The Luck­i­est Man Alive

A fam­ily come to­gether in this touch­ing com­plete story by Sharon Booth.

The People's Friend Special - - POIGNANT STORY -

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

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