this is more the general office. When I first came for my interview, I thought I was gonna be working in there. Since then, Johnnie's spent more time in here so we can catch up on things. Right, drinks then I'll tell ya what to expect."
Johnnie finally joined them and they invited Donna to stay for lunch to meet everyone and she could help Rose afterwards for a few hours then go get her belongings, when she'd made her mind up.
Rose wondered why her friend wasn't so enthusiastic about it, since she'd been handed the job on a plate and she just had to say yes to it. When Johnnie had gone off again after lunch and Rose thought Laura was bound to put Donna off, she asked her friend what was wrong.
"I never worked away before," Donna had to admit.
"No, it's not that, what is it? Was it because I told ya about Valerie?" Rose wanted to know.
"No, I can deal with that, if she doesn't keep on about how her Frank worked with my dad. It's Lee," Donna had to admit.
"Why what's wrong?" Rose asked as she stopped what she was doing.
"I thought we were serious but now I'm not so sure, I've not seen him for over a week. How did you and Johnnie manage it so fast?"
"I don't know, we just did. Sometimes Donna, ya just know it's right."
After Donna left, Johnnie came back in the office before tea.
"So, she's taking the job?" Johnnie asked, leaning down to give her a kiss.
"Yeah, she'll give it a try, she's gone to get her things and trying to persuade her cousin to bring her back later. I hope she doesn't invite him in, it was bad enough at her dad's funeral," Rose replied.
"What was it about him you did not like love?" Johnnie wanted to know, leaning on her desk.
"I thought he was too clever for me but you taught me a lot of things Johnnie, most of all not to put myself down and that I could make something of myself."
"You've come a long way in a short time love but I saw the potential in you when you first arrived. One thing though. If Donna comes to work here, I hope you don't intend spending the evenings with her?"
"Nah, we can just watch some TV together then I'll leave, I can't ignore her altogether," Rose replied.
"I would not expect you to love, just as long as we still have the rest of the evenings together. She may make friends with Laura, who knows?"
Donna had got home and before packing, phoned her cousin.
"So, you're taking that job with Rose?" he asked.
"Yeah, let's face it, it was just handed to me, how could I really refuse? So, how are you getting on with that gym teacher spaceman?"
So the next few weeks, Donna would leave early to go back to her mother's on Friday nights and Jackie returned with Rose on Saturday, which suited everyone except poor Minnie, who got the job of tidying the room and changing the sheets at Rose's insistence. Donna was planning going home for Christmas so Jackie was staying over but they were having a party before Donna left and Johnnie had seen the opportunity to announce a wedding date, since Rose was hinting the new houses had got the go ahead and they had expressed their interest in one of the two bedroom houses, after Rose had twisted his arm.
Rose had been shopping for a new dress on the Saturday morning, since now there were no more coffee mornings, Johnnie joking the establishment would miss their patronage. He'd dropped her in the fashion area where she'd been when she'd first arrived at the clinic, though now she knew all his shirts and avoided the clashes.
After he'd dropped her off, he went to the registry office to see how soon they could get a marriage licence, since Rose had insisted she didn't want a big wedding, just a registry office one and since he wanted to announce a date at the party, got all the details and asked if Rose needed to be present to make the application. Now all he had to do was go see this house Rose had her heart set on when it was complete but it meant they'd have to stay at the clinic until the one they applied for was completed but he didn't think she would mind.
He'd settled on a spring wedding, 25th March and hoped Rose was agreeable, since she could never settle on a date and they would have been engaged for six months, which he thought was a reasonable length of time and was surprised how he'd lasted that long without Rose being his wife. To him though, she already was.
The day of the party, everything was being wound down, Jackie was making her own way over and James was collecting Donna later, since he was going out anyway with his now girlfriend and had asked her to join them for a meal. All was going well, the resident patients were all invited, the party taking place in their dining room and everyone was looking forward to it.
As everyone helped themselves to the party food and drinks, Johnnie decided before it was too late to make his announcement, since everyone in the place knew they were engaged but one of the patients, Errol, who always seemed to Rose like he was elsewhere, decided to sit in a corner. Johnnie went over to him to try to get him to join in and Rose couldn't help but admire him.
"If I could have everyone's attention," Johnnie announced. "You all know of mine and Rose's engagement. Well, now, I am happy to announce we have decided on a date."
Before they had gone downstairs, Johnnie had sprung it on her.
"So, is that agreeable?" he'd asked her, forgoing their usual evening activities in favour of the party.
"Well yeah, I wasn't tryin' to delay it Johnnie. I just wasn't sure how long we should be engaged," Rose had replied.
"I know love but even so, we should have a date. I can change it, if you wish?"
"No, the date's fine Johnnie, we might have to stay here though."
"It will only be for a while. We still do not know how much a house would cost, it depends on the different styles I expect? We can manage here for now."
Now, Johnnie had announced it and everyone was talking about it, congratulating both of them, Donna wanting to be her maid of honour and Owen agreeing to be his best man. Rose went to join her mother.
"So, whatcha think Mum? A spring wedding. You've plenty of time to choose an outfit. I wanted to ask if you still had your wedding dress?"
"You want to wear it?" Jackie asked.
"I'd love to wear it, I'm not telling Johnnie though, I just hope he doesn't decide to wear his red velvet suit," Rose smiled.
"Maybe he'll opt for a kilt?" her mother joked.
Rose smiled across at her soon to be husband, who had taken some food over to Errol in the corner. Then she saw Susie standing watching them.
"Hi Susie, enjoying the Christmas party?" Rose asked her, now Johnnie allowed her to talk to the patients for a few minutes.
"Yeah, I like Christmas parties. Are you and Doctor Smith getting married?"
"Yeah, in March. Then we'll be having another party," Rose told her.
Since he'd not given all the details, she assumed there would be, even if they had the reception at a hotel or somewhere.
Christmas dinner went well, though Rose couldn't stop her mother offering to help and Mary had so far not been able to stop her. Rose had bought Johnnie a new watch and he'd got her a necklace and later, when they were alone, he had something to ask her.
"Rose, since we are getting married late in March, well, how do you feel about trying for a baby for this time next year?"
"Wow, you mean it?" Rose asked, putting her arms around him.
"Yes, you come off those pills just before the wedding and we will see what happens. Stay on them for now, since you just got another supply of them though," he suggested.
"Well I'm glad Owen gave me a prescription for them, I couldn't have faced seeing Martha again," Rose replied.
"Not even now she has taken up with your old boyfriend?" Johnnie joked.
"That's not funny Johnnie," Rose smiled. "You know what it's like over your ex. Sorry, I just don't want to see either of them again."
"Then I hope you are not inviting them to the wedding?"
"Right, you’re in trouble now," Rose laughed.
They had another party just for the staff on New Year's Eve, Johnnie following the Scottish traditions and in the early hours of New Year's Day, they made their resolutions together.
"I'm gonna promise no more jealousy," Rose laughed as he came from the bottom of the bed after asking her.
"Well, I expect you to keep that," he replied. "I am going to promise we will get our own home and maybe you can have my car and I will get another?"
"Well I might need one once we move, I won't be able to drive if I'm pregnant though."
"You will, for a while love and then when we do have children, you will need one then. So, no more resolutions?"
There was now only a week to go before the wedding. The new side to the clinic was doing well and they'd been able to put down a deposit on a house, not one of the new ones though as Johnnie had a dispute with the builders and withdrew his offer but they had found a fairly new one only a mile away from the clinic with three bedrooms and they were waiting for furniture to be delivered.
Rose was having to take time off to arrange for the decorators to finish the sitting room and kitchen, Rose already liking the bedrooms and bathroom, which had saved them some money but Johnnie wasn't letting on to his almost wife that his budget was somewhat overstretched.
A few weeks previously, he had come to an agreement with Owen to sell him a few more shares but Rose had assumed Johnnie was using his savings. So when an old friend contacted him on his private phone, which Rose no longer answered since he'd moved into his other office, he'd been tempted.
"How are things going?" Simon had asked him.
"Simon, not seen you for a while? Do you need a consultation?" Johnnie had asked.
"No, I need something else and you're the only one I can think of. I need you to supply something for me," Simon had replied.
Johnnie had an idea what that was, not that he hardly used it these days since he knew Rose disapproved of it but he did now and then, under controlled conditions but never used it himself any more.
"You know I can't do that Simon," Johnnie had replied. "If my fiancée found out, well I don't know how she would react. Besides that, it's controlled, I have to account for it, not just financially but to the medical board whenever they choose to do an audit. Why ask me?"
"Come off it Johnnie, I know you're getting married, it's been all over the papers," Simon laughed. "My other supplier got caught for something else, the idiot and I need another."
"Well that's not going to be me, sorry Simon," Johnnie had laughed.
"No, I can find someone else for that, it's just a one-time thing, I'm desperate Johnnie and reason tells me you could use the extra money and no-one need know about it. I bet your fiancée has expensive tastes?"
"You met her once, well not that you were taking much notice Simon," Johnnie had reminded him. "Have you any idea what would happen should I get found out?"
"You're a clever man Johnnie, you'll think of something," Simon had scoffed. "I need an answer tomorrow, my supply is running out."
So Johnnie had carefully thought about it. Rose wanted at least two bedrooms furnishing, she'd not wanted to use things from their room in case they ever had to stay over for any reason and now, she was buying curtains and 'borrowing' Norman to put them up for her as well as other little jobs she was finding for the handyman.
So he'd no choice but to relent and had arranged to meet his friend at the pub and when Simon excused himself to the restroom, then so would he. He'd had to lie to the family of Errol, saying that the treatment was expensive but he was willing to let their son try it to see how it would help. Then all he had to do was sign it off and when Errol had no improvement, he could say he'd tried and the family wouldn't be any wiser.
He hated himself for it but he'd taken Rose to the pub a few nights later, on the Monday and the wedding was on Saturday at the local registry office and if Rose ever found out, she would surely leave him. They were getting ready to leave for the pub when Johnnie said he needed to collect something from his office, where he kept the substance in a locked cupboard and Rose waited by the door while he went back.
"Going out again Rose?" Laura asked her. "So, when do you move into your new house, on your wedding day?"
"Yeah, it should be all ready. The decorators will be gone by Wednesday, hopefully. Johnnie's not saying where he's taking me though," Rose smiled.
"Maybe to Blackpool again?" Laura teased her.
Johnnie was in his office, debating if he should go through with this. There was still time to back out, he could use the excuse Rose had found out or he couldn't explain where it had gone but Rose would be disappointed when the two nights he'd planned in Paris would have to be cancelled, the flights were already booked, he just had the hotel to pay for but he wanted this to be special, they were still planning to have a baby for Christmas or maybe in the new year.
The money would also come in useful now he had to start paying a mortgage. No, there was no backing out of it as he unlocked the cupboard and went in the small box. He would have to be firm with the other man and tell him this was the only time. He didn't want to get locked up by doing the same as his foolish friend's contact had nor did he want a police record, him being a respectable doctor but most of all, Rose may never forgive him.
He'd have to explain to Errol's parents that he'd tried but the results weren't as he expected and he'd have to do the paperwork himself, he couldn't let Donna do it.
Rose was wondering what was keeping her almost husband when he was locking his office door. She'd still not got used to not sharing an office with him. Donna was coming out of the TV lounge at the same time.
"Sneaking off?" Donna asked.
"Rose and I are just meeting some friends Donna," Johnnie replied, nodding to Rose.
"Well, I expect that'll all change once you two get married?" Donna asked him as they approached Rose.
"You could come with us?" Rose suggested.
"You don't need me tagging along and besides, Lee might call," Donna replied.
Donna still hadn't got much further with her on/off boyfriend but she was very persistent. She hadn't thought Rose would get anywhere with Johnnie either but there was less than a week to go until the wedding.
As Rose and Johnnie walked down the road to the pub, Rose was feeling sorry for her friend.
"Has she invited him to our wedding?" Johnnie asked, trying to cheer her up.
"I think so, I hope he turns up, I'll have to aim my bouquet at her," Rose managed to smile.
"Donna was suggesting we won't have many nights out, once we got married. I hope that's not the case?" he asked.
"Well we don't go out much anyway, do we?" Rose smiled as they reached the pub. "I hope it's not too smoky in there?"
Johnnie held the door for her then he spotted his friends, Simon paying attention as they walked in. Rose wondered where the woman he'd been with when she'd first met Johnnie's friends was but thought the poor woman had got tired of being ignored all night.
They talked for about an hour then Simon announced he needed the men's room so Johnnie laughed and said so did he and kissed Rose's cheek.
"I won't be long love, do you want another drink?" he asked.
"Nah, I'm fine, we should leave soon anyway, this smoke's getting to me," Rose replied.
"You are longing for the day all pubs go smoke-free," Johnnie smiled, seeing Simon disappear through the door.
Johnnie followed him, hoping no-one else would.
"Have you brought it?" Simon asked as he washed his hands.
"Yes, though this is one time only Simon, if Rose catches me, well I don't want to think about it," Johnnie replied, getting the small packet out of his inner jacket pocket.
Simon got his money out of his own pocket and handed it to Johnnie.
"If I could have found another supplier Johnnie, I wouldn't have asked you. Don't worry, your fiancée won't find out from me, I may have found another source. You should wait until I leave, don't want the rest of them talking about us," Simon told him.
Johnnie waited, his back to the washbasins and leaning back on his arms. He truly regretted agreeing to help his former patient, it wasn't like Rose did have expensive tastes, it was just setting up a house and the new clinic system. He wished now he could have squeezed in another patient instead, since some only came the once for a consultation and he instructed the family on how to care for their relative.
He could only try and forget the whole thing, he probably wouldn't be going back in the pub again once he and Rose got moved. He went back to Rose, who thought his friend Simon was being a bit loud for her liking and she had no-one else to talk to. They said goodbye and walked the short distance back to the clinic.
"Sorry love, you didn't seem to enjoy that," Johnnie apologised.
"It's not your fault Johnnie, never mind. I wish Donna had come with us," Rose replied.
"Then we must go out with her and her sometimes boyfriend," Johnnie smiled as they reached the clinic.
By Friday morning, Rose was more nervous than ever. Donna had assured her she could handle the outpatients for the day as Valerie had offered to help with Donna's work and Johnnie's appointments had been cancelled for a week, which had also not helped with his cash flow.
Johnnie was taking Rose to her mother's later in the afternoon, her spending the night there, since the wedding was at 10am and Owen had agreed to go fetch her and her mother just after nine. Rose was in Donna and Valerie's office, having finished off what she was doing and the next outpatient was due in ten minutes.
"You have to stop being so nervous," Valerie was telling her.
"Forget it Valerie, I've been trying to tell her that," Donna laughed, getting up. "Come on then, show me what I'll be doing the rest of the day."
Donna switched her phone to forward to Rose's desk and followed her friend.
"I'm not nervous Donna," Rose tried to tell her.
"Who are you kidding? Are you sure that dress fits?" Donna asked her.
"I've tried it on three times Donna, it's fine though maybe a bit big for me, which is why we'll be up at the crack of dawn pinning it in," Rose replied.
After she showed Donna what to do and the next patient arrived, Rose went off to pack what she'd need to take wherever Johnnie had arranged for them to go, though he'd given her a clue by telling her to get her passport out and give it to him but he wouldn't say any more.
She left her case by the room door and went down to the kitchen to get a drink and wait for Johnnie. Madge noticed her and followed.
"Ready to go?" Madge asked her as Molly made her a drink, having been told Rose was a nervous wreck.
"Yeah, I'm just waiting to go to my mum's," Rose told her. "Am I suppose to feel like I'm overwhelmed?"
Madge had to laugh. "There would be something wrong if you weren't. When you're in your dress tomorrow and you walk towards him, you'll forget all your nervousness."
"You'll be there, won't you?" Rose asked.
"Yes, don't worry, we'll be there. You just get yourself there," Madge replied as Johnnie walked in.
Once in the car, Rose was more quieter than usual as they drove towards her mother's.
"Owen knows where my mum lives, doesn't he?" she finally asked.
"Yes, he knows love. Maybe you should have just stayed in Donna's room eh?" he replied.
"We're suppose to stay apart, the night before the wedding," Rose reminded him.
"Well we never bothered with the other traditions love," Johnnie smiled. "You would tell me, if you thought you were pregnant, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah, ya know I would Johnnie, maybe I'm just too wound up over the wedding?" Rose replied.
"Yes, maybe so. After the reception tomorrow, we spend the night in our new house love."
"Yeah, I'm really excited Johnnie, I didn't think everything would be ready in time," Rose told him as they reached her mother's estate.
"Want me to come up with you love?" he offered.
"No, I'll be fine. So, I'll see you at the registry office then?" Rose asked as he went to get her case.
"I can't wait love," he replied, kissing her cheek. "Should I call you later?"
"Yeah, thanks though I'll be in bed by ten," Rose smiled.
"I will miss you tonight love," he told her.
"I'll miss you too Johnnie. This time tomorrow I'll be Mrs JD Smith," Rose answered proudly.
Johnnie watched her cross the road and head towards her mother's flat. He knew she'd become that the day she walked into his office.
Jackie had decided they needed a little celebration and had a few friends round, Rose excusing herself just before ten. When Jackie had seen her friends out, she knocked on Rose's door.
"Getting worried?" she asked Rose.
"Why is everyone asking me that?" Rose wanted to know.
Johnnie was now on his own, having given in when Owen talked him into going to the pub and he'd decided to stay overnight on the sofa in his office so he could set off early the next morning to get Rose and her mother.
"You remember where she is?" Johnnie had asked before going to his room.
"Stop worrying, I know where I'm going," Owen assured him. "You're a very lucky man Johnnie, she'll be there. Is something else worrying you?"
"No, should it be?" Johnnie replied.
"You tell me? Not bitten off more than you can chew with the house, have you?"
Johnnie had refused to answer.
"You can always sell me another share you know?" Owen offered.
"I need the majority Owen, thanks for the offer though. Now Rose has the house how she wants it, things will be easier. Once I get back, maybe I'll take an extra appointment on, ones that can be easily dealt with?"
"Maybe so Johnnie but don't take on more than you can handle or Rose will drag you out every night," Owen had joked.
Johnnie had smiled at the thought as he'd gone back to their room, which Rose had insisted they kept and had called her before she'd gone to sleep, her mother having gone to answer the phone.
"What do you want at this time of night?" Jackie asked him.
"Can I speak to Rose, please?" Johnnie asked her.
"Well don't keep her on too long, she has to be up early to get ready," Jackie reminded him.
Rose went to talk to him.
"Are you okay Johnnie?"
"I'm fine love, I wanted to make sure you were. I'm looking forward to seeing you in your wedding dress."
"Yeah? I bet you're planning on wearing your red velvet suit?" Rose laughed. "Mum said you may surprise me and wear a kilt."
"That would be no surprise then love, would it?" he joked.
"I don't think I'll sleep much, I'm too excited," Rose admitted.
"You should try though, you are going to need it, for our wedding night," Johnnie replied.
"Yeah, I'll try. Night then, I miss you," Rose replied.
"I miss you too love, I wish you had stayed here tonight though."
"Yeah so do I but you would have seen my wedding dress," Rose laughed.
Before Rose knew it, her mother had tapped on the door at seven and had put a mug of tea on the bedside table.
"Rise and shine Rose, it's your big day," her mother greeted her. "Howard will be here at half past eight then he's making his own way to the registry office and I hope your flowers arrive on time."
"Yeah, so do I and I hope Owen doesn't get himself lost either."
"Well I get can Howard to wait for us, I don't know why he couldn't have taken us anyway," Jackie replied.
"Mum, he's only got a two door car, how am I supposed to climb in the back in my wedding dress?" Rose asked her, blowing on the hot tea.
"Well ya might have to if Owen doesn't turn up," Jackie replied. "I'll do your hair first, then I'll make any alterations to the dress. Are you sure you'll be able to get downstairs in it, with those shoes?"
"Well it's too late to worry about that now Mum," Rose laughed.
Johnnie had also been up early, the cook had agreed to make breakfast a little earlier for those who were leaving to get to the registry office. Johnnie was showing no signs of being nervous as they all sat around the kitchen table earlier than normal. Even Laura was quiet – for a change, Johnnie thought.
Over in Chiswick, Donna was up early as was her mother, since Rose had also invited her and Donna's granddad.
"I always thought you'd get married before Rose did," her mother was telling Donna. "Are you sure it's a good idea for James to give us a ride there?"
"He's fine with it mum, he's finally stopped pining after her, not that he knew her that well anyway," Donna laughed. "I hope Lee remembers where he's going though."
"He should do, stop worrying Donna," her mother replied. "Well, how do I look?"
Donna rolled her eyes at the purple and gold suit she'd chosen for the occasion.
"You look like you're dressed up for Christmas Mum," Donna laughed.
"Well thank you for that, it's all your fault, I got it when you were supposed to be marrying Lance the other Christmas, I see no point in wasting it," Sylvia replied.
"I'd rather forget about that Mum, it was two years ago and I've got Lee now, well sometimes," Donna replied. "You know I never talk about it, I mean who disappears just like that on their wedding day? It was like he'd vanished into thin air."
"Yes, well, you don't seem in any hurry to do anything about Lee," her mother reminded her. "Go let James in then," she continued as the doorbell rang.
Owen had parked his car opposite Rose's mother's block of flats and hoped she would come right down when he rang the intercom. Jackie answered it.
"Is that you Owen?" Jackie asked him.
Owen wondered who else she was expecting at that time in the morning?
"Yes, I'll wait in the car for you, is Rose ready?" Owen asked.
"Yeah, she's ready. Are ya sure ya know where ya goin'?" Jackie replied as Rose emerged from the living room.
"Yes, I know where I'm going and I know it's traditional to be late but if you don't hurry, there will be nowhere to drop Rose off," Owen reminded her.
Jackie went back to Rose.
"Well, it's time to go Rose. Howard, we'll see ya there," Jackie told him. Rose stood in front of her. "I wish your dad was here Rose, he'd be so proud of you, marrying a doctor."
"I know Mum. Johnnie said if he had a time machine, he would gladly take me back to see him," Rose smiled, taking her bouquet. "That lift had better be working."
Everyone was gathering outside the registry office. Johnnie had purposely got there late because he was already getting a bit ruffled after Owen had set off to get Rose. Madge went up to him.
"Well, I never thought I'd see this day, Doctor Smith," she told him.
"Neither did I Madge but when Rose walked into my office that day, well I knew then she would be the one to capture my heart."
Madge thought it was a miracle he'd got himself someone who didn't run off or use him for climbing the social ladder. As everyone saw Owen's car pull up, they all gasped when Owen went to help her out of the car and Johnnie knew he'd done the right thing.
Rose was busy arranging her dress when she'd been helped out of Owen's car and Donna rushed up to her.
"How do I look?" Rose asked nervously as her mother was waiting for Owen to help her out of the back of his car but Rose thought Jackie was flirting with him again.
"Stop fussing Rose, you look fine," Donna assured her, holding her bouquet so she could take Rose's.
Rose thought she'd caught a glimpse of Johnnie but he'd gone inside to wait for her, he didn't think she'd want him to observe her straightening her dress and composing herself though everyone else seemed to be doing. He'd also caught sight of who was probably Donna's cousin James with who could only have been her mother in a rather gaudy glittering suit though she probably thought he was wearing his red one on purpose to outdo her.
Owen helped Jackie out of the car, Jackie playing the helpless mother of the bride as she waited for him to lock the car doors.
"I have to go inside now Jackie," Owen told her as she went for his arm for him to escort her inside.
Jackie just huffed and went to join Donna's mother.
"Charming," Jackie told Sylvia. "Donna's paying enough attention to Rose, anyone would think they didn't see each other every day."
"Well Donna's taking it very seriously Jackie," Sylvia replied, thankful her suit wasn't clashing with the mother of the bride's outfit.
"Hello Jackie, you look nice," Wilfred greeted her, James behind him.
"What are you doing here?" Jackie asked James, who wished his current girlfriend had come with him but she'd refused to attend the wedding of the woman he'd pined after until a few months ago.
Wilf defended his grandson. "He brought us here, I'm sure Rose won't mind."
"Actually Granddad, I think I'll wait in the car, I'm sure Rose doesn't want me in there," James replied.
"Don't be daft, get inside," Sylvia told him.
Jackie shook her head and realising most people had gone inside, went off to get a seat at the front as Howard was waiting to escort Rose inside.
"Thanks for doing this Howard," Rose told him as Donna stood behind her, since there was no part of her dress to pick up.
"No problem Rose," Howard replied, Donna thinking he didn't have much to say for himself.
Rose had insisted he wasn't playing the role of the father of the bride, just her escort. As the official on the door gestured which room she was in, she stood for a moment. This was it, she was marrying the man she loved more than anyone else in her life.
Owen nudged Johnnie as he was watching for Rose standing in the doorway.
"See, told you I'd deliver her safe and sound," Owen grinned. He went in his pocket and brought out the wedding rings, Johnnie putting them in his top pocket.
Johnnie turned slightly to see Rose walking the short distance towards him, a smile on her face. He held out his hand to her and Rose let go of Howard's arm and took Johnnie's hand.
"You look beautiful Rose," was all he could say as the registrar called for attention.
As they gave their vows to each other, Jackie and Sylvia were wiping their eyes with their tissues, Celia and Madge were arm in arm a few rows back, Laura was clinging hold of her girlfriend and wishing society allowed same sex marriages. As they went off to sign the register, Owen witnessing for Johnnie and Howard joining them to witness for Rose, they stopped for a few moments for a photo, Owen showing off his new camera as Johnnie stood behind Rose, his hand on hers as she held the pen after signing her name.
"Ready to leave?" Johnnie whispered to her as Howard went off.
Rose nodded and let him help her up.
"I'll go wait by the door," Owen told him, patting Johnnie's shoulder.
They emerged from behind the screen, everyone talking amongst themselves as Jackie had turned to talk to Sylvia.
"I like your outfit Sylvia," Jackie was saying, wiping the tears with a damp tissue.
"I got it when Donna announced she was getting married, there was no point in buying another outfit Jackie," Sylvia replied.
"Yeah, things must be a bit tight now you're on your own?" Jackie asked, just as Rose and Johnnie emerged.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr and Mrs Jonathan Smith," the registrar announced, the couple hand in hand.
Everyone stood and began clapping, well the women were clapping inbetween wiping their eyes. Owen was at the back taking photos as they stood at the front, then Johnnie led her the short distance to the door and they posed for the camera.
"Why didn't they get a photographer?" Sylvia was asking Jackie.
"I expect they had a lot of other expenses?" Jackie suggested as Rose passed her. "They had the house to furnish. I hope Owen knows what he's doing with that fancy camera?"
Rose and Johnnie were posing in the doorway then Johnnie led her outside, standing on the few steps. Owen wanted everyone to stand behind them, indicating for them all to move closer. After he took some of just Jackie with them then some with Donna, Johnnie led her to his car to drive to the reception at the pub they went to, having secured a private room for the occasion.
Johnnie had wanted it in the clinic but Rose hadn't been keen on having Mary do the extra work, that had caused him even more expense. Now the money he'd got from the 'deal' he'd done with his former patient had almost been used, he'd just enough extra money to pay for things once they got to Paris. Luckily though, the money should start coming through from the extra patients the health service were referring to him now he'd got things sorted.
"I hope no-one ties anything to the car," Rose smiled as they drove off.
"They are bound to love, when we leave the reception. Tonight, we spend our wedding night in our new home," Johnnie replied.
"Is my change of clothes in the back?" Rose asked, feeling a bit conspicuous in her wedding dress as they drove along when they stopped at some traffic lights.
They got to the reception first, Johnnie getting Rose's overnight case out of the back and locking the car as people were arriving. Since the pub wasn't yet open to the public, it had been arranged for them to use the side entrance and the landlord had made it plain that no drinks could be bought until it was open. The staff were waiting for them, the cake had been delivered, Johnnie was relieved to see and a table had been left by the door for those who were bringing presents.
"We should stay here love," Johnnie told Rose as she looked around. "We have to greet our guests."
"Yeah, I know Johnnie," Rose smiled as her mother appeared at the door with Howard.
She could have sworn her mother had been flirting with Owen again earlier. Maybe it was time Howard got around to doing something?
The guests were leaving presents on the table, Johnnie shaking their hands and Rose with her hand held out as the men kissed the back of it. She was glad she'd opted to wear the thin lacy white gloves her mother had dug out of a drawer and washed for her.
The music had been put on, someone who Owen knew had agreed though Johnnie was glad he'd not asked his former patient to provide the music. Johnnie had not dared to tell Rose how much the whole thing had cost but it was what Rose wanted, he could think of the consequences later.
As Owen waited for everyone to find a table, he called their attention. After making the customary jokes about the groom, he called for Johnnie to make his speech. Johnnie of course was well rehearsed in the art of speaking in public.
"Thank you Owen, you can write my next lecture for me," Johnnie began. "I promised Rose I would not give a long speech, she kindly reminded me I was not lecturing an auditorium full of students, for which I thanked her properly. As those who work at the clinic with us will attest, the place was turned upside down the day Rose walked into my office for her interview as my assistant."
There were murmurings from the staff who were attending, Celia speaking up.
"Yes, the day she arrived I warned her about Doctor Smith being a bit of a charmer," she began telling everyone. "She seemed to have worked that out for herself."
Everyone laughed and Johnnie turned to his new wife.
"Well, she helped me in more ways than anyone could imagine and it took me no time at all to get her to agree to be my girlfriend. So Rose, I raise my glass to you, the love of my life."
Rose was trying not to blush the colour of her name as Johnnie held out his hand so they could cut the wedding cake. Everyone was talking as music played quietly in the background after they'd all got up and helped themselves to the food. Rose had just wanted a simple buffet since it was quite early and they were planning on going back to their new home later in the afternoon, when everyone decided to go home.
Donna was sat next to her cousin.
"So, why didn't you bring your girlfriend, spaceman?" she nudged him.
James had wanted to leave them there and go back but his aunt had said not to be silly and that it was too far.
"I told you, Donna, it didn't seem like a good idea. I should have just dropped you off, I don't know how I got talked into staying. I bet Rose is wondering why I'm here and looking at her new husband's like looking in the mirror, except I've got better hair than him," James replied, flicking his hair for the effect.
Donna tried not to choke with laughter.
"Is that all you're bothered about James?" she asked him, seeing Johnnie get up. "You've only yourself to blame, you weren't persistent enough going after her. She told me you were too clever for her but she didn't seem to think he was."
"Stop reminding me Donna," James told her, getting up. "This was a terrible idea, I'm off to sit in the other room now the bar is open."
"Don't go drinking James, you have to get us home," his aunt reminded him.
"I know, which is why I'm going to just sit there with a pint glass and just sip at it. Anything's better than watching them," he replied, pushing his chair back.
He got to the door just as Johnnie got there, since he'd excused himself to visit the men's room.
"You must be Donna's cousin?" Johnnie asked him as James allowed him to go first.
"Yeah, lucky me," James replied, thinking it was like talking to himself in the mirror.
He wondered what possible difference Rose had found between himself and her now husband, where had he gone wrong?
"Does Donna talk about me?" James continued, since he thought he may as well pay a visit himself.
"I've heard her mention you. She used to joke with Rose about us looking alike and Rose thought you were too good for her," Johnnie admitted.
"She did?" James asked, wondering if that was the only reason Rose had avoided him.
"I taught her that she's just as important as any person who has letters behind their name. I have plenty but it makes no difference to me where Rose came from. If you ask me, she's more clever in some ways than I am," Johnnie smiled, going to wash his hands. "I should get back, it was nice to meet you James," he continued, smiling as his almost double in the mirror.
Johnnie almost collided with his new wife and Donna as he came out.
"Going to powder your nose love?" Johnnie smiled at her as Donna went ahead.
"You got me," Rose giggled, the effects of the drops of champagne she'd drunk as everyone had toasted the happy couple.
"Don't be long love, we have to lead the first dance soon," Johnnie reminded her, kissing her cheek.
He went off back into the large room he'd hired for the reception as Rose watched him. She was about to turn towards the ladies room when James came out of the men's.
"Hello Rose," he tried to smile, trying to avoid her stare.
"Hello James, long time no see? So how have ya been?" Rose asked him, still feeling the effects of the bubbly.
"Fine. So, you're married now?" James replied, wanting to kick himself for stating the obvious.
"Yeah, I'm really lucky I met Johnnie. Donna said you'd found someone, a gym teacher?" Rose asked, thinking Donna had to go and rub that in a while back.
"I did, she left me for the physics teacher. I guess history wasn't her thing but I met someone else, not at the school though, she's a journalist actually but I didn't think it was a good idea to invite her today, not that she'd do an article on the wedding," he grinned. "I should let you get back then? You shouldn't keep your new husband waiting. He's a very lucky man Rose, you did well for yourself."
"It wasn't a question of that," Rose replied. "I thought I had to settle for temping jobs and boys who lived on my estate but Johnnie taught me differently, he made me see I was just as important as anyone else."
"So he told me," James admitted. "Well, good luck then, don't let me keep you."
Rose watched him walk off in the opposite direction towards the bar area just as Donna came out.
"Rose, have you been snogging that new husband of yours out here?" she laughed, James now being out of sight.
"Can ya blame me?" Rose grinned, now sobering up slightly. "You go back in, I won't be long."
When she got back inside, the tables were being moved to the side and the floor was ready for the dancing as the DJ started to play some lively tunes. Then Owen went to speak to him, telling him to call for the bride and groom to take the first dance.
"Everyone, the happy couple will now lead the dancing so Rose, Johnnie, the floor is all yours," the DJ told them as Johnnie helped Rose up. "I've been told this is your favourite song Rose."
He started playing 'A girl like you', Rose smiling at her now husband.
"This was the first record you bought me," she smiled at him. "Do ya remember we crammed into the booth in the record shop, after that book signing?"
"I do indeed love, I was carrying that book I signed for you and now, my new one is out soon," he whispered back to her.
He knew once that was out and he got the money from the advance, he could maintain the lifestyle Rose wanted, not that it was anything fancy but she herself coming from a not so well off background, she didn't seem to realise how much things cost these days. He didn't mind, he'd given her the impression money wasn't a problem to him but it had become so recently, with the wedding, since he didn't expect Jackie to be able to pay for it and the expense of the house.
He only wished as the song came to its end that the book had been released earlier or he'd put the wedding back because he hoped his friend Simon wouldn't ask him to betray his policy of only using the drugs he'd supplied for his patients. If Rose ever found out, well she may just divorce him as fast as she'd married him, it had been bad enough when she'd found out he used them in the clinic for the worst cases.
As they parted and everyone was clapping and cheering, Rose whispered back to him.
"I don't know how you found the time to write another book Johnnie."
"Neither do I love. More champagne?" he replied.
"You have to drive us home or am I driving?" Rose grinned as he led her back to their table, which was now between her mother's and Donna's, Johnnie wondering how they'd managed that.
Johnnie was approached by the pub landlord, who told him the cake had been cut if everyone wanted to go get a piece, Donna hearing them and going to claim her own.
"You should go find James," her mother told her when she came back with three slices on a plate.
"Yeah, I suppose so then, though why he couldn't have stayed is beyond me," Donna replied, getting up again.
Rose heard her friend. "Don't worry about him Donna, he probably didn’t want to be here and see me getting married."
Johnnie was talking to Owen, who had attached himself to Jackie's table after the three women from the clinic were talking amongst themselves and Laura's girlfriend was looking bored as they talked about Rose's dress. Sally had gone back to the clinic to make sure there had been no medical emergencies, since she didn't really like parties.
"I tell you, it's her mother's dress," Celia was trying to explain.
"Well it looks lovely on her," Madge declared, glancing across as Johnnie was making a fuss over her just as Owen caught his attention when he came back with cake for himself and Rose.
"Seems everything went well," Owen was telling him as Donna passed behind him. "Sneaking off Donna?"
"I'm off to find that cousin of mine Owen, if that's sneaking off?" Donna asked him.
"I think she likes me really," Owen laughed as Donna went off.
Then he noticed Jackie was glaring at him. "Enjoying the party?" Owen asked her as Howard looked like he wanted to be somewhere else.
"Yeah, I wanted to dance though," Jackie hinted to Howard, who'd had the same pint glass in front of him since the bar had opened.
"Then allow me?" Owen grinned, getting up.
Rose laughed and told Johnnie she wanted to dance as well.
"Okay love but I thought you were getting changed?" he asked as they followed Jackie and Owen onto the dance floor.
"Yeah, after this dance then? I'll ask Donna to help me and Mum said she'll take the dress back but maybe I could keep it, if she lets me. I mean if we have a family, our daughter should get to wear it."
"Yes, she should, she will be as beautiful as you are in it love. Now, one more dance then you go get changed, Donna just dragged her cousin back," Johnnie smiled.
Donna had found her cousin talking to another man, not about Rose's wedding she'd hoped as she went up to him.
"Coming back to the reception?" she asked him. "Everyone will be starting to leave soon, the room's only booked until three. Come and say goodbye."
"I'd rather not Donna," James replied as the other man took the hint and got up to refill his glass.
"You've not even touched that drink, come on, I saved you some cake," Donna insisted.
"I don't want any cake Donna. I'll come back in when you're ready to leave."
"Well we will be leaving soon so bring that drink if you must but if you've not touched it by now, you can't be that bothered about it," Donna told him.
So he'd given in and followed his cousin after she nagged him and the other man he'd been talking to moved to another table. He'd just sat next to his granddad when Rose and Johnnie went back to their table.
"Donna, will you help me get changed now?" Rose asked her.
"Yeah, sure. What are you doing about your dress?" Donna asked her, getting back up again.
"I think my mum's taking it back with her," Rose replied, going for her small case now under the seating.
They both went off, Owen finally persuaded Jackie he needed a rest from dancing and he went to sit opposite Johnnie.
"Well, Johnnie old boy, your life is never going to be the same now," he laughed.
"I already know that Owen – I knew it the moment I set eyes on her. I would appreciate some help getting the presents into my car," Johnnie replied, thinking Rose and her friend would take their time.
As they moved towards the table with the presents on, a few people Johnnie knew all came up to him and thanked him for inviting them. Johnnie was about to take a handful of presents to his car when Donna came out of the ladies room.
"Are you even going to get all those in your car?" she asked him. "Good thing you got rid of that green car then," she laughed.
"Where's Rose?" Johnnie asked her.
"Making herself look good for you," Donna grinned, holding the wedding dress over her arm. "I should get this back to her mother before she leaves."
"Rose told me you were supposed to be getting married a few years ago, sorry," Johnnie told her.
"Yeah, I don't think about it any more, he disappeared, end of story. You look after her or you'll answer to me, got it Doc?"
Johnnie tried to do a mock salute without dropping the presents, which Rose would never forgive him for if some were breakable. As he went off to his car, Rose was looking at herself in the mirror, the first time she'd really been on her own as it had begun to sink in. She was finally Mrs JD Smith, as Johnnie preferred to be known as and she was the luckiest woman in the world.
She was sad though that her dad never got the chance to see her getting married but soon, she hoped she and Johnnie would have a daughter of their own and Johnnie would be able to give her away.
Little did she know of what was going to happen and the tables would be turned.
After their honeymoon in Paris, Rose comparing the view from the tower as far more romantic than being in Blackpool, except for his proposal, they tried to settle down as a married couple, going home each night and being on their own.
Johnnie was of course always on call should an emergency occur but things had been running smoothly and the extra money he got from the health service for treating out-patients had meant he could employ the extra staff and another part-time general doctor, who was willing to be called out at any time as she lived close by.
Rose got on well with Doctor Elizabeth 'Liz' Bates, who was a bit older than Johnnie but well respected and had done a course on psychiatry, which had got her the job.
Rose and Johnnie had been married just six months, it was September 1967 and a lot was going on. Rose was forever playing the latest Beatles LP when they got home, Johnnie saying if his methods of treatment seemed odd, the band members had tried it themselves, making Rose laugh.
"Oh come on Johnnie," Rose teased him one night late in September after they had eaten. "I love this new album, it's their best ever," she insisted, trying to get him to dance as he sat down with the evening paper.
"You dance for me love," he insisted, finally admitting he need his specs for the finer print.
Rose had a big smile on her face.
"I was talking to Liz today," she began telling him, sitting beside him.
"For pleasure or medical reasons?" Johnnie asked, raising his eyebrows.
He knew Rose never stopped to gossip with the latest member of the medical team, she did enough of that with Donna and Valerie. Donna had moved out of the clinic after Valerie split with her man and had moved in with her, which had encouraged Madge to insist Liz took the room but she preferred to be in her own place but Madge didn't like the room being empty all the time, now Jackie no longer stayed that often.
