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Crown Stoppy Backs

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Everything is understandable. You don't have to say anything too loud. (Lifted,The Lighthouse Family)

The heart-shaped ice cube balanced for a fraction of a second on the candy striped straw, then fell with a splash back into the half full tumbler.

"Bugger!” in an exasperated Scottish lilt was the response. "I wanted to show Valerie, the ice cube, I made them you know, for Pummy and Cheater.”

This resulted in a pause and wrinkle of the nose, she knew something wasn't quite right, but not quite sure what. She continued, "They are in the shape of a heart for the happy couple."

Valerie Dyer pursed her lips together trying to suppress a laugh and replied, "I know chick, you've shown me, several times. It was a lovely touch."

"I want to keep one as a souve.., a souvee, keepsake," she eventually managed triumphantly. "Paddy, Paddy how do I stop my frozen heart from melting? Can you help?” There came no reply.

The two women were alone in the bar, it was after closing time and the wedding guests had all gone back to the places they were from. The regular Crown barmaids were having a sneaky stoppy back to end a special day. Bernie had let her hair down, a wee bit further than anyone in Poplar-on-Tweaven had ever seen before.

Val could no longer prevent the wave of laughter engulfing her body, escaping from her lips. Bernie looked at her friend and couldn't quite decide if she was laughing at her or if she had actually made a joke. But she did know she needed to get off this wobbly bar stool, that seemed to be growing more unsteady by the minute. If only she could just remember which leg she usually put to the ground first. Bernie wasn't sure and decided on neither, obviously to jump off two feet together, would be much safer.

Valerie, aware of Bernie's intentions, reached out to her from behind the bar. "Wait until Paddy gets you a ladder chick,” half laughing, half serious.

"I can manage, I am a big girl.”

"Bernie you can't be much more than 5ft, you struggle when you're sober.”

"I beg your pardon, I am the Matriarch of Honour and am entitled to toast the cappy houple.”

"Toast them, I think you've deep fried them.”

The deeper voice behind her, had her startled. Before she had time to reply or fall, he had swept off her precarious perch and into his arms. There was a momentary struggle as Bernie tried to secure her legs around Paddy's hips, which Val deduced by the look on Paddy's face, hadn't been without consequence. The stoatin' Scot finally ceased wriggling and had both arms wrapped around Paddy's neck and her head buried in his shoulder.

"Will you manage,” smirked Val. "I will lock up."

"Take 20 from the till Val and get a cab, have you got Tweaven Taxi in your phone? Ask for Dolly, she will come and get you.”

"I need a taxi,” Bernie suddenly perked up.

"You already have your lift," chuckled Val, opening the door to the upstairs flat, so Paddy didn't have to unclasp his hands, that were now providing a seat for Bernie's bottom.

"Night Night God Bless, Val." Bernie suddenly lunged at Val almost toppling her and Paddy over and planted a sloppy kiss on Val's ear. She had missed her cheek as Paddy had steadied them. "Love you."

"Love you too Berns, sleep well sweetheart," smiled Val and squeezed Paddy's shoulder as the confusion of arms and legs made its way upstairs.

Paddy shouted for Tim to come open his bedroom door, but after two shouts remembered, Tim and Jack had headed out to Appleby Thornton a few hours back. Paddy tried to push down the handle with his elbow, this caused a woozy Bernie to lurch to her right and bang her head against the door. Paddy sucked in his cheeks determined not to laugh. He now wondered if he could put Bernie down.

She just sighed and giggled, "Oops a daisy." Nuzzling back into his neck.

Paddy's second attempt was more successful, maybe a little too successful, as he stumbled into the room when the door opened with conviction. He staggered to the bed and laid down his sleepy burden on his mattress. Bernie immediately curled up into a ball away from him, facing the window.

The sapphire fabric of her bridesmaid's dress ballooned around her and shimmered in the moonlight. She looked so peaceful, Paddy wondered whether to just wrap his half of the duvet round her and leave her there. Her shoes had fallen off on route and were now lying on different stairs. He looked at the rumpled silk, he knew Bernie adored her new frock. She very rarely got dressed up like Val and Trixie loved to. He only really saw her legs at work and in her carers uniform. Today had been different, she had looked radiant and confident in Chummy's made to measure creation. Paddy couldn't imagine that even Peter had felt the level of admiration and love that he had drowned in, when the two women walked towards them earlier that today.

Paddy carefully pushed back the honey blonde hair that had fallen across Bernie's face. He tenderly tried to remove the glasses, Bernie had replaced the itchy lenses with a while ago. She snuffled softly like a puppy and then gave a loud snotty sniff like an old Border Terrier. Paddy tried to wake her by stroking her cheek and gently calling her name, to no avail. He tentatively slid down the zip fastening at the back of her dress, just as far as he could. He knew if he dithered about much longer, she would be sound asleep. Paddy leaned over and whispered her name in her ear, nipping the lobe as he moved away. Bernie responded by lashing out and clocking Paddy in the face with the back of her hand.

Paddy consoled himself, at least she was awake. He adjusted his jaw and switched on the bedside light that brought an overemphasised "No" from Bernie. Rummaging in a drawer for a T-shirt, he explained to Bernie the necessity of protecting her pretty dress. When he turned around he spluttered, presented with a bolt upright Bernie with her arms raised above her head.

He tried to rid himself of a well archived mental image of toddler Tim in the same position. On sitting up, Bernie had trapped the skirt underneath her. Paddy crawled onto the bed next to Bernie. He managed to get his charge to lean towards him and freed the right side of the skirt. She had performed that manoeuvre so well, he was blessed with slightly too much confidence in her abilities. Resulting in nearly losing her to the bedroom floor, as she rather enthusiastically hitched the left cheek of her bum up and overbalanced. Paddy's heart stopped, but his limbs moved quickly to prevent her toppling over the edge. Bernie screamed and then dissolved into a fit of giggles in Paddy's arms.

The dress was finally removed. Under precise instructions from Bernie, it was ceremoniously placed on a hanger balanced on the front of the wardrobe. Paddy turned once more towards the bed and gave the same reaction as earlier. Bernie had meanwhile tried to pull the T-shirt over her head and had disappeared. The Mission statement was at the back and the washing tag stuck up at the front. She had one arm lost in a sleeve and was pulling at the stubborn pink garment with the other.

"Paddy I am stuck, it's got me. Paddy it's swallowing me whole," she cried out.

What followed was a lot of huffing, cursing and not following Paddy's instructions and then accusing him of pulling her hair and breaking her glasses. Between them they eventually managed to get her head and arms through the appropriate holes. The arms were through the opposing sleeves, but Paddy hadn't the energy to worry about it being on backwards, it was on. He shuffled her under the duvet, removed her specs and turned out the light.

Paddy had tried to keep up standards since Marianne had died, but it had been a long day. His suit trousers stayed where they dropped to his feet on the floor, followed by the waistcoat and shirt. He pulled back the covers and flopped onto his back and let out a deep breath, closed his eyes and then groaned. He thought Bernie would be out cold but she was wriggling about beside him, hidden by the quilt.

"Bernie, are you alright my love?"

He wondered if she felt sick and decided he best fetch a bucket. Before he could make a move, he felt the back of a hand, one he was becoming all to familiar with, bash his just recovered face one more time.

"There!" Shouted Bernie with such pride, head popping out of the duvet and onto the pillow. "Pull."


"Pull!" Bernie repeated lifting and then flopping her arm back down on his head again. Paddy could just make out, Bernie was trying to retrieve with the other hand something from that sleeve of her T-shirt.

"Pull!" the order came again.

So he did as he was told and pulled, he was rewarded with a white lacy 34B bra.

"Good job done," Bernie praised him. Paddy went to say something but thought better of it, he just raised an eyebrow, as she turned away from him and snuggled under the duvet. "Night Night God Bless."

Paddy threw the underwear-come-party trick on top of his pile of discarded clothes. He looked at the snuffling lump beside him, sighed and closed his eyes.

It had been a long day, but a good day. The wedding had been beautiful and romantic, the Do had gone well in the Crown. Everyone had appeared to appreciate Vi's menu and they had all drank very well, even the one guest he least expected to. Paddy's thoughts became jumbled as images of the day danced around his mind; Peter and Camilla dancing, the relief when his Best Man's speech was well received, even by Bernie. He remembered another speech and memories of Marianne barefoot, dancing in the rain on a very different wedding day. Replaced by pictures of Bernie in her stylish blue dress moshing with Trixie and Val and then trying to do the Twist with Phyllis, Julia and the Two Loves. Eventually falling on her arse, not able to keep up with the professionals and unable to get up for giggling. Paddy's images began to merge; the church again, Bernie in blue walking down the aisle towards him, Bernie in white walking down the aisle towards him.

As he fell further into that non-tangible universe of sleep, he felt a hand on his face. Third time lucky a stray thought crossed his mind, but this wasn't a slap. It felt soft and tender and was followed by warm, wet lips on his, as Bernie seemed to somehow recover a sense of coordination. Paddy murmured and reached to capture her head to keep her close. By the time he had pushed his arm out of the constrictive covers, she had turned away again and was lost again under the togs.

Paddy now fully awake, smiled wryly.

From under the bedding a small Scottish voice could just be heard, "Love you."

Paddy's smile lost its hint of irony as he answered, "I love you too."