“Mum, can I go see Dad off this morning? Can I, can I!”
Susan Lanyon turned round at the insistent tugging of her skirt to look at her young son. She smiled fondly as she tousled his pale hair. So like his father, she thought.
“May I, then,” he responded to her correction. “But are we going to see Dad off?”
“Yes, I thought we’d all go to the docks this morning. The tide is early today, so there should be time before you have to be at nursery. Now sit down quietly at the table, while I get your breakfast.”
She kept watch out of the corner of her eye as young Laurie perched on the edge of his chair, kicking his heels impatiently against its wooden legs while she turned back to the grill. Two small browned chipolatas and a little piece of fried bread went on a medium-sized plate. She cut each sausage in four before placing the food before her son.
“With your fork, Laurie,” she chided gently, as he started to pick up the fried bread with his hands, “and use your napkin.”
Ralph grinned as he paused at the kitchen door, taking in the scene. His wife was, as usual, ignoring her own breakfast, to spoon some kind of mush into the mouth of their younger child, seated in a highchair. Laurie, young squirming live-wire that he was, was stuffing food into his mouth at top speed. The doorbell interrupted Ralph’s appreciation of domestic life; and he turned back to get the front door. He rejoined his family a few minutes later carrying several letters, the Times, and a small parcel, which he set before his wife. Her eyes lit up when she saw its source.
“Yes, another care parcel from Andrew,” commented Ralph.
“Can I open it, can I?” Laurie excitedly bounced up and down.
“Steady on, old chap,” said his father. “It’s addressed to your mother, not you. “ But his own eyes were just as focused on the brown package as his four year old son’s. “Here,” he said, “I’ll feed the baby while you open the parcel.” Deftly he pulled the highchair closer to his own, and shifted the bowl of baby food to the space in front of him.
Susan’s nimble fingers made short shrift of the knotted string, and the contents of the parcel were soon displayed. One letter was passed across to Ralph; she kept another for herself. The 5lb bag of sugar was set to one side, as were two jars of honey and jam. She paused only a moment before passing across a bag of jelly beans to Laurie.
“Only after you have finished that last piece of sausage, mind,” she reminded him.
Laurie nodded his head. His cheeks bulged with the last of his breakfast, hurriedly shoved inside. He was chewing vigorously even as he reached out to grab the sweets.
Susan glanced across to her husband, wanting to share her amusement at Laurie’s behaviour: obedient to the letter of her rules, but rebellious to their spirit. No...later perhaps. He was engrossed in his letter from his old school chum Laurie. She had never really understood how Ralph’s connection with his old friend had endured; but she accepted it did - was thankful for it really. After all, had it not been for Laurie, she would never have met Ralph. She turned to her own letter from Andrew.
Laurie’s sold another manuscript, he wrote, while I have been promoted. It’s meant a transfer to the geriatric ward, and different hours, but since Laurie can write any time of day or night, that hasn’t caused any difficulties. We miss our visits from Ralph since his route shifted to San Francisco; but trust that in time his ship will find its way back to Cape Town. In the meantime, I thought you might appreciate these few things. I know how much you like sugar in your tea.
She smiled at the reminder. It was her love of sugar in tea that had brought her into the kitchen at the old EMS hospital, one night, just in time to witness Laurie kissing Andrew. Unconsciously, she shook her head at the memory of the foolish dreams she’d harboured up till then: Nurse Adrian ministering to the wounded man who fell in love with her. Mawkish, silly, school-girl dreams, really. As if Laurie would ever have been interested in her – or she in him. Really they had nothing in common.... She looked up to find her husband watching her, his own letter read and neatly folded back into its envelope. While she had been wool-gathering he had polished off his own breakfast, and finished feeding the baby. Laurie had disappeared into the garden to play.
“I gather Laurie has sold another book,” he said.
“So Andrew tells me,” she replied.
“Let’s hope it makes more money than the last one.” Ralph pushed back his chair and got up. “I must go. The ship sails in less than an hour. I gather from Laurie that you are all coming to see me off.”
“If you don’t mind?”
Ralph tilted his head quizzically. “Now what man would mind being seen off by his lovely wife and two sons? Especially when he won’t be back home for so long.”
Susan lifted her face as he bent to kiss her lightly, before stepping to the back door, and calling out to Laurie, “Come on – time to go!”