By Janet Howson
English Breakfast tea
Stacey left the read through for ‘The Ruby Revenge’ murder mystery early. She had made notes to indicate where the cast were meant to pause in case she prompted them unnecessarily. It had happened to her on various occasions and she didn’t want to make the same mistake again.
She had got a lift back home from Jason who ran her to the front door of her mother’s house. She realised how drained she felt when she put the key in the lock. The effects of her injuries from being mugged, had left her with permanent fatigue but she was determined to get over it. She had been signed off from work for an indefinite period and so she would use the time to build herself up. What worried her more than the fatigue and scarring on her forehead, was her self confidence had gone. She felt nervous about going anywhere on her own, and had not dared to go to London or into the office. Where had the ‘in your face’ Stacey of old gone. She felt she had hidden it pretty well at the drama meeting but she knew she couldn’t fool Shirley or Jordon, hence the role as prompter. It would seem strange to her to be in the wings as opposed to on stage. The experience would do her good though.
Stacey threw her keys onto the hall table and shouted out to her mother, “I’m home mum, just getting myself a drink, do you fancy a cuppa?” This was another change in her life. She would normally come through the door and get a bottle of wine out of the fridge. Now all she could fancy was a cup of English Breakfast.
The silence lay in the air. She spotted a note selotaped to the hall mirror with Stacey written on it in her mum’s scratchy writing. She unfolded it. ‘Gone to Laura’s for the evening, see you later.’
Her mum had always been closer to her sister. She was her dad’s favourite. She missed him so much since the divorce. He had come out as gay five years ago and her mother could
not come to terms with it. They didn’t even speak now. She sighed. How foolish to be afraid
of staying alone in her own childhood home. Her mother seemed to be out more and more
since the divorce. She had met someone but Stacey hadn’t met him yet. There was so much
change in her life.
Okay, so should she just go to bed? She didn’t really want to be in bed in an empty house,
then she had an idea. Dean, the office clown, the one who had been with her when she was
attacked. He had come in to see her every day when she was in hospital, giving her all the
office news and was always armed with a few corny jokes. He would just talk and talk, not
expecting Stacey to reply when she was really ill. Then when she started to improve, they
would put the world to rights. She hadn’t realised how sensitive and kind he was. He blamed
himself for running ahead of her on the fateful evening and he wasn’t able to initially help her
or run after the bag snatcher. Stacey had told him not to be so silly. There was nothing he
could have done it happened so quickly. She had got fonder of him as time went by. He was
the one who collected her from hospital and brought her home, waiting with her until her
mother got back.
Wasting no more time she rang his mobile number. Would it be too late in the evening?
She nearly cut the call but suddenly the doorbell rang and he was there.
“Hi, Stace. How are you? Was just thinking about you, but there again I do little else but
think about you, so I just thought I’d call on the off chance you were home. I cannot bear a
day without seeing your beautiful face and…”
Stacey laughed at his banter, “will you just be serious for a moment? Come in. I want to
ask a big favour of you. I promise I will never be rude about your awful… sorry… wonderful
jokes again.” She held the door open for him to come in.
“I would go to the ends of the earth for you Stace, you know that.”
“Well, it isn’t quite that big a favour. I actually want you to babysit me, ridiculous though that sounds. My mother is out and I am not even sure she will be back tonight. She often stays with my sister overnight. I know this is ridiculous, you must think I am a right baby.” She felt tears welling, another consequence of the attack.
Dean put his arms around her and pulled her towards him, rubbing her back gently. “Hey, don’t be silly. You went through a hell of a lot and it wasn’t that long ago. You are still in shock. I would love to babysit you. I can even read you a bedtime story.”
Stacey laughed and wiped her eyes on the back of her hand. “Thank you, Dean. I don’t know what I would have done without your visits in hospital. My mother and sister always seemed too busy and my father hates hospitals. Hey, come on through and I will get you a beer.”
“Sounds good to me. As it happens, I have a favour to ask you but get yourself a drink first, I don’t like to see you without a glass of something alcoholic in your hand.”
“Cup of tea for me, Dean. I am a bit of a light-weight at the moment. Plus, the medication I am on doesn’t really mix with alcohol.”
“So, I will come out in sympathy with you. Make that two teas. Can I have it builders’ strength and it goes without saying, if there happens to be a biscuit floating about, begging to be eaten?”
Stacey made the teas, found some chocolate bourbons and they both settled down on the settee in the front room, munching and dunking their biscuits in the tea. She felt so relaxed in his company. She used to consider him a bit of an idiot. How wrong could she be.
Dean seemed to be struggling to say something, as if he didn’t quite know how to put it.
“Come on Dean, spit it out. Not your biscuit though, please. Mum would burst a gasket.”
Dean looked quite serious and placed his mug on the table. Stace, I have noticed since you left hospital that you are struggling to live with your mother, now she has made a new life for herself and I know the evenings are the worse. I have a two-bed flat and I was thinking of advertising for a tenant. You would be helping me out if you moved in with me? I could be there for you in the evenings and weekend and I am due some leave so I could help you move your stuff and be around all day whilst you settle in.” This was all said in a rush of words. “Say something Stace.”
Stacey was amazed. She had never foreseen this. He was right, she wasn’t happy living with her mother since her father had left home, hadn’t been for a long time, way before the attack. She knew Dean would do anything for her. She looked at his worried face and smiled. “That is a lovely idea, as long as you can put up with me. I am terribly untidy and an awful cook. I have only just mastered baked beans on toast.”
Dean breathed again and settled back in his chair.
She hadn’t been fooled by the story of him wanting to let his flat. He had often said he wouldn’t risk someone else in his kitchen, bathroom and taking up room in his lounge. No. he was just a kind friend helping her out in this difficult part of her life. The thought quite touched her and for the second time that evening she felt near to tears.
“No problem, meet the new Jamie Oliver. I am known throughout the region for my skills of picking up a take away meal.”
“You clown Dean,” Stacey paused and turned to him, “I appreciate what you are doing for me though, I really do.” Instinctively she bent forwards and kissed him gently on the lips. “You are one in a million and I am very lucky to have you as a friend.”
As an answer he held her by her shoulders and returned the kiss. He couldn’t believe this was happening. The girl of his dreams had agreed to live in his flat and had just kissed him Even Dean didn’t want to belittle the situation with some silly joke. He didn’t need to. He had no need to hide any embarrassment as this felt the most natural thing in the world.
“You never know, Dean, you might join the drama group with me. How are your prompting skills?”