It was well past midnight by the time Joyce waved them all off and locked up for the night, but in those few hours they had achieved a lot.Not least was the fact that the family was pulling together again, something she had feared they had lost for good when Adam had walked out on their last meeting in this house. But the business-like hubbub this evening had swept all those fears away.As she pottered about in the kitchen with Sarah, putting the last dishes away and warming milk for some late-night cocoa, she was in a reflective mood.“You know, tonight was just like the old days, when I used to help your father with his plans and business strategy. I’d forgotten how much I loved being involved.”Sarah dropped the dishtowel to give her a warm hug.“I guess I get that from both of you. When I’m doing projects at college, I always think about how you or Dad would have tackled it, or how it would affect a business like Willson’s. Rosie takes after you, too, doesn’t she?”Joyce sat down at the table and was thoughtful as she stirred sugar into her drink.“Not as much as you might think. Yes, she loves the business, but her heart has always been in art. But you both have our determination to succeed and never give in.”Sarah reached her hand across the table and clasped her mum’s warmly.“I’m sure Rosie’s told you this herself, but she really appreciates the word you had with Ryan and Jodie. Ryan’s really knuckling back down to his schoolwork, and Jodie seems to have shaken off whatever it was that was bothering her.” Sarah smiled at her. “Seems we never grow out of needing our mum’s advice.”“And I hope you never do. I need to feel useful around here!”“Ha!” Sarah laughed and gathered up the mugs to rinse them at the sink. “The day you’re not useful will never come! Did you get a chance to ask Rosie about Alan?”“Not really. I think he’s got another of these meetings later this week. Poor chap, he doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going. And poor Rosie, too. This is the last thing she needs right now.”On her way to bed, Joyce paused in the doorway and Sarah looked round at her, suddenly serious.“Night, Mum, sleep well. And don’t worry, we’re going to save this business.”“I know you are, love. I have absolute faith in you, for you’re all your father’s children.”And how proud Martin would have been of them if he could have seen them tonight. She felt her eyes fill at the thought.
* * * *
As quietly as she could Rosie crept into the house and pushed the door closed behind her with a weary sigh. What a day!She listened. All was quiet; everyone would be in bed by now, though she noted gratefully that a light had been left on in the living-room to welcome her home.However, when she went into the room to turn it off she found Alan snoozing on the sofa. He stirred at once.“Hi,” he whispered.“Hi,” she whispered back, sinking down beside him as he opened his arm wide to enclose her. “You waited up.”“Do you want cocoa or coffee or anything?”“I’ve been drinking coffee all night! Sorry, Alan, but we reached a real make-or-break point today. If we can survive this, we can survive anything. But I had to stay to hammer out a plan with Adam. What time did you get home?”He peered sleepily at his watch.“About an hour ago. But Jodie had left me some supper, and a note to say that she made sure that Ryan had done all of his homework.”They laughed quietly.“We’ve raised great kids, haven’t we?” she murmured. “Anything new at work?”“Nothing different a meeting later this week: Thursday. My own make-or-break time, I think.”“At least you’ll know one way or the other. It’s this wondering that’s the real strain.”He yawned widely.“Tell me about it. But there’s no point in worrying when there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s all out of my control.” He stood up and held out his hand. “Come on, time for bed. You need your sleep if you have another day like today ahead of you.”“Oh, gosh, I hope not!”