Freya was already shaking her head.“Adam gives me the space to be free. He lets me make my silly collages for the craft mart without ever complaining about the mess I leave all over the house! He lets me experiment on him with my cooking and my cakes. And he let me take the caf job right from under his nose! And I love it. Making people happy, looking after them. I just love it.”“I’m glad, Freya.”“And I love being part of this family,” Freya finished simply, giving Joyce a hug.Beside her, Sarah butted in.“Are you giving out hugs? What about me?”Laughing, Freya gave the younger girl a hug, too, and Joyce laughed. Those two had become fast friends and she knew that they confided in each other like sisters.“Are you seeing Paul later, Sarah?” Joyce asked, and the girl nodded.“I said he should pop in this afternoon, but I think he has plans for us to go to the zoo. It’s such a gorgeous day!”The sun was shining brightly outside and a shaft picked out the flowers Sarah had placed in the centre of the table when she set it.Across the table, Rosie was getting to her feet and clearing her throat. The others looked up at her.“Don’t worry, I’m not going to make a big speech! But this is such a happy occasion, it reminds me that the last time were together for a celebration was for Mum and Dad’s anniversary.“It seems like yesterday, and yet like years ago, so much has happened.” There was a moment of solemn silence. “But,” she went quickly on, “I know Dad wouldn’t want us to dwell on the sadness. So many people have said recently that he would be proud of us, and he would. We’ve done a brilliant job of keeping it together and I think we’ve all come out stronger, and that’s Dad’s doing. He brought us up to fight back when we’re down, and by golly, that’s what we’ve done.“So how about a toast to Dad?”“To Dad,” echoed round the table, and Joyce wiped a quick tear from her eye.Rosie had said it so well. Martin would be proud of what they’d achieved, and he would be urging them to look forward, not back.
Rosie and Alan were driving home, having dropped off Ryan and Jodie at their respective friends’ houses.As they drew into the drive, Alan sighed contentedly.“That was a great lunch,” he said with satisfaction. “Your mum looked great, didn’t she?”Rosie nodded, gathering up the bag of left-overs Joyce had thrust on her.“It meant a lot to her to give us all a thank-you for all we’ve been doing for her.”As they walked along the path to the back door, Alan eyed the back garden where the grass was looking lush and over-long.“I suppose I should cut that,” he said without enthusiasm. “But instead I’m going to get the two loungers out, make you a cup of tea, and we’ll put our feet up and read the Sunday papers,” he said. “Unless you have plans?” he added. “Is there anything else we should be doing?”Rosie gave him a cheerful grin and grasped his hand.“Not a thing, which makes a change. Isn’t it wonderful?”