Sisters 68

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Chapter 68
“Kettle on, love? We’re gasping, hint, hint”

I had no choice, and stood aside. “Tea’s already made, should be enough for two more, but I’ve already got visitors”

Blake nodded. “Yeah, couldn’t miss the other car in the drive. Who’ve you got?”

Diane was pushing past. “Yeah, cuppa be great. Grapevine’s been working overtime, so we know about Siân. Got his Mam on babysitting duty, innit, so we’re free to do the same for you—oh fuck!”

She’d got as far as the living room door, and came to a sudden stop. A few moments of utter silence, and then, in a very small voice, “Hello, Annie”

An even smaller voice in reply.

“Diane”

She shook herself, reaching behind her for her man’s hand.

“Annie… Annie, love, I’d like you to meet my husband. Blake, come in. Please”

Arsebollocks. I followed them both in, and Annie was standing, trembling, unsure, as Eric looked up, clearly puzzled, from his seat on the big sofa, till she reached back for him, just as Diane had done for Blake. He stood, and as I had learned to expect from him simply wrapped her up from behind, his eyes sharp over her shoulder and his voice flat.

“And you are?”

Annie reached up to lay a calming hand on his.

“Diane, love. I used to work with her years ago. She’s not a threat”

There was a short pause before she added “And how did you know my name?”

Blake was as true to his own nature as Eric to his, and he led his wife over to the spare armchair, settling himself into it and pulling Diane down onto his lap to hold her close and tight.

“Can one of you please pour us some tea? Lainey said there was some made”

Eric kissed Annie’s cheek and almost forced her to sit down before heading into the kitchen for cups. Annie looked at Diane, still trembling, eyebrows raised.

“And?”

Diane looked at her knees. “I’ve sort of been keeping an eye on you, Annie”

The trembling slowed, and Annie’s face hardened, as Di raised a hand to calm her. “No, Annie. Not like that. Lainey let me know”

I looked hard at them both in turn. “I stuffed up, aye? Siân’s already been on my back about it, others too, so I’ve already had my telling off. Oh, sod it. You know I couldn’t make that day you met your family?”

“Aye, but you sent Twm and Arwel, and… oh, hell. Where were you, Diane? Blake? That was you, wasn’t it? Clapping?”

The big man nodded. “She went blonde, Annie, just for a week. Your playing, shit, you’re bloody good. Couldn’t help myself, could I? Anyway, didn’t think you’d noticed”

“You weren’t the only one clapping, were you?”

“Not really, no. Whole café caught on, in the end. Look, well…”

He pulled his wife’s head down to his shoulder. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, none of you. I have a lot to live up to here, but I do my best, and it seems to work. I’ll just say this once, get it out. My wife always had a thing for you, just never knew why it never came back her way. When she found out why, it did a lot for her. No, love. Shush. Has to be said, OK?”

He kissed the top of her head before looking back up and around the room. “My darling here had some bad times when she was younger. No, I’ll tell this, love. She was raped. Simple as. Self-esteem, self-worth, both raped at the same time. Took me a long time to get through to her, and all she could talk about was you. Thanks, Eric”

He sat Diane up straighter before taking the cups and handing one to her.

“Took me a long while, as I said, and all the time it was trying to find out why she was so down on herself. Have you told them, Lainey?”

Oh, hell. Why today? In for a penny.

“You two, Sar doesn’t know all of this, aye, so please, confidential as, OK?”

I got the nods and some more puzzled looks and continued.

“Annie, how much has she told her about that trouble she had?”

“The beating, from that Joe Evans? And the two coppers in the hospital—oh, fuck! I saw the names in the Llais y Sais. Sorry, didn’t realise. Read it on a trip back home, Aunty Esther takes it, don’t know why. That queer-bashing crap, aye? Evans and Pritchard, they were coppers, weren’t they?”

“Yup. And Joe Evans beat Sarah up”

“He wasn’t there as well?”

I nodded. “He’s been sectioned. Apparently, he pissed himself at the custody desk when he clocked who I was”

“Same family?”

“Oh yes. Same group of shits”

Annie looked hard at Diane.

“I am going to take a stab in the dark here, but I think I’ll be spot on. How old were you, Di?”

