Roxy sat on the sofa at No22, having been home for the first time in 3 days she was making the most of been tended on by all the family. Paul, Harlow and Terese had nipped to the shops to get some supplies. They had asked Harlow and Ned yesterday, but for a reason only Roxy knew, they had forgotten. They weren’t happy about it but she was hopeful tonight would change that. Things hadn’t been great between them since the accident. There was air that needed to be cleared. Paul was hiding his true feelings and Terese was holding back on getting the truth out of him. The chat he shared with her about family seemed to have been weighing heavily on him. And it didn’t seem like he’d shared any of that with Terese. Everything since had been quiet, nothing conversations. As much as she loved those, they needed to have a proper chat. Paul was worried, Terese was worried. They were usually worried together but these last couple of days they were carrying all of it on their own. But tonight, they had a plan that would make all that disappear, hopefully.
“Rox, where did you say it was?” Ned shouted from upstairs
“On the dresser or it might be in the wardrobe”
“Right.” His footsteps were heard walking back to her room, there was a shuffle or two before he came running down the stairs “Found it”
“Good now is it all set outside”
“Yep, not that you helped?”
“Uh in case you didn’t notice I’ve been in hospital; I deserve this afternoon on the couch.”
“Yes ma’am, I’m sorry ma’am”
He gave her a sarcastic curtsey before heading into the kitchen. He opened the grill door, looked inside, before closing it.
“Food is nearly ready, table set outside”
“Are we doing table or bench”
“Table, weather is a bit dodgy”
“Ok, now all we need is them”
Silence filled the room as Roxy looked at Ned. He seemed genuinely worried about it all. She struggled to her feet and joined him in the kitchen.
“Do you reckon they’ll be ok Rox?”
“It’s not like they’re fighting or this is a major break up or make up situation, we just need them to open up to each other. They have been concentrated on us and everyone else recently their time for a heart to heart has been non-existence, and not wanting to create anything of nothing they have just buried it. Giving them a night to themselves will give them time to hash it out.”
“Hash it out, really”
“Terese was worried he wasn’t being honest with her about something but she couldn’t put her finger on it”
“Maybe that’s the problem, he doesn’t want to tell her, afraid of disappointing her?” Roxy suggested
“He knows her better than that, you’ve seen how much they care for one another. He’s disappointing her more by not sharing”
“Maybe, but I’d assume those people would be the hardest to be honest with.”
As Ned nodded in agreement the front door opened. Harlow came walking in and rolled her eyes.
“Next time we do something like this you can go shopping and I’ll cook. They are a nightmare in the shops.”
“I’ve been with Terese she’s bad enough on her own”
“And you send me out there with two of them. That is all kinds of cruel”
“Cheer up Harls, you get to spend tonight with us, the three amigos.” Roxy said with a smile on her face.
As Harlow placed the shopping bags on the counter Terese and Paul came walking in. All three stopped to look at them, they stopped in their tracks, creating a friendly family face off.
“What’s going on “Paul asked suspiciously
We just thought we’d help you keep those” Roxy answered
“Since when do you help keep the shopping, and why would you with your arm like that?”
“Fine, can you just put the shopping down then, and come to the back with us.”
“Why” Terese questioned
“I haven’t got time for these games; I need to go check on the hotel” Paul answered
“It’s seven at night” Ned questioned
“Thank you speaking clock”
“So why are you going, you’ve just come home”
Paul looked at him with a questionable look on his face.
“Look, you are staying her tonight. You will put those keys down and follow us, right. “Ned said raising his voice
“Fine” Paul placed the keys on the worktop as he, Terese and Ned followed Roxy outside. Both looked at each other as they walked towards the table in the garden. It was all set out; the water was placed in the centre surrounded by the sauces with two placemats bordered with a knife and fork.
“What’s going on?” Terese asked
“You have been looking out for me, us and everyone else recently, now we are repaying the favour.”
“Roxy that is...” Terese awed
“Sweet I know. Now sit down. Waiter, would you please bring the main course.
“No starter” Paul joked
“We didn’t have any soup” Roxy said seriously, giving Ned a darting look
Round the corner came Harlow with two plates in her hands, she placed one in front of each of them. Paul and Terese looked at each other as Harlow disappeared back inside
“Yep, Ned and Harlow ruined this a bit so this is it. But you like fish, right?”
Terese looked at her and shook her head. Harlow came back out with a bowl in her hand
“So, for your main you both have a Willis special, fish finger sandwiches and a bowl of chips to share.”
