Rebecca – July 1983
Rebecca woke the next day conscious that she had consumed too much wine. She had a dull throbbing behind her eyes and a raging thirst. Her thoughts were of two things. One: the great evening she had spent with her friends; probably worth a hangover she reflected. Two: Reuben’s impending birthday party (good), Dylan attending the same (bad). Why had she allowed herself to be talked into renewing any kind of relationship with that shit? Why was he trying to renew his relationship with them? She didn’t get it. Then with an inward smile she thought about Roo’s excitement. This was probably the first birthday that he would really remember. Already the occasion had delighted him beyond his wildest dreams.
Thinking of her son’s excitement Rebecca forced her eyes open. She groped for her watch seeing that it was already 9.15. She was sure that Roo and the others would be up and about by now. Caitlin’s driver had collected Caitlin and Penny at about 2.30 in the morning to return to Pelham Crescent leaving Rebecca and Suzanne in charge of all five children. Fortunately Suzanne had taken her duties seriously; taking her foot off the pedal as she viewed her friend’s decent into inebriation. By the time Rebecca got herself out of bed and pulled on jeans and a shirt Suzanne was already in the kitchen dishing out ‘eggy’ bread and bacon, cereal and toast to Livingstone and his fellow explorers who were all ravenously hungry.
Suzanne shoved a mug of strong coffee towards Rebecca smiling in sympathy as she scooped her second son into her arms and smothered him in kisses. Her attention was greeted with wild wriggling and protestations; Reuben at four years old was much too grown up to be kissed in public by his mother. Despite his earlier interest in birthday presents Roo now seemed totally absorbed in playing with his friends old and new. The children drifted off to renew their adventures while Suzanne and Rebecca enjoyed the calm before the storm.
Apart from the five children already gathered Rebecca had invited five others and their respective parents. These were children that regularly used the Palmerstone crèche. Four were customer’s children and one was Carole’s daughter, Paloma. They were all friends with Ty and Roo so she felt sure that the dynamic would work. Simon and Lucy were older than the others but she had already noted how well they both played with the younger children and how much her boys looked up to Simon. The food was all prepared in advance, constituting all the things that children choose for themselves. Canapés and drinks were ready for accompanying adults. Lunch would just be a snack. The guests were expected at 3.30.
Having run through the important preparations in her mind and found everything to be organised to a fault Rebecca was now free to worry about the wild card. Dylan. How should she behave? She was hostess so she couldn’t be rude. Nor could she behave negatively to Dylan in front of his children. She wanted the boys to have the opportunity of having a father. Well she had been quite happy without so far, but now he had turned up she felt as if she had to allow the opportunity. Arghh! She grappled with all the conflicting emotions and wished that she had never laid eyes on Dylan Byrne.
Much at the same time Dylan was grappling with his emotions and similar issues. His first concern was how he should introduce himself to his sons. Two small boys one of whom he’d never seen, and only heard of his existence in recent months. Dylan was not particularly comfortable around children as his own circle was primarily of single people. An immediate problem was what to buy for his four year old son’s birthday, not too extravagant, unusual but not weird. What sort of things did his son enjoy? Dylan realised that he had no idea. He couldn’t just call Rebecca and ask.
This thought brought up the next of his anxieties. How to hit the right note with Rebecca? In the end Dylan did what he did best relied on his instincts. He had grown in self-confidence since had had stuck out on his own and forged a career. The added bonus that he had gained acclaim for his photography had given Dylan the self-respect that he had always lacked. Although he was about to enter a situation where he was far from confident and comfortable he had done a lot of growing up and knew what he wanted to achieve in life. Armed with this new resolve Dylan had showered and dressed with care and gone shopping.
Rebecca couldn’t help noting that Dylan had timed his arrival to perfection. Not too early so that he attracted curiosity or so late that he appeared reluctant. She greeted him on the doorstep coolly and accepted from him a proffered bunch of Irises, which he knew were her favourite flowers. She managed to beckon her children over to meet Dylan without causing a fuss and he had hit the right note with them. Not too familiar and yet friendly he held out his hand and shoke hands with first Reuben, solemnly wishing him,
‘Very many happy returns of the day’ in a very grown-up manner which his four year old son found gratifying particularly when it was followed with a proffered birthday gift. Next Dylan shook hands with Tyrone; ‘Pleased to see you’ uttered Dylan, which Tyrone copied perfectly in his high-pitched child’s voice. Dylan couldn’t help noticing his second son’s likeness to himself, nor the opposite his older boy’s marked contrast in appearance. Not for the first time Dylan wondered if he were indeed the child’s father but immediately squashed the thought. Nothing in his ill-stared relationship with Rebecca had led him to believe that she was either a liar or a cheat. Unlike his own behaviour he reflected with an inward wince.
Dylan was pleased to see Caitlin and, particularly, Penny who he had always liked and from whom he could illicit news of his childhood friend, her husband, Charles. He wished that Charles had been there in person. There was a preponderance of women in attendance. He spent a couple of hours chatting to Rebecca’s old friends and made his acquaintance with Carole and some of the children’s mums who were Rebecca’s customers. Dylan was polite and charming and easily joined the general drift of the conversation which centred on the children who they all watched as they played ‘pass the parcel’, ‘musical chairs’ and the like. He observed his sons with what he realised was paternal pride. They were delightful boys; full of life they played happily with others and obviously loved each other.
Observing Tyrone and Reuben together he couldn’t help but think of his early friendship with Charles and how the two of them had been inseparable. A few years earlier in his life Dylan would have been embittered by circumstances that had made his life so different. These days he knew that he had the power to influence his own destiny. Dylan was much more comfortable in his own skin.
Once the birthday feast had been consumed the young guest were carted off by their parents one by one leaving the immediate ‘family’ to clean up and to watch Reuben open his presents (or help as was Charlotte’s role);
‘Open this one Ben’ she would say poking and rattling parcels as she selected them. He obliged by ripping off the paper and tossing presents down in his excitement at getting to the next. The adults trying desperately to note from whom each of the presents came so that that a ‘thank you’ note could be sent. Dylan’s present was an undoubted hit. Rebecca wondered if it was partly because it was from his daddy but doubtless the gift of a snorkel was inspired. The boys couldn’t wait to try it out and the next day in Charlotte’s paddling pool was much talked of in the intervening time.
Rebecca realised just how clever was the gift when Dylan called her early the next week to invite the boys to go swimming,
‘I have a pool in the basement of my new place in St John’s Wood’ he told Rebecca neutrally. ‘The boys can come and swim and then I could take them out to eat and drop them off after. It could do it every week while I’m in London.’ He added hopefully. Rebecca was lost for words. ‘It’s my own place Becca. No women involved I promise.’ His voice was almost pleading. How could she refuse? She agreed to the first outing with trepidation but it turned out to be such a success with both of the boys that she was presented with a fait accompli, her sons had started to develop a belated relationship with their father whether she liked it or not.
Rebecca – July 1983