She looked as if she wanted to spit. “All of sixteen, Adam. Annie, sorry. Yes. The same fucking family. Locked up now, all of the shits”

Annie stood up, walked across the room and knelt down to cuddle her. “You too love, you too. Locked up, I mean, all these years. Thanks, Blake, for letting her out. I’m so sorry I didn’t see”

Di tried to laugh. “And it would have worked how, exactly?”

They were both weeping by then, and, well, so was I, and the two men looked more than a little damp-eyed. Eric tried to change the subject a little.

“Tony wants a call as soon as, Lainey. Says he’s not worried, not really. Can I use yours? Mine’s out of juice”

“On the side there. Just, aye? No mention of what we just told you. Sar doesn’t know, and I’d rather she didn’t find out”

“No worries”

He made the call as the rest of us held our peace, sticking to anodyne comments about the drive and how all was well, before turning to the other couple as he hung up.

“What’s your plans just now? I am assuming you were intending to do what Annie and I had planned, and look after the two fat ladies till they’re a bit slimmer?”

Blake laughed out loud as the mood broke.

“Mate, I thought I’d like you when I saw you face down that crowd in the café! Here, take my hand, and let’s sort this out as best we can. Oh—love, bathroom. Get a towel!”

Diane started up. “Shit! Lainey, got a bag ready?”

“Uh?”

“You not feel—oh, hell. Your waters, love”

Oh indeed. I realised immediately what she meant, and realised I’d best stay in the chair so that we only had it to get cleaned and not the carpet as well. Blake was absolutely in work mode right then.

“Our car, Lainey. Eric, you come with us, leave these two to sort things out between them. Where’s the grab bag, Lainey? Used to this, I am, so once cleaned up we are offski. Got the number?”

“Book next to the phone”

“OK. Annie, you or Di give the hospital a ring, Eric and I will get the sumo queen here up to her new bed. MY mobile is actually charged, so we’ll ring when we know. Neither of you is to talk to Sarah about you know what, OK?”

I looked over to Di, and she grinned. “Well, you bloody well trained us all, girl! Just a second”

She grabbed me for a none-too-gentle hug, and we were joined by Annie as Eric appeared with the grab bag and Naomi’s camera. Blake grinned on seeing it.

“Nice one, mate! Got some footage of ours, a bit messy, but, well, got to be done. Inspector Powell, your carriage awaits”

Each man grabbed a quick kiss from his wife and I was hurried out of the door. I stopped them with a shout of “Hang on! Spare keys in the kitchen drawer next to the knives!” before I was grabbed and pushed into the front passenger seat of Blake’s car on top of a pile of towels. I called out to Annie, standing by the door.

“Shit, girl, I’ve been so rushed I haven’t told Mam! Can you let them know? They’re due tonight for Siân, but they don’t know about me! Number’s in the book by the phone”

“Will do! Now, go!”

We were off, only a short drive to Glangwili fortunately, as I was starting to feel uncomfortable. So this was it. Two of us doing things together, as always, but I wondered how much truth there could be in the idea of stress-induced labour. The hospital had obviously taken the message from Annie to heart, and there was a bed in a side room next to the one holding my wife.

“Eric?”

“Hi, Siân. Blake’s sorting the car parking voucher”

“Oh shit! Annie and Di, cariad?”

“Aye, my sweet. Sort of collided at ours. Think they’re fine. The lads are both sensible, aye? They… they know about Joe Evans, but they’ve both promised. Annie’s given Mam and Dad a ring”

“Eric?”

He stepped over to her. “Yeah? You need something?”

“Yes. Bit of an imposition, I know, but I’m a bit tied up here, and it’s no mobiles. And I bet my lover here hasn’t done it”

She grabbed a piece of tissue from beside the bed, and a pen from her handbag, and handed him the resulting note.

“My Mam, eh? She’s in a hospice, that’s the number. Angharad Roberts; she needs to know the situation. Unless you’ve already done it, Lainey? No?”

“Sorry…”

“I know, cariad. Now, those two be OK in our place? How long you here for, Eric? Oh, hi Blake!”

Eric shrugged. “Told my bosses it was family, and they’ve given me an open-ended ticket, as long as I call in every couple of days to sort any crap out. Annie’s lot are being generous, too. Oh, and Naomi’s sent a camera for you”

She laughed. “Aye, and who’s going to be taking any videos with both of us on our backs panting?”

