Keep It In The Family – Episode 26

It was the moment Alice had been waiting for. Rob was back from his trip and wanted to see her. It was the first time she’d heard from him for days, and with each passing day she had felt herself becoming more and more exasperated.“I thought I’d pick you up at seven and take you out to dinner,” he said brightly.“Sure,” she agreed, her tone light. “See you then.”As soon as they’d ordered from the restaurant menu, he sat forward and quietly reached for her hand.“You look nice. New dress?”“Not especially. You’ve seen it before,” she replied coolly and he looked puzzled.“Are you mad at me? What have I done?”“Didn’t they have phones wherever you were?”His face reddened.“Oh, I see. I meant to phone, but . . .”“But?” Alice reached for her glass, her eyes challenging.“I suppose I just never got round to it,” he said lamely, then his expression darkened. “Look, you’re not going to come over all possessive, are you? Because I’ve had a girlfriend like that and it didn’t end well.”Alice’s eyes narrowed, which if he’d known her better he would have recognised as an ominous sign.“I think you’ve made your feelings pretty clear.” She pushed back her chair and stood up. “I thought we had something good going here, Rob. Seems I was mistaken.”Her chin defiantly high, she picked up her bag, requested her jacket from the fascinated waiter, and stepped out of the restaurant just in time to hail a passing taxi.A perfect exit, she congratulated herself, only allowing a small tear of disappointment to spill over once she was safely in the cab’s darkened interior.A quick phone call to Rosie saw her round there for a comforting cup of tea at the kitchen table where she gave her friend a blow-by-blow account of the evening.“Oh, Alice,” Rosie commiserated. “I’m proud of you for standing up for yourself like that. How do you feel now?”“A bit broken-hearted, if I’m honest. I just don’t understand why he blew hot and cold like that. He liked me. I didn’t imagine it.”“Maybe it scared him. Maybe he’s frightened of commitment.”“Maybe. But we were only dating! It’s not like I’d proposed to him!” Alice returned, so comically indignant that it made Rosie laugh, and before long, Alice had joined in.“Men, eh?” Rosie murmured, topping up their mugs of tea. “Who’d have ’em? But if he’s meant for you, he’ll not go past you. This could be just the jolt he needs.”“I hope so,” Alice whispered sadly.A jolt was certainly what the situation with Adam had given Joyce. It had shaken her out of her paralysing grief and restored her sense of purpose.It had also, if it were possible, brought her even closer to Rosie.“Thanks for having that word with Ryan and Jodie, Mum,” Rosie said when Joyce treated her to lunch mid-week.Joyce shook her head dismissively.“It was the least I could do. I was worried you might think I was interfering.”Rosie glanced up from her menu.“Never. I know things haven’t worked out the way you and Dad intended, but I do appreciate what you tried to do for me. You know giving me back my dream.”The waiter was hovering so they placed their orders, then settled in for a chat. Of course, the talk revolved around the family, and Martin Willson’s place at the head of it.“Your father only ever tried to do his best for us. And that meant keeping the firm going, even when it called for tough decisions. And none was tougher for him than asking you to give up art and come into Willson’s. I’d intended to join him, but then Sarah came along and . . . well, you were an easy option.” Joyce reached out and clasped her daughter’s hand.“He always regretted stealing your dreams from you. And he always intended that once Ryan and Jodie were at college, it would be your turn. He would be so sorry to see everything in this mess.”Their food had come, but Joyce toyed disinterestedly with her salad as her thoughts dwelt for a moment on the man who had been the love of her life. But then she shook off the mood and gave Rosie a bright smile as she speared a piece of grilled chicken.“But I will sort it all out, somehow,” Joyce said with steely determination.Rosie picked up her fork, but it hovered in mid-air as she eyed her mother.“How? We can’t force Adam to do something he doesn’t want to. I loved working with Dad. It wasn’t all sacrifice, you know.”“Bless you for saying that, love.” Joyce thought for a moment. “Your brother’s always been impulsive. Remember when he brought home that rabbit from school?”In moments the two women were giggling helplessly, recalling Adam as an earnest twelve-year-old when he had brought home a rabbit from the school zoo because he’d insisted it wasn’t being fed enough carrots.“How could I forget?” Rosie squealed through tears of laughter.Joyce dabbed at her eyes with her napkin, aware of smiling faces turning their way as their laughter rang infectiously around the room.“It was the way he plucked it from his schoolbag and plonked it on the kitchen table like a magician. Your father’s face!”“I can’t remember what happened, can you?” Rosie said.“Your father fixed it somehow, and grounded Adam for a week.”Patting her napkin into place on her lap, Joyce heaved a deep breath and shook her head.“Oh, I needed that! I haven’t had such a laugh in too long. But what I suppose I’m saying is that Adam is impulsive and makes rash decisions, but he’s also not afraid to admit it when he’s wrong, and I sincerely believe that he’ll realise he’s made a mistake this time in walking out. I think he’ll be back, I really do.”


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