The only time Jackie stayed was if Rose and Johnnie stayed over for any reason though they'd moved most of their things into their new home and only the bed and large armchair remained.
Rose put her arm in his and he took his specs off, initiating a kiss.
"Well, I went to see her 'cos, well I'm a couple of days late," Rose smiled. "Hadn't ya noticed Johnnie?"
"Sorry love, I did wonder why you were not a little 'off'", he smiled back. "So, what did she say?"
"To wait a few more days then she'll do a test. Whatcha think about it then?" Rose grinned, Johnnie putting his arm around her.
"Well you had a false alarm a few months ago love, you did say sometimes it shifted a few days, not that I specialise in women's problems," he replied, moving her hair to kiss her cheek.
"That's why she said to wait but I have a feeling I'm right this time. I've not mentioned it to anyone else yet, I wanted to make sure."
"I know you want to make sure love," Johnnie replied.
They'd discussed it many times, hoping Rose would get lucky just after they got married but it hadn't been for the lack of trying every chance they got. Now though, the mortgage rate had gone up and he didn't want to worry his wife about it and the clinic was over-stretched as it was and he couldn't afford another psychologist on the medical team, part-time or otherwise.
They were comfortable enough, if Rose was pregnant, he'd have to employ someone else to do her job and as it stood, Rose didn't take much in the way of a salary, he just gave her an allowance and paid for the food and bills. Maybe Donna would be able to juggle two jobs or she could take over and he could get someone part-time to do Donna's job.
Maybe he'd have to give in and sell Owen another share or hurry his next book along. His old friend Simon hadn't called recently, after he'd refused the man a few months ago and if Rose found out, well he wouldn't have to worry about still paying for the house. She would surely leave him and go back to her mother's and he'd move back to the clinic so that wasn't an option.
Rose waited over the weekend and went to see Liz between the out-patients appointments, just before lunch.
"Hi Liz, can I come in?" Rose asked from the doorway of the office she shared with Owen, who was hardly in it these days.
"Sure Rose, come back for the same thing?" Liz smiled at Rose.
Rose nodded and went to sit opposite.
"Yeah, nothing's happened yet Liz, I've never been this late before but I feel fine, well so far."
"Get on the bed then and I'll examine you but after your last false alarm, maybe it's just you getting excited of the prospect?" Liz told her, going for her medical bag.
After gently prodding Rose and listening for any signs, Liz let her up.
"Go do me a sample Rose, I thought I heard something faint but just to make sure," she told Rose.
Rose came back and handed the small container back, a grin on her face.
"Should I come back after lunch?" Rose asked.
"Yes, you do that," Liz replied, mainly so Rose wouldn't be pacing up and down or looking over her shoulder.
Rose thanked her and went to find Johnnie, who was just coming out of his short session with the residents.
"Hi Johnnie," she greeted him, grabbing his arm. "Can we go to your office for a minute?"
"You have something to tell me?" he asked as he closed his office door.
"Maybe after lunch?" Rose smiled. "Liz is doing a test, I think she was glad I left her to do it on her own."
"I just bet she was love. If the test is positive, we have some things to work out."
"Hey, I can still work ya know," Rose told him. "I just sit at a desk Johnnie, it'll be a while before I have to give up then when I've had the baby, I can come back to work."
"Rose, you know I don't want you to do that love," Johnnie replied. "I want you to be a full-time mother until our son or daughter is old enough to attend school. Then you can come back and work the hours to suit."
"Yeah, I know Johnnie, I just thought maybe I could bring the baby with me, I mean use our old room as a nursery and get one of those new baby monitors."
"We will discuss it later love, it depends how you feel about it once the baby comes along. First though, you have to get the results," he smiled, going for a kiss.
Everyone noticed Rose was on edge as they ate their lunch.
"Something wrong Rose?" Laura had to ask her.
"No, why should there be?" Rose replied, looking to see why everyone was staring at her.
"Well Liz is missing," Laura teased her. "I saw you coming out of her office a while ago."
"Well stop jumping to conclusions Laura," Rose replied, trying to avoid looking at the empty chair.
"Leave it Rose," Johnnie warned her, knowing the two of them still liked to goad each other. "If Rose has anything to say, she will do so when the time is right Laura."
Just then, Liz walked in, going to take her seat and trying not to look at Rose. Rose however was dying to know the results.
"You are nervous about something," Celia noticed.
"It's nothing," Rose still insisted, Johnnie putting his hand on her knee.
"Leave it love, don't let your lunch go cold eh?" he asked, thinking if she was pregnant, she needed to eat.
Before the next outpatient was due, Rose just had time to catch Liz going back to work and followed her.
"Yes Rose, it's positive, about five weeks," Liz informed her. "Congratulations, I could see you were anxious but I didn't want to tell you in front of everyone."
"Thanks, Johnnie might tell everyone at teatime or maybe tomorrow, I think we'll be leaving early again, it's nice going home and eating on our own."
"I can imagine," Liz agreed. "I'll arrange for you to attend the clinic, there's one not far away."
"I can't go there Liz, for a few reasons," Rose replied.
"Whyever not?" Liz wanted to know. "You can go to the hospital but it may be some time before they want to see you. I'd prefer you went to the clinic before then, to see the midwife."
"Yeah, I get that. Liz, has anyone told you about the sister that used to work here?" Rose asked her.
"I've heard her mentioned but not that much," Liz admitted. "Who was she Rose?"
"Her name was Martha and she almost split me and Johnnie up. She had a thing for him, he let her go but when she found out about me, things got ugly. She finally went off with my ex, I don't know what happened after that but she got a job at the clinic and I can't face her Liz."
"Rose, she's probably forgotten all about it," Liz tried to assure her.
Rose wasn't so sure but if Johnnie could find time to go with her, it would prove a few things to Martha Jones. She'd asked her mother if she'd seen anything of Mickey and had been told he'd at least got his old job back and hadn't been seen hanging around the courtyard with Jimmy.
"Well okay but I'll have to get late appointments though, I'm not going on my own," Rose relented, wanting to make sure everything was okay.
"Good, you need to take care of yourself Rose but if your visit upsets you, I'll have to see if the maternity hospital will see you earlier. They may insist though that you go through the clinic. Just try to avoid her," Liz told her.
"That's easier said than done," Rose admitted.
She went back to work and didn't get time to tell Johnnie until they were ready to go home.
"So, was the result positive?" Johnnie asked as they got in the car.
"Yeah, five weeks but she wants to send me to the clinic where Martha works," Rose replied.
"Never mind that love, Martha must know by now we are married, she may have changed," he tried to assure her.
"Well I hope so, maybe I'll get someone else, if I'm lucky," Rose tried to smile.
Now Johnnie had some decisions to make. Did he take on extra patients or cut back on staff? The one he didn't want to have to settle on was give in to his ex patient so maybe it was time to talk to Owen again? Owen had the advantage of no wife and no girlfriend, well not that he'd admitted recently but he didn't want to give up being the majority shareholder. There was still a way to go yet but that would put Owen in a better position to be consulted at the slightest alteration to the way the clinic was run.
As they drove home, he didn't want to worry Rose just yet that he was doing a fine balancing act. Once home, they celebrated the news and Rose called her mother.
"You've not had another false alarm have you?" her mother asked Rose.
"No Mum, it's true this time. You're gonna be a granny," Rose laughed.
"Well can I tell everyone this time?" Jackie wanted to know.
"You mean the knitting club?" Rose smiled at Johnnie, who was listening.
"Well, would ya rather pay for baby clothes?" her mother asked. "I'll ask around, see if anyone's got a cot and a pram they don't need. You might get them for nothing or next to nothing, it'll save ya some money."
"Yeah, I know Mum, ask around then but not just yet," Rose relented.
"Well when are ya gonna find out what you're having?" Jackie continued.
"Not yet Mum, I have to go to the clinic to get booked in, I just hope Martha ain't there."
Rose said goodbye and went to sit next to Johnnie.
"Don't worry about Martha love, just tell them you would rather see someone else eh?" he suggested. "Now, from today I am going to take extra care of you. Don't think though because you are pregnant I won't want you to still dance for me," he smiled, going to lift her pink top.
Rose finally got her appointment at the baby clinic, after arguing on the phone she could only get there for four-thirty and not at two when they'd first wanted her to attend. So when the day came, Rose was waiting for Johnnie to finish his last appointment at four, since the clinic wasn't that far away. She was standing by the door as Madge came along.
"Nervous?" Madge asked her.
"A bit, more about it being Martha I have to see," Rose had to admit.
"Well don't you let her go upsetting you," Madge told her.
Johnnie noticed she was quiet on the way there and they arrived with five minutes to spare. They walked up the new walkway to where the midwives were based and went up to the desk. Rose could have sworn it was the same girl she'd seen on her first visit downstairs.
"Name?" the girl asked, not looking up.
"Rose Smith, I have an appointment at four thirty," Rose replied, putting the card on the desk.
Johnnie had looked around to make sure there was no sign of Martha but assumed she may be elsewhere. It seemed to him the clinic had a dual purpose since there were no babies around and only two women who appeared to be further along than Rose was.
"Take a seat, the clinic's running late, there was an emergency earlier," the girl told her.
She followed Johnnie to the front row of the waiting area and put her arm in his.
"Why are you so worried love?" he asked quietly.
"Why do ya think?" Rose smiled.
"As far as I recall, Martha was not a midwife love," he smiled back.
"I wouldn't put it past her she didn't become one, after we got married," Rose replied.
That made him smile. Rose was eventually called in to see the midwife, who was a bit surprised Johnnie had gone in with her.
"We don't get many husbands coming here," the midwife told him.
"Well I am a Doctor myself though I don't practise in general medicine, though I will be taking great care of her," Johnnie replied, taking Rose's hand.
"I know who you are, Doctor Smith, I'm sure you will be taking care of your wife. Now Rose, how are you feeling? Are you being sick yet?" the midwife asked her.
Rose had been warned it was only a matter of time before that would happen. Before she left, she was asked if she wanted to be booked in at the local hospital or go elsewhere.
"Yeah, that one's fine," Rose agreed. "I heard that ya can have a scan of the baby, is it available at that one?"
"Yes, they'll send for you but some hospitals charge you for it, well if you want a photo. Just ask when you get an appointment."
Johnnie knew Rose would want to go for one, that meant more expense and he'd already mentioned to Owen about selling another share and they were going to discuss it with the accountant. The next morning though, Johnnie was just taking a break when his ex patient rang.
"I've told you before Simon," Johnnie answered when he found out who it was and wished the telephone company would invent a phone where you could see the number before you answered.
"Come on Johnnie, think about it," Simon replied.
"No Simon, I only just managed to cover it the last time," Johnnie replied.
When he thought about it, he did have a few new patients whom had been admitted and may be suitable for his unusual method and some were already on it with their family's consent and though Rose didn't like it, she'd not interfered.
"I need someone I can rely on Johnnie and you being in the medical profession, you won't get caught," Simon told him.
"You think it is easy, covering the fact the substance should go to the patients?" Johnnie asked him.
"Well some of them must be on it, just say you increased what you gave them, no extra charge," Simon laughed.
"My wife would go crazy if she found out," Johnnie reminded him. "She barely tolerates the fact I restrict using it."
"Well, I need an answer Johnnie, I thought I would give you the option before I found someone else. Call me when you decide, since you've got a wife now. Any family on the way?" Simon chuckled.
"None of your business Simon," Johnnie replied. "I'll give you my answer tomorrow."
Johnnie hung up and went to meet Owen and the accountant.
"Well Doctor Smith," Graham told him, as he'd come in specially at Johnnie's request, since he'd thought it had best not be left. "You know if this goes ahead, your majority will be cut significantly?"
"Yes, I'm aware of that but, well, this goes no further yet, Rose is expecting," Johnnie admitted.
"Well congratulations Doctor Smith," Graham told him, since he was the last to know. "This will mean more expense."
"I'm aware of that though her mother has enlisted the help of the women of the estate in knitting baby clothes and gathering baby goods no longer required," Johnnie smiled. "We can manage but Rose has no idea how much things cost and the mortgage rate has recently risen."
"Don't have that problem Johnnie," Owen grinned. "You should have invested in a house when they were cheaper, like I did."
"I thought being on the premises had its advantages," Johnnie replied. "So, what amount do you recommend Mr Hayes?"
After they had agreed the minimum to cover Johnnie's expenses that would keep him and Rose going for another year, Owen agreeing to pay by instalments in case Johnnie changed his mind and wanted to buy some of them back, he'd gone over a few more figures with Graham after Owen had gone to take a session with the residents.
"So Doctor Smith," Graham addressed him, looking up from the ledger. "How does it feel to know your wife is expecting?"
"It's good, yes, we are both very excited and my mother-in-law is pleased, like I said. I never knew people on estates stuck together like that. It will save us a lot of money, she said most of the women are gathering what they don't use though Rose insists we don't collect the goods just yet," Johnnie smiled, at the thought of using the spare room to keep it all and Jackie trying to find space for everything in the smaller area.
That was yet another thing, he thought. Jackie would have to share a room with the baby if she were to continue her visits, which he'd cut down to every other week but maybe for now, he'd keep that but once the baby came, the bed would have to go into the other room, which was still undecorated, since Rose would want a proper nursery for their first child.
"Well I can recommend where you can make a few savings, without you having to raise more capital and maybe I have a way of getting more money out of the health service? How would you feel about them paying you slightly more for each patient they refer to you?" Graham asked him.
"How can you do that?" Johnnie asked, wishing the man had told him earlier before he'd agreed a sum for the shares Owen was going to take from him.
"Leave it with me, Doctor Smith, I've successfully done so with other medical establishments, it just takes some careful negotiations," Graham replied with a smile. "I can apply the same methods as my other clients, I've been quite successful so far but it may take a while. Meanwhile, if you give me permission, I can reduce some of your outgoings? I'm sure you will be pleased with the results."
"Then please do so," Johnnie replied. "Just give me the details."
"I will have them for you on Monday," Graham replied confidently. "I'm sure you will be pleased. Until I can negotiate with them, I will go ahead with the transfer of the shares, unless you care to wait?"
"I'm not sure," Johnnie admitted. "That was just an informal agreement just now over them?"
"Yes, nothing is binding until you both sign. Do you wish to wait?"
Johnnie was thinking about it. It was very tempting to put it off, take the money Simon was offering for a small amount of the drugs but would the man keep pestering him every time someone let him down?
"I will let you know on Monday but be ready to transfer them," Johnnie replied.
Should he think about it over the weekend or tell Simon he'd do him a favour one more time? Would that one time turn into more? He had Rose and the baby to think about, if Simon got caught for possession, he may give up the name of his suppliers then he himself could be in serious trouble.
The only way he'd get out of it was to put Simon on the books as a patient but to do that, Rose would have to be told. Then he had an idea what Graham intended – to start making house calls and if he was very careful, he could add Simon to his list and supply the substance and get the extra money, since hardly anyone was actually being given it.
Most of his outpatients had never been bad enough to be prescribed it and he'd not mentioned it to any of their families when offering treatment. He had money tied up after obtaining the drugs legally and they were sitting there doing nothing, locked in his cupboard.
Rose deserved the best of care, that he knew but if she ever found out? She knew he had a friend called Simon, she'd met him a few times over the last few months, would she believe he was being taken on as a patient again? Maybe he wouldn't have to make house calls, if he got the man to agree to an appointment, a private one. If the man was desperate, he would come to the clinic.
The money from him would more than keep Rose happy, plus if Graham's plans worked, he wouldn't have to sell Owen any more shares. He was about to call Simon when he stopped. What was he thinking? If he put Simon on his list of patients, Rose would call it into question. He had to say no the man, he knew Simon only now got in touch with him for the same reason.
He picked up the phone and dialled his ex-patient's number.
"Got some news for me Johnnie?" Simon asked him.
"Yes, sorry but I can't do it Simon, my wife would never forgive me if she found out," Johnnie told him.
"Not even if I come to you as a patient?" Simon wondered.
"It won't work, she knows about you being a patient before, she'll ask questions. Besides, even if it were to be just a short consultation, it would be on your record I prescribed the stuff for you and she would see. No Simon, I can't in all good conscious do as you ask."
"Then I'm sorry too Johnnie but I could recall to others how I first got started on it," Simon told him. "What if your new wife were to hear?"
"You wouldn't?" Johnnie had to ask.
"I would hate for her to find out in the newspapers Johnnie, were I to talk to them about how I sought help during a tricky spell when the authorities were chasing that pirate radio ship I was on. I then might accidentally tell them I didn't want to try your new method of treatment but once you persuaded me, I got hooked and you deserted me. What would your wife think then?" Simon asked him.
Johnnie knew he was caught. If Rose found out he had actually at first encouraged a few people to try his new treatment though most of them had successfully been treated and once was more than enough, she may go crazy and it could affect their marriage and her having the baby.
"Still there?" Simon asked. "I need an answer Johnnie. Maybe you could make a house call or do you want to meet somewhere, preferably not the pub, it looks suspicious when you follow me out," he laughed.
"Call Rose on my clinic number, make an appointment with her, she'll squeeze you in somewhere but this is the last time Simon, I swear it is so find someone else," Johnnie relented.
"We'll see, I told you I have no-one I can rely on. How you cover the fact you supplied me once again is up to you but I think I'll call her and ask for a home visit. You do make house calls?" Simon asked him sarcastically.
"No but I expect that will happen sooner or later, I'll have to tell her I'm thinking about it. She won't like it, she thinks I'm over-worked as it is," Johnnie replied.
"Then you'd best hope she can fit me in on Monday, I'm running low on my last supply," Simon told him. "Same price as last time then?"
Johnnie couldn't argue but the next time he needed to order, the price would have gone up and he'd no idea how much by.
"This time but it's the last time Simon, I have my wife to think about. I'll tell her I've spoken to you and you need help and you are going to need an appointment but you will have to come here, I can't risk being seen going to your apartment," Johnnie replied.
"I heard Monica's having another party on Monday night, weren't you invited?" Simon gloated. "Oh, you're off her list since you got married. I'll have to persuade her to let you in, alone then," he laughed.
"I am not going to one of Monica's parties, forget it," Johnnie replied angrily.
"Tell your wife you have somewhere to go then, I don't care how you do it but meet me there on Monday night or do I have to remind you again how you gave in so easily the last time? I hear the mortgage rate has risen?"
Johnnie knew he had no choice but this was the last time.
"Fine, I will see you there but I'm not staying. If you get caught, you are on your own, I can cover where what I sell you went," Johnnie told him firmly.
"That's more like the old Johnnie," Simon laughed. "See you at Monica's then?"
Simon hung up and Johnnie put his head on his arms, leaning over his desk. If Rose got suspicious, she may not let it go but he only had to manage until Graham revealed the way the clinic could get more money out of the health service and there was always Owen to fall back on.
So he made his mind up to put selling the shares on hold and wait for the accountant to work his magic and hope Rose wouldn't find out where he was really going on Monday night – when he'd thought of a suitable excuse for going out on his own.
It wasn't Jackie's weekend to stay with them, Johnnie thinking it was just as well since he had a lot on his mind. Rose however noticed on the Sunday night.
"Something wrong?" Rose asked innocently.
"Nothing love. Just I have to go somewhere tomorrow evening, will you be okay on your own?" he asked.
"Yeah, it's not like you though. Anything I can help with?" she offered.
He knew she and Monica detested each other, especially now they were married.
"Just a meeting love," he had to tell her, hoping she wouldn't find out where he was really going. "It's to do with expanding the clinic."
Then he had an idea to raise more money so he could tell Simon where to go if he dared call again.
"I thought of trying to get more investors love, instead of depending on Owen all the time. The accountant hopes to raise more money from the health service as well but it never hurts to have another source," he told her.
"So are ya going to the pub or something?" Rose wanted to know.
"No love, I have to go where my contacts will be, at a club in town, men only I'm afraid. One of my contacts will leave word at the door for them to grant me access."
"Ya never mentioned it before Johnnie," Rose pointed out as they lay on the sofa.
"I know, it's been a while since I had to approach them but it's important love or I would not be going and leaving you here. Why don't you invite Donna around? I could give her a ride home when I get back, I won't be drinking, it's not like one of the parties we go to."
"Well we've not been to one for ages, I'll let you off then," Rose smiled, playing with his shirt buttons.
"Are you going off taking my shirt off love?" he smiled.
"What? No, I'm not. Well okay, maybe I feel a little off?" she admitted. "I'm dreading starting to get sick."
"I will make allowances love, no need to worry. You ask Donna in the morning, yes? It's not that far away from where she moved, is it?" he asked.
"No, I could invite her for tea, then she can come back with us?" Rose suggested.
"Yes love, invite her for tea then or we could eat at the clinic?" he suggested.
That settled, he proceeded to show her that her going off having sex wasn't a problem as he unfastened his shirt and Rose lay on his bare chest. Maybe when he had a few minutes, he should look up what to expect when women were pregnant and how to deal with his wife. She was going to want a lot of attention and he was prepared to give her it and make allowances.
Rose asked Donna the next morning and she agreed as they had a lot to catch up on. Johnnie was figuring how to explain the usage of the item Simon wanted and had an idea. He could put him down as a patient if he started phone consultations but he'd have to tell Rose.
That meant digging out Simon's past patient record but in her present frame of mind he doubted she'd be agreeable so he had a session coming up with one of the new arrivals who was very reluctant to talk to anyone and he would just have to put down he'd tried the treatment on him. He really hated this, he should have known better the last time, that Simon would come back for more.
Owen caught up with him later.
"I see you had a session with Timothy earlier?" Owen asked him. "He looked a bit out of it Johnnie, what did you do to him?"
"I thought I would try my alternate treatment Owen, I saw no harm in it. If it does not work, then at least I tried," Johnnie replied. "I need to give him several treatments before I know if it is going to work or not."
"Well you're the expert in that department Johnnie, I'll leave that down to you," Owen replied.
Johnnie had give Timothy the tiniest of amounts and put the rest to one side in his desk and now, he could take the rest with him to meet Simon and tell him that was it. Now he had a decision to make – to stop ordering any more from the pharmacy so Simon wouldn't get any more out of him but there was still some left so he'd have to use it but Simon wouldn't know that.
He and Rose decided to stay for tea, then he took Rose and Donna back to their house and dropped them off, getting out of the car to help Rose.
"Aren't you taking it a bit too far?" Donna asked him as Rose got out.
"Aw, I think it's sweet," Rose smiled, kissing Johnnie's cheek.
"Bye love, I won't be too late back," he assured her.
"It's important, I know that," Rose replied.
The two women watched him drive off, Donna taking Rose's arm.
"Is that the first time he's gone somewhere without you?" Donna asked her.
"Yeah, he's trying to get some backers for the clinic. He's got a lot of plans Donna, the health service don't pay enough," Rose told her friend.
"Well let's hope he gets some results," Donna replied. "So, we have a lot to catch up on, starting with all about the baby."
While Rose and Donna made a drink and Rose told Donna about her visit to the clinic and the fuss Johnnie was making over her, Johnnie drove to Monica's apartment, sitting outside in the car and hoping to catch Simon on his way in. He saw the other man getting out of a cab with a young woman he didn't recognise on his arm and decided now was not a good time to pass the drugs over and get the money so he waited a few minutes until someone else arrived and got out of his car.
He locked the doors and followed the others, just cramming into the lift, one of the men asking how he was.
"We've not seen you for a while, Johnnie old boy," one of the men told him. "Has that new wife of yours got a jealous streak where Monica is concerned?"
"Can you blame her when Monica has the nerve to invite my ex girlfriend to the same party?" Johnnie replied.
One of the women giggled.
"Aw Johnnie, we all missed you darling and we're all jealous of your new wife. Where is she by the way? You won't be able to drink if she's not driving you home."
"I don't intend drinking, Charlotte. Rose is at home for two reason, the first is personal and the second reason is I'm here on business, I'm looking for backers if anyone is interested," Johnnie told everyone as the lift arrived on the floor Monica's lavish apartment was on.
He wondered if one day, he'd be able to afford a place like this, by the river for himself and Rose after they had raised a family. He knew they wouldn't stop at one, whatever Rose was carrying, she would want to even things out. Everyone got out and the door seemed to open on its own but Johnnie laughed at what Rose had said the last time they'd been there.
He looked around to make sure Simone wasn't lurking around somewhere but if she'd been invited, she would make a grand entrance after everyone had been awaiting her arrival. Maybe she wouldn't turn up though, if he himself wasn't on the guest list. He saw Simon getting a drink and went over to him.
"Hello Johnnie, on your own?" Simon asked, taking no notice of the woman who was with him.
"Yes, Rose is feeling a little unwell. I had hoped you would be here, could we talk?" Johnnie asked him.
They were about to wander off when Monica caught up with them.
"I'm surprised you're here, on your own Johnnie. I take it you have a reason?" Monica asked him.
"I called you Monica, did you forget?" Simon asked him, trying to think of a reason. "Johnnie, I told you I'd talk her into letting you crash the party."
"You were a little vague on the telephone Simon. So, where's your new wife Johnnie?" Monica asked him.
"Ah, well, she's just discovered she's pregnant and she's a bit unwell," Johnnie replied, hoping it would get back to Simone. "I asked Simon to get me an invite, I'm trying to get backers for some plans I have for my clinic."
"That's where you used to go wrong Johnnie, no wonder Simone used to get bored. Well don't let me stop you but Simon, I wouldn't have thought you'd be interested in backing him, being a former patient," Monica told him.
His female friend almost spilled her drink.
"What? What kind of patient?" the woman asked.
"Thanks for that Monica," Simon told her. "It's nothing, I was just having some therapy Amanda, it was quite a while ago. I'm over it now, aren't I Johnnie?"
"I believe so, as long as you think you are but I'd be happy to discuss if you feel like making an investment," Johnnie replied.
"Yes, let's find a place to talk. Don't go wandering off Amanda," Simon warned her.
The dark haired woman just huffed and went to the table of drinks and assorted party food. Simon led Johnnie down the corridor and into what must be Monica's guest room, closing the door.
"This is the last time Simon," Johnnie told him yet again. "I mean it this time, I'm not going to get another supply, it's time I stopped using it as a treatment. This is almost the last, I have a real patient to treat so I suggest you find someone else to help you out."
Simon went into his jacket pocket and got his wallet out, grabbing a handful of notes and holding them out.
"Oh, I don't know Johnnie?" Simon grinned at him. "What If your pregnant wife or your business partner were to learn you've been helping me out?"
"You wouldn't dare Simon, I would claim you forced me, I'm a well respected doctor and you, you're a DJ who is always on the run from the broadcasting authorities. I will tell my wife I've been treating you, she hates me using it but I could tell her you were desperate and paid privately. I've thought about it Simon and while you may think you can blackmail me, I can assure you I can out-think you on that score."
Johnnie took the money and thrust the clear plastic packet into Simon's hands.
"If there is any comeback Simon, I can assure you I have it well covered. I'm only doing it this time for my wife, she needs extra care now but I've got real plans, I'm just waiting for them to go through."
"I could have given you a lot of business Johnnie, can you afford to turn money down?" Simon asked him, putting the small packet in his wallet. "Think how expensive a new baby will be."
"That's why I have my accountant looking into how much more I can get out of the health service Simon. Now, excuse me, I have to make it look like I came here to get backers."
Johnnie turned around to open the door but Simon put his hand on Johnnie's arm.
"A lot of my fellow DJ's would have come to you, what with all the stress of getting chased by the coastguards. I may tell them not to bother and find someone else," Simon warned him.
"You think there is someone better than me?" Johnnie asked, his hand on the door handle.
"You're not the only psychiatrist in town you know Johnnie?" Simon replied.
Johnnie shook Simon's hand off his arm.
"If you only send them to me for the same reason you are now using me Simon, I don't think I would care to treat them," Johnnie replied.
Johnnie left the bedroom and went into the kitchen, having remembered Rose saying that was where all the juicy gossip was. He was talking to two men whom he vaguely knew when he could have sworn he heard Simone's half put-on French accent. How was he going to get out without her seeing him?
He was on his own, Monica wouldn't rescue him, she'd tried to shove them together in front of Rose the last time. The two men he'd been talking to had told him they were interested and would get back to him, leaving Johnnie on his own with just a waiter in the corner slicing up lemons for the drinks.
"Would you do me a favour?" Johnnie approached the waiter. "There's a woman out there, with a French accent, can you offer her a drink and keep her occupied while I get past?"
The waiter smiled. "Yes Sir. You're Doctor Smith, I've seen you here before. Leave it with me."
Johnnie went in his wallet and brought out a small denomination note and waved it in front of the waiter.
"Make sure she can't see the kitchen door and stand right in front of her, I'll be watching so make sure it looks good."
"Yes Sir, give me two minutes, then it should be safe to leave. If you don't mind me saying Sir, I saw what happened the last time, when you were here with another young lady," the waiter told him.
"Yes, well that young woman is now my wife but it will make no difference to the other woman in question out there," Johnnie replied as the waiter took the brown-coloured note.
He watched the waiter load his tray and waited two minutes. Then he carefully looked around the kitchen door and saw the man approaching Simone and getting in front of her. Johnnie saw his chance but maybe he shouldn't have worn his distinct blue suit for work or he'd got changed before he'd left home but it was now too late.
As he made his way through those standing talking and trying to keep his distance, he could see the waiter, making a fuss over Simone and made his way to the door. He had just got there when he heard a female voice behind him.
"Leaving so soon Johnnie?" Monica asked him.
He'd forgotten all about her maybe stopping him from leaving and he bet anything she'd not invited Simone and had just called her and Simone had hurried over. He turned around the face her, seeing the waiter step away from Simone.
"Since you left your wife at home, I thought maybe you'd want to see your old flame again," Monica teased him.
"That's not why I'm here Monica, I told you the reason," Johnnie told her defensively.
"Well you never told me why you're here. Hello Johnnie," Simone told him.
Johnnie knew when he was being cornered.
"Well I am not repeating it and I am now leaving," he replied, going for the door handle. This time it was Simone who put her hand on his arm. "Let go Simone, I have to get back to my wife."
"Ah but Johnnie, surely you can stay a while longer?" Simone smiled at him looking uncomfortable.
Johnnie brushed her hand away.
"It won't work Simone, I have all these witnesses to say you delayed my leaving, were my wife to hear about it. You did know Rose and I got married?" he asked, to rub it in.
"Yes, it was all over the newspapers Johnnie but she's not here, why not?" Simone asked.
"She's pregnant Simone, I saw no point in bringing her here for you to upset her," Johnnie replied.
Simone looked furious.
Simone tried to lash out at him but he grabbed her arm, without hurting her as he was quite used to the patients.
"Have I told you how much I hate you?" Simone growled at him, trying to free her arm from his grip.
Johnnie tried to drag her towards the window, as everyone was staring at them.
"Do you think I care right now?" Johnnie asked her, hoping she wasn't going to make one of her scenes about it.
He let her go, Simone rubbing her arm though he knew he'd not hurt her as Susie did it all the time.
"So your little assistant finally got the better of me?" Simone complained.
"She is better than you Simone," Johnnie replied as everyone forgot about them and Monica was now the centre of attention. "At least Rose does not pretend to be something she isn't, whereas you pretended to be distantly related to the French aristocracy. It won't work Simone, Rose and I are happy and we are looking forward to starting a family. Why did you come here tonight eh?" he asked her.
"You know why Johnnie. Monica called me when you arrived, on your own," Simone replied.
"She had no right to, I only came because Simon and I had some business to discuss. Why don't you go find him eh?" Johnnie suggested.
"Huh!" Simone huffed. "Like that would ever happen, it's a wonder he's not as high as a kite right now."
"Well each to their own, Simone. I am leaving now to pacify my wife why I was delayed," Johnnie replied.
"Does she know you're here Johnnie?" Simone smiled.
"Forget it Simone, like she'd ever believe you. I just told her I had some business contacts to meet and since I have talked to them here, I can go back to her with a clear conscious. She would never believe you over me," Johnnie replied confidently.
"Yes but did she know you were meeting Simon?" Simone gloated. "Come off it Johnnie, it's obvious why you were meeting him, like he would ever invest in your clinic when he was a patient of yours. Oh, I get it, his old habits?"
"Be careful what you imply Simone," Johnnie warned her. "Do you know what Rose would do to you, her being pregnant or not?"
"You are bluffing Johnnie, she wouldn't do anything to harm the child she's carrying, not even to defend you," Simone huffed.
"That maybe so but she has a lot of friends who would defend her so think very carefully Simone. If I hear or see anything, I know where it has come from," Johnnie reminded her.
Johnnie made his way to the door, Monica spotting him.
"Leaving so soon?" Monica asked him sarcastically.
"I only came because this is where Simon wanted to meet, we were discussing business," Johnnie told her.
"I believe you darling, though Simone may not. Tell your wife I said hello and congratulations but next time, don't use one of my parties for business purposes," Monica warned him.
"I have no intention of doing so," Johnnie replied, thinking this had been quite enough and there would be other opportunities should the need arise.
He made his way back to his car, wanting to get back to Rose and forget what had just happened but as he drove off, he saw a police patrol car pull into the car park he'd just left. Thinking nothing of it, he drove home, it was probably one of Monica's neighbours downstairs complaining of the noise.
When he got back, Rose was resting on the sofa, having felt sick but assured him it was only because he'd gone out.
"Well, did ya get sorted?" Rose asked him as they kissed after he'd taken Donna home.
"Yes love, everything is fine. I'll be going ahead with my plans, just you wait and see the difference eh? Are you tired love?" he asked, feeling under her loose t-shirt and being pleasantly surprised there was nothing underneath and grinning.
Rose saw the look on his face.
"I need a bigger size bra," Rose grinned. "Guess I'll have to go up a size or two in my clothing?"
The next day, they went to work but Rose had agreed to take it easy and Donna would help when she had some free time.
"Does he really want me to take over from you?" Donna asked as they took a break.
"I think so Donna, we can get someone else in to do your job. He's got so many plans. Hold on," Rose told her as she listened to the news on the radio.
She heard the name Simon being mentioned and that he'd been arrested on drugs charges after a raid on a block of flats. Rose picked up the phone and hoped Johnnie was in his office but she got no answer.
"Donna, can ya find Johnnie for me and tell him I need to talk to him?" Rose asked her friend.
Donna got up.
"Do you know who they were talking about?" Donna asked, about to leave.
"He knows someone called Simon but it might not be the same one," Rose hoped.
Johnnie had just finished with an out-patient when Donna found him.
"Rose is looking for you Doc," Donna grinned at him, knowing he hated being called that but she usually got away with it.
"I told you Donna, don't call me that," Johnnie replied. "Did she say why?"
"Yeah, we just heard something on the radio, she was worried it was about someone you knew," Donna told him.
"What? When was that?" Johnnie asked, trying to get past her and about to move her out of the way.
"A few minutes ago, on the news bulletin," Donna replied.
"I gathered that Donna, did they say who it was?" Johnnie asked her.
"Keep your shorts on, it was someone called Simon, I think but Rose looked worried," Donna replied, moving out of the way as Madge came along.
"Something wrong Doctor Smith?" Madge asked.
"No, it's fine, Donna was just telling me Rose wanted to see me," Johnnie assured her.
So they'd been after Simon last night had they? Johnnie thought as he went to join Rose. How did the police know he'd be there? Still, it was no secret about one of Monica's parties, one or more guests surely smoked something illegal there, which was why he was keeping Rose well away.
Rose was leaning on the desk, her stomach churning and not just because of the morning sickness.
"Johnnie," she greeted him, glancing up as he entered, since he'd forbidden her to close the door now she was pregnant.
He closed the door behind him and Rose sat up as he sat on the side of the desk.
"Tell me what was on the news love?" he asked her, taking her hand.
"Just about someone called Simon being arrested on drug possession. Tell me it's not the Simon you know," Rose asked him.
"I hope not love. Did they say anything else?" he wanted to know.
"No, it said more details later. Johnnie, please tell me you didn't go there last night."
How could he lie again to his wife?
"Rose, I swear I only called in for a short time. My contact at the club had left word to join him at Monica's," he told her, thinking it was more or less true.
"Then why didn't ya say? So was your friend Simon there?" Rose asked him.
"Yes, we said hello but the man I was meeting was in the kitchen and you told me that was the best way of finding out what was happening," he smiled, stroking her hand.
"Why did ya go to Monica's?" she asked him.
"I'm sorry love but I know you hate the smoke, even more since you got pregnant," Johnnie replied.
"Was Simone there?" Rose wanted to know.
"Only just before I left. I think Monica called her, you know what she's like but I was just leaving, I swear I was," Johnnie replied.
Well he had been leaving, it wasn't a complete lie.
"Then why did the police get called and they arrested your friend?" Rose asked.
"I have no idea love. I told you about him and it seems he went there intending to meet someone and get another supply. I tried to get him to stop when he was a patient and no, I did not encourage him, he came here for help."
"Well I hope he doesn't tell the police he still sees you socially," Rose told him.
"Calm down love, we don't know all the facts yet. I have to go back to work, are you okay?"
"Yeah, you go ahead, I'm fine. I was thinking maybe I'd let Donna get a bit of experience and reduce my hours."
"Good, you work too hard love. I will see you at lunch eh?" Johnnie asked her.
After he kissed her, he went off to find Owen. If Simon had been arrested and the police had found the drugs he'd supplied his friend with, they would be asking him where he got it from. He just hoped the man would blame the supplier who was already in trouble over it.
At a police station across town, Simon was being interviewed after spending the night locked up in a cell and his solicitor had been called.
"So, Mr Edwards, where did you get the drugs from?" the inspector was asking him.
"My client declines to say," the solicitor answered for him.
"That won't work with me. Your client was caught red-handed with them," the inspector reminded them.
"I had them a while," Simon spoke up, thinking if he told on Johnnie, his only source would dry up.
"Just exactly how long?" the inspector wanted to know.
"You already have my supplier locked up, so I was told. What you found was from him," Simon answered.
"You expect me to believe you kept some back?" Simon was asked.
"That's what my client claims," the solicitor replied. "Now either charge him or let him go."
Johnnie had caught up with Owen.
"We need to talk," Johnnie told him, following Owen into his office.
"What's so urgent?" Owen asked him.
"Remember Simon Edwards?" Johnnie asked him.
"Yes, you tried unsuccessfully to get him off those illegal substances if I remember correctly? Why, is he wanting help again?"
"No Owen. You have to swear Rose won't find out but he recently contacted me and blackmailed me into supplying him," Johnnie had to confess.
Owen stood up.
"Then why didn't you report it to the police or at least tell me?" Owen wanted to know.
"I'm telling you now. He did it once before and I told him it was one time but he contacted me again and now he's been arrested," Johnnie admitted, trying to judge Owen's reaction.
Owen was giving nothing away. "Let me get this right. How did you cover the fact you have to account for what you use on the patients, if he didn't come here for treatment?"
Johnnie looked at his business partner. "How do you think Owen? I put it down I used it on patients, to cover the amount but this time, he wanted more. Look, if I could get it back and hand him the money back, then I would but not now. If he'd told on me, I would have been questioned by now. That means if he's not told on me, he intends keeping me around to blackmail me into supplying more."
"You did the right thing telling me Johnnie but I offered to buy more shares, you said you would think about it," Owen reminded him. "Look, I know you've got a lot on with Rose being pregnant and things to buy plus you wanting to expand the clinic but if there's a next time, you come to me. As long as you can assure me you were forced into it, I won't tell your wife."
"Thanks Owen, I tried to tell him no this time but he made me meet him at Monica's party last night. One of the party-goers must have suspected he'd been on something and called the police. Now if he's keeping me out of it, he expects me to continue supplying him and since his old supplier got locked up, he'll not bother finding anyone else."
"I get it that he made it difficult for you Johnnie," Owen assured him, knowing they were late for a group session. "The next time he calls, I will call him back and tell him his little blackmailing game is over and I know about it. Then he'll think twice about it. Do yourself a favour Johnnie and stop buying and using the stuff eh?"
"I was intending to but I put down I was using it to treat a patient but I can change it and send it back to the suppliers and cancel my orders," Johnnie told him.
"Yes, you should do so but if Rose finds out, it won't be from me. Come on, we're late and while we trust the staff, we should be there."
"Thanks Owen. Graham said he was looking into getting more money out of the health service, that was why I delayed selling you more shares," Johnnie admitted.
Owen got up and patted Johnnie's shoulder. "Well the offer is there should you want to take me up on it but I was thinking. Why not take on another partner, Liz maybe?"
"I will think about it. Now I have to face Rose and hope she believes I was only at Monica's trying to get new backers," Johnnie told him.
