Sarah Lewis sat in her kitchen reading a paperback and thinking about making her second cup of tea when her thoughts were disturbed by a rhythmic knocking on the front door. The bell chimed a frenzied rhythm, accompanying the knocking in its jovial cacophony. She smiled, marked the page, rose form her chair and adjusted the hem of her light blue dressing gown to make sure she wasn’t revealing too much. As she went to the source of the racket she patted her dishevelled dark hair to make sure it wasn’t too messy.
When she entered the hall there was the pressed face of a young man against the circular glass section on her front door. His cheeks inflated and deflated in tune to the ringing and knocking as condensation spread across the small window. She laughed as she let in her guest.
The visitor stumbled into the hallway, pretending, the door was the only thing holding him up. Sarah was used to her nephew’s silliness ever since he was a small child. “Hello Mark. Nice to see Rose still hasn’t persuaded you to grow up.”
“Tries but always fails.” He stood to up to his full height and opened his arms to offer a hug. “How’s my favourite auntie?”
Sarah embraced him, patting his back affectionately. His black leather coat creaked from the pressure as she caught the aroma of her sister’s house on him. “She’s okay, how’s the black sheep doing?”
“Oh if only we weren’t related,” he joked, squeezing her a little tighter.
“Less of the cheek you, I’ll tell your mother.” Sarah broke away and took the opportunity to get a good view of him, reminiscing all of the family gatherings from when he was a cute child to a cheeky teenager. “Let’s take a look at you then, it’s been almost a year.” She noticed the first signs of a receding hairline but it gave him a slightly distinguished quality. Mark came from one of the less attractive branches of the family tree, taking all of the bad features from his mother and father. Too thin, a hooked nose and an eyebrow which used to meet lightly in the middle that he’d sorted out with tweezers or a razor. None of these made him an ugly man but somewhere the whole mixture gave him an unremarkable appearance. Closer inspection revealed his hair had unnaturally changed colour from a dark brown to black. The family grey curse must have hit him and it looked like receding and grey all at once was just too much for him to take. “You look well Mark, very well. It’s lovely to see you.”
Mark grinned as he gripped her arms. His expression turned serious for a second but in the blink of an eye went back to jolly. “Sorry I didn’t come round sooner.”
Sarah felt her emotions rise but kept herself steady. “Cup of tea?”
They went into the kitchen and Sarah switched the kettle on. Mark leaned against the sink unit, arms folded and watched her.
“Have you had breakfast?” asked Sarah, opening a cupboard door.
“I couldn’t possibly put you out.” Mark’s negative reply was laced with ‘yes please’.
“It’s no trouble,” Sarah said, turning to him and raising her eyebrows to encourage a change of mind.
In an eager capitulation Mark accepted the offer. “A bacon sandwich would be nice, with brown sauce.”
Sarah chuckled and went to the fridge for the bacon. She was certain there was some bread and brown sauce despite her being due a food shop.
Mark took off his jacket and placed it on the kitchen chair before resuming his earlier position. He knew his aunt well enough to make himself at home although they rarely had private chats.
“How’s he doing then?” Mark knew the answer would be bad or his mother would never have seen the need to recruit him to intervene.
There was caution in Sarah’s quiet answer, as if she was conspiring. She knew her son was asleep, his bedroom was right over the kitchen and the last thing she wanted was for him to overhear. “Not good, not good at all. Five months since she fell out with him. He has no friends, no job and he sits at his computer all night and sleeps most of the day. They stopped his benefits so at least his drinking won’t last long. Everyone has tried to talk to him. At first he started saying he would sort himself out but now he doesn’t even say that anymore.” It pained her to speak like this about her son, discussing his business, especially to another member of the family but now was not the time for pride. Now was the time for help.
“This is all over a woman? From what I was told they weren’t that close.” Inadvertently, Mark matched the same guarded tone as his aunt.
