HWSNBN (He Who Shall Not Be Named)

Chapter 15

Rod yelled at her: “What the hell are you doing, Beth? You can’t!”

She shrugged her shoulders and answered, “I can, Rod, and that’s why I’ve asked Alli. She’s done it before – a few times.” Rod was speechless.

Gavin pushed in, “How do you know that, Beth? We only mentioned it in our house and you weren’t there.”

We could all feel her turmoil before she answered Gavin. “I’ve been able to hear people’s thoughts, long before Jane was on the scene, Gavin. I can hear you at your house, from mine. I haven’t told anyone before – especially not my Mum – she’d have freaked.” She hesitated for a few moments, took a deep breath and carried on. “I have to tell you something, and I knew nothing about it until last night, at home.” She searched our faces with worry filling her mind. I stood up, went over and sat next to her.

“I believe you, Beth, please go on?”

“I know you do, Jane.” She looked at Rod. “I’m sorry. I’d have told you today, and should have, before we came here.” He took hold of her hand and squeezed it gently. Go on, Beth. We could see how much he loved her.

I reminded her, “There was no time to say anything, to anyone, Beth. You didn’t know we were coming here. We did spring the trip on you, remember? Just relax and tell us.”

“Okay. Rod’s been home with me a few times, for dinner, picking me up if we were going out, the usual. Mum asked me last night if we were a couple now. I had to tell her no and didn’t elaborate. She wouldn’t leave it alone and kept asking. I was really annoyed with her and in my temper, I told her what Rod is.”

She looked at Reese. “I’m sorry. I’ve broken the Official Secrets Act. It just came out. Sack me if you have to, I really don’t care anymore.” We heard her voice crack with emotion, near to tears.

Reese smiled at her, “I’m not bothered about that, Beth. Carry on.”

“Thank you. After hearing about Rod, I thought she’d blow her top. Mum made me sit beside her and she told me something that shocked me, I don’t mind admitting. I promise you, I didn’t know until last night. She said I’d been bitten when I was a kid. I called her a liar – I’m not like you. Sorry, that came out all wrong.”

Harvey said, “Beth, don’t worry. You may actually be like Jenny. She was our late very dear friend, who passed when she was eighty-two. She’d been bitten, didn’t drink blood, slept all night like humans and aged in the normal way. Every hybrid is different and according to Jenny, it depended on how much venom you received in the initial bite.”

“Bloody hell. Sorry. Okay, so I get all that, though there’s one gaping hole in that theory, I can’t see any mark on my neck.”

Harvey smiled at her, “Whoever bit you may have aimed at the wrong place. I suppose you’ll never know the truth. I’m sure Jo won’t mind me telling you this. She was bitten as a kid. She didn’t sleep, drank blood, only she didn’t show any other signs of being a hybrid.”

Our heads filled with Jo’s voice: He’s right, Beth. Just listen to him.

“Thanks, Jo, I will.”

Harvey carried on, “Jo cut the end of her finger off, preparing a salad. Alli sat it back on and put her mouth over it; repairing it in seconds. Alli must have topped the venom up in Jo and from then on her abilities started to grow. So you see, we are all different.”

“Thanks, Harvey. I’ll tell you the rest of what was said last night. Mum was so adamant; I asked her why she’d told me now. She explained that I hadn’t aged for years and she knew something was wrong, but she didn’t know how to tell me. When I told her about Rod, she said it all clicked into place.”

Rod put his arm around her and said, “Christ, I pleased you told her, Beth. Now I understand why you asked Alli. Are you sure you want to go through with it?”

“More than ever, Rod. It means we can be together. You know how I feel about you, and you, about me. You have all along, no matter how much you tried to bury it from me.”

He kissed her and when he broke free he looked at us and asked, “What happens now?”

Reese said to Beth, “It’s too late now, but ring your mother in the morning. It’s only right to tell her what you propose before you do anything.”

“Yeah, she’ll think I’m on a call-out and why I haven’t been home yet. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled, Reese, she really likes Rod.” She looked at Rod and giggled. “My mum’s a fan.”

He laughed and quipped, “You think I hadn’t noticed?”

Harvey pushed in, “Now we’ve got that sorted out, I think we could all do with another bloody drink!” Lucas stood up and did the speed thing out of the room.

That didn’t faze Beth. She happily said, “Bring it on.”

Phil, who’d been silent through all the chat, laughed out load, adding to the mix, “Bloody hell, you’d have listened to all my naughty thoughts about Jenny.”