"I'm sure she'll believe you Johnnie," Owen smiled, slapping him on the back.
Johnnie just hoped his business partner was right. Taking on another partner though, he'd still maybe lose his majority but now there was a baby on the way, did he really want all the responsibility for the clinic? Couldn't he take a step back and let others help him make the decisions, if he got everything into place before he made Liz a partner?
Rose would be pleased at the decision, that much he knew. He would have more time to spend with her but once she stopped working, he doubted she'd stay at home all day.
After lunch, Johnnie took Rose back to their old room and sat her down.
"Okay love?" he asked as she sat with him.
"Promise you had nothing to do with what your friend got arrested for," Rose insisted.
"I admitted I went there Rose but I barely spoke to him," Johnnie tried to assure her, not actually trying to deny anything.
Johnnie had concluded he was right, that someone at the party had tipped off the police but who would do such a thing? Monica wouldn't want any trouble, that much was certain. Was it Simone, being late to the party and having an idea Simon would be there? Maybe she was sending a message to him but he'd already warned her off. He wondered what Simon would tell the police but now, if Simon kept him out of it, he would reckon he was owed.
Over the next few months, Rose was gradually spending less time working and more time in the kitchen, the cook not daring to throw her out now she was the boss's wife. Johnnie was satisfied Graham had got him a good deal with the health service so his plans to ask Liz to be a partner were put on hold.
He'd heard nothing of the incident with Simon, hoping his now ex friend would take the hint and stay away then just before Christmas, Johnnie got a call from him.
"Before you ask, the answer is no," Johnnie answered when a quiet voice said who it was.
"Johnnie, I need your help. When you refused to keep me supplied, well I got someone else but I think it was bad," Simon admitted.
"Well I am not a medical doctor as such, go to the hospital," Johnnie replied.
"I can't and you know it. Can you come round?" Simon asked him.
"You know I can't and I don't have the time now, sorry Simon, you're on your own. Before you threaten to tell anyone, my business partner knows so forget it," Johnnie warned him.
Johnnie ended the call and thought no more about it until two days later. Rose had the radio on in the kitchen and she'd shushed Mary and Molly when the news announcer said that a certain DJ had been found dead at his home of a suspected overdose.
"Molly, go find Doctor Smith will ya?" Rose asked, even though it was nearly lunch time.
"Yes Mrs Smith," Molly replied, looking at the cook.
"You heard her Molly, go find him," Mary told her. "Something wrong?" she asked Rose. "You're not due yet Mrs Smith, are ya getting pains?"
"No, nothing like that. I didn't mean to frighten ya," Rose replied. "I've told ya, ya don't have to keep calling me Mrs Smith all the time," she grinned, feeling the baby moving slightly.
Molly found Johnnie and told him Rose wanted him, Johnnie excusing himself from a session and telling Molly to fetch the assistant.
"Did she say what it was about?" Johnnie asked her, knowing Rose didn't make a habit of getting someone to fetch him.
"No Sir, she just heard something on the radio, a man being found dead. It looked like she knew who the newsreader was talking about," Molly replied.
Johnnie reached the kitchen as Madge was approaching.
"Is Rose okay?" Madge asked him, not used to seeing him enter so early and knowing Rose spent most of her time in there now she was over four months.
"No, she just wanted to see me about something, it's fine Madge, just carry on with what you were doing," Johnnie told her.
He thought Rose looked a bit pale when he saw her.
"What's wrong love?" he asked, seeing the cook was trying to look busy.
"The news Johnnie. That Simon you knew, he died, last night they said he'd taken an overdose."
"What?" Johnnie asked, pulling his chair closer. "Did they say anything else?"
"No that's all there was. They just said his name and who he was, I always thought he was called something else but they said what he did."
"Yes, I knew that wasn't his real name, since I treated him once. Thanks for telling me love. Do you want me to take you home after lunch?" he asked, thinking the police might look into Simon's past.
"Ya know I hate being on my own," Rose replied. "Are ya afraid the police will want to talk to ya?"
"No love, it was a long time ago, I doubt he will have told anyone about being treated by me, it was confidential," Johnnie replied.
Then he thought about that woman who was with him the last time he'd seen Simon at Monica's party. What had been her name? He thought she'd been called Amanda and she'd looked familiar, she could have been an actress or something, not that he'd seen her on TV, unless she was in one of those serials Jackie made him watch when she visited.
He was going to find out the next day though, since the police had interviewed Simon's past girlfriends, except the one who had gone back to America. They'd even paid Monica a visit, asking her who his friends were and she'd inadvertently informed the inspector who had cautioned Simon for the drugs offence a few months back.
"So Miss Carter," the inspector was asking her. "You say he was treated by this Doctor Smith for depression? Was that recently do you know?"
"I've not seen either of them for months, inspector. Doctor Smith stays away, his wife doesn't like me much and she's pregnant so he stays away to avoid upsetting her. The last time either of them were here was about three months ago."
"That's very interesting Miss Carter," the inspector told her, scribbling in his notebook as he remembered the DJ had been picked up by officers at a party, after someone had given them a tip-off. "So would that be the famous Doctor JD Smith?"
Monica saw no harm in replying, though she'd doubted Johnnie and Simon were discussing business but if she told on him, he might get very unpleasant and she couldn't actually prove anything.
"Yes, that Doctor Smith, who else?" Monica replied. "Have you finished?"
"For now anyway. When they were both last here, were they talking?" the inspector asked.
"How would I know? It was a party, I was talking to my guests all evening," Monica told him, not wanting to get caught up in it. "Simon was with some woman called Amanda, she didn't know he'd been treated by Doctor Smith so I expect she dumped Simon after that. Good luck finding her."
The inspector left and Monica thought about warning Johnnie but how did she know what the two of them had talked about when they'd gone off? Did they even talk, she'd seen Johnnie trying to sneak out of the kitchen and trying to escape from Simone. She wondered whether to include the fact the Frenchwoman was Johnnie's ex and was still jealous of Johnnie's new wife but the stupid woman had mistreated him by using him, why should she care, let the police find out for themselves.
If anyone got to know she'd given a list of her guests to the police, they wouldn't thank her for it.
Madge had gone to answer the door when the bell rang several times followed by loud knocking and a deep voice shouting it was the police.
"Just what's all this in aid of?" Madge demanded to know, looking at a medium height slight man wearing a hat and who was holding an ID card out.
"Detective Inspector Bishop, metropolitan police. Is this Doctor Jonathan Smith's clinic?" he asked, Madge looking at the card then at half a dozen uniformed officers behind him and the large man by his side.
"Well that's the name on the plaque," Madge replied sarcastically. "What business do you have with Doctor Smith?"
Johnnie had heard all the noise and left one of the patients with a staff member to see what all the fuss was. Rose had also just come out of her office.
"Go back inside love," Johnnie insisted, trying to turn her around.
"Is it about your friend?" Rose wanted to know.
"I expect so. I will call you if I need you love."
He carried on to the door.
"What's going on?" Johnnie demanded to know, looking at the card that was put in front of him.
"We need to ask some questions," the inspector told him.
"Well just one of you. You know what this clinic is, I'll not have the patients getting upset. The rest can wait outside, why do you need so many anyway?" Johnnie asked.
"I thought they were going to knock the door off the hinges," Madge told him.
"It's fine Mrs Collins, you can go now. Detective Inspector Bishop, come to my office. I take it this is about a former patient of mine?"
Rose stood in the doorway as Madge made sure the others stayed outside and closed the outer door.
"What's all this for?" Madge asked her.
"Something to do with one of Doctor Smith's old patients, someone called Simon," Rose told her. "I heard it on the radio earlier, I expect they want to see if he's had any treatment lately."
Johnnie and the inspector were eyeing each other.
"You look very familiar," the inspector told him, remaining standing.
"Maybe because my name is always in the papers with new publications?" Johnnie suggested. "So, I heard he died of an overdose? I've not seen him since a few months ago, I called in at a party and he was there. I spoke briefly to him because I was looking for new backers. He wasn't interested so I left him. Anything else?"
The inspector was writing it down, not expecting to get a straight answer, since Johnnie could play mind games with the best of them.
"Not so fast Doctor Smith. You treated him in the past?"
"Did I just not say so?" Johnnie asked him. "It was exactly that, several years ago now. The life of a DJ is very stressful, he was treated as a outpatient though he did stay a few days at first. I tried several treatments, non of which I can reveal due to patient confidentially."
"That doesn't work when the patient is dead, Doctor Smith," the inspector replied. "What can you tell me about his mood the last time you saw him?"
Twenty minutes later, Madge was seeing the inspector out and Johnnie leaned by the wall.
"He didn't seem all that happy," Madge remarked.
"I expect not, I would be losing my touch if I told him everything he'd wanted to know," Johnnie smiled.
Madge gave him a rare smile back.
The incident was soon forgotten and Rose didn't discover why Johnnie had really ended up going to Monica's party that night. Since Simon was no longer threatening to tell Rose where Johnnie had got money from, he decided to cut the usage down anyway and maybe not order any more, he was going to see how things went.
Johnnie went with Rose to her hospital appointment, her primary care being taken over by Liz, who was becoming more full-time with all the expansions and her being able to understand the need for her services since Johnnie trusted her.
Since Rose was to have her scan, she was nervous, to say the least.
"It will be fine love," Johnnie insisted as he found a place to park the car. "Why don't we go away this weekend eh?"
"Yeah, I'd like that," Rose smiled as he helped her out of the car, glad he still didn't have his green sports car.
Rose got settled in the small cubicle she was having the scan in and Johnnie helped her onto the table.
"So Mrs Smith, do you want to know what the baby is going to be?" the nurse smiled as Johnnie stared at their baby on the screen.
"I don't know," Rose replied, trying to strain to see it.
"We could buy neutral things love," Johnnie insisted. "Not that we have much to buy in the way of clothes with your mother's knitting club," he smiled.
They'd had all kinds of donations for the baby over the last few months. From a baby bath to a pram that could double as a cot, everything was in the spare room along with piles of knitted suits and cardigans and bags of clothes they'd not even sorted through though Johnnie suspected half of them would never be used and he intended returning them.
Rose was allowed up and the nurse went off.
"Well, should we find out?" Johnnie asked nervously.
Rose smiled at him. "Yeah, okay then, I know you'll be disappointed if we don't."
The small photo was doing the rounds over the kitchen table when they got back to the clinic just in time for lunch.
"Who would believe they can do photos now?" Celia told them.
"Really Celia," Liz smiled, bypassing Norman, who wasn't bothered one way of another to hand it to Sally.
Sally tried to pass it to Owen, who waved it away but passed it to Laura.
"It's surprising what they can do these days," Laura told them. "So, what is it, since no-one's asked yet."
"It's a girl," Rose replied excitedly. "So we have all that stuff to go through at home that my mum gathered, all the boys things can go back."
"Yes love, then we might have a better idea if we still need anything," Johnnie smiled, doubting they'd need anything else.
"Yes, well if you still need anything, we'd be only too happy to help out," Owen told him. "I'm sure everyone agrees?"
Everyone muttered their agreement.
"Any names yet?" Laura asked, passing the photo back to Rose.
"We have narrowed it down somewhat," Johnnie replied. "Now we can concentrate on girls names."
When they got home, Rose wanted to make a start on sorting out the baby clothes.
"I still don't know why Donna and Valerie don't join us for lunch," Rose told him as he emptied another bag of clothes on the table.
"It's up to them love but we would need a bigger table if they did suddenly join us," Johnnie smiled. "What did they say about the baby photo?"
"Donna wanted to know if she could have a copy," Rose smiled back at him.
"Yes, anyone would think she was having one," Johnnie replied. "So, we are having your mother over for Christmas, yes?"
They decided they were having Christmas dinner at the clinic, since Johnnie didn't want Rose cooking nor did he fancy her mother's cooking, Rose was now almost seven months. She'd been booked into the local hospital and she was still helping out at the clinic when needed though Donna was mostly doing her job.
"Why don't you stay at home Rose?" Donna asked her one morning.
"I'd go crazy at home Donna, it'll be safer if I stay here, when I'm nearer my time. So, how are you and Sean getting on?" Rose smiled.
"It won't work," Donna admitted. "We get stared at every time we go out."
"Aw Donna, don't let that put you off," Rose told her.
Donna managed a weak smile. "Maybe in thirty years time it might be acceptable?"
"Johnnie used to say that about his way of treatment but look how far he's got?" Rose replied.
Rose suddenly went quiet and since Donna was constantly watching her, asked what was wrong.
"I think this baby maybe doesn't want to wait," Rose managed to smile weakly.
"I don't want any false alarms Rose," Donna warned her.
Rose gave her a mock salute.
A few weeks later though, she'd gone to the clinic with Johnnie as usual but he was having doubts she'd last much longer.
"Sure you don't want me to take you to the hospital love?" he asked as they arrived at the clinic.
"I'm fine, I'll last until the date. I've got plenty of people to take care of me, Donna's made it her mission," Rose replied.
"Well you should not be working love, why don't you relax in the kitchen or go lie down in the infirmary?"
"I don't wanna be in everyone's way Johnnie," Rose insisted.
"You won't be. At least if we can't get you to the hospital, you have several medical staff on hand," Johnnie joked. "I think Madge has the midwife's number by the phone if the ambulance doesn't get here on time."
Rose knew he was trying to cheer her up. Two hours later though, Molly was frantically trying to find Johnnie when Rose was being helped to the infirmary by Norman and Madge after she'd yelled out the baby was coming while Mary was making lunch.
"Is the ambulance on the way?" Johnnie asked as he grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair.
"Yes Sir, they're taking Mrs Smith to the infirmary and both doctors are on their way, well one is, Doctor Harper was with someone."
"Thank you Molly, you can go back now but if everyone is busy, be ready to open the door."
"Me Sir?" Molly panicked.
"Yes, just send the ambulance crew to the infirmary. Don't worry," Johnnie tried to assure her.
Rose was screaming for him as Liz tried to get Rose to lie still while she examined her.
"Rose, listen to me sweetheart, you have to relax, you're all tense," Liz was telling her.
"Where is he?" Rose tried asking again, a crowd around her.
"Come on, everyone step back," Liz insisted. "Why don't you all go back to work? Nothing's happening yet and the ambulance will be here soon."
Madge grabbed hold of Norman, Celia and Sally backed off and Rose began to relax.
"Rose?" Johnnie asked as he passed Madge and Norman just leaving.
"Johnnie? I think the baby's decided not to wait after all."
"There's nothing happening yet," Liz still insisted as she listened for the baby's heartbeat.
"Ya think not?" Rose pulled a face at her.
"She's just getting ready to make an appearance," Liz tried to assure her.
Johnnie tried to prop Rose up.
"Rose, just relax love, this won't help."
Celia heard a noise in the hallway and assumed the ambulance had arrived. She was about to send them away when Rose yelled out again.
"I assume the expectant mother's this way?" one of the ambulance attendants grinned.
Liz turned around.
"Yes, she's here, I'm her physician and her water has just broken. Are you taking her, she's booked in locally."
"Yes, we know. Mrs Smith, can you get into the chair?" the other attendant asked her.
Rose managed to nod, without screaming again.
"I'm going with her," Johnnie insisted. "Sally, can you get her hospital bag from Donna please and wait at the door for us?"
"Sure Doctor Smith," Sally replied, wondering where Donna had got to.
She soon found out when Donna was waiting in the doorway with the bag Rose kept there, just in case.
"I could hear Rose all the way down here," Donna grinned. "Is Doctor Smith going with her?"
"I think so, they're trying to get her in the chair," Sally replied.
Once she was in the ambulance, they put a breathing mask on her to help her relax, Johnnie sitting beside her and holding her hand.
"I thought you were going to wait until you were due?" he joked to her.
"Very funny Johnnie. Can ya call my mum when we get there?"
"Donna will be calling her, we had everything arranged love. Liz is following, as your doctor."
"I suppose I could have had the baby in the clinic?" Rose asked, moving the mask.
"Now you say love," Johnnie smiled, kissing the back of her hand.
Once they got to the maternity ward, Liz was there to meet them and had told the sister in charge that she was Rose's physician. The nurse helped Rose out of her now wet clothes and into a hospital gown then into a bed on the ward, Johnnie and Liz waiting outside.
"Are they not taking her to the delivery room?" Johnnie asked Liz.
"They'll just take her vitals first Johnnie, they know what they're doing," Liz smiled at the nervous expectant father. She grabbed hold of his arm as he was about to get up, shaking her head. "They won't thank you for barging in Johnnie."
He changed his mind and sat back. Liz continued.
"You knew what to expect," she told him, letting go after patting his arm.
"I know Liz, it does not make it any easier though. Why are they taking so long?"
"They'll check to see how far along she is, then they'll take her to the delivery room. They won't let you in until they're certain she's about to have the baby."
"Can't you go see what's taking so long, as her doctor?" he asked.
"They'll call me when they're ready, they do this all day Johnnie," Liz replied. "It was all I could do to stop Donna coming with me."
Johnnie had to smile at the thought of Liz refusing to let his wife's best friend into her car.
"She'll be on the phone every five minutes for an update," Johnnie replied.
Rose was asking where her husband was.
"We'll get you settled first, then he can come in when your doctor's seen you. You've still a bit to go yet Rose," the young nurse told her.
Rose pulled another face, letting the pain pass.
"It doesn't feel like it," she managed after a few minutes. "Can ya ask if my mum's here yet?"
Jackie had just got off the second bus and had finally found the maternity ward.
"Johnnie, where is she?" Jackie asked him as he got up.
"She's getting checked over Jackie," Liz assured her, Johnnie letting her sit down.
"Why is she a few days early?"
"She could be still a while yet," Liz assured her.
"Well they'd better not send her home just for her to come back later," Jackie complained.
"I'll make sure they don't," Liz replied as the door opened.
"Which of you is Rose's Smith's doctor?" the nurse asked.
Both Liz and Johnnie got up, then Johnnie realised it was Liz they needed, not him. Jackie took his arm.
"Bet you wish you weren't just a psychiatrist now?"
"I've had medical training Jackie," he replied indignantly.
Liz went off and Jackie swore she heard her daughter screaming but it could have been anyone she supposed. Liz agreed they would wait another hour then if nothing happened, they'd take Rose to the delivery room and help her along when the nurse gave her an update.
"Can Johnnie stay with me?" Rose asked Liz, the curtain still around her.
Liz nodded and sent the nurse to get him.
"Don't let my mother in," Rose added, making Liz smile.
Johnnie was led in and Liz pulled the curtain back when she saw a hand on it.
"You can stay with her, I'll be outside with her mother," Liz told him.
"Thanks Liz," Johnnie told her, sitting beside Rose. "Well, this is it love," he smiled to his wife.
"Yeah, at least I'll be thin again," Rose smiled back, as the smile turned into a grim look.
Johnnie leaned down to kiss her, taking no notice of the noises on the ward and a few babies crying.
Liz was talking to Jackie, Jackie saying she was surprised Donna wasn't there.
"She wanted to come but someone had to hold the fort," Liz smiled.
An hour later, the orderlies came to take Rose down to the delivery room, Rose wanting to walk. She leaned on Johnnie and the nurse, Liz carrying Rose's bag. She had to stop a few times on the way, Liz saying the walking would be beneficial and after two hours of shouting and encouragement from Liz and Johnnie, Rose was holding her new baby daughter, who had just been handed back to her after Liz handed her to Johnnie, as Rose was getting cleaned up.
"So have we a name then?" the nurse asked, holding a tag and a pen.
"Yes, we are going to call her Heather," Johnnie replied as Rose was checking the baby had the right amount of fingers and toes, making him smile.
Rose saw him and smiled back.
"Call Donna and ask her to bring a camera later," she suggested.
"I would have brought mine, had I known," Johnnie assured her, sitting on the edge of the bed and putting his arm around her as Rose was about to attempt to feed her new daughter, the nurse showing her how to hold the impatient baby, who seemed hungry.
A short while later, Rose was back on the ward, the baby was settled in a portable cot and Liz had given them both a clean bill of health. Johnnie left for a while to let Jackie see her new granddaughter and to go back to the clinic then go home and collect some more things Rose wanted, such as a few more baby clothes. Only family were being allowed in so Donna and Valerie had to wait until visiting time, as Donna had found out when she'd rung about her friend.
"Blooming cheek," Donna had complained to Valerie. "I'm practically family."
Two days later, Johnnie was ready to collect Rose and his new baby daughter and take them home. He'd already arranged some time off but if any emergencies came up, Rose had agreed he should attend. Jackie had made herself at home and had put herself in charge, Johnnie having no choice but to accept it but he thought at least there was someone else there to get up in the middle of the night, if need be.
Rose had argued she should be woken for other things as well as feeding but she'd got a firm no from Jackie and Johnnie. It wasn't long before they got organised and Jackie had been persuaded to go home. The first night on their own, they had just settled Heather in the pram cot, Rose worried about putting her in the larger cot in what now was the nursery.
"You have to put her in there sometime love," Johnnie smiled.
"I just don't like leaving her up there when we're down here," Rose replied.
Johnnie stood behind her and turned her from standing over the baby.
"You'll get used to it love. So, we have the christening on Sunday?"
"Yeah, you arranged it," Rose smiled, fingering his shirt collar. "Owen offered to go get my mum, I think he's taking Liz, you know what my mum's like."
"You should be worried about those two," Johnnie teased her.
"Who, Liz or my mum?" Rose teased him back.
The clinic was going strength to strength, when Heather was old enough, Rose started taking her to a private nursery and went back to work part-time. That was until she discovered she was expecting another just two years later. Donna was always babysitting, staying over so Johnnie needn't worry about getting her home.
Johnnie was well pleased, especially when they found out Rose was expecting a boy, due in April of 1971.
"Rose, we should begin thinking of names," he reminded her one night.
"Yeah, I know. I was thinking maybe you had a family name?" Rose asked.
"Well, I have a few distant relatives I suppose but I don't think they will be all that bothered," Johnnie smiled.
Rose had met a few of them when they'd travelled up near Glasgow for a funeral just before she discovered she was expecting.
"Maybe after your uncle who just passed away?" Rose hinted.
"My uncle Alec?" Johnnie questioned her.
"Well it's not too Scottish a name," Rose insisted, determined she was going to win this.
"Well maybe then, if we don't come up with another name?" Johnnie smiled, leaning on her tummy and listening carefully to his son's heartbeat.
Rose ruffled his hair that was still quite thick and still slicked back, even though now, Johnnie kept reminding her he was in his forties, which had prompted them to try for another baby.
"Johnnie, this isn't going to be our last is it?" Rose teased him.
"Rose, we've talked about this love," he smiled back.
Rose loved teasing him about it.
Before they knew it, Alec James Smith had arrived, Johnnie taking their now three year old daughter to see her new baby brother, Donna going with them. Donna was trying to convince the youngster as she'd picked her up from nursery that the baby wasn't old enough to play with as they met Johnnie outside the maternity ward.
"Daddy!" Heather called out, trying to get to him. "Auntie Donna said I can't play with the baby yet."
"Yes, she's right, he is too small yet," Johnnie agreed, picking her up to go inside.
"I play with my dolls," the girl persisted, making Donna smile.
"I think a real baby's a bit different to a doll," Donna laughed.
Rose was trying to get her new son to entertain being fed, which hadn't been so easy as the last time.
"Rose, he's not getting enough," the nurse was trying to convince her, a bottle of milk in her hand. "Come on, you're husband will be here soon and you don't want the baby to be crying when he gets here."
Johnnie had passed Heather back to Donna to see if Rose was ready for visitors. He saw the look on her face and the bottle in her hand.
"Still having trouble? Why don't I try?" he offered as Rose was trying to get the baby to bring up any wind.
"Well okay but is Donna outside with Heather?" Rose asked.
"Yes love, shall I tell them to come in?"
Rose nodded and Heather got free of Donna and ran for the bed. Rose thought maybe the three year old would have better luck? After finally getting their new son to finish the bottle, Johnnie had sat Heather in the chair and she was holding him. He knew from that moment the two of them were going to be very close, just as long as she didn't think he was one of her dolls.
Heather soon took charge of her baby brother, especially when it was the weekend and then when they started taking holidays. Rose had said nothing more about adding to their family though she'd had a few false alarms. Every year, Johnnie would set a week to take them all away, usually to a caravan, since they didn't like the thought of people above them in flats keeping them awake though they went a few times to a holiday camp.
Even though there was three years between Heather and Alec, she always got him his breakfast while they were away.
"Why do mum and dad always have a lie in?" Alec wanted to know one holiday when he as ten.
Heather had smiled at him, being a teenager now, she knew the reason. Her brother being ten, she reckoned he should find out.
"No way!" Alec had laughed when she told him they were getting all kissy and having morning sex.
"Why do you think they're always late up?" Heather asked him.
Two years later, Alec had learned his sister was right, when their dad started coming out of their bedroom for morning coffee, a big grin on his face.
"Are you two going swimming?" Johnnie asked them as they stared at him in his shorts and a vest top.
"Yes Dad," they both agreed, picking up their towels.
They both swam very well, Alec had almost as many certificates as his older sister and he knew his dad was proud of him. Alec also had joined the local drama group, he loved mimicking people and Rose was always telling him he should become an actor, she'd even spoken to Johnnie about him going to drama school.
"I'll not stop him Rose, if he wants to go," Johnnie had agreed.
"I think he's really good and that last school play he was in, he got all that extra applause."
"Yes, I know he did love, we're both very proud of him but we should wait a while, see if he's serious, yes?" Johnnie suggested.
Alec's dreams were about to come true when he applied two years later and was accepted to the local drama school, to start the following September but little did everyone know it was going to be put off. Heather's sixteenth birthday was approaching and Rose had hired a room for a party and Heather had invited most of her class, including a boy she liked though she knew she had a rival but she hoped to impress him.
Things were not going to go well though as Rose and Johnnie sat with Donna and Jackie and they saw Heather looking around.
"I hope that boy appreciates he's been invited," Jackie told them.
"I don't know what all the fuss is," Donna was saying as Heather spotted her prey.
What they also saw was one of Heather's friends hanging onto his arm then reaching up to kiss him.
Rose was up like a shot as Heather ran out of the room.
"Now they'll be trouble," Donna predicted as Rose went off.
"It was bound to happen," Jackie replied.
"She'll be okay," Johnnie insisted as Rose disappeared through the door.
Rose was knocking on one of the doors in the ladies room as she'd heard one being slammed.
"Heather, come out honey," Rose tried to plead.
"Go away Mum, I should have never invited him," Heather replied.
"You weren't to know he'd do that," Rose tried to assure her. "Come back to the party."
"So dad can practice his psychology on me?" Heather smiled, trying to dry her eyes.
"He's very proud of you, you didn't have to choose to be a psychiatric nurse," Rose smiled, leaning against the sink.
Heather opened the door.
"Someone has to keep it in the family, since my brother wants to be an actor," she replied, trying to smile.
They went back to the party, Heather sitting next to her dad, who put his arm around her.
"Want me to go play mind games with him?" Johnnie offered, nodding towards the offender.
That got him a smile as she leaned on his shoulder. All the next day, Heather was trying to forget about the incident and had chosen not to say anything about it, even though Johnnie was trying to get her to talk about it over lunch but Rose had persuaded him to let her be.
The next morning though, not even Johnnie could have predicted what was about to happen. Alec was in the kitchen eating his breakfast after Rose had knocked on Heather's bedroom door, then she and Johnnie had gone into the lounge for their morning kiss, Rose sitting on his lap as usual.
"Did Heather answer you?" Johnnie asked her as she got up.
"Yeah, best go see if she's getting her breakfast. Have you put those pills in your briefcase? How stupid of them to deliver here?"
"Never mind love, I'll call them later and tell them to be more careful next time. I'd best go put them in before I forget."
"Where are they?" Rose asked.
"On the hall stand or I would have forgotten them if I had left them in my desk drawer," he smiled, sneaking one last kiss.
"Just get Donna to tell them off," Rose smiled back. "Go on or you'll make them both late for school."
"See you at work love, though you should be seeing them to school."
"I have things to do first," Rose reminded him. "Go get your breakfast."
"Yes Ma'am," he joked.
"Hey son, has your sister been down?" Johnnie asked Alec, who was putting his packed lunch in his school bag.
"I heard her come downstairs, she must have gone back up," Alec replied.
"Rose, give her another shout love," Johnnie told Rose as she stood in the doorway.
Rose went off and Johnnie went to the hall stand, seeing the package that had been there earlier had gone. He shrugged his shoulders, assuming Rose had put it in his briefcase, meaning to take a look when he'd grabbed his morning coffee.
"Heather, you'll be late," Rose told her as she knocked on the door.
She went to finish getting dressed then went back to knock on the door as Johnnie shouted upstairs he was ready to leave.
"Didn't she go down?" Rose called to him.
"No love, that's why I'm asking her to hurry. Did you put that package in my briefcase?" he asked, since he'd not yet checked.
"No, I thought you had? It wasn't there when I came up here," Rose told him.
"What's wrong Dad?" Alec asked, all ready to leave. "She's going to make me late."
"Alec, be serious and stop with the Scottish accent eh?" Johnnie asked him.
"Sorry Dad," Alec grinned.
Then he saw the look on Johnnie's face.
"Rose, get in her room, now," he shouted as he ran up the stairs.
"What for?" Rose asked as she saw him.
She tried the door but it was locked.
"Rose, get out of the way," Johnnie warned her, Alec following him upstairs. "Heather, open the door, now please," he shouted, banging on the door.
Rose stood beside him. "You think what I think?" she asked, not wanting to say in front of Alec.
Johnnie tried to force the door, giving one last effort as the lock splintered. He dashed in, seeing Heather across the bed, an almost empty package on the bed.
"Rose, call an ambulance, now and keep Alec out," Johnnie told her, trying to wake the teenager.
"What's going on Mum?" Alec asked, forgetting his drama lessons where he was practising to be Scottish.
Rose had dashed into their bedroom and was giving the address, saying her teenage daughter may have taken something.
"What did she take Mrs Smith?" the operator was asking her as Johnnie was trying to bring Heather round, Alec behind him.
"What's wrong with her Dad?"
"Go downstairs Alec, she'll be okay," Johnnie insisted.
Rose was trying to explain. "My husband's a doctor, he's trying to bring her round, he can tell the ambulance crew what she took. She sneaked down and took it while we were in the kitchen."
"The ambulance will be there shortly, have whatever it was she took ready to show them," the operator told her.
She turned to see Alec.
"Go downstairs Alec, I have to call your gran. You'll have to either be late for school or come with me," she told him.
"What's wrong with her?" he tried asking again.
She was about to answer when there was a loud knock on the door and Rose went downstairs. She directed the ambulance crew upstairs, leaving Alec in the kitchen. Johnnie tried to explain, handing the package to the medic. Rose was on the phone to her mother.
"Where are they taking her?" Jackie wanted to know.
"Hold on," Rose replied, seeing one of them was going for a stretcher. She asked where they were going then told her mother, who said she'd meet them there.
"What about Alec?" Jackie asked her.
"He can come with me, I'll call the school from there," Rose told her as the medic went back upstairs.
A few minutes later, they were bringing Heather down, carefully, followed by Johnnie, who grabbed his jacket.
"I'm going with her, call Donna and tell her to cancel my appointments and get Owen to take charge."
Rose nodded as he went to get in the back of the ambulance, the neighbours now watching.
"Alec, get your things, we're off to the hospital," Rose told him, grabbing her purse and the car keys.
Johnnie was explaining what his daughter had taken and that the couriers had made a mistake dropping them off at his house. He was going to be having strong words with them when he got out of the hospital, hopefully with Heather. He could see how pale she was and she was on a ventilator.
Rose followed the ambulance, trying to find somewhere close to park and being grateful no charge was made though it was one of the few hospitals to escape. Seeing where they were going, she grabbed Alec and they ran to catch up. They'd been sat there a while when Donna and Jackie arrived, Rose not expecting her friend.
"What the hell happened Rose?" Donna asked first.
"Blame the stupid couriers," Rose replied angrily. "Can ya take Alec to school?"
Alec was sat arm in arm with his gran.
"He's best staying here Rose, go call his school," Donna replied. She saw Rose didn't want to move. "I'll go do it then, you stay here."
Another hour went by, all of them sat in silence, then Johnnie came out, since he'd told them who he was and he wasn't leaving.
"Rose, come with me love," he told her, Rose trying to judge what was going on.
She broke down when Johnnie took her back inside, seeing their daughter lying there with machines hooked up to her.
"The medication's done too much damage," the surgeon tried to explain.
"Was is because it took us a while to get here?" Rose wanted to know.
"No love, it would have made no difference, the ambulance crew did their job," Johnnie told her.
"We can't keep her on here," Rose was being told. She clung hold of Johnnie.
"I'm sorry love, they can't do anything, it's best to let her go. Go get your mum if you want?"
Rose nodded but then he offered to go.
"Jackie, you'd best come in," Johnnie told her, Alec going to Donna. "You too Alec."
Alec took one look and ran to his sister.
"You said she'd be okay Dad."
"I know, I'm sorry. Say goodbye to her then go home with your mum," Johnnie told him.
Johnnie had been told he would have to answer some questions.
Alec ran over to his sister. "No, she can't leave me."
Rose tried to take hold of him.
"It's no good Alec, she's gone," Rose told him, tears in her eyes.
He turned to his dad. "Why does she have to go?" he asked, also with tears in his eyes.
"I'm sorry, they tried everything they could."
Rose tried to lead him out.
"Come on. Let's go wait outside with Donna," she suggested.
Johnnie had to wait for the police to arrive, to explain how his daughter had got hold of the drugs. He showed them the receipt he had in his pocket, saying they'd been delivered to his house, not the clinic.
"One call, they will clear this up," Johnnie insisted.
The courier had to admit someone made a mistake as the police called them when Johnnie went with them to the police station.
"We're sorry for your loss, Doctor Smith but we had to check," the inspector was telling him.
"Now I have to go explain this to my wife and my son. Don't even get me started on my mother-in-law," he tried to joke. "I tried to talk to her over the weekend, she was very upset about a boy she liked at school going off with one of her friends, at her birthday party."
"They'll be no more questions Doctor Smith, only at the coroner's court and we'll take no further action and recommend it was accidental. Would she have known what she was taking?" the inspector asked him.
"It's doubtful, she probably thought they were painkillers. She was going to follow me into psychiatry, she wanted to be a nurse."
The inspector got up and patted Johnnie's shoulder.
"I'll have someone take you home."
"I'll get a cab, it was bad enough the ambulance being there this morning," Johnnie replied.
Donna had taken everyone home and was making tea. Alec had gone to his room, Rose not knowing what to say to him. Rose rushed to Johnnie when he got back home.
"We have to make the arrangements," Johnnie told her as Rose sobbed into his shoulder.
Donna stood in the doorway.
"I'll go," she offered.
"No, stay for a while Donna, I have things to do," Johnnie told her.
"Do you want me to get Liz to come round?" she asked, thinking Rose and Alec needed calming down.
"Yes, ask her to call round. Rose, I'll go talk to Alec," Johnnie told her.
A few days later, Alec had stayed off school and it was the day of the funeral. Everyone from the clinic was there, Alec clinging hold of his mother through the short service but at their house afterwards, he ran to his room. Johnnie tried to talk to him.
"You promised she'd be okay Dad."
"I know, they did everything they could but sometimes, it's just not enough. She was upset over her party."
Johnnie had been to the school to explain what had happened and the head teacher had announced it, some counsellors being brought in to help the pupils who found it difficult to cope with the news and Liz had been spending time with them, trying to get Alec to talk about it.
None of them wanted to take their holiday that year, Rose managing to cancel the booking but it didn't make it any easier for any of them. They'd not told Alec exactly what had happened, just his sister had been upset and had taken something she probably thought would help her but as time went on, Alec was withdrawn and hardly talking to his father.
It was almost his sixteenth birthday, Alec didn't want a party, so just his gran had been round and they'd had a little tea party but then he surprised everyone by saying he wanted to hear the truth what had happened to his sister. Johnnie took him into the lounge and tried to explain about the mix-up with the couriers and it all started making sense to him.
Alec was angry when Johnnie told him she must have sneaked downstairs then taken the contents of the package.
"You knew they were there," Alec accused his dad.
"Yes, both of you knew to stay away from anything that was mine, that's what we always taught you," Johnnie tried to explain.
"Well if you and mum hadn't sneaked off every morning, she wouldn't have found them, would she?" Alec asked him.
Johnnie supposed not but she wouldn't have known what they were.
"She had a choice Alec, she knew they were for the clinic and only to be used there. She wasn't thinking straight with being upset over what happened at her party."
After that, Alec hardly spoke to his father again, spending more time with his mother and when it came to his eighteenth birthday, he announced he was leaving home.
"Where are you going?" Rose asked him as he was packing.
"I applied for the police Mum, I got accepted into the Glasgow academy."
"Why so far away?" she asked him.
"I can't stay here and you say I do a mean Scottish accent," he tried to joke.
"So you don't want to be an actor then?" Rose smiled.
"Not with that other one around who looks a bit like me, I read the papers."
So Rose took him to the train station while Johnnie was at work and they hugged goodbye.
"You are coming back?" Rose asked him as he was about to get onboard.
"Take care of yourself Mum. Maybe one day I'll be able to forgive him."
It was going to take a long time.
A/N The story moves on, I decided against including the Sandbrook case and what happened over the years, it was just background about their married life and Alec moving on.
Alec took a long time to finally forgive his father for what happened to Heather. He'd kept in touch with Rose, even visited their riverside apartment they'd bought with the money from the sale of the house and the clinic but when Johnnie was taken ill, Alec relented and went to visit him in hospital.
"So, how's Sandbrook?" Rose asked him as they sat with Johnnie. "How's Daisy? She must be getting big now."
"I sent you the photos," Alec smiled.
"Yeah but it's not the same, I've not seen her for ages," Rose replied.
"I'll bring her next time if she's off school then," Alec offered.
"Still using the Scottish accent?" Johnnie smiled.
He had stuck to his Scottish accent and no-one apart from Tess knew he hadn't actually been born there but he'd never told her how he'd come to pretend he was Scottish, since he'd spent a long time in Glasgow before he'd got transferred to the south of England.
The arguments though were already starting as he'd wanted to take Daisy with him to see his dad.
"It's no place for a young girl Alec," Tess had told him the night before.
"She'll see inside a hospital sooner or later Tess," he'd argued back but he'd had to set off alone on the Saturday morning.
He had decided to stay overnight and catch up with his mother.
"So is he going to get any better?" Alec asked her when they'd got back to the apartment.
He could tell by the look on her face. Rose shook her head.
"We have to hope though," she tried to smile. "Do you want to go see Donna tomorrow afternoon?"
Even though he was older, he still called her Auntie Donna on the few occasions he'd seen her.
"You look so like your dad," Donna fussed over him when they arrived at her retirement flat in Chiswick.
Alec didn't know how to take that, since things were still a bit strained between them, even though he'd forgiven Johnnie over the loss of his sister.
"Did I tell you James still visits me?" Donna asked Rose.
"You mean your cousin or your nephew?" Rose smiled.
"My nephew, keep up Rose," Donna laughed. "He followed James into the same line of work, he got a job in Ipswich, of all places."
Alec had always wondered why Donna kept going on about her cousin and had deduced at some point Donna had tried to play matchmaker between him and his mother.
"He likes to travel though, he's thinking of writing a travel book, good luck to him I say," Donna laughed.
So Alec took his mother home and they went back to see Johnnie in the evening, then Alec was going back home.
"So things aren't too good with Tess?" Rose asked him as they drove to the hospital.
"She thinks having another baby will stop the arguments but how can I ever agree?" he asked as he looked for a parking space.
"Yeah, it would be wrong," Rose had to agree. "Me and your dad wanted more but after Heather, it was too late."
"I know Mum, I know all about you losing hope you'd have another but no-one could have replaced her."
Rose turned to hug him.
"Your dad never stopped loving you, even when you weren't talking to him ya know?" Rose asked him.
Alec put his arm around her. "I know Mum."
Less than two weeks later, Rose was waiting for Alec to collect her to take her to the church for the funeral. She'd hardly stopped crying when she'd been at Johnnie's bedside when they'd argued with the hospital staff that he wanted to go home. The last few days though, she had known he was getting worse.
Alec arrived with Tess, leaving Daisy with her other grandmother, Donna was waiting with whom Alec guessed was her nephew, who without the beard bore an uncanny resemblance to himself and that Scottish actor everyone confused him with.
