There’s been so much going on with new publications in the past few weeks my brain is addled, so I thought we’d have a short story for a change. 😀
Another in my song title series. Released by Elvis in 1961 and dedicated to siblings everywhere.
‘Oh, Mum. Do I have to? I don’t want her hanging around when I meet my friends. They’ll laugh at me.’
‘I’m sorry, son, but I’ve got to go to work or we won’t eat this week. It’ll only be for a few hours, and I’ll make it up to you when we get back on our feet. I promise.’
It hadn’t been easy for Mum since Dad died, and I felt a bit guilty, but I was fifteen and interested in girls; grown-up ones, not five-year olds.
‘Can we go to the park, Joe-Joe? I want to feed the ducks? The big one has some new babies. We can get some food. Please. I promise I’ll be good.’
‘My name is Joseph, Susan. You don’t like it when I call you Sue-Sue.’
Her bottom lip quivered, and I felt mean. She was a good kid really, and I didn’t like to see her upset.
‘Oh, go on then. We can’t have Mummy Duck going hungry, can we?’
The usual beaming smile returned to her face and she rushed over to give me a hug. If only it was as easy to make Bethany smile as it was the other two ladies in my life.
‘But no doing handstands and showing your knickers. You’re a big girl now,’ I teased.
At least it made Mum laugh, which didn’t happen very often these days. I noticed her mouthing “Thank you” as she turned away to hide her smile. I had the money from my Saturday job so I could afford some bird seed from the local pet shop. It wasn’t as if we had any spare bread in the house, and I’d heard it wasn’t good for ducks anyway.
‘Come on then, little ‘un. Get your coat and shoes on, or I’ll go without you.’
‘I should be back by six, Joe, and we’ll have something nice for tea for a change,’ Mum said. ‘You deserve it. I really don’t know what I’d do without you. Sorry about messing up your chances with your young lady. Invite her over one day, I’d like to meet her. Now I must dash. See you later. Love you.’
I knew Mum meant well but I’d seen Bethany’s house. Her father was something big in the city and it was a mansion compared to this place. No way could I ever invite her to this tiny flat in a run-down tower block, where the lift never worked and most of our neighbours were layabouts at best, and drug addicts at worst. At least the park was only a few minutes away, so we could escape to get some fresh air. Sue had a wonderful time and even my friends took delight in seeing her enjoying nature. All except Bethany.
‘My God. Can’t your family even afford a nanny for the brat?’ she sneered. ‘Don’t even bother to talk to me until you’ve grown into a man, not a baby-sitter.’ I could feel my face turning red as she flounced off, giggling with her friends.
‘Bitch.’ I hadn’t noticed Lily come up behind me, but even though she was usually quiet and shy, the look she gave Bethany would have made anyone think twice about taking her on. ‘Don’t take any notice of her, Joe. She’s not worth it. Sue’s a lovely little girl, and I admire you for helping your Mum. That makes you a real man in my book.’
Her words made me think, and I realised how shallow the girl I fancied seemed, compared to the mature compassion Lily had shown. The next few years were not easy, but rather than taking a dead-end job she encouraged me to continue my studies and make something of myself. We became best friends and I summoned up the courage to take Lily to the flea pit where I still lived, and introduce her to Mum.
‘Wow, Mrs H. I love this room,’ were her first words. ‘Did you do it all yourself? It’s fantastic. My ambition is to be an interior designer. Could you give me some pointers?’
It was typical of Lily that she ignored the smelly corridors and dire location, and made me look at the room in a whole new light. It was true, Mum had a way of using simple touches to make something come to life, and the two women were soon as thick as thieves. Even when I went off to college, Mum’s letters were full of what a lovely girl Lily was, and how she had taken over my baby-sitting duties when Mum had to go to work.
Years passed, I obtained a well-paid job and eventually was able to find a small but perfect three-bedroomed house to rent. It was a far cry from the hovel we had lived in, but only a few miles away in an up and coming area. Sue was now at university, Mum and Lily had gone into business together and although they weren’t making a fortune, their reputation was spreading. Things were on the up.
I played the field with girlfriends, and although some of them were great fun, none measured up to Lily. We started dating and eventually I realised she was the one for me, and asked her to marry me.
‘It took you long enough,’ was Mum’s delighted response. ‘Lily’s always been like another daughter to me, and at least she knows what to expect from her future Mother-in-law. Congratulations to you both. Had you made any plans yet?’
‘Hang on, Mum,’ I said. ’We’ve only just got engaged but it’ll probably be sometime this autumn.’
‘As long as your little sister doesn’t beat us to it,’ Lily replied. ‘I want her as my maid of honour.’
‘What are you talking about?’ I asked, puzzled ‘Do you mean Sue? Fine if you want her as a bridesmaid, but she’s still a kid, certainly not old enough to think about getting married herself.’
‘It might have escaped your notice, but your little sister is now a beautiful woman,’ Lily replied. ‘She’ll be twenty next month, and she’s been seeing Jack for nearly two years. They’re not rushing into anything until she’s got her degree, but he’s a lovely man and they’re well suited.’
Our wedding day was magical, Lily looked stunning, and before our first wedding anniversary I was the proud father of gorgeous twin girls. What chance does a poor man have surrounded by all these females? As I wait to escort my little sister up the aisle, to give her away to the man she loves, I’m hoping she and Jack might produce some boys before I get totally outnumbered.
Voinks August 2019.
A huge thank you to visitors who return every week to read my short stories. If you enjoy them, you might like to look at my books which are available on Amazon, where you’ll notice some new additions. More information next week. See you then.