Beth giggled, “You never know who’s listening, Phil. Kept me entertained.”

He said under his breath, “Nailed.” Beth creased up, laughing at him and we all saw the grin on Jenny’s face when she elbowed him, hard.

He turned to her, “Now you know how long it’s been.”

“Took you long enough to grow a pair, didn’t it?” she asked, flashing her eyes.

“Late developer,” he squeezed out through his giggles, rubbing his ribs. “You’re bloody strong.”

“Throwing bodies around helps.” We all laughed at her and our friends joined in, understanding in seconds that she helped out in her parent’s business.

The next morning we sat in the pool room with our friends for breakfast. Tricky as there was a shortage of chairs. Luke, Charlie, Lucas and Andy sat with their backs against the wall, on the floor. Beth was ringing her mother before she joined us and that was why Rod was on tenterhooks – we all felt it. When she came in, she announced, “Mum’s chuffed to bits, Rod. You’re definitely on her Christmas card list.” He smiled at her and patted the empty seat beside him. Love you, Beth.

I know. Love you too, Rod. She sat down, looked up and said, “Morning everyone.”

Before we could reply, Harvey left us for the doorbell, muttering, “That’s those reprobates from down the road. Can’t take a fucking hint.” Laughing followed him out as we knew who it was.

Gina came in with a stack of toast on an enormous meat platter. Olli was making a space on the table when she said, “Get your laughing gear around some of this, you lot. I’d hurry or there’ll be none left in minutes.” Hands were already reaching for it which made us grab a slice fast. The four lads hurried to get some, leaving a few slices for Harvey.

The two men came in with Harvey, “Morning all – we heard him…bloody cheek,” left Chris’s mouth, as soon as he came through the door. He laughed at Harvey and in his next breath, he said to Beth, “I’m pleased for you, about your Mother, Beth. You and Rod make a great couple.”

“Thanks, Chris,” they said together; looked at each other and giggled.

Reese gave us some good news: “I’ve booked you another twenty-four hours off. John didn’t like it much until I told him why. I had to say something, Beth. Your wages go up a tidy sum, from today, and he’d wonder why.”

“I like the sound of that, but what on earth did he say, Reese? That’s what I was dreading, facing him.”

“Well, you needn’t worry, Beth. All he said was, now I know why she’s so good at her job. He’s chuffed to bits he has another hybrid in his team.”

We heard her breathe a sigh of relief before she said, “Thanks, Reese. That’s a load off my mind.”

“You can thank, Chris. He heard you churning it over, and you Rod. Seems like you’re both linking with him.” They looked confused, like us.

Harvey giggled and piped up, “Don’t look so worried. We all link with another one or two of us. It means you’d be able to hear him, if Chris tuned into you, even from that distance, and visa-versa. I think it’s brilliant to have both our cells linked. More of us will do the same over time. In fact, I think Gavin will link with me, which would be perfect. I think you knew it was me on the phone, last night, without checking out the number.”

“It was weird, Harvey, I did. Jane was waiting for me to shout.” Harvey grinned.

Rod laughed and added, “Saves on phone bills, I suppose.” Beth just giggled.

The chat went quiet for a few seconds and then Beth asked, “When are we doing this, then?”

Harvey said, “As you’re here for another day, we can do it this morning, before Alli and I go to work. You can stay and have fun in the pool and when we get home we’re going to the pub. It’s Tuesday and we haven’t played there for weeks.”

We heard Jo’s voice again: I’ll ring George, Harvey, and we’ll see you in work.

“Thanks, Jo. Now that’s organised, if you’ve finished breakfast we’ll get this started. I’ve stopped the cleaner coming today; she’d have a bloody fit if she walked in on us.” He became serious and said to Beth and Rod, “I better explain how it’s done, and stop me if you want to know anything, Beth, or anything worries you.” She smiled and Harvey carried on. “We’ll go up to Alli’s bedroom so that you can lie down. Rod can hold your hand and then Alli will bite you. It’ll sting for a second and then the venom stops the pain, fast. From that minute your heart will start to slow right down until it’s not detectable by a doctor. Don’t worry, I have exceptional hearing and will still hear it beating, very slowly. Then it’ll speed up again, very slowly. You won’t know anything about it, Beth; bloody torture for us, waiting.” He giggled and looked at Chris and Reese. “Those two buggers were done together, in a hospital, and don’t even ask how we got away with that.”