“They were close enough,” Sarah remarked as she prepared the grill and arranged the tea. “It’s as if he just gave up on everything else, he stopped looking for work and now just feels sorry for himself.”
“It might be a bit of everything, too much time on his hands and too much time to think. He’s probably just depressed.”
“That goes without saying. He’s definitely depressed!” Sarah stopped what she was doing and closed her eyes in anger at her own stupidity for not keeping her voice down. Back to the hushed voice she continued, “He’s too old to be like this and too young to waste his life. If you can’t do anything I don’t know what to do.” She turned to him, her large brown eyes shone with the onset of tears.
To try to console her, Mark put his hand on her shoulder and tried to give reassurance, “I’m not leaving this house until Steve has agreed to come out. Even if we have to drag him kicking and screaming he’ll be coming out.”
“Just do your best . . . please,” implored Sarah, considering the options if this failed.
“I’ll do better than that,” said Mark, with unfaltering confidence.
Sarah gave a smile, a tear ran down her cheek but it was the only one which fell.
As the breakfast cooked and kettle boiled, they caught up on what had happened since the last time they spoke a comfortable but trivial change of conversation. Mark watched his aunt as she bustled around the cooker wondering why she hadn’t remarried or at least dated more men.
The rattling of a key entering the front door stopped Mark in mid sentence. There was whispered swearing from the hall which triggered Mark’s curiosity but he only shrugged when he caught Sarah’s eye. “Angela,” she whispered.
Mark’s eyes showed pretend fear. There was shuffling in the hallway, more swearing and the distinct sound of shoes being kicked off, one of which bounced off the wall.
Angela came into the kitchen, in more of an announcement than an entrance. Any mythological sailor that got close enough to see the face of a siren before meeting his doom would see something like Angela Lewis. She was known for her sharp tongue, callous nature and the ability turn the most self assured of men into insecure wrecks after a few minutes of conversation. There was a rumour that if a man angered her enough she could suck out his confidence from a hundred yards and getting too close to her was like staring down a lit Catherine wheel.
Strands of unkempt, black wavy hair spilled into her eyes which burned with aggression when she saw her cousin. A flimsy white dress, little more than a prop to help her torture the opposite sex, clung to her like a loose skin. She was greeted by Mark’s Cheshire cat smile. “What’s that doing here?” she asked, her face a picture of distaste.
“Angie, Aaaangie!” sang Mark badly, but stopped when the lyrics failed to materialise from his memory. “I’ve missed you. Have you missed me? You can be honest. You know cousins can marry?”
Angela jerked when she heard Mark say ‘marry’. “Not if one of them is ugly,” she bit, her eyes firing daggers.
“I can overlook your unattractiveness.” His remark earned a playful slap on the arm from Sarah.
With pure sarcasm and persisting with the hatred Angela answered in a fierce whisper, “That’s so kind of you.”
“Not sure that skirt does your legs justice. Did you have a good night? Did you meet a nice man?”
Angela sat down on one of the kitchen chairs, her back rested against Mark’s coat. “None of your business and I don’t know what your idiot friend said to Melanie but she’s mad at him.”
“Which friend? They’re all idiots, they practise.”
Sarah sniggered as she turned the bacon in the grill. “I had no idea you saw each other when you went out.”
“Unfortunately,” Angela said. She returned to Mark. “Your ugly friend.” Malice flickered on her face. “Oh but that could be any of them. Do they practise that too?”
Mark was undeterred by the insult. “That’s cruel. You should be nicer to us, at least introduce us to more of your friends.”
Ignoring Mark, Angela noticed what her mother was doing. “Any chance of a cup of team mummy?”
“Sure,” Sarah said, getting two more cups out of the cupboard. “I’ll make one for Steve too. He needs to wake up soon anyway. “Do you take sugar?” she asked Mark.
