Keep It In The Family – Episode 04

Alice rubbed her eyes and sat up. She could see blue sky out of the window. She considered her options. There was the garden of her little bungalow it was time she cut the grass. And it looked like a good drying day she could do some washing. She knew the fridge needed stocking up, too, so she might fit in a visit to the supermarket.Without her being conscious of it, a little sigh escaped her as she acknowledged that all she was doing was finding enough chores and errands to fill her day. It was why she loved the party-planning business; an only child herself with no surviving parents, she was able to share in other people’s family events and their happy celebrations.Not that she was lonely far from it. She had a good group of friends she could call on at any time. But she always felt weekends should be their family time without intrusion. Anyway, she loved her little house and was usually quite happy to tootle around on her own all day. It was just that, sometimes, like after spending time with Rosie and Alan and their lovely family, it brought it home to her that she didn’t have a family of her own. She didn’t envy Rosie being married to Alan specifically; she only envied her the happiness of her marriage and . . . well, having someone to read the Sunday papers with, was the way she thought of it.“Enough of this,” she muttered sternly to herself, and tossed the duvet aside, determined to make the most of such a lovely day.Over her usual breakfast of muesli and fresh fruit, eaten gazing out on to her sunlit, handkerchief-sized garden, a new plan popped into her head. Forget all those household chores; it was the perfect day for a bike ride!Her bicycle was in the shed in the garden, dragged out maybe three times a year, on days like these. After changing quickly into a tracksuit, she hauled it out, then she strapped on her cycle helmet and set off.As she bowled along her street, she was mentally mapping the route that would take her to the park. In the little pack on her back she had a bottle of water and some bread for the ducks on the lake there.The park gates were up ahead. She braked slightly and turned the handlebars to swoop round the gatepost and the next thing she knew she was in a tangled heap on the ground, with a wheel spinning dangerously close to her nose.“Oh, my goodness, are you all right? I’m so sorry!”The voice came from somewhere above her, deep with concern, and a gentle pair of hands were helping her to sit up.“Steady, now, don’t rush it. Does anything hurt?”


Catching her breath, Alice was now in a sitting position, and a man was offering her a handkerchief to dab at the graze on her knuckles where they had scraped the ground.“What what happened?” she asked, bewildered.“It was my fault,” he said breathlessly. “Mine and Bart’s.” He indicated the black spaniel snuffling about at his side. “He ran across the gateway just as you came round the corner. The lead acted like a tripwire. That really was a terrible fall! Are you sure you’re all right?”Alice was checking that she could move all her limbs, and finally slipped off her helmet to check her head.“I seem to be fine,” she assured him. “A few bruises, but nothing more serious.”“Thank goodness you were wearing a helmet!”“Yes,” she agreed. “I’ve always hated the way it flattens my hair, but better that than a flat head!”She laughed, and he laughed in relief with her.“You’re being very brave about it. My name’s Robert Collier Rob and I’d feel better if you’d let me take you for a cup of tea, just to set my mind at rest that you’re not suffering from shock or anything. I’d hate to leave you and you have a turn! There’s a caf just over there.” He pointed.Alice looked at him, taking in his obvious concern. She knew there was absolutely nothing wrong with her, and she was quite well enough to notice that he had gentle brown eyes and seemed to be a very kind man. The fact that he was also quite tall and good-looking was just a bonus.“Well, all right, if you insist,” she conceded, and was rewarded with a smile that made her heart give a little hiccup.Well, well, she thought to herself, maybe life is looking up.Over tea in the little caf, she introduced herself, and they exchanged potted life histories. He was single, never been married, and worked in the oil industry.“It’s taken me all over the world, but I’m settled in the UK now. Trouble is, I’m finding that most of my friends have moved on with their lives without me. You know, wives, children; I’m the odd one out.”“I know what you mean. I love being auntie to my friends’ kids, but it’s not the same as having your own.”Alice was listening to herself in amazement. She had only just met Rob, yet she was telling him things that she had confided to almost no-one.It was as though he could read her mind.“I’ve never been able to talk to anyone else like this, Alice. I’d love to see you again. Could we have dinner one night, do you think? Unless . . . a woman like you is bound to have a boyfriend.”“Not at the moment,” she said casually, adding, “And dinner would be very nice.”His eyes lit up.“Great. Is tonight too soon?”


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