Reese was in fits and blurted out, “Not my fault an asshole wrote me off on the M4, leaving half my head on the fucking crash barrier.”

Beth giggled at Reese, knowing he was our boss and swearing as much as us. She said to Chris, “Were you in the accident too, Chris?”

“No, Beth. Jo picked me up and drove like the clappers to Reading A&E. When I saw him I asked Alli to turn me as well. We couldn’t have stayed together and I couldn’t live with that, Beth, literally.”

“I understand that, Chris. I really do.” She looked at Alli. “I’m ready, Alli. Can we do it now?” She held out her hand to Beth.

Lucas, Andy, Olli and Gina said goodbye and left us for work. Luke, Charlie, Phil and Jenny decided to have a swim, while the rest of us went upstairs.

Gavin and I stood at the back of Alli’s bedroom with Reese and Chris. Alli and Harvey took over and we just watched with fascination.

Alli said, “Beth, lie down and get yourself nice and comfortable.” Alli pointed over to the wall and said, “Rod, use that chair and sit on Beth’s left side. Then you can hold her hand. The time drags and you’ll be glad you’re sitting down.”

Beth climbed to the centre of the four-poster bed and pulled a pillow over, tucking it behind her head. “Oh, it might get blood on it, Alli.”

“No, it won’t. I don’t drink any of your blood, Beth. I’ll push with my mind when I bite you and venom will go into your neck. When I stop, and that’s after a minute, the two holes will seep a bit. I’ll lick them and then Rod can watch them heal in seconds.” She turned to him, “You get a bird’s eye view, Rod.”

“Can’t wait, Alli.” He laughed, although we knew he was worried, clenching Beth’s hand a bit tighter for a second.

“I know you’re worried, Rod. She’ll be fine, so give her a kiss and we’ll get this started.”

He stood up and said, “Don’t forget, I love you, Beth.” Then he kissed her, tenderly.

“I won’t, Rod, and you keep hold of my hand.” He smiled at her, kissed the end of her nose and sat down again, taking hold of her hand. “Let’s do this, Alli.”

“Okay, Beth. Turn your head to face me.” Alli bent over her body and bit the left side of her neck. Beth didn’t move or make a sound. A minute seemed such a long time and then Alli lifted her mouth. She licked Beth’s neck a couple of times and watched, saying, “See, Rod – no mark now?”

He was suddenly wide-eyed. “That’s amazing, Alli.”

Harvey took another chair to Alli. “Sit, love.”

She sat down and held Beth’s other hand and then she put two fingers on Beth’s wrist. After a few seconds, she said, “I can feel it slowing down.” Rod looked anxiously at Alli. “Don’t worry, Rod. This is normal and what Harvey meant when he said this bit was torture for us. I’ve done quite a few now and it’s the same each time I do it.”

Harvey stood behind Alli, with his hands on her shoulders. Time dragged like never before and then Alli said, “I can’t feel her pulse now, Harvey.”

“I hear it beating, Alli, she’s okay. Perhaps we could have a brew, to pass the bloody time? Never thought of that before.”

Rod said, “Fucking good idea – this is torture.”

We laughed at him and then we heard Jenny’s voice in our heads: I’ll make you some, don’t worry.

Chris asked, “Does Jenny know where we are?”

Harvey answered, “They used this room last night, Chris. The lads used one of the guest rooms in Lucas and Andy’s part of the house.”

I couldn’t help saying, “This house is like the bloody Tardis. Sure Dr Who doesn’t live here?”

Harvey giggled before answering her, “You’ve only seen a small part, Jane. This afternoon, have a good look around. The only places you won’t be able to access are the cellar toy rooms, the one upstairs and the plunge pool. That’s upstairs, too.”

“Christ, I’m going to be busy. What are you doing, Gavin?” They giggled at me.

Gavin hugged me and said, “You’re not getting all the fun – right behind you.”

I flashed my eyes at him just as the door was knocked.

“We’re coming in,” Jenny called. When the door opened, Luke was carrying the tray for her. He must have got out of the pool to help her, wearing just a towel around his waist and his hair towelled dry. I wasn’t surprised he’d offered, with that many mugs of tea on it. She handed them out from the tray and gained thanks from every one of us, and then she said, “Thanks, Luke, I’d have dropped them. How’s it going up here?” Her eyes settled on Beth, who looked asleep.

Alli answered her. “She’s at the stage where Harvey can hear her heartbeat, Jenny. I’d say another hour, tops. Thanks for making the tea, you’re a Godsend.”

