tagHumor & SatireWhen It Snows Ch. 03

When It Snows Ch. 03

bySpencerfiction©

I grabbed my bag and showered quickly using the rare luxury of real soap. I realised that I hadn't shaved for a couple of days and my grey stubble made me look like a tramp. I opened the bathroom door an inch and asked Shirley if I could use the pink disposable razor I saw on the shelf. She said OK, so I soaped up and made myself look as clean cut as I was ever going to get. I changed into the nearly-fresh underpants from the extra carrier bag, they weren't stiff any more, but were still on the damp side. The shirt and trousers were crumpled but clean and not too badly threadbare. Good job I remembered a pair of court shoes, although they weren't very well polished. I hoped no-one would notice.

We trooped down the hallway, lifts and ground floor hall, with little Alex happily hanging onto my hand. I was in seventh heaven, walking through the hotel and then the pathways through the car park, holding onto my three-year-old grandson.

Katherine had her car with her, a Peugeot saloon, already fitted with a car seat in the back for Alex. Katherine adroitly belted him safely in, I sat next to him and he carried on chatting away as if he had known me all his life. He mentioned all sorts of characters from children's television series, and no doubt popular culture, that I was completely unaware of. Still, I played the fool and compounded and confused my acquired knowledge of these characters to keep Alex amused until we reached our destination, a fast food restaurant that served Alex's favourite meal.

I raised my eyebrows concernedly when I heard what Alex ordered for himself, but Shirley tucked her arm in mine and whispered that it was a rare treat and it was promised to him the day before when they passed the place on their way into town. The rest of us ordered, with difficulty, what appeared to be the least-toxic items on the menu.

We popped into the shops later and picked up what we needed from the pet store for Piddles. Alex insisted on getting him a novelty ball that you could put cat treats in.

Bath-time was fun. I soon remembered what it was like when my boys and Katherine were little. The poor mite was all tuckered out by the time I tucked him up in one of the two beds in Katherine's bedroom. Alex chuckled throughout the bedtime story I made up for him and said what I think had rapidly become his favourite saying, "You are silly, Granddad!" It was becoming my favourite, too.

I closed the bedroom door and Katherine was in my arms and hugging me tight.

"Please don't ever leave us, Dad," she sobbed and smiled at the same time, a combination that was heartrending, "This afternoon has been one of my best ever, I love you so much, Dad."

"I've missed you, too, sweetheart," I was crying myself, too.

Katherine ate her evening meal in the sitting room, having something sent up from the restaurant. Shirley and I ate in the restaurant, who kindly provided me with a jacket and tie from a rack they maintained. It was a very nice meal and an even more pleasant evening.

The three of us curled up on the suite's sofa to watch a bit of telly and talk about what we had been doing the last few years in more detail. Katherine retired to bed early, leaving Shirley and me to shower together and then fall into bed and make beautiful love slowly for what seemed most of the night.

Nothing was said between us about the past or the future during our lovemaking, we were only concerned with the now. Only in the afterglow of our passion, when we held each other on the edge of exhausted pleasurable sleep did our history and hopes for the future nudge us into concentrating our thoughts.

"It has been a wonderful day for me, Baz," she whispered, her head comfortably tucked into my shoulder where it seemed to belong once more, "I don't want this new-found familiarity to end, but I don't want to put any undue pressure on you for commitment to anything, hon." She sighed.

I had to smile. I did have a happy glow and for just a few hours I forgot how deep I was in shit street. Here I was, lying in a big comfortable bed with a woman who looked beautiful and felt absolutely wonderful to touch, who was presumably comfortably wealthy and had professed her love for me. Me, a broken man, skinny and wrinkly with near malnutrition, financially bankrupt and unwanted by anyone of late. In the other room there was a daughter and grandchild that also loved me and wanted me in their lives.

I could so easily just give in to my reservations of trust and become Shirley's fucking toy-boy, but every time I thought that, I remembered that burned-in image of Henry's fat white arse oscillating between my wife's buttocks.

With that reoccurring thought pounding through my brain I realise I'm totally fucked, I can't do what Shirley wants but I can't not do it either.

