The Luckiest Man Alive
A family come together in this touching complete story by Sharon Booth.
TIM usually took his time waking up – a gentle easing into consciousness with a few stretches and a yawn or two, then throwing back the duvet, and a resigned effort to sit up and assemble his thoughts into some sort of order.
Today, though, was different. As he turned over, his hand, as always, reached out for her, but instead groped an empty pillow.
His eyes flew open in shock and his heart thudded. It was today. He sat up immediately, his breath catching in his throat as he saw the suit hanging on the wardrobe door.
He never wore a suit, except for weddings and funerals, although Amanda always said he looked very handsome in a suit. It was for her that he’d bought this one, and it was for her that he would be wearing it today.
His eyes strayed to the dressing table – to the photograph of the two of them taken on their wedding day. She looked so beautiful, a cloud of blonde hair framing a heartshaped face, and large, sparkling eyes smiling up at him as he stood, gangly and awkward, by her side.
It had hardly been a fairy-tale wedding, though. “Cheap and cheerful” was how his mother had described it, but they hadn’t had much time to prepare.
“Shotgun wedding” was his mother-inlaw’s phrase, said with a purse of her lips and a disapproving sniff. How someone like her had produced someone as lovely as Amanda was beyond him.
Inside and out, Amanda was beautiful. He’d known that the first moment he’d seen her, all those years ago in Frosty’s Ice-cream Parlour on the seafront in Scarborough. It was the early summer of 1979.
He’d just cashed his giro and, ignoring his father’s demands that he go straight to the job centre, he’d headed to the beach with some of his mates.
After a few hours’ hard work playing cricket on the beach, they’d strolled into Frosty’s, eager to cool down. And there she was behind the counter, a young girl so stunning that cooling down wasn’t an option.
When he ordered his third ice-cream sundae – much to his friends’ disgust – she raised an eyebrow.
“Another one? Crikey.” She smiled at him and he hardly knew what to do, he felt so nervous. It was a new experience for him.
“Been keeping tabs on me, have you?” He grinned at her, determined to maintain his composure. You never let a girl know she mattered. Everyone knew that.
“No! I’ve just noticed your bill’s going up and up,” she replied, a little too quickly, her face flushing, and he knew she was interested.
“Has anyone ever told you that you look just like Debbie Harry?” She laughed. “Oh, yeah. All the time.” “No, really.” He meant it. She was a stunner. How could she not know that? He began to sing the recent number one, Blondie’s “Sunday Girl”, to her, pointing at the posters advertising the ice-cream sundaes and winking at her. She laughed again.
“It’s my favourite song, and now I know why,” he told her. “I was waiting for you – my sundae girl.”
Her face turned pink again, but not as pink as his did when he heard his best mate’s voice behind him.
“Are you for real? As if she’d fall for a line like that!”
He’d had that chat-up line quoted at him by his friends for months afterwards.
The kettle seemed to take ages to boil. He dropped a teabag into a mug and stood looking out of the kitchen window, relieved to see that it wasn’t raining.
As he finally poured the boiling water, his phone rang. He put the kettle down and fished in his pocket for his mobile, feeling a sharp pang that it wasn’t her name that flashed up on the screen, even though he’d known it wouldn’t be.
It was his son, Mike, asking how he was feeling. “I’m fine. I’m just having a cup of tea.” “Did you get much sleep?” “Of course.” A white lie. The bed had felt empty without her, and he was too nervous about today to settle.
His son’s tone of voice told him he didn’t believe him anyway.
“You mustn’t worry, Dad. Look, Holly’s on her way round. She’s going to make you some breakfast.” Tim felt indignant. “No need. I can look after myself, you know.” “Have you eaten?” “I’m not hungry.” “I thought not. She’ll be there in ten minutes.”
Tim ended the call. He could make his own breakfast, for goodness’ sake. Then he wondered how many times he’d actually cooked over the last 30-odd years. He could have, but Amanda had always done it for him. He should have made more effort from the start.
Tim had fallen in love with Amanda in the Seventies, and today he would show her how much she meant
to him . . .
“It’s only temporary, you know.” “What is?” He’d been startled for a moment, thinking she meant their relationship. Relationship. It sounded so grown up. They were only sixteen, but this felt like a for ever kind of thing to him. Three months they’d been together, and already he couldn’t imagine life without her.
“The job,” she said, removing her sunglasses and staring at him, suddenly serious. “It’s September now. Frosty’s was just a summer thing.” She sat up, hugging her knees and wriggling her toes in the sand. “I can do better. I will do better.”
He hadn’t really thought about it. She had a job, which was more than he had. He didn’t think much beyond the day.
It was still warm, and the sun was shining. He didn’t want to think about the