Then Alec and Tess got caught up in a murder of a young girl and her older cousin being missing and Alec was getting nowhere with the case he and Tess had been working on. It was 2012, late April and he'd hauled the man next door in several times, then after a breakthrough, they thought they finally had him, until he found out Tess was going behind his back with another DS and she lost a vital piece of evidence.
The case fell apart and Alec decided enough was enough and asked for a transfer, it was time he looked after his mother instead of calling her every night and visiting when he could.
"You want a transfer where?" his chief asked him, knowing Alec and Tess were getting divorced.
"Either by the sea of somewhere in London, I don't care which," Alec replied.
"Getting you somewhere in London is a big risk Alec, they won't be so forgiving you covered for your soon to be ex wife," the chief reminded him.
"Wherever it is, I either want to take my mother with me or be stationed close to her," Alec told him.
"Well you may have to wait a while, take some time off and go see your mother," the chief suggested.
Alec knew they were trying to sweep it all under the carpet but he had some leave due, he could spend some of it in London with his mother. Finally, he had a glimmer of hope he'd get his transfer, near the sea as he'd wanted and Rose had already argued she wanted to stay where she was but she knew he was doing it for her.
"Okay then, I'll come down for a month, see how I like it," Rose finally agreed.
"Good, I will find you something on the seafront, a rental apartment, two bedrooms and I will stay with you, no sense in finding a hotel, unless you want to stay in a hotel?" he asked her.
So Alec went down first, to the sleepy seaside town of Broadchurch to meet with his new chief.
"So Alec, do you need somewhere to stay?" the chief asked him.
"No, I'm looking for an apartment, my mother will be coming down to stay with me for a while, I'm trying to persuade her to give up her London apartment," Alec explained.
He went back to London to help his mother pack what she needed, Rose insisting it was only a trial. He knew the apartment was where her memories of his dad were, of them both sitting on the balcony watching life on the river.
They had been in Broadchurch less than a week before Alec started work and he was going to regret ever going there, for more reasons than one. He got woken up early one Friday morning and tried not to disturb Rose. She called out to him just as he was leaving.
"Something came up and all the junior officers are busy elsewhere. Are you okay to get your breakfast?" he asked.
"Yeah, go on, you have a job to do," Rose insisted.
"My DS is back today, no doubt she'll have something to say about me taking her job," Alec smiled, putting his jacket on.
"Just bring her round then, you can blame it on me," Rose smiled, going to hug him goodbye.
"I can't put the blame on you Mum, you know that. It was my idea to accept this posting. Remember that time we had that caravan up on the cliff somewhere?" he asked.
"Yeah, we used to have fun on those caravan holidays," Rose remembered.
"Yes and Heather finally told me why you and dad were always late up," he smiled.
Alec regretted going out early, farm break-ins were not really up to him but the driver had a call to take him down to the beach and then all hell broke loose. He'd already made his new DS an enemy, after she made it known he'd taken her job but Alec brushed it off.
They'd just stopped at a garage for his new DS, Ellie Miller to get sandwiches and drinks but Alec insisted they drove onto the seafront, just past the station.
"Why have me drive around here?" Ellie asked he got out.
"I have to check on my mum," Alec replied, Ellie having wondered why he bought two sandwiches but had assumed he'd missed his breakfast.
"What? Sir, we're working here," Ellie tried to remind him.
"I check on her at this time Miller, if you don't like it, go back to the station and wait for me," Alec told her.
She followed him across the road, ignoring the parking ticket machine in favour of putting her police sign on the dashboard and wondering if he was going to do this every day. Alec went around the back and got his key out, opening the door of number five.
"Mum, it's me," Alec called out as Ellie closed the door behind her.
Rose had seen them crossing the road, looking like they were arguing and she'd thought it was just Alec's luck he got another female DS to argue with, as if Tess hadn't been enough. She was sat on the covered terrace and turned around. Alec went up to her and kissed the top of her head.
"I brought you some lunch," he told her, the small plastic bag in his hand. "I'll make you some tea. Have you been okay?"
"I'm fine. Hi, are you Alec's new DS?" Rose asked Ellie.
"Yeah, I'm Ellie Miller, you must be Mrs Hardy?" Ellie asked, not knowing.
Rose let out a laugh. "No, he's called Hardy, I'm Rose Smith and it's a long story, maybe he'll tell you. Anyway, just call me Rose. I've heard a lot of sirens, what's going on? They said the traffic was backed up on the main road, for miles in both directions."
"Yes Mum. Sorry but we found a young boy on the beach this morning, he'd been killed."
Ellie scowled at him, since they were due to go back and give a press statement and her nephew was dying to know who the victim had been. She just hoped Olly wouldn't jump to any conclusions and put Danny's name out on his social media accounts, then Hardy would be really mad. She saw how Alec was fussing over his mother, he did have a soft side after all, since they'd just had the morning from hell.
Alec came out of the small kitchen with three mugs of tea and handed one to Ellie, then put Rose's on the wicker and glass table. He sat down opposite her and reached for her hands.
"I can't tell you any more Mum, sorry. I have to go give a statement to the media. I'll be back as soon as I can but I may have to work a bit late. Call me if you're worried."
After finishing their drinks and Alec making sure Rose had eaten her sandwich, they set off to go face the press.
"You could have warned me she had a different name to you," Ellie told him as she drove around the back of the police station.
"It's no-one's business Miller, it's complicated."
"Did she re-marry?" Ellie wondered.
No. I changed my name when I was old enough, I'm not discussing it, we have work to do."
"Oh," was all Ellie could think of, which was something for her since she was always ready with a smart answer.
"Now I'm worried about her," Alec admitted on the way upstairs. "I'll be late home."
"Do you cook for her?" Ellie asked.
"No, there are meals in the freezer, she can cook them in the microwave. I got them in for emergencies, in case I got caught up and was late home," Alec replied.
Rose had put the TV on and saw Alec giving a short statement. She'd been so proud of him becoming a DI, even though Johnnie had never been around when Alec got his promotion. Less than a week later, Alec had got no nearer to finding the killer and it was too much like Sandbrook for him. Tess had called him, having heard about it and asked if he thought Lee Ashworth had something to do with it.
Alec and Tess barely communicated these days, apart from his calls to see how Daisy was and for Rose to speak to her occasionally.
"No Tess, I don't think it's Ashworth," Alec replied the following Wednesday morning.
"It was just a thought Alec, I'm only trying to help," Tess replied. "How's your mother?"
"She was very quiet this morning, for some reason. She said she's worried about me, with the case being similar. She often looks like she's miles away but I think she just misses her apartment and my dad," Alec admitted. "I should never have brought her here."
"You wouldn't have left her in London Alec," Tess reminded him. "Do you want me to come down and offer assistance in the case?"
"No, leave it for now. I don't think the two cases are connected and I have an alert out for Ashworth, if he comes back."
"The offer's there Alec, give my love to your mother," Tess replied.
Alec finished what he was doing and told Ellie he was going out for half an hour, since he was worried about his mother. He left her finishing her pot of tea, kissing her cheek.
"Alec, I think I want to go back home, I'm keeping you from the investigation."
"No, you are not keeping me from the investigation, I have still got time for you. I would be more worried if I were to take you back. Give it a few more weeks eh?"
"I wish you'd go back to your old accent," Rose smiled at him.
"Dad told me off, the day Heather died," Alec recalled.
That made Rose smile. "I'm glad you two made up."
"I did it for you Mum but maybe I was a little harsh on him?" Alec asked. He noticed Rose looked more tired than usual. "I'll try to be early tonight, that should please Miller."
"Why can't you call her Ellie? Is it because you worked with Tess?"
Alec knew how clever his mother was, his dad had always made a point of telling him nothing ever got past her.
"Dad always said I would never get away with anything," Alec smiled. "I won't be late back."
"Alec, put my music on before you go," Rose asked him.
He had got Daisy to show him how to transfer all his mother's favourite songs onto a music player, though she still had the original records back in London. Once he left, Ellie noticed he seemed a bit off when they'd been out and she went into his office.
"Still worried about your mum?" Ellie asked him.
"I'm scared I'm going to loose her Miller. She wants to go home but how can I let her?" he asked.
"Then take her back and get some help for her," Ellie suggested. "Advertise for someone or go to an agency."
"I don't want to leave her with a stranger. I thought she would like it here, we even went out for a short walk last night, she's still very active though she tends to just stare out of the window these days. Maybe I should have got her some place else so she could see better."
"There's plenty going on, on the seafront. So are you going to tell me why you changed your name?"
"Close the door on your way out Miller," Alec replied, sitting sideways in his chair and playing with his pen.
Ellie refused to move. "It's affecting your work, you're worried about your mother, I get that. Did you fall out with your dad or something?"
"Or something. Yes, then when I was old enough I moved to Glasgow, joined the police and got away with being accepted as Scottish. I was going to be an actor, I was even accepted to drama school then something happened."
Ellie knew that was all she was going to get out of him – for now anyway. As Alec got ready to leave for the day, Ellie reminded him of the reconstruction the following night.
"You will be there, since it was your idea?" Ellie asked him.
"Yes, I'll see to my mum first then get a cab up there. I can hardly bring her with me."
Alec wasn't going to get there. When he walked home, thinking of taking Rose out somewhere now the investigation was less prominent, he let himself in and found Rose asleep in the comfy chair by the window.
"Come on Mum, wake up," Alec told her gently, the music player on the table.
"Hey, what time is it?" Rose yawned.
"Just after six. I'll make you something to eat, are you hungry?"
Rose shook her head.
"Then I'll make you some eggs and toast, you can manage that?" he smiled at her.
"You're so like your dad Alec," Rose smiled back. "I miss him, every day."
"I know you do Mum and I'm sorry I fell out with him for all that time. I should have made up with him sooner."
"He knew you didn't mean it Alec. He always still blamed himself for what happened, even though it was an accident."
"I know that now Mum, I was too young to understand at the time. I was wrong to blame him. Right, I'll go make you something then?"
He helped her back into the lounge and sat her on the sofa. There was a table in the kitchen but she seemed to prefer eating there, just after they'd moved in.
"I have to go out tomorrow night," Alec told her as he took the plates in. "We're retracing the route Danny took that night."
"Well I hope it does some good then," Rose smiled.
As he helped her into her room and left her to get ready for bed, he couldn't help but feel he really was loosing her, like she didn't want to go on. Maybe he should have left her in London but being so far way, in the middle of a murder investigation wouldn't have made it any easier.
He couldn't take her back, not now, even doing as Ellie Miller suggested and get someone in to care for her.
When he woke up just before seven, he could hear music playing. He got out of bed and smiled to himself that his mother had woken early and was playing her favourite songs. He knocked on her bedroom door and when she didn't answer, he glanced around the door and saw her all curled up, thinking she'd fallen back asleep listening to it.
He got himself dressed, switched the kettle on then took her morning tea.
"Come on Mum, I'll get your breakfast for you eh?" he asked.
He went around to switch the music off and just happened to glance at her. What happened next seemed to Alec like it was all in slow motion. He reached for his mobile and asked for an ambulance though he knew at this stage it was too late. He got his jacket on then went to the front window, seeing a flashing light and he went to let the ambulance crew in.
As they took the details, Alec said he was going with them, showing his ID card.
"We just need some details, DI Hardy," the medic who had stayed in the back with him told him.
They had just got to the local hospital when his phone rang. Seeing it was Ellie Miller and ignoring it, he followed the stretcher into the emergency room, thankful it had been saved from closure, well for now. A team gathered around but he knew it was too late, it was like when he'd seen his father had passed away.
"I'm sorry, it's too late, she's gone. If it's any consolation, she passed away in her sleep," the doctor told him.
Alec sat down, trying to take it in.
"Can I just see her?" he asked.
The doctor nodded and let him through. Alec leaned down and kissed her now cooling cheek.
"I'm sorry Mum but you got what you wanted, to be with dad again," he whispered.
"Would you like a few moments alone?" Alec was asked. "We can make the arrangements if you wish, we have a funeral director on call."
"Yes, you do that, I have a call to make. Will there be an inquest?" Alec asked.
"No, we're satisfied she just passed in her sleep though it's not that long ago. Had you spoken to her this morning?" Alec was asked.
"Yes but she never answered, she was laid away from me, she had some music on. It was only when I went to turn it off that I saw her like that."
"There was nothing you could have done," the doctor assured him, patting his shoulder. "If you wait outside, the funeral director will be here soon, I'll just see to the paperwork."
Alec decided the least he could do was take her back to London, since a place at Johnnie's side had been arranged when he'd passed away. His phone rang again so he answered or Ellie Miller would come and find him.
"Why did you never answer your phone earlier?" Ellie asked him.
"Miller, I'm at the hospital, I won't be in today."
"What? Are you ill or something?" he was asked.
"No, my mum just passed away, I have things to do. Tell the chief I need some time off."
Ellie went quiet, trying to let it sink in.
"I'm sorry, I don't know what to say," Ellie replied, not being good at this sort of thing.
"Thanks Miller. I have to get the funeral director to arrange for the funeral in London, she'll want to be buried next to my dad."
He didn't want to say it was a short distance from where his sister was laid. He'd never even told Tess he'd had a sister who had died so young and neither his mum or dad had put Tess right on the matter. A nurse came out and handed him a certificate and gave him a smile.
"You look like you need a drink, I'll get you some tea. The funeral director's been called, they're on their way."
"Thanks, I just have some calls to make."
He brought up Tess's number.
"Changed your mind about some help?" Tess asked him.
"No. Is Daisy at school?" he asked, not even noticing what day it was.
"Alec. She's on holiday, what's wrong with you? I'm just taking her to my mother's."
"Tess, tell her, just tell her that her other gran just passed away, a short time ago."
"What? Oh Alec, I'm so sorry. Had she been ill?" Tess asked, not looking forward to telling their teenage daughter.
"No, she just went to sleep and when I found her this morning, I thought she was still asleep until I went around the other side. I'm going to take her back to London, to be with my dad."
After Alec had arranged with the funeral director for Rose to be taken to the chapel of rest locally while they contacted the east London directors who had seen to his father's funeral, he went back to the apartment, looking around and expecting her to be sat looking out.
There was only Donna to tell and he thought he'd best get it over with, though the last time he'd seen her, she'd been a bit more scatty than usual. He remembered Donna with fondness, she'd been there for him when his sister had died, her and his 'Auntie Liz', who had taken over when his dad had retired. Even she was gone now and Owen Harper and Donna had somehow outlasted them all.
"Hello Donna," Alec greeted her when she asked who it was.
How many people did she know now with a Scottish accent?
"Oh, it's you Alec. You know my hearing's not that good now, I thought it was James. What are you calling for?" Donna asked him.
"I have some bad news, my mum just died a few hours ago," Alec admitted.
There was silence on the other end.
"Are you still there?" Alec asked, wondering why people always asked that.
"Sorry Alec, had she been ill?"
"No, she'd just seemed more tired than usual the past few days. Anyway, I'm having her taken back to London, to be buried with my dad, I'll let you know the details."
"I don't go out much Alec but I'll try," Donna told him. "I'll get James down to help me. She got what she wanted, to be with your dad again."
"I know. Why did you always keep going on about your cousin James?" Alec had to ask her.
"Because before she met your dad, James wanted to ask her out but she always said he was too clever for her. Then she met your dad so it was a bit ironic really, he was twice as clever as James. He met someone else, resulting in my nephew, who hates being called James after his dad. He just got back from a world trip, he finally got around to doing that travel book. He took some assistant with him and from what I gather, it got a bit intense and it ended badly."
Alec wasn't really interested but he supposed the man would turn up to the funeral. He said goodbye and he hoped she'd be able to attend, if not, he agreed he would go see her while he was in London. He knew he'd have to leave the next day, to secure his mother's apartment, clear most of it out and put it up for sale. Then he'd have to visit her solicitors, since she'd been holding his share of the money his dad had left, him not wanting it.
He went off to clear his desk and called in to see the chief.
"I'm sorry to hear what happened Alec. I'm getting someone down from Exeter to take charge, Ellie's too emotionally involved, with her knowing the family. How long will you be away?" the chief asked him.
"Hopeful no longer than a week, ten days at most depending when they can arrange the funeral, I'm hoping to get things sorted quickly, I can always go back. I'll appoint an agent to sell my mum's apartment though I have a few other legal problems to sort. It was just bad timing but at least she was with me, not all alone in London."
"Yes, it was fortunate you brought her here then Alec and I'm very sorry for your loss. Take all the time you need," Elaine Jenkinson told him.
He intended to get things sorted as soon as he could. Tess would hopefully take Daisy with her, though seeing her at a funeral wasn't ideal. He got a bag together, thinking he may as well make an early start in the morning, he was just waiting for the funeral director to contact him now.
Just after six, there was a knock on the door, Alec hoping it wasn't someone trying to sell him something. It was Ellie.
"I want to know where to send flowers," she told him as he let her in.
"I don't know yet, I've not thought about it but I think I would prefer people donated something to a charity," Alec replied.
No-one knew who his father had been, the famous JD Smith so he didn't want to give too much away.
"If that's what she would have wanted?" Ellie asked. "Are you leaving?" she asked, seeing a packed bag.
"I'll be back, the chief is covering for my absence," Alec replied.
"Well as long as whoever it is only stays until you come back but it should have gone to me," Ellie complained.
"Really? When you're involved with the family? Are you going ahead with the reconstruction?" Alec asked.
"It's too late to cancel it now. You could still come Sir," Ellie replied.
"No, I can't, my mind would not be on it, give my apologies to the Latimer family, tell them why I'm not there, if you must."
After Alec persuaded Ellie to leave and stop feeling sorry for him, he put the news on and tried calling Daisy, who had been upset since she'd been told.
"Is your mum bringing you to the funeral?" Alec asked her.
"Yeah, I had to convince her though. Grandma Rose didn't suffer, did she Dad?" Daisy asked.
"No, she went peacefully and she's with your grandad again. I'll call your mum when I have the details."
The next morning, Alec made an early start, thinking when he got back he would see if he could get out of the three month lease on the apartment but he doubted it. It would bring back memories but at least he wouldn't have to go to a hotel, especially to the one where the owner had admitted being with Danny Latimer's dad that night.
As he was leaving, a young woman called Billie had just set off for the coach station in Ipswich. She'd tried to get her job back at the police station but after nearly six months absence, she'd had no luck until a friend had called her the day before to tell her the Broadchurch police were wanting data operators and secretaries to cope with a murder investigation.
After Elaine Jenkinson had seen Alec, she'd put out to other stations that staff were needed urgently and Billie's friend had contacted her and it had been agreed she would be suitable, given her experience and she'd accepted. She'd hurriedly rung around a few boarding houses and one down by the harbour was willing to let her have a room only, since she was going to be out all day working.
Billie had arrived in the town and was already finding out where she would be working. She had enough money until she got paid, she'd got the money she was owed from that creep James, who had just dumped her when they'd got home, telling her he needed to get his book written and in no uncertain terms they had broken up.
That was why she had no doubts in leaving town for a few weeks, well that and no prospects of a job, which she'd still have to face when this one was finished. She hoped the lead detectives would take their time. The next morning, she was to report to DS Ellie Miller and was given a desk, a computer and a pile of forms to transfer the data.
Over the next few days, while Alec was sorting out solicitors and appointing an agent to sell his mother's apartment, Billie had sort of made friends with Ellie when she found out it was a different detective to whom she'd seen on TV.
"He had to go to London, his mum died," Ellie explained as they ended up in the break area at the same time on Billie's second day.
Ellie had looked at her on her first day, thinking she looked familiar but not being able to recall why, then she'd got used to the new data operator.
"So is he coming back then, that other detective?" Billie asked her.
"You mean Hardy? Yeah, he'll be back when he's sorted everything out. Don't worry, his bark is worse than his bite," Ellie grinned.
Over the next few days, Billie settled down though she was running a bit short of money but she'd been assured by the personnel department, she'd get paid the following week.
Alec had more or less finished in London, the funeral was over and he had just gone to see Donna, who hadn't got to the funeral but he'd seen her nephew.
"Funny my aunt Donna never told me I had a double," James smiled, since they'd not spoken before. "She's sorry she couldn't make it."
"She would have come if she'd been able to," Alec replied.
"She talked about your mum all the time," James told him. "She also told me your family secret, about your sister."
"I don't talk about it, she knows that," Alec replied.
"Yeah, sorry, I won't tell anyone," James promised.
Two days later, Alec was back in Broadchurch and in the apartment, having brought what he could back with him, including his mother's records, which he thought of keeping and giving to Daisy, they were probably worth a small fortune, being in good condition.
He knew he had to go back when a buyer was found for the apartment in London and he was still waiting for the solicitor to sort out the bank accounts but he had to leave them to it and go back to work. So on the Monday morning, he walked into the CID to find someone sat in his office.
"Oh, you're back?" DI Diane Black looked up from a folder. "Guess I should bring you up to speed then?"
"Yes, that would be a good idea," Alec agreed.
Ellie waited for the other DI to leave then went in his office.
"Welcome back then, did everything go okay?" she asked him.
"As well as could be expected. There are some new faces out there."
"Yes, a few. The chief got extra help in. One of them bothers me though."
"Which one would that be?" Alec wondered.
Ellie pointed towards Billie, who was concentrating on what she was doing.
"You look like you've seen a ghost," Ellie told him.
"You want to know why she looks familiar?" Alec asked her. "I'm not going to tell you, work it out Miller."
Almost everyone had left and Ellie saw Billie was still working.
"Time to go home," Ellie suggested.
"Yeah, I'll just finish this then. So that's DI Hardy?" Billie asked.
"In the flesh, so to speak. Don't let him boss you around. See you tomorrow."
Billie was just entering the last of the data from a form when someone stood in front of her.
"Can I help you Sir?" Billie asked Alec.
"You have somewhere to go or do you live here?" Alec asked her.
"Yeah, I was just finishing this," Billie replied.
"So who are you then?" Alec wanted to know, since Miller had given no names earlier.
"Yeah, I'm Billie Parker, I started last week. DS Miller told me about your mum, sorry."
"Thank you. Now are you going home, wherever that is?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm just staying at the guest house on the corner though if personnel don't sort my money out, I will be sleeping here."
"You had best sort it out with them then," Alec suggested.
"Yeah, I'll live. Hopefully one of the food stalls will still be open, they're a bit cheaper than the takeaway round the corner."
"Then if they are closed, allow me to treat you?" Alec asked. "I mean as your boss."
"Thanks. I'm ready to go now," she smiled, closing the lid on the laptop.
Twenty minutes later, they were sat on the wall, facing the harbour and eating fish and chips.
"Mmm, these are great," Billie smiled. "I don't normally go there unless I have to, I have to make my money last."
"What about your accommodation?" Alec asked.
"It's paid until Sunday so I hope I get sorted by then. Mind you, I saw a lot of people when I was leaving this morning, I bet they were reporters."
"I hope not, be careful if they are," Alec warned her.
"I've worked for the police before," Billie replied.
"Really? Is that how you got the job?"
"Yeah, a friend of mine put me onto it, I got it because I could get here fast."
"Then you were out of work?" Alec asked her.
"Yeah. I was an assistant to this travel writer, we got involved then he dumped me when we got back, saying he'd no time for me now, jerk."
"I'm sorry to hear that. What will you do when this investigation is over?"
"No idea, I know you'll solve it as soon as you can. Well I'd best get off to my room although it's a bit small and those milk cartons they leave out are disgusting," she smiled.
"Maybe I can help? I live just along the seafront, I make a decent cup of tea," Alec suggested.
"I don't want to be any bother," Billie replied, getting up.
"It's no bother, I have no-one to get back to, I lived there with my mum, until recently. I would welcome the company."
"Then thanks. Do I have to call you Sir?" she laughed as they put their empty cartons in the litter bin.
"No, if you promise not to tell anyone," Alec replied.
"Who would I tell, I don't know anyone here."
"Have you not made any friends?" he asked, sounding concerned as they walked around the corner.
"Maybe I work too hard," she smiled. "I really hate that room I'm in, it doesn't even look out onto the harbour, I spend as little time there as possible."
"Once you get your money sorted, maybe you could get a caravan?" Alec asked, letting them in.
Now came the test, that his mother wasn't there and the temporary help resembled the mother he'd just lost. How could he possibly tell her? Miller even suspected it or did he just want her to look like his mother?
Alec made some tea as Billie was standing at the window. It reminded him of his mother sitting there as he handed a mug to her.
"Nice view," Rose smiled, turning towards him.
"My mum used to live by the river, this was the best I could do, apart from those chalets that look like they are falling apart," Alec told her, going to sit down.
Billie sat opposite. "It took me ages to get over it when my gran died."
"Indeed? I did not feel this bad when my dad died, we hadn't seen each other much, we fell out, well I fell out with him," Alec admitted.
"You don't have to explain anything to me Alec, unless it helps to talk? I'm a good listener, my ex never stopped talking."
"That would be the ex who dumped you recently?" Alec asked, trying to remember what she'd told him earlier.
He wondered what kind of man would do that but she'd mentioned she'd been travelling around, it wasn't Donna's nephew, surely? He thought he'd best not say anything though.
"Yeah, that would be him. We only got together to save having the locals staring at us. He talked me into it really, he said it was to protect me. I wish I'd never believed him now. I wouldn't mind, the pay wasn't that good but I thought it would be a good experience."
"So are you really short of money?" Alec asked, wondering if she was too independent to accept help.
Well she'd let him pay for their takeout meals.
"I'll manage somehow, I get breakfast at the station, there's always plenty of toast. Don't worry about me," she replied.
"Well if you need help, come and see me. If you are only in a single room, do you have your own bathroom?"
"I wish. I had to wait until I got to work this morning, I hope I can get out of there soon," she told him.
"Don't take this the wrong way but you are welcome to use my bathroom, I mean if you want a shower or anything. How do you manage with your laundry?"
Billie put her mug down, wondering if he was always like that.
"There's a laundry by the caravan park but I managed to wash a few things and dry them in my room."
"Well, come round tomorrow night, get a shower and I will try to get the washing machine to work," Alec smiled. "I will also make something to eat, just to entice you."
"Ah, you sold me at the thought of taking a shower with no-one knocking on the bathroom door," Billie smiled. "You miss the company?"
"I never saw my mum much before I moved her here. Maybe she wouldn't have passed away if I had left her where she was?"
"Don't blame yourself Alec, you can't know that for certain," Billie told him. "She could have died on her own, when would someone have found her?"
"She had a cleaner in every day but you are right, a stranger would have found her, well a stranger to me. She'd wanted to go home, just the day before," he admitted.
Billie reached over and touched his arm. "She must have known then?"
"Maybe but she was never right after my dad died," Alec admitted.
"Was your mum Scottish?" Billie asked him.
"No, she was born in London, my dad was Scottish. I will let you into a secret, if I can trust you."
"I told you, I've no-one to say anything to, except DS Miller, she's the only one I really talk to."
"Well, since I have no-one to talk to really? I was also born in London, I made myself Scottish," he admitted.
"Wow, I'd never have guessed that," Billie smiled. "So, how did ya do that then?"
"I was going to be an actor, I used to go around mimicking by dad all the time. I was going to drama school but when something happened I decided to join the police when I was eighteen. I ran off, to Glasgow and took advantage of all the practice I'd had with the Scottish accent."
"You never told anyone?" Billie asked.
"A few close family friends. I left because I could not forgive my dad for something, we only made up shortly before he died, then I did it mostly for my mum but it was time to make peace."
"Well at least you didn't leave it too late? You probably made them both happy?" she asked. "Was it so bad, what you blamed your dad for?"
Alec put his mug down. "I was thirteen, well just. I had a sister Billie, she died just after her sixteenth birthday and when I was old enough, I wanted to know why."
Rose got up and sat beside him, taking his hand.
"I'm so sorry Alec. You should have told me to mind my own business."
He put his other hand on top of hers. This was too much, him telling her things when she looked so much like his mother. If she found out, Billie would run a mile and get as far away from him as she could. At the very least she'd slap his face.
"Only a few people know about it. She took some drugs that had been delivered to the house when they should have gone where my dad worked. I was too young to understand at the time but I found out a few years later."
"Alec, how come the drugs were at your home? Was your dad a doctor or something?" she asked.
"He was a psychiatrist, the drugs were for the clinic. Have you heard of JD Smith?"
"Seriously? Yeah, I've heard of him, I think James even mentioned him a few times, when he was trying to play mind games with me," Billie smiled. "Wow, so you changed your name as well?"
"Yes, I did. I wanted to distance myself from him. You can't tell anyone Billie."
"Of course I won't tell anyone, why would I? Tell me what happened, it helps to talk. What was your sister's name?"
Billie was still holding his hand and he'd not tried to move it, realising his hand was still on hers.
"Her name was Heather, she was three years older than me."
Billie reached over and kissed his cheek.
"You can tell me tomorrow then, I should be getting back."
He patted her hand. "Yes, I will walk you back."
"Thanks, it's not far. Are ya sure, about me taking a shower and doing my laundry?" she asked, just to make sure.
"I stand by my offer, I will be glad of the company. Maybe you should go see how much a caravan would cost?" he asked.
Then he wondered if the offer was still there for the police to pay for his accommodation? If it was, he could get a caravan and offer to let her stay there and she'd save some money. As they walked back around the corner, Billie with her arm in his as even during the summer it was a little chilly at night, he thought he would ask her tomorrow night but in a more tactful way than just offering outright. She may think he had an ulterior motive for asking and he didn't want to give the wrong impression that despite looking like his mother, he was somehow being drawn to her.
Billie was still trying to get over the shock her new boss had not only paid for her to get something to eat but she was going back to his apartment the following evening after jumping at the chance of getting some shower time to herself and her laundry done.
She wondered how he'd react though if she admitted he reminded her of James but she'd talked about her being dumped by the love-rat not so long ago and it didn't seem to bother him. So Alec had left her at the door and she'd kissed his cheek and thanked him, then she went inside, Alec standing looking at the door.
He walked back around the corner, passing the station again and nodding to two officers coming out as they bid him goodnight and he went back to think about maybe he'd been too hasty making friends with the new data operator. Miller already suspected something, she'd surely work it out?
The next day though, he couldn't resist sending Billie a message just before lunch, since he'd got the number off her as they stood at the door the night before, him claiming it was so if he was going to be late back that she wouldn't be waiting around for him – not that he planned to be late back since he'd promised to cook for her.
Billie heard her message tone and glanced at the screen – 'Meet me across the road in ten minutes?' then she looked up and Alec was putting his coat on, though she wondered why he was wearing it. She watched him walk out, no-one taking notice she'd stopped work but she didn't see Ellie as Alec passed her just saying he was going out then she'd glanced around the room and noticed Billie was putting her phone away.
There were no rules that office personal couldn't use their personal phones but most of them didn't seem to bother. Ellie got up and went to make a drink as an excuse to see what the new arrival was going to do, since she'd not bothered yesterday until later to stop work and take a break, plus she'd had to tell her last night to go home.
"Early lunch today?" Ellie asked as Billie was putting her cardigan on.
"Oh, yeah. Didn't get much to eat earlier, there was only one slice of bread to make toast," Billie smiled, there now being two loaves on the kitchen unit.
"You should have come back," Ellie smiled. "Look Billie, if you're not getting breakfast, why not come in early and go to the canteen? It's much cheaper than the catering units."
"I'll try to remember but I wasn't sure what time it opened," Billie replied.
"Early," Ellie grinned, wondering if she was keeping the young woman from something and it was funny she'd chosen that time to get up when Hardy had just left.
Billie got away and with her new ID badge clipped on her belt loop of her black trousers, walked out of the front entrance and presumed Alec had gone across the road. As she approached the path leading the to outdoor catering area, he was sat at the far end studying a menu.
"You never replied," he told her as she sat opposite him.
"DS Miller stopped me on my way out," she told him.
"Choose something to eat, I'm making it my personal mission to see you don't starve yourself," Alec replied.
Ordering a baked potato with cheese and salad and a latte, Alec went off and Billie looked around, hoping none of the office staff had decided to eat there as well.
"You're very fast at entering the data," Alec told her when he came back.
"I have done it before," Billie smiled. "Is this instead of you making something later?"
"No, what makes you think that? I only got your number last night so that if I am delayed you won't be hanging around and get yourself arrested," he replied.
"Why would I get arrested?" Billie mused.
"Hanging around outside my apartment with presumably a bag containing your laundry?" he half smiled as the man from the catering stall brought their drinks.
"Right, that would be bad?" Billie grinned as the man left. "I just got stopped by DS Miller, she told me to get in early and use the staff canteen."
"Why would she do that?" Alec asked, stirring his tea.
"I think she suspects I don't seem to eat much," Billie replied, blowing on her latte.
Alec was a bit surprised. "So are you going to take her advice?" he asked.
"I normally just make some toast but there was hardly any bread this morning," she replied.
"The cleaners must have been late leaving it then? You should consider using the canteen unless you live on toast?" he asked as their meals arrived.
"It's free," Billie smiled as she waited for the salt, Alec realising and passing it over.
"Indeed? You still need to look after yourself you know, I can't have staff going without eating. When do you get paid?" he asked.
"Hopefully on Friday. My room's paid for until Sunday though but I got some funny looks from two blokes this morning when I went to see if the bathroom was occupied."
"You can't stay there Billie, what are they thinking?" he asked.
"That they've got a full house?" Billie asked back.
"You need to be careful," Alec leaned forward to tell her. "Make sure your room is kept locked at all times."
"Yes Sir," Billie joked. "Have you and DS Miller made a point of looking out for me?"
"Well I don't know so much about her," Alec replied. "She may be making it her mission to keep you away from me. She doesn't like me very much. She came to meet my mum the other week though, the same day Danny was found, I think she relented somewhat, to see I was human after all."
Billie smiled. "You promised to tell me more tonight," she reminded him.
"Yes, I know but it may bore you," he replied, putting his cutlery across his almost empty plate.
"No, I want to hear it. It takes my mind off that jerk who dumped me. I mean who does that? He drags me halfway around the world then we get back, suddenly he's more concerned about getting all his notes together and publishing his book. I mean, he'd waited long enough to do it."
Alec was having nasty suspicions he knew who she was talking about.
"Billie, don't take this the wrong way but was his surname Noble by any chance?" Alec dared ask.
Billie put her knife and fork down. "What? How do ya know that?" she asked.
"Because my aunt, well not my real aunt, she was my mum's best friend, she has a nephew called James, she told me a while back he'd gone to write a travel book then when I saw her, she said he'd just got back. Was it him?" Alec asked, reaching for her hand as he saw the look on her face.
Billie managed to nod. Now he would realise the two of them looked alike. He seemed to have read her mind as she tried to get up.
"I should get back to work," she told him.
"You are entitled to an hour though I can talk, I rarely go out to eat," he smiled. "Billie, I've met him, at my mum's funeral but I already knew about him. I know I resemble him."
Billie tried again to get up but he stopped her.
"Don't run away. Just tell me you have not made friends with me because of it."
Billie knew there as no escaping it. It didn't bother her that her new boss and now her friend just happened to look like her jerk of an ex.
"Is that what you think?" she asked him, hoping she'd not just driven the only person who'd been kind to her away.
"I think no such thing, the way you talk about him I can see it is well and truly over between the two of you. You did realise I look like him?" Alec asked her.
Billie nodded as he took hold of her hand again.
"I didn't realise at first though. So, what did he have to say for himself?" she asked, since Alec was determined to keep her out.
"Not much, apparently his aunt never mentioned we could be twins but from what I can gather, he also looks like his dad. I remember my aunt Donna joking about it when I was younger though I'd never met either of them. I asked her recently, she told me her cousin liked my mum and tried to get her to go out with him but she met my dad," Alec tried to explain.
Billie thought this wasn't just getting complicated, it was getting weird. She tried to move her hand, hoping DS Miller wasn't spying on her.
"There is no need to worry, I won't run away," Alec told her, stroking her hand.
"This is just weird," was all Billie could say.
"You think that is weird?" Alec smiled. "Do you still want to hear the rest?"
Billie was having second thoughts but she'd got this far and at least Alec wasn't a jerk and he'd been nice to her so far but was DS Miller worried he was coming onto her?
"Yeah, I want to know the rest Alec. I should really get back to work now."
"Well no working late eh? If you see me going out, don't worry if I don't come back, I may go straight home. Tomorrow, we'll go to the caravan park and see about getting you out of the guest house. I will claim my accommodation allowance, you can stay there as long as you like."
"Are you staying in the apartment?" Billie asked as he finally let her get up.
"For now but there are too many memories there but don't worry, if I also move into the caravan, I will stay out of your way, if you want?"
Billie didn't know what she wanted as they walked off. She was hoping Ellie Miller wasn't watching from a vantage point as they walked back across the road and up the steps. They went upstairs but Alec stopped her.
"I meant it Billie, you need to get out of that place so we go sort a caravan out and you move out of the guest house. We can discuss it later, I'll see you at seven unless I send you a message. Okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, okay. Why are you doing this?" she managed to ask.
"I would be failing as your boss if I did not look after you," he replied.
Billie thought it was a reasonable explanation but was it turning into more and Ellie Miller had already seen where this was heading? She went back to work, trying not to think about it.
Ellie had seen them come in together and had sworn the young woman had followed Hardy out on purpose. They had to go out later but before she drove off, she questioned him.
"Are you getting friendly with the new data operator?"
"What? Since when did you get to ask personal questions?" he asked her.
"She followed you out earlier and you came back together. Someone said you were talking to her last night and she left with you."
"You have been spying on me?" he asked.
"No, not spying but it's my job to look after the female staff," Ellie replied.
"Then you have nothing to worry about, have you Miller?" he asked, being cryptic.
"That's no answer," Ellie told him as she set off. "Are you getting involved with her?"
"Stop asking questions of a personal nature when we are working," Alec replied.
He knew he was getting in dangerous territory. Was he crossing the line of being more than Billie's new boss? He'd been taken aback when he'd first seen her and he'd wasted no time in trying to get to know her but was it because she looked like his mother? He'd thought nothing of looking like James, she seemed well and truly over him but it was a strange coincidence she'd come to the town as he'd been away.
Was his mum looking down on him and making sure he'd be okay?
Ellie wasn't just going to let it go though but kept quiet and resigned herself to keeping an eye on the pair of them. She'd already worked out why the young woman seemed familiar, she could be a younger version of Hardy's mother, though why she'd been called Rose Smith as she'd seen in the paper, she had no idea. Maybe she'd remarried or something but she doubted her boss would tell her.
Billie was about to call it a day just before six. She had to go back to her tiny room, sort out her laundry and call her mother then walk around to Alec's apartment but he'd gone out again and not come back, though he'd not sent her a message. Alec had got out of Ellie's car and called at the caravan park's mini-market to pick up a few things then cut through to his now temporary home.
He knew he couldn't stay there, not only because of the memories but because it would look strange if he went to claim a housing allowance and he stayed there. How would Billie feel about sharing though? He could leave it a few weeks to see how long she was staying, she could leave town before or after the case had been solved.
He went back and wondered if he should send a message but Billie would think he was in and come round anyway, he'd only said he'd message her if he was going to be late. Billie was ready to leave at ten minutes to seven, walking towards the stairs and hearing loud laughter from below, probably the reporters.
"Oh, going somewhere?" the landlady asked her as she got to the bottom of the stairs, a large holdall in her hand.
"Oh, I made a friend and they offered to let me do my laundry," Billie replied, trying not to say if it was a male or female friend.
"You should have said dear, if you're long-term we have a laundry service," the woman told her.
"Oh, it's fine, my friend doesn't mind, I'm on a bit of a budget anyway, until I get paid," Billie replied.
"Are you booking for next week?" the woman asked her as she tried to leave.
"I'm not sure yet, I might be going to share with my friend, when do ya need to know?" Billie asked.
"By Friday at the latest, I've had to turn down bookings, what with everything that's going on and reporters ringing every five minutes. It beats me why they don't go up into the town."
Billie finally got away and Alec was pacing the kitchen floor just on seven when he'd been expecting his guest to be there early, for some strange reason. Maybe he should have sent her a message? No, she'd think he was crowding her but was he? He almost jumped when the doorbell rang.
"Hi, come in," he told Billie as he went for her holdall. "Dinner won't be ready yet so do you want to get your shower now? Then I can work out how to put the washing machine on when you are done."
"Haven't you used it yet?" Billie smiled.
"Well yes but I think it was pure luck it was the right programme," he smiled back. "Anyway, go ahead and get your shower."
"Thanks and I was right about the reporters, the landlady just admitted it," Billie told him.
"All the more reason for you to get out of there. I will see if I can get a caravan to move right into, then you can get your things tomorrow night," he replied.
"Alec, I've paid until Sunday," Billie reminded him.