A summary of my current existence is one of a chasm opening up under me. I was barely holding on, and my fingers were going numb. I had 34 more monthly mortgage payments on a 30-year lease that I was committed to, another 24 years of ground rent and service charges to pay. I was in arrears on gas and electric supply and had both utilities already cut off. I had the business rates on the building due in three weeks that I had absolutely no chance of paying, especially as Donovan was quitting the shop and flat this week and had already paid his rent a month in advance.

I couldn't even afford to put an advert in the paper or newsagent window about the flat or shop to rent, although I had left a postcard pinned to the noticeboard of the local library, as we don't have a college in this tiny town. My classic car was buggered and probably already dragged off from where I abandoned it on the by-pass by some enterprising passer-by for its scrap metal value. I had no permanent job, no temporary work and no pay coming in for another week and that would be just three half-days' pay after deductions. If I left this hotel and went home, I would go back to no power or heating and empty larder cupboards. I was definitely fucked.

We slept eventually that night but not for long. The bundle of energy we recognised as Alex woke us up jumping on the bed. Shirley's lovely tits were already out on show. Alex seemed completely oblivious to that fact as Shirley scrambled to pull up the thin sheet that covered our nakedness. I chuckled at the thought that Alex's attention to such matters would no doubt refocus in a dozen years or so! But then the thought occurred to me that he was probably used to those tits as his grandma was very similar in build to his mother. Then I tried to backpedal from the thought of my daughter's tits, which just an agonising tad short of respectable. I needed to get up, so I pleaded with Alex to let us get dressed and then I'd undertake to accompany him down to breakfast.

It was early, barely 7 in the morning. I got up and dressed quickly, kissing Shirley on the forehead and told her to lie-in for another hour or so. Alex was waiting for me in the sitting room. I poked my head around the door and whispered to Katherine that I was taking Alex for a walk first and then an early breakfast. She slurred a reply that sounded close to an affirmation that that was all right, turned over and went to sleep again.

I picked up my mobile phone and noticed I had switched it off yesterday to save battery power. I didn't have a watch so I needed it on to keep track of time. It powered up while I helped Alex get his impossibly small and cute shoes on, ones that flashed at us as he walked along. Amazing, I had never seen anything like that before.

The mobile phone flashed a number of "Missed calls". One was from my old mate Bev Macleod, timed at yesterday afternoon. I thought I'd call him back later, it was too early now, even for a motor mechanic.

The second and third were from Donovan. I wondered if the power being shut off in my studio had affected his shop or the first floor flat. They should all be separate bills, unconnected circuits, but with my luck he may have had a problem. If so, I didn't really want to speak to him, I had enough of my own problems to worry about to concern myself with anyone else's.

Alex and I ran down the corridors, him full of beans and me shushing him because people were still asleep. Then I held his tiny warm hand in mine as we crossed the empty road, up the steps to the esplanade and the shingle beach beyond. We climbed up onto the shingle and could see that the tide was out all the way. Of course Alex was off like a shot, with me chasing him down the shingle onto the flat wet sand, still shaped into a fascinating pattern of ripples and ridges by the retreating tide. We carried on down to the foaming water's edge, seeing trapped pools of water everywhere. The smell of ozone was overpowering in the early dawn, as was the delight evident in the youngster's face and in his excited voice. We happily played for half an hour or so until I could persuade him to come back to the hotel and have some breakfast.

We sat down in the restaurant and ordered what we fancied, all charged to the suite. I wondered then if Shirley's mobile number was the same as it always was. Don't ask me why her number is on my phone, even through I had changed my phone three times since the divorce, it just was and we will leave the subject at that and never raise it again. She answered on the second ring. Yes, she said, with joy and laughter in her voice, order for them both, the same as I was having and they would be down in five, no ten minutes. I ordered and they told me it would take 10 to 15 minutes anyway, which was perfect.

While I had the phone in my hand I called Macleod.

"Hi Mac," I cheerfully replied to Mac's tired "Macleod's Motors?"

"You tried to call me yesterday, have you changed your mind about picking up my pile of rust and bolts from the by-pass?"

"Ha Ha!" Mac laughed, "I tried to leave a message but your cheapo phone wouldn't take one. I got some news for you about your crap car."

"Go on, give me your worst."

"OK. Do you want the good news or the bad news?" Mac laughed.

"I only ever get bad news, some good would be a novelty."