“Glad to do something, Alli. I haven’t been in the pool. I couldn’t until this was over.”

“You’re a good friend to her, Jenny, I know that. Stay if you want?”

Luke pushed in, “Yes, stay and I’ll bring your tea up, Jenny.” She smiled and he left us.

“He’s like the brother I never had. So kind.”

Harvey threw in, “I’ve heard that before. That’s just like Alli and Lucas. He’s called her Sis from the day she turned him. Another one who requested it, Jenny.”

“Blimey, it’s catching.” She doubled over, laughing and we couldn’t help joining her. Luke brought Jenny’s tea in with a smile on his face. He’d listened to all the chat.

When he’d gone, Reese explained to her, “Before I had my accident, I’d moved in with Chris, just around the corner from here, and we dropped in often, apart from work, Jenny. We both wanted it then, and the idiot who wrote me off did us a favour. Just fucking glad they hurried to the hospital. Ron played a blinder that day.”

“Your commissioner?” Jenny was so shocked.

“He’s a bit different from yours, Jenny,” Harvey told her. “He organised things at the hospital. If it wasn’t for him, we’d have had to find a hotel and Reese may not have made it. I think your commissioner would’ve bottled it.”

“I’m sure he would. Can’t scratch his arse without asking his wife.”

I shoved in, “That’s him all right.”

Harvey became really alert and went over to Beth. He stood still for a few seconds and then enlightened us, “Beth’s heart is beating faster. She’s turning about as fast as you, Chris. The longest was Andy.”

“Did he request it, too, Harvey,” Jenny asked.

“No. One of the hybrids we had to catch chopped his tackle off. He was turning guys into women, pretending to be a top class surgeon. The bastard had thrown his bits on the floor when we caught him. It was touch and go. We trussed the hybrid up with stuff we’d taken with us, from our toy room, threw him in the boot of my car and we drove back here to turn Andy. They wouldn’t have attached anything again if he’d gone to a hospital. He’d have had to pee through a tube. By the time they decided what to do, he’d have died anyway; he was that near to death, and the hospital is a good half hour drive, further on from here. If we’d waited for an ambulance he’d have died before it even got to us.”

“Bloody hell. I call that a great kindness, Harvey. He would’ve hated peeing through a tube if he’d lived. We had a worker years ago who’d had an accident on a farm. He was friends with Dad when it happened, and Dad gave him an easy job, to help him back into some sort of employment. It screwed his head up, so much, he ended up a psychiatric patient and we lost touch with him.”

“You certainly see life in a different way to most, Jenny. I suppose it’s an understanding with the job your family does.”

“It makes you appreciate every moment, Harvey. Thanks.”

Alli suddenly said, “I feel a pulse on her wrist. Won’t be long now.”

Harvey became very attentive towards Beth, listening to her heartbeats which brought a smile to his face. “Just a few minutes, Rod.”

He looked up and said with relief, “Thanks, Harvey, and you, Alli. I’m sure you both know what this means to us.”

They just smiled at him. We all knew they didn’t want praise. It was done with love and generosity.

I saw Beth grip Rod and Alli’s hand’s and relax again. She opened her eyes and smiled at them both. Alli said, “We’ll leave you now. Come down when you’re ready.” Beth flung her arms around Rod’s neck and their emotions filled our heads. We left them and headed for the kitchen where the kettle was filled immediately. By the time they found us we were drinking tea in the pool room.

They were both smiling and went straight over to Alli, to thank her. Beth hugged Alli first, uttering, “I’ll never forget this.”

Alli pulled back and said to her, “Just enjoy each other, Beth. That’s enough thanks I want and it was a real pleasure. Now you and Rod will live to eternity and not have any fear of leaving him here alone.” She reached out to Rod and pulled him into a cuddle with Beth. They hugged quickly and when they broke apart Alli had tears in her eyes.

Harvey cuddled her and said, “It always gets to Alli. She’ll be fine in a minute.” He pulled a large white hanky from his pocket and said to her, “Okay, Mrs Burgess?” Alli looked up, sniffing. She took the hanky and dabbed under her eyes.

She looked at the hanky and giggled, “Bet you’re pleased Abbey gave me some waterproof mascara.” Harvey laughed at her.

Jo had organised two mini busses to take us to the pub. We were so excited to be going out with them and would hear them play as a band. When we pulled onto the pub's forecourt which was almost full, a middle-aged man came out to greet everyone.

