Countdown To Christmas – Episode 17

EVELYN tilted her head, idly considering his grey hair, his spectacles, his home-knitted sweater, his neat collar and tie. He maybe wasn’t many women’s idea of their dream man, but he was more than good enough for her. She’d seen the plays that the glamorous Dolores had been making for him, and had suffered pangs of jealousy over it. Hearing that he wasn’t interested was music to her ears. Not that that guaranteed that she had any better chance. But at least he didn’t seem scared of her!He glanced up, caught her gaze, and dabbed at his mouth with a square of kitchen roll serving as a napkin.“What? What is it? Have I dribbled butter down my chin?”Evelyn gathered her thoughts and gave him a reassuring smile.“No, you’re all right. I was just thinking what a good man you are, Ted Hodges, the way you give up your time for this community. They’re lucky to have you. Now,” she went on quickly as a blush rose up his cheeks, “let’s have a look at this bloomin’ timetable!”


“What on earth are they doing up there?” Kate raised her eyes to the kitchen ceiling, above which was the floor of Robbie’s bedroom, where, she had believed, he and Jack were showing Sally’s two, Liam and Ellie, a new computer game.“But that sounds more like a herd of baby elephants dancing the rumba!” She winced as a particularly loud thump made the glasses in the wall cabinet rattle.“Maybe they’re playing one of those computer sports games,” Sally suggested.“Maybe.” Kate looked doubtful. “It certainly isn’t chess, which is what Jack said it was! I’ll give them a shout anyway. Tea’s just about ready . . .”She went to the bottom of the stairs, listening suspiciously as the giggles came to a sudden silence, a worrying sign that could strike dread into the heart of any mother.“Tea’s going on the table! Come and get it,” Kate yelled, and was rewarded with a chorus of “OK!”As Kate dished up the burgers and chips, Sally dodged around her, spooning out baked beans, both with an eye on the clock on the wall. They had a rehearsal in half an hour.Kate dropped a kiss on Steve’s cheek as she passed him his plate.“The boys tell me they’ve done their homework, but best check they’ve remembered it all. Jack has a habit of ‘forgetting’ to do his maths. And Robbie hasn’t found his football boots yet for tomorrow . . .”Steve was nodding.“It’s all under control. You don’t need to worry about a thing. It’s not like I’m new at this!”“I know, but it’s a mother’s prerogative to fuss!”She lined up tomato ketchup and brown sauce on the table, and frowned.“What have I forgotten? Oh, yes, there’s fresh fruit in the fridge for afters. Make sure the boys eat some. You, my darling, can have a choc ice Sally brought your favourites as a thank you for looking after her lot as well. Just don’t let them see you, or they’ll all want one!”“Cheers, Sal. Nice one,” Steve said, chuckling.“It’s the least I can do since it means Phil can work late.” She dropped her voice as four pairs of teenaged feet thundered on the stairs. “He’s trying to save up some extra cash for Christmas treats for the kids.”“I know the feeling,” Steve said. “It just gets more expensive every year, doesn’t it?”“Come on, guys,” Kate called again. The footsteps on the stairs hadn’t made their way into the kitchen yet. “Your food’s getting cold.”The sound of muffled giggling reached them and they were all looking at each other, wondering what the youngsters were up to now, when a gruff humming drifted through the door, closely followed by their four offspring.The women were just beginning to recognise the humming as the music they would be rehearsing to in . . . oh, no, fifteen minutes, when the boys, plus girl, shuffled in, scuffing their toes and heels, and proceeded to tap out a pretty close semblance of Kate and Sally’s dance routine on the ceramic tiles of the kitchen floor!Kate’s jaw was hanging open, while Sally had one hand over her mouth, her eyes wide. Steve’s shoulders were shaking with laughter. When the four youngsters came to a triumphant and really rather splendid finish, the only possible reaction was wild applause.“How did you . . .?” Kate burst out.“When did you . . .?” Sally said at the same time.Steve was high-fiving the four in turn.Ellie was giggling helplessly.“We were comparing notes upstairs, and we found out that you both practise at home all the time, when you’re ironing and washing up and cooking. I guess we’ve all been watching and taking it in without even knowing it.”Their eyes full of tears of laughter, Kate and Sally exchanged a look that said, “Can you believe this?”“So that’s what all that noise was before you came down!” Kate realised.“I think we should be drafting you into the show, with talent like that,” Sally commented.“And talking of the show, I hate to break up the party, but shouldn’t you be at rehearsal by now?” Steve pointed out.The clock on the wall showed they were ten minutes late.“We’ll be in trouble with Madame Dolores.” Sally groaned. “But, boy, was this worth it!”“You bet! Thanks, guys. Now then . . .” Kate did her best to assume a stern look. “Eat your supper before it gets cold. But you can have choc ices afterwards as a treat. There’s a new box in the freezer.”She winked at Steve and dropped another kiss on his head. The two women darted for the door, wrapping round scarves and buttoning jackets as they went.“Have you got our shoes?” Sally checked.“In my bag,” Kate said, checking. “OK, Steve, you’re in charge. We won’t be late!”


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