Angela turned her attention back to Mark, multitasking between the desire for a drink of tea and making her cousin uncomfortable. She never missed the opportunity for an insult. “None of my friends are that desperate, and we see you and your cronies way too much. I hope you aren’t following us.”
Mark placed a hand on his chest for dramatic shock. “That hurts. That’s worse than saying my friends are ugly.”
“Not as ugly as you.”
“Angela, behave yourself,” Sarah saved that special tone in her voice for emergencies. She didn’t want Mark to be offended and change his mind about offering to help.
Angela looked across at her mother, then back to Mark. “So how is the job going? Still a nurse?”
Mark nodded slowly, squinting his eyes.
“Still bored of it?”
Sarah turned around and regarded Mark in surprise. Did his mother know this?
“When did I say I was bored of it?” asked Mark, eyes wide in fear.
“You told me a few weeks ago.”
“When did you plan to tell your mother?” Sarah intervened, “you should have said something Ange.”
Angela shrugged and stretched her legs, checking to see if Mark was looking at her but his attention lay elsewhere. “Not worth saying really.” She screwed up her face inquisitively. “So what is he doing here?”
Sarah returned to her cushioned voice. “I asked him to come. I want him to speak to Steve.”
Nodding, Angela grinned mischievously, “You’re asking him to help Steve? God he has sunk to new depths if he needs Mark’s help.”
“It’s good of him to agree,” Sarah retorted, tired of her daughter’s bitchiness. She finished preparing the breakfast and passed Mark his cup of tea and sandwich. “Okay Mark. I would prefer it if you’re not too obvious. Steve’s low but he still has some pride.”
Angela snorted out a laugh, carrying on with the chuckling even after taking the tea from her mother.
Mark ignored her and nodded to Sarah. There was a silent prayer in Sarah’s head that this would work. But she trusted her nephew to cheer her son up. “Do you still know which one is his room?”
“I do,” Mark replied, “the room without the teddies and boy band posters?” He watched Angela as he made the joke.
With the minor victory, Mark trotted into the hallway and up the stairs, careful not to spill the tea or bacon sandwiches which he was balancing in his hands.
When he was out of earshot, Sarah gave a disappointed look to her daughter. “You should be more polite to him, he’s a nice lad.”
Angela gave her mother a half smile. “I would never get rid of him if I was nice to him. And I don’t think you should use him to help Steve, whatever you’ve conjured up in your head, Mark is not the best person for Steve to be with. He’s a clown.”
“That’s exactly what Steve needs.”
“Not all the time. And Mark and his friends upset people because they are all idiots.”
“Are they trouble makers?”
With a shake of her head, Angela reassured her mother, “Mark is nice enough and they wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Just not sure if being surrounded by Mark and his friends will do him much good.”
“He has to agree to it first. There’s no guarantee.”
“He will agree,” Angela remarked, sipping her tea. “Mark will not come down those stairs until Steve agrees. He’s a charmer, a complete wanker but a charmer.”
“Your attitude with people is terrible. And you have got to stop swearing.”
“I love you mummy.”
“One day you’re going to upset the wrong person.”
“I love you mummy.”
“I’m being serious.”
“I love you mummy.”
“I said I’m being serious. You can’t think you can say whatever you like and people will accept it.”
“I love you mummy.”
Sarah looked to the ceiling and shook her head, a deep sigh emitted from her.
Angela changed the subject. “How was your date last night?”
“Okay,” Sarah fibbed, her thoughts were more concerned about her son.
Awake in his bed, Steve stared at the walls and curtains. They formed strange shapes from the morning light and he had already seen a gladiator, elephant and fish with a human face. The four empty bottles of beer by his computer were standing to attention as a reminder to why he was battling a hangover. He had studied everything in his room at least twice but still didn’t get up. He saw no point.