"Yes, you already said but I will go with you and get your money back though you will have to pay for tomorrow. Look, get your shower then we will talk. You can stay here until I can get a caravan."
Billie hadn't been expecting that – or had she? She went to the bathroom and stepped under the steady stream of water, loving the feeling since it had been a few days she'd actually had chance to take her time. Alec was getting the food ready inbetween loading the washing machine and hoping his new friend could work it out better than he could.
Was she just a friend though? Was he treading on thin ice between it turning into something else? Maybe he needed to seek some professional help that he really liked a woman who could be his mother's younger twin but there again, Billie thought nothing of him looking like her ex.
"Better?" he asked as he was playing with his phone as Billie came out of the bathroom.
"Yeah, thanks for not banging on the door and telling me to hurry up," she smiled, drying her hair and adding a few items to the washing. "You know how to work this?"
"Ah, I have the instructions somewhere," he grinned, putting his phone down after disconnecting from the website where he'd been looking up a certain James Noble, travel writer amongst other things, a jerk being one of them for leaving Billie.
Billie soon worked it out while he was dishing up the food, carrying it into the living room, the table being near to the sort of conservatory where his mother had liked to sit in the short time she was there. He opened a bottle of wine he'd remembered to pick up and he'd helped her into her seat.
"So, are ya gonna tell me more?" Billie asked as she took a drink.
"Well, you could tell me more about yourself first," he hinted. "I mean beside getting mixed up with a travel writer then being let go."
"Don't remind me," Billie half smiled.
Alec took the dishes and put them in the kitchen while Billie found how to put the washer on an extra spin, Alec watching for future reference.
"You have no excuse for not staying here tonight," he told her as she'd wandered to the window and was looking out at the esplanade.
"Do ya have a car then?" she wondered, a few parked opposite.
"Yes, that black one just over there," he pointed, handing her another glass of wine. "Parking is free overnight but I have a police sign though I could have probably got a resident's permit, had I asked. So, what is your answer? Go back to your tiny room and wait for the bathroom to be vacant or stay here?"
"Well, that's a big decision Alec," Billie teased him. "I mean, would I be staying in your mother's room?"
"We can swap, if you wish, if it bothers you so much," he offered. "We can see if we can get you a caravan to move into on Thursday. I would like to know you are okay, with all those reporters being around at the guest house."
"You'd be worried?" Billie smiled. "What for, they don't know where I work."
"Ah but what if you have been followed and someone has seen you either enter the police station or come here?" he asked.
Billie pretended to think about it. "Okay, I'll stay. I can see you're worried about me."
"Yes, I am. That's because I don't want you talking to them."
"Is that the only reason, Alec?" she asked.
It wasn't but he refused to say anything. Billie could see she wasn't going to get an answer.
"Can I dry the rest of my stuff in the bathroom?" she dared ask.
"Sure. I have been married Billie, in case you wondered."
"I guessed as much, you being all domesticated," she teased him.
"I needed some help with the washing machine," he admitted. "You don't sound that surprised."
Billie was pretending to be coy about it. "So come on then, you promised to tell me more. Tell me about your sister."
"I don't talk about her. I miss her every day, she chose to leave me. She did not have to take those pills that morning. Our dad would have put her right, it was what he did."
"She knew that Alec, it sounds like she didn't want his help."
"She wanted to be a nurse, a psychiatric nurse, to follow him. She was always dad's favourite but I never let it bother me, she was the eldest, she was bound to be. I still can't believe she would do that over a boy she liked at school."
Billie got up from the wicker chair and made him move over.
"Maybe it was deeper than that and it just made things worse?" she suggested.
Alec took her hand. "I don't know, she never said but maybe she told dad and he never said anything?"
"Maybe he told your mum? I know you miss her Alec, I'm sorry I made you drag it up."
Alec raised her hand and kissed the back of it. "You should check your laundry or it will not be dry by morning. Why don't you leave it here eh? I will go to the guest house with you and make sure you get your money back, then if you can't get a caravan until the weekend, you can stay here? I have to go back to London on Saturday though."
"Oh. Are you sure? I don't want to be in your way."
"You are not getting in the way. We will go tomorrow and put both our names down, then you can move in right away when it's ready?"
Billie nodded and got up to see to the tumble dryer and move her still wet underwear to the bathroom, putting it on the large towel rail while Alec washed the dishes from earlier.
"You can have my bedroom, if you want?" Alec offered.
"Which is yours?"
"The back one, I put my mum in the front one, you choose."
"Maybe I'll take that one then?" she smiled. "I think I'll get ready for bed, I didn't get much sleep last night, I could hear talking next door."
"Then all the more reason to move out," Alec told her.
Billie grabbed her still warm nightwear from the pile and retreated to the bathroom. Was this such a good idea? He seemed okay with the fact he looked like her ex though she hadn't intended telling him but it was a bit odd Alec had met James, though he'd not said how they'd got on.
Now he was going off again at the weekend, trusting her in a caravan he was going to hire, just for her when he hardly knew her. She'd seen Ellie Miller give her a look as she'd left earlier, even though she'd come back in on her own as she herself had been leaving but she hoped the DS wasn't going to pull her up every time she looked in his direction.
As Billie had gone to the bathroom, he thought back to when he'd arrived with his mother, only a couple of weeks ago. How had she faded so fast? Would she have been better staying where she was? Maybe but like he'd pointed out, he would have been miles away and she could have just slipped away before he'd got there, if he'd been warned.
No, he'd done the right thing, despite walking into another murder investigation but he couldn't help but wonder. He went into his room, not wanting to crowd his guest but he was considering making a move on her at some point but would it send her running?
How was he ever going to bring up the subject of her looking like his mother? He just hoped Ellie Miller would keep quiet but could he trust her to do so? He heard the bathroom door opening and gave Billie a few minutes to get into what had been his mother's room. He should have insisted she took his, what was he thinking of?
"Billie," he called out, going to tap on the room door. "Are you sure you're okay with that room?"
She opened the door slightly. "Yeah, I'm fine thanks. I'll get the rest of my stuff in the morning from the kitchen."
"Yes, you do that. Goodnight then."
She surprised him by opening the door further, reaching for his cheek.
"Night then and thanks for rescuing me," she told him as she kissed his cheek.
"My pleasure when I had a spare room and you were struggling. I will help you move out tomorrow, I promise."
"What would I have done without you?" Billie smiled, tucking her hair back.
"Put up with the guest house?"
He turned to leave but Billie caught his arm. "I guess I shouldn't tell anyone where I'm moving to at the guest house?"
"That is up to you, you are just moving to a caravan, if they ask," he replied.
"Yeah, I suppose I could skip the bit where I've taken your spare room?"
"That may be a good idea. Has DS Miller said anything else to you?" he asked.
"No but she gave me a funny look when I was leaving," Billie replied.
"I will talk to her, I've already told her to drop it,"
As he and Miller had been out earlier, Ellie had mentioned the fact he'd seemed to have developed an interest in the latest staff member.
"I told you Miller, keep out of it," he'd warned her on the way back to the station.
"Are you serious about her?" Ellie had asked him.
"Is that so bad?" he replied. "Miller, she's here for the length of the investigation, unless the chief cuts down on staff. So I made friends with her, I'm not just stringing her along, we both know she will leave once we catch Danny's killer."
"Well if she complains to me, I'll have to report it to the chief," Ellie told him.
"Why would she when I'm helping her?" Alec wanted to know.
"That depends how far your friendship goes," Ellie warned him.
He wished she'd just back down and leave him alone. He wondered if his dad had ever been told to back away when he met his mother, he bet he knew the answer. It had bothered him that this cousin of his aunt Donna had pursued his mother but she can't have been that impressed if his dad had won.
He knew Billie would start to ask more questions. He'd hardly spoken to anyone about his sister, he didn't trust anyone apart from Tess but he'd only just met this young woman and he was confiding in her.
He snapped out of it and faced his house guest. "If you need anything, you know where I am."
He reached over and kissed her cheek but Billie turned. Thinking he should back off, Billie grabbed his t-shirt since he'd started getting ready for bed but was waiting to use the bathroom. Before either of then knew it, she had reached up and he was kissing her lightly on the lips to see if she would back off. She didn't as they carried on.
"You should get some sleep," he told her as she let go.
"Can I stay with you?" she asked.
"Changed your mind about the room?" he replied.
"Sort of, it doesn't seem right somehow, sorry. We can swap if you want?" she offered.
"Well I might be prepared to share if you promise to behave," he smiled.
He went off to the bathroom and Billie grabbed her mobile and went into his room, sitting on the edge of the bed. As she waited, she wondered if she should be doing this but that was surely where this was heading? At least he knew about James though, she dreaded to think what the two of them had thought about each other when they'd met. All that time they'd been aware of the other ones existence and never known.
When Alec came back in, Billie got into bed and let him put his arm under her, snuggling up to him. Before he realised, she had fallen asleep after a few kisses. He decided when they'd got her things the following night, it was time to tell her a bit more about himself but he'd been surprised she'd heard of his dad.
Billie had moved during the night but she was still using him as a pillow when he woke up. It had been a long time since he'd let anyone get close after what Tess had done, well over a year ago. It had upset his mother when he'd told her he suspected Tess was cheating on him but she had been the one to encourage him to be sure before he did anything about it though he'd proved he was right.
"Hi," Billie greeted him as he tried to move.
"Good morning, sleep well?" he asked as he let her on the pillow.
"Yeah, sorry, if you wanted to move."
"It's fine. How are you today, feeling more optimistic?" he asked.
"Yeah, I think I'm actually starting to like it here."
He reached over to kiss her, pulling her onto him. It was still early, they only had a few minutes walk to work as they felt the tension fading and it wasn't long before nature started to take over but Billie pulled away.
"Sorry," Alec told her as he'd gone for her underwear and she'd stopped him.
"I'm sorry too, maybe I'll feel different later, this was a bit sudden."
"I know, I never meant to move so fast but you know I am interested in you," he replied.
Billie moved to kiss him. "Yeah, I gathered that. Guess I'll have to tell DS Miller I'm okay with it?"
"You do that then it will save me from trying to tell her. Just follow me out for lunch again or do you want me to wait for you?"
"Yeah, just put your jacket on then come over to my desk and ask if I'm ready," she teased him.
"You are going to be trouble," he grinned, going to kiss her again.
"Alec, I may have stopped you going for my underwear but I don't object if you take your t-shirt off."
He didn't need to be told twice as she helped him. He had to remind her though they had to get breakfast before going to work.
"I should get mine at the station, people might get suspicious," Billie told him.
"No, you have breakfast here, you have to get used to it Billie. Once you get the caravan, you can make your own."
"So are you staying here then?" she asked.
"Do you want me to?"
"No, I don't want to be alone Alec but if you want to stay here?" she replied.
"No, there are too many memories here for me. I have things to fetch back from my mother's apartment, family photos and other things. She had quite a record collection," he smiled.
"I'd love to hear some Alec, maybe tonight?"
"I put them all on a music player for her, the record player and records are still back there. I was going to pass them on to my daughter, they are probably worth a lot of money."
"Then just play some tonight, we can dance maybe?" she suggested as he tried to get out of bed.
"Then I look forward to it, after we collect your things. Now, we should get ready for work."
"Ah but if I'm late, I have an excuse if I go in with you," she smiled.
"Then if we go in together, more than DS Miller will be wondering," he replied.
"Well let them? Alec, are there any rules, regarding relationships?"
"Not as far as I know but I'm sure DS Miller will put us right if there are," he smiled, turning around then leaning down to kiss her again.
After breakfast, they set off for the station, Billie deciding to put her arm in his but got cold feet as they cut across behind the café. Alec smiled, reaching for her arm back.
"Not ready to be seen together yet?" he asked her.
"I'm just a little nervous Alec, that's all. I've not been seen out with anyone since James."
"Yes, I can understand that," he replied as he went to open the door.
Billie squeezed his hand as he allowed her in first.
"Sir, there are a load of messages here for you, you need to get organised up there," the desk sergeant told him.
He went to pick them up, it seemed more information had come in overnight. When they got upstairs, Ellie was already at her desk and saw the two of them enter together, Billie laughing as he complained about the messages.
"You wanted more information," Billie was pointing out to him.
"Yes but not all at the same time," he replied, making her laugh.
Billie stopped to make a drink, as she'd got in the habit of doing but started making one for him. Alec continued to his office, Ellie getting up as Billie leaned against the kitchen counter.
"No toast this morning? Did you eat in the canteen?" she asked.
"Not exactly, DI Hardy got breakfast for me," Billie replied, not giving too much away.
"You mean you met him early and went to the café?" Ellie asked her.
Billie was hoping she wouldn't ask so many question.
"Not exactly, he made it, at his apartment," Billie decided to own up.
"What? What were you doing there?" she asked, trying to keep her voice down as Billie made the drinks, Ellie wondering how she knew to make Hardy's.
"I'm staying with him, until I get a caravan at the weekend," Billie admitted.
Ellie thought it looked like they were doing more than just 'sharing'.
"I hope you know what you're doing Billie?" Ellie asked her.
"Yeah, I'm a big girl, DS Miller. Is there some rule that I can't make friends with the officer in charge?"
"Not as far as I know but be careful, don't get carried away," Ellie warned her.
Billie took the two drinks and proceeded to Alec's office and since the door was open she went right in.
"Thanks," Alec told her as she put the mug down. "Trouble?" he asked as he saw Ellie go back to her desk.
"No, should there be?" Billie smiled at him. "Just expect some office gossip."
"Just what I needed, to be the subject of office gossip."
"Changed your mind about being seen with me?" she asked.
He got up to close the door. "No, I've not changed my mind, I can take it. We will go to the caravan office first, there should be still time to get something to eat."
"What if we're late back?" Billie asked.
"Well, I can't tell you off for being late back when I too am late, can I?"
Billie smiled and went to start work but she didn't see Ellie watching her. Ellie had decided if the young woman was going to take up with the boss, she could at least be there to pick up the pieces when something went wrong. He wouldn't thank her for interfering.
Billie realised it was almost lunchtime and was waiting for Alec coming back when he'd told Ellie he was following some information. She heard her message tone and sneaked out her phone, seeing a message from Alec telling her he'd meet her at the caravan office.
"Going somewhere?" Ellie asked as she passed, a few others getting up.
"Yeah, off to see about a caravan," Billie told her.
Ellie shook her head and wondered if Hardy was moving with her, she wouldn't put it past him.
Twenty minutes later, Alec showing his ID to the site manager, he'd negotiated a three bedroom extra-wide model and convinced the woman the police were paying for it but it wouldn't be ready until Saturday. He'd put both his and Billie's names down and said she would be collecting the keys.
As they walked out and towards the catering area, she asked what he was planning on doing as they waited for their food.
"I can stay where I am for now," Alec offered.
"I don't think I want to be on my own Alec, maybe I'll collect the keys and wait for you coming back?"
"If that's what you want? I'll be back some time on Sunday, you can stay where you are while I'm away, give you time to think."
Their order was called so they crossed the road and sat on the wall.
"Alec, I don't need time to think, I want you to move into the caravan too. That apartment reminds me of my gran's place," she smiled.
"Mine two, she lived in a block of flats, never moved even when my dad offered to help her move," Alec admitted. "When they first started going out, my mum said her old boyfriend started some trouble outside but my dad played mind games with him," he smiled.
"You didn't want to take after him then?" Billie asked.
"I told you what happened, how could I? My sister wanted to though."
"Yeah, you said. Sorry."
He took her hand as he finished his food. What he didn't know was that Ellie Miller's nephew was walking across the other side of the road. Olly Stevens had already had several run-ins with Alec but when he saw the detective holding hands and talking to a blonde, he was more than interested.
Billie reminded him they had to get back to work so she kissed his cheek as he helped her up and they walked arm in arm, not knowing Olly had stopped on the corner. Alec had to go out again, Billie wondering what kept him going out but she hoped he'd help her move her stuff and get her money back.
He came back just before five though and she got ready to leave when he was ready. Now, she didn't care if anyone saw them leaving together and had an answer all ready for Ellie Miller. Ellie though didn't stop her when she got up the same time as Alec was waiting in his office doorway just before six, Billie having thought he must have had to make a report.
"My husband says I should invite you for dinner," Ellie told him.
"What?" Alec asked as he waiting for Billie.
"It's what people do, when someone is new in town, they ask their boss to dinner," she explained to him.
"Not that long ago you were giving me a lecture, I would not go on my own," he reminded her.
"Well bring her with you, just say yes," she told him.
"I will ask her then," he replied.
"Ask who?" Billie asked as she joined them.
"DS Miller invited us to dinner next week," Alec explained.
"Oh, yeah, okay then," she agreed.
Once outside though, Alec didn't think it was a good idea.
"We're not hiding are we Alec?" she asked as they walked to the corner.
"Sorry love, this is taking some getting used to, I'm out of practice," he smiled, making her stop.
"Guess I'll have to let you off then?"
They walked to the guest house and Billie asked if he would talk to the landlady.
"You go up and pack, I will deal with it. What room are you in?" he asked.
"Number 8, top of the stairs and straight ahead," she replied, kissing his cheek as she opened the door.
While she went up to start packing, Alec rang the bell at the small window that seemed to be the office. A woman was just coming out of another door.
"Can I help you? We're all booked up if you're looking for a room."
Alec was about to say she would shortly have a vacancy.
"DI Hardy, Wessex police. You have Miss Parker staying here, she's moving out."
"Oh, then why are you telling me?" she asked.
"Because she brought it to my attention reporters are staying here and she works at the police station, she can't stay here, she's in her room packing. She tells me she paid until Sunday, I expect her to get a refund."
"Well I'll have to charge her for tonight but I expect I can fill the room. DI Hardy, I can't afford to pick and choose who stays here, someone books a room, I don't ask what they do for a living," the woman replied.
"I'm not asking you to but it seems to me the place is full of reporters, it's no place for a young woman to be staying on her own. I will go help her and when she hands her keys in, I expect for her to get a refund, since she booked until Sunday night."
Billie was just about finished when there was a knock on the door, her thinking it was Alec but another man stood there.
"Hi, I saw you come in, I was wondering if you'd like to go out for a drink?" the man asked.
Billie thought he had to be kidding, he looked even older than Alec.
"Oh, I don't think my boyfriend would like the idea," Billie replied, trying to close the door as he put his foot in the way.
"Come on love, who are you trying to fool?" the man asked.
"If you don't leave now, I just have to shout loud, he's downstairs waiting for me so move your foot."
The man wasn't about to give up as he tried to open the door further with his foot. Billie was getting mad.
"I mean it, he's in the police so unless you want locking up, leave now," Billie told him.
Alec was just about to walk up the stairs when he could hear talking and almost ran up, seeing a man at a door.
"You, what are you doing?" he asked.
"What's it to you?" the man asked, Billie wondering what Alec was going to do when he saw it was her.
Alec reached for his ID. "I suggest you move away and go back to your room," he told the man, now seeing it was Billie.
"You took your time," Billie smiled, kicking the man's foot out of the way.
"Sorry love, I got held up. Are you still here?" Alec asked the man.
"You can't blame a bloke for trying," the man replied.
"If I see anything in the papers, I know who you are," Alec warned him.
Billie pulled him inside and kissed him.
"Finished packing?" he asked, seeing two holdalls, one still open.
"Just a few things, thanks for the rescue but I was about to kick him where it hurts," Billie smiled.
"I'm sure you were, then I may have had to arrest you love," he smiled back, seeing her grab a few things into a toiletries bag, swearing there was a packet of pills and guessing as to what they were but since they were here and she'd stayed last night?
He hoped she also had some in her purse or she took it in the evening and had done so before he'd arrived in case she decided to up the bedroom stakes tonight. Well he hoped she would.
They went downstairs and Billie handed the keys in, the landlady waiting for her. Billie got her money back for four nights and when she got paid on Friday, she'd actually be able to go shopping on Saturday. Once back at Alec's apartment, he asked where she was putting her things.
"Still want to share?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm sorry about this morning, I'll make it up to you," she smiled.
Alec was looking forward to it but he still had things to tell her, Billie looking like his mother to start with but was it any stranger than him looking like her ex? He'd decided to just accept it though but it was no longer a case of Billie looking like his mother, he was falling for Miss Billie Parker in a big way.
Ellie was beginning to notice the change in both of them as the day went on. They were no longer being coy about leaving together at lunch time as Alec waited in his office doorway for Billie but when she mentioned it to him later when they went out, he told her not to make a fuss over it.
"Well don't blame me if she packs up and leaves if she finds out she resembles your mother," Ellie warned him as she drove them somewhere.
"I will break it to her gently Miller, she wants to see my family photos, there will be no avoiding it once she sees my mother with my dad," Alec replied.
"You never talk about them, you barely said anything when you brought your mother here and why was she called Rose Smith?" Ellie asked him.
"It's a long story I am not prepared to go through Miller but I have told Billie some of it. She could take it either way I suppose and if she takes it the wrong way, then I will do the right thing and let her go."
"You'd give up that easily?" Ellie asked him.
"What else can I do Miller? I found out her ex looks like me, I accepted it, since he was a jerk and let her down," he admitted.
"Sounds complicated but it doesn't mean she'll take the news as well as you did," Ellie warned him.
"You think I don't know that Miller?" he asked as Ellie pulled up outside the church. "Why are we here again?"
When Ellie and Alec had gone out, one of the other women stood in front of Billie's desk.
"We noticed you and Hardy have been leaving at the same time," she was told.
"So? What of it?" Billie asked.
"Is there something going on?" she was asked.
"It's no-one's business, is it?" Billie replied. "I have work to do. Are you jealous or something?"
The woman shook her head and went off. There were rumours going around that she'd left the guest house and moved in with him but what had really set them off was the article Olly Stevens had done with information he'd got, partly from his aunt and he'd done some digging to find out about Alec's mother when she'd died.
Billie had been too busy to even pick up a copy of the paper and Alec hadn't bothered since he'd only had the funeral director in London release the funeral details. Even Ellie hadn't been aware as the paper had gone on sale that morning that by mentioning her boss had been away last week to bury his mother where she had come from but since Olly had released the dead boy's name, she should have known really.
Billie was only too happy she wasn't going back to the guest house that night though she'd been surprised she'd not been confronted before. As she and Alec left the station, Alec saying they needed to go get some groceries, they walked arm in arm along the seafront to what had become their temporary home.
"What time do you have to leave on Saturday?" Billie asked him as he opened the door.
"Very early. You could still come with me."
"Don't worry about me, I have the caravan keys to collect and I was planning going up into the town since I'll have some money."
"You do that then? I will be back some time on Sunday. I'm going to have to let a lot of my mother's things go with the apartment, I have nowhere to put them."
"Sorry, they must mean a lot to you?" she asked.
"They were things she and my dad bought after I left, as long as I get her records and all the photos. She would never let me put them on a memory stick for her, she liked looking through the albums and the loose photos."
"I bet you were cute when you were younger," Billie teased him.
"I was camera shy, I hardly posed on my own. You wanted to know more about her?"
After they had eaten, he told her more about his parents and his sister, Billie laughing that they'd had a lot of holidays and his sister telling him what their parents had been getting up to.
"The thing is Billie, that's what they were doing while Heather sneaked down to get those pills," Alec admitted, not remembering if he'd told her before or not.
"Alec, how were they to know?" she asked him.
"My dad should have seen it, he knew she was upset after her party. While we were at the hospital, my gran and my aunt Donna tried to keep me away from her but we were all called in. All I could think about was that she was leaving me when I'd heard she would be okay."
"You were young Alec, how were you supposed to understand what happened?" Billie asked him. "Tell me what made them get together, they must have really loved each other."
Alec told her some of the things his mother had admitted to him, like the trip to Blackpool where his dad had proposed to her, Billie thinking that was so romantic.
"Was she expecting him to?" Billie asked him.
"I think she knew it was leading up to it, she admitted she'd decided if he asked her she was going to say yes. She never hesitated. She was a firm believer that if you met the right person, you would not let them go."
Alec already knew what his mother had meant. He'd been drawn to this young woman who was laid on the sofa with him like his mother had been drawn to his dad but was it because of how Billie looked? It was a strange thing really, him looking like his dad and Billie looking like his mother, well when he bothered to shave, which now, he was getting used to the shorter beard he had. He'd let it get wild until he'd decided to invite his mother to move with him, she'd never liked it at all.
Billie seemed to like it though as she ran her fingers on his cheek then kissed it. After telling her a bit more, she was wanting to see more photos.
"When I bring the albums back," he told her, since she was starting to unfasten his shirt buttons.
"Yeah, okay then but I hope it's not because you want me to finish unbuttoning your shirt?" she teased him.
"Did I say I objected to what you were doing? Just expect some payback, Miss Parker," he teased her back.
There was no question she wouldn't be sharing with him that night as they relaxed around each other and she was waiting in his room in just a vest top and her underwear. After they had teased each other adequately, Alec decided to get serious because if she was going to run away after she'd seen the photos, he at least wanted to experience her once and hope that would be enough to prevent her leaving, if he showed he really cared about her enough.
As he hovered above her, trying to battle her hand that was stopping him from going for her underwear, she finally gave in to him and whispered she wanted him. He kissed her cleavage as she took his free hand and helped him.
"Want me to go get something?" he teased her.
"Nope, I'm covered even though I'd gone off men after James left me," she replied.
"Then show me you are not off all men?" he asked.
"I think that goes without saying Alec."
He made her forget all about how James had just dumped her when they'd got back from their trip. She'd been upset, not even telling her mother at first until she'd cried on her shoulder. She thought they'd been happy, travelling to different countries, James being so attentive and not taking his eyes off her in crowded places in case some other man tried to lure her away.
Now she knew why he'd been doing it, to save him getting falsely accused of something in a foreign country where the laws were different. He'd thought Billie would protect him from that, like when they were in bars sampling the local nightlife and he'd danced with her or have his hands all over her. She knew that now though she'd not thought about it at the time, why would she? It had saved him getting dragged off for breaking the local indecency laws and had maybe thought the local women would trap any foreigners just for the sake of it.
She had to give him credit for thinking it all through though but as Alec came away from her, she vowed she'd never think about James again, whether Alec looked similar or not, it wasn't like everyone didn't have a double somewhere. Actually, it was kind of weird Alec looked so much like his dad and that Alec knew about both James and his dad. She just hoped no-one else from his past had a double.
Alec was holding her close, running his hand up and down her hip after she'd scrambled back into her underwear and he'd retrieved his shorts.
"That was really good Alec, I'm definitely not off all men, not that I want to try with anyone else."
"I'm glad to hear that. So, no more pretending we are not together?" he asked.
"I wasn't aware we were? Someone said something while you were out, I think everyone knows."
"Miller mentioned it again, you need to tell her yourself to back off."
"Yeah, I will, she was just looking out for me," Billie assured him.
"Well now, that is my job don't you think love?" he asked.
"Yeah, you got the job the other night when you felt sorry for me."
How could he tell her that wasn't the only reason? He'd have to show her the pictures and hope she didn't freak out, pack her things and leave town, that would be the least she'd do, after probably slapping his face, which maybe he deserved.
"Well, I did not want you to go hungry, I would have done it for anyone," he replied.
"Yeah, I bet you would," she teased him.
"You doubt my intentions?" he asked, going to tickle her.
Billie tried to fend him off but he gave in and went for her underwear again, she wasn't even trying to stop him as he touched her gently in a sensitive spot. He thought maybe she'd stop him but she just made some contented noises as he continued.
The next morning, Billie having now got used to having breakfast with him, they walked into the station together, talking about moving into the caravan amongst other things. Ellie saw them coming in together and Billie going to make drinks.
"How's things going?" Ellie got up to ask her.
"Fine. Thanks for your concern but there's really no need, I'm his girlfriend now," Billie admitted, since they'd talked about it on the short walk to work.
"So we've established our relationship?" Alec had asked as they cut behind the corner café.
"Yeah, I'd say we have," Billie laughed, stopping to kiss his cheek.
Alec had gone into his office, pleased Billie had agreed so easily to be his girlfriend, even if it was only for a short time because once he showed her the photos, she may change her mind. That though wasn't going to be the problem. Someone had left a copy of The Broadchurch Echo on the counter and Billie glanced at it while waiting for the water to boil after Ellie went off.
She saw a headline for 'Broadchurch's newest detective loses his mother just a few days after arrival' and that there was more on page four. She glanced round, Alec now talking to Ellie but the kettle boiled, Billie thinking someone had thought it amusing to fill the kettle almost to the top and made the drinks then intended sneaking the paper to her desk to read later.
She wondered though if Alec knew about it so the drinks ready, she put the paper under her arm and went towards his office.
"I was just leaving," Ellie told her as she put his drink down. "Got time to read the paper?"
"I was gonna read it later. Alec, there's something about you in it, about your mother."
"What?" he asked, getting up to take it from her. "Your nephew?" he asked Ellie.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Ellie defended herself as he showed her the headline.
"Well how did he know?" Alec asked her. "I called the funeral director, they called a firm in London so it was never announced locally."
"Oh, I forgot, he asked where you'd gone when you were away, I said your mother had died," Ellie had to admit. "He must have done some digging, sorry."
"Never mind Alec, does it matter?" Billie asked him.
"He could have asked me if it was okay, what is it with him?" Alec asked.
"Why, what else did he do?" Billie asked.
"Released Danny's name before we did," he replied.
"What sort of idiot does that?" Billie wanted to know.
"Miller's nephew," Alec told her, looking at Ellie.
"Well like she said, does it really matter?" Ellie asked him.
"That's not the point Miller, can't a person have any privacy around here? He'll be printing all kinds of things now."
"I'll get him to apologise, okay?" Ellie assured him.
"I suppose that will have to do? You want the paper back?" he asked Billie.
"I'll get it later, I just wondered if you knew," Billie replied.
"Thanks love, if you'd not seen it, I may never have known," he smiled at her.
Ellie just pulled a face, thinking he'd changed since he'd arrived in the town. She'd not seen much of him the day his mother had died, he'd just taken leave.
Billie went off to work, though she was a bit late she supposed but since the boss was now her boyfriend, it didn't mean she had to take advantage. Alec never bothered about the paper until he was about to go for lunch, seeing Billie looked busy so he turned to page four and was horrified the reporter had found a library photo of his mother and announced to all she was the wife of the former Doctor JD Smith.
He was glad though Olly had not dug too deeply into why she had a different name but why had he printed the story? Not that many people even knew who his parents had been, he'd trusted Billie enough to tell her after just meeting her. Why had the reporter been interested though?
He left the paper on his desk while he went out later, Billie not wanting to bring the subject up over their lunch. Since everyone was already talking about them, she figured they'd take no notice if she went to retrieve the paper while she took a quick break.
Taking it then switching the kettle on, she leaned back and opened the paper to page four and almost let out a cry as she saw the caption – Doctor and Mrs JD Smith as it could have been her. She read the article that Alec's mother had passed away shortly after their arrival in the town and that Alec had found himself dealing with a murder investigation.
Now she knew why Alec had taken a liking to her. She turned around as she heard the door opening, Ellie coming in first but then Alec saw her with the paper in her hand. He motioned for her to go to his office, he'd already admitted to Ellie he'd seen the article so she wasn't surprised Billie had that look on her face.
"Can you explain this Alec?" Billie asked him as she put the paper in front of him.
"I was going to show you Billie," he told her.
"When? When you got back from London with the photos?"
"No, before I left, tonight. I never meant to hurt you Billie. We can't talk here, wait until we get home."
"Home? You mean your apartment Alec," she corrected him.
"I wanted it to be your home. You can still have the caravan, for as long as you want, I will stay where I am, if that's what you want? Just come back with me tonight, there's still a spare room, you can have mine," he offered.
"I've no place else to go, I can get the keys tomorrow but I'll pay for it."
"It's all arranged Billie, take advantage of it, it's the least I can do but we can at least talk about it?"
"I don't know how I feel about it Alec. I know you accepted you look like James but this is different and for me to find out from the local newspaper? Had you seen it?"
"Yes, earlier, I never thought you would bother," he replied.
"I wanted to see what it said. I have to go back to work."
He let her go, cursing himself for leaving the paper lying on his desk but she would have found out, he'd promised to show her his family photos. He'd not wanted her to find out like this though. Ellie saw her leaving and found an excuse to go into his office.
"What makes you say that Miller?" he asked.
"Oh, maybe because your mother's picture was in the paper and Billie doesn't normally come into your office, twice in one day," she grinned. "Plus, she didn't seem too happy as she left. She saw it?"
"Yes and she doesn't know how she feels about it. I should have told her, not that reporter nephew of yours."
"I'm sorry he beat you to it, how was he to know? Take her out somewhere, buy her some flowers and try to explain you didn't mean for her to find out like that," she suggested.
"That won't fix anything Miller. How is she going to forgive me for not telling her first?"
He waited for her to finish work but she carried on as everyone was leaving.
"Are you coming home?" he asked as he stood in front of her desk.
"The guest house was my home but I can't go back, not after that man knocked on my door," she replied.
"I'm sorry. I will be gone tomorrow, you can move out when you get the keys, just come back for now. Where else would you go?"
"Okay, just for tonight but I still don't know how I feel about it."
"I know, I was wrong not to tell you. Want to get something to eat?"
"I thought you were going for groceries?" she asked.
"Never mind, we can manage. You can call and get what you need tomorrow and I am really sorry."
Billie switched off the laptop and got up, Alec helping her with her cardigan. They walked back to the pub on the corner and ordered some food but hardly spoke until they got back to the apartment.
"Can we talk?" Alec asked her.
"About how much I look like your mother or are you gonna tell me that reporter printed the wrong photo?"
"I'm not denying it Billie," he replied, standing there with one hand on his hip and the other running through his hair. "What was I supposed to say? Did you want me to just come out and tell you by inviting you round and saying you look like her?"
"I told you about James, I was honest with you," Billie replied.
"Yes, I know and it never bothered me. I told you his dad used to like my mother, hell Billie, if she had gone out with him instead of my dad? I don't have to tell you."
"Alec, just give me some time? You do what you have to do, go to London and I'll wait until you come back before I move into the caravan."
"Okay, if that's what you want?" he asked, sitting down.
"It doesn't mean you're off the hook, Alec Hardy. I'm still mad at you."
"I can understand that. I know I should have told you, when you admitted you used to be involved with James. I said I was sorry, I still am. You have my room tonight, I'll get what I need but I'll be gone early."
Alec kept his word and Billie tried to get to sleep, in the bed they had shared for the last few nights but she heard a noise and looked at the time, just after five then she heard another door opening. She got up, went into the living room and saw him crossing the road to his car. She watched him drive off after reversing out and wondered if they'd now be any more than him being her boss and her working in the same office.
It was killing Alec to just get up and leave without saying goodbye to the young woman whom he'd fallen in love with in a very short time. He supposed that's how his dad had felt about his mother, he'd told Alec many times when he was younger how he'd fallen for Rose Tyler when she'd arrived in his office for an interview and that he'd not even had to think about it, he'd hired her.
If only that idiot reporter had not printed anything, he could have slowly explained that Billie did look like his mother when she was that age, well from the photos he had, she was a bit older when he was born, well around five years or so older anyway.
Was it wrong to fall for someone who could be your mother's twin? He supposed it was how people looked at it, Donna would probably freak out when she actually saw Billie and he intended telling her when he went to visit her and that it was strange that her nephew had been Billie's ex boyfriend and a rat for dumping her like that. He often wondered why she called James her nephew, he could never work that out.
As he drove up towards London to see his mother's solicitor about the funds in her bank accounts and to officially hand over them selling her apartment, he hoped when he got back Billie would get over it and take him back. He intended leaving her to use the caravan, he'd promised her she could have it for however long she was there, depending how much work there was still to be done and he'd been hoping she'd share it with him and stay even when her job was finished.
Billie had gone back to bed but she couldn't sleep, having seen the man drive away who had taken her in when she was down and about to pack up and go home because she was miserable, she'd had nothing else to stay for. The incident in the guest house wouldn't have been isolated with reporters crawling all over the place and she'd have been forced to leave anyway. Maybe if she'd not got involved with Alec, he'd have still found out reporters were saying there and warned her about it.
The big question was could she get over looking like his mother? She got back up and went to make a drink, remembering the first morning Alec had made her breakfast after her saying she should still make toast in the office and Ellie Miller asking her about it. She also thought what Ellie had said about Alec, had she gone into this relationship without actually thinking straight?
It was no different when she'd met James, only James had omitted to tell her about his family and had talked about himself non-stop instead but Alec had told her he had a famous dad and that he wasn't actually Scottish in a very short time. She sat by the window, knowing why he'd chosen this place for his mum but she bet he'd never expected her to only be there a week or so.
Was she being selfish? He'd just lost his mother and came back to work to find her sitting in the office, no wonder he'd picked her out and felt sorry for her but was that his only reason? She knew she had to think about it before he came back but it had all happened so fast, like apparently with Alec's parents, she should leave it over the weekend and see how she felt on Monday.
Arriving in London a few hours later after making a brief stop and staring at his phone debating if he should call or text Billie then thinking he'd best leave her in case he woke her, Alec found a café that was open and waited for the solicitor's office to open, which he was surprised they'd said they would be open on a Saturday. He had to call his aunt Donna later to say he was going to visit but maybe he should leave it and go back early instead and try and salvage what a good thing he'd had with Billie?
The meeting over, his mother's solicitor assuring him everything would be taken care of, he was trying to get over the shock how much money he was about to come into, the amount was life-changing to say the least and he'd need another appointment to sort it all out and make sure Daisy was provided for but Tess wasn't going to get her grubby hands on it and go on a spending spree like she used to do whenever she or himself got a bonus.
Maybe he'd just go to a local law firm and get them to handle it with his mother's solicitor to save him making the journey again but he'd known his dad had left him some money, that he'd asked his mum to take care of and he'd had a rough idea how much the apartment would sell for but his mother had also left him some but he'd still carry on working and make sure when it was his time, Daisy would get it all but what if he made up with Billie? He'd have to think about it he supposed.
He had to call at his mother's bank, having made an appointment and told the manager his mother's solicitor would be in touch with them and he was assured they would co-operate and opened an account for him so the money would be transferred when everything had been sorted. It brought back memories of when he'd had to go with his mum after his dad had died. Then he'd found the estate agents to see how the sale was going and they reminded him he still had a key.
It was almost lunchtime so he thought he'd find his hotel and book in and maybe try and see if Billie was still talking to him or if she'd at least text him back so he parked in the hotel's car park and got his room key and took his overnight bag up and sat in the chair by the window.
He decided to compose a message just saying he'd had his meetings then after lunch he was going to see his aunt Donna then go to his mother's apartment and clear her personal things since now the place was officially on the market and he'd been told there were several people interested, he was glad he'd locked everything in a cupboard before he left the last time. Now he had to move everything and then send the keys back for when it was sold, which probably wouldn't take that long.
He composed a text saying he hoped he'd not woken her when he'd left and that everything was going well and he was going to Chiswick to see Donna. Billie received it as she was about to go call and see if the keys for the caravan were in reception, she didn't want to stay there another night in the bed she'd shared with Alec. She sent him one back saying no, he'd not disturbed her but he knew she was just saying that, he was sure she'd been at the window when he'd glanced through the mirror as he'd driven off.
Billie had been out of luck with the keys so she'd crossed over the road bridge and got some lunch since she'd not wanted to go where she'd been with Alec most of the week and looked up when Ellie greeted her.
"Waiting for your boyfriend?" Ellie grinned as she stood with her youngest son in the stroller.
"Oh, hi. No, Alec went back to London to sort things out. So who's this?" Billie asked as she took Fred's hand.
"Oh, this is Fred. I would have thought you'd have gone with him?" Ellie replied.
"I have to collect the caravan keys, I'm just waiting for them to call me," Billie told her.
"Just watch Fred a minute while I get a drink, if you don't mind the company?" Ellie asked.
She went off and Rose made a fuss of the young boy until Ellie came back.
"Is there something the matter?" Ellie wanted to know. "You were all bubbly the last few days, is it because he's away?"
"No, it's not that. It doesn't matter," Billie replied, finishing her drink.
Ellie knew differently and took her hand. "Has he left you?" she asked.
"What? No, he's not left me," Billie insisted. Ellie doubted it. "It's just, well, I don't know now, after seeing that newspaper article, I don't know how I feel about it."
"Billie, I'm sorry that was printed, really I am. The reporter is my nephew, I expect he saw a chance to take people's minds off what had happened but he would have to choose your boyfriend as the subject but he probably had no idea about you. You have to admit it's a bit strange though, him coming back and walking into the office and seeing you sitting there. How do you think it affected him?" Ellie asked.
