The Ties That Bind – Episode 23

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

While Dan was away, Evelyn shifted rapidly into top gear and set about tidying up at a whirlwind pace.

When Phil emerged, he was wearing fresh clothes and looked slightly less haggard.

He was sheepish when he saw everything that Evelyn had done.

“Thank you,” he said in a low voice. “I couldn’t –”

“Not at all. I know how it feels – housework can pile up so quickly, can’t it?” Evelyn laughed gently.

“Oh, good, here’s Dan back. He’s bought a few provisions.

“Now, let’s have a cup of tea while we decide what we want from the takeaway.”

She paused as she unpacked the shopping and gave a mischievous smile.

“That is, if you don’t mind me joining you?”

“Not if you’re paying,” Dan said with a grin.

Strangely, the evening turned out to be remarkably pleasant, with the three of them watching a quiz show on television.

It had always been a family favourite over the years, and Evelyn and Dan laughed and squabbled as usual, vying to be first to answer the questions.

Although Phil was a bit quiet, the atmosphere was more relaxed than Evelyn had imagined it could be.

Dan took his mum’s lead and continued talking to his dad normally, allowing him to join in if and when he felt like it.

“Did you say something about a job, Dan?” Phil asked suddenly.

Dan shot Evelyn an anxious look.

“What job?” she asked, her face lighting up. “Have you found something?”

Dan told her about his application, his anxiety turning to excitement as he explained the job.

“It sounds ideal for you, Dan.” Evelyn smiled, hoping she was managing to hide her real feelings.

This was Dan’s life. She couldn’t spoil it by showing her heartbreak over her son moving so far away.

“It’s good to see you and Janie following your own paths, isn’t it, Phil?”

“As long as you choose something you enjoy, Dan. It’s important to be happy in your work.”

Phil’s voice had a hollow ring to it and Evelyn felt a shift in the atmosphere. It was as if he was about to divulge something he’d been keeping to himself.

Perhaps this would help them get to the root of his problems.

She found that she was holding her breath.

“Evelyn, I didn’t go to work today,” he confessed eventually. “I couldn’t face it. I phoned in sick. I’ve never done that . . .”

“You’re under a lot of stress, Phil. It happens.” Evelyn patted his arm. “We’ll help you get through it.”

“I’ve been miserable at work. I hate it.” Phil was chewing on his thumbnail. “I’ve never liked it, but lately it’s been getting to me more and more.”

“Can’t you do something else, Dad?” Dan asked, in all innocence.

“I’m not qualified for anything else. I’ve worked in insurance all my life. I don’t know anything else.”

“You can retrain. Or . . .”

“At my age?” Phil sounded bleak. “The crazy thing is, even though I’m not happy, the thought of redundancy scares me more. That would prove that I’m no good.”

He heaved a sigh.

“Phil, you are a good man. You’ve worked all this time for us,” Evelyn insisted. “Anyone can be faced with redundancy.

“It’s not a reflection on your work or your abilities.”

“I’m just so tired all the time. Really tired.”

“Why don’t you go to bed?” Evelyn suggested. “We’ll clear up in here.”

“I don’t know . . .”

“Come on. You need some sleep.”

She took his arm and encouraged him to get to his feet.

To be continued…

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