Blake held up a hand. “Either me or the missus, if you like. I mean, we’ve both been there before, like, just from sort of different viewpoints”

I nodded. “That would be good, mate, but what if it’s both at once?”

That question was answered a few hours later, when Dad came into our ward.

“Mam’s at your house with the girls, Elaine. Hywel has sent this for you”

Another camera! I started to laugh, and felt a twinge, and oh shit that hurt. I grunted something, and Siân made a rude comment as my Dad and the other two started moving all sorts of lockers and chairs out of the way before pushing the two beds together. She took my hand and laced her fingers into mine.

“Try timing the gaps, cariad. I think we will need two cameramen, or women, whichever”

Dad looked around. Eric smiled, and showed him his little box of electronics, and said something about some delegation of duties being needed. In the end, it was Dad who took the lead.

“Your sister gave us our first grandchild, Elaine, and Sioned and I came late to that one. We are here now, and I would be here for our second and third. I will brook no argument. Alice will be over tomorrow, and Arwel has splashed out”

“Eh?”

“He wasn’t sure how many friends you would have staying, so he has hired one of those camping wagons. He said some very rude things about tents”

Eric guffawed, tension easing immediately. “And there’s my darling packing tent and bags just in case! Never thought of that, she’s too much of a proper camper”

Shit. Like a cramp, but only for a moment. The doctor was at the door now.

“Have to clear some of you out, I am afraid. We have to do rather a lot pf preparation with the expectant ones, who I assume are actually the ones in the beds. Now, who’re the fathers?”

He looked round the room before spotting the way my lover held my hand. “Ah. Can’t have you in together, I’m afraid. Anyone here doing birthing partner?”
Dad and Blake held up their hands as the latter handed Eric his car keys.

“Don’t crash it, mate. You fully comp?”

“Er, yeah. Shit. Better get back to them make sure they’re still in one piece. Or at least that they’ve got tissues enough”

It was Dad’s turn to laugh. “Sioned’s already sharing hers, Eric. We have the number. If we need anything else, we’ll call, aye?”

Eric shook his hand and Dad held it for more than a few seconds.

“I will make that call, girls”

Dad turned to look at Siân. “Your other Mam?”

That one word broke my lover’s dam, and as the tears came she just nodded, and Dad nodded back.

“Fit and proper, aye. Expect Victoria or Kevin some time tomorrow. This is a good time, a family time, aye?”

Ouch. The doctor pushed him out, and then there were nurses, people who did Stuff, and kept times and measured things, before I was torn from my lover and wheeled down the corridor.

I will not go into detail, but it wasn’t magical, not at all. It was sweaty, painful and bloody hard work, and went on far too long, and then…

Then there was a wail, and a few words from the nurse, and a small, damp person was placed on my breast, just for a minute, as I found myself sobbing as I knew that I had been right after all, that there had to be a way, and there had been, and it was here, clutching at me, wanting to know where it was.

It. The doctor or whoever, they were all in masks, smiled, or at least his eyes crinkled above the mask.

“You have a son, Mrs Powell. Seven pounds twelve ounces”

Oh, god. A son. I looked over to Dad, who was obviously crying. He looked at my little man, and asked the obvious question.

“Does he have a name, cariad?”

“Yes, dad. We spoke about this. He will be Anthony Twm Kevin”

The big, hard man just nodded. “Dw’i’n deall”

I understand.

Little Tony got wrapped up safely, warmly as they wheeled me out to the ward again. It was three more hours before we heard about Siân, and it was the news of a girl. Ten toes, ten fingers, both of our children perfect in every way, and after a little while for tests of all sorts, we started to get our rounds of visitors. God alone knew where they were staying, but half of Heddlu De Cymru were there, all my boys and girls, Fahmi, Debbie, Chris, Wyn, Dai Gould, and then there was our family.

Kevin was almost in tears when he heard about our boy’s name, and Vicky told me later that the tears had come in floods when she had him alone. There were congratulations galore, and the main one was to my wife, about the other name. There was no real argument there, for we had agreed the choices well in advance, and our daughter became Sioned Angharad Sarah.

Our little room filled steadily over the next few days with cards and soft toys, and Eric told us the front room at home was similarly stuffed with babygros and blankets, bootees and bonnets. We had the talks and the lectures, the blood tests and baby books and then, at last, we were free.



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