“How was your day? Was the rumour mill as on target as usual?”Alan nodded grimly.“We were called to a meeting this morning, and you know this new editor we’ve got? Well, he’s come in with a different idea about the way we do things. He’s talking about restructuring: cutting staff numbers and streamlining workloads.”Rosie sank down on to the sofa beside him and grasped his hand.“Oh, Alan, no! You mean you could be made redundant?”Alan pushed a hand through his hair and grimaced.“To be honest, I’m not sure. I’m a reporter they’ll always need guys like me to find the news and write it up. But it could mean longer shifts, unsocial hours. I’ll just have to keep my head down and hope for the best.”He stood up and stretched, and spotted the mug of cold tea. “Why do I always do that? I’ll go and put the kettle on. Fancy a cup? I thought we’d phone out for pizza for tea tonight. That reminds me, your mum phoned earlier.”“How did she sound?”Alan considered.“Pretty good. Maybe a bit lonely. She wondered if you could pop over later.”“Poor Mum. I’ll go round after tea. I should talk to her about this Adam situation anyway.”
Joyce and Sarah were in the kitchen, bustling about opening and closing cupboard doors as they tidied away the clean dishes from the dishwasher. “I can do those, Mum,” Sarah insisted. “You go and sit down.”“It helps to keep busy. I have no intention of turning into one of those tiresome women who mope around and get all teary at the drop of a hat,” Joyce protested with a brave smile.“You? That’ll be the day.” Sarah grinned. “You’re one of the strongest women I know. But it’ll be a long time before we can think of Dad without feeling sad,” she said simply.“When did you get to be so wise?” Joyce teased. “Whatever happened to my carefree baby?”“I’m growing up, Ma,” Sarah said with a shrug. “Look ” she indicated the pile of serious-looking books she’d left on the kitchen worktop. “I’ve got no chance of staying carefree with that lot to get through by next weekend!”When the doorbell rang Joyce began drying her hands.“That’ll be your sister. Put the kettle on, love, will you? I think we’re going to need tea. There’s something I have to tell her and I’m not looking forward to it.”Sarah was setting out three china mugs on the big, square family table when Joyce brought Rosie back into the kitchen.“Hi, Sarah. What’s new?” Rosie greeted her brightly.Sarah smiled secretly.“Apart from the gorgeous guy I met in the music shop today?”Rosie rolled her eyes.“Not you, too? Alice is all moony just now over a guy she’s met, too. I feel quite the old married woman!”Joyce broke in so abruptly that the sisters were both taken aback.“Thanks, Sarah. I’ll finish making the tea and bring you a mug when it’s ready. Off you go and do your homework.”“Oh, OK.”Exchanging an amused smile with Rosie at the way their mum still spoke to her as if she was a kid, she gathered up her books to take to her room, plainly a bit puzzled to be bundled off like that.Joyce busied herself making the tea and fetching milk out of the fridge, and finally sat facing Rosie across the scrubbed wooden table around which their family life had always revolved.“Mum, there’s . . .”“Rosie, I . . .”They broke off, then Rosie spoke again quickly.“Mum, why didn’t you come to me if you were worried about the yard last week? I had no worries about leaving Clive in charge, but if you did you should have said. I could have gone in. Why did you ask Adam? I can’t tell you the shock I got when I went in today and found him sitting at Dad’s desk.”Joyce was dismayed.“Today? But I thought you weren’t going back till tomorrow? Oh, love, I never wanted you to find out this way. There’s something I have to tell you.”She saw Rosie’s face grow still.“What is it, Mum?”“Rosie, I know your father relied on you and trusted you one hundred per cent, and I do, too. But we’d been talking a lot lately, and we’d decided we wanted Adam to be the one to take over the business when the day came. Of course, we had no idea it would come so soon.”She saw Rosie sit back as the stunning news hit her.“So Adam gets to swan around the world doing his own thing all these years, and then he comes back and just gets given the company? After all I’ve done for it?” Rosie’s voice was rising and Joyce flinched from the anger in her eyes. “Rosie, let me explain. Your dad and I saw the sacrifice you made for it. You gave up your dreams of teaching art. It always seemed so unfair. We wanted to give you back your dream.”But Rosie was beyond reasoning.