Sisters 61

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I wandered back along the hallway as my wife thundered down the stairs, and beat me to the living room. As I entered, everyone seemed to be wrapped around everyone else, but all eyes turned to me. I kept the glum face on as long as I could, but Sar wrestled the test wand out of my hand.

“Yes! Two-nil!”

Siân looked at me past Tony’s bulk.

“Really? Both of us? Oh, Duw!”

Pat was grinning, as ever. “Tone, babies’ heads to wet!”

The big man laughed. “You know where I keep it, mate!”

“Oh yes indeed! Who’s driving?”

Bev grunted. “Suppose I am. Got our own to get back for, so no debauch, Watson! And none for you two”

I shook my head. “Decent wine, good ale, none of that stewed seaweed for us”

My wife laughed. “Remember when we met? Baskets?”

Pat grunted some sort of query, and I explained.

“Both of us were taken along as shotgun on a friend’s blind date. Not the same friend. You know what I mean! And we had jokes about posh Italian food, wine in a basket. Bottle in a basket, aye? And this one jokes about it leaking out, and she bloody well does it with a straight face!”

Sar laughed, openly and happily. “She hasn’t changed much, then!”, and I almost cried at the thought. My sister saw, and answered my blinking with a much softer smile.

“I remember, chwaer. ‘She’s called Siân and she’s lovely’, wasn’t it?”

I held my tongue to keep my dignity, and just nodded, reaching out for both their hands. Tony reached across to their phone and passed me the handset.

“I think you have a call or two to make, love”

I raised an eyebrow, and he almost matched Sar’s smile in gentle warmth.

“Your Mam and Dad, for one. Then I think your friend might want telling”

Mam it was who picked up.


“We know, my darling”


“What you are hoping for. You have a sister, aye? I remember that day, when you told us we would not have grandchildren”

“My test was positive, Mam”

There were some odd noises, and then Dad was there.

“Your Mam is sobbing, cariad. This is good news?”

Deep breath. “Yes, Dad. Both me and Siân, both of us”

I could hear his own deep breaths from the other end of the line, and something muttered to Mam.

“Is there a speaker setting on that telephone, Elaine? I trust you are with your sister”

“Tone? Speaker phone? Ta!”

He was measured in his delivery, and I could hear murmurs from Mam in the background, clearly approving of his words.

“Tony Hall, I wish all here to know how I feel about you and your generosity of spirit. You first gave us back our daughter, and then you honoured us with your child. The service you have now done for our other daughters is a pearl beyond price”

Sar got up at that, running out to the kitchen, but Dad obviously couldn’t see.

“You will be in our prayers, and our door will always be open to you. Know something else: we will establish a trust for these children, so that they may be certain of at least part of their future”

Tony made an attempt to speak, but Dad just raised his voice.

“There are such things as higher education, son, and they cost money. And yes, you are our son”

Tony was crying now, without shame. “You do know that I do this, did this, because I love your daughter so much? And for what she has done for all of my family? Sod it, you know that I love both of you as well?”

Mam replied to that. “It is not seemly, according to the stupid, for men to express their love for each other so openly. But you should know something else: we set up a trust for Jim, for the same reasons. There will be no division, no favouritism between our grandchildren. Now, girls, you should speak to Victoria and Kevin”

I laughed at that, some of the tension easing. “That’s what Tony said, Mam!”

“He is a man of uncommon good sense, then! Twm?”

“Aye, Elaine. He chose one of my pretty daughters as his wife, after all”

Mam laughed down the phone, and then turned serious. “Siân, there is another you must tell. Your own mother has a right to know”

She was spot on, of course, and while we passed on the news to Kev and Vicky, Tony dug into the internet to find a contact number for the retreat. I took my sister out into the kitchen for a quick chat while he ran the search, and gave her the stare.

“What was all that about? Rushing off?”

She was giggling. “Couldn’t help it. First there’s ‘service’, and then ‘pearl’, and all I could think of was ‘servicing’ and ‘pearl necklaces’!”

After I got my own snorting under control, we hugged ad went back to the living room, where Tony had a number for us.

