Malt and Hops 3

Two middle aged ladies clattered with confidence into the lounge carrying shopping bags and handbags. “Hello dear!” the first one said, without a care. “We’ve come to see Charles, is he in? I hope you don’t mind, we saw the lights were on and there was someone in the lounge.”

Charlie rapidly realised that while his Aunty Lilly had not immediately recognised him, the other lady, his mother surely would.

‘Sink or swim’ thought Charlie. “He’s here, please sit down both of you.”

His mother was still messing with her shopping, she wasn’t taking much notice. “Just a moment dear.” she said. “I’m pleased to see Charles has a lady friend at last. Where is my boy? Let me get settled and let’s have a look at you. This is his Aunty Edith and I’m his mother, you can call me Brenda.”

Charlie swallowed hard, there was no point in trying to deceive the two women who had known him all his life.

“Hello mother.”

“Hello dear. How’s my boy?” She still hadn’t looked at Charlie properly and must have thought he was nearby.

“Mother! I’m over here.”

Lilly was the first to notice. “Oh my! Charles is that you?”

“Yes Aunty, there’s nothing to worry about. I’m wearing a dress, in my own home, I hope you don’t mind.”

“Me? Mind? No you silly thing, your Uncle Bill used to do it all the time, he scrubbed up quite well I remember.”

“Who are you talking to Lilly?” Charlie’s mum had still not touched down on planet earth.

“Charles, you silly girl what are you doing now?” Replied Lilly.

“I’m just getting settled.” Replied Brenda. “Now who is this lovely young lady?”

“Charles.” replied Lilly.

“I prefer Charlie when I’m dressed like this.”

“Who’s Charlie?” replied Brenda.

“Me mother. I’m Charlie not Charles tonight.”

“You know she looks a lot like our Bill when he used to wear dresses.” (Bill was his mother’s brother).

“Mother I’m having a duckfit here and you two old biddies are treating me like there’s nothing wrong. I’m wearing a dress for heaven’s sake.” Tears formed in Charlie’s eyes.

“Oh my love I’m so sorry.” His mother came over and sat beside him and gave him a big hug. “You look beautiful, really lovely. I remember Kate wearing that dress, it suited her too.”

“But mum he blubbed, I’m a boy I shouldn’t be…”

“Now we’ll have none of that my girl. And I’ll call you a girl when you are dressed. We already knew. We knew you had found a way to keep Kate’s memory alive, it’s OK, it’s absolutely fine. We love you. I’m pleased to finally see you but I hadn’t intended to intrude.”

“Oh Mum, thank-you.” He held on tight to his loving mother.

“Is there a bottle opened then?” said Lilly spying the glass of wine.

“Don’t mind if I do. I’m sure there’s one about, always has a stash our Charles.” Said Brenda.

“In the fridge Aunty.” Said Charlie. “You know where the glasses are.”
Lilly scuttled off, eager for a glass.

“You say you knew mother. Why didn’t you say anything? How did you know?”

“We saw evidence around the house. Kate’s clothes had been laundered. Once you rushed to your room when we barged in and when you came out you were wearing tights not socks under your trousers. We could see it was your way of coping and we were happy for you. Kate. It was such a horrible thing. After that we usually rang in advance. Sorry about tonight it was Lilly deciding to surprise you, I should have stopped her.”

“it still hurts Mum.”

“I know love, I know. When your Dad died I was lost and I had had 40 great years with him. You missed out on that.”

“Yes.” Charlie wiped away the tears.

“Now I must say you are looking particularly well turned out tonight, have we interrupted something?”

“Possibly, I’m expecting a visitor.”

“Oh!”

“Not like that mother! No, it’s Jennifer my neighbour, she’s coming over and bringing Prosecco apparently.”

“I like this girl already. But how? Why?”

Charlie then told her mother the story of the Great Rabbit Escape.

“Do you want us to go? Don’t want to cramp your style.”

“Not a problem I was going to order in. More the merrier. For a while at least.” Charlie smiled at last and gave her mother a sly wink. Which was returned with a loving smile.

Lilly had returned with the wine for herself and Brenda, and another glass, and the bottle, and another bottle.

“I heard.” She said and smiled. “What a tale and what a day for you. I’m pleased and hope whatever happens you have a lovely time.”

“Thank-you Lilly. Thank-you both of you.”

Then the door bell rang.

“I’ll get it, I’m on my feet already.” Lilly was off like a shot.

To say Jennifer was surprised when an unexpected older lady answered Charlie’s door would be an understatement.

“Err Hello I’m Jennifer is Charlie in?”

“Oh yes dear she’s told us all about you, sounds like quite a day. I’m her Aunty Lilly please come in. Let me take your jacket.”

“I’ve brought some fizz.” She managed to reply, the clinking bottles giving the game away in the Sainsbury’s bag.

“Charlie told us you would be doing, pop it in the kitchen there’s a love.”
Jennifer didn’t have much time to take this in, Charles’ Aunty was here? Did the ‘us’ suggest someone else as well? She had referred to Charles as Charlie but that might have been an affectionate name? How much had he actually told them?

As she followed Lilly into the lounge she saw Charlie stood beside a lady sat on the settee who was holding her hand. There was no doubting the likeness between mother and daughter.

“So you must be Jennifer.” said the woman. “I’m Charlie’s Mum. Call me Brenda.”

“I guessed as much already. Lovely to meet you.” Her wide eyes turned to Charlie looking for an explanation.

“The dress suits her don’t you think?” said Brenda looking at Charlie.

“I certainly do, I may have to go home and change to outdo her.”

Charlie looked slightly anxious. “Kidding!” said Jennifer.

“You complement each other perfectly, no need for changes, it’s Lilly and myself that need to up our game. We did rather intrude and give her a bit of a surprise.”

“I would argue with the word ‘bit’” said Charlie.

The ladies then attacked the bottles of white. Charlie ordered in a Chinese takeaway and a good time was had by all. After a couple of hours Brenda asked Charlie to order them a taxi. “I was going to ask you to drive us home originally, but there’s two reasons why you shouldn’t”

Charlie smiled “True, I can’t drive in heels.”

“And the small matter of several glasses of wine.”

“That as well.”

As Charlie’s mother and aunt left they gave Jennifer and Charlie hugs and kisses. Brenda whispered in Jennifer’s ear “thank you for your understanding, look after my boy, he’s been through a lot, let him tell you in his own time.”

This shook Jennifer a little, noticing how Brenda had switched back to the masculine and referring to some issues in his past. She would have to tread carefully but she did feel the feelings she had for Charles and Charlie made it worth investing in this relationship.

As the ladies left she felt Charlie tightly holding her hand. Jennifer then felt a kiss on her forehead and the words “Thank You”.

To be continued….



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This story is 1335 words long.