"Bad news first then?"

"Uh huh, OK!"

"Well the bad news is that I picked up your piece-of-shit excuse for a classic car a few days ago and some mug looking for old parts came in and saw it in the shop yesterday morning and tried to offer me a couple of grand for it."

"What the f-?" I said, conscious of Alex sitting next to me, playing with his fork and spoon which he waited for his breakfast, and therefore moderating my language accordingly.

"What's bad about that news? A couple of grand would be all I need to put me back on my feet."

"The bad news is that the dude offered that as immediate cash in hand to me and it's not my bloody car, it's yours!"

That Max was laughing so loud that I had to hold the phone away from my ear. He's got one of those voices that would frighten a fog-bound oil tanker into hard-a-starboard.

"So?" I asked, "Very amusing I don't think! What's the bl- the er good news, Mac?"

"Well, I turned him down flat-"

"What the fu-"

"Hold on, the dude was too bloody eager-"

"Tell me all about eager," I muttered.

"-So I turned him down and he came straight back with an offer for three thousand." The bugger was still laughing at me at the other end of the line.

"And?"

"I turned him down again."

"So help me Mac-"

"OK, I'll put you out of your misery ... I have in my hand ..." he paused, tantalisingly.

I wanted to call him a bastard and every other name under the sun, but I was with Alex. So I bit my tongue, Mac was going to tell me eventually, anyway, hopefully before the runny egg I had ordered was cooked to buggery and set solid.

"Damn, you have suddenly become very patient, Buddy," Mac relented, "I've never known you so mellow in the five years I've known you. Remind me not to play poker with you any more."

Another pregnant pause from Mac. I could see Shirley and Katherine arrive at the entrance of the restaurant, looking for me. I stood and waved. They smiled and started walking to us. Alex had his back to them and had't noticed them yet.

"OK cool guy," Mac relented while I focused on the girls, "In my hand I happen to have a banker's draft that this flash dude handed over to me late yesterday afternoon ... It is for the princely sum ... of ... wait for it ... six thousand quid. You are flush at last my friend."

"Mac, old buddy, you are a life-saver. How much do I owe you for the tow and commission?"

"Hell, man, I guess if you invite me round and treat me to one of your famous all-day breakfasts, I'll consider us quits."

"Mac, you've got it, just name the day. In fact I'll give you a whole week of breakfasts, now that I can get the gas and electric back on. I'll be over later this morning and collect that draft."

"Fine, I'll make a space in my diary next week, it'll give me a chance to build up a nice healthy appetite."

He's a big lad, that Beverley Macloud. He objects to his given name so most guys who like to keep a full set of teeth call him Mac. I'm fond of my winning smile so I go along with the rest of the herd.

Just as I hung up the phone, the girls arrived and gave their pair of menfolk welcome "good morning" hugs and kisses. Me? Even without such embraces I was all smiles, but with them I was almost delirious.

Six thousand pounds was a fortune for me, I could restore the power at the flat, pay the mortgage, buy groceries and desperately-needed personal hygiene products. I could buy a reasonable used motor car. I could buy a few clothes so I looked less like a tramp.

I could hold my head up with Shirley for at least a couple of months. It meant that I didn't need to make an immediate decision about my or our future, we had time to see how our relationship could develop. I realised how liberating an injection of even a tiny bit of cash was, to my outlook on life.

"You're looking cheerful, this morning honey," commented Shirley, holding my hand and sitting next to me having already made a fuss of Alex and leaving him for Katherine to get him bibbed up ready for the food to arrive.

"And can you blame me?" I replied, grinning from ear to ear, "When I have just spent the best part of an hour teaching my grandson how to skim stones on the surf and then to be able to sit down in the company of my two favourite girls, I am deliriously happy!"

"Oh honey!" she exclaimed, then she jumped into my lap and kissed me deep and hard on the mouth for a couple of minutes, until Katherine warned us that our breakfasts were approaching.

"We have appointments to see several houses today, honey, would you like to come with us?" Shirley asked.

"Sure," I smiled, "Can we go via the by-pass, though? I need to drop into a garage on the way."

"OK," she said simply, smiling beautifully.

After breakfast we went back to the suite and I showered and changed out of my sweats into my almost decent shirt and trousers, with Shirley looking at me, sitting right on the edge of the bed.