“To share” Paul reacted
“Yes, it makes it romantic, sort of. Ok. Enjoy your night”
As the three headed back in Ned turned around.
“And please just talk”
As Ned followed the girls inside, Paul and Terese looked at each other and laughed.
“I guess this is us for tonight then.” Paul said with a smile on his face
“Fish Finger sandwiches and chips” Terese replied
“And a talk, according to Chef Willis in there. Do we need to talk? Am I missing something?”
“You tell me Paul.”
He sighed as he looked at her.
“Tell me what’s going on with you, what’s going on in that mind of yours. You’ve been all over the shop this last couple of days. You’ve been angry, you’ve been moody, you’ve been emotional, you’ve been erratic. When I think I know what’s going on, you change the game again. I’m worried about you, and I’m afraid that it’s because of me.”
“Oh, Terese why would you think that, why would you think any of this could be your fault.”
“Because of Nick and that stupid party. I knew you weren’t going to be too happy about any of it, but I just thought maybe this was the perfect time to bring everyone together”
“You know when you first showed me the invite, I was angry.”
“That lasted a couple of days.”
“I know, but then one day you sold it as a family event. All of us together and I thought, you know why not, why shouldn’t I go and show off my beautiful wife. Why should I hide, why should Terese and the kids miss out because of me? So, I said yes. You four deserved to be with family, and I thought that’s what I wanted. And I was fine, everything was fine. Friday evening was great, it was everything we wanted. But that night, I couldn’t sleep. Every time I closed my eyes all I could see was him, that smug smile, being celebrated and it made me angry. That’s why I woke up Saturday not wanting to go. Just the thought of him.”
“It’s ok darling, I know it was a big step for you, and I would never want you to suffer because of me.”
“You’re my world Terese. All I want to do is make you happy. That smile you shared when I told you we should go; how could I ever take that happiness away from you?”
“He’s my brother but…”
“I know how much family means to you; how could I make you choose between me and him. So, I decided to go along with it, it was only meant to be a couple of hours how hard could it have been.”
“And Roxy where does she fit into all this?”
“How do you mean?”
“Well even you have to admit your behaviour towards her has been a bit.” She paused “different since the accident.”
“Is this about that woman and the dog.”
“Yes, and everything else. Paul you fluttered between misery, panic, scared, protective, angry and worried all in twenty-four hours. Even for you that was a record.”
“I told you at the hospital, that was because of the guilt. I felt like it was my fault she was there.”
“Yes, you said about the guilt, the dog’s name, and that you were scared of losing the chance of saying goodbye and I get that was scary. But it felt more than that, like you were scared of losing more than just the chance of saying goodbye.”
Paul sighed as he realised that she was not letting this one go. He started playing with the ring on his little finger.
“Roxy is the other side of the coin. She’s annoying, opinionated and way too reckless. She enjoys winding me up and watch me go.”
“And you give it back, like you said, that’s just the way you are”
“And like I told her, I used to have that with someone else.” He paused for a second. “You see Terese, I reacted as I did because when I saw her there, stuck in that car, I thought this can’t be it. This can’t be because I was weak. I saw her and all I could see was my family suffering, once again, because of my decision, my problem, my stubbornness.
“Oh Paul” she reached out her hand and met his half way.
“When I saw her in that car all I could think about was how Nick was once again coming between me and my family. I had been so angry with her Terese and for what, why? The way that man still affects me like he does, it worries me.”
“Listen, we all understood where you were coming from that morning, I just wish you’d been more honest about it.”
“How could I. You saw at Christmas what happens when I try to keep people in the past, be honest about my feelings. I almost lost David and Harlow over Robert; I will never risk losing you over Nick.”
“That would never happen”
“He’s your brother Terese. He’s your family. But I’m not ready to call him mine yet”
“Hey. You’re right. He’s my brother. But I also have a husband, and for some crazy reason he means the world to me, despite being an idiot.”
“Well maybe I should meet this idiot husband of yours” Paul said with a small smile.
“You should!” Terese looked at him and squeezed his hand “I know what he did to you was unforgivable and I would hate to think I was putting you in a position where you’d feel anything but comfortable. I pushed for the weekend because it gave us a chance to show that despite him and everything else we’ve been through; we are stronger and happier than ever. Our family, as mismatched as it is, it’s ours, and it’s all we need”
Paul nodded, smiled and interlocked his finger with hers.