Billie hadn't thought about that. "You wanna know what's even stranger?" she tried to joke. "He looks a bit like my ex and it turns out Alec knows him, well sort of. They met at his mother's funeral, his mum was friends with my ex's aunt."
Ellie let out a laugh. "You're joking? I'd say that was a bit strange, what were the chances of that?"
Billie thought she had no idea but it was up to Alec to tell his DS that her ex, Alec, James's dad and his dad all looked alike, not to mention the actor she liked.
"Yeah, so how do ya think I felt when I saw the photo of his mother? Where did your nephew even get the information, Alec wasn't very pleased about it."
"I suppose he did some digging though he should have known better having been told about releasing Danny's name before we did," Ellie admitted.
"He did? Yeah, I bet Alec was a bit pissed-off about that? Does your nephew make a habit of doing things like that?" Billie asked her.
"I decline to answer that," Ellie smiled. "My eldest and his dad were going over to the beach to play football, just a few mates getting together. Come and watch?"
"Yeah, okay, I could be waiting a while for the keys I suppose? I just want to get moved in before Alec comes back. Lead the way then?"
"Yeah, they'll be starting soon. Why don't you come over on Tuesday night, I asked Alec about it."
"Yeah, I heard you but I don't think I should, unless we make up. We're still talking though, I think. He sent me a message earlier," Billie replied as they walked towards the beach, seeing a few people gathered and could just make out some goalposts.
"Well I'll give you the address on Monday, in case you're back together by then but still come."
A while later, she got a call to say the keys were in reception so Billie made her way back to collect them. She went back to Alec's apartment, she'd already packed earlier so she got her things and locked the door, since he'd given her the spare key and meant to return it on Monday.
Meanwhile, Alec had driven over to Donna's and she'd let him in, greeting him with one of her hugs.
"So what have you been up to?" she asked as Alec made them a drink.
"I met someone when I got back to Broadchurch. Her name is Billie and she could be my mum's double," he admitted as he leaned against the kitchen counter.
"Trust you," Donna laughed. "As if I didn't have enough when you found out you looked like James. He told me he saw you at the funeral, sorry I couldn't go."
"Yes, well it's about to get even stranger, James is Billie's ex boyfriend, he dumped her when he got back from his trip," Alec told her.
"He did what? What's he go doing that for? I knew someone had gone with him but he never said anything about leaving her when he got back. The little rat, wait until I talk to him again," Donna told him.
"Leave it, it's over with, she doesn't want to see him any more but I made a big mistake Aunt Donna. I never told her she looked like my mum and she found out when the local reporter did an article. She admitted she went around with James and I sort of accepted it but she doesn't know how she feels."
"Well what do ya expect Dumbo? Go back and tell her you idiot, say you're sorry for not telling her and hope she forgives you."
"That's just it, I should have told her myself Aunt Donna. I love her."
"Then tell her, before it's too late. How was she to know? I bet James never told her about his family then?" Donna asked him.
"It doesn't seem like it. I told her about my family, even about Heather and you know I never talk about her to anyone else. I even told her who my dad was and she'd actually heard of him."
"Your parents both loved you and Heather so much Alec. It broke your mother's heart when he died but it was broken before then when you fell out with your dad. She never blamed him for your sister's death, not for a second. I was with her when your gran took you outside Alec, your dad just held her while she cried, she never stopped loving him," Donna reminded him.
"I know, I was wrong to blame him, I know that now but I was only thirteen, I forced him to tell me three years later and I was so angry with him. Mum told me she didn't blame him but I'd made my mind up."
"I know, how many times did I have to tell you he wasn't to blame but you never listened to me Alec," she told him. "So James dumped your new girlfriend then? I'll kick his ass the next time I see him. Did she say why?"
"Only that when they got back he told her he had his book to write, I don't know if she still is my girlfriend. She's still talking to me but she'll have moved out, she was staying with me, I got her a caravan because she hated where she was staying, it was full of reporters. I caught one of them bothering her when I was helping her move out."
"That's just like you Alec, I remember you and Tess," Donna laughed. "How's Daisy?"
"Remember what?" Alec wanted to know.
"You Dumbo, that you couldn't wait to move in with Tess either but it took a while. You could say your mum moved in with your dad after a few days, if you could class working for him as moving in but I can tell you a few tales about them."
"Yes, I bet you can. What do I do about it Aunt Donna? What if she won't forgive me for not admitting it?" he asked.
"I'd whack your arm if I could get up quickly Alec Smith, does she know?"
"Yes, I told her that bit, how I left home and became Scottish and a detective. I was going to tell her the rest but that idiot reporter beat me to it."
"You shouldn't have blamed your father for what happened Alec, it was Heather's choice and maybe she only wanted to forget what had happened? Have you even thought about that? Everyone hurt Alec, no more so than your dad, he took responsibility for it when the police questioned him but it was that stupid couriers, the police accepted that and he was never charged."
"I never knew that, neither he or mum ever told me," he admitted.
"Well maybe if you'd have talked to your dad, he might have done. Your mum just assumed he'd told you when you made him tell you what really happened. Did you ever think about that? Alec, you know I love you as much as I do James, you're just as much my nephew as he is but you can be so daft sometimes. James let your new girlfriend go, don't make the same mistake. How did she end up in Broadchurch?"
"She'd just got back from travelling with James. She tried to get her old job back but a friend told her we needed data operators to handle all the information and reports so they took her on. You could imagine my face when I walked in and saw her?" he asked.
"What about when she saw you, her ex's double? So, what did you do?"
"Took her for something to eat then invited her around for a drink. Then I found out where she was staying so I asked her to come round the following night, I told her she could get a shower and do her laundry. She stayed and I'm not telling you the rest."
"You mean when you got her into your bed? No, I don't want to know, you're just like your father," Donna grinned.
Alec supposed he was, his dad's whirlwind romance with his mother was well known. Donna was looking at him.
"You're so like him and what if you've fallen for a woman who looks like your mum?" she asked him. "Go back and tell her you accepted you look like James, what's the difference? Did she tell you she was through with him?"
"Yes, she did but she said she wasn't trying to replace him and I believed her."
"Then go back and tell her so what if she does look like your mum? They say every man wants his girlfriend or wife to be like his mother," Donna joked.
Despite her age and outlasting everyone, she had not lost her sense of humour.
"I don't know what I would do if I lost her, do you think she went there because we were meant to meet? Like fate was trying to replace my mum?"
"You're the detective Alec, work it out. What do you think your dad would do? I still remember how excited your mum was when she got the job, then a week later, he dropped her off where we used to meet or was that the week after? She was excited he was taking her to New York then not long after, they got engaged," Donna recalled.
"I know, she told me. I'll go back to Billie but I'll give her time to get used to it, I'll see her at work anyway. My DS invited us for a meal, I'll see if I can get her to go with me."
"Don't you let her get away Alec or I won't be pleased. When you've made up, I want to meet her, got it?"
"Yes, I get it and when you see James again, tell him he's an idiot and I'll kick his ass for dumping Billie," Alec joked.
"Well if he'd not left her, you'd never have met her, would you?" Donna asked him. "Just don't treat her like he did."
"She told me it was his idea, to get close while they were travelling. She thought it was to keep her safe from the locals and him from getting arrested for breaking the local laws but he was just using her, why else would he leave her when they got back?" Alec asked.
"I'll ask him when I see him shall I?" Donna laughed. "His dad lost out on your mum to your dad, James knew about it and maybe when he saw Billie, he saw his chance then realised what he was doing?"
"You mean like me?" Alec asked.
"Yes but don't be an idiot and let her go like James did. Just be glad she married your dad and not my cousin, what a disaster that would have been, you and James could have been twins."
"I dread to think," Alec smiled, seeing the funny side. "I'll tell her when I get back tomorrow, see if she's forgiven me, if not, I'll see her Monday anyway. Maybe my DS was right to warn her off?"
"Don't say that Alec. Just do something about it."
After they hugged goodbye and Alec promising when he could, he'd bring Billie to meet her, he drove off to his mother's apartment for the last time, waving to the man on duty and took all his mother's things down to the car, her records, the old sixties record player then all the photos and other items he'd locked away.
He then made his way back to his hotel and wondered if he should call Billie but then had a better idea. He'd leave early morning and surprise her and hope she was in the apartment because he'd no idea which caravan had been allocated. He supposed since his name was down, the office would tell him but would she want him to just turn up?
Billie tried to settle in the caravan after getting some groceries but as it got late, she was debating if she should send him a message but he'd be back tomorrow anyway. She'd missed him but could she get over the fact of who she looked like though? Alec left early the next morning and not making a stop, was pulling opposite the apartment just after seven thirty but he knew as soon as he walked in that Billie was gone.
She'd left some milk in the fridge for him so now, he had to wait for the office to open to find out where she was, unless he called her himself? Just an hour later, he'd pressed her number and was waiting for her to answer.
"Hi Alec, where are you, still in London?" Billie asked him when she answered.
"No, in the apartment. Can I come and see you?" he asked hopefully, the present he had bought her in his holdall.
He had something else for her, if she wanted but not if she didn't want to make up.
"Alec, just give me today, to think about it, yeah?" she replied.
"How about lunch? Meet me at The George at two?"
"Okay, just lunch then. You can tell me how things went," she relented.
So getting up, she made some breakfast and decided to go for a swim, then she set off to meet Alec and when he saw her entering the bar, his heart was racing like he'd suddenly grown another one.
"Hello Billie, come and join me," he told her as he got up from the table.
Billie looked around nervously. "I hope that reporter's not here, he might think you're meeting someone else," she tried to joke.
Alec didn't know how to take that as he stood behind her and pushed her chair in. Did it mean she'd taken the news fairly well and was going to forgive him for being an ass and not telling her? Only time would tell he supposed as he sat opposite and handed her the lunch menu.
"So, how's the caravan?" he asked as he put his specs on, thinking he may get a smile out of who had fast become his girlfriend but twice as fast become his ex in less than a week.
That had to be a record.
"It's nice, it looks like a private one. So, how did things go, did you get sorted?"
"There are still a few things but I will appoint a local solicitor to contact my mother's to save me going back to sign various forms. Everyone has been most co-operative so far but there's the apartment sale to handle and her bank accounts. Billie, I still have something to tell you but not here, it may change our relationship yet again."
Billie thought as if being his mother's double hadn't been enough of a bombshell already?
"Alec, I meant it, I just have to think about it. I have to be sure you didn't make friends with me just because of that," she replied, not wanting to tell everyone the reason. "I saw Ellie yesterday, she knows there's something wrong but since she saw the newspaper article she guessed. She asked me if it really made much difference."
Alec thought his DS would, how would she like it?
"She met my mum once, the day Danny died. Billie, you must know I never meant to hurt you?" he asked, reaching for her hand as she took the menu.
"Maybe not intentionally but still? I have to be sure you didn't do it for the wrong reasons Alec. I'll have whatever you're having," she replied, making him let go and take the menu back.
"I'll go order shall I? Do we have to start all over again, I'd hate to have to do that, not that I didn't enjoy the first few days after we met," he smiled, putting his specs away.
"Well, you did come to my rescue," Billie admitted. "I would have packed up and gone home, even though I had nothing to go back to. Alec, I need to go home next weekend, I've not got enough stuff with me, I left in a hurry and I'd no idea how long I was staying."
Alec didn't like the thought of not seeing her for a second weekend but he needed to give her some space to sort out how she felt.
"Then maybe you will allow me to take you? I can stay at a hotel while you see your family. I don't even know anything about you yet you know everything about me. Think about it."
He got up and Billie saw him going to the bar to order. She'd missed him, he'd become a part of her life inside a few days but it had hurt when she'd seen the paper. Would it have been any better if he'd told her himself though? They sat and just stared at each other until their meals arrived then Alec suggested a walk on the pier as opposed to walking on the seafront and sitting opposite the apartment they'd shared for a few nights.
Sitting at the far end, Alec dared reach for her hand again.
"I missed you Billie. I know I disturbed you when I was leaving, I saw you at the window."
Billie tried not to blush. They were sat on the round wall right at the end so Alec could see if anyone approached them. He nervously began playing with her fingers. It was true they had rushed into things but it was no different to how his parents had been, from what he'd been told, mostly by Donna.
"Alec, I rushed into things with James, he barely gave me time to think about going with him and I decided it would be more exciting than sitting in an office punching data in all day. He used me Alec, to avoid getting arrested in foreign countries for chasing women but I thought he was protecting me from the men."
"I can understand Billie, really I can and I don't know him that well. According to my aunt Donna he was always a bit wild but since she went by what his dad told her? Her cousin moved away after he found out my mum was getting married, he took up a post at Ipswich university where he met his wife, well so I was told but if he was Donna's cousin, I could never work out why your ex called her his aunt and she referred to him as her nephew."
"I suppose it's out of respect, like you were brought up to call her your aunt?" Billie suggested, unaware she was letting him play with her fingers.
"I expect so but she was a bit surprised how he'd used you, she said she'd kick his ass when she saw him again," Alec smiled, pleased she'd not pulled her hand away.
"I'd like to see that," Billie smiled back. "How old did ya say she was?"
"I'm not sure, I think she's a few years older than my mum was. She said Donna was the sister she never had. I'll never forget how Donna looked after me when my sister died but she told me something I never knew, about what happened. It seemed my dad was questioned over it but the police let him go but Donna said he never forgave himself and I fell out with him when I found out what really happened that day. Billie, if he'd told me the truth, that he felt responsible, I would never have left."
Billie saw how sad he looked and took his other hand.
"Alec, you'd never have been determined to join the police, you'd never have made yourself Scottish or changed your name either. He must have known that if he'd told you, you'd forgive him but maybe he figured he deserved it? She was his daughter and he failed her or he thought he had. Having you turn against him was his punishment. You’re right Alec, it wouldn't have changed anything if you'd told me right out I looked like your mum, I would have still found it hard to take, I know that's what you were gonna say, there was no easy way of you telling me."
"So are we at least friends?" he asked hopefully as she slipped her arm in his.
"Yeah, for now, let's see how it goes? It was a bit of a whirlwind, you must take after your dad?" Billie smiled.
"I suppose but just how much like him? Anyway, you may still change your mind when I tell you I've been left a considerable amount of money, from my mum, who had put the money my dad left me into an account for me because I wouldn't take it when he died. There's also the money to come from the sale of the apartment. Billie, it comes to a large six figure amount and I'm at a loss how it will affect me. I'll make sure my daughter is taken care of but as for the rest? I can't just stop being a detective and live off it."
"Alec, no-one would expect you to, you worked hard to get where you are. Okay, maybe being mad over what happened made you more determined but things may not have been much different."
"Yes, they would. I would have taken up acting and yes, I'm aware I look like another Scottish actor but our paths have never crossed. Just as long as he does not turn up here or wherever I go to next."
"You're not staying here?" Billie asked him.
"I don't know. I would have got myself another place and stayed near my mum, I only stayed with her because she said it was daft paying for a hotel, even if the police were paying. That's how I got the caravan, which you are still welcome to use."
"Your name's already down for it Alec. You could take advantage of the swimming pool," Billie smiled.
"It would have only been to see you in your swimsuit, now you could be offended at that suggestion," he replied.
"I don't know what I feel Alec. Walk me back?"
"I suppose I should know where it is?" he asked as he helped her up. "Will you still join me for lunch tomorrow?"
"I think we should put a hold on that but I'll go to dinner at Ellie's with you, if you want?"
"Yes, good. I'll ask what time and call for you then? Can I buy you an icecream?" he smiled as they reached the end and the food stalls were just around the corner.
"Yeah, okay then," Billie smiled back.
"Are you going to make me start all over again? I mean asking you things?"
"Not everything but just give me the time I asked, yeah? I think that's where I went wrong with James but I guess that's my own fault? I got a chance to travel around, we just decided from day to day where we were going, we never planned anything."
"Billie, it was an exciting prospect and you would have always wondered what you would miss had you not gone," Alec replied as they reached the stalls. "How about a proper dessert, not a cone?" he smiled.
As Billie waited for him coming back with two banana splits, she was trying to make her mind up what to do. She'd repeated exactly what she'd done with James after she'd promised herself she wouldn't and as she looked across at Alec, she knew she shouldn't have taken up with him too easily to compensate. How did she think he felt? Ellie was right, she should give him a chance but she had to make sure she wasn't doing it for the wrong reasons.
"Here you go," Alec smiled as he placed the plastic dish in front of her, thinking maybe he should have taken her somewhere where they at least served the dessert in a glass dish. "Would you like to go out tonight maybe, to the club bar, since my name is down? Did you get me an entertainment pass or something?"
"It's in the caravan, it was in the welcome pack I got. No, I don't really want to go out tonight, sorry but I'll give you the pass, if you walk me back to the caravan? I suppose you need to know where to collect me from to go to Ellie's?"
"Yes, that would be useful," he agreed. "I won't rush you Billie, I know you need time to think about it."
"How did you accept I'd gone around with your double for six months though?" she asked him.
"Mainly because I realised who he was and that he was a jerk, he didn't deserve you Billie. Donna never really told me why my mum never dated his dad, only she thought he was too clever for her and my aunt laughed and said she had a nerve taking up with a doctor of psychiatry when James's dad had a doctorate in history or something."
"Yeah, I suppose it was a bit strange?" Billie smiled, sure she had just seen Ellie go past with a pushchair.
She hoped her sort of friend wasn't checking up to see if she'd forgiven Alec. Ellie had decided to take Fred for a walk since Tom had gone skateboarding to try and forget what had happened and his dad was watching him but Fred got board easily if he wasn't on the move. She was sure she'd just seen Billie with their boss and it looked like they were at least talking to each other.
She'd felt sorry for the younger woman, after warning both her and their boss of the dangers of dating and working together but she'd make his life a misery until he saw sense and tried to make up for being a total ass and not telling his girlfriend something important before she'd seen it in the newspaper. She also yet had to chew her nephew out yet for printing it but she supposed she'd been partly responsible for it.
Ellie was just heading for the other pier when she saw Olly across the road and shouted him over.
"Hi Auntie Ellie, hi Fred," Olly grinned, wondering why she was scowling at him. "Something wrong?"
Ellie gestured for him to walk on the pier and they sat down.
"Yes, you. What did you think you were doing printing that article about Hardy and his mother?" she asked him.
"Oh come on, you told me most of it, I only did a bit of digging. Why are you so upset about it?"
Ellie thought before answering. It maybe wasn't such a good idea to admit Hardy's sure to be ex girlfriend was the double of his mother, Olly would be straight off to type up the report.
"He's had enough with it, you didn't have to tell the town about it. Can't you let anyone grieve in peace Olly?" she asked him as Fred was nodding off.
"Since when have you been defending him?" Olly replied. "Anyway I was going to ask you something. I was walking past the caravan park and I saw this blonde and I swear she looked familiar."
"How would I know?" Ellie asked him. "You're the reporter but you'd best leave Hardy out of it, whatever it is. Beth's still not forgiven you for telling everyone about Danny."
"What about Hardy? Come on, is she his girlfriend or something?" Olly grinned.
"Stop sharpening your pencil Olly, I can't keep a check on him outside work," Ellie replied, hoping she wouldn't put her foot in it.
"Then I'll have to find out who she is, you can't stop me from doing that," Olly told her.
"Listen Olly, there's already enough going on around here, leave it alone," Ellie warned him.
"Are you warning me as my aunt or a detective?" Olly wanted to know.
"Both. If Hardy goes after you over that article about his mother, trust me, I won't be able to stop him."
"Then why hasn't he been after me for it?" Olly asked her.
"He's been away, he had things to sort out but watch out for him tomorrow, I'm warning you," Ellie replied.
"If I were a betting man, I'd bet the blonde has something to do with him," Olly laughed. "Okay, I'll leave it for now but if I see them together, they're both fair game."
Ellie shook her head and got up. "Leave it Olly, I won't tell you again."
She knew he'd take very little notice but at least she'd tried. Maybe she should at least warn Billie she'd been observed though Olly hadn't said exactly when but it must have been when she was meeting Hardy. She was still intrigued why his mother had a different name but it wasn't likely he would ever tell her.
Alec had walked Billie back to the caravan, which had decking at the front and side and thought she'd done rather well instead of getting a basic one. They stood on the side decking and Billie got the key out.
"Want to look?" she smiled.
"Only if you insist? Maybe I should leave it, you know, until you decide what you want to do but stay here as long as you want. You never said if you would let me drive you home next weekend?"
Billie let them in and Alec looked around. It would be bad trying to get back next Sunday by train but maybe by then she wouldn't be even talking to him and she may be going back to stay?
"I'll think about it, if we're still talking by then," she replied.
Alec hoped they would at least still be talking, even if they hadn't gone back to how they'd been.
"Yes but I hope we are talking by then. So you are going to make me work at it?" he smiled as he sat down opposite her.
He thought Billie looked disappointed he wasn't playing with her fingers again.
"It's not that and you know it Alec. Yeah, I'm know I'm just as bad for not saying you looked like James when we met but I wasn't using you because I hated him for what he did. Ellie pointed out I was doing to you what you did to me and maybe she's right?"
"Maybe but what if we are eh? Not that I was using you to get over my mother, that's completely different to me looking like your ex."
"Is it?" Billie asked. "Alec, we're never gonna settle this, we'll both carry on thinking the worse. You say you accept it then I believe you but you still need to give me some time. Can you do that?"
He got up and sat next to her, Billie not bothering when he took her hand.
"Yes, I can do that but can I just say something? I think we were both meant to come here Billie. I took this job to bring my mother to live by the sea because she liked being close to water after they moved into that apartment. They were happy there Billie but she said it made her happier when I went to visit and had I known about my dad, then I would have gone more often."
"Did you never speak to him again?" Billie asked as he stroked her hand.
"Not entirely, it was strained but we both did it for her. I left home when he'd gone to the clinic, she saw me off and she had to be the one in the middle trying to keep the peace. The times I saw him, we both tried to be civil but he knew I blamed him Billie and he could have stopped it. Why didn't he?"
Billie took his other hand. "I guess that's something you'll never know Alec? What you were saying, about us both coming here?"
"Yes, think about it? What were the chances you would meet James, he'd leave you and you'd get offered a job here?" he asked her, pleased she'd not moved her hands yet.
"I didn't get it offered Alec. A friend told me about it and she called the chief and recommended me and said I could get down here quickly. You were away though when I started work but Ellie told me about you, that your mum had passed away. You really believe it's all connected?" she asked him.
"Yes, I do think it's all connected. It's like someone was manipulating things, connecting all the strands together but I blew it by not being honest with you."
Billie patted his hand. "If it's any consolation Alec, I would probably have slapped your face and gone to pack my things and gone home. At least this way, we talked about it."
"Yes, that's something I suppose? I should go, I will see you at work tomorrow. Call me if you change your mind about going for a drink and we'll go to the public side of the camp bar."
Billie let go of his hands and got up suddenly, Alec thinking he'd assumed too much.
"I'll get your entertainment pass and you take the spare key, for the front. I've not used it yet, it's easier to use the one at the side."
She went in the small plastic carrier bag with the camp name on it and brought the key out and the pass and handed them to him as he stood beside her.
"Fine, if you insist but I won't use it while you are here. Bye then, thanks for having lunch with me."
He leaned down to kiss her cheek. He knew he'd have his work cut out for him trying to win her back but she was worth it. This time last week he'd just got back and had no idea he would walk into the station and see the double of the mother he'd just laid to rest next to his dad and his sister. He'd never told anyone outside immediate family about Heather but something had made him tell the young woman who now had her arms around his neck.
She kissed his cheek back and moved away. "Yeah, thanks, it was nice. Maybe we both moved a bit fast?"
"Maybe? Bye, see you tomorrow if you don't change your mind about later?" he replied.
Billie followed him to the door then watched him walk past the decking at the front as he waved at her. As he walked off, he thought they'd managed to make some progress, it had been upsetting to have to drive off early the morning previously and if he'd not had meetings arranged, he'd have put it off to try and salvage his new relationship.
That though may have made things worse since she'd obviously not moved into the caravan until later on yesterday and would have resulted in him going to work to stay out of her way so nothing would have been resolved. He was thinking about what Donna had said to him as he turned the corner to exit the caravan park when Olly saw him from across the road, where he'd been doing a bit of research so Olly put his phone away and followed Alec without crossing over.
Alec never noticed he was being followed but he was too busy thinking about Billie and if Donna was right but as the crowd got less once around on the seafront, he spotted the reporter. There was no way he was going to let Miller's nephew know where he was currently living so he checked the road and crossed over as Olly turned towards the sea, pretending he was just out for a walk.
"Why are you following me?" Alec asked as he walked up behind Olly.
"Can't I walk around without making you think I'm following you?" Olly replied. "I'm a bit fed up the way you talk to me."
"Really? After you bring the fact my mother died here then have the nerve to make a story out of it? I warned you to stay out of my business Stevens, this is your last chance or I will go up to the court and get an injunction that prevents you reporting anything about me or anyone associated with me. Is that clear?" Alec asked him.
"Have you got something to hide?" Olly just grinned. "A blonde girlfriend maybe, who looks a bit like your mother?"
Alec didn't care if anyone was passing or getting into a car since there were a few parked besides his own a bit further down. He grabbed Olly by his jacket collar.
"Whatever you think you found, you had better forget it. Do you know what damage you have already caused, not just to me?" Alec almost spat at the reporter, who'd had the grin knocked off his face.
"So she was with you?" Olly managed to reply, trying to get out of Alec's grip, Alec being slightly relieved they were on the corner and the wall was hiding them from the other part of the esplanade.
"Forget it Stevens. Yes, she is my girlfriend but you upset the Latimer family by printing Danny's name and I heard you had a scuffle with the sea scout master so back off because if anything happens, I'll know where to come looking. My girlfriend was upset you brought up that piece in the paper, no-one was meant to know and now, she's hardly talking to me. Now get out of my sight before I really loose my temper," Alec told him as he let go of Olly, who tried to straighten his collar.
Alec was still glaring at Olly when Ellie came back round the corner, seeing something had clearly been going on as Olly was red-faced and Alec was trying to calm down or he'd explode so she went into detective sergeant mode.
"What's going on?" she asked them both.
"Nothing, I was on my way home," Alec almost snapped at her and if it hadn't been that Billie had made friends with the DS, he would have been rude. "Your nephew was out of order printing that article about my mother, I was just informing him of the fact."
Ellie looked at Olly. "Is that right Olly? Have you apologised to him, I tried to warn you."
"Better late than never," Alec mumbled. "Take your son home Miller, Stevens and I are done and if he goes anywhere near who may possibly still be my girlfriend after what he printed, I'll lock him up."
"So you're still talking?" Ellie grinned as Olly went off after he patted his young cousin on the head. "I thought I saw you both earlier. I tried to warn Olly to back off but he takes no notice of me as his aunt or a police officer."
"I don't expect you to apologise for what he did. He had two choices, he made the wrong one. I may stop and see his editor tomorrow, if he prints anything else," Alec told her.
"He's just trying to make a name for himself but he shouldn't be doing it at your expense when he writes about your mum. Did he guess Billie was your girlfriend?" Ellie asked him,
"Anyone could work that out Miller. Don't let me keep you."
"So has she forgiven you?" Ellie asked as they set off walking.
"I don't know yet, she's still thinking about it but she had lunch with me and she's shown me the caravan. She also said she would let me take her to your house for dinner, whenever it is," he replied.
As he got opposite his apartment, he wasn't going to tell her that Billie might also let him take her back home next weekend but if she was still mad at him, would she be staying there?
Billie sat thinking the rest of the day. She'd watched Alec walk off when she'd sworn she would never let a man get close to her again and let him go, that the next one she met, if ever she did, he wasn't James and wouldn't use her. She'd been confident with Alec, he'd helped her out of the awful place she was, not just the guest house where all the journalists had chosen to stay but with little money and no friends.
Not that she now had many friends back home as most of them had been at work and they'd all scoffed when she'd announced she was off travelling with a man she'd just met who'd wanted to whisk her off to exotic places and they probably already knew James was using her as a kind of shield to warn the local women off wherever they ended up. It hadn't been like he'd actually planned where they were going, they'd just got trains or the occasional plane to where they fancied going next and at times she'd barely been able to contact her mother.
Still, she was going exactly nowhere now except maybe home at the weekend but this time it would be Alec leaving her there and going off. Why did she have to go fall for James's double then find out Alec actually knew him? Alec though should have at least been honest with her, he'd talked non-stop about his mum and his family all last week yet he'd failed to tell her one important factor and some local reporter had beaten him to it.
When Alec finally got back to his apartment, having not really wanted to talk to his DS about Billie or anything else, he took the boxes from his mother's old apartment and her jewellery box and put them in her old room for now, along with the records and player, which in themselves would be worth a small fortune. He didn't need the money though and thought he'd take them up to Daisy and make her promise to keep them, since she wouldn't have need for the money from them soon either.
That night, neither of them could get to sleep, Billie had been cold and slept in the living area with the little heat from the gas fire, leaving all the doors open because she wasn't sure about the thing and meant to call the office tomorrow and have someone fix the boiler, though she was sure it was switched on.
The next morning, Ellie cornered her as she made a drink and stifling a yawn.
"So, how's the caravan?" Ellie smiled at her.
"It's nice but I can't get the heating to work. I'll have to remember to call the reception, you wouldn't believe it for this time of year," Billie tried to smile back as she saw Alec come in the other way and go into his office.
She wondered why he'd used that entrance but he knew by now she stopped to make a drink every morning and he was probably trying to spare her getting stared at all day when he didn't have her taking his drink in and he himself staring at her all day then wait to take her to lunch.
"Still not made up?" Ellie asked quietly.
"We had lunch together yesterday, when he got back from London," Billie admitted.
"I saw you at the outdoor café yesterday, then I bumped into him. He was different last week, now he's gone back to being a recluse," Ellie replied, not wanting to say he was arguing with her nephew.
"What can I do about that?" Billie asked, stirring her coffee.
"Take him a cup of tea before everyone notices," Ellie suggested with a grin. "Seriously, everyone may have talked about the two of you last week but the whole office will suffer, they'll soon notice something's wrong and they’ll be talking about it."
"Well I suppose I can put on an appearance, if they've got nothing else to do," Rose replied.
"Come on Billie, you know what office gossip's like," Ellie told her as Billie checked there was enough hot water to make Alec's tea, making Ellie smile. "It wasn't his fault my stupid nephew made you find out before he told you about his mother. I only met her the once, I didn't see much likeness but maybe he didn't either?"
Billie stopped as she was about to pick up the kettle again.
"You really think that?" she asked. "What about when she was younger and when he was growing up? Did he have to let me find out the hard way? I told him about my ex."
"That's none of my business Billie, it's between you and him but sort it out, you had a good thing going, try to get past it," Ellie advised her.
Ellie went off, glancing in Alec's office as he was reading something on his screen, probably looking up to make sure Olly hadn't sold the story to other papers. Billie made his tea how he liked it and holding both mugs in one hand, knocked on his door.
"Thought you might need a drink?" she asked him as he looked up.
"You don't need to knock on my door Billie," he smiled as she put his drink down. "Have you reconsidered having lunch with me today by any chance?"
"I'll think about it then. I had something to ask you anyway. I couldn't get the heating working last night, can you come over and take a look? It was probably just me, I'd feel a bit daft calling for the maintenance man."
"Sure, we should have time but if I can't fix it, you'll have to call the office. How did you manage last night, was it cold?"
"Yeah, I'm not in an apartment, am I? I had to sleep in the lounge with the gas heater on, then it wasn't brilliant. I'd best get to work before anyone notices. I only made you a drink because DS Miller said everyone would wonder why I wasn't in here this morning," she admitted. "I wasn't sure I should still come in."
"Then I am grateful she encouraged you," he smiled, making sure Ellie wasn't watching. "I will wait for you at lunchtime, unless you want me to leave it until later, to see to your heating?"
"It won't take long will it? If you can't fix it I'll have to call the emergency number," she replied.
"Then I had best be able to, had I not?" he smiled, taking a drink of his tea.
As they were talking, others had been talking about them and the general consensus was since they had arrived and gone out together, the DI had not wasted any time making his move on the new member of staff though there were a few disappointed males who'd noticed her while Alec had been away.
Billie went to start work, a pile of reports on her desk waiting for her and she wondered how much longer it would last and hoped when it eased off she wouldn't lose her job. Alec had to go out and though Billie waited as long as she dared, there was no sign of him or Ellie so she gave in and went to the canteen. She'd not even had a message from him but she knew he'd maybe go back later with her to fix the heating and thought he'd be disappointed if she got someone else to do it.
While she was eating her lunch, Alec managed to call her.
"Sorry, I got held up, did you wait for me?" he asked as Ellie was finishing up.
"I just went to the canteen. DS Miller keeping you busy?" she asked him.
"Just some enquiries we had to follow up on. Can we talk tonight? I owe you an explanation, if you will listen to it?" he asked.
"Alec, no, you don't. I think I know why you never told me. I just need a bit more time. Did you ask Ellie what time she expects us tomorrow night?" she asked him.
"Yes, I got the time and her address, if you are still willing to go with me?" he asked as Ellie unlocked the car doors.
He saw Ellie grinning at him, she'd guessed who he had been dying to call all the time they'd been out.
"Yeah, I said I'd go with ya Alec," Billie confirmed. "See ya when ya get back then?"
"Yes, we are just setting off now," he confirmed as he and Ellie got in.
He put his phone away, seeing Ellie grinning at him.
"What?" he asked.
"You're an idiot – Sir, for not telling her," Ellie replied.
"It was not my fault your nephew put that article together Miller" he reminded her. "Where did he even find out from?"
"Ah, I may have said something, when you went off suddenly but how did he associate you with her when her name was Rose Smith?"
That was what Alec wanted to know as Ellie drove off.
"So have you two made up then? she asked him.
"I'm making an effort Miller, maybe we went a bit too fast last week?" he replied.
"You think – Sir?" Ellie grinned. "Talk about a whirlwind romance, I think you two may have broken a few records on that score. She seemed pretty upset last Saturday. I tried to cheer her up by inviting her to go watch football on the beach but she didn't stay long though. She seemed to have cheered up when you two were drooling over each other yesterday afternoon," she teased him.
"I wasn't aware we were 'drooling' as you put it and how would you know?" he asked.
"I was out for a walk. I had a word with Olly but he was giving me the run-around as usual. I'll try to keep him out of your way, you don't want him printing that you are dating your mother's double but I'm surprised he's not seen the two of you together. Maybe you should both go to the newspaper office and explain?" she suggested.
"It's no-one's business but ours and Billie is upset enough, I doubt she actually wants to talk to the newspaper where she found out in the first place," he replied.
"I suppose you have a point," Ellie had to agree. "So, are you getting back together again, not that anyone else has noticed you fell out."
"We did not have a fallout as such," Alec disagreed. "I just neglected to tell her, it was a mistake."
"Well at least you admitted it I suppose? Just do me a favour and tell her you're sorry."
"I already have, I just hope she accepts it Miller."
"Aw, she will, she's totally gone on you, I could see it in her on Saturday, if she didn't care about you, she wouldn't have been so upset about it," Ellie told him.
"You became an agony aunt over the weekend Miller?" Alec tried to joke.
"If it gets you two back together again then yes. I hope you're not going to be a misery over it?" she replied as she drove into the car park behind the station. "Take her out tonight."
"I'm going across to fix her heating, I was meant to go earlier," he replied.
"Don't they have people to do that at the caravan site?" Ellie asked. "I bet she's using it as an excuse."
"She doesn't need to make excuses Miller," Alec told her as they got out of the car.
"So you would have gone to see her tonight anyway?" Ellie grinned as they went upstairs.
"I may have done, it's my caravan as well, in case you forgot Miller. I can go any time I like, I don't need an invite."
Ellie had to smile to herself all the way back to the office, he was pretending he was tough but he was just as broken up about it as poor Billie had been when she'd seen the young woman on Saturday afternoon sat drinking coffee. Those two were totally gone on each other and if she had to kick his ass to get him to see that then she would. There was still tomorrow night to do that, at least they'd both agreed to still accept the dinner invitation though her husband had questioned it before she'd left for work that morning.
"So Ellie, your boss is still coming tomorrow night?" Joe had asked her as she'd tried to get Fred to stop wearing his breakfast.
"As far as I know, I'll have to ask him but his girlfriend was still willing though I don't think she'll come on her own. They were so happy last week, you should have seen them but maybe they moved too fast? I mean he met her on Monday when he came back and she was moving in with him by Wednesday, I bet she stayed at his place the night before," Ellie replied.
"Maybe they should have waited?" Joe suggested as he took over cleaning little Fred's face as the boy tried to squirm.
"Like us?" Ellie grinned, about to call her eldest son to get him to get his breakfast. "They may have had a bit of a tiff over the weekend, probably about him going to London," she replied, not wanting to say anything about Billie's likeness to her boss's mother.
"I saw the paper Ellie, about Hardy's mother, did they fall out over that?" Joe asked her.
"Not exactly, my stupid boss forgot to tell her something," Ellie had to admit. "Don't say anything tomorrow night, if they're still talking. It was just after seeing her on Saturday looking all sad then they were teasing each other in the outdoor café area, they've probably made up anyway."
"I thought maybe it was because you said he'd gone off somewhere?" Joe asked.
"That's what I asked her but she said he was best going on his own, she probably didn't want to be in the way," Ellie replied, shouting Tom again.
"Leave him Ellie, it's not like he's got school," Joe grinned.
So when Ellie had got to work and saw Alec sneak past the other way, she knew they'd not fully made up. They were about to enter the CID office when she stopped him.
"Sir, I know it's not really my business but you two last week, well you were so obvious," she told him.
"Is that why you suggested to her she still brought me a drink earlier?" Alec asked as he was about to open the door. "I'll let you off this once, I know you made friends with her. She might forgive me if I manage to fix her heating later," he smiled.
Ellie shook her head. If they had any sense, whether he fixed the heating or not, they'd be back to him waiting for her at lunchtime and him grinning every time he caught a glimpse of the blonde when he thought no-one was watching.
Sure enough, as people started packing up to leave for the day, Ellie could just about see Alec throwing things around on his desk and pretending he was still working. Then she knew he'd get up and hint to Billie he was ready to leave. She'd even asked Bob on the desk if he'd noticed and Bob had just laughed and said the two of them had gone out arm in arm, not caring who was watching a few days last week.
"Are you waiting for someone – Sir?" Ellie teased him as she got ready to leave early for a change, since Alec was keen to escape, unlike the first few days of the investigation when she'd got home at half past two in the morning.
Alec looked around nervously. "You know who I'm waiting for Miller, go home and if you see that nephew of yours, tell him to keep out of my way," Alec replied.
"I thought you'd told him that yesterday Sir?" Ellie asked. "He takes no more notice of me than he does of you. See you tomorrow and my husband says he hopes you both like chicken."
"If she's still talking to me by then," Alec replied as he saw Billie getting ready to leave.
"Then best hope you fix the heating," Ellie reminded him.
Alec shook his head and crossed to where Billie was checking her phone.
"Ready to go?" he asked.
Billie wondered when he'd decided he was going to wait for her instead of coming over later?
"We could call for some food on the way?" he suggested as they walked to the door.
Billie considered it, she'd only got a few things from the local store the other day so it was the takeaway across from the camp or pasta again.
"Yeah, okay then, I'll have to get up to the supermarket tomorrow night, oh, we're going out, guess I'll have to wait until Wednesday."
Alec thought last Wednesday, he was moving her out of the boarding house and rescuing her from the vultures who would have flocked around her door once the word spread there was a young single blonde female staying there. Bob had to smile to himself as they left together, wondering why DS Miller had even mentioned them as she'd gone out.
As they waited for their orders, Alec wondering why they never seemed to have anything ready, considering there were another half a dozen people all waiting, Billie was sitting on the window ledge though it was a bit low down for Alec.
"So did ya get busy earlier?" she asked him, looking up at him.
"Yes, we were following some leads, sorry I never got back," he replied.
"Alec, you don't have to apologise, I know you have to keep going out," she told him. "I don't expect you to be free every lunchtime."
Alec thought that was a change from Tess, who had huffed if he'd not been in the canteen the same time as her – especially when they had been in the middle of their divorce and she'd wanted him to see her with Dave or she had some grudge she wanted to air in public, usually about their daughter or the fact his parents never liked her all that much, which was completely untrue though his dad had questioned him when told they were getting married. His mother though had been glad he'd found someone and had been delighted when Daisy had come along but so had his dad, not that they were talking much.
