Three More Blessings
Friendship is for ever in this perceptive complete story by Emma Canning.
IT’S New Year’s Eve and there are just two hours until midnight. I’m sitting alone on my sofa, sipping a cup of tea and thinking about two important things that I’ve vowed to do before the end of the year. I’ve been putting off these tasks for very different reasons. The f irst task involves the rekindling of a family tradition which I’ve saved deliberately for the last hours of 2015.
The other task is more daunting, and involves a painful decision that I’ve come to regret.
I’ve been dwelling on it a great deal recently, and I’ve promised myself that I’ll put things right before the year is out.
My mobile phone is lying beside me; with a deep breath I pick it up. There are three people I’m longing to speak to. But it’s so diff icult. Which of them should I phone f irst?
My courage deserts me and an easier option sidles into my mind – perhaps I could contact all three of them together with a text message. I begin typing. Hi, it’s Grace! Remember me? No, that sounds far too flippant. With one thumb I delete the words and start again. Dear Jenny, Lou and Kat, It’s Grace. I often think of you all and I’m so dreadfully sorry . . .
It’s f ive years since I last saw my three friends, whom I’d known since secondary school, and I can still picture the hurt in their eyes.
We’d met for a meal in a pub as we did every couple of months, to spend the evening catching up on each other’s news. We chatted about our jobs, our husbands, our household routines . . . and they talked of their children.
I always enjoyed listening, of course, but on that particular night each word caught like a barb in my heart. Jenny’s children were teenagers; Lou’s were toddlers and Kat had a new baby.
Harry and I had been trying for a baby for four years, and I had just received the test results that conf irmed it was never going to happen for us.
There were tears in my friends’ eyes as well as in mine as I broke the news to them. “Oh, Grace, I’m so sorry.” Each of them said the words in their own way; each reached out a hand to touch me, wanting to take away some of the pain I was feeling. “Thank you.” I swallowed and met their gazes in turn. “If you don’t mind, I don’t think I’ll come out with you next time. It’s more than I can bear at the moment. I can’t expect you not to talk about your lovely children, so I’ll drop out of our gettogethers for a bit. Just while I come to terms with everything.”
They were very distressed but I was determined, and in the end they’d accepted it sorrowfully.
“We’re always here for you,” they told me. “Join us again whenever you’re ready.”
I fully intended to go back, but I never did, and eventually their phone calls and texts petered out.
I joined a support group and surrounded myself with people who were going through the same diff iculties as I was, but still I struggled to cope.
My marriage to Harry broke down under the strain. This was a point when I needed my three friends more than ever but, newly single and feeling low, I sadly had to conclude that I now had even less in common with them.
THEN, two years ago, I met Craig, who was a widower with three children. I fell in love with him and with the children, too. We’re going to be married in the spring.
Tonight they’re all here in my house to celebrate New Year, and right now he’s upstairs with the children, trying to settle them down.
There’s a shriek of laughter from my largest spare room, where the girls are supposed to be sleeping – the excitement of New Year has been keeping them awake.
I can’t help grinning and I dash my tears away. The sound of thundering feet on the stairs sweeps aside my reminiscences and the girls appear, flinging themselves on the sofa beside me.
“Dad was telling us a story, but we want to see the f ireworks,” Sasha, the eldest, tells me.
“Yes, there’ll be lots at midnight!” Rhiannon yells.
Six-year-old Joe has appeared, too, doubtless woken by the shouting. He stumbles downstairs in his little blue and white striped pyjamas, rubbing sleep from his eyes, to join us.
I hug all three of them, and Craig smiles.
“You don’t mind them staying up, do you, Grace?”
I shake my head and kiss each flushed cheek, hugging their warm little bodies close.
Mind? Of course I don’t. Not a day goes by that I don’t marvel at my good fortune at meeting a wonderful man and three beautiful children who have come to view me as their second mother.
“I’m glad you’re awake,” I tell them, “because tonight I’m revisiting a family tradition. One that helps me count my blessings.” “The blessing jar?” Sasha asks. “That’s right.” “Let me fetch it!” Rhiannon wriggles off