“Can I help you? Gaf i eich helpio chi?”

Their Welsh was polite, but didn’t sound local, so I stayed in English. “I am trying to contact a man called Ambrose? I am Elaine Powell. It concerns Angharad Roberts”

“Ah. Please be so kind as to wait while I seek him”

He wasn’t English either, from his accent, but within a few minutes he had Ambrose for us.

“Ambrose? Elaine Powell”

“Ah. You wish to know how Angharad is…”

“One thing, aye. We also have news for her”

He sighed. “You know she will not speak to you”

“I know, my friend. You don’t mind if I call you that?”

It had come to me as I spoke. He had never judged, always been open and honest, and the word ‘revelation’ came to me, aptly.

The news was full of reports of people who professed religion, waved their faith as a banner, and yet were the most unpleasant people imaginable. People who spoke in one breath about their god’s love, and in another about hell. People like Angharad Roberts. Pat shook that picture, and people like Simon the vicar, Annie’s family. Mam and Dad, they showed how false it really was. Yes; Ambrose was our friend. He was as gentle as ever in his reply.

“Thank you, Elaine. That is beyond a compliment. You wish to know how she is?”

“Yes. And we have news, which I hope she will see as good news”

“Ah. She continues to decline, Elaine. It is nothing spectacular, nothing involving great changes, but there is a limit to how long she can continue to survive on simple analgesia. What is your news for her?”

“We are pregnant, Ambrose, Both of us”

“May the Good Lord be praised. I will let her know. Do you have a date, for, well, delivery?”

“Don’t know for certain, but I would guess something like seven or eight months”

“I will be blunt, Elaine, and I can think of no other way to put this than without some strong language, but she is a bloody-minded and stubborn woman”

“Oh, how well we both know that!”

“I mean to say that she remains with us, in my view, simply because of that stubbornness. As long as she has something to live for, she clings to life”

There was a pause, and then he spoke again.

“No. That is not quite correct, for ‘something to live for’ has a positive meaning that is lacking in these circumstances. She has also instituted proceedings against your father-in-law”


“You are not the only person I have been speaking with. I have attended several meetings at a chapel in Colwyn Bay, for example. The Parch there has been most enlightening, to a certain organist in particular”


My eloquence was stunning. Ambrose carried on, though, a little hint of steel in his voice betraying the strength of the gentle, scruffy man.

“I believe someone else may have been speaking with Heddlu Gogledd Cymru, but I would not hazard a guess as to their identity. His trial starts in six weeks’ time ay Caernarfon Crown Court”

“Let me guess, Ambrose: assault?”

“Yes. And what I believe they call ABH. Oh, and rape”

“What the fuck? Sorry!”

“Apparently… Elaine, Angharad spoke to me, but I am not her confessor, for we do not follow that path. I must, however, retain some confidences, but I believe you and her daughter are aware of Carwyn’s interest in domestic discipline?”

“Domestic fucking abuse, you mean! Sorry, again”

“No matter. I hear worse, and I understand. It seems that Carwyn’s glorification of the Lord did not just extend to the mortification of the flesh--someone else’s flesh, that is—but also to Genesis 1:28”

“I don’t do bible quotes”

“Usually given as ‘go forth and multiply’, Elaine. His sadism aroused him”

Oh for fuck’s sake. We were still on speaker, and I looked quickly round the room, seeing shock mixed in a couple of cases with obvious nausea.

“Angharad will attend, she says, and will give evidence for the Crown. That is what I meant about ‘something to live for’. If you would see her before she departs from this world, that may be your last chance”

Siân raised her eyebrows, and I nodded to her, receiving one back.

“Yes. We would both like to attend that one”

“I will send you the dates and times, but I am sure you have access to Court lists”

“Indeed. This is one trial I want to be at. Thank you, Ambrose”

“No. Thank you. You may not have been able to reach the heart of Angharad, but you continue to show the people around you how life should be lived. Christ is in you, Elaine, even if you do not understand that”

“Ah, my friend, we will just have to agree to differ on that one. Do what you can, and unless something goes wrong, we will see you in a few weeks”

Neither Siân nor I found much sleep that night.

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