No doubt recognizing the voices at the door, Lucy came up as the older couple stepped inside the house. She brushed past Geoff. Taking a gentle hold of Alice Buford’s hands, she drew her forward. “Alice! How are you?”
It didn’t really need an answer; in fact, it wasn’t really a very good question! But Alice Buford was a plucky old lady who, like her husband, carried herself with dignity.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say it’s been a difficult week, my dear,” she replied in honest tones that showed she knew what was needed to be said. “But enough about us…what about you? And how is Luke?” Her eyes flicked past them into the house as though searching for him. Poised at her shoulder, Andrew Buford looked awkward.
“We have to apologize for barging in on you unannounced like this,” the Brigadier added before Lucy could answer. “The hospital said Luke had already been discharged when we inquired there. We so wanted to see you before the funeral if we could.” The gentle old couple looked uncertain as they tarried in the hallway, as if they imagined they might be asked to leave.
“Of course—and it's lovely to see you.” Lucy took over. “Come on through." She drew them further in and led them into the lounge.
"Tea?" She offered as the Bufords sat themselves side-by-side on the sofa. "I just made a pot...we only just got in ourselves."
Perched on the edge of the sofa, the couple looked out of sorts, and Alice said, "Perhaps we should come back another time?"
"Not at all—it’s no trouble!"
“Still, no tea for me, my dear—though a glass of water would be nice, if I may."
The Brigadier shook his head to decline anything, and Lucy popped out of the room.
Geoff didn't feel like sitting, but remaining on his feet was awkward. He balanced on a chair arm and studied the Bufords as the three of them waited. They looked old now, years older than the sprightly, laughing, warm-hearted, generous folk of just a few weeks earlier.
"Maybe I was a little presumptive a moment ago," Buford said, breaking the short silence. "And again, I apologize. Of course, Luke—and all of you—have suffered a great deal. If he's not well enough, then please don't feel under any compulsion to attend the funeral in the morning. Just being able to spend a few moments with you today means a great deal to us." He glanced at his wife and she nodded.
Suffered? The word caught Geoff’s attention. He only had to look at this couple to see suffering, and yet they still seemed determined not to let it break them.
A little guiltily considering how he’d been less than enthusiastic about attending the funeral, he said, "Of course we plan to be there. Luke is determined not to miss it. You know what teenagers are like when they get an idea in their heads." He meant it as a light brevity, but kicked himself as he saw them flinch. At least he still had his boys!
Lucy bustled in with a tray carrying a jug of iced water—she'd even added cut lemons—and four glasses. Placing the tray on the coffee table, she poured a glass for Alice. The other three glasses remained untouched.
"And how is Luke?" Alice asked as she accepted the refreshment, though she didn't drink and it rested on her knees. "He's been in our prayers a great deal since we lost the two of them." From her, it didn't sound preachy or in any way false.
"He's on the mend," Geoff replied. He nearly said 'thank God', but that suddenly felt inappropriate. "On crutches still, but they think he'll make a full recovery."
"Well that's good news indeed!" Buford looked relieved enough to twist a small smile. "Maybe that’s something to drink to, after all!" He reached to the low table and poured himself a glass of water, though Geoff thought he looked like he was in need of something a lot stronger.
"The boys are upstairs," Geoff said, making to stand. "I think Luke was about to have a bath. I can go check if he's able to pop down if you want." Not that Luke was 'popping' anywhere at any speed just now.
A flash of disappointment crossed Alice's face, but she covered it quickly. "No, no—it's fine. There's nothing like a good hot soak after a few days in hospital." Her eyes regained a little of their old twinkle and she took a sip of her water. "Trust me, I've had my fill of being poked and prodded over the years!"
"Maybe it's for the best anyway," added the Brigadier. Once more he looked sad—uncomfortable even as he placed his glass back on the tray. "I...” his eyes flicked to his wife “…we really wanted to meet with you...to apologize."
Geoff frowned and settled back onto the chair arm. "Apologize?" What had they done that they needed to apologize for?
