Suzanne – July ‘82
Rebecca had shared companionably with Suzanne’s father Jack for nearly three years. It had been a happy time for them all. Tyrone, now almost four and Reuben, three at the end of the month, were a handful at times; Jack provided a male presence and acted as a grandfather figure for the boys. They all loved the Pimlico house. The cats, Ziggy and Zorro were a constant source of fun and comfort for the two lads. There was nothing better than sneaking the two cats into their eyrie of a bedroom on the top floor of the tall thin house. Ziggy would sleep curled on Reuben’s feet and Zorro on the headboard of Tyrone’s bed with a paw draped casually to pat the child’s sleeping head.
The crèche in the Wimbledon branch of Palmerstone provided day care for her two boys, for customer’s children whilst their mothers were shopping, and occasionally for the children of staff. The system had so far worked perfectly. Rebecca took the boys to work with her in the morning and they returned home with her after work. She could check in on the boys when the shop was quiet, although when she did they were often too engaged with their playmates to notice. In the evenings Rebecca had slipped into Suzanne’s old role of cooking supper for Jack and sitting at the kitchen table to eat and exchange news and opinions. They got along very well.
Suzanne travelled home from Paris frequently for a weekend visit to see her father and friend. The forthcoming weekend had been earmarked for one of her flying visits only to be changed earlier on in the day to a week’s holiday. The Pimlico household was in a state of excited anticipation. Suzanne was godmother to Tyrone and always made a fuss of both the boys when she returned. Ziggy and Zorro were always in a state of high alert when Suzanne was expected. Jack looked forward to seeing his only child and Rebecca to seeing her great friend. The boys were difficult to settle as every time Rebecca finished reading their bedtime story one or other of them would ask,
‘When’s Auntie Annie coming Mummy?’
‘At the weekend, sweetheart; and she’ll be here for a whole week’.
“When’s the weekend, Mummy?’ was the next question, and so it went on until first Roo and then Ty dropped off to sleep. Rebecca tucked up each of her boys and dropped a kiss goodnight on their sleeping foreheads. She loved this time in the evening when they were bathed and dressed in their pyjamas. They looked so sweet and innocent and smelled so divine. She smiled to herself as she ran lightly down the stairs to the big, open-plan kitchen that was the heart of the Pimlico house. As she passed the door of Jack’s study she called out to him,
‘Bar’s open Jack!’ She busied herself chopping and sautéing in preparation for a lasagne, which was one of Jack’s favourites. As she worked she started to compile a shopping list for the weekend, jotting things down as ideas occurred to her for a welcome home feast. Jack joined her and poured wine for each of them.
‘Shall we sit outside?’ he asked Rebecca, ‘It’ll be perfect out there now the sun has been on the patio for the last couple of hours.’
‘Great idea Jack, I’ll just get this in the oven’ she indicated the oblong dish, ‘and I’ll be with you in a jiffy.’ Jack was right it was delightful sitting outside in the postage stamp garden sipping their drinks. The topic of conversation soon veered to the expected homecoming, uppermost in both of their minds. ‘I was thinking of cooking curry for Friday night, what do you think?’ Rebecca asked Jack, ‘I could do a Chicken Madras and a milder spinach dish with some yoghurt and cardamoms. We have some lime pickle and chutney and I could make naan bread and rice’.
‘That all sounds delicious’ responded Jack, ‘but a lot of work for a busy working mother. I’m sure Annie would be happy with a take-away.’ Rebecca rolled her eyes,
‘Yes I’m sure she would. However, kill the fatted calf and all that; I want us to all have a homecoming feast together!’
‘You girls’ Jack face crinkled into a wide smile, ‘neither of you know when to ease up on yourselves. Always work, work, work and then you have to cook a feast every evening!’
‘Well its different work’ responded Rebecca thoughtfully, ‘I find it quite relaxing engaging in something completely different. It’s sort of soothing to chop and stir and poke stuff in the oven. And I expect that a glass of wine helps with the wind down process too!’
‘Is that a hint young lady?’ Jack asked, heaving himself up to fetch a re-fill.
‘Well it wasn’t but I guess I can be tempted.’ Rebecca smiled and held out her glass.
Suzanne let herself into the Pimlico house with her own key hollering hellos as she entered. She was greeted by two exuberant small boys and the turned backs of Zorro and Ziggy both of whom liked to sulk for five minutes before making her welcome. Jack and Rebecca close behind the smaller humans hugged and kissed Suzanne in turn exclaiming on the good fortune of her week’s stay.
Suzanne left her bags in the hallway and everyone retreated to the large living room cum kitchen at the back of the house. The boys bounced all over Suzanne and the sofa as she caught up with them and the adults at once listening intently to all. The cats decided to forgive Suzanne her absence and draped themselves on the sofa arm and back purring happily.
‘Bedtime boys,’ Rebecca announced at 8.30. Wails of descent followed swiftly by a barrage of requests for Auntie Annie to perform bedtime duties.
‘Excellent idea’ Rebecca responded, ‘I’ll get on with supper while you bath and story Annie.’ The two exchanged a smile and Annie leapt up holding her hands out for Ty and Roo to hold.
‘Let’s go then. Race you to the top!’ Suzanne pretended to run letting the boys race a head of her. Shrill squeaks of,
‘You can’t catch us Auntie Annie!’ from Tyrone and,
‘Me get there first,’ from Roo who definitely wouldn’t.
When Suzanne arrived back downstairs she was flushed with success and smiling to herself from the exchanges that she and the boys had had during bath and story time. Suzanne had never wanted to have children of her own (much to Jack’s regret) but she loved her honorary ‘Auntie’ role and that of being godmother.
‘Wow! Something smells good’, she commented as the tantalising concoction of curry spices hit her nostrils, she looked over Rebecca’s shoulder to see what was going on, ‘Yummy, I love a good curry’.
‘I know, and this is nothing like a good curry!’ Rebecca laughed, ‘Your father suggested a take-away; as if we would get a take-away on your first night home.’
‘He worries about us working all the time and then spending hours cooking.’ Suzanne responded, ‘More wine Becca?’
‘Mm I know, yes please to the wine. We were talking about cooking the other night; I tried to explain that it’s a different type of working and sort of relaxing. Better not relax too much though or I’ll be cremating the meal!’
‘Yes indeed, you used to be really good at that!’ Suzanne laughed remembering the occasions when on her visits to Rebecca’s flat she would be greeted by the smell of charcoal and a barrage of swear words. ‘But from my experience and from the account of my father you’re cooking is vastly improved. In fact I think he prefers to have you here than me!’
‘I think not!’ Rebecca responded, well aware that her friend was joking, ‘He tells me that he can’t wait to have you back.’
The curry turned out to be a great success with no burnt offerings. Suzanne appreciated the effort that Rebecca had made although she privately agreed with her father that a take-away would have been a better option for a Friday night. Rebecca had planned to turn in early to give father and daughter a chance to catch up however Jack pleaded tiredness and went off to watch the TV news after which he would go to bed.
The two old friends spent another hour or so discussing Suzanne’s job in Paris that she loved, Rebecca’s business which was all consuming and of course the boys.