"You are far too thin," she observed, adding quietly, "If you can't look after yourself ... you know, you really need someone to look after you."

She looked at me with those doe eyes of hers. I walked over and wrapped my arms around her.

"Barry, you know I've loved you since the day we met, don't you?" she continued.

"I know."

"And that I still love you, perhaps more than I ever have."

"I realise that also."

"If you ever ask me for anything, or asked me ... to do anything," she said as I squeezed her tightly and kissed the top of her head, "I would say ... yes to anything, in a heartbeat."

"I know, Shirl," I gently gripped her shoulders, holding her at arm's length so I could look into her moist blue eyes, a single tear from each eye escaped and tricked down each rounded cheek. "I intend asking you to carefully consider a number of requests today and tomorrow, and I find I am ready to ask the first one now, OK?"

"OK," she smiled, "Should I get my hopes up?"

"Sweetheart," I kissed her lightly on the lips, wiping my thumbs like squeegees over her wet cheeks, "This time yesterday, for just a few moments I think hope finally left me. I had never been so low. I had lost everything, my family, my livelihood, my car, I had no power, heating or food. I had just a couple of hundred in the bank but was still a good fifty short of my mortgage. I was down and out, literally on the floor, I couldn't get any lower. I was drowning without a lifeline, but there you were, out of the blue. You helped me, you loved me, you brought me back in the world, back into your life."

I paused before continuing,

"I lied yesterday when I said I didn't love you."

"I know you did."

We kissed again, long and slow.

"No more lies, hon?" Shirley asked.

"No more lies. I just sold my car for six grand and for me that makes me flush. I just need to find out - not if I can live in your life or you in mine but how we can live our lives. When we separated I had nothing but questions and no answers, I lost everything including my sense of self-worth. Give me time, one whole day, to talk to you and listen and think things put for myself. I swear to you, by the end of today, or tomorrow at the latest, we will sit down alone together and commit to our futures one way or the other. By then I hope we will both know what we both really want. Would you agree to that?"

"Of course, dearest, of course."

Katherine knocked and poked her head round the corner, saying "We're goin' to be lay-ate!" in a sing-song voice, then seeing us holding each other both close to crying, she added "What's up, you guys?"

We both gestured her to come to us and we had a three-way cuddle.

"Alex!" I shouted, "Come here please."

Alex appeared at the doorway, stopping there, looking at us.

"Why are you all crying?" he asked uncertainly, all three of us had tears running down our cheeks.

"Because we are so happy, darling," said Katherine, holding one arm out to her son, "Come here, sweetheart."

He looked a little hesitant. I held out both arms and hunched down.

"Group hug, Alex," I said and he ran into my arms, I picked him up and we all huddled together, kissing each other both in turn and at random. Even Piddles got up from his new sleeping basket next to the radiator and brushed up against the girls' legs. Not mine, of course.

"You better get used to these cuddles, sunshine," I told Alex, "We are going to be doing a lot of these from now on."

"Yuk! Grandad! Do we hafta?"

***

Macleod is a giant, he must be 6ft 5ins tall, with the build to match. He passed retirement age long ago but loves messing with cars. He has long thick grey steel wool for hair, worn in a ponytail. I love him. He was one of my stalwart regulars when I had the cafe and he always had the double full English breakfast piled up on a single huge plate, smothered in brown sauce. I shudder to think of the cholesterol! Good job most of it was grilled rather than fried. We greeted each other with open arms at his garage and he handed me the very welcome banker's draft.

I introduced him to my family and the big soft giant threw Alex around so much I stepped back a touch thinking he'd lose his breakfast any moment.

We saw one house mid-morning and a second before lunch. Both nice houses, each costing in the region of just under or over a million. I raised my eyebrows when the agent who showed us around mentioned the cost. When we hung back a little on the guided tour, Shirley whispered that the house-purchase budget was up to two million, which would include any improvements needed, although the agent was actually told the range she was searching for was between one and one-point-five.

Apparently, Henry did very well for himself and didn't have any children to take care of or divvy up the balance with. Shirley assured me that when we sat down quietly together she would lay everything financial on the line. I wasn't all that interested in Henry's inheritance.

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