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Deirdre

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Deirdre packed a small overnight bag for Martin, things he would need now he had come around: his jimjams, freshly pressed, his toothbrush, a copy of this week’s Keighley News that had been delivered that morning. She must remember to pick up a Telegraph and Argus as well tomorrow. She’d doubtless get one at the hospital. There’d be a kiosk or summat. She could read to him, like when he was a bairn. She walked quickly to the kitchen to stop that thought going any further and drew herself a glass of water before taking it back through and sitting down.
The farmhouse was near silent now, but for the old clock ticking on the mantelshelf. Their lad, John, was off down the pub with that foreign help. Gheorghe, they called him. A good lad, a hard worker. Knew his manners, and all. Well, aside from mucking up her best tea towel, that is. She’d seen them when she went out to check on the hens, John looking in on the mistle, then striding impatiently to the Land Rover. He’d hovered for a moment until he realised that Gheorghe would be taking his own sweet time as always, so had jumped into the vehicle to sulk, slamming the door after. Gheorghe had emerged at last, tall and handsome – she couldn’t deny that – a part of the furniture already after only a few days, but somehow aloof. Lord only knows how he had ended up in the back of beyond up here. He knew right well that they knew he was better than them, better than this, despite it all, but he’d not let on what had brought him to the Saxby farm. He’d not let on to anything much. Anyroad, it was her grandson that was worrying her now. John had been so happy when he’d come down from fixing the fence earlier. She’d not seen him that way for years, not since before his dad’s first stroke, when he used to come in from school, hair tousled, shirt-tails out, cheeks and tips of his ears flushed from the wind and the bike ride. She’d want to reach out and tweak those ears of his sometimes, but he wouldn’t let her. “I’m not a baby, Nan,” he’d laugh, swatting her away. But he was, her little baby lamb lost in that gangling, growing man’s body, just like Martin afore him. John – or Johnny as he’d taken to calling hisself – used to lean against the door jamb just like he had that afternoon and half tell her the things he and Robyn had been up to. (That’s when she’d first wondered. Robyn was such a bonny, bright lass, all eyes for their John, and him oblivious.) Yet now, that evening, as he got out of the Land Rover again, she could see the burden of this world bearing back down on his shoulders and knew she'd had her part to play in that. She could tell from the way that he stomped down to the mistle door that he was frustrated at Gheorghe’s slowness to follow, but were trying to pretend that he weren’t, were trying to pretend that the Romanian weren’t owt to him. He could be right mardy when he wanted. Meanwhile, Gheorghe just stood there and waited. Nay lad, I shouldn’t have been so hard on you, she thought, watching Gheorghe reach out to cup their John’s face in his hand. What did it matter if John had thought his dad might get better, had still had that hope for another day or two? Or if she had acknowledged that Gheorghe might be there for more than just work, that he might be there for her grandson, for her John Saxby, and that she was fine with that, really she was. Well, just so long as they stayed, that is. She sighed, got up, and went to the kitchen. There were pots to wash, after all, and laundry to be put on afore bed.