“I don’t want you to think that I’m not trying to accept him, it’s just hard.” he paused and look towards the house “you know this weekend was the first time Roxy heard me call he family.”
“I’m sure she already knew”
“She assured me she did. I never realised until our chat all the times I’ve needed her and she needed me” He paused for a bit “She should’ve been my priority, all of you should’ve been.”
“And we were. You were going for me and for them. You were willing to sacrifice your own happiness just for us. Despite everything, your priority was the happiness of your family above anything else and that means the world Paul, never assume anyone will see it otherwise.”
He rubbed his thumb on her hand and gave her a smile.
“I’ll tell you who will not be happy if we don’t eat this soon.”
“Chef Willis” Paul replied looking down at his sandwich, lifted the top just to have a look before closing it again. He grabbed the bowl of chips and handed it to Terese.
“Chip my darling”
“Why thank you kind sir” Terese mocked his serving skills. He put the bowl down and sat for a while watching her dig into the sandwich. He chuckled as the sandwich collapsed on her plate. She looked up and smiled. “That’s a sight for sore eyes”
“I don’t deserve you know. I really don’t”
As their movie finished the night had settled in. Everywhere fell silent as the tv was switched off. They looked at each other before heading to the kitchen window. They looked outside but there was no sign of Paul and Terese. The plates had been stacked on the table and left as it was. As they looked at each other they heard a giggle coming from the sun room. They headed in that direction as Ned grabbed his final surprise of the night. Opening the door, what they saw was picture perfect. Sitting on the sofa was Paul, curled up and snuggled next to him was Terese. One arm wrapped around his shoulder, the other placed on his chest, as they both looked at the laptop in front of them. They lifted their head only to see Harlow and Roxy standing there, Ned soon joined them.
“What are you doing here” Harlow asked
“It got a bit chilly so we moved” Answered Terese with a smile on her face
“So, how was it” Roxy questioned
“Five-star quality. We should hire you for Lassiters.” Paul mocked.
“Ha Ha.” Ned reacted before turning the conversation “All good here though right”
“Yeah, it was good, thank you” Terese answered
“Now for the cherry on top”
“But we are quite happy here. Can’t you go back to whatever you were doing?” Paul questioned
“But we were going to play a song off the playlist.” Roxy joined in
“Did you share that with everyone? Why?”
“Because its lovely grandad”
“Yeah, own it Paul.”
“Is this the playlist from the car? How does Roxy have it?” Terese joined the conversation
“She stole it”
Roxy” Terese exclaimed
“Chill Auntie T we’ve been through this at the hospital, it’s all good. Now pick a number”
Terese looked at Paul. He rolled his eyes, knowing he was not winning this one.
“Fine, just pick a number. You three might as well stay, nothing special about that list now anyway if everyone’s seen it.” He said throwing a gaze towards Roxy “You want this to play it?” Paul said offering Ned the laptop.
“No, I’m all set.” Ned replied placing a pink wireless speaker on the side table.
“So Terese from one to twenty-two, what will it be?” Ned asked
“Twenty-two?” Terese questioned looking at Paul.
“Like I said, when I listen to it, it reminds me of home. Everything has a meaning not just the songs”
She placed her hand on his cheek, lifted herself up and gave him a kiss.
“Right, how about number...” Terese said before getting interrupted
“Tell you what, why don’t you guys go get some snacks and drinks, maybe that bucking horse. We’ll make it a games night. Fancy?”
“You’re on.” Ned answered ushering the girls out of the room and closed the door. Once on the other side Roxy looked at him with disgust “C’mon Rox he wanted a moment alone with her, if that wasn’t a hint then nothing will he”
“Fine, but can we wait to see what she picks.”
“If you must” Ned said clearing the door so the girls could stand closer
On the other side Paul had got up and made his way to the phone. With a glint in his eye he smiled to himself and knocked on the door knowing they were listening in. He picked up the phone and scrolled through the list.
“Perfect” he muttered as he pressed play and made his way back to the sofa. The opening notes of Annie’s Song played across the room. Both sat back, Terese snuggled back in his arms, resting her head on his shoulder. He looked at her and smiled before kissing her on the head. He rested his head on hers. This was perfect, no worry, no drama. Just the two of them in each other’s company. This was their best time, and nothing or no one could take that away from them.
“So is there a story behind this one then” Terese asked
“No. This one speaks for itself, and it always will.”