Longer and longer he spent in his room, his prison, his sanctuary from the cruel outside world which had no time for the unemployed. The jobless were shunned and made into pariahs. Society didn’t care to hear their reasons or the fact there was little decent work around anymore in the latest of a long line of recessions. Employers wanted experience from their applicants and his choices, since he was too shy to sell himself were work in fast food or telemarketing. Unfortunately, the employment situation was so dire that there were other unemployed people who were interested in those jobs, those with families and mortgages stretched to breaking point, those who wanted the job more and would sell themselves without considering pride or the fact they could do better.
His confidence was shot and he hadn’t applied for a job for five weeks. He was out of the habit of working. Putting things off till tomorrow became putting it off until next week and then next month. Steve knew he was in a mess but did nothing about it. He just sat back and watched helpless as his young life dismantled itself before his very eyes.
To add insult to injury, there wasn’t even the distraction of romance. Women didn’t want a man with no job or prospects. His ex girlfriend didn’t. Depression set in a long time ago and he knew it, but could do nothing about it. It felt like he was drowning in a lake and all he had to help him was a straw to breathe through when he went under. Clinging onto life but always the question was, ‘why bother?’ He was young and healthy and should be doing something about this but depression never let in the positives. It pushed them away and allowed the negatives to swamp all the good things. His mother had tried all kinds of pep talks, to put things into perspective for him but failed regardless of how much sense she spoke. Yes there were people worse off than him. No job, no woman and no friends were nothing compared to starving to death or having some terminal illness but depression didn’t work like that. It didn’t select based on merit, it built on what was there and grew on it like moss. His life had spiralled into decline and he lacked the motivation to reverse it.
The latest, in a long line of pointless days at least began differently with the noise at the front door. He heard whispers, conversations, the familiar voice of a young man he couldn’t quite place, laughter and the smell of cooking bacon. He decided to stay in bed and sleep away what was either his hangover or the first signs of flu. His downbeat attitude amplified when he realised that an illness would at least punctuate his monotony.
He closed his eyes and began to map out the random thoughts and memories to trigger sleep. The sound of someone coming up the stairs made his eyes reopen. In response to the faint knock on the door he pressed his duvet over the exposed parts of his body and cried out, “What do you want?” He had patented a special tone for these occasions when he didn’t want to be disturbed by his mother or sister. It rarely prompted a long conversation.
An man’s abrasive voice answered, “To come in you doughnut. Why does anyone ever knock a bloody door?”
Steve sat up in his bed like a caught cheating husband. The once insolent words were replaced with a more defensive pitch, “Who is it?”
“Mark! Now talk to me and I might share my bacon sandwich.”
Steve double checked he wasn’t showing too much. “Okay come in.”
The handle of the door turned erratically. When it was pushed open Mark slid through the expanding gap. In his left hand were two steaming mugs and his right was a plate with the bacon sandwich he had just offered to share. Steve realised he must have turned the handle with his knee.
“There he is.” Mark, in his tall, skinny glory stood smiling like an over eager waiter. “What have you done to your hair?”
“Nothing,” replied Steve, touching his fringe out of defensive instinct.
“That’s my point. It’s too long. You look like the member of an Indie band,” He gave a sardonic pause, “or worse a male version of your sister.” Mark put the cups down on a small chest of drawers at the side of Steve’s bed. “Drink up, your mum just made it.” He offered a half round of bacon sandwich which Steve took and began to eat.
“What do you want?” Steve asked through the mashed food in his mouth. “I hate brown sauce.”
Mark sat down on the bed. “Come to see how you are.”
“Fine, thanks for asking. We should do this again in a couple of years.”
“I’d rather see you before then,” said Mark, not looking at his cousin. His attention was on the state of the room which he made little attempt to disguise his disapproval. “I need a favour.”
“Should have known you would have some agenda.” There was acid mingled with the self pity in Steve’s tone. “How can I help you?” he asked in an abrasive whisper.
“It’s mutually beneficial.” Mark’s face showed disappointment that Steve didn’t take the bait. Undeterred he started eating his half of the sandwich. “You’re single and I know someone who I think you should meet.” He studied his cousin to gauge a spark of curiosity. “He’s a lovely bloke.”
