Sisters 60

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It went better than I had expected, at least as far as his embarrassment went. He actually seemed to be looking forward to it, so after an obligatory bit of teasing about how the pot had been filled, he started in on his own questions.

“I don’t know, Tone. Thing is, we’re looking at a sort of simultaneous birth thing. If we can manage it, that is”

Sar erupted in a really unflattering fit of laughter, gasping something about the Olympics between snorts and guffaws. Three of us waited patiently until she could speak with some form of coherent grammar and sense.

“Just, Olympic sport, aye? Just not for sperm!”

She was off again, and this time Siân went with her, a large penny clearly dropping. Tony and I waited patiently until my wife managed to snort out “Synchronised swimming!”

I do wonder, sometimes. Regularly. When their fits had eased, I continued.

“Tone, we’ve both had a quiet word at work, and they’re OK with the leave. Nothing lined up for us, nothing like that job yng Nghaerdydd waiting in the wings, aye?”

Indeed there wasn’t I had collared Wyn, as a friend rather than a senior officer, for advice on how to approach my management, and he had simply smiled and said “It’s sorted, Elaine. Or it will be. I’ll have words, but they owe you more than one, and as this is one you owe yourself it will be fine”

Siân had reported a remarkably similar conversation with her own bosses, and all we needed was a nod from our medics for the when and the where. Sar had even sent us a small box of test kits, more as a joke Christmas present than anything else, and yes indeed, it was as sorted as it could be.

Tony’s laughter brought me back to the there and then.

“Honestly, even with the wife, I still have to decode what you three say, even in bloody English. Easier for the lad, but it still sounds like you’ve got a peg on your nose!”

“Screw you, Hall!”

“Not quite, love! Anyway, Sar had another idea. Darling?”

My sister was nodding. “Aye, chwaer fawr. You know Bev, know what she does?”

That would be the chunky brunette married to her workmate. “Aye. Law, something like that?”

“Absolutely. If you are OK with it, we could have a quiet word, get a contract drawn up. I know none of us need it—“

Siân muttered “Family, ah?” and Sar nodded again.

“Aye, but that’s not the point. She can draft up something to keep the outsiders where they belong, bloody well outside. It was something that came up when Tony and I were getting together, about what might happen if he and Enid went, accident, aye? That’s why we got wed”

The big man had a proper laugh, not the snorting that had convulsed two women. “My cunning plan worked! Get her thinking it was for practical reasons, and she’s mine, I tell you, MINE, mwahaha!”

Sar slapped his arm. “Behave, you. No, girls, really. If you agree, I’ll ask Bev for some proper advice, and then we can get rolling. Of course, there is the other question…”

I had to ask, and she leered. I mean, she really leered!

“Will you need any more pots filling? I mean, it’s a tough job, but, well, I’m up for it. And he better be”

I was almost, but not quite, stunned by that. What the hell had happened to my frightened little girl? The answer was clear, standing beside her trying to control his own laughter as she snuggled into him, pride and naughtiness competing for her smile. The deal, and the weekend, were done.

Hurry up, hurry up and wait, the old army complaint was never so apposite as it was that year. Spring surprised us by showing itself only in its departure, the winter having dragged on for far longer than it was supposed to, grey morning after miserable grey evening until it was finally and surprisingly green. I had almost missed the snowdrops, but the cherry and apple blossom was clearer. So was the word from the clinic. We had a programme and a set of dates.

One strange aspect of human beings is not the synchronised swimming that had so amused my sister but rather the synchronisation of monthly cycles that occurs when women live together. Siân and I were no different to any other women (although, naturally, my subjective view of her disagreed with that statement) and we had come to a common schedule. Considering the tempers we both had, it was a bloody good job neither of us was prone to PMS. I won’t go into the process, which was both clinical and remarkably impersonal in its nature, but all was redeemed by the staff who dealt with us. I had been anticipating a little homophobia, some disagreement on the rights of people in comfortable shoes to take spaces in maternity wards away from Proper Women, but it simply didn’t happen. We were treated well; more than that, we were treated with real warmth, both in the sense of medical treatment and in that other sense of simple and usually uncommon humanity. Eat your bloody heart out, Evans clan. Swivel on it, Pritchard.

