‘Of course I do,’ she said, ‘but the more we can talk about things and sort out our differences by talking, the easier the effort will be. I just want you to see that you need to start thinking and talking now, not leaving it all to me. We can’t just leave our future together completely to chance.’ She put her arm around his shoulders, ‘Do you still love bossy me?’
‘With all my heart, boss,’ he said.
They laughed and continued their lunch – both of them feeling lighter at heart.
A chat with Stacy
‘How’re you doing?’ Mel asked, ‘and how’s your fella and the little one?’
They were at Stacy’s house. Connor had taken Amber to his mum’s.
‘I’m fine,’ Stacy said, ‘Connor’s wishing he could get early retirement to be able to spend more time with us and to get round to doing some jobs that need sorting round the house.’
‘Like what?’ Mel asked.
‘Oh, you know, making Amber’s room more of a toddler’s room than a baby’s. Making things safer – she’s into everything at present – she’s a determined little demon. And argue? She’s born to be a trades union boss.’
‘At three?’ Not long now before she’ll be at school.’
‘Mmm! I pity the teachers.’
‘And what have you been up to?’ Stacy asked, ‘Not engaged yet?’
‘Don’t you start. I was summoned to Jamie’s house by his mum. He was upset when we got back from the lakes: poor lamb.’
‘No!’ Stacy said, ‘a “Leave my son alone” telling-off?
‘Not quite. More a “Why is he so upset?” opening gambit.
‘And why was he so upset. What have you been saying to him?’
‘I told her that he’d proposed – for the second time – while we were away – and that I’d given him a long list of all the reasons that he’s not marriageable yet. I left him with a sort of ultimatum. I said that he had to change – or else. I told him that if he agrees to my terms, he’ll need to let me know after Christmas when I’m back. I also said that if he decides to look for someone more pliable when I’m away, he should go ahead and do it.’
‘You didn’t?’ Stacy, astonished, looked at Mel to see if she was joking. ‘Did you? Really? Jesus! Mel, love, you’re taking a risk aren’t you? Suppose he takes you at your word?’
‘Okay, I’ll be sad, but not as sad as I’d be if he promised to change but didn’t. Suppose that I married him and had kids with him, but two years down the line, I felt that I’d had enough and wanted to walk out.’
‘The thing is though,’ Stacy said, ‘Even if the two of you seemed perfect to each other right now, everybody changes once they’re married. You’ll try to change things that don’t bother you now – he’ll be the same. I’m sure that he’ll probably do most of the changing if you encourage him nicely.’
‘Well, I’d like to see him making a start on getting his act together now.’
‘What did his mum say?’
‘Oh, she was lovely about it – she seemed to agree with what I’d said to him. Anyway, it ended with her asking if I might still say “Yes” to him soon and I told her that I probably would.’
‘Did that satisfy her?’
‘She was over the Moon. She said she’d love me as a daughter-in-law.’
‘Wow! She really wants him married, doesn’t she?’
‘Oi! She really wants him to be married to me – not to just any hussy.’
‘You’ve clearly got your feet under the table there.’
‘Don’t get me wrong. Lucy’s great. We get along really well. She just wants the best for Jamie. And I’m the best for him aren’t I?’
Stacy stretched her hands over Mel’s head.
‘I’m not certain that we’d get a veil and tiara anywhere big enough for that head.’
July – A blast from the past.
Mel was doing some desk research to do with her forthcoming journey to the other side of the world. It was the end of Summer Term and the start of the long school break. There hadn’t been many customers that afternoon – perhaps something to do with the school holidays, or it could be the weather. Record breaking temperatures were forecast for the weekend. It was already hot and humid.
She looked up when the door alarm sounded and watched as two attractive young women entered. They were about her own age, a blonde and a redhead, both with long silky hair. They wore long floaty dresses to match the weather, over long, bare, tanned legs and sandals. The clothes looked expensive as did their handbags. They didn’t look like photographers or even like anyone who’d be interested in buying a camera. Real model material, the pair of them. It would be more likely that someone would be photographing them. She asked how she could assist them.