"I really don't think—" Lucy quickly began, but Buford held up his hand.
"There is nobody else left," he said, simply. "Luke was wronged by our family, when he, and you, all deserved so much more." He raised his palms in supplication. "If it's within our power to put things right, we will."
Nobody else left? Geoff understood what that meant, yet the frank though gracious gentleness of the old man touched him. It was astounding! Why could more people not be like them? Why couldn't he?
“There’s nothing you need to do to put anything right. It wasn’t your fault.” Geoff swallowed, balking at the questions that came in his head, though the very presence of the old couple demanded the honesty that seemed to be the bedrock of their values.
"Can I ask you," Geoff continued, trying to choose his words. "How much did you know about Luke and Ryan's friendship?" He saw Lucy flinch, but it was only right. They were all that was left of their family, and they deserved answers.
"It's alright, my dear," said Alice as she appeared to read Lucy's subtle reaction. "We might be old, but we're not quite past it, or totally out of touch with reality yet!" She smiled softly. "We’ve had to spend enough time with police to know most of the facts. I understand you’ve met Detective Preston, and…” her eyes narrowed “…that unpleasant man, Willett.”
Geoff caught the distaste mirrored in Lucy’s face as he replied, “Yes…we met them.” He still wondered what had been communicated to the Bufords. As grandparents and parents of Ryan and his mom, probably everything.
"We knew our grandson was gay,” Alice said, quite matter-of-factly. “The detectives were quite outspoken as to why they felt that was an underlying factor in his murder. They spoke to us again yesterday about what they believe occurred that afternoon. I think they were expecting to shock us, but of course we knew.”
Geoff tried not to let the surprise show on his face. Maybe she was too old to worry about being embarrassed about—what he felt at least—was such a major confession. Or maybe, Geoff wondered, she found it easy because she already knew something about Luke’s situation from the police officers?
He shot a glance at Lucy as moments of silence past. She looked as taken aback as him. He felt a prickle around his neck. Suspecting that somebody else other than he and Lucy knew that his son was gay was almost as unnerving as discovering it for himself.
"You knew?" he mumbled at last.
Andrew Buford no longer appeared awkward either, as if, now they'd broached the subject, he knew his own mind again. "About our grandson's same sex attractions, yes...but Luke...no, we weren't aware of any of that."
WHAM… They knew!
"Please forgive us," Alice added quickly as Geoff struggled to hide his discomfort. "It's none of our business and it wasn't our intention to come here and pry. Whatever passed between the two of them, Luke was always such a good friend to our grandson. We're more grateful for that than you'll ever know.”
Maybe it was her natural mixture of candor, sincerity and trustworthiness, but it seemed to reach Lucy, who said, "We never even knew about Luke." Her eyes flicked down and she flushed. "Not until the officers interviewed him at the hospital and Luke told us that—” She paused, and didn’t complete the sentence, though it didn’t matter. Though Ryan being gay didn’t seem to faze the Bufords, he and Lucy were out of their comfort zone...and way out of their depth.
Maybe Alice and Andrew had already guessed what they would find here after being briefed by Preston and Willett. Maybe that was one of the reasons they felt they should come.
"Our daughter—Helena—confided in us just before the summer," began Andrew. He sighed. "What she told us came as a bit of a shock." It seemed he had a story to tell, though it was Alice that took over and filled in the gaps.
"It appears she came across some things on Ryan's computer that were not...what we expected," she explained.
Geoff could read between the lines easily enough. He'd half expected her to say 'normal'. He glanced at Lucy. Should he have been checking his son's surfing habits more carefully? If that fell to anyone, that should have been him. Could this have been nipped in the bud if they'd caught it sooner?
"We decided we should speak to Ryan about it when he visited with us in the summer," continued the Brigadier.
Geoff leaned forward on his chair. And? What did you say? How are we supposed to do this!
"As you might guess, it was difficult at first. He was embarrassed and afraid."
"But he also trusts us," Alice said, and then she looked sad. "Trusted..."