“Very funny,” Steve grumbled, swallowing some breakfast.
Mark gave a contained laugh to avoid spitting out any sandwich. “Seriously, it’s a woman and she’s really nice. And I mean really nice. ”
“Then why don’t you go out with her?” Steve didn’t believe him. He had a vision of some frightening witch with an attractive friend who Mark probably wanted for himself.
Still grinning from his joke, Mark finished off his sandwich which he seemed to fold into his mouth and absorb rather than eat. It was a weird sight given his skinny build. He put the redundant plate by the cups of tea, taking the one made for him as he cleared his mouth. “Slight problem, she’s met me and we’re friends. I’m also not her type but I’m big enough to understand. In my noble nature though, I have mentioned you to her. And I think she’d be interested. And I know you’re single.”
“Hardly news,” Steve moaned, “and I never said I’m looking for a woman.”
Mark raised his eyebrows as he took a sip of tea. “Every bloke is looking for a woman and the ones that deny it are either liars or can’t get one. What harm is it going to do to meet her?”
“So you want to set me up on a blind date?”
“This isn’t Victorian times,” Mark scoffed, “we don’t have blind dates anymore, you see the goods.” He took a brave gulp of hot tea and leaned across the bed to turn on Steve’s computer. “A blind date is when you don’t know what she looks like, hence the word ‘blind’. I can show you a picture of her thanks to our friends from the Internet.” The computer emitted the hairdryer noise as it whirred into life. “You’ve got to work for this one. She won’t give herself to you.” Mark shook his head in disappointment, “Bloody hell, an abacus.” He then regarded the empty beer bottles with disdain. “You got a drink problem?”
“It’s occasional,” Steve responded, sipping tea, feeling his body hydrate from the previous night’s alcohol. “Anyway, what are you getting out of this?”
“Out of what?”
“Setting me up with this woman?”
“Her best friend’s going out with a mate of mine and they want to double up. She’s not interested in any of the lads but they lack our family good looks.” Mark got off the bed to sit down on the black swivel chair. He turned on the monitor which flickered and set a blue sheen against his face.
“Not sure if I’m ready to start seeing someone, or meeting someone,” Steve said but found himself watching the monitor with an involuntary interest.
“You will be when you see her. Bloody hell this thing is slow.”
Mark clicked onto the large blue ‘e’.
“You need to turn on the modem,” Steve advised. He got out of bed, ruffled his dark hair and put on his dressing gown while the modem fired up.
There was more waiting for the internet to kick in. Mark picked up a nearby pen and started hitting the beer bottles melodiously. Between his improvised music he clicked on the internet icon a few times before he got the desired result. After a few clicks and dazzling navigational skills, Mark brightened. “Here’s our little friend,” he announced. “Come and see what the lovely Mark has in store for you.”
To Steve this was embarrassing. It was like entering a luxury car showroom without even the money to buy even petrol.
On the screen was a smiling woman with long blond hair. She was looking sideways when the picture was taken. Even seeing only half of her he could tell she had a good figure. A stern face but it didn’t take away any of her appeal, it gave her eyes more penetration. Steve couldn’t deny she was attractive to a point he was suspicious of why she needed to be set up. He was interested, but his circumstances made him think about the car showroom again, or a restaurant where he could only afford a bread roll and the salad bar. What was worse was the fear she would not be interested in him and relegate him to even more self pity which was consuming him.
“How about that then?” Mark asked in triumph.
Steve twisted his face in a reserved agreement but was wary of coming across desperate. He also noticed a baby in some of the pictures. “Is that her kid?”
“That’s her kid,” Mark said quick to allay any concerns. “She’s a darling but that’s her only baggage and she has her own place. And those pictures don’t really do her justice. This is an attractive, friendly, nice woman.”
