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The Way Things Are

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The moon was shining down as the smell of barbeque lingered in the air. Over by the grill Paul stood, looked on and smiled. This was life now, this is what Terese gave him and he wouldn’t change it for the world. A couple of months ago this group had a different vibe, the first and only time they all came together was before Sonya died. Paul sighed as he thought about that day and what she told him. That day was when he was welcomed into their world and at the time he couldn’t help think he didn’t belong there. He wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for Terese and even then did they want him around? Sonya always had a way to welcome anyone in. All of them had been good to him in the past but did they really want him hanging around, spending lunch with them? Tonight felt different though, this felt like what Sonya had planned for them, their thing, and his thing. He felt like he belonged, like he was part of something special. Terese looked over and gave smile. This was all because of her, the Penthouse never offered this kind of life. Moving into Number 22 with his now fiancé had been a world changer and if tonight was anything to go by it was all for the right reasons. He smiled as he headed over to the sound of Karl talking trams.

“What now Karl, more nonsense business ideas?”

“What. No” stuttered Karl

“Not nonsense Paul, no, just stupidity” sighed Susan

“Nothing new there then”

“Paul!” Terese gave him a slap on his arm. “It not that bad of an idea, just ambitious” she said shrugging her shoulders

Toadie struggled to hold in his amusement.

“Let hear you come up with a better one then Toad”

“To beat your wonderful touring trams”

Paul burst out a “HA”

“I couldn’t possibly”

“No come on, no judgments till you can bring something to the table”

“Fine how about earplugs for blocking out specific people” Toadie suggested looking at Karl

“Now we’re getting somewhere” Paul teased “Put my name down for a pair!”

“Oh ha ha, very funny” Karl muttered unamused

“Told you I shouldn’t have shared” Toadie laughed

Susan put her arm around Karl, looked at Toadie and whispered “Put me down for a pair”

“Oi” Karl exclaimed

The sound of laughter filled the back garden as the candles flickered. Terese looked around the table

“Well this has been a good night.”

“It’s been a right laugh but I should probably go before Karl’s drink comes flying over the table”

“Don’t be silly Toad, I would never waste such a good tipple”

“Right, so I’m safe as long as Paul keeps pouring” he chuckled “But no I really should be heading”

“Are you sure” Terese asked as he got up.

“Yeah and I’ll drag Yashvi home with me!”

He walked towards the house, turned around, waved “Thanks Guys”

“Ok see you Toad”

“Bye Toadie”

As he walked in Paul and Terese looked at each other sympathetically. Paul reached over and held her hand.

“Just makes you appreciate everything doesn’t it” Susan said looking at Karl

“Yes it does” Terese agreed squeezing Pauls hand.

“You know this was all because of Sonya to beginning with, us all coming together, that day we had pizza at yours” Paul reminisced

“All she wanted was you and Toadie back on speaking terms. Me and Paul were there to make it less obvious of an ambush!” Terese continued

“You knew all this” Susan looked confused

“Of course, come on who would invite me otherwise” said Paul

“Sonya only would’ve invited who she really wanted there, the ones she considered family.”

“I know” Paul agreed looking at Terese “That day started as what I considered a nightmare”

“Why, didn’t want to be seen mingling with the commoners?” Karl butted in

“What do you think? Of course not”

“Why then?”

“Well you were all Terese’s friends, that’s why I was invited.” He looked at his hand and started rolling his ring “I guess I wondered did you really want me there.”

No one answered for a second until Susan replied “We’ve know you through good and bad. We know who you are and who you can be. You may not always want to be but there is always a place for you with us. Always”

Paul lifted his head, looked at Susan, nodded his head and smiled.

With everyone falling into silence Karl suddenly changed the subject

“So any plans laid out for your big day. Venue, Guests, Music...”

“Well…” Terese looked at Paul cautiously

“Because Bea and I have been working on something”

“I think that’s our cue to leave” Susan suddenly interrupted

“Thank God” Paul mocked.

They all chuckled, got up and headed inside.

“Thanks for tonight guys the food was wonderful”

“Yes Paul, but the sausages could’ve been cooked a bit longer. Maybe next time”

“Comment on the food and you expect a next time”

“Boys, why is it always with the sausages” Terese exclaimed.

“Just kidding darling. No it was nice, next time sounds good”

Susan gave Terese a hug and they headed towards the door

Terese waved “See you guys”

“Yep see you” Paul shouted as they headed out

As they headed out Roxy walked in and joined Ned and Harlow.

“So fun night?” Ned questioned

“Yes it was thank you” Terese answered

“He wasn’t really asking you Auntie T”

“You know what Roxy” Paul joined in “It was nice”

“Wow look at you a proper street resident” Ned mocked “What next a heart to heart with Mark”

“Har de Har Har! Mock all you like but remember this moment when you come looking for dinner tomorrow night!!”

“Fair point. On that note I’ll head upstairs”

“Right behind you cuz” Roxy headed after him

“Well he told you” she laughed as they headed upstairs.

Harlow stood up “I’m glad you had a good night”

“And you?”

“Yeah third wheeling was fun”

Terese and Paul looked at one another

“I’m kidding, we had a good time”

“Oh good” Paul sighed

Harlow smiled “I’m going to do some reading before bed, night guys”

“Night darling” Terese said as she followed Ned and Roxy upstairs.

Paul watched her and smiled. Watched by Terese he headed into the kitchen.

“What was that?"

“What? Oh you know just thinking of the way things are now”

“How so?”

“Well you know us engaged, barbeques with the neighbours and three young adults to take care of. Never did I see this coming a year ago”

Terese had a worried look on her face. Wondering where he was going with this.

“Oh no darling nothing like that. I mean yes the house is crowded and Roxy hogging the shower, that needs to be addressed but I never thought I would enjoy it, the hustle and bustle of a full house”

“But your Penthouse...”

“It was never full. Full of individuals’ maybe but never all at the same time. This is different, a good different”

She stepped towards him and held his hands

“Well I know we all have made adjustment but for the first time in a long time this house feels like a home”

“Because of the nice home cooked meals right”

“Of course what else” she smiled

He smiled back and leaned in for a kiss

She kissed him and then pulled away

“Now shall we leave the washing up for the young ones in the morning and have some fun”

“Yes! I’ll set out the board” Paul walked towards the coffee table

“Winner buys coffees in the morning” Terese said walking behind him.

Paul laughed. Before he could say anything her phone rang and Pipers name popped up.

“Oh its Piper, do you mind.”

“Of course not. Take as long as you need.”

Terese answered the phone and headed to the back

“Tell her I say Hi” he shouted as she disappeared out of view.

He could hear her in the distance chatting and laughing. He couldn’t hear details but he was content just to listen to the happiness in her voice. He continued setting the board. Lifted his head and looked down again. This was his life. Him and his queen. Their family were the six by their side while the guards out front were their friends. Terese had once compared his life to that of a chess game, looking at the board tonight that filled up a whole different meaning. He smiled, placed the queen in her place and sat back in his chair. He looked over to the picture of Terese on the shelf. Everything was good, his family, his business, everything had fallen into place. It may have been a bumpy road at times but that had only served to make this little family stronger.

All of a sudden his phone rang. He had a disgusted look on his face as he reached into his pocket. Who would be calling him tonight? Hoping for it to be anything but work he opened the case. His face turned to a look of confusion. Why were they calling tonight and why now?

He answered with a questionable “What could you want at this hour?”

After listening for a while he looked to see if Terese was coming, and answered

“Yes I promise, now tell me everything you know.”