The sadness deepened as emotion began to spill over until she cried out, "Damn that man for taking away people that were so precious to us! I wish we'd never met him!" Her face twisted in anger and pain as tears spilled. Next to her, Andrew Buford didn't try to hush her, but just put an arm around her in comfort. Tears were collecting in his rheumy eyes.
Geoff felt like crying himself. Suffering. What the hell did he know about such things!
"I'm sorry my dears—none of this is your fault." Alice wiped at her eyes to regain her composure. Finally she was ready to continue.
"Our grandson had been aware that he was gay since he was eleven, he told us." She spoke with succinct directness now, happy to lay all the cards on the table. "Of course we had many questions, but they became easier as we talked.”
"Naturally, we wondered if it was the school," added Andrew. "But I went to an all-boys school myself, and had no particular concerns in that area. Ryan even told us that he didn't believe there were any other gay young men in his class."
"He said that?" Lucy sounded surprised. "Luke didn't—"
"Yes, Ryan was quite convinced, my dear," Alice continued smoothly. "In fact he seemed to be sure that Luke was never attracted to boys in the same way that he was—not in the slightest. As far as Ryan was aware—at least up until that Sunday we spent with you—he and Luke were just best friends. Nothing more."
"That's what Luke said, too," Geoff muttered. He felt guilty. It wasn't that he hadn't believed Luke's story, but.... His tone became taut with his own self-recrimination. "I don't know what to say. It hardly makes sense."
The Bufords looked troubled.
"All we can say is that we knew Ryan was extremely fond of Luke, and would have done everything he could to prevent him from being hurt," Alice murmured.
"Alice...that's not what we mean at all," replied Lucy at once. "None of this changes how we felt about Ryan, and how important he was to us in this house. All of us."
Alice returned a grateful nod, but Geoff felt he had to say more to offset his previous tone. "Lucy’s right. We loved having him around, and we will miss him." He swallowed, suddenly feeling the emotions of the last week ganging up on him at last. "It's hard to believe he's gone—" He was at a loss what to do other than let it all hang out as blinked away the heat in his eyes.
He took a deep breath. "As you already know, our son is gay, too." It felt like standing up at an AA meeting and saying, 'I'm Geoff—I'm an alcoholic'.
"We know that now," he continued. “But whatever happened between him and Ryan is a mystery until Luke decides to tell us. It's just that all this has taken us by surprise, and as you can probably tell, we're still trying to figure it out."
The Brigadier stirred. He gave his wife another comforting hug. She gathered herself and said, "I believe we told you we lost our son to cancer when he was quite young."
Geoff's throat tightened at the reminder of the previous grief. God...it was almost too much to bear.
Buford continued with a quiet dignity. "We've had our struggles. When Charles passed, Helena took it hard—we all did—but we never gave up, even though it's been difficult these last years."
Alice Buford took up the conversation again as the pair seemed to be so connected that they were able to continue a single thread without any sense of disjointedness. "What we're trying to say is that you are wonderful parents, and our grandson was the better for it."
Wonderful parents? Right then, that felt far from the truth for Geoff.
"May I just make an observation," the Brigadier continued before either Geoff or Lucy could respond. "From our own...what you might call, journey, with Ryan?"
"Please do," Geoff replied. Seeing them so at peace with Ryan’s sexuality, he hoped to learn their secret.
"I have to admit," said Buford. "At first, when we were first faced with the truth of Ryan's sexuality, I probably felt like I suspect you do just now. Confused...perhaps even disappointed." His eyes drifted, and his voice stumbled before he added, “But I would give my very life to bring him back! At first, when we discovered Ryan was gay, I was consumed with so many questions. What had we done wrong? What had he been exposed to that had confused him?"
Geoff nodded. It sounded familiar.
"Then it became how can we fix this? How can we put him right? I even thought about getting advice from counselors."
Geoff flicked a guilty sideways glance at Lucy. Been there, done that. Unconsciously, he leaned forward towards what came next.
