The Ties That Bind – Episode 22

Characters from the serial, Evelyn, Phil and Dan in a kitchen.

Phil raked his hands through his hair. One thing was certain – he’d been right when he told Janie that he needed a break.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a decent night’s sleep.

He’d tried relaxing baths before bed, listening to quiet music, reading books about coping with stress, but nothing was working.

He should have arranged for some time off as soon as he and Evelyn split up.

Instead, he’d immersed himself in his work, hoping that it would help him deal with it.

He’d put on a brave face and tried to look as if he was coping.

His thoughts had continued to whirl round his head as he tossed and turned all night.

Thoughts of Evelyn. Of Janie. Of Dan.

For months he’d been wishing they could all be together again. But that day at the house recently had showed that the kids were making their own lives.

Besides that, Evelyn had found someone else. When he’d asked her outright, she’d admitted she’d been on a date.

“I don’t know if it’s serious, Phil. We’ve only been out once.”

“But you’ll be seeing him again?”

“If he asks me, yes. I think I should be meeting other people. And I think you should, too, Phil.”

Phil knew she was right. It was time he moved on.

The trouble was he didn’t know how to. Other than work, he had nothing left in his life to concentrate on.

He’d forgotten how to wind down and had finally burned out.

He felt as if he’d fallen down a pit and couldn’t claw his way back up.

It had given Phil a shock when he suddenly heard Dan calling from outside.

How long had he been out there?

Through the fog in his brain, Phil thought he heard Dan saying something about takeaways and movies.

Of course!

He fumbled to open the door and, at last, there was a familiar face.

He pulled Dan into a hug.

Thank heaven he was no longer alone.


Dan looked so relieved when he opened the door that Evelyn’s heart went out to him.

“Where is he?” she asked quietly, and Dan nodded towards the living-room.

“He sounds really fed up, Mum. I’ve been trying to keep him talking. I didn’t know what else to do.”

“You did the right thing, Dan, just letting him talk.” Evelyn gave him a hug. “Are you OK?”

“Yeah, but . . . the place is in a real mess,” he whispered. “And that’s coming from me!”

Evelyn was glad to see his sense of humour hadn’t abandoned him.

“Come on, let’s see what we can do to help.”

They went into the living-room and Phil stared up at Evelyn, a bleak look on his face.

“Evelyn . . .”

“Hi, Phil, how’s it going?” She kept her voice light and gentle. “Having a bad day?”

Phil nodded and Evelyn glanced surreptitiously around the room, taking note of the mess and Phil’s dishevelled appearance.

“Yes, stress creeps up on us, doesn’t it?” she said conversationally. “It gets to us all at times.”

She sat down on the sofa beside him and motioned to Dan to sit, too, so they were all at the same level.

“It’s easily done – it happened to me the other week at work,” Evelyn continued. “Remember I told you about it, Dan?”

“That’s right, you did,” Dan replied, thinking how unnatural his voice sounded.

“The trouble is, sometimes we don’t realise how much stress we’re under when we forget to take a break.”

Dan’s body language reflected the glimmer of hope in his father’s eyes, and Evelyn hoped her words were bringing Phil a little comfort.

“Phil, when I’m feeling stressed, a nice hot shower always helps me to wind down. Why not try that?”

To Evelyn’s relief, Phil didn’t take much persuading.

“Take your time,” she said. “There’s no rush.”

As soon as the bathroom door clicked shut behind Phil, Evelyn turned to Dan.

“Right, now we can sort things out a bit while he’s in there,” she said urgently.

She took a quick look through the fridge and cupboards, then opened her purse and handed some notes to Dan.

“Here, nip to the corner shop and stock up on bread, milk, butter and cold meat. Maybe some cheese and a couple of tins of soup.

“I’ll tidy up a bit.”

To be continued…

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