‘Is Jamie in?’ the blonde asked. Her accent suggested a private school education and her poise and manner indicated that she was used to getting her own way.
‘He’s upstairs,’ Mel said, ‘I’ll phone him to see if he’s free. Who shall I say is asking?’
‘Just tell him that it’s Fiona and Arabella,’ the redhead said, ‘he’ll know who you mean.’
Mel noted that her perfume smelled as expensive as her dress.
Mel passed on the message, wondering, as she did so, what place two women who looked like that played in Jamie’s life.
‘Hmm!’ Jamie said when she phoned, ‘Now that’s a blast from the past. Tell them I’ll be down in a moment or two.’
‘Is business usually as slack as this?’ the redhead asked when Melissa replaced the receiver.
‘Far from it,’ Mel replied loyally, and suggested the probable reasons.
The women turned and went to look at the display of smartphones.
When Jamie came down, they turned their heads as one, and smiled revealing a lot of very white teeth.
‘Jamie Hannay,’ the blonde said, ‘Where have you been hiding lately? It’s been ages.’
‘Mostly here,’ he said, ‘You must have known where I’d be.’
‘I’ve never seen your office,’ the redhead said, ‘Aren’t you going to show us? I’m sure that your assistant here can get us something cool to drink while we have a little chat and catch up on things.’
Mel looked up from what she was doing and stood, indignantly, with her hands on her hips. Jamie noticed and smiled.
‘Mel is our professional photographer, not my assistant,’ he said, ‘She doesn’t make drinks for visitors – or even for me for that matter. Unfortunately, Marcus, Mel’s assistant, isn’t in this afternoon. It’s his half-day. Perhaps we can meet somewhere where people are paid to do things like that.’
Mel looked at him and felt a mixture of gratitude and of pride in him.
‘Strangely enough, Jamie,’ the blonde said, ‘that’s really why we’re here. You remember Belinda – Belinda with the large…’ she indicated her breasts – ‘of course you do. Well, anyway, Belinda’s involved in this cancer charity and she’s organising a fundraising barbecue on the beach at Meols on the Wirral this Saturday, mid-afternoon ‘til whenever. We promised that we’d ask you to come. She asked us especially. You will come, won’t you?’
He glanced at Mel. She was standing with her arms folded across her chest and her lip curled.
‘I’m most terribly sorry, ladies,’ he said, ‘but Mel and I will be working in the shop all Saturday afternoon and we’ll be babysitting in the evening for a friend of ours. Please tell Belinda that it was most kind of her to think of us.’
Fiona and Arabella turned to look at Mel, who was smiling radiantly.
‘What?’ Fiona said, ‘You and her?’ She nodded her head towards Mel. Her eyebrows had risen to her fringe.
‘Melissa and I,’ he confirmed.
‘You kept that quiet,’ Arabella said, ‘Hello, Mel. Nice to meet you.’
She held out her hand. Mel looked at it but left it stranded in the air. She smiled and gave them a little wave.
‘’Bye now,’ she said, ‘Do visit again.’
They went to leave the shop, turning to look again at Mel as they passed through the door.
‘Would you really have taken them somewhere for a drink and a chat?’ she asked.
‘I’d have taken them to the greasy spoon place round the corner,’ he said, ‘They wouldn’t have even risked dirtying their dresses sitting in there.’
They both laughed.
‘So,’ Mel said, ‘Tell me about Belinda – Belinda with the large…you know what. And, while you’re at it, tell me about the two clothes horses. I want to know all about them – where you met; how well you know them; why Belinda would especially have wanted you to come; and which of them you’ve slept with. But first, let me give you a kiss for being so masterful.’
Today, I continue my series of photos taken in and around the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, where I spent a Saturday earlier in June.
This next shot is another scene from the canal that runs through the town. A narrowboat has entered the lock and one of the passengers, standing on the canalside, pulls on a rope to steady the boat as the water level in the lock rises. The person remaining in the boat controls the boat’s engine.
For all these shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/160 secs @ f/8, focal length 16 mm, and ISO 320.