We don’t often lock the back door so I didn’t hear him enter the kitchen. I was making sandwiches for the boys and making flasks of tea and coffee, Radio Two was playing in the background masking the soft fall of his steps. Hands fall down over my eyes and a hoarse voice whispers “Guess”. Even though he made me jump, I still giggle. “I’m telling your wife!”
Tim giggles, just like the schoolboy I often picture him as. He gives me a kiss on the cheek. He did the same thing the first time I ever met him. He did it once, in front of the fire crew he works with. I have a lot of time for Tim and his wife. Although he is the older brother he still has a boyish charm about him. Andrew can sometimes seem a little serious in comparison but even he has a fit of the ‘naughties’ now and then.
“Where’s Sarah?” I look through the kitchen window, wiping my hands on the tea-towel I had stuffed in my back pocket.
Tim pulls a face “Mobile…” The amount of times Sarah has been pulled away from parties, housewarmings, Wedding receptions, lunches, coffee, after work drinks and God knows what else… She should be paid double.
I’ve never felt uncomfortable around Tim. Meeting the family for that first time can be an ordeal but he was welcoming and fun from the second we met. He is passing grapes from the fruit bowl on the table to his other hand, to his mouth. He points at my face. “Are you growing a beard?” I laugh. “Sort of, I have to use up the rest of my annual leave before the end of year, Financial year. Six days off, don’t need to shave.” Tim opens his mouth to say something, probably sarcastic or silly, when Andy walk in behind him and pats him on the head. He points his fingers, like double ‘guns’ and says in a very bad American accent. ‘Bro!’ They are high fiving and calling each other ‘Dude’ when Sarah comes in. “All my favourite boys, I might swoon!” There are hugs and kisses all round and Tim and Andy start loading the car with fishing gear and their packed lunches.
Once they are gone the kitchen seems much calmer. Neither one are swaggering, macho men. They are not very loud but the very presence of them fills rooms, especially when they are together.
As Sarah makes coffee for us both and I put some croissants and Danishes into the oven to warm through, she turns and says “Right. I’ve turned off my mobile. How are you?”
I smile. Sarah is one of those women that doesn’t seem to have many female friends. She grew up with four Brothers and as an Investment Banker has to stand her ground with some real ‘bull heads’, as she calls them. It puts a lot of people off but I liked her the moment we met. “Well I am already getting used to not going to work, shaving or having any structure to my day.” She puts a mug of rich smelling coffee in my hand. “Lucky sod! Did I say Tim is thinking of leaving the Fire Service?”
“Andy mentioned it in passing, I thought it was just a ‘having a bad week’ thing.”
“Sort of. He’s talking about Teaching again.” Her eyes are shining. “And… Well there’s where the other news comes in. I’m pregnant.” I nearly drop my mug.
Tim and Andy chatted a little in the car but Tim nodded off and Andy let him sleep. He looked over at his older Brother with genuine affection and a little concern. He always seemed so tired these days and he had stopped talking about work all together. At the Lake , he drove around to the smaller, unsurfaced carpark, just because it was free and because of the rough ground, the East shore was always quieter. It was 7:40am. After setting up they sat in silence for a while until Tim stretched and gave a jaw popping yawn. They grinned at each other. “You look knackered mate.” Tim put his pole down into the rest beside him. “I’m quitting the service.” Andy didn’t know what to say. “What does Sarah think?” Tim rubbed the dark stubble on his chin. “We talked about it again last night and she wants me to be happy, let’s face it Kid. I”m not, haven’t been for a while and that little girl last month…” They both fell silent. Tim yawned again and reached for the flask of coffee. “Rocket fuel?” Andy smiled. “You know one day I am going to tell David you insult his coffee behind his back.” Tim laughs. “He’d forgive me, that man loves me. You okay Kid? You seem a bit, distracted?”
There is a long pause. “I’m going to ask David to marry me.” Tim leaps to his feet kicking over the flask and practically falling on top of his baby brother. “Jesus Man! It’s about bloody time! I’ve actually got a bit of good news myself Lad.”
Over roast lamb and all the trimmings me, Tim, Sarah and Andy discuss baby names and Andy and me, graciously and bloody joyfully agree to be God parents. I pop into the kitchen to check on the crumble and return to ‘innocent’ faces and giggling. There on my side plate is a small jewellery box. I look at Andy and three upturned, expectant, literally in one case, eager faces. I already hear myself say “Yes!” before he asked the question. There are mock serious toasts and silly speeches and finally we throw on some coats and walk down to the local for an early evening drink and decide to stay for the pub quiz. Life is never perfect. There will be rows and problems in any relationship but they are worth it for great days like this.