“Not interested anyway,” Steve fibbed. He would have been keen with far worse but he couldn’t shake off the practicalities. In the simplest of terms he couldn’t afford to see anyone. It was an important safety net since there had to be a catch somewhere and not just her being a single mother, which was by no means a showstopper but good looking blond women didn’t need to be set up.
“Why aren’t you interested? Are you busy?” Mark made no attempt to hide his disappointment. He picked up one of the four empty beer bottles on Steve’s already cluttered and dusty desk. “I can see your diary is really full. Monday, do nothing, Tuesday, watch television, Wednesday, do the same, Thursday sleep and Friday drink beer and watch porn.”
Steve continued to peer at the picture on the screen of the woman who was named Mandy according to the profile and was twenty three years old. “I’m just not keen to start socialising yet.”
“You’ll have fun,” countered Mark, “anyway, you need to socialise. If you don’t like Mandy then come out with me and the lads for a drink. Our numbers are dwindling since some of them have settled down. Ve need vesh blaad.” As he said the last sentence he clawed his hands.
Steve drank some more tea. “I don’t feel like it yet”
“I almost believe you,” said Mark as he swivelled round on the chair. “What am I going to tell my mates? Mickey and poor Mandy? I said I had a handsome, single cousin who fits the description of her ideal man. She’ll be heartbroken.”
“I doubt you said that and she’ll get over it. Plus I don’t know any of your friends.” Steve tried to input an ‘end of discussion’ tone in his voice but remembered Mark’s tenacity.
“It will do you good. If you don’t leave this room your mum will have you committed.”
“I’m skint. I can’t afford to go out.” Saying it made Steve wonder how he would ever get out of his mess.
Mark’s face lit up. “A few beers we can carry you for. We’re only going to the pub tonight and we can work something out for the longer term. Mandy won’t even be there so there’s no pressure to charm her.”
There was a long list of reasons why Steve couldn’t go out. Long enough to make him spoilt for choice. “They stopped my benefits Mark. It’s one thing to have a few drinks but I am literally getting nothing anymore. And why do your friends want to spend money on someone they don’t even know?” Steve ‘s diary was empty but his anxiety was full to brimming.
“Because we do that. You’re my cousin and they want you to come out.” There was a pause as Mark dithered. “Also two of them fancy your evil twin and will do anything to impress her. They see this as a way of getting into her good books.”
“They must be mad and I am not being dragged out like a little kid and given pocket money. I have my pride.”
“Fuck pride. It comes before a fall and you’ve fallen mate.” With laughter mixed with the words, Mark continued, “There’s no pride in what you do, living like some moody kid. You’re too old for that. Your mum has asked for my help to sort you out and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
“Mum asked you to do this?” Bitterness exploded like dynamite as his mind played out the probable conversation, his mum in tears, complaining and his aunt Rose reassuring her that her wonderful son Mark would sort things out. Shame coursed through him as he realised that he had done what he thought was the impossible and reached a new low.
Mark went on the offensive, “Too bloody right she did. You do nothing but lounge around in your bedroom moping because some girl falls out with you? What else is she supposed to do?”
“Mind her own business!”
Mark got to his feet and shook his head, “No, no, it doesn’t work like that, you get over her and you move on to the next one. You don’t cry about it for the rest of your life.”
“She had no right!”
“Who? Your mum or your ex?” Mark close to growled through frustration. “She has every right! You’re living in her house, giving nothing, not even good company. At least Angela can hold down a job!”
Steve’s eyes never left his cousins. “If you have just come to take the piss and make me feel worse then fuck off!” Mark matched the stare. Steve knew it didn’t matter that they were never that close. It didn’t matter that they last spoke almost two years ago and now they were bickering in a fury only associated with close familiarity. What mattered was they were part of a family, not a close one but a family with all the dysfunctional traits most had but looked out for each other when one of them needed help. Unfortunately, Steve didn’t want it.