Harvey said to him, “George, I’d like you to meet, Jane and Gavin. They head the new cell up north.”

George smiled at us with his hand out. He shook mine and Gavin’s, saying, “Very pleased to meet you and hope you enjoy your evening.”

Harvey introduced him to Luke and Charlie, Phil and Jenny and then Rod and Beth. He was a really happy guy and made us extremely welcome.

“Jed and Abbey are already here, Harvey, and I’ve reserved a number of tables for you as we appear to have quite a gang tonight. Standing room only, everywhere else in there. They’ve caned my ears these past weeks, asking when you’re coming back.”

“You know how it is, George. We’ll chat later when you have more time.”

Lucas had the gear unloaded and the lads all picked something up.

When we followed them in, I wasn’t prepared for the hub of noise that started and then the clapping and whistles that seemed to go on forever, almost until we were sat down. Gavin looked at me, giggling, he loved it. Jo and Lucas went straight up to the bar, sorting out everyone’s drinks. The biggest surprise to us was seeing Jed and Abbey. Not for any other reason than Jed was Lucas’s brother. There was a strong family resemblance, and he had the same friendly temperament as Lucas. Abbey was a stunner. Very chatty, saying hello and making us feel like part of the family. It overwhelmed me a bit.

Abbey knew and said silently: It’s lovely to meet you all, finally. I hope this is the first of many visits, Jane.

Thanks, Abbey, it means a lot to us. I wish we didn’t live so far apart.

It’s a helicopter ride that’s probably faster than a taxi into town.

Put like that, we live around the corner. She laughed at me.

You’ll have to come to the Christening. We have twins. Harvey and Alli will be Godparents to our boy and Gina and Olli, our little girl. We haven’t told anyone the names we’ve picked, yet. We’ll tell them when we finish here tonight, and you must come round before you go home tomorrow. We live next door to Reese and Chris. Noisiest bloody neighbours we’ve ever had.

I thought she was serious until the smile broke out on her face. She laughed like hell and suddenly looked up as they’d come into the bar, through the door beside us.

Reese said, with a grin, “You want to hear those buggers. At it, morning, noon and night, trying to fill all those bloody bedrooms.” Jed chuckled and winked at him.

Once the drinks were handed out, Harvey, Lucas and Andy went over to the small stage where they’d dumped the equipment. It didn’t take them long to set things up and were sitting with us for a drink in no time.

Harvey suddenly said, “Hello Charlie; seems bloody ages since we’ve seen you.”

The woman beside him answered him, “He’s moaned at me for weeks, Harvey. His bloody fault we missed Lucas and Olli’s birthdays.”

Charlie laughed and admitted, “Clare’s right. That’s the trouble with extended families. I accepted invitations to some of their get-togethers and dragged Clare along with me.” He giggled and added, “Clare was pissed off we’d missed them, hearing all about it at work, from Debbie; ears burning for weeks.”

Clare elbowed him, “Serves you right, you bugger. Find us some stools please, love?”

Charlie glanced around, exclaiming, “They’ll be like rocking-horse shit in here tonight.”

Harvey and Lucas stood up. Harvey said, “Take ours. Some will be dancing in a minute, and then we’re playing. Same drinks?” Charlie put his thumb up and they filled the vacant places while Lucas went up to the bar.

Harvey introduced us to them. After that was over, Jo said, “Clare’s my sister, Jane.” She’s not a hybrid and you’ll find out over time about us all. Can’t explain here, for obvious reasons. Jo glanced at the nearest table of humans, to check if anyone was listening. Once she was satisfied that they weren’t, she picked up her pint and said, “Cheers.”

The usual muttering went around the table in answer and then Jo looked up.

“Hi, Gill. Dragged Derek out, then?”

Derek laughed and answered, “I’m not missing this, you bugger.” Jo laughed at him. “Gill’s singing, tonight; aren’t you, pet?”

She looked up and smiled before saying, “Don’t, you’ll make me nervous, Derek. I’ve only sung for this lot, not a bloody pub, crammed to the frigging gunnels.” Derek cuddled her. You’ll knock their fucking socks off, love.

I was surprised how many humans could mind-read around this lot.

Gill looked at me: You must be Jane. Nice to meet you, I work in vice and Derek is Hillary’s partner at the lab. It’s catching, or hadn’t you noticed with your lot up there?

Hello, Gill. It has happened up there and I suppose you’ve had a long head-start on us. I look forward to hearing them play and you singing.

