Penny – August 1985
Following a stream of visitors with children Penny was in the mood for a quieter time with her single friend. Her family had breathed a collective sigh of relief when his long-suffering parents had removed William back to Reading. Despite their good will and support they had to agree that he was hard work. Penny and Charles had been please to hear from both Jo and Jane that things were somewhat better with her now. Some of the coping mechanisms had already been put in place and others explored for the September term. Julius was spending a lot of time with William and Jane’s stay was helping.
Soon after Jo and family’s departure they had heard from Dylan and prepared themselves for an unprecedented visit from Dylan and his sons. Charles had mixed feelings about Dylan’s stay. He was fond of his old friend and had happy memories of many of their childhood exploits but had disapproved Dylan’s behaviour in recent years. On balance though he was willing to be led by his wife’s affection and good sense which recommended Dylan’s change of character to him. It would be interesting to see how he behaved with his sons Charles deliberated. He certainly couldn’t think of a reason for Dylan to have re-connected with his family other than a genuine desire to make amends and make up for lost time.
Charles had been pleasantly surprised. He and Penny had welcomed Dylan unequivocally into their home when he’d arrived with two tired and hungry children. They had both been impressed to see how effectively and patiently he had unloaded the boys from the car, organised their effects (small suitcase, large bag of toys and other paraphernalia) re-introduced them to Simon and Lucy and their parents and appealed on their behalf for drinks and nourishment. Penny took over, ushering the boys kitchen ward for glasses of milk and a ‘Doorstop’ – a thick slice of bread and jam – to keep them going until supper.
Re-fuelling completed the children were soon renewing their acquaintances. Simon invited them to go swimming in the brook at the bottom of the Rectory garden, appealing to his father for permission. Dylan had immediately offered to accompany the children explaining to Penny sotto voce that Rebecca would kill him if anything happened to the boys while they were with him. He helped the boys find their swimming trunks and snorkels and escorted all four children down the garden pretending to race. Charles watched as Ty hung back skipping around his father and slipping his hand into Dylan’s. Dylan’s head bent to Ty’s in conversation that Charles could not hear but he could see the bond that had formed between them.
Mindful of Dylan’s past Charles followed slowly behind; no one would be more delighted than he if this visit marked a new beginning for his relationship with Dylan. Charles watched his childhood friend interacting with the children as he approached slowly; all the signs were that Dylan was indeed a changed person. To Charles he seemed to have gained in confidence, matured and become comfortable with himself. His old habit of introspection and selfishness replaced with a new joie de vie.
Dylan was absorbed in the antics of the children as they paddled and splashed around in the brook that was too shallow to really swim. He called words of encouragement and laughed at the children’s enjoyment. Charles joined him and they stood together watching, each with recollections of their own childhood games. Almost simultaneously they both spoke the words
‘Do you remember when…’ and tailed off laughing easily.
‘They look like we did don’t they?’ Dylan indicated his boys, ‘I’m often reminded of the fun we used to have when I’m with them.’ He smiled at Charles, ‘It’s good to see you again; it’s been a long time.’
‘Yes indeed, I’m glad you’re back and very happy to see you with your sons.’ Charles smiled and patted Dylan on the back as he spoke. They stood a while longer observing the amicable splashing.
That evening, over a hearty supper at the kitchen table, Dylan had talked about his early success in New York and how at first it had gone to his head. Then he related how he had begun to enjoy his newfound profession for itself rather than a means to make money. Some critical acclaim had finally given him confidence and independence.
He had then begun to miss ‘home’ and his friends. He had examined his feelings for Rebecca and the relationship that he had so wantonly destroyed. He related how he had met Ariel and how she had inadvertently told him about his second son. Dylan had been struck like a thunderbolt. He knew that he must try to make amends to Rebecca and to become a real father to his sons however bad he may be at it. Dylan had sent his résumé to some London based magazine editors and had immediately landed a few commissions.
Now based in London most of the year Dylan was enjoying the regular contact he had with his sons.
‘I love them’ he said simply, ‘Rebecca has done a great job of raising them.’
‘What about Rebecca?’ Penny asked, already knowing the answer. Dylan smiled resignedly.
‘You know Becca, Pen. She won’t let me near her. I always collect the boys from Caiti’s or from Jack. The very few times I have seen or spoken to her it’s monosyllabic. She just gives me my instructions’ he shrugged, ‘It’s what I deserve.’ Penny’s heart softened for Dylan. She really thought that Rebecca had punished him enough but she knew her friend well. She could be very stubborn. Charles hesitated before asking rather stiffly,
‘Do you want to live as man and wife with Rebecca again?’
‘Yes. Yes I do. I wish to God that I had never left her.’ Dylan response was unequivocal. Penny was delighted. Something must be able to persuade Rebecca to give Dylan another chance.
Charles and Penny discussed their conversation with Dylan, as they got ready for bed. Charles had just returned from his routine check on the children. The twins were rapidly outgrowing their cots but without them would be up and about well before dawn. As they were they would entertain each other for an hour or more before crying. Lucy was now in a bedroom of her own. Once the twins were older the girls would share one room and Simon would swap to having his own bedroom. Currently he had the larger room, which was inhabited by him, Tyrone and Reuben for the next few nights. Charles and Dylan almost collided outside the bedroom door both bent on the same task.
‘I need to tuck the boys in they’ll have wrested every limb free by now’ said Dylan in a low voice. True to his word Tyrone and Reuben had both struggled free of their bedclothes. Dylan carefully tucked a sheet and blanket round each of the sleeping children and stooped slightly self-conscious to kiss the boys goodnight. Charles wondered where and how Dylan had learned to do this and surmised that it may have been from his own mother Jane’s example.
Charles related his recent meeting with Dylan. Penny expressed her optimism and desire for Dylan’s reunion with her friend.
‘It would be so good to see Rebecca happy. The boys really love him don’t they?’ She chirruped happily on about Dylan’s way with the boys and how sweet they were together. Charles allowed Penny to gush a bit knowing her propensity to real life ‘Mills and Boon’ scenarios. Getting into bed beside her and snuggling up Charles said lightly,
‘Let’s not get involved in Rebecca’s affairs again my love. Let them find their own way.’ Penny knew that Charles was serious. He didn’t want to feel that weight of personal responsibility that he had borne some years ago when he had interfered in their marriage. Sighing resignedly she agreed to his request.
It wouldn’t hurt if she were to sing his praises a bit to Annie and Caiti though; they may be able to influence Rebecca to forgive Dylan. She drifted off to sleep with happy thoughts of Suzanne’s arrival the next day and the various plans she had for their entertainment.
Penny – August 1985