When it seemed time had frozen, Mark sneered with words that could have cut steel. “There you go, feeling sorry for yourself. It’s all me me fucking me with you! Where are you going? When do you plan to snap out of this? Today? Next year? A couple of years? Are you going to be here when you’re forty? That’s something for your mum to look forward to. She can put the rest of her life on hold and die alone with you following her. She deserves better than that and she wants to see you happy. She arranged this because she’s worried about you. And when she is upset my mum is upset so I get upset and when I was asked to help I said ‘Yes please’.” He looked drained as he sat back down and rubbed his hair with his hand. In resignation he continued, “And there is a woman who has just started going out, who I am certain will like you and is going to get snapped up very quickly by somebody else if you don’t move quick.”
All Steve could muster was, “I’ll be okay soon.”
Mark let out a big sigh, hunched forward in the chair like a mourner at a funeral, grieving for the death of his cousin’s common sense. “Look, we can compromise. All I ask you do is come out with us for a while. See what it’s like and if after a couple of weeks it is not what you are looking for then we can shake hands and I’ll leave you alone. I can’t go downstairs and tell your mum that you’re going to be okay in a few months. We all want the same thing here. Get on your best clothes tonight and get your life back.”
Steve looked through his curtains to check the weather, slowly shaking his head, knowing he should accept the offer but knew he could get himself out of this. He just needed time.
“We’ll drag you out if we have to. There are enough if us and we’re big enough.”
“No,” Steve whispered. He was not in the mood to lose this debate. It was too early in the day and he wanted to stay in his boring but comfortable world.
“I understand, you’re old enough to make your own decisions, even if they are wrong.” Mark said.
“Thank you.” Steve wanted to tell his cousin that he appreciated the gesture but it would just lead to further arguing. He wondered if he should have chose differently but the thought of going out unnerved him. So many things seemed so much effort.
Mark stood up as if to leave the room. “But I had the best intentions for you.”
Steve sulked and watched the monitor again.
“I did. I had the best intentions didn’t I?”
“Yes.” Steve wanted to be on his own.
“We’ll be around at eight sharp.”
Before Steve could say anything, Mark talked over him, “We’re off for a drink in the local tonight. Don’t expect anything wild, it’s just a pub. There will be no Mandy either tonight.” He approached Steve, placing the palm of his hands on Steve’s cheeks so he couldn’t speak. “You made the right choice.”
Steve pulled away, feeling his temper rise. “I said no!”
“But that was a joke! No was never an option. And you’ll have a laugh.” Mark quickly made his exit. Steve tried to call out that he didn’t want to do this but instead sat motionless, frozen, asking himself why he didn’t chase after Mark and tell him to leave him be.
After a minute he looked towards the woman on his monitor who appeared to be staring at him. He felt tense, uncomfortable and compromised.
But for the first time in weeks he smiled.
Mark was almost dancing as he got to the bottom of the stairs. He poked his head around the kitchen door to Sarah and Angela. “Too easy.” He regarded Angela as he spoke her mother. “So we can arrange my wedding to Angela any time next month as payment?” To Angela he winked and puckered his lips.
“Is this yours? Does this belong to you? I think it does,” was Angela’s reply with her middle finger raised.
Mark recoiled and pulled a weepy face. In a ham actor’s voice he joked, “She’s tough but I will soon tame her when she becomes my wife.”
Elated, Sarah hugged Mark and kissed his cheek. Thank you.”
Mark blushed, “All in a day’s work. We’ll sort him out in no time.”
Sarah eased from the hug and went to the cupboard. “I’ve got something for you.”
“No really it was no trouble,” Mark said, his hands in front of him as if pressing them against a pane of glass.
In his hands, Sarah put a cloth and cleaning spray. “You can clean the window you messed up.”
Mark’s encyclopaedia of comebacks ran dry. “It will be the cleanest that window’s ever been.”