"But it was only when the three of us—Ryan and Alice and I—started talking, that we began to understand. Alice made sure I listened rather than jumped in and gave our… my advice and—” with a wry smile, Buford made quotation marks with his fingers “—solutions to his issues. Not interrupting him, not supplying our arguments was difficult, but somehow we…I managed it. We let him speak. It came slowly at first, but he began to tell us about his life, and of feelings that had been there for many years. In that telling, I began to realize that it was not him that had to change. It was me. In fact," he went on, "I began to see that all the beauty and strength and compassion that we saw and celebrated in our grandson was because he was who he was, not because of who he wasn't."
Alice drew it to a close. "Whatever his sexuality—and a person is so much more than just that, don't you think—Ryan was precious to us, and we found that nothing had changed. He was still the same young man he'd always been, and we loved him all the more because we knew him better."
It hit home hard for Geoff. There was no cover-up in them, no wearing of rose-colored spectacles out of respect for someone who had gone. Nothing that was a figment of their imagination to ease their guilt. He remembered the afternoon that the six of them had spent together at the Alexis home—them drinking the old man's delicious mint juleps—as though it were yesterday. That had been after they and Ryan had faced this together. It had struck him then, as it did now, that the love and belief they demonstrated in their grandson was fathoms deeper than that swimming pool the boys were playing in. Here was a couple who should have been as conservative as hell, deciding that to them, it didn't matter that Ryan was gay—celebrating it, even. It would never change how much they were one hundred and ten percent behind their grandson!
It struck him deeply, and Geoff found his whole being pushing at him to make a shift, too. He almost wanted to run upstairs and go hug 'the boy who’d lived', just to be sure he was there, when there was a knock at the lounge door.
It opened carefully.
"I thought I heard your voices." Luke stood in the open doorway dressed in shorts and a tee. His voice was shaky and his eyes were fixed on the Bufords. Geoff was discomforted by the sight. Luke gave the impression of the boy who didn't belong and the boy who was crushed rather than the boy who’d lived.
Luke hung his head, looking as if he’d hobbled down the stairs expecting to face some accusation. Past Luke in the hallway, Simon waited. Geoff could see he looked tense.
"Luke!" Alice seemed to have no more words as she tried to stand.
"I'm really sorry." Luke's tone was heavy with self-reproach and his face was twisting in an effort not to cry. “I should have done more. I should have have found a way to help.”
It completely broke Geoff. He had it all so wrong! Alice’s words were still reverberating in his head as Lucy stood, too. ‘Whatever his sexuality—and a person is so much more than just that, don't you think—Ryan was precious to us, and we found that nothing had changed’
Geoff moved faster than any of them. Slipping off the chair arm, he crossed the gap to his eldest in a flash and wrapped his arms around him. At first, Luke froze on him, and it hurt almost more than Geoff could bear to think that his boy might feel he was in trouble. But Geoff refused to give up on his hug until Luke slumped and started shaking.
"None of it's your fault, sunshine," he murmured. “It was never your fault.”
Luke lost it and began to heave against Geoff, holding onto him as if his very life depended on it.
Maybe it did.
It got a bit confused and messy for a while, but wasn't that what families were meant to be about?
* * *
Luke found himself surrounded and he cried as it all washed over him, keeping his eyes tight shut so he didn't have to see them watching his wretchedness.
"Sweetheart!" His mum sounded beside herself as she threw her arms around him, and he was unable to staunch his flood. It was the first time he'd really wept—really let it out—since that awful day. Even during the lonely nights at the hospital when he'd been too scared to sleep, most of the time he'd felt too confused and guilty to let his emotions get close. Now it had started, it just overwhelmed him.
"Son, your father is right." It was the voice of Brigadier Buford, not angry with accusation, but gruff with sorrow and mixed with mercy. "None of it is your wrongdoing. Instead, a terrible wrong was done to you and to our daughter and grandson."