Billie was grabbing his arm to get up as their order was called. Alec smiled and pulled her forward with him. It seemed she may have just about forgiven him and hoped the central heating boiler would oblige and let him be able to switch the heating on to impress her, it may lead to her inviting him to stay, maybe not tonight but tomorrow night after they had been to the Miller house.
Once Billie let them into the caravan, she went to make some tea after she'd shown him where the boiler was and he soon saw what was wrong, the switch for the heating was a little confusing and since the instructions must be elsewhere, she had not known about it. The heating kicked in as the boiler began to fire up.
"Are the radiators turned up?" he asked her as she made the drinks.
"Yeah, I thought that was the problem, thanks. I wouldn't have thought it would get cold at night."
"Yes, well being next to the river doesn't help I suppose? Then there will be a breeze from the sea. You should be okay now," he replied as Billie put their meals on the plates. "Anything else you need doing?" he offered as they sat down.
"Maybe a lift to the supermarket?" Billie smiled.
He couldn't help but smile back.
"Maybe Wednesday night then, after work?" he suggested.
"Want to go out for a while?" Billie asked. "You do have an entertainment pass."
"Yes, you gave me it, remember? If you want to go for a drink or have you got other ideas such as watching the show or playing bingo?" he smiled.
"We can see what's going on or just go in the other bar?" she replied.
Alec thought well at least she still wanted to be seen out with him, unlike Tess when they'd had one of their many disagreements. All his life he'd never known his parents to have a fall out, they would debate things, which usually resulted in them compromising and they'd sneak into the other room to what his sister had informed him was a snogging session.
He'd been glad he could finally talk to someone about Heather, he'd told Tess of course but hadn't gone into many details, just she had died accidentally. Now Donna had reminded him that he'd been wrong to put the blame on his dad and wished he could take it back.
"Alec, you okay?" Billie snapped him out of it.
"Yes, sorry love. Maybe we can talk, about me being such an ass and not telling you what you found out in the paper?"
"Leave it Alec, if you say you would have told me then I believe you, it was just a bit of a shock to find out that way. Ellie said she suspected something but it wasn't her place to say anything, was it?" she asked him.
"No, it was not up to her. You should have heard my aunt Donna when I told her, I'm surprised she didn't kick me back here," he smiled.
"I'd really love to meet her Alec, I bet she can tell some tales," Billie smiled back.
That was what Alec was afraid of, that she'd tell the woman he'd fallen for all the embarrassing things he'd done when he was younger, like following his dad around impersonating him that always got a smile out of the staff when he'd visited the clinic. After the morning he'd lost his sister though and his dad telling him to quit with the Scottish accent, he'd never done it again until the day he'd left his mother on the station platform and caught the train to Glasgow.
"She would love to meet you too but you wanted to go home this weekend," he reminded her. "Maybe I can take you the following weekend?"
"Yeah, I'd like that and I'm sorry Alec, for acting like I did when I found out but it was a shock. Let's just cool off for a couple of days, then I'll see how I feel?" she suggested as Alec took the plates.
"Yes, we can do that, if that's what you want?" he replied.
She got up and kissed his cheek as he passed her. Well at least she was willing to still give him a chance, unless he blew it again?
They walked down to the bar, deciding not to watch the entertainment then Alec said they should talk, walking her across to the pier as it was only just getting dark. He took her hand as they sat down and asked if they could get past what he'd neglected to tell her.
"I saw no reason to spring it on you," he began to tell her. "Yes, I know you admitted about James but you never told me I looked so much like him, I only guessed because of who he was. I told you his dad used to fancy my mum when they were younger but it went nowhere, then she met my dad and that was it and I wasn't really related to Donna so I never knew much about James or his dad, only what Donna mentioned when I visited from time to time."
"I suppose I should have mentioned it but I didn't see him in you Alec, not for a second. I expect I'd have taken the news just as badly if you'd come out and told me yourself but seeing her in the newspaper like that? Okay, I admit if you'd told me yourself I may have slapped your face and told you I never wanted to see you again," she smiled.
Alec could tell she was still a bit mad at him. "So, do we have to start all over again?"
"Well since you fixed the heating for me, I might let you stay tonight, if you want?"
"In the other bedroom?" he dared ask, not wanting her to go running off.
"Not if you don't want to but let's just take it slowly then? Whatcha think?"
"If that's what you want Billie? I can do that, let me call for a few things to save me going back in the morning and I have something for you, well two things actually."
"Bring a photo album round and show me more, if ya want?" she suggested as he got up and held his hand out to help her.
They walked arm in arm to Alec's apartment, Billie still having the spare key. He considered taking it back, since he was still considering giving notice. He went in the spare room and into one of the boxes he'd brought back with him and found what he wanted – the first book his dad had signed when he'd first met his mum, back in 1966. He also went in her jewellery box and found a pendant that had belonged to her and took them back to the lounge.
He found Billie standing at the window, looking out at the white lights and flags that were hung between the lamp posts. He stood behind her, putting the book on the chair behind him and going to fasten the pendant, making her flinch.
"What's this?" she asked.
"Something my dad bought for my mum, possibly while they were in Blackpool that time, when he proposed to her. She never admitted it though," he smiled, kissing the side of her neck.
Billie turned around and leaned on his shoulder, seeing the book.
"What's that?" she asked as she glanced at it.
He let her go and picked it up, his father's face on the cover, Alec thinking he looked deep in thought but it can't have been about his mother, they'd not met at that point.
"The first book he signed for my mum. They were at a signing, he got the manager to save a copy and he signed it when everyone had left. Here, take a look."
He opened it to see what his dad had written all those years ago, they hadn't known each other that long but the words said everything – that Johnnie Smith was already in love with Rose Tyler.
"Aw, that's so sweet," Billie smiled as she read the inscription. "So she went with him?"
"She was his assistant, they went everywhere together, even to New York when he was giving a lecture at a university. She told us a few tales about that when we were younger," he smiled. "She'd want you to have it, it's worth a lot of money now."
"Alec, I'm honoured then but I'd never part with it, just like your mum obviously couldn't. I'll treasure it but I can't say I'll understand it," she smiled. "How come you don't want your daughter to have it though?"
"I'm passing my mum's record collection and record player to her, I hope she'll keep them safe. If you will allow me, I would like to give you the rest of my mum's jewellery, I can't sell it, I don't need the money but besides that, I don't want strangers to have it."
"I don't know what to say Alec. Maybe we should see how things go for a few days? We can go back to having lunch and you can take me for something to eat after work. You can still stay tonight, if ya want? I can't stay here."
He went to put his arms around her again, seeing why his mum had always worn the pendant. He wasn't really sure where she'd got it from but he liked to think his dad had bought her it as he was about to propose.
"Yes, I would like to go back with you but as for the rest? Billie, I don't know about just having lunch and an evening meal though."
Billie moved away from him. "Fine then, whatever but why give me the book and the necklace then? Don't think you're doing me any favours coming back with me tonight Alec, I wasn't going to suggest we had sex one more time then call it quits."
"You got it all wrong, that's not what I meant," he tried to tell her as she went to give him the key back. He held her hand and made her keep hold of the key. "Billie, I meant that's not enough for me, I want to go back to how we were, please? Can we do that? I'll do anything you ask and not this weekend but the one after, I'll take you to meet Donna, she can tell you more about my mum before I was born, they told each other everything. Please Billie?"
She looked in his brown eyes, then glanced at the cover of the book. How was it possible three men looked exactly the same? Well not only three but apparently, James's dad had looked the same and she didn't even want to think about the actor she'd had a crush on.
"It's not fair Alec, looking at him and then you. I can see why your mum loved him so much but what was the difference between him and James's dad? How could she choose between them?" she asked him.
"I think I worked that one out," he smiled, trying to put his arms back around her. "James's dad was always trying to get her interested in him but with my dad, it was like when she walked into his office they both knew and he never had to even ask her. Billie, it was the same when I came back from London and saw you working at your desk, don't you see?"
"I was beginning to think that maybe you thought you'd seen a ghost," Billie admitted.
"That's not fair either Billie," he replied, touching her nose with his as he attempted to kiss her. "No, I did not think I'd seen a ghost but it took me by surprise, that there you were and you so easily agreed to let me take you for something to eat and to help you get out of the boarding house. From what my dad told me when I was younger, he helped my mum get out of her poor surroundings and her temping jobs and gave her a chance. He helped her get away from an old boyfriend who was pestering her, he even admitted to getting violent with the man once and he himself wasn't a violent man but he did it for her."
Billie let out a smile, nudging his nose as he continued.
"There was a woman who he couldn't get rid of, well a few by all accounts but one was out to split them up but it never deterred them, they got past it and fell further in love with each other."
"Well James never fought over me, trust me," Billie admitted. "I wasn't seeing anyone when he asked me out then to go with him. I suppose I went in blind, I got carried away with the excitement of travelling and not knowing where we were going to end up."
"Like that programme on TV," Alec smiled. "Back then, it had just started on TV but mum used to say that they were always referring to it. My dad told her that since she'd lost her dad when she was a baby, if he had a time machine, he'd take her back to see him."
Billie stared at him. "Alec, there was one where in the programme, The Doctor took his companion back to see her father before he died. How could your dad have known that?"
"It's only a programme love," he smiled. "My mum lost her dad, it was during the war, he never came home, I doubt that episode was the same."
"No, not that I remember," she had to admit, leaning on his shoulder.
He nudged her again and went for a kiss. Billie gave in and melted into him, admitting to herself she had missed him.
"Now, are we going back to the caravan eh? I'll get enough for morning then we can discuss it further. I meant it Billie, I want to take care of you, that job of yours is not going to last beyond the investigation and I don't want you to leave."
"You don't?" she asked him.
"I thought I had just made that clear? I know I told you I had a lot of money to come to me but I'm not giving up being a detective because of it. I may buy a nice house and get a new car but I'll have to provide for my daughter and now, I'd like to do the same for you, if you will let me?"
Billie could only nod as she went to kiss him this time. They got back to the caravan but as she let him in the bedroom, she had a few ground rules.
Alec could only agree, reluctantly to 'keep it in his shorts' until she could get over when had made them drift apart. He knew she was determined to make him stick to it and despite the caravan being paid for, she could still kick him out. He did manage to get as close as she'd allowed him and was smiling to himself as she was falling asleep on him.
"Okay love, whatever you want, just don't throw me out eh?" he whispered as she said they could stick to that for now.
"Did your parents ever fall out?" Billie yawned.
"Not as far as I know but when they'd have a tiff, they would disappear for a while," he had to admit. "I was about twelve before my sister told me while we were on holiday why she was getting my breakfast for me, she said they were in the bedroom having make-up sex."
Billie began to giggle even though she was tired. "Don't you get any ideas, Alec Hardy. Have you thought about going back to being Alec Smith? Does your daughter know?"
"No, she could never understand though why her grandparents had a different name, she thought I was adopted," he admitted. "I told her it was just one of those things but I suppose I should tell her, maybe next time I go see her. You could come with me."
"I doubt that would go down well," Billie yawned again, snuggling up to him. "She'll freak out when she sees me."
He was going to add so would Tess and Donna but why hadn't James noticed it? Then it dawned on him, maybe he had?
"Well we are busy for the next two weekends so she will have to wait. Maybe I'll have caught the killer by then. So are we going to the Miller house tomorrow night?" he asked.
It was too late as she'd fallen asleep. Ellie noticed the difference the next morning, after they'd delayed each other getting ready for work and they arrived together.
"So, you two have made up now, finally?" Ellie asked Alec as she followed him into his office.
"We may have got over the worse," he replied. "Have you seen this?" he asked, holding up a report and going back for his coat.
He stopped as he came to Billie. "Sorry, I have to go out, I'll try to be back for lunch."
Before she could answer, he kissed her cheek and left, everyone looking at her. Ellie came to her rescue.
"Get back to work, it's not like you didn't know about them," she chastised them. She turned to Billie. "I did warn you both."
"We've got nothing to hide, DS Miller," Billie replied, not bothering to pour water into Alec's mug. "No-one even knew we'd had a bit of a fallout."
Ellie shook her head, hoping they knew what they were letting themselves in for if Olly got hold of the fact they were involved. She'd not seen him since Sunday but if the two of them walked around together, it wouldn't take him long and put two and two together that Hardy was seeing some woman who looked like his mother, especially when an article had already been published.
If that didn't split the two of them up then nothing would. She wouldn't like to be in her nephew's shoes if he did print something else, Hardy would go crazy.
Billie got a text from Alec to say meet him across the road at the usual time and she wondered what was taking him so long but she didn't expect him to tell her where he'd been for over three hours. She was right as he was waiting for her and greeted her as he got up.
"I ordered for us," he told her as she sat down. "Not asking where I was?"
"If there's any information, I'll type it up, won't I?" Billie smiled.
"You read it all?" Alec asked, raising his eyebrows, something his dad used to do when he was tormenting his mother. "I somehow doubt that, the way you get through it. If you keep doing it so fast, you will do yourself out of a job, not that I won't keep my promise I will take care of you."
"Yeah, I suppose so and as for that, I'd like you to take care of me Alec but what if I can't get past what I found out?"
He saw the stall owner coming with their meals and waited.
"You have to try Billie, I'm not willing to give up that easily. I can get past looking like your ex, his dad and my dad, at least you only look like one person, not four and yes, I was counting the actor. That's why I never pursued being one, he was just starting out, think of the confusion," he smiled. "I could have an identity crisis you know?"
Billie couldn't help but smile at him.
"I just need some time Alec and I know it can't have been easy for you. You're expected to look like your dad, the same as James but I think my situation is different to that. Did your sister look like your Mum?"
"I thought I showed you a photo?" he asked. "I never saw many photos of my mum when she was Heather's age so I can't tell you and she never said but I'm sure my gran would have said if she had. In those days, cameras were not used like they are today, just for the sake of it I suppose. My mum got a camera, since my dad never got around to it and she loved taking photos of us when we were growing up but that was a good while later. She only had a few of the granddad I never knew."
Billie reached her hand and touched his. "See, you need a time machine as well."
Alec stopped eating and took her hand. Now he knew why he'd fallen for her and it wasn't because of who she looked like, it was because of who she was. She was just an ordinary woman who had dreamt of travelling and had got carried away, being taken advantage of without her realising. Was he treating her any differently, except for the travelling part?
"Billie, I need you to know something but not here. Can we meet up later?" he asked.
"Yeah, sure, I thought we were? she replied.
"Yes, we were but I need to ask you something and you may think I'm rushing you."
"Alec, I said I needed some time but I've been thinking about it. I wasn't fair with you, I didn't think how it affected you. You'd just lost your mum and you saw me. I'm sorry I was upset, I should have been flattered but if you'd just said something to me?"
"Billie, how could I, without you running off?" he asked, knowing at this rate they were going to be late back to work but since he was basically in charge, he couldn't tell her off since she was with him. "You knew about my dad, James and his dad, how could I tell you about my mum?"
Billie supposed he had a point, would she have felt any better about it?
"I thought it may be too much for you all at once, I would have told you Billie, before I took you to meet my aunt Donna. She would have told you not as tactfully as the reporter, though thankfully he doesn't know about us yet but it's only a matter of time."
"Ellie already mentioned it to me earlier," Billie told him as they got up, five minutes to spare. "You won't tell me off for being late back to work will ya?"
"Not unless I tell myself off," he smiled as they crossed the road.
Billie smiled and put her arm in his as they walked up the steps. Then she stopped him, whispering in his ear.
"I still love ya Alec."
They didn't notice Ellie stood on the balcony, drinking tea and wondering why they were both late back. She'd bumped into Olly while she'd been grabbing a sandwich from one of the other catering stalls across the river, not wanting to appear to be spying on them and he'd asked who the blonde was he'd just seen crossing the road towards Hardy, since he'd only seen her from the back.
"Leave it Olly, he's already more than mad at you over that article you wrote about his mother. How did you even find out?" she'd asked him.
"It was easy aunt Ellie, he went off then you told me his mum had just died, I called the local funeral director who said DI Hardy had instructed them to transport someone to London, I got the name and did some digging, since he looked a little familiar."
"You mean you think he looks like that Scottish actor?" Ellie had grinned, remembering Billie mentioning the person when they'd talked about Hardy while he was away.
"What? No, I know it's not him, well unless he's rehearsing the role of a detective who's investigating a murder of a young boy in a Dorset coastal town?" Olly grinned. "Maybe I should write the whole story when you find out who it is?"
"Stop it Olly, it's not a joke, you knew Danny," Ellie had told him off. "Seriously, how did you put the two of them together?" she'd asked.
"I remember seeing something about that psychiatrist, JD Smith a few years ago, one of his old books fetched a fair price at an online auction site and Hardy looks like him, well minus the beard and since that actor definitely is no relation to him, I did some digging on Hardy. Seemed he went to the police academy in Glasgow at the age of eighteen and before he was accepted, he'd changed his name."
"What?" Ellie had asked. "How did you know it was him?"
"Easy, he put his father's name down, no-one questioned it. It was easy to find out who his mother was, they had a few publicity photos in papers at the time, as well as when they got engaged then got married. Plus, I found an article about when he took her to New York, they were on the news and he mentioned her on a talk show that they called her Rose. It was all over the place, he was treated like a pop star at the time."
So as Ellie watched the two of them stop to kiss, despite it being in an open space, she knew it had to be true what Olly had told her and now it seemed history was about to repeat itself. Once they found out who killed Danny and Billie was seen more openly with him, they would hit the headlines and though her nephew hadn't yet written about them, she knew he was saving it for a rainy day and would give him the break he wanted.
If that was at Hardy's expense, she didn't think Olly would be bothered.
Alec had no idea Olly Stevens knew so much about his family history and would shudder at the thought so much information could be got hold of. Ellie took no notice as they entered the squad room and Alec kissed Billie's cheek then went off to his office while she went to her desk, Ellie trying not to make it obvious she'd been watching them but they'd probably already seen her.
Well what did they expect? The man was in the middle of a murder investigation, going out with a woman who could be his mother's younger twin. She saw him glancing in her direction and went back to work. Shouldn't he be watching his girlfriend instead?
Billie tried not to think about what he wanted to talk about that she'd think it was rushing things. Apart from the fall out over the weekend, that had been both their faults she supposed, there was only the question of did he give up his mother's apartment and move into the caravan and if so, would she let him share her room?
Last night had been nice, they'd missed each other but could she get past what he'd failed to tell her enough to want to go back to being intimate with him again? She didn't really have to worry much on that score, she was already getting pains and had gone to work prepared. His enthusiasm to resume their sexual activities would just have to wait a few more days, no matter how much he persisted.
He waited for her to stop working and said he would go get the car and collect her for their dinner invitation, since she had insisted they'd walked back last night, arm in arm in case Olly happened to be out walking home or lurking around a corner Alec had thought but not said anything.
Billie was getting ready, thinking something casual but smart would suffice, Ellie was sort of her boss as well though they'd got on well at first. That had changed to Ellie being protective and thinking Alec was moving too fast but if Ellie had met his mother, no wonder.
She wished after he'd talked about his family she'd bothered to look them up but she had no reason to think he was hiding such a big secret. She wondered had his sister not died, would she have turned out to look like her mother? Thankfully, she herself looked nothing like hers for anyone to comment but he'd kept a huge secret from her.
At the Miller house, Ellie was trying to get Fred to sleep and Tom was nagging her to meet Billie since she'd let it out Alec was bringing his girlfriend with him, now she knew they'd more or less made up. She finally got down to the kitchen where her husband was making dinner and Ellie was trying to make sure everything was nearly ready.
"Anyone would think we're having a royal visit," Joe joked.
"Well you should have seen them both yesterday, I felt really sorry for her. Last week they were all over each other, I mean he comes back from his mother's funeral and immediately chases after the new girl who's doing all the data entry. She never admitted it but I bet she stayed with him at his place even that first night."
"Well they're not likely to admit it are they?" Joe grinned as he tried to finish off. "So she's in charge of putting all the information into the computer system then?"
"Well, she's supposed to be but I see her sneaking a look at her phone to see if Hardy's sending her sexy messages," Ellie laughed.
Joe laughed back. "Sure you weren't watching him composing them?"
Ellie pretended to smack his arm. "Well just you wait until you see the pair of them but when I saw her on Saturday, she looked heart-broken. They looked so different this morning when they walked in."
"Well they wouldn't both be coming to dinner if they'd not made up," Joe remarked as the doorbell went.
Alec had taken Billie some chocolates but had left flowers and wine in the car for Ellie. Billie invited him into the caravan but supposed technically he could just walk in since he was paying for it and she'd be homeless if it wasn't for him. Well either homeless or gone crawling back to her mother and admitting defeat that she couldn't get over James.
"Hi, ready to go?" Alec grinned, kissing her cheek since the door was still open and not quite sure she wanted him to kiss her properly in public just yet.
"Yeah, thanks for these," she smiled, putting the chocolates on the table. "Do you want to talk when we come back then?"
"Well, that was the idea. We can talk now though, if you would rather? You may not still want to go with me though?"
"Alec, whatever it is you think we should talk about, I think we've got over the worse, don't you?" she asked, going to kiss him.
"I hope so then. So, any chance I can stay over tonight?" he dared ask when they'd kissed.
"Well I'm a bit off, you might be wasting your time," she teased him. "Aw, take that look off your face Alec Hardy, or should I say Alec Smith? We can still kiss and stuff."
"Well I did notice you looked a bit out of it earlier. I brought a few things to save me going back to get changed in the morning. Was I presuming too much?"
"No, it's your caravan. So what we were going to talk about can wait?" she asked, getting her jacket.
"Yes, I believe so, maybe we can put it off a while longer? I got quite a lecture from your friend yesterday," he admitted as he helped her, then going to kiss her neck.
"I saw her on Saturday, she felt sorry for me," Billie smiled, not remembering if she'd mentioned it before.
He took her key and allowed her out first, then locked the door. He offered the key back but she told him to keep it for later.
"We should have got a cab," she smiled as he opened the car doors
"I did not want an excuse for Miller's husband to get me to drink a lot and ask questions," he admitted as he started the engine.
"Why? Don't ya trust him?" she asked as they drove slowly up the narrow roadway.
"It's not that," he replied, wondering if he was exempt from the speed limit but he supposed you never knew if a child was going to escape from one of the caravans suddenly. "Billie, I don't trust one single man in the whole town at this present moment. Come on love, you've seen the evidence that's coming in? Are you doing the witness statements as well?"
"No, maybe they'll give me those when they've run out of evidence sheets?" she teased him. "It's nothing I've not dealt with before. Geez, I wish I'd never given up my last job to go off with that jerk."
"Then we never would have met," Alec admitted, trying to follow the satnav.
Billie touched his leg. "Yeah, I wouldn't have, would I?"
"Then that would have been my loss. Billie, I really am sorry, about what I never told you."
"I know Alec, I guess I should be flattered?" she smiled as they turned into Ellie's street.
He helped her out of the car and rang the doorbell, Ellie greeting them. Over their meals, Billie thought Joe was getting a bit personal and Alec could tell when they were asked how they'd got together so fast when Joe pointed out Alec had just got back to work.
"It was mutual," Alec replied for the both of them. "Billie hardly knew anyone and she was on a tight budget since she dropped everything to take the job. It started out with me just wanting to help her but it soon became obvious it was more than that."
Billie took his hand behind the table. "Yeah, I would have gone back home if it hadn't been for him. The guest house was full of reporters, one even had the nerve to knock on my door and chat me up while Alec was waiting for me to pack."
Ellie laughed, Hardy playing the hero.
Joe then had to open his big mouth. "Yeah but Ellie said Olly had found out who you look like," he said to Billie. "It was all over the paper who his mother was."
Billie got up and asked where the bathroom was, Ellie going after her.
"Did I say something?" Joe grinned.
"There was no need to bring that up," Alec snarled at him. "She'd just got over that, thanks."
"Well was it true?" Joe persisted.
"I think you had better back off, what's happening between Billie and myself is no-one else's business and your reporter relative was looking for a cheap story to replace the tragedy a young boy that almost everyone knew had died. I think you should apologise when she comes back, don't you?" Alec asked, trying not to get up and lose his temper.
"Well why were you hiding it, your relationship with her?" Joe continued.
"That's between her and me, could you tell a woman she looked like your dead mother, hmm?" Alec asked, wondering if his DS was trying to calm Billie down.
Ellie ran up after Billie but she'd already closed the bathroom door and was leaning over the sink, looking at the redness in her face and going to splash water on it.
"Are you okay in there?" Ellie called out, just as Tom opened his bedroom door.
"What's wrong Mum?" Tom asked her.
"Nothing. Your big-mouthed cousin started something and she got upset over it," she replied, not thinking it was a good idea to say his equally big-mouth dad had just done the same, after she'd warned him not to say anything about their two guests just making up.
Ellie knocked on the door again. "Can I come in?" she called to Billie.
Billie opened the door and stepped back.
"I thought I was over that," she tried to smile.
"Sorry, I did tell him to try to be tactful," Ellie apologised.
"Yeah, well I didn't need reminding of why me and Alec almost fell out, we were just getting over it," Billie replied.
"Well no doubt Joe's being told off about it," Ellie tried to joke.
"Well Alec said he wasn't sure about coming here tonight, I shouldn't have insisted we did."
"I said I was sorry Billie, I didn't know he was going to bring that up, I thought he'd keep quiet. You should warn Alec that Olly knows you look like his mum, I saw him at lunchtime, I told him to keep it quiet but if there's no other news, he may get tempted. I just thought I owed you that."
"Can I take a quick peek at Fred?" Billie tried to smile.
"Yeah, we'd best not wake him though and Tom wanted to meet you, he's a bit amused that after I complained about my new boss, I'd invite him to dinner with his girlfriend."
As they looked in on a sleeping Fred, Ellie tapped on Tom's door and introduced him to Billie. Downstairs though, the two men weren't talking after Alec told Joe that he'd expected better of him than to bring the trashy newspaper report into it and what Ellie had obviously told him about how Billie resembled his mother.
He'd love to get his hands on the low-down reporter but he decided he'd take a walk to the newspaper office and see the editor instead and warn her if there were any further articles about himself or Billie, she'd be setting herself up for a law-suit and he'd soon have the money to do it. He was snapped out of his thoughts when he heard Billie and his DS talking as they came downstairs.
"Aw, he's so cute Ellie," Billie was laughing, Alec wondering if she was talking about him or Miller's young son.
Ellie held her back at the bottom of the stairs.
"You should be telling your boyfriend that," she joked. "Don't let something like that put you off, if he makes you happy. I saw how miserable you both were without each other and while I don't work directly with you, I have to put up with him."
Billie smiled back at her friend. "Yeah, I'll tell him in front of your husband shall I?"
They were both laughing when they went back in and took their seats, Billie leaning on Alec's arm and going to whisper to him.
"Ellie said I have to remind you how cute you are."
He turned to smile at her and she went to kiss his cheek but caught the side of his mouth, making her giggle and go all red.
"Well it seems like you've both forgiven each other then?" Joe tried to joke.
Alec still wasn't so sure he was going to forgive the man for upsetting Billie but he supposed he himself had set it all off. If anyone needed a kick, he did. Billie had another drink, Alec saying he was driving and they said their goodbyes and got back in the car.
"I'll park up then we'll both go down to the bar and have a drink eh?" he suggested when they'd set off back.
"Will that be after you unpack and you've snogged the life out of me?" she giggled.
"Most definitely love and when you are okay again, can we pick up where we left off?" he dared ask.
"Well yeah but you'll have to take the precautions for a few days though."
She didn't want to add that was where she had probably gone wrong with James while they'd been away. When they were in hot counties and she'd just got back to normal, she'd wanted a few extra days before they'd gone back to their sexual activities as quite often, the rooms he'd booked them into left a lot to be desired in the bathroom with showers that only gave hot water at certain times of the day, usually when they were out exploring.
Now though, she didn't feel that way with Alec, she already missed him but last night, if he himself had taken her back to the caravan unprepared, she wasn't willing to risk it if they both had lost control.
As they slowly made up for their fallout, the time came for them to drive up to see Billie's parents and for her to break the news she was staying in Broadchurch when the job finished and was sharing a caravan with Alec, him having given notice on the apartment and they'd crammed everything into the spare room of the caravan, Alec wishing he'd hired a bigger one.
On the Saturday night, they were about to have dinner with her parents when her mother took her to one side.
"Billie, are you sure about him?" she was asked.
"Because he looks like James?" Billie replied. "He's so different. For one, he's not gonna just take off when he feels like writing another book and for another, he knows James, well sort of."
"Yes, you tried to explain that," her mother reminded her. "He seemed to have taken it well though. How does he know James?"
"It's funny really. James never talked about his family much but when Alec went to see his aunt last weekend, he realised James was her nephew. Well she's not really Alec's aunt, she was his mother's best friend so he's known her all his life."
"Well that's a bit of a coincidence then? Have Alec and James met?"
"Yeah, at Alec's mum's funeral. James went in his aunt's place and don't laugh but James's dad used to know Alec's mother and wanted to go out with her but she met Alec's dad and that was it. I'll ask him if he'll tell ya who is dad was."
"Don't be silly dear, why would I want to know who is dad was? Don't tell me he as related to James in some way?"
Billie burst out laughing as they carried the dishes into the dining room, Alec looking at her.
"Something amusing?" he asked her as she sat next to him.
"Yeah, she wants to know who your dad was, she thinks he was related to James."
"Well I can assure you Mrs Parker that they were not. My dad was the psychiatrist, JD Smith and yes, I changed my name when I was eighteen, for several reasons."
Billie's dad looked up from helping himself to some vegetables.
"Really Alec? I remember him, I went all the way to London to get a book signed by him once, probably before your time. I know you're older than my daughter."
Alec was also aware of that fact. His dad was older than his mother had been and it hadn't deterred them but his mother had grown up without her dad, which could have explained it.
"Well my mother used to go with him until they had me, I was told he wrote several books but his later ones, she would not have gone with him, my aunt Donna used to."
"I seem to remember a redhead organising the queue," he smiled. "So she was actually related to James?"
Both Billie and Alec knew they'd never hear the end of it now but managed to get away with sharing Billie's room and made their way back the next morning. During the next week though, there was trouble at the seascout hut and on the Thursday night before they were due to go see Donna, Alec was called out in the early hours to find the newsagent laid on the beach.
"We're still going to London though?" Billie asked at work the next morning.
"Yes, there's nothing much we can do about it, they were all guilty of driving the man to take his own life," he told her as she took him a drink, something the rest of the department were used to by now.
"Ellie said that her husband went to warn Mark Latimer and they went down to try and stop them ganging up on Jack," she told him. "If Mark hadn't been there, they would have lynched the poor man on the spot, despite Bob being there."
"I know love, I read the report. We'll just have a quick bite to eat then we'll set off when the evening traffic settles down. The agents sent the key so I can show you where my parents lived, until mum moved down here with me."
"Yeah, I'd like that and don't forget you're showing me where you used to live," she reminded him.
So later, as they headed for London, they were both a bit nervous, Alec having to show his new love where his parents had lived but he was now more worried about her meeting Donna, he knew she was still as much a mischief maker as she had been when he was younger and the tales his mother used to tell him about the two of them, before she'd met his dad.
It was getting late as Alec pulled into the underground parking area of the apartment block and they went up in the lift with their overnight bags. He was glad he'd arranged for the rest of his mother's clothes to be collected for charity but he'd not been able to part with his dad's famous Paisley shirts, which were neatly folded and wrapped back in the caravan.
As he let them in, Billie went straight to the window and looked out at all the lights on the river.
"No wonder she didn't want to leave," she smiled as he went to stand behind her.
"I could change my mind about selling it, we could keep it," he offered.
"No Alec, you have too many memories, it will always remind you. You have to move on."
"Yes but only with you Billie. I know my aunt Donna will always remind me you look like my mum but to me, that's just a bonus. I love you, Billie Parker."
"I love you too Alec and I know I tease you about changing your name but don't ever change it back. Maybe sometime though, you can go back to being your old self, do you remember how you used to talk?"
Alec leaned down to kiss her. He remembered how his dad used to look at his mother, he'd always seen the love they'd had for each other in their eyes and how they'd acted when they'd sneaked off and the look Billie had in her eyes was the same as his mother's for his dad.
"Oh yes Billie," he almost laughed in an English estuary accent. "I remember exactly how to do that. I can be Alec Smith for you, just this once?"
Since Billie just smiled at him, he took that as a yes, picking her up and carrying her to what had been his parent's bedroom and this time, Billie didn't seem upset as he laid her on the bed that it was where his parents had been together as they got undressed to their underwear and he asked her if she was okay with it.
He got his answer when she went for his boxer shorts and whispered she wanted him, all the events of the last few weeks out of their minds as they got lost in each other but little did they know that their trip to see Donna wasn't going to be quite as they expected it to be.
Sorry for the delay!
Billie wondered where she was the next morning when she heard loud noises outside and Alec was missing. He'd woken up early, slipped from under her and had put on a t-shirt and was standing with the patio door open watching all the boats go past. No wonder his parents had fallen in love with the apartment, well his mother especially and he now regretted staying away so long between visits until it became apparent he was going to have to get a transfer and when a seaside one had been suggested to him, he'd thought it the perfect place for her.
He'd known deep down though that it could never make up his father's loss to her, they had been devoted to each other since the day they had met and sometimes, he'd got more out of Donna about it than them. He was feeling guilty now he'd admitted to Billie that he should never have blamed his dad for the loss of his sister after Donna had revealed a few things when he'd last seen her.
Now he was taking the woman he loved to meet Donna and hoped his aunt wouldn't drag up more of the past than he was comfortable with her knowing, especially following his dad around when he was younger and mimicking his voice and actions, something that now embarrassed him. Would he have become an actor if he'd not lost his sister? She used to encourage him and even dare him to follow their dad around the house but he never dared do it at the clinic when they'd visited.
He suddenly turned from looking out of the window as Billie came up behind him wearing one of his t-shirts and putting her arms around his waist.
"Mmm, morning Alec, I wondered where all the noise was coming from," she smiled as he turned to her.
"Sorry love. I was trying to imagine my parents waking up to the view every morning. Did I tell you they instantly fell in love with the place when they came for a viewing?"
"No but ya can tell me after you come back to bed or have we to leave early?" she replied as he kissed her neck after letting the net curtain fall back into place.
He hadn't wanted every person passing on a boat see how he wanted to say good morning to her.
"There's no rush. If there is anything here you want to take, it's yours love. Oh, I have something for you that I got out of her jewellery box before we set off. Stay right there."
He went to his jacket and brought out a silver heart pendant and opened it up carefully. It contained a small picture of his mum and dad positioned so they were looking at each other.
"Alec, it's beautiful but are you sure you want me to wear it?" she asked as he fastened it around her neck then kissing it.
"Who else do I have to give it to love? Billie, I am really sorry for what happened the other weekend, can you forgive me for not admitting you are the image of my mum when she was younger?"
"Alec, it was a bit of a shock, especially reading it but we'd only just met, I get that now and I shouldn't have been so mad about it. That weekend, I was so miserable when you went off and I thought you wouldn't even talk to me any more. The pictures inside this pendant, if you shaved off your beard, everyone will think it's us," she smiled, hugging his neck.
"Yes, I expect so. Billie, do you forgive me because I want to take things further with you, if you will allow me?"
"What kind of things?" Billie wondered.
"Taking care of you, putting you as my next of kin for my police benefits, health insurance and other finances but not just that. We tell everyone we are together, no hiding and if the papers get hold of it, we do one interview at The Echo and they can distribute it and we say it was just a happy coincidence we met and how we both look. So, what do you say love?"
"What can I say Alec? When I came to Broadchurch, I was upset and angry over James, for the way he treated me when we got back and I'd no job. The pay wasn't brilliant because most of the budget he had went on travel and hotels and I was too stubborn to ask my dad to help me out. Then that day you came over to me, apart from Ellie, you were the only one that had really spoken to me. You were the kindest man I'd met in a long time."
Alec leaned down and they kissed, his hands resting on her behind and Billie reaching back to make him hold her firmer.
"I should have told you that you looked like James but I was afraid you'd back off Alec. I'd had enough of men leaving me but then I did exactly what I was trying to avoid you doing. Alec, this is all so weird, all this being connected that I used to travel with James and you knew him. I suppose there's someone with a weird sense of humour somewhere?" she smiled.
"I expect so love but maybe the fates are just being kind to us and making up for what we both lost eh?" he smiled back, kissing her neck. "That pendant was very special to my mother, she would want you to wear it love. When they got married, she once told me she had two equal happiest days of her life, meeting my dad and marrying him."
"That's so sweet Alec. Yeah, let that nosy reporter come back, we'll tell him he won't get the story if he doesn't back off and give us some space."
"Best not leave it too long though, we don't want to give him chance to print anything else, do we love? Now, are we going back to bed for half an hour or should we just go get some breakfast? I told the agency I would leave the key downstairs, it's all been arranged. We will go see Donna after I show you where I used to live and the clinic, then afterwards, we'll book into the hotel in Chiswick."
"Well, okay then. We can make up for it in the morning then? I'm sorry I've been a bit off with you Alec but I wanted time to make sure I was covered, I should be okay now. It was just leaving home in a hurry."
"I understand love, it's fine. There have been a lot of other things getting in the way as well. Why don't we just relax a little and shower together?"
"Sounds good to me," Billie smiled. "Best go lock the window first though?" she teased him as a breeze was blowing the curtains.
It was only just gone eight as they put shower gel on each other, Billie giggling as he indicated she shouldn't just do his chest and back.
"Come on love, don't be shy," he teased her as he turned around, not that there was a lot of room.
"Let me just work up to it," Billie replied with a serious look on her face. "I can start with your bum," she almost laughed, Alec knowing she was tormenting him, then letting out a laugh.
"Now who is being the tormentor eh?" he laughed.
After just stopping short of having actual sex in the shower, Billie being lifted off her feet, they towelled each other dry to a certain extent then Alec went to make a drink as they had picked up a small carton of milk locally. Billie picked up her phone and walked to the window, seeing if there were any messages.
She jumped when it started ringing and forgetting she'd not deleted James's number, it came up on the screen.
"Alec, get in here now, James is calling me," she yelled into the kitchen.
"What?" Alec shouted back, putting the boiling kettle back on the base. "Give it here, I'm not having him calling you and bothering you."
"Leave it Alec, I'll see what he wants," she replied, swiping the green button. "James, what do you want?" she asked her ex boyfriend.
"Good morning to you too Billie. Alec said he knew you, can you ask him to call me?"
"How do ya know that?" Billie wondered, since she hadn't known Alec when it was his mother's funeral.
"Because my aunt Donna told me, that's how, please Billie, it's really urgent or I wouldn't ask," James replied.
"Then get it off her," Billie told him, trying to stop Alec grabbing the phone out of her hand.
"Give it here," Alec repeated when he gathered James was trying to get her to give out his number or get him to call James.
"Hang on, he's with me, I'll put him on," Billie finally admitted.
She heard James mumbling something about why hadn't she just said Alec was there in the first place?
She passed the phone to Alec, who kissed her cheek. "Get dressed properly love eh?" he smiled as he covered the phone but what if James did hear him?
Billie was no longer James's girlfriend, she was his now.
"What is it James? Why are you calling her, at this time or any other time? She's through with you, you made that clear when you dumped her after your little trip," Alec reminded him.
"Yes, Alec, I know and I'm sorry but this is important," James tried to apologise.
"Well you can tell her that. Why did you not get my number from your aunt?" Alec asked.
"Because she's in hospital Alec, that's why," James replied, panic in his voice. "It's serious, they called me yesterday afternoon, I got here late last night, booked a cheap hotel room after being allowed to see her for a few minutes. She knows I'm here, she was asking for you and also Billie, for some reason. I suppose you told her Billie used to go out with me?"
"Just get on with it James. What's wrong with her?" Alec wanted to know as Billie went to finish getting dressed.
"She hasn't got long Alec, she's got pneumonia amongst other things, the warden or whatever where she lives found her collapsed yesterday lunchtime when she didn't answer her intercom. It was the warden who called me, I'm down as her next of kin. You should come up as soon as you can Alec, I don't know how she's hanging on."
This wasn't how he had wanted to introduce Billie to Donna nor how he'd next wanted to meet with James.
"We're in London, we were coming to see her later on. Billie wanted to meet her and I was going to show her around. When she's got dressed, we'll pack and come right over. Text her the address of the hospital. If aunt Donna comes round, tell her I'm on my way to see her. Will she wake up?" Alec asked.
James went quiet, Alec thinking the worse. "I think I just heard her asking a nurse where I'd got to," James replied, letting out a nervous laugh. "I'd best go, you know what she's like better than I do."