They’re brilliant, really, you’ll see soon enough.

Piped music came on and people parted to reveal a small area for dancing, in front of the stage. Lucas grabbed Alli’s hand and Andy dragged Gina from her chair. They headed for the dance floor and began to dance so provocatively, they had us laughing. Then they changed partners. I caught Harvey laughing at the look on my face. He said silently: We’d be up there too but this place is heaving tonight and not enough room. We really have fun here and George knows what we are.

I couldn’t stop the smirk escaping my lips: I can see that, Harvey. We’re enjoying it and can’t wait to hear you play.

It won’t be long, Jane. They’re coming back now.

We watched them come off the floor and struggle through the crowd around them. Alli said, giggling, “No room to swing a bloody mouse, in here tonight. Are we starting now, Harvey?” He nodded and took hold of her hand. They headed for the stage and everyone parted like the Red Sea, to cheers from all who’d noticed. There was a sudden wave of people coming through a door the other side of this massive bar until they all looked like sardines in an enormous tin.

When they were on the stage with Andy and Lucas, they began to tune instruments, to a few people calling, “Dulling Banjo’s first!” Others caught on quickly and a chant started and didn’t stop. I was giggling with Gavin’s arm around my shoulder. He squeezed my shoulder and said silently: They must be fucking good.

Jo’s voice filled our heads: They should be doing gigs, they’re that good. You’re in for a treat, believe me.

The noise died down when Harvey came to the front of the stage with Lucas. He started playing and then Lucas answered him on his guitar. We stood up to see them properly, in awe of them both. Gavin’s emotions rocketed, listening to them making their guitars speak. They ran through it twice, seamlessly joining it to give the audience, and us, something we’ll not forget in a hurry.

When they played the last few notes, the roar that filled the pub, nearly lifted the roof. I glanced at the guys behind the bar, with George, all enthralled and clapping with the onlookers.

What made me look back to the stage was a piano playing. I couldn’t see who it was as Alli and Andy were not in view. I soon realised it was Alli when Andy came to the front with a sax in his hands. He played it in Alli’s breaks and they nearly had me in tears, playing some Irish music that I loved to hear. Gavin squeezed my shoulder, knowing exactly how emotional I was. I looked into his face. God, I’m pleased we came, Gavin.

Me too, love. They’re brilliant!

Clapping drowned the place out, along with whistles and cheers when they’d finished. Gill excused herself through the crowd and when she got near the stage, Harvey put his hand out to help her up.

He said into the microphone, “We’ve brought a friend with us today. This is Gill and she sings like an angel. Please be quiet for a minute.” There was complete silence. Gill lifted the microphone and sat it against the wall of the stage. She stood in the middle again and closed her eyes. The others stood back resting their arms on their guitars.

When Gill began to sing ‘Summertime’ with no music, we heard gasps from the crowd and a lump filled my throat. She belted it out with so much feeling, you could have cut the emotion from everyone, with a knife. It was over too soon for me and all in here. The applause went on and on. The audience were all young trendy adults and I wouldn’t have thought they’d like that sort of music. Shows how wrong I was.

Gill beckoned to Bren, who got up and a path opened up to let her through to the stage. Once she was up there, she stood next to Gill, looking out over the audience, who waited to see what was coming next.

We heard Alli play an intro and the others joined in. The two women sang ‘forties’ songs that were a delight to hear. They did hand gestures and pulled faces during the songs; both very practised, keeping the audience enthralled, as well as us.

I was given a cup of tea by Andy, along with Alli and Gina who sat opposite us. I looked around the table where every chair was filled with our new friends and our gang. At that precise moment I couldn’t be more delighted we’d visited, and then to be given extra time with Beth asking to be turned was a bonus. She glanced at me and smiled.

Gavin added to my thoughts: I’m bloody thrilled, Jane.

I snuggled against Gavin’s chest when he put his arm over my shoulder, very content indeed. The night down the pub had been an experience I’d never forget. Instead of hearing what the babies were to be called, Jed and Abbey had been called home early. One of the kids wouldn’t stop crying and we found out before the last drink with the landlord, George, that the new babysitter had been over-cautious, much to the relief of us all.

So here we were, truly enjoying some relaxation as it was never possible to drop your eye off the ball at home, whatever we were doing, and I’m sure our friends all felt the same, even with us here.

Harvey looked up and said, “You’re dead right there, J…” We all heard his phone buzz in his pocket. He yelled, “GOD HELP WHO THAT IS!”

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