for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 26 September, 2020, frugal.
“Come on. You’ve already met them once. It’ll be easier this time. Plus, Zara’s back from their honeymoon, so we can go and visit them.” Anna was trying to convince Paul that it might be nice to go and spend the weekend with her parents, down in Sussex. With the promise of a day out in Brighton, Paul had agreed. Although Brighton was the other side of London, Paul had enjoyed the few times he had visited previously.
Coming straight across from work, Anna met up with Paul at Victoria Station, on the Friday evening, and the pair took the train down to Lewes. They were met by Anna’s dad, Henry, who drove them back to the family home. It was certainly calmer than the last time he had visited, thought Paul, now that Zara’s wedding was out of the way. Primed by Anna, nothing was said to make Paul feel uncomfortable, and the four of them had an enjoyable meal together that evening. Even Polly, the family’s Golden Retriever, got in on the act when she crept up and snuggled with Paul early Saturday morning.
After a lazy Saturday morning, Henry drove again, this time dropping them not far from the pier. They had been fortunate again with the weather, it was shaping to be a fine spring day. Brighton had changed a lot since Paul’s last visit – that enormous shopping mall had not been there, for a start. But it must have been, what, twelve years? They visited The Lanes – for any visitor, it is the law – and in mid-afternoon they found a small coffee shop. They had been nicely fed before they had left Anna’s parent’s, so only felt like a light snack.
“Don’t go overboard”, reminded Anna, “don’t forget we’re meeting Zara later.”
After the coffee break, with the promise that he could see all her childhood haunts, Anna convinced Paul to board an open-topped tour bus, which circuited the town. “That’s where I used to play hooky”, she informed Paul, as they passed a seafront penny arcade. Paul could not imagine that she had ever played hooky in her life. He could believe it when she pointed out the alley that she had been sick in, however, her teenage introduction to gin. With the tour almost over, Paul felt a nudge, “Come on”, prompted Anna, “this is our stop. Zara is not too far from here; we’ll be there in a jiffy”.
Ten minutes later, the sisters were greeting each other, and Paul found himself being led into a rather dingy house. It might have been student digs, apart from the crying baby. “That’s William”, explained Zara. “We tried to keep him awake all day in the hope that he’d have a nap when you arrived. He’s not playing ball. Hang on a minute and I’ll go see if I can help Dan put him down. Go on through”.
They moved through into the lounge, and as Paul made himself comfortable on the sofa, he took in the room around him. Very sparsely decorated, very frugal. The wallpaper was dated and the room had patches of damp. The tv in the corner looked at least ten years old. The evidence of children was clear – there was a playpen in the corner, full of toys, and a pile of children’s DVDs on the threadbare carpet, in front of the TV. The room had been freshly tidied.
As Anna and Paul tried to make out what was on tv, the noise of the baby subsided, and five minutes later they were greeted by Dan’s voice. “Anna! Paul!”. He reached over to peck Anna’s cheek. “Great you could come.” He was immediately joined by Zara. “I think he’s down. Lucas [the eldest son] was down like a light, but William’s [the younger] got a mind of his own. Come on Dan, quick…” she ushered Dan into the kitchen. “Get the kettle on before one of them wakes up.”
I’ve written a background to these characters, in the posts below.