"James, that was not how she wanted things but your dad chose to move to Ipswich. We'll get there as fast as we can. James, if we're too late, if you get chance, tell her I love her, she was like a real aunt to me, she was always there for me."
"Don't worry, I'll tell her but she's too stubborn to give up before you get here. Did she know you were bringing Billie with you?" James asked him.
"Not exactly but I told her Billie and I had made friends when I saw her the other week, at the time though, something was getting in the way of it being something else," Alec admitted as he heard the bedroom door open.
"Yes, that was probably me," James told him.
"No, it was me, I omitted to tell her certain things. We'll see you soon." Alec replied.
"What's wrong Alec?" Billie asked as he handed her phone back.
"Donna's been taken into hospital. She's really ill Billie."
Billie rushed up to him and threw her arms around him.
"Alec, I'm so sorry. Come on then, do you know where she is?"
Her message tone went.
"James just sent a text with the address. He got there late yesterday, she's awake now, he heard her making a fuss," Alec half smiled as Billie opened the message.
"You never swapped numbers with James?" she asked without looking at it and passing the phone back to Alec.
"I saw no reason to, Donna was sort of the go-between," he smiled as he went to get their things from the bedroom, seeing Billie had been packing.
They got a few things Billie took a liking to and making sure everything was in order, locked up and left the key as arranged. Alec put the postcode into his satnav and they made their way to the hospital, forgetting the tour he'd promised her.
"So did you and James see much of each other?" Billie wondered as they drove.
"Only odd occasions. We knew about each other, obviously. My mum went to his dad's funeral, that was before my dad died but he wouldn't go. He'd never been jealous or anything, my mum had never even been on a date with James's dad so her and Donna just went. I expect she met James there. Donna didn't talk that much about it except they were cousins and that James's dad had always insisted James called her aunt, she never said why."
James had gone back into the small room, since Donna had private health insurance going back to the days she'd worked in the clinic.
"Where have you been dumbo?" Donna asked him, getting a smile from the two nurses who were checking on her.
"You were asking for Alec, Auntie Donna. He's on his way, he was already in London, so he said," James replied, sitting away from her in case she tried to whack him like she'd done when he was a kid on their odd visits to see her.
"Was he? Oh yeah, he was selling his mum's apartment, he must have wanted his girlfriend or whatever she is to see it. He said they'd fallen out over her looking like his mum, stupid idiot. I hope he came to his sense, unlike you when you dumped her, spaceman."
James wished she'd not reminded him, it was bad enough his sort of cousin had just done the same but she'd done it in company.
"Yeah, he said Auntie Donna, they'll be here soon. So he told her who she looks like?" he asked nervously.
"Yeah, he wasn't sure how she'd taken it," Donna replied when she'd stopped coughing, James now glad he'd sat back. "They must have made up. So come on then, why did you just dump her?"
"Leave it, it's too late now, she's got Alec. She was just too good for me," he admitted.
"Idiot. You could have told her," Donna reached out to hit him after coughing again.
"You're supposed to be resting Miss Noble," one of the nurses reminded her, trying to get her to lie down.
"Yeah, yeah, tell that to my nephew," Donna complained. "Can you give us a few minutes?"
"Call us for the slightest thing," the nurse agreed.
James nodded and risked moving his chair when Donna wagged her finger at him, something he remembered about her always doing when he'd seen her, which was usually to whack his head or his arm.
"Why do you insist I call you auntie?" he wanted to know, figuring he deserved to know if she wasn't going to last much longer.
"I'll tell you when Alec gets here, he needs to know as well," was all she would tell him.
"He's not really related to us, is he?" James asked, thinking it was bad enough his ex-girlfriend had run off and found him.
"Don't be daft spaceman. I'm not telling this twice."
With that, she closed her eyes but the monitor she was hooked up to was still beeping. James took the chance to sit back, his head in his hands, something his dad had tended to do. How the hell had he let Billie go and walk straight into Alec and she'd been okay with it – or had she by what Donna had just said, though that could be her winding him up.
Alec was looking for somewhere to park and saw a car with the reversing lights on, daring anyone else to try as it reversed out, him thinking it was busy for early morning but he expected some of the clinics were still open on a Saturday. Billie had to smile when he stuck a 'Wessex Police' sign on the dashboard.
"I hope you get away with that," she smiled as they got out.
"Well if I don't they'll argue with my chief, not me," he grinned. "Billie, this was not how I wanted you to meet Donna."
Billie touched his arm before looping hers into it.
"I know but James wouldn't have called if it hadn't been urgent," she smiled.
"She would want to know we made up, I told her the other week I wasn't sure how things had been left."
"It's okay," she replied as they looked for the ward number James had put in the text. "Did he say it was intensive care?" she asked, pointing at the directory by the lift. "Why didn't ya tell me?" she asked again when he nodded and pressed the lift button.
Alec shrugged his shoulders. "I didn't want to upset you. James would have called back if we were too late but they don't expect her to last much longer, she's really sick and she must have been hiding it but that's her Billie," he admitted as they went up two floors. "She came when I got married to Tess, she said she wasn't going to miss that but when she found out what Tess had done, well thankfully, she was in London and we were in Sandbrook," he smiled as he remembered how upset her and his mother had been at Tess's betrayal.
"Here we are," Alec announced, holding her hand as the lift arrived, not being able to think of anything else to say that would make things any better.
"I'm so sorry Alec," Billie told him as they got out of the lift. "You just lost your mum, now your aunt Donna may leave you as well but maybe she's not that bad?"
"They would not put her in intensive care otherwise love," he reminded her. "Thanks, for being here."
"I wouldn't be anywhere else, would I?" she smiled as they walked down the corridor, seeing the sign they wanted.
They turned the corner and saw James at the other side of the door, leaning back on the wall, his converse clad foot on the wall behind him. He looked up as Alec rang the buzzer to be admitted, a nurse getting up from the desk opposite.
She was about to ask what they wanted when James stood up straight.
"They're both with me, they're here to see Donna Noble."
The nursed smiled at him, looked closely at Alec then pressed the buzzer to let them in.
"Your brother or cousin?" she smiled again as Alec let Billie in first.
"No, not exactly," James replied as Alec joined Billie, James still wondering what revelation his aunt had to tell him that also concerned Alec. Was there a skeleton in her closet she'd neglected to tell him and possibly his dad? What the hell did she have to tell them that she'd waited until she was possibly on her death-bed to tell them?
James led them down the corridor to a private room within the unit, Billie grabbing for Alec's hand.
"Is she awake?" James asked a passing nurse, thinking that was a stupid question, considering she'd be yelling for him if she was.
The nurse looked at him, then Alec. "I'll go see. You never said you had a twin brother Mr Noble," she grinned.
"We're not brothers," Alec objected.
Billie smiled and squeezed his hand, seeing James's face.
As they waited, James leaned on the side of the door.
"It's been mostly waiting around. She seems to be in and out but when she's awake, trust me, you know about it."
"She was fine the other week when I saw her," Alec insisted as Billie leaned on him.
"I know, I only spoke to her last weekend, she said you'd been to visit her, she gave me a right telling off over you, Billie," James tried to smile.
"Well forget about it, you never even told me you had an aunt, well whatever she is. I got more out of Alec," Billie replied.
James thought she would have.
"I never thought it was important, she's some sort of cousin really, dad would never explain but I always assumed it was because I was young, that was what you did. I expect it was her who insisted."
"Yeah, well you never told me I looked like Alec's mother either," Billie added.
James decided his Converse shoes needed an inspection, something Billie used to find funny about him but not now.
"You two can have a walk down memory lane after we've seen her," Alec insisted, Billie turning to look at him.
"You could have still explained why you just dumped me," she carried on, wishing she'd never come now.
"Leave it love, this is not the place," Alec reminded her as the door at the side of James opened.
"You can go in now, just two of you though," the nurse told them.
"Nurse!" Donna shouted from inside. "I want to see all of them."
"It's against policy Miss Noble," the nurse turned back to her.
"I'm paying for this room," Donna reminded them after several coughs. "You two skinny boys in suits, get in here now," she called loud enough for them to hear, making Billie want to laugh.
Alec looked at the nurse, daring her to stop Billie from following them, since she was still holding his hand.
"Shut the door spaceman," Donna indicated towards James, Alec wondering what she called himself when he wasn't around.
Since James seemed to know she meant him, he brushed past Billie to close the door.
"Hello Auntie Donna, look who's here," James laughed nervously. "They were already in London, fancy that!"
"I can see that Dumbo, why else would they have got here so fast?" Donna replied. "So you two made up Alec?"
"We worked some things out, yes. Billie wanted to meet you and see where I used to live. We wanted to pay you a surprise visit," Alec told her.
"So you're Billie then?" Donna asked her as Alec indicated for her to sit
"Yeah, it's nice to finally meet you. Alec told me loads of things about you. It was a bit hard to swallow that I look like his mum used to when she was younger, we're getting over it," Billie replied.
"Good, it was bad enough my real nephew dumped you, which he still won't tell me why," Donna told her, looking at James, who was wishing they hadn't been so close by to get there so fast. "Anyway. About that, James. Alec," she continued as Billie passed a tissue as Donna began to cough again. "How do you think I've coped all these years, you two being almost twins?"
"I've no idea," James admitted. "You're not going to tell me his mother had twins and gave me up or something are you?"
"Don't be so daft James," Alec interrupted. "My parents would never have done that. Would they Aunt Donna?"
"No, not your parents Alec, they loved you. Alec, tell James about your sister. Does Billie know?" she asked.
Alec nodded. "I had a sister, James. She was called Heather and she died two days after her sixteenth birthday. She got hold of some drugs meant for my dad's clinic and they were too late to save her."
"Sorry Alec, I had no idea," James admitted. "I shouldn't have made that remark, it was uncalled for."
"You were not to know. Why am I telling him?" he asked Donna, who had closed her eyes.
"She's been doing that," James told him.
"Doing what?" Donna suddenly asked, making Billie smile. "The airs needs clearing between you two, why I insisted you, James called me auntie. Alec, you know why, your mum was like the sister I never had and I was the same to her. I used to babysit you and Heather, not that your parents went out much after you were born, except to parties to promote one of his books."
"I know, you told me," Alec replied.
"You never told me," James joined in.
"You never saw much of them, your dad moved away when Alec's mother married Johnnie, he finally admitted to himself he'd lost her. He had a massive crush on her but she thought he was too good for her, then she took up with your dad, Alec. Anyway, never mind that now. James, your dad already knew your mum but Rose was getting in the way, your mother never knew about her."
Alec was thinking maybe it was just as well, the poor woman, when all James's dad wanted was to win his own mother over.
"I don't get something," Alec spoke up. "Four of us, all looking alike?"
"Why are you asking me?" Donna wanted to know. "I need a rest, you two vamoose, I want Billie to stay with me."
Alec and James looked at each other.
"Sure you'll be okay?" Alec asked Billie.
"Of course she'll be okay Alec, what do you expect?" Donna asked, Billie noticing she didn't call Alec names like she did James. "What do you think I'll do, scare her off? I never trusted Tess but anyone who looks like your mother is okay in my books."
Alec leaned down to kiss Billie's cheek.
"Get out Alec, you remind me of your mum and dad making out at parties and trust me, they did enough of it. Did your sister ever tell you why the pair of them were always disappearing?" Donna asked him.
"Yes, when they kept doing it on holiday," Alec admitted, making Billie smile. "Come on James, you and I have things to talk about."
"You should get some rest," Billie told Donna, whom she thought was just using it as an excuse to get rid of the two of them.
"Rubbish. I don't have long, James knows it and I think Alec does. You were upset when you found out?"
"Yeah, I read it in the local paper, it might not have been as bad if Alec had told me himself but unlike James, he told me everything else."
"James was always like that, why do you think I call him spaceman?" Donna chuckled. "Has he shown you family photos?"
"Some but he never showed me his mum. He gave me this heart pendant this morning, with their pictures in."
"I remember when she got it, she was so happy about it but Johnnie made her happy all the time, even when Alec fell out with his dad, she stayed neutral to keep the peace. He told you?"
"Yeah, he said you kicked his ass about it the last time you saw him," Billie smiled.
"Too right I did," Donna tried to laugh without choking. "I'm glad he found you, unlike that no-good ex wife of his but Daisy was caught in the middle. He named her that to keep flower names in the family."
Billie smiled at the thought. "I'll have to meet her at some point. Did you want to talk about anything else?"
"No, just leave them two to have it out. I expect Alec has something to say about the way James treated you."
That was exactly what Alec was doing and James knew Alec was playing the policeman.
"So, you owe Billie an explanation," Alec was telling James as they got drinks from the machine.
"So you two are serious?" James replied as they sat down.
"Yes and she deserves to forget what happened, why you backed out when you got home. I don't expect you to tell me James, just tell her."
"I didn't deserve her Alec, I suppose I got that from my dad. What auntie Donna said in there, it was the other way around, your mum may have thought that but it wasn't true. When my dad died, I found a photo he'd been sent of her and your dad on their wedding day, I think auntie Donna sent it to show him what an ass he'd been over it. She'd tried to tell him to move on so he did, he moved away and married my mum."
"So who was your mum then, obviously my mum never knew about her and Donna would have kept it to herself, she must have had an idea there was someone else?"
"Yeah, knowing her," James grinned. "Nothing much gets past Donna Noble but you know that more than I do Alec, you grew up with her, she was always around."
"Aye, she looked after me when my sister died while my gran was comforting my mum. I hardly spoke about her to my ex but with Billie, I told her when we met. I'd just got back from my mum's funeral and there she was."
"So when she saw the picture of your mum, she freaked?" James asked.
"More or less, it was the stupid town's junior reporter's idea of taking the population's mind off the death of a young boy," Alec admitted.
"So Billie works with you, so aunt Donna said? My mum was what she described as an investigative journalist for several magazines of the time," James laughed. "She gave them reports by phone when my dad moved them away. Her name was Sarah-Jane Smith."
Alec had always wondered and he'd hoped Donna could offer some explanation as to if his dad and James's dad could be twins, why did his mum turn James Noble senior down? It didn't seem like he was going to get any answers though, it would remain a mystery.
Billie was sat as Donna closed her eyes after a nurse went to check on her, wondering if she should just leave but the least she could do was stay with whom had treated Alec like her real nephew but she knew now that if James had been closer to London, she would have been torn between the two of them. She wondered if they'd both looked the same when they were kids?
Alec went to check on Billie after he glanced through the small window in the door.
"Okay love?" he asked, taking some coffee in for her.
He leaned down to kiss her after putting the drink down on the cabinet. Billie grabbed hold of his neck and Alec crouched down.
"Come outside until she wakes up," he suggested.
"I don't want to leave her alone Alec."
"She won't be, James will take over, or I can? You and James should clear the air, go on, it's okay."
"Sure you don't mind?" Billie asked, just to make sure.
"Well unless you're going to go back with him?" Alec smiled as he helped her up.
"After what he did? No chance. Okay, I'll try to be civil to him then."
James looked up as Billie walked towards him.
"Bet you didn't think you'd be seeing me again?" he tried to joke.
"Are you kidding James? I thought it was you, that you'd grown a beard when Alec walked into the office that morning. One of the DS's told me he was coming back and that he'd just lost his mum but when he walked in? I had to ignore him all day and then, he was the one who came over to me and when I found out why, well?"
"I'd no idea how alike you and his mother were, I hardly saw any pictures of her, just a wedding photo and I didn't see Donna that much really. I expect she hid all the photos of her and Alec's mum so as not to spook my dad and have my mum asking awkward questions. He never even talked about her, to anyone. Only Donna knew and he really never told my why I had to call her my aunt when she was his cousin. The rare occasion I went to see her before aunt Sylvia died, well I was only little, I barely remember but I assumed we were related so that's what kids did."
"Yeah, I was the same with all my relatives," Billie admitted as she drank. "You must have got a shock when the hospital called? So, go on then, why wait until we got back to tell me it was over or were you being a gentleman and making sure I got home?"
"I could never have expected you to get home on your own Billie," he reminded her.
"Then why not just say something except 'I need to get my book written, bye'?" she asked.
"That wasn't quite it Billie and you know that. What did you want me to say?"
"Well a 'it's been nice but I really have to work and why don't I call you?' would have been better."
James was stubbing his toes on the side of the drinks machine, he knew she had a point. She'd deserved better after getting her to leave her job at the police station, dragged her half way around the world and a few days into their trip, persuaded her to give in and share a room. He'd been on a tight budget and it had been more than nice to have some spare cash instead of paying for two rooms.
Maybe he'd been wrong to rush her into a close relationship but judging by seeing her with Alec, she'd not gone off men, he just wished it hadn't been with his twin who was no relation and he'd no idea why they even looked alike. It didn't look like he was ever going to find out either, unless Alec had any luck getting Donna to tell him.
Donna had woken up, just as Alec was finishing his drink.
"Where's your girlfriend?"
"Talking things out with James, I hope. He's been a part of the problem and no, I don't think she will go back to him after how he treated her," he replied.
"I never said she would," Donna replied, Alec passing her some water.
"Why do you call James names when you don't call me them?" he asked her.
"He's not been around as much as you. Call them in Alec, I have to tell you something, I've not got long."
"Rubbish, you outlasted everyone else, you were older than my mum."
"Not as old as your dad though, she thought James's dad was too old for her then she found your dad. You would look more like him if you got rid of that beard."
"Billie seems to like it and no, I might have forgiven my dad but I don't want everyone to think I am him," Alec replied.
"No chance, you never went back to your proper accent though."
"I couldn't, it was part of what I'd become, because of what happened and I wish I had forgiven him properly before he died but I think he knew, deep down that I still loved him."
"He knew Alec. Now get the other two before Billie scratches James's eyes out, I need him in one piece."
Alec smiled and got up and as he opened the door and looked towards the vending machine, Billie was staring at the floor and James leaning on the machine and staring up. No wonder Donna had called him spaceman and no wonder Billie had gone for James with his wild hair and his dress sense though at least he was wearing a suit today.
"She wants to see you both," Alec told them, holding out his hand to Billie.
He stopped James as Billie went back in Donna's room.
"She's slipping away James, the nurse came in and took more readings and it did not look good. Did you tell Billie?" he asked, turning to see her talking quietly with Donna.
"Yeah, she knows. It was just, well she told me I was wrong to just leave her like that and I was, I know that now. Maybe we both got carried away with travelling together? I thought I was protecting her but I was being selfish. I wanted company and asked her to go with me when she hardly knew me and she was willing to do so. Maybe she'd never really been travelling before?"
"We should see Donna, before it's too late."
"Where have you two skinny boys in suits been?" Donna asked, making Billie smile. "James, have you apologised to Billie?"
"Yes Auntie Donna. So what's so important then?" James asked.
"I have something to tell you and Alec deserves to know but it's not about his family, it's about ours James. Your dad found out the same time as me, when my mother died and he couldn't come to terms with it so he never even told your mum. When you said earlier, about Alec's parents giving you up and you could be Alec's twin, it wasn't far from the truth, just not that you are Alec's brother."
"Then what is it Auntie Donna?" James asked as she struggled to catch her breath, Alec dashing to get some water.
She couldn't manage so Billie held it for her.
"Do you love Alec?" Donna asked her.
"Yeah, I think I do, we have a few more things to work out but I don't think that will be a problem," Billie replied.
"Good, you two belong together, just like his mum and dad did, nothing could get in their way and a few tried, trust me. James, what your dad never told you or your mum, he was the one who was taken from his real mother, he was my brother."
"What?" James and Alec both said together as Donna began coughing again, the nurse coming in.
"I'm sorry, she needs her rest now," the nurse insisted.
"No I don't," Donna decided. "Go on, what am I going to do, get up and leave?"
All three of them smiled.
"Well haven't you two dumbos got anything to say?" Donna asked James and Alec. "I know it doesn't really concern you Alec but if James's dad had gone out with your mum, we would have been related. My mum told us when she was dying that your dad, James, she'd had him secretly while she was seeing my dad, she kept it well hidden she was pregnant and my gran wouldn't support her so her cousin had just got married and somehow, she got them to agree to take him and say he was theirs, they'd been married about the right time. Only they and my gran knew the truth."
"Well I never expected that," James tried to joke, perching himself on the edge of a stool that was too low down for him because the nurse had never offered to bring any more chairs in.
"Great, so me and James could have been related if my mum hadn't met my dad," Alec stated. "As if knowing you mistreated Billie wasn't enough."
"Don't be like that Alec," Billie reached for his hand as he leaned on the window ledge.
"You have to promise me you won't tell anyone else, not that there's anyone left to tell," Donna said quietly.
"You have our word, hasn't she James?" Alec asked him.
"Goes without saying but my dad never knew at the time I was born, did he?" James mused, staring at his feet. "I wonder if he suspected you two were more than cousins, when you were growing up?"
"Alec! Call the nurse, quick," Billie urged him as Donna closed her eyes and went pale, just as the monitor she was on started to make a noise.
James beat him to it but a team had already been alerted.
"You all need to leave, now," the head nurse told them as Billie scrambled to her feet, grabbing Alec's arm.
They all went outside and Alec led Billie to the other end near the drinks machine, James searching for some change in his pocket.
"She'll be okay, won't she?" Billie asked them both.
"They did warn me when I arrived," James admitted. "Sorry, I never got chance to say. Well, at least she told us what she'd been keeping a secret all this time?"
"You could have found the time," Alec told him, sitting beside Billie and putting his arm around her.
"She told me, when I called her last that she had a funeral plan and it was with her solicitor and to make sure you knew. I never expected I was maybe going to have to contact them about it. Was everything organised for you too Alec, when your mum passed away?" James asked him.
"Yes, thankfully though some things are still being sorted out. All we can do is wait now," Alec replied as Billie laid her head on his shoulder.
"I wanted to meet her but not like this," she told Alec.
"I know love, I'm sorry. James, if the worst happens and you need help, I'll give you my mobile number, I'll do what I can."
They only waited another fifteen minutes or so, Billie and Alec refusing a drink when James offered Billie one.
"I'm sorry, she passed away, shortly after you left," the head nurse was telling them, Billie burying her head in Alec's shoulder. "We tried to revive her. She never came to again after you left. You can go see her if you wish?"
"I'll go," James offered as he saw Billie was crying. "You stay with Billie."
"Go ahead, I'm sorry James, she was your aunt after all."
"Yeah, shame she just told me," James tried to laugh as the nurse went off. "You had the advantage though, being close by but if she'd known my dad was her brother, she maybe wouldn't have let him go off like he did and I would have known her better."
Billie suddenly moved and got up, surprising both Alec and James by going and giving James a hug.
"I'm so sorry James. I wish I'd had the time to get to know her."
James was doing his best to fend her off in case Alec got angry but Alec just stood with his arms folded like he always did.
"I know, thanks. It was just her time, she seemed to know. Was that what your mum was like?" he asked Alec.
"I expect so, she could have stayed in London but she agreed to go to Broadchurch with me, maybe too easily after all that time of being on her own. Well at least they'll see each other again."
Billie backed away from James and went to Alec, James going off.
"Go with him Alec, don't make him do it alone. You never said if you had anyone when your mum died."
"Just Miller when I told her but I was the one who found my mum," he replied.
He kissed Billie's cheek and went off to join James, who was sitting by the bed, the equipment having been turned off and he was leaning his head in his hands. Alec went over to him and put his hand on James's shoulder.
"She meant a lot to me," Alec simply told James.
"I know, I was constantly reminded these last few years," James tried to joke. "She only started talking about your mum after my dad died, she could never bring herself to talk about their friendship in front of him, well except for sending him their wedding photo. Dad never knew why she'd done that I suppose, though I never knew, she just used to mention her adopted nephew, which was you. I'm sorry about your sister Alec, she never told me."
"It was a family secret, I told Tess, my ex wife but not our teenage daughter. It was something we never talked about. Heather got upset over a boy she liked kissing one of her friends at her sixteenth birthday party. My dad tried to help her but on the Monday morning, she took a bottle of pills meant for the clinic that had been delivered to the house by mistake and swallowed them all. My mum told me years later that they did too much damage to her, she couldn't be saved."
"Sorry our aunt had to go dragging that up. You should get back to Billie," James told him.
"She told me not to let you do this on your own. She's something else you know?" Alec reminded him.
"I know and I treated her badly and as Donna would say, I'm a dumbo. I should have just told her I'd see her after I finished my book but I put my foot in it and told her I was too busy, well in not so many words and she took it the wrong way. When I realised what I'd done, she'd left. I didn't deserve her Alec but you do."
"Really?" Alec asked him, leaning against the window ledge and wondering why they'd just been left but he supposed since Donna had medical insurance, the staff thought there was no hurry and they'd leave on their own. "After I failed to tell her she's the double of my mother? You had an excuse James, you didn't really know my mother but you never talked about your family, so Billie told me."
"I saw no need, we were travelling around, I thought with my parents gone, she wouldn't want to know and if we'd got serious, I'd have taken her to meet Donna. You wasted no time though, how come?"
"Does it matter?" Alec asked him, resting one foot back on the wall behind him. "I felt at home with her, she had no-one when she arrived in Broadchurch except she'd made friends with my DS before I got back. When I walked into the office, there she was and she didn't look like she wanted to leave. Then I found out why. I didn't know what attracted her to me, she never said," he admitted.
"Yeah but you know now and you stayed," James reminded him. "You’re a detective Alec, you'd have worked it out," he tried to smile.
"Yes, some detective I am when I can't see that her looking like my mother wouldn't bother her," Alec admitted. "Let me know if I can help with the arrangements, we'll come up for the funeral, Billie will want to attend."
"Yeah, she's a very caring person, I know that. You go ahead, I just want a few minutes, unless you do as well?" James asked him.
Alec stayed until James was ready to leave, both of them taking it in turns to say goodbye to the one person they'd had left who they'd had something in common with. For James, a reminder of his parents as did Alec but Alec knew her friendship with his mother had been deeper than with whom had turned out to be her brother – James's father.
Billie had got herself another drink and hoped the two of them weren't arguing over their aunt as to who had been the closest to her but she reckoned it had to have been Alec, the way he spoke about her and was keen for them to meet. Now she wished she'd put off the visit home and come here last weekend but Alec would have come back when James had called, he'd have driven overnight if he'd had to and she would have still come with him.
She'd not expected to see or hear from James again, well not unless he'd called her and asked her to forgive him for being a total ass and leaving her. Now she was sorry for his loss and for Alec's but it was Alec she was with now and she hoped James wouldn't call her again. He'd had his chance, all that travelling they'd done but neither of them had told each other they loved them.
She'd told Alec after he'd told her but she wanted to say it properly and she was going to, he'd given her some of his mother's jewellery, the heart pendant that had his parents photos inside, he didn't have to say anything else. A few nurses glanced at her as they walked around until the one who had let them in stopped.
"So are those two related?" she asked Billie. "If she was their aunt I mean?"
"No, the one with the beard, he's my boyfriend and Donna was his mother's best friend, he always called her aunt 'cos he'd known her all his life. The other one, well he's my ex and she really was his aunt but he just found out," she tried to explain without going into great detail neither of them would want.
"Well we'll have to remove her soon, maybe you should get them to leave? I'm sure they would rather you did it?"
Billie got up and threw her empty cup into the bin. She had just reached the door when Alec opened it.
"Sorry I left you so long love," he apologised, kissing her cheek.
Billie looked up to see James behind him, feeling herself start to blush.
"Don't mind me," James told her as Alec led her out. "I have to make the arrangements, thanks for the card Alec," he said, the card of the funeral director Alec had used once his mother had been taken back to London.
"They may not cover this area but they will advise you of someone local. Where are you staying?" Alec asked him as they went back to the seating area.
"Oh, my things are in the car, I'll just go find a hotel for a couple of nights. Are you two going back to Broadchurch?"
"Billie wanted to see where I used to live, we can take a detour," Alec replied, Billie indicating she was off to find the ladies room after two cups of coffee.
"Yeah, I expect she does?" James tried to smile. "I'll let you know the arrangements Alec, you had to do the same on your own, I can manage if you did."
Alec thought his circumstances were somewhat different, with him being in the police but if Donna had a funeral plan, it would be quite easy.
"You'll have to contact her solicitor," Alec reminded him.
"Yeah, I expect I can leave everything to them?" James replied. "Did you get everything sorted?"
"Not quite and the apartment's still for sale but the agents have had a lot of interest. I got the key back so I could show it to Billie, I'm surprised she didn't want to move there," Alec smiled, waiting for her to return.
"Yeah, Donna said it was by the river but you both live by the sea, well so she said. Are you going to buy a house there?"
"Well I'm still renting the apartment I got for my mum but I moved out, Billie and I are renting a caravan right on the harbour for now," Alec admitted, since they had nothing to hide, well maybe except from the annoying local reporter.
"Are you ready to leave Alec?" Billie asked as she joined them and took his arm, leaning on his shoulder.
"Sure love, we'll go past the clinic first, then where I grew up. Bye James, we'll see you soon."
"Yeah, I'm really sorry you only just found out she really was your aunt," Billie told James.
"Yeah, I should have known though but I'm not the detective around here," James joked.
"Well my mum never knew and neither did Donna until her mother died," Alec reminded him. "Maybe Donna had no reason to suspect anything?"
"Yeah, maybe not? Bye Billie, take care and I really am sorry for how I left you," James told her.
Billie looked at Alec then let go of him.
"Bye James, maybe I took it the wrong way but you can't really blame me. You take care of yourself and we'll see you at the funeral. Are you going back home?" she asked him.
"For a few days, then I'll have things to sort out. Who knows, she might have left a fortune to me and I can afford to buy Alec's parents old apartment?" James smiled.
Alec was hoping not. He held his hand out to shake James's but instead of Billie doing the same, she gave him another hug. Alec couldn't really object, she was just friendly and they had been involved until James had blown it and let her go. Well that was his loss, it had sent her to Broadchurch and to him.
"Come on love, we have to get going unless you want to stay in London tonight?"
"We could do but we'd have to leave early," she replied.
She nudged Alec as some orderlies were taking Donna away.
"I should go make the arrangements," James told them.
Alec held Billie back as James went off.
"He has to do it on his own love, come on, we should make a start."
After a short drive, Alec stopped in the road just across from what had been his dad's clinic, which was now another kind of clinic but he couldn't make out what it was.
"They were happy there until they left after they got married," Alec told her. "Mum said when she first arrived, she used to sneak to his room pretending she was borrowing a book."
Billie smiled. "Did they get caught?" she teased him as they sat.
"Aye, by the nurse after my dad was called to an incident with one of the patients. She more or less told him not to sneak around."
Billie had to smile, taking his arm. She leaned over and whispered, "Your mum was a lucky woman. I love you Alec, whatever your name used to be. You're not changing it back then?"
"It's who I am now, I did it because of what happened, to distance myself but I know now I was wrong to do so. I wouldn't know how to go about changing it back but before my mum died, she made sure her solicitor knew about me, not that they didn’t know before when my dad died. Back then though, I never wanted his money, I wanted my sister back."
"I know Alec but now, you understand he took the blame for it all along. He'll know you've forgiven him."
"I should have told him properly. Well, I'll show you where we used to live then we'll get something to eat and make our way back, unless there is somewhere else you want to go?"
Billie thought about it. "What about where your gran used to live?" she asked.
"It's probably all gone now love or they flattened the blocks and built houses. Mum told me the first time she went home after a week working at the clinic, my dad had to rescue her because her old boyfriend was trying to stop her leaving," he admitted as he drove off.
"So what did he do?" Billie asked as they went past the pub Johnnie and Rose used to meet his friends in.
"Well he dropped what he was doing and got the address and sorted her ex out," Alec smiled, never being told the full version.
"Aw, he was her hero then?" Billie teased him.
"I guess so? Well, this is where I grew up," he pointed to a large house set back off the road. "House prices were a lot cheaper back then I expect? We can go see if my gran's block of flats is still there, we have time."
"So what happened to your mum's ex boyfriend, did he get the message?" she wanted to know.
"Eventually. There was this sister that used to be in the infirmary at the clinic who did not get the message my dad was not interested in her. He let her go and she tried to make trouble between him and my mum. The last she heard was when her ex and the sister took up with each other," he replied.
"So your mum was never put off then?" she asked him.
"No, not exactly though a few tried, including my dad's ex girlfriend and a woman who wanted to be his next until my mum came along. I heard Donna saying my mum used to get jealous of any woman who took too long talking to him. They never realised how much they loved each other until he showed her off when they went to New York. Did I tell you how he proposed to her?" he asked, as they approached where his gran used to live.
"Yeah, you can tell me again though," she smiled.
The flats were gone, Alec had been right and Billie looked disappointed as they stopped around the back, Alec remembering his dad driving around there.
"Sorry love, I thought they would no longer be there though. When we get back, I'll tell you more about her, she was quite a character."
Billie was looking forward to it and to hearing how his dad had actually planned his marriage proposal when his mother had wanted him to take her to Blackpool. If all went well, once the investigation was out of the way, he would take her there.
"My dad regretted it was too early to ask my mum to marry him when they went to New York. They went to the top of the Empire State Building and mum swore he was actually going to ask her then. She thought maybe that was why he took her off again a few weeks later. Apparently, he told a talk show host about her and even pointed her out, he wanted everyone to know."
"Aw, that was really sweet. Let's get something to eat then set off back," Billie replied.
Over the next few days while James was making funeral plans for Donna, Billie and Alec talked all the time about his parents and he opened up more about the sister he had lost.
"She was very protective of me," he admitted one night, just after James had called to say when the funeral was and that Donna wanted a cremation. "She used to get my breakfast when we were holiday and she told me why they were always late up."
Billie could imagine, if they couldn't keep their hands off each other. She had taken to Alec the day he had come back to work and had moved in with him, until she'd found out she looked like his mother.
"Alec, I wanted to say I was sorry, for acting the way I did, over looking like your mum," she told him as they lay on the seating.
"I know love. My mum and dad had a lot of obstacles as well, the sister who worked for him, a woman who used to invite him to parties so she could flirt with him and his ex but they overcame them. Nothing could keep them apart. What I am trying to say is, we should not let anything get in our way. So, what do you say?"
"Well as long as that's the worst?" she smiled at him.
They went off to Donna's funeral, just the staff from where she was living and a few friends she had made there and Alec said he'd keep in touch with James. He finally got an offer for the apartment his mother had left him, though not from James he was relieved to find out and the solicitor finally got his mother's bank account released, along with what she'd been saving for him.
Alec swore to his girlfriend it would make no difference to him, once the apartment sale went through. He was starting to make plans, resources at the police station were being pulled back and Billie was put on short hours, not that she minded any more.
Then he got a breakthrough, well several as mistakes were made by some suspects and he was about to leave his office one night after promising Billie he was leaving and instead of going back to the caravan they had decided to keep, went to chase whoever had broken into the hut where Danny had been killed.
Ellie drove them up there.
"Shouldn't you be calling your girlfriend to say you'll be late?" she asked him as she drove down the narrow lane, two marked cars behind them whom Alec had told the officers not to put their lights and sirens on.
"She knows I'm not going anywhere Miller. It has to be the killer in there," he motioned as they stopped, Ellie turning the headlights out. "Did you send units below?"
"They should be down there now," she replied, reaching for a torch in the glove box as Alec got out.
"You take the front with two officers, I'll take the back," he insisted as he indicated to the approaching officers. "Forensics must have missed something or the killer thinks they have and wants to make sure."
He already had an idea who was still in there, if he hadn't already left after purposely interviewing Miller's oldest son and seeing his dad's reactions. He went round the back and was about to try to look through the window when Ellie shouted for him. All he could see was a dark figure trying to dodge the other officers then running towards the path down to the beach.
"Get after him," Alec shouted as he joined them and hoping the officers below were expecting someone would come down the path.
After running down and all of them searching by torchlight amongst the boats, Alec had one last idea as they came to the fence and held his finger to his lips to keep them all quiet. There was one boat with the cover half off.
"You may as well come out, you are surrounded, you won't escape," he called out.
With all the torches pointing at the boat, other officers having joined them, he saw the cover being pulled back. It was all he could do to stop his DS preventing the person being taken into custody. Instead as he was being led away, she stopped them and slapped his face.
"How could you? He was our friends' son, he was twelve."
Alec got into her car and insisted driving them back when they climbed up the path in silence.
"When did you know?" she asked him.
"The last day or so," he replied, seeing headlights of the patrol cars behind him on the narrow lane, hoping no-one wanted to go the other way. "I wanted to be wrong."
"Did you tell Billie?"
"No, she suspected I knew who it was and trust me, she tried to get me to tell her. We'll hold him overnight and charge him, go home to your boys, the family liaison officer has gone to them. Why wait until this time of night when he knew you were working?" Alec wondered.
"Well that was his chance, risking leaving Tom in charge of his younger brother," Ellie replied as she tried to take it in.
Alec dropped her home and got into the back of the car that had followed them to Ellie's house then went to inform the Latimers. Then he went back to the caravan to a waiting Billie, who had got his text to say he was out hoping to catch Danny's killer.
"It's over love, it was who I suspected, he panicked and went to make sure nothing had been left in the hut."
"How's Ellie?" Billie wanted to know since she also suspected.
A few days later, he had wrapped up all the paperwork and booked a few days off, he had plans to make with the love of his life. He drove them to Exeter train station, finding a long stay car park and they boarded a train, not telling her where they were going but had to change. Billie wasn't exactly surprised where he'd taken her when they arrived at the main station in Blackpool, Alec thinking it may be the same one as his parents had arrived at all those year ago.
They went to the pleasure beach and Alec said he wanted to take her on the rides his dad had told him about and then to the tower as it was starting to get dark after they'd eaten. Billie's heart was pounding as they rode up in the lift, Alec squeezing her hand.
"I hope it's not too cold up there, even though they have windows now," he told her.
"Aw, I don't mind, the lights are just coming on," she smiled at him, Alec getting a look from the lift attendant.
They got out and Billie went to look out at the lights, Alec holding back.
"Can I help you Sir?" the attendant asked as people were getting in to go back down.
"What time is the last lift down?" he asked, making sure Billie was taking no notice.
"About half an hour, is there any reason?" he was asked.
"I want to take my girlfriend further up, to ask her to marry me. My dad proposed to my mum up there," he replied.
"In that case, I'll make sure the other staff know and someone will shout you and wait. Good luck," the attendant grinned as his colleague went to join him to see what the delay was.
Billie was looking around for him.
"Sorry love, the attendant was checking what time the lift stopped," he apologised, his mother's engagement ring safely in his pocket. "We'll get a better view higher up, all this glass in the way."
"Do we have time?" she smiled, since not many people remained.
"Yes love, we have time. You can see the Isle of Man from up here, well during the day."
He allowed her to go in front of him and hoped no-one else was also up there. She had a feeling he was trying to recreate the same events as his parents had done and over the last few weeks, had almost forgotten what had almost ruined everything. She didn't want to spoil it by saying anything, suspecting his mother had also felt excited as his dad had brought her up here in 1966.
"Something wrong love?" he asked as he stood behind her looking down at the trams making their way up and down the promenade.
"No. Can we go on a tram with the lights on?" she replied as she spotted one.
"Of course love. That was what they did after my dad brought them up here. Billie, you know why we are here?" he asked as he kissed her cheek and knowing they didn't have much time left.
"Yeah. I love you Alec," she turned to him just as he got the ring out of his pocket.
"This was the ring he gave my mother. I know they would be happy if I gave it to you so, Billie Parker, will you marry me?"
"Yes, Alec Hardy, I will marry you. Just don't get us left up here," she smiled.
They kissed briefly, Alec waiting for someone to shout up to them but he led her back down the other stairs and saw the lift was just arriving and two or three people waiting. Alec saw the attendant who he had talked to earlier.
"It worked then?" the man grinned at him. "You’re not the first but my dad said he remembered a couple back in 1966 who got engaged up there."
"Ah, then that may have been my parents, that was when they got engaged," Alec admitted, Billie smiling at him.
They left the building via the front entrance and crossed the now busy road, Billie wanting to catch one of the illuminated trams. As they got on board, Alec was pleased it was the same one his mother had told him when he was younger that they'd got on. He put his arm around his now fiancée as she insisted on the way back they went past their hotel and walked, just like his parents had done.
He thought just how lucky he was, to find her but he now suspected it was a divine intervention and when his mother had passed away, she had returned to the man she loved and they'd made sure he was going to be as happy as they had been. Now, all he had to do was when they got married, he would dig out one of his father's shirts that his mother had kept and hire a red velvet suit and when they started a family, Billie would agree to name their daughter Rose and their son Jonathan but he knew he wouldn't even need to ask.