"Look at me, Luke." It was the voice of Alice Buford that cut across them all without even the need to raise her voice, a voice filled with compassion. He opened his eyes to her gentle insistence. She and her husband were gathered in front of him. Even Lucy was prepared to allow them time and space.
"It's okay to cry, and don't let anyone tell you different. As my old grandma used to say, a good weep is good for the soul!" Gently she took his face in her hands and studied him as he continued to hiccup. "You've not been sleeping well, have you."
He shook his head. Even without the tired smudges under his eyes, he'd lay odds that she'd know his secrets. They were ones he'd kept to himself for days, and he'd not slept well since coming out of the coma, constantly haunted by nightmares, troubled by a malignant animal that held him under the water, smothering him in the compressing darkness until he woke screaming and clawing for breath. Dark shadows marked his dreams and threatened to destroy his world.
"Nightmares?" she asked.
He nodded, still fighting the tears. She seemed to know everything.
"You know, my grandma was a fierce old lady! You ask Andrew—he was absolutely petrified of her!" Her humor helped Luke get control of himself as, at her shoulder, the brigadier chuckled.
"But she was a wise old lady," Alice continued. She brushed Luke's face gently with her fingers. Her eyes touched his heart and he hung onto her every word. "She once told me that if there are things that won't let you go, and memories that frighten you, then write about them. Write them down on paper in all their horribleness and then burn them in a fire and watch them become nothing."
Luke nodded. He never ever forgot that.
"You know, Lucy," Alice said at last as Luke found he was able to calm down under her soothing words, "I think I could quite enjoy that cup of tea now."
The Bufords stayed for dinner, and Luke was happy about that. Once his mum discovered they were staying in a hotel—for who in their right mind would want to sleep in the Alexis house anymore—she insisted they at least eat with them, even if they wouldn't take up her offer of the spare room. Everyone—even Luke—was starving, and it was a pretty unanimous decision to make a quick call to the Chinese takeaway. It wasn't Chops, but it had to have been about the best tasting chop suey Luke had had in a long while!
After dinner, they'd all sat on the back porch drinking coffee and talking, though Luke mainly listened. Even though they didn't always speak to him, every moment with Ryan's grandparents was a balm. They didn't stay too long, and he hugged them tightly as though they were his own grandparents when they finally left. All four of them stood at the door and waved as the Brigadier backed the familiar-looking Hertz rental off the drive.
"Okay, you." Lucy took charge once the Bufords had turned the bend. Yet again, she wrapped her arms around Luke from behind. It felt good and Luke clasped her arms in front of him. He was already sure things were going to be okay, even though no more questions to do with his being gay had been asked during dinner or since. He knew there was more to say, more he wanted to talk about with them as well. Just not today. And maybe not tomorrow, either. Not with the funeral looming.
"I'm guessing that water's gone cold by now?" Lucy said. It sounded like she was willing to be patient, too
Luke’s face fell. "Oh...the bath...I forgot." A lot of water had gone under the bridge since he’d run the bath straight after they’d gotten in from the hospital. With the Bufords, the bath had gone on hold, and no doubt that water had gone nowhere!
“It’s okay—I used it,” Simon said, keeping a straight face as he added. “I left the water in there for you, though…to save money.”
“Simon, there’s no—” Lucy began, then saw the smirk begin to plaster itself across Simon’s face. She rolled her eyes. “Oh, ha-ha. Very funny.”
Luke smiled. It was nice to hear some genuine banter again. “I’ll go and get one now, if that’s okay,” he said, yawning as the day began to catch up with him.
"Come on," Simon said. "I'll give you a hand."
Fifteen minutes later, Luke took the bath he was wanting. To make it easier, his dad had jury-rigged an old bath tray—the type that spanned from side to side to hold soap shampoo and a washcloth and stuff—with a cushion. It was perfect to rest his foot on to avoid getting the bandages wet. Alone at last, he hopped in and found the perfect comfortable position. He took a book with him and refilled with hot water multiple times. After that, he was more than ready to crawl into bed and sleep.
* * *
The following morning—the morning of the funeral—Luke studied himself in the bathroom mirror as he scrubbed at his face, sluicing cold water into eyes that were already tired. He'd gone to bed pretty early and slept well for the first half of the night. Then the nightmare had troubled him again.
It wasn't over yet. Maybe it never would be?
Too uptight to sleep any longer, he'd arisen early. He tried not to dwell on the past or the future, and instead focused on getting through that one day. After making the best he could of washing with a wash cloth at the sink, he left the rather uncomfortable boot by the side of the bed, and came downstairs with the help of his crutch. Making himself useful despite hobbling, he got the percolator going, and then took a steaming mug of coffee out onto the back porch and the warm scented freshness of the day.
It was a beautiful morning.
The low coffee table where he placed his mug was covered with an array of magazines and brochures for home pool installations. He settled onto the couch and tried to get comfortable. He leafed through one of the brochures, but found himself unable to concentrate.
"Hello, sunshine." Wrapped tightly in a dressing gown, his dad stepped through the door from the kitchen. "You're up early."
"I couldn't sleep." Luke wondered if his dad had heard him wandering around.
His dad scrunched up his face. "Me neither. Mum's in the shower, too.” Geoff gave Luke an inquisitive once-over. "How's the shoulder? Do you need some painkillers?"
"Maybe." Luke's grimaced reply and the one armed shrug was enough of a response. His dad slipped back into the kitchen and came back with both a mug of coffee for himself as well as the small, lidded pill container. He shook out a couple of tablets.
"There you go."
"Thanks." Luke palmed them, then swilled them back with coffee as Geoff settled onto one of the other chairs.
They sat together in a peaceful silence until Geoff said. "He was a great friend, wasn't he...it's going to be a tough day today."
Luke nodded. Frankly, he was dreading it. The thought of sitting and staring at a coffin filled with somebody who'd been such a big part of his world was too much even to think about.
His dad seemed to read his mind. "I wish we still had him around here, too," he murmured.
"Even though he was gay?" Luke didn’t mean to be touchy, but it still hard to believe they accepted him as he was.
"Hey!" His dad didn't seem put out. "He was my son's best friend and he liked Macs. What more is there?"
Would there have been more? Luke mused the question. It was so difficult to know.
"You remember the time we all went down to Stone Mountain...years ago..." Geoff continued, his face creasing into a smile.
The same smile crept across Luke's own face as he recalled it. "You mean when we stopped in at Arby’s on the way home, and Ry fell asleep in his burger!" It had been in the first year of starting at the school. They hadn't been friends long. It still felt like yesterday.
Geoff smirked. "He woke up with a start when Simon blew in his ear, knocking his drink all over Mum!"
Luke chuckled. "You know, he didn't want to come round to our place for days after. He thought Mum was going to be really mad at him!" It was a good memory nonetheless, and Geoff chuckled with him.
"Oh...I almost forgot," Geoff said. "Elliott called last night. He was just asking after you. He said he'd try to get to the funeral if he could."
"Seems a nice lad," Geoff said, absently reaching for one of the pool brochures.
Luke nodded. He studied his dad who had begun to turn over the pages, and decided he might as well be honest. "Yep...I like him."
"So do we. A really nice family. Kind of them to think of us. We should try to have them around to dinner sometime." By the offhand way Geoff replied as he continued to flip the pages, Luke guessed he hadn't quite got it.
"No...I mean I really like him." Luke studied his dad carefully. It wasn't meant to be a test, but.... He saw the penny drop and Geoff looked up from the magazine and blinked.
"Oh...I see...that kind of like..." The surprise was impossible to hide from either his face or his tone. He paused as he seemed to consider it. The tone became careful, but it wasn't negative. "Really? He's..."
"Gay. Yes, he is." Luke wondered what would happen, and how his dad would take it.
“I never knew." Geoff sounded inquisitive—caught off guard, but not offended.
Luke knew Elliott was already out to his own parents, so felt okay talking about it. But was it going to be too much of a bombshell for his dad? He felt he should try to fill in a bit more.
"We were just planning on going out for a coffee sometime." He found himself getting flustered and turning red. "You know...just to...well...talk...about stuff…"
Unexpectedly, a grin plastered itself across Geoff’s face.
"I remember when I first started dating your mum at uni." Amazingly, Geoff appeared to take it in his stride. "We went to an open air jazz concert. It was magic! Not sure we did much talking, though!"
"DAD! It's nothing like that!" Like said hurriedly. "I mean, he's a friend, but...well, I'm not sure I'm ready for anything like that just now. We were just going to go out for a coffee..." He repeated himself and ended lamely.
The truth was, he still wasn't sure what he thought about Elliott at the moment—or about lots of things for that matter. The previous evening when they had all seemed so supportive had been great, but facing the funeral, today felt like a mountain Luke didn't know how he’d manage to climb. And so much had changed since those days flirting with Elliott over the phone—not so much his friend, but Luke still hadn’t come to terms with who he was himself. The truth was, he was scared. Scared of what lay ahead, scared of himself, scared of messing up even more.
"Fair enough." Geoff seemed happy to let it drop.
During a brief silence, Luke tried to find the right words for what he needed to say.
“Can you tell mum?” he asked.
Geoff seemed bemused. “Tell her what? About Elliott?”
“No…not that…though yes, that, too, I guess…. The thing is, I don’t want anyone to know.” Luke saw his dad frown and knew he wasn’t making sense. “What I mean is that I don’t want you or mum to tell anyone about me.”
“About being gay, you mean?” Geoff seemed perceptive enough to work out what was between the lines.
Luke nodded. “Like if she tells Ann Kear, then that’s going to get to Owen, and then that’s probably going to get straight back to my school. There’s guys even in my class who have girlfriends at Creek who know Owen.” He flushed. It was like describing a disease that could be passed around, but his dad probably had no idea how crap it would be to be known as gay in an all-boys school!
“I just don’t want anyone to know.” He didn’t even bother adding ‘yet’.
“Fair enough,” Geoff said. “I’ll talk to her.”
“What’s fair enough?” Lucy appeared at the kitchen door wrapped in a bathrobe. Her nose twitched. “And is that fresh coffee I smell?”
Geoff grinned. “Did I tell you that Mum can actually hear people standing at the top of Stone Mountain whispering in a thunderstorm? Yes, the coffee's just made—you have Luke to thank for that. Come and sit and I’ll bring you a cup.”
Luke was relieved his dad didn’t take that particular moment to have that ’talk’ with his mum. And she seemed more interested in how Luke was anyhow and came and joined him on the couch. He made room and then snuggled into her.
“We were just talking about Ryan," he said. "About that time he fell asleep at Arby’s and then spilled his drink over you.”
“Oh, that!” She chuckled. “He didn’t come round for days after. I think he thought I was upset with him.”
Bringing back a mug of fresh coffee, Geoff laughed. “Mum knows everything…you should know that!”
Luke pulled a face, and could think of more than a few situations that even she didn't know about!
The three of them wandered down memory lane for a time until Simon appeared. The first thing Simon did was to slide up behind the couch and give his mum a long hug. Luke couldn’t help but remember the time Si had done the same thing to Ryan in almost that very same spot.
Simon crossed to his dad and gave him the same thing.
"What do we do to deserve this?" Geoff seemed bemused.
"Nothing…and everything,” Simon said. “I just wanted to say sorry. I’ve not been very nice recently. I know there’s still the funeral today, but things are going to be better.”
“Yes, they are,” Lucy said. Luke wondered if it was a premonition or just determination. Maybe a mixture of both.
Simon snuggled comfortably next to Lucy on the couch, too, and reached for one of the brochures from the low table, and asked. “So which one are we going to have?”
Geoff grinned. “Mum hasn’t decided yet.”
So, over bacon, pancakes, butter and maple syrup, the four of them talked pools and Jacuzzis, and made plans knowing that it was helping pass the time and keeping their minds off other things.