‘How about we go out on a date, just you and me? What do you fancy? A film, a nice meal somewhere? Your choice.’
‘Sorry, Darling, what did you say? The kids have been a nightmare today. Will a take-away do? I’ve not had time to cook. I promise I’ll do something properly tomorrow.’
‘That’s what I mean. We never have time for just the two of us together, as we used to before the children came along. I’m sure one of our Mums would babysit. We could go out and have time to talk to each other, like the old days. What do you say?’
It had been a long while since we’d actually had a conversation, apart from phone calls at work, asking me to pick up a pint of milk on the way home, or reminding me about leaving early for a meeting with one of the teachers. The idea came from Bill, the old guy at the pub. He and his wife always looked so happy together, even if he was twice my age.
‘Who is Sue?’ he asked as we sat downing a pint, before I headed home after a hard day at the office.
‘She’s my wife,’ I told him, feeling slightly annoyed at his comment, even if he had never met her.
‘No, my friend, that’s where you’re going wrong,’ he replied with a smile on his face. ‘She’s more than that. She is the women you courted, fell in love with, and asked to marry you. She’s the one you promised to love and cherish. It’s an old-fashioned word but when was the last time you actually cherished her?’
‘I know what you mean,’ I replied after I thought about it for a few minutes. ‘But it’s difficult with the kids taking up all her attention, and me working long hours to try and provide for my family. What can I do? We’re both tired after a long day, so it’s not surprising she doesn’t want more than a good night kiss when we’re in bed.’
I felt embarrassed revealing details of my personal life to a comparative stranger, but was eager to know how Bill still manged to have a loving relationship with his wife. I’d seen them holding hands and her gentle blush when he whispered in her ear.
‘When was the last time you asked her out on a date?’ Bill said seriously, but with a twinkle in his eye.
‘Probably not long after our honeymoon,’ I admitted reluctantly. ‘Eva was already on the way. By the time she could be left with grandparents, we were expecting Charlie. Since then it’s all been manic and they’ve had to come first. I’d love to take Sue to a decent restaurant with wine and grown-up conversation.’
‘Well, there you go then. Don’t wait for a special occasion, just do it while you have the chance. If you get stuck for a baby-sitter, I’d be only too pleased to help out.’
‘Thanks, Bill. That’s very decent of you, but they can be a handful. It’s a good idea, though. I’ll have a chat with Sue tonight.’
I only knew Bill from the pub, and although his wife seemed nice enough on the few occasions I’d seen her, there are something a little odd about them. It was as if they were the nearly-weds, and I was the grandfather. He’d never mentioned children of his own, and at their age a couple of lively youngsters might be too much for them. I decided to check out Mum’s availability before mentioning it to Sue again.
‘Of course I’ll babysit. It’s about time you two had some space on your own. Look, it’s half-term soon. Why don’t you go the whole hog and book a hotel for the night? Do you both good. With no school we can spoil them with a naughty burger lunch so you don’t have to rush back. Dad and I will pay. Count it as an early anniversary present.’
So that’s what we did. It was a wonderful evening, a superb meal, and the hotel had a great band playing. We danced, got a little tipsy and fell into the luxurious bed as if we were courting again. Although it was back to reality the following afternoon, we decided to make it a regular event, every other month. Our dates were not so grand as that first night, but we went to the pictures or saw a show, enjoyed a meal out, or even the pub when a local group was playing. The parents took it in turns to have the children overnight, so we ended up with the place to ourselves, which did wonders for our love-life. We bumped into Bill a few times, but although he always asked how things had gone, he seemed put out we hadn’t accepted his babysitting offer.
‘I’m not sure about him. For some reason he gives me the creeps,’ Sue said to me when he brought the subject up again. ‘Just call it women’s intuition, but with the parents taking turns, it’s not too onerous for them.’
It was coming up to Sue’s birthday and I wanted to make our date night special. Her Mum was due to have the children but phoned the night before sounding terrible.
‘I’m so sorry, dear, but we’ve caught this horrible bug going around, and it wouldn’t be fair to them. Would your parents be able to step in?’
‘Don’t worry, just get yourself well. I’ll give Mum a ring.’
Unfortunately, my parents both had the flu, so I suggested to Sue perhaps, for once, we could ask Bill.
‘No, let’s stay in. Once the kids are in bed, we can order a take-away. You can splash out on a nice bottle of wine and some chocolates if you’re feeling decadent. To hell with the diet.’
I reluctantly agreed, but should have known better than to dispute Sue’s maternal instincts. The local papers the following day were full of the news.
Police were shocked when they raided the home of Bill Thompson, 73 and his wife Marjorie, 72 after a tip-off from neighbours about the unpleasant smell emanating from their property. Although the couple are not believed to have any children, the basement was laid out as a playroom, complete with doll’s houses, rocking chairs, train sets and overflowing toy cupboards. The senior officer refused to comment on whether there is a link to the number of local children who have gone missing recently, apart from confirming investigations are continuing.
© Voinks January 2019
Any regular visitors to this blog will realise my short stories cover a variety of genres.
My latest book release ‘Story of a Country Boy’ is a change from the fairy- tale/fantasy/romance style, and is a much grittier read. Check it out and see what you think. Comments and feedback are always welcome. Thank you.