In the end, Sarah had to keep her hand in more than once, but, but…

We were in Dover again that September, Uncle, cousin and ‘trouts’ in tow, as the older sod called Suzy and Alice, meeting with Sar’s friend Bev for the legal bit. Summer had followed Spring in failing to make any noticeable impact on us, and for the sake of our visits to the clinic we had turned down Vicky’s usual invitation abroad. Bev was in Sar and Tony’s front room while her husband kept their kid amused walking a hyperactive dog, and it turned out to be a simple process.

“I spoke to a colleague who usually does the business side of things, Elaine. There’s a way of drafting contracts, set phrases and that, which you don’t see so much in family law. I’ve also got a mate in Middle Temple I studied with, and they’ve had a look”

I answered my wife’s puzzled look with a quick “Barrister, cariad” before asking the obvious question: how much for the big wig? Bev just laughed.

“Old flame, old fling, yeah? Pro bono for Our Girls in Blue. Free, Siân, apart from a notional pound to seal it. Tone, I think this is all you asked for. Want me to go through it? Girls?”

Tony shook his head. “Quick summary’ll do, if you don’t mind?”

The two of us gave a quick nod and Bev started.

“Simple stuff, really. Tone is absolved of all financial responsibility for any child produced, which keeps the CSA off your backs. He is also barred from making any decisions affecting them without the explicit and prior consent of both of you, or the survivor if it comes to that. I’ll be honest, according to Jolyon, if a court got frisky, a lot of this could be ruled out, but he says it shows clear intent on all parts by all parties, and that is something they wouldn’t be able to strike down.

“Now, this is the bit I was unsure about. The bit about any child being acknowledged by both biological and both actual parents-stroke-guardians is simple, but it’s the mortality crap that we need to be clear on. This is what we have, and I’m going to have to be blunt here. Girls, you both go and any issue reverts to Tony and Sarah”

All of us were nodding as Bev looked round the room, and she smiled tightly. “That’s fine. It’s the other step that I don’t want to get wrong. Tone, if all four of you go, why Wales?”

He took a while to get his thoughts straight, my sister keeping her powder dry but holding tightly to his hand.

“It’s really simple, Bev. Mum said it ages ago: Kim and I were all she had left, after Annie went. Unless something horrible happens, she will go before we do, and that means nobody over here. And it’s Twm and Sioned as well. They made it very clear that they are family. Twm said it, that speech he made, about becoming a grandfather. Mum was very clear on that point, that we are one family now. God forbid, but that’s where Jim would go, if… Well, just if. Practicalities, really, but out of love rather than needs must. My darling here has done that, brought us more than we could ever have hoped for. Enough said”

I remembered another day, when two people I loved had opened their arms to my own lover, and knew, absolutely, how right he was, and with that, I nodded. Bev smiled.

“That’s what I thought. Hang on a sec…”

She picked up her mobile. “Andy, love? Want to bring them all back? Ta!”

She hung up. “One of you get the kettle going? Guest on the way”

Andy was at the door in five minutes, and to no great surprise he had an ex-priest in tow. Pat shook hands all round before settling down with the mug Sar handed him.

“I have an idea what this is about, ladies. Bev needed a witness with an unblemished character, but unfortunately they were all out, so you’ve got me. Ready to go? Oh, Tone: I have some more of the Jameson’s, so let me know when”

I signed, my wife signed, Tony signed, and two others affixed their names as I handed Bev a fiver for formality’s sake, and we were set. Sarah rose, kissed both of us, and handed each of us a test kit.

“Why do you think we’ve been plying you with tea? More than one toilet, off you go!”

In the end, I sat there in that profoundly undignified posture for at least five minutes before my bladder would cooperate, knickers and jeans round my ankles, arse cheeks slowly going numb, before I was able to dip the little plastic wand thing into the necessary flow.

I sat for another ten trying to get my mind to accept the result. Siân’s scream had already told me we were synchronised in more ways than our periods, and that Sar’s joke about Olympic events was spot on